Category: Politics

No, Millennials are Not the “Entitled Generation”

Last night, I was perusing the comments section of an article about the New Hampshire primaries, won handily by Sen. Bernie Sanders. One commenter lashed out against his supporters (of which Millennials are a significant portion), saying that our generation is the “Entitlement Generation,” waiting with hands out for all kinds of “free stuff” from the government.

It’s a talking point that my generation has heard over, and over, and over, and over, and over again. Not only is it incredibly insulting, it’s patently false.

This is not a piece about Bernie vs. Hillary. That is a debate for another day and another piece. Nor is this a plug for Bernie’s policy proposals.

No, this is instead a piece about the problematic labelling of Millennials as a generation of entitled people, eagerly awaiting a government handout and too lazy to put in the work necessary to succeed in the contemporary American economy. To disparage an entire generation in this manner fails to acknowledge reality, including the host of economic and social issues that has led to our generation being branded as such.

First, some history. Fifty years ago, it was widely accepted (indeed, it was reality) that a high school diploma and strong work ethic were the only prerequisites to accessing the American Dream, namely a good paying job, a decent home, transportation, and other necessities and luxuries that produced a robust middle class and gave Americans some of the highest standards of living in the world. With a high school diploma, one could often find a good-paying job, with access to benefits, pensions, and other things that my grandparents’ generation took for granted as hallmarks of American labor. Successful completion of public schooling was the only education required.

A few decades later, however, educational requirements increased and some form of college was necessary to achieve success. My parents’ generation, while not earning degrees at the same rate as do Millennials, began to attend two- and four-year schools with increasing frequency. Earning a degree all on one’s own was a very possible proposition.

My Dad, of whom I am extremely proud and grateful for, was able to pay his own way through school by working a minimum wage job. It was hard work, but it was possible because the minimum wage was sufficiently high to allow him to pay tuition, and tuition was low enough that working such a job to pay for school was possible. Had minimum wage been as stagnant then as it was now, and had tuition been as exorbitantly high then as it is now, this might not have been possible.

Of course, his strong work ethic (which has served as my inspiration as I pursue my own career dreams) was the ultimate factor that made his success possible. I do not mean to say that he only got where he is because college was affordable and his wage was able to pay for his education.

But rising costs of higher education and stagnant wages, coupled with a host of other societal factors, means that my Dad’s story is one that is increasingly rare in contemporary America.

Millennials grew up in a culture very different from that of their parents or grandparents. We grew up in a culture obsessed with consumerism, fixated on the acquisition of wealth, and disdainful of the poor. We grew up in a world where the only guarantee of a good paying job meant getting a four-year degree, and the economic situation of the past nine years has meant that even a four-year degree is no guarantee of success.

We have been told that we are a generation of coddled, lazy, entitled people. And widespread support of a presidential candidate who promises “free stuff” might, on its face, support that assertion.

But make no mistake: Millennials do not want “free stuff,” we want a fairer society that isn’t rigged against us. We want a society where, if you are willing to work, you will get ahead.

To simply write off an entire generation who wants to create such a society as “lazy” and “entitled” is a slap in the face to those who have worked incredibly hard–hard work that isn’t even guaranteed to pay off and offer return on investment.

We are a generation that feels disillusioned because we have seen what it takes to be successful from our parents and grandparents. But our parents’ and grandparents’ generation has taken an active part in creating the current structure, which mandates the possession of a four-year degree (often at extraordinary cost and necessitating the encumbrance of massive amounts of student loan debt), a degree which fails to secure the promise of a job with decent wages, if a job in the degree field at all.

It really sucks to be written off as lazy and entitled when the very generation deriding us as such created the current state of affairs. I’m reminded of the parent who laments that his child is spoiled, when the parent continues to give the child whatever they want. It seems to me incredibly hypocritical for these generations to have created this culture to then turn around and say, “Well, your generation is the worst ever and incredibly lazy. Just work harder and you’ll be fine!”

Perhaps forty years ago the “work harder” mantra would have been sage advice. But now, Millennials are putting in the hard work we’ve been told is necessary for success without seeing the same levels of success as our forebears. Therein lies the incredible frustration (and this is why a candidate like Bernie Sanders is so popular with our generation): all our lives, we’ve been given the supposed recipe for getting a good education, a good job, and living a good life. But the process is much worse than we were led to believe.

Who in a developed country like the United States should have to take out a mortgage to get a college education? Who should have to see their wages remain stagnant? Who should have to invest in higher education, only to enter a job market not fully prepared to accept them?

And when these issues are raised, they’re brushed off. No, we can’t have tuition-free public universities because it costs too much. Okay, that’s a fair point. No, we can’t reduce interest rates on federal student loans. That makes less sense, but okay. No, we can’t increase Pell Grants and other programs that make college more affordable for lower-income students. You mean these same students you pushed towards college because it offered the promise of a better life?

Wow. The entire system seems to be a vicious cycle of “Here’s how to get ahead, but here are all the things that suck about the process of getting ahead” and “Oh, you want us to alleviate all the things that suck about the process of getting ahead? Ha! Good luck with that one!”

I have encountered an extraordinary number of decent, hardworking people in my generation (in my experience, this is definitely the rule rather than the exception). People who put in the time and work necessary to succeed in college, and who also took on a considerable amount of debt in the process. All for the “promise” of a good career and good life. And I have seen these same people stuck in jobs their degree did not pay them for, earning wages no college graduate should be earning given their hard work and investment, and incredibly displeased with the track of their professional lives.

These are issues that need timely solutions and, of course, there are no easy answers. But make no mistake, they will need solving if the Millennials and those who come after us are to have any shot at a good middle class life.

Some ideas are bold. Tuition-free public college and single-payer health care are ideas a good portion of America finds incredibly uncomfortable (pay no mind to the fact that many other developed countries figured this out decades ago). And when you examine our generation and our disillusionment with the ways of the establishment, you can call us idealistic, naïve, radical, or any permutation of those things. But please, don’t call us entitled for wanting a better shot at getting ahead.

 

The Bootstrap Illusion

America: The country where anyone–even the poorest of the poor–can make it. The land of opportunity. Ah yes, using our superior free-market system, the ones on the lowest rungs of the economic ladder can “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” into the middle class, or even wealth. But this America, characterized by a vast, even playing field, is no more. No, that America is long dead, and in its place is a new land, filled with inaccessible privilege and growing poverty. The love-affair we’ve had with bootstraps exists only as an illusion.

I was browsing through Facebook the other day, and the below image popped up in my News Feed. It’s a map of these great United States–each state is color-coded according to the work hours per week at minimum wage required to afford Fair Market Rent. The data is really quite striking:

Source: National Low Income Housing Coalition

Source: National Low Income Housing Coalition

In the United States, it is impossible to afford a two-bedroom unit at Fair Market Rent by working a minimum wage job for forty hours a week. In most cases, working well over the forty-hour threshold, or even taking on additional jobs (a difficult prospect where there are children to raise), is required. Admittedly, my knowledge of the history of minimum wage is rusty, but I’m almost certain that it was established as a safety net for workers–a means of protecting them from being paid wages that would nearly force them into poverty. Minimum wage, however, has not been doing its job in this respect. What happens when groceries, transportation, medical bills, daycare, and other expenditures are added into a minimum wage workers’ budget? Enrollment in social programs such as welfare and food stamps nearly becomes a necessity.

This is not “pulling yourself up by the bootstraps”–at least not in the traditional sense of the phrase. We’ve heard stories from politicians and other successful businessmen and -women that go something like “I started out in the lowest levels of the company, and then used old-fashioned hard work and determination to rise through the ranks and be successful.” Usually included in these stories is how they waited tables to pay for school and things of that nature. (I won’t even go into the exorbitant price of a college education and how waiting tables would never pay anyone’s way through most public four-year institutions in the present day.

How are we to fix this problem reasonably? Some (such as myself) advocate for a living wage–a wage that allows workers to meet all the necessities of life through that wage alone. I recommend taking a look at the Living Wage Calculator created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In Syracuse, New York (where I go to school), the living wage required for a single parent and two children is $27.81 an hour–much higher than the existing $7.25 an hour minimum wage in New York State.

The drawback for living wages, however, is cost. Even in the city of Syracuse, living wages are much greater than minimum wage, and this added cost is seen as a burden on businesses. For some small businesses who are already struggling, paying a living wage to workers isn’t always a possibility. It’s quite the conundrum–if not a living wage, then how are the poor to rise out of poverty?

Impoverished Americans exist in what I call a state of institutionalized poverty–that is, they are in a nearly-perpetual (and permanent) state of poverty because of existing public policy. An alternative to requiring a living wage is raising current minimum wages–especially as inflation continues to rise. Although this seems like a reasonable plan to some, such proposals nearly always result in a political slugfest where the rhetoric is peppered with references to “burdening employers.” In addition to this argument, some opponents to raising minimum wage actually argue that they have the best interests of workers in mind. In 2012, Republicans in the New York Legislature blocked a plan that would raise minimum wage to $8.50 an hour, arguing that raising wages to that level would hurt workers in the form of having to pay more in taxes.

So if raising minimum wage is too difficult, what about increasing the strength of social safety nets? No, this can’t be done, either. According to the rhetoric of the right, social programs such as welfare and food stamps must be cut, because they’re burdening budgets and are ineffective at teaching the impoverished to take care of themselves (I’ve heard the argument that National Parks tell visitors not to feed wildlife for the exact reason). Moreover, opponents of social safety nets often argue that the system is full of people who abuse it, and therefore these programs should be weakened or eliminated altogether. The possibility of strengthening these programs only looks politically salient in perhaps the most liberal of states.

With the prospect of strengthening social programs looking like a long shot, how about addressing the problem of rent? If we aren’t to pay a living wage, raise minimum wage for inflation, or strengthen social safety nets, then subsidizing housing could help alleviate the problem, right? The construction of government-owned housing with reduced rent means more money in the pockets of individuals working at minimum wage living in those complexes. Such plans, however, are often met with resistance. Besides the issues of increased spending for these projects (remember that spending is evil and must be gutted, unless it’s for military purposes), there are deeply rooted cultural stigmas attached to them–the common complaint is that they attract “undesirables.” And I won’t even get into the whole other can of worms that is the “this is socialism” school of thought. This course of action, like the others, looks to be largely implausible, at least on a broad level.

Such is the state of institutionalized poverty–nearly every sort of proposal to help the poor rise out of this state of existence is met with opposition that sometimes borders on fierce. Can we raise wages? No, it’s a burden on those paying the wages. Can we strengthen social programs? No, it’s a burden on the budget, and those on them are parasites, anyway. Can we subsidize housing? No, it’s also a burden on the budget, and the people who live in the housing aren’t desirable to have around. When so many potential solutions to help the poor out of their current situation are shot down, poverty almost becomes state sanctioned–no solution is good enough, so the poor must find their own way into the middle class. We can just ignore the fact that it’s nearly impossible to get there.

A minimum wage worker shouldn’t need to put in hundreds of hours per week in order to be able to afford their rent (in addition to every other necessary expense). Making a living on a forty hour work week is the standard in this country, and our wages should reflect this by allowing those who earn the very lowest wages to do just that: make a living. Whatever course of action is taken must be comprehensive, and truly accomplish the goal of helping the poor out of poverty through their own hard work. We live in the world of the bootstrap illusion–getting out of poverty with no assistance is a near impossibility. I dream of an America where the poor can truly raise themselves out of poverty–even if government is giving their bootstraps a little tug along the way.

Let’s Talk About Guns (and Mental Health)

In the wake of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT, we’ve been inundated with rhetoric about guns from both the right at the left. At the most extreme ends of the spectrum, we’ve heard people calling for the complete ban of all firearms, and we’ve also heard people calling for their complete deregulation. Neither of these scenarios are plausible. Instead, we need a combination of two things: more regulations for guns, and increased access to mental health services.

Gun violence is a problem that must be addressed. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. has 3.7 gun-related homicides per 100,000 people. While this number appears fairly low, it’s high enough to place us at fourteenth in international rankings (just ahead of Costa Rica, whose rate is 3.32 gun-related homicides/100,000 people). When we compare the United States to other highly-developed countries, however, we move up significantly in the rankings. According to U.N. data, the United States ranks first among other developed/industrialized nations–including former members of the Soviet Eastern Bloc, where the firearm-related homicide rate is well below 1 per 100,000. This is similar in non-European (but developed) nations such as Canada and Australia.

Compared to these other developed countries, the United States has the loosest gun control laws and the highest rate of gun ownership–88.1 guns per 100 people. In Japan, most guns are illegal, and almost no one owns one. In that country, there are 0.6 guns for every 100 people. In 2008, there were eleven firearm-related homicides. Total. Let me say that again: Japan had eleven firearm-related homicides in 2008.

In the United Kingdom, there are 6.72 firearms for every 100 citizens. Gun control in Britain is much stricter than in the US–in order to own a gun, you must obtain either a five-year firearm certificate or shotgun certificate from police. In order to obtain these certificates, the police must be convinced that “good reason” for owning the firearms exists, and that the individual can be trusted with it “without danger to the public safety or to the peace.” Good reason, according to British law, consists of sporting purposes, collecting, or work-related needs. But that’s not all: After the previous steps have been completed, the individual applying for the permit must provide a verification of their identity, two references who can verify their good character, an approval of the application by the applicant’s family doctor, an inspection of the premises in which the guns will be stored, and an interview by a Firearms Enquiry Officer. A background check on the applicant is then completed. If the certificate(s) are issued, they must be renewed every five years. Perhaps these strict regulations (and complex process for obtaining a gun) are why only eighteen Bretons were murdered with a firearm in 2009.

The logic of the pro-gun movement is that we’d be safer with more guns, not less–that shootings in Aurora and Newtown would have been less severe if a bystander had been armed. But when compared to other highly developed nations, this logic doesn’t make sense. According to the argument that more guns = more safety, less guns should mean less safety (and that has been almost explicitly articulated by the “if only someone had been carrying…” rhetoric). Almost the opposite holds true, however. In Europe, Canada, and Australia, less guns have meant more safety.

Since the incident in Newtown, I’ve also heard the argument usually articulated as “criminals carry out these shootings, and criminals don’t obey the law, so therefore more laws aren’t the answer.” While I could go on and on about the ridiculousness of such a statement (I mean, murderers are criminals, and criminals don’t obey the law, therefore we should get rid of laws that prohibit killing each other), there have been numerous studies to dispute (or disprove) this line of thinking. According to a study done by Mother Jones, the overwhelming majority of individuals who committed mass shootings over the past two decades in the U.S. obtained their weapons legally. In fact, 49 of the 63 shooters obtained their weapons through legal avenues. Of the 142 total weapons used, over 75% of them were legal. Below is a chart detailing the weapons used in the attacks.

Of the 63 mass shootings that have occurred in the U.S. since 1982, over 75% of the weapons used were obtained legally.

Of the 63 mass shootings that have occurred in the U.S. since 1982,                                                                   over 75% of the weapons used were obtained legally

Based on these statistics, it’s clear that the vast majority of mass murderers use legally obtained weapons to commit their respective crimes. The one incident in Newtown (in which the shooter stole his mother’s guns) cannot be used as a textbook case to justify the deregulation of firearms.

One proposal that’s gained some traction (but has also seen severe backlash) is a ban on assault weapons–namely semiautomatic weapons. Such weapons are quite popular when it comes to mass shootings, according to statistics published by Mother Jones. Of the 142 weapons used in the mass shootings in the U.S. since 1982, 103 of them have been semiautomatic handguns or assault weapons, while revolvers and shotguns account for only 39 of the weapons. These numbers are broken down below:

Mass shooters overwhelmingly prefer semiautomatic handguns and assault weapons.

Mass shooters overwhelmingly prefer semiautomatic handguns and assault weapons.

Of course, at the center of all this debate is the Second Amendment and its interpretation. The Amendment reads “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” This Amendment is rooted in the bygone era of militias as the primary form of defense from foreign belligerents. At the time, the primary form of defense in the United States were minuteman militias, composed of volunteers who could (and were) readily activated into service. The muskets of the time were the primary weapons of these units, and the peoples’ right to own them was of great importance.

Fast forward to the present day, when the United States has one of the largest and most well-regulated standing armies in existence. When the muskets of yesteryear (which could take up to fifteen seconds to load) are treasured antiques, and the weapons of choice have the capability to kill dozens of people in the time it takes to load one musket. Doesn’t complete deregulation seem a bit extreme? Would the Founders really be supportive of the peoples’ right to own automatic weapons capable of mass murder? I certainly don’t think so.

And I’m not wholly anti-gun, don’t get me wrong. I understand that firearm ownership is an embedded cultural value in this country. We live in a country where a lot of people (including some of my own relatives) are avid hunters and gun enthusiasts, and regularly exercise their Second Amendment rights. However, I simply cannot believe that the intent of this Amendment was to stick an assault rifle in the hands of anyone who wants one. The Founders intended for people to be able to defend themselves at a time when an army of our current class did not exist, and police forces were largely nonexistent. A more modern interpretation is necessary, and this interpretation includes restrictions on gun ownership, including licensing, education on how to use guns, mental health screenings and comprehensive background checks for all guns, not just some. Such regulations would not infringe upon our right to gun ownership, but would better weed out the mentally ill people who perpetrate crimes like the ones in Aurora, CO or Newtown, CT.

And a note about mental health–the study done by Mother Jones indicates that a majority of the mass shooters of the past two decades were mentally ill, and exhibited signs of this illness prior to their crimes. Adam Lanza, the shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary School, also showed signs of mental illness throughout his life. These people need help, but treatment is wholly inadequate. According to an anonymously written open letter (I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother), the author’s own son has severe mental problems, but help for him is virtually nonexistent. She writes, “When I asked my son’s social worker about my options, he said that the only thing I could do was to get Michael charged with a crime. ‘If he’s back in the system, they’ll create a paper trail,’ he said. ‘That’s the only way you’re ever going to get anything done. No one will pay attention to you unless you’ve got charges.'” The criminal justice system is not the answer for the mentally ill–that’s punishment, not treatment. And prisons are now becoming hubs for the mentally ill. The author writes “With state-run treatment centers and hospitals shuttered, prison is now the last resort for the mentally ill — Rikers Island, the LA County Jail and Cook County Jail in Illinois housed the nation’s largest treatment centers in 2011.”

The United States needs a better mental health care system. The only way to accomplish this is to do what nearly every other industrialized nation has done by adopting universal health care. In the United Kingdom, all mental health services are free of charge. The same holds true for Australia, Canada, and Japan. In fact, nearly every country with lower rates of gun violence (mass shootings, in particular) have more universal health care systems which allow individuals to seek mental health treatment. In the United States, cost serves as a big barrier to mental health treatment. According to a study published by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 45% of those who needed mental health treatment but didn’t seek it cited cost as the main barrier to seeking care. Isn’t it plausible that the reason we have so many mass shootings in this country is because our mental health care is inadequate?

Much of the rhetoric from the pro-gun lobby features the phrase “I’m fat, and it’s the fork’s fault.” In other words, the anti-gun faction places too much blame on the gun and not on the person holding it. Some middle ground between the two must be forged. While we should be placing all the blame in the world on mentally stable individuals who go out and shoot twenty people, we cannot be so quick to blame the mentally ill who do so. Yes, what they do is evil, and I don’t by any means condone their actions or sympathize with them. But we need to recognize that this is a broader societal issue–these people go largely without any kind of help, simply because our system cannot meet their needs. These people need our willingness to help before they commit crimes, not our hatred after it’s too late. A friend of mine recently said that Adam Lanza’s mother should have “locked him up a long time ago” to prevent something like this. This could not be a more ignorant stance–Lanza’s mother is one of the victims here. She was killed at the hands of her own son. We cannot know the hardships she faced and the battles she fought raising her son. How do we know that she didn’t seek help, but was turned away or ignored?

Mass shootings have become an alarming trend in the United States–in the past twenty years, there have been 63. That’s an average of 3.15 per year. If we’re going to stop future slaughter, future bloodshed, we need reform now. We need to reform our gun control laws and make them stricter. Evidence from around the globe indicates that such action is effective at reducing overall rates of gun violence. But we can’t stop there–we need health reform as well. A comprehensive, universal health care system can provide the treatment to mentally ill individuals who might otherwise enter a crowded mall and open fire. In light of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, our biggest mistake would be to pretend that there isn’t a problem and take discussions of reform off the table. We need to talk about this, and the longer we wait, the less likely we are to get anywhere. How many more innocent people have to die before we’re ready to talk?

Final Election Predictions

As Election Day is almost upon us, here are my final predictions for tomorrow’s national elections. As a whole, it looks like it’s going to be a good day to be a Democrat.

President

Electoral College: Obama 332, Romney 206. Below are my state-by-state predictions.

Senate

54 Democrats, 46 Republicans. Again, below are my state-by-state predictions.
(Note: The number of Democrats includes two independents, who are expected to caucus with them)

The only changes between this map and the one I published a few weeks ago is that I’ve now made picks in the three races I had deemed too close to call. The Republican candidates look poised to win in both Arizona and Nevada, and I like Democratic incumbent Jon Tester’s chances in Montana (although a Republican pickup of this seat would not surprise me). Overall, the Democrats will pickup one seat and begin the next Congress with an eight-seat majority–but if Tester loses tomorrow, the party composition will remain as it is now, 53-47 in favor of the Democrats.

House of Representatives

Democrats won’t re-take control of the chamber, but they’ll begin to chip away at the Republican majority. At the start of the 113th Congress, I expect the party composition to look something like this:

237 Republicans, 198 Democrats.

Media Electoral Predictions and the Horse-race

It’s November 5th, and you know what that means–that’s right, Election Day 2012 is almost upon us. As the race draws to a close, I thought it would be valuable to examine electoral maps published by five major news outlets: ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News, and NBC. I have compiled their state-by-state ratings below:

Now, none of these networks predicted a clear winner (at least in their Electoral College maps). President Obama had a plurality of electoral votes in each of the maps I examined, but did not have a majority (270 or greater) in any of them. I could have rated some sources as predicting a victory for a certain candidate–Fox News featured two articles with their map predicting a Romney win, with one even predicting a landslide. But since none of the maps produced a clear victor, I rate them all as “toss ups.”

The anomaly of this group is clearly Fox News–they have rated several more states as toss ups, despite recent polling data indicating otherwise (such as Michigan and Pennsylvania). Fox’s outlook actually featured three different maps. The scenario you see here is the primary one on their page, whose data is taken from Real Clear Politics. Karl Rove’s map was also featured, and it was laughable: It rated Oregon and Minnesota as toss ups, in addition to those already listed above.

I find that major news outlets (such as those above) are generally worthless when it comes to electoral predictions. Yes, this claim is probably a bit shocking, given that I spent time compiling the given information and writing this blog post. But ask yourself: Besides presenting the news, what do the media exist to do? The answer: Make money. And what kind of news sells? Well, anything exciting, frankly. The media have a big incentive to make elections appear as close as possible, even if polling data indicates otherwise. This is what we call the horse-race–the media’s portrayal of elections (especially presidential ones) as a never-ending race in which each candidate is vying for an advantageous position. One is always “ahead” while the other is always “behind.” This coverage is evident in the current campaign. Just look at the chart above–the fewest number of toss up states were on both the CBS and NBC maps, but even they had seven. Making elections appear closer than they really are is economically beneficial for news outlets, so they do just that–make elections look like one long (and close) horse-race.

The most reliable election predictions I have found are at FiveThirtyEight, run by statistician Nate Silver. Silver is perhaps best known for correctly predicting 49 of 50 states in the 2008 presidential election and correctly predicting every Senate election in 2008–even Al Franken’s upset of incumbent Norm Coleman. He also predicted the Republican takeover of the House in 2010 (he was only eight seats off–not bad, considering that there are 435 total). Needless to say, Silver is one of the top people in his field, and is widely acclaimed for his accuracy in predicting elections. His map looks much different than those above:

As you can see, this map features no toss ups. Instead, each state is rated based on the probability of a candidate’s victory in that state. This model is much more realistic than the “Obama-Romney-Toss up” model, simply because each state must have a winner–there can be no toss ups once the votes have been tallied. Sure, polls can be statistically tied (i.e. within the margin of error), but Silver’s method–which takes adjusted polling averages and state fundamentals into account–is proven to be incredibly accurate. The accuracy of Silver’s predictions stems from his background–he’s a statistician, not a journalist. Yes, his blog was picked up by the New York Times, but that doesn’t mean he suddenly has an incentive to make the election appear too close to call. Find me a model published by a major news network that gives Obama an 87 percent chance of winning Ohio, and then I’ll retract everything I’ve written here and admit that I’ve been listening to the wrong people.

Given that Election Day is so close, my message might be too late for this election cycle. But even in the future, the media will continue to make races appear close–even when they’re not. If you’d really like an accurate idea of how future elections will turn out, keep FiveThirtyEight in mind. And if you still go to majors news outlets for electoral predictions, remember–take what they say with a grain of salt (or maybe even the whole shaker).

Election Night Live Tweeting

If you’re into politics and want to know election results as they’re announced on Tuesday night (but don’t want to bother watching TV), I’ll be live tweeting both the presidential race (state-by-state) and Senate races.

I will diligently compile the results from a number of different news sources and tweet them as soon as they come in. Posts on this blog will also follow any major results and upsets in Congressional races. Follow me on Twitter @dswenton–I look forward to sharing results tomorrow night!

Just Four Short Years Ago

In just under four years, our President has lead us safely out of the most devastating economic crisis our nation has seen since the Great Depression. Big banks had collapsed, our auto industry was near death, the stock market was in a free fall, unemployment had soared to 9.9%, and job reports showed that our economy was losing over half a million jobs per month. Health care reform was sorely needed, institutionalized discrimination still existed, and Osama bin Laden continued to elude us. The future looked bleak–America’s power appeared to be on the decline. Under the leadership of President Obama, America is on the rise again–the things he’s accomplished in his first term are remarkable.

Four years ago, our response to the worst attack ever on US soil had cost us trillions of dollars and thousands of American lives. Major corporations had run off with our investments, given us bad mortgages, and then left America with the bill. We had endured the worst housing crisis ever. Failed economic policies had turned record surpluses into record deficits (and that was from the party that brands itself as “fiscally conservative). Thanks to the leadership of President Obama, America is making a comeback that only one other generation has had to complete. Under the President’s watch, our economy no longer bleeds half a million jobs each month–there have been over thirty straight months of job creation. Now, more Americans are insured (and able to get insurance) than ever before in our nation’s history. Being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition, and having such a condition no longer disqualifies you from having insurance. Students such as me now have access to their parent’s health insurance, and college is even more accessible because of the student loan reform enacted in 2010.

Our foreign policy outlook is stronger than it was just four short years ago. America’s enemies are being captured and brought to justice, thanks to a relentless pursuit of terrorists such as Osama bin Laden. The Iraq war has ended (as promised) and a timeline for leaving Afghanistan is in place. Codified discrimination is no more: “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has been repealed, and legislation taking steps to guarantee equal pay for women has been signed. Businesses are recording record profits, the housing market is the strongest it’s been since 2008. And all this has been accomplished despite a Republican war on the Obama presidency, which has led to a number of blocked policies–including jobs bills. It’s understandable that some Americans are frustrated with the slower-than-expected economic recovery. But remember, it takes a short time for a house to burn, and a long time to rebuild it. It’s tempting to hold the President Obama to a standard of perfection, but when you think of where were just four short years ago and compare it to where we are today, it’s remarkable to see how far we’ve come. Bravo, Mr. President–you’ve earned four more.