Answer the following questions to see how your political beliefs match your political parties and candidates.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Welfare programs in the U.S. are designed to ensure that the basic needs of the American population are met. Federal and state social programs include cash assistance, health insurance, food assistance, housing subsidies, energy and utilities subsidies, and education and childcare assistance. Similar benefits are sometimes provided by the private sector either through policy mandates or on a voluntary basis. In 1996, Congress passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (Welfare Reform Act). The new law 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. The law stated that 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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
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.
The U.S. military budge pays the salaries, training, and health care of uniformed and civilian personnel, maintains arms, equipment and facilities, funds operations, and develops and buys new items. The 2023 U.S. military budget is $773 billion, an increase of 4% over 2022’s budget. The budget includes $177.5 billion for the Army, $194 billion for the Air Force and Space Force and $230.8 billion for the Navy and Marine Corps. Other country’s 2021 military budgets were China $293 billion, United Kingdom $68.4 billion and Russia $66 billion.
In 2002, the George W. Bush administration issued the Torture Memos which argued for a narrow definition of torture under U.S. law. They included granting the CIA authority to use “enhanced interrogation techniques” on enemy combatants. The techniques included waterboarding subjection to extreme cold and confinement in small boxes.
After the September 11, 2001 terror attacks the George W. Bush administration authorized the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” at secret detention facilities around the world run by the defense department and CIA. The authorization approved the use of many techniques including beatings, binding in stress positions, hooding, sleep deprivation and waterboarding. In 2008 President Obama signed an executive order banning the use torture by the U.S. military and CIA. In 2016 the use of torture became a topic during the Presidential race when candidate Donald Trump suggested it should be used against the Islamic State. Opponents of torture argue that the U.S. should never practice torture since it is inhumane and illegal under international law. Proponents argue that the military should not be prevented from using torture if they believe it will keep the country safe.
Conscription is the state-mandated enlistment of people in a national military service. In the U.S. the Select Service System drafted men for World War 1, World War 2 and Vietnam. Military service is currently not required in the U.S. Proponents of required service argue that it isn’t fair that a small percentage of Americans serve in the military to protect the rest of the population. Opponents argue that the requirement is unnecessary because modern warfare is fought less and less with ground troops and more with unmanned technology including drones.
Foreign aid is a transfer of financial resources or commodities or technical advice and training. The resources can take the form of grants or concessional credits (e.g., export credits). Foreign aid is used to support US national security and commercial interests and can also be distributed for humanitarian reasons. Aid spending is financed by U.S. taxpayers and distributed through 20 government agencies that manage foreign assistance programs. In 2020 the U.S. distributed $39 billion on economic assistance, $25 billion through the U.S. Agency for International Development and $11.6 billion on military assistance.
The UN. is an organization of governments founded in 1945 after World War II. The organization’s objectives include promoting peace and security, protecting human rights, the environment and providing humanitarian aid in cases of famine, natural disaster, and armed conflict. Recent U.N. interventions include the Sri Lankan civil war in 2009 and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. The U.S. joined the U.N. as a founding member in 1945. The U.S. is the largest financial contributor to the UN and contributes more than $11.5 billion or 25% of its total budget annually.
Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II. To date, the United States has provided Israel $150 in bilateral assistance and missile defense funding since the country’s founding in 1948. Nearly all of U.S. bilateral aid to Israel is in the form of military assistance. In fiscal year 2022 the Biden administration requested $3.8 billion in military aid for Israel.
The United States embargo against Cuba prevents American businesses from conducting trade with Cuban interests. In December 2014 President Obama ordered the restoration of full democratic relations with Cuba. The order lifted a 54-year-old trade embargo and eased restrictions on banking and American’s travel to the country. When President Trump took office in 2017 his administration re-imposed the U.S. travel ban, citing Cuba poor record with human rights. In July 2021 President Biden imposed new sanctions on Cuba’s police force and on two of Cuba’s leaders in response to the 2021 Cuban protests. Proponents of relations with Cuba argue that U.S. influence through tourism and trade will promote capitalism and weaken its communist regime. Opponents argue that trade and diplomatic relations will only strengthen the communist regime’s grip on the Cuban government.
Drones are unmanned aerial vehicles deployed by U.S. defense and intelligence agencies to collect data and strike suspected enemy targets. The first known U.S. strike was the 2002 killing of al-Qaeda operative Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi in Yemen. Between 2022 and 2020 the U.S. killed between 9,000 and 18,000 enemy combatants and 900-2200 civilians with drone strikes. Opponents of drone strikes have long contended strikes that kill civilians essentially serve as a recruiting poster for terrorist groups. In 2010, a man named Faisal Shahzad tried and failed to bomb Times Square in New York City. Later, Shahzad cited US drone strikes as his motivation for the failed bombing. Proponents of drone strikes argue that they can kill high value w=enemy targets without putting soldiers into combat.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is an intergovernmental military alliance based on the North Atlantic Treaty which was signed on April 4th, 1949. It is a political and military alliance of member countries from Europe and North America that agree to provide military and economic security for each other. NATO makes all of its decisions by consensus and every member country, no matter how large or small, has an equal say.
In December 2017 U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announced the U.S. would move it’s embassy there. The announcement was controversial as both Israel and Palestine claim that Jerusalem is their capital. Foreign governments that recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel support the notion that Israel has sovereignty over the city. In 1949 Israel took control of the western half of the city and Jordan took control of the eastern half. In 2017 the current population of Jerusalem was 61% Jewish and 37% are Arab. Opponents argue that moving the U.S. embassy to Israel is a violation of international law and would set back decades of peace talks between Israel and Palestine. Proponents argue that Jerusalem has been the defect capital of Israel for many years and foreign governments should recognize it.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is an intergovernmental military alliance formed by 28 countries in 1949 after the Second World War. To join NATO each member country pledged to spend at least 2% of their GDP on military spending and defense and defend each other against threats from any non-member country. At the NATO Summit of 2014, each member agreed on a goal of spending 2% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on defense by 2024. Member nations further agreed to devote at least 20% of defense spending on major new equipment and associated Research and Development. As of 2020, eleven of the 30 member nations met the 2% of GDP goal. These nations are Estonia, France, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovak Republic, United Kingdom, and United States. In a July 2016 interview with the New York Times Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump suggested that the United States would not defend NATO member countries who had failed to increase their military budgets to above 2% of Gross Domestic Product.
The cache of documents revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden disclosed that the U.S. used surveillance methods to monitor the emails and phone calls of its closest foreign allies including Germany, France and Brazil. The revelations have severely damaged the U.S.'s relationship with these countries even though State Department officials have insisted that these surveillance programs have thwarted many terrorist threats worldwide.
On February 24 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine in a major escalation of the Russo-Ukrainian War that began in 2014. The invasion caused Europe’s largest refugee crisis since World War II, with around 7.1 million Ukrainians fleeing the country and a third of the population displaced. It has also caused global food shortages. From February 2022 – September 2022 the U.S. government approved approximately $50 billion in economic and military aid for Ukraine. The funding is earmarked for training, equipment, weapons and other support—such as salaries and stipends—for Ukraine’s military and security forces and budgetary support for Ukrainian government operations.
After the U.S. military withdrew from Afghanistan in August 2021 the Taliban seized control of the country. In response the International Monetary Fund and major international donors to the country blocked the Taliban’s access to billions of dollars in charitable bank accounts. More than half of Afghanistan’s annual $5 billion budget is from foreign aid. Despite its puritanical brand of Islam, the Taliban controls the world’s largest opium operation, earning about $460 million a year from taxes on the sale of heroin moving through their territories alone, the U.N. says. Proponents of aid argue that without the charitable funds, families and children in Afghanistan will face an “avalanche of hunger and destitution.” Opponents argue that the Taliban government is a ruthless dictatorship and should not be recognized by foreign governments.
The F-35 fighter is a stealth fighter jet being produced for the U.S. military by The Lockheed Martin corporation. Three variations of the single seat stealth fighter jet are being produced for the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy. By 2037 2,457 F-35’s will be delivered to the military and will fly until they retire from service in 2070. The research, development and construction of the F-35 will be the most expensive military weapons program in the history of the U.S. When the F-35 retires in 2070 analysts estimate that the cost of the program will have exceeded $1.5 trillion. Opponents of the program argue that costs for the program are out of control and that the military should scrap the F-35 and continue to fly its current planes. Proponents argue that the fighter is necessary for the U.S. military to maintain its edge over foreign adversaries.
In September 2018, the U.S. signed a security agreement with India unlocked the sales of billions of dollars of high-tech American weapons. India will purchase fighter jets, transport planes, drones and missile defense systems from American military manufacturers including Lockheed Martin. The U.S. government is seeking India as an ally to counter the rise of China and Russia’s military strength in the Indo-Pacific region. Proponents argue that the agreement is necessary to counter China and Russia’s influence and the agreement will generate billions of dollars in revenue for U.S. military defense contractors. Opponents argue that the agreement will encourage China and Russia to beef up their militaries and trigger a global arms race.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization an intergovernmental military alliance between 30 member states – 28 European and two North American. After Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, the Ukrainian government repeatedly requested to be accepted into NATO as a member country. Ukraine’s NATO membership has long been a thorny subject in amongst U.S. government officials due to Article 5 of the alliance’s charter. Article 5 requires the U.S. to militarily defend any member-nation that comes under attack. NATO members countries fear that Ukraine’s immediate entry into NATO — which requires the unanimous approval of all 30 member-nations — would put the U.S. and Russia at war due to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine as well as its forced annexations announced in September 2022.
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.
The United States began using drones to conduct targeted killings in the wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. President George W. Bush authorized dozens of drone strikes against terrorism suspects , and President Barack Obama continued this practice and actually expanded the use of drones. Drones use continued under President Trump and President Biden. Drones were used in areas of war, such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya and also against terrorist suspects found in countries such as Pakistan, Somalia and Libya.
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a 19-million-acre national wildlife refuge in northern Alaska. The refuge includes a large variety of species of plants and animals, such as polar bears, grizzly bears, black bears, moose, caribou, wolves, eagles, lynx, wolverine, marten, beaver and migratory birds, which rely on the refuge. In August 2020 the Trump administration approved program to auction oil leases that would enable oil companies to drill for oil within the refuge. Environmentalists argue that oil development threatens wildlife and is likely to worsen climate change. Proponents argue that drilling would be limited to the coastal ranges and would make the U.S. more energy independent.
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 2022 Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act which included hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies for investing in renewable-energy projects and producing energy from renewable sources. The bill also included credits to help factories retool to turn out electric vehicles and awards tax credits to help homeowners upgrade their homes with more energy-efficient products. It gives a $7,500 tax credit for purchasing electric vehicles, although with conditions that could make it hard to qualify. Proponents of the bill argue that it encourages business and individuals to adopt renewal energy and move away from fossil fuels. Opponents argue that the bill lacked funding for natural gas and nuclear energy which are more reliable and cheaper to produce.
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.
Wind energy was the source of about 9.2% of total U.S. electricity generation and about 46% of electricity generation from renewable energy in 2021. Wind turbines convert wind energy into electricity. President Biden’s 2021 $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan included a 10 year extension of wind and solar tax credits. Qualifying wind farms will receive tax benefits based on their output for a 10-year period. The credits, which can be shared with investment partners, reduce federal tax bills. Opponents to wind farms, including many environmental biologists argue that they are one of the biggest threats to birds of prey and migratory bird species (killing an estimated 6000 birds every year) and that construction of the wind farm projects require large scale land clearing. Proponents argue that wind power is a clean, efficient alternative to fossil fuels.
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 the U.S. the states of California, Connecticut, Colorado Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Vermont have banned disposable bags.
In July 2022 the Biden administration issued a draft plan to expand oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska. The proposal from the Department of the Interior recommends holding up to 10 lease sales in the Gulf over the next five years, as well as one sale in the Cook Inlet off the coast of south-central Alaska. Under the 1953 Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, the federal government must plan for offshore oil and gas leasing on a five-year basis. The previous plan was finalized under President Barack Obama in 2016, went into effect in 2017, and expired in 2022. Opponents include environmentalists, who argue that it will be impossible to limit oil and gas consumption without simultaneously phasing out the production of fossil fuels. Proponents argue that expanding oil drilling makes the US more energy independent and lowers the cost of gasoline for consumers.
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 Permian Basin accounts for 43% of U.S. oil production and is currently the most productive oil shale reserve in the country. In June 2022 The Environmental Protection Agency announced that it may deem parts of the Permian Basin in Texas and New Mexico in “non-attainment” with its ozone standards. Since the EPA does not have the authority to ban fracking many observers see the agency’s designation as a threat to shut down the U.S.’s largest fracking operation. Opponents of fracking argue that it uses toxic chemicals and negatively effects human health. Proponents argue that fracking is important for energy independence and blocking energy development locally simply outsources it somewhere else, often with much greater social and environmental consequences.
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.
Animal testing is the use of non-human animals in experiments that seek to control the variables that affect the behavior or biological system under study. Examples of applied research include testing disease treatments, breeding, defense research, and toxicology, including cosmetics testing. In education, animal testing is sometimes a component of biology or psychology courses. There is no nationwide ban on animal testing in the United States. The humane society estimates that more than 50 million dogs, cats, monkeys, rabbits, rats and other animals undergo testing each year in the US.
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.
Each year federal agencies receive funding from Congress, known as budgetary resources . In 2022, the Department of Transportation (DOT) had $354.83 Billion distributed among its 11 sub-components. The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022 appropriated $1.5 billion to the Department of Transportation for 478 projects at the request of Members of Congress. Tribal, state, and local governments received the funds to make improvements to transportation infrastructure. including roads, sidewalks and concourse renovations for airports. Each individual fund ranged from $30,000 to $100 million, with over 80 percent of projects receiving less than $5 million per project.
“Defund the police” is a slogan that supports divesting funds from police departments and reallocating them to non-policing forms of public safety and community support, such as social services, youth services, housing, education, healthcare and other community resources.
In the U.S. police budgets are set by elected officials at local and state levels. In 2020 elected officials in New York, Seattle, Los Angeles and Minneapolis approved plans to reduce police budgets in response to the nationwide protests following the killing of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis. After the budget cuts many US cities saw a rise in crime, with murder rates up by double digits in many cities. In the last three months of 2020, homicides rose 32.2% in cities with a population of at least one million, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Quarterly Uniform Crime Report. Law-enforcement officials and criminologists say pandemic stress and a police pullback amid protests are likely contributors. Proponents of the spending cuts argue that between 1977 and 2017, local spending on policing rose 176%, versus a 137% rise in general expenses, accounting for inflation. Opponents of the cuts will lower morals amongst police officers and contribute to a spike in crime.
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.
Qualified immunity is a defense that police officers cannot be sued for misconduct if they were unaware at the time that their conduct was illegal and if there is no previous legal case with similar facts that ruled that officers may not engage in that conduct. Proponents argue that more intense criticism of police will disincentivize officers from doing their jobs resulting in crime rates going up. Opponents argue that police officers should be held more accountable for misconduct.
Prison overcrowding is a social phenomenon occurring when the demand for space in prisons in a jurisdiction exceeds the capacity for prisoners. The First Step Act of 2018 passed overwhelmingly in both houses of Congress and was signed by President Trump. Within the first year of enactment, more than 3,000 federal prisoners were released based on changes to the good-time credits calculation formula under the First Step Act, and more than 2,000 inmates benefited from sentence reductions.
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 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).
Currently, police unions are allowed to collectively bargain with government officials over the methods used to hold police officers accountable for misconduct. Proponents argue that collective bargaining stands in the way of accountability. Opponents of limiting collective bargaining argue that more intense criticism of police will disincentivize officers from doing their jobs resulting in crime rates going up.
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 2021 the U.S. Justice Department announced that federal agents would be required to wear body cameras when executing arrest warrants or searching buildings. A 2022 Bureau of Justice Statistics report found that 80% of local police departments in the US used body cameras. The study found that departments that used body cameras showed improvement in officer safety, increased evidence quality and reduced civilian complaints.
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 2017 President Trump reversed an Obama administration directive to gradually reduce the number of contracts with for-profit prison operators, saying it would interfere with meeting the demands of the prison population. In January 2021 President Joe Biden signed an executive order which banned the Justice Department’s use of private prisons. In 2020 the Justice Department paid more than $945 million to private prison companies.