Answer the following questions to see who you should vote for in the Tennessee midterm election.
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.
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.
In 2014 the U.S. Senate blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act which would make it illegal for employers to pay unequal wages to men and women who perform the same work. The goals of the act were to make wages more transparent, require employers to prove that wage discrepancies are tied to legitimate business qualifications and not gender and prohibiting companies from taking retaliatory action against employees who raise concerns about gender-based wage discrimination. Opponents argue that studies which show pay gaps don’t take into account women who take jobs that are more family-friendly in terms of benefits rather than wages and that women are more likely to take breaks in employment to care for children or parents. Proponents point to studies including a 2008 census bureau report that stated that women's median annual earnings were 77.5% of men's earnings.
A Universal Basic Income program is social security program where all citizens of a country receive a regular, unconditional sum of money from the government. The funding for Universal Basic Income comes from taxation and government owned entities including income from endowments, real estate and natural resources. Several countries, including Finland, India and Brazil, have experimented with a UBI system but have not implemented a permanent program. The longest running UBI system in the world is the Alaska Permanent Fund in the U.S. state of Alaska. In the Alaska Permanent Fund each individual and family receives a monthly sum that is funded by dividends from the state’s oil revenues. Proponents of UBI argue that it will reduce or eliminate poverty by providing everyone with a basic income to cover housing and food. Opponents argue that a UBI would be detrimental to economies by encouraging people to either work less or drop out of the workforce entirely.
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.
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.
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.
Proponents of deficit reduction argue that governments who do not control budget deficits and debt are at risk of losing their ability to borrow money at affordable rates. Opponents of deficit reduction argue that government spending would increase demand for goods and services and help avert a dangerous fall into deflation, a downward spiral in wages and prices that can cripple an economy for years.
Several major U.S. companies including Netflix, Chipotle and Microsoft recently began offering their employees paid sick and maternity leave. The U.S. is currently the only industrialized country that doesn’t require companies to provide sick leave to their employees. 35% of American workers do not receive any type of paid sick leave.
Capital gains are the profits earned from the the sale of stocks, bonds and properties. Investment managers pay a 15 to 20 percent capital gains tax on profits earned from their customers’ holdings. Supporters of the increase argue that capital gains should be taxed like any other income and should be raised to at least 31.5% (the average U.S. tax rate). Opponents of an increase argue that taxing capital gains will discourage investments in the U.S. economy and prohibit growth.
The estate tax is a tax that is levied on all property that is declared in a deceased person’s will. The tax is also known as the “inheritance tax” or “death tax.” In 2016, the estate tax rate is 40% and only applies to estates with a value greater than $5.45 million. In 2015 5,300 estates in the U.S. were subject to the tax and paid $18.4 billion in taxes. Proponents of the tax, including Hillary Clinton, argue that more estates should be subject to the tax and the threshold should be lowered from $5.45 million to $3.5 million. Opponents of the tax, including Donald Trump, argue that people who have paid income taxes their entire life should not be subject to another tax when they die.
In May 2016, the Obama Administration announced new regulations that would increase the number of American entitled to receive time-and-a-half overtime pay. Salaried workers who earn up to $46,476 per year are now entitled to earn time-and-a-half pay when they work more than 40 hours per week. The previous regulations, issued in 2004, set the threshold for overtime pay at $23,660. The Labor department estimates that 4.2 million workers will become newly eligible for overtime pay under the new regulations. Proponents argue that the rule is necessary due to inflation and note that only 7% of salaried workers currently qualify for overtime pay in 2015, down sharply from 60% in 1975. Opponents argue that the new rules will hurt employers and incentivize them to cut their employee’s hours.
An economic stimulus is a monetary or fiscal policy enacted by governments with the intent of stabilizing their economies during a fiscal crisis. The policies include an increase in government spending on infrastructure, tax cuts and lowering interest rates. In response to the 2008 financial crisis Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The Act included increased spending on energy, infrastructure, education, health and unemployment benefits. The Act will cost an estimated $787 billion through 2019.
The North American Free Trade Agreement is an agreement that was created to lower trade restrictions between Canada, Mexico, and the United States.
The average retired federal employee receives a pension (retirement plan) of $32,824 annually. Total unfunded pension liability for all U.S. cities and counties is an estimated $574 billion. In addition to their pensions, federal employees are offered a 401(k) plus 5% matching, whereas the average private employee is offered 3 percent matching of 401(k) without pension.
An offshore (or foreign) bank account is a bank account you have outside of your country of residence. The benefits of an offshore bank account include tax reduction, privacy, currency diversification, asset protection from lawsuits, and reducing your political risk. In April 2016, Wikileaks released 11.5 million confidential documents, known as the Panama Papers, which provided detailed information on 214,000 offshore companies serviced by the Panamanian Law Firm, Mossack Fonesca. The document exposed how world leaders and wealthy individuals hide money in secret offshore tax shelters. The release of the documents renewed proposals for laws banning the use of offshore accounts and tax havens. Proponents of the of the ban argue they should be outlawed because they have a long history of being vehicles for tax evasion, money laundering, illicit arms dealing and funding terrorism. Opponents of the ban argue that punitive regulations will make it harder for American companies to compete and will further discourage businesses from locating and investing in the United States.
In 2019 the European Union and U.S. Democratic Presidential Candidate Elizabeth Warren issued proposals that would regulate Facebook, Google and Amazon. Senator Warren proposed that the U.S. government should designate tech companies who have global revenue of over $25 billion as “platform utilities" and break them up into smaller companies. Senator Warren argues that the companies have “bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit, and tilted the playing field against everyone else.” Lawmakers in the European Union proposed a set of rules which include a blacklist of unfair trading practices, requirements that companies set up an internal system to handle complaints and allow businesses to group together to sue platforms. Opponents argue that these companies have benefited consumers by providing free online tools and bring more competition into commerce. Opponents also point out that history has shown that dominance in technology is a revolving door and that many companies (including IBM in the 1980’s) have cycled through it with little to no help from the government.
In October 2016 AT&T announced that it intended to buy Time Warner Cable for $84.5 billion. The merger would create one of the biggest media companies in the history of the U.S. The announcement sparked criticism from Congressional Democrats and Republicans who argued that huge corporate mergers create monopolies which prevent competition. Since President Obama took office his administration has prevented several mega-mergers from taking place including Sprint and T-Mobile, AT&T and T-Mobile and Allergan and Pfizer. In 2015 $3.8 trillion dollar’s worth of mergers and acquisitions occurred which made it the largest year for corporate consolidation in the history of the U.S. Proponents of mergers argue that the government should not interfere with corporations and the free market should be allowed to run its own course.
In March 2016, the Carrier air conditioning company announced it would move 1,400 jobs from the U.S. state of Indiana to Mexico. In November 2016 U.S. President elect Donald Trump and Carrier announced a deal which would keep 1,000 jobs in Indiana in exchange for $7 million in tax breaks. Proponents argue that the deal prevented jobs from moving overseas and will help grow the U.S. economy. Opponents argue that the deal will encourage more private companies to make threats about job losses in exchange for tax breaks.
A tariff is a tax levied on the import and exports of goods in international trade. The U.S. currently trades over $590 billion in goods with China every year. In 2015 China exported $466 billion worth of goods to the U.S. and imported $123 billion worth of U.S. goods. The 2015 China - U.S. trade imbalance of 344% is a new world record. During the 2016 Presidential race Donald Trump proposed levying a 45% tariff on China and any other U.S. trade partner which violates trade deals through currency manipulation and illegal export subsidies. Proponents of tariffs argue that China breaks trade rules by subsidizing its exports, manipulating its currency and stealing intellectual property from the U.S. and other western countries. Opponents argue that tariffs will cause a dramatic rise in the cost of goods for U.S. consumers and cause an unnecessary conflict with
A government pension is a fund into which a sum of money is added during the period in which a person is employed by the government. When the government employee retires they are able to receive periodic payments from the fund in order to support themselves. As the birth rate continues to fall and the life expectancy rises governments worldwide are predicting funding shortfalls for pensioners. In the U.S. federal, state and local governments are eligible to receive pensions.
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.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a trade deal that would make it easier for American companies to sell their goods and services in Pacific Rim countries. The deal will benefit American service companies who will be able to open up operations in Asian and South American countries. Opponents argue that this bill will incentivize US companies to move service and manufacturing jobs overseas. Proponents argue that it would make American companies more successful at selling their goods and services in Pacific Rim countries, leading to a stronger economy, more jobs and higher incomes for American workers.
In February 2018, President Trump pledged to impose a 25% tariff on steel imports and a 10% tariff aluminum imports into the U.S. A tariff is a tax on imports or exports between countries. The proposed tariffs would increase the cost of aluminum and steel imports into the United States. In promoting the plan, Trump predicted that the tariffs would revive the U.S. steel and aluminum industries which were heavily concentrated in the industrial Midwest. Supporters of the tariffs argue that U.S. steel and aluminum manufacturers have been wiped out due to low-cost competition from foreign manufacturers. Supporters note that governments in countries like Japan and China provide subsidies to manufacturers. These subsidies, they argue, allow the manufacturers to then undercut the price of U.S. manufacturers. Supporters include Republicans and Democrats from the Midwest and unions who represent factory workers. Opponents argue that the tariffs will hurt U.S. based manufacturers who need aluminum and steel to produce their products. Manufacturers of cars, boats, beer, chemicals and oil pipelines stated that they would be forced to raise prices in order to absorb the higher costs imposed by the tariffs.
Most local governments in the United States impose a property tax as a principal source of revenue. This tax may be imposed on real estate or personal property. The tax is nearly always computed as the fair market value of the property times an assessment ratio times a tax rate. Values are determined by local officials, and may be disputed by property owners. A primary advantage of a property tax over a sales tax or income tax is that the revenue always equals the tax levy, unlike the other taxes, which can result in shortfalls producing budget deficits. The property tax always produces the required revenue for municipalities' tax levies. Property owners, especially seniors, believe the tax is unfair and does not represent the owner's ability to pay.
The Marketplace Fairness Act would allow state governments to collect sales taxes from online retailers who do not have a physical location in their state and have revenues of over $1 Million per year. Online retailers would be responsible for collecting the taxes and distributing them to state and local governments. Proponents of the bill include brick and mortar retailers who argue that exempting online retailers from sales taxes penalizes traditional stores who are forced to charge customers higher prices due to cover the tax. Opponents argue that since online retailers do not use local services funded by sales taxes they should be exempt and that the federal government should not get involved in state tax issues.
A state-owned enterprise is a business enterprise where the government or state has significant control through full, majority, or significant minority ownership. During the 2020 Coronavirus outbreak Larry Kudlow, the White House’s top economic advisor, said the Trump administration would consider asking for an equity stake in corporations that needed taxpayer aid. “One of the ideas is, if we provide assistance, we might take an equity position,” Kudlow said Wednesday at the White House, adding that the 2008 bailout of [the automaker General Motors] had been a good deal for the federal government. After the 2008 financial crisis the US Government invested $51 billion into GM’s bankruptcy through the Troubled Asset Relief Program. In 2013 the Government sold its stake in GM for $39 billion. The Center for Automotive Research found that the bailout saved 1.2 million jobs and preserved 34.9 billion in tax revenue. Proponents argue that US taxpayers deserve a return on their investments if private companies need capital. Opponents argue that governments should never own shares of private companies.
Bitcoin is a type of digital currency in which encryption techniques are used to regulate the generation of units of currency and verify the transfer of funds, operating independently of a central bank. Bitcoins are stored in a digital wallet, which is like a virtual bank account that allows users to send or receive bitcoins and pay for goods or services. Bitcoin is anonymous, meaning that, while transactions are recorded in a public log, the names of buyers and sellers are never revealed.
In April 2019, Congress passed the Taxpayer First Act which made it illegal for the IRS to create its own online system of tax filing. The IRS system would allow taxpayers to file their taxes on the IRS website without having to pay to use private tax filing services or software. Tax software companies including the maker of TurboTax and H&R Block lobbied congress to pass the bill. Countries including Spain, Denmark and Sweden use a “return-fee filing system that gives taxpayers pre-filled forms using information from employers and banks. Proponents argue that the free filing system would save a collective $2 billion and 225 million hours in prep costs and time. Opponents, including Intuit the maker of TurboTax, argue that such a system would cause taxpayers to make mistakes in their fillings and end up paying more in taxes.
The Federal Reserve is the central banking system of the US government. The main goal of the bank is to manage the US government’s money supply and stabilize the nation’s banks during panics and recessions. In 2015, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and Congressman Thomas Massie (R-KY) introduced the Federal Reserve Transparency Act of 2015 which would require the bank’s board of governors to conduct an audit and release it to Congress. An audit would determine if the accounting records the bank makes public are true and give Congress an insight into how the bank is run. Senator Paul has been a fierce critic of the bank’s practices, calling it a "political, oligarchic force, and a key part of what looks and functions like a banking cartel." Proponents of the audit argue that the Federal Reserve bank should be audited after the role it played in the 2008 fiscal crisis when it took on trillions in debt to bail out several of the country’s largest banks. Opponents of the audit argue that the government accountability office already audits the Federal Reserve and a Congressional audit would destroy its independence.
In 2015, the U.S.’ estimated military budget is expected to be $601 billion, down from $610 billion spent in 2014. The U.S. outspends the next six highest spending nations combined. China has the second largest budget at $216 billion and Russia has the third largest with $84.5 billion.
President Obama recently declared that the U.S. will accept 10,000 refugees from Syria. The U.S. has been under pressure from its Syrian allies to help out with the crisis in which 3 Million refugees have fled Syria in the past year. Those in favor of accepting refugees believe that the U.S. has a duty to join its allies in Europe and accept at least 10,000 refugees. Opponents argue that the U.S. should stay out of this crisis and accepting refugees from the Middle East leads to a risk of letting terrorists into our borders.
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.
Military service is 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.
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 and 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 $650 million annually.
Currently, the United States gives $31.55B, or .19% of GDP, development assistance to other countries. The top 10 recipient countries include Afghanistan, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, West Bank/Gaza, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Malawi, Uganda, and South Africa.
On January 2, 2020 Major General Qassem Soleimani, leader of the foreign wing of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and paramilitary commander Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes were killed in Iraq when the convoy they were traveling in was struck on a road near Baghdad International Airport. U.S. President Donald Trump announced he ordered the attack after U.S. intelligence agencies learned that that General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq. Iran’s foreign minister called the attack and act of terrorism and Ayatollah Khamenei promised “harsh revenge.” NATO offered support for the U.S. and stated that NATO member countries had been alarmed about Iran’s support for ISIS and its activities in the Middle East.
The U.S. currently gives $3.3 billion to Israel every year, which is 1/3rd of the U.S.’s foreign aid budget. Most of the aid is used by Israel to buy American military hardware, such as jets and components for missile defense.
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. 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.
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.
Drones are unmanned aerial vehicles deployed by U.S. defense and intelligence agencies to collect data and strike suspected enemy targets.
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 United States and coalition forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001 after the September 11 terror attacks. After the attacks, U.S. intelligence officials determined that the Afghani-based militant organization Al-Qaeda was responsible. In 2001 90% of Afghanistan was controlled by the Sunni Islamic military organization The Taliban. After the Taliban refused requests by U.S. President George W. Bush to dismantle Al-Qaeda the U.S. launched military operations known as Operation Enduring Freedom. As of June 27, 2019 2,419 U.S. troops have died in the conflict.
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) recently proposed declaring war against the Islamic State (ISIS). The declaration would give the President more authority to carry out broader attacks on the militant group without Congressional approval. Opponents argue that the order would give the President too much power by eliminating Congressional oversight. Proponents argue that fighting an organization like ISIS requires an unconventional war plan that requires the President to make quick decisions without Congressional oversight.
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. 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 suggestion defies a pact made by NATO members when it was formed in WWII that they would defend each other against any attack by a non-member nation. France, Turkey, Germany, Canada, and Italy are countries that are currently spending less than 2% of their GDP on military defense.
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.
In late September 2015, the Russian army conducted its first airstrikes in Syria and claimed they were intended to target ISIS positions within the country. U.S. military leaders and the Obama administration immediately warned that Russia is a close ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and that the Russians will eventually turn their airstrikes against Syrian rebels who were recently supported by the U.S. Opponents of any further intervention in Syria argue that U.S. efforts to train rebels have failed miserably and we should stay out any further conflict in the region.
In March 2014, Russian soldiers entered Ukraine and took control of several strategic positions within the country. The following month the Ukrainian parliament declared that its territory was officially being occupied by Russia. The invasion was immediately condemned by the U.S. and other U.N. member states as a direct invasion of a sovereign country and an act of war. In response NATO countries began military exercises in the region including the addition of 600 U.S. ground troops in Poland. Opponents of military action argue that the conflict the U.S. should not get involved in regional conflicts that do not directly threaten the U.S. Proponents argue that Russian military aggression against Ukraine threatens the balance of power in the region and the U.S. military should directly aid Ukrainian forces to prevent the conflict from spreading to Europe.
In October 2019 the U.S. House of Representatives passed a series of bills supporting protesters in Hong Kong who have a called for democratic reforms in the City. In March 2019 a series of protests began in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (HKSAR) after the government there introduced the Fugitive Offenders amendment bill. The Fugitive Offenders bill established a mechanism for transfers of fugitives from Hong Kong to Mainland China, Macau and Taiwan. The bill was proposed in response to the 2018 murder of Poon Hiu-wing in Taiwan. After the murder her boyfriend, Chan Tong-kai, left Taiwan and traveled to Hong Kong where he told police that he killed Poon. Taiwanese police were unable to extradite Tong-kai and charge him with the murder because the Taiwanese police did not have an extradition agreement in place with Hong Kong. Opponents of the bill argued that it would allow the mainland Chinese government to extradite citizens in Hong Kong - effectively putting them under Chinese law. Opponents also argues that the Chinese criminal process does not have an independent judiciary, fair public trials and lack of access to legal representation. On September 4, 2019, after 13 weeks of protests, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam promised to withdraw the bill.
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.
In June 2019 tensions between the U.S. and Iran escalated after a U.S. surveillance drone was shot down by Iran’s revolutionary guard in the Gulf of Oman. The U.S. claimed it was an “unprovoked attack” and the drone was flying in international airspace. 2 weeks earlier the Trump administration blamed Iran for the attacks on two oil tankers who were bombed in the Gulf of Oman. Iran denied any involvement. In early June Iran announced that it would break its uranium stockpile limit set under the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Under the deal Iran was allowed to keep a maximum of 660 pounds of uranium enriched to 3.67%. Analysts predict that if the uranium is enriched to 20% or more Iran would be capable of developing nuclear weapons.
Foreign electoral interventions are attempts by governments, covertly or overtly, to influence elections in another country. A 2016 study by Dov H. Levin concluded that the country intervening in most foreign elections was the United States with 81 interventions, followed by Russia (including the former Soviet Union) with 36 interventions from 1946 to 2000. In July 2018 U.S. Representative Ro Khanna introduced an amendment that would have prevented U.S. intelligence agencies from receiving funding that could be used to interfere in the elections of foreign governments. The amendment would ban U.S. agencies from “hacking foreign political parties; engaging in the hacking or manipulation of foreign electoral systems; or sponsoring or promoting media outside the United States that favors one candidate or party over another.” Proponents of election interference helps keep hostile leaders and political parties out of power. Opponents argue that the amendment would send a message to other foreign countries that the U.S. does not interfere in election and set a global gold standard for preventing election interference. Opponents argue that election interference helps keep hostile leaders and political parties out of power.
In July 2017, 43 U.S. Senators proposed a law that would make it a crime for Americans to support the international boycott against Israel. The bill would levy large fines and prison time for businesses and individuals who don’t buy from Israeli companies operating in occupied Palestinian territories, and who make statements, including social media posts, saying that they are doing so in order to boycott. The international boycott of Israel was launched in 2006 by Palestinian NGO’s to protest Israel’s “occupation and colonization of Arab lands.” Supporting the boycott is considered a “civil wrong” in Israel and has been officially condemned by the governments of Australia, France and the U.K. Proponents of the law argue it could cause severe economic harm to, Israel which is an important ally of the western nations in the Middle East. Opponents of the law argue that it is a suppression of free speech and citizens should be able to protest and boycott any foreign country.
In March 2015, Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi was removed from office during a civil war with the Shiite Houthis movement. The Houthis were led by former President Ali Abdullah Saleh who was removed from power during the 2011 Arab Spring. Neighboring Sunni Saudi Arabia viewed President Hadi’s removal as a threat and responded by conducting airstrikes against the Houthi’s in Yemen. Saudi Arabia’s allies, including the U.S., U.K. and Egypt, suspected Iran was behind the Houthi uprising and responded by providing military aid to the Saudi armed forces. The United Nations declared the airstrikes a violation federal law after several hundred civilians were killed in the first month of the airstrikes . Proponents of the intervention, including Secretary of State John Kerry, claim that the Houthis are being supported by Iran and U.S. intervention is necessary to maintain the balance of power in the region. Critics argue that the U.S. should not be involved in a conflict which has killed hundreds of innocent civilians.
In January of 2016, North Korea announced that it detonated its first hydrogen bomb. CBS News reported that the U.S. intelligence community is skeptical that North Korea used a thermonuclear device. The blast was in single-digit kilotons, and a thermonuclear device is measured in megatons. North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, has been more ambitious than his father in the pursuit of long-range missiles and nuclear weapons, even in the face of warnings from China. Proponents of military strikes argue that North Korea crossed a line with its latest test and must be stopped at all costs. Opponents argue that North Korea repeatedly lies about its missile capabilities and that the we should let other countries in the region, such as China and South Korea, address this issue.
After the November 13th attacks in Paris several Presidential candidates gave new positions on how the U.S. should combat ISIS in the Syria. The U.S. is currently involved in a coalition of 19 countries that has launched 8,000 airstrikes against ISIS. None of the countries currently have ground troops in Syria.
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).