Five Ideas: What are your thoughts on these items in the news this week?

Friday, September 12, 2008 | 11:24 a.m. CDT; updated 10:42 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Biden speaks to Columbia

With the conventions completed, campaigning can now begin in earnest.

Democratic vice president nominee Joe Biden spoke at a town hall forum at Columbia's Activities and Recreation Center on Tuesday, in front of a significantly smaller crowd than at the Democratic National Convention two weeks ago. But the people that heard his message might be more important.

The Delaware senator spoke at length about Barack Obama's plan for the economy and answered questions on tax cuts and how to help fund higher education. He pledged that for each child enrolled in higher education, families would receive a $4,000 tax cut.

He also addressed the issue of keeping jobs within America's borders, which has been a major theme of the Obama campaign. Citing St. Louis-based Annheuser-Busch as an example, Biden spoke of limiting outsourcing. Although this strategy may help companies in the short-term and earn Obama plenty of support, it should be considered that efficient outsourcing could eventually produce a net gain for America's struggling economy.

Will Obama and Biden's economic plans work as effective long-term solutions?

Debating the future of higher ed

This time, the debate was mostly friendly.

But it's unlikely Democrat Jay Nixon and Republican Kenny Hulshof will be pals for the final two months of Missouri's heated gubernatorial race. Although it lacked any significant debate, a Missouri Press Association forum on September 11 at the Missouri School of Journalism's Centennial dedication illustrated some key differences between the two candidates.

Along with opposing plans on improving health care, one of the more interesting topics focused on improving higher education. Nixon has his $61 million idea to give four free years of college to students who perform community service and get good grades. The catch? They'll have to spend the first two years at a community college.

Hulshof responded with a plan that would cost $50 million over five years. It would also increase the funding for universities by the rate of inflation each year and entice more private money. As with his primary education plan, the maligned fields of math and science would be getting most of the benefits.

Are math and science majors needed so much that the state's education plan should give them distinct economic advantages?

Trading Wind for Oil

At least one oilman is interested in repairing his industry's tattered image.

T. Boone Pickens, who made headlines and became the face of the Oklahoma State athletic program with his obscenely large $165 million donation in 2006, is opening his wallet again. This time, it's for a more universal cause.

Pickens wants to spend $58 million to promote his idea of building a wind power corridor in the Midwest to replace fossil fuels. He's gotten positive feedback from both presidential candidates and said he's a supporter of every form of alternative energy.

The billionaire emphasized the necessity of a solid plan with good leadership by making terrifying predictions of oil reaching $200 or $300 a barrel if nothing changes in 10 years. Pickens' reasoning about America's need for alternative fuel sources seems logical enough, but his track record and his need for name recognition raise a few questions about the true motivation behind the "Pickens Plan."

Can the oil industry and the government work together to help form a reliable and efficient energy plan for the United States?

The future of the Missourian

Hard times are hitting home for the Columbia Missourian, which is facing a lot of questions about its future. Barring a financial breakthrough, the paper is going to have to undergo serious changes to survive in today's impatient, computer-driven society.

The Missourian Publishing Association Board of Directors, which acts as the newspaper's advisor, and university officials are talking seriously about creating a partnership with the Columbia Daily Tribune or another publication and eliminating off-campus delivery. The need for change is obvious, but any decision must reflect careful thought to preserve the unique aspects of the paper and avoid damaging its legitimacy.

For 100 years, Columbia has been recognized as a top destination for aspiring newspaper journalists across the country. The Missourian, which begins its 101st year today, has always found a way to stay on the top rung against increasing competition. One wrong move now could have disastrous effects.

What kind of effect would a partnership or limiting circulation have on the Missourian's ability to give students real-world experience?

No override on student curator bill

Tuition prices continue to rise, but students aren't getting any more voice for their money.

After it cruised through the House (100-47) and the Senate (31-2), one man showed his power by bringing to a screeching halt a bill that would have allowed the student on the University of Missouri System Board of Curators to have voting rights if Missouri were to lose a Congressional seat in 2010. That man was Republican Gov. Matt Blunt. Senators in his party followed suit to ensure the bill didn't come close to overriding the veto, with a final vote of 16-17 in the Senate.

The leading excuses presented by Blunt and other critics were the lack of leadership and experience among students, but perhaps the most concerning aspect was the flip-flop of so many in the Senate. This shows that either the senators weren't fully prepared the first time or are willing to blindly follow their leader, giving him too much power. Neither choice seems very appealing.

Should senators allow the votes of party colleagues to influence their vote on important issues?


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Ellis Smith September 12, 2008 | 2:37 p.m.

Before getting bent out of shape, as it were, over the absence of a voting student on the Board of Curators maybe we should address the fact that there are NO curators on the board who are alumni of either the Kansas City or St. Louis campuses. If the Columbia campus found itself in that situation, how happy would it and its alumni be?

Kansas City and St. Louis campuses account for about 47% of all the students in the System.

Fix the real problems first.

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