Trump delivers State of The Union


On Tuesday Feb. 5, President Donald Trump delivered the State of the Union address to Congress in Washington D.C. The chambers were filled with both parties as well as invited guests for a discussion about current political issues.

“The agenda I will lay out this evening is not a Republican agenda or Democrat agenda; it is the agenda of the American people,” said President Trump at the beginning of his speech. He then went into events that have occurred during his time in office, as well as what he plans to get done in the upcoming months.

The shutdown was mentioned, as well as allocating funds to border security— specifically the wall. “Simply put, walls work, and walls save lives,” says President Trump when referencing a section of wall built in El Paso, Texas.

In Stacey Abrams democratic rebuttal, she said, “America is made stronger by the presence of immigrants, not walls.” Stacey Abrams was the 2018 Democratic candidate for Georgia’s gubernatorial election. She is the first African American women to deliver the rebuttal.

Another topic mentioned was the advancement of women, especially when it comes to employment. President Trump stated that 58% of the jobs filled were by females. There is also a record number of women serving in congress currently.

In the chambers, many of the women, specifically of the democratic party, made the decision to wear all white. This represents the fight for women’s suffrage and symbolizes how far the United States has come. 2019 marks the centennial anniversary of women receiving the right to vote through the 19th amendment.

The economy was brought up throughout the speech. President Trump called the current state an “unprecedented economic boom” with the creation of 5.3 million jobs, 600,000 of which were manufacturing. He also drew attention to the lowest unemployment in 50 years.

Regarding energy, the United States has become a net exporter of energy for the first time in 65 years. America is the number one producer of both oil and natural gas in the world according to President Trump.

There have been changes when it comes to health care. The Obamacare mandate penalty was eliminated and the Right to Try Act was passed. This allows people who are critically ill to obtain assistance when they are sick. Abrams advocated for advances that would lower the cost of medications.

Due to the public outcry surrounding the passing of a new abortion law in New York, it was briefly mentioned in the State of the Union Address. President Trump asked congress for legislation against late-term abortions. In her rebuttal, Abrams says, “We must never forget it is immoral to allow politicians to harm women and families to advance a political agenda.”

Foreign relations were discussed in terms of the military and treaties. There was $700 billion invested last year in the armed forces and $716 billion this year. The United States has also started building a missile defense system. In terms of treaties, President Trump withdrew from the Iran Nuclear deal and the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty with Russia. In addition, NAFTA is being replaced by the USMCA, or United StatesMexico-Canada agreement in an attempt to bring jobs back to the country. Abrams advocated for gun control legislation and bills to aid in student loans in order to help further the education for the younger generations. Unity was a theme in the speech. “If there is going to be peace in legislation, there cannot be war and investigation… We must be united at home to defeat our adversaries abroad,” says President Trump. This specifically led to his discussion of attempting to get his nominations selected. President Trump and Abrams both mentioned that Congress could come together to pass more legislation.

Criminal justice reform is one example. Matthew Charles is an example of this. Charles was sentenced in 1996 to 35 years in prison for drug related offenses. He was able to lead Bible studies and become a law clerk in the 20 years he served. Charles was the first person to be released under the First Step Act and attended the State of the Union address.

This address was originally scheduled for Jan. 29 but was postponed due to the 35-day government shutdown that ended Jan. 25. It was mentioned that the government could shut down again Feb. 15 if a new budget is not agreed upon before then.

Government shutdown ends


On Jan. 25, President Trump and Congressional leaders were able to reach a deal which would reopen the government temporarily, ending the shutdown. The shutdown started on Dec. 22, 2018, when a new budget had not been approved by Trump because it did not include a budget for the border wall which would cost over $5 billion.

On Jan. 8, President Trump threatened to declare a national emergency as a way to get the funding for the wall. The construction of the wall would be 234 miles along the border between the United States and Mexico as a security measure.

Democrats believe that money could be spent in better ways in regard to national security. Rather than going towards the wall, they suggest measures such as screenings and hiring more agents.

A government shutdown occurs when a budget cannot be agreed on, so the lack of funding causes the non-critical parts of the government to partially or fully close including museums, like the Smithsonian, national parks and environmental and food inspection agencies.

As of Jan. 12, this became the longest shutdown in United State’s history and lasted for a total of 35 days. The previous longest was 22 days starting in December 1995 under President Bill Clinton. This is the second major shut down under President Trump. The first occurred for three days in January 2018 when there was discussion over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act.

There were 380,000 non-critical employees from nine of the 15 major agencies that were not working during this time, and 420,000 employees were still going to work without any pay.

On Jan. 11, however, Congress passed a bill to reimburse federal employees for lost wages, but this bill did not include anything for contract workers. It is estimated based on data from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management that the partial shutdown would cost $86 million a day.

With the closure, there was a risk that March food stamps could be cut as well as other delays when companies were not able to verify a worker’s immigration status and rental assistance for the elderly and disabled.

Some essential programs and services were not stopped during the partial shutdown. The US Postal service continued running during the shutdown because they receive their funding independently.

Also, food stamps were continued throughout the shutdown, even though they could have run out of funding. Another example is border control which continued throughout the shutdown even though they will have to receive back pay.

The shutdown has cost the government greatly in the month it was closed. While the full figures may not be seen for a while, the Congressional Budget Office said it reduced gross domestic product by $11 billion in just the first two weeks. Additionally, the national parks suffered the loss of destroyed natural resources that could take 300 years to replace and $400,000 a day in fees.

Despite there being an agreement reached, it is only temporary. The government now has until Feb. 15 to approve another budget that includes border security, or it will close once again. However, this time, employees would still be able to receive full back pay. This would increase the costs already caused by the government shutdown that just ended.

Students participate in Women’s March


On January 20, Alma students took part in the Women’s March in different cities to exercise their first amendment right to free speech. The McCurdy House assisted students in getting to Lansing for the march on Michigan State University’s campus.

Colleen Loftus (’21) and Eryn Corinth (’21)were leaders in helping set up the trip to Lansing. Eight people traveled together to join the march. While this was Loftus’s first, it was Corinth’s third march of this kind. The others who went had an assortment of experience marching for human rights in this way.

Even though the main march this year was being held in Detroit, there was interest expressed from the public to hold another march in the capitol city. The march was from the MSU Union building to the Hannah Administration building where there were speakers, including the new governor, Gretchen Whitmer.

“People are agreeing [with Whitmer]. There were cheers. There were chants. In the moment you are like,this is why I’m doing it because I’m not alone in this,” says Loftus when describing listening to Whitmer speak. Being around others with the same goal and wanting the same improvements was inspiring to many march-goers.

Women’s equality was not the only thing topic spoken about at the march. There was also mention about LGBTQ equality and rights, as well as the current government shut down. This showed the greater conscious of what is going on politically.

There was a large range of ages from younger women with their parents to college students and older. “It makes a point. People will hear about people meeting up in a large group and see why are… they are more willing to look into it and consider another side,”says Loftus. It opens the rest of the community’s eyes to what is going around them.

Students also participated in marches in other cities around the state. Chelsea Faber (’21) traveled to Traverse City to march for her first time. “So many individuals have worked towards this goal in the past century, and us, being the next voting age generation, need to continue this movement through advocacy and voting,” says Faber, acknowledging the importance of being involved.

The Women’s March brings people together about topics that they care about. Faber stated that her favorite part was seeing the number of people that gathered to advocate for what they care about, despite it being so cold.

There is still a call for improvements from the government. Corinth hopes that the government will be held responsible for their actions at that more women and minorities will be elected. Faber also hopes for the election of more women, but also to see more women in science related fields.

By advocating for rights and participating in protests, people’s voices can be heard and ask for change.In order for change to happen, people are recommending continuing action and advocacy in their communities. There has been a lot of progress, but people still are wishing for more in many areas, not just women’s rights.

“My biggest take away from the march was that we have made advances, but we still have more to go,” says Corinth. This sums up the general feeling that while the political system is improving with the election of more women into the government there is still room for improvement.

The first Women’s March was January 21, 2017 in Washington D.C., the day after President Trump was inaugurated. It was a way for people to come together and fight against the president’s comments as well as inequalities. It was the largest single day protest in United States history.

Coffee and consent with title IX


January is Stalking Awareness Month, so the Title IX office held “Coffee and Consent” on January 16 at Starbucks to offer students a chance to connect with their staff. Title IX and Civil Rights Coordinator, Kevin Carmody, and Student Affairs Assistant, Kaydee Hall (’18), presented students with a chance to talk about stalking and other related issues on campus.

These rights were advocated for by Bernice Sandler, specifically, equality between sexes and the creation of Title IX. She helped pass legislation that affects higher education.

Sandler witnessed the inequality throughout her life, and it continued into her career as a teacher at the University of Maryland. The passage of Title IX effected athletics, financial assistance, and admission into colleges. It also addressed the issues of sexual harassment and assault and offered some protections.

A big motivation behind this event, for Carmody and Hall, was to provide opportunities for the campus to connect with the Title IX and Civil Rights office. They want to reach out to as many students as possible. They recognize that they might not get in other targeted awareness programs for organizations such as Greek life and athletics. “A big focus that I’ve had this year is around transparency,” said Carmody.

Their goal is for people to know it is okay to ask questions regarding stalking or other Title IX and Civil Rights issues. They want people to feel comfortable approaching them with these topics to start the conversation. Having events to encourage this is a start.

“[Stalking] is much more prolific than people understand,” said Carmody. He continued to say that it often goes underreported because it is “romanticized” in pop culture and the definition is not fully understood. This hinders students’ ability to know what to report because they are misinformed about it.

“Making ourselves available for students should be the biggest take away,” says Hall. There are events across campus but Carmody’s office is “always open”. This applies to asking questions regarding any Title IX or Civil Rights issues to reporting an incident.

In the case of needing to report an incident, it can be filed through Carmody in person or online. There are also national resources such as Safe horizon. If it is an immediate emergency, call 911 said Hall.

“The more that we can start to have these conversations, the better it’s going to be,” said Carmody. These events are meant to aid in facilitating the discussion. This topic “breeds its silence” stated Carmody, he explains that the longer students do not talk about this subject, the more it happens around them

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