Archive for November, 2014

To Pay or Not to Pay: Are Parents Morally Responsible for Funding Their Children’s College Education?

Posted in Uncategorized on November 17, 2014 by thebluebros

I recently read the opinion of a father of eight who said that he would not be paying for any of his children to attend college. He made the case that a college degree isn’t worth what it once was; it doesn’t guarantee success; and teaching kids to be independent is more important than giving them a handout.

First of all, I have trouble trusting the judgment of anyone who thinks it’s a good idea to have eight kids. Putting that thought aside for a moment, I couldn’t help but notice that hundreds of people have heaped praise on this fertile patriarch for his boldness, his tough love, and his ability to think outside the box. While I admit that his message has a nice common-sense ring to it that resonates somewhere inside of me, I can’t help but take pause. Being the incurable cynic that I am, I had one thought as I was reading the article: How convenient that a father of eight believes that he is morally absolved from paying for his children’s college educations. I mean, by adopting this tough stance on behalf of his children, he just happens to save himself hundreds of thousands of dollars. That seems rather convenient. What some are calling a conscientious father implementing tough love I can’t help but see as a potentially-careless man who doesn’t feel like footing the bill for eight nights of unbridled passion.

Regardless of my opinion of the man, his opinion has ignited a debate on the important topic of college tuition and parental responsibility. What role, if any, should parents have in paying for their children to attend college? Although I don’t have eight children, I would like to weigh in on this. As a father of three, this issue will no doubt present itself in the not-so-distant future.

After researching both sides and exploring the arguments for and against, I have come down squarely on the side that we as parents have a responsibility to pay (or at least help pay) for our children to attend college. Here I’ll present the arguments I could find against the idea of paying.

1) No one paid for my college, and I still went.

This is one of the poorer arguments I’ve read, but I’ve seen it several times so I’ll address it. Usually the people who say this are people who went to college several decades ago and paid 50 cents a credit. They were able to pay tuition with the money they made by working part-time at the roller rink. Obviously, tuition costs have skyrocketed since the Eisenhower Administration. Paying a tuition bill with a part-time job (even at a state school) is magical thinking.

Even if it’s a fact that your parents didn’t help you pay for college, don’t you want better for your children? So much of this anti-paying-for-college movement seems to be the result of angry people who didn’t get their college paid for. It’s sort of this, “It sucked for me, so it should suck for you,” mentality.

2) Kids need to learn the value of a dollar.

This is another extremely common response. Obviously point #2 creates a false choice, as if parents have to choose between helping their kids pay for college or teaching them the value of a dollar. The obvious point is that parents can do both. In fact, I would argue that, in some cases, kids who don’t get help with college have less awareness of money. Ask people how they accrued $100,000 in school loan debt. It’s often the result of taking out loan after loan. After a while, the loans don’t feel real. It’s simply the transferring of money from your lender to your college. Tens of thousands of dollars move around with the stroke of a pen, and the student never sees it. And once a college kid is $60,000 in debt, what’s another $10,000? What exactly are kids learning from this? Is saddling your child with tens of thousands of dollars of debt (or more) somehow teaching him/her a lesson? Surely we as parents can come up with a better way to teach our children the value of a dollar.

3) Kids these days are spoiled and have a sense of entitlement.

Again, we encounter angry people who want to pay their suffering forward. These words sound like they came from someone who didn’t get their college paid for, and now they’re angry at the millenials who are getting what they perceive to be a free ride. Should we use exorbitant debt as a way to teach spoiled brats a lesson? My hope is that our decisions about raising children should not be made out of anger, jealousy, or spite.

4) Americans should be saving for their retirement, not for their children’s college.

Again, we’re faced with a false choice. No one says we have to help our children at the detriment of our own retirement. Family planning and retirement takes preparation. It means making sacrifices, putting money aside, and sometimes it means not having eight children. If you’re in a low-paying career, and/or you are a single-income family, this takes more preparation. For example, it sometimes mean sending your kids to community college for two years while they live at home and help pay bills with a part-time job of their own.

While I applaud anyone who has the wherewithal to plan their retirement, some thought should be given to your child, who could very well be the victim of predatory school loan practices. Counting the money in your investment account and patting yourself on the back while your child is being hustled by predatory lenders doesn’t sit well with me.

In addition, these same parents often claim their college-aged children as dependents on their taxes, providing a tax incentive for themselves and potentially denying their children of federal monies they would be eligible for if they weren’t claimed as dependents.

5) College is no guarantee of a job anymore.

This puke-inducing mantra seems to be taking a stronger hold on America with each passing day. First off, a college degree has never guaranteed anyone a job. But that’s beside the point. We know that people without college degrees are more likely to be unemployed and more likely to be hit by an economic recession. They also make significantly less money than their degree-holding compatriots. And college graduates get better jobs. The most common jobs for people without college degrees are retail clerks, truck drivers, waitresses, and secretaries. People with just a four-year degree are more likely to be teachers, software developers, accountants, and managers. So although a college degree doesn’t guarantee you a job, it puts you in a much better position in terms of finding employment, keeping employment, and making a livable wage.

6) My 13 brothers and sisters didn’t get help with college, and we all figured it out. My kids will figure it out too.

I try to avoid anecdotal evidence whenever I can, but the other side seems to thrive on it. The majority of people who argue against paying for their children’s education have one or two stories of someone who dropped out of college and then created a start-up company that made a billion dollars…as if that’s a good indicator of how most college dropouts perform. My guess is that not all 13 of the brothers and sisters mentioned above fared all that well. And even if they all did do well, who’s to say how much better they would have done had they been given an education?

And what is meant exactly by “figuring it out”? I guess scraping to get by and working a dead end job to keep the lights on is one definition of “figuring it out.” Don’t we want better for our kids than just “figuring it out?” Kids left in the foster care system usually figure it out too, but at what cost?

As parents, shouldn’t we be trying to remove obstacles to help our children succeed? That’s not the same thing as doing the work for them. I fully expect my college-age kids to go to class, take notes, do the reading, write the papers, take the tests, etc. All I’m doing is writing the check.
And just to be clear, this doesn’t include fun money. The check I will write for my kids will go straight to the Bursar’s Office. If my kids want beer money, it’s on them.

7) Personal pride and accomplishment comes from paying your own way.

Ack! Here we are with yet another false choice. This time we’re being told that we need to let kids pay for college, or they won’t have a sense of pride or accomplishment. While it’s important to instill a sense of pride and accomplishment in our children, you have to be a pretty sick individual to think that forcing your child into insurmountable debt is the way to do it. If any sense of pride comes from paying for college, your child won’t likely feel it until he/she is 52 years old and has paid the final installment of his/her 30-year payment plan.

Asking kids to “pay” for college is a euphemism for asking kids to take out loans. The average college tuition is more than $30.000 for a private school and almost $9,000 at a state university. This is just tuition mind you. If you include housing and meals, you add an additional $9,500-$11,000. If your child chooses the cheaper option (a state school), he/she will pay about $20,000 a year or $80,000 over four years. What 18-year old kid has this kind of money saved up? A part-time job will not cover this cost. Unless your child can attend class all day and work a full-time job all night (i.e. a child who requires less than 30 minutes of sleep a night), loans are going to be necessary. And a minimum wage job is not going to cover it. If your child works 40 hours a week at Wal-Mart, while going to school full-time, he/she will not come close to paying the needed $20,000 a year for a state college.

For the father of eight, it sounds like the best case scenario for his children is that they can go to school in the day, work all night, and then live with mom and dad until age 22 to save money on room and board. Wow. That’s quite a gift he’s bestowing upon them.

8) There’s too much of an emphasis on college. We should be encouraging more kids to attend trade schools and learn a skill.

There’s nothing wrong with a trade school. However, trade school shouldn’t be thought of as a college equivalent. Trade schools are great, if at the age of 17, you know exactly what you want to do for the next half century. If you’re not so sure, trade school poses a problem. Certificates from trade schools are very specific and can be limiting if you desire a new career path. For example, when you get a certificate in motorcycle mechanics, you better like working on motorcycles because the degree offers no flexibility in terms of job choice. However, if you get a college degree in anything (e.g. Liberal Studies), that fulfills the requirement for thousands of jobs across the country. If you want to do anything other than work on motorcycles for 45 years, a trade school may not be the best option.

And while some trades pay relatively well, there is usually a ceiling on pay for laborers and people without college degrees. Unless you end up owning your own HVAC business or chain of auto shops, you will be squarely middle class. There is nothing wrong with being middle class, don’t get me wrong, but as parents, do we want to limit our children’s financial future before they even get a chance to make it in the world?

My experience

I went to college for 10 long years, and when I graduated I had just over $120,000 in school loan debt. My parents helped with my undergraduate tuition, but I still finished my BA with $36,000 in loans. I funded my masters degree and PhD on my own (by funded I mean I took out more loans). When I graduated with my doctorate, I had a huge sense of pride and accomplishment, but none of that had to do with how I paid for school. In fact, it was the opposite. I felt embarrassed by my huge financial anchor, and there were nights I stared up at the ceiling wondering which would be gone first: my school loans or my 40s. The possibility of paying off my school loans while simultaneously paying for my children’s college tuition all of a sudden became a likely scenario.

Did I learn anything from this experience? Not really. The huge amounts of loans I took out felt like Monopoly money. They were simply numbers on bank statements. The loans were seen as a necessary evil for accomplishing my academic goals, but all thoughts of paying them off were placed on the back burner. When I finally did graduate, I was inundated with the bills and accompanied interest. My first job out of graduate school paid a decent wage, but I was still living paycheck to paycheck because nearly 40% of my take home pay was going towards school loans.

In the end, this issue isn’t about teaching kids the value of a dollar or instilling in them a sense of responsibility. This is about parents who want to absolve themselves of the guilt of not planning ahead, not being responsible with their money, and in turn, making their children pay the price…literally.

If a father (or mother) really wants to teach his children the value of a dollar, he can show them how time, preparation, and care went into planning each of their college funds. Children may only see the final product (a signed check made out to the university), but it’s important for them to know the sacrifice and care that went into making that check possible.

One point I want to make clear. I know that not every family is in a position to pay for their child’s college tuition. Sometimes the money simply isn’t there. But if that is the case, I at least would hope that these families are honest about their situation, as opposed to the father of eight, who has shrouded his poor family planning in a veil of compassion, trying to convince America that piling financial debt on teenagers is somehow virtuous.

– Nathan

Vote-By-Mail: A Call for National Action to Expand Democracy and Put Republicans on Defense

Posted in Uncategorized on November 13, 2014 by thebluebros

In politics, if you are playing defense, you are losing.” – Unknown

Republicans know that from a policy standpoint, they don’t have much to offer the average voter. They excel at attracting small, but zealous, groups of people like gun lovers, fetus protectors, racists, and the corporate elite. When it comes to larger groups such as the middle class, the poor, women, the young, minorities, moderates, and those that care for the environment, Republicans have virtually no past or future policies to brag about. Knowing this, conservative pioneer Paul Weyrich (founder of Heritage Foundation, Moral Majority, and ALEC), stated in 1980, “Our leverage in the elections, quite candidly, goes up as the voting populace goes down” (the above link goes to a 40-second video of this unbelievably honest statement).

In the past 10 years, Republicans have finally embraced Mr. Weyrich’s sentiment. Republicans have very clearly shifted their focus away from winning hearts and minds to dismantling institutions and organizations that Democrats rely upon to succeed in elections. When Republicans take office now, their primary goal is not to advance a political agenda, but to utilize every lever in their power to make sure power never slips from their grasp.

These efforts can be broken up into three categories: (1) union-busting, (2) gerrymandering, and (3) voter suppression.

The decimation of unions in this country is well documented. In 1979, 28.3% of all workers belonged to a union. Today that number is 11.3 percent, and just 6.7% in the private sector. Republicans, recognizing that unions were a tremendous factor in moving the poor and middle-class to vote, and support a Democratic ground game, declared war on unions. This has taken the form of “right to work” laws—which Martin Luther King, Jr. fairly called a “false slogan.” And more recently we see conservative governors across this country, most notably Scott Walker, taking every measure possible to weaken public employee unions. There is also a general malaise in government with respect to enforcing our current labor laws that prohibit employers from threatening or retaliating against workers who try to form a union. Every time a union is prohibited from forming, busted, or weakened, workers receive a pay cut and Republicans gain an electoral advantage.

On the gerrymandering front, Republicans have performed nothing short of a mathematical miracle for themselves. As I discussed a while ago on this blog, in the states of Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania—four states that either lean Democratic (PA & MI) or are split evenly between the parties (NC & OH), Republicans have drawn lines in such an effective way that they control 44 of the state’s 61 seats. To put it another way, in a population with many more Democrats than Republicans, Democrats control just 28% of the legislative seats. Meanwhile, Democrats in Democratic-strongholds like California have given up the ability to counteract Republican gerrymandering with Democratic gerrymandering by turning the process of gerrymandering over to a commission equally split between Democrats and Republicans. The result of this is an election like 2010 where Democrats in the U.S. House received 1.2 million more votes than Republicans, but Republicans won control of the U.S.  House by 33 seats.

The third prong of Republicans’ attack on Democrats and democracy is to make it harder for people to vote by: passing photo ID laws to vote; eliminating days to vote; ending same-day registration; paying for billboards to scare minorities from voting; purging voter rolls of validly registered voters; tea-party poll watchers to intimidate minority voters; and repeatedly providing too few voting machines to minority neighborhoods, creating long lines and making it impossible for some to vote. These things are all done in the name of eliminating voter fraud, but as study after study shows, the idea of widespread voter fraud is a myth. While cases of voter fraud have been found across the country, it has never been enough to come close to sway any election, and this makes sense. Individual voter fraud is an irrational crime to commit. It is a felony (meaning those who get caught face serious consequences), and the odds of any one person influencing an election by voting multiple times is astronomically small. With that said, the debate over voter fraud is a smokescreen. When caught in moments of honesty, conservative leaders admit the true reason for these “vote fraud” measures is to reduce voter turnout—particularly of Democratic voters such as minorities and the young.

Republicans have enjoyed tremendous fruit from their efforts. The Democrats’ response to all of this has been aimed at whining shining a light on these horrific practices by Republicans. This light-shining by Democrats has been futile and done little to stop the conservative steam roll. As stated at the top of this article, if a political party is on defense, it is losing. Democrats need to give up the defensive posture and go on the offensive. Here is how they do it.

Nationwide, voter turnout was at the lowest levels we have seen in over 70 years. In all but a few states, voter turnout was below 50%. At the bottom was Indiana, with a shockingly low voter turnout of just 28%! While there are certainly many reasons for this, there can be no questions that Republicans’ cynical efforts of voter suppression played a role.

One state though, was a shining example of success. In this state, voter turnout was 69.5%. There were no long lines to vote in minority neighborhoods. No voters were intimidated at the polls. No one was turned away for not having a photo ID. The state uses actual ballots so that if a recount is needed, it can reliably be performed. And there have been no reports of voter fraud. In case you are wondering, the state I speak of is my own: Oregon. So how did Oregon do it?

Oregon votes entirely via vote by mail and has done so since 1998, and Oregonians love it. A poll taken in 2003 found that vote-by-mail was supported by 81% of Oregonians (85% of Democrats and 76% of Republicans).  And what is not to love? You receive your ballot a few weeks before Election Day. When you have the time to vote, you sit down with your cup of joe in a quiet place, read your voters’ pamphlet, and conduct all of the research you like. Once you have done all the research you want to do, you fill out your ballot and drop it off at an election site or mail it in. There is no need to take time off work, wait in line, or be caught in a voting booth wishing you had more information. And perhaps best of all, it promotes democracy and an active citizenry.

So again, here is how Democrats, progressives, and supporters of democracy can and need to go on the offensive: stop trying to shame Republicans (which some would say is an impossible task) into stopping their voter-suppression efforts and instead focus our efforts on bringing vote-by-mail to all 50 states. Think offense.

You may ask yourself, “How can Democrats hope to pass a bill like this when Republicans control at least one branch of government in 45 states and control every branch of government in 30(!) states?” The answer is direct democracy. There are 27 states that have some form of direct democracy, such as the citizen referendum or ballot initiative. This list includes significant swing states like Nevada, Missouri, Ohio, and Florida.

When the not-so-novel idea of nationwide voter-by-mail occurred to me, I began looking for national and state organizations pushing for this. I found none. I also began looking for an organization such as ALEC that has drafted model legislation for the states to use and implement vote-by-mail in their own states. Again, nothing. Why? We should have people in every one of these states collecting signatures to put vote-by-mail on the ballot. As this past election taught us, when people are asked to vote for a policy directly (rather than a representative), they are pretty good at voting for what they want. For there to be no organization pushing for widespread vote-by mail, is a failure of our political system. Who has the power to start a movement like this? I don’t know the answer to that question, but I’d like to find one very soon. Here is my offer to help.

– Dylan

What Have We Wrought? Voters Reward Bad Behavior

Posted in Uncategorized on November 4, 2014 by thebluebros

I have three children: Grant (age 7), Eleanor (age 4), and Dexter (age 3). As I believe most of my friends and family would attest to, my children are very well-behaved. It is something in which I take a fair amount of pride.

From 2001 to 2005, before I had my own children, I taught middle school Social Studies. During that four-year span, I prided myself on having, if not the most well-behaved classes in the school, certainly some of the best-behaved classes in the school.

My formula for teaching and raising well-mannered children is simple. When I observe a child acting out in a negative way, I ask myself what the child hopes to gain by acting out in this manner, and I respond by giving them the opposite of what they want. For example, if my child is whining because I didn’t give him a big enough piece of cake, I cut the piece he has in half. If a student in my class started packing up while I was still instructing so he could get out the door the second the bell rang (a huge pet peeve of mine), I would make him sit in his desk until every student had first exited the class. While this may sound harsh to some, the result is polite, well-behaved children. Further, once clear expectations are set, disciplining becomes fairly infrequent, but I digress.

This type of approach to parenting and teaching is not unique, new, or at all creative. I don’t profess to be the only parent or teacher to do this, but it amazes how many people do the opposite. For example, have you ever seen a parent tell his or her a child he cannot have a certain object, the child then throws a temper tantrum, and the parent responds by relenting and providing the child with the desired object? We have all seen this and probably rolled our eyes. What that parent does not seem to grasp, but you probably do, is that a lesson has just been taught to the child: If I throw a temper tantrum, I get what I want. That parent can certainly count on experiencing more temper tantrums.

I mention all of this because this nation has just acted like the above parent giving in to an ill-behaved child, and thereby encouraging future bad behavior.

Since President Obama was elected president, Congressional Republicans have made it their number one priority to prevent the enactment of any meaningful laws—even laws they supported such as immigration reform. This is not a secret or conspiracy theory. Republicans openly admit this.

Congressional obstruction was carried out not so much because Republicans disagreed with the proposed laws (although often times they did), but because they did not want President Obama to receive credit for doing anything useful for the country. Republicans remembered what happened after 1994 when President Clinton and Congressional Republicans led by Newt Gingrich passed a lot of bipartisan pieces of legislation. The American people liked it and rewarded the president’s party in the 1996 and 1998 elections. Republicans in 2008 were not going to repeat this “mistake.” And true to their word, Republicans have effectively shut down the legislative branch for the past four years and rendered the government ineffective.

The problem for the American people is that Tuesday’s election rewarded this behavior. It affirmed the Republican’s theory—i.e., If we work with the President to pass bipartisan legislation to help the country, we lose elections. But if we stop the government from doing anything meaningful while the other party controls the White House, we get to paint the president as ineffective and we win elections.

Based on the lesson the voters have just taught Congressional Republicans, what incentive do Republicans in Congress have to work with President Obama to get anything accomplished? And what do you think will happen in two years if Republicans retain control of at least one chamber of Congress and another Democrat wins the White House (a very likely scenario)? You guessed, it: obstruct, obstruct, obstruct. While perhaps such a plan is unpatriotic, or perhaps even treasonous, you can’t say it’s not rationale. Thanks American voters. <rolling eyes>

– Dylan

My 5 Thoughts Heading Into Election Day: VOTE (!) and 4 Others

Posted in Uncategorized on November 3, 2014 by thebluebros

Thought #1: Vote!

If you live in a white community, you are in luck. Voting is easy and takes almost no time. If you are a person of color living in a less affluent community, voting is a lot harder, but I still would beg you to vote. Seriously though. If you are white, you have no excuse.

Thought #2: I will likely never live through a national election less important than this one.

Every year you can count on pundits declaring this the most important election in our lifetime. It’s done by both sides, particularly in presidential election years. As I have stated in the past, I firmly believe 2000 was the most important election that will occur in my lifetime. In stark contrast, I hereby declare 2014 to be the least important of my lifetime.

The White House is not changing hands. The U.S. House of Representatives, a body of 435 people, is not changing hands and is predicted to only shift anywhere from 6 to 12 seats (hardly a sea change). Remember in 2012 when Democrats received 1.2 million more votes than Republicans for the U.S. House, but Republicans not only won the House, but won their third-largest majority in 90 years. Yah, that’s probably gonna happen again. And the Democratic/Republican split between governors and state legislatures is not expected to change much.

The only change that may come about (OK, probably), is Republicans retaking control of the Senate. While a slight annoyance for Democrats. Is it really going to be that big of a deal? I say no for the following reasons.

  • First, what legislation did the Democrats hope to get to President Obama’s desk in 2015 and 2016 that it won’t be able to because the Democrats lost the Senate? None.
  • Second, some are saying it now will be too hard to have federal judges approved by the Senate. That is true, but seeing what kinds of judges Obama is nominating, I don’t really mind so much a few more federal judge seats sitting empty, and rolling the dice that the next president will nominate some real liberals. That isn’t too pie-in-the-sky. There is reason to be optimistic Democrats will retain the White House. Republicans have a crazy bench of front runners and Democrats have won the popular vote in 5 of the last 6 presidential elections. Republicans continue to have a demographics problem when people actually show up to vote (as they do in presidential elections). If we look to the Supreme Court, it makes almost no difference because what is the difference if Democrats have 53 votes or 49 votes. They need 60 to overcome a guaranteed Republican filibuster of any decent Supreme Court nominee.
  • And third, Democrats are almost certainly going to retake the Senate in two years. Remember, the seeds for this electoral debacle were laid in 2008 when the current crop of Democrats were elected at a time with huge voter turnout and high distrust for Republicans. That is why in 2014, Democrats have a ton more seats to defend and they are largely in red and purple states (e.g., Alaska, North Carolina, Louisiana, Colorado). Well in 2016, Republicans will face the inverse problem. Because 2010 was such a boon year for Republicans (as are most elections when everyone stays at home except for old, white people), Democrats will be defending just 10 senate seats and Republicans will be defending 24! Yes, 24. The only concerns for Democrats are Harry Reid in Nevada (toss-up) and Michael Bennet in Colorado (lead Dem). On the Republican side, there is a slew of possible pick-ups, including Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Even if Republicans win the Senate this year, it will only be by one to three seats. Democrats will very likely get back to, and over, 50 seats in 2014.

In summation, assuming Republicans take the Senate, it will likely be a very temporary control that affects very little in the way of public policy.

Thought #3: I am amazed any human being could vote to re-elect Mitch McConnell in 2014.

When I worked on Capitol Hill back in 1999, I remember meeting members of Congress and thinking to myself, “How on Earth did this person ever get elected?” I remember having this thought in particular when meeting Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Bill Roth (R-DE).

Mitch McConnell is like that. He is hard on the eyes and seems to have no people skills. Yet, here he is—ahead in most polls against a credible and well-funded challenger.

I assume many of these politicians get elected out of party loyalty and many voters have no clue what the politician has or has not done. McConnell is not like that though. He is incredibly well known as has been the Senate minority leader for seven years, and with the Republicans out of the White House, he is often times the national face of his party. With a spotlight so squarely on him, it is hard to imagine a politician doing so much to risk his political future by saying outlandish things, opposing policies supported by most Kentuckians, and in general, being a first-class prick.

If anyone wants to get a flavor of Mitch McConnell, I encourage you to listen to this 2-minute radio interview. In it, Mr. McConnell reveals the following things: (1) he wants to strip 500,000 Kentuckians of their health insurance; (2) he wants to void thousands of marriages and prohibit millions more from getting married; (3) he is against doing anything about global warming or even acknowledging its existence; and (4) is unwilling to explain the rational for any of his conclusions. On top of all that, he manages to say all of this in the nastiest and most arrogant tone imaginable. How can anyone vote for this guy? I don’t care if the Democrats ran Kim Kardashian. Who could be worse than Mitch McConnell?

There is also the well-known fact that Mitch McConnell stated in 2010 that his number one goal was not to accomplish anything for the American people, but to make sure President Obama only served one term. Mr. McConnell stated, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

There is also the fact that Mitch McConnell has shattered the previous filibuster record by invoking it 413 times since President Obama became president. No one is more responsible for the least-effective Congress in American history than Mitch McConnell. And that shouldn’t surprise anyone. How can anything get done between two competing factions when one faction begins talks by stating, “Our number one goal is a political one—to strip our opponents of power”? Again, how can anyone vote for Mitch McConnell—a man who puts personal power over country and all else.

Thought #4: Shame on Democrats for not having the courage to campaign on their successes.

For all their warts, there is no denying that Obama and the Democrats have put the United States in a significantly better place now than it was in January 2009. By virtually any measure, this country is so, so much better off now than when President Obama took over. Look to the unemployment rate, job creation, the national deficit, civil rights for gays and lesbians, percent of people with health insurance, cost of healthcare, consumer confidence, and on and on. I don’t hear Democrats running on these things? Why? Instead we have Democrats falling over themselves to convince people who will never vote for them that they love guns and hate taxes.

While I would have loved to see Mitch McConnell gone, it will not break my heart to see Alison Lundergan Grimes remain in Kentucky. This is a Democratic candidate who was too cowardly to admit she voted for President Obama. She apparently thought her constituents were so dumb they could not figure out who she voted for in 2012 for president even though she served as an Obama delegate to the Democratic Convention. Ugh. It makes you wonder how many Grimes and Mark Priors and Blanche Lincolns we need before Democrats learn to behave like Democrats. As Harry Truman said, “When given the choice between a Republican and a Democrat who acts like a Republican, the voters will choose the Republican every time.”

Lesson #5: I continue to underestimate just how irrational the American electorate tends to be.

Remember when Democrats controlled the House, the Senate and the White House in that 2-year period from 2009 through 2010? Even though we had constant GOP threats of filibuster, traitors like Joe Lieberman, and cowards like Blanche Lincoln and Ben Nelson, Democrats got a significant amount of positive and important things done, including: the Affordable Care Act; expanded the GI Bill; enacted student loan reform, credit card reform, and Wall Street reform; passed the Fair Pay Act; enacted the 9/11 First Responders bill into law; expanded national service programs and health care for kids; ratified the START treaty with Russia to reduce nuclear warheads; repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell; passed a ton of stimulus including huge tax cuts for the middle class and Cash for Clunkers; and saved America’s auto industry. Americans supported these things in huge numbers. And what did the American people do to reward President Obama and the Democrats for this? They stayed home on Election Day in 2010, or worse, voted Republican because the changes they supported didn’t create an instantaneous turn-around in the economy.

Four years later, what have the Republicans done with their post-2010 power? They have done nothing of value in the House (unless you consider a government shutdown or 46 attempts at repealing the ACA meaningful) and have effectively shut the Senate down for four years.

One of my biggest complaints in politics is that the parties do not do an effective of enough job showing the differences between the parties. Over the past six years, however, we have been given a very accurate and compelling portrait of what these two parties stand for. I am in complete awe when people see the same things I see, compare 2009-2010 with 2011-2014, and come back with, “Yah, I think I need to vote for Joni Ernst.” You may as well be telling me that 2+2=turtles. Does…not…compute.

So those are my five thoughts heading into Election Day. What are yours?

– Dylan