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Election Results Are In: How Will They Affect Net Neutrality, Freelancers and Space?

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

WNYC
An exhaust cloud billows around Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida as space shuttle Discovery lifts off to begin the STS-131 mission. (NASA)

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country we bring you the unmissable quotes from political conversations on WNYC. On today's Brian Lehrer Show, we look at a few smaller issues that were affected by last week's midterm election results. Siva Vaidhyanathan, associate professor of media studies and law at the University of Virginia, discusses what the elections mean for net neutrality. Sara Horowitz, executive director of Working Today Freelancer's Union talks about what the elections mean for freelancers, and Tariq Malik, Managing Editor for SPACE.com talks about what the midterm elections mean for NASA and the American Space program.  

A few issues were significantly affected by last week's elections but to some, they may have gone unoticed.  Here's the breakdown:

According to the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, there were 95 candidates in the midterm elections who were publicly supportive of net neturality — all of them lost. Almost all were Democrats. Siva Vaidhyanathan says net neutrality has had bi-partisan support for years, but recently there's been a shift as the Tea Party and other conservative groups have come out against it, making it an issue of government control:

So you end up with this really difficult political moment where defending network neutrality, which should be sort of common sense in many areas, is that much harder because people have this sort of allergic reaction to the idea of government intervention, even if that intervention is to maintain a free market.

With the House now in Republican hands, the growing conservative voice against net neutrality may get stronger. Vaidhyanathan says, if support continues to fall, it's going to be a while before we really notice how much is lost.

So, while the election was bad for net neutrality advocates, it was good for freelance workers in New York. Sara Horowitz of Working Today Freelancers Union says their strategy was to endorse a group of Democratic candidates to ensure the passage of supportive legislation. N.Y. State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and NY State Senator Tony Avella were two of those endorsements and both won their elections last week. Horowitz says, this is crucial in order to protect this labor demographic:

There is this whole new workforce. People are working, going from job to job, project to project, in the middle of this recession and whenever something happens to them, they don't have any place to go because the laws were really written for a manufacturing work place.

The "Deadbeat Client" bill is one of the legislative changes the union is currently fighting for. It would give jurisdiction to the Department of Labor if a freelancer isn't paid for work.

One more group that had a lot riding on this election was NASA and the American Space Program. President Obama signed a bi-partisan NASA reauthorization bill last month, but the funding has not yet gone through. Tariq Malik of SPACE.com says there is a concern that the new Republican focus on discretionary spending may put NASA on the chopping block:

They're waiting for this final approval to really get started with their new space plan...They're hoping to plan more ambitious missions to asteroids or maybe even Mars, but to do that, they have to make sure they have the funding in hand. If Republican leader John Boehner does succeed in rolling back non-defense funding to 2008 levels, that would be a serious dip for NASA.

Malik says, two key committees that oversee NASA spending in the House will now change leadership from Democrats to Republicans and the program is concerned this could also affect the future of their funding.

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