Henry Bedell, '23
The Virginia gubernatorial election, which takes place in the odd year between presidential and midterm elections, has historically been known as a bellwether for the midterms nationwide. This year, the significance of the campaign race is more pronounced than ever, considering how deeply split the nation has been since the last presidential election.
While Virginia has been moving towards becoming a safely democratic state in national elections, the governor’s race will be much closer. Currently, according to Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight, McAuliffe has a practically negligible 2.5 percent advantage compared to the 11.8 point lead Biden held last year going into Election Day. The specific significance of the 2021 race is that, given that former President Trump has endorsed Youngkin and that President Biden is campaigning for McAuliffe, this race is shaping up to be a referendum on Biden’s first year in office, where low approval ratings reflect poorly on McAuliffe. That being said, just because Biden is polling poorly shouldn’t mean that McAuliffe is the worst of the two candidates for governor, as he can bring several important things to the state of Virginia.
Primarily, he has experience leading. McAuliffe served as governor from 2014 to 2018, a turbulent time in Virginian politics given the events in Charlottesville in 2017. Even with this, and the nationwide split ever growing between parties, McAuliffe left office with an 11 percent spread between approval and disapproval, and his Lieutenant Governor, Ralph Northam, was able to comfortably continue the Democratic hold over the governor’s office with 54 percent of the popular vote (a significant increase from the 49 percent of votes with which Hillary Clinton won the state’s electoral votes a year before). Clearly, Virginians were satisfied enough with his performance that they elected his second in command, showing that they would most likely have reelected him if Virginia’s one-term governor rule were not in place.
On his policy, however, McAuliffe shows more strengths and adaptations to the needs of Virginians since his last time in office. A $15 national minimum wage was a hot topic during the presidential election, with the president recently issuing a $15 minimum for employees on federal contracts, but no national mandate. McAuliffe supports a $15 minimum, which Virginia needs, considering that if a minimum wage worker in NoVa wanted to rent a one bedroom apartment, the current $9.50 hourly pay that they get would not come close to covering the cost of this apartment.
Monthly, given a 40 hour work week, minimum wage employees would make $1,646 before taxes, and one bedroom apartments in Virginia’s most populated region rarely go for much less than $2,000 a month. For essential workers to not be able to afford housing is absurd, and the $15 minimum is the obvious and simple solution to this problem.
Another hot-button issue that the candidates seem to disagree upon is climate change. Youngkin has no official policy on climate change, which—given that every year, we use up Earth’s resources faster and faster—is equivalent to standing by and watching the world burn. McAuliffe, however, proactively campaigns for clean energy and has detailed his plan for “accelerating Virginia’s path to 100% clean energy by 2035.” By equitably improving access to clean public transportation, among other improvements to the transportation system—one of the state’s biggest pollutants—his plan will concurrently seek to erase environmental inequity between communities dominated by people of color.
McAuliffe looks out for Virginia’s youth as well. The first section on his campaign’s webpage, and the headline of his campaign, is fixing Virginia’s education system. An alarming statistic is that 44% of children entered kindergarten in the fall of 2019 without the skills needed in critical areas of development. As one might expect, this percentage was greater among students from low income families (56%) and with disabilities (66%). This is the product of an underfunded preschool system and McAuliffe seeks to fix that while simultaneously reducing education inequity. Given his track record of boosting jobs and lowering inequities as governor and his plans that aim to continue this, Terry McAuliffe is the clear choice for governor of Virginia.
Cover Photo from McAuliffe Campaign Website
2021 gov. polls:
2020 pres. polls:
2017 gov. results:
2016 pres. results:
VA month of min. Wage work:
Biden federal contract minimum wage:
McAuliffe clean energy plan:
McAuliffe education plan:
Jack Marino, '23
I love Terry McAuliffe! McAuliffe, the epitome of the ideal statesman, was so enthusiastic about his beliefs that he enlisted Democratic activists like Stacy Abrams and Keisha Lance Bottoms to campaign for him. Pioneers of progressive policies, Abrams and Bottoms hope to lead America to a more equitable future by putting the full weight of their endorsements and campaign energy behind McAuliffe, who previously assisted some of the most enlightened politicians of all time, the Clintons. McAuliffe fought for America by valiantly defending Hillary Clinton in the wake of her email scandal (rhetorically and monetarily) and serving on the campaign of the most progressive Democrat to ever exist, Bill Clinton.
Additionally, McAuliffe is a fundraising juggernaut. He raised so much money that after his previous campaign that he had extra to keep for himself. His success has attracted so much attention that the FBI had to get involved. But why would the FBI be investigating McAuliffe’s past campaigns? Because they are interested in finding the key to his success. No matter what, McAuliffe will never accept defeat in the Virginia governor's election, just as his close ally Stacy Abrams refused to concede the governor’s race in Georgia. Terry McAuliffe will not stop fighting for the people of Virginia, even if the ballot boxes say otherwise!
Finally, McAuliffe is committed to keeping Virginians safe. It is time for Terry to bring Virginia’s murder rate back down after it rose 40% during his first term as governor, so he can finish what he started. In order to keep Virginia safe, McAuliffe has released several criminals convicted of murdering police, and loosened gun restrictions for felons, allowing everyone including criminals to feel secure in Virginia. The former governor has also sided with the Defund the Police movement in an effort to make Virginia a safer place. Although decreasing funding the police is only supported by 18% of the Black population, Terry McAuliffe knows what is best for Virginians better than Virginians know what's best for themselves. In a bold progressive statement during a debate, McAuliffe declared his belief that the government knows better than the people of Virginia by remarking: “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” For Virginia governor, I want a candidate who has unlimited faith in the government, a candidate who believes the state should have complete control over the lives of individuals, a candidate who embraces the political mainstream with such enthusiasm that one would question the truth behind his rhetoric. I want Terry!
The Youngkin Campaign doesn’t want you to see these sources of knowledge:
*Note: This Piece Is Satire
Zoe Herrmann, '23
As vaccines have become widely available across the country and people begin returning to work, the inevitable debate over vaccine mandates has begun. While the federal government cannot create a nation-wide vaccine mandate for everyone, it does have clear authority to require employers implement mandatory vaccine programs in certain circumstances. The real debate is how far this federal authority reaches and whether states have the power to stop such mandates by the federal government.
Currently, the federal government, which in its own way is a business with 2.1 million civilian employees, has directed that all federal employees must be vaccinated, as well as all employees of companies that do business with the federal government. These rules were both issued as executive orders by President Biden on September 9th, along with a direction to OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) to develop a rule mandating vaccines or regular testing for all businesses with a hundred or more employees. In a speech announcing these initiatives President Biden stated, “If you want to work with the federal government and do business with us, get vaccinated. If you want to do business with the federal government, vaccinate your workforce”. These executive orders have led several major companies like United Airlines, CVS, Facebook, and Google to announce that they are implementing vaccine mandates either on their own or in compliance with the federal contractor executive order.
Although the Biden administration has made clear it would prefer to see employers mandate the vaccine for all their employees, some states are raising objections that may lead to legal challenges that will examine the limits on the federal authority to impose vaccine mandates. Both Montana and Texas have taken steps to prohibit vaccine mandates by employers. and other states are considering similar action. Earlier this year Montana passed a law which makes it illegal to require COVID-19 vaccines for workers. The Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen wrote that the law “prohibits employers from discriminating against the people based on their vaccination status”. Anticipating the OSHA rule will conflict with the Montana law, the Montana attorney general said he will challenge the OSHA rule when it is issued.
While Montana is the only state that has outlawed vaccine mandates so far, Texas Governor Greg Abbott recently issued an executive order limiting vaccine mandates and he went on to ask the Texas legislature to pass his order into law. Like the Montana law, the Texas executive order prevents employers from requiring vaccines and imposes fines up to $1,000 per violation on the business. The executive order states: “No entity in Texas can compel receipt of a COVID-19 vaccine by any individual, including an employee or a consumer, who objects to such vaccination for any reason of personal conscience, based on a religious belief, or for medical reasons, including prior recovery from COVID-19.” While President Biden’s executive orders and OSHA rule will also permit religious and medical accommodations, they do not contain an exemption based on one’s “personal conscience” like the Texas Governor’s order.
Several large companies based in Texas, including American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, have already announced they will follow the federal executive order and disregard the Texas order. Now that both Montana and Texas have challenged the federal government’s authority, it seems certain that the debate over who has control over vaccine mandates will be brought to the U.S. Supreme Court. If brought to the Supreme Court, a verdict could set a precedent over federal authority to regulate public health in a nationwide emergency.
Charlotte Reed, '23
Since former President Trump’s election in 2016, some conservatives and liberals have argued that the government should regulate social media platforms to attain fairness and prevent the spread of “fake news” because media platforms, such as Facebook and Google, are seeking to restrict conservative speech. Many liberals contend that regulation is needed because social media encouraged Trump’s election and the violence that occurred during his presidency.
This past year, the world observed the major impact digital platforms have on society with the insurrection on January 6th, 2021. The idea leading to the insurrection-stopping the Electoral College certification-was mainly initiated over social media. In the past, social media platforms have been reluctant to censor posts about conspiracy theories and “fake news,” but following the insurrection attempt, the leading digital platforms began tagging posts as unreliable and untrue, removing them, and banning people from spreading them, including Trump. Although such activities by social media platforms were legal, were they right?
The first amendment protects freedom of speech by restricting the government’s (federal, state, and local) power to regulate speech on the internet and elsewhere, but the first amendment does not protect one from limitations of speech that may be imposed by a private company. Although the government might start to get more engaged in oversight of social media content, I believe it should be the responsibility of social media platforms to self-regulate profiles and posts more extensively.
Social and traditional media are often looked at through the same lens, but they are fundamentally different. Although they are both profit-driven, their strategies for maximizing profit aren’t the same. Traditional media generally tries to reach a broader audience, while social media relies heavily on pushing highly personalized content to maximize “scroll time” for individual users. Applying the same regulatory framework across both traditional and social media doesn’t work. The “hyper individualized” polarization that is made possible by social media poses a dangerous threat, which the violence seen at the Capitol illustrates.
Many social media platforms already regulate some of the content being posted (for example, YouTube will demonetize certain content), but there is generally an inherent bias in the media that prevents platforms from regulating all posts. This is why many conservatives complain that their voice is being “taken away” when one of their posts is taken down. I think that instead of silencing someone and taking away their ability to express their opinions, even if they are factually wrong, media platforms should work to fact check posts to mark them for misinformation or disinformation (like how Instagram marks posts about COVID-19). This way, expression is still allowed, and freedom of speech remains intact in social media.
The right to freedom of speech and opinion is of fundamental importance in the U.S., so taking it away from someone, no matter their opinion, is wrong.
Katrina Merva, '22
Universalized and completely government-controlled healthcare will cause a less efficient, underfunded, and overall worse healthcare system. The core of our free-market economy, which allows many businesses and innovations to survive and thrive, is competition. Free universal healthcare completely eliminates competition in the medical world, and doctors would likely not be as productive if they all got paid the same as others regardless of their skill. Both excellent and mediocre doctors would have the same salary, and hospitals would no longer be striving to come up with new medical innovations so that they can end out on top. In addition, it would be a disaster for the patients and the public. The DMV is government run, and when I was getting my driving test, I waited in line for 2 hours. What if I was having a heart attack or a seizure, and my hospital was government run?
In European countries, the wait time and quality in single payer healthcare systems (where the government pays for medical insurance) is horrible. Even if I was treated in time under universal healthcare, doctors would have many more patients and would be more likely to be overwhelmed and less focused on their jobs, especially since free health care would probably lead to many Americans taking it for granted and being less careful about their health. Even if you choose to disregard everything about the likely mechanics of a free healthcare system and believe that it would be quick and seamless, imagine the economic burden on the government and on taxpayers. An efficient, high-tech healthcare system is far from cheap and would be almost impossible to install. The money taxpayers pay would go more towards government management of medical institutions than to the doctors themselves. Thousands of dollars would be wasted on the mechanics of government regulation and would not be used to help people and doctors. The free market allows everyone to get the treatment that they deserve. The ACA (the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare) still allows for need-based insurance, which benefits those who cannot pay full price for the best private health care. The free-market healthcare system is the better one, in terms of quality of care, doctors who are capable and enthusiastic to perform their jobs, and security that if you need immediate medical attention, you will get it, instead of waiting hours and hours to only receive average care.
Stella-Grace Ford, '23
In the United States, we pride ourselves on being trailblazers in terms of democracy and equality. In the Declaration of Independence, we state our fundamental belief that each human deserves life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, yet we continue to deny that right of life to those in need. The U.S. still does not have universal healthcare, although the 2010 Affordable Care Act, or ACA, made huge steps toward covering more seniors and low-income adults. Unfortunately, many states chose not to expand their healthcare programs under the ACA, and much of the U.S. operates under a free market insurance system. In a free market, the price of goods is determined by competition between producers, giving health insurance companies permission to artificially increase prices on a whim without any consequences. Privatized, free market healthcare allows providers to manipulate prices and target certain individuals, be it suddenly omitting coverage for medical treatments or overcharging people with chronic conditions because of their medical history. As insurance costs rapidly inflate, our healthcare system forces people to choose between life-saving medical treatments and living the rest of their lives in debt.
The free market medical system is riddled with hypocrisy and inconsistency. Children must provide physical and dental information to go to school, yet we give low-income families no way to pay for these checkups. Doctors and medical practitioners are required to care for anyone in need—if someone passes out in public, they do not have a choice on whether they go to a hospital, let alone whether they pay for their procedure—and mandating these medical treatments and consultations under privatized healthcare inherently disadvantages low-income citizens. Economic equality cannot exist in a system that favors profit over care and turns patients into consumers. Only about 54% of low-income earners had a full year of health insurance coverage in 2001, as opposed to nearly 88% of high-income people, demonstrating a huge disparity between high- and low-income people’s ability to insure themselves and avoid drowning in debt from expensive health treatments. A lack of medical care, especially to people with chronic conditions, constitutes a literal lack of life, so how can we preach American ideals under a free market system?
Before the ACA, 60 million Americans were uninsured, but its enactment decreased that amount to only 27 million, illustrating its efficiency. With universal healthcare, more low-income adults go to regular checkups, thereby catching potential medical problems before they can develop, and universal healthcare causes more chronic illness sufferers to seek help. Additionally, it decreases the number of homeless citizens, since mental and medical health are leading factors of homelessness and unemployment; higher degrees of insured sufferers who can affordably treat those issues minimizes their detrimental effects. Healthcare is a human right, and the United States has a duty to its citizens to provide them with affordable medical insurance. Universal healthcare paves the way for a more equal and healthy America, wherein every citizen, regardless of income, can get the help they deserve.
https://meps.ahrq.gov/data_files/publications/st40/stat40.pdf & https://www.statista.com/topics/3272/obamacare/#dossierKeyfigures
Lauren Lucy Caddell, '23
Often cited as the most conservative Democrat in the US Senate, West Virginia representative Joe Manchin calls himself a moderate centrist Democrat. As a moderate, he heavily supports bipartisanship, or input and compromise between members of both parties to pass legislation. Manchin is one of the most influential members of the current Congress given his role as a swing vote amid a narrow Democratic majority. He shares his opinions willingly and often coarsely. After being questioned about rumors of possible plans to leave the Democratic Party, for example, Manchin responded, “I can’t control rumors… Me being a [Democrat] – if that causes you a problem, let me know and I’d switch to be independent.”
Manchin’s political career includes a five-year tenure as West Virginia’s governor from 2005 to 2010 as well as his time in the Senate, which began with his election in 2010. He works closely with Republicans on issues such as abortion and gun ownership, opposes the Green New Deal, voted against government funding for Planned Parenthood in 2015 and then supported it in 2017, and supported Trump’s immigration policies during his presidency. Yet Manchin also voted against the removal of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, as well as tax cuts. He voted to impeach Trump twice and has advocated for background checks before guns may be purchased. Despite his alignment with the Democratic Party, he is often seen as a unifying force within his state, having won re-election most recently in 2018 even as he was criticized by Trump, who won West Virginia by more than forty points in 2016.
Perhaps Manchin’s most significant role is that of the chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee in the Senate. West Virginia’s economy has a history of heavy dependence on coal, and a complete transition to clean energy would hit the state hard. Manchin also has strong family ties to the coal industry and supports the long-standing traditions of his state in most cases regarding environmental protection. However, Manchin has also attempted to bridge the warring interests of his party and his state, such as his role in the 2011 Fair Compliance Act, which reduced short-term pressure on energy firms to reduce fossil fuel output but was also designed to help industry reduce its carbon footprint over time without damaging its economic status. By opposing a bill presented by his party, Manchin proved his willingness to represent his constituents.
Both Manchin and his fellow moderate Democrat Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have a history of voting against ambitious, progressive bills such as President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion infrastructure plan currently being debated in Congress, which addresses the expansion of healthcare, childcare, and green energy. Although both senators have admitted that these issues deserve to be addressed, they argue that the problem of money comes first. America’s debt is an extremely pressing issue, the Senators argue, and even with raising taxes $3.5 trillion is a nearly incomprehensible sum. “What’s the urgency?” Manchin asks about the Biden proposal, “A lot of the help we’ve put out there is still there and it’s going to run clear until next year.” Manchin uses the example of the American Rescue Plan, the emergency COVID relief bill that allocated some $1 trillion into rebuilding an American economy damaged in the pandemic.
For major bills such as the infrastructure plan, every Democrat vote is needed to pass, and therefore the demands of moderates such as Manchin must be met. In this circumstance, Manchin placed a cap at $1.5 dollars when it came to supporting the bill, so Democrats reverted to further negotiations instead of placing the bill on the table for the full Senate where it would likely have failed. It is in this way that Manchin keeps Democrats in check while also forming compromises with Republicans to hasten the approval process for the legislature.
Not only is Manchin a breath of fresh air in a political setting currently filled with division, the Senate needs representatives like Manchin. One of the reasons the Senate is able to pass the legislature and move forward is due to Manchin and his willingness to question bills proposed by either party. Although we may not agree with all of Manchin’s views, he must be respected for knowing what he wants and finding a way to get it.
Scott Holland, '22
Over the past fifty years in the United States, a constant battle has been fought against the government to legalize marijuana. Millions of American adults want to enjoy the benefits of this drug, legally, as they do with other legal drugs such as alcohol. The war for the legalization of marijuana, however, has been won across many states, and will surely be enacted by every state over the next two decades. But it is time for Americans to start thinking broader than just legalizing marijuana; it is time that America decriminalizes all drugs. When first presented with this idea, many people are understandably distraught about the idea; images of hard drugs destroying lives crosses peoples’ minds. However, if done correctly, this will not be the result of this process.
America currently spends 100 billion dollars a year policing the drug problem in America. Not to mention, there are people arrested, detained, or even imprisoned for using drugs deemed as “illegal.” There is no debate that this is a terrible use of taxpayer dollars. Granted that no harm is done to others, why should someone be jailed for making a decision that only harms themselves? Decriminalizing drugs would prevent the useless incarceration of thousands of people. Illegal drug cartels are extremely prevalent in America, and rather than fighting their consumers, the focus on eradicating the cartels themselves can increase.
The question arises then, what do you do with those found to possess a substance deemed “unsafe” or “hazardous” by the government. Rather than spending nights behind bars, with an addict's urge to use again only growing, you can send the person to a mandatory therapeutic rehabilitation program. The money saved from over policing the people found with these drugs and incarcerating them can instead go to institutions that actually help them.
The United States would not be alone if they implemented this policy; Portugal decriminalized all drugs in 2001, and the benefits so far outweigh the cons. Tens of thousands of Americans die each year from overdosing on opioids and other destructive drugs. A study by the National Library of Medicine found that “drug misuse” went down 18% by 2015, and the number of addicted teens drastically decreased as well.
America already has programs like needle exchanges for heroin addicts to help make drug use safer for its citizens. This policy, however, is incongruent with the other laws in America. Someone who got a needle to make their drug use safer could then be arrested for actually using it. Decriminalization of these drugs could also successfully take one more step towards legalization to benefit more people. A plethora of drug related deaths are caused by other toxic materials being added to the product; a regulated, legalized system would make drug use safer while also eradicating cartels and cartel related crime. America is far from this happening, though, and in the meantime we have to stop treating our drug addicted citizens as criminals, and more like patients who need medical care.
Bella Guangeti, '24
Currently, in 2021, not a single country has an active Universal Basic Income (UBI) policy in place, and while many countries including the United States have experimented with UBI on smaller scales such as the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend since 1982, no government has nationally implemented UBI (for sake of this article set at $1,000 per month for each adult citizen) under the official criteria for the policy. According to the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN), UBI is characterized as periodic, individual, universal, unconditional, and involving cash payment. Even though these characteristics remain constant, other factors such as source of funding will likely vary. In theory, UBI should decrease poverty, decrease income inequality, guarantee income to non-working citizens, and improve quality of life through providing the fundamental cost of living to everyone. However, factors such as funding, potential loss of job incentives, and a decrease in labor force, create hesitancy for this radical economic policy.
The concept of UBI in the US is highly debated because of the numerous positive and negative outcomes of the policy. Proponents of UBI, further dividing between age, race, and political affiliation occupy the minority at 46% of the US population according to a survey conducted by Pew Research center. The graphic shows that younger generations tend to be more receptive towards the idea of UBI compared to older generations. About 63% of low-income citizens support UBI, while only 31% of wealthier Americans do.
Proponents of UBI believe in its ability to increase quality of life, as it counters increases in income inequality and job loss to workplace-automation. Through ideally decreasing poverty, UBI directly correlates with physical and mental health, since the cost of UBI is to provide essentials, it reduces stress stemming from unavoidable expenses. For example, in a UBI trial in India (2013-2014) reportedly improved livelihoods because families were able to afford food, health care, and clean water. It reduced anxiety levels as well. Additionally, UBI reduces school dropout rates and leads to positive job growth. The Basic Income Grant Trial in Namibia (2007-2012) allowed parents to financially support their children throughout high school, and from 2007-2008 high school dropout rates decreased from approximately 40% to nearly 0% among the test subjects. UBI experiments have shown great increases in both physical and mental health, and may even be economically beneficial.
Proponent of UBI and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang ran on a platform of UBI called the Freedom Dividend. Each adult citizen would receive $1000 a month from the U.S. government. Despite dropping out early in the primaries, Yang placed the policy of UBI in the spotlight and spurred lots of debate around the issue.
Contentions against UBI include it being wasted on the rich, loss of public benefit programs, funding difficulties, and decrease in labor force. Depending on how the UBI program is financed, the intensity of these concerns change. For example, UBI is not necessarily wasted on the rich even though they would still receive the periodic checks in many models because they tend to contribute more to the UBI, counter-balancing the cash payments that are received by all. This adjustment, however, may lead to further concerns about increase in taxation and the source of funds for UBI, which varies by model. No model variance can alter the extreme costs of UBI. In 2019, when there were 128.6 million households according to the US Census Bureau, UBI would have cost the US Government approximately 3.5 trillion dollars. This expense must either be paid by the increase and reorganization of taxes or by extreme budget cuts. In 2021 the United States’ Federal budget is 10.83 trillion dollars, so the implementation of UBI would take up about 33.72% of the already allocated federal budget. However, with child benefits, and a household limit of $27,000, the majority of the US population would be over the current federal poverty line for the US ($26,200). A solution would be to reallocate funding from public benefit programs, however, there would be no safety net to UBI, putting low-income citizens at risk if failure would occur.
Due to the positive effects that have been seen so far with Universal Basic Income, BIEN is attempting to assist countries to move towards or experiment with UBI to continue research. However, the large costs of UBI make national implementation greatly contended and more difficult to realistically implement under the core characteristics of UBI.
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