By Alison Shim
With this past 2012 presidential election, many voters have failed to recognize the impact campaign spending has had on the votes they cast come Election Day. While whether or not spending or negative advertisements shown in the media actually alter the course of the election has constantly been under question, many are now realizing the significant harmful effects of a Supreme Court ruling that changed the way campaigns were run forever.
Back in 2010, the Supreme Court case of Citizens United v. the Federal Elections Commission altered the course of campaign spending by upholding that the First Amendment prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations or unions. Citizens United, a non-profit group, wanted to air a film called “Hilary: The Movie” attacking Hilary Clinton during television broadcast, an apparent violation of the McCain-Feingold Act. The Citizens United ruling ultimately gave corporations the power to exercise their freedom of speech as openly as any individual citizen. In turn, corporations began to abuse this right to freedom of press and thus began the rise of Super Political Action Committees, commonly known as Super PACs. With this drastic and daunting surge in unlimited corporate spending, a vicious cycle in which the wealthy were consistently muffling out the voices of the poor began to develop through every election process since.
In this past 2012 election cycle, outside groups spent an estimated $970 million, according to Federal Election Commission data, and the increase has been driven by rapidly increased spending among ‘super PACs’ that can raise unlimited amounts of money from donors due to the Citizens United Decision. Overall, the Sunlight Foundation attributes 78% of the 400% increase in outside spending since 2008 directly to Citizens United, demonstrating the direct impact Citizens United had on campaign spending. A small number of wealthy, unrepresentative Americans disproportionately take advantage of the independent expenditure rules and Super PACs made possible by Citizens United, crippling the election. As the wealthy take up airtime at the premium, those of the lower and middle class are left with more expensive and fewer slots for representation in the media, skewing the true democratic nature of presidential elections.
Alex Bowie of Metro Philadelphia concludes that 97% of Super PAC contributions by individuals came from just 1,900 people, and 12% of total contributions have come from corporations. He furthers that with the rise in power of corporations, few wealthy individuals became the loudest voices heard in advertisement. Bob Edgar of Common Cause finds that over 300 Super PACs and wealthy donors are muffling the voices of political participants by taking airtime at a premium and consequently making participation more expensive. Thus, the Huffington Post notes that mega donors are able to amplify their voices to an astounding 3,100 times the volume of small donors.
The Brave New Foundation also establishes the suppressing impact the Citizens United decision had on voters, primarily through Super PACs like the Koch brother’s Americans for Prosperity. Following the 2010 election, the billionaire Koch brothers paid $200 million to their Super PAC Americans for Prosperity, which helped Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and 7 other states approve fraudulent obstacles to voting. Overall, they have funded proposed voting suppression bills in 34 other states to thwart 21 million Americans from voting. Disengaging voters from the electoral process is deemed the most crippling impact of the election post-Citizens United.
As overall campaign spending by corporations took a drastic surge, negative advertisements relapsed by these corporations became more prominent as well. An empirical analysis by Wesleyan University finds that after Citizens United, negative advertisements by outside interest groups have increased by 340%. These ads are successful at winning candidates more votes because they are often blatantly incorrect or misrepresent information in a partisan manner. The Annenberg Public Policy Center quantifies that 85% of spending goes towards ads with at least one false assertion. Furthermore, the Brennan Center reports that organizations avoid accountability for their lies after Citizens United because of the easing of restrictions and that half of meaningful outside spending now comes from shadow organizations. Through these shadow organizations, corporations are able to hide their identity and blamelessly fund these false advertisements. Resulting from this is decreased voter turnout, as the American Political Science Review finds that because inappropriately negative advertisements depress people’s respect for both candidates, exposure to negative advertisements dropped intentions to vote by 5%. Citizens United led to an increase in skeptical voters now wary of the integrity of the U.S. electoral system as well as a blatantly misinformed public.
Overall, every year post-Citizens United experiences yet another increase in campaign spending and with it, the inherent crippling of our electoral system’s integrity and participation.
By Oliver Tang
Although it may be hard for us Americans to come in term with this, China has been a rising leader in the world in both science and technology. With that said, China has become a global powerhouse in research and development. But how did China get to where it is today? It was certainly a wakeup call in 2010 when ABC News found that while the US ranked 25th out of all the OECD nations in education, China and particularly Shanghai rank number 1. Naturally, the fact that China is a rapidly developing and industrializing nation also helps explain this, with the IMS stating that China is projected to increase its research spending by 16% over the next 5 years. Or maybe, it’s just the fact that without the strict, watchful eyes of our FDA, China’s lax regulations, which have reduced the cost of clinical trials by around 90%, have made more risky (yet successful) innovations possible. But what does all this entail to the United States?
First, expect to see some important medical advancements in the future. Again with its low clinical costs and low regulatory environment, Chinese medical researchers have flourished and found surprising solutions to some of our most fatal diseases. The gene modification Gendicine is a very interesting example. As Bloomberg puts it, “the gene prompts tumor cells to commit suicide.” Once a $20 facility construction project off of Shenzhen is finalized, 18 million doses of this potential cancer miracle drug can be produced annually. Dody Mautista of the MP Research Group notes that this therapy is actually 2.5 times more effective than our current method of chemotherapy. She notes that 16,000 global patients have come to China to receive this therapy and as of 3 years, most have not experienced any harmful side effects. Wellness Without Drugs notes that most of these 16,000 people are “rich Western patients seeking innovative and unconventional methods for cancer treatment”. The benefits don’t stop there, with Novo Nordisk investing in the rapidly expanding Chinese market, stating that doing so will allow it to produce enough diabetic treatment for 300,000 more people. The future is bright.
Next, let’s take a look at agriculture. Obviously, China has taken a special interest with this development because a rapidly growing population means more mouths to feed. China has looked to the US as a potential partner for this research, with the Department of Agriculture reporting that the “US and China have signed a five-year accord to cooperate on agricultural production and security.” The China Information Center reports clear progress being made, with improvements in more than 40 crops and nearly 5000 strong, high-yield, resistant, new crop varieties being created. Obviously, both of these developments are helping agriculture and our farmers back in America and indeed, our agricultural production has increased 20% since we started working with China. This agricultural benefit has materialized into huge price reductions for average American families, as Crop Life America finds that this increased yield has actually cut the annual average grocery bill of a family by 40%. We can all look forward to less spending on our groceries as American and Chinese scientists continue to make more developments.
Finally, let’s touch upon energy and our ambitious Smart Grid project. The Smart Grid may seem no different than our current power grid; it possesses sensors and technology, which are placed in the grid to allow for monitoring and remote control of energy usage as well as remote repair of flaws in the grid. Overall, this allows for increased energy efficiency. In fact, the National Energy Technology Laboratory finds that this technology will save us 28 billion kilowatts of energy annually. The US Department of Energy finds that this amounts to 480 billion less CO2 emissions per year, virtually eliminating China’s carbon footprint. Although this system is considerably established in China, agreements like the US-China Energy Cooperation Program has China aiding companies like General Electric to establish this in America. With this agreement, China gains exclusive technology rights and agreements with the US and sets up its role as the future distributor of this Smart Grid technology. China has proven itself so eager to do this that it contributes on average 4 times more than America to this project. Because America is spending so little but is expected gain such a large benefit through energy efficiency, the Electric Power Research Institute finds that we will come out of the project $1.5 trillion richer from savings in energy efficiency. In terms of renewable energy, Keith Bradsher of the NY Times reports that China now makes up 80% of the global production and distribution of renewable energy and investment in the US market has “increased 130% annually”. The implication here is that while China may contribute greatly to rising global CO2 emissions, it is also working with new technologies to find a sustainable source of renewable energy.
In retrospect, with both parties benefitting, the US and China have established countless relationships that have advanced our medical, agricultural, and energy sectors. While rising China gives us the brainpower and innovation, we as the US are able to offer China our expansive market and modernized technology. It’s a mutualistic relationship and something we should look forward to in the future. But is the US wrong in any way with being complacent with and even aiding China essentially taking its role as the global leader in research and development? While the answer to this question is debatable, the future of the Sino-American relationship looks bright.
By Brinda Gurumoorthy
Any student taking US Government and Politics can tell you that political beliefs don’t just appear out of thin air. They are formed by your environment, experiences, and background; the lifelong process by which people acquire their political tendencies is called political socialization. But there are numerous sources that contribute to political development.
One of the most frequently discussed factors in political socialization is a college education. In March 2012, Presidential candidate Rick Santorum called universities indoctrination mills for liberalism, because professors are largely liberal. The claim about professors tending to be liberal is valid, a trend that can be seen throughout history. During the Vietnam War, professors encouraged anti-war sentiment, a liberal ideal at the time. More recently, a 2006 study by Solon Simmons and Neil Gross concluded that around half of professors surveyed identified themselves as liberal, compared to 1/5 of American overall at the time.
Since professors seem to gravitate towards a liberal mindset, it makes sense that they teach in a somewhat biased manner and therefore college students begin to perceive situations and philosophies in an increasingly liberal manner. The same logic can be applied to the argument that college makes students stray from the path of religions, because higher numbers of professors report being atheist or agnostic. Knowing this information, the question is whether or not Santorum’s assessment of colleges as ”indoctrination mills” is correct.
A New York Times article, “The Indoctrination Myth”, argues that the bias in postsecondary education does not have a particularly substantial impact on students’ political beliefs. Although it acknowledges that over the course of four years, students do become slightly more liberal, it argues that the change is one that affects the entire 18 to 24 age bracket. In essence, it is stating that although students are becoming more liberal, it is because of changing societal values, not because they are getting educated by a liberal faculty for four years.
The debate boils down to whether or not correlation implies causation. Many conservatives believe the answer to that is a firm yes, while liberals are more likely to disagree. Conservatives attack higher education and its alleged legal brainwashing by calling it an element of “liberal elitism” and claiming that professors and similar intellectuals are looking down on the common man and trying to manipulate the ideology of our nation. Whether the liberal “indoctrination” is intentional or not, it is occurring and can be irritating for conservative students.
Bottom line – America is growing more liberal by the minute, no matter what anyone has to say about it. Our generation is getting ready to take center stage in a world that requires problem-solving, cooperation, and street smarts; and usually, college is the place to acquire those skills. Learning from a group of people with liberal leanings will most likely influence the youth of today to process and solve the pressing problems of today with a liberal mindset. This could imply that future political decisions will be implemented more quickly because there will be less difference of opinion if everyone thinks alike. However, it could also imply that our nation will lose the benefit of having multiple perspectives on an issue. The issue is far from black and white, and whether the effects of increasing liberalism in the future generation will be positive or negative is a question up for heated debate.