by Grady Brown
A potential government shutdown is upon us once again. The federal government’s fiscal year ends September 30 and, pending a temporary budget bill, the government may well shut down for the second time in three years on October 1. It’s a familiar story — one that is emblematic of the gridlock in DC — and it’s an issue at the forefront of debate for the Congressmen returning from summer recess.
So will we see a shutdown or another last second deal? It’s difficult to tell, but any prediction will need to consider one of the core issues that seems to be driving the disagreement: Planned Parenthood. This summer, anti-abortion activists released a number of undercover videos, claiming Planned Parenthood was selling fetal tissue.
It’s unclear whether Planner Parenthood violated the law. The National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act of 1993 makes it illegal to sell fetal tissue, but allows organizations to collect a “reasonable” fee to mitigate the costs of donating the tissue. Nevertheless, the videos initiated a political firestorm from social conservatives, which has only added to the mounting polarization over the nation’s budget.
by Grady Brown
At the end of July, Virginia became the latest state to allow gay couples to marry. In a 2-1 decision, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s decision to strike down Virginia’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, incorporated into the State’s constitution in 2006. The U.S. Supreme Court stayed the ruling, pending review, in August.
In Virginia, support for gay marriage echoes the national landscape, where a record-high 59 percent of Americans support gay marriage, according to a poll by the Washington Post and ABC News. While the ban on same-sex marriage was supported by 57 percent of Virginians, last March, a Quinnipiac poll found that support for gay marriage among Virginians had jumped to 50 percent. This support is bolstered by young Virginians. 70 percent of voters under the age of 30 support same-sex marriage. A University of Virginia survey found that support for same-sex marriage in Charlottesville is also high. According to the survey, 68 percent of local voters support same-sex marriage legalization. According to the Williams Institute at UCLA, Virginia had an estimated 14,243 same-sex couples in 2010, while Charlottesville had 142 with 14 percent raising their own children.
This victory for same-sex supporters was short-lived. The US Supreme Court answered the petition of a Prince William County’s Circuit Court clerk and ordered a stay on the Fourth Circuit’s decision. This follows a trend across the country, where states have turned to the High Court to petition judicial decisions of lower federal courts. Last December, the Supreme Court stayed the decision of a lower court in Utah that overturned a constitutional same-sex marriage ban. Similar decisions across the country have halted the legalization of same-sex marriage in states for the time being.
by Kyle Schoenbelen
Cleaning my apartment the other day, I came across a mug buried under the couch. The mug is emblazoned with the logo—and heady if not pretentious motto—of my employer from the summer of 2012: “Bridging the gap between thought and action.” I ended summer 2012 one mug up because I completed a full-time internship at a prestigious Washington D.C. think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies. This year’s University of Pennsylvania rankings place the organization at as the fourth most influential of its kind in the world, and the intern selection process was correspondingly competitive. I worked hard and learned much from my experience over 3 months at the center. I also made exactly zero dollars.
Not that I have any complaints. The experience was well worth it; the net gain from my time at CSIS far outweighed my temporary lack of beer money. I was an undergraduate and my unpaid colleagues, most of whom were graduate students (and some of whom were married with families) obviously felt the same way.
It is an open secret that large swaths of DC run on the sweat and tears of unpaid interns, and this arrangement is generally taken for granted. Internships for congressional representatives, government agencies, think tanks, and NGOs are almost universally unpaid. This means that if students want to acquire direct experience in policy, they must either live in the Washington area, have parents who are willing to front the cost, or be one of the few who are able to win a scholarship or grant for summer work. For many students at schools like UVA, Princeton, or Georgetown, this isn’t an issue. Taking an unpaid summer is viewed as a necessary sacrifice for long-term career prospects– a sort of price of entry into the field. For the vast majority of people, however, the idea of spending an entire summer working full time for no pay while dealing with DC’s significant cost of living seems downright ridiculous.
Frequently, young adults who raise the issue of unpaid internships are caricatured as whiny, over-educated rich kids upset because they have to order Jim Beam instead of Maker’s Mark during their nights out in Adams Morgan. “The dry-cleaning bill for that bourbon stain on my Barbour jacket isn’t going to pay itself,” thinks the girl whose lobbyist uncle set her up with a Hill gig for the summer. “Good thing I have daddy’s Am-ex card for emergencies like these!” Such dismissive critiques, while humorous, implicitly define a decidedly un-humorous problem— only affluent students are in a position to complain about unpaid DC jobs in the first place. In real life, Charlie Young from West Wing doesn’t even get an interview.