Thursday, October 03, 2013

An informal college student survey on The Great 2013 American Government Shutdown

by Leigh Pomeroy

I teach freshman-sophomore level film courses at Minnesota State University Mankato, a mostly Division II (in terms of sports), 16,000 student university located in southcentral Minnesota amidst a vast expanse of monocropped corn and soybean fields.

My one class a semester meets once a week for 3+ hours where in I lecture a little, we discuss a little, and we all enjoy a film or several films (if they are short).

Last night, just for kicks, I decided to ask my students about their thoughts on the government shutdown, less than two days old. I decided that my first question should be whether any of their professors in their other classes had discussed or even mentioned the shutdown. Just one of my 112 enrolled students raised his hand. His macroeconomics class had discussed it. I asked if there were any conclusions. He said that about half the class felt that Obamacare was to blame.

Either all the other classes taken by all the other students in my film class had progressed in their normal way without any discussion of an important event that comes but once in, say, a quarter of a century, or the students were all shy or simply desirous of sitting on their hands.

So I decided to take a poll, the single question being: Who's to blame for the government shutdown? I gave them four choices ahead of taking the vote, then took the vote. These are the answers and the numbers for each in the order I asked:
  • Who cares? 25 votes.
  • Both parties are equally to blame. 40 votes.
  • Republicans are primarily to blame. 9 votes.
  • Democrats are primarily to blame. 3 votes.
These are telling numbers in more ways than seem obvious from the data above. First of all, they represent less than 70% of those enrolled in the class. This means that (A) some students didn't raise their hands or, more likely, (B) over 30% didn't even bother to come to class.

If these students don't care to come to class, chances are they care even less about whether the government is shut down or not. Assuming this is true, that means the "Who cares?" vote moves into a clear plurality.

So much for engaged young people.

4 Comments:

Blogger OBXdunebilly said...

Unfortunately, I've been seeing the same thing among the young adults in my family as well as among friends. It's alarming and depressing to see the lack of awareness or concern about things.

7:41 AM  
Blogger OBXdunebilly said...

I've long been aware of the lack of concern and awareness of civics among the majority of young adults in my circle of family and friends. It's more alarming than disturbing to me.

7:43 AM  
Blogger Minnesota Central said...

Leigh,

Don’t be too harsh on the students.

So, 70% of the eligible students voted … that’s on par with what happened in the 2012 elections … Mark Ritchie estimated that 76% of Minnesota’s eligible voters participated … heck, more than 10,000 votes were cast in the First District presidential contest than in the Walz-Quist race. And you know that 2014, participation will drop off.

There is no doubt that Obamacare is to blame … that issue has the two sides in diametrically opposite directions.

Blaming both parties is the recognition of the ultimate Congressional failure … the failure to do the job they were legally obligated to do (remember the law says that each chambers will produce a budget and by April 15th, they will resolve differences in the budget amounts … the Republicans on over 20 occasions refused to permit conferees to be named … thus they deserve the blame … refer to this April 25 article where Boehner and Ryan say they want budget leaders from the two chambers to initially meet behind closed doors for a "pre-conference" chat to determine whether a compromise budget is feasible, before formally appointing negotiators to begin talks.

"Who cares" getting so many votes expresses the futility and powerless of the ordinary citizen … heck, we know money drives politics.
We also know that business invests where it can get a return on their money … so just look at the Advanced Medical Technology Association PAC which spent
$653,975 in the second quarter of 2013 on lobbying … add to that other players in the Medical Device industry who gave donations to politicians, such as :
Johnson & Johnson’s PAC has given $149,750 with 56% to Republicans.
Novartis’ PAC has given $117,000 with 51% to Republicans.
Cardinal Health’ PAC has given $108,500 with 78% to Republicans.
Abbott Laboratories’ PAC has given $98,500 with 78% to Republicans.
Siemens’ PAC has given $98,000 with 51% to Republicans.
Bayer’s PAC has given $98,000 with 67% to Republicans.
Fresenius Medical Care’s PAC has given $96,500 with 54% to Republicans.
Allergan Inc.’s PAC has given $76,500 with 63% to Republicans.
Boston Scientific’s PAC has given $67,000 with 81% to Republicans.
Medtronic’s PAC has given $63,500 with 61% to Republicans.
Covidien’s PAC has given $54,000 with 61% to Republicans.
General Electric’s PAC has given $48,500 with 61% to Republicans.
St. Jude Medical’s PAC has given $30,000 with 87% to Republicans.
3M’s PAC has given $44,500 with 90% to Republicans.
Becton, Dickinson’s PAC has given $27,500 with 58% to Democrats.
Hospira’s PAC has given $23,000 with 71% to Republicans.
Baxter Int’l.’s PAC has given $22,500 with 93% to Democrats

WHY are they investing so heavily ?
The 2.3% Medical Device Excise Tax which will generate roughly $3 Billion a year to fund Affordable Care Act programs.
These are profitable companies that will be heard … but can any of your students sway the opinions of Members of Congress ?

BTW, $3 Billion a year sounds like a lot until you realize that Americans spend roughly $7 Billion on potato chips (here’s a good link to a September 23, 2010 report issued by the National Academies: “Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Revisited” lamenting Americans are more willing to empty their wallets for the junk food that will swell their waistlines than for investments in the engine driving the creation of jobs, economic growth and national security.

8:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whether you agree with it or not the ACA is law. America does not negotiate Our Laws. Especially when bring forced to do so. Why the vast majority of Americans can't see this for what it is, really bums me out. Elvis your tv's, People.

1:59 PM  

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