Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on May 2, 2017 in Current Events

You Decide! Is the 100 Days Metric Useful?

For decades, it has become tradition to measure a new president’s effectiveness at governing by his or her first 100 days in office. This practice began with President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who, during his first 100 days, managed to sign 76 bills into law, declare (and then lift) a bank holiday, swear in an entire Cabinet, and begin implementation of his New Deal plans.

You decide

But is this still a fair way to evaluate a president today?

Yes

  • Presidents use the 100-day measure to set goals for themselves (for example, Trump laid out a 100-days action plan back in October). If they claim they will be able to accomplish something in 100 days, it is fair to evaluate them based on whether or not they have achieved this goal.
  • In general, the first 100 days is the best opportunity a president will have to get his or her agenda passed. The phenomenon of the “presidential honeymoon” means that presidents are likely to be most effective right after they have taken office, because they are still popular with the public and Congress still wants to cooperate with them. If a president fails to achieve action during the first 100 days, he or she loses out on this opportunity.

No

  • One hundred days isn’t a significant period of time; it amounts to only 6% of a four-year term, and only 3% of an eight-year term.
  • The comparison to FDR is unfair: FDR could get more done because the country was in a state of economic crisis, so Congress was willing to go along with whatever he wanted.
  • Over time, the changing structure of Congress has made it more difficult for any president to pass laws quickly. The average number of laws passed during the first 100 days before 1947 was 46. Today, that average is down to 16.
  • Historically, some presidents who began their term strongly faltered later on, and vice versa. For example, during his first 100 days in office, President Reagan had all 18 of his executive orders revoked.
  • Putting too much emphasis on an arbitrary deadline can pressure a president to produce legislation that is rushed, rather than taking the necessary time to consider different ideas.
You decide

Credit: McGraw-Hill Education

Should presidents be evaluated by their first 100 days in office?

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The Year of the Woman

In the United States, women have historically been underrepresented at all levels of government. Despite making up 50% of the population, they only make up roughly 20% of Congressional representatives, state legislators, and mayors. While women who run for office are elected about as often as their male counterparts, it is much harder to convince them to run for office in the first place. After a brief peak in the number of women elected to office in 1992, momentum has since stalled.

However, it’s possible that all of that is about to change.

Last November’s presidential election had a profound effect on the way that many women, primarily Democratic women, began to view themselves politically. Some women were disappointed that Hillary Clinton lost the election, while others were discouraged that Donald Trump won despite his record of poor treatment of women. Across the country, and at all levels of government, women were motivated to mobilize themselves as a political force and begin taking steps to run for office.

EMILY’s List, an organization that supports female candidates, reported in March that 10,000 women had contacted them about running for office since November: a new record. VoteRunLead, a program which helps train candidates, reported that a record-breaking 6,500 women had signed up to learn about campaigning. The “Ready to Run” program for women, organized by Rutgers University, has had to start a waitlist for the first time in its history to accommodate the number of interested potential candidates.

The day after President Trump’s inauguration, nearly half a million women marched on Washington, D.C. in protest. Applying that same level of energy, momentum, commitment, and organization to upcoming local, statewide, and national offices could mean that women will be able to make great strides towards finally closing the political gender gap.

Dig Deeper Using internet resources, research a female representative in your area at the federal, state, or local level (including city councils, county trustees, school board members, etc.). Write a short one-paragraph biography of your representative. Then answer the following question: If women win elections at roughly the same rate that men do, why has it historically been so difficult to convince women to run for public office?

Health Care Reform Deadline Passes

One of President Trump’s major campaign promises was to undo President Obama’s health care act (the Affordable Care Act, also known as the ACA or “Obamacare”) within his first 100 days in office. But on Saturday, Trump’s first 100 days came and went . . . with no health care repeal bill.

Last month, the first version of the Republican “repeal and replace” health care bill (called the American Health Care Act) failed to gain enough support even to make it to a vote in the House. With this new version, the White House had hoped to push through a vote on Friday, but decided by Thursday afternoon that once again, there was not enough support for the bill to vote on it. At least eighteen House Republicans voiced opposition to the bill, along with virtually all House Democrats. Some of the Republicans who opposed this version of the bill had supported the first version, but have now voiced concerns about how their constituents may be affected by the change.

One of the reasons that the first Republican health care repeal bill failed was that it failed to win over the Freedom Caucus, the most conservative members of Congress. This latest version aims to appease the Freedom Caucus by allowing states to “opt out” of some of the aspects of the Affordable Care Act such as requiring insurance companies to cover maternity or emergency care services. It would also allow insurance companies to charge higher premiums to people with pre-existing medical conditions. The American Medical Association and the AARP (the American Association of Retired Persons) both oppose this latest version of the bill, which would provide savings to wealthy Americans while potentially taking away health care from millions of others.

So what’s next for the Republicans’ repeal-and-replace health care bill? Most agree that while another health care bill is still in the works, it is important to wait until it has the necessary support in Congress, rather than trying to rush it through by an arbitrary deadline. Which means that Republicans and Democrats may actually be getting closer to finding some common ground on the issue: the shared belief that Americans’ health care is too important to treat as merely a political talking point.

Dig Deeper Using this article and internet resources, find three ways that this second version of the AHCA is similar to the first, and three ways that it is different. Do you prefer one version of the bill over the other? Or do you believe that the Affordable Care Act should be left alone as it is? Explain your position.

Chew On This

By now, everyone knows that plastic bags are a major pollutant. The fact that they don’t break down easily makes them especially dangerous to the environment. However, scientists think they may have discovered a solution to the plastic bag problem: wax worms.

Wax worms are a kind of caterpillar that fishermen often use as bait. Their bodies produce an enzyme that is able to essentially digest plastic by breaking down the chemical bonds in polyethylene, a major synthetic ingredient in plastic bags. The Spanish biologist who discovered this unique trait, Federica Bertocchini, did so completely by accident: she captured some of the caterpillars, which were eating holes in her bee hives, and put them in a plastic bag, only to discover a few hours later that they had chewed their way out.  Bertocchini and her colleagues studied the caterpillars and learned that one caterpillar takes about 12 hours to eat one milligram of a plastic shopping bag. Using those calculations, it would take 100 of the larvae about one month to digest an entire bag.

The next step is for scientists to figure out exactly what that enzyme in the larvae is, isolate it, figure out the gene governing it, and then put that gene into a bacteria, which would have the same plastic-digesting effect without the trouble of breeding wax worms. Scientists caution, however, that such a solution may still be many years off. For example, further study needs to be done to determine if what the larvae excrete after eating the bags is toxic as well (in which case, the whole experiment would be pointless). In the meantime, consumers should continue to be wary about using and throwing away plastic bags.

What Do You Think? Many states have already outlawed the sale and use of plastic bags, for environmental reasons. Is your state one of them? If you aren’t certain, use the internet to locate more information. Do you support a law that outlaws plastic bags? Why or why not? Do the new scientific studies on wax worms influence your opinion one way or the other? Explain.