Two summers ago, I made a step toward the dark side by trading in my bicycle for a shiny new SUV. I couldn’t have timed the switch more poorly. This was the first summer of record setting gas prices, when the pump price first climbed over $3.00 a gallon. Fair weather activists went to work that summer, sending out chain letters over email and myspace demanding a boycott of gasoline. Let’s boycott all gas stations for a day! Or better yet, let’s just boycott Exxon! That’ll show ’em!

After reading these, I (and anyone who had taken Econ 101) immediately were hit with terrible headaches. Why? These consumer gas schemes pandered more toward emotions than to any rational economics theory.

Now two years later, a similar situation is occurring. However, this headache isn’t being spread by zealous internet users. This fire is being fanned by two of our own presidential candidates. Their idea is not a boycott, but rather a “gas holiday” where the federal gas tax is erased for the summer driving months.

But wouldn’t lowering the gas price increase demand? And when demand increases, won’t the prices go back up? The short answer is Yes. Peter Schwartz of Global Business Network describes this as the true American energy policy: “Maximize demand, minimize supply and buy the rest from the people who hate us the most.”

Under such a scheme, consumers would see little change in gas prices this summer. Without taxes of course, our own Federal government’s revenue would shrink. And the real winners in the game would be….you guessed it….the big oil companies.

According to this article by Thomas Friedman of the NYT, “This is not an energy policy. This is money laundering: we borrow money from China and ship it to Saudi Arabia and take a little cut for ourselves as it goes through our gas tanks. What a way to build our country.”

Paul Krugman, another NYT columnist points out in a post that any attempt to quell gas prices for the summer driving season is too little, too late. The petro we’ll use this summer has already been extracted and refined. No matter what politicians will promise for the summer, there’s simply not much to be done.

Photo found at Huffington Post

My car gets 14 mpg on a good day and public transit isn’t an option for my commute. I’m sitting front and center in the cross hairs of high gas prices, and I would be ecstatic if there were a plan that could help me out. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much of a rationale consensus from our leaders. Of the three candidates, only Obama has voiced his disapproval of a gas holiday. Both McCain and Clinton have publicly favored this gas-tax holiday.

It’s time for our politicians to take a proactive and logical approach to our energy policy. All the research, rationale, and logic point to the same conclusion. It’s been close to 30 years since President Jimmy Carter proclaimed we would stop being dependent on foreign oil and that we would develop oil alternatives. Perhaps its time we began working toward this long-time goal.

Dear Pennsylvania Governor Rendell,

I’m a 20-something year old who loves politics. Even more than usual, I can’t seem to escape the excitement of the current campaign season. It’s been a long, long time since so many people have become civically engaged with our political system. This is a time we should celebrate; which is why I was so surprised to hear some comments from you which belittled young voters. In a recent forum, you seemed to infer that young voters weren’t informed about the upcoming presidential candidates. That we “drink the Kool-Aid of [Obama’s] wonderful speeches” resonates the sentiment that 18-29 year olds are being suckered in by a slick campaign message and a charismatic orator. With this in mind, I have to share a story with you.

I spent four years at a state university, during which I was accosted daily by students, flyers, posters, and emails telling me to “be informed and get involved”. I sat in classes where students absorbed books and articles written by the world’s top experts. I watched as kids debated the intricacies of tax policy in lecture halls that sat 300 people- where so many young voters attended that it was “standing room only”. I’ve witnessed 20 year olds show up late for work or class because learning and being informed was more precious than a few hours of sleep. To be truthful, this describes me and most of my peers.

Governor Rendell, your opinion of my demographic is grossly incorrect. We may be young; but we are not ill-informed nor are we uneducated. In fact, I would argue that the majority of young voters have a much stronger grasp of campaign issues than most demographics. Take a glance at any college or university in the country, and chances are you’ll find less apathy than in any other demographic. Look at any of the political campaigns today, and you’ll see young volunteers pounding the pavement and knocking on doors, ready to speak to anyone and everyone about the issues. Find a political website, and you’re bound to see young voters go toe-to-toe in educated political debate with much older people. To be blunt, you have misjudged many of us.

We aren’t professional politicians, so it should come as no surprise that some young people can’t rattle off which legislation a candidate has sponsored. But don’t be fooled – when we come home from a campaign event, chances are you’ll find us scanning the paper and the internet for information on the candidate. We do the homework because we know what’s at stake. We’re the ones fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. We’re the one’s who can’t find jobs because of our current economic state. We’re the ones fighting to afford health care, and we’re the ones who will be dealing with climate change long after you’re gone.

Of course, I would never expect anyone to accept my thoughts without first doing their own homework. Student organizations, universities, and communities are always looking for speakers to participate in meetings and town halls. Please consider an appearance at any of these so you can see for yourself just how engaged students can be. Attending just one student debate may completely change your opinion of this promising demographic.

Today, young people are standing up and participating in our democratic political process. Help celebrate this by engaging our young demographic!

See the video that started it all here

Political experience is a hot topic for presidential candidates Clinton and Obama.  I was planning on writing an article detailing each’s experience in the Senate, but Grassroots Mom beat me to it.  Her analysis shows a great in-depth look at the various bills each candidate has authored or sponsored during their Senate tenure.   Read it and you will become informed.

 The Highlights:

  • Voting records show that both candidates support similar issues.  Obama is frequently a co-sponsor on Clinton’s bills, and vice versa. 
  • Although each candidate shares similarities, they’re method to create change is different.  In the instance of lead paint for example, Clinton suppored legislation that would provide tax incentives to companies who removed lead paint.  Obama supported classifying lead paint as “hazardous” and regulating its use.  Market incentives vs Regulation.
  • Clinton has introduced a hefty amount of healthcare legislation.  Her focus is mainly on women and children.
  • Obama’s legislation is more broad.  Healthcare, energy, global warming, nuclear proliferation, foreign policy (ie Iran), and Blackwater are all subjects of bills he brought forth.
  • An interesting point: many of Clinton’s bills have no co-sponsors.  Speculation as to why this is can lead to any number of conclusions.

What a day for a caucus!

Over the last few days, visits from the major candidates and headline news coverage encouraged even the most apathetic of us to think about participating in the caucus. The excitement only grew Saturday morning. Flurries of phone calls, text messages, and emails from politically savvy friends all sent the same message: GO TO YOUR CAUCUS AND VOTE!

The middle school where my precinct caucus took place was at capacity before 1pm. Even arriving 30 minutes early didn’t help avoid the line to get through the door. It was an eclectic group of people to say the least, but it seemed as though everyone was excited to be doing something to improve our country.

At the caucus, Obama political swag decorated the windows and hallways. Many caucus goers were decked out in stickers, buttons, and “I have a crush on Obama” t-shirts. Surprisingly, Hillary signs were no where to be found.

An initial precinct vote mirrored the disproportionate display of posters on the wall. 4 Barak Obama delegates, 1 Hillary Clinton, and 1 undecided.

Following the vote, citizens had a chance to speak for the candidate. The first caucus goer to speak up was a Obama supporter named Phil. He first introduced himself as an avid listener of Right Wing radio, explaining that “one has to know your enemy if you’re going to defeat them”. Phil supported Obama because of his electability. In fact, most of the caucusers supported their candidate based on electability. Hillary supporters felt that Obama’s limited experience would be an easy target for Republicans. Obama supporters felt just as strongly the other way.

A few political issues did come up in discussion. Global warming, Supreme court justice choices, and healthcare were all spoken about as important issues. However, our precinct’s knowledge on policy was meshed together from various CNN and Seattle Times headlines. We were an eager group, but not the most informed.

The undecided voters were not really undecided, but were (surprisingly) strong fans of Dennis Kucinich. Following a few hushed whispers in their direction that Kucinich had dropped his candidacy, the undecided were persuaded to join with Obama; leaving the delegates at 5 to 1.

For a politico and activist, attending a caucus can be emotionally conflicting. On one hand, democracy can be a frightening process. Our delegates were selected based on a few news headlines. It makes one realize slogan writers and marketers have quite a bit of influence. On the other hand, the entire experience can be inspiring. Witnessing voters line the block to participate in a caucus will make every rainy day spent registering voters seem worth all the effort.

The most amazing part of the caucus, however; is how it reflects the value that everyone’s voice counts. Our delegates weren’t selected in a dark, smoked filled room. It was inside hallways of old middle schools and churches that Washington state helped select our next President.

*The AP is reporting that Obama swept caucuses across the state. Initial numbers indicate he’s winning 65% of the delegates to Clinton’s 33%.

** Update ** The Washington State Democrat’s website is reporting Obama at 67.5% and Clinton at 31%. The delegate split is 21,629 and 9992 respectively.