Category: Explainer

Syrian refugees

Recently more than half the nation’s governors—27 states—have expressed opposition to letting Syrian refugees into their states. Many lawmakers in Congress are also considering legislation that would suspend the Syrian refugee program. Here is what you should know about the current controversy:

Why is there a new concern about allowing Syrian refugees into the U.S.?

According to the French government, at least one of the terrorists in the recent attack on Paris is believed to have entered the country by posing as a refugee. The concern is that through inadequate screening procedures, similar would-be terrorists may be able to enter the U.S.

What is the Syrian refugee crisis?

For the past four years, Syria has been in a civil war that has forced 11 million people— half the country’s pre-crisis population—to flee their homes. About 7.6 million Syrians have been internally displaced within the country and 4 million have fled Syria for other countries. The result is one of the largest forced migrations since World War Two.

Are all the refugees fleeing Islamic State (ISIS)?

tpp-mappWhat is the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

Five years in the making, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a trade agreement between the United States, Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Vietnam, Chile, Brunei, Singapore, and New Zealand. The twelve countries in this agreement comprise roughly 40 percent of global G.D.P. and one-third of world trade.

The purpose of the agreement, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, is to “enhance trade and investment among the TPP partner countries, promote innovation, economic growth and development, and support the creation and retention of jobs.” The agreement could create a new single market for goods and services between these countries, similar to what exists between European countries.

What exactly is a trade agreement?

A trade agreement is a treaty between two or more countries that reduces or eliminates barriers to free trade, such as taxes, tariffs, quotas, or trade restrictions. Three of the most common types of trade agreements the U.S. is involved with are Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFAs), and Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs).

The United States has FTAs in effect with 20 countries. These tend to be expansions or additions to other agreements, such as World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement. TIFAs provide frameworks for governments to discuss and resolve trade and investment issues at an early stage while BITs help protect private investment, develop market-oriented policies in partner countries, and promote U.S. exports.

Which goods and services are affected?

US-government-shutdownAre we headed for a government shutdown?

Probably not—at least not for a few more months. The Senate is voting today on a “clean” stopgap spending measure that will fund the federal government until Dec. 11. The House is expected to also approve this bill.

What does a “clean” measure mean?

After a Congressional committee has amended legislation, the chairman may be authorized by the panel to assemble the changes and what remains unchanged from the original bill and then reintroduce everything as a clean bill. A clean bill may expedite Senate action by avoiding separate floor consideration of each committee amendment.

The amendment that was stripped was a provision to defund Planned Parenthood. Although it was supported by most conservatives in Congress, as the AP reports, eight Republicans did not support that measure, leaving it short of a simple majority, much less the 60 votes required to overcome the filibuster. (A recent poll found that by a margin of almost two-to-one (60 percent to 32 percent), the public says any budget agreement must maintain funding for Planned Parenthood.)

Why do we seem to be under a threat of a potential government shutdown every fall?

drowned-syrian-toddler-was-trying-to-come-to-canada-body-image-1441309587What is the Syria refugee crisis?

For the past four years, Syria has been in a civil war that has forced 11 million people— half the country’s pre-crisis population—to flee their homes. About 7.6 million Syrians have been internally displaced within the country and 4 million have fled Syria for other countries. The result is one of the largest forced migrations since World War Two.

If this has been going on for years, why is this now in the news?

Last week the images of the lifeless body of a 3-year-old Syrian refugee captured the attention of both global news sources media. The child had drowned after the 15-foot boat ferrying him from the Turkish beach resort to Greece capsized.

The images reignited a debate about whether the European Union—and other Western countries—was doing enough to aid refugees from the war-torn country.

How did this all start?

ap_220157184201What is the story about?

When the Supreme Court handed down the <Obergefell v. Hodges ruling, it made same-sex marriage legal throughout the U.S. and required every state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Kim Davis, the county clerk in Rowan County, Kentucky, said she could not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because of her religious objections. To avoid claims that she was discriminating, Davis stopped issuing all marriage licenses — to both same-sex and opposite sex couples.

Two gay couples and two straight couples sued her, arguing that her duties as an elected official required her to act, despite her personal religious beliefs. A federal judge ordered her to issue the licenses, and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed. She appealed to the Supreme Court, which denied her request without explanation in a brief one-line order. Since then she has still refused to issue marriage licenses.

On September 3, Davis was found to be in contempt of court and was taken into federal custody.

Who is Kim Davis?

Davis has worked in the Rowan County Clerk’s office for 27 years as a Deputy Clerk (her mother was the clerk for decades). In 2014, she ran as a Democrat and was elected as Clerk. She is a member of congregation of the Apostolic Pentecostal Church.

What are Davis’s specific objections?


Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Yesterday Zack Pruitt explained why when “sanctuary cities” disregard the rule of law on immigration, humanitarian issues become clouded and morality is challenged. But what exactly are sanctuary cities?

This short video by The Daily Signal explains what they are and why they’ve become so controversial.

greekbanks_3357117bWhat’s going on in Greece?

Greece is defaulting on a key debt owed to the international community—and the Greek government is putting the question of whether the country will default on even more government debt up for a popular vote this week.

How did Greece get into such a financial mess?

Too much debt. For the past twenty years the government of Greece has spent more than it has collected in taxes.

Wait, that can’t be all there is to it. The U.S. does the same thing, doesn’t it?

Yes, but the U.S. is a rich country with a good credit rating while Greece is not.

A good way to measure a country’s debt is to compare it to its GDP. The United States deficit averaged -3.03 percent of GDP from 1948 until 2014, reaching an all time high of 4.60 percent of GDP in 1948 and a record low of -12.10 percent in 2009 (low is bad). Greece averaged -7.19 percent of GDP from 1995 until 2014, reaching an all time high of -3.20 percent of GDP in 1999 and a record low of -15.70 percent of GDP in 2009. In other words, Greece spends about twice as much (as a percentage of its GDP) as does the U.S.

Let’s imagine two countries—Greece and the U.S.—as if they were persons: GDP would be the person’s “income”; the deficit would be “additional credit card debt”; and interest on the deficit would be like “interest on a credit card.”

The U.S. has a high income (16.7 trillion a year) and every year adds about 3 percent to the total it owes the credit card companies (the national debt). No one is too worried that the U.S. will default on its loans so the credit card companies give them a low interest rate (2.43 percent).

Greece, on the other hand, has a relatively modest income (242 billion, or 1/70 the size of U.S GDP) and adds a lot more to its debt every year (7 percent). Greece has a low credit score (i.e., the credit card companies aren’t sure Greece will pay off its debt) and so is charged a high interest rate (about 15 percent).

Now Greece is refusing to pay its creditors, causing financial turmoil throughout Europe.

If Greece is such a small economy why does it really matter if they default?