Answer the following questions to see who you should vote for in the 2018 Pennsylvania District 3 US House of Representatives election.
Critical race theory is the claim that American institutions, laws, and history are inherently racist. It argues that white people have put up social, economic, and legal barriers between the races in order to maintain their elite status, both economically and politically and that the source of poverty and criminal behavior in minority communities is due exclusively to these barriers.
A 2017 College Board study estimated that the cost of college has increased 100% since 2001. The St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank estimates that U.S. college tuition debt has increased from $480 billion in 2006 to $1.5 trillion in 2018. Several 2020 Democratic Presidential Primary candidates have argued that the cost of college is out of control and that the government should pay for tuition. Opponents argue that the government cant afford it and point to estimates from the Committee for a Responsible Federal budget that estimate programs would cost the government $80 billion a year.
In March 2019 the U.S. Senate defeated The Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act by a vote of 58-38. The act, proposed by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) would lower the interest rate on existing student loans from 7% to 3.86%. The act would be financed by levying a mandatory income tax of 30% on everyone who earns between $1 Million and $2 Million dollars per year. Proponents argue that current student loan interest rates are nearly double normal interest rates and should be lowered to provide relief for millions of low-income borrowers. Opponents argue that the borrowers agreed to pay the interest rates when they took out the loans and taxing the rich would hurt the economy.
Universal preschool is a proposal that would use funding from the federal government to provide school to children before they reach Kindergarten. In the current U.S. public education system government funded school is guaranteed to all children from kindergarten to 12th grade. number of U.S. states use state tax revenue to fund part-time and full-time preschool for children between the ages of 3 and 5. Half of the states that offer pre-K programs limit enrollment to low-income children. Proponents that preschool is too expensive for most American families and according to The Chicago Child-Parent Center's Longitudinal Study children who attend preschool found on average that children make significant gains in cognitive, language and early math and reading skills. Opponents point to a 2005 study done by the RAND Corp. which showed “no significant impacts in education – in the short or long term.”
In August 2022 President Joe Biden announced that his administration will forgive up to $20,000 of student loan debt. The plan will cancel $10,000 in federal student loan debt for borrowers making under $125,000 a year or couples making less than $250,000 a year. Borrowers who receive federal Pell Grants and make less than $125,000 a year would be eligible for total forgiveness of $20,000. The Wharton School of Business estimated that the plan will cost $300 billion over 10 years.
Charter schools are tax payer funded K-12 schools that are managed by private companies. In the U.S. there are approximately 2.9 million students enrolled in 6,700 charter schools. Charter schools are approved and governed by city, county or state governments. Beneficiaries of private schools include real-estate investors who typically own the buildings and land where the schools are housed. Opponents of charter schools argue that they take money away from the public education system and enrich private companies and real estate investors who own the land where the schools are built. Proponents argue that students in charter schools consistently have higher test scores than public school students and note that there are millions of students across the U.S. who are currently on waitlists for private schools.
Truancy is intentional, unjustified, unauthorized, or illegal absence from compulsory education. Its absence is caused by students of their own free will and does not apply to excused absences. In the U.S. truancy laws are regulated by local school districts and vary widely across the United States. Penalties include fines or jail time for parents or children. In 2019 Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Beto O’Rourke introduced plans that would require the government to decriminalize truancy at the federal level.
The Common Core State Standards is an educational initiative from 2010 that details what K–12 students throughout the United States should know in English language arts and mathematics at the conclusion of each school grade. The initiative is sponsored by the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers. 36 US states and the District of Columbia currently use a form of the standards.
In January 2022 Arizona Governor Doug Ducey introduced the The Open for Learning Recovery Benefit program. Under the program families of public school children would be offered up to $7,000 for private school tuition and other expenses that might be incurred because of a campus closure. “We know parents are best equipped to make decisions around their child’s education — they’re the ones in the driver’s seat,” Governor Ducey said in a press release. Ducey allocated $10 million of federal COVID relief funds to fund the program. Proponents argue that public schools are a necessity and closing them hits families with a variety of unexpected financial expenses. Opponents argue that underfunded public schools should get the funding instead.
A school voucher is a certificate of government funding that students can use to pay for the school of their choice. Students are given the vouchers and can use them to pay for non-public school systems including private schools, home schools and charter schools Proponents argue that the vouchers will create a better education system by promoting competition between schools. Opponents argue that the voucher system removes funds from public schools and redirects it toward private institutions.
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.
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.
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 2022 Congress’ increased NASA’s annual budget by 3% to about $24 billion, short of the 7% increase the Biden administration sought. The budget includes $1.5 billion in funds for the moon-lander program which would, for the first time in decades, take astronauts back to the lunar surface.
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. During the 2019 Democratic Presidential Primary 15 candidates, including Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg and Elisabeth Warren, called for the abolition of the electoral college.
A foreigner is defined a person who is not a citizen of the United States. Federal law has prohibited noncitizens from voting in federal election since the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act was passed in 1996. Punishment includes fines, imprisonment, inadmissibility, and deportation. Exempt from punishment is any noncitizen who, at the time of voting, had two natural or adoptive U.S. citizen parents, who began permanently living in the United States before turning 16 years old, and who reasonably believed that they were a citizen of the United States. Federal law does not prohibit noncitizens from voting in state or local elections, but no state has allowed noncitizens to vote in state elections since Arkansas became the last state to outlaw noncitizen voting in 1926. As of December 2021, fourteen US Cities allow non-citizen voting including New York City, Montpelier in Vermont, San Francisco (school board only), and Washington, D.C.
In 2002 the federal government passed the Help America Vote Act. The law required first-time voters in Federal Elections to present a form of identification to the appropriate State or local election official before or on election day if they registered by mail. Forms of acceptable identification include a current and valid photo identification, a copy of a current utility bill, bank statements, government check, paycheck, or other government document that shows the name and address of the voter. Voters who submitted any of these forms of identification during registration are exempt, as are voters entitled to vote by absentee ballot under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act. If a voter submits a ballot by mail a copy of the ID must be submitted with the ballot. Seven US stated currently have strict voter ID laws in which a voter cannot cast a valid ballot without first presenting ID.
A tax return is a document which states how much income an individual or entity reported to the government. In the U.S. there is no legal requirement of any kind that presidential candidates release tax returns from any year. Tax returns can be released by an individual taxpayer, but cannot released by the IRS to the public. However, one Senator has proposed legislation requiring presidential candidates to release tax returns. In 2016 a U.S. Senator proposed the Presidential Tax Transparency Act. The bill would require a presidential candidate to release the most recent three years of tax returns to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) within 15 days of becoming the nominee at the party convention. If the candidate refuses to comply, the Treasury Secretary would provide the tax returns directly to the FEC for public release.
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.
In 1971 the U.S. Congress ratified the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which prohibited states from allowing anyone under the age of 18 to vote. Before the amendment was passed the minimum voting age was 21 years of age. Support to lower the age of 18 was driven in part by the draft of the Vietnam War which conscripted young men between the ages of 18 and 21 to join the armed forces. In 2021 U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) reintroduced legislation in the House of Representatives to lower the voting age in America to 16 years old. In order to pass the legislation would have to be ratified as a Constitutional Amendment.
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. Individuals who have been convicted of sedition, seditious conspiracy, treason, conspiracy to defraud the United States or selling information on national defense may not run for federal office. Cities and States may prevent convicted felons from holding statewide and local offices.
In the 2010 Supreme Court case Citizens United vs FEC, court ruled that the free speech clause of the First Amendment prohibited the government from restricting independent expenditures for political campaigns by corporations, including nonprofit corporations, labor unions, and other associations. The court’s landmark decision overturned the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, also known as “McCain-Feingold.” That law had prohibited unregulated contributions to national political parties and limited the use of corporate and union money to fund advertisements discussing political issues within 60 days of a general election.
Lobbying describes paid activity in which special interest groups hire well-connected professional advocates, often lawyers, to argue for specific legislation in decision-making bodies such as the United States Congress. Analysts estimate that there are over 100,000 working lobbyists in Washington D.C. who bring in a combined revenue of over $9 billion annually. In 2007 the U.S. Congress passed the “Honest Leadership and Open Government Act” which placed lobbying “cooling off” periods for members of Congress and their staff. Senators and their staff were now prohibited from registering as lobbyists for 1-2 years after they left office.
In the 2020 U.S. federal election foreign lobbyists donated more than $33.5 million to candidates, political parties, and interest groups. In the United States foreign nationals are prohibited by law from making contributions to political groups or campaigns to influence U.S. elections. Foreign nationals can hire foreign agents or lobbyists to advocate for their interests and make political contributions on their behalf. The Foreign Agents Registration Act is a United States law that imposes public disclosure requirements and other legal obligations on persons representing foreign interests. Under FARA, “foreign agents” — defined as individuals and entities engaged in domestic political or advocacy work on behalf of foreign governments, organizations, or persons (“foreign principals”)—must register with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and disclose their relationship, activities, and related financial compensation. Foreign agents registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act during the 2020 election cycle made at least $8.5 million in political contributions. Another $25 million in 2020 political contributions came from lobbyists representing foreign clients, including U.S. subsidiaries owned or controlled by foreign parent companies, registered under the Lobbying Disclosure Act.
From 2020 – 2022 six US states introduced bills that would make sleeping on public property a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and a month in jail. In 2021 Texas became the first state to pass a statewide law which banned public homeless encampments statewide and pulled state grant funds from non-compliant cities. Proponents of these laws argue that that leaving tens of thousands of Americans—often with severe mental illness or substance use problems—on the streets for decades until they can all be provided with permanent, supportive housing is not a viable or humane model. Opponents argue that the laws do not provide housing solutions and simply encourage homeless people to relocate to other states.
In 2022 individuals and families with a combined income of $647K or more pay the top US federal Income tax rate of 37%. Countries with higher top income tax rates include Japan (56%), Denmark (55%) and Israel (50%.)
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.
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.
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.
The former evolved into Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a federally administered program for the elderly, blind, and disabled. The latter became Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). Both were supplemented by two important “in kind” benefit programs also funded by the federal government -- Medicaid and Food Stamps. Needy individuals not meeting the eligibility criteria for these forms of federally assisted or supported welfare may qualify for purely state or state and local relief, often called general assistance.In 1996, Congress passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (Welfare Reform Act). The new law eliminated AFDC, placed permanent ceilings on the amount of federal funding for welfare, and gave each state a block grant of money to help run its welfare program. For example, under the 1996 law, federal funds may only be used to provide a total of five years of aid in a lifetime of a family. Another significant change was the complete exclusion of legal aliens from receiving any SSI benefits. The passage of the Contract with America Advancement Act of 1996 further narrowed the number of people allowed to receive SSI disability benefits by requiring that drug addiction or alcoholism not be a material factor in their disability.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
The North American Free Trade Agreement was an agreement signed by Canada, Mexico, and the United States that created a trilateral trade bloc in North America. The agreement came into force on January 1, 1994, and superseded the 1988 Canada–United States Free Trade Agreement between the United States and Canada. The NAFTA trade bloc formed one of the largest trade blocs in the world by gross domestic product. The passage of NAFTA resulted in the elimination or reduction of barriers to trade and investment between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. The effects of the agreement regarding issues such as employment, the environment, and economic growth have been the subject of political disputes. Most economic analyses indicated that NAFTA was beneficial to the North American economies and the average citizen, but harmed a small minority of workers in industries exposed to trade competition. Economists held that withdrawing from NAFTA or renegotiating NAFTA in a way that reestablished trade barriers would have adversely affected the U.S. economy and cost jobs. However, Mexico would have been much more severely affected by job loss and reduction of economic growth in both the short term and long term.
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.
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.
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.
28 states US states currently allow teachers or school staff to be armed in the classroom under varying conditions. Proponents argue that without guns, teachers or other staff have only limited countermeasures available to them when confronted with a shooter. Opponents, include The National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, highlight the elevated risk of accidents and negligent use of firearms as more adults in schools are armed.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
The Patriot Act was enacted in direct response to the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, as well as the 2001 anthrax attacks, with the stated goal of dramatically strengthening national security. Opponents of the law have criticized its provision for indefinite detention of immigrants; permission to law enforcement to search a home or business without the owner’s or the occupant’s consent or knowledge under certain circumstances; the expanded use of National Security Letters, which allows the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to search telephone, email, and financial records without a court order; and the expanded access of law enforcement agencies to business records, including library and financial records. Since its passage, several court challenges have been brought against the act, and federal courts have ruled that a number of provisions are unconstitutional.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Congress passed the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act (STOCK Act) in 2012, following more than 10 years of allegations of insider trading by members of Congress and staff. Initially introduced in 2006, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) drafted the STOCK Act in response to insider trading allegations against Tony Rudy, a top aide to the onetime House Majority Leader Rep. Tom DeLay, as well as an insider trading scandal faced by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist in 2005. Critics argue that The STOCK Act has failed to achieve its goal of penalizing members for insider trading, as no member of Congress has ever been prosecuted under the STOCK Act, despite persistent credible allegations. In addition to the lack of enforcement, the small penalties associated with violations do not incentivize members to comply with the STOCK Act. The penalty for a member of Congress failing to report a financial transaction is a hardly impactful $200.
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.