10/1/15 Mandatory Vaccines

Vaccines should be mandatory for everyone except those who have a medical reason to not be vaccinated. This is nor a government conspiracy to fill your children with chemicals and control them, your child is already made up entirely of chemicals. In fact, literally everything is! It’s almost like atoms are the basic building blocks of our universe and everything it it or something. Not vaccinating children at the recommended times has hugely negative impacts on those who are not able to get vaccines and rely on herd immunity to not die of polio or measles or whatever. People who are unable to be vaccinated because they are infants, immunocompromised as a result of various diseases and cancer treatments, or allergic to the vaccine itself have a legitimate excuse for not being vaccinated and someone refusing to vaccinate their child because it’s “not natural” or some other ill-thought-out reason is putting them in danger. Speaking of bad reasons for not getting your kids vaccinated, autism does not cause vaccines. There is no evidence to support the claim that it does other than one study that was retracted and resulted in the researcher losing his license because it was faked. The causes of autism are not entirely known, but it is definitely something in someone’s DNA, not something you can catch. Even if there were a small chance your child could get autism from a vaccine, at least they only have a mild mental disorder instead of a fatal case of measles or polio. Another reason people cite for not vaccinating children is that the diseases are eradicated, so there is no point. This is also incredibly false and ridiculously ignorant.  Many diseases, such as measles, have made small, periodic comebacks over the years and put many lives at risk. Even if you have the strongest immune system ever, you can be a carrier for a disease and put the life of someone who cannot get vaccinated at risk.

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9/24/15 Drinking Age

As a resident of a college campus and person with a general knowledge of how the world works, I know how little affect the drinking age has on people actually drinking. I once had a chemistry teacher who said, very aggressively, that your frontal lobe is not developed until you are 25, so drinking before then is a terrible idea. She then followed that statement with a long lesson on how to drink responsibly because she understood, as most do, that people will drink regardless of laws or science telling them they are too young. The current drinking age is seldom followed and even less often enforced, so educating underage people on safe drinking is a more logical approach than just telling them not to drink.

Conversely, as making things illegal tends to make them more desirable because of the air of danger surrounding them, lowering the drinking age might lower the number of underage drinkers because of the loss of those who drank just because of the thrill of doing something illegal. This might not happen though, as the drinking age is similar to speed limits in that they are technically the law and sometimes people get in trouble for not following it, but largely it is not followed simply because people do not view them as real enough to actually follow them.

The inevitable nature of underage drinking and the overall lack of regard for the drinking age make the actual age the limit is set at not matter, as whatever it is legally set at will not actually be cared about or enforced. That being said, a lower drinking age will lead to less 18-20 year olds having underage drinking as another charge against them and, as I previously stated, possibly reduce drinking within this age group. The drinking age being set at 21 does not actually make sense, as it is not 18, the age at which you become an adult who can join the military, get married, and buy tobacco products, or 25, the average age at which your brain is finished developing and when drinking does not have as harmful an effect on it. A better solution would be to educate people on responsible drinking instead of shouting them about not drinking until they reached an arbitrary age.

9/17/15 Gun Control

As one of the most prevalent and divisive issues in the country, gun control is bound to show up in every election and after every major shooting and about six hundred times in between. Proponents cite numbers on gun-relate crimes in America and the outcomes of gun control laws in other countries, while opponents reference the second amendment, the dangers of government tyranny, and the feeling of safety they get from owning a gun.

While I do not think that private individuals should not be allowed to own guns, I do think that it should be harder to do so and that people who want to own guns, obtain a conceal carry permit, etc. need more education and training before doing so. Background checks are already in place in most situations, but it seems like in nearly every mass shooting you hear about in the news, the perpetrator shouldn’t have been able to get a gun in in the first place. People say that background checks are an invasion of privacy, but sometimes privacy must be sacrificed for the sake of security, and this is one of those cases. Having the government know basic information about you is definitely worth making sure guns are not bought by people who have committed certain crimes, have a history of some mental illnesses, or are too dangerous to themselves and others to have a gun for some other reason. It is way too easy to buy guns legally in America, and almost as easy to obtain the permits to carry them, whether openly or concealed. Tennessee’s handgun carry permit requires you to go through a class, a written test, and a practical test, but all are far too easy considering that they give a person the right to carry a concealed handgun on their person. I personally know someone who got their permit recently, and they said that the instructors practically gave the class the answers to the test (which was ridiculously easy anyway) and the target practice test could be redone an essentially unlimited number of times. Because of America’s problems with gun violence and other crimes, I think more should be done to regulate the sale of guns and the issuing of carry permits.

9/10/15 Climate Change: It’s a Thing

One of the biggest issues today that people want to debate is global climate change. Despite the fact that over 97% of climate researchers say most climate change is caused by humans, people still bring up the same tired arguments against climate change. People say that it is not supported by any evidence, but the evidence on recent climate patterns overwhelmingly supports the stance that global warming exists and is a serious problem. Every scientific body, national and international, agrees that climate change is real. Satellites show receding sea ice in Antarctica and the Arctic, temperature data shows significant increases in average temperature, land ice is down significantly, and the amount of carbon in our atmosphere has increased dramatically. Some places have showed a general cooling trend over recent years, but the overall trend in temperatures has been a warming one.

A common point against taking action on climate change is that it would cost too much, but transitioning to a low carbon economy has been estimated to save as much as 50 trillion dollars and cost about the same as carrying on as we currently are. Every argument against climate change can be countered easily and logically with concrete data or computer models. Though many myths are present about climate change, the facts can easily be found and show that climate change is a thing and something needs to be done about it.

The biggest problem with the argument to do nothing about climate change is that it is simply not logical. Even if it is caused by some mysterious natural forces, climate change is a real problem. Species have gone extinct and civilizations fallen due to changes in climate, so any action we take regarding climate change may save us. There are no negative impacts of recycling materials instead of adding to landfills, taking public transit instead of a car, or enacting measures to cut back on pollution in the industry except some lost profits in certain cases, but those are preferable to messing up the earth even more than we already have. Basically, if climate change is all a hoax or just a part of the earth’s natural cycles, we will only have benefited from policies intended to curtail the negative impacts of climate change. Inaction can either severely hurt or be neutral, while taking action would either result in the slowing down or even reversal of climate change, or it it’s all natural, we will have a cleaner, more sustainable earth.

9/4/15 Minimum Wage

One of today’s most highly contested issues is the raising of the federal minimum wage. Many states and individual cities have already raised their minimum wage to rates exceeding the federal minimum, which is currently set at $7.25 an hour. The federal minimum wage has not been raised since 2009, and many argue against raising it further, citing the economic costs of doing so. The arguments against minimum wage are linked under Con 1 and Con 2 at the bottom of this post, as I chose to use this post to outline the math in support of raising the minimum wage on the grounds that its set value today has not kept up with the original value in terms of buying power and its feasibility as a minimum wage.

Buying Power

When one looks at money over time, inflation is not the only factor to take into account. Many things factor into how currencies change over time and can change the purchasing power of a dollar or any other currency, which is how much is required to pay for a certain service, buy a certain good, or maintain a certain standard of living. This purchasing power calculator shows how the minimum wage in 1938 compares to the equivalent purchasing power today if you input 1938 and 2014 for the years and $0.25 for the dollar amount. When one takes into account how the costs of commodities and other necessary aspects of life have risen, it is apparent that the minimum wage has not kept up. I will look at the cost of college tuition and rent in this post.

College

The cost of college tuition alone has skyrocketed in the past thirty years. The average cost of a public four year college has gone up by as much as 34% in a five-year period. In 2014 dollars, tuition has experienced an increase of 225% from $2,810 in 1984-85 to $9,139 in 2014-15. The minimum wage in 1984 was $3.35, and assuming 16 weeks in a semester and two semesters, one would have to work 23 hours a week to cover the cost of tuition. This a lot to work as a full-time student, but not as bad as the 40 hours a week needed in 2014. Keep in mind that this estimate is based solely on tuition, and not on room and board, books, or other expenses. In today’s world, college is fundamental to getting competitive jobs, and though scholarships, financial aid, and student loans are available, the fact remains that the price of college tuition has far surpassed the minimum wage, which is what most college students earn.

Rent

In Tennessee, the median cost of rent in 1940, two years after the establishment of a minimum wage, was $15 a month. Since the minimum wage was established at $0.25, one would have to work 60 hours a month just to pay for rent. In 2000, Tennessee’s median rent cost was $505, and the minimum wage $5.15 an hour. This means that one would have to work for 98 hours a month to pay for their rent. These numbers do not take into account income taxes or the hours needed to pay for everything else a person needs to support themselves (and others in most cases). All rents are taken from the US Census Bureau.

All past minimum wages are calculated using CNN’s Minimum Wage Since 1938 graph

History of the Minimum Wage was my basis for the history of the minimum wage in the US.

College Tuition Over Time

Rents in the US

Con 1

Con 2

Pro 1

Pro 2

Pro 3