Say no to Democratic Socialism’s enormous price tag

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On August 9, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic socialist candidate for New York's 14th Congressional District, declined a challenge to debate conservative commentator Ben Shapiro. After comparing this challenge to catcalling on Twitter, it is clear that Ocasio-Cortez is scared of a debate against a difficult opponent. She also likely understands that her Democratic socialist platform would be exposed for its ideological flaws and harmful consequences.

Those who see the new progressive movement as inspiring highlight its agenda based on greater economic equality, while others fear that its reforms will dramatically and detrimentally expand the role of government. However, the one thing we know for sure is that Democratic socialism is expensive—and Americans should reject this pricy platform.

Candidates like Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders propose expensive policies like a federal jobs guarantee, single-payer health care, and "free" public college. Unsurprisingly, this will require astronomical increases in government spending that will add to the out-of-control federal debt that has already exceeded $21 trillion.

Brian Riedl, a policy researcher at the conservative-leaning Manhattan Institute, estimates that Sanders' and Ocasio-Cortez's proposals would generate $42.5 trillion in additional federal expenditures over the next decade. The long-term fiscal outlook under this agenda is even more frightening––Riedl found that these proposals will cost $218 trillion over 30 years.

In order to broaden the appeal of his work, Riedl used exclusively liberal think tanks and non-partisan sources for his analysis including the Tax Policy Center, the Urban Institute, and the Center for Budget Policy and Priorities. These numbers are coming from the left, so some of them, including the cost for the jobs guarantee, are even considered to be low, modest estimates.

So how does all of this get paid for? Democratic socialists like to run down a list of new taxes they support, supposedly aimed at the wealthy and large corporations. Some proposals include carbon taxes, a higher corporate tax rate, health care premium taxes, and increased payroll taxes. Ocasio-Cortez also proposes a "Buffet tax" that requires high earning individuals to pay a minimum of 15 percent of their income. Riedel's Vox article calculated that, under very generous fiscal and economic assumptions, Democratic socialist proposals would cut $8.5 trillion of spending in areas such as defense and state spending on health care, leaving the federal government on the hook for the remaining $34 trillion.

This would require a near doubling of federal tax revenues. To put that in perspective, the federal government would need to tax all corporate profits, as well as household income and pass-through business income (income from a business that is taxed at the individual owner's level as opposed to the corporate level) above the thresholds of $90,000 ($150,000 for married couples) at a 100 percent rate to make up this revenue gap.

Simply put, taxpayers cannot afford these unsustainable and disadvantageous reforms. Large-scale entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare are already rapidly rolling off a fiscal cliff, with their trust funds on pace to be depleted by 2026 and 2034 respectively. Further expanding federal entitlement programs would clearly be much costlier than more plausible reforms like tax cuts, and no cut in defense spending will be sufficient to make up for Democratic socialism's obscene cost burden.

It's troubling to witness socialist and redistributionist policies gaining popularity in America, especially when history and current events both show the threat they pose to a stable and prosperous democracy.

Though utilizing more government intervention than Democratic socialism, the Soviet Union and Venezuela's centrally planned economic systems both eventually led to humanitarian crises that caused a shortage of fundamental goods and services, mass starvation, severe restriction of basic liberties like freedom of speech and worship, and massive death tolls. It is estimated today that the Soviet Union's communist regime under Joseph Stalin murdered as many as 20 to 60 million people. In Venezuela, hundreds are dying from malnutrition and violence imposed by the government to dismantle protests.

Even more moderate proposals such as Canada's latest failure with universal basic income (UBI)––unconditional, periodic government cash payments––show the problems with government expansion. After only 15 months, Ontario ended its C$150 million UBI program that was supposed to last three years, after they realized that it was expensive and financially unsustainable. Finland's UBI experiment will also end in failure after this year as its government concluded that the program would not be an efficient reform of the welfare system.

It's clear that redistributionist policies will not save our country from fiscal destruction. To save American taxpayers from extreme economic burdens, Democratic socialism's recent insurgency into our political system must be rejected.

Mitchell Siegel is an intern at the Foundation for Government Accountability. He is rising junior studying economics at Duke University.

As the nation soaks in the victory of the recent passing of the historic First Step Act, there are Congressmen who haven't stopped working to solve additional problems with the criminal justice system. Because while the Act was impactful, leading to the well-deserved early release of many incarcerated individuals, it didn't go far enough. That's why four Congressmen have joined forces to reintroduce the Justice Safety Valve Act—legislation that would grant judges judicial discretion when determining appropriate sentencing.

There's a real need for this legislation since it's no secret that lawmakers don't always get it right. They may pass laws with good intentions, but unintended consequences often prevail. For example, there was a time when the nation believed the best way to penalize lawbreakers was to be tough on crime, leading to sweeping mandatory minimum sentencing laws implemented both nationally and statewide.

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Only in recent years have governments learned that these sentences aren't good policy for the defendant or even the public. Mandatory minimum sentences are often overly harsh, don't act as a public deterrent for crime, and are extremely costly to taxpayers. These laws tie judges' hands, preventing them from using their knowledge and understanding of the law to make case relevant decisions.

Because legislation surrounding criminal law is often very touchy and difficult to change (especially on the federal level, where bills can take multiple years to pass) mandatory minimum sentences are far from being done away with—despite the data-driven discoveries of their downfalls. But in order to solve the problems inherent within all of the different laws imposing sentencing lengths, Congress needs to pass the Justice Safety Valve Act now. Ensuring its passing would allow judges to use discretion while sentencing, rather than forcing them to continue issuing indiscriminate sentences no matter the unique facts of the case.

Rather than take years to go back and try to fix every single mandatory minimum law that has been federally passed, moving this single piece of legislation forward is the best way to ensure judges can apply their judgment in every appropriate case.

When someone is facing numerous charges from a single incident, mandatory minimum sentencing laws stack atop one another, resulting in an extremely lengthy sentence that may not be just. Such high sentences may even be violations of an individual's eighth amendment rights, what with the imposition of cruel and unusual punishment. It's exactly what happened with Weldon Angelos.

In Salt Lake City in 2002, Weldon sold half a pound of marijuana to federal agents on two separate occasions. Unbeknownst to Weldon, the police had targeted him because they suspected he was a part of a gang and trafficking operation. They were oh-so-wrong. Weldon had never sold marijuana before and only did this time because he was pressured by the agents to find marijuana for them. He figured a couple lowkey sales could help out his family's financial situation. But Weldon was caught and sentenced to a mandatory 55 years in prison. This massive sentence is clearly unjust for a first time, non-violent crime, and even the Judge, Paul Cassell, agreed. Judge Cassell did everything he could to reduce the sentence, but, due to federal law, it wasn't much.

The nation is facing an over-criminalization problem that costs taxpayers millions and amounts to the foolish eradication of individual liberties.

In cases like Weldon's, a safety valve for discretionary power is much needed. Judges need the ability to issue sentences below the mandatory minimums, depending on mitigating factors such as mental health, provocation, or physical illness. That's what this new bill would allow for. Critics may argue that this gives judges too much power, but under the bill, judges must first make a finding on why it's necessary to sentence below the mandatory minimum. Then, they must write a clear statement explaining their decision.

Judges are unlikely to risk their careers to allow dangerous criminals an early release. If something happens after an offender is released early, the political pressure is back on the judge who issued the shorter sentence—and no one wants that kind of negative attention. In order to avoid risky situations like this, they'd use their discretion very cautiously, upholding the oath they took to promote justice in every case.

The nation is facing an overcriminalization problem that costs taxpayers millions and amounts to the foolish eradication of individual liberties. Mandatory minimums have exacerbated this problem, and it's time for that to stop. Congresswomen and men have the opportunity to help solve this looming problem by passing the Justice Safety Valve Act to untie the hands of judges and restore justice in individual sentences.

Molly Davis is a policy analyst at Libertas Institute, a free market think tank in Utah. She's a writer for Young Voices, and her work has previously appeared in The Hill, TownHall.com, and The Washington Examiner.

New gadget for couples in 'the mood' lets a button do the talking

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Just in time for Valentine's Day, there's a new romantic gadget for couples that is sure to make sparks fly. For those with their minds in the gutter, I'm not talking about those kinds of gadgets. I'm talking about a brilliant new device for the home called "LoveSync."

This is real — it's a simple pair of buttons for busy, modern couples who have plenty of time for social media and Netflix, but can't quite squeeze in time to talk about their... uh... special relationship.

Here's how it works. Each partner has their own individual LoveSync button. Whenever the mood strikes one partner, all they have to do is press their own button. That sets their button aglow for a certain period of time. If, during that time window, their partner also presses their own button, then both buttons light up in a swirling green pattern to signal that love has "synced"...and it's go time.

According to the makers of LoveSync, this device will "Take the Luck out of Getting Lucky." It brings a whole new meaning to "pushing each other's buttons." It's an ideal gift to tell your significant other "I care," without actually having to care, or talk about icky things like feelings.

If you find your significant other is already on the couch binge-watching The Bachelor, no problem! You can conveniently slink back to your button and hold it in for four seconds to cancel the desire. No harm, no foul! Live to fight another day.

Have fun explaining those buttons to inquiring children.

No word yet on whether LoveSync can also order wine, light candles or play Barry White. Maybe that's in the works for LoveSync 2.0.

Of course, LoveSync does have some pitfalls. Cats and toddlers love a good button. That'll be a fun conversation — "Honey, who keeps canceling my mood submissions?" And have fun explaining those buttons to inquiring children. "Yeah, kids, that button just controls the lawn sprinklers. No big deal."

If you've been dialing it in for years on Valentine's Day with flowers and those crappy boxes of chocolate, now you can literally dial it in. With a button.

Good luck with that.

The social power of 'Reddit' is helping teens of anti-vaxxers get vaccinated

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Reddit certainly earns its motto as "the front page of the internet," with roughly 540 million visitors monthly, the third most-visited website in the U.S., sixth worldwide. Unlike Twitter and Facebook, Reddit is a largely anonymous platform. People's faces are masked, their names are disguised. Which makes their hidden humanity all the more impactful.

On Reddit, both news and serious information are threaded in among gifs of cats and posts about Call of Duty, but that doesn't make it any less important. For many people, Reddit signifies the town hall where news is passed along or stomped into obscurity.

It gives you a healthy read of our society as a whole.

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A recent Pew Poll found that Reddit leans left politically at a rate higher than the general public. Most users are young men, whose extensive internet use gives them a gatekeeping authority over what information should be considered important. From there, it spreads through the rest of the internet and helps shape public opinion.

So, it makes a lot of sense that Reddit has become a sort of makeshift safe place for children who grew up with parents who refused to give them vaccinations. Of course, Reddit also vehemently mocks the anti-vaccination folks, for better or for worse, often the latter, but that's a subject for another day.

The Daily Dot recently published an article on this strange intersection of ideology and nerd culture. "Desperate teens of anti-vaxxers are turning to Reddit for vaccination advice."

The article follows Ethan, whose parents are staunchly against vaccinations:

But Ethan is not his parents. When he turned 18, he decided to take matters into his own hands. He wasn't sure where else to begin, so he turned to Reddit.

Where do I go to get vaccinated? Can I get vaccinated at my age?" Ethan asked his fellow redditors in December. Ethan's post flooded with over 1,000 comments from users offering their encouragement and support, along with practical advice. "Good on you for getting your vaccinations," one user responded. "It's never too late and you're not only protecting yourself but those around you who truly can't get vaccinated.

Ethan told the Daily Dot that some redditors even offered to give him money via GoFundMe or PayPal if insurance didn't cover the shots. "People were really supportive, and that was really cool," he said. "I had the blessing of Reddit. They were supporting me on a decision my mom freaked out about." Ethan is not alone. "More and more teens are turning to places like Reddit to seek out information on where and how to get vaccinated, and if it's too late."

Whatever your opinion on vaccinations, there's a positive message to all of this. A human message. Hopeful. Proof that, in an increasingly caustic world, people can turn to one another in times of need.

Whatever your opinion on vaccinations, there's a positive message to all of this. A human message. Hopeful.

Now more than ever, that is crucial.

Given the social power of Reddit, it is often characterized as a tool for politicians or political movements. Throughout the forum, various political ideologies gather and organize like factions in some ideological war. A political thread on Reddit is like a Facebook comment section at its most hostile, arrogant or confident, but with no identities attached to the attacks, rants or opinions. When you find yourself riled into a debate, it's easy to wonder who's behind the replies, especially the more vicious ones.

People often characterize it as a hive-mind message board full of circlejerk memes and jokes about SpongeBob. This description isn't entirely wrong, but it is shallow and incomplete. At its core, Reddit is humane. Its users, for the most part, are compassionate. If it were an experiment on human nature, the results would be gratifying.