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April 22, 2015: Opponents of Gay Marriage Ponder Strategy as Issue Reaches Supreme Court

The issue of legalizing same-sex marriage will be heard in Supreme Court this coming Tuesday, and opponents of the cause are further strengthening their resistance, as Erik Eckholm writes. Statistics reveal that more than half of America’s population endorses marriage equality, but one-third of the nation remains against gay marriage (Eckholm, 2015).

The divided opinion of the general public puts intense pressure on the leaders. Traditional leaders maintain their opposition to gay marriage, while respecting the choice of traditionalist religious officials who want to respect the Bible’s teachings by refusing any participation in homosexual weddings. Apparently, this is not particularly right because if the country officials and magistrates can choose to refuse to participate in the same-sex marriage ceremony, then they are discriminating gay couples, which is the core of the cause. Several states have allowed gay marriage, so the question arises why not make it a national policy. Marriage is for everybody and if Supreme Court rules over it, then America is just doing the right thing. In fact, younger leaders with contemporary beliefs are getting more and more support from the public toward making same-sex marriage a nation’s right. As conservative leaders grow old and are soon retiring, this could also mean that conventional national laws will be replaced by contemporary policies due to the power shift amongst politicians. This signifies that America is embracing a looser, more empathetic and understanding path when it concerns democracy and equal rights, as the team members of political parties change from the old to the young ones. Hence, the backlash against gay marriage, as predicted by a group of experts, will eventually die soon. Moreover, with the anticipated substitution of leaders and their respective beliefs, the politics of America will also change for the better.

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April 14, 2015: U.S. Labor Department Unveils Retirement Brokers Rule

The U.S. Labor Department reveals their plan of making modifications with regard to brokers who offer retirement plan advice based on the best interests of the investors. The new rule will require brokerages to resolve conflicts of interests between consumers and brokers, demand that IRS imposes excise tax on conflicted transactions, and insure breached consumers can take actions against the broker through arbitration (Lynch & Barlyn, 2015).

The presence of a consumer-friendly rule in terms of retirement plan transactions between brokers and investors, without a doubt, will make the consumers happy, especially those who are approaching their retirement. In fact, this rule places the consumers above the interests of brokers and trade industry firms, which should be the case as America is run by the taxpayers’ money. Thus, it is time for this country to be more sensitive to the needs of American consumers; therefore, the government starts to realize that Americans after retirement may not receive a comfortable life they deserve after investing their 401(k) funds to a series of non-profitable businesses. To avoid complains from brokers and brokerage, the U.S. Labor Department assures that revenue sharing and commission-based compensation remains intact. Apparently, this is placing the Obama government in a positive light because this action from the U.S. Labor Department translates into concern among consumers, safeguarding their financial investments after retirements. If this rule withstands criticism, then consumers will be able to say that democracy in this country is getting better and stronger, as the leaders in the government are taking actions that safeguard the best interests of the general public. Hopefully, the industry trade groups would cooperate and see that the rule is not meant to injure their businesses but merely to find a way to double the protection of investors in times when they are most vulnerable.

April 8, 2015: Texas Judge Refuses to Lift Block on Obama Immigration Plan

In response to the plan of the White House to allow millions of illegal immigrants in the U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen in Brownsville, Texas has issued a temporary block on the order and has refused to lift it, despite the request from the U.S. Justice Department. Since Obama’s order bypassed the congress, 26 other states have filed a lawsuit asserting the President went past with his powers with executive orders, Eric Johnson (2015) reports.

The executive order from President Obama has drawn a wide division of contradiction and support. Immigrants and progressive groups have expressed their gratitude and strong support, since the plan obviously favors them. Meanwhile, senators, congress, public officials, private sectors and ordinary American citizens have openly expressed their dismay and outrage about it. The politics behind the executive order can be easily understood even by average folks. If millions of illegal immigrants are granted permission to stay in the country after years of hibernating, then America must be ready to provide proper jobs, extend health care services, and even increase budget on food stamps for them because finally they will be able to experience the benefit of a standard American citizen. The White House may have realized that no matter how strict the deportation rules are thousands of illegal immigrants can still make way to camp in U.S. However, Obama has lost foresight of the possible repercussions if his executive order goes according to plan. Not only America will suffer economically and politically but American citizens have realized that illegal immigrants will benefit from their taxes, hence the explanation of outrage. If Obama is allowed to exceed in his executive powers, then the federal judges are also allowed to exercise their control within their jurisdiction. The White House has certainly overstepped in the boundary of democracy.

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March 26, 2015: Indiana Governor Signs Religious Freedom Bill that Could Affect Gays

Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which is a controversial bill that could permit individuals and businesses to deny their services to homosexuals, thereby leading to angry protests in the business sector, as Mary Wisniewski (2015) reports.

Supporters of the bill say the true intention of Religious Freedom Restoration Act is to provide individuals and companies the ability to assert their religious beliefs, which have been significantly prevented being a defense in legal proceedings. RFRA has met widespread criticisms not only from company owners but also from notable individuals, public officials and majority of American citizenry because of its broader scope and vague parameters as compared to existing federal laws. Through this bill, the possibility of businesses and company owners to deny their services to people whose religious beliefs seem inappropriate such as gays and lesbians. The greater issue here is that supporters of Religious Freedom Restoration Act in the state are public officials who are against same-sex marriage, which was legalized in Indiana. The sector that is affected the most by RFRA is the LGBT community, which is not highly recognized by some religious entities. For example, a wedding ceremony of a gay couple could be refused in an establishment whose owner is against same-sex marriage. The discrimination issue in the said bill is what angered the public the most. Hence, in another report, Governor Pence promised to fix the glitch in the bill that allegedly curbs the rights of homosexuals (Ortiz, 2015). A part of RFRA is clearly violating the rights of gays and lesbians; hence, it is only proper that it should be amended. Giving companies the capacity to choose their customers having strictures on their religious beliefs is not an exercise of democracy; on the contrary, it closely resembles to discrimination, which should have been abolished a long time ago.

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March 19, 2015: Growing U.S. Oil Export Debate Has Now Spread to Geopolitics

The discussion of a possible lifting of the longstanding ban on unprocessed U.S. crude oil is making rounds in the Senate. If exportation of U.S. unprocessed crude is allowed, the country’s economy and global leadership will likely boost. However, anti-supporters of this movement declare the prolonged benefits of inexpensive oil to American consumers and business sector. Apparently, a hearing on U.S. crude export policy continues, as Valerie Volcovici (2015) writes.

The present U.S. crude export policy has been preventing unprocessed crude oil from reaching the overseas markets. The policy was a consequence of the 1973’s oil shock. After banning export of unprocessed crude oil, businesses and American consumers in general have been enjoying the benefit of steady cheaper oil prices. However, the argument of the pro-exports discusses the greater benefits that America will reap in case the government starts allowing oil producers to sell unprocessed crude abroad. Apart from evident boost to the economy, America will enhance its position as a global leader because of better and stronger partnership with its European allies, elevating its position in global geopolitics. For the oil refiners, the claim of the crude oil export supporters does not collide with the present reality of the petroleum market. In case the policy is altered and selling of unprocessed petroleum is permitted, experts think most of America’s crude oil will be exported to China, instead of its allied countries in Europe. Thus, the decision to sell American oil abroad is rather crucial. Furthermore, before any action is decided, pros and cons must be considered to achieve a win-win situation. Perhaps the government should start reshaping the conditions affecting unprocessed crude oil export policy to prioritize buyers from the country’s European allies, remain American-consumer friendly, and to elevate America’s position in global leadership.

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March 10, 2015: Obama Announces Changes for Student Loan Repayment

President Barrack Obama announces his plan of tweaking the current policies of student loans in America to make it friendlier and easier for students to repay them after graduation. The ‘Student Aid Bill of Rights” signed by Obama is designed for loan service providers to give clear information to students about their loans, the options for repaying it, and alternatives for students in cases of troubles liquidating the loan with rational fees on a realistic timeline, as Roberta Rampton (2015) reports.

There are two primary options for American students on how to get their education loans, namely private loan service providers or governmental. The plans of President Obama focus on the services provided by private businesses, which have different regulations on repayments. The report indicates that about 40 million Americans are crippled by student loans. In effect, after graduation, these students are intensely pressured to have lucrative jobs in order to pay their loans on time. Since not all fresh graduates in America will be able to find entry-level employment with high salaries, their debts will incur additional fees due to the lag payments. Penalty fees on top of the existing loan only trigger greater difficulty of repayments. Thus, this is an excellent move from the White House to intervene in the growing crisis with regard to student loans. The presence of “student aid bill of rights” will encourage more American students to enroll in universities, leading to a more prolific and better educated generation of Americans. In the recent years, student loans have been a more common option among Americans to get better education; hence, their role in American higher education is undoubtedly important. Moreover, students, who will someday form the most productive workforce in this country, should experience a more reasonable, versatile, and forgiving system of student loans.