Answer the following questions to see who you should vote for in the Massachusetts midterm election.
Global warming, or climate change, is an increase in the earth's atmospheric temperature since the late nineteenth century. In politics the debate over global warming is centered on whether this increase in temperature is due to greenhouse gas emissions or is the result of a natural pattern in the earth's temperature.
In June 2017, President Trump announced that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris climate accord in an effort to boost the nation’s industry and energy independence. Mr. Trump argued that the climate accord was unfair to the U.S. since the agreement imposed easier restrictions on China and India who lead the world in carbon emissions. Opponents of the climate agreement argue that it unfairly penalizes U.S. energy companies and consumers by imposing restrictions on domestic energy production. Proponents of the climate accord argue that exiting it sets back decades of diplomatic efforts by the U.S. government to reduce worldwide carbon emissions.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In 1990 President George H.W. Bush passed an executive order banning all offshore drilling in U.S. coastal waters. In response to rising gas prices in 2008 President George W. Bush lifted the ban. Currently, there are 3,500 offshore oil rigs, 79 of which are deep water wells.
As of July 2013, nearly 4% of all electricity generated in the U.S. is produced by wind turbines. By installing wind turbines on their properties farmers can earn up to tens of thousands of dollars per year in tax credits. Since 2008 these tax credits have amounted to more than $14 Billion.
In November 2018 the online e-commerce company Amazon announced it would be building a second headquarters in New York City and Arlington, VA. The announcement came a year after the company announced it would accept proposals from any North American city who wanted to host the headquarters. Amazon said the company could invest over $5 billion and the offices would create up to 50,000 high paying jobs. More than 200 cities applied and offered Amazon millions of dollars in economic incentives and tax breaks. For the New York City headquarters the city and state governments gave Amazon $2.8 billion in tax credits and construction grants. For the Arlington, VA headquarters the city and state governments gave Amazon $500 million in tax breaks. Opponents argue that governments should spend the tax revenue on public projects instead and that the federal government should pass laws banning tax incentives. The European Union has strict laws which prevent member cities from bidding against each other with state aid (tax incentives) in an effort to lure private companies. Proponents argue that the jobs and tax revenue created by the companies eventually offset the cost of any awarded incentives.
Last Spring 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.
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.
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.”
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.
The Common Core State Standards Initiative is an education initiative that details what K-12 students should know in English and Math at the end of each grade. The initiative is sponsored by the <a target="_blank" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Governors_Association">National Governors Association</a> and the <a target="_blank" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Council_of_Chief_State_School_Officers">Council of Chief State School Officers</a> and seeks to establish consistent education standards across the states as well as ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to enter two or four year college programs or enter the workforce. <a target="_blank" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_Core_State_Standards_Initiative">Learn more</a> or
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.
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.
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.
In most countries, suffrage, the right to vote, is generally limited to citizens of the country. Some countries, however, extend limited voting rights to resident non-citizens.
Since 2011, twelve states have passed laws that require a photo identification to vote. Supporters argue that ID’s are needed to increase confidence in elections and prevent voter fraud. Critics argue that voter fraud rarely exists and that ID requirements are intended to suppress turnout by economically disadvantaged voters.
After the 2020 presidential election concluded, Donald J. Trump’s campaign filled over 60 lawsuits contesting Joe Biden’s win. After the cases were struck down by state courts, the Trump campaign pressured several governors to hold recounts. On December 10, 2020, after several successive lawsuits had been dismissed, Trump tweeted, "This is going to escalate dramatically. This is a very dangerous moment in our history...The fact that our country is being stolen. A coup is taking place in front of our eyes, and the public can't take this anymore." On March 31, 2021 the Arizona Senate Republican Caucus hired for firms to audit the presidential ballots in Maricopa County. The results of the re-count are expected to be published in July 2021.
A tax return is a document which states how much income an individual or entity reported to the government.
In the U.S. a citizen may give $2,700 per election to a federal candidate, $5,000 per year to a PAC, $10,000 per year to a State or local party committee and $33,400 per year to a national party. Citizens and corporations may give unlimited amounts to a Super PAC. A Super PAC is freed from traditional campaign finance laws as long as it does not fund a candidate or campaign or coordinate directly with a campaign how to spend donations.
The U.S. constitution does not prevent convicted felons from holding the office of the President or a seat in the Senate or House of Representatives. States may prevent convicted felons candidates from holding statewide and local offices.
Currently, federal election law prohibits political candidates from knowingly soliciting, accepting or receiving donations from foreign nationals or entities under any circumstances. However, a loophole exists where foreign nationals or entities can hire lobbyists to meet with or donate directly to politicians to persuade them to vote favorably for the foreign interest.
Currently, the “Honest Leadership and Open Government Act” which was signed by President George W. Bush in 2007 bans former senators and top executive branch officials from becoming lobbyists for two years and they leave the government.
“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.
Militarization of police refers to the use of military equipment and tactics by law enforcement officers. This includes the use of armored vehicles, assault rifles, flashbang grenades, sniper rifles, and SWAT teams. Proponents argue that this equipment increases officers’ safety and enables them to better protect the public and other first responders. Opponents argue that police forces which received military equipment were more likely to have violent encounters with the public.
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.
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.
Prison overcrowding is a social phenomenon occurring when the demand for space in prisons in a jurisdiction exceeds the capacity for prisoners.The issues associated with prison overcrowding are not new, and have been brewing for many years. During the United States’ War on Drugs, the states were left responsible for solving the prison overcrowding issue with a limited amount of money. Moreover, federal prison populations may increase if states adhere to federal policies, such as mandatory minimum sentences. On the other hand, the Justice Department provides billions of dollars a year for state and local law enforcement to ensure they follow the policies set forth by the federal government concerning U.S. prisons. Prison overcrowding has affected some states more than others, but overall, the risks of overcrowding are substantial and there are solutions to this problem.
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.
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.
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).
Illegal immigrants, as well as legal immigrants in the country less than five years, are not eligible for free healthcare through Medicaid. A 2007 study estimated that less than 1 percent of Medicaid spending went to healthcare for illegal immigrants. Proponents of subsidized healthcare for immigrants argue that increased access to basic preventive care will lower the demand for costly emergency care. Opponents argue that immigrants in the healthcare system run the risk of becoming "permanent patients," because they have no relatives, insurance or an established address where they can go once released.
In 2015 U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump issued a proposal to build a wall along the Mexico-U.S. border. The wall would extend along the 1,900 mile border and would prevent illegal goods and people from entering the U.S. In 2013 the Government Accountability Office reported that the border patrol had intercepted 61% of individuals who had attempted to cross the border that year. Analysts say that building a wall along the entire border is impossible since it parts of it contain rocky, uneven terrain. Proponents argue that the wall will cut down on the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs into the U.S. Opponents argue that the wall is impossible to build and illegal immigration into the U.S. has declined significantly since the 2008 financial crisis.
Currently sixteen states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and Washington) allow illegal immigrants to pay the same in-state tuition rates as other residents of the state. To qualify, students must have attended a school in the state for a certain number of years, have graduated high school in the state, have confirmed they are applying for legal citizenship.
A sanctuary city is a city that adopts local policies designed to not prosecute people solely for being an undocumented individual in the country in which they are currently living.
On October 7, 2013 California Governor Jerry Brown signed a state bill prohibiting law-enforcement officials from detaining an individual on the basis of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement hold after that person becomes eligible for release, unless he or she has been charged with or convicted of certain crimes, including violent felonies.
The 14th amendment of the U.S. constitution states that “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” Opponents of birth right citizenship argue that the 14th amendment is not clear since it does not specifically state that babies born to parents who were in the United States unlawfully were automatically citizens. Proponents argue that overturning the 14th amendment would increase the number of undocumented immigrants with each child born here, cost the U.S. taxpayers billions, and reduce the tax base.
Amnesty is an act by passed by the federal government which grants immunity from immigration laws to undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. Various levels of criteria have been proposed for immigrants to be granted amnesty including proof of employment and willingness to pay taxes.
At a December 7th campaign stop in South Carolina, Presidential candidate Donald Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the country. The announcement sparked outrage from across the political spectrum with Republicans and Democrats both deeming it unconstitutional. Proponents argue that the government has little idea who is entering the U.S. through its current immigration system and that a temporary ban on Muslims is necessary after the terrorist attack in California. Opponents argue that the proposed ban is unconstitutional and racist towards Muslims.
Skilled temporary work visas are usually given to foreign scientists, engineers, programmers, architects, executives, and other positions or fields where demand outpaces supply. Most businesses argue that hiring skilled foreign workers allows them to competitively fill positions which are in high demand. Opponents argue that skilled immigrants decrease middle class wages and job tenure.
In 2015 the U.S. House of Representatives introduced the Establishing Mandatory Minimums for Illegal Reentry Act of 2015 (Kate’s Law.) The law was introduced after San Francisco 32 year old San Francisco resident Kathryn Steinle was shot and killed by Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez on July 1, 2015. Lopez-Sanchez was an illegal immigrant from Mexico who had been deported on five separate occasions since 1991 and been charged with seven felony convictions. Since 1991 Lopez-Sanchez had been charged with seven felony convictions and deported five times by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. Although Lopez-Sanchez had several outstanding warrants in 2015 authorities were unable to deport him due to San Francisco’s sanctuary city policy which prevents law enforcement officials from questioning a resident’s immigration status. Proponents of sanctuary city laws argue that they enable illegal immigrants to report crimes without the fear of being reported. Opponents argue that sanctuary city laws provide encourage illegal immigration and prevent law enforcement authorities from detaining and deporting criminals.
The U.S. nationality law requires applicants to have a working knowledge of the English language in order achieve citizenship. In 1990 the government passed exceptions to this requirement for older applicants and those with mental or physical disabilities.
Multiple citizenship, also called dual citizenship is a person's citizenship status, in which a person is concurrently regarded as a citizen of more than one state under the laws of those states. There is no international convention which determines the nationality or citizen status of a person, which is defined exclusively by national laws, which vary and can be inconsistent with each other. Some countries do not permit dual citizenship. Most countries that permit dual citizenship still may not recognize the other citizenship of its nationals within its own territory, for example, in relation to entry into the country, national service, duty to vote, etc.
The American Civics test is an examination that all immigrants must pass to gain U.S. citizenship. The test asks 10 randomly selected questions which cover U.S. history, the constitution and government. In 2015 Arizona became the first state to require High School students to pass the test before they graduate.
Congress has passed at least four laws since 1986 authorizing increases in Border Patrol personnel. The number of border patrol agents on the southwest border has grown from 2,268 in 1980 to 21,730 in 2015. Border fencing has increased from 14 miles in 1990 to 651 miles today. Proponents argue that too many immigrants cross our border every year and anyone entering the U.S. from a foreign country should pass through customs and have a valid visa. Opponents of stronger border controls argue the majority of illegal entrants are Mexicans seeking temporary work and pose no threat to national security.
The Affordable Care Act is a federal statute signed into law in 2010 that introduces a sweeping overhaul of the nation's healthcare system. The act grants the federal government significant regulatory powers and price controls over U.S. medical service providers and insurance companies.
When the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was enacted in 2010 it required all states to expand their Medicaid programs to include people with incomes slightly higher than those allowed under traditional Medicaid, as well as groups, like childless adults, that had not previously been covered. In 2012 the Supreme Court ruled that forcing States to expand their Medicaid coverage was unconstitutional. Since then 22 states have expanded their coverage and more than 35 have opted not to do so. Proponents of the expansion argue that it will lower healthcare costs for everyone by reducing the number of Americans without health insurance. Opponents argue that states should be allowed to run their own Medicaid programs without the intervention of the federal government.
Single-payer healthcare is a system where every citizen pays the government to provide core healthcare services for all residents. Under this system the government may provide the care themselves or pay a private healthcare provider to do so. In a single-payer system all residents receive healthcare regardless of age, income or health status. Countries with single-payer healthcare systems include the U.K., Canada, Taiwan, Israel, France, Belarus, Russia and Ukraine.
The World Health Organization was founded in 1948 and is a specialized agency of the United Nations whose main objective is “the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health.” The organization provides technical assistance to countries, sets international health standards and guidelines, and collects data on global health issues through the World Health Survey. The WHO has led global public health efforts including the development of an Ebola Vaccine and the near-eradication of polio and smallpox. The organization is run by a decision-making body composed of representatives from 194 countries. It is funded by voluntary contributions from member countries and private donors. In 2018 and 2019 the WHO had a $5 billion budget and the leading contributors were the United States (15%) , the EU (11%) and the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation (9%). In July 2020 President Donald Trump notified the World Health Organization that the U.S. would withdraw all funding within 12 months. Trump accused the WHO of helping China cover up its role in the Covid-19 pandemic. Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden said rejoining the WHO would be one of his first steps as president. Supporters of the WHO argue that cutting funding will hamper the international fight against the Covid-19 pandemic and sap the U.S. of global influence.
On January 29, 2021, the CDC issued an Order that required face masks to be worn by all people while on public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and U.S. territories. The Order also required all people to wear masks while at transportation hubs (including airports, bus or ferry terminals, train and subway stations, seaports, U.S. ports of entry.) On June 17 2021 Florida Senator Rick Scott introduced the Stop Mandating Additional Requirements for Travel (SMART) Act to prohibit the federal government from requiring Americans to wear masks on public transportation.