Metro to School Students on Fiscal Cliff

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Posted Fri, Dec 14, 2012

MSU Denver’s political science department will be offering courses concerning issues in public policy and the “fiscal cliff” in thespring 2013 semester.

Professor James Gibson will be teaching the aptly titled “Issues in Public Policy” (PSC-309B) and “Politics of Budgeting” (PSC-3260).

Politics 101: Professor Jim Gibson is the former president of the Colorado Democratic Leadership Council and was named by the Denver Post as “a leader to watch.”

“One premise is that right now our political dialogue is dysfunctional,” says Gibson of the public policy course. “It’s very polarized.”

This will be Gibson’s second time teaching the course. “Issues in Public Policy” will not be structured as a debate, but more as a deliberation. The course will deliberate a wide array of issues. For example, on Obamacare Gibson asks, with healthcare accounting for approximately 18 percent of the budget, and many people dug in politically, is the health care system going to be able to make the changes the law requires of it?

“We’re not trying to come to a consensus,” says Gibson. “That would be too ambitious.”

Instead he hopes the course provides students with a set of practical skills. Students should have the tools to actually engage in the political process and seek a solution if their neighborhood is having a problem of some sort, says Gibson.

Some of these ideas are already embodied by MSU Denver students.

“My work with the SGA thus far has taught me that compromise is good and different opinions are valid,” says MSU Denver Student Government Assembly Senator Clair Tralles. “I’m going to be a teacher. A lot of my career is going to be decided by the government.”

The decisions of the government will be more closely examined in Gibson’s other course, “Politics of Budgeting.” This course will cover the politics surrounding the “fiscal cliff” and federal budgeting, but also look at some of the basic aspects of federal budgeting.

First and foremost, students will understand the crisis the nation is facing, says Gibson of the goal of “Politics of Budgeting.”

The “fiscal cliff” includes the expiration of the tax cuts signed into law by former President George W. Bush in 2001 and 2003, and extended by President Barack Obama in 2010. It also includes automatic federal spending cuts set to occur under the Budget Control act of 2011, a law passed by congress and signed by the president in order to settle a heated debate between republicans and democrats over the nation’s debt limit.

However, the course will also look to identify what is in the federal budget and to what extent.

“There isn’t a rough baseline of knowledge about what the budget is,” says Gibson. “People don’t understand the budget at a basic level.”

Recent polls show that people admittedly struggle to understand the potential consequences of the fiscal cliff as well. In a recent Pew Research Center/Washington Post poll 64 percent of survey takers believed that the fiscal cliff would have a “major effect” on the economy, and 47 percent of survey takers felt the fiscal cliff would have a major effect on their personal finances. But 57 percent of survey takers felt they understood “very well” or “fairly well” what the consequences of the actual fiscal cliff would be.

“I think that our government is already in the hole so it doesn’t matter what they call it,” says Tralles. “Maybe in the future, it would be helpful to set the standards for what is an economic recession or depression.”

Some believe that the ominous labeling has distracted from efforts to solve the actual problem.

“As a world people we like to label things,” says SGA president Laura Noe. “We need to get away from describing what’s going on and on to solving it.”

If labeling the “fiscal cliff” as such was born out of the politics of budgeting, that may be difficult. People are so worried that Washington can’t accomplish things that the consequences of a lack of confidence among consumers and businesses could outweigh the consequences of actually going over the cliff, says Gibson.

“The first class of the budgeting course, we are going to talk about the fiscal cliff,” says Gibson. “You can’t really separate the substance of the budget from the politics of the budget.”

Gibson hopes that each course can help students conduct a self-examination and determine how recent law can tangibly affect their lives.

Professor Gibson will be teaching “Issues in Public Policy” on Thursdays from 5-7:50 p.m. and “Politics of Budgeting” on Mondays and Wednesdays from 8-9:15 a.m.

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About Stephen Young

Stephen Young is currently a student studying writing at the Metropolitan State University of Denver. He believes that writing is torture, but still does it for some reason.

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