Intern Blog: Lauren's first day in Texas sent her to Oklahoma to provide disaster relief

Most people’s first day of a new job or internship includes sitting at a cubicle, filling out some paperwork, and trying (and usually failing) to connect to the company’s computer server. My first day as an intern with Mercury One involved helping with disaster relief work in the heart of Oklahoma. I quickly learned that nothing deters this incredible organization. Although severe storms were once again pounding Oklahoma this past weekend – to be quite honest, I’m deathly afraid of tornadoes and was more than a little nervous about the trip – the team was on the ground within hours. I pulled together my courage, packed my backpack, and joined Mercury One for a humbling, moving, and life-changing experience.

Those of us new to disaster relief did not know what to expect as we drove in to Oklahoma. At first, everything seemed normal. As we suddenly turned a street corner, however, our eyes fell upon the desolation. Joel, a fellow intern, said in amazement, “When we first got there and were looking at the neighborhoods, you’d see a single devastated street or house – just a small window of destruction. And then you’d look up and see that everywhere there was nothing.” I had seen pictures in the media, but being there in person left me speechless. Homes were reduced to a pile of rubble, yet parts of everyday life still caught my attention: a toothbrush caught between two bricks, a stuffed animal poking out from underneath a piece of concrete, the game Battleship lying on the side of a road. These small remnants of people’s possessions forced us to remember that this was not debris; it was the lives, hopes, and dreams of men, women, families, and children.

My first thought was, “How can I, just a single person, help to heal this community?” I soon realized that individually, we are weak, but together, we are strong. These tornados in Oklahoma have only proven that Americans are unbreakable, and thanks to the donations to Mercury One’s 2013 Midwest Tornado Relief Fund, we were able to distribute money and aid to many different organizations in the area. Seeing the memorial of Plaza Towers Elementary School, where seven children died, helped me to understand how important our donation was to Shelter Oklahoma Schools. Seeing the emotion of the sheriff’s deputies whose homes were destroyed or damaged helped me to understand just how significant each and every donation, great or small, is to our fund. Seeing how church members had spent countless, sleepless days and nights sorting clothes, distributing food, and improving morale helped me to understand how I could go home at any time, but these were the people who were there to stay. And personally shoveling and clearing debris allowed me to experience, albeit briefly, the emotional and physical toll disasters take on those affected.

The other interns and I were surprised most by the sense of optimism surrounding us. Many times throughout our trip I found myself near tears and had to mentally step away. During such moments, I would think, “If the people of Oklahoma can smile, so can you.” Alex, another Mercury One intern, said, “One of my most memorable moments was when we found a father moving the remains of his house out of his yard. We offered to help, and he said as he picked up leaves and bricks, ‘One day the grass will grow.’” It was this phrase, along with finding an undamaged set of family photo negatives under a shattered mirror, stumbling across a perfect, unbroken egg lying next to a refrigerator, and seeing the American flag on every corner, that helped me to keep smiling, to keep going.

I came away from this trip feeling extraordinarily blessed: blessed for my home, my family, my school, my job, and my country. But most of all, I came away knowing that even in the darkest, hardest times, we must remember that, “One day the grass will grow.”

Lauren

Reform Conservatism and Reaganomics: A middle road?

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Senator Marco Rubio broke Republican ranks recently when he criticized the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act by stating that “there's no evidence whatsoever that the money's been massively poured back into the American worker." Rubio is wrong on this point, as millions of workers have received major raises, while the corporate tax cuts have led to a spike in capital expenditure (investment on new projects) of 39 percent. However, the Florida senator is revisiting an idea that was front and center in the conservative movement before Donald Trump rode down an escalator in June of 2015: reform conservatism.

RELATED: The problem with asking what has conservatism conserved

The "reformicons," like Rubio, supported moving away from conservative or supply-side orthodoxy and toward policies such as the expansion of the child and earned income tax credits. On the other hand, longstanding conservative economic theory indicates that corporate tax cuts, by lowering disincentives on investment, will lead to long-run economic growth that will end up being much more beneficial to the middle class than tax credits.

But asking people to choose between free market economic orthodoxy and policies guided towards addressing inequality and the concerns of the middle class is a false dichotomy.

Instead of advocating policies that many conservatives might dismiss as redistributionist, reformicons should look at the ways government action hinders economic opportunity and exacerbates income inequality. Changing policies that worsen inequality satisfies limited government conservatives' desire for free markets and reformicons' quest for a more egalitarian America. Furthermore, pushing for market policies that reduce the unequal distribution of wealth would help attract left-leaning people and millennials to small government principles.

Criminal justice reform is an area that reformicons and free marketers should come together around. The drug war has been a disaster, and the burden of this misguided government approach have fallen on impoverished minority communities disproportionately, in the form of mass incarceration and lower social mobility. Not only has the drug war been terrible for these communities, it's proved costly to the taxpayer––well over a trillion dollars has gone into the drug war since its inception, and $80 billion dollars a year goes into mass incarceration.

Prioritizing retraining and rehabilitation instead of overcriminalization would help address inequality, fitting reformicons' goals, and promote a better-trained workforce and lower government spending, appealing to basic conservative preferences.

Government regulations tend to disproportionately hurt small businesses and new or would-be entrepreneurs. In no area is this more egregious than occupational licensing––the practice of requiring a government-issued license to perform a job. The percentage of jobs that require licenses has risen from five percent to 30 percent since 1950. Ostensibly justified by public health concerns, occupational licensing laws have, broadly, been shown to neither promote public health nor improve the quality of service. Instead, they serve to provide a 15 percent wage boost to licensed barbers and florists, while, thanks to the hundreds of hours and expensive fees required to attain the licenses, suppressing low-income entrepreneurship, and costing the economy $200 billion dollars annually.

Those economic losses tend to primarily hurt low-income people who both can't start businesses and have to pay more for essential services. Rolling back occupational licenses will satisfy the business wing's desire for deregulation and a more free market and the reformicons' support for addressing income inequality and increasing opportunity.

The favoritism at play in the complex tax code perpetuates inequality.

Tax expenditures form another opportunity for common ground between the Rubio types and the mainstream. Tax deductions and exclusions, both on the individual and corporate sides of the tax code, remain in place after the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Itemized deductions on the individual side disproportionately benefit the wealthy, while corporate tax expenditures help well-connected corporations and sectors, such as the fossil fuel industry.

The favoritism at play in the complex tax code perpetuates inequality. Additionally, a more complicated tax code is less conducive to economic growth than one with lower tax rates and fewer exemptions. Therefore, a simpler tax code with fewer deductions and exclusions would not only create a more level playing field, as the reformicons desire, but also additional economic growth.

A forward-thinking economic program for the Republican Party should marry the best ideas put forward by both supply-siders and reform conservatives. It's possible to take the issues of income inequality and lack of social mobility seriously, while also keeping mainstay conservative economic ideas about the importance of less cumbersome regulations and lower taxes.

Alex Muresianu is a Young Voices Advocate studying economics at Tufts University. He is a contributor for Lone Conservative, and his writing has appeared in Townhall and The Daily Caller. He can be found on Twitter @ahardtospell.

Is this what inclusivity and tolerance look like? Fox News host Tomi Lahren was at a weekend brunch with her mom in Minnesota when other patrons started yelling obscenities and harassing her. After a confrontation, someone threw a drink at her, the moment captured on video for social media.

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On today's show, Pat and Jeffy talked about this uncomfortable moment and why it shows that supposedly “tolerant" liberals have to resort to physical violence in response to ideas they don't like.

President Donald Trump has done a remarkable job of keeping his campaign promises so far. From pulling the US from the Iran Deal and Paris Climate Accord to moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, the president has followed through on his campaign trail vows.

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“It's quite remarkable. I don't know if anybody remembers, but I was the guy who was saying he's not gonna do any of those things," joked Glenn on “The News and Why it Matters," adding, “He has taken massive steps, massive movement or completed each of those promises … I am blown away."

Watch the video above to hear Glenn Beck, Sara Gonzales, Doc Thompson, Stu Burguiere and Pat Gray discuss the story.

Rapper Kendrick Lamar brings white fan onstage to sing with him, but here’s the catch

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Rapper Kendrick Lamar asked a fan to come onstage and sing with him, only to condemn her when she failed to censor all of the song's frequent mentions of the “n-word" while singing along.

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“I am so sorry," she apologized when Lamar pointed out that she needed to “bleep" that word. “I'm used to singing it like you wrote it." She was booed at by the crowd of people, many screaming “f*** you" after her mistake.

On Tuesday's show, Pat and Jeffy watched the clip and talked about some of the Twitter reactions.

“This is ridiculous," Pat said. “The situation with this word has become so ludicrous."