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5 Reasons to Pursue a Degree in Political Science

Do you follow current events rather closely? Is the TV always set to CNN or MSNBC 24 hours a day? Are you fascinated by the machinations of domestic and international politics? Then you may just be a political science major. But you don’t necessarily need to have ambitions for public office or a job in government, a political science degree will serve you well in many other fields and industries beyond the nation’s capital. There are some very good reasons to get your degree in political science, particularly if politics and government interest you. If you’re more keen to do your part on the local level, a political science degree can give you the tools to help your community any number of ways. Whether you’re attending George Washington University or San Diego State University, you’ll find many doors open for you in the public and private sector with this kind of degree under your arm. Here are five of the best reasons for deciding to major in political science.

  1. Diverse Skill Set

Pursuing your degree in political science puts an emphasis on improving your writing, helps you hone your communication skills, gives you valuable insight into analytics and it will even provide you with a foundation for building your computer skills. Obtaining this diverse skill set will prepare you for a career in a wide range of professions so even if you’re not sure where your passions lie just yet, you will still have plenty of possibilities to select from once you graduate.

  1. Think Global, Act Local

A political science degree can prepare you to be an active participant in your community as you can enter local government, become a community organizer, or an activist for a cause or a candidate that you consider vital to the well being of your friends and neighbors. If you’re looking to serve your community in any capacity, this degree will give you the tools you need to help.

  1. Uphold the Law

Perhaps you have a passion for the law. Having a political science degree can prepare you for a career in the legal system. Once you’ve obtained your degree, you’ll be ready for law school where you can pursue your legal degree with the dream of being a district attorney some day or skip the post-graduate semesters and get a job as a paralegal or legal assistant.

  1. Educate

Many students who choose political science as their major do so with the intention of becoming teachers themselves at some point. Choosing a career as an educator in this subject will give you the opportunity to help introduce young minds to the world of politics and government. You can also influence them to understand the importance of the electoral process in this country.

  1. Run for Office

Whether you decide you want to be elected to public office as a candidate at the local, state, or federal level or help another candidate reach that goal as a consultant, campaign manager, or even a press secretary, a degree in political science can be a crucial prerequisite. If you choose to be a legislator then your degree will serve you well in this capacity and any student with dreams of making policy should already know this is the major they want to select once they get to college.

4 Benefits of Majoring in Political Science

Contrary to popular belief, there are actually a lot of careers you can land with a political science degree. Indeed, you can think of a political science degree as a primary for positions in the field of law, business, advocacy, journalism, teaching, and, of course, politics. What is a political science degree? A poli-sci degree will teach you the basics of government, how they work and how different types of governments operate. You will also learn theories behind different political thoughts and conditions. It will all seem very broad and disparate, but you will be learning a lot about how societies work. This could put you in a situation for learning a lot about yourself too. There are also a lot of other benefits to majoring in this field that you may want to explore before declaring your major. Here are four benefits of majoring in political science.

  1. Explore Contemporary Ideas in Politics

Right now, it is a really exciting time for politics. Not only are we on the precipice of a brand new era of politics, we are also seeing unprecedented and historical events in politics and government. If you want to be involved and learn more about these ideas, pursuing a political science degree – from a college like Indiana State University – will give you ample opportunities to secure positions.

  1. Gain an Understanding of the Law Before Going to Law School

If you plan on going to law school, you may want to take a poli-sci class – just to make sure that you have your foundation. Even if you are going through an online program, like ACU online, you can still apply to law schools. Not only can a political science degree can help you get your foot in the door, it can also help you navigate the complicated world of law – both global and local.

  1. Give Yourself Opportunities to Work in Rare Sectors of Government

With a political science degree, you can also work in a government position. You could work high in the top branches, or you can work on a more community level. However, if you want to enter some kind of elected office one day, you probably want to start off with a political science degree. You can think of it as a foundation for entering local politics – and maybe one-day national politics.

  1. Learn About Global Societal Structures and Cultures

On top of everything, a political science degree will help you learn about different structures of government and society that may not be your own. If you were interested in learning about international judicial systems, you probably want to get a poli-sci degree.

In the end, a political science degree can offer a lot of benefits and advantages – not only in the realm of your career, but also personal growth. You could enter politics, you could enter law, or you can spend the rest of your life as a political scholar. The truth is that a poli-sci degree is the perfect building block to constructing your future aspirations.

Avoiding Severe Penalties with Proper Legal Counsel

Drinking and driving is a serious offense in all 50 states. Even the first infraction can result in you going to jail and paying heavy fines. When you have been arrested and detained on this charge, it is important that you know how to advocate for yourself immediately. To avoid jail, fines, and other punishments, you should entrust professionals like an Alameda county attorney and other legal counsel to represent you in the matter.

Representation in Court

You are guaranteed your day in court, a right that cannot be taken away from you. You also have the right to represent yourself. However, you may not want to use this right if you do not know how the court system works or if you want to build a case that will sway the judge and jury to your favor.

Another right that is guaranteed to you is the right to an attorney. After you have been arrested and detained, you should contact a lawyer who can protect you from the earliest moments of your case. A lawyer can make sure that you are not asked questions that cause you to implicate yourself in the matter. Your lawyer can also make sure that you are treated fairly and that you are given your day in court in a timely manner.

An attorney can also make sure that you were detained with good reason. Many police officers throughout the country are not trained on how to administer field sobriety tests. The results of your own test can be skewed and purposely geared against you. Your lawyer can find any discrepancies that could have the charges against you thrown out in court.

Contacting an Attorney Immediately

You may wonder how to contact a lawyer after you have been arrested. You are ensured a phone call, which you can use to retain legal counsel.

The lawyer’s phone call is on the website. You can use that number anytime to get help with your DUI case.
You can also use the online contact form if you make bail and are released. The online form is easy to fill out and guarantees that you get information about legal counsel immediately.
A DUI is a serious crime in every state. You can avoid heavy monetary fines and also build a case that will stand up in court when you hire legal counsel to help you.

How the Government will Pay You to Live Green

The United States government wants you to live green. In fact, the big wigs are willing to give you incentives like tax breaks and programs in exchange for your cut in energy consumption. It’s important to note that governmental tax incentives are not just for individuals but for businesses as well. Credits like these can save you thousands and can really make a difference if you’re willing to take the steps necessary to get there. You may be wondering how you can find out more about these tax incentive programs. You can visit the official Internal Revenue Service website, and search for federal tax incentives. You can visit Energy.gov and find out which incentives you, or your business, are eligible for. These sites will also let you know what you need to do to become eligible for certain tax breaks. There is a website named Energy Star that allows you to locate specific energy saving appliances within your area. This website also gives you some ideas on how to make your home more energy efficient. Before making any major changes to your lifestyle make sure that the tax incentive program that you’re researching is still valid, technology is constantly changing and thus the energy saving programs are always changing. If you were considering a home improvement project, it may be worth your time to look into purchasing energy efficient appliances while you’re at it. You’ll earn back some money while also helping save the environment.

If you add solar panels to your roof as a company or a home owner you can actually save a lot of money and get tax incentives.  As technology advances the solar panels are getting cheaper.  Another option to help you save money and get tax incentives is to go with a green or metal roof.  These both can save energy and reduce your bills. Click here to learn more about getting your green roof.    Energy efficient windows have really started to gain in popularity as well.  A new technology of double pane windows has come out and those can help save on your energy bills and help get you that tax incentive.

So to summarize, going green can not only save you money long term, it will help the environment as well as get you tax breaks.  There really is no reason not to start going green today.

Experts think the success of Obama gun plans could come down to better technology and more data

On Thursday, January 14, a teary-eyed Obama addressed the press at Whitehouse calling for stricter gun control measures. While the gun control measures he proposes are far less radical than most proponents of the idea would have hoped for, there was still enough “will” in his voice to show that he was truly concerned.

Essentially, the president is proposing the use of technology to ensure that the system as it is today does a better job of keeping the weapons out of the hands of people who may cause harm to others tomorrow. So, what the president is talking about is far from the sweeping background check policy he pushed for back in 2013. Of course, it’s also not about taking guns out of the hand of law-abiding citizens as it was put out in the Op-Ed report. Instead, the president is asking for the use of technology in curbing the spread of gun violence. He is asking those concerned to use sophisticated technology and better data to establish regulations that would ultimately ensure that the “bad guys” don’t access the weapons.

During the time gun debate has stayed locked in a stalemate in the United States, technology has grown rapidly, saving lives all over. Most security companies now rely heavily on tech to improve systems which have in turn seen many lives saved. In the meantime, however, firearm regulations have remained stagnated. This, according to most experts, is what has allowed online gun brokers and sellers to circumvent the regulations that brick-and-mortar stores follow.  Modernizing these rules alone might not end gun violence completely, but it could definitely help.

While most online gun retailers, especially those who use online firearm merchant accounts from providers such as eMerchantBroker.com, have benefited from the added protection offered by these companies, there are still virtual loopholes in the online firearm market. Clarifying language in existing regulations about who should and who shouldn’t acquire a license would help in sealing these loopholes.

“It’s not where you do it,” said the president. Whether at a gun show or over the internet, you still sell guns.” Mr. Obama was referring to the rapidly growing unlicensed gun sales going on over the internet. With one out of thirty people who buy guns online having a felony or domestic abuse record, you will agree with him that something has to be done.

Why So Many Attorneys General Are in Legal Peril

A striking number of current and former state AGs are facing criminal charges or investigations.

Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell (AP/Toby Talbot)

*This story was last updated August 3 at 10:09 a.m.

State attorneys general are lawyering up.

A striking number of current and former state AGs are facing criminal charges or investigations. The five cases, which range from allegations of corruption to campaign finance violations, are unrelated and differ in levels of seriousness. But they all illustrate one point: As attorneys general have grown more powerful, they’ve become tempting targets for their fellow prosecutors and political rivals.

Contemporary AGs have found strength in numbers, banding together far more often in multistate cases than was the case a couple of decades ago. By challenging industries such as pharmaceutical makers and mortgage lenders, as well as the federal government, they’ve become de facto national policymakers.

“The possibility of corruption and lobbying violations is more likely now both because of the greater spotlight on AGs, due to their expanded powers, as well as the far greater flow of lobbying money going to the occupants of these offices since the mid-2000s,” said Paul Nolette, author of a recent book on AGs, Federalism on Trial. He believes the current five facing problems are the most since the 1980s.

In Texas, GOP Attorney General Ken Paxton was indicted by special prosecutors in a securities fraud case.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, a Democrat, is awaiting word as to whether she’ll be indicted for lying to a grand jury.

“Right now, her legal future is in the hands of the district attorney from Montgomery County,” said Terry Madonna, a political scientist at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa.

Last month, former Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff pleaded not guilty to several counts of corruption. Another former Utah Republican AG, John Swallow, is also expected to plead not guilty later this month in a related case.

In Vermont, Republicans accused Democratic Attorney General Bill Sorrell of illegally coordinating activity between his 2012 re-election campaign and a super PAC. In May, Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin appointed a former GOP state representative to investigate the matter.

And in Colorado, critics accused GOP Attorney General Cynthia Coffman of extortion, saying that she and a former congressman and a county party chair warned state GOP Chair Steve House that if he didn’t resign, word would get out about an alleged affair.

“I think this is something that will follow her,” said former GOP state House Speaker Frank McNulty. “From what I know and what I’ve read, there’s no there there for criminal charges, but it’s something she’s going to have to deal with politically.”

As McNulty points out, attorneys general are held to a higher standard than other state officials. Whenever one appears to be in any kind of legal trouble, the press invariably describes the AG as “the chief law enforcement officer in the state.”

In the case of Kane in Pennsylvania, the long-running investigations have led to additional scrutiny of her handling of the office in general. Some longtime staff attorneys have been fired, while an aide who wrote a supportive public letter received a substantial raise.

“From the internal operations of her department, she looks like — I’m using that term advisedly — it looks like she’s penalizing anyone on her staff who does things she doesn’t like,” Madonna said.

The Philadelphia Inquirer recently ran an article with the exceptionally blunt headline, “Probes have made the Pa. attorney general’s office a hell in Harrisburg.”

There’s quiet talk in Democratic circles of finding a replacement to run in Kane’s stead next year. Already, Rob McCord, the former Pennsylvania state treasurer, pleaded guilty in February to two federal counts of extortion. It’s easy to guess what sort of ads Republicans would run if two statewide Democratic officeholders had been charged since the last election.

“There’s been a black cloud over the attorney general’s office as of late,” GOP state Sen. John Rafferty said last month, as he announced his candidacy for AG.

Again, Kane has yet to be formally charged with any crime. Accusations against her, or the other AGs who have lately come under fire, may never stick. But any attorney general has to recognize that he or she could face accusations of wrongdoing in the current environment.

“The mix of increased money, power and attention involved with these offices heightens both the possibility of actual corruption, as well as more partisan-oriented allegations of wrongdoing on the part of political opponents,” said Nolette. “In that sense — and even though the current cases are not explicitly connected — I do think that the ground is increasingly fertile for AGs to face these types of investigations.”

Why Democratic Governors and Republican Mayors Have Become Rare

From the presidency down, each party is more likely to win elections at certain levels of government. Whether that’s good or bad depends on your political views.

In Maryland, a traditionally Democratic stronghold, Republican Larry Hogan won the governor’s race in November.(AP/Steve Ruark)

Usually, this column takes a granular approach to politics. Most often, we’re handicapping gubernatorial and legislative races. But for this one time, we’re taking a look at the big picture in American politics today — the really big picture.

While there’s no single theory that can explain all political behavior in America, there’s still reason to believe that distinct patterns are emerging at four different levels of government, and that those patterns are almost perfectly balanced by party.

Let’s start at the presidential level, where demographic patterns are making it increasingly challenging for the Republican Party to win the White House. By the same token, structural factors are making it increasingly difficult for the Democrats to take control of either chamber of Congress.

Meanwhile, state elections timed for the midterm cycle will continue to make it hard for Democrats to win governorships, and local demographic and political shifts will make it increasingly harder for Republicans to win mayoral elections.

Put it all together and each party should have an edge in two political arenas — the Democrats with the White House and mayoral offices, and the Republicans in congressional and gubernatorial elections. Depending on your perspective, this is either a recipe for long-term gridlock or an opportunity for each party to enact its agenda at a different level of government.

Let’s take a closer look, level by level.

The Presidency

Simply put, Democrats have an edge in the Electoral College, though it’s not an insurmountable one.

Here’s how: Any credible Democratic candidate would start with an almost certain base of 170 electoral votes (California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont). It’s probably safe to add another 27 electoral votes (Minnesota, New Mexico and Washington state). Together, that adds up to 197 votes. If you add in three swing states that haven’t voted Republican for president since 1988 (Maine, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin) that gets a Democratic nominee up to 247, or just 23 swing-state electoral votes short of the 270 needed to win the presidency.

By contrast, the Republicans start out with 143 solid electoral votes (Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming). It’s also reasonable to add four Republican leaning states with a collective 48 electoral votes (Arizona, Georgia, Indiana and Missouri). Together, that’s 191 electoral votes, or 206 if you include North Carolina, which voted Republican in five of the last six elections. This lineup requires the GOP to win 64 swing-state votes — almost three times as many as the Democrats would need.

In 2012, Obama eventually got 332 electoral votes to win re-election. (AP/David Zalubowski)

Under this scenario, the swingiest of the swing states, which we’ve categorized as belonging to neither party’s lineup, control the 85 pivotal electoral votes — Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio and Virginia.

In reality, it’s not at all clear that the GOP will inevitably lose Maine, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin for the foreseeable future, meaning that Democrats don’t actually have a lock on the presidency. Still, for Democrats, it’s a nice edge to start with, and more important, it’s fortified by demographic changes helpful to their party.

As political analysts Charlie Cook and David Wasserman recently noted, the racial and ethnic diversification of the electorate continues. Cook and Wasserman foresee the likelihood that the white share of the electorate, which forms the core of the Republican Party, will shrink from 72 percent in 2012 to 70 percent in 2016. Those two lost percentage points would be redistributed to Hispanics and Asian-Americans, two groups more favorable to Democratic candidates. “If the 2012 election had been held with that breakdown (keeping all other variables stable), President Obama would have won by 5.4 percentage points rather than by his actual 3.85-point margin,” Cook and Wasserman write.

They add that “the group with which the GOP does best — whites without college degrees — is the only one poised to shrink in 2016. … In other words, the GOP doesn’t just have a growing problem with nonwhites; it has a shrinkage problem as well, as conservative white seniors are supplanted by college-educated millennials with different cultural attitudes.”

While this doesn’t equate to a recipe for certain victory, it’s not a bad position to be in if you’re a Democrat.

Congress

Where the Democrats have an edge in the presidency, Republicans have the advantage in Congress.

This is clearest in the House. The clustering of Democratic voters in densely populated urban areas means that any reasonably compact district will likely include many “wasted” Democratic votes — that is, Democratic support levels far above 51 percent in a given district, which could otherwise be used to dilute Republican strength in neighboring districts. This clustering was exacerbated by a strong Republican election cycle in 2010, when voters, even in otherwise Democratic-leaning states, elected GOP legislators and governors who proceeded to draw district lines favorable to the GOP. This is a key reason why a purple-to-blue state like Pennsylvania has a 13-5 Republican lead in its House delegation and why a swing state like Florida has a 17-10 GOP edge.

The combination of clustering and redistricting has produced a House electoral landscape in which few seats are genuinely competitive. To become a majority in the 435-member chamber, a party must assemble at least 218 votes. Currently, the House GOP has a 246-188 edge, not counting one vacant seat. As of now, the Cook Political Report has rated just 29 seats as competitive, either as tossups or as leaning toward one party or the other. That’s not even enough competitive seats to sway the balance of power.

This statistic shows how hard it will be for Democrats to take back the House anytime soon — but it gets even worse for the party. Of those 29 competitive seats, only 22 are Republican-held. So, the Democrats would not only have to hold onto their own seven endangered seats, but would have to sweep every single one of the competitive Republican-held seats and then flip eight more GOP-held House seats that aren’t currently considered competitive — all in order to achieve a bare, one-seat majority.

Securing a Democratic majority more solid than that would require even more seats, which is tough when so few seats in either party are even remotely competitive. Just four House GOP winners in 2014 failed to get to 50 percent; another nine won with 50 or 51 percent; and another 10 won with between 52 and 55 percent of the vote. All told, that’s less than 10 percent of the GOP caucus that had even vaguely close races in 2014.

Obama delivering his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress. (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Superficially, the Senate offers more hope for Democrats. The map of seats being contested in 2016 is favorable to the Democrats, with the GOP having to defend more incumbents and open seats, and many of those elections taking place on reasonably favorable territory for the Democrats. Because of this, Senate Democrats have a real chance of seizing the chamber in 2016, just two years after losing it.

If you take a longer, more structural view, though, the situation is less rosy for the Democrats in the Senate. That’s because the Senate gives equal weight to states, not to population. To explain, let’s give each party two Senate seats for its “strong” states, and split the two Senate seats between the parties for the 12 swing states. How does this shake out? Using these presidential preferences as a guide, Republicans would have 46 seats in the strong states and another 12 in swing states. That’s 58 seats, or just two short of a filibuster-proof majority. The Democrats, by contrast, would have 30 seats in strong states and 12 in swing states, for just 42 seats total, dooming them to long-term minority status.

While incumbency can certainly keep a state’s weaker party in a Senate seat, retirements and deaths in office eventually give the state’s dominant party a good shot at taking that seat back. And given the geographical structure of the Senate, this favors the GOP.

Governors

The biggest surprise on this list may be the outlook for gubernatorial elections. Here, Republicans have reason for optimism.

Historically, gubernatorial elections have tended to be up for grabs between the parties. Statewide electorates are sufficiently eclectic to encourage candidates in both parties to run toward the center, expanding their bases. But the pattern of results is changing, and for an unexpected reason.

For obscure reasons, 36 states hold their gubernatorial contests during midterm cycles. This hasn’t seemed to matter much in the past. But in recent elections, the types of voters who cast ballots in midterm elections has diverged significantly from those that do in presidential cycles. Midterm electorates tend to be smaller, whiter, older and more Republican; presidential electorates tend to be larger, more demographically diverse, and more Democratic.

This pattern helped Republican gubernatorial candidates in 2010. That year, the GOP won governorships in such bluish states as Maine, Michigan, New Mexico and Wisconsin. But it proved to be an even bigger help in 2014, another GOP wave year. On the eve of the 2014 election, Governing’s final handicapping of the gubernatorial seats included an unusually large field of 12 tossup races. In a neutral environment, one would expect these races to go roughly half to one party and half to the other. Instead, Republican candidates won eight of those 12 races, plus another contest in Maryland that had been rated lean Democratic. Highly vulnerable Republican incumbents, such as Sam Brownback in Kansas, Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Rick Scott in Florida and Paul LePage in Maine, also won new terms, buoyed by the GOP-friendly electorate.

Currently, the breakdown of the gubernatorial ranks is 31 Republicans, 18 Democrats and one independent. Historically, the number of Republican governors has only been that high on rare occasions, so it’s likely that the GOP number will fall somewhat in the coming years, especially after the 2018 election, when a number of two-term Republican governors will be term-limited out, creating competitive open seats. Still, on balance, it’s going to be a tough challenge for Democrats to take back governorships when so many of them are contested during midterm election cycles.

Mayors

As we’ve noted before, the GOP is having an increasingly difficult time winning mayoral races in big cities. Of the nation’s most populous cities, only a few have Republican mayors. They include three city-county hybrids where suburban voters can play an outsized role (Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Fla.; and Miami), and a few Sun Belt cities (Albuquerque, N.M.; Fort Worth, Texas; Oklahoma City and San Diego). Gone, apparently, are the days when a Republican like Rudy Giuliani could be the mayor of New York or Richard Riordan could be the mayor of Los Angeles.

Here, as with the U.S. House, geography is destiny. Cities have been magnets for younger, more diverse populations that tend to be socially liberal. This makes the Republican Party, with its national image of social conservatism, a tough sell. Indeed, such mayors as Bill DeBlasio of New York, Ed Murray of Seattle and Bill Peduto of Pittsburgh have been pursuing agendas that are unapologetically progressive.

Democratic Mayor Bill Peduto of Pittsburgh (David Kidd)

The clearest example is the spread of minimum-wage hikes. Already, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle have set themselves on a course to raise the minimum wage to $15. Chicago’s is set to rise to $13. By contrast, President Obama got nowhere in Congress with his longstanding efforts to institute a more modest raise to $10.10.

The minimum-wage debate highlights a key consequence of the parties’ varying holds on the levers of power: When stymied at one level, you can try another. Just as Democratic mayors are sidestepping GOP opposition to minimum-wage hikes in Congress, Republican governors are trying to block what they don’t like from Obama’s Democratic administration, such as elements of the Affordable Care Act or action on climate change.

Whether such combat is a boon for federalism — or a recipe for conflict between the branches — is in the eye of the beholder. Either way, the multipolar skirmishing between the two parties may well be with us for many years to come.

European Government Types

The character of European government has changed significantly. In the past, absolute rule by a single individual was the most prevalent form of govern

Charlemagne ruled an extensive European empire.

ment. Kings ruled France and England, and czars ruled Russia. For a while, Mongol khans controlled much of Eastern Europe, and the sultans of the Ottoman Empire guarded the Bosporus. Other past European governments were oligarchies, in which a select few held power. Ancient Sparta and Medieval Venice are cases in point. But democracies also made an appearance in the past, and democratic institutions are dominant in the various types of European governments today.

Republic

  • The majority of European governments are republics. In a republic, elected officials govern the land. The government of France is typical. The French populace elects a president and two legislative bodies: the National Assembly and the Senate. The president appoints a prime minister who takes charge of governmental affairs. The National Assembly has the power to terminate the tenure of the prime minister by a no-confidence vote. If this happens, the president must choose a new prime minister. Other governments, such as those of Croatia and Estonia, are very similar. An alternate name for this type of government is “parliamentary democracy.” Not all republics are exactly the same. For example, the parliament appoints the prime minister in Finland, and the presidency has no real power in Greece. In Moldova, the parliament elects the president instead of the people. The Ukrainian government has only one legislative body.

Federal Republic

  • Some European governments, such as Germany, are federal republics. A federal republic is a union of states or similar entities. Governmental powers are divided between the federal government and the states. Germany’s federal government is similar to a parliamentary democracy, with a president, bicameral legislature and chancellor (equivalent to a prime minister). However, to protect the rights of the German states, one of the two legislative chambers called the Bundesrat has the constitutional power to veto adverse federal legislation. Other federal republics are Austria and Switzerland. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, a federal union unites an autonomous Serbian state with the rest of the nation.

Constitutional Monarchy

  • The United Kingdom is a good example of a current European constitutional monarchy. The monarch is theoretically the head of the government, but has no real power. Political power resides in the prime minister and the House of Commons, the elected legislative body. The Scandinavian countries also have constitutional monarchies, as do Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Lichtenstein.

Socialist Republic

  • Many East European nations used to have socialist republics in which the Communist party was the dominant power. Albania adhered to strict Marxist ideology longer than any other European nation. In 1998, a new constitution made Albania a parliamentary democracy, and socialist traditions are gradually being abandoned.

Vatican City

  • The pope enjoys absolute sovereignty over a small state called Vatican City. It is a remnant of the fairly extensive Papal States that once extended across central Italy. A Papal Commission administers the state.

Andorra

  • Andorra has an unusual government. Traditionally, the French king and the Spanish bishop of Urgel exercised executive power in Andorra. Now the president of France has replaced the king, and the power of both heads of state is greatly reduced. Actual political power resides in a General Council.

How to Get Government Grants

The U.S. government gives away $500 billion dollars in grant money each year to local government agencies, nonprofit organizations, sm

Get Government Grants

all businesses and individuals. However, it is important to understand that there is no such thing as “free money” when it comes to securing a government grant. Most federal agencies don’t offer grants throughout the entire fiscal year, so it’s important to know when to apply. Taking the time to research your grant search will put you on the right track toward funding success.

Instructions

  1. Search the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (see Resources section). The CDFA is an online resource that provides a list of over 1,800 federal grant programs. These grant programs are administered to local and state governments. A bulk of the grant programs go directly to agencies such as the Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Education. There are also grants available for nonprofit businesses and individual grant seekers. The site is user-friendly and provides a list of grant programs and their corresponding government agencies in alphabetical order. From the home page, click on “find programs by number” or “find programs by agency.” From here, you can pull up a thorough description of the grant program or agency issuing the grant as well as instructions for applying. It isn’t necessary to create an account. The CDFA is for public use and individuals can download a PDF copy of the public user manual.
  2. Search the Environmental Protection Agency’s website (see Resources section). The EPA lists a variety of government grants and fellowships for individuals and nonprofits. The Community Action for a Renewed Environment (CARE) helps communities reduce environmental risk in their locales. The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant helps fund research technology for small business. The EPA also offers grant opportunities for high school and college students (undergrad and graduate) interested in gaining experience in this field. From the grants page, click “How Do I” to apply for a grant or learn how to write a proposal.
  3. Search the U.S. Department of Human Services’ website for a list of types of funding programs available (see Resources section). National Institute of Health (NIH) grants can be found here as well as instructions for applying.
  4. Learn how to write a proposal for a government grant. If you have a business, nonprofit organization or are an individual grant seeker, it is important to learn how to write proper proposals in order to secure your grant. Key components of a proposal are summary, statement of need (addressing a problem), project objectives, history/background of organization, budget and conclusion. Two great resources include the CDFA, which offers a downloadable PDF on grant writing, and the Foundation Center which provides a free short course on proposal writing (see Resources section).

How to Discuss Politics in a Friendly Setting

Politics have often been considered an unsafe topic of discussion outside the home. Many people feel emotionally attached to issues and have a hard time seeing another point of view. If you want to discuss politics at work, at parties, with family or with friends, then you must learn to see another person’s point of view, listen and know when to close a discussion or walk away. This topic does not have to be avoided if you have the presence of mind to keep the discussion civil and enjoyable. There are a few guidelines to discussing politics in public that will help you avoid arguments and hurt feelings. In a social setting, politics should be approached as a way to learn and grow, rather than a debate about right or wrong. Learn how to discuss politics in a friendly setting.

Think about why you want to discuss politics. Politics can be considered to be propelled by the reinforcement theory, that people seek out political discussion and information that supports their own political views. Understand that discussing politics in a mixed social setting will lead to opposing beliefs and it should lead to more thoughtful discussion.

Listen. Before jumping to any conclusions, listen to the other person’s point of view. Ask thoughtful questions if their views are not completely clear.

  • Avoid using questions, such as “How could you think that?” Instead, ask questions like “What is your opinion about…?” or “What makes you feel that way?”

Try to see the issue from the other person’s point of view. This is along the lines of the classic “think before you speak” adage. Try to be empathetic toward their point of view, and you are likely to achieve more thoughtful conclusions about your own beliefs.

Be honest about your sources. If you are quoting sources, make sure you recognize potential flaws in the facts or how you are quoting. This is another example of reinforcement theory, since you may consider your sources to be objective, but other people may consider them subjective.

Admit when you do not know something. No one likes a “know-it-all,” so be prepared to learn something new in any discussion. The talk is much more likely to remain friendly if no one insists on always being right.

Find common ground regularly during the discussion. In order to have a friendly discussion, try to return to points you agree on from time to time. Most people can agree on a few things that they think are working or that they think need reform.

Respect a work or party decision to place politics off-limits. Some party hosts, family members and work environments ask that people leave their political beliefs for their private interactions. This rule has probably been brought about because of a past problem, so respect the desire to host a politics-free social engagement.

Gage your relationship with the person you are talking to. Some political discussions are not worth the possibility of making a relationship strained. Get to know the person better before trying to engage the person in political talk.

  • If someone engages you in political discussion and you are unsure of your relationship, approach the talk with caution, especially if alcohol is involved. It is better to find common ground and change the subject than to get into an argument.

Concede a point. Part of maintaining friendly discussion is a frank desire to say when you agree. Indicating that you understand and asking a follow up question may make the discussion more enjoyable.

Remember that you don’t need to win in a friendly discussion. In fact, save the winning mentality for political debates or people that are very close to you. Enter into polite political discussion to learn something and get a better background of your friends and the issues.

How to Get a Personal Government Grant

You sure must have heard all kinds of infomercials screaming at you about how easy it is to get personal government grants for just about anything – to buy a house, to pay off your credit card debt, to go to school, Personal grants from the government - too good to be true?etc. And all you have to do is pay money for a grant kit or some secret formula they have, and you will be guaranteed a personal grant – free money from the government. While personal assistance from the government is indeed available, the infomercials don’t tell you that you don’t have to pay to find grants or apply for grants from the government. It’s always free to apply, you just have to know where to look. Read on to find out how you can get a personal grant from the government for free.

Instructions

  1. Go to GovBenefits.gov – it’s a government website that covers all types of personal assistance that government provides, including grants.
  2. Start by completing a confidential questionnaire (click on big blue “Start” button), which will help you find all the benefits you might qualify for. The questionnaire is quite involved and might take a while. It’s worth it, however, because you might find some personal benefits that you didn’t know you were eligible for.
  3. If you know exactly what type of personal grant you are looking for, then do a “Benefits Quick Search” located on the right side of the page. Choose housing or healthcare or education or loan repayment or whatever assistance you are looking for. Be prepared to sift through a lot of programs. You won’t be eligible for all of them, but if you don’t give up, you might just find a personal grant you can qualify for.
  4. Try advanced search as well – it might be easier to find a personal grant you are looking for that way. Go to the Benefits tab at the top of the page, and choose to search either by state or by category. For best results do both.
  5. When you find programs you are eligible for, read the instructions provided for each program carefully. If you are still not sure how to apply for a particular personal grant, call the contact numbers provided for the program. Remember, it is always free to apply.
  6. Also check the resource section below for links on getting education and business grants.

What Does the Constitution Say About the War on ISIS?

“To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle,” George Orwell wrote in 1946. Here’s a corollary: The real scandal in any given system is usually the thing there’s no argument about.

We hear a lot of discussion about executive power and the military these days. The Internet is flooded with discussions of whether President Obama has the authority to send troops to Texas. The true constitutional crisis, however, is not Jade Helm, it’s Inherent Resolve, the so-called war against the Islamic State. I’m not hearing much about that

Almost exactly two years ago, President Obama proclaimed that the national interest required intervention in Syria to punish the Assad government for using chemical weapons against its own people—not only a war crime, but, Obama said, a “red line” for the international community. Shortly afterwards, though, Obama unexpectedly announced that he would first seek congressional authorization. “After careful deliberation, I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets,” he said on August 31, 2013. “Having made my decision as Commander-in-Chief based on what I am convinced is our national security interests, I’m also mindful that I’m the President of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy … And that’s why I’ve made a second decision: I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people’s representatives in Congress.”

It was an unusual moment in American history: a president pausing to acknowledge that Congress’s war power was not an obstacle but an asset to a democratic system. Obama knew very well that, if he sought an authorization vote, he might lose. (If he had lost, it would, as near as I can tell, have been the first time since the Wilson administration that Congress denied a president’s request for prior authority to use force.)

As it happened, the need for a vote never arose; Russian diplomatic intervention produced a genuine settlement to the chemical-weapons problem. But flash forward to today. For the past year, the United States has been in a much wider conflict with the non-state that calls itself the Islamic State. This military operation dwarfs the proposed Syria bombing. We have put together a rickety, complex, and partly secret “alliance” with a number of seemingly incompatible players in the region, ranging from Britain and France to Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and, under cover, at least the tacit cooperation of Iran and even Syria. We are training “moderate” Syrian rebels and our troops are advising and training the Iraqi Army. The operation has spread from Iraq to Syria and perhaps now Egypt. It is taking place amidst—and arguably exacerbating—a refugee crisis that is engulfing not just the region but the Western European countries. And General Raymond Odierno, who retired last week as the Army chief of staff, said on his way out that “if we find in the next several months that we aren’t making progress, we should absolutely consider embedding some soldiers (in Iraq).”

A spreading conflict, regional instability, pressure for deepening involvement—and no end ahead that I can see. I am an authority on the Middle East to the extent Donald Trump is an expert on men’s hairstyles. We may have a clear definition of “victory” and a smart path toward it. But if I don’t know that plan, it’s really not my fault. The government hasn’t explained itself to me and the rest of the country; and for that reason, I can’t hold anybody accountable for what goes right, or wrong, in the months ahead.

There is a way that the government could explain itself; indeed, the government is required to do that by Article I of the Constitution, which assigns to Congress the power to “declare war.” It’s true that nations don’t “declare war” anymore; but the grant of power in that clause isn’t a formality, an empty box to be checked off. Read the words in context with the subsequent clauses—Congress has the power to fund or defund the military and to set the rules “for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces.”

In other words, the military belongs to Congress, and through them to the people. When the President wants to borrow it, he has to ask for permission and explain why.

Obviously there are exceptions; when an emergency occurs (what Madison called a “sudden attack,” but also an emergent threat to Americans or American interests abroad), the president can respond first and ask for permission later. But the “war” on the Islamic State isn’t like that at all; it was a policy decision carefully arrived at. The Islamic State is a frightening enemy; but it was not immediately menacing the U.S.

This war is an ongoing violation of the Constitution, one of the most severe of the 21st century. But it is a violation in which both parties are happy to collaborate. The administration claims it already has authority for the intervention, in the Authorization for the Use of Military Force passed in 2001, which gave the president authority to attack “nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.” That enemy was al-Qaeda; now, administration officials say, the Islamic State is (as one anonymously put it) “the true inheritor of Usama bin Laden’s legacy.” In other words, the Islamic State is the cow with the crumpled horn, and if you follow the chain back far enough, you eventually get to the House that Jack Built.  That chain may be faulty or even fanciful; but this analysis at least complies with the forms.

The administration has requested specific authorization for the effort to combat the Islamic State, submitting a complex draft resolution that authorizes the president to use force against the Islamic State and “associated forces”—but that also forbids the use of U.S. ground troops and requires reauthorization after three years.

The draft is plainly aimed at preventing the war from spreading out of control—and, at least in part, at limiting the options of Obama’s successor. For this reason among others, the Republican leadership has balked at passing it, preferring something far more open ended and sweeping. Senator Marco Rubio, for example, reacted to the draft this way: “I would say that there is a pretty simple authorization he could ask for and it would read one sentence: ‘We authorize the president to defeat and destroy ISIL.’ Period.” Senator Lindsey Graham said the limitations would “harm the war effort.” Both of them imagine they may be using a future authorization, and want it to be as wide as possible. But to Obama, an over-broad resolution would be the nightmare of permanent war that he has tried to escape for the past six years.

Some Democrats, meanwhile, believe that even Obama’s language is too broad. So we have stalemate—a stalemate the administration can live with. It has its claim of authority already in place, and it’s unwilling to rock the military boat while a vote is pending on the Iran nuclear deal.

The scandal in this is that almost nobody is really working to resolve the impasse. Senators Timothy Kaine of Virginia, a Democrat, and Jeff Flake of Arizona, a Republican, have submitted a draft which would provide limited authorization, but their colleagues aren’t beating down their doors to cosponsor the bill. Kaine recently told The Hill that the Senate “has hardly had more than 90 minutes of discussion about this” since the Obama draft arrived.

The administration has at least done the minimum. And if the administration isn’t pushing, it’s at least in part because this Congress has demonstrated that it will discard settled norms in foreign policy—witness the genuinely shocking attempt to sabotage the Iran deal by writing to the Iranian leadership while negotiations were still pending. Right now, that deal is the administration’s top priority.

Congress is abdicating an important role. Congress always prefers to remain mum about a war until it sees whether it’s going well, but the Constitution doesn’t have a “wait for the polls” clause.

But this war is already too wide to be proceed any further without a serious discussion of the aims and dangers of the effort. American soldiers, whether they are “advisers” or “embeds” or anything else, are at risk, and beyond that, international stability is at stake. There are institutional reasons why the two branches are content to make war-and-peace decisions in silence. But we the people don’t have to accept that. We can insist that Congress take this matter up, and we can also insist that they treat this life-and-death issue as if they were grown-ups.

20 memorable political moments at the Iowa State Fair

A visitor casts a vote with a kernel of corn for presidential candidate Carly Fiorina at the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 20, 2015, in Des Moines. (Paul Sancya, AP)

Twenty presidential candidates made the stampede to the Iowa State Fair for a chance to mingle with a cross-section of everyday Iowans, to grill pork and to eat deep-fat-fried junk food.

Eighteen of them (the exceptions were Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump) braved The Des Moines Register’s Political Soapbox, standing on a stage before an audience that, unlike at their own campaign events, was uncontrolled by their handlers.

Here are 20 of the most memorable moments:

1. Donald Trump’s high-flying antics. The billionaire Republican arrived by helicopter at a secret location shared only with reporters, then took some kids up for a free ride, circling over the crush of people surrounding multimillionaire Democrat Hillary Clinton.

2. Bernie Sanders’ one-liner on the soapbox. “I apologize, we left the helicopter at home,” said the Vermont senator, who rails against the privileges of the rich as he seeks the Democratic nomination. He drew the biggest soapbox audience.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 15, 2015, in Des Moines. (Charlie Riedel, AP)

3. The twinsies behavior of Clinton and Trump. Both picked the same busy Saturday last weekend. Both skipped the soapbox, missing a chance to address Iowans who might not otherwise show up at political events. Both had only one thing to eat: a pork chop on a stick. Both had heavy security contingents of more than a dozen. Both were encased in a claustrophobic mega blob of sweaty people, although Trump’s mob was bigger, spreading out for as much as a block.

4. Republican Gov. Terry Branstad’s intriguing choices about whom to join at the fair, in full view of the TV cameras. He strolled with just three candidates: former Florida governor Jeb Bush, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds accompanied Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for part of his fair foray, and stopped by briefly to chat with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz at the Iowa Pork Producers tent.

5. Kasich eating three pork chops within 30 minutes.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich eats a pork chop while visiting the Iowa Pork Producers Pork Tent during the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 18, 2015 in Des Moines. (Justin Sullivan, Getty Images)

6. Marco Rubio speed-talking through a rain-soaked soapbox speech, ending his 20-minute allotted time after just eight minutes. Coverage of what the Republican Florida senator had to say was overwhelmed anyway by a viral video of him from the night before, when he threw a football to a 4-year-old trying to make a catch, and the football bounced off the boy’s head.

7. Clinton telling reporters at the fair who pressed her about her email controversy: “This is the usual partisanization — which I may have just made up a word — of everything that goes on all the time.”

8. Actress Ellen Page, of Juno and X-Men: Days of Future Past, confronting Cruz about “the persecution of gays in the workplace and LGBT rights.”

9. Christie dealing with protesters who jumped on stage to interrupt his soapbox speech. Before state troopers collared the three activists and ejected them from the fair, Christie patted one on the shoulder. “When something like that happens and I’m here in Iowa, man, I feel right at home,” he told the audience. “It’s like I’m back in Jersey for a couple of minutes.”

A protester is removed from the stage as Republican presidential candidate, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks at the Iowa State Fair, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) ORG XMIT: IAPS112

10. Walker seeming to relish the protesters who shouted at him on the soapbox. He told one, “I am not intimidated by you, sir, or anyone else out there.” The name of the book he released in 2013, before he had acknowledged he was running for president, wasUnintimidated: A Governor’s Story and a Nation’s Challenge.

11. Bush’s reluctance to leave the corn dog circuit. For the top-tier presidential candidates, campaigning at the State Fair is a nonstop press gaggle, usually in uncomfortable heat, with reporters recording their every move and shouting questions at them while Iowans crowd in for a selfie or a quick chat. Bush hung on for four hours, even after his staff tried to pry him away.

12. Trump’s incongruous clothing for the ag-centric state fair, where cow pies speckle the roads near the cattle barns. In contrast to fellow Republican and former tech company CEO Carly Fiorina, who selected jeans and cowboy boots as her fair get-up, Trump wore white shoes, a starched white dress shirt with French cuff links and a blazer – on a swelteringly hot day.

Donald Trump talks to the media after arriving by helicopter at a nearby ballpark to attend the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 15, 2015, in Des Moines. (Charlie Riedel, AP)

13. Rick Santorum walking by himself on main fair concourses — most noticeably when the media horde was chasing after Bush, and again as the horde tailed Trump the next day. At this time in 2011 and through the fall, the former Pennsylvania senator drew small audiences. Then he came from the back of the pack to be declared, belatedly, winner of the 2012 Iowa Republican caucuses.

14. Cruz’s therapy joke. “There are 365 days a year, four years in a presidential term and four years in a second term. By the end of eight years, there are going to be an awful lot of newspaper editors, reporters and journalists who check themselves into therapy,” he told his soapbox audience.

15. Bush throwing a 47 mph baseball at a fast-pitch game on the midway. The record for the day at that point was 50 mph. But bragging rights among the political class for this feat go to Charlie Szold, communications director for the Republican Party of Iowa, who threw a 71 mph heater as he toured the fairgrounds with Iowa Democratic Party press secretary Josh Levitt and Register political columnist Kathie Obradovich.

16. Democrat Martin O’Malley, former governor of Maryland, riding the Giant Slide with his kids.

Former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley listens to a fairgoer at the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 13, 2015, in Des Moines. (Charlie Riedel, AP)

17. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, wearing Levi jeans with the label broadcasting his 31-inch waist.

18. Lindsey Graham’s halal joke. “This is ISIL’s worst nightmare,” the Republican South Carolina U.S. senator said, while flipping pork burgers during his guest chef gig at the Iowa Pork Producers tent.

19. Clinton waiting in line like everyone else to buy her pork chop.

20. All of the candidates escaping the fair without any embarrassing corn dog photos.

Discovering the Type of Loans Available

Pinpoint your reasons for seeking the loan. Why you need the loan will determine the type of loan you may qualify for. Loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration apply to situations such as:

  • Purchase of new equipment, machinery, parts, supplies, etc.
  • Financing leasehold improvements
  • Refinancing existing debt
  • Establishing a line of credit
  • Disaster assistance.
  • (a) Loan Guarantee Program. Geared mostly to helping small businesses start or expand their services. The maximum loan amount is $5 million. 7(a) also includes certain specialty programs, such as:
    • a CAPLines program designed to help small businesses meet their short-term and cyclical working capital needs
    • Small Loan Advantage program, which allows you to get pre-qualified by the SBA for a loan up to $350,000. This speeds up the approval process.[3]
  • MicroLoan Program. Mostly used for short-term purposes, such as purchase of goods, office furniture, transportation, computers, etc. The maximum amount is fixed at $50,000.
  • 504 Fixed Asset Program. Offers fixed-rate and long-term financing. The loans are aimed at companies whose business model directly benefits the community (providing jobs or bringing needed services to an underserved area). The maximum amount is $5 million.
  • Business Disaster Assistance. Used for the repair or replacement of real estate, inventories, machinery, equipment and all other physical losses. The law limits business loans to $2,000,000, but the loan can’t be for more than the amount of the verified uninsured disaster loss.

See if there’s a particular government department or agency that regulates your industry. If there is, it may have loans available for various reasons. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture offers loans for establishing, improving, or expanding farms or ranches.

Go online to your state or local government’s official website. Many state and local governments offer loans or other business incentives to help start-up businesses, to attract businesses, or to keep businesses from moving out of the area. The programs and requirements are normally listed in the business or commerce sections of the government website.

Make sure you’re eligible for the loan. Government loans have eligibility requirements. Each type of loan has its own guidelines. For example, some of the basic qualifications for an SBA 7(a) loan are:

  • Operate the business for profit
  • Be small, as defined by the SBA (This is usually based on revenues or number of employees.)
  • Be engaged in—or propose to do business in—the United States or its possessions
  • Use alternative financial resources, including personal assets, before seeking financial assistance
  • Be able to demonstrate a need for the loan proceeds
  • Don’t be delinquent on any existing debt obligations to the U.S. government.

How to Get Government Grants to Start a Business

Free government money? Grants to start a business? Believe it or n

She Got an Enterprise Grant for a Rural Small Business

ot, it’s out there, in a variety of government grant and assistance programs to help you start a small business. There are many funding programs for business, but not all of them are for start-ups. But it certainly doesn’t hurt to look, as long as you steer clear of the endless scams from those trying to get your money from you, rather than giving some funds to help you get going. Here’s how to get started in your hunt for government grants for small business start-ups.

Instructions

  1. Start With Grants.gov Advanced Search

    Head to grants.gov.

    Perhaps you’ve been here before, but with some advanced search tools, you can unearth grant opportunities that you may not have been aware existed.

    Click on the link for ‘Grant Search’ (under the FOR APPLICANTS section). Once at the search page, click the link (or tab) for ‘Advanced Search’.

  2. Search by Eligibility

    At the Advanced Search page, check the box labeled ‘Open Opportunities’ to see what grants are currently being offered. You can check the ‘Closed’ and ‘Archived’ boxes as well, if you’re interested in seeing older grant programs.

    Then scroll down to the ‘Search by Eligibility’ box, and select all the business-related options. After you click on your first selection, hold down the control key (ctrl) while making additional selections, so that all your selections remain highlighted.

    The categories most relevant to grant programs for small businesses are:

    Small businesses
    For profit organizations other than small businesses
    Others
    Individuals
    *Unrestricted (open to any type of entity)

    All these options should be highlighted as you select them. In addition, if there are other categories relevant to your situation (for example, you’re a member of a Native American tribe), select those as well.

    If you want to narrow down the results further, use the other boxes to select grant programs from specific agencies, or on specific topics that are relevant to your business.

    When your search page is all set, just click Search, at the bottom of the page.

  3. Be Prepared to Read

    When I searched for small business grant programs from the US government, I turned up more than 3,000 open opportunities, from the ‘1000 Genomes Project’ to ‘Women’s Mental Health’.

    Even searching only on ‘Small Business’, and no other category, returned over 700 grant programs.

    Not all the programs are targeted at business start-ups, but there are grant programs that allow a business to be formed for the purpose of applying for the grant.

    Scan through the grant opportunities to find the programs that seem a good match with the experience and skills that your business can bring to bear. For instance, there was a grant program to establish a “Business Enterprise Center” to assist other small businesses. If you and your start-up are qualified for this type of undertaking, then by all means, submit an application for a grant.

  4. Don’t Forget State Sources

    Uncle Sam is not the only source of free money for small business grants for start-ups. Your state may have funding opportunities as well. Do a Google search for your state name (or initials) along with the term: small business grants. In all likelihood, you’ll wind up at your state’s Commerce Department or Small Businesses Division, where you’ll find information galore on grants, loans, and general assistance programs for small businesses.

  5. Best of luck in your endeavors.

When Governors Travel, Who Pays?

With so many governors running for president, new attention is being given to how out-of-state political trips are funded.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s out-of-state trips costs state police more than $2 million. (AP)P

Gov. Bobby Jindal has been traveling a lot lately. That’s not surprising, considering that he’s running for president. But legislators in Louisiana grew upset when they learned providing security for his trips had cost the state police more than $2 million over the past budget cycle. So they inserted a provision in this year’s budget blocking the agency from paying for protection for out-of-state political trips. “That was an effort by some legislators to say, ‘The state should not be paying for your presidential campaign,’” says GOP state Rep. Chris Broadwater.

The question of who should pay for what the governor does comes up all the time. In that job, you don’t have to run for president to face questions about expensive trips paid for by economic development agencies or other parties. Governors run relatively small operations overseeing the whole of state governments. Many stretch their office budgets by having agencies pick up the tab for all kinds of things, routinely “borrowing” staffers from state agencies, offloading some share of their costs. This spring, for example, the auditor’s office in Missouri found that over a three-year period, 14 agencies had spent about $948,000 for all or part of the salaries and travel costs for six employees in Gov. Jay Nixon’s office and the governor’s mansion. Several agencies kicked in an additional $732,000 for other expenses. “As a result, the governor’s office has significantly under reported the true costs of operating the office,” the audit found.

“It happens a fair amount,” says Ray Scheppach, a former executive director of the National Governors Association (NGA). “One state would pay NGA dues with 12 checks from 12 different agencies.”

When the transportation department pays for the guy sitting in the governor’s office shaping infrastructure policy, that may constitute a legitimate expense, but it’s still a problem, suggests Steven Procopio, policy director for the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana, a watchdog group. Budgets should clearly reflect the state’s priorities. “It doesn’t make a difference to the bottom line, but it does make a difference in terms of transparency,” he says. “You want a budget that reflects the priorities of the state.”

No one wants budgets to be a shell game. A million dollars appropriated for education shouldn’t go to prisons. But there will always be overlap between state agency functions and virtually everything a governor does. It may make perfect sense for a governor to share costs or pass the bill on to agencies. Nevertheless, it’s clearly worth keeping an eye on. Even if there’s no corruption or abuse, a governor’s office might decide to work around dedicated fund restrictions, for instance, by billing an agency for perfectly defensible costs, which would have the effect of freeing up general fund money to be spent in other ways.

There’s nothing the public hates more than the impression politicians are feathering their own nests. That’s why there’s always media attention when a governor gets in the habit of expensive trips, no matter who pays for them.

Other than weathering a little criticism, however, it’s not clear that a governor intent on spending other people’s money can be easily stopped. What the Missouri audit showed as much as anything is that Nixon has been willing to ignore restrictions prohibiting most agencies from paying for his office costs. And Jindal wasted no time using his line-item veto authority to delete the provision that would have blocked the state police from accompanying him on his political trips.

How to Obtain Copies of Federal Government Contracts

The FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) is another example of the great civil liberties American citizens are afforded. The FOIA was implementedContract by congress to allow citizens the ability to retrieve virtually any government information they desire. Even though there are nine restricted information areas, the ability to access copies of federal contracts is not among them. You can find general information about contracts and solicitations on the Fed Biz Opps website. But in order to obtain copies of official documents such as awarded contracts, you will have to go through the FOIA.

Instructions

  1. Locate and write down the number for the contract you want. The contract number is the key tracking mechanism for obtaining information.
  2. Gather all the details and viable information you have about the contract. The most important detail is the contract number. If you do not know the contract number you can perform an advanced search on the Fed Biz Opps website by using keywords associated with the contract.
  3. Itemize the information you have gathered and format it into a list. For example:
    1. Contract number.
    2. Contracting agency name, address, and phone number.
    3. Who was awarded the contract.
    4. Contracting officers name.
  4. Identify and write down why you want a copy of a government contract. You will have to include this reason inside your letter of request.
  5. Call the agency that awarded/sponsored the contract, whether it be the Department of Defense, Department of Energy etc. Ask them for their guidelines for submitting a request for a copy of a contract they awarded under the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act). All requests must be written or typed, but some agencies have different options for submission. Submission options usually include, postal mail, email, or faxing.
  6. Write your official letter of request for a copy of the contract. Include all contact information, the contract number and your reason for requesting this information. This information is free, but the agency does reserve the right to charge a small fee. The agency must respond within a certain time period based upon guidelines set by the FOIA.

Why Political Machines Were Good for Government

They may have had their negatives, but unlike Congress today — and to some degree, the states — they got the job done.

An 1870s cartoon of Tammany Hall, the Democratic Party political machine in New York Thomas Nast

Of all the columns I have written for this magazine over the past 24 years, the one that brought the biggest response by far was a column on political patronage. Actually, it was a defense of political patronage. Most readers hated it. Sorting through dozens of letters and emails, I found only one that agreed with my point of view. Everybody else seemed to feel I was defending corruption and insulting the principles of merit and integrity that a decent democratic government ought to strive for.

The background was this: In 2004, Ernie Fletcher took over as the first Republican governor of Kentucky in 32 years. He proceeded to hand out jobs all over the state to GOP loyalists, not just in the higher reaches of public office but in every one of the 120 counties of the commonwealth as well. Anybody who wanted to fill a vacancy on a highway crew or in a state welfare office had to survive an eight-step hiring process that included getting the approval of the governor’s designated Republican contact in the applicant’s county.

I made what seemed to me the simple point that when it comes to painting yellow lines on a blacktop road, there is no such thing as “merit selection.” One ordinary person can do a routine job about as well as any other. Andrew Jackson said that 180 years ago, and he was right. If a Republican governor wants a Republican line painter, the polity doesn’t really suffer.

But there was no disputing that Fletcher had violated state law, which provided that for 80 percent of the jobs on the state payroll, nobody could be hired on the basis of political affiliation. Fletcher was eventually indicted for this, although his case never went to trial.

Still, it seemed to me that for most lower-level and mid-level state jobs, there was nothing wrong with a governor rewarding the people who had contributed their time and money to getting him elected. If the law precluded this, then it was the law that was wrong.

Hardly anyone in Governing’s audience seemed to buy that. I wasn’t offended by the angry response to my column, but I did feel that I had learned a valuable lesson: Merit hiring had climbed to a place near the top of the pyramid of American political values, even if it was frequently honored more in the breach than in the observance.

Since that minor fracas died down, I haven’t had anything new to say on the subject. Now, however, I find that a writer I admire has made a similar point, and in a much more sweeping way. In a paper published recently by the Brookings Institution, Jonathan Rauch not only defends patronage as a morally acceptable political practice, but also argues that it is one of the most important means by which political parties keep themselves intact and ultimately provide stable and reliable government.

Rauch quotes the words uttered a century ago by George Washington Plunkitt, the sage of Tammany Hall: “Parties can’t hold together if their workers don’t get the offices when they win. If the parties go to pieces, the government they built up must go to pieces too.”

Rauch’s paper is not merely about patronage, but also about the political machines that employ it. For much of the past century, in most of urban America, political machines got the job of government done. They did this in part with sticks, but even more with carrots. Patronage was one of the crucial carrots that machine bosses had at their disposal.

Why does that matter? Why shouldn’t we be thankful that machines, with their aura of sleazy backroom deal-making, have largely disappeared from American life? Because, says Rauch, machines bring into politics the kinds of people government now has trouble attracting. Machines draw competent and unassuming professionals, elected officials willing to take a long-term view of public policy, people who know how to compromise, people who demonstrate an enduring loyalty to the institutions in which they serve. Machines breed followers. Or, I might as well say it: hacks. Rauch believes we have lost the valuable habits that any self-respecting hack understands implicitly. “Without hacks,” Rauch argues, “the machine fails.”

And when the machine fails, as it did in the late 20th century almost everywhere in American politics, it is replaced by a much different and ultimately destructive set of political players. It is replaced by individualists who are loyal to causes rather than institutions, who believe that compromise violates their personal moral code, who would sooner see gridlock than have to make deals with people whose values they despise. It is supplanted by the dysfunctional system now in place in our national government.

In matters like this, I am a product of my upbringing. I came to political consciousness in the Chicago of the 1950s, where Richard J. Daley ruled as mayor and treated the city as a fiefdom in which all significant policy decisions were made in his office. There has been a lively debate for decades over whether Daley was a vindictive tyrant or merely a benevolent autocrat. I won’t get into that. But I will say that the Daley years provided an object lesson in how to run a competent city government based on the creative use of a highly disciplined political party.

Daley believed in loyalty more than any other political virtue. In holding that view, he was demonstrating the lesson he had learned from one of his own mentors in city government, the longtime alderman, ward boss and party chieftain Jacob Arvey. It was Arvey who told aspiring leaders that the secret of political success was very simple: “Put people under obligation to you.”

In Daley’s Chicago, just about everyone in local government was under obligation to somebody. In particular, tens of thousands of city employees had acquired their jobs through the Cook County Democratic Party and held onto them by performing well as precinct captains who were expected to deliver a healthy vote for the party’s candidates in their neighborhoods on Election Day. A rank-and-file worker who slipped up at the polls not only risked losing his position as a precinct captain, he risked losing his job in an office somewhere in the musty corridors of city hall.

Mayor Daley possessed exceptional skills as a political leader, but he also had something that may have been more important: a whole army of followers. Without those city workers and precinct captains who understood their place in the system and comported themselves cheerfully within it, all the leadership skills in the world might not have benefited the mayor very much.

Daley had put an enormous number of people under obligation to him, as Arvey had advised him to do. These people had not only an incentive to produce, but also a long-term interest in keeping the entire system in operation. That was as true of an alderman on the city council as it was of the lowliest functionaries pushing paper in city hall or mowing the grass in city parks. One doesn’t have to endorse every decision that Daley made in order to admire the competence of a government that loyalty and patronage made possible.

I can anticipate the reaction that many of you will have at this point. You will object that the rigidity and unyielding hierarchy of the Daley machine, or of any highly disciplined political organization, is simply too high a price to pay for whatever stability it provides. My response is not to deny that the price is substantial and alien to most 21st-century political sensibilities. It is to argue, alongside Rauch, that in the past 50 years we have moved too far in the opposite direction.

Exhibit A, of course, is Congress, where elected leaders have few loyalists to rely on and lack the authority to negotiate on behalf of their party with the members on the other side of the aisle. House Speaker John Boehner presides over a Republican caucus whose 243 other members are his clients rather than his followers. They are loyal to their own careers and principles, not to the maintenance of a party, a government or the broader public good. When the time comes to make a political sacrifice in the interest of sensible long-term policy, no majority exists. The leader has few weapons that he can use to create one. Rauch quotes Trent Lott, who served as Senate majority leader in the 1990s, to the effect that “trying to be a leader when you have no sticks and very few carrots is dang near impossible.”

Most state legislatures have not reached the level of dysfunction that Congress currently exhibits. The legislatures that turned red after the 2010 election have generally managed, for better or worse, to maintain enough party solidarity to enact substantial portions of a coherent Republican agenda. But the most difficult tests lie ahead. In the next decade, largely as a result of exploding entitlement costs, a majority of states will confront structural fiscal problems serious enough to require the opposing parties to cooperate and individual members on both sides of the aisle to accept taking political risks for the greater good.

In order for those problems to be solved, legislators all over the country will need to unlearn the habits of ideological purity and unyielding devotion to principle that it has taken the better part of a political lifetime to absorb. They will need to behave more like hacks. Let’s hope they can summon the courage to do it.

How to Access Government Genealogy Records

Genealogy records can be useful to anyone tracing a family history or trying to understand the origins and growth of particular families and communities in this country. While family records and ancestral stories are often reliable and beloved sources of information, you can also get information on your genealogy from the government. Your state, local and national government maintains records on births, deaths, marriages and other life events. Access government genealogy records by visiting the national archives and the archives kept by your state and local government, or using the services of companies that provide information based on what they research in government records.

Accessing Genealogy Records Through the Government

Visit the National Archives. You can do this online, at www.archives.gov. If you want to do your research in person, you can stop in at The National Archives on Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C. Admission is free.

Gather as much information about your family and your family’s history as possible. Names, dates of birth and death and states of residence will be helpful.

  • Consider how your ancestors may have interacted with the federal government. This will help you access their records.

Choose how you want to search for government information. The National Archives allow you to research by census records, military records, immigration and naturalization records or land records.

Look for microfilm indexes that include information on the records you want to see. The National Archives does not have records online. They will provide an index of what they have, and then you will have to visit in person to access the actual records.

  • Go to one of the regional offices of the National Archives if you are too far from Washington, D.C. These are located in New York, NY, Boston, MA, Chicago, IL, Seattle, WA, Anchorage, AK, Denver, CO, St. Louis, MO, Kansas City, MO, Philadelphia, PA, Riverside, CA, San Francisco, CA, Fort Worth, TX and Atlanta, GA.
  • Choose to visit the regional branch that will have records on the geographical area you are searching for. For example, you might live in San Francisco, but if you are seeking genealogy records on ancestors in Connecticut, you will need to visit the Boston site.

Contact the National Archives if you have questions, or you are not sure which regional office to visit to access your records. You can send an email regarding your research via the website, or call 1-866-272-6272.

Check your state archives and historical societies. They often keep local records and might be able to help you a little faster than the federal government.

Accessing Government Genealogy Records Through Private Vendors

Look for vendors that are approved by the National Archives. For example, the government works closely with sites such as Ancestry.com and Heritagequest.com.

  • Find digitized government genealogy records through these sites. Most sites require a subscription, but access is free.

Use sites specific to the information you are seeking. For example, the Ellis Island Foundation helps people research immigration records, and CensusFinder.com helps you access census information from the government.

Order the type of information you would like. At Ancestry.com, for example, you can get a simple question about birth dates answered or you can construct your entire family tree.

Climbing the Political Field Ladder

Start volunteering. The second you get your driver’s license, this is an option. Odds are there’s something going on somewhere in your community — so seek it out. Go to a community meeting, find someone with an air of authority, and ask how you can help out. Step 1? Check.

  • Generally speaking, there’s a 5-10 month window for serious volunteer work that precedes the election date, whatever election it may be. Every four years there’s obviously the big presidential campaign, but every two there are smaller, state-wide campaigns that need help, too.
  • If you’ve hit the right time, you’ve wandered into the wonderful world of door-knocking and making political phone calls. It’s not glamorous work, but you have to start somewhere. If you find a candidate whose views align with your own, being passionate about spreading the word will be easy.

Go to college. Not only is this near mandatory for your imminent political success, but it will expose you to a whole bunch of organizations and people you otherwise wouldn’t know of or meet. It’s best to major in political science, law, communications or statistics, depending on your ultimate goals.

  • Once you’ve got your mini-fridge and collapsible shoe rack unpacked and you’ve exchanged an awkward hello with your dormmate, find the organization on campus affiliated with your political party. Each campus should have one and they’ll be able to get you started. Eventually, think about running for student government and being an active part of campus politics.
  • While you’re at it, get involved in local and municipal elections. You’ll want to have as many irons in the fire as possible, small as they may be. The more people who know you, the easier it’ll be to make connections and continue climbing the ladder.

Beef up your resume in other ways. Namely, with the military and nonprofit organizations. While virtually every president has been involved in some charitable initiative, 32 of the 44 presidents (let’s ignore Grover Cleveland at the moment) have had some kind of military service to their name.[1]

  • If you’ve ever seriously considered joining the military, this is a path that has led many people into political office. Whether you’re thinking about joining as an enlisted service member or putting the time into studying to become an officer, the leadership skills, discipline and experiences can make for an impressive political resume in the future. However, there’s far more to serving in the military than political aspirations, so make sure you’re fully aware of the responsibilities and dangers before making a final decision.
  • Another career option you might want to consider is working for a nonprofit, community organization in your area. By landing a position in a community outreach program or charitable initiative, you’ll begin building a resume that demonstrates you care about helping the people around you.

Become a field organizer. Alright, you’ve done the dirty deed of door knocking and you’ve met all the right people. Now it’s time to be movin’ on up. A field organizer is the next logical position — you’ll now be directing and recruiting volunteers to do the job you just did for either a state-wide or coordinated campaign.

  • A state-wide campaign is pretty self-explanatory. You are working on behalf of a candidate that is running for some type of political office within the state. It can be anything from the Secretary of Agriculture to a senator. Sometimes the teams are quite small — a little more than a dozen or so people can comprise the entire team (depending on the candidate and the state, obviously).
  • A coordinated campaign is where you’re working for the entire party, more or less. If a whole bunch of offices are open for election, sometimes campaigns merge to kill two birds with one stone (or three, or four). That way, instead of Mrs. Jenkins throwing out the third door knocker she had to be bothered by that day and subsequently switching her party affiliation, she’s only contacted once and can thoroughly enjoy her free bumper sticker.

Advance to a director position. Woohoo, look at you! Now that you’ve proven your worth, it’s time to oversee the field organizers and work with county parties. You’ll be speaking to various groups and truly represent the party and your candidate.

  • You’ll also be hiring a field staff and setting the win number once you hit Field Director material. Needless to say, the responsibilities are many.

Manage a campaign. Now it’s time to oversee the implementation of the entire campaign plan. You’ll be assembling a team of directors (fundraising, communications, comptrollers and the treasurer) and making sure everything goes smoothly.

  • If your candidate wins, you’re likely to receive an offer to work in the official office. So, from your perspective, it’s obviously best to work with a candidate who’s serious and has a likelihood of winning. From here on out, it’s time for you to run for an office of your own.

 

How to Prepare for a Career in Politics

Politicians often earn substantial incomes while having the opportunity to work toward goals they believe to be worthy. Since most politicians must be elected, those hoping to work in politics must be organized, financially stable and charismatic if they are to run successful campaigns. Prepare for a career in politics by making yourself educated, well-known and likable.

Build an educational background that will enhance your credibility as a politician.

  • Common areas of study include law, political science, business, finance, law enforcement, journalism and education.
  • Seek out opportunities to intern for political campaigns and/or public service agencies.

Learn about the legislative process.

  • If your formal education does not teach the specifics of government procedures, research and study them during your free time.
  • Focus on historical information as well as current events.
  • Make sure you clearly understand all branches of local, state and federal governments.

Network whenever an opportunity presents itself. Always introduce yourself by name and strike up conversation with anyone who is willing to speak with you.

  • Possible networking opportunities include volunteer work, community events, political rallies, civic clubs, school organizations and sporting events.
  • Take advantage of online social networking in addition to in-person networking. Start a blog and create public Facebook and Twitter accounts. You also may want to start a personal website where you can direct supporters.

Raise funds to use toward future campaign expenses.

  • Invest some of your own money by hiring an accountant and/or lawyer to assist you with campaign finance rules and regulations, since it can be easy to accidentally break the law. You don’t want to ruin your chances of having a political career due to an accidental mistake in your fundraising practices.

Start your political career out by running for local office.

  • Many famous politicians started out as aldermen, school board members and city councilmen. Getting elected to a local position will give you name recognition, resume material and firsthand experience in politics.

 

How to Bid on Government Contracts

You may think that government contracts are only for large corporations, but this isn’t the case. Small businesses can and do win government contracts on a regular basis. Bidding on federal government contracts is unlike bidding with local government entities, as federal bids are subject to a specific process, but with the right preparation, you can be successful. We’ll show you how.

Acess the Small Business Administration guide. It will help you with procedures and policies that you must adhere to when bidding on government contracts.

  • Seek out organizations—including your local or regional Chamber of Commerce or nearby college—that offer tutorials, seminars, online classes and other guidance that can help you through the process. Some cities also have a federal procurement office.

Set up a System for Award Management (SAM) profile. The SAM acts as a master list of all the businesses who wish to work for the federal government. Treat your SAM profile like a sales pitch. Include your capabilities, special equipment and skills that you can bring to the job you’re bidding on.

  • Experience counts a great deal, especially if you can relate it to the contract on which you’re bidding. The government also looks for stability; it wants to see that you have been financially sound for the last few years, which indicates you’ll be in business in the years to come.
  • You will need to obtain your business DUNS number, which refers to your physical address. You can apply for a number free online at the Dun and Bradstreet website. You’ll also need your Taxpayer Identification Number handy.
  • SAM registration is free. After you complete your profile, it will be posted within 72 hours. If awarded a job, the SAM facilitates automatic payments.

Check Invitations For Bid (IFB) through government agencies. All IFBs are posted online at the Federal Business Opportunities government website. Each IFB will dictate details of the contract. Most IFBs are for contracts of $100,000 or more.

Evaluate your company and how it would match up with a job offer in an IFB.Be completely confident that your company can complete the job and do it well before bidding. If you are awarded a contract and fail it most likely will be your last government contract.

Follow the rules and regulations of writing a bid. Utilize the Small Business Administration, your local procurement office, consulting firms and other resources.

Research past bids which are public record. Make sure your bid is low but also realistic. Significant past award information and raw data are available from the US Government at the Government’s procurement sites

Use data analysis tools and techniques to target those contracts you have the highest likelihood of winning.

Respond to each requirement outlined in the IFB in your bid. Make sure your bid is clear and points out the direct benefits of working with your company.

Consider partnering with another business.

  • Small businesses can be somewhat limited in capability but by partnering you can fill in gaps.
  • Some government contracts can only be awarded to those businesses owned by women, minorities or veterans. If your business doesn’t fall into one of those categories, it may be helpful to pair up with a business that does.

Fill out any required forms and submit your sealed bid. Bids will be opened at the assigned time as listed in the IFB.

 

How to Get Government Contracts for a Small Business

Obtaining government contracts is an excellent way to enhance your business and expand it. The government contracts billions of dollars to small businesses annually. Any business has the ability to bid on contracts, however, some are given priority. They are women-owned businesses, small disadvantaged businesses, veteran-owned businesses, and service-disabled veteran-owned businesses.

Instructions

  1. Get a CCR profile. To bid on government contracts, you need to register with the Central Contractor Registry (CCR). To register, you prepare a profile of your business explaining what it is you offer and what makes you unique. CCR is the primary registrant database for the U.S. Federal Government. CCR collects, validates, stores and disseminates data in support of agency acquisition missions.
  2. Become Sec 8a certified. Becoming Sec 8a certified can make your company’s disadvantaged standing more concrete. The Sec 8(a) status enhances your company’s chances of landing a contract since the SBA works with federal purchasing agents and functions as a prime contractor, subcontracting work to 8(a) firms. To qualify for sec8(a) status, a company must be at least 51 percent owned and operated by women or minorities. Download an application from the SBA website. Processing of the application begins when SBA receives it. There is a 15 day screening period and a 75 day overall processing time. If your initial application is declined, you can request that SBA reconsider its decision. You have 45 days from the date you receive SBA’s initial decision to request it be reconsidered. You must provide the information requested in the decision letter by that date or you will not be allowed to apply for one year.
  3. Attend a “Business Matchmaking” event. Business Matchmaking is a program that matches small companies with federal, state, and local government agencies, and large corporations that have actual contract opportunities for products and services. Business Matchmaking provides unprecedented opportunities for small businesses to secure selling opportunities from government agencies and major corporations at key events and through our online network.
  4. Read a copy of the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR). This document contains the rules of government contracting which were created based on decades of the government’s contractor experience; these regulations were compiled in order to counter every viable scam any business could drop on it.
  5. Submit Request for Proposals (RFPs), a formal document issued by government agencies inviting contractors to bid on projects and purchases. Notices can be found in government bureaus, local newspapers and trade publications. There are also a variety of services that announce RFPs to the public. If you are new to government contracting, you can look for RFPs online and prepare your bid within the prescribed 30 days.

House GOP Thinks It Can Amend Obamacare In The Coming Months

While congressional leaders continue to debate whether to pursue near-full repeal of the Affordable Care Act through budget reconciliation, and GOP presidential candidates lay out Obamacare-replacement proposals, House Republicans are looking at a smaller batch of changes to the health care law they think could make it to President Obama’s desk.

House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chairman Kevin Brady told National Journal that his panel could mark up health care tax legislation later this year. He floated bills related to over-the-counter drugs, health savings accounts, and—perhaps most ambitiously—a repeal of Obamacare’s unpopular “Cadillac tax” on high-end insurance plans.

The health care agenda will be determined in part by Capitol Hill’s other business. Lawmakers have a full plate when they return from August recess: Avoid (or create) a government shutdown at the end of September, raise (or force a fight over) the nation’s debt ceiling in October, debate the Iran nuclear deal, and host a visit from Pope Francis, for starters.

“We’ve heard for so long from both parties … about support for” making smaller changes to the law, Brady said, adding later in reference to reconciliation that “in the House, we’ve had numerous opportunities to repeal all or many of the parts.”

Other sources on and off the Hill also said they are anticipating some kind of health care package to get a look in the fall. A spokesman for Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan said in an email: “A markup is possible, but we’re not ready to announce anything, and especially don’t have a list of specific bills at this point.”

The question is whether congressional Republicans will broadly accept any smaller-scale changes to Obamacare that might seem to suggest the law is here to stay. They have passed several over the last few years, but in the midst of a presidential primary campaign in which every candidate is pledging to uproot the law and an internal Hill debate about whether to send full repeal to the president’s waiting veto pen, the rank-and-file might not go for it.

And even if they did, there is no guarantee that Obama would acquiesce to any changes to his signature domestic policy achievement, no matter how small, as he seeks to cement its legacy.

One item cited by Brady and multiple other sources is changing Obamacare’s rules for various tax-preferred accounts, like flexible spending accounts and health savings accounts, and the purchase of over-the-counter drugs. The health care law barred using those accounts to buy over-the-counter drugs without a prescription. House Republicans want to reverse that policy, which conservatives have derided as effectively a tax increase, and they could attract some bipartisan support to do it.

Of course, any health care bill has the possibility of becoming a Christmas-tree bill. Every interest group will likely try to glom to a health care package that actually has a chance to move; the health insurance industry, for example, has long sought to repeal the insurance tax levied under Obamacare.

Numerous other niche bills are already in existence. Former Rep. Aaron Schock, who sat on Ways and Means before resigning amid a spending controversy earlier this year, introduced a bill to exempt Christian Scientists from Obamacare’s individual mandate. A recent federal court ruling subjected Native American-owned businesses to the law’s employer mandate; a bill has already been introduced in the House to explicitly exempt them.

Another possibility, outside Obamacare, is allowing seniors to continue making health savings account contributions, one source said; they are currently barred once they have enrolled in Medicare.

Potentially the biggest-ticket item would be a repeal of Obamacare’s Cadillac tax. The tax will be applied to the most generous health insurance plans starting in 2018. Groups as ideologically diverse as labor unions and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are united against it. Even Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton said she was “examining” the policy.

The votes are almost certainly there: Bills introduced in the House to repeal the provision have attracted a combined 214 sponsors, and more than half of those are Democrats.

But Republicans might actually be reluctant to roll the tax back. For one, while the move has the allure of repealing an Obamacare tax, it would also give Democrats a political win they’ve been seeking since unions mobilized against the tax. The policy merits are also a little murky. Many conservative wonks admire the goals if not the particulars of the tax, which is to drive down health care costs by reining in insurance benefits. GOP health care proposals often suggest ending or limiting the tax exclusion for employer-provided insurance, which has a similar effect, and the Cadillac tax could be seen as the first step down that road.

Altogether, the specific policies in play are relatively small, but they would represent actual constructive policymaking around the ACA, rather than the show repeal votes that have taken up most of the legislative oxygen since 2010.

“It’s a modest package overall,” one lobbyist familiar with the discussions said. “Something that they can argue, ‘These are bad things about Obamacare’ and just toss it out there.”

Why Defense Can’t Buy Cyber Stuff Fast Enough

Cyber warfare has arrived: the Defense Department is under attack, and national security is at stake. Yet in a field defined by rapid growth, DOD arms itself at the same pace with which it buys major weapons, an acquisition cycle of seven to 10 years. The “arsenal of democracy” has already provided the tools for hastening this process in the form of agile methods. The Pentagon has been reluctant to adopt different methods for software than it uses for other acquisitions. But unless it does so, it will lose its edge.

One need only consult the headlines to recognize that cyberattacks are a daily occurrence; attacks on prominent public and private institutions are so common that they barely register. But even if these headlines have lost their shock value, our networks remain vulnerable.

What is worse, far from being immune to cyberattacks, DOD faces greater threats because it is such an attractive target. Not only is it the world’s dominant military force, but it is probably more dependent on information technology than any other military. Fully 90 percent of its weapons systems’ functionality depends on software. This makes DOD a low cost/high reward target that is irresistible to adversaries.

In the 1990s, then-Defense secretary William Perry advocated use of commercial-off- the-shelf goods and services. His initiative extended to software. But COTS software is not the problem. The problem lies with the sort of software that isn’t available from commercial providers. Microsoft does not sell a commercial version of software designed for steering submarines, piloting drones or dropping bombs. For such unique software, the Pentagon must either write its own in house or contract out for such services. And in both cases the process takes far too long.

The reason that bespoke software acquisitions takes so long is that DOD relies on the waterfall method, long been discredited in the private sector. In a nutshell, this is a top-down approach that relies on establishing beforehand what the requirements are. But requirements are notoriously hard to pin down. Customers rarely know what they want up front and requirements change during development. Waterfall imposes the order that the Pentagon brass craves but does so at the expense of price, quality, and (most importantly to cyber defense) speed.

The solution is agile development. Agile doesn’t presume that it is possible to know what customers want beforehand. Instead, it utilizes an iterative process: Customers are given prototypes to tinker with, they provide feedback, programmers adjust the next version accordingly, and then the process starts anew. In this manner, agile eliminates waterfall’s documentation requirements. As waterfall critic Barry Boehm has written, “a prototype is worth 100,000 words.” Problems are identified and fixed early in the process, saving time and money. For 20 years, observers have recommended that Defense officials use iterative methods. The 2010 National Defense Authorization Act specifically mandated agile. Yet apart from using the word “agile” more often (to appease Congress?), little has changed. Waterfall prevails.

That is not because the Defense Department is too big to be nimble. In fact, the U.S. government was a pioneer in iterative methods starting in the 1950s. This included the Army’s artillery command-and-control command system, the Navy’s Trident submarine, the LAMPS helicopter-ship system, and the Air Force’s air defense system. Nor was DOD alone. NASA also used iterative methods to acquire software for Project Mercury, which was the first manned spaceflight.

The problem lies not with laws, but with DOD culture. Although mandated only five years ago, agile has been permissible for two decades. The department is not agile because it has chosen not to be. That is in part because senior procurement officials are more comfortable with waterfall, in part because the department is hierarchical and senior leaders prefer the sense of control waterfall confers, and in part because of ignorance. Mary Ann Lapham of the Software Engineering Institute observes there is still widespread confusion among acquisition professionals about whether agile is legally permissible.

Congress is not blameless. While agile eliminates documentation in favor of prototypes, onerous reporting requirements mean DOD will never be as agile as the private sector. But the Pentagon cultural inertia is still more to blame than is Congress. Because the problem is mainly cultural, tweaking regulations is not the solution. Agile reforms will not work until the culture changes. The front line must know what their options are, understand what agile is, and be committed to applying it. Better laws or regulations, no matter how well-worded, cannot do that.

One final caveat. There is a need for timelier solutions because an acquisition cycle that keeps pace with technology is essential to cyber defense. But danger lurks in the opposite direction. Speed is not everything. Tension may arise between agility and cybersecurity. Sometimes secure systems come at the expense of speed, cost, or quality; a system that is late, costly, or ineffective may be preferable to one that is unsecure. Harnessing agile’s advantages while also recognizing and compensating for its disadvantages will not be easy.

Three things are certain: Speedier acquisitions may not be not sufficient, but such speed is necessary for cybersecurity; agile is faster and cheaper and delivers better quality than waterfall; and doing and being agile will require substantial cultural changes within the Defense Department.

Maj. Daniel E. Schoeni has been on active duty in the U.S. Air Force JAG Corps since 2004, and is assigned to Hanscom AFB, Massachusetts. He has doctorate degrees from Brigham Young University and the University of Iowa and procurement law degrees from the University of Nottingham and George Washington University. The views expressed here are his own and do not reflect an official position of the Air Force, Defense Department, or any other federal agency.

How do I Start a Government Contracting Business?

Even when economies are struggling, governments are still in businessGovernment contracting makes good business sense. and, in many cases, thriving. Becoming a registered government vendor is not hard at all, and the best part about it is that it’s free. Winning a government contract can present challenges. The word bureaucracy is often used in regards to government for good reason. The federal government can be convoluted and lengthy in its processes, resulting in slow business turnarounds. Starting a government contracting business is a good idea if you are a thorough, patient and capable business person.

Instructions

  1. Locate your Tax Identification Number (TIN). If you do not have a Tax Identification Number, you can apply online through the Internal Revenue Services website. Click on the link that says “apply for TIN.” You will need your Doing Business As (DBA) name, which is the name of your business. Complete your Doing Business As registration at your local City Hall. There is a small cost for registering and the fees may vary depending on what city you live in.
  2. Apply for your company DUNS number through the Duns & Bradstreet website. Click on the link in the navigation bar that says, ” D&B D-U-N-S Number” then on the next page click on “For U.S. Government Contractors, Vendors and Grant Recipients Get a D&B D-U-N-S Number.” This process is free and takes five minutes or less to complete. You will need your basic contact information, along with your Tax Identification Number and your business name. The DUNS number is a nine-digit number assigned to businesses to be identified and tracked in a worldwide database.
  3. Wait 48 to 72 hours to receive your official DUNS number, which will arrive by email.
  4. Log on to the Central Contractors Registration (CCR) website and click on the link that says “New Registration.” Fill out the brief registration form, which takes less than five minutes. You will need your new DUNS number and your company’s basic company administrative information. This information includes: banking information, number of employees, total revenue from the previous year and company expertise/trade. The Central Contractors Registration is a government portal that logs company information and classifications for registered vendors.
  5. Wait 3 to 5 business days for approval. The approval will come by email.
  6. Log on to the Fed Biz Opps website and click on the “Register Now” link. Fed Biz Opps is where the government posts all of their contracts available for public bid. Fill out the brief registration form, which will ask you for your DUNS number and contact information. View the site tutorial which will teach you how to effectively use the site and find open contract opportunities.

Types of Valid Government Photo ID

There are many types of valid U.S.-government-issued (or state-issued) photo A valid passport may be used to by alcohol if you are over 21.IDs. A driver’s license or other DMV-issued ID card, a passport or sometimes even a foreign-government-issued photo ID can be used in the United States. Usually, there are requirements for such an ID: it must at least list a birthdate, a photograph and an issue date. Sometimes height and weight will also be required. Valid photo IDs are required to do such things as buy alcohol and apply for passports, social security cards and library cards.

Driver’s Licenses

  • A driver’s license issued in any of the 50 U.S. states qualifies as a primary identification when applying for a U.S. passport. When using a driver’s license from a state other than that in which the application is being submitted, secondary identification must be provided containing a full name, a birthdate, a photograph and the date issued. A driver’s license, from any state or from Washington, D.C., is valid when buying alcohol in the U.S., since it can be used to verify age. Virginia, for example, issues special licenses to drivers under 18 that state age clearly. A driver’s license is also valid when applying for a library card. The same may be used when proving identification in order to apply for a social security card.

U.S. Passports

  • A previously-held U.S. passport is a valid form of ID when applying for a new U.S. passport. A valid passport may also be used to buy alcohol in the U.S. and to obtain a library card as well as a social security card. In applying for a social security card or a renewed passport, a valid U.S. passport establishes identity as well as U.S. citizenship.

U.S. Military ID Cards

  • A military ID card qualifies as a valid form of photo ID in applying for a U.S. passport. A military ID card is also valid proof of age when attempting to buy alcohol in the U.S. since it contains a birthdate and a photo. The same is true in the case of applying for a library card. A U.S. military ID card may also be used in proving identity in order to obtain a social security card.

Other Photo IDs

  • Any other form of photo identification issued by a U.S. state or federal agency (such as an employee identification card) may be used both in buying alcohol and in applying for a U.S. passport. A valid state or federal identification card may also be used in applying for a library card. An employee identification card from a state or federal agency also qualifies as proof of identity when applying for a social security card.

Rand Paul makes final pitch to hold caucus in home state

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., talks with patrons in Merrimack, N.H., on April 18. (Charles Krupa, AP)

LONDON, Ky. — Sen. Rand Paul came home to Kentucky late this week for a hectic mini-campaign to win what has shaped up to be a crucial vote of confidence in his home state.

At Paul’s request, the Republican Party of Kentucky’s 334-member central committee will meet Saturday to  vote on a plan that would let Paul seek Kentucky’s Republican presidential delegates in 2016 while still allowing him to seek re-election to the United States Senate.

“I think it will pass,” Paul told reporters after speaking to a group of about 50 supporters at the London/Corbin Airport Friday morning. “We’ll be fine.”

Optimistic predictions aside, Paul’s comments Friday do not allay the biggest objection that many leading Republicans have with the plan: cost.

The plan calls for the party to drop out of the state’s traditional May presidential primary election and hold Republican presidential caucuses on March 5. This would mean Paul could seek Kentucky’s presidential delegates at the caucuses and still run for his party’s nomination for the U.S. Senate in May.

Paul has pledged that he will provide enough money to assure that the caucuses — estimated to cost $500,000 — can be held at no expense to the Republican Party of Kentucky.

But he damaged his cause a week ago when he sent a letter to committee members saying he had transferred $250,000 to the party as a show of good faith. His campaign later corrected that letter, saying he had put $250,000 aside to be transferred as a downpayment after the committee approves the plan Saturday.

Even some Paul supporters say that they want to see at least $250,000 transferred to the party before the vote

“I’m looking forward to Rand making his case. I’m going to vote ‘yes’ if there $250,000 in an RPK account,” said Kentucky Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, a Republican.  “We’re doing this to support Rand’s run for the White House. I don’t understand his hesitation to make the deposit, but it needs to be done, or a check needs to be delivered by Saturday morning at 11 o’clock.”

Asked whether he would deliver the money before the vote, Paul said on Friday, “We pledge to make up any difference that is necessary. Where the money sits, I think is immaterial. We pledge to make up any difference … And we have it already in a separate account.”

Paul is working hard in the final days to lock down a victory. On Thursday evening, he made his case for presidential caucuses to members of the central committee on a conference call.

On Friday he had three stops in southeastern Kentucky, the final one with Kentucky’s Republican gubernatorial nominee Matt Bevin.

And the Paul presidential campaign is urging his supporters to demonstrate in favor of caucuses before the meeting in Frankfort.

Preparing for the Loan Application

Be ready to submit a resume and personal background information. A resume will provide the lender with evidence of your management or business experience. This is usually necessary for loans intended to start a new business. Lenders will probably also ask for personal information, such as previous addresses, names used, criminal record, and educational background.

Make sure you have a business plan. Loan programs require a solid business plan to be submitted with the loan application. The business plan should include a company overview, industry analysis, marketing plan, and a complete set of projected financial statements, including profit and loss, cash flow, and a balance sheet. You can find business plan templates online.

Check your personal and business credit status. The lender will probably obtain a personal credit report for you (as the business owner). But the lender will most likely also want a business credit report, which you may have to get yourself. You can do this through business credit reporting services such as Dun & Bradstreet.

Gather income tax returns, financial statements, and bank statements. Many loan programs require:

  • Personal and business income tax returns for the previous 3 years
  • Signed personal financial statements for owners with more than a 20 percent interest in the business
  • One year of personal and business bank statements.

Have legal documents available. Your lender may require that you submit certain legal documents, if applicable, such as:

  • Business licenses and registrations required for you to conduct business
  • Articles of Incorporation
  • Copies of contracts you have with any third parties (such as suppliers) [12]
  • Franchise agreements
  • Commercial leases.

Ensure you’re up-to-date with your taxes. The SBA and the bank are going to want to know that your federal and state business and personal tax obligations are current. This obviously reflects on your trustworthiness as a loan applicant.

5 Types of Government & Their Characteristics

Government is the organized way in which a country is run, either by a council or parliament of representatives or by an individual ruler. Most governments in the modern world are based on democratic systems.There are a great many types of government, each with different ideological characteristics, and the differences between these systems have been the root of many disputes and wars across the ages. The following five kinds of government span the broad range of ideologies and systems, from authoritarian to liberal.

Democracy

  • Since the end of the Cold War, democracy has become the dominant ideology in world government. In a democratic system, each citizen is equally afforded a single vote, which he can cast when electing who will represent him in the government. Each of these representatives will then have an equal vote in the government. There are regular free and fair elections, in which citizens can vote anonymously without fear or intimidation. Individual liberties like freedom of speech, thought and religion are very important in a democratic system and should be completely available to all, regardless of age, sex or race.

Monarchy

  • Monarchies were the main form of government when the modern nation-states were developing. Each country was ruled by a king or queen, usually hereditary, passed down through ruling families. This monarch had complete control over the affairs of the state, but often delegated power to regional lords or aristocrats. Most monarchies exist today as constitutional monarchies, chiefly symbolic in nature, which are in reality beholden to democratically elected governments. The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy — the queen is technically the head of the British state, but her power is mostly vested in the prime minister.

Dictatorship

  • In a dictatorship, one single figure leads an entire country with no elections or democratic accountability and no political opposition in place. Dictators tend to serve life terms until they die or are overthrown and rule through fear and intimidation. Almost everything in a country ruled by a dictatorship will be run by the government — dictators like to have total control over their subjects. Repressive dictatorships have been looked down upon since that of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party in Germany, which was defeated in World War II.

Federal

  • In a federal government, a single, central government governs alongside a number of geographically independent regional governments. Local governments will have distinct powers from the center, and vice versa. The United States is an example of federal government, where the central federal government’s powers are constrained by local state authorities. Federal governments are usually also democratic governments, as they involve several levels of elected representation.

Communism

  • Communist government strongly emphasizes the central state, with very little private enterprise and almost everything owned by the government. All industry and agriculture is state-run, and government provides all education, healthcare and welfare. Social classes are discarded and equality is emphasized, with wages and amenities kept at a consistent level across society. In communist governments that have been realized, a central Communist Party ran the government in a one-party system with a figurehead like Josef Stalin or Fidel Castro acting as the leader and public face of the administration.

How to Obtain Free Government Grants and Forms for Grants

There are many advertisements on television and the internet offering information on how to get thousands of dollars in federal grants. For a small fee, these companies will provide you with the same information that is available to the public for free.
There are thousands of government grant opportunities available to view, and apply for, online. You can also contact your local county office to find out what other grants may be available, especially if you are a small business owner.

Instructions

  1. Visit Grant.gov.This is the federal government’s official grant website. There are over 1000 different grant opportunities available. You can view these online, and apply directly for free grant money.
  2. Register with Grant.gov to view and apply for grants. Specify whether you are registering as an organization, or an individual. You will then be taken to the “Search” area, where you can find grant opportunities by typing in a keyword, or by searching through categories.
  3. View the grant opportunities that interest you. By clicking on the available grant, you can read the full synopsis. It will detail how long you have to apply, who is eligible, and how many grants are available.
  4. Apply directly for your grant. Once you’ve found a grant you wish to apply for, you will be able to download the grant application. Fill out the information and then submit your application. Each grant will give you an approximate time frame for response.

Types of Government Budgets

Collecting taxes and spending money represents the government’s most important power, but all governments need a plan, or a budget, foTaxes represent an important piece of government revenue.r collecting revenue and spending money on public programs. Government budgets appear in several different forms, like operating, capital, proposed and department budgets. The federal government divides its budget into discretionary and non-discretionary spending. Each type of budget has a specific function.

Revenues and Expenses

  • All budgets require projections of revenues and expenses. The bulk of government revenues at all levels comes from taxes and fees for services, while expenses fund numerous public projects. Any shortfall in revenue results in a deficit for the fiscal year, while excess revenues create surpluses. Many states have laws mandating that the legislature pass a balanced budget.

Operating Budgets

  • The operating budgets of states and localities govern the routine revenue and expenses. For example, a city budget would cover employee salaries and benefits, police department expenses and office supplies. Some municipalities create separate budgets for utilities like water and sewer, because revenues come from water and sewer bills rather than taxes. Similarly, state operating budgets often cover expenses such as public education appropriations, state park operations, state police, state government operations and economic development operations. Some states budget for a single year and others budget for two years.

Capital Budgets

  • Capital budgets differ from operation budgets in that they fund long-term construction and renovation projects. Construction and renovation projects cost a lot of money and often represent a financial burden to local governments. In order to avoid large tax increases, many state and local government and quasi-governmental agencies maintain a separate capital budget to fund long-term projects like new buildings and needed renovations. The federal government does not have a capital budget.

Proposed Budgets

  • The President, assisted by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), creates a federal budget proposal and submits it to Congress. State governors, supported by their respective budget offices, create their own proposals. At the local level, mayors or appointed officials may have the responsibility to create proposals. Although Congress (supported by the Congressional Budget Office), state legislatures and city councils may ultimately pass different budgets, the power to offer a budget proposal represents an important agenda-setting power.

Department Budgets

  • Federal, state and local governments have separate departments offering a variety of public services. These departments work with the executive in charge of budgeting to create a proposed budget of revenues and expenditures that the executive will include in the final budget proposal. After the legislative body (Congress, state legislature, city council) finalizes the budget, the department must usually create a budget to spend the money actually appropriated to the department.

Discretionary and Mandatory Spending

  • The U.S. federal budget includes both discretionary and mandatory spending. Various laws commit the government to pay for certain entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and welfare programs, as well as interest on the public debt. Conversely, discretionary spending covers programs that the government could cut. Defense spending represents the bulk of federal discretionary spending. President Barack Obama’s proposed 2011 budget calls for $895 billion in defense spending and $520 billion for other discretionary spending. The Budget Act of 1974 and subsequent amendments streamlined the federal budgeting process.

Applying for the Loan

Find an SBA preferred lender. Since the SBA doesn’t make loans directly, you’ll have to deal with a bank or other lending institution (like a credit union). The SBA designates certain lending institutions as “preferred lenders”. The SBA gives these banks control of loan approval and most loan servicing. This allows them to make loan decisions more quickly.

Meet with the lender. When you sit down with your lending institution’s representative, be sure to dress professionally. Appearance matters.

  • Have two copies of your business plan available, including financial projections.
  • Be prepared to answer any questions regarding your business.
  • Assuming the lender is comfortable with you as a potential applicant, you’ll be given an SBA Loan Package. This includes forms required by the SBA and the lender.

Complete the application form thoroughly. Missing information will not only delay the approval process, it also will reflect poorly on you as a loan candidate. Each bank has its own application form. However, some of the items you’re likely to encounter are:

  • Business information and history. This includes address, contact information, and type of business entity (such as corporation, partnership or LLC). It also addresses ownership structure (principals, their titles and ownership percentage).

Business background information. The bank is interested in facts such as:

  • The type of services or products the business provides
  • Your vendors, suppliers, and major customers (especially customers that may account for more than 30% of your annual revenue)
  • Names and locations of your primary competitors
  • The risks in your industry—and how you protect against them.

Be prepared to provide collateral and personal guaranties. Adequate collateral is required as security on all SBA loans (to the extent that assets are available). Additionally, personal guaranties are needed from everyone who owns 20 percent or more of the business, and from other individuals who hold key management positions. The SBA may also demand that the personal guarantors pledge personal assets as collateral.

Comply with the lender’s requests as soon as possible. During the course of the application process, the lender may need additional information. Delays on your part in providing this may lead the lender to believe you’re not serious about your application, or that you’re unreliable.

Find out the applicable fees. The type of fees you’re charged for your loan will depend on the type of loan you get. Check with your lender for the amounts you will owe. You may be charged:

  • A packaging fee. This is for help from the lender or a third party in preparing the application. It must be based on an hourly rate, not a percentage of the loan.
  • A processing/application fee. This is to compensate the lender for credit and background checks. Most 7(a) loan programs are exempt from this fee.
  • An underwriting fee. This is for the lender’s efforts in reviewing the loan documents and determining if you’re an acceptable loan candidate. 7(a) loan programs are exempt.
  • Closing costs. This mostly relates to real estate transactions, and includes such things as attorney fees, realtor fees, and property title searches. You can only be charged fees directly related to your transaction, and the lender can’t charge you for its in-house attorney’s fees.
  • Maintenance or servicing fees. These are lender fees for services during the term of the loan (such as handling payments and sending out notices). Except in very limited circumstances, 7(a) borrowers can’t be charged these fees.
  • SBA guaranty fee. The lender is entitled to be reimbursed by you for fees it has to pay the SBA. These fees are based on a percentage of the amount of the loan guaranteed by the SBA. (Usually between 2% and 3.75%.)

Sign the loan closing documents. If the loan is approved, the lender will contact you, and request that you come in to sign the final loan papers. Once you’ve done that, the lender will fund the loan. The lender will determine when and how the loan proceeds will be paid to you, subject to SBA guidelines. For example, 7(a) program loans can be paid in installments, provided all the proceeds are paid out within 24 months of the date of the loan approval.

Consult with the lender if your loan is denied. Ask the lender’s representative if there’s anything you can provide that would change his or her mind. It’s likely that the lender would already have requested any such information when reviewing the application, but there’s no harm in asking. Plus, having this conversation may give you some insight if you decide to apply again in the future.

How to Find Award Amounts for Government Contract Bids

The award amount of the current government contract for an item or s

Determine how to improve bid prices by reviewing award amounts.

ervice establishes a ballpark range to use when pricing a bid as a competitor. The dollar value of the successful bid also tells you how much more you need to cut from your price to win the next round of competition. In 2009, the Obama administration cleared the way for release of more government documentation on awards. Unless release of data will harm the government in some manner, agencies will give out award information. How you find the award amount hinges on the dollar value of the project and your involvement as a bidder.

Instructions

  1. Ask the government representative for award information if you submitted a bid. Submit a request to the project’s contracting officer if an unsuccessful bidder’s letter was not received. Include the solicitation number, the project title, bid due date and awarded contract number (if known) in your request. Define whether you want the total dollar award amount or the breakdown of all bid schedule items.
  2. Search the Federal Business Opportunities website for award announcements. Choose “Award Notice” under the search section for “Type” and enter a keyword or the solicitation number without the dashes. If your search produces no results, remove your entries and choose the state of contract performance or the name of the agency that issued the solicitation.
  3. Search the U.S. Department of Defense database for award information on contracts exceeding $5 million. Use the awarded contract number including all dashes as the keyword. If the number is unknown, view all reported awards by the agency by using the first six digits of the solicitation number as the keyword.
  4. Submit a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. Ask the contracting officer for the name of the information office responsible for processing FOIA requests for the award. Identify the contract number and the information you are requesting in your written request. Also specify the maximum amount you are willing to pay for the information.

How to Cost & Price a Firm Fixed Fee Government Contract

A firm fixed-fee contract places the maximum amount of risk on the contractor rather than the government. If you win a fixed-price contract, your payment amount equals your bid amount regardless of the

Calculate all project costs and associated risks before you determine the fee.

amount of cost you incur. No adjustment to the contract amount occurs, even if your material cost escalates or your calculated labor estimate falls short of actual cost (Reference 1). To establish your bid for a firm fixed-fee government contract, consider all costs you will incur and add a fee amount to cover the risk you assume when accepting the work.

Instructions

  1. Research similar previous government contracts to gather price intelligence in the absence of a stated budget range (Reference 2). Try to locate a recent project with the same government agency. Compare the work required by the predecessor contract to the current work statement and identify cost-driving differences.
  2. Solicit bids for materials and unique services your firm does not perform internally. For high-value items, obtain quotes from multiple companies to get the best rate. Secure a locked-in rate for these direct-cost items, when possible, to avoid a loss from price escalation between the time of bid submission and award.
  3. Establish a labor breakdown and determine manning required for the entire job performance. Review any published mandatory wage scale and choose appropriate job classifications for the required work. Include only the number of hours needed for a classification, even if the number requires part-time employees.
  4. Calculate overhead costs and fringe benefits for the project. Include taxes, insurance, pension, workers’ compensation costs and any items provided to the employees, such as uniforms, hardhats, identification badges or background checks. Include managerial wages dedicated to the project, if not accounted for in the labor breakdown.
  5. Include any general and administrative costs not captured in other areas. Allocate an appropriate portion of office lease and equipment, accounting functions, company managerial costs and outside services such as legal and audit expenses. Use an established G&A rate to calculate these costs, if one exists.
  6. Review a full expense report of your last completed job. Compare cost elements to the data you plan to include in your bid to identify any items you missed. Update your projected bid amount with additional potential costs.
  7. Conduct a risk assessment of potential inflation, possible delay penalties and other changes in elements of work that could increase in cost. Consider the length of time until the job occurs to determine the stability of material cost projections. Estimate your fixed-fee amount based on how much profit you desire from the job plus an amount to cover the risks.
  8. Calculate the total value of the direct costs, overhead, fringe benefits and general and administrative expenses. Compare this amount to the budget range or the price of previous similar contracts. If your costs appear excessive in comparison, review each element to determine possible reductions.
  9. Add your fixed-fee to the determined costs and compare to the budget range. If your bid price exceeds the government’s budget, review the profit margin to determine any possible decrease. Evaluate reductions carefully since a contract win could cause a company loss if you reduce the profit margin too much.

Government Intervention & Regulation in Business Ethics

Claims that government intervention and regulation in business will promote ethics have become a common argument. However, such government actions Balancing government regulation and business is a common issue today.have consequences that provoke an equal, opposite negative reaction which negates any positive effects. The laws of “unintended consequences” are quite clear; the complexities involved in regulating outcomes often result in undesirable effects. Government intervention and regulation of business has stunted innovation and business growth, resulting in fewer jobs and the exodus of business to foreign countries.

Promoting Business Ethics Through Regulation

  • Though regulating businesses for the benefit of society is a valid desire, the resulting unintended consequences actually inflict social harm. If we look at the issue of business ethics rationally, we can see that the vast majority of businesses are operated on the premise of their benefit to society.

    Hence, regulations, which are usually spurred by the misdeeds of one or two bad actors, presume that all businesses are unethical and, therefore, they all need regulating. At best, this philosophy is illogical because people learn ethics at a young age from their parents. By the age at which individuals manage businesses, their ethical foundation is already formed.

Business Welcomes More Regulation

  • An argument often made in favor of regulation is that big business believes there should be more regulation in order to protect society. This is a wonderful sound bite but a poor argument. Any business seeking greater regulation is a business that wants to benefit from such intervention.

    Government regulation creates barriers to for new businesses to enter the marketplace. These barriers give existing companies distinct competitive advantages over potential competitors. Thus, increasing regulation benefits large existing companies, which reduces competition and promotes unethical business practices.

Government Regulation: Good Intentions, Bad Outcomes

  • Certainly, government has a role in protecting society from unscrupulous business practices. However, businesses also have a fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders and a responsibility to their customers.

    When government intervention and regulation insert themselves into business activities, the good intentions of regulation cause companies to neglect their shareholders and to fail to provide their customers optimum products and services.

    For example, Enron and WorldCom are perfect examples of the few forcing draconian regulation, via the Sarbanes Oxley Act, on the many, perfectly legitimate and ethical businesses. This regulation has motivated public companies to go private and private businesses to go public in foreign countries. As a result, society is no better off, and out of concerns of violating Sarbanes Oxley regulations, businesses are failing in their fiduciary responsibility to shareholders.

The Logic of Government Intervention and Regulation of Business Ethics

  • The belief or assumption that pervades societal thought in the United States is that government regulation of business will solve the dilemma of businesses acting to the detriment of society. Since both business and government are competitors and both entities are operated by humans, how is it that the individuals operating government are more ethical than those individuals operating businesses? After all, they both seek power and influence over society.

How the Never-Ending Battle of Redistricting Will Impact 2016

Florida and Virginia (and possibly two other states) have to redraw their unconstitutional voting maps for the 2016 election. Similar legal challenges are only likely to increase in coming years.

Senate attorney Raoul Cantero discusses three versions of the Florida congressional district map during a meeting of House and Senate committees. (AP/Phil Sears)

In both Virginia and Florida, legislators will meet in special sessions next month to deal with an issue they thought they’d settled years ago — redistricting.

Congressional maps in both states have been ruled invalid by the courts. The reasons were different in each case, but each speaks to a trend that is keeping redistricting very much a live issue midway through the decade.

Political lines have to be redrawn once every 10 years, following the census. But the fight over them never really stops.

“It’s a myth that there is a dormant time in the redistricting world,” said Tim Storey, an elections expert at the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). “For the past three decades, multiple lawsuits and special sessions devoted to redistricting have been the norm in the middle years of the decade.”

In Virginia, a panel of U.S District Court judges ruled that the commonwealth’s congressional map packed too many African Americans within a single district. The ruling was in keeping with a U.S. Supreme Court decision in March in a racial gerrymandering case (Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama).

Legislators can create minority-dominated districts to satisfy federal Voting Rights Act concerns about racial representation, but they cannot keep cramming additional minority voters into districts in a way that dilutes their influence elsewhere.

“When government officials consider race, they must do so in a nuanced way, rather than a blunt or hamhanded way,” said Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and author of the blog All About Redistricting.

Similar concerns are at the heart of pending cases in both North Carolina and Texas.

“We’ve got two, maybe four states where we’re going to see new maps for the 2016 election,” said Michael McDonald, a political scientist at the University of Florida.

The Florida case is not about race. There, the state Supreme Court ruled that eight congressional districts violated a constitutional prohibition against partisan and incumbent gerrymandering. The state’s so-called fair district standards, approved by voters in 2010, seek to guard against lines drawn to benefit one party or incumbent politicians.

Legislators will redraw Florida’s congressional map and might change the state Senate lines as well. (In Virginia, the Republican-dominated legislature will probably choose to do nothing, sending the matter back to the court, in the belief that the end result will be a better map for the GOP than anything that might be won in negotiation with Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe.)

There’s already been some political fallout in Florida. Facing the prospect of a less-than-safe seat, Republican U.S. Rep. David Jolly announced Monday that he’ll run for the U.S. Senate instead.

The Florida case would have been moot if the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled the other way in a recent redistricting case concerning the congressional map in Arizona. That case, Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, settled the question of whether legislatures possessed the sole responsibility for redistricting, or whether measures approved by citizens to set up independent commissions could do the job.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that independent citizen-led commissions have the right to handle redistricting. (AP/Ross D. Franklin)

While the Arizona case was pending, other efforts to take redistricting out of the hands of state lawmakers were effectively put on hold.

“Groups that might have been pressing forward press[ed] pause while the Supreme Court considered the Arizona case, because it might have changed the landscape dramatically,” Levitt said. “We’ll now see a lot of activity that might have happened over the past year or year and a half.”

Last week, South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley announced that a petition drive, sponsored by the state Farmers Union, is underway to put the question of a commission system on next year’s ballot. This November, Ohio voters will choose whether or not to expand the size of the body in charge of redistricting and guarantee greater minority-party representation. It only addresses legislative districts.

In addition to all this, Wisconsin Democrats recently filed a challenge against the state’s legislative maps, arguing they represent a partisan gerrymander designed to keep the GOP in power and disenfranchise Democrats.

While no one doubts that is true, proving it in court is another matter. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that partisan gerrymanders are unconstitutional, but has never set standards to delineate just how far partisans can or cannot go.

“I think the most likely outcome out of Wisconsin is that this case goes nowhere,” said McDonald, the Florida professor.

But that doesn’t mean legal challenges won’t keep coming. McDonald noted that last year’s federal budget included campaign finance provisions that make it easier for parties to raise money for their legal defense funds.

“We’re going to see so much more litigation over election issues as a consequence of their wallets being stuffed full of money,” he said.

There never seems to have been a shortage of funding for legal cases challenging redistricting decisions. If anything, litigation is likely to speed up following the next census, in 2020.

“It’s a myth that there is a dormant time in the redistricting world.”

In 2013, the Supreme Court invalidated the section of the Voting Rights Act, known as Section 5, which required nine states — Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia — and parts of six others to receive “preclearance” from the Justice Department to make sure their districts were appropiate. They no longer need such federal approval.

States had finished their redistricting process for this decade before that decision came down, however, so those requiring preclearance had already had their maps blessed by the feds. Following the 2020 census, that won’t be the case, meaning racial gerrymanders will first be challenged in court, rather than by the Justice Department.

“With the demise of Section 5, I only expect more litigation and mid-decade maps,” said NCSL’s Storey.

That’s before the Supreme Court hears arguments in the coming term in a case,Evenwel v. Abbott, that challenges the current standard used to determine the proper size of districts. Every state uses total population, while the plaintiffs would prefer voting-age population or some other measure.

“It potentially has sweeping implications,” said Michael Li, counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law.

How to Get Government Grants for Money to Avoid Foreclosure

Government bailouts aren’t just for Wall Street fat cats and subprimeThey want to help...really! bankers. Some funds are beginning to flow to homeowners in trouble with their mortgages. Here’s what you need to know about government grants and other foreclosure assistance.

Instructions

  1. .

    Take Stock of Your Situation

    If you’re a homeowner having difficulty making your monthly mortgage payments, there may be help available. Government programs at the federal, state and local levels are beginning to make grant money available to local organizations to help homeowners avoid foreclosure.

    Details vary from place to place, but in general, you’ll need to be in serious financial trouble to qualify for assistance. This can include:

    –being several months behind in mortgage payments

    –having received, or about to receive, a foreclosure notice

    –owing more on your mortgage than the actual value of your house

    –a recent financial shock, such as loss of a job, or large medical expense.

  2. .

    Be Flexible

    Assistance can sometimes include actual cash grants to help you meet your monthly payments. More often than not, however, assistance takes the form of counseling and intervention to help renegotiate the terms of your mortgage loan with your lender, in order to lower your monthly payments.

    Be sure to take advantage of all assistance that is available in your community. If you won’t settle for any help other than someone writing you a check (which may or may not happen), then you might be missing out on some very valuable help.

  3. .

    Time to Explore

    There is not a single, central place to go for information on possible mortgage assistance. Organizations that can assist you vary from state to state and city to city. Some assistance may come directly from government agencies, but for the most part, assistance is provided through non-profit organizations (who are themselves, funded by government grants).

    Try a Google search on the terms: foreclosure help YOURSTATE.

    This will help you identify resources in your area. BUT…be careful, here. Make use of government sites as your first resource, and be wary of non-government sites making offers that seem too good to be true.

    The Resources section will steer you to some good sources of information on federal assistance from agencies like the FHA (Federal Housing Administration), and will also help you find local assistance.

    Best of luck to you.

Problems Only Government Can Solve

Foundations are important, but they have their limits.

Federal Government office workers searching files in Washington D.C. 1939. (Shutterstock)

“For almost forty years our economy has bred stagnant wages, long-term unemployment, huge disparities of wealth, and fewer escalators of social mobility.”

These are the opening words of social scientist Daniel Yankelovich’s book Wicked Problems, Workable Solutions: Lessons from a Public Life. They describe a set of facts that, in ways often unrecognized or unacknowledged, dominates almost every issue.

This list also is a reminder, in an age of disruption and social entrepreneurship, of the importance of government. Technological advances and innovation are rightly prized, and yet the problems Yankelovich lists remain largely undiminished. And they are massive in scale. As Alan Greenblatt wrote in Governing back in 2011, “Public education is a $600 billion enterprise in the United States. All the private money that goes to support it, from bake sales to the Gates Foundation, represents less than 1 percent of that amount.”

It would seem to follow, then, as Hilary Pennington of the Ford Foundation put it at a recent symposium, that “the path to scale is through the government.” I was surprised to hear this from an executive in the philanthropic community and followed up with her. She thinks that the degree of attention paid by foundations and the public to individual social entrepreneurs is problematic because they tend to position government as the problem. She wishes that foundations would devote as much attention to social entrepreneurs within government. Yes, government needs to change, but I agree with her that the path to scale, especially on issues of social justice, is indeed through government because there are limits to what the market will do.

Pennington went on to say that it would be wonderful if young people who are so in love with social entrepreneurship and public service saw government as a credible sphere in which to pursue these ideals. Instead, as she noted, they are skeptical of government as an agent for progress. As Paul C. Light reported in his book A Government Ill Executed, only 28 percent of college seniors who were surveyed saw working for government as the preferred form of public service.

So if it must fall to government to tackle the “wicked problems,” then what should be the role of foundations? For Pennington, the answer depends on the relationship between government and the governed, since it is the public that should determine public priorities. Foundations can help governments be more effective and accountable. They can fund experimentation and then help government make wiser decisions about what programs it should fund. And foundations can rally attention to neglected problems or unifying goals.

Near the end of his book, Yankelovich writes that the central challenge we face is this: “How do we reinforce the human bonds that hold society together?” It seems to me that the only answer is effective and accountable government.

How to Get Government Assistance For Single Mothers

Despite the fact that there are millions of single mothers in the United States, life can still be very difficult for them. Single mothers often work long hours, don’t finish school, and have financial difficulties. There are, however, a number of state and federal programs that are designed to provide financial and material assistance for single mothers. By investigating and applying for these programs, you can make your life as a single mother much easier and more manageable.

Visit the US Housing and Urban Development website. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers a number of programs to assist single mothers in finding adequate, low-cost housing. You can access these programs and other resources on the HUD website. Start here if you’re a single mother trying to find government help.

Look for subsidized housing. On the HUD site, you’ll find a link for privately-owned, subsidized housing. Once you click on this link, the process for finding low-rent housing is simple.

  • Choose what state you live in.
  • Enter your city, county, or zip code.
  • Specify the type of apartment and number of bedrooms you want.
  • You’ll then get a list of government-subsidized apartments in or near your area.

Find a public housing program. The HUD site will also link you to publicly-funded housing in your area. After clicking on this link, you can find public housing close to you.[2]

  • Click on your state on the map.
  • Scroll down the list to find your town or city.
  • When you find your town, you’ll see phone numbers of public housing programs in your area. Use these to contact programs and find affordable housing.

See if your state or local government offers rent assistance. In addition to federally-funded housing, the HUD site will also link you to programs your state and local governments may offer. If you can’t find a federal program to take care of your housing needs, you can try your local governments.[3]

  • Click this link to find a list of the states.
  • Click on your state and you’ll be brought to the HUD page for your state.
  • On the state HUD page, there will be options for what you’re looking for. The two links that will probably be most helpful for you are “Get Rental Help” and “Subsidized Apartment Search.”

Prepare the following information for when you apply for subsidized housing. Since housing assistance is often managed by the states, the process may be slightly different depending on which state you live in. However, most housing-assistance programs will require certain information, including the following.[4]

  • The name and date of birth of everyone who will occupy the dwelling, as well as their relationship to you.
  • You’ll need a current address and telephone number so housing offices can contact you.
  • You’ll have to answer certain financial questions, since government-funded housing often has a maximum income for eligible occupants. You also may have to provide employer and bank contact information so the housing administrator can verify your income.
  • Contact information for past landlords.

 

How to Live a Life That’s ‘Beyond Happy’

Being happy is a fundamental life goal for most people. But is it possible that by setting the bar at “being happy,” that we’re aiming too low? In her new book, Beyond Happy: Women, Work, and Well-Beinghttp://ir-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=wwweblingrouc-20&l=as2&o=1&a=1562869795, Beth Cabrera makes a compelling case for striving for more. Better yet, she offers practical and actionable steps on how to do it.

Cabrera is a senior scholar at George Mason University’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being. She is also an expert and has conducted extensive research on the particular challenges that professional women face in managing the many demands on their time and attention. She does a great job of summarizing what women are up against in the first couple of chapters of Beyond Happy. The strategies and advice she offers in the rest of the book apply equally to both women and men.

In the recording that accompanies this post, Beth and I talk about her approach to moving beyond happy. The preview is that it comes down to hitting the sweet spot between feeling good and doing good. If you’re interested in learning more about how to do that, listen to my interview with Beth.

How to Cite a Government Document

Proper citations in academic writing will add clarity and consistency to your work. The steps below will teach you how to cite government documents in three of the more common formats. List each “sentence” or “segment” of a citation in the order that appears in the steps, and follow each segment with a period.

Indicate the agency, office, committee or department that issued the document in the first sentence of your citation. Follow this with a period and include any subdivisions of the organization.

  • The first item in this section should be the highest level of the agency that issued the document. As such, it will often be the name of the national government (e.g. United States).
  • Do not list personal authors in this segment of the citation.

Indicate the year of publication in parentheses as the next sentence of the citation.

Write the full title of the document in italics after the year.

  • Capitalize only proper nouns and the first word of the sentence.
  • Indicate personal authors of the document after the title, if any are credited (e.g. “Operating hours of public libraries in the tri-city area, by John Smith”). The author’s name should not be italicized.

Cite the place of publication, followed by a colon, and then the publisher.Most U.S. documents are published by the Government Printing Office.

  • Abbreviate state names, for example, “Camden, NJ,” or “Lubbock, TX.”
  • Refer to the United States’ capital as Washington, DC, without periods in the abbreviation.

End the citation by indicating a report number or other identifying number in parentheses, when such a number is available.

The first line of text in a citation should be aligned to the left of the page, and each line under that should be indented.

How to Bid on Government Contracts

You don’t have to bid on a contract to do business with federal, state or local governments. Government employees can make small purchases — aConstruction worker paving a road. few hundred or a few thousand dollars, depending on the situation — without putting them out to bid. For bigger purchases, bids are the norm. It’s a competitive process, and just being the lowest bidder may not be enough. Each government sets its own rules for bidding, though the general outline of the process is the same.

Laying the Groundwork

  • Qualifying as a federal contractor takes a lot of paperwork. You need to have everything submitted before you respond to an invitation to bid. The requirements include applying for a DUNS — data universal numbering system — number, and classifying your business under the federal coding system, to identify which industry you work in. If you’re bidding on a state or local contract, you’ll have to ask that government about its requirements.

Get in a Database

  • When you bid on a federal contract, the procurement officer will want to look you up in the System for Award Management. Submit a profile to SAM before you start seeking any federal work. SAM shows your experience, your location and whether you qualify as a small business, or gain preference for being woman, minority or veteran-owned.

Know the Process

  • The invitation to bid is the kick-off of the bidding process. Each invitation describes the project, the technical specifications, the deadline for completion and the deadline for bidding. Different governments and agencies may handle things slightly differently, but the sealed-bid approach is common. The sealed bids are all opened together, after the deadline, so late bidders don’t get any advantage over early birds.

Submit a Bid

  • Delivering a winning bid doesn’t necessarily require making the cheapest bid. If it’s an IT security project, for example, your experience with similar projects may count more than the dollar figure. Your bid has to be responsive: if the state government says it wants a particular type of firewall, proposing anything else won’t get you the job, regardless of price. (personal experience again). If none of the bids pass muster, the government can rebid. If you’re one of two or three good bidders, the government may ask you in for a presentation.

Build Credibility

  • If you’ve never bid before, you’re better off starting on small projects rather than major ones, to establish yourself. Subcontracting for a piece of the pie is another way to gain credibility: Find an established big-league bidder and offer to take on part of the work. Another approach is to partner with another small business with more experience.

Networking

  • Building connections can help build a government contracting career. If government officials know and trust you, that may put you over the top in a tight bidding competition. If you know liaisons for specific agencies or departments can put in a good word for you. Networking to connect with other bidders can make it easier to land a subcontracting or partnered relationship.

How Hurricane Katrina Made the Feds More Powerful

In the decade since the storm, the federal government’s involvement in disaster relief has risen — and so have tensions with localities.

Hurricane Katrina flooded 85 percent of greater New Orleans on Aug. 29, 2005. (FEMA/Jocelyn Augustino)

If you marathoned the most recent season of “House of Cards” on Netflix, you know that one major plot line hinges on a federal disaster-relief law — the Stafford Act of 1988, which authorizes the use of federal money to respond to hurricanes and other natural disasters. In the show, President Frank Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, battles his foes in Congress over implementation of the law and just what constitutes a “disaster.”

It’s a testament not only to the arcane machinations that drive “House of Cards,” but also to the increasing importance of federal emergency funding. This month marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Retrospectives on the storm instantly bring back the searing images of a drowned city, the tales of unimaginable chaos inside the Superdome shelter and the misuse of police power in trying to regain control.

Behind the retrospectives, though, are some big questions. How much should we spend on disaster relief? Who ought to pay for it? And when calamity strikes, who should be in charge? Since Katrina, new answers to these questions have emerged — and they’ve quietly but dramatically shifted the balance of intergovernmental power.

Disaster spending is up in part because disasters themselves are becoming more frequent. In the nine-year period from 1997 through 2005, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), there were 470 such events. In the following nine-year period from 2006 through 2014, there were 583. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that the number of severe weather events — those causing more than $1 billion in damage — averaged two per year in the 1980s, but more than 10 per year since 2010. Many scientists suspect that climate change has made us more vulnerable to big storms. But, quite simply, there are more of us living in harm’s way, concentrated on the coasts and on floodplains, and where forest fires strike and earthquakes threaten.

Not only is spending on the rise, but the feds account for more of it. According to a 2012 report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the federal government on average paid about 26 percent of the damage costs for major hurricanes from 1989 to 2004. Since Katrina, that’s increased to 69 percent, along with a rising expectation that the feds will pick up the tab for large-scale multistate cataclysmic events. After all, Congress has an easier political road than state and local governments in getting money for disaster relief.

But there’s no consensus on what restrictions the feds ought to place on post-disaster rebuilding in exchange for providing this greater level of aid. In the past, federal aid programs often encouraged disaster victims to rebuild in the very spots that had suffered damage. Since Katrina, that has started to change, with requirements that homes rebuilt in New Orleans be raised above typical flood levels. Following Superstorm Sandy, some local governments on the East Coast forbade any rebuilding in low-lying areas. Now, FEMA has issued a policy set to take effect next March requiring states to address climate change before they can become eligible for disaster relief.

Federal restrictions on local choices, however, often don’t go down well, especially if they come through FEMA. The agency is so despised in Texas, for example, that, before this spring’s epic floods there, citizens debated how to protect themselves from FEMA setting up detention camps as part of a martial-law takeover. (Nothing of the sort was afoot, of course.) Then, after the floods, victims urgently waited for FEMA’s help. No one really wants the government to tell them where they can live and how they must build their homes, even if the regulations reduce death and damage in future disasters. But when disaster strikes, government help can’t come fast enough.

Katrina’s other major legacy, the dispute over who’s in charge at the moment of impact, is equally tricky. Behind the scenes there’s been an enormous shift in whether and when the feds need to pull the trigger.

The government of New Orleans all but collapsed during Katrina. The Bush administration was also politically embarrassed by FEMA’s problems. In fact, after the storm the president’s political negatives rose sharply and never really returned to their previous levels.

Within FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security, a quiet consensus has emerged: There will never be another Katrina, at least in political terms. If a disaster threatens public order, the federal government will hit fast and hard.

All in all, Katrina’s legacy marks a permanent change in relations among federal, state and local governments. It shifted more of the cost of natural disasters to Washington, and it’s gradually pushed the feds deeper into what had long been mostly local decisions. More subtly, it’s also reset the trigger for federal intervention in other state and local functions, including fundamental ones such as public safety and criminal justice. Hints of these changes have sharply heightened simmering tensions about the federal government’s role, with an expectation of instant relief but an unwillingness to accept Washington’s efforts to control the costs of future disasters.

These shifts have taken place deep inside the corridors of government, without attracting much attention among Americans at large. It took President Underwood to give the general public a hint about what’s really happened in the decade since the storm.

How to Bid on Minority Government Contracts

State, local and federal government agencies regularly make a ceGetting certified as a minority-owned business enterprise is the first step to securing government contracts.rtain number of contracts open to bidding from minority-owned business enterprises, or MBEs. This minority business certification is a designation given to companies with women or ethnic minorities in control or in ownership. Learning how to bid on minority government contracts involves securing appropriate forms of certification and identifying and applying for contracts posted by various state and federal government agencies.

Instructions

  1. Obtain certification as a minority-owned business enterprise from your state government website. Certification requirements vary from state to state, but in most instances you will be asked to provide proof that you met specifically outlined MBE criteria. You also may be asked to supply documentation verifying identity, incorporation status and a copy of your business license.
  2. Create a contractor profile on the Central Contractor Registration (CCR) database, listing the specifics of the products and services you provide. This will make it easier for government procurement officers to find you when they are looking for a service provider who offers what you do.
  3. Get on the pre-approved bidder list on the General Services Administration (GSA) schedule. This approach makes it easier to apply for contracts as they become available.
  4. Study the agency or agencies whose contract(s) you are bidding on to make sure your product or service fits into their scope of interest. Request guidelines for applying for the contract(s) that interest you.
  5. Visit www.Grants.gov to search for government contracts currently available.
  6. Fill out contract bid paperwork in its entirety. You may be asked to make a “sealed bid” to the issuing agency before the due date. The bid will outline your qualifications for the job as well as anticipated costs and timetable. Make sure these are rational estimates you can reasonably work within.
  7. Make sure your bid is competitive. All past bids are a matter of public record and are available for you to view. Examine these before making your bid.

Bush defends immigration policy during border visit

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush. (Seth Wenig, AP)

Making his own visit to the U.S.-Mexican border Monday, Jeb Bush found himself defending his immigration plan against Donald Trump and his use of the term “anchor babies” against Hillary Clinton and other Democrats.

Outlining his own plan that includes tougher border enforcement with a path to legal status for immigrants who are already in the United States illegally, Bush said the proposal by “another candidate” for mass deportations and a fence all along the border won’t work.

“You have to have a much deeper strategy than building a fence,” Bush said, referring to Trump’s plan.

In touring the U.S.-Mexican border near McAllen, Tex., Bush sought to draw a contrast with a similar visit made by Trump earlier this summer.

Trump and other critics say Bush’s proposed path to legal status amounts to amnesty for lawbreakers. Trump, the New York billionaire who tops Republican polls, has mocked Bush for saying that many immigrants are entering the United States as an “act of love.”

Bush has also been attacked by Clinton and others for using the term “anchor babies;” those critics call the term offensive and that the former Florida governor should simply say “babies.”

Speaking with reporters in Texas, Bush said he was referring specifically to the practice in which immigrants enter the United States so that their children can be born here and declared American citizens.

“I was focusing on a specific, targeted kind of case,” Bush said, describing the practice as “fraud.”

K.J. Bagchi, director of Asian American and Pacific Islander Engagement for the Democratic National Committee, said in a statement that Bush’s remark today “shows just how out of touch he is.”

“The only thing worse than Jeb Bush’s words about immigrant families may be his policies towards them,” Bagchi said.

NASA Has Learned a Lot About Hurricanes Since Katrina

Hurricane Gonzalo looms large as viewed from the International Space Station. Hurricane Gonzalo looms large as viewed from the International Space Station. NASA
Science is, naturally, the never-ending pursuit of knowledge that has spanned the entirety of human existence and will continue, in some form, ad infinitum—but it’s incredible to see how much progress can be made in just a decade. With the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina this week in mind, NASA is showing off how much its ability to track and analyze hurricanes has improved in the few years since the devastating storm hit the Gulf Coast of the United States.

Here’s a satellite model of Hurricane Katrina’s wind speed from 2005:


(NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Bill Putman)

And here’s what that wind speed analysis would look like with 2015 technology:


(NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Bill Putman)

The model from 2005 used a 50-kilometer resolution, while current models boast a resolution of just over 6 km. Clearly, the data that satellites can now send are much more comprehensive than what was being transmitted in 2005. New technology has even allowed researchers to figure out better ways of predicting a storm’s intensity:

“It used to be that we always looked for the mechanisms that allow hurricanes to rapidly intensify, but as of late, the question has gotten flipped around,” said Scott Braun, a research meteorologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, which operates the satellites that track hurricanes. “Now we ask what are the factors that prevent a hurricane from intensifying.”

One of those factors, shown by the images above, is high wind shear, or “a large change in winds with height, in the storm’s environment.”

But it’s not just better tech that is helping NASA to track storms—it’s also that there’s a lot more of it. NASA says that, since Katrina, it and other agencies around the world have rapidly increased the number of sensors in space that can collect storm data. NASA’s Earth Observing System (EOS) includes about a dozen active satellites studying the Earth’s weather and climate. Six of them, like CloudSat and CALIPSO, have launched in the last nine years a lone.

Below is a 2005 image of the water vapor within Hurricane Katrina, once again in 50-km resolution.


(NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Bill Putman)

And here’s that same view taken day by EOS Version 5 at 6-km resolution:


(NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Bill Putman)

These improvements, to put it simply, are huge. “For the intensity of a hurricane, so much comes down to the details of the really small processes and specifics in the inner core,” said Dan Cecil, a scientist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. We can’t stop hurricanes from happening (or can we?), but we now know a whole lot more about them than we did just 10 years ago. Hopefully that information will prevent widespread physical damage and, more importantly, save lives.

Scott Walker to Obama: Cancel Chinese state visit

President Obama talks with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker as he arrives in La Crosse, Wis., in early July. (Carolyn Kaster, AP)

GOP presidential hopeful Scott Walker urged President Obama Monday to cancel next month’s planned state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“Americans are struggling to cope with the fall in today’s markets driven in part by China’s slowing economy and the fact that they actively manipulate their economy,” the Wisconsin governor said in a statement. “Rather than honoring Chinese President Xi Jinping with an official state visit next month, President Obama should focus on holding China accountable over its increasing attempts to undermine U.S. interests.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted nearly 600 points Monday as anxiety mounted following a big sell-off in Shanghai overnight.

“Given China’s massive cyberattacks against America, its militarization of the South China Sea, continued state interference with its economy, and persistent persecution of Christians and human rights activists, President Obama needs to cancel the state visit,” Walker said.

“There’s serious work to be done rather than pomp and circumstance. We need to see some backbone from President Obama on U.S.-China relations.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Walker was not the only Republican presidential aspirant to try and capitalize on stock market volatility Monday. Current frontrunner in the polls, Donald Trump, took to social media earlier Monday to blast China.

Businesswoman Carly Fiorina and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also weighed in.

Walker has drawn criticism in recent months, including from Obama, for his foreign policy stances. As Reuters reported last month, he has been boning up on foreign policy and has taken more aggressive stances on recent campaign stops.

How to Get Government Assistance for Elderly

Whether you are taking care of an aging parent, or acting as a guardian and caregiver for an elderly person who needs extra help, there are government assistance programs available. Several government agencies at the federal, state and local level exist to provide funding and other resources to senior citizens who need help with finances, housing, healthcare, retirement and other issues. Get government assistance for elderly people by determining what is needed and contacting the proper government agency for help.

Determine what exactly the elderly person needs from the government. Some people need help with housing, options for long term care, help with claims of elder abuse and other services.

Contact the Administration on Aging (AOA). This federal agency administers a long list of programs for elders.

Access Social Security. The most important assistance program for the elderly is the program they have been paying into for most of their lives. This assistance can supplement their income or serve as an elderly person’s entire income if there is nothing else saved for retirement.

  • Apply for Social Security between the ages of 62 and 70. The longer a person waits, the larger his or her monthly benefit will be.
  • Apply for the Supplemental Security Income program (SSI) if the amount of social security being received is too low to live on and there is no other income available.

Start using Medicare. Medicare is a government assistance program that manages healthcare costs for the elderly. You are eligible to receive Medicare benefits at the age of 65.

  • Determine which Medicare programs are best suited for the elderly person who needs it. Medicare A and B are popular hospital and medical insurance coverage, but there is also prescription coverage to think about as well as supplemental insurance coverage.
  • Have any Medicare premiums deducted from Social Security payments for the elderly person who receives both forms of government assistance.

Work with the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) if applicable. An elderly person who served in the armed services might be eligible for compensation and assistance.

  • Find out if a service-related disability or medical problem will increase benefits or provide a pension to an elderly veteran who needs government help.

Access disability assistance through the U.S. Department of Justice. While financial resources might not be available to elders with disabilities, the Justice Department can help with resources, specifically those associated with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Get prescription assistance through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA can provide assistance to elders by helping to manage their prescriptions.

  • Use the FDA’s database to understand safety protocols for different drugs and to ensure you are not mixing drugs that may cause harm when they interact with each other.

Get local assistance. Federal programs often mandate that states and local communities help elders and senior citizens access resources and funding.

  • Look for the local Area Agency on Aging in your city, town or county. Staff and volunteers can assist elders with programs such as Meals on Wheels. They can also provide respite services and connect elders with counselors who can determine their need and match them to available programs.

Utilize your senators, members of congress and local elected officials. Each representative should have a staff person responsible for elder issues.

  • Call your congressional office to discuss specific problems or needs or if you are having a problem getting the elder services you need.

 

 

How to Survive Office Politics

Office politics are a fact of life in every workplace where more than one person works, and some offices have particularly difficult political situations. However, with some attention to your behavior and that of your coworkers, it’s possible to cope effectively with office politics. This article will guide you through the steps on how to survive office politics.

Give time and understand the psyche of your colleagues and seniors. It is important to understand the people you are working with: to know what motivates them, what they do outside the organisation, what do they aspire to be, and their view of the organisation.

  • No one is going to give this kind of information to you on a platter. You have to be careful, tactful and above all you have to be a good listener. Everyone wants to be heard. If you can just listen to people, within a short span of time you will develop their confidence in you. Becoming a confidante is the best possible thing in any set up, personal or professional.
  • Listen and only listen (this is more important if you are a new employee) and if there is something that you do not agree with keep it to yourself – no need to spell it out and try to make the person change his or her opinion. This goes for all you colleagues and your seniors. Listen to them, see what drives them and then make an opinion. If you understand the people then it is easier to deal with them.

Be nice and cordial to all. This is more true for bigger organisations/offices, as you don’t know when and whom you might have to work with! Whereas in smaller offices, the groups once established doesn’t get changed often and hence less/no issues.

  • So be nice to people. It will help in working and also in getting information, in knowing what’s happening all around, the office politics etc. Being nice does not mean that you have to be the ever smiling or the flattering types. Make sure that you disagree and put across your opinion/point also for otherwise you may be taken for granted.
  • If you are consistent and always stand for a certain group of things, people around you will understand and start respecting it too. There is no need to show disagreement unless it is a do or die situation which is usually an illusion.

Devise new ways of approaching issues. Out of box thinking always helps most of all in dealing with human resources. Now in general if people are professional then they are expected to behave in a particular manner and at least do as expected and spelled out in their job description.

  • The problem arises when they don’t want to do that and behave badly. Usually it’s not just a single person but a group of people who behave this way. All of them have the same attitude and the same alibi for not working – they have been in the system for long and know how it works!
  • It is here that one needs to devise innovative ways to approach them and get the work done and that too without disturbing the balance or encroaching on their seniority, in terms of years/experience or snob attitude! In simple layman’s terms getting work done, without getting sidelined, by interfering in the office power games.
  • First of all be clear, what is it that you want them to do. Spell it out clearly, then figure out how much authority do you have over the people. If you are not their boss, don’t worry, there still are ways! Once the task is clear, talk to them directly. Present the task in such a way that it looks like you are asking for their help. You can even go to the extent of showing your inability in doing it on your own. Then ask them if they could help in looking it over and giving their input. In most cases this approach works!
  • Simply because it doesn’t look like you are bossing around … and the other person feels important, nice that you are asking them for help … that their opinion matters. It doesn’t look like you are making them work … so they are happy and your work gets done. The reason is simple – there are a large number of people who don’t want to work when asked … but will work when work is not put across as work! (Just like small children) And don’t forget that all the time you have to be nice and well meaning. At any point it should not look like you are being cunning …or selfish … which brings to the next point …

Be genuine as much as possible. While practicing any of the above, the one thing that you have to ensure is that you should come across as a genuine person. In fact you should not just come out as that but also be a genuine person. Now I know it’s not easy to be genuine while listening to someone’s tails of treachery/cunning ways or someone’s cribbing session! (I mean you will be genuine but in another direction!) So in that case, as have mentioned earlier also, don’t speak your mind … be silent … which is still genuine … for you neither agree nor disagree. Also be humane and more accepting of other people … try to not to judge people and the result would be a more genuine/ empathetic you. It is a quality that will help always and it is only this that will bring you closer to people in any set up. So be naturally concerned and helpful without going overboard.

To change the system is not possible and not needed/ necessary. Please understand and realise that systems are so because they were meant to be so … and they are serving their reason and aim … one person can not change and should not aim to change the system. So rest your oars … be true to yourself and your values and leave the organisation if you find the system and its practices a burden on yourself. Easier said then done … but there is no other way.

Have a lower benchmark. There is a limit to everything and then there is a saturation point. So the moment the red light of your conscious starts glowing … give it up … there are other places to work. For if you continue cribbing and also continue working then the day is not far when the benchmark will cease to exist and you will join the bandwagon of people who have no self esteem and who just exist.

Learn to play Chess … yes … it’s a mind game … and fits in well with the office politics! If you know how to play chess you would know how to be prepared for at least the next two steps of your opponent and in your office everyone is your opponent unless you have won them over and even in that case you should be careful and never let your guard down! Chess helps in thinking and gauging what should be your next step and from where all/ who all you need to protect your assets/skills/information … who is out to hit you etc. The game of Chess teaches this and much more … take these as lessons for life and not just for the game!

Know when to speak, where to speak and with whom to speak. If only what you speak reaches wrong ears, the repercussions could be as fatal as losing your job. Need I say more? Well so the thing is that, choose your confidante carefully and refrain from making hard hitting comments against a colleague or organisation in front of people who may use it to their benefit. For most of the time people try to rise by pulling others down … if only they would aim at rising at their own with their own skills/competencies/knowledge!

Practice patience. There is no alternative. The more patient you become the less is the stress and the happier your disposition.

Learn tact. It’s a prerequisite in all that you do … and it’s an end result of all that’s discussed in previous points. No one can teach how to be tactful but everyone needs to learn it to be successful and happy!