Answer the following questions to see who you should vote for in the 2018 Massachusetts State Auditor election.
Global warming, or climate change, is an increase in the earth's atmospheric temperature since the late nineteenth century. In politics the debate over global warming is centered on whether this increase in temperature is due to greenhouse gas emissions or is the result of a natural pattern in the earth's temperature.
In June 2017, President Trump announced that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris climate accord in an effort to boost the nation’s industry and energy independence. Mr. Trump argued that the climate accord was unfair to the U.S. since the agreement imposed easier restrictions on China and India who lead the world in carbon emissions. Opponents of the climate agreement argue that it unfairly penalizes U.S. energy companies and consumers by imposing restrictions on domestic energy production. Proponents of the climate accord argue that exiting it sets back decades of diplomatic efforts by the U.S. government to reduce worldwide carbon emissions.
In 2016, France became the first country to ban the sale of plastic disposable products that contain less than 50% of biodegradable material and in 2017, India passed a law banning all plastic disposable plastic products.
In 1990 President George H.W. Bush passed an executive order banning all offshore drilling in U.S. coastal waters. In response to rising gas prices in 2008 President George W. Bush lifted the ban. Currently, there are 3,500 offshore oil rigs, 79 of which are deep water wells.
Fracking is the process of extracting oil or natural gas from shale rock. Water, sand and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure which fractures the rock and allows the oil or gas to flow out to a well. While fracking has significantly boosted oil production, there are environmental concerns that the process is contaminating groundwater.
The Dakota Access pipeline is a 1,172 mile oil pipeline that stretches through North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and southern Illinois. The pipeline would allow oil companies to transport crude oil from North Dakota to oil refineries along the Eastern Seaboard. The pipeline’s construction was permitted by the participating state governments under eminent domain. Opponents of the pipeline (including several Native American tribes, including the Meskwaki and Sioux tribal nations) argue that the pipeline has the potential to pollute their water supply and destroy Native American burial sites. Proponents argue that the pipeline is necessary for the U.S. to achieve energy independence.
As of July 2013, nearly 4% of all electricity generated in the U.S. is produced by wind turbines. By installing wind turbines on their properties farmers can earn up to tens of thousands of dollars per year in tax credits. Since 2008 these tax credits have amounted to more than $14 Billion.
In November 2018 the online e-commerce company Amazon announced it would be building a second headquarters in New York City and Arlington, VA. The announcement came a year after the company announced it would accept proposals from any North American city who wanted to host the headquarters. Amazon said the company could invest over $5 billion and the offices would create up to 50,000 high paying jobs. More than 200 cities applied and offered Amazon millions of dollars in economic incentives and tax breaks. For the New York City headquarters the city and state governments gave Amazon $2.8 billion in tax credits and construction grants. For the Arlington, VA headquarters the city and state governments gave Amazon $500 million in tax breaks. Opponents argue that governments should spend the tax revenue on public projects instead and that the federal government should pass laws banning tax incentives. The European Union has strict laws which prevent member cities from bidding against each other with state aid (tax incentives) in an effort to lure private companies. Proponents argue that the jobs and tax revenue created by the companies eventually offset the cost of any awarded incentives.
The United States Electoral College is the mechanism established by the United States Constitution for the indirect election of the President of the United States and Vice President of the United States. Citizens of the United States vote in each state at a general election to choose a slate of "electors" pledged to vote for a party's candidate. The Twelfth Amendment requires each elector to cast one vote for president and another vote for vice president.
Since 2011, twelve states have passed laws that require a photo identification to vote. Supporters argue that ID’s are needed to increase confidence in elections and prevent voter fraud. Critics argue that voter fraud rarely exists and that ID requirements are intended to suppress turnout by economically disadvantaged voters.
In most countries, suffrage, the right to vote, is generally limited to citizens of the country. Some countries, however, extend limited voting rights to resident non-citizens.
A tax return is a document which states how much income an individual or entity reported to the government.
In the U.S. a citizen may give $2,700 per election to a federal candidate, $5,000 per year to a PAC, $10,000 per year to a State or local party committee and $33,400 per year to a national party. Citizens and corporations may give unlimited amounts to a Super PAC. A Super PAC is freed from traditional campaign finance laws as long as it does not fund a candidate or campaign or coordinate directly with a campaign how to spend donations.
The U.S. constitution does not prevent convicted felons from holding the office of the President or a seat in the Senate or House of Representatives. States may prevent convicted felons candidates from holding statewide and local offices.
Currently, federal election law prohibits political candidates from knowingly soliciting, accepting or receiving donations from foreign nationals or entities under any circumstances. However, a loophole exists where foreign nationals or entities can hire lobbyists to meet with or donate directly to politicians to persuade them to vote favorably for the foreign interest.
Currently, the “Honest Leadership and Open Government Act” which was signed by President George W. Bush in 2007 bans former senators and top executive branch officials from becoming lobbyists for two years and they leave the government.
After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks the U.S. Congress passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force. The resolution authorizes the president to undertake war against al-Qaeda and its affiliates without Congressional approval. Since 2001 the law has been used to approve military conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. Proponents argue that the law is necessary to give the President the powers to act quickly in order to prevent another terrorist attack on the U.S. Opponents argue that all U.S. military conflicts should have Congressional approval and this act has been used in military conflicts that have nothing to do with al-Qaeda.
Planned Parenthood is a non-profit organization that provides reproductive health services in the United States and internationally. In 2014, federal and state governments provided the organization with $528 million in funding (40% of its annual budget). The majority of this funding comes from Medicaid which subsidizes reproductive healthcare for low-income women. In 2014, abortions accounted for 3% of the services they provided. The majority of the other services include screening for and treating sexually transmitted diseases and infections and providing contraception. Proponents of funding argue that federal funding for Planned Parenthood does not pay for abortions and that the vast majority of government funding that the organization receives is through Medicaid reimbursements. Opponents of funding argue that the government should not fund any organizations that provide abortions.
Abortion is a medical procedure resulting in the termination of a human pregnancy and death of a fetus. Abortion was banned in 30 states until the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade. The ruling made abortion legal in all 50 states but gave them regulatory powers over when abortions could be performed during a pregnancy. Currently, all states must allow abortions early in pregnancies but may ban them in later trimesters.
Gender identity is defined as a personal conception of oneself as male, female, both, or neither. In 2014, President Obama signed an executive order barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity among federal contractors. The order covered employers who perform federal work and protected an estimated 20 percent of American workers. Opponents included religious groups, who argued that the order would prevent them from receiving federal money or contracts if they could not meet the new guidelines because of their beliefs. Proponents argue that the order was necessary to protect millions of LGBT people whose rights were threatened after the Supreme Court ruled in the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores case. In that ruling, the court said that family-run corporations with religious objections could be exempted from providing employees with insurance coverage for contraception.
On August 1st, 2012 the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) required all health insurers and employers to cover the cost of contraceptives in their health insurance plans. The provision currently exempts religious organizations and churches.
In 1993 the federal government passed the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The law was intended to protect Native Americans in danger of losing their jobs because of religious ceremonies that involved the illegal drug peyote. Since then 20 states have passed their own versions of the “religious freedom” laws and 12 more have introduced the legislation this year. Supporters of the law argue that the government shouldn't force religious businesses and churches to serve customers who participate in lifestyles contrary to their owners’ beliefs. Proponents of the law argue that the political context has changed since 1992 and states are now passing their own versions of the law with the intent of discriminating against gay and lesbian couples.
On June 26, 2015 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the denial of marriage licenses violated the Due Process and the Equal Protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The ruling made same sex marriage legal in all 50 U.S. States.
In the U.S. rules vary from state to state. In Idaho, Nebraska, Indiana, North Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas students must play on the team that matches their birth certificate, have undergone surgery or have had extended hormone therapy. The NCAA requires one year of testosterone suppression. In February 2019 Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) asked Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison to investigate USA Powerlifting over its rule barring biological males from competing in women’s events. In 2016 the International Olympic committee ruled that transgender athletes can compete in the Olympics without undergoing sex reassignment surgery. In 2018 the International Association of Athletics Federations, track’s governing body, ruled that women who have more than 5 nano-mols per liter of testosterone in their blood—like South African sprinter and Olympic gold medalist Caster Semenya—must either compete against men, or take medication to reduce their natural testosterone levels. The IAAF stated that women in the five-plus category have a “difference of sexual development.” The ruling cited a 2017 study by French researchers as proof that female athletes with testosterone closer to men do better in certain events: 400 meters, 800 meters, 1,500 meters, and the mile. "Our evidence and data show that testosterone, either naturally produced or artificially inserted into the body, provides significant performance advantages in female athletes," said IAAF President Sebastian Coe in a statement.
A gun buyback program is one where the government purchases guns from private citizens. The goal of these programs is to reduce the number of guns owned by private citizens. In most gun buyback programs the police are the agents buying the guns. In 2019 Presidential candidates Joe Biden, Beto O’Rourke, Kamala Harris and Julian Castro each proposed a mandatory gun buyback program where the federal government would purchase AK-47’s and AR-15’s from private citizens. In the past U.S. gun buyback programs have been implemented by state and city governments.
In some progressive universities, professors provide “trigger warnings” to students before discussing sensitive topics, emotionally charged issues, or events that may trigger post-traumatic stress. “Safe spaces” are places where students can gather to avoid a speaker or event that offends them.
LGBT adoption is the adoption of children by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons. This may be in the form of a joint adoption by a same-sex couple, adoption by one partner of a same-sex couple of the other's biological child (step-child adoption) and adoption by a single LGBT person. Joint adoption by same-sex couples is legal in 25 countries. Opponents of LGBT adoption question whether same-sex couples have the ability to be adequate parents while other opponents question whether natural law implies that children of adoption possess a natural right to be raised by heterosexual parents. Since constitutions and statutes usually fail to address the adoption rights of LGBT persons, judicial decisions often determine whether they can serve as parents either individually or as couples.
In 1961, the South Carolina State Government passed a law mandating that the confederate flag be flown on the ground of its state capitol building. The law was passed to commemorate the centennial of the Civil War assault on Fort Sumter. Opponents argue that the flag is a political symbol that represents racial inequality and should be removed after the shooting deaths of nine African American church members in June 2015. Proponents argue that the flag is an important historical symbol that commemorates the state’s role in the Civil War.
In the United States, women hold 19.2 percent of board seats of companies listed in the Standard and Poors directory. In Norway 35% of companies have women on their board seats and just 3% of Japanese companies do.
The death penalty or capital punishment is the punishment by death for a crime. Currently 58 countries worldwide allow the death penalty (including the U.S.) while 97 countries have outlawed it.
In 1956, Congress passed a resolution declaring “IN GOD WE TRUST” as the national motto of the United States. President Eisenhower signed the law and the motto was added to paper money beginning in 1957. Opponents argue that the motto violates the U.S. Constitution since it is a clear violation of the separation of church and state. Proponents argue that it does not prefer one religious denomination over another.
Several Western countries including France, Spain and Canada have proposed laws which would ban Muslim women from wearing a Niqab in public spaces. A niqab is a cloth that covers the face and is worn by some Muslim women in public areas. The U.S. currently does not have any laws banning burqas. Proponents argue that the ban infringes on individual rights and prevents people from expressing their religious beliefs. Opponents argue that face-coverings prevent the clear identification of a person, which is both a security risk, and a social hindrance within a society which relies on facial recognition and expression in communication.
Euthanasia, the practice of ending a life prematurely in order to end pain and suffering, is currently considered a criminal offense.
Marital rape is nonconsensual sex in which the perpetrator is the victim's spouse. Marital rape was not criminalized by many countries until the mid-nineteenth century. In 1993 the U.N. designated marital rape as a human rights violation. Marital rape is illegal in Australia, Canada, Ireland, England, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Brazil. Marital rape is not a criminal offence in China and India.
In December 2015, the Pentagon announced that all combat roles would be opened to women. The roles include driving tanks, firing mortars, and leading infantry soldiers into combat. Women would also be able to serve as Army Rangers and Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Marine Corps Infantry and Air Force parajumpers. Proponents of women in combat argue that women have been serving in Afghanistan and Iraq for 15 years and preventing them from combat operations is discriminatory. Opponents argue that allowing women to serve in these roles would limit the military's ability to fight in combat situations.
The Affordable Care Act is a federal statute signed into law in 2010 that introduces a sweeping overhaul of the nation's healthcare system. The act grants the federal government significant regulatory powers and price controls over U.S. medical service providers and insurance companies.
When the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was enacted in 2010 it required all states to expand their Medicaid programs to include people with incomes slightly higher than those allowed under traditional Medicaid, as well as groups, like childless adults, that had not previously been covered. In 2012 the Supreme Court ruled that forcing States to expand their Medicaid coverage was unconstitutional. Since then 22 states have expanded their coverage and more than 35 have opted not to do so. Proponents of the expansion argue that it will lower healthcare costs for everyone by reducing the number of Americans without health insurance. Opponents argue that states should be allowed to run their own Medicaid programs without the intervention of the federal government.
Single-payer healthcare is a system where every citizen pays the government to provide core healthcare services for all residents. Under this system the government may provide the care themselves or pay a private healthcare provider to do so. In a single-payer system all residents receive healthcare regardless of age, income or health status. Countries with single-payer healthcare systems include the U.K., Canada, Taiwan, Israel, France, Belarus, Russia and Ukraine.
In January 2018, the Trump administration announced that it would allow U.S. states to require able-bodied adults to work in order to be eligible for Medicaid. Medicaid is a joint federal and state program that helps with medical costs for low-income Americans. Each state determines its own requirements for Medicaid eligibility. In most states children from low-income households, pregnant women and low-income seniors are covered. Medicaid also offers benefits not normally covered by Medicare, like nursing home care and personal care services. The Trump administration said Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin had requested approval to test programs including job training, job search, education, volunteer activities and caregiving.
In September of 2016, US Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton released a proposal that would create an oversight panel that would protect U.S. consumers from large price hikes on long-available, lifesaving drugs. The proposal was in response to recent steep price increases on drugs including the AIDS drug Daraprim and the EpiPen. Proponents of drug price regulation argue that drug makers raise prices to benefit the value of their stock and invest little of their profits in the development and research of new drugs. Opponents of regulation argue that consumers rely on drug companies to develop new drugs and limiting prices will prevent new lifesaving drugs from being developed. Clinton's campaign cited Turing Pharmaceuticals LLC's raising the price of its AIDS drug Daraprim (pyrimethamine) and Mylan NV’s repeated steep price increases on EpiPen for severe allergy sufferers as “troubling” examples of price hikes that have attracted bipartisan congressional scrutiny.
In 2018, officials in the U.S. city of Philadelphia city proposed opening a “safe haven” in an effort to combat the city's heroin epidemic. In 2016 64,070 people died in the U.S. from drug overdoses - a 21% increase from 2015. 3/4 of drug overdose deaths in the U.S. are caused by the opioid class of drugs which includes prescription painkillers, heroin and fentanyl. To combat the epidemic cities including Vancouver, BC and Sydney, AUS opened safe havens where addicts can inject drugs under the supervision of medical professionals. The safe havens reduce the overdose death rate by insuring the addicted patients are given drugs that are not contaminated or poisoned. Since 2001 5,900 people have overdosed at a safe haven in Sydney, Australia but no one has died. Proponents argue that the safe havens are the only proven solution to lower the overdose fatality rate and prevent the spread of diseases like HIV-AIDS. Opponents argue that safe havens may encourage illegal drug use and re-direct funding from traditional treatment centers.
In February 2017, Congressional Republicans issued a proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The proposed plan would use tax credits to finance individual insurance purchases and cut federal payments to states which have been used to expand Medicaid. Conservatives who oppose the ACA argue that the plan did not go far enough in removing the government’s role in health insurance. They demanded that the new plan should remove the ACA requirement that health insurers could not discriminate against individuals with pre-existing conditions. Under the ACA health insurers cannot deny coverage or charge higher premiums to individuals who have pre-existing conditions. Opponents argue that the requirement will raise costs for insurers and cause them to drop out of the ACA healthcare exchange. Proponents argue that it is immoral to ban people with pre-existing conditions from getting health insurance.
U.S. law currently bans the sale and possession of all forms of marijuana. in 2014 Colorado and Washington will become the first states to legalize and regulate marijuana contrary to federal laws.
The government is currently prohibited by law from negotiating drug prices for Medicare. Medicare Part D is a federal government program which subsidizes the costs of prescriptions drugs for people enrolled in Medicare. Since it was approved by Congress in 2003 39 million Americans have enrolled in the program which now costs more than $80 billion per year. Opponents of Medicare Part D argue that it should be changed to allow the federal government to negotiate prices with pharmaceutical companies. They point out that the Veterans Affairs administration is allowed to negotiate prices and pays 40-58% less for drugs than Medicare does. Analysts estimate that the government would save up to $16 billion a year if they were permitted to negotiate drug prices. Proponents of Medicare D argue that the government should not interfere with prices set by private drug makers who use profits for the development and research of new drugs.
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.
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 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.