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President Obama Reddit AMA Tackles Economy, Loans, PACs

by Bianca Ciotti, published
(Credit: President Obama)

Reddit, a popular website which proclaims itself "the front page of the internet," recently hosted a very famous guest for 30 minutes of user-generated questions. President Obama created and site moderators verified an AMA (Ask Me Anything) thread on Wednesday where he answered 10 questions ranging from his favorite basketball player to his administration's plan for space exploration.

The President Obama Reddit AMA appeared on Reddit without warning (most famous AMA's are scheduled well ahead of time), and the site was not prepared for the massive influx of traffic that the thread generated. Reddit was slammed with 7 million visitors on August 29th and 30th, which caused the site to periodically crash throughout the day.

Obama's Reddit account was created 3 days ago and has since generated over 17,000 Karma points. Karma points are Reddit's in-house system for tracking the amount of "upvotes" a user receives. On Reddit, when a user posts a comment or submits content, other users then upvote or downvote the original poster. Threads with the most upvotes rise to the front page, which is what users see when they first view the site.

Unsurprisingly, Obama's AMA was the top thread on the front page of Reddit for Wednesday, and even part of Thursday. The thread itself received over 3,000 upvotes, with more individual upvotes awarded to Obama's responses in the thread itself.

While some questions were more casual in nature (Q:"What's the recipe for the White House beer?" A:"It will be out soon! I can tell from first hand experience, it is tasty."), others focused on political issues and agendas. One user, hmlee, asked the President how his administration is aiding recent college grads, and why voters should select Obama in November:

PresidentObama: "I understand how tough it is out there for recent grads...Because of the health care bill, you can stay on your parent's plan until you're twenty six. Because of our student loan bill, we are lowering the debt burdens that young people have to carry. But the key for your future, and all our futures, is an economy that is growing and creating solid middle class jobs - and that's why the choice in this election is so important...I want to keep promoting advanced manufacturing that will bring jobs back to America, promote all-American energy sources (including wind and solar), keep investing in education and make college more affordable, rebuild our infrastructure, invest in science, and reduce our deficit in a balanced way with prudent spending cuts and higher taxes on folks making more than $250,000/year..."

President Obama placed a lot of emphasis on rebuilding the economy in his response, perhaps in retaliation for the flak he has taken from Republican politicians leading up to the RNC. He also mentioned that his administration will invest in alternative energy sources as a nod to his recent signing of an executive order to accelerate green energy policies. President Obama certainly built up a large to-do list with this response, but with election day two short months away, a summarized post of what he brings to the table is a smart way of attracting voters to his platform.

Another question posed by user suzmerk asked how the President intends to end the corrupt force of money in politics. Both parties have committed to running their presidential campaigns entirely through private donation, rather than public funding. Though the refusal of public funds may be the noble choice, it opens up a pandora's box of outside influences from big donors and Super PACs. President Obama responded:

PresidentObama: "Money has always been a factor in politics, but we are seeing something new in the no-holds barred flow of seven and eight figure checks, most undisclosed, into super-PACs; they fundamentally threaten to overwhelm the political process over the long run and drown out the voices of ordinary citizens. We need to start with passing the Disclose Act that is already written and been sponsored in Congress - to at least force disclosure of who is giving to who. We should also pass legislation prohibiting the bundling of campaign contributions from lobbyists. Over the longer term, I think we need to seriously consider mobilizing a constitutional amendment process to overturn Citizens United (assuming the Supreme Court doesn't revisit it). Even if the amendment process falls short, it can shine a spotlight of the super-PAC phenomenon and help apply pressure for change."

Citizen's United v. Federal Election Commission was a 2008 Supreme Court case in which the court upheld the First Amendment rights of corporations and unions, revoking the right of the government to restrict their political speech. This allowed for the creation of Super PACs, organizations which raise massive amounts of money to speak on behalf of political parties and candidates in television, radio, Internet, and print advertisements.

Obama himself is supported by a number of Super PACs who may not agree with his sentiments above. However, by amending the Citizen's United case, this could potentially level the playing field for third party candidates in future elections by restricting the amount of private donations each candidate or party may receive.

President Obama answered a number of other questions, which can be read in their entirety, along with the responses above, on the original Reddit thread. He soon returned to more pressing presidential responsibilities after a short 30 minutes, but his impact seems to have affected the entire Reddit community.

Whether or not users agreed with his sentiments, many were impressed that he reached out to voters in such an open and public way. Many comments and threads the next day discussed how many of Reddit's users had never expected the chance to interact one-on-one with the President.

Though he may not have answered every question, President Obama promoted himself as an open and technologically savvy candidate-- certainly an appeal for his young voter base who supported him in 2008. On his overall experience with the Reddit community and the AMA process, Obama had this to say: "NOT BAD!"

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