Political Roundup

In Our Headlines…

The U.S. debt increased by $205 billion in the past year. This varies sharply from President Trump’s promise to eliminate the federal deficit within eight years of having taken office. Instead of the promised decrease, the federal deficit has risen by 50 percent during Trump’s time in office. This occurred in a time where the economy has been growing steadily, which typically leads to decreases in the federal deficit.

In 2011, President Obama and House Republicans worked together to create a deficit commission tasked with looking for ways to reduce the federal deficit. Under the Trump administration, many of these budget-saving measures have been abandoned.

Additionally, 2017 tax cuts have stagnated tax revenues despite the growing economy, which is unusual since growing economies usually reduce unemployment costs and increase tax revenues. Additionally, a series of big spending increases have contributed to a ballooning federal deficit. For one, the Trump administration has increased military spending from $550 billion per year to roughly $700 billion in 2019. Under the Obama administration in 2013 the federal debt reached $16.7 trillion. In response, Trump tweeted, “Obama is the most profligate deficit and debt spender in our nation’s history.” Today, the federal government is more than $22 trillion in debt (The Washington Post, “The U.S. Deficit Hit $984 Billion in 2019, Soaring During Trump Era,” 10.25.2019).

As fires continue to blaze across Sonoma County in California, Governor Gavin Newsome officially declared a statewide emergency. Approximately 180,000 people have been advised to flee the area. Some residents had ample time to pack up pets and sentimental items, while an unlucky number were forced to leave important items in their vulnerable homes. Evacuations have gone smoothly, with nearly no road incidents despite packed highways and the thousands of people desperate to get to safety.

The fire has now spread across 30,000 acres, and with winds reaching 93 mph it is expected to continue expanding. At this time the fire is only 10 percent contained. Fire meteorologist at San Jose State University Craig Clements described the massive wildfire as “Probably one of the biggest weather incidents in California history” (The Washington Post, “California’s governor declares statewide emergency over wildfires as mass evacuation continues,” 10.27.2019).

House Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD) passed away on Oct. 17, 2019 at the age of 68 in his home city of Baltimore, Maryland. Cummings had gained significant attention and praise recently for his continuous criticisms of Trump, and a desire to hold the president accountable for his actions. Former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama spoke at the funeral held in Baltimore on Friday, Oct. 18. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, former Secretary Hillary Clinton and Senator Elizabeth Warren also spoke at the funeral, praising Cummings’ commitment to bettering the country. Obama praised Representative Cummings as honorable, stating that he was honorable even before being elected to office. “There’s a difference if you were honorable and treated others honorably—outside the limelight, on the side of the road, in a quiet moment counseling somebody you work with,” Obama concluded (PoliticusUSA, “Obama Delivers A Rousing Rejection Of Trump During Eulogy For Elijah Cummings,” 10.25.19).

Around the World…

Clashes initiated by Iraqi Security Forces against protesters left 30 dead and over 2,000 wounded on Friday, Oct. 18. The Iraqi Security’s use of tear gas caused suffocation and stampedes that resulted in death. This incident was a renewal of violence against protesters from earlier this month, when 165 protesters were killed and over 6,000 sustained injuries. Protesters are calling for a complete overhaul of the Iraqi political system. Their focus is on jobs, equality and the end of corruption. Many of these protesters were raised in the wake of the United States’ 2003 invasion of Iraq and the political instability that resulted.

After the Iraq War began in 2003, the political system that emerged divided power amongst various religious groups, leading to widespread corruption and a focus on familial connections as a way to gain political authority (The Washington Post, “At least 30 reportedly killed as Iraqi security forces clash with protesters in fresh unrest,” 10.25.2019).

Over 1,200 days have passed since Britain voted to leave the European Union (EU) in a shocking referendum. Despite this, the British government, led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, is deadlocked. Johnson refuses to negotiate with Parliament unless the Labour Party agrees to a general election.

However, the Labour Party refuses to consider a general election unless the EU decides on the length of the extension to grant Britain to leave the EU. Leaders of the EU will not reach a decision on the length of the extension until London’s deadlock is broken. As British leaders in London navigate this standstill, the conversation drifts further and further from discussions of the actual logistics of Britain leaving the EU: what the best way to leave the EU would be and how much will it cost (The New York Times, “A Brexit Logjam in Three Dimensions,” 10.25.2019).

As a result of an agreement reached between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Russia increased its presence in Syria by 300 military police and 20 armored vehicles. The stated purpose of the increase in Russian involvement is to remove all Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia that are currently within 19 miles of the Turkish border.

The increase of Russian presence demonstrates a shift in the power balance in Syria after Trump began to remove U.S. forces from the region on Oct. 9. Turkey’s NATO allies are concerned that Turkey’s interference will destabilize the region and allow for ISIS prisoners of Kurdish YPG forces to be released (Reuters, “More Russian military police arrive Syria under peace deal with Turkey” 10.25.2019).

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