In an election year like 2016, we hear so much about individual candidates.
Did you hear that Donald Trump said this? Can you believe Bernie Sanders is a Democratic Socialist?
Round and round the media circus goes, shaping our opinions about the candidates at every step along the way. In the process, we are completely disenfranchised because we learn to vote based on personality, likability, and hollow debate zingers.
Meanwhile, the issues that will shape our generation are quietly mentioned on candidates’ websites. If the candidates propose policy positions at all, they are often vague proposals that pander to the base of the party to which they belong.
Aside from presidential politics, the issues remain the issues in our country and around the world, even in election years. As a leader in your community, a member of your local electorate, and a person who simply cares about leaving the world a little bit better for the people who come along later… well, it’s your responsibility to have an opinion on the issues.
In an effort to help you get started, I thought a list of the issues might be helpful. I hope you’ll refer back to it as you dig a bit deeper and find your own beliefs on each one. This list primarily pertains to the US, but many of these issues are important in countries around the world.
- Climate change
- Alternative energy (solar, wind, hydroelectric, nuclear, etc)
- Immigration policy
- Path to citizenship for immigrants living illegally in the US
- The complexity of the tax code
- Individual tax rates
- Capital gains tax rates
- Business tax rates
- Estate tax
- Tax credits
- “Too big to fail” institutions and corporations
- Corporate repatriation of profits
- Public trading markets
- High frequency trading
- Mortgage regulation
- Campaign finance system
- Corporations’ right to fund campaigns
- Political Action Committees
- Balanced budget
- National debt
- Free trade agreements
- The role of governmental regulation (FDA, EPA, etc)
- Infrastructure spending
- Farm subsidies
- Pros barrel spending
- National defense spending
- Diplomacy policy
- Nuclear weapons policy
- The role of the US in international conflicts
- The role of the US in the case of human rights issues
- Terrorist networks (such as ISIS, Al Qaeda, etc)
- Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
- Legalization of recreational marijuana
- Militarization of the police force
- Use of deadly force by police
- Gun control
- The right to bear arms
- Inequity in the criminal justice system
- Incarceration rates
- Abortion in the cases of rape, incest, and danger to the life of the mother
- Marriage equality
- Assisted suicide
- War on drugs
- Social security
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Commonly referred to as food stamps)
- Affordable Healthcare Act (commonly referred to as Obamacare)
- School choice and vouchers
- Charter schools
- Privatization of the education system
- National endowment for the arts
- Eminent domain
- National parks and forests
Admittedly, developing a well-informed opinion on all of the major issues is an exhausting thought. Just reading the list above makes me tired, sad, and even a bit hopeless.
But, when I consider the alternative — letting the media control the narrative in my head and basing decisions on comments heard in passing — I remember the importance of taking individual responsibility for my own education.
These issues will shape the future of the United States and the world. They could significantly effect the ability for humans to continue to survive on earth. In other words, these issues might be the most important things we can learn about in the world as we face an ever-growing set of challenges and conflicts.
In a country divided by petty politics and political parties who increasingly think of themselves first, we have a duty to do more as individual activists. But before we can be effective activists in our consumer choices, as leaders in our communities, and as an electorate, we have to be properly informed.
Don’t take the media’s word for it. Don’t trust the words of a politician in the heat of a debate with the bright lights shining. Don’t accept the dogma of your family.
Dig in. Get informed. Care. These things matter.