Last year I participated in an activity as part of my training to become a peer counselor. All the trainees stood up and answered questions by moving to either the “yes’” side of the room or the “no” side. One of the questions was, “is it okay to have sex with people you don’t care about?” I was one of the few who went to the “no” side. As a follow-up exercise, one person from each side was asked to share the reasoning that led to their answer. The “yes” representative spoke primarily about consequence.
Everything is chaotic right now, and not just in America. The whole world is spinning endlessly into an abyss of terror and uncertainty. Does anyone know what’s going on anymore? What can we do and how? How much time do we have left?
The American tax code is one of the most complex and byzantine bureaucratic structures in the federal government. The tax code currently stands at an eye-popping 9,000 pages and is often considered the most complex system of its kind in the world. To even remotely understand the inner workings of the nation’s tax system requires years of education and training –– making it all but impossible for the average American to comprehend how their taxes are calculated and spent. The sheer size of the nation’s tax code is a hindrance to both greater financial equality and economic prosperity. In terms of income taxes, the nation operates on a “progressive tax” system –– the more money you make, the higher the percentage of your income goes to Uncle Sam.
I don’t particularly want to talk about politics. Throughout these past two years as an opinion columnist at The Sun, I have made the conscious decision to never directly address a political party, a candidate or the policies enacted by the US government. Don’t get me wrong — I have plenty to say, and I strongly believe that refusing to talk politics with the people around you is refusing to engage opinions other than your own. Acknowledging political opinions is attempting to understand and engage in a political atmosphere that reflects the values and happenings of a world that is greater than your own. Yet I will not dedicate the ~800 words I am allowed every other week in The Sun to attack a party, a policy, or a candidate.
The United States of America is currently “The Divided States of America” according to TIME. How did we get here? Part of it has to do with emotion. Much has been made about the role of emotions in the most recent presidential election. They played an important role in shaping a massive populist movement headlined by Donald Trump, one that underscored the need to retain some semblance of a ‘greater’ American past in which its foundational promise as a nation to be open-minded and big-hearted is not made.
About a year ago, a story ran by the Daily Mirror caught my interest. It talked about a “Dark Web”, a sort of black market on the internet that was relatively difficult to access but provided a venue for illegal activity to thrive. This article illustrated in particular how two British computer sleuths uncovered a Dark Web website that scammed people into paying money for hitmen to assassinate the person of their choice. It sounds ridiculous – like the plot of a movie Liam Neeson would be interested in – but it was true. And perhaps more stunning, it worked: By the time they were caught, the two men had raised over 50,000 pounds in a year, without actually carrying out the work.
If my time as a newspaper columnist has taught me anything, it’s that the written word is far from the best way to reach people. When I was hired by The Sun, my own arrogance allowed me to believe that I could be different from so-called “echo chamber” journalists. I told myself that I would aim my words not at those who already agreed with me, but at those who didn’t. Such a thing is easier said than done, however. Fundamental ideological differences, emotional reactions to the mention of certain issues and the inherent ambiguity of language are tough obstacles to overcome in a medium in which no clarification or follow-ups are possible.
The student debt crisis is eminent and equal to the mortgage crisis in 2007. In “Condemning Students to Debt,” by Richard Fossey, “Generation Debt” and “DIY U,” by Anya Katamentz, and “Is College Worth it?” by Secretary William Bennet, the authors investigate the market failures regarding the student debt crisis. Federal legislation must eliminate imperfect information, fix the principal-agent problem, establish greater accountability, utilize massive open online courseware, invest in public libraries, reestablish bankruptcy for student loans, lower interest rates and strengthen student success. National Student Loan Data System reports $1.3 trillion dollars in Federal student debt outstanding, and the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau reports more than 150 billion dollars in private student debt outstanding. Federal Reserve Bank of New York Consumer Credit Panel reports 43.3 million people have student debt with an on average loan balance of $26,700.
By now I assume most people brave enough still to read the news have become acquainted with the so-called “alternative facts” situation. For those who may be unaware or have missed this particular scandal, it began when White House press secretary and noted Dippin’ Dots opponent Sean Spicer berated the media for their alleged misrepresentation of the crowd on the National Mall during President Trump’s inauguration. One problem: photos from the 2017 inauguration show that Trump failed to attract anywhere near the two million people who attended President Obama’s first inauguration. The visual evidence is clear: Trump’s crowd was sizable, but Obama’s was objectively larger; one stretches to the end of the national mall, one does not. Nor does the time of day change the crowd size (despite what Mr. Spicer may have said); the Guardian’s article on the matter contains a timelapse that clearly shows the crowd size from beginning to end of the inauguration.
This month of November felt like a political eternity. The sheer magnitude of unexpected, often upsetting revelations could have easily provoked the temptation to drop out of political awareness. Nonetheless, I have been inspired to see a resurgence of organization and motivation. However, as the left settles into our new oppositional role, it is important to take account of the multifaceted risks we face from the Trump administration. In particular, I identify an array of four particularly significant areas of concern.