By Willa Yu
Affirmative action, founded in the 1960’s, was implemented in the name of equality. Now, about half a century later, it is time to consider if the policies deemed appropriate immediately after the Civil Rights Movement are still suitable in today’s society. The Supreme Court may finally decide that affirmative action in higher education does the exact opposite of what it intends—to create equality. At the same time, preferential treatment in higher education might actually make a comeback in some states. While some resolve to abolish it, others firmly champion affirmative action, making it one of the United States’ most pressing social issues.
Many states, such as Michigan, have already decided that it is unconstitutional to use racial preferences in admissions to public universities. In 2006, an initiative prohibited preferential treatment in public education, government contracting, and public employment. Hitherto, all attempts to repeal this referendum, called Proposal 2, have fail. However, proponents of affirmative action in Michigan are to voice their opinions in a new Supreme Court case, Schuette v. Coalition for Affirmative Action, which was granted a writ of certiorari on Monday, April 22. Given that just last fall, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that Proposal 2 violated the Constitution’s equal protection clause on a 8 to 7 vote, it seems as though the Supreme Court will have an equally split vote. A Democratic president appointed all eight judges in the majority while a Republican president appointed all seven judges in the dissent. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear this case in the term that starts this October.
Meanwhile, a Texas student’s lawsuit against the University of Texas will be decided as soon as Monday, April 29th. Abigail Fisher, a white student denied by the University of Texas, claims that while she was denied, under-qualified minorities were accepted. Oral arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas were heard fall of 2012 in which Abigail Fisher followed by stating, “My parents always taught me that it is wrong to discriminate. I hope the Supreme Court will decide that all future University of Texas applicants will compete without their race or ethnicity used in the school’s admissions process.” President of the University of Texas Bill Powers told after the oral arguments, “The educational benefits of diversity are worth fighting for all the way to the Supreme Court. Our lawyers effectively made the case to the justices that diversity — ethnic and otherwise — benefits all students on campus. We made the case that UT has crafted an admissions policy that meets the strict guidelines established by the court in the Grutter decision nine years ago.”
Interestingly enough, advocates for affirmative action are now defending these policies with the idea of diversity rather than curtailing prejudices. Of course, this raises the question: does the U.S. value diversity over fairness or vice versa?
Because no one on the defense mentioned any disadvantages faced by minorities, the debate on affirmative action has clearly shifted from the time of its conception to now. Naturally, a shift in ideals would not sit well with those who supported racial preferences for their original intentions. As the Supreme Court’s judgment draws near, all there is left to wonder is if affirmative action should be upheld based on an entirely different reason than the purpose of its foundations.
By Tim O'Shea
Following the fatal double bombing at the Boston Marathon on April 15th and subsequent investigation into Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsaernaev, investigators have found themselves in a sense of deja vu. For reasons both concealed in classified reports and overlooked by overlapping agencies, the family had been looked into by the FBI in a March 2011 investigation, yet did not present enough of a threat to be watched. The Russian government wiretapped a conversation between the older brother, Tamerlan, and the brother’s mother, Zubeidat, in which they discussed ‘jihad’, a Muslim term for “holy war” commonly used by Muslim extremist terrorists referring to their fight against the United States and other western institutions. Furthermore, the mother also communicated with an unnamed individual from the Caucasus already under investigation by the FBI. So, the question presents itself: why, if the family had a history of suspicious activity, was there no action taken place that could have prevented the tragedy in Boston?
Many have begun to point the finger at Russia. After all, the entire reason the 2011 FBI investigation was closed was because communication broke down between the investigative agencies of each country. But the idea that Russia could have been aware of their intentions and knowingly withheld information from the FBI is absurd. First, Jim Treacy, former FBI attache to Moscow, notes that the Russian government has actually sought more cooperation in recent years, seeking to widen their global investigative net to better fight their enemies in Chechnya. Second, Russia has no clear motive to wish harm on the civilians of America. Even if Russia wishes to surpass us as an economic or geopolitical superpower, bombing a marathon furthers neither of those goals and presents a huge risk if they are caught. Finally, it simply makes no sense that they would offer us the information after the bombings if their true intentions were to hide their involvement. Why would they aid us in the investigation if they could just as easily make the records disappear?
Any attempts to point blame at the FBI are similarly illogical. Without possessing the Russian intelligence, little about the Tsarnaevs would hint to any ill intention. Chechens have little history of anti – American sentiment. Instead Chechens antagonize Russia because of religious and ethnic divides that resulted in a bloody war in the 1990s. The capital, Grozny, was reduced to rubble, and up to 200,000 women and children became refugees as a result of the violence. So in an area preoccupied with fighting Russia, how did radical Islam take root? The answer lies in the nearby region of Dagestan, where Tamerlan spent six months last year. While Chechnya has begun to cool down, Dagestan has become more violent in the past years, with Islamic militants beginning to employ bombings and other terror tactics against local authorities. But without the information that Tamerlan ever visited the area, the FBI had little reason to suspect anything of him.
So where should the blame fall? Oddly enough, the answer may come from 1994, a time when most American citizens knew nothing about terrorism and couldn’t even pronounce Al – Qaeda. In 1994, Stephen Bowman published “When The Eagle Screams”, a book widely recognized to be the first to warn Americans of anti – American terror. Bowman was so comprehensive in his predictions that the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and plot against the Lincoln Tunnel had already been predicted in his first drafts. And in this analysis that would not come to be acclaimed until after 9/11, Bowman notes an intrinsic weakness in the American justice system. While other countries focus more on prevention of terrible acts than on punishment afterwards, America seems to be the other way around. Punishment works well to harm those who value the conventional goals of life and liberty, but because extremists value spiritual goals and rewards they believe to be received beyond the grave, they do not hold the same attention to consequences. In addition, the mainstream media causes attention to flock to terrorist actions, turning suspected bombers in to overnight celebrities. The problem is that when their goal is to bring attention to their acts, media coverage acts more as publicity of their success than as condemnation of their actions.
So while we can point the finger at bureaucracy or other countries, we have to realize that the nature of our society inherently makes it easier for us to be targeted. Blame may prevail in certain incidents, but it is the overarching problem that should be most important in the long term.
By Deeptanshu Singhvi
The Fed Funds Rate is Zero Bound and interest rates have plummeted to help stimulate a surge in demand. While job growth in the last few quarters has averaged at around 288,000, this quarter there were only a mere 88,000 jobs created. Economists are releasing statements daily regarding the accuracy of such numbers – but no one knows for sure the true cause of this job loss. Is it just an anomaly? Does the Fed have the resources to tackle this economic blow?
Currently, in order to cope with job growth by population, during each quarter 91,000 jobs need to be created. At 88,000 jobs, the U.S. economy is already below this average, which is negatively impacting the labor participation rate. A large cause for this extreme unemployment is the mediocrity of America’s Educational System – as employed workers are not trained well, structural employment tends to increase. Due to this mismatch between American workers and the skills needed in the jobs sector, the FED is powerless against stimulating job growth. To exacerbate this situation, cyclical unemployment that has made workers inefficient for long periods of time has rid employees of valuable skills, turning into a vicious cycle of unemployment.
Although the United States is spending double its budget than it did in the last decade on education, achievement levels have been outpaced by international competitors. Specifically, United States Fourth Graders are ranked 11th in math, and 7th graders are ranked 8th in science. While these may be relatively high, it offers no optimism for job growth. Firms and companies are outsourcing these jobs to higher qualified individuals in China, India, or Honk Kong where the pay is less but the quality is higher. During the financial crisis of 2008, the Congressional Research Service mapped out a new numerical number measuring the number of experienced unemployed workers divided by job openings. As the recession hit its peak and job growth was at a low, these numbers more than tripled; for example, the ratio for educational job services in 2007 was 0.3, but in 2010 jumped to 2.3. Clearly, even if the job openings existed, comparative business advantage in other nations was keeping jobs away from average Americans. Critics of the Fed have commented that lowering interest rates cannot slow down market forces such as the offshoring of essential jobs.
The clear fallacy between the FED’s goal to target structural unemployment through lowered interest rates poses an imminent threat to the American economy. In fact, due to the separation of the FED and Congress, Bernanke has no power to make Congress invest in the training of human capital. Rather than restructuring the entitlements program of the United States, congressman have passed a sequester cut of 85 billion dollars which severely harms the efficacy of American education. On a more numerical note, the FED previously issued statements saying that it would overlook possible asset purchasing halts. On the contrary, due to these unemployment figures, Bernanke has revised the proposal and plans to continue large scaled asset purchases at a pace of $85 billion dollars per month. Specifically, the Federal Reserve invests 440 billion dollars in short term securities and $45 billon dollars in longer term treasury securities. Stressing the limitations of lower interest rates, Eric S. Rosengren, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston president, said in a recent interview that, “I think we’re pushing the interest-sensitive sector about as far as we’re going to be able to push it at this time.”
Recently, the Fed’s goal to flatten the yield curve and lower mortgage interest rates has benefitted the housing market. By lowering mortgage interest rates there has been a clear alleviation on refinances and housing starts have increased by 46.7%. Consistent with the famous American Dream, the average middle class family in America invests most in buying a house. As the housing starts indicator shows positive signs, other industries such as construction, furniture, and land continue to grow. While the expansion of the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet has upheld economic recovery in the eyes of the housing market, experts argue that if the FED’s balance sheet gets too large it may lose the credibility of monetary policy. Employees of the Federal Reserve are hoping for normalized policy; a Wall Street Journal study estimates the size of the balance sheet to be so enormous that the newspaper estimates it would take longer than 10 years to normalize.
Also, recently the Federal Reserve’s exit strategy has come into question; in an event of extreme expansion of the balance sheet, the Federal Reserve will slowly have to halt asset purchases. In fact, it will also have to stop the principal payments on interest to make sure that it has tight grip on money supply. To ensure that no trouble is received while pursuing this policy, the FED has been granted a revolutionary new tool, which charges interest on the reserve requirement. By being able to take more capital from banks in exchange for treasury securities, contractionary monetary policy in the future can enable a proper exit strategy. This new tool is necessary as the balance sheet has expanded to 6% of the United States GDP, slightly over 4 trillion dollars. Simple efforts to slow down asset purchases will consume too much time, and make it impossible for a facilitated recovery.
The economy is undergoing vast change and new forces are acting upon the demand side of the financial sector. The Federal Reserve, however, even in these tough circumstances must evaluate the merits of its policy and assess the risks with each course of action. A decision to normalize policy can have a profound impact on economic prosperity and consumer confidence.
By Oliver Tang
Amid all the tragic deaths from brutal cartel violence, the huge monetary costs that taxpayers shoulder, and all the arguments of our constant blunders, it can be all too easy to lose faith in our country’s so-called War on Drugs. The only thing we’ve been hearing on the media about this struggle has been failure after failure and public opinion reflects this. Ramussen Reports finds in a poll within the past 6 months that an abysmal 7% of Americans believe we are winning the drug war. A later poll found that for the first time in history, support for the legalization of marijuana surpassed opposition. In light of reports of both harms to Americans and Latin Americans, a deeper look can help show you new developments in our struggle and possibly show you how we’re slowly winning this “losing war.”
Let’s start off by looking at how American policies have affected the supply of drugs to Americans. It can be all too easy to get caught up in arguments over how American involvement has only inadvertently helped cartels or is only displacing the problem. When we look to statistics demonstrating the exploding supply of drugs, it is important to look at a University of Miami study which reports that before the US got involved in Latin America, drug production “more than doubled” every year; essentially, the US can not be fully blamed for the skyrocketing drug supply. With that in mind, let’s look at two ways the US is making the situation better in Latin America. First, the US is solving the problem at its roots by dealing with the cultivation of drugs. USAID found that in the past few years, areas sprayed by herbicides to kill psychoactive plants has increased from 43,000 to 137,000 hectares. Eradication of these plants by hand has multiplied ten fold. Long term yield of drugs like cocaine has been reduced by nearly 40 tons per hectare because of such policies. Second, whatever drugs survive eradication are prevented from being trafficked thanks to American aid. USAID elaborates that seizures in the past few years have increased from 64 tons to 188 tons. With both of these policies in mind, cocaine production is projected to decrease in the region by an astonishing 82% over the next four years. With these two policies, the US is preemptively stopping the problem.
However, we have to face the fact that the drug war is not 100% winnable. Drugs are always going to find their way into the United States and that’s where the US government’s third solution comes into play. According to the United Nations, cocaine availability in our country is two-thirds of what it was a decade ago because of US policies. With reduced supply, comes increased prices. The United Nations elaborates since then that price per gram for cocaine has increased by $80. What that means is that we’re less likely to see new users trying out cocaine. In fact, a study by Carnegie Mellon finds that a 1% percent increase in prices is correlated with a 2.5% decrease in consumption in drugs. With both of these figures, it is no surprise that the UN finds that cocaine-positive have decreased 68% over the past 4 years. At the point where the Global Commission on Drugs finds that 6,000 people die from cocaine related deaths a year – making it the most dangerous psychoactive drug – this 68% decrease saves approximately 4,200 American lives annually. But we can’t forget about the monetary cost to accomplish this: a Yale University analysis finds that America spends around $12,000 each time it successfully prevents 1 kilogram of cocaine from entering the country. However, when you factor in the potential hospital stays, crime, lost productivity, and other negative factors caused by that 1 kilogram of cocaine, it would cost society about $360,000 dollars. What that means for us is that the policy saves about 30 times more than it costs. When it comes to our domestic situation, we are saving more lives and money.
But finally, we can’t forget about the situation of Latin America. After all, this is the birthplace of both the psychoactive drugs and the cartels that give us so much trouble. Are we leaving these people in the dust with our policies and just allowing the problem reemerge stronger than before? Or are we taking steps to ensure long-term stability and self-sufficiency for the Latin Americans? The reality is the latter. Let’s start by looking at alternative development programs in Latin America. Three alternative development programs have already affected 250,000 Latin American families, allowing them to exchange illicit drugs…for legal crops. As a result we have seen sales of legal crops experience an outstanding 70% increase. We are moving families away from illegal and potentially self-destructive lifestyles and providing them with a stable one. But it doesn’t end there. A report from Time Magazine actually finds that farmers actually earn twice their normal income with this new lifestyle, bringing themselves up from the near state of poverty they found selling psychoactive plants. We’re enriching and improving the quality of life for these farmers. Additionally, for regions plagued by cartel violence, crime is an extremely important issue. Cartels hold a significant influence in Latin America and the US has worked to reduce that stranglehold. Thanks to $4.8 billion of US Aid, the Colombian Army’s membership has nearly quadrupled. This surge in power of the Colombian corresponds with a hit to the membership of cartel gangs, with the LA Times reporting that demobilization of FARC combatants has dropped membership from 17,000 to 5,000. This leaves crime rates at a new low. The Brookings Institution reports that homicides have dropped 40% in Colombia alone, saving 14,000 lives per year. The study also finds that kidnapping has declined even more impressively by 80%. By helping the Latin Americans by providing them with a solid lifestyle instead of growing drugs and suppressing violence, American aid has resulted in a win-win for both countries.
In retrospect, we should rethink how we view our War Against its Drugs and its ambiguous continuation. While our policies in Latin America are not perfect, there failed to produce many negative externalities. Contrary to what we hear everyday, we are indeed slowly and recently winning the War of Drugs.
By Cathy Chen
North Korea urges foreigners to evacuate South Korea. Religiously motivated terrorists plant a bomb at the Boston Marathon. North Korea declares plans to launch missiles. A Missouri dissident sends mail laced with ricin to political figures. North Korea announces the trial of an American citizen.
These days, threats from North Korea seem to just fill the spaces between other pieces of noteworthy news, an ubiquitous menace constantly casting its shadow over the developing world, monopolizing the media in between various crises and events. In the past few months, North Korea has tested nuclear bombs, announced that it possesses missiles capable of reaching the United States mainland, and released a fiery video depicting the immolation of American political landmarks. These seem to portent impending doom, or at least a critical transnational incident. They fill mainstream media and other news feeds with intimidating possibilities of critical escalation.
But is this really anything new? In 1994, North Korea asserted its intention to turn Seoul, the capital of South Korea, into a “sea of fire.” In 2002, it again expressed its power in a bellicose announcement that it would “mercilessly wipe out” the United States and other aggressors. Today, six year later, the United States and Seoul remain in their respective locations, and North Korean threats have become an almost common occurrence.
A comprehensive timeline produced by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars reveals that North Korea has been engaging in this kind of threatening activity since 1968, when it seized the USS Pueblo, which remains in the possession of North Korea today. This kind of activity is known as brinksmanship. Throughout modern history, North Korea has been known to repeatedly utilize alarming rhetoric and extreme actions to gain the attention of prominent international figures and various forms of aid. It engages in risky behavior that pushes the United States and the rest of the international community “to the brink” and is placated by promises of food aid, relaxed sanctions, or the opportunity to negotiate with influential people.
One of the most significant and well-known instance of brinksmanship mirrored this combination of public antagonism for private concessions. The Cuban Missile Crisis occurred in the midst of the cold war, when the Soviet Union deployed ships with offensive ballistic missiles to Cuba. The United States declared a “quarantine” of Cuba, blockading the country from incoming Soviet ships. As the Soviet ships traveled closer and closer to their intended destination, the world waited apprehensively. Ultimately, 13 days of international tension ended with the Soviets publicly removing their missiles for the United States’ promise to never invade Cuba. Then-Secretary of State Dean Rusk declared that “we were eyeball to eyeball and the other guy just blinked.”
So this usage of brinksmanship is nothing completely novel, for North Korea or for the world. What is new, however, is the leader of North Korea. Kim Jong-Un, with less than two years of experience as “Supreme Leader” of North Korea, is responsible for all the calculations, manipulations, and actions behind North Korea’s policy of brinksmanship. Though he undoubtedly received years of grooming before becoming “Supreme Leader”, the recent combination of nuclear threats, border-closing, and the trial of an American man could signify an unsteady escalation of threats. With a new and possibly inexperienced leader venturing in the risky business of brinksmanship, North Korea could quickly lose control of the situation, leading America and its allies into a dire calamity.
Given North Korea’s past actions and current path, it is up to the United States to decide its own course of action: take decisive action or wait and see if North Korea, too, will blink.
By Tim O'Shea
The question of military conflict with North Korea has been flooded with possible justifications for action, from its nuclear brinksmanship, to imprisonment of American citizens and even remnants of anti – Communist containment. But it might just be the most important reason of all that isn’t getting media attention.
Prison camps have seen widespread use in North Korea for everything from “prisoners of war” to political dissidents to the families of anyone the government deems dangerous. And the tales that have slipped through the barb – wire fences of the camps have started to gain traction in the international community. Shin Dong – hyuk was born and raised in a political prison, and managed to escape the camp and tell his story to the world in his book “Escape From Camp 14”, a bestseller translated into twenty four languages. The memories he recalls to journalists are ones of fierce psychological atrocities against the prisoners. For instance, incentives such as food were so strong that they drove people to report any conspiracy of escape to the camp officials, often resulting in executions. Escaped prisoner Ji Hae Nam explained that prisoners also went through hours of hard labor and mandatory self – criticism meant to break down their spirits and make them subdue to the regime.
As more than sixty defectors have corroborated, the camps are a malnourished nightmare. David R. Hawk from the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea reported in “The Hidden Gulag” that according to eyewitness accounts, 70% of prisoners in Camp 1 suffered from malnutrition and a fifth of the population died as a result of inadequate rations. Camp Fourteen, where Shin was born, is a particularly underfed and brutal camp. One prisoner named Kim Chul Min was killed after it was discovered he gathered chestnuts for nutrition and Kal Li Yong was beaten to death with a stick after attempting to eat the leather from a whip. And it hasn’t just been prisoners telling their stories. In an interview with NBC, former guard Ayn Myong Chol described the procedures used by the guards. One incentive scheme used to control guards involved paying for a college education if a guard killed an escapee. Besides resulting in the beatings of any who misbehaved in an attempt to gain distinction, Ayn revealed that a fellow guard forced a man to escape so he could kill him before going to college. In summation, Ayn says that “They are not treated as human beings; they are just like dogs or pigs”.
The silver lining is that the desire for action has begun to build. Shin and another escaped prisoner met with U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay in December, and three months later the U.N. announced the creation of an investigation into human rights abuses in North Korea. While it is important not to use these grievous acts as an excuse for war – mongering, it represents an opportunity to fight for the people of North Korea rather than engage in conversation only with the upper tiers of the government. After all, any action against the hermit country must be wary of the fact that many people of the country are not the loyal supporters broadcasted on the propaganda networks, but victims of systematic psychological repression that deserve their freedom.
By Deeptanshu Singhvi
As technological development has sped up during the 21st century, the threat of nuclear war continues to encroach upon us. Although the Nuclear Arms Treaty targets peaceful nuclear use among all sovereign nations, it has become increasingly clear that the threat of nuclear war is disproportionately high because of a few specific nations – Iran and North Korea. President Obama recently pushed through a United Nations Resolution that would eliminate the loopholes in nuclear security.
Problems with previous resolutions have sparked international dissent; members of the United Nations complain that President Obama’s policies are singling out certain nations. In fact, the crippling sanctions against Iran that were approved last year have lived up to this accusation. In response, President Obama issued a statement explaining that, “This is not about singling out an individual nation. International law is not an empty promise, and treaties must be enforced.” Despite the brutal criticisms the nuclear sanctions faced, Obama’s policy drastically slowed oil trade in the Iranian economy, and crippled the nation’s nuclear budget. In fact, the damage was on a large scale as the Iran Government even declared a temporary shut-down of their infamous nuclear program. Quantitatively, $2 billion dollars of resources worth of resources were funneled away from Iran’s nuclear mission. To further the drastic crisis, inflation in the economy has increased by 176% over the last year and has impacted the lives of ordinary citizens.
Currently, the most recent nuclear arms resolution, has advocated for disarmament talks and more diplomatic cohesion. Members of the United Nations want to offer Iran some concession in order to slow down the heavy nuclear growth within the region. For example, last year, a German Green Energy Corporation submitted a proposal to the United Nations asking permission to help Iran with its solar energy facility so that the nation would consider curbing its nuclear program development. However, some of these concessions have backfired on the United Nations goal – last year Turkey shipped Iran 1,200 kilograms of low-enriched uranium.
Recently, the nuclear resolution to mandate talks with Iran has not only gained momentum in the United Nations but also has been accepted by the otherwise stubborn Iran. Ali Baqeri, one of the deputy heads of the Nuclear Program in Iran, in an interview with Reuters explained that Iran had enriched some if its reactors to 20%, and already started operations to convert the uranium into reactor fuel. Iran is also pursuing diplomatic talks with the EU, and hopes to gain some form of leniency. Iran is simply pursuing its right to enrichment – however, foreign powers have reasonable doubt to believe that an imminent threat might be next and are justified in taking precautionary action.
Furthermore, recent humanitarian projects in the United Nations have prompted fewer resources and discussion over nuclear talks. Recently forces have been increased to help in African Hunger efforts, restorations in Yemen, the Syrian rebel crisis as well as the aid in Mali. Resources are being diverted to other peacekeeping operation, which harms the credibility of nuclear issues. While it may appear on the surface that nuclear talks may be on the low, Obama has pushed for other policies that can trap the growth in international violence. Just recently, the International Arms Treaty was approved on a majoritarian vote. On the numerical front, all 193 member states reached an agreement on the piece of legislation.
Specifically, General Ban Ki Mon expressed his admiration for this new treaty when he claimed it to be “powerful new tool in efforts to prevent grave human rights abuses.” UNICEF, a sub division of the United Nations, welcomed the treaty and has promised more intervention to make sure that standards are met. The United States exports 30% of the world’s gun materials, and has heavy regulations – experts consider this to be a heavy factor in Obama’s support for the passage of this treaty. The United Nations has taken a supply side approach; it seeks to end global government corruption and individual militias that unjustly exert their rule on innocent people.
Ultimately, while there are international discrepancies, the United Nations is taking innovative strides to push for international safety. Whether they target the supply side chain or employ armed forces, the United Nation has pledged to aim for prosperity.
By Davis George
Recently, NBC news quoted a pilot telling his passengers: “we’re being delayed an hour and 15 minutes”. In an utterly unrelated sector, the National Archives Records Administration (NARA) just released a memo stating that they will be forced to defer the preservation, conservation, and transcription of several texts that are currently only available in obsolete formats.
What could possibly connect these two unfortunate events?
The words of that same pilot actually noted that the delay was due to the “sequester”, which also forced NARA to cut back. In fact, the Huffington Post notes that between the two agencies, the FAA had to furlough – give temporary unpaid leave to – several employees while the NARA had to reduce the number of hours worked, ending in costly delay and program inefficiency. In reality, sequestration has far reaching externalities that affect each and every American.
What exactly is sequestration, and what does it do to the US economy? The Washington Post explains that the sequester is a series of spending cuts, a failsafe part of the Budget Control Act, which cuts $1.2 trillion dollars federal spending between 2013 and 2021. The sequester is divided fairly equally between domestic discretionary cuts and decreases in defense spending. Unfortunately, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that of the 1.5% decrease in economic growth that the US will experience in 2013, about 0.56% will be due to the cutting of various spending programs which normally promulgate aggregate demand within the economy.
However, despite the plans for sequestration, several Congressmen have had second thoughts after experiencing the backlash which accompanied cuts such as the Federal Aviation Administration furloughs. David Lawder of Reuters reports that Congress gave the airline industry a break following cuts, allowing them to shift funds within their budget to avoid further delays which, naturally, would correlate to further economic slowdown. Furthermore, the Pentagon is currently preparing to plead with Congress for leeway regarding its own reductions, requesting space to allow the military to take the cuts in stride. The Justice Department has also been allowed to shift its decreases, moving 313 million dollars to other parts of the budget to avoid placing additional burdens on employees. Clearly, the onslaught of spending reductions has quickly expanded to public outrage, even before the true burden of the sequester hits. In fact, although Lawder furthers that the military is likely to get approval for monetary shifts, several other programs have no such privilege. Take, for instance, the small education improvement program “Head Start”, which gives underprivileged children an earlier start at school in order to foster better learning habits. This program is experiencing cuts which will prevent roughly 70,000 children from benefitting from this program. Overall, economist Stephen Fuller of George Mason University estimates that in addition to losing beneficiaries of these programs, nearly 2.14 million jobs will be lost due to sequestration, a 1.5% increase in unemployment.
Many would cite the sequester as a necessary measure to rein in government spending, and when considering the general concept of cutting spending, they would be correct in saying that it is vital to reduce the deficit we create each year. However, sequestration is a brutal, devastating financial restraint on our economy, and in contrast to sequestration, the Federal Reserve proposes a policy of increased spending. According to an article written by Dominic Rushe of The Guardian on March 20th, the Federal Reserve believes that continued financial stimulus into bonds and mortgage backed securities will solve the issue over time. They cite Congress as the problem, stating that Congress is pushing for a type of unrealistic austerity, and proposing to continue their $85 billion dollar a month stimulus package. However, the issue with this is that not only does an increase in monetary circulation cause hyper inflation, but the interest on the borrowed currency threatens to overtake us with more debt. In fact, according to the Congressional Research Service, by 2025, entitlement programs, along with the interest on the debt taken to keep them solvent, will take over 100% of current federal spending.
Fortunately, the problem of the debt can be solved without painful cuts or the increased burden of additional debt. Brianna Ehley of the Washington Times reports that government waste is extremely high, especially regarding programs such as catfish inspection, where repeated inspection costs the government 30 million dollars. The Government Accountability Office has already submitted a report to Congress regarding the waste in our government. This waste is cumulatively expressed in 31 areas of overlap, and possible cost savings through streamlining of roughly 95 billion dollars, 10 billion dollars more than sequestration. Unfortunately, as Senator Tom Coburn explains, Congress fails to address these areas of waste and continues to push for policies that only hurt their constituents.
Overall, the streamlining of our debt definitely has importance, though the methodology of those solutions must be taken into serious scrutiny. The sequester is clearly not the correct avenue for a reduction in annual government spending, especially when the government already wastes so much on overlapping programs. When these programs are cut, we will not only reduce our deficit, but also give the FAA room to transport people to where they need to be without any delay in air traffic. The option of cutting out waste is really the only way that we can have our cake, and eat it too.
By Alison Shim
Anita Pereira of the Connecticut Law Journal explains that “Healthcare has become a commodity in the United States. The affluent have absolute access to health; the disadvantaged are denied this necessary access.” With a significant size of the population remaining uninsured, the issue of health care coverage has become one of the most polarizing issues in our modern day society. While some hold the belief that an individual mandate guaranteeing health care for all citizens would be an efficient solution, many fail to recognize the economic and societal cost at stake. In a real world scenario, an insurance mandate would actually counteract its goal of improving health while damaging the economy.
The Mississippi Center for Health Workforce finds that “a health insurance mandate would increase demand for health care access.” Even though more residents would technically be covered, “associated issues with access to physicians might result in increases in spatial rationing of care.” Because there would be increased demand among newly insured citizens, longer wait times would ensue and actually prevent more citizens from receiving care. The Cato Institute notes that after implementation of the Massachusetts mandate, wait times in Massachusetts were over twice as long as other U.S. metro areas because the limited number of doctors were unable to treat the increased demand from patients. An article by Objective Standard Press furthered that the new patients now have to wait up to 3 months for an appointment. In Britain, similar wait times forced hospitals to cancel as many as 100,000 operations each year. The Health Services Research Journal identifies the devastating impact to health, finding that wait times of over a month increase the likelihood of death by an astounding 21%.
In fact, individuals who were insured even before the mandate have reported that they experienced increased difficulties in accessing care after the mandate was implemented. The Massachusetts Medical Society found that the percentage of residents having difficulty getting care rose 8% over 1 year. Furthermore, the same report by the Objective Standard Press found that the “the state reimbursement rates for adult patients cover only half their costs”, meaning that half the patients that go unchecked receive no care for their money, leaving patients financially disadvantaged and without care.
The increased demand resulting from an individual mandate would not only induce longer wait times, but a shortage of doctors as well. The Association of American Medical Colleges reports that increased demand will result in a shortage of 46,000 medical specialists by 2020. The Massachusetts Medical Society also explains that a mandate caused physicians’ overbearing work load and a massive administrative bureaucracy, leading to struggles when recruiting and retaining doctors. In actuality, about three-quarters of medical group directors say that their ability to retain physicians has become more difficult in the last three years. Even more astonishingly, an article by the Wall Street Journal notes that the passage of an individual mandate would exacerbate the doctor shortage by around 25%.
Moreover, the economic toll of the individual mandate is not one to be underestimated as well. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the implied expansion of Medicare and Medicaid that follows an individual mandate would have a net cost of $1.1 trillion on GDP over the next ten years. With an insurance mandate, less healthy, more costly individuals would enroll in coverage, driving up premiums. The Cato Institute holistically finds that existing mandates have increased premiums by an estimated 20 to 50 percent.
While the individual mandate may seem like an ideal solution on the surface, when examining the real world consequences of implementation, American public health as well as financial stability would only be put at stake.
By Kevin Yang
Many presidential scholars liken the development and expansion of executive power to the undulating swing of a pendulum; during times of crises, the “pendulum” of presidential power swings to new heights, and during other times, the “pendulum” swings to Congress. While this model of power may comfort those who fear the onset of a totalitarian leader, there is one detail crucial to the accuracy of such a model – that the “pendulum” of power is constantly, and inevitably, rising. The “pendulum” may ebb and flow between the executive branch and Congress during different times, but both the executive and Congress have, over several centuries, increased their influence over almost all domestic and foreign affairs. The waves may rock back and forth, but the tide is rising.
Every president comes into office with a vision of America. Although these goals have not always been achieved – to the delight of some, and the dismay of others – the president’s authority remains a powerful, yet limited, executive branch. A president’s authority is confined by the enumerated power in Article II of the Constitution; these powers include the power to appoint judges and federal bureaucrats, the power to make treaties, and the power to veto. The president also bears some informal powers, either implied from clauses in the Constitution or derived from the inherent symbolic nature of the presidency, which aid him (or her) in carrying out his (or her) agenda. The founding fathers, no doubt, feared the creation of a overly powerful executive; their formation of the weak Articles of Confederation is strong evidence that they had intended for the executive to be limited. Yet, as we evaluate the executive branch in retrospect, has the power of the executive branch really been confined? Nowadays, presidents, and the executive branch, have more power than ever before. The power to wiretap. New executive, cabinet-level departments to expand the reach of the federal government. Have the checks and balances set forth in the Constitution failed? Or have the circumstances of the constantly evolving era necessitated a new, more commanding presidency? The answer is up for heated debate.
Power, paradoxically, is something so intangible, yet has such tangible, real consequences. Richard Neudstadt, one of the nation’s most premier presidential scholars, describes power as “a function of personal politics rather than of formal authority.” This description of power has interesting implications on the expansion of presidential power: it means that the power of the president differs from president to president. However, the power of the president to usurp power given the proper circumstances has undoubtedly grown over time. Most presidential historians note the Bush presidency (George H.W. Bush) as a paragon of how presidential authority has increased.
Perhaps the most defining moment of the Bush presidency is 9/11. The September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Washington D.C. were truly traumatic and critical events in the 21st century. Times of crises, especially those related to national security, often act as catalysts for the presidential power grab. The 9/11 terrorist attacks provided Bush with a perfect opportunity to expand presidential power under the notion of “protecting national security.” Quickly following 9/11, the Bush administration facilitated the enactment of the Patriot Act, the creation of Guantanamo Bay and the formation of the Department for Homeland Security. The Patriot Act greatly expanded the executive branch’s power to invade on the privacy of citizens by allowing the government to wiretap phones and conduct more searches of records. The Department for Homeland Security is now the largest cabinet-level department. With 9/11 as a catalyst, the Bush administration significantly increased not only the scope of executive power but also the size of the executive branch.
Representative Harry Waxman of California published a report on the secrecy in the Bush Administration. The report confidently concluded that the Bush administration had greatly expanded the power of the executive and also had made the presidency more secret. With regards to secrecy of public records, the report concludes that:
“The President has expanded the classification powers of executive agencies, resulting in a dramatic increase in the volume of classified government information.”
“The Administration has expanded its authority to conduct law enforcement operations in secret with limited or no judicial oversight…”
By increasing the capacity for the executive branch to operate in secret, the Bush administration has effectively reduced the ability for the checks and balances set forth in the Constitution to work. If the operations of the executive are not known, how can Congress properly employ its checks on the president?
Clearly, the power of the president and the executive branch has dramatically changed since the time of the founding fathers. Given the historical trends that have demonstrated that the pendulum of power has constantly risen, the United States has important fundamental concerns about governmental power to address. While the modern era may require a new type of president, the founding father’s sagacious fears over a totalitarian executive have not faded.