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In 2016, Your Vote Matters More than EverThe results of the recent New Hampshire primary confirmed that the 2016 presidential election promises to be one of the most exciting races in history. The unpredictability of this year’s tumultuous race means that almost anything could happen so each individual vote counts more than ever.

Political pundits have been surprised again and again by the success of Donald Trump and Senator Bernie Sanders – two dark horses who have become serious contenders for their parties’ nominations.

Both Trump and Sanders won double-digit leads over their opponents, indicating that “The Donald” is not going anywhere despite his second-place finish in Iowa — and that Hillary Clinton is in for a much tighter race than anticipated.

Trump garnered 35.3 percent of Republican votes and Governor John Kasich came in as runner-up with 15.8 percent. The winner of the Iowa caucus, Senator Ted Cruz, fell in third place with 12.9 percent of Republican votes.

On the Democratic side, Sanders won 63.1 percent of Democratic votes, leaving Hillary with 36.0 percent. While Sanders’ victory in New Hampshire was expected, as he serves as a Senator for the state just next door, the demographics of Sanders’ supporters were rather unexpected.

According to polls conducted by Edison Research for The Associated Press and other media networks, Sanders won a majority of both men and women, with seven in 10 women under 45 casting their votes for him.

When Hillary ran against President Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, she won a plurality of women’s votes. In the Iowa caucus just a week before the New Hampshire primary, Hillary received a majority of women’s support.

The South Carolina primaries promise to bring even more excitement. As of Feb. 10, 2016, FiveThirtyEight predicts that Hillary has a 95 percent chance of winning South Carolina and Trump has a 55 percent chance.

However, Jeb Bush came out of the New Hampshire primary with some much-needed momentum, finishing fourth with 11.2 percent of Republican votes. Sanders left New Hampshire with over $6 million more in funding.

The fast-changing nature of this year’s presidential election means that each and every vote carries significant weight. But there are many other reasons to line up at the ballot box this election season.

First, as of Election Day in 2016, there will be Supreme Court justices who are over 80 years old. According to a study by the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, the average retirement age for a Supreme Court justice is 78.7. Thus, whoever wins the 2016 presidential election may have the privilege of nominating new Supreme Court justices. New justices have the potential to drastically impact U.S. law and legislation for years to come.

Second, nearly one-quarter of Americans – or 75 million people – will hit retirement age over the next few years. As members of the baby-boom generation retire from their jobs, the U.S. labor force will fall dramatically. Simultaneously, Social Security and Medicare funds will decrease as retirees claim their benefits. The next president will be making some tough but important decisions about retirement policies and the future of Social Security.

Third, during his tenure in office, President Barack Obama has left his mark on a wide range of policy fields, such as health care, education, immigration and gun control. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, has significantly changed the American health care system. Obama’s “Race to the Top” and “Common Core” initiatives have expanded the federal government’s role in American education. Whoever takes office next will have the power to either continue these policies or strike them down.

Voting is an essential part of the democratic process and a privilege; there are many people across the world who still do not have the right to choose their nation’s leader.  Your vote matters.

Clara Wang

Sources: Politico, AP, FiveThirtyEight 1, Washington Post, Talking Points Memo, FiveThirtyEight 2, CNBC
Photo: Flickr

rand_paul
On August 6, 2015, the Republican presidential candidates participated in the first Republican Primary Debate of the 2016 election cycle. The top 10 candidates in the polls debated at nine PM EST. Although the candidates did talk extensively about foreign policy, foreign aid was not mentioned much at all. One candidate, Senator Rand Paul, did mention his views on foreign aid and his potential foreign aid policies.

Senator Rand Paul says that, according to his proposed budgets, he will take a “meat axe” to foreign aid. Paul also thinks that we should not give aid to countries that hate America and “burn our flag.” Additionally, Paul thinks that we should only give aid to our allies when we are running budget surpluses. However, Rand Paul stated that since America is in debt, we are not in a position to give aid to other countries.

Even though it is important to consider relations between countries, this does not absolve our obligation to give to other countries. The United States gives a considerable amount of foreign aid to both Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. The US gives the second largest, third largest, and fourth largest sums of money to these countries, respectively. The US also gives a significant amount of money to Nigeria.

Extremist groups that reside in these countries should not absolve the United States from helping those who live in poverty. Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Nigeria all have many people who live in poverty. All of these countries face high poverty rates.

Rand Paul also thinks that we should not give foreign aid until the United States does not have debt. Even though it is important to consider our own debt, the United States is economically better off than many other countries in the world.

The OECD better life index gives the United States a 10 out of 10 for average personal income and an eight point one out of 10 for housing and jobs. These are all factors that are related to the economic well-being of a country. While the national debt is a problem, most countries face worse economic problems and more widespread poverty than the US. We should have an obligation to give to other countries, because we are relatively well-off.

As the 2016 Presidential Race develops, it will be important to note the candidates’ views about foreign aid. Rand Paul has commonly been for small government, and thus less foreign aid. If Paul were to be president, his budget would likely cut foreign aid spending.

Ella Cady

Sources: ABC News, Al-Monitor, OECD Better Life Index, Reno Gazette-Journal, Rural Poverty Portal, Rural Poverty Portal, Rural Poverty Portal, Fox News
Photo: RawStory

Bernie_Sanders
Bernie Sanders has been dubbed the “underdog Democrat” in this presidential election. As a committed ally to labor unions and the middle class, Sanders is determined to run a campaign financially unaffiliated with American billionaires.

When he announced his bid for the U.S. presidency, many doubted that he could gain enough momentum to really compete with Democrat likely, Hillary Clinton. However, after raising $15 million in 2 months and pulling 10,000 people into a campaign rally, many are seeing him as a potential threat to Clinton.

For his entire career, Sanders has dedicated himself to being the voice of the average person. He speaks for those who are not often heard due to their lack of capital. Often being described as a socialist, Sanders’ economic policy reflects his constituents’ desires, creating a world that truly gives everyone the chance to be a part of the “American Dream” regardless of race, gender, class or religious affiliation.

Because Sanders’ potential presence in the Oval Office is positive for the U.S. working class and those subject to abject poverty in America, it would also be great for global poverty abroad.

Sanders has, for a long time, rejected poverty, seeing it as something that could be eliminated by congressional help. Sanders is likely to translate his stance on American poverty to global poverty, then, under his administration, global poverty could forever change.

The Sanders administration is likely to expand its foreign aid budget, positively impacting global health and introducing proper legislation to eradicating global poverty.

To a farmer in Kenya, this could mean the ability to make a sufficient living. To women in the Philippines, this could mean a greater access to family planning resources.

Bernie Sanders’ presence in the White House could not only greatly impact those living in the United States, but also those abroad. His aggressive approach to eradicating poverty would be a great asset to those subject to absolute poverty in developing countries.

– Erin Logan

Sources: Bernie Sanders, Forbes, Huffington Post 1, Huffington Post 2

Photo: Breitbart

Rope isolated on white background
I expect that you, like most Americans, are beginning to ponder who you’re going to vote for in the upcoming presidential election. If this is the case, then you might also be causally conversing about or considering the factors most important to your decision. Let me draw your attention to one of the most significant aspects of presidency, foreign policy.

For a President to be successful in foreign policy it is fairly likely that they will need to have foreign policy experience. When you hear the words foreign policy your mind might initially jump to the conflict in Ukraine and the threats from ISIS. The less considered aspect of foreign policy is foreign aid. If a president does not have a good deal of foreign policy experience, as we saw with President Barrack Obama, it is likely that this president may neglect foreign aid and focus only on military conflicts. This is a problem because foreign aid is integral to the United States’ economics and national security.

Foreign aid has been neglected in foreign policy and viewed as “charity” rather than as strategy for a long time. During the Obama administration this neglect grew. According to ForeignPolicy.com USAID, the United States’ aid organization, has had about a 16 percent drop in funding since 2009.

Before Obama was elected many concerns were raised, as described by an article in Time magazine, about Obama’s lack of experience in the foreign policy arena. The article stated that perhaps his international experience would prove to be enough.

It appears that this was not the case.

“Obama’s critics see a president adrift, lacking firm convictions or a strategy for dealing with the world,” says an article by Elias Groll on ForeignPolicy.com. Others such as Dr. Colluci on U.S. News and World Report even go as far as to describe Obama’s administration as a “foreign policy vacuum.” While perhaps this is a little extreme, it is fair to say that Obama did in fact have little experience in foreign policy and that is reflected in his actions abroad as a president.

Obama has focused too much on military conflicts and strategy, and has allowed aid funding to decline significantly. Perhaps if he had had more experience he would have learned an important lesson before becoming president: that the global security that he has been working toward could be better sought through stabilizing countries economically and through building infrastructure.

Foreign aid can both spread democracy, as has been the United States’ goal since the Cold War, and fight terrorism. Perhaps Washington should return to foreign aid as a strategy, rather than continuing to use the military to maintain its sphere of influence.

The Marshall Plan could arguably be listed as one of the United States’ greatest foreign policy successes. This move gave the United States the influence it sought, stabilized countries after World War II, and spread democracy.

In addition, while poverty does not necessarily cause terrorism, reducing global poverty will reduce the human resources of terrorist organizations. Not only that, but reducing global poverty will also prevent at-risk populations from being recruited by these organizations in the future.

The next President should be someone who has had enough experience to realize the importance of foreign aid for these reasons. The president should have had enough military and aid experience to know the value of each, and enough foreign policy experience to know that the military is not the most vital part of our national security.

Even if this president does not know the importance of aid to United States’ foreign policy, I hope that at the very least they will realize that increasing U.S. foreign aid will provide a new job market for United States’ citizens.

– Clare Holtzman

Sources: The Borgen Project, Clingendael, Foreign Policy 1, Foreign Policy 2, Time, U.S. News & World Report

American_PovertyWith the 2016 Presidential election approaching rapidly, candidates are beginning to differentiate themselves from the competition by advocating for unique platforms. While some candidates have built a large portion of their campaign around illegal immigration, one candidate has made it clear that he will focus on an issue here at home. Bernie Sanders has emerged as the champion for reducing poverty here in the United States.

Sanders uses the increasing disparity between the wealth classes in America to illustrate his point on the problem of American poverty. Continuing to hammer his point home, Sanders then puts the blame on Wall Street’s influence over economic poverty, unfairly favoring those with more income. Sanders is directly quoted as saying, “There are a lot of great public servants out there, great economists who for years have been standing up for the middle class and the working families of this country, who know that it is an international embarrassment that we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country on Earth.” Sanders makes a bold claim with this statement, but one that is shockingly valid.

Sanders’ campaign website lists some alarming figures about overall U.S. poverty as well as child poverty on an international scale. According to the site, 46.5 million Americans live below the poverty line making that figure the largest in U.S. history. In addition to this number, Sanders’ website cites a 21.8 percent child poverty rate, the “highest of any major country on earth.” It is important to distinguish here that by “major country,” he is referring to all countries part of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OCED).

In March of 2014 Sanders organized a subcommittee to examine in depth the differences in life expectancy across the United Sates as a direct result of varying poverty levels. Some of the findings reported that almost as many people die from poverty as from lung cancer. Life expectancy was also shown to have decreased over the past 20 years in 313 U.S. counties, and the United States has 6 million more people in poverty today than it did in 2004.

Poverty is as crucial an issue as any from presidential hopefuls this elections. Senator Bernie Sanders has made it one of his top campaign priorities to reduce this number drastically if elected, by working vigorously to improve the system of the American economy and reduce the vast gap between wealth classes in America.

Diego Catala

Sources: PolitiFact, Senate
Photo: Bernie Sanders