Steve Macek

By Steve Macek and Mitchell Szczepanczyk

When President Obama appointed Julius Genachowski chair of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Genachowski promised to introduce regulation that would prohibit internet service providers (ISPs) from discriminating against or blocking lawful online content.

Mitchell Szczepanczyk
Such "network neutrality" protections were needed because ISPs had been caught blocking their customers' access to cost-effective telephone services like Skype and intentionally degrading the performance of peer-to-peer file sharing software like BitTorrent. Now, the FCC chair has finally unveiled his long awaited network neutrality plan, with an expected FCC vote slated for December 21. Unfortunately, the plan will do very little to protect internet users against online discrimination and censorship by ISPs.

Network neutrality is the principle that ISPs should treat all lawful traffic over their networks equally. Using that principle of openness, countless online applications and services (Google, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia, etc.) have quickly gotten online and improved the daily lives of millions of users without having to first ask for permission from ISPs. And it's not just applications: thanks to the decentralized and nondiscriminatory nature of the internet, citizen journalists and nonprofits have been able to reach new audiences and draw public attention to stories and problems that would otherwise go ignored.

Major ISPs would like to eliminate network neutrality since they could increase their profits by prioritizing certain kinds of internet traffic. They want customers to pay more to get their websites delivered faster. But that opens the door for digital extortion, as recently occurred when Comcast arm-twisted the networking company Level 3 into paying new, exorbitant fees after Level 3 signed Netflix as a new customer. It would also make possible ISP discrimination against low-budget, grassroots web content providers like citizen journalists, bloggers and nonprofits who often post the most interesting stories and videos. These groups likely won’t have sufficient funds to sustain an internet presence for very long.

Sadly, Genachowski's network neutrality proposal is fraught with loopholes. The proposal fails to restore FCC authority over ISPs, which all but ensures court challenges to any attempt at enforcing network neutrality. The proposal does offer nominal protections against "paid prioritization," but critics decry these protections as weak. They point out that the proposal exempts unspecified "specialized services" from network neutrality provisions, an exception which could lead to the creation of a tiered internet. What's more, the proposed rules don't extend to wireless broadband networks, so that as more and more internet services go wireless, the scope of network neutrality would be sharply reduced.

Strong protection of an open internet will require a number of key changes to Genachowski's proposed new rules. One change would be to restore FCC authority over the internet by reclassifying the internet as a "Title II" service, which would put the FCC on firmer ground for asserting its authority. A better proposal would also eliminate the "specialized services" loophole (why shouldn't everyone benefit from network neutrality?), disallow paid prioritization (paid discrimination in other spheres of life is illegal), and extend its rules to both hardline and wireless internet services.

The major ISPs have considerable lobbying muscle, but defenders of full network neutrality have two key swing votes at the FCC -- Commissioners Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn. Both have called for provisions stronger than those embodied in Genachowski's proposal. Genachowski's new regulations can't pass the FCC without the votes of Copps and Clyburn, especially since the remaining two FCC Commissioners, both Republicans, have vowed to vote against any network neutrality proposal. Hopefully, Copps and Clyburn can leverage their votes for a stronger network neutrality law that can better serve and protect the public.

Public involvement in the net neutrality fight will be a critical factor in determining whether or not the FCC can pass an improved network neutrality law. Indeed, public involvement on network neutrality -- perhaps best exemplified by the Save The Internet coalition -- was critical in overcoming the flood of ISP lobbying money and keeping the issue alive over the past few years when pundits dismissed it as dead or at least on life support. This final phase of the policy fight over network neutrality is no different; the future of the internet is literally in your hands.
Macek is an associate professor of speech communication at North Central College. Szczepanczyk is an organizer with Chicago Media Action.
Copyright (C) 2010 by the American Forum. 12/10


By Kenneth Lewis

The national conversation on our fiscal health for the past few months has been about whether to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for households with incomes over $250,000, or to allow them to expire on December 31st. To my amazement, lost in all this controversy and discussion has been any mention of what this would really mean for high-income people in the context of historical tax rates.

During the 1950s this country was flourishing economically and adding new jobs that moved millions of people out of poverty and into the middle class. What kind of tax policy was in place during this period, those years after World War II when the Baby Boomers were growing up?

What was the top marginal tax rate during all eight years of the Eisenhower Administration? 91%! The increase proposed for today’s rates seems paltry, and the top rate seems very low, in fact too low, and incongruent with the needs of the country for investment right now in education, health and infrastructure.

This comparison is also true when looking broadly over the mid-century; during the years from 1935 to 1980 the marginal rates were never below 70%.

One can only wonder what the big fuss is all about.

Right now people pay income taxes on a sliding scale between 10% and 35%. If the Bush-era tax cuts expire on December 31, the rates would return to between 15% and 39.6%. Less than one percent of taxpayers now pay the 35% (according to the Wall Street Journal) and less than four percent pay 33%. If the tax cuts are allowed to expire, the top tax rate of 39.6% would only apply to those whose income, adjusted for inflation, exceeds $363,000 per person.

So in reality, the big controversy over the extension of tax cuts boils down to a mere 4.6% for those making over $363,000! And remember, they pay that extra amount only on incomes over $363,000, not their entire income. Based on the arguments and emotional forcefulness of those who want all tax cuts extended, one would think that the rates we are talking about are historically high rates. Top rates of 35% and 39.4% aren’t even close to historic highs.

At a time when reducing the deficit is a main concern of both the public and of policy makers, it seems incredible that there is even any discussion about this. Letting the tax cuts expire for the top two to four percent of high earners will reduce the deficit by over 700 billion dollars. How can we not do this?

The argument that lower tax rates leads to increased employment is belied by the experience during the Bush Administration. The most massive tax reductions in US history occurred during those eight years, and the increase in employment during those years was the lowest in U.S. recorded history. Lower taxes did not lead to increased employment.

I have benefited enormously from the infrastructure that strong federal, state, and local governments provide. As a businessman I have used more than my fair share of these public institutions and therefore, I want to pay my fair share. That’s why I’m asking Congress to raise my taxes!

There is no valid reason to continue these historically low tax rates for those making more than $250,000 or more than $363,000 during a period of economic stress. This country is in trouble and those of us who have benefitted the most need to step up and pay our fair share. The small rate increase will decrease the deficit by over 700 billion dollars and have no appreciable adverse impact on employment. In fact, I would argue it would stimulate job creation if Congress were to invest in this country again. The House has rejected letting the wealthy off the hook for their fair share. The Senate should act now, do the right thing - and also reject the compromise.
Lewis is former president of Lasco Shipping Co. of Portland and of the Port of Portland Commission. He is also former national chairman of the I Have a Dream Foundation and a member of Wealth for the Common Good.
Copyright (C) 2010 by American Forum. 12/10


By Holly Sklar

Republicans played President Obama in the tax deal like mortgage hustlers played homeowners. Focus on the teaser rates, borrow more than you need and trust us to work with you to refinance later when rates jump.

The teasers are the needed extension of unemployment benefits – always extended before with high unemployment – and continued tax cuts for non-rich Americans. The President folded on more tax cuts for millionaires and doubled down with a renovated estate tax set at the lowest rate since 1931. And a cut in the Social Security payroll tax, which Republicans will use to gut Social Security later.

The tax deal will cost most Americans and our economy much more than it gains.

Obama’s tax deal falls for the same trap Republicans have been running since the Reagan administration. Cut taxes to reward the wealthy and purposely run up the debt to cause cutbacks later in programs Republican lawmakers don’t like, which is most everything outside the military and corporate subsidies for Big Oil, Big Pharma and other favored big business using small businesses as poster children.

Handed a budget surplus by the Clinton administration, President Bush slashed taxes - breaking precedent by asking the wealthy to pay less, not more, during wartime – and chopped away at the public services and infrastructure that underpin actual job creation and long-term economic growth. Bush left America in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and falling down the world rankings in wages, living standard, life expectancy, economic mobility, education, infrastructure and global competitiveness. The richest 1 percent of Americans had the greatest share of national income since 1928, which was not coincidentally right before the Great Depression.

Today, the too big to fail banks are bigger and Wall Street continues paying big bonuses for playing heads I win, tails you lose with our money. Wall Street campaign donations flooded to Republicans promising to roll back financial reform. Big businesses are sitting on a record pile of cash and liquid assets while small businesses still get the cold shoulder from banks. Millions of Americans have been foreclosed or are in default. One out of ten Americans are unemployed by the official count, which leaves many uncounted. Our infrastructure – much of it built decades ago when the highest-income taxpayers were more productive and less greedy - is rotting. The promised green jobs of the future are increasingly today’s jobs in Germany, China, Brazil and other countries investing more in their economies.

And now comes the tax deal, offering tax cuts that will be paid for next year and the years after by pay freezes and big budget cuts for the services and infrastructure most Americans and a healthy economy depend on. In a twist on the rightwing strategy long known as “starve the beast,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell praised the tax deal as “cutting off the spigot.”

People used to talk about robbing Peter to pay Paul. Now it’s more like robbing everyone to pay the richest 1 percent.

In the set up to the real robbery, the bottom 20 percent of Americans will save $396 on average in 2011 from the tax deal, the middle 20 percent will save $1,521 and the richest 1 percent will take the lion’s share, saving $76,949, according to Citizens for Tax Justice. The tax deal cost of $424 billion in 2011 will be added to the national debt.

Enabled by Obama, the Republicans will use the increased debt to set up the ultimate foreclosures: Social Security and Medicare. “President Obama and the Republicans will say that the payroll tax holiday is all about stimulating the economy. But don’t be fooled,” said Nancy Altman, co-director of Social Security Works. “There are many better ways to stimulate the economy with that $120 billion the payroll tax holiday will cost, including simply extending the Making Work Pay Tax Credit … And the other, better forms of stimulus pose no threat to Social Security.”

The payroll tax holiday, which will likely be extended, not ended heading into the next election, poses a grave threat. Scrapping the cap on earnings subject to Social Security taxes – now just $106,800 – eliminates the future Social Security shortfall projected after 2036. Cutting the tax while leaving the cap is a gift to those who want to cut, privatize and destroy Social Security under the pretense of saving it.

Like the bait and switch mortgages still wreaking havoc, the tax deal sets up big losses to come.
Sklar is the Director of Business for Shared Prosperity (, which produced “The Business Case for Letting High-End Tax Cuts Expire.” Readers can write to her at An earlier version of this article appeared in The Hill.


By Chris Miller

As a former U.S. Army nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons specialist I was always skeptical of the assertion that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. After I hit ground in Iraq in April, 2003, it soon became clear he didn’t have any. The U.S. searched the entire country for months trying to find them, but to this day nothing more than a few dusty chlorine gas mortars have ever turned up in Iraq. What would have happened if Hussein had complied with the IAEA inspection regime voluntarily? The 2003 Iraq war would likely never have happened. Because he did not comply, it was open to conjecture whether Iraq possessed nuclear weapons or were trying to acquire them. The rest is history.

In view of that, why would we dither, delay, or play politics with a treaty that would allow us to continue a responsible, voluntary inspection regime with a partner state that we know for a fact, with certainty, has nuclear arms, lots of them, and is simply waiting for the U.S. Senate to sign on the dotted line? Why would we risk significantly setting back relations with Russia and at the same time make it much harder to verify that their nukes are secure? Ask the Senate GOP leadership.

The old START (STrategic Arms Reduction Treaty) was negotiated and signed in the early nineties under President George H.W. Bush, based on a concept by President Ronald Reagan. The treaty served the U.S. well through the era of instability at the end of the Cold War and the New START would simply continue what was already a good idea. It has served us well for the last two decades and, if passed, would continue to today. It would reduce nuclear stockpiles by one third on both sides, still leaving America with more than enough firepower to defend itself. It would responsibly allow mutual transparency and allow us to monitor Russia’s nuclear weapons and material.

In addition to the original concerns START was designed to address, more modern concerns may be added to the list of reasons New START must be passed now, not later. Nuclear proliferation is a tremendous concern today, especially since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Reducing stockpiles means less nukes and nuclear material that could fall into the hands of unstable states or groups. Fewer nuclear weapons, less nuclear material, and better control makes us all safer. North Korea and Pakistan have already acquired nuclear weapons through the back door and Iran is certainly trying to. The
black-market smuggling ring led by Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan shows there is a hot market worldwide for nuclear technology. For an entire year already America has been unable to account for all of Russia’s nuclear material and there are certainly buyers out there who will stop at nothing to acquire it. New START would close the loophole. Not doing so is like crossing our fingers and hoping nothing happens.

Nuclear terrorism is the ultimate threat to United States and its allies. Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden have already stated they are attempting to acquire nuclear weapons. They’re not alone. Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, and Hamas would also jump at the chance. Hollywood never stops thinking up movie plots involving a nuke smuggled into America. If they can think of it, so can terrorists and extremists. For these reasons the U.S. military is also urging the passage of New START. Keeping nuclear weapons and material out of the hands of terrorists is a top national security priority. Not signing New START would be reckless and leave us vulnerable to attack.

The Senate Republican leadership opposes passing the treaty because of politics. They are more concerned with opposing President Obama than they are keeping America safe. There is bipartisan support for the treaty and it would and certainly should be ratified, if only the GOP leadership would put politics aside and put our security first. START was entered into between two states that possessed the nuclear arms to ensure they would mutually destroy one another in a nuclear attack. ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ kept America and the USSR at a standstill. Today, unstable states and terrorist groups are not so inclined. Extremists and terrorists are unconcerned about the destruction a nuclear attack would create on both sides and many are already fully prepared to die for their cause.

GOP opposition to New START is outdated, out of touch, and disastrously dangerous. The treaty needs to be ratified by the U.S. Senate as soon as possible so that we can jointly and responsibly reduce and monitor nuclear weapons and material, prevent nuclear proliferation and terrorism, and put our security first.
Chris Miller is a Purple Heart and Combat Action Badge recipient and eight-year U.S. Army veteran, having served two tours in Baghdad, Iraq. He is currently a law student and a fellow with the Truman National Security Project.
Copyright (C) 2010 by Illinois Editorial Forum. 12/10

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Why We Support the DREAM Act


By James Moeser and Andrea Bazán

In a program known as the UNC Scholars Latino Initiative (SLI), students at UNC-Chapel Hill make a three-year commitment to mentor Hispanic students at Jordan Matthews High School in Siler City. Students sign on as sophomores and work one-on-one with the high school sophomores through their graduation, preparing them to apply successfully for college.

We have seen first-hand the positive effects of this mentoring program on both the high school students as well as our own at UNC. Many of these young people have gone on to enroll in college, including some at Chapel Hill. Most, but not all of these students, are American citizens, but their legal status has not been an issue for the university. UNC’s concern has been its responsibility for the education of all North Carolinians, including the development of their full potential as human beings.

However, when students apply to the university, their legal status becomes a matter of grave concern. As non-residents, they are required to pay out-of-state tuition, and are not eligible for either federal or state need-based aid. The Office of Student Financial Aid has had to cobble together aid packages made up entirely of private funds. As a result, UNC has been able to admit only a handful of these promising students. Most of them are being left behind.

But now, it appears that the U.S. Senate is once again considering the passage of the DREAM Act. This bipartisan legislation has the ability to open the doors for our high-achieving Hispanic students, such as the ones in the SLI.

The version of the proposal under consideration by the Senate has been scaled back drastically to increase the chance of passage. Unfortunately, gone are the original provisions that would allow these students to pay in-state tuition. Also removed is any eligibility for federal student aid. Still, this proposal represents a small step forward.

The DREAM Act creates a path toward the ability to earn legal status for undocumented students who came to this country before the age of 16. The proposal has many pieces. Students must have lived here for at least five consecutive years, have graduated from high school or obtained a GED, and have been admitted to an institution of higher education.

We want to stress that this is not an easy path. After the required completion of two years of college or military service, the students will be eligible only for provisional legal status. They would not be eligible for permanent legal status for 10 years.

Some will argue that this proposal encourages more illegal immigration, but that objection has been met by the provisions which apply only to students currently in the U.S. Others will argue that Congress should wait until it can pass comprehensive immigration reform. Still others will argue that the proposal has been so watered down in attempts to win full bipartisan support that it does not go far enough. While we share many of those concerns, this is a case where we cannot let “the perfect” be the enemy of “the good.” In the absence of truly addressing our immigration challenges, passing the DREAM Act is the right thing to do.

Good people can disagree about the ethics and morality of the underlying issues involving immigration and legal status. Ultimately, for us, the best argument for the DREAM ACT is simply this: What best serves the needs of the State of North Carolina and the United States? In the competitive environment of this global economy, is it in our own interests to hold back a whole generation of one sector of our communities from reaching their full potential as job creators and tax payers? The DREAM Act provides an answer to this question. We hope the Senate will have the wisdom to do the right thing.
Moeser is Chancellor Emeritus of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Bazán is President of Triangle Community Foundation.

Randy Albelda


By Paul Egerman and Randy Albelda

With unemployment close to 10 percent, Congress needs to focus on creating jobs and strengthening our economy. More than ever, our country cannot afford policies that would waste resources needed for job-creating initiatives in the short run and that would increase deficits in the long run.

That’s exactly what extending hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts for our highest-income residents would do.

One of us has built prosperous businesses and the other is a public finance economist. From our different perspectives we have learned the same thing: businesses create jobs when people want, and are able, to buy their products.

Paul Egerman
Tax cuts for the wealthy tend primarily to increase their wealth – not their spending in the economy. To increase spending and create demand in the private sector, government needs to put money into the hands of lower- and middle-income families who are struggling to get by and will spend any new income to keep their families afloat.

That’s why economists have consistently found that tax cuts for high-income people are a far less effective means of creating jobs than are tax cuts for lower- and middle-income families, extended unemployment benefits, and direct investment in services like education, health care, and public safety, which lead to direct hiring and put money into the hands of working people who will spend it in the local economy.

With Congress likely to act in the next weeks on the expiring Bush-era tax cuts, there is widespread support for extending the middle-class tax cuts. The debate will focus on whether to extend tax cuts for the highest-earning two percent of Americans – those with adjusted gross income above $200,000 for single filers and $250,000 for married couples.
There is a strong business and economic case for letting these higher-income tax cuts expire.

The bulk of these poorly targeted tax cuts will go to households with incomes above $1 million – resulting in average annual tax cuts for these households of over $100,000, about twice what the typical American household earns in a year.

Most small businesses aren't owned by people in the top-income brackets -- they don’t make enough taxable income ($250,000 a year) to pay the higher tax rates. Only the top 3 percent of people with business income of any kind, let alone income from what most Americans think of as “small businesses,” would be affected. Moreover, high-income households will benefit from extension of the middle-income rate reductions, because a portion of high-income filers’ total income falls within the tax brackets affected by the middle-class tax cuts.

The $40 billion in revenue next year (and some $90 billion over two years) generated by letting the high-end tax cuts expire could be used for a temporary tax credit to spur small-business job creation, or to provide additional aid to the states, and would do much more to generate economic growth and create jobs. Targeted provisions for working families through the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit also have helped prop up consumer spending and should be extended.

In the long run, terminating the top-end tax cuts will produce substantial deficit reduction once the economy has recovered. If Congress allows the tax cuts targeted at America’s highest-income households to expire, it would reduce both the deficit and debt over the next decade by $1 trillion, improving the nation’s long-term fiscal outlook.

The US currently is experiencing the effects of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression; reviving the economy and putting people back to work as soon as possible will place the US in a better position to address our deficits and debt in the years ahead. Cutting taxes for the very wealthy will not help the nation as much as keeping teachers and police officers employed, investing in our schools, transportation systems and other infrastructure, and using our resources to help those who need it most.
Egerman is a businessman and software entrepreneur, co-founder of eScription, Inc., based in Needham, Massachusetts, and is now a member of U.S. DHHS Health Information Technology (HIT) Policy Committee. Albelda is a Professor of Economics and Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Social Policy at Univ. of Massachusetts Boston.
Copyright (C) 2010 by Massachusetts Forum. 12/10

By Erik Camayd-Freixas

Against all odds, 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high school each year, many with honors. They are among America’s brightest, most driven and underprivileged. We have invested much in their K-12 education, and they have much to contribute to our society.

National identity and allegiance are established during adolescence. This is their homeland. Brought here as minors, they have broken no law, yet are deprived of legal status through no fault of their own. Now these meritorious graduates cannot go to college, get a driver’s license, or hold a legal job. What exactly do our lawmakers expect them to do?

Their parents risked everything to flee life-threatening poverty and lack of personal safety. They bring the immigrant’s resolve and determination, ambition and work ethic on which this country continues to be built, generation after generation.

Migrant parents take our toughest, most dangerous and worst-paid jobs, which create higher-level opportunities for Americans. They step in at businesses and farms so American youth can opt for higher education and 21st-century professions, making our country more competitive in the global economy. They do so in hopes that their own children will get ahead and do great things.

“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker that we expect our dinner,” said Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations (1776), “but from their regard to their own interest.” And when Tocqueville, in Democracy in America (1835), sought to unveil the secret of our success, he found it was enlightened self-interest that prompts us to assist others and work for the common good.

The DREAM Act would grant conditional status to talented, crime-free youngsters who entered the U.S. before age 16, have lived here at least five years, and enroll in college or the military for at least two years. Yet they would not be eligible for in-state tuition, scholarships, Medicaid, food stamps, permanent residency or sponsoring family members for at least 10 years.

This fifth version of the bill, introduced Nov. 30 by Sens. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Harry Reid (D-Nev.) as a concession to Republican opponents, is disappointing. Still, Republicans have vowed to filibuster until the Senate extends Bush-era tax cuts for the rich.

If passed, an estimated 800,000 high school graduates from marginalized and persecuted families, living in fear of incarceration and deportation, will have a fighting chance to pursue their interests and fully contribute to what Tocqueville once called “the most enlightened and free nation on earth.”

A statistical certainty, many of these dreamers would become doctors who save American lives (perhaps yours or mine), war heroes who defend their country and teachers who provide our children the knowledge and opportunity denied to them.

I came here as an 8-year-old with my Cuban-Lebanese father, a penniless widower with a fifth-grade education who never learned English. Because this once-enlightened country gave him the opportunity to work, which he did seven days a week, I was able to earn a Harvard PhD. Now, as an American, I can defend my country’s fundamental values, both in the classroom and the press.

Ten states have longstanding laws granting undocumented residents not a handout, but a leveled playing field: in-state tuition and limited financial aid. Studies show that this has not reduced opportunities for citizens. The College Board, which stands for equity and access, and every serious educator in this country, support the DREAM Act.

This should not be a battle between Democrats and Republicans, educators and politicians. There is no political, economic, rational or moral justification for withholding education from the poor.
Camayd-Freixas is a Professor of Hispanic Studies at Florida International University.
Copyright (C) 2010 by American Forum 12/10


By Carmen Cornejo

Mayra is a famous Arizona student. She has been mentioned on the floor of the U.S. Senate as an example of a determined young lady. Her lovely face, framed by wild curls, is also on the website of Richard Durbin, the Senior Senator from Illinois. But our Arizona State Senators do not celebrate young people like her.

Ironically, only because she has nothing to lose, was she willing to be made famous.

Mayra has beaten all odds. She comes from a working class family in a rural part of Arizona where expectations are tamed for everybody, especially Hispanic kids. She graduated from high school at the top of her class. She was also a student leader who headed the youth advisory board of her town. Now she is in college.

I met her by phone because she was painfully aware that her opportunities to get a scholarship to continue her education beyond high school would be limited, if not impossible. After carefully questioning me, she confided her secret: She was an undocumented student and wanted to know if college could be a possibility for her. I described how Arizona has passed laws tripling the cost of higher education for people like her, but that there would be a narrow window to search for scholarships by private donors.

When high school graduation came I got a call from Mayra informing me that she was awarded a private scholarship to a private university out of state. Needless to say, I was proud of her.

This is the kind of hardworking, deserving youth that the Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act) would reward by providing a path to legalization -- not amnesty -- so they can access post-secondary education and eventually become citizens.

These youth came here as minors, some as babies when their parents immigrated in search of a better life, filling some of the most exhausting and demanding jobs at the bottom of the economic pyramid. They grew up as Americans, with a special sense of purpose. Mayra describes it like this: "From the time I was intellectually capable of understanding its significance, my dream was to be the first college graduate in my immediate and extended family.” “College means more to me than just a four-year degree. It means the breaking of a family cycle. It means progression and fulfillment of an obligation."

Unfortunately, when her dream of higher education had just begun, she was detained by immigration authorities when her home was raided. Fortunately, her supporters helped her avoid internment at a horrific immigration detention center. However, she is in the “system” and is fighting deportation.

Having nothing to lose, Mayra now shares her story. She wants to be a person without the “undocumented” label so she can study hard and contribute to the betterment of this country. Expert university recruiters know that her kind of guts and drive is rare to find. Only persons who do not take for granted opportunity and freedom have this kind of passion for education.

The DREAM Act would bring us the benefits of a talented professional pool that will take this country to new levels of competitiveness and richness. In reality we are the ones with nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Cornejo is executive director of CADENA, a DREAM Act advocacy group in Arizona comprised of educators and professionals that have been working for the passage of the DREAM Act since 2002.
Copyright © 2010 by Arizona Editorial Forum. 12/10


By F. Scott McCown

Congress is now considering two important issues: whether to extend the Bush tax cuts and whether to extend the federally funded Unemployment Insurance program. To extend any part of the Bush tax cuts, particularly the high-end cuts, while cutting off Unemployment Insurance would betray hardworking Texans.

When a breadwinner loses a job through no fault of their own, they and their family are protected by Unemployment Insurance -- a federal-state program paid for by employers. The regular state program provides 26 weeks of benefits. Responding to the recession, Congress provided federal funding for an additional 67 weeks. But federal funding is running out, and if Congress fails to act by November 30, nearly 128,000 unemployed Texans will not get all or part of the additional weeks.

Both the public and history support extending Unemployment Insurance. A recent national survey shows 67 percent of the public are in favor of continuing Unemployment Insurance until the unemployment rate drops. And Congress has never allowed federally funded extensions to lapse when unemployment was over 7.2 percent. With the national unemployment rate well above 9 percent for 18 consecutive months, it’s far too soon for Congress to cut off Unemployment Insurance.

With the unemployment rate in Texas above eight percent for 14 consecutive months, Texas needs help as much as any state. Texas has almost 125,000 fewer available jobs than when the recession began in December 2007.

On top of everything else, if Congress cuts off federal Unemployment Insurance before it creates a sufficient number of jobs, Texas will face increased enrollment in our public assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and Medicaid. Texas will be hard-pressed to cover its share of these increased costs because of our state revenue crisis.

Even though the case for Congress extending Unemployment Insurance is clear, two sticking points have emerged. Some argue that the unemployed need tough love to force them back to work by cutting off this “government handout.” But it’s way too soon for tough love.

The country has one job for every five people seeking work. And not every job seeker fits every job. Employers can be picky -- free to reject both the under- and over-qualified worker. Unemployment Insurance keeps the unemployed in the hunt, giving the economy time to create new jobs and workers time to get new skills.

Unemployment Insurance plays an important role in helping the economy maintain and create jobs. Unemployment Insurance allows Texas families to continue to pay their bills. For every dollar spent on benefits, approximately $2 is generated in spending. This spending supports Texas businesses, averting additional job losses and creating more jobs. Federal unemployment insurance programs have injected $5.8 billion into the Texas economy and have added an estimated $11.6 billion to our state’s Gross Domestic Product.

Nevertheless, some argue that Congress should not continue providing the additional weeks of Unemployment Insurance without spending cuts in some other part of the budget. But extending Unemployment Insurance would have virtually no effect on our long-term national debt because it’s temporary, and requiring off-setting spending cuts would actually be counterproductive because it would take money out of the economy.

Unemployment Insurance is far more important to our economic recovery than extending the high-end Bush tax cuts. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that federal Unemployment Insurance rates the highest in boosting the economy and creating jobs, while extending the high-end tax cuts rates the lowest.

Congress should provide an extension for a full year. Anything less is too little. And Congress should act now -- before the November 30 expiration of current benefits. Providing retroactive benefits in December is too late. Children can’t be fed retroactively. Congress needs to act to protect hardworking American families.
McCown is executive director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities.
Copyright (C) 2010 by the Texas Lone Star Forum. 11/10


By David Santulli

Dear Peace Corps -- It’s been 50 years since the idea of you was born during a speech by JFK at the University of Michigan. It’s been a wonderful life – and now is the time to see how you’re faring. Many people celebrating your birthday have focused on what you have and haven’t done. I’d like to examine why you were brought into being, and how the world has changed.

During the Cold War -- when the U.S. and the Soviet Union raced to find allies -- you were viewed as a way to exert soft power and build friendship with countries susceptible to communist influence. But there was more; there was a genuine interest to support communities in need around the world while engaging American youth and opening their global sensitivities.

Other notions were discussed, but never brought into being -- such as the idea of bringing people from other countries to serve in the U.S. (a so-called reverse Peace Corps). At the time, this idea was dismissed as too revolutionary. Besides, many thought, what help does the U.S. need from the rest of the world?

A lot has changed in the past 50 years. Indeed, the idea of international volunteering has flourished, and you are just one of many institutions that now send volunteers around the world. As we look forward, we should be aware of this new world.

1. The concept of enlightened foreign policy has entered the global lexicon. Many of us now agree that countries must think beyond their own self-interests, and that global challenges require global solutions. It is naïve and even self-destructive to think that any one country can solve such pressing issues as global poverty, environmental degradation, and more. It’s also naïve to think that these global issues will not and cannot affect any one country, even the U.S.

2. The global interest in volunteerism has spread. Peace Corps, you have set an example for the world, and many have been inspired by you. From Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to Germany and beyond, the spirit of volunteerism is taking the world by storm.

3. There is more openness to multilateral volunteerism. We are all realizing how much we have to give each other. A farmer from Tanzania or a non-profit professional from Brazil can in fact make a difference in the U.S., while at the same time opening our eyes to another culture and way of life.

So what do these changes mean? How should we act differently because of them?

If our true intent is to improve relationships so that we can address and overcome global challenges, then we need to create one or more global Peace Corps. These organizations could be intergovernmental volunteer forces or independent non-governmental forces. When volunteers of different countries, cultures, and faiths work shoulder-to-shoulder to solve the world’s most compelling challenges, the communities in which they work change -- and perhaps more importantly, the volunteers themselves change.

A multilateral Peace Corps (a global volunteer corps, if you will) does not operate from North to South; it operates in all directions. A polycentric approach, employing many organizations around the world within their circles of influence, will ensure that the maximum numbers of people are touched. As we mark International Volunteer Day on December 5, millions will celebrate the spirit and worth of volunteering.

As you turn 50, Peace Corps, you can mature and go on to create the better world that was the idea of your birth. You can become a role model and a partner for other nations and non-governmental organizations.

You and your idealistic cadres of volunteers have changed the world. Now is the time for you to learn from your acquired lessons so that the world can reap the benefits -- and continue the celebration for many years to come.
David Santulli is founder and executive director of United Planet, an international nonprofit based in Boston, MA. United Planet is based on the concept of Relational Diplomacy that places hundreds of people in short- and long-term volunteer projects all over the world. December 5 is International Volunteer Day.
Copyright (C) 2010 by American Forum. 11/10