Hosted by Niall McDonald '18 and Charlie Hansen '18
Produced and edited by Alexandre LaBossiere '18
By Ben Duke '18
“More gun ownership means more gun violence.” Not exactly. Gun crimes on a whole have decreased since the early 2000s while gun ownership has increased. Though the homicide rate with guns has remained relatively steady, the vast majority (somewhere on the magnitude of around 84% to around 97%) of these crimes, however, are committed with illegal guns.
So, what makes an illegal gun? A gun that’s bought by someone with a criminal record, for example—or, even more commonly, a gun bought on the black market. In the US, dealers (as opposed to occasional, private sellers—you can see the specific differences here) are required to have a federal license to sell arms, and are furthermore federally mandated to receive a photo ID from the buyer and pass them through the NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check). While guns may pass from private citizen to private citizen without going through the NICS, it is 100% illegal to sell guns in this fashion regularly. It is also illegal to buy guns—albeit legally—for another person. These people are referred to as straw buyers (the most high-profile instance of this was the San Bernardino shootings, in which a friend of the two shooters bought the weapons). Sound familiar? This is what people refer to as the “gun show loophole.” It doesn’t really have anything to do with gun shows, as the ATF specifically states that:
“A person can be engaged in the business of dealing with firearms regardless of the location in which firearm transactions are conducted. For example, a person can be engaged in the business of dealing with firearms even if the person only conducts firearm transactions at gun shows or through the internet.”
Instead, the ‘loophole’ refers to the ability to sell between private citizens. Those selling at gun shows are looking to turn a profit—as you have to pay the show holders to sell at a gun show—which means they are legally required to have an FFL, and they have a 250,000$ fine and five years imprisonment hanging over their heads if they want to sell illegally. Thus, the amount of regulation currently in place is prohibitive enough to stop widespread violence, and is lax enough to protect the rights guaranteed to all Americans by the 2nd Amendment. Those events such as Texas or Las Vegas are results of America’s failing mental healthcare system and human error leading to a tragedy that could have been avoided.
By Kate Mabus '19
When asked about charter schools at my interview to become a member of Government Club, I was very confident in my belief, as are many other Americans, that they were the magic solution to our education crisis. The benefits seemed clear: charter schools create a healthy competition with public schools that ultimately benefits the entire school system. That is the theory. However, in practice, the problems of charter schools offset many of the benefits.
Charter schools are publicly funded independent schools. The idea of an independent school being publicly funded leaves enough room for abuse. The flaws really boil down to an excess of private control and lack of government oversight. Charter schools can be established by virtually anyone: organizations, parents, or anyone with enough high school education to write a proposal. They receive money from the government for every student in attendance, are run by a private school management company, and are overseen, not by the government, but by private organizations.
Here are the problems this type of setup causes:
There is no law stopping an organization that oversees a charter school from being owned by the exact same people who founded it. It’s pretty elementary that those who are founding charter schools should not oversee them. The serious problems with independent oversight can be seen in the fact that nationwide nearly 15% of charter schools have either closed or nearly closed due to mismanagement of funds. Government, ie. taxpayer, money is essentially being fed, through an individual's school, overseen by their own organization, into their own management company, and their own pockets. It really takes “schools are a business” to a new level.
The basic idea behind charter schools is that any American is able to receive the same independent, competitive education at a publicly funded school as someone going to NCS or STA. This can still be done, however, the way it is being done in practice needs serious reform.
By Maria Ashby '19
I’ve always attended private school (and plan to continue), so the only things I really knew about public schools before writing this article were that they were really large and always seemed to have a lot snow days. According, I decided to do some investigative research. I interviewed four girls who came from public middle schools in Montgomery County, Fairfax County, and DC. Despite coming from three different school districts, the girls had a general consensus about the size, the teaching style, and the social environment of public school. Compared to the cozy 80-90 person grade size, public schools could have upwards to a 1000 people in a graduating class. For scale that’s roughly all of NCS and STA combined into one class. Across the districts, the girls felt that size limited their teachers ability to connect with them on deeper level. Honestly, I’m not surprised by this sentiment because it’s extremely difficult to have discussion based classes with thirty students and one teacher. One interviewee remarked that a larger class size also increased the number of distractions. But larger classes can have some unseen benefits. The student from MCPS stated that bigger classes taught her how to advocate for herself and the importance of talking to teachers after class. Those two skills coincide with the core value, courage.
When talking to girls about their experiences at their previous public schools, it would be a crime not ask about the differences between a co-ed education vs single-sex education. And brace yourself readers, the answer may surprise you. Three of four girls I interviewed, said either that the co-ed environment didn’t make much of difference or that they preferred the integrated class setting. This revelation unraveled almost five years of instruction on the importance of an all girls learning environment. Since the 6th grade, numerous learning specialists, administrators, and teachers advertised the value of a single-sex education. They created the image that only all girls schools could create strong, confident, and talented women. But, now I know that that isn’t the complete truth. The new perspectives from the interviews I received have helped me re-envision my previous images of a public school. The interviews also helped to rethink the ideals that I previously held as truth. All girls schools aren’t factories that make powerful women. I think it’s the girls themselves that make these schools so special. It’s gathering of supportive teachers and faculty that provide the space for students to grow and transform themselves into women for the world. I believe that strong women come from environments that allow them to challenge themselves and their own ideas and this can happen at a public school or private school, as long as they have a support system to guide them.
By Simon Palmore '19
“It is imperative that we create a government that works for all and not just the few.” This is at the essence of Senator Bernie Sanders’s political philosophy, and it forms the very definition of his brand: democratic socialism. Though his candidacy was unsuccessful, Sanders succeeded in lighting a fire among young, progressive thinkers throughout America. Many Americans are now deciding that the fairness and justice of democratic socialism are the principles needed to form a successful United States.
Democratic socialism is defined as a philosophy that “combines a belief in a socially-controlled economy with that of a political democracy.” A socially-controlled economy, in which society and the people of society control the economy, has always been an ideal for this country. In the years following the American Revolution, the United States was governed by a document called the Articles of Confederation, which called for a very weak central legislature. This young government was unable to raise revenue and provide a prosperous life for American citizens throughout the nation. However, founding fathers such as James Madison and George Washington, as a replacement, drafted and ratified the Constitution, which gave the federal government adequate power to function as a true governing body. Alexander Hamilton, the Secretary of the Treasury to President Washington, proposed a radical set of economic developments. One of these was to have the federal government pay off the national debts from the Revolution in full, thus creating “conditions under which persons would loan money to the government by purchasing its bonds, confident that they would be repaid.” Taxation enabled this Hamiltonian idea, and in implementing it, the federal government ensured that the people had a stake in the success of their country.
Ideas like Hamilton’s remained in the political sphere throughout the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries. In the 1800s, President John Quincy Adams created programs and public works projects that used taxpayer money for the greater good. Historian Margaret Hogan describes Adams’s plans for the presidency: “In his first annual message to Congress, President Adams presented an ambitious program for the creation of a national market that included roads, canals, a national university, a national astronomical observatory, and other initiatives.” While a couple of these ideas (i.e. national university and observatory) seemed to have been ideas suggested purely for the President’s personal intellectual curiosity, national roads and canals were vital to the US’s economic development in the early to mid-1800s. Hamilton’s ideas developed in the 20th century—many of the programs that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt introduced to save the US economy during the Great Depression were considered “socialist” by the opposing party. Sen. Simeon Fess (R-Ohio) declared that “The New Deal is now undisguised state socialism.” The New Deal included a variety of programs, many of which have been and continue to be vital to our nation. These programs included Social Security, the Works Progress Administration, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Throughout history, programs like these have been considered socialistic. Where would we be without Alexander Hamilton’s creation of trust and stake in government? John Quincy Adams’s roads and canals? Franklin Roosevelt’s Social Security Act?
Proponents of democratic socialism today are not calling for a fundamental change to the workings of the US government. Rather, they are calling for a modern version of the New Deal. In the 1930s, the Great Depression left millions of Americans without employment or confidence in their ability to put money in the bank. Roosevelt’s New Deal addressed those problems, and in large part steered the nation away from economic collapse. In the present day, there are different problems that can be addressed in similar ways. Rising income inequality forces the poorest Americans to choose between eating three meals in a day and buying life-saving medicine. This very same medicine, often produced by a single, uncontrolled company, can be marked up by the company at rates of as much as 5000%. These same Americans, hampered by medical bills, food insecurity, and other hardships of poverty, are likely unable to afford to attend college, leaving them with no way out of their income bracket. These problems, while perhaps less obvious to Americans of privilege, are no less threatening and dire to poor and middle class Americans than economic problems during the Great Depression were to our economy as a whole. In response, democratic socialists propose a “New New Deal.” Tuition-free or heavily subsidized public college education, guaranteed for all Americans that couldn’t otherwise afford a good education. Increased governmental regulation of the pharmaceutical industry to prevent 5000% markups on life-saving drugs. Sufficient funding for food stamps and the EBT, so that no American ever needs to worry about their ability to feed themselves and their children. The “New New Deal” would ensure all of these policies.
If you can ignore your preconceptions about the word “socialism” for some time; if you can see the hardships facing poor and middle class Americans that have gone unnoticed and unaddressed for decades; and if you decide that now is the time to ensure a high quality of life for all Americans, then the New New Deal is your best path forward. From their roots in Hamilton’s economic plan to their implementation in the Great Depression, the principles of democratic socialism have proven that there are indeed active ways to address poverty. When the citizens of the United States do their fair share for their country, then the government has the power and the ability to put those dollars toward a prosperous future for all Americans. Democratic socialism is the road to such a future.
By Hannah Yazdani '18
“I will build a great wall- and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me,” said Donald Trump on his 2016 presidential campaign trail (CBSNews). Although issues surrounding immigration have become popular in today’s political discourse due to Trump’s rhetoric, this controversial topic has been present since the founding of our country. Many Americans want to enforce anti-immigration policies with the fear that an influx of immigrants, with different ethnicities and identities, will take away from a unique American culture.
This country was founded on the ideal that all men have the unalienable rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Throughout the course of America’s history, various groups have claimed these rights, moving the country towards a society that provides opportunity for all people, not just white, property-owning men. To be an American, one does not need to be a part of a certain identity, but must take pride in these values that make America unique to any other country.
Since the early 19th century, immigrants have become examples of the uniqueness of American freedom, specifically through pursuing economic opportunity. Between 1820 and 1870 millions of Irish immigrants settled on the east coast due to persecution and a potato famine in Ireland. This migration gave rise to a political party known as the Know Nothings, whose political platform represented Americans who feared that the diverse identity of immigrants would change America’s way of life. Shortly after the rise and fall of the Know-Nothings, American freedom was redefined to protect the natural rights of all citizens, including black men. During the civil war in the 1860s the North fought for the emancipation of slavery. In his Gettysburg Address in 1863, Lincoln stated, “Dedicated [America] to the proposition that all men are created equal… this nation shall have a new birth of freedom.” Lincoln’s redefinition of freedom did not change the American values created by our founding fathers, but allowed the country to fully express them.
In 1924, however, an Immigration Act purposely excluded all Asians from US immigration, while favoring white immigrants from Northern and Western Europe (Immigration Act of 1924). Protests later emphasized American values of civil equality and freedom, thus leading to the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, which took away racial and ethnic based immigration, accepting people into the country based on reuniting immigrant families and attracting skilled labor (Scribner).
Despite America’s progress in protecting and respecting the rights of all people, regardless of race or ethnicity, political stances similar to that of the Know Nothings are still present today, as citizens continue to fear their distinct way of American life will change through an influx of immigrants.
The great virtue of our country is defined by the opportunity and freedom we provide for all people, including immigrants from all over the world. In order to uphold the ideals created by our founding fathers, we should not deny entry to certain groups of people, but open our borders to everyone. American politicians should not move forward with anti-immigration policies, but continue the progression of this country by promoting American ideals, thus creating a country that values diversity and providing opportunity to all people.
By NM '20
Earlier this year, President Donald Trump suggested cutting the Essential Air Services (EAS) program in his proposed budget. Though it’s necessary to trim federal expenditure, the EAS, as a program that is truly essential (hence the name), is not the place to do it. The program, established in 1978 with the Airline Deregulation Act as a means to ensure route service on low-demand routes to small towns continued, subsidizes flights from rural communities far to larger hub airports so that residents can avoid hours-long drives whenever they need to travel, a crucial service in our modern society. I’ve been on an EAS flight myself; last year, I took the 20-minute Southern Airways Express flight from Dulles to Hagerstown, West Virginia. It was cheap, the plane was small and not too costly to operate, and it provided a one-stop connection for the people of Hagerstown to nearly any major city in the country. In speaking with the pilots, I learned that the ~15 seat flight was sometimes completely full, underscoring the need to that service. The service operates similarly around the country, with small, relatively cost-efficient aircraft providing a regular and necessary service to rural and underserved communities all across the U.S.
Maintaining this service wouldn’t be just a good move in principle, however, but it would also be a good political move for President Trump. The Republicans need the support of Alaska’s senators (especially Lisa Murkowski (R), who has wavered on some of their key agendas), and Alaska is the state where the EAS is almost unarguably most essential. Likewise, many of the states and communities that are served by the EAS voted for Trump in the last election. In that way, keeping the EAS would be a prudent political move, as well as a good one in principle.
Though Trump has proposed cutting many crucial programs, from the environment to politics, the EAS is among the most essential, as it ensures the livelihoods of the residents of small towns (some of whom use EAS-subsidized flights to commute) and helps connect rural communities across the nation.
“Essential Air Service.” US Department of Transportation, United States Department of Transportation, 22 June 2012, www.transportation.gov/policy/aviation-policy/small-community-rural-air-service/essential-air-service.
Korte, Gregory. “The 62 agencies and programs Trump wants to eliminate.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 17 Mar. 2017, www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/03/16/what-does-trump-budget-eliminate/99223182/.
By Jasper Boers' 18
We live in an era where individuals are defined not by their status as an individual but by their status as a member of a race, a religion, a party, a sect, an extremist group, an ethnicity, a neighborhood, or a class. The protests following Trump’s inauguration—a colorful mixture of men, women, toddlers, Republican, Democrats, anti-fascists, stoners, hippies, evangelicals, former coal miners—all crammed in a security perimeter which revealed the worst elements of divisive identity politics manifested in physical form. Burning cars, acrid black smoke, camo-clad National Guardsmen, convoys of armored cars—that was downtown D.C. on Januray 20th, 2017. “What have we been lowered to?” Political animals, as Aristotle would say. Untamed animals at that.In much the same way that our medieval ancestors can be characterized by their belonging to the Catholic Church, we are characterized by our allegiances to political and social groups as opposed to allegiances to ourselves.
This focus on groups, whether they be Antifa, the Ku Klux Klan, the Black Panthers, Christian identity organizations, Anonymous, or any other loyalist movement dedicated to division, is a threat to democracy as much as it is a threat to the independent American mind.
When we surround ourselves with a group which only espouses our beliefs and nothing contrary, we believe in a distorted truth—a truth which is made true by confirmation within that group. This is confirmation bias. This is the death of reason.
When we choose not to accept opposing opinions, when we block out those journalists, newspapers, even friends with whom we disagree, we are constricting our free thought. Perhaps we choose to ally with parties and political groups not on the merit of true belief, but on the fear of retribution from friends, family, community. That was the reason excommunication was so feared by Europeans living in medieval society. Living outside of the collective group, you are alone in the wilderness, persecuted by everyone, loved by none. Without the guardianship of the church, you cannot hope to survive. Why would you want to leave it then?
When he decried political parties, Washington saw our present. He saw their divisive grip on the ethos of American society. He saw the blending of fact with opinion which foments fierce, often violent allegiances to ideology. Washington was right. Citizens engaging with politics are better suited to engage as individuals than to engage as groups.
Parties—Republican, Democratic or Libertarian—encourage groupthink, prioritize the collective body, excoriate beliefs contrary to the accepted platform. This sounds not unlike some dystopian vision where humanity is reduced to subservient automatons lacking free thought. It is our today. It is what CNN analysts refer to when they say something like “America’s divided political climate.” It is a decline in rhetoric, logic, and individual intellect.
Look inward. What are your beliefs stripped of their belonging to a platform? Is your allegiance based on fitting in or is it based on your own morality and experience? Cleanse the pundits, apologists, and pariahs from your newsfeeds. Be wary of an obvious opinion piece not labeled “OPINION.” Anyone who claims to have the truth is probably a liar themselves.
By Harrison Grigorian '19
America would not be where it is today without its Capitalist tendencies and free markets.
That’s a bold claim to make, but consider this: in the late 1700s, we were a nation of farmers. The American economy relied on selling crops and natural resources to Europe to be manufactured there because we could not even manufacture things ourselves. America’s economy of the late 1700s could have been described as “pre-industrial”.
230 years later, we are the world’s second largest manufacturer (the first, China, is over 4 times larger than us), we have the world’s largest GDP, and we have the most advanced technology companies, defense industries, and infrastructure systems in the world. Our cities are bustling, our middle class is stronger than any other country in the world, and we rarely fear foreign conflicts. Clearly, something clicked, and that something can be traced back to the beginning of the 19th century.
Alexander Hamilton was well ahead of his time in financial thinking. His financial plan proposed a new concept to Americans that would get our economy off the ground in the early Republic: joint ventures between the federal government and the private sector. His First National Bank, regardless of its debated legality and occasional missteps, modernized our economy. It nationalized currency and regulated lending laws nationwide; however, the bank was actually led by the private sector, as the Federal Government only controlled 20%.
This idea of uniting the federal government with the private sector continued as construction companies began to build roads and bridges to modernize the nation. The Erie Canal, for example, was a mostly private project. However, the government did provide small amounts of funding to push the project along. This symbiotic relationship gave private investors some assurance in knowing the government was behind them, even though the private sector was in the lead.
Fast forward to 1945. After seven years of conflict in WWII, the country asked itself whether it would see “peace in our time”? Fortunately, Americans at home fortunately did not see another attack on American soil until 9/11. However, those living in the communist countries of China and Soviet Union were subject to war, oppression, and tyranny. Over the following decades Premier Stalin and Chairman Mao and their communist governments combined to murder sixty-five million of their own people. Many died due to lack of food (often intentionally withheld) and civil war. Meanwhile, the US economy was growing rapidly. No food shortages, no oppressive regimes, low prices, and the top medicine in the world—the sweet smell of capitalism drifted through the air in the land of the free.
Fast forward to 2008. The iron curtain has fallen. While the Russians fell into decline, the Chinese were smart. They realized that this whole communism thing doesn’t really work, so they mostly moved away from it but retained its authoritarian elements. They now have large investment banks and technological advances rivaled only by the United States. The number of impoverished people in rural China numbered 250 million in 1981 and has since decreased to less than 26 million. While still a very high number, it seems as if there is a correlation between bucking communism and a reduction in poverty. Interesting…
Meanwhile, we haven’t changed our system since independence, and we currently have the highest Purchasing Power Parity (essentially the value of a country’s currency) of all countries with more than 6 million people. Quite frankly, I can’t understand why anyone would argue to change this system. We have been the strongest country in the world by just about every metric since WWII. Why would we change a thing?
Now some will argue that a completely free market would allow for monopolies and exploitation of consumers, and they are right. It would. However, that system is not what we have now, and that system is not what I am arguing for. The government should be involved in economic affairs. The 2008 crash happened because investment banks went unregulated. Appropriate legislation was passed, like Dodd-Frank, and now the same problem will hopefully never happen again. Our current system is the perfect balance of governmental regulation coupled with the private sector. There is inarguable correlation between that economic mixture and America’s success on the global stage—success which has kept, and will continue to keep, America as a preeminent superpower.
The best argument for a free market is history. Look at Venezuela now. Look at East Berlin vs. West Berlin. Look at living conditions in the slums of Moscow and the starving villages of China in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. Do we really want to be the next failed experiment? We have reached a tipping point: a “Democratic Socialist,” really just a softer word for “socialist,” came close to securing a major political party’s nomination last year. If we give in to this system now, we may never have a chance to shake it. We have fought for 100 years to keep the socialist system out of our country, and we are now at a decisive point in American history: we can either fight it off, or succumb to it.