Answer the following questions to see who you should vote for in the Nevada midterm election.
Nuclear power is the use of nuclear reactions that release energy to generate heat, which most frequently is then used in steam turbines to produce electricity in a nuclear power station. In the U.S. 100 nuclear reactors provide 20% of the country's energy. Proponents argue that nuclear energy is now safe and emits much less carbon emissions than coal plants. Opponents argue that recent nuclear disasters in Japan prove that nuclear power is far from safe.
In January 2014, 102 measles cases linked to an outbreak at Disneyland were reported in 14 states. The outbreak alarmed the CDC, which declared the disease eliminated in the U.S. in the year 2000. Many health officials have tied the outbreak to the rising number of unvaccinated children under the age of 12. Proponents of a mandate argue that vaccines are necessary in order to insure herd immunity against preventable diseases. Herd immunity protects people who are unable to get vaccines due to their age or health condition. Opponents of a mandate believe the government should not be able to decide which vaccines their children should receive. Some opponents also believe there is a link between vaccinations and autism and vaccinating their children will have destructive consequences on their early childhood development.
Currently, GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) foods in the United States are not classified differently by the FDA and do not require labeling. Although no reports of ill effects from GMO foods have been documented, advocacy groups such as Greenpeace and the Organic Consumers Association argue that past studies cannot be trusted because they were sponsored by pro-GMO companies and do not measure the long-term effects on humans, the environment, and nature. Opponents argue that labeling adds an unfounded stigma over organic foods and that if a nutritional or allergenic difference were found, current FDA regulations would already require a label.
In 2014 NASA received $17.6 Billion in funding from the U.S. government. This represented .5% of the of the $3.4 Trillion budget last year and 35% of total spending on academic scientific research in the United States.
The 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings caused several states and cities to pass strict gun control measures. In response, state lawmakers in gun friendly states in the South and West passed bills that would strengthen Stand Your Ground laws and allow weapons in most public places. In 2014, 21 states passed laws that expanded the rights of gun owners allowing them to possess firearms in churches, bars, schools and college campuses. The federal government has not passed any gun control measures since the 1994 Brady Bill and 42 states now allow the possession of assault rifles. In the U.S. two-thirds of all gun deaths are suicides and in 2010 there were 19,000 firearm suicides and 11,000 firearm homicides.
Impeachment is the process in which a legislative body produces a statement of charges against a government official. Although the subject of the charge is criminal action, it does not constitute a criminal trial. Impeachment does not remove the official from office. On December 18, 2019 the U.S. House of Representatives approved articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. A House impeachment inquiry alleged that Trump threatened to withhold $400 million in foreign aid to Ukraine unless it provided damaging information to the Trump campaign on 2020 Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden. The House vote broke down party lines with 229 Democrats voting “Yea” to impeach and all 195 Republicans voting “Nay.” Democratic Representatives Collin Peterson (MN) and Jeff Van Drew (NJ) voted “Nay.” Rep. Tulsi Gabbard voted “present.” In the U.S. House of Representatives a member may vote “present” rather than for or against a bill or resolution.
In 2005, Congress passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA). The law protects gun manufacturers and dealers from being held liable when crimes have been committed with their products. The law was passed in response to a series of lawsuits filed against the gun industry in the late 1990s which claimed gun-makers and sellers were not doing enough to prevent crimes committed with their products. Proponents of the law argue that lawsuits will discourage gun manufacturers from supplying stores who sell guns that end up being used in violent crimes. Opponents argue that gun manufacturers are not responsible for random acts of violence committed with their products.
In 1970, Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act which banned the manufacture, importation, possession, use and distribution of certain drugs. The act ranked drugs by their potential for abuse and placed them into five categories. Two of the most widely used drugs in the U.S., wine and alcohol, are exempt from the classifications. Ballot measures in several states including Colorado, Washington and Oregon have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana. These laws apply only within the respective states and have no effect on Federal law.
Affirmative action is a policy that encourages the increased representation of members of a minority group. In the U.S. these policies are often enacted by employers and educational institutions in education or employment.
In 2006, the U.S. Senate rejected a Constitutional Amendment which would have allowed Congress to pass legislation prohibiting the burning or desecration of the U.S. flag. The Flag Protection Act of 2005 was introduced by Senators Bob Bennett (R-Utah), Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Mark Pryor (D-ARK) and Thomas Carper (D-Del). The Act proposed a punishment of up to one year in jail and a fine of no more than $100,000.
In response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Patriot Act expanded intelligence gathering capabilities including: monitoring of foreign financial transactions, detaining and deporting immigrants suspected of terrorism, wiretaps, business record searches, and surveillance of individuals suspected of terrorist activities. <a target="_blank" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patriot_Act">Learn more</a> or
In early 2020, several Democratic presidential candidates including Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Pete Buttigieg and Beto O’Rourke offered different proposals to reforming the Supreme Court. The proposals include adding 5 democratically elected judges to the current court and imposing term limits on current judges. According to the U.S. federal statute, justices have lifetime tenure unless they resign, retire, or are removed from office. Proponents of Supreme Court reform argue that the current court will be filled with too many conservative judges for the next several decades and it is not representative of the US population. Opponents argue that the plans are unconstitutional, would upset the balance of power and reinforce the idea that there are Democratic judges and Republican judges.
After the December shooting in San Bernardino, CA, President Obama stated in his weekly radio address that it was “insane” to allow suspected terrorists on the country’s no-fly list to purchase guns. Shortly after, Senate Democrats introduced a measure that would have restricted anyone on the federal terrorism watch list, also known as the no-fly list, from being able to purchase firearms in the U.S. The measure did not pass after Senate Republicans voted down the measure.
Eminent domain is the power of a state or a national government to take private property for public use. It can be legislatively delegated by state governments to municipalities, government subdivisions, or even to private persons or corporations, when they are authorized to exercise the functions of public character. Opponents, including Conservatives and Libertarians in New Hampshire, oppose giving the government the power to seize property for private projects, like casinos. Proponents, including advocates of oil pipelines and national parks, argue that the construction of roads and schools would not be possible if the government could not seize land under eminent domain.
Edward Snowden is a former National Security Agency contractor who turned over classified documents revealing a board global surveillance program previously unknown to anyone outside the intelligence community. After the documents were published in the Guardian Newspaper in June 2013 Snowden fled to Russia where he is currently living under asylum.
In October 2019 Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced that his social media company would ban all political advertising. He stated that political messages on the platform should reach users through the recommendation of other users – not through paid reach. Proponents argue that social media companies don’t have the tools to stop the spread of false information since their advertising platforms aren’t moderated by human beings. Opponents argue that the ban will disenfranchise candidates and campaigns who rely on social media for grassroots organizing and fundraising.
In 2015, the U.S. Air Force announced that it had selected Boeing to build the next generation of Air Force One aircraft. Two new aircraft will be built and will enter service in 2024. The defense department estimates that the two new planes will cost U.S. taxpayers an estimated $4 billion. In December 2016, President-elect Donald Trump announced that costs for the project were out of control and he would cancel the plane order once he took office. Proponents of the new planes argue that the current planes used for Air Force One will be fifty years old in 2021 and spare parts for the old planes are becoming hard to find.
After the March 22nd terrorist attacks in Belgium, Republican U.S. Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz said law enforcement should be empowered to “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.” In defending the plan, Cruz cited former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his aggressive policing efforts, including the alleged targeting of Muslim neighborhoods for surveillance. Current New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton held a press conference where they criticized Cruz’s proposal as “incendiary” and “foolish.”
Net neutrality is the principle that internet service providers should treat all data on the internet equally. Proponents of net neutrality laws argue that they balance the rights and duties of individuals, governments and corporations, while ensuring that the Internet continues to be an open and decentralized network. Opponents include internet companies who complain that the law would increase their costs and create barriers to the free flow of information.
Under a provision of the Patriot Act the NSA is allowed to collect phone metadata — the numbers, time stamps, and duration of a call, but not its actual content. Opponents include civil liberties advocates and Senator Rand Paul who argue that the collection is unconstitutional since it is done without a warrant. Supporters of the collection argue that the collection is necessary to track suspected terrorists.
In January 2018 Germany passed the NetzDG law which required platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to take down perceived illegal content within 24 hours or seven days, depending on the charge, or risk a fine of €50 million ($60 million) fines. In July 2018 representatives from Facebook, Google and Twitter denied to the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary committee that they censor content for political reasons. During the hearing Republican members of Congress criticized the social media companies for politically motivated practices in removing some content, a charge the companies rejected. In April 2018 the European Union issued a series of proposals that would crack down on “online misinformation and fake news.” In June 2018 President Emmanuel Macron of France proposed a law which would give French authorities the power to immediately halt “the publication of information deemed to be false ahead of elections.”
A term limit is a law that limits the amount of time a political representative may hold an elected office. In the U.S. the office of the President is restricted to two four year terms. There are currently no term limits for Congressional terms but various states and cities have enacted term limits for their elected officials at the local level.
Currently, the redistricting of congressional boundaries is controlled by state legislature every ten years. Gerrymandering is the redrawing of districts with the intent of benefiting a political party. It is most often implemented by state political parties with the intent of marginalizing districts of voters who represent the minority party. To gain extra seats, the incumbent party will redraw voting districts so that voters of the minority party will be grouped into smaller districts with less seats. Critics of gerrymandering say these practices allow incumbent representatives to choose their voters instead of voters choosing them. Proponents say that drawing districts is a privilege of the ruling party and have little effect on the popularity of their policies or candidates.
Former Florida Governor Bush recently told CBS News that the current basic retirement age of 65 needs to go to 68 or 70 as a way to sustain Social Security for those now under 40. The Social Security retirement age is based on a sliding scale which takes into account when the recipient was born and whether they want to retire early in return for a reduction in monthly benefits. The current age to begin receiving benefits is set at 65 for those born prior to 1938. Under current law, it rises gradually to age 67 for those born in 1960 or later. Proponents argue that Americans are living longer and healthier lives than they did when Social Security was founded and the program will run $7.7 trillion in the red during the next 75 years. Opponents argue that Social Security provides at least half of total retirement income for more than two-thirds of all retirees and raising the age will rob lower income seniors of necessary benefits.
Australia currently has a progressive tax system whereby high income earners pay a higher percentage of tax than low income tax. A more progressive income tax system has been proposed as a tool towards reducing wealth inequality.
The federal minimum wage is the lowest wage at which employers may pay their employees. Since July 24, 2009 the U.S. federal minimum wage has been set at $7.25 per hour. In 2014 President Obama proposed raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 and tying it to an inflation index. The federal minimum wage applies to all federal employees including those who work on military bases, national parks and veterans working in nursing homes.
5 U.S. states have passed laws requiring welfare recipients to be tested for drugs. Proponents argue that testing will prevent public funds from being used to subsidize drugs habits and help get treatment for those that are addicted to drugs. Opponents argue that it is a waste of money since the tests will cost more money than they save.
The U.S. currently levies a 35% tax rate at the federal level and an average tax of 4% at the state and local level. The average corporate tax rate worldwide is 22.6%. Opponents of argue that raising the rate will discourage foreign investment and hurt the economy. Proponents argue that the profits corporations generate should be taxed just like citizen’s taxes.
In 2014 the U.S. Senate blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act which would make it illegal for employers to pay unequal wages to men and women who perform the same work. The goals of the act were to make wages more transparent, require employers to prove that wage discrepancies are tied to legitimate business qualifications and not gender and prohibiting companies from taking retaliatory action against employees who raise concerns about gender-based wage discrimination. Opponents argue that studies which show pay gaps don’t take into account women who take jobs that are more family-friendly in terms of benefits rather than wages and that women are more likely to take breaks in employment to care for children or parents. Proponents point to studies including a 2008 census bureau report that stated that women's median annual earnings were 77.5% of men's earnings.
A Universal Basic Income program is social security program where all citizens of a country receive a regular, unconditional sum of money from the government. The funding for Universal Basic Income comes from taxation and government owned entities including income from endowments, real estate and natural resources. Several countries, including Finland, India and Brazil, have experimented with a UBI system but have not implemented a permanent program. The longest running UBI system in the world is the Alaska Permanent Fund in the U.S. state of Alaska. In the Alaska Permanent Fund each individual and family receives a monthly sum that is funded by dividends from the state’s oil revenues. Proponents of UBI argue that it will reduce or eliminate poverty by providing everyone with a basic income to cover housing and food. Opponents argue that a UBI would be detrimental to economies by encouraging people to either work less or drop out of the workforce entirely.
In 2011 the level of public spending on the welfare state by the British Government accounted for £113.1 billion, or 16% of government. By 2020 welfare spending will rise to 1/3rd of all spending making it the largest expense followed by housing benefit, council tax benefit, benefits to the unemployed, and benefits to people with low incomes.
Labor unions represent workers in many industries in the United States. Their role is to bargain over wages, benefits, working conditions for their membership. Larger unions also typically engage in lobbying activities and electioneering at the state and federal level.
Proponents of deficit reduction argue that governments who do not control budget deficits and debt are at risk of losing their ability to borrow money at affordable rates. Opponents of deficit reduction argue that government spending would increase demand for goods and services and help avert a dangerous fall into deflation, a downward spiral in wages and prices that can cripple an economy for years.
Several major U.S. companies including Netflix, Chipotle and Microsoft recently began offering their employees paid sick and maternity leave. The U.S. is currently the only industrialized country that doesn’t require companies to provide sick leave to their employees. 35% of American workers do not receive any type of paid sick leave.
Capital gains are the profits earned from the the sale of stocks, bonds and properties. Investment managers pay a 15 to 20 percent capital gains tax on profits earned from their customers’ holdings. Supporters of the increase argue that capital gains should be taxed like any other income and should be raised to at least 31.5% (the average U.S. tax rate). Opponents of an increase argue that taxing capital gains will discourage investments in the U.S. economy and prohibit growth.
The estate tax is a tax that is levied on all property that is declared in a deceased person’s will. The tax is also known as the “inheritance tax” or “death tax.” In 2016, the estate tax rate is 40% and only applies to estates with a value greater than $5.45 million. In 2015 5,300 estates in the U.S. were subject to the tax and paid $18.4 billion in taxes. Proponents of the tax, including Hillary Clinton, argue that more estates should be subject to the tax and the threshold should be lowered from $5.45 million to $3.5 million. Opponents of the tax, including Donald Trump, argue that people who have paid income taxes their entire life should not be subject to another tax when they die.
In May 2016, the Obama Administration announced new regulations that would increase the number of American entitled to receive time-and-a-half overtime pay. Salaried workers who earn up to $46,476 per year are now entitled to earn time-and-a-half pay when they work more than 40 hours per week. The previous regulations, issued in 2004, set the threshold for overtime pay at $23,660. The Labor department estimates that 4.2 million workers will become newly eligible for overtime pay under the new regulations. Proponents argue that the rule is necessary due to inflation and note that only 7% of salaried workers currently qualify for overtime pay in 2015, down sharply from 60% in 1975. Opponents argue that the new rules will hurt employers and incentivize them to cut their employee’s hours.
An economic stimulus is a monetary or fiscal policy enacted by governments with the intent of stabilizing their economies during a fiscal crisis. The policies include an increase in government spending on infrastructure, tax cuts and lowering interest rates. In response to the 2008 financial crisis Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The Act included increased spending on energy, infrastructure, education, health and unemployment benefits. The Act will cost an estimated $787 billion through 2019.
In October 2016 AT&T announced that it intended to buy Time Warner Cable for $84.5 billion. The merger would create one of the biggest media companies in the history of the U.S. The announcement sparked criticism from Congressional Democrats and Republicans who argued that huge corporate mergers create monopolies which prevent competition. Since President Obama took office his administration has prevented several mega-mergers from taking place including Sprint and T-Mobile, AT&T and T-Mobile and Allergan and Pfizer. In 2015 $3.8 trillion dollar’s worth of mergers and acquisitions occurred which made it the largest year for corporate consolidation in the history of the U.S. Proponents of mergers argue that the government should not interfere with corporations and the free market should be allowed to run its own course.
The North American Free Trade Agreement is an agreement that was created to lower trade restrictions between Canada, Mexico, and the United States.
The average retired federal employee receives a pension (retirement plan) of $32,824 annually. Total unfunded pension liability for all U.S. cities and counties is an estimated $574 billion. In addition to their pensions, federal employees are offered a 401(k) plus 5% matching, whereas the average private employee is offered 3 percent matching of 401(k) without pension.
A government pension is a fund into which a sum of money is added during the period in which a person is employed by the government. When the government employee retires they are able to receive periodic payments from the fund in order to support themselves. As the birth rate continues to fall and the life expectancy rises governments worldwide are predicting funding shortfalls for pensioners. In the U.S. federal, state and local governments are eligible to receive pensions.
An offshore (or foreign) bank account is a bank account you have outside of your country of residence. The benefits of an offshore bank account include tax reduction, privacy, currency diversification, asset protection from lawsuits, and reducing your political risk. In April 2016, Wikileaks released 11.5 million confidential documents, known as the Panama Papers, which provided detailed information on 214,000 offshore companies serviced by the Panamanian Law Firm, Mossack Fonesca. The document exposed how world leaders and wealthy individuals hide money in secret offshore tax shelters. The release of the documents renewed proposals for laws banning the use of offshore accounts and tax havens. Proponents of the of the ban argue they should be outlawed because they have a long history of being vehicles for tax evasion, money laundering, illicit arms dealing and funding terrorism. Opponents of the ban argue that punitive regulations will make it harder for American companies to compete and will further discourage businesses from locating and investing in the United States.
In March 2016, the Carrier air conditioning company announced it would move 1,400 jobs from the U.S. state of Indiana to Mexico. In November 2016 U.S. President elect Donald Trump and Carrier announced a deal which would keep 1,000 jobs in Indiana in exchange for $7 million in tax breaks. Proponents argue that the deal prevented jobs from moving overseas and will help grow the U.S. economy. Opponents argue that the deal will encourage more private companies to make threats about job losses in exchange for tax breaks.
A tariff is a tax levied on the import and exports of goods in international trade. The U.S. currently trades over $590 billion in goods with China every year. In 2015 China exported $466 billion worth of goods to the U.S. and imported $123 billion worth of U.S. goods. The 2015 China - U.S. trade imbalance of 344% is a new world record. During the 2016 Presidential race Donald Trump proposed levying a 45% tariff on China and any other U.S. trade partner which violates trade deals through currency manipulation and illegal export subsidies. Proponents of tariffs argue that China breaks trade rules by subsidizing its exports, manipulating its currency and stealing intellectual property from the U.S. and other western countries. Opponents argue that tariffs will cause a dramatic rise in the cost of goods for U.S. consumers and cause an unnecessary conflict with
A farm subsidy is a form of financial aid paid to farmers by the government. The purpose of the aid can be to supplement their income or influence the cost and supply of agricultural products. The U.S. government pays farmers more than $20 Billion a year in farm subsidies. Proponents argue that the subsides are necessary since net farm income has decline by 32% between 2014 and 2015. Opponents argue that the farmers should fend for themselves and point out that 2,300 farmers who do not grow crops receive annual subsidies.
In 2019 the European Union and U.S. Democratic Presidential Candidate Elizabeth Warren issued proposals that would regulate Facebook, Google and Amazon. Senator Warren proposed that the U.S. government should designate tech companies who have global revenue of over $25 billion as “platform utilities" and break them up into smaller companies. Senator Warren argues that the companies have “bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit, and tilted the playing field against everyone else.” Lawmakers in the European Union proposed a set of rules which include a blacklist of unfair trading practices, requirements that companies set up an internal system to handle complaints and allow businesses to group together to sue platforms. Opponents argue that these companies have benefited consumers by providing free online tools and bring more competition into commerce. Opponents also point out that history has shown that dominance in technology is a revolving door and that many companies (including IBM in the 1980’s) have cycled through it with little to no help from the government.
In February 2018, President Trump pledged to impose a 25% tariff on steel imports and a 10% tariff aluminum imports into the U.S. A tariff is a tax on imports or exports between countries. The proposed tariffs would increase the cost of aluminum and steel imports into the United States. In promoting the plan, Trump predicted that the tariffs would revive the U.S. steel and aluminum industries which were heavily concentrated in the industrial Midwest. Supporters of the tariffs argue that U.S. steel and aluminum manufacturers have been wiped out due to low-cost competition from foreign manufacturers. Supporters note that governments in countries like Japan and China provide subsidies to manufacturers. These subsidies, they argue, allow the manufacturers to then undercut the price of U.S. manufacturers. Supporters include Republicans and Democrats from the Midwest and unions who represent factory workers. Opponents argue that the tariffs will hurt U.S. based manufacturers who need aluminum and steel to produce their products. Manufacturers of cars, boats, beer, chemicals and oil pipelines stated that they would be forced to raise prices in order to absorb the higher costs imposed by the tariffs.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a trade deal that would make it easier for American companies to sell their goods and services in Pacific Rim countries. The deal will benefit American service companies who will be able to open up operations in Asian and South American countries. Opponents argue that this bill will incentivize US companies to move service and manufacturing jobs overseas. Proponents argue that it would make American companies more successful at selling their goods and services in Pacific Rim countries, leading to a stronger economy, more jobs and higher incomes for American workers.
Most local governments in the United States impose a property tax as a principal source of revenue. This tax may be imposed on real estate or personal property. The tax is nearly always computed as the fair market value of the property times an assessment ratio times a tax rate. Values are determined by local officials, and may be disputed by property owners. A primary advantage of a property tax over a sales tax or income tax is that the revenue always equals the tax levy, unlike the other taxes, which can result in shortfalls producing budget deficits. The property tax always produces the required revenue for municipalities' tax levies. Property owners, especially seniors, believe the tax is unfair and does not represent the owner's ability to pay.
The Marketplace Fairness Act would allow state governments to collect sales taxes from online retailers who do not have a physical location in their state and have revenues of over $1 Million per year. Online retailers would be responsible for collecting the taxes and distributing them to state and local governments. Proponents of the bill include brick and mortar retailers who argue that exempting online retailers from sales taxes penalizes traditional stores who are forced to charge customers higher prices due to cover the tax. Opponents argue that since online retailers do not use local services funded by sales taxes they should be exempt and that the federal government should not get involved in state tax issues.
Bitcoin is a type of digital currency in which encryption techniques are used to regulate the generation of units of currency and verify the transfer of funds, operating independently of a central bank. Bitcoins are stored in a digital wallet, which is like a virtual bank account that allows users to send or receive bitcoins and pay for goods or services. Bitcoin is anonymous, meaning that, while transactions are recorded in a public log, the names of buyers and sellers are never revealed.
In April 2019, Congress passed the Taxpayer First Act which made it illegal for the IRS to create its own online system of tax filing. The IRS system would allow taxpayers to file their taxes on the IRS website without having to pay to use private tax filing services or software. Tax software companies including the maker of TurboTax and H&R Block lobbied congress to pass the bill. Countries including Spain, Denmark and Sweden use a “return-fee filing system that gives taxpayers pre-filled forms using information from employers and banks. Proponents argue that the free filing system would save a collective $2 billion and 225 million hours in prep costs and time. Opponents, including Intuit the maker of TurboTax, argue that such a system would cause taxpayers to make mistakes in their fillings and end up paying more in taxes.
The Federal Reserve is the central banking system of the US government. The main goal of the bank is to manage the US government’s money supply and stabilize the nation’s banks during panics and recessions. In 2015, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and Congressman Thomas Massie (R-KY) introduced the Federal Reserve Transparency Act of 2015 which would require the bank’s board of governors to conduct an audit and release it to Congress. An audit would determine if the accounting records the bank makes public are true and give Congress an insight into how the bank is run. Senator Paul has been a fierce critic of the bank’s practices, calling it a "political, oligarchic force, and a key part of what looks and functions like a banking cartel." Proponents of the audit argue that the Federal Reserve bank should be audited after the role it played in the 2008 fiscal crisis when it took on trillions in debt to bail out several of the country’s largest banks. Opponents of the audit argue that the government accountability office already audits the Federal Reserve and a Congressional audit would destroy its independence.
In April 2016, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe issued an executive order which restored voting rights to more than 200,000 convicted felons living in the state. The order overturned the state’s practice of felony disenfranchisement, which excludes people from voting who have been convicted of a criminal defense. The 14th amendment of the United States prohibits citizens from voting who have participated in a “rebellion, or other crime” but allows states to determine which crimes qualify for voter disenfranchisement. In the U.S. approximately 5.8 million people are ineligible to vote due to voter disenfranchisement and only two states, Maine and Vermont, have no restrictions on allowing felons to vote. Opponents of felon voting rights argue that a citizen forfeits their rights to vote when they are convicted of a felony. Proponents argue that the arcane law disenfranchises millions of Americans from participating in democracy and has an adverse affect on poor communities.
In March 2018, President Trump asked the Justice department to seek more death-penalty cases against drug traffickers. Trump announced the proposal as part of a plan to combat the opioid epidemic which is claiming the lives of more than 100 people a day in the U.S. In 1988 the federal government passed a drug law which imposed the death penalty on drug “kingpins” who commit murder in the course of their business. Analysts estimate that this law has resulted in only a few executions. 32 countries impose the death penalty for drug smuggling. Seven of these countries (China, Indonesia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore) routinely execute drug offenders. Asia and the Middle East’s tough approach contrasts with many Western countries who have legalized cannabis in recent years (selling cannabis in Saudi Arabia is punished by beheading).
Mandatory minimum sentences are automatic, minimum prison terms set by Congress. Judges in the U.S. are required to base their sentences on the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, mandatory minimum sentencing laws, or both. In 1986 the U.S. Congress passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act which enacted new mandatory minimum sentences for drugs. People caught with 5 grams of crack cocaine were given jail sentences of 5 years without parole (the same sentence as people caught with 500 grams). The legislation was in response to the moral panic involving the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980’s. In 2010 Congress and President Obama eliminated the crack cocaine mandatory sentence with the passage of the Fair Sentencing Act. Opponents of mandatory minimum sentences argue that they often impose long prison terms on non-violent criminals. Proponents argue that the sentences are designed to help judges punish drug cartels and those responsible for the country’s drug epidemic.
In January 2016, President Obama issued a series of executive actions banning federal prisons from using solitary confinement to punish juveniles and prisoners who commit low level infractions. His orders also lowered the number of days an adult inmate could be subject to solitary confinement from 365 days to 60 days. A recent study found that prisoners who were subject to solitary confinement were 20-25% more likely to be repeat criminal offenders than prisoners who avoided it.
In the wake of the lethal shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri a petition has been launched to have the White House look into requiring all police officers in the country to wear body cameras. The petition has now exceeded 128,000 signatures, the Obama Administration said it will respond to petitions that exceed 100,000.
Private prisons are incarceration centers that are run by a for-profit company instead of a government agency. The companies that operate private prisons are paid a per-diem or monthly rate for each prisoner they keep in their facilities. In 2016 8.5% of the prisoner population was housed in private prisons. This is an 8% decline since 2000. Opponents of private prisons argue that incarceration is a social responsibility and that entrusting it to for-profit companies is inhumane. Proponents argue that prisons run by private companies are consistently more cost effective than those run by government agencies.
In 2015 U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump issued a proposal to build a wall along the Mexico-U.S. border. The wall would extend along the 1,900 mile border and would prevent illegal goods and people from entering the U.S. In 2013 the Government Accountability Office reported that the border patrol had intercepted 61% of individuals who had attempted to cross the border that year. Analysts say that building a wall along the entire border is impossible since it parts of it contain rocky, uneven terrain. Proponents argue that the wall will cut down on the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs into the U.S. Opponents argue that the wall is impossible to build and illegal immigration into the U.S. has declined significantly since the 2008 financial crisis.
Illegal immigrants, as well as legal immigrants in the country less than five years, are not eligible for free healthcare through Medicaid. A 2007 study estimated that less than 1 percent of Medicaid spending went to healthcare for illegal immigrants. Proponents of subsidized healthcare for immigrants argue that increased access to basic preventive care will lower the demand for costly emergency care. Opponents argue that immigrants in the healthcare system run the risk of becoming "permanent patients," because they have no relatives, insurance or an established address where they can go once released.
Currently sixteen states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and Washington) allow illegal immigrants to pay the same in-state tuition rates as other residents of the state. To qualify, students must have attended a school in the state for a certain number of years, have graduated high school in the state, have confirmed they are applying for legal citizenship.
On October 7, 2013 California Governor Jerry Brown signed a state bill prohibiting law-enforcement officials from detaining an individual on the basis of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement hold after that person becomes eligible for release, unless he or she has been charged with or convicted of certain crimes, including violent felonies.
The 14th amendment of the U.S. constitution states that “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” Opponents of birth right citizenship argue that the 14th amendment is not clear since it does not specifically state that babies born to parents who were in the United States unlawfully were automatically citizens. Proponents argue that overturning the 14th amendment would increase the number of undocumented immigrants with each child born here, cost the U.S. taxpayers billions, and reduce the tax base.