By Mimi Petric
There are two things that are important in politics, Senator Mark Hanna said more than a century ago. The first is money, and I can’t remember what the second one is.
A lack of proper campaign financing has left political candidates desperate in their search for sources of money; and thus, turning to private campaign finance from those with means to provide. This option has created more harm than good - creating sources of corruption and a multitude of political polarization. Rather than address the complexities and implications of a lack of proper campaign finance, America is instead seemingly infatuated with hyperpartisanship. Gone is our appreciation for equity and fairness in terms of the political process, replaced instead with a country more divided than ever - meaning it’s time to rethink the way we approach campaign financing.
Former President Donald Trump symbolizes this inequity most clearly. The New York Times puts this best when they mention that during a 2018 dinner at the Trump International Hotel in Washington D.C., Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman - associates of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer - pressed Mr. Trump to remove Marie Yovanovitch as the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine. Their schemes were part of a plan to make money from natural gas. Their actions were just a single part of a complex plot that later led to Trump’s impeachment, resulting from his later efforts to compel Ukraine to investigate then-former Vice President Joe Biden. Parnas and Fruman’s corrupt actions personify the most insidious aspect of this: that without even moving a finger, the wealthy can easily influence and skew politics. At the dinner, donors willing to spend lavishly in support of Mr. Trump’s re-election even had the chance to seek the president’s help in placing their own interests above the public interest.
And if this seems far-fetched, it isn’t. The action of skewing politics was clear, too, with Senator Ted Cruz. For his 2016 presidential campaign, a collection of super PACs supporting Mr. Cruz raised $37 million, nearly all of it from three families. Robert Mercer, a private hedge fund investor from New York, contributed $11 million, making him the top known political donor in the country so far this election cycle. The monetary benefits associated with Cruz’s campaign may have well given him an edge over other candidates, effectively creating a skewed election. When we blur the lines between what is equitable and what is not in campaign finance, we stray further away from democracy, contradicting democratic values of equity in both the political and social scope.
The masterminds behind these operations are known as “super PACs” - essentially, committees that may receive unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations, labor unions and other PACs for the purpose of financing independent expenditures and other independent political activity. As a result of their use within campaign financing, fewer than four hundred families are responsible for almost half the money raised in the 2016 presidential campaign. Super PACs have revealed themselves to be significantly quicker at campaign fundraising — sometimes bringing in tens of millions of dollars from a few businesses or individuals in a matter of days — has allowed them to build significant campaign war chests in a fraction of the time that it would take the candidates, who are restricted in how much they can accept from a single donor. Just 130 or so families and their businesses provided more than half the money raised through by Republican candidates and their super PACs - wherein lies the problem. When campaign finance becomes skewed to a particular party, American democracy lies at stake as hyperpartisanship takes center stage. Establishing heavy funding for a specific candidate or party creates inherently inequitable circumstances for voters.
And the fallout is omnipresent. Money and its potentially corrupting influence are the bane of US politics, and candidates constantly promise voters that they will try to reform a system that they say has been broken by congressional inaction and the Supreme Court. But as posited by 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren, “money slithers through every part of our political system, corrupting democracy and taking power away from the people. Big companies and billionaires spend millions to push Congress to adopt or block legislation.” If such big influences fail in their attempts, they turn to lobbying federal agencies which are responsible for ordering legislation. And if their endeavors prove to be futile yet again, companies and billionaires run to judges in the courts to block regulations from taking effect.
Yet the most elusive of issues is yet to be solved: how is such a momentous problem to be approached? To approach a lack of equity in the financial scope, we can use the process that Lawrence Lessig of the New York Times suggests: changing the way campaigns are funded — shifting from large-dollar private funding to small-dollar public funding. When campaign funds for candidates become public, the probability of corruption or inequitable spending decreases.
The political and social implications that skewed campaign financing has created is undeniable. But both the people, their advocacy work, and campaign reform can create change. Putting a stop to the influence of wealthy corporations and individuals is a complex issue: but counteracting it is as straightforward as limiting the sources from which candidates can gain financial support. And that’s as simple as it gets.
By Chloe Yang
Since the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, Putin has been working to increase Russian influence throughout the former Soviet zone. However, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), has been working to advance its own interests, but with democratic values in mind instead. Since the early 1990s, several Baltic nations from the former Soviet Union, including Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and more, all joined the NATO alliance. Now, numerous NATO states directly border Russia. NATO has now expressed interest in enrolling Ukraine into the alliance, which set off the beginning of the conflict.
The Kremlin has been especially angered by the fall of Russian power in formerly-Soviet areas, with President Putin describing Soviet disintegration as “one of the greatest catastrophes of the 20th century that robbed Russia of its rightful place among the world’s great powers.” Having spent his past 22 years in power building up the Russian military and growing the nation’s geopolitical power, Putin now believes that Russia is ready to face the West.
Specifically, Putin has his sights set on integrating Ukraine with Russia. Putin has repeatedly claimed that Ukraine should be a part of Russia, both culturally and historically. In 2014, Putin acted on these hopes of integration, when he annexed Crimea, a region in Ukraine. Since then, Western pressure has been mounting on Russia to demilitarize the region, yet Russia has ignored these calls.
In December of 2021, Russia presented NATO with a set of demands, including a pact that Ukraine would never join NATO and that NATO would pull back forces in NATO member Eastern European countries. The NATO alliance quickly dismissed these demands, and Russia quickly began mobilizing on the Eastern border of Ukraine. By the beginning of 2022, over 100,000 Russian troops had mobilized on the border.
February 24th, 2022 marked a devastating day for countless Ukranians, as Russia invaded Ukraine, declaring the Ukrainian regions of Luhansk and Donetsk as independent states. Just two days later, Russian airstrikes began across the nation of Ukraine and Russian forces invaded the country from Belarus, Crimea, and Russia, essentially attacking the nation from all sides. After the first day of Russian invasion, many key Ukrainian zones, such as the Chernobyl exclusion zone, had been captured by Russia.
On the second day of invasion, Russian troops stormed the capital of Ukraine, Kyiv, where they faced surprisingly strong resistance from troops and civilians alike. By early March, Russia began attacking civilian areas, shelling the towns of Kharkiv and Mariupol. Dozens of civilians had already been killed by Russian forces, following numerous artillery attacks and airstrikes.
As of March 18th, the United Nations estimated that over three million people have fled Ukraine following the Russian invasion. Thousands of Ukrainians fled the country by train with thousands others attempting to drive out, creating long traffic lines out of the country. Ukrainian refugees have primarily been fleeing into neighboring countries, with Poland taking in nearly 2 million refugees, as of March 16th. Refugees entering Poland, primarily women and children, face wait times of over 24 hours, although they do not need documents to enter. Ukrainian citizens—those who are legally living in Ukraine—have been granted refugee status in Poland. If they do not have friends or relatives to stay with, many Eastern European countries have allowed Ukrainian refugees to stay in reception centers where they are given food, medical care, and information about their further travels away from Ukraine.
While Poland has been very accommodating towards refugees, the government of Poland has stated that it will need more money from the EU to continue to host more refugees in the future. Moldova, a nation with the largest concentration of refugees per capita, has also requested international help to deal with the influx of migrants.
In addition, an estimated 12 million people inside of Ukraine are also in need of assistance, according to the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees. In southern Ukraine, bedding, medication, and heating are scarce, while in Eastern Ukraine, even basic necessities such as food, water, and shelter are needed as well. While the UN has been offering humanitarian assistance inside of Ukraine, the EU puts the total number of Ukraine refugees at up to seven million.
While the US Congress has passed legislation giving billions of dollars in aid to the Ukrainians, there is still much that the US can do. For example, the Boston Globe proposes that the Biden administration issue humanitarian parole visas to Ukrainian refugees so they can seek asylum for two years. Additionally, they advocate for the creation of a program that would allow ordinary citizens to host refugees.
The Russo-Ukrainian conflict took the world by surprise and is continuing to unfold each and every day. Hopefully, the conflict can be resolved by the international community soon, and peace can be brought to Eastern Europe. As European Commission foreign policy chief Josep Borrell says, “these are among the darkest hours of Europe since the Second World War.”
By Priya Mullassaril
The age-old idea of American superiority which primarily rests upon the belief that we bear no resemblance to autocracies like Russia and China is long overdue for a paradigm shift. America scorns the aforementioned countries for practicing the suppression of speech, and in the same breath, she silences marginalized authors by removing their books from circulation. Much to the chagrin of our founding fathers, the chasm which separates this country from authoritarian regimes is gradually being doctored due to America’s despotic implementation of censorship. Republican state representative Scott Cepickey recently introduced a state-wide bill in Tennessee attempting to ban in-school reading materials that grapple with grave topics, such as prejudice and religious intolerance. Large parts of the conservative movement and its leaders have sought to prevent the youth from learning about pervasive interracial and interfaith schisms, leading members of the group to challenge and ban books such as Maus, All Boys Aren’t Blue, and Lawn Boy on the basis that they make students feel uncomfortable. These books delve into Jewish trauma resulting from the Holocaust and anti-semitism, the ostracization of black queer Americans, and the myopic lens used to view Hispanic people, making it imperative that these authors have a platform on which their voices can be heard. By no means do these books broach a level of impropriety that makes them unsuitable for younger readers. They are simply honest accounts of what it is like to grow up in a country that has misconstrued what it means to be a “true American”.
While this country grants numerous benefits to its citizens, its downfalls must also be taken into account in order to initiate growth. For decades in America, the microphone has, for the most part, been handed to men unaffected by the injustice which lurks beneath the red, white, and blue flag we so proudly wave. To learn from the experiences of marginalized authors at a young age is a stepping stone to cultivate the social conscience of Americans, and cleanse them of their predetermined prejudices. It also gives future generations an opportunity to show more amiability towards minorities than their ancestors did. Education is the only way our country can hope to deconstruct its prejudices which have been inculcated into us at birth, which is why the expurgation of material that sheds light on inequality in America is a senselessly cruel act.
Prohibiting these books from libraries is not only antiquated and representative of a dysfunctional government, but it is also discriminatory. This country has repeatedly shown jaundice towards minorities, what with the Indian Removal Act of 1830, and Japanese internment camps in 1942. Our history is scarred by our ignorance and inability to listen to others. To repeat this mistake by silencing BIPOC and ethnic groups is to say that their issues are not worth our time- that the injustices they suffered at the hands of our country should be forgotten in the name of preserving the innocence of our youth. This is an eminently prejudiced take because it exacerbates the divide between white and non-white Americans by belittling minority struggles. Change will never be possible if we are unwilling to face the demons of our past and how we were responsible for unleashing them, meaning we must open up discussions about race and prejudice instead of shutting them down.
The First Amendment grants citizens the right to publish reading material freely without fear of censorship. To trample this right of certain authors because they expose America’s tainted past is a direct violation of human rights that allows only a select few to control the narrative of what this country’s history should entail. Like any other country, America has made its mistakes- some more egregious than others. However, if children are never taught about how America strayed from the path of morality during its darkest hours, they develop the mentality that this country can do no wrong. This type of thinking engenders bigotry and xenophobia, leading future generations into treacherous territory.
Moreover, it is of the utmost importance for children to learn about injustices that plague this country because of their growing minds. Studies show that at age 12, kids start to become increasingly influenced by social factors. By sheltering white children from serious topics, namely racism and discrimination, their ability to develop empathy for people of color will be hindered. If they are not educated about such matters at a young age, their ignorance will lead them down the wrong path, and it is infinitely harder for them to unlearn prejudice when they are much older. A child’s formative years is a period when education and learning should be maximized; not restricted. What's more, adults often underestimate how much adolescents and teens are able to handle. Children watch movies with profanity, play video games consisting of killing, and are taught about war and 9/11 in school- they are more than capable of learning about America´s pejorative history towards minorities. If it is taught correctly, then there would be no problem with allowing reading materials which deal with America’s treatment of marginalized groups to be freely accessible in school libraries. And if it brings such a degree of wariness for conservatives to teach their children about America’s history that they resort to censorship, perhaps our nation needs a significant amount of change before it can be one we are proud to call home.
By Chloe Yang
Based on the results of the 2020 census, state and local governments across the nation are beginning a new cycle of redistricting, or redrawing district lines in accordance with population shifts. However, through redistricting, politicians now utilize a practice known as gerrymandering, or redrawing district boundaries with the intention of favoring the electoral chances of one group over another. Partisan gerrymandering, which is redistricting to favor one political party over another, has been utilized frequently by politicians from both sides of the aisle. This practice has only been heightened in the most recent redistricting cycle following the Supreme Court ruling in the 2019 Rucho v. Common Cause case, which decided that partisan gerrymandering cannot be challenged in federal court, although they can still be challenged in state courts.
Most notably, partisan gerrymandering has been heavily weaponized by Republicans during the 2021-22 redistricting process. This gerrymandering scheme began back in 2010, when Republicans unveiled the REDMAP initiative which targeted swing states in the 2010 election to gain power in the corresponding redistricting process. The impacts of this initiative were effective, and as REDMAP’s own website puts it, that party that has power over the redistricting process “shap[es] the political landscape for the next 10 years.”
Twelve years after the start of REDMAP, Republicans are continuing to unjustly use partisan gerrymandering to their advantage. In Ohio and North Carolina, for example, although the redrawn maps have since been struck down, Republicans have attempted to pass maps that have both received an “F” grade on the Princeton Gerrymandering Project’s partisanship scale.
As the 2021-22 redistricting process begins to wind down, it is becoming increasingly clear that the current system of partisan gerrymandering is becoming less and less democratic. The primary nomination system is largely to blame––partisan gerrymandering removes any real competition from general elections, meaning the primary election of the dominant party all but determines district representation. Not only does partisan gerrymandering skew representation and create extreme polarization, they also impact a multitude of social and political issues.
The passage of gun prevention legislation, for example, has been hindered by the proliferation of partisan gerrymandering. Public support for increased gun control legislation has been rising in the US within recent years, largely due to the increase in mass shootings and gun-related homicides. However, while 88% of Americans support requiring background checks on all gun sales, many states have failed to take this action because of the disconnect between the representatives and their voters. For example, in 2017, Democrats won a majority of the popular vote for the Virginia House of Delegates. However, thanks to the gerrymandered districts, Republicans held on to control, and the following year, the same thing happened in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. These Republican-controlled legislatures have repeatedly refused to allow gun restriction bills to have a hearing or come to a vote.
Similarly, partisan gerrymandering has also limited access to health insurance. While states can receive federal funding to expand Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act, the states themselves must approve it. Because of partisan gerrymandering, conservative politicians from Wisconsin, to North Carolina, and Georgia, have opposed ACA policies that are estimated to have insured 1 million more people and prevented around 3,000 deaths in 2019.
Partisan gerrymandering has also hindered the expansion of child care and education programs. Expanding programs that provide support for children have long been a bipartisan issue: 70% of Americans favor increasing funding for expanding pre-K education — 53% of Republicans and 87% of Democrats. Although policies like tax credit for child care have been proposed in states like North Carolina, the effort for adoption was quickly quashed by the Republican dominated legislature. Similar efforts, which have been proposed in Michigan and Pennsylvania, were also defeated in the gerrymandered state legislatures.
In addition to partisan gerrymandering, racial gerrymandering, or the practice of drawing political boundaries to favor one racial group over another, still continues to plague our redistricting process as well, even though the practice was outlawed in the Shaw v. Reno Supreme Court case. While partisan gerrymandering is constitutional, racial gerrymandering is not. However, because it is difficult to distinguish between the two, racial gerrymandering still takes place under the guise of political partisanship.
Specifically, Republicans have been using racial gerrymandering to dilute the power of African American voters to push Democratic leaders out of office or dilute their electoral chances. Racial gerrymandering is more prominent in this redistricting cycle in particular because it follows the Shelby County v. Holder. Supreme Court decision that struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which defined the rules for redistricting based on voter turnout. Essentially, this decision gave states the ability to create more restrictive voting laws without federal approval. In Texas, and in nine other states primarily in the South, redistricting maps no longer needed federal approval.
The New York Times found that “the number of Black legislators being drawn out of their districts [in this cycle] outpaces that of recent redistricting cycles.” And Leah Aden, deputy director of litigation at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund Inc concedes that, “Without a doubt [racial gerrymandering is] worse than it was in any recent decade.”
This pattern is proven in numerous Republican-led states. For example, while people of color account for more than 95% of Texas’ population growth since the 2010 redistricting cycle, the Texas State Legislature drew two new Congressional seats with populations that were predominantly white. States like Alabama and South Carolina are also continuing their decades-long tradition of packing African American voters into a single Congressional district to minimize the power of their votes, even though there were attempts to have a second majority-Black House district created.
While beneficial in theory, in practice, gerrymandering has unfortunately become far too politicized and favors politicians over people. Gerrymandering, both partisan and racial, are frankly undemocratic practices that arbitrarily minimize the voices of some citizens and amplify the voices of others. Politicians must strive to leave the game of elections and partisanship behind for the betterment of their own constituents. In our current system, it is no longer our voters who chose our representatives, but rather our representatives who are choosing their voters.
By Chloe Yang
On December 22, 2021, the New Jersey Congressional Redistricting Commission adopted a new congressional district map. The six Democrats on New Jersey’s bipartisan Congressional Redistricting Commission drew their own proposal for the new map whereas the six Republicans on the commission drew a separate proposal. Because they could not agree on a map, NJ Supreme Court Justice John Wallace, who had been selected as the tie-breaker, had an enormous amount of power in deciding the future of the state’s congressional districts. On December 22nd, Wallace announced that he would vote in favor of the Democrats’ map, citing his reason for doing so being that the Republicans controlled the state’s last redistricting process in 2011.
Unsurprisingly, the new map is relatively favorable to Democrats, for out of the twelve congressional districts of New Jersey, six districts are now solidly Democratic and three districts are Democratic-leaning. In comparison to the previous map, the new map includes three more Democratically-leaning districts: one less Republican-leaning district and two less highly competitive districts.
Most notably, Democratic Representative Andy Kim’s 3rd Congressional district had the most dramatic partisan swing, going from R+5 to D+9 (data based on FiveThirtyEight’s Partisan Propensity Index). Similarly, Representatives Josh Gottheimer and Mikie Sherrill gained much bluer districts following the redistricting, improving their reelection prospects in 2022.
However, while Representatives Kim, Gottheimer, and Sherrill all benefited from this redraw, District 7’s own Democratic Representative Tom Malinowski is at an increased risk, with the district going from D+4 to R+3. During the redistricting process, Malinowski supporters testified at meetings of the NJ Redistricting Commission to try to save Malinowski’s reelection chances, with one supporter stating that, “[m]aking our district safe for the scion of any political dynasty would be unacceptable to the citizens of NJ-7”. However, these efforts were ultimately not enough and Malinowski’s seat may have been sacrificed in the redistricting process.
In 2020, Malinowski’s opponent, New Jersey State Senator Tom Kean Jr., came just one point away and 5,000 votes from unseating the incumbent. Kean has announced that he will be seeking a rematch with Malinowski in 2022. Although this time around, Kean has primary opponents to face off against, State Assemblyman Erik Peterson and America First Rev. Phil Rizzo, Kean is likely to remain on top as the Republicans’ candidate of choice. But no matter how difficult his reelection chances may seem, Malinowski announced early last month that he would be seeking reelection for a third term. Malinowski himself admits in a fundraising email that “redistricting hasn’t made things easier for us” but also contends, “I’ve only ever won hard races. And my likely opponent, Tom Kean Jr., has only ever lost them — for good reason.”
Contrastingly, Kean is increasingly confident going into election season. Dan Scharfenberger, Kean’s campaign manager, for example, thinks that the new district lines were a reflection of Malinowski’s increasingly slim reelection prospects: “Democrats on redistricting rated him a loser, now analysts rate him a loser”.
The Congressman’s reelection chances are far from entirely gone. In fact, Malinowski has only ever run in highly competitive races. Malinowski has a leg up in fundraising: Malinowski raised around $2.1 million in campaign financing by October, 2021, in comparison to Kean’s $648,000. Additionally, in 2018, Malinowski was one of the few Democrats who campaigned in the race as a moderate and won. Going into the midterms, one of Malinowski’s primary strategies is to appeal to the voters who backed Biden for President and Kean for Congress in 2020. This election may test whether a Democrat with an independent persona, much like Malinowski, can withstand a Republican wave.
As in every new decade, the redistricting process has come and gone. However, for residents of New Jersey’s Seventh Congressional district, the new lines may cause great political change in the 2022 midterm elections, possibly flipping the balance of power for the next two years, or even longer. As Malinowski himself states, “The stakes have never been higher.”
By Chloe Yang
In many ways, the world was impacted the most by the pandemic because of a lack of precautions. As the Omicron variant continues to surge and countries struggle to keep cases low, the oversight in providing the proper health precautions has led to the number of total worldwide COVID cases skyrocketing to 400 million. But beyond that, a failure to bolster the global supply chain has led to nearly every single aspect of it being affected by the pandemic. From manufacturing, transportation, logistics, and more, the efficiency of the supply chain was greatly slowed following the spread of COVID-19.
Primarily, manufacturing was one of the first steps in the supply chain to be impacted by the pandemic. In industrial and manufacturing giants like China, South Korea, Vietnam, and even Germany, thousands of factories were forced to shut down or reduce production due to quarantine restrictions and sick employees. As a result, shipping companies subsequently cut down their schedules, anticipating a global drop in demand for transporting goods.
However, this prediction proved to be a fatal mistake. While demand for certain goods and services, such as airline tickets and restaurant meals, did lessen, this did not hold true in numerous industries. Indeed, people instead redirected money that they once would have spent on experiences and promptly funneled them to home investments, which doubled as offices and classrooms during lockdown. From office chairs to blenders, video game consoles, gym equipment, and even paint for redecoration, demand in the home improvement sector quickly skyrocketed. Peloton, an American home exercise equipment company, for example, saw their stock rise by 350% in just 2020 alone, due to the increased demand in at-home exercise equipment.
But factories soon found it difficult to keep up with this sudden increase in consumer demand. Some items, for example, are critical components in the manufacturing process. Computer microchips were among the items that were most affected by the supply chain crisis, due to their advanced and complicated production process. Because of this, factories struggled to produce items such as automobiles, computers, displays, and other vital electronic products. This shortage especially burdened teachers and students around the world, who needed computers, microphones, and web cameras for virtual learning, widening the supply and demand gap even more.
Physical transportation has also created stalls in the supply chain. Since the beginning of the pandemic, containers have been simultaneously scarce and in high demand. As masks, hospital gowns, and other personal protective equipment were shipped from China and the US to nations around the world as the virus first proliferated, empty containers quickly piled up in remote areas that do not typically ship exports back to China or the US, slowing global container turnaround rates. At the same time, nations began greatly increasing production in order to keep up with the aforementioned increased demand. The newfound scarcity of containers combined with the spike in demand for them led to the skyrocketing of the cost of cargo transportation. China-US container shipping even rates ran as high as $20,000 in 2021.
Physical bottlenecks complicated cargo shipment ever more. Ports and docks across North America and Europe quickly found it difficult to keep up with the heavy influx of container ships following the manufacturing increase from nations like China. Consequently, ships were forced to anchor in the sea for days before having the chance to load and unload cargo. Similarly, with truck drivers and dockworkers in port areas being forced into quarantine, the availability of transportation workers decreased, slowing the cargo transportation process even more.
While the global supply chain crisis was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, without a doubt, the issues embedded within the crisis were present before the virus. Indeed, the pandemic only highlighted existing issues within the supply chain itself. However, nations around the world can take steps to ensure that a similar crisis can be averted in the future.
The United States, for example, can focus on becoming more self-sufficient in manufacturing to guarantee that heightened reliance on Chinese manufacturing cannot cause delays in the supply chain. The world’s reliance on China’s production of goods was one of the largest contributors to the crisis. While the US likely cannot keep up with China in more labor-intensive industries, it can invest more heavily in technological and research-intensive production. Recently, the Biden administration invested $20 billion in American technology company Intel to build a semiconductor factory in Ohio. Increasing domestic manufacturing capacity as well as diversifying suppliers is a crucial first step to alleviate the pressures caused by the supply chain shortage.
Additionally, the labor shortages in the transportation and warehousing industries could be reduced by the increase in global wages for the sectors. With the annual turnover rate reaching 94%, retention is a big problem in the global trucking labor market, but one that can be mitigated by higher wages. Additionally, improving working conditions in the sectors can also make the jobs more attractive to licensed truck drivers. The 2021 bipartisan infrastructure bill that was passed in the US failed to address these issues, overlooking the inclusion of funding for truck parking, for instance. However, by providing more competitive wages, as well as increasing investment in overall infrastructure, nations around the world can diminish the substantial labor shortage to prevent another supply shortage in the future.
While the current supply crisis may be temporary, the underlying issues within the supply chain will undoubtedly persist. If the global community can cooperate to solve these problems using collaborative solutions, another supply chain crisis can hopefully be averted in the future.
By Priya Mullassaril
When foreigners hear of America nowadays, one thing comes to mind: school shootings. The notion that our country has neglected to protect its children from gun violence is propelled by the failure of lawmakers to pass legislation that effectively and thoroughly screens Americans before handing them a firearm. Not only do children live in fear, but so does the average working-class citizen. Every day in the US, 316 people are shot, 106 of which are fatal. These numbers stand to increase if legal recourse is not taken to place tighter restrictions on guns.
Another way in which gun violence has steadily grown over the years is through state preemption. This happens when an organization that supports the use of guns, such as the National Rifle Association, undermines city-wide laws on gun regulation and ensures laws that work in their favor. These organizations have successfully overturned the federal gun laws of forty-two states and implemented their own, unrestricted gun laws. These laws allow firearms to be carried in public places, resulting in a higher rate of crime and violence. State preemption is an obscene abuse of power, which Congress must work to prohibit in order to diminish the power of groups such as the NRA. However, many Republicans fear losing their gun rights if state preemption is deemed illegal since this practice operates heavily in conservative states where guns are valued immeasurably. The loss of gun rights looms ominously over their heads and is the most probable reason why state preemption has not been banned yet. If Republicans supportive of the Second Amendment were able to understand the danger that these flimsy gun laws pose for the rest of America, perhaps they would be able to support the prohibition of preemption.
Unimaginable tragedies have taken place as a result of this nation’s lax policy regarding guns. In March of 2021, Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa opened fire in a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado. Ten lives were lost, the youngest victim being only twenty years old. Ahmad’s mental instability should be noted, as it was clear he was not sound of mind at the time. Onlookers said he was mumbling and laughing during confrontations with officers, and when he was shot in the leg by a policeman, he exclaimed, “I surrender. I’m naked.” Ahmad was not mentally stable at the time and was declared incompetent to stand trial because of his condition. So why is it that someone was able to legally sell him a machine with which he could take lives? Laws need to be set forth so that guns are not as readily accessible to the mentally ill and to those with severe psychological conditions. This is not because they are violent at their core, but because guns could upheave their fragile temperaments and impel them to do something irrevocable. What they should receive is proper medical care with a professional diagnosis. Our society has brewed the stigma that people with mental illnesses are more inclined to violence. While this is a cruel stereotype, it may become true if actions are not taken to prescribe them the right medication—and if they have guns at their fingertips. The path that Ahmad and other shooters with unsound minds have gone down is not only a shame on the American government but also on our medical institutions. If the people in our country who wear lab coats and suits had paid more attention to those who were clearly struggling, such an atrocity could have been prevented. But they didn’t, so it wasn’t.
Gun violence in this country is undeniably out of control. The only way to keep this violence at a minimum is to impose ironclad gun restrictions, as proven by foreign countries such as China, Australia, and the United Kingdom, where there is an emphasis on gun control, and the amount of gun violence consequently dwarfs in comparison to ours. In relation to other developed countries, the US has 25.2 times more homicides by guns. Gun violence also disproportionately affects people of color, as targeted racial attacks are made easier with these long range weapons. Unfettered access to guns allows horrific things to happen, and while some Americans argue that guns should be allowed for hunting, stricter background checks, at the very least, must be implemented before people are allowed to purchase a firearm.
Moreover, laws need to be put in place to ensure the safety of children around firearms. For instance, if all states enacted a stricter policy regarding gun storage, mandating gun owners with small children to store their guns in locked safes, accidental firearm deaths would be reduced by an approximated 6%. The year 2021 saw 289 children accidentally fire a gun at either themselves, or someone near them, due to poor gun storage. These tragedies could easily have been prevented through legal action in Congress.
Over time, our country has divorced itself from the criticality of safety and instead reeks of incorrigibility and a fatal case of indolence. As politicians twiddle their thumbs and wait for the hour hand to dismiss them, bodies are lowered into the ground across America. A terrifying 18% of all recorded school shootings in American history have occurred since the Sandy Hook Shooting of 2012, and those numbers wrack fear through the minds of all citizens. Perhaps a future is possible where America's children do not have to prepare themselves for school shootings once every month by hiding in the corner of their classrooms in practice drills, but that future is only achievable if our government deems it to be one worth working towards.
By Chloe Yang
Much like a young couple in love, Biden’s approval ratings and the surge of the Delta variant seem impossible to separate, as the bond between the two statistics only strengthens with time. As the United States enters its fourth wave of COVID, Biden’s approval ratings sunk to a new low of 42 percent earlier this week as the Delta variant’s prevalence in the nation only continues to grow. In fact, currently, 99% of all COVID-19 cases in the US are delta variant cases.
The link between these two statistics are no mere coincidence. Rather, Biden’s mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis is a direct cause of his low approval ratings. At the beginning of his presidency, Biden’s steady handling of the pandemic helped boost his standing. During the first half of the year, there seemed to be hope that the pandemic would begin to recede. However, just months into the summertime, the Delta variant began rapidly spreading throughout the nation. The variant first emerged in India in December of 2020 and infamously wreaked havoc in the country, leading to a massive second wave and over 430,000 official deaths (most experts believe this is a severe undercount and even put the number as high as 3 to 5 million). But soon after, the variant spread to Great Britain and eventually the United States.
Specifically, the Delta variant is much more dangerous than its previous counterparts because it is nearly twice as contagious as other variants and has been proven to be more likely to put the infected in the hospital. Those who are unvaccinated are at the highest risk, with the highest concentration of the variant in the US being in areas with lower rates of vaccination. Yet despite Biden’s once-successful handling of the pandemic, in September—as the Delta variant surged through the nation— for the first time, more voters disapproved of Biden’s handling of the crisis than those who approved of it.
With the Biden administration once promising efficiency in their COVID-19 response, voters are growing disenchanted with the skyrocketing infections. In July, the Delta variant quickly grew to become the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the US. Due to a lack of action at both the national and state level, the variant was much more destructive than the Biden administration had expected, with President Biden branding it as a “largely preventable tragedy”. Over the summer, for instance, many southern states were facing ICU bed shortages, with five states having less than 10 percent of their ICU bed capacity remaining.
Biden’s response to the Delta variant was also complicated by political motivations as well. With much of the American economy having been shut down since March 2020, Biden was hopeful about gradually releasing restrictions to allow the economy to begin it’s recovery. However, the conflicting advice from advisory agencies has confused both the president and American citizens. The CDC, for example, has changed their stance on wearing a mask numerous times within just the past year. This led to White House officials and CDC advisors often touting conflicting ideas, muddying the rules that citizens were meant to follow.
Additionally, booster shots are another point of contention between the White House and it’s federal agencies. Biden, a strong proponent of allowing all adults to receive a booster shot, did not share the same beliefs as his advisors. After the president steamrolled ahead in creating a booster program (without reviewing with the FDA), Marion Gruber and Phil Krause, two vaccine regulators at the FDA, submitted resignations in September largely due to their frustration with the Biden administration's negligence.
However, this has not quelled the Biden administration's hopes of expanding vaccine booster availability. Recently, the CDC even approved booster shots for adolescents from 16 to 18 years old, with the CDC strongly encouraging booster shots for all amid fears of the spreading of the new Omicron variant.
If Biden does not act quickly to keep the Delta variant in check, it stands to threaten his ambitious economic agenda. In the beginning of September, Biden unveiled a plan to combat the surge of the delta variant. Among the provisions of his plan were mandates for vaccinations for federal workers, contractors, health care workers, and more. His plan also contains recommendations on how to keep schools open.
But although Biden has been relatively wary about any binding, overarching mandates for all Americans, it seems to be the most foolproof solution to beat the surge. It is well within Biden’s presidential power to do so: vaccine requirements for children in school began in the 1850s. With 45% of all unvaccinated Americans saying they definitely will not get the jab, a mandate may be the only way for America to conceivably achieve herd immunity. With the CDC showing that the unvaccinated are nearly 11 times as likely as vaccinated people to contract Covid-19, a vaccine mandate may be the best way forward. By implementing a mandate on vaccination, people still will have the ability to refuse a vaccine, but their involvement in public and social life will be severely limited, incentivizing them to get the vaccine.
Currently, the Biden administration has begun exploring this path. Earlier this fall, President Biden issued an executive order that would mandate companies with over 100 workers to require vaccination among their employees. This plan is estimated to affect nearly 100 million Americans and around 66% of the workforce. However, this mandate has stalled in federal court and has faced significant amounts of pushback and controversy. Namely, the attorney generals from numerous states have banded together to challenge the legality of the executive order. On the other hand, scientists as a whole generally welcome a stronger vaccine push from the Biden administration as the virus becomes endemic in the nation. As Natalie Dean, a biostatistician at Emory University in Atlanta puts it: “It’s part of the shift from short-term reactions to long-term solutions.”
It may be a while before the threat of the Delta variant begins to subside and with the Omicron variant already on the rise, COVID-19 will certainly linger for much longer. Thus, the Biden administration must actively work to combat the variant for the sake of the nation’s overall economic and social recovery. It’s time for the US and Delta’s breakup.
By Mimi Petric
Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.
Yet America’s history classes have seen to it that students should forget the country’s messy past before they even get a chance to truly learn about it. With the rise in AAPI hate, a polarized state due to the Black Lives Matter Protests, and the rise in LGBTQ+ hate crimes, it’s become undeniable that America’s history has heavily contributed to its current problems - and all the while, history curriculums have continued to paint the country in a positive light. And we’ve done more than jus repeat history - real history is glossed over and romanticized to the point where groups are marginalized, events are oversimplified, and people are dehumanized, meaning that it’s time for history classes to be taught in a different approach.
Although inconspicuous, classroom resources are a major root to this problem. In 2015, the McGraw-Hill textbook company found itself at the forefront of rather embarrassing press after releasing a page from one of its world-geography textbooks, which featured a map with a patch of purple grids extending throughout the country’s Southeast corridor. It’s one-sentence caption read: “The Atlantic Slave Trade between the 1500s and 1800s brought millions of workers from Africa to the southern United States to work on agricultural plantations.” The mistake of referring to African slaves as “workers” was quickly lambasted throughout social media. And although this blunder seems trivial, it’s the small nuance between words that leads to erasure - starting with events, such as, in this case, the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, being painted in a more positive light.
And this issue goes beyond just events from centuries past - it permeates into our modern culture and representation. Take the recent violence against Asian-American and Pacific Islanders, for example. The spa shootings in the Atlanta area represent one of many events in a year in which anti-Asian violence has increased across the United States. But as various educators and historians tell TIME, anti-Asian racism is directly linked to history, and how members of the AAPI community are portrayed in historical lessons - often, as security threats and dangerous foreigners. And after former President Trump’s racist statements, Asian hate has further spiraled and developed an increasingly dire call to action. Jean Wu, Tufts University Asian American Studies lecturer, puts it best: “K-12 American history texts reinforce the narrative that Asian immigrants and refugees are fortunate to have been ‘helped’ and ‘saved’ by the U.S. The story does not begin with U.S. imperialist wars that were waged to take Asian wealth and resources and the resulting violence, rupture and displacement in relation to Asian lives.” By glossing over, or just entirely incorrectly depicting the reality of AAPI history, misinformation grows rampant, and daily language, even that of a president, becomes injected with bias.
And the effects of this teaching method are omnipresent. Reducing students’ exposure to an adequate and accurate social studies and historical curriculum leads to, as experts put it, a “civic achievement gap” of sorts. Closely related to the general achievement gap between affluent, mostly white students and low-income minority students, the civic achievement gap has made it increasingly difficult for those who grow up in low-income households to participate in civic affairs. According to Professor Meira Levinson of Harvard University, people living in families with incomes under $15,000 voted at just over half the rate of those living in families with incomes over $75,000. However, experts do collapse on the idea that a stronger curriculum in social and historical studies may help close this gap between families. As found by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, students who receive effective education in social studies are more likely to vote, four times more likely to volunteer and work on community issues, and are generally more confident in their ability to communicate ideas with their elected representatives.
It’s clear that the positives of adequate historical education clearly outweigh the negative: but how should educators begin approaching this issue? Although originally employed as an instructional tool, textbooks have now become the backbone of history and social studies classes throughout America. The use of primary and secondary sources and narratives, as opposed to rote memorization through singular mass-produced textbooks, is found to be a significantly more effective mechanism towards teaching students on analyzing and recognizing the ways in which inherent biases shape conventional instructional materials. Chicago-based writer Michael Conway argues in an essay in the Atlantic that history classes should focus on teaching children “historiography”—the methodologies employed by historians and the exploration of history itself. This method allows students to take on the role of an “apprentice historian,” not that of a student learning solely through overused worksheets and standardized texts.
We belong to history, it does not belong to us. That’s why it’s imperative that history be taught accurately, so that our youth has the capacity to create change based on valid knowledge. The only way to ignite change is to teach the truth in an unfiltered way, which we have the power to do by treating history as a language: one that should be spoken accurately, equitably, and objectively.
By Priya Mullassaril
Kim Kardashian buys her next mansion as a homeless man is forced to go another day without food. Is it fair? No. But unfortunately, it is the way our world works. It’s a well-known fact that the rich-poor wealth gap remains a dark cloud looming over the world- but the release of the Pandora Papers has truly spotlighted this phenomenon. These documents revealed the dark underbelly of the rich- and how they were able to scam the system in order to get away with mass tax evasion.
While many have heard of the leakage of the Panama Papers, these are different from the Pandora Papers because of their size and content. Compared to their sister papers, the Pandora Papers contain far more records and differ in the individuals they implicate. Regardless, they both show how the rich have spun a web of lies around the government in a cleverly tied knot.
A group of dedicated journalists called the ICIJ worked tirelessly to comb through financial documents they procured from offshore providers created by the rich. After about a year of looking for discrepancies in a massive 2.94 terabytes of data, they found what they were looking for. Using advanced technology and graph databases, it was revealed that the elite 1% move their taxable assets, like cars, houses, and private planes to fake companies on paper. These “companies” then set up shop in islands without corporate tax, therefore allowing the elite to hold—and potentially resell—their assets without paying taxes.
Like in the Meryl Streep movie “The Laundromat”, many lower and middle-class citizens are disenfranchised by the actions of the wealthy. In the film, Meryl’s character, Ellen, investigates a shady insurance company situated in Panama that refuses to pay her late husband’s life insurance. She realizes the company was a scam, and in actuality was a group of men in suits profiting off of the naivety of the elderly. The movie provides social commentary about how the American tax system fails those on the lower levels of the social hierarchy, and how the rich are easily able to poke holes in this poorly constructed system.
Their antics only widen the already vast wealth disparity between them and the poor. After the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses and workers were left reeling, leading to total American employment plummeting by 8.8 million. Wallets stayed closed, frowns stayed put… but the rich continued to increase in wealth. For example, while his Jordanian people were struggling to put food on the table amidst the pandemic, the Papers implicated King Abdulla for funneling millions of dollars into offshore luxury homes. The rich will only continue to benefit at the expense of those less fortunate, demonstrating the skewed nature of global commerce.
It is an undeniable fact that the United States will always face a division between rich people and poor people. Unless America undergoes a communist revolution sometime soon, this will stay true for the foreseeable future. However, it is simply unreasonable for the top 1% to own 20% of America’s wealth. If this trend continues, a few billionaires in this country will hold the majority of the wealth, while the rest of the population struggles to make ends meet. Unless we are actively trying to recreate the Hunger Games, steps need to be taken by the government to place limits on the rich. Who knows how much power they will have in the future if they are left unchecked? Will these silver spoons bulldoze over our democracy until only rubble remains? Moving forward, the only way to justly decrease the enormous wealth gap requires leaders and people to use the Pandora Papers as a wake-up call to curtail the power of the elite.