Should The Government Offer Universal Basic Income to Citizens?

An English village in Speenhamland experimented with universal basic income in response to rising grain prices. That was in 1795.

The idea was much the same to what has been proposed today, although with a greater focus on bread. If you didn’t work or were unable to, you received bread for you and your family. If you did work, you were given additional bread to supplement what you could already afford.

At first this concept worked well. People who worked hard but still lived in poverty enjoyed a better life, and those who didn’t want to work were no longer the targets of intimidation, a task that was not manageable or effective by the government.

As many things do, the good times ended and things fell apart. Now that people could afford a better life, they had more children. The system strained and collapsed, casting many workers into a society built around the idea of not needing a strong labor market.

In the following decades, the idea of a universal basic income system would be proposed under many different leaders, but these systems were either labeled too socialist and never passed, or the governments trying to implement them fell apart.

Universal Basic Income Today

The idea of universal basic income (UBI) is once again a topic of conversation being taken seriously. While we don’t face a shortage of bread there is growing income inequality and globalization that has left millions of able-bodied blue collar workers without any hope of providing anything more than what welfare or food stamps provide. Even those in white collar jobs are at risk of losing their jobs to automation and artificial intelligence that could force workers into lower paying jobs or requiring them to return to school to learn an entirely new trade.

There is a lot of disagreement around how UBI should be implemented today. Some proposals, such as those from former presidential hopeful Andrew Yang, outlines a policy that gives $1,000 a month to every U.S. citizen over the age of 18, regardless of income or employment. 

If you are unemployed, this money would help to ease the burden that comes from poverty because it would be a cash payment. For those in higher income brackets, it would supplement their existing income.

At this point, many people might say this all sounds rosy! The problem becomes how to pay for it, and that’s where things start to fall apart. 

How to Pay for UBI

Under Andrew Yang’s proposal, money would be raised through a value added tax (VAT) that is placed on purchases for most goods that would fall under the category a non-essential good or service. The second would come from simplifying current social welfare programs. The third is by restructuring the healthcare system.

Yang’s policy proposal says that these and other changes would cover the program’s entire cost and could lead to economic growth. But we don’t entirely know that any of these changes would generate enough money to cover the system’s costs.

Another way to make UBI more practical is to limit who would get the money. For example, anyone who makes under $50,000 a year would receive the full payment. Those who earn above that amount would receive a smaller amount up to a phase-out number, or no money at all. 

How It Would Backfire

Assuming that a UBI did pass, there are very real concerns about how it would affect the labor market. Besides more people leaving the job market and choosing to live on the modest cash they get each month, there is the possibility that employers would suppress wages. 

If the government is helping to supplement a person’s income, why would they pay them as much? Workers too might no longer be disincentivized to work harder and longer for promotions and pay raises, which would hurt the business’s growth.

There are ideological differences, too. UBI is seen as a socialist program that rewards the lazy person while everyone else gives up their time and hard work for a too-small paycheck.

Final Thoughts

For the longest time, automation has been called the greatest threat to society. Even back during the industrial revolution, it was believed that there would be mass unemployment as machines replaced many labor jobs.

Instead, automation led to the creation of many new jobs that were less dangerous and paid better. Much of the discussion around UBI is framed as being necessary to prevent automation and AI from taking jobs, but there is no guarantee of this.

However, one true thing is that millions of people who want to work simply can’t find a job or lack the skills necessary to compete in the modern workforce. Those who do work are finding that a dollar doesn’t go as far, and that their wages aren’t enough to pay for a starter home, kids, hospital bills, college, and retirement. 

UBI can help to alleviate some of the challenges that people today face. It may even be necessary in the future. Governments should not outright dismiss the idea. Society might find that it winds up being the best way to help fix some of the problems currently affecting society and prevent new problems that could arise from worsening income inequality and mass unemployment.

Should People or The Economy be Prioritized During COVID-19?

There is a challenging topic being discussed within the highest levels of government and around social circles: Will the impact of shutting down the economy to prevent the spread of COVID-19 ultimately lead to a worse outcome than if we had let COVID-19 run its course?

We are arguing that shutting down the economy could lead to long-lasting economic harm contributing to societal instability, widespread poverty, increased rates of criminal activity, and so on. Assuming this were true, might it then be better to open the economy, let COVID-19 run its course, and potentially watch as millions die for the sake of keeping businesses and families afloat. 

Let’s take a look at these options, and why this approach to the conversation might be the wrong way of looking at things.

Why Shutting Down is Good

The service industry makes up a large portion of the workforce. For those in these positions, working from home is not an option. People with these jobs are also working face-to-face with customers who come in and out of the business and might be a carrier for coronavirus.

Those who work these service-level jobs have always had a higher rate of vulnerability, due to low wages, lack of access to healthcare, and a higher risk for alcoholism, drug use, and early death.

Before the COVID-19 outbreak, the service industry was already feeling pinched by a lack of available workers. This has led to a trickle-up effect that has impacted corporate growth and profits. While we might not give too much thought to the people who stock store shelves, deliver our food, or sit behind the counter of a business and help us to make schedules or show us the right way to go, they are most likely to be disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

This isn’t to dismiss the importance of white-collar workers. Illness can also spread in offices, too. But the point is that the economic impact could be staggering, and it is most likely going to start with blue collar workers.

While some may not like to put a dollar figure on human life, it is often the best way to have these discussions. At least, in this case, the value of human life is high. Analysts suggest that shutting down would protect around 1.7 million workers, which could translate to around $8 trillion in savings. In the long-term, this could help us to avert an even worse disaster if millions were to die suddenly.

Why Local Governments are Reopening

Many people live paycheck to paycheck, and there are thousands of businesses that can’t survive for more than a few weeks if they are forced to close. 

This contributes to a few problems. The first is that the unemployment insurance system is not well funded and can not support mass unemployment. Second, when people lose employment, they may also lose health insurance, meaning access to essential treatment or even basic care may be delayed or could contribute to massive debt. Finally, small businesses don’t have the privilege to ask the government for assistance, and banks may be unwilling to extend loans to companies that may continue to remain closed for an unknowable amount of time.

The ramifications of closures won’t just be felt in communities where people will no longer have a place to spend their money, but also for people who rely on these now-shuttered businesses to pay bills, save for future education, start a family, buy a car or a home, and so on.

All of this has played a significant role in the decision to reopen. There are few fail-safes for states and local governments in the kind of situations we are in right now – they are worried just as much as many of us. When the federal government allows extended benefits to lapse, states may be left to pick up the tab when their budgets don’t allow for them to support high rates of employment or loss of businesses.

Change The Economy Instead

Right now, so much of the talk is centered around “returning to normal.” This idea suggests that the economy we had before was good enough. As COVID-19 has revealed, crises such as what we face today, and those that could come in the future, are sufficient enough reasons to change how we operate. Where we are right now is a call to action. As the looming climate crisis increasingly disrupts those activities we consider normal, being able to adapt quickly might save us down the road.

Ensuring that there are systems in place to better respond to crises, specifically related to disease, is the most important step. A lack of available testing has been a significant contributor to not knowing how the disease spreads, how many people within an area are carriers, and whether someone needs to self-quarantine for 14 days to ensure they don’t spread it to anyone else.

Another step would be to have better systems in place to help small businesses and vulnerable people disproportionately affected by major economic disruptions. If someone knows that their bills will be covered if they have to leave work for 14-days due to testing positive for an illness, they will be more incentivized to stay home and lessen the risk of spreading the illness. 

Other changes we are already seeing. Home delivery services that pick up groceries, medicine, or takeout food were already available before COVID-19. Today, this has proven invaluable for allowing people to stay home and not make physical contact. We might expect more of these services to arrive in the future. Increased contactless checkouts and curbside deliveries are other likely options, as are changes to public transportation, and how we work at the office or home. 

Some people are also arguing that there needs to be a renewed focus on individual health, including managing stress levels, changing sleep habits, eating right, and supplementing with immune support products, like those from Metagenics, Douglas Laboratories, and Apricot Power.

A lot has happened in a short amount of time. There are no simple answers to the current issues we face. Treading carefully and making decisions that take into account the needs of workers and businesses and the overall health of the population, will be the only way we come out of this with the least possible harm.

Should Presidents Have the Power to Pardon Anyone?

Recent accusations of corruption against the Trump administration and his choice of pardons has raised questions about whether there should be more restrictions on the power of the President. But why are people upset?

Trump has been accused of pardoning people with connections to close personal friends, despite their convictions involving bribery and violations of security laws. Recent talk of pardoning Robert Stone, who was sentenced to 40 months in prison for lying to Congress and tampering with a witness, has raised further concerns.

Trump is not the first president to issue pardons, but why are we currently so focused on his actions? 

Why Can Presidents Issue Pardons?

Under the Pardon Clause, Article II, Section 2, Clause 1, of the Constitution, Presidents of the United States have the power to grant clemency to people convicted of a federal crime, except in cases of impeachment tried and convicted by Congress. The Office of the Pardon Attorney, a part of the Justice Department, hands pardons on behalf of the President. 

There are five types of clemency that fall within the President’s power:

  • Pardons – These include partial, absolute, and conditional pardons that offer varying degrees of forgiveness for criminal wrongdoing.
  • Amnesty – Grants the same benefits of a traditional pardon, but is applied to groups or communities of people.
  • Commutation – A reduction to the sentence handed down by a federal court. 
  • Remittance – A reduction or elimination of fines or the forfeiture of property that is handed over to the court as a reprieve during sentencing.

Pardons are supposed to factor in the public welfare and whether there’s some unfairness that the courts can’t correct, but because of the power of the Constitution, there is limited oversight. In 1974, the pardon process was challenged following the commuted sentence of Jimmy Hoffa by President Richard Nixon. The court stated that the President has executive discretion to grant clemency as they see fit – the Supreme Court has not ruled on this.

Notable Pardons by Presidents

There are several recent examples of Presidents issuing pardons that brought criticism.

  • Barack Obama commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning, who was involved in leaking more than 250,000 State Department cables to Wikileaks.
  • Bill Clinton pardoned his brother, who had served one year for a drug conviction.
  • Ronald Reagan pardoned New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner who made illegal campaign contributions to Nixon’s presidential campaign.
  • George Washington offered clemency to John Mitchell and Philip Weigel for their participation in the Whiskey Rebellion and anti-tax movement.
  • Gerald Ford granted a full pardon to Richard Nixon for his role in the Watergate scandal.

Number of Pardons by President

The number of pardons issued by presidents varies. In some cases, because a pardon applies to a group of people. These numbers do not reflect commutations and remissions. 

  • Theodore Roosevelt – 668 pardons.
  • Jimmy Carter – 534 pardons.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt – 2,819 pardons.
  • Harry S. Truman – 1,913 pardons.
  • Ronald Reagan – 393 pardons.
  • William H. Taft – 383 pardons.
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower – 1,110 pardons.
  • Woodrow Wilson – 1,087 pardons.
  • Lyndon Johnson – 960 pardons.
  • Richard Nixon – 863 pardons.
  • Calvin Coolidge – 773 pardons.
  • Herbert Hoover – 672 pardons.
  • John F. Kennedy – 472 pardons.
  • Gerald Ford – 382 pardons.
  • Warren Harding – 386 pardons.
  • William McKinley – 291 pardons.
  • George H.W. Bush – 74 pardons.
  • Bill Clinton – 396 pardons.
  • George W. Bush – 189 pardons.
  • Barack Obama – 212 pardons.
  • Donald J. Trump – Still counting.

Should Presidents Have the Power to Pardon Anyone?

There are some limitations around who the President can pardon. However, this power is far-reaching, being applicable even in cases of conspiracy, treason, or murder. However, pardons can open a President to investigation by government offices, may lead allies to turn on them, or lead to impeachment – a President may not pardon himself, which can disincentivize the use of pardoning power.

Is that enough to prevent a President from issuing pardons to people who contributed large sums of funds to political campaigns, or federal crimes committed by family and friends? Not as of today. Many Presidents issue pardons near the end of their final term, meaning that there will be little consequence, and the time and cost required to challenge each pardon is unrealistic. 

Obviously, it is easy to point at Trump and criticize the pardons he has already made and who he might pardon in the future, but past Presidents on both sides of the aisle have used this power to achieve the desired end with little chance of the People to stop it.

Is Regulated Trade Good or Bad for a Country

Regulated trade is a policy system that seeks to establish rules for how countries import and export goods. Regulated trade aims to prevent unfair competition and deceptive business acts while also placing importance on preserving the environment, offering consumer protection, employee safety, and transparency of labeling, among other guidelines that benefit foreign and domestic economic systems.

We most often see regulated trade in the form of trade agreements. These agreements open borders to foreign interests so businesses can offer products and services to a greater number of people.

At the same time, regulated trade can be used to protect domestic industries by levying tariffs on specific products being imported. These tariffs artificially raise the price of goods coming into the country so that domestic industries that can’t compete on price are protected.

However, many economists want to throw trade regulations out the window and opt for free trade that lets global markets decide who should win or lose in any specific industry. 

Policymakers, on the other hand, argue that this isn’t possible because voters who have been negatively affected by free trade agreements want regulated trade to help protect their jobs.

So which is the right answer? Should regulations be tossed, or should governments seek to close borders and protect their citizens?

Benefits of Free Trade

  • Economic Growth – Exporting production, design, or manufacturing can free up resources to invest in research and development that leads to new, higher quality, and better-paying jobs in both home and foreign markets.
  • Innovation – When economies don’t have to compete on a global stage, they are less likely to innovate. At its best, innovation leads to reduced cost, better quality products, and more consumer choice.
  • Less Corruption – With regulated trade, any government can selectively decide to enact tariffs on specific products; this can lead to interest groups influencing government officials to provide them special protections that stifle innovation and entrepreneurship. Trade agreements also feature loopholes and may unfairly target some industries more than others.

Benefits of Regulated Trade

  • Intellectual Property Protection – Regulations built into trade agreements can prevent foreign companies from stealing ideas and flooding the market with a competing product at a lower price.
  • Protections for Workers – Low skilled workers can earn more and have a better life when they aren’t competing with nations that have a lower standard of living,
  • Less Destruction – By restricting the outsourcing of labor, there are fewer opportunities for companies to buy up inexpensive resources overseas and exploit local populations and a lack of labor regulations.
  • Tax Revenue – Local tax collection sometimes exceeds what is generated by tariffs, meaning that states and local governments benefit more by keeping production and labor domestic.

So which is best? Well, there is no right or wrong answer. These issues are massive and include hundreds of countries, differing monetary systems, governments, leaders, and people.

Experts agree that trade policy should include regulations that restrict businesses and countries from unfairly controlling entire industries through reduced labor costs, inadequate environmental protection policies, and violence. 

They should also encourage nations to meet global standards for workers and the environment, and seek to actively prevent theft of ideas and to help educate workers who lose jobs as a result of outsourcing. But, no trade agreement should overstep and seek to control markets because, in the long-term, these regulations will likely fail and wind up costing more jobs, lost revenue, and harm consumers.

What Makes an Employment Termination Policy Sound?

With unemployment numbers growing during the coronavirus pandemic, many companies are being forced to reconcile with a new reality if furloughing or laying off entire staff.

When an entire business shutters due to health concerns, employment termination is not being done as a result of an employee’s actions or a desire to bring in new candidates.

But current circumstances are an anomaly, and as the economy returns to normal, more companies may want to rethink their employment termination policy and whether it is sound.

What Makes a Good Employment Termination Policy?

Before continuing, it is important to understand the two forms of employee termination: voluntary and involuntary

Voluntary termination occurs when the employee submits a resignation letter to the employer stating their intention to leave the company at a current or future date. An employer can and should encourage this to happen with a fair benefits package that the employee would be willing to accept.

Involuntary termination occurs when the employer chooses to no longer retain an employee either because of performance, violation of company policy, an inability to pay the employee, or other reasons.

In the case of voluntary termination, things are more likely to end on good terms. For involuntary termination, a company should keep the following things in mind to prevent conflict or other issues.

What to Include in Your Policy

While you are not required to clarify why you are terminating an employee, you should be prepared to answer questions. These clarifications may help to keep emotions in check and protect you from accusations related to wrongful termination or discrimination. Here are steps to take during a termination meeting.

  1. Make it clear that the decision has been made and the date and time of termination.
  2. Cite key facts (lateness, work performance, behavior, etc.)
  3. Review the benefits packages if applicable, including how they will receive their last check or any unpaid vacation time.
  4. How to request references.
  5. Review non-disclosure or non-compete clauses that are in effect.
  6. What will happen following the meeting (gathering belonging, communication with co-workers, exit interviews, etc.)
  7. Contact numbers if there are issues following termination.

These are not required, but these may be enough to give the employee more understanding or acceptance. During the meeting, bring in the employee’s direct supervisor, and an HR representative or other witness.

What to Avoid

The worst thing an employer can do is enter into a termination meeting unprepared. While all 50 states are “at-will,” meaning an employer can terminate an employee for any reason (the sound of their voice included), doing so without covering all of your bases will make it easier for an employee to retaliate legally. Here are a few examples of where some companies get it wrong.

  • Failure to review contractual terms.
  • Inconsistencies in employee handbooks. 
  • Written or verbal agreements that the employee used as guidance to their own detriment (the employee may claim unfair termination in this case).
  • Defamation of employee after termination, especially when making a statement in response to a reference inquiry (it is best to only state their start and end dates and not further clarify anything), or when announcing termination to co-workers.
  • Invasive or humiliating searches of the employee’s body or personal belongings during an investigation into misconduct or when walking the employee from the building.
  • Causing emotional distress (beyond the normal explanation of termination or a reasonable request of return of company belongings).
  • Conspiring to get an employee fired or preventing them from getting a new job without justification to do so.
  • Termination of an employee following unreasonable requests that made it impossible to perform the job at a satisfactory level.
  • Violation of equal employment opportunity laws.
  • Not addressing issues related to unfair treatment or discrimination.
  • Not providing employment records at the request of the employee.

Having a good employment termination policy begins with each new hire. Clearly outline expectations for employment, perform background checks, call references, and keep all business discussions professional. Additionally, each year the employer should review the handbook and any new updates and perform reviews that make it clear where employees are doing well and could do better to ensure that there is evidence of problems that can be used to support termination later.

How to Protect the Company

Broadly speaking, the above are clear steps that make up the majority of a good termination policy. Working with an HR representative to fine-tune policies is important in determining the specific needs of your company.

Print off and use the following checklist if you are looking for more detailed information if you are looking to more closely grasp what is important for an employment termination policy.

Should Genetic Alteration of Babies be Allowed?

In 2018, a Chinese researcher, He Jiankui, genetically altered the DNA of embryos before implantation into two women. Both women were married to husbands with HIV, and the changes made to the DNA of the embryos would potentially make any offspring resistant to the virus. 

Both women gave birth to children that are believed to be healthy. After Jiankui announced the birth, he was arrested and pleaded guilty to violating regulations in China that expressly forbid applying gene-editing technology to human reproductive medicine.

In America, like in China, there are divisions between some members of the scientific community and the government about the use of genetic engineering on the cells that will one day grow into a baby. In 2019, the House Appropriations Committee voted to continue a ban on genetically modified babies in the United States. Representatives of the House did not uphold the ban without reservation, with some saying they hoped the issue would be reconsidered in the future.

Researchers who oppose the ban say that it is overreaching and could stifle research that could prevent genetic disease.

So should we outright ban this research, or should America become a leader in this field of research?

Designer Babies

The goal of gene editing is to make changes to DNA that could, among other things, potentially reduce or eliminate the risk of disease in a person’s life. This is similar in concept to what the agriculture sector has been doing for years with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that can produce crops resistant to drought and disease.

It is hard to argue with preventing disease in future generations or ending hunger. Except, there is a chance of “getting it wrong.” If we mess up the genetic information of a corn seed and the plant fails to grow properly, we can get a different seed and try again. In a human, any defects in the modified cell could be devastating. Once the modified cell begins to multiply, a fix would require injecting the original and all future cells with the updated genetic information – no easy feat when we are talking about trillions of cells in adults.

Assuming the best-case scenario, and all genetically altered babies grow into healthy adults, people could begin using genetic engineering for vanity or other means. One consideration is how genetic alteration may lead to the creation of a market for consumers (likely the wealthy) to choose the traits that they want in their offspring.

Do you want your child to grow up and look like Idris Elba or Bella Hadid? Would you like them to be over six-feet tall so they have a greater chance of excelling in sports? Perhaps you would like them to have an IQ above 200. This is one direction that we can take with designer babies, and although it is currently the stuff of science fiction, we may only be a few decades from it being possible.

Should Research Move Forward?

Britain is currently the only country that has approved research into altering genetic information in embryos. However, the law states that they must only use genetic testing to understand human development and to improve fertility treatments and prevent miscarriages. Once modified, the embryo must be destroyed after seven days.

Interestingly, according to Pew Research, U.S. adults are in favor of changing a baby’s genes to treat a serious congenital disease; however, an overwhelming majority rejected the idea if it would make the baby more intelligent. The same research also shows that the majority of people are against gene editing that relies on embryonic testing.

For now, we probably shouldn’t try to alter the DNA of cells that will become a baby until we know it is safe. Except we aren’t doing that because of the laws that prevent it.

To move forward, we need to publicly speak about how we could use genetics research for good, and establish oversight to ensure that people aren’t putting future generations at risk by making broad changes to genes that would lead to unforeseen health problems and inequality in society. In this way, hopefully, we would also quell fears about how modifying genetic information of cells could be used to make “vanity babies.”

The fact is we can only control what our country does. There is nothing stopping another nation from moving ahead and implanting modified embryos in women. If America became a leader in this field of research, we may be able to control the narrative and rules governing its application.

Should Commercial Fishing be Banned Worldwide?

The oceans are vital for providing food for billions of people and maintaining the planet’s biodiversity.

But when we talk about issues affecting the oceans, the conversation often falls to what ingredients are found in suntan lotion, plastic bottles floating in the water, the bleaching of coral reefs, and what we see in sensationalist reality programming such as Whale Wars.

Environmental activists want that to change because the oceans are being threatened by the very industry that depends on the health of those same oceans to survive. The fishing industry is mammoth, and each year it brings up anywhere from 0.97 to 2.7 trillion fish – these figures don’t include farmed fish or what is caught recreationally, or sharks, dolphins, turtles, or whales that are caught in nets.

So the fishing industry is big. It is also the main source of income and food for so much of the world.

  • Globally, an estimated 260 million people, directly and indirectly, earn their livelihood from the fishing industry. Other reports suggest that number is closer to 500 million.
  • In the U.S., in 2016, 1.7 million jobs were supported by the fishing industry.
  • Many coastal regions rely on fishing to sustain their local economies.
  • Three billion people rely on wild-caught or harvested seafood for 20% of their protein.

These figures are important for defending the commercial fishing industry and arguing against bans and restrictions. It should be noted, however, that some bans and restrictions have been put into place. In 2019, China imposed a ban that ran March 1 to June 1 with the goal of helping cut back on overfishing. Australia has restrictions on the size of fishing boats. Other nations, including those in Europe, also seek to regulate waters to protect fisheries, including those in the Arctic (the U.S. also signed the treaty).

Some oppose these restrictions or any talk of bans on commercial fishing. It is hard to argue taking away people’s income and source of food. Moreover, people would likely just switch to cows, chickens, and other land animals, which are often farmed in similarly dustructive fashion. 

So if we have to accept that commercial fishing is here to say, and bans and restrictions will only have a marginal effect, the conversation should focus more on how we catch fish, rather than how much fish we actually catch.

Here are some of the key concerns that surround the fishing industry that might help to ease concerns around the fishing industry.

  • Ecological Disruption – This occurs as a result of fishing with hooks that lead to stress or injury to sea life, damage to “food webs” with the removal of one species leading to negative effects on other species, and a loss of ecology from dragging nets that are vital to storing carbon that contributes to climate change.
  • Bycatch – This is part of the catch that isn’t the target species. It is estimated that for each one pound of the target species that is caught, five pounds of marine material is caught and discarded; an estimated 63 billion pounds (40%) of fish caught globally is discarded, with 650,00 whales, dolphins and seals being killed. Bycatch, however, can be retained and sold for various purposes, but information on this is not well tracked.
  • Shark Finning – Up to 100 million sharks die each year as a result of finning, which is a practice where fishermen remove the fins of sharks for sale before discarding the shark body (alive or dead) back into the ocean.
  • Marine Debris – Fishing gear represents around 10 percent of the total plastic pollution that goes into oceans each year. Why this is alarming is that around 85 percent of that is “large plastics” that includes nets that trap sea life and damage seabeds.

There is awareness around these issues, but it isn’t as commonly talked about. Ethical animal agriculture and farming practices seem to get greater attention. 

Even though few fisheries are built using sustainable practices, they are out there and do provide people with the option. You just need to speak with your local grocer about what sustainable option they offer. Buyers drive the market. If people demand fish that is sustainably and ethically harvested, then the fishing industry will follow suit.
Along with shopping smart when it comes to your food, don’t forget to extend that same consideration to your supplements. If you aren’t a big fish eater, then you might have heard about taking omega-3 supplements to get essential fatty acids in your diet. Pure Encapsulations, Nordic Naturals, and Irwin Naturals offer omega-3 supplements that contain omega fatty acids from trusted sources. These brands strive to harvest fish in a way that supports the environment and your health.

Why is Government a Pain-Point for Americans?

Government, immigration, race relations, and healthcare are the leading pain points for Americans, according to Gallup polling in 2019.

Interestingly, 27% named government as a top issue, and 18% for immigration; race relations and healthcare are just 6% each. Looking back to 2007, the government was just 7%, and immigration was 8%. 

So why did the government, specifically, become a pressing issue?  


Breaking down “government,” we see that partisanship continues to be the thing that drives people’s opinions. Democrats say that Republicans are the problem, and vice versa. Not that partisanship is necessarily bad, provided it is “positive.” With partisanship, it has been theorized that you increase voter participation and create more common good as a result of voters paying more attention to their individual needs and that of surrounding communities. 

However, we currently live in a time that seems dominated by “negative” partisanship, which can lead to distrust in news media and research, and tribal mentalities that see voters thinking only about what is good for their side, even if those same voters know that certain policies or political positions on the other side might be better. 

According to Pew Research, there are eight core issues that have contributed to partisanship today.

  1. Across ten political values, there is now a 36% gap between Republicans and Democrats, which compares to just 15% in 1994.
  2. Democrats are moving further left on issues while Republicans have held firm on their positions; issues facing black Americans may be a primary driver for pushing Democrats left.
  3. Republicans feel less strongly that the government should do more to help the needy compared to a majority of Democrats that feel the government should do more to help.
  4. Global issues and how much the U.S. should be involved also divides the political parties; both parties are not unified on this, with a divide showing there isn’t as much agreement even within the parties as compared to some other issues. 
  5. Democrats are largely unified that the U.S. economic system unfairly benefits “powerful interests”; Republicans are split, with those earning $30,000 or less being more likely than those earning $75,000 or more to say that there is economic unfairness.
  6. Democrats are split on how much hard work contributes to success, with whites and those with college degrees being most skeptical; 77% of Republicans say most people can get ahead if they work hard.
  7. Majorities of both Republicans and Democrats have a favorable view of homosexuality, at 83% and 54%, respectively.
  8. A whopping 88% of Republicans favorably view Trump’s performance as president compared to 8% of Democrats; this is an astounding gap that has not been seen in the past 100 years.

Government is a top issue among Americans, but the statistics seem to suggest that it is not necessarily because we think the government isn’t doing a good job. Rather, we simply aren’t fans of the other side.

With that in mind, what can be done to improve the situation? Based on things that divide us, probably nothing. There are seemingly many deep, underlying differences that won’t easily be solved. Social issues, in particular, are a driving force. Views on marriage, the economy, immigration, race relations, and similar issues are often formed over a person’s entire life and not easily changed, if ever.

More than any of that, trust in our media continues to edge lower, which means that unifying people around any particular issue is increasingly difficult. If we can’t all get on the same page about what is a fact and what is misinformation then there really is no hope. Worse still is when politicians on both sides embrace misinformation because it appeals to the tribalism and makes it easier to get elected or remain in office.

While catastrophes like a global pandemic of coronavirus may help bring people together, it shouldn’t take war, economic collapse, or global pandemics to get people to come together and demand a bi-partisan agreement.

An article titled “What Are the Solutions to Political Polarization?” proposes several ideas. To address polarization, we may need to more frequently interact with those of differing political ideologies, speak more about our personal experiences directly to people, remove online “side talk” that amounts to gossip, thinking more like citizens and less as a group of people fighting for something, more diverse political party options, and voting for policies over parties.

The above article does attempt to outline ways to help make these changes, but it isn’t clear how long it would take to influence people and our political system, or even if people would be receptive. The writers do suggest more drastic measures may be needed to cut through partisanship, such as referendums like those used in Britain for Brexit. Although, it is suggested that delays and continual infighting over Brexit could be making things worse rather than better.

For our part, on the citizen-by-citizen level, each of us can do a little better by not accusing those on the other side of the political aisle of things that aren’t true because we are frustrated that our side isn’t winning. Likewise, speaking with those who hold a different perspective may help us to see why someone else would vote how they do.

How Do Autonomous Cars Work And Are They Safe?

If you have never had the luxury of being chauffeured around to your destination, consider downloading a ridesharing app and give it go. It’s a novel thing. Kind of fun, even.

Still, it’s nice to be in your own car and in control again, especially if you have a bad driver. It can also be less expensive to own and operate your car.

So how can you combine the lower cost of owning a car without giving up on having a personal chauffeur when you don’t feel like driving?

That’s the promise of autonomous cars. Each day you will wake up, your car will pull itself out of the garage with the door open, and drive you to your destination. The vehicle will then either park itself, go run errands, or transport other people to their destination while earning you money.

We are still a ways off from enjoying all the proposed features of autonomous cars, but they are coming.

What Does Autonomous Tech Look Like?

There are six levels of autonomous tech, which breaks down like this:

  • Level Zero – There is no autonomous technology.
  • Level One – The car can maintain cruising speed with the car in front of it, stop the car to avoid an accident, and keep the vehicle centered in between the lines in the road.
  • Level Two – Advances on level one features, allowing the car to steer around sharper turns, make exits, stop at intersections, and steer to avoid accidents.
  • Levels Three – Input your destination on the navigation system and let the car drive itself; requires the driver to be ready to take over.
  • Level Four – Driver no longer required except under exceptional circumstances, such as weather or confusing geography; steering wheel and pedals remain in the car.
  • Level Five – Pedals and steering wheel are gone; driver and passenger not required.

All of these systems currently rely on a mix of cameras, radar, and AI to read the road and recognize other cars and obstacles. In the future, cars may even begin communicating, using real-time satellite data, and other means of information gathering to reach a destination more efficiently.

Many automotive brands offer level one autonomy features as an option or as a standard feature on some or all of their models. Level two features are more rare, with Tesla being the only automaker to see widespread adoption across their lineup.

Are Autonomy Features Safe?

Level one autonomous tech is useful for alerting inattentive drivers of a vehicle that has stopped or slowed, and helping to alleviate fatigue during long trips. On the other hand, when talking about Telsa and their more advanced autonomous tech, things get complicated.

If you have ever seen a video of someone asleep at the wheel of their Telsa, then you can understand the risks. Several people have already died by relying on their Tesla to drive itself, only to have the vehicle become confused by a situation outside of normal circumstances.

For example, one Tesla drove into a dividing barrier at highway speeds because it got confused by the road and couldn’t alert the driver to take over in time. Another driver was watching a movie on his portable DVD player and went under a tractor-trailer pulling out onto a dark road.

Then there was Uber’s attempt at a self-driving car that resulted in the death of a pedestrian who was jaywalking. The worst part is that there was someone behind the wheel of the vehicle, but they weren’t watching the road and didn’t take over to stop the vehicle before striking the person.

Largely, these incidents are outliers. For many brands, their level one autonomy features will deactivate if you take your hands off the wheel for too long. Other automakers, like Tesla, only need you to be seated in the front seat with the seatbelt buckled.

The other problem for Tesla is that they have been bold with their marketing claims around the technology. Their system is known as “Autopilot.” What would a driver think when purchasing and driving the car with a name like that? So when looking at accidents involving inattentive drivers, it could be suggested that Tesla’s marketing claims may have given a false sense of safety to drivers.

This is comparatively different from a company like Ford that refers to its technology as “Ford Driver Assist Technologies.” The idea here is to name the features so the driver knows that they are still responsible for operating the vehicle safely. This helps Ford to avoid any legal grey area that might leave the company vulnerable to a lawsuit if a crash did occur. Of course, salesmen should be educated and restricted from ever suggesting to potential customers that the system is more than a driving aid.

That’s not to say that once Ford deploys level two or three technology that they won’t make stronger claims about taking the driver out of the equation.

When Will Autonomous Tech Be Ready?

The market for self-driving cars could be worth trillions, and that means a lot of companies are jumping in to get to level five autonomy first. The problem is that driving is currently incredibly safe, with one death per every 100 million miles driven.

Will society accept if autonomous cars are slightly less safe because the benefits outweigh the risks?

If an autonomous car hits and kills someone, who is at fault? The owner of the car? The company that sold the car?

Then you have to think about the more philosophical questions. If traveling down the road and two people step out in front of the car from either side of the road, and the vehicle cannot possibly stop, which person does the car hit? If one person is old and one is young, might the car hit the older person? What if the older person is also pregnant? Might the car try to crash itself and kill its passenger to save the pedestrians?

We also didn’t even touch on the risk of a hacker taking control of a driverless car and intentionally hitting people.

These things are not easy to figure out. For now, there is good to be found with autonomous tech. Every day, the more miles that are put onto the cars, the more they improve.

For an aging population that can’t safely drive, autonomous cars could help them to maintain their independence. But, for truck drivers or those who make deliveries, these features will likely make their jobs obsolete.

This technology is new, and most drivers probably don’t even understand it. Acceptance of the risks may come when drivers experience it for themselves. Right now, this tech feels like putting our lives in the hands of an unfeeling robot that can’t be punished if it gets things wrong.

Hopefully, we will see major leaps in the development of this technology and reach a point where 100 percent of accidents are human error, proving that once you remove humans from the equation, the autonomous features simply work better. Eventually, our roads will be full of a generation of people who have never driven a car, and would never think to take control and risk causing an accident.

Pollution and Conservation: Is Climate Change Our Concern?

Broadly speaking, climate change is the natural observable shift in temperature that affects the climate of Earth. For example, at one point in time, a region may have been colder and rainy, but now it is hot and arid; likewise, a lowland area that flooded once in a decade may now flood several times a year. 

These changes can happen for a few reasons. Looking back over thousands and millions of years through the study of paleoclimatology data, we see that these shifts in weather and temperate are normal.

The intensity of the sun, ash from a volcano darkening the sky, and the natural emission and buildup of greenhouse gases are all contributing factors that are beyond our control.

However, 97% of peer-reviewed and actively publishing climate scientists agree that human production of greenhouse gases is responsible for the “temperature anomaly” over the past century. Looking ahead to the year 2100, scientists predict a 3 to 5 degrees Celsius rise in the temperature of Earth, which could dramatically reshape our coastlines, biodiversity, and threaten large swaths of populations on every continent, including North America.

This is where the question of pollution and conservation comes from. What, if anything, should be done?

While climate scientists hold near universal consensus that climate change is real and is happening, not everyone agrees. At least, not in how we should go about addressing concerns about rising temperatures. Climate change is often portrayed as a political issue, for obvious reasons. Our representatives set policy, and the Democrates and Republicans aren’t always in agreement. However, it probably isn’t as divided in the way that you think. 

How Climate Change is Politicized

You will find Republicans who are quick to agree that we should prevent a rise in global temperatures. But just not at the expense of individual freedom and prosperity.  

That is to say, historically, climate regulation has often disproportionately targeted groups of people working in coal or other blue-collar jobs. In contrast, other industries and people that play a role in greenhouse gas emissions, like companies that operate large server farms or factories that are moved overseas to areas with limited pollution regulations, aren’t targeted.

Republicans have been condemned for their apparent rejection of climate science. Sometimes this stubborn rhetoric is born out of ideological concerns that Democrats are guilty of sensationalizing climate change to rile up their base, instill fear, and force through poorly thought-out climate regulation that will increase costs of essential goods and put people out of work. 

For some Republicans, they want to let the free-market find a solution. Incentivize businesses to address the climate issue, create new jobs, and continue making life better for people without making government bigger.

Except, among Democrats, there can be a distrust that the private sector won’t do anything more than half-measures while seeking to reap enormous profits at the expense of everyone else. So democrats want sweeping regulatory changes and spending of tax money to force a shift to renewable energy, among other policy changes.

While politicians aren’t too keen on giving in to the other side, we shouldn’t forget about the consumers. Just like with voters voting at the ballet, consumers vote with their dollars. 

Do Consumers Care?

What we’re seeing is that consumers aren’t too keen on spending more money on a product that claims to be environmentally friendly without getting more for that investment. Worse yet, those “planet-saving products,” such as Tesla cars, are beyond the budget of most families.

So up until this point, we have made do with minor steps taken across many industries to slowly force change, such as making appliances consume less energy or increasing fuel economy standards. This makes everyone move forward a little, but just not at the pace that some would like.

Should More be Done?

The fact that we have acknowledged climate change exists, and efforts have been made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through existing regulations, shows that we can take positive steps. But we should not be waiting around for policy.

If you have concerns about your immune system, you wouldn’t sit around waiting for your body to improve on its own. You would reach for a supplement from a brand like Sunwarrior, Terry Naturally, or Apricot Power to help support your body’s needs each day. Similarly, waiting around for the Earth to be fixed doesn’t appear to be taking place – The Earth needs a powerful supplement.

We agree that climate change is a human concern, but that’s not the real question. The real question is, what are we willing to sacrifice to make the necessary change? This is where things get muddled, and the issue goes beyond plastic bags and paper straws, Energy Star labels, and simply talking about what we would like to change.

Americans, per capita, produce more greenhouse gases than any other country. China produces the most overall, but considering many countries have outsourced manufacturing to the Pacific region, it makes sense that China’s contribution to greenhouse gases would rise dramatically. 

To reverse this, we have to use less energy. That means making practical changes each day, such as driving less, setting the thermostat hotter in summer and colder in winter, eating fewer calories to reduce carbon dioxide from the agriculture sector, and buying more local goods. 

All of us could agree that action should be taken to stop a rise in the global temperature, but how quickly would you disagree if it meant your thermostat would be rationed or that your car now costs more because it must be a hybrid or fully electric?

We are at a crossroads. Consumers don’t want to give up access to inexpensive goods and services that are all thanks to greenhouse gas emitting energy sources, and politicians don’t want to be in the crosshairs of their constituents by supporting the wrong thing. The way we think about pollution and conservation, unfortunately, is conflicted.

All of use should reflect each day momentarily and decide what we want the world to look like heading into the year 2100. Whether change happens by advocating for policy, or we set the thermostat differently, we are in uncharted waters and we have everything to lose and nobody else to blame for our individual and collective decision making.