Category: Explainer

cuba-hospitalWhen Fidel Castro died last week many on the political left embarrassed themselves by praising the despot. A prime example is Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who was excoriated for saying that Castro was a “legendary revolutionary and orator” who made “significant improvements” to the healthcare system of his country.

There are few modern myths the have been debunked as frequently yet have been accepted as incredulously as the idea that Cuba has a superior (or even adequate) health care system. Articles have been written since the 1960s debunking the nonsensical claims about health care in Cuba and yet it is invariably the issue that is trotted out to show how socialism can actually be effective.

Although adding one more article to the pile probably won’t make a difference, it can’t hurt to be prepared with arguments in case you’re cornered by a Castro apologist like PM Trudeau. Here are six facts that reveal the truth about the Cuban health care system:
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presidential-transitionThe peaceful transition of power from one chief executive to another is one of the most enduring and cherished legacies of the American government. But it’s also a complicated process. There is a lot that has to happened in the 75 days between Election Day and Inauguration Day.

Here is a brief outline of some of the steps that have to be taken in the transition from President Obama to President Trump.
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Winner-ButtonWhether the Republicans cry “rigged” or the Democrats scream “disenfranchised” we can be certain of one thing: the President won’t be elected next Tuesday. Even if there are no hanging chads or last minute court appeals, the election of the President won’t officially be decided until January 6, 2017.

It may seem strange that the presidential results won’t be final until a few days before the inauguration. But that’s the way the Founding Father’s designed the system to work.

Confused? Then it’s probably time for a brief refresher on the Electoral College:

Where did the Electoral College system come from?

Although the term Electoral College is never used in the Constitution (Article 2, Section 1, Clauses 2 and 3), the electors that choose the President at each election are traditionally called a College (meaning a group of people organized toward a common goal). The Electoral College was proposed by James Wilson at the Constitutional Convention as a compromise between those who wanted the Congress to choose the President and those who believed the election should be decided by the state legislatures. The Framers were generally in agreement that giving the people the power to directly elect the President was a bad idea.

Who decides how many electoral votes each state receives?
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In the recent presidential debate, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton disagreed on nearly everything. But there is one thing they both oppose: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Here is what you should know about the agreement and why it matters in the election.

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?
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naftaIn last night’s presidential debate, Donald Trump said that NAFTA was the worst trade deal the U.S. has ever signed, and that it continues to kill American jobs.

Here is what you should know about the perennially controversial trade agreement.

What is NAFTA?

NAFTA is the initialism for the North American Free Trade Agreement, an agreement signed by Canada, Mexico, and the United States that reduced or eliminated trade barriers in North America. (Since the U.S. and Canada already had a free trade agreement (signed in 1988), NAFTA merely brought Mexico into the trade bloc.)

Negotiations for the trade agreement began in 1990 under the administration of George H.W. Bush and were finalized under Bill Clinton’s presidency in 1993. The House of Representatives approved the agreement by a vote of 234-200 (supporters included 132 Republicans and 102 Democrats) and the Senate version passed with a vote of 61-38 (supporters included 34 Republicans and 27 Democrats). The agreement went into effect on January 1, 1994.

What was the purpose of NAFTA?
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Note: This is the fifth in a series examining the positions of several minor party and independent presidential candidates on issues covered by the Acton Institute. A previous series covered the Democratic Party platform (see here and here) and the Republican Party Platform (see here and here).

CP_logo png 125Although minor parties—often called “third parties” to distinguish them from the dominant two—have always been a part of American politics, the dissatisfaction with the Republican and Democratic parties in the current election season has led some Christians to give them more consideration. The intention of this series is to provide some basic information on where some of these parties stand on issues covered by the Acton Institute.

A couple of caveats are thus in order.

1. Because there are roughly 50 minor political parties in America this series will not be able to cover them all. The choice of what will be included is undeniably arbitrary and subjective. My intention is to highlight the four or five parties (or individual presidential candidacies) that would be of most interest to our readers. Currently, the plan is to include Evan McMullin (a conservative independent candidate), the Libertarian Party, the American Solidarity Party, the Green Party, and the Constitution Party. (Others will be added if there is sufficient interest/demand.)

2. In general, the PowerBlog covers issues related to economics and individual liberty, particularly religious freedom. For this reason some social issues of concern to Christians are not included. This is not because they are unimportant or because those of us at Acton do not care about the issues. It’s merely because they are outside the focus of this blog.

3. For the sake of simplicity, this series will highlight the position listed in a party’s platform or, if they are a non-aligned independent candidate, the positions listed on their website. Unlike with the two major parties, the nominees of the minor parties often have no direct control over their party’s platform. For this reason, the positions held by the particular presidential candidates may differ radically from the positions held by the party.

4. Minor parties tend to focus more on broad principles than specific policy prescriptions. Wherever possible, I’ll try to highlight the direct policy positions. Otherwise I’ll attempt to summarize their underlying philosophy on a public policy area.

Here are the positions of the Constitution Party as outlined in their 2016 Platform:

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Note: This is the third in a series examining the positions of several minor party and independent presidential candidates on issues covered by the Acton Institute. A previous series covered the Democratic Party platform (see here and here) and the Republican Party Platform (see here and here).

logoAlthough minor parties — often called “third parties” to distinguish them from the dominant two — have always been a part of American politics, the dissatisfaction with the Republican and Democratic parties in the current election season has led some Christians to give them more consideration. The intention of this series is to provide some basic information on where some of these parties stand on issues covered by the Acton Institute.

A couple of caveats are thus in order.

1. Because there are roughly 50 minor political parties in America this series will not be able to cover them all. The choice of what will be included is undeniably arbitrary and subjective. My intention is to highlight the four or five parties (or individual presidential candidacies) that would be of most interest to our readers. Currently, the plan is to include Evan McMullin (a conservative independent candidate), the Libertarian Party, the American Solidarity Party, the Green Party, and the Constitution Party. (Others will be added if there is sufficient interest/demand.)

2. In general, the PowerBlog covers issues related to economics and individual liberty, particularly religious freedom. For this reason some social issues of concern to Christians are not included. This is not because they are unimportant or because those of us at Acton do not care about the issues. It’s merely because they are outside the focus of this blog.

3. For the sake of simplicity, this series will highlight the position listed in a party’s platform or, if they are a non-aligned independent candidate, the positions listed on their website. Unlike with the two major parties, the nominees of the minor parties often have no direct control over their party’s platform. For this reason, the positions held by the particular presidential candidates may differ radically from the positions held by the party.

4. Minor parties tend to focus more on broad principles than specific policy prescriptions. Wherever possible, I’ll try to highlight the direct policy positions. Otherwise I’ll attempt to summarize their underlying philosophy on a public policy area.

Here are the positions of the Green Party as outlined in their 2016 Platform:

(more…)