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October 2018

Who’s Responsible for Solving the Opioid Crisis?

in Contemporary Politics/Political Issues by

The opioid crisis unequivocally threatens the general welfare of the United States of America. In 2016, the opioid crisis single handedly caused more American fatalities than the entire Vietnam War. Regardless of whether the Constitution is interpreted through an originalist lens or as a living document, both readings seem to support the notion that Congress is delegated the powers to “lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts, and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common defense and general Welfare of the United States. When viewed through the definition of welfare—“the health, happiness, and fortunes of a person or group,” it becomes abundantly clear that the opioid crisis is violating the general welfare of thousands of American citizens. When tens of thousands of Americans are dying annually from an opioid epidemic that is only worsening, Congress must adhere to the Constitution and provide for the general welfare of the American people.

Admittedly, there is no overt enumerated power that explicitly gives the federal government power to remedy a drug crisis, yet, even so, the Constitutional support remains particularly compelling for as to why the federal government has a Constitutional mandate to help remedy the Opioid crisis. The general welfare clause seems especially noteworthy when coupled with the Supremacy clause, which states “this Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land.” Put simply, the Opioid Crisis is threatening the literal, physical (and thereby general) welfare of Americans. Therefore, Congress (supported with the Supremacy Clause’s power over state laws) carries the burden of solving the Opioid Crisis. Moreover, given the alarming number of pharmaceuticals that are imported internationally or between states, the Commerce Clause further delegates the federal government power in fixing the Opioid Crisis. The Commerce Clause explicitly gives Congress the power “to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.” Barring the antiquated Indian Tribes phrase, the Opioid Crisis pertains to both interstate trade and trade between foreign nations. Pharmaceutical companies distribute opioids between states, and numerous amounts of synthetic opioids (which are quickly gaining popularity) come from countries such as China. Thus, the Commerce Clause also gives the federal government an obligation to remedy the ongoing opioid crisis.

Yet some, such as Real Clear Health’s Earl Baker, argue that the states are complicit in fixing the Opioid Crisis. Baker, in his article “The States Need to Step Up to Opioid Crisis,” calls for concurrent coordination between the state and federal government to remedy the Opioid epidemic. From Real Clear Health, an expert source for health-related issues, Baker explains how the states are not being vigilant enough in fighting the Opioid Crisis. He acknowledges that there must be coordination between the state and federal governments but seemingly suggests the states ought to orchestrate both the preventative and treatment efforts. In today’s world of intertwined, cooperative federalism, suggesting that the state government works alongside the federal one is far from an unreasonable or radical proposal. However, the real issue in Baker’s analysis lies in the fact that he largely places the responsibility of solving the Opioid crisis on the state governments and local communities. For instance, he unapologetically argues, “It’s time for the states to step up in the critical fight against opioids with more than just rhetoric.” In doing so, Baker misguidedly places the responsibility of a solution on the states. Sure, the states do in fact have a better idea of their communities’ specific needs. But the states cannot raise the funds necessary to solve their respective crises in a politically viable manner. The Federal Government must, at the very least, designate categorical grants to the states in order to ensure that states can afford to enact meaningful, reactive, and preventative reforms.

However, as previously mentioned, a reasonable reading of the Constitution implies that the Federal Government should be more involved in solving the Opioid crisis than just granting funds. Congress, to effectively fulfill their Constitutional duty of promoting general welfare, must put aside petty partisanship to legislate solving the Opioid epidemic with the interdisciplinary, multifaceted solutions it demands. They must consider the roles of pharmaceutical companies, doctors, foreign powers, and the black market in creating and exacerbating the Opioid Crisis. There simply is no quick and easy fix to such a widespread, devastating crisis.

As the Editorial Board of The New York Times say in “An Opioid Crisis Foretold,” legislators would be wise to treat the Opioid epidemic as a “complex, multidimensional problem.” The article uses historical events—ranging from China’s Opium Wars to the AIDS crisis—to evaluate how America should proceed in dealing with its newest drug epidemic. Comparing today’s Opioid Crisis with the fairly recent AIDS crisis, the Editorial Board recommends that Congress funds “prevention, treatment, support services, and research.”  Further supporting the Constitutional interpretation that the federal government must play a hand in solving the Opioid Crisis, the article calls for “stronger leadership” from the federal government.  Thus far, almost all of the funding designated to the Opioid Crisis has been spent on reactionary treatment services.  Although adequate funding for treatment is incredibly important, the already worsening Opioid Crisis seems likely to only become more devastating if Congress does not attack its root causes.  

Failing to respond to the deaths of thousands of Americans annually—a clear violation of the public’s general welfare—is an abdication of Congress’s Constitutionally-outlined duties. The federal government, working alongside state and local governments, must take charge in preventing the growth of the Opioid crisis, treating its victims, and funding research to best understand the causes and effects of this devastating epidemic.

Graphic Design by Jackson Edwards

www.realclearhealth.com/articles/2018/08/23/the_states_need_to_step_up_to_opioid_crisis_110820.html

www.nytimes.com/2018/04/21/opinion/an-opioid-crisis-foretold.html?rref=collection%2Fsection

 

Thoughts on the Trump Op-Ed

in Contemporary Politics/Political Issues by

The past couple of months have been a blow to the Trump administration. From Michael Cohen’s pleading guilty to federal fraud charges, implicating Trump in many of the Russian collusion claims made by the Mueller investigation, to Trump himself being criticized for fist bumping while entering a 9/11 memorial service, it would be safe to say President Trump has angered a significant portion of the American population. However, one of the most controversial topics concerning the Trump administration is the release of an Op-Ed by the New York Times containing an anonymous letter written by somebody in the Trump administration. In this letter, the anonymous writer admitted to covertly undermining Trump’s actions from inside his administration in order to curb Trump’s “misguided impulses until he is out of office”. The anonymous writer further stated that he is in agreement with the goals of the Republican Party, but believes that Trump is a “petty” leader. The writer of the op-ed reveals that even the members of Trump’s cabinet, who are often perceived as unreliable, actively try to slow the agenda of our even more unreliable president. In comparison to all of the other revelations against Trump, the release of the Op-Ed has the most damaging consequences due to the fact that a member of his own administration is defaming him. The Op-Ed has obviously caused unrest in the Trump administration, with Kellyanne Conway leading a manhunt for the author. How can we trust a president that is stopped by cabinet members that he chose? How can the American public trust an administration whose goal is the subversion of the president? With the upcoming election in November, I hope that more Democratic members are elected to Congress in order to provide more checks on our misguided president.

Since his election, Trump has been praised by members of his party for taking action. However, is this action safe for our country? Only time can tell.

Graphic Design by Jackson Edwards
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/05/opinion/trump-white-house-anonymous-resistance.html

Jamal Khashoggi’s Death Should Not Be in Vain

in Foreign Policy/Political Issues by

The United States must retaliate against Saudi Arabia for their role in murdering Jamal Khashoggi. Khashoggi, a longtime journalist for The Washington Post, seems to have been murdered for his criticism of Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. The Saudis claim that they have no knowledge of Mr. Khashoggi’s fate. However, nearly all of the evidence points to the contrary. Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Islamabad, where he was reportedly dismembered. Turkish officials have concluded that the “highest levels of the Royal Court” in Saudi Arabia ordered his murder. They report that a fifteen-person team (including some government officials) used a bonesaw to dismember Khashoggi. Yet, Saudi Arabia maintains that the fifteen men—who were in Turkey for less than 24 hours and flew in on a charter plane—were in Turkey for tourism. How often do tourists arrive on a charter plane (from a company that Saudis have previously used for government contracting work) and promptly depart at 3:13 AM? And how often do tourists bring a bone saw on their vacation? The evidence plainly and overwhelmingly suggests that this was the preemptive, orchestrated murder of a member of the free press.

Khashoggi (rightfully) was critical of Mohammed bin Salman in his articles, failing to shower him with praise for his “progressivism.” Ironically, Khashoggi’s murder exposes the superficiality of Mohammed bin Salman and his policies. Although he loves to pose as a more level-minded progressive, Mohammed bin Salman resorts to the same murderous tactics as his father and other similar autocrats when confronted with adversity–even from the press. Of course, now the US must determine how to respond to Saudi Arabia. In DC, there have been bipartisan support for swift retaliation if these allegations are true. Marco Rubio, for instance, promised “a very strong Congressional response” if the Trump administration does not do anything. Unfortunately, Marco Rubio has a history of not keeping promises, particularly when they require him to break with the President. Regardless, Rubio is right in thinking that a failure to respond to this murder would cost America immeasurable moral standing. If the US does not stand up for journalists—particularly the ones that work for American organizations—then the US would be realizing Trump’s image of the United States. Trump, while defending Putin (as he often does), was asked about Putin’s history of murdering journalists. Instead of denouncing Putin for his actions (as any sane person—much less President—would), Trump responded by saying, “What? Do you think our country’s so innocent?” If we did not respond to Khashoggi’s murder, we would indeed be complicit in the murder of journalists. We absolutely must respond and punish Saudi Arabia for their crimes. First, we need to cancel the impending arms deal with Saudi Arabia. This is a win-win; not only are we punishing them for murdering Khashoggi, but we’d also be encumbering the Saudi’s ability to wreak havoc on the Yemeni people. Second, we should do anything in our power to disrupt Saudi Arabia’s upcoming business conference—including withdrawing Sec. of Treasury Steve Mnuchin from the conference. The Trump administration needs to distance themselves from the Saudis. Finally, the US needs to put economic sanctions on Saudi oil. Although the Saudis could retaliate and temporarily drive up prices, doing so would be committing economic suicide for the Saudis, as well-analyzed by this New York Times article.

At first glance, it would seem that proponents of not sanctioning Saudi Arabia may be correct in thinking that the Saudi threat of raising oil prices is threatening to our economy. However, when evaluating that threat, we must consider two things: i) would the Saudis actually drive up their prices, as they claim they will? and ii) how would that affect our economy?

All signs seem to suggest that the Saudi’s threats are empty. If they drove up the price, they would shatter the reputation they’ve built over the past 45 years as a stable, reliable provider. American oil production since 2007 has doubled, making us nearly sustainable. Moreover, of the 800,000 daily barrels of oil we import from Saudi Arabia, many of those barrels go to support Saudi Aramco, the Saudi-owned refinery in the Gulf of Mexico. Cutting off oil trade to the US would cause irreparable damage to the Saudi Arabian economy—something that Mohammed bin Salman (who is solely focused on growing the Saudi economy and reputation) would not risk. In short, if the Saudis retaliate to sanctions by increasing oil prices, it would permanently and irreparably damage its economy and global reputation. Furthermore, although driving up oil prices would admittedly have a some temporary effect on the US economy, we could certainly turn to other countries and ourselves to replace Saudi oil. In fact, experts predict it would end up significantly helping our economy in the long run. The thinking that suggests the US is reliant on Saudi Arabia is outdated and inaccurate.

The barbaric murder of Jamal Khashoggi, an attack on America’s free press, demands a swift response. We can NOT turn a blind eye to our country’s principles because of the mere risk of a hiccup in our economy. There is no price worth sacrificing America’s ideals and morality. Khashoggi’s brutal death has prompted legislators from ALL sides of the political spectrum to reexamine US/Saudi relations. A growing number of Congressmen are beginning to acknowledge our part in exacerbating the horrific Yemen Humanitarian Crisis. We now face a choice as a Nation. We can ignore the inhuman murder of an American resident, succumbing to the fear that the Saudis might retaliate against us. Or, we can adhere to the ideals our nation supposedly values most—human rights, freedom of the press, and basic safeties—and retaliate against Saudi Arabia.

The US is supposed to serve as a beacon of moral leadership to other countries. Our unresponsiveness to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, coupled with our role in enabling the deaths of thousands of Yemeni civilians, is a shameful abdication of that responsibility.

Of course, following this presidency has trained me to expect the worst, and then lower those expectations. Donald Trump likely won’t put sanctions on Saudi Arabia, and Republicans in Congress will probably not defy his agenda. As a matter of fact, Trump has said he likes the Saudis because “they buy apartments from [him].” However, if you feel strongly that there must be a check on the President’s worst impulses, then go vote (and make your friends and family vote) for people who are not afraid to check his worst impulses, unlike the current Congress.

Graphic Design by Jackson Edwards
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/18/opinion/saudi-arabia-economy-united-states.html?\

 

Donald Trump’s Historic Economy

in Miscellaneous/Political Issues by

Despite what you might hear from CNN, MSNBC, Slate, and a myriad of other left wing news outlets, the Trump Economy is booming. The inflation rate has not doubled in the period of time he has been in office. In contrast, the inflation rate doubled under Obama multiple times due. This, combined with the 1.5-2% Real Wage Growth since Trump took office and the Trump tax cuts are allowing American households to save more money. Regardless of whether you like the tax cuts or not, a family of four with $59,000 in income would save $1,182 in federal taxes under the cuts. Additionally, new business confidence and consumer confidence indices report the highest levels since the nineties, meaning more businesses are feeling like they are in a safe environment. This increases the amount of capital put into the US to forward their company, and in turn, the American people. To top it all off, the unemployment rates are staggeringly low for all American peoples, regardless of race, sex, or wealth.

Although there have been significant tangible economic gains that have resulted from Trump’s economic policies, opponents to his governing style disapprove of his use of tariffs. However, the Trump administration is intending to use these tariffs to force trade partners to adopt fair trade practices, and redress existing trade imbalances. Some opposing analysts go so far as to saying that Trump’s tariffs would cause an economic and political disaster throughout domestic and international markets. However, this style of thinking has many faults. Using data provided by the MSCI World Index, a fund composed of high performing companies in all of the major markets of the world, it’s clear that overall global economic growth has risen 23% ever since Trump took office. In addition, the DOW Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500, and NASDAQ Composite have reached record highs here in the United States.

It is also important to realize how his tariff policy, however brash it may be, is having its desired function. When Trump used Twitter to state how he loved tariffs, he scared us- and the markets- for a while. But, over time, we understood that this was just Trump being Trump. He did not actually love tariffs, but how much power they gave him to sway other countries around the world, including many allies, who were charging exorbitant tariff rates on American goods.

So, what did this accomplish?

The EU, along with Canada, Mexico, and China* have been overpowered by the US and forced to sit at the table and negotiate, removing their tariffs against US natural gas, oil, steel, and much more, with more adding to the list every day.

The EU understood that they could not stand up to the US, so after a brief period of finger waving, Belgium and Germany came to the negotiating table. Without Germany, the rest of the EU has no hope of beating the US in an escalated trade war, as they are less efficient producers, have higher tax rates for companies, and lack natural resources. So, as we negotiate with the EU, they have suspended all tariffs against US goods.

With the Renegotiation of NAFTA, Mexico and the the US have agreed to amendments to NAFTA such as a six year lease on the deal which allows both countries to renegotiate a better deal if the current deal doesn’t ease trading multiple years from now. In addition, Canada is engaged in negotiations to do the same by the end of the month.

China cannot stand up against the US either in this trade war, as they are hurt much worse than America with the issuing of every counter tariff. The Shanghai Index YTD has fallen about 17% in valuation, whereas the US markets are up from over 14% on the NASDAQ, and the S&P 500 has gained 8.5-9% YTD.

And even though there have been significant gains in the economy thanks to Trump’s economic agenda, the true genius of his policies is the fact that they’ve forced us as a country to think more about our economic future and accept a hard truth: economic progress is just as important as social progress. Even though we live in an America plagued by numerous social issues, we can’t neglect the impact the economy has on all of our lives. The 21 trillion dollars of debt that loom over all of us have the possibility to affect our generation and the generations after us. Trump’s twitter rants and talk of tariffs, however unconventional they may be, provide the basis of a conversation that will define the prosperity of our country for the many years to come.

Graphic Design by Jackson Edwards
https://www.spglobal.com/platts/en/market-insights/latest-news/oil/091918-analysis-chinese-refiners-
Get-a-breather-as-crude-oil-excluded-from-the-tariff-list
https://markets.ft.com/data/indices/tearsheet/summary?s=MS-WX:MSI
http://time.com/5389853/unemployment-rate-near-18-yearl-low/
https://www.wsj.com/livecoverage/august-2018-jobs-report-analysis
https://data.oecd.org/leadind/business-confidence-index-bci.htm#indicator-chart
https://www.cnbc.com/quotes/?symbol=.SSEC
https://www.cnbc.com/2018/09/19/chinas-economy-could-feel-far-more-pain-than-us-in-trade-
Wars.html
https://data.oecd.org/leadind/consumer-confidence-index-cci.htm#indicator-chart
https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2017/nov/07/markwayne-mullin/
https://tradingeconomics.com/united-states/wage-growth

Analyzing Political Correctness: Cultivating a Community of Mutual Respect

in Miscellaneous/Political Issues by

In America, a single misspoken word can end your career. With the internet’s pervasiveness, an unguarded moment of bigotry can quickly become the top search entry—next to your name. You must watch what you say, do, act, or else, the internet can end your future. In America, the land where many become one, the desire for “political correctness,” the avoidance of terms that marginalize discriminated groups, stifles discussion. For a better future, we must create a culture of respect rather than enforced silence.

First, political correctness functions as a protection for Americans when used correctly. I’ve noted that when people are politically incorrect, they tend to ostracize the “other.” Political correctness should come into play when Americans use words to paint an “Us vs. Them” picture. Politically incorrect words ignore the feelings of minorities and perpetuates an oppressive society. Thus, political correctness makes minorities feel American because they matter as people.

Nevertheless, I will admit that political correctness often stymies its own goals. In 2015, there was a controversy over Instagram filters lightening people’s skin tone. Even if the skin lightening occured, waving words like “politically incorrect” at Instagram’s defenders fuels greater separation between Americans. Excessive political correctness instills a belief that society has cured racism because only minor internet offenses enthrall public attention. Nowadays, due to hyper-awareness of “political correctness,” racism sneaks through the seams of our society because the vigilant public ignores the larger picture.

Stereotypes, at a certain point, are self-perpetuating. When I go to France, I expect to see baguettes. Yet, if the French decided that baguettes humiliated the French identity and stopped eating them, the French would lose a cultural icon. Stereotypes are acceptable so long as they are based on identity, geography, and physical conditions—not the color of one’s skin or one’s culture. Our nitpicking allows true discrimination to ignore the larger, more pressing crises as mere “political correctness” because we confuse acceptable and racist stereotypes. Thus, the fear of “political incorrectness” prevents many from even admitting that racism exists, which risks latent racism striking from beneath a unified facade.

Our last freedom resides in our minds, and people will resist the limiting of their thoughts. Laws and orders cannot change one’s inner beliefs because beliefs are not based on evidence, so even adamant “political correctness” campaigns will ultimately fail. Offensive beliefs cannot be regulated—only willfully changed. Americans are tired of the silence due to “political correctness.” Thus, the solution lies in educating the masses into treating differences with empathy—not mocking the uneducated for their narrow mindedness.

Although combating racial slurs can change how we think, no one will listen to “political correctness” unless a foundation of empathy and respect exists. By discussing race, we can understand why our words hurt. Educators, as authority figures, offer the best opportunity for respectful discourse in the next generation. When we learn what it means to be truly politically correct, to use respectful words, to listen, will we take the next meaningful step towards ending racism. We must rid the taboo of the “politically incorrect” and educate children to be respectful and ask questions. Only by teaching what is correct, how the incorrect affects people, and why it exists through open discourse, can we convince others to become respectful.

Graphic Design by Jackson Edwards
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