OF THE ROOSEVELT INSTITUTE COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY
TABLE OF CONTENTS Equal Justice
Redefining Child Pornography Laws for Massachusetts Minors Who Sext By Virginia Ambeliotis
Creating Campus Sexual Assault Courts By Susannah Cohen
Fighting Recidivism through Second Chance Legislation By Cameron Davis
Eliminating Coercion in a Country Where a Confession is as Good as a Conviction By Alison Fraerman
Get to Work: An Employer-Transit Partnership to Connect the Boroughs of New York City By Robert Godfried
Lifting an Unfair Burden: The Elimination of Money Bail By Rachel Knowles
Plea Bargaining: An Unfair Deal By Jay Rappaport
Defense & Diplomacy Expanding the Scope of the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest By Alexander Chen
Making â€˜Secret Lawâ€™ Less Secret By Connor Haseley
Developing Mutually Beneficial Agreements between Multinational Mining Companies and Local Communities By Ademali Sengal
Climate Finance: How Global Investment can Lead to a Resilient Low-Carbon Economy By Rana Abuhilal
Strengthen and Expand Social Security By Brendan Moore
Campaign Finance Reform: Disclosure Legislation for 501(c)(4)s and 501(c)6s By Upasna Saha
A Powerful 1%: Increasing NASAâ€™s Budget By Emma Warner
Education Redefining Standardized Testing By Emma Cloyd
Leveling Educational Opportunities: Integrating NYC High Schools By Nicole Felmus
Bringing LARC into the Classroom: A New Frontier in Preventing Teenage Pregnancy By Karen Reppy
Energy & Enviroment First Steps Towards the Preservation of the Ogallala Aquifer for Irrigated Farming By Caravaggio Caniglia
Miami: Immediate Measures to Save a Sinking City By Fernando Costa Piani Garcia
Biofuel As a Sustainable Alternative By Anneliese Gallagher Overhauling US Energy Policy: Rethinking Fossil Fuel Subsidies and Clean Energy Regulations By Ricardo Jaramillo
Tackling Urban Development in a Smart and Sustainable Manner By Simon Schwartz
â€œDirect Accessâ€? to Healthcare for Undocumented Immigrants By Sumya Akkas
CRISPR: An Argument Against Future Regulations By Olivia Ghosh
Complicit in Healthcare: Reproductive Healthcare Accessibility in Rural North Carolina By Emma Gomez
No More Leaps of Faith: On the Mental Health Services and Policing By Catherine Hoang
Banning the Hyde Amendment to Give Low-Income Women Access to Abortion By Madison Marko
Rural Access to Behavioral Telehealth Services By Kunal Shah
Adopting Smart Card Technology for Better Medicare By Nikita Singareddy
A Dearth of Donors: Increasing Organ Donation with an Opt-Out System By Jordan Singer
Masthead The Executive Board of the Roosevelt Institute Columbia Chapter President - Nikita Singareddy Vice President - Jonathan Kroah Editor-in-Chief - Jordan Singer Outreach Director - Ricardo Jaramillo Secretary - Danielle Deiseroth Treasurer - Emma Cloyd Center Directors Rachel Knowles and Jay Rappaport (Co-Directors of Equal Justice) Ademali Sengal (Director of Diplomacy and Defense) Brendan Moore (Director of Economic Development) Nicole Felmus (Director of Education) Charles Harper and Simon Schwartz (Co-Directors of Energ y and Environment) Kunal Shah (Director of Healthcare)
Letter from the Editor Dear reader, This is the eigth annual Roosevelt Review published by the Columbia University chapter of the Roosevelt Institute. We are proud to present thirty proposals written by undergraduate students from Columbia University. The Roosevelt Institute has occupied a particular niche in the Columbia University intellectual community. As a student-run, non-partisan, progressive think-tank, we offer undergraduates a unique opportunity to deliberate on current events, answer enduring questions of public policy, and evaluate the effectiveness of policy proposals during our weekly discussions. These discussions are both innovative and pragmatic, offering creative solutions to deep-rooted problems and considering all obstacles that must be overcome. The remarkable variety of topics considered is evidenced by the following proposals which range from reforming the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to adopting smart card technology to improve Medicare. The scope and creativity of the policy proposals in this journal reflect the Roosevelt Instituteâ€™s steadfast commitment to open-minded but rigorous dialogue. The proposals are organized within our six centers: Equal Justice, Defense and Diplomacy, Economic Development, Education, Energy and Environment, and Healthcare. I am honored to have served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Roosevelt Review in the 2015-2016 academic year. It is truly a pleasure to present this publication which features concrete solutions to todayâ€™s most pressing issues. These problems were daunting to tackle, yet our writers faced them with artistry and ease, bringing a nonpareil passion to resolving each. I hope you enjoy reading it. To all of our writers and executive board members, thank you for all your hard work. It has culminated in another successful issue of the Roosevelt Review. Sincerely, Jordan Singer Editor-in-Chief of Roosevelt Review
Equal Justice Confronting some of the most complex issues our justice system faces, the articles published in the Equal Justice (EJ) section consistently try to accomplish the two tasks central to EJ—deciding what policies are just and determining how to extend those practices to all people. Our authors wrestle with this dual focus of EJ as they propose innovative solutions to make the adjudication of college campus sexual assault and sexting, respect for the poor’s pre-trial rights, and the New York City’s transportation network both fairer and more consistent. We are honored to present these pieces as one of the largest culminations of Roosevelt’s Equal Justice Center’s efforts during the 2015-16 school year and grateful to all those who have participated in this and all other components of our work. - Rachel Knowles and Jay Rappaport
Redefining Child Pornography Laws for Massachusetts Minors Who Sext By Virginia Ambeliotis
Rendered self-conscious by hormones and a sex-obsessed media, adolescents are always looking for ways to assert their sexuality. For many teens, sexting is an attractive outlet. Fifty-four percent of students surveyed in a 2014 Drexel University study reported having sent or received “sexually explicit text messages or images” before they were 18 years old.1 Yet most adolescents are unaware that their sexting may portend massive legal consequences. Background
Equal Justice 8
By definition, the sexually explicit photos minors share so often constitute child pornography. Massachusetts maintains strict laws banning the promotion, distribution, and possession of these materials. Moreover, state law deems minors legally incapable of consenting to sending or receiving sexts, so defenses predicated on the minor’s consent to engaging in sexting are considered invalid. Any minor who sexts (and individual who sexts a minor), regardless of age, can be punished under these laws, breaking which are felonies, not misdemeanors.2 Specifically, the dissemination of material that is “harmful to minors” as well as the possession of said material with intent to disseminate it is illegal. Convictions could entail as much as 2.5 years of jail time or 5 years of prison time and/ or a first offender fine of $1,000 to $10,000. Furthermore, promotion or solicitation of nude, semi-nude, or otherwise sexual photographs of a minor is illegal. Convictions could entail 10 to 20 years in prison and/ or a fine of $10,000 to $50,000. Finally, knowingly purchasing or possessing visual material that depicts a minor nude, semi-nude, or in an otherwise sexual context is also illegal. Convictions could result in as much as 2.5 years of jail time and 5 years of prison time and/or a first offender fine of $1,000 to $10,000.2 Because child pornography crimes are
also sex crimes, conviction under these laws entails registering as a sex offender for the following 20 years.3 A child pornography conviction can mean in some instances punishment from school, college rejections, student financial aid ineligibility, and restricted access to working certain jobs or living in certain areas.4 While the laws currently neglect to differentiate between sexting and child pornography, they are not intended to implicate teenagers who sext. Local prosecutors are thus not likely to charge sexting teens under the full extent of child pornography laws.5 Nevertheless, child porn laws in Massachusetts should be updated to differentiate between consensual and nonconsensual exchanges of sexually explicit content, as to not lump in minors who sext each other with sexual predators.6 The current statutes regarding sexting warrant reevaluation for the inconsistencies in legal premises that justify them. Penalizing minors for sexting is irrational because minors can be prosecuted as adults but still be considered underage by virtue of construing their sexts as child pornography, and because two teens that are old enough to have consensual sex with one another cannot consensually send one another sexually explicit photos or text messages under the law. Massachusetts has recently introduced a bill into committee that would mitigate penalties for minors who sext. Under Bill H. 1567: • When the defendant is found to have not distributed material with malicious intent, distribution of an “indecent visual depiction” between minors is a noncriminal offense. Said defendant must complete a diversion program. Repeat offenders must pay $250 fine and retake the diversion program. • When the defendant is found to have distributed material with malicious intent, distribution is a misdemeanor
• • •
Recommended Action This Bill H. 1567 is right to recognize that a teenager’s lapse in judgment should not merit a felony charge, but it still misses the mark in implying that teenage sexting is a violation of the law in the first place.8 Instead, sexting should be subject to the same consent laws as sex itself. The state should recognize sexting for what it is: an extension of sex. In this context, minors who are old enough to have consensual sex with each other should be able to consensually sext each other. As the age of consent in Massachusetts is 16, this policy would indicate that consensual sexting between individuals of 16 years of age or older not be subject to legal inquiry.9 As in situations where sexual consent is not obtained, nonconsensual promotion, possession, or distribution of sexts would be considered grounds for legal action.10 Lawmakers should not support any policy that seeks to punish impulsive decisions by youth who are at a critical stage of development where their capacity for judgment is limited; minors under sixteen should therefore not be treated as criminals for sexting either. If we want teens to use common-sense thinking when it comes to sexting and asserting their sexuality through technology, we need to reach out to parents and educators, not law enforcement. If current statutory rape laws
were expanded to include sexting, the following scenarios would necessitate legal action: the victim is under 12 years old and more than 5 years younger than the defendant; he victim is between 12 and 16 years old and more than 10 years younger than the defendant; or the defendant was a mandated reporter.11 To advance this policy, sexual health and education groups like Advocates for Youth should reach out to parenting groups and emphasize that redefining child pornography laws protects teens. High school students should also join lobbying efforts with sexual health organizations. While the road to reform may be long, the campaign should achieve success if it manages to convey the importance of treating minors who consensually sext differently than predators that traffic child pornography.
1. Holder, Randye. “Chances Are Your
Teen Is Sexting.” Time. 3 July 2014. Web. 27 Nov. 2015. <http://time.com/2948467/ chances-are-your-teen-is-sexting/>. 2. Ibid. 3. Yannetti, David. “The Legal Ramifications of Sexting.” Yannetti Criminal Defense Law Firm. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Mar. 2016. <http://www.davidyannetti.com/ Articles/The-Legal-Ramifications-of-Sexting.shtml>. 4. Holder. 5. Ibid. 6. Balko, Radley. “We Must Destroy the Children in Order to Save Them.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 11 July 2014. Web. 27 Nov. 2015. <http:// washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/ wp/2014/07/11/we-must-destroy-thechildren-in-order-to-save-them/>. 7. Roy, Jeffery N. “Bill H. 1567: An Act Relating to Transmitting Indecent Visual Depictions by Teens.” The 189th General Court of The Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Government of Massachusetts, n.d. Web. 07 Mar. 2016. <https://malegislature. gov/Bills/189/House/H1567>. 8. Friedersdorf, Conor. “The Moral Panic Over Sexting.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 02 Sept. 2015. Web. 27 Nov. 2015. <http://www.theatlantic.com/
charge. Said defendant faces $1,000 fine, community service hours, and possible counseling. A minor can report an “indecent visual depiction” to a “law enforcement agency, teacher, principal, or parent” without penalty. Convicted minors will not be mandated to register as sex offenders. Violations of this section by minors will be heard solely in Juvenile Court. Affirmative defense will be bestowed to the defendant in the following instances: • He or she is the only one depicted in the image. • He or she is under 19 years of age and the other party is older than 15 and consensually provided the image. • He or she did not share the other party’s image.7
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“Penalizing minors for sexting is irrational because minors can be prosecuted as adults but still be considered underage by virtue of construing their sexts as child pornography, and because two teens that are old enough to have consensual sex with one another cannot consensually send one another sexually explicit photos or text messages under the law.”
politics/archive/2015/09/for-sextingteens-the-authorities-are-the-biggestthreat/403318/>. 9. E.C.O. v. Compton , 464 Mass. 558 (2013) “Massachusetts Law about Sex.” The Official Website of the Massachusetts Judicial Branch. Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 2016. Web. 07 Mar. 2016. <http://www.mass.gov/courts/case-legalres/law-lib/laws-by-subj/about/sex.html>. 10. Kulze, Liz. “Why Sexting Laws Are Part of the Problem.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 06 Dec. 2012. Web. 27 Nov. 2015. <http://www.theatlantic.com/ health/archive/2012/12/why-sextinglaws-are-part-of-the-problem/265973/>. 11. MGL c.265, s. 23A “Massachusetts Law about Sex.” The Official Website of the Massachusetts Judicial Branch. Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 2016. Web. 07 Mar. 2016. <http://www.mass.gov/courts/ case-legal-res/law-lib/laws-by-subj/ about/sex.html>.
Creating Campus Sexual Assault Courts
cross the nation students, lawmakers, and others have been challenging schools’ handling of sexual assault cases on college campuses. According to current federal laws, schools are responsible for responding to sexual assault reports, but little regulation exists as to the arbitration processes. Some demand that sexual assault cases go through the criminal justice system and be removed from the schools altogether, while others claim that school arbitration is more appealing to victims than legal action. In order to take the best from both systems and avoid their pitfalls, I propose that we create a new adjudication process that combines the two: Campus Sexual Assault Courts, modeled on problem-solving courts. Background Because rape is seen as part of sex discrimination, and colleges are required to prevent sex discrimination under Title IX of the United States Education Amendments of 1972, schools have long been responsible for preventing and responding to accusations of rape. According to Know Your IX, an organization devoted to spreading knowledge about Title IX, this system was intended to be “a parallel option” rather than a “replacement for reporting to the police,” providing student victims with an extra level of protection from their institution.1 Advocates cite a huge array of reasons why victims might prefer the college adjudication process, but they tend to fall into a few categories. First, there are general criticisms of the criminal justice system and the way in which it handles sexual assault cases: the police and other law enforcement officials are insensitive or dismissive. The trial process is too arduous and long. Very few people who are accused of sexual assault actually get arrested, let alone convicted. Second, many contend that victims are more likely to report their assault to a school office rather than to the police.
Many victims and experts assert that people are statistically much more likely to report their assaults to a campus system rather than the criminal justice system. Therefore, any attempt to involve law enforcement would discourage victims from coming forward. Third, certain groups argue that the criminal justice system is more focused on punishing the assailant than supporting the victim. Campus adjudication systems, by this argument, offer more flexibility for accommodating victims’ needs and finding a holistic solution. In spite of these merits, campus arbitration systems are deeply plagued by inconsistency, inefficiency, and overall unfairness. Legal experts, such as Harvard Law professor Jeannie Suk and executive director of the Clery Center for Security on Campus Alison Kiss, as well as students who have been through these systems, complain of the major due process violations in the campus adjudication processes. Because there are no federal requirements for how these cases must be handled, schools develop their own set of procedures, so each “university becomes prosecutor, jury, and judge.”2 Typically, the individuals adjudicating have no experience in rape, arbitration, or criminal law. The process is often led by teachers, students, and administrators. Both accused and accusers criticize their ‘trials’ as unfair and the individuals conducting them as lacking training, describing an overall sense of arbitrariness and mismanagement. Another problem is that colleges have a different standard for conviction than criminal courts. They use the “more likely than not” standard rather than “proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” which the criminal justice system uses. This, “lowered evidentiary standard” makes, “mistaken findings of guilt…a real possibility,” as it is considerably easier to convict someone.3 Even when the process is perceived as fair, people often protest the seemingly
By Susannah Cohen
soft punishments that universities inflict. Jed Rubenfeld, a Yale Law School professor and major critic of campus arbitration, characterizes common punishments like “sensitivity training” and “a one-semester suspension” as “slaps on the wrist.” He even claims that “expulsion is radically deficient” because it allows rapists to remain at large and “free to rape elsewhere.”4 Many people are persuaded by both sides of this debate and have therefore been striving to find innovative alternatives that pull from the best aspects of each arbitration system. However, thus far, no one has created an ideal system. One popular option was to hire retired judges or other outside adjudicators for campus arbitrations. Proponents, like George Washington University law professor John Banzhaf, argue that this model helps maintain impartiality, with the third party judge acting in a consistent, disinterested, and fair fashion. Unfortunately, when attempted, participants found that these outside arbiters were often too unfamiliar with the particular practices of the campus adjudication system, leading to confusion and even mishandling of cases.5 Another major proposal is different iterations of increased participation of lawyers. Either on one side or both, as advisors or advocates, many see the inclusion of lawyers as a means of ensuring legal compliance and guaranteeing that the rights of each party are preserved. Still, people like Laura Dunn, executive director of the victims’ advocacy group SurvJustice, view this addition as “shoehorning lawyers and judges into the campus model,” an inappropriate and illogical attempt to reform a broken system.6 Some argue that the only way to ensure proper handling of a sexual assault case is to demand schools report every incident to the police. This proposition has invited massive criticism based on aforementioned problems with the criminal justice system and the deterring effect this requirement could have on victims’ coming forward. Recommended Action I am proposing to create Campus Sexual Assault Courts, based on the problem-solving court model. I believe that this system would best address the wide
array of concerns on how to adjudicate these incredibly complex cases. Problem-solving courts are a form of diversion. Instead of going through regular criminal courts, defendants are sent to them based on either the nature of their crime or the fact that they belong to a certain population. These courts seek to address the underlying issues that bring litigants into contact with the justice system, using “innovative approaches to address those issues” and “simplify[ing] the court process for litigants.”7 While most prevalent in New York, problem-solving courts are spreading across the country, with the most common form being Drug Court. Drug Courts sentence defendants to rehabilitation programs rather than jail based on a belief that they are offending due to an addiction. There are also Sex Offense Courts, as well as an array of other specialized courts, each of which employ social workers, psychologists, and other experts specifically trained in the issues relating to that problem-solving court. Overall, problem-solving courts are known for being more defendant-focused and aiming at rehabilitation rather than punishment. They have been producing positive results since their inception two decades ago. While the diversion aspect seems less applicable to the situation of campus sexual assault, the specialized knowledge and holistic focus of problem-solving courts would address the goals of campus sexual assault reformers. In this system, universities would refer all cases of sexual assault to the Campus Sexual Assault Courts. Thereafter, typical problem-solving court procedures would follow, with the judge deciding on the punishment ultimately fitting for the specific case. The nature of the punishments would have to be decided upon by the judiciary, including the question of whether these courts would have a right to give school-related punishments (i.e. expulsion). However, on the whole, these courts would deal with cases through the criminal justice system. Campus Sexual Assault Courts offer a greater guarantee of expertise as individuals involved would have to meet judicial standards. All employees would be specifically trained in the legal ramifications of rape on college campuses, and all would have to meet the same criteria. Judges and
other typical judicial employees would be just as familiar with criminal legal procedures as in any courtroom. Other employees like mental health professionals would be educated in best practices for dealing with campus sexual assault, including guidance on sensitivity, which questions to ask, and how to make both sides feel supported and heard throughout the process. The staff members, while employed by the court, would become familiarized with that individual school culture and would be able to offer more specialized help than a general criminal court. By placing ultimate authority with the judiciary, Campus Sexual Assault Courts would standardize procedures through the judicial system, a branch experienced in administering justice in many locations according to the same principles and processes. The schools would only refer cases over to these courts, preventing the vast differences in procedures that currently exist between different schools. By making procedures more consistent, these courts would largely eliminate complaints of arbitrariness, giving participants more confidence in the fairness of the process. Finally, because of the logic behind problem-solving courts, Campus Sexual Assault Courts would be much more victim-focused, preserving one of the main benefits of school arbitration. The vast resources and support present in all problem-solving courts would be available to both victims and the accused, creating a more supportive and empowering process for all. Hopefully, students would understand these positives benefits and be more willing to report cases of assault to these courts as compared to the typical criminal justice system. As I see it, Campus Sexual Assault Courts address nearly all qualms about putting campus sexual assault under the jurisdiction of the criminal justice system while eliminating the arbitrariness and perceived lack of fairness in the school adjudication processes. I think that these outposts of the criminal justice system, especially tailored to college campuses, are the best way for us to address the needs and rights of victims while ensuring a fair and just process and outcome for all people unfortunately involved in cases of campus sexual assault. Because assault cases generally fall un-
Roosevelt Review der states’ jurisdiction, the state courts would be responsible for implementing this plan. However, like the other problem-solving courts, the Bureau of Justice Statistics would oversee the courts, providing guidelines and help with implementation. Endnotes
n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2016. 2. “An Imperfect Process: How Campuses Deal with Sexual Assault.” CNN. Cable News Network, n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2016. 3. Rubenfeld, Jed. “Mishandling Rape.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 15 Nov. 2014. Web. 22 Apr. 2016. 4. Ibid. 5. “Colleges Turning to Judges in Campus Sexual Assault Cases.” Colleges Turning to Judges in Campus Sexual Assault Cases. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2016. 6. Ibid. 7. “Sex Offense Courts.” Problem-Solving Courts. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2016.
1. “Know Your IX.” Know Your IX. N.p.,
Fighting Recidivism through Second Chance Legislation By Cameron Davis
rison is a lifelong punishment. Although only about one in nine prisoners are actually serving life sentences, incarceration in the United States’ current system is a de facto irreversible condemnation on some of the most vulnerable individuals in the United States.1 Criminal records act as a continued sentence for years after release, permanently scarring personal documents and prohibiting millions of ex-convicts from re-entering into society and cleansing their lives from past misdeeds. In the words of New York City ex-convict Charles Russell in an interview with The Atlantic, a criminal record “is like an elephant in the room, it constantly haunts you.”2 More important than simply the record itself is the requirement that reformed convicts share it with “relevant” parties. This cripples their abilities to purchase a house, get a job, pursue higher education, or otherwise integrate as a functioning member of American society and culture. With all of these truths taken into consideration, true reform is effectively impossible for released prisoners. All too many are shoehorned into the same dangerous circles and ways of life that got them imprisoned in the first place as a result of not being able to find sustainable, stable housing or a steady source of income. To erase this vicious cycle of incarceration and reincarceration that plagues the modern American prison system, New York City must implement second chance legislation, a policy which would allow prisoners, just several years after release without re-offense, to legally not disclose any misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies for all applications and interviews. Background Nearly all debate about the modern American prison system comes back to the intrinsic disagreement on the actual purpose of prison in the first place – whether the goal of sentencing wrongdoers to jail is ultimately punishment or rehabilitation
and reform. In our current system, there is no doubt that the United States has adopted a punishment-focused attitude towards jail time. After all, if the singular goal of incarceration is locking criminals away ad infinitum, prisons are doing an admirable job. Within just three years of release, roughly 67 percent of released prisoners were rearrested; this number shoots to upwards of three-fourths of all prisoners facing another arrest when the timeframe is five years after release from prison.3 More damning than just the astronomically high arrest rate is the actual reincarceration numbers: over half of ex-convicts end up behind bars again within five years.4 Moreover, most of these individuals are imprisoned for crimes that aren’t even offenses worthy of incarceration in the rest of the modern world, including passing bad checks, minor drug offenses, and other nonviolent crimes. Not only are these crimes punished at a rate vastly higher than the penal systems of other Western nations, but prisoners are also kept in jail for longer. For instance, “burglars in the United States serve an average of 16 months in prison compared with 5 months in Canada and 7 months in England.”5 These disparities are direct results of America’s reliance on a punishing system over a rehabilitating one. While of course opinions vary, there is unquestionable evidence that rehabilitation is objectively a better route for a state to adopt in its treatment of prisoners; although the individuals are still restrained from the outside world and prevented from causing undue harm in society at large, they needn’t be punished just to be “taught a lesson,” when that lesson will only lead to an aggravation of any violent or vindictive tendencies. Now, having established that the rehabilitation of convicts and ultimate restoration of ex-criminals into society is a superior approach, we return to the core topic of recidivism. Since punishment isn’t the ultimate goal of the ideal prison sys-
Recommended Action A clear and simple option to fight the plague of high national recidivism is second chance legislation. This policy permits prisoners who don’t re-offend for several years to withhold all misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies in job interviews,
housing licenses, or applications to college or vocational training. The information would not be erased permanently – future attorneys and judges would still be legally allowed to unseal the documents during a lawsuit or a follow-up criminal charge – but would be effectively hidden from knowledge. Many potential solutions have already been addressed in countless Congressional bills, prison policy changes, and grassroots movements, but more often than not these solutions have a fatal flaw. Oftentimes they’re too expensive to feasibly implement, as is the case with the Justice Center’s suggestion of “local reentry councils across the state[s]” that would help criminals better reintegrate into their local communities after leaving prison, at the tune of possibly hundreds of millions of state funds a year.11 In other scenarios, the supposed solutions demand too high a time commitment from the prisons themselves or the surrounding communities, such as the labor-intensive program instituted by the Colorado Department of Corrections in which huge amounts of time and energy are invested into upholding communal standards for ex-cons.12 And of course, many proposals just don’t seem to change all that much from that status quo: for example, one of the poster children of reduced recidivism policies, giving drug addiction treatment and rehabilitation to convicts during their stay in prison, reduces return rates to prison by less than five percent.13 Second chance legislation solves a number of problems about the way we currently look at recidivism. For example, the three aforementioned issues plaguing many possible solutions towards recidivism rates – high monetary costs, time-consuming demands, and just not having meaningful effects – all fail to apply to second chance legislation. The enactment would be cheap, explicitly not needing any special program, established employees, or building funds; it wouldn’t take any more time or resources than the preexisting monitoring of ex-convicts; and the results would be tangible, by allowing prisoners to succeed in life, rather than being shackled to their prison term forever. Moreover, the option to legally deny one’s past misdeeds offers an attractive award to ex-cons struggling to survive
right out of prison; they have a strong incentive to work towards the goal of several years “clean” from crime, for which they are handily rewarded by the government. Therefore, even though the benefits of the legislation don’t apply immediately, they offer an end-game for prisoners recently released to draw them away from the life that got them in prison in the first place. All of these benefits give individuals much firmer ground on which to reform themselves and, ultimately, reduce recidivism rates dramatically. Not only would second chance legislation have meaningful impacts for recovering ex-convicts throughout the city, but also getting the policy enacted would not be especially difficult. As mentioned in the background section, New York City has already shown to be receptive to ideas that reduce recidivism rates, so second chance laws would not be that great of a jump. Working directly with the NYC Commission on Human Rights and the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) would act as a strong start to initiate the concept into the legislative process. In terms of constructive comparisons to similar plans already in action, although bills like to the second chance policy have been passed in a number of states, there is a woeful lack of analytical, objective statistics on their successes and failures. The closest example to the proposed law exists currently in West Virginia, a state that has a population less than one-fourth that of New York City.14 This radically smaller sample size, in addition to the lack of academic research on the subject, obscures the possible outcomes for the policy change. However, second chance legislation quite clearly has the opportunity to radically improve the lives of millions of ex-convicts in the United States today, an undeniable benefit for the nation.
tem, it is in that system’s best interests to safely and efficiently aid ex-cons in their transition back into the outside world and organized society. Thus, high recidivism rates are explicitly against the goals of this system, harming both the criminals themselves who are repeatedly punished in a cruel, vicious cycle and the general population who foot both the monetary bill for prison costs and the societal bill of having more persistent crime. Furthermore, not only are high recidivism rates bad for nebulous moral reasons, but they also actively harm the nation in very tangible ways. Prison costs have quadrupled in the past twenty years, to over $50 billion per year, “making prison spending [the] second fastest-growing budget item after Medicaid.”6 By cutting recidivism rates just ten percent in 41 of 50 US states, national and state governments could save over $600 million in the first year alone.7 Addressing a more local sphere, New York specifically has taken a number of approaches to reduce recidivism in the past few decades, most notably the 2015 Fair Chance Act, which, in the words of the NYC Commission on Human Rights, “makes it illegal for most employers in New York City to ask about the criminal record of job applicants before making a job offer.”8 Legislation like this is certainly a step in the right direction, as is reflected quite explicitly in the fact that the city has recently had its lowest recidivism rates in 28 years.9 Unfortunately, however, these policies consistently fail to address the extent of the problem – without applying the same regulations to colleges, realtors, and other aspects of life ex-convicts are often trapped in the no-win scenario that they would have been before. And there’s no doubt that it is in the city’s best interests to improve this cycle – a drop in just about four percent of ex-convicts returning to prison would relieve the already costly prison system in New York by almost $50 million in just a single year.10
1. Engel, Pamela. “America Is Sentencing
Way Too Many People To Die In Prison.” Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 19 Sept. 2013. Web. 24 Jan. 2016. 2. Semuels, Alana. “A New Investment Opportunity: Helping Ex-Convicts.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 21 Dec. 2015. Web. 24 Jan. 2016.
3. “Recidivism.” National Institute of Jus-
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tice. US Department of Justice, 17 June 2014. Web. 24 Jan. 2016. 4. Durose, Matthew R., Alexia D. Cooper, and Howard N. Snyder. Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 30 States in 2005: Patterns from 2005 to 2010. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Bureau of Justice Statistics. US Department of Justice, Apr. 2014. Web. 22 Feb. 2016. 5. Deady, Carolyn W. “Incarceration and Recidivism: Lessons from Abroad.” Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy. Salve Regina University, Mar. 2014. Web. 24 Jan. 2016. 6. “Recidivism’s High Cost and a Way to Cut It.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 27 Apr. 2011. Web. 22 Feb. 2016. 7. Ibid. 8. “Fair Chance Act.” NYC Commission on Human Rights. The City of New York, 2015. Web. 22 Feb. 2016. 9. House, Samantha. “New York DOCCS: Recidivism Rates for Ex-inmates Hit 28-year Low.” Auburn Citizen. Lee Publications, 28 Nov. 2014. Web. 22 Feb. 2016. 10. “Recidivism’s High Cost and a Way to Cut It.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 27 Apr. 2011. Web. 22 Feb. 2016. 11. Council of State Governments Justice Center, Reducing Recidivism: States Deliver Results. (New York: Council of State Governments Justice Center, 2014) 12. Ibid. 13. Aos, Steve, Marna Miller, and Elizabeth Drake. “Evidence-Based Public Policy Options to Reduce Future Prison Construction, Criminal Justice Costs, and Crime Rates.” WSIPP. Washington State Institute for Public Policy, Oct. 2006. Web. 24 Jan. 2016. 14. “State Totals: Vintage 2015.” Population Estimates. US Census, 2015. Web. 22 Feb. 2016.
Eliminating Coercion in a Country Where a Confession is as Good as a Conviction
espite the rise of new methods of scientific evidence gathering used in criminal trials and proceedings, suspects’ confessions continue to impact court proceedings incredibly and to be highly sought after by law enforcement officials.1 Against contradicting evidence of innocence, a confession is a trump card. Juries trust that obtained confessions are correct, and cases are often closed when a confession is obtained.2 It is unfathomable to the average person why an innocent suspect would give a full confession, but there are in fact several factors that have contributed to a slew of false confessions. According to the Innocence Project, over 25% of wrongfully convicted people later exonerated based on DNA evidence were convicted based on a “false confession or incriminating statement.”3 The fact that data on false confessions is, for the most part, only available through convictions that have been reopened and overturned undoubtedly suggests that there are many more cases of conviction due to false confession; the exact figure is unknown because most convictions are never thoroughly reinvestigated. The Innocence Project identifies the main thread in instances of false confession as the belief of suspects in interrogation that compliance with the police will net them more benefit than a claim of innocence. The interrogation tactics police use perpetuate this belief, especially when they are already convinced of a suspect’s guilt or eager to close a case. These include complete isolation from family and friends for unnecessarily long periods of interrogation, deprivation of sleep, deprivation of food, promises of a lesser sentence or promises that a suspect will be able to leave the station once a confession is given, and lying to suspects about incriminating evidence or witness statements that would confirm their guilt. In extreme cases, such as that of Jon Burge, a police commander in Chicago, police have used torture to elicit confessions.4
Though torturing suspects is illegal, lying to them is not. Background Police in the United States are fully permitted to lie during interrogation, and tactics used to elicit confession include false statements about the existence of evidence pointing to a suspect’s involvement in a crime, promises of leniency if a confession is given, promises of release if a confession is given, or threats of the death penalty if a confession is withheld. Children and mentally impaired individuals are especially susceptible to giving false confessions due to a lack of awareness of their situation and tendency to comply with authority figures. These risk factors also exist in mentally capable adults, as law enforcement may withhold case details on purpose or employ false statements that heavily distort the facts of the case.5 The verbal and emotional tactics used to elicit confession coerce less obviously than outright tortured but inflict incredible damage. In one study, 28% of subjects exhibited internalization – when a suspect genuinely but wrongly believes they have committed a crime due to highly suggestive interrogation techniques – and 9% actually fabricated details to support their own guilt, a high rate considering none were actually guilty.6 Law enforcement makes often uses one such tactic known as the “Reid Technique” of “interviewing and interrogation” invented and marketed by a former Chicago cop. This psychological technique is explicitly designed to initiate confession and is widely taught. Trainees in the method learn to fabricate a story, starting with claiming they hold the results of an investigation that proves the suspect’s guilt and going from there to fully flesh out a story of confession the suspect will ultimately sign or otherwise affirm. Saul Kassin, a psychologist who studied the overpowering might of confession
By Alison Fraerman
Equal Justice 18
in the decisions of juries, tested tactics used in the Reid method with the “computer-crash paradigm.” In this test, the instance of false confession with various Reid tactics was tested against the event of a computer crashing 60 seconds into the experiment when students were interrogated or “baited” with supposed evidence based on assumption of their guilt in pressing the button that caused the crash.7 A baseline confession rate was developed simply through a charged accusation followed by a rapidly scrawled confession statement subjects were asked to sign, and then confession eliciting tactics were tested for effect on the baseline. “Confederates” in the room were questioned about the subjects’ use of the button to simulate false incriminating evidence, which nearly doubled the instances of false confession.8 Overall, 69% of Kassin’s original subjects signed a confession to hitting the button, though the computer crashed on its own.9 In practice, false confessions are astonishingly prevalent, especially given that there is no way to actually uncover every instance of false confession. In known instances of wrongful convictions overturned by DNA evidence, over 25% of victims falsely confessed or made incriminating statements.10 According to law professor Richard Leo, who directly evaluated police interrogations in California’s Bay Area during the 1990s, many police officers heavily employed Reid tactics in interrogation but skipped the initial interview the technique teaches. This interview is designed to establish the suspect’s actual guilt or innocence before confession-eliciting tactics are employed.11 Even when the interview is employed, it is designed to be short, and all it really produces is a hunch. Often, the interrogating officer’s presumption of the suspect’s guilt is not based on tangible evidence but rather behavioral cues during a preliminary interview, if such an interview is held at all. Police are trained to only tactically interrogate and produce confessions from those they establish as culpable in a crime, but establishment of initial guilt is unreliable. However, once the hunch is established, confession becomes the goal of interrogation. The purpose of interrogation is not to discern truth, rather it is to indict a criminal.12 Legally, the government may not co-
erce confessions. However, the United States’ Supreme Court cases Frazier v. Cupp (1969) and Oregon v. Mathiason (1977) provide legal precedents for police to use discretion to lie during interrogation. Frazier sanctioned a police officer’s claim that a suspect’s confederate had already confessed, while Oregon sanctioned the lie that a suspect’s fingerprints had been found at the scene of the crime. The general principle that police are allowed to lie during interrogation is widely accepted. Though juries admit that police tactics are coercive, they generally believe that they are necessary to the judicial process as they elicit truthful confessions over false ones.13 The fact that police can lie and mislead suspects during interrogation is indicative of a system that endows law enforcement officers with overbearing power over suspects. The prevalence of confession tactics and the focus on obtaining written confession statements steers investigation away from tangible evidence and toward the more subjective and emotional instance of confession that sways juries regardless of how they feel about police tactics. Recommended Action The obvious solution is to severely limit the ability of police to lie, and to monitor interrogation rooms through audio-visual recording to enforce these limits, best accomplished through federal legislation. Despite the Miranda warnings established to protect suspects in interrogation through clarifying the suspect’s right to remain silent or ask for a lawyer, in order to prevent self-incrimination, no research shows that confessions have become more reliable since the warnings were instituted. Research does show impaired understanding of the warnings, especially among mentally impaired adults and juveniles.14,15 After Miranda, police still hold overwhelming power over their suspects. Three key areas of police lying or misleading should be banned outright. Police claims of solid evidence against a suspect should be eliminated altogether, as they create potential for situations such as hypothesized blackouts, where the suspect can be lead to believe that the evidence against them is so strong that they must have committed the crime in some sort
of amnesia or fugue state. Promises of leniency, such as claims that a suspect will receive a lesser sentence or be released from custody upon confession or other forms of incrimination, should be prohibited. Though they are often solely implications that a confession may lessen a suspect’s possible sentence, subjects often consider them binding. Through promises of leniency, suspects are pigeonholed into confession when they already believe that law enforcement has enough evidence or opportunity to convict them through false information given. Both explicit and implicit promises of leniency should be banned. Furthermore, no misleading tactics should ever be used in cases against the mentally impaired or juvenile suspects due to their lack of clarity and emotional response to the stressful situation of interrogation, and the fact that they are such easy targets for police eager to catch any culprit.16 Currently only fourteen states and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation regarding the recording of custodial interrogations, while state supreme courts are pending action in Alaska, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and New Jersey. 1,000 individual police jurisdictions also make use of recording while conducting interrogations, but a mandate on recording interrogations has not been federally enacted, even while police are allowed to lie.17 Mandated recording should be implemented in order to ensure compliance with legal limitations on lying. Endnotes
1. Benoit, Carl A. “Federal Bureau Of In-
vestigation - FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin”. FBI Legal Digest. N.p., 2010. Web. 31 Jan. 2016. 2. Kassin, Saul M. “Why Confessions Trump Innocence.”. American Psychologist 67.6 (2012): 431-445. Web.
3. Innocence Project,. “False Confessions
Or Admissions”. Web. 31 Jan. 2016 4. Conroy, John. “Poison In The System”. Chicago Reader. N.p., 1999. Web. 16 Feb. 2016. 5. Innocence Project. 6. Kassin.
7. Starr, Douglas. “The Interview”. The
New Yorker. N.p., 2013. Web. 31 Jan. 2016. 8. Perillo, Jennifer T., and Saul M. Kassin. “Inside Interrogation: The Lie, The Bluff, And False Confessions.”. Law and Human Behavior 35.4 (2011): 327-337. Web. 9. Kassin. 10. Innocence Project. 11. Starr. 12. Kassin. 13. Najdowski, Cynthia J., and Catherine L. Bonventre. “Deception In The Interrogation Room”.http://www.apa.org. N.p., 2014. Web. 31 Jan. 2016. 14. mirandawarning.org,. “What Are Your Miranda Rights?”. N.p., 2016. Web. 16 Feb. 2016. 15. Kassin. 16. Northwestern Pritzker School of Law,. “False And Coerced Confessions, Center On Wrongful Convictions: Bluhm Legal Clinic, Northwestern University School Of Law”. Web. 31 Jan. 2016. 17. Innocence Project.
Get to Work: An Employer-Transit Partnership to Connect the Boroughs of New York City By Robert Godfried
n order to address the long commute times of lower to moderate income (LMI) workers in outer-boroughs, the MTA should work with anchor institutions and innovative startups to analyze employee commute data to create better bus routes. This would result in more efficient commutes, increased service, and continued job growth. Such routes would expand the MTA’s network in a cost sustainable way, while also reducing employee turnover and commute times for employees of anchor institutions. Background
Equal Justice 20
Between 1990 and 2008, residential, commercial, and industrial growth in the outer boroughs— Queens, the Bronx, Staten Island, and Brooklyn—has surpassed that in Manhattan by more than 30 percent.1 Unfortunately, transportation systems have not caught up, leaving dozens of burgeoning LMI neighborhoods disconnected from new centers of job growth.2 Within boroughs, transit times are often over an hour and can be dangerously unpredictable, posing a distinct challenge for LMI workers who tend to face more rigid schedules and lower job security. To empower these individuals economically while supporting job growth, the MTA must address the significant deficiency in inter- and intra-borough transportation. Think tanks like the Center for an Urban Future and the Pratt Institute have called on the MTA to expand bus service in order to address this problem. Unfortunately, because of budget restraints and political stagnation (not to mention a debt surpassing $34 billion), these well-researched proposals have been met with little action. Meanwhile, the MTA continues to pursue expansions in Manhattan while ignoring the needs of outer-borough residents.3,4 An explanation for this
disinterest is that employers have minimal input in MTA bus route planning. A lack of employer involvement in route design wastes valuable knowledge about the demographics, schedule, location, and commutes of workers. Employer involvement in transportation planning can enhance route efficiency and job access. Recommended Action A Transit Service Contract (TSC) is an agreement between two or more parties about the provision of transportation services.5 To increase efficiency in worker commute time, the MTA should establish such a public–private partnership through which employers or coalitions of employers and nonprofit organizations bid for the design and use of MTA-serviced bus routes. The innovative approach to our TSC primarily targets coalitions of small businesses and large anchor institutions— meaning institutions that drive local economies and are anchored to one place and mission—that wish to serve areas in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island.6 Our proposed policy would connect the MTA with employer knowledge about how to best serve LMI workers. Employers possess detailed information about LMI commuters including their residency demographics and route times, which would be valuable contributions to an MTA program attempting to reduce the commute times of LMI workers. In return, employers would receive a host of incentives. A major employer in Northern Queens states, “Improved mass transit would allow our expanding business to draw from a larger labor pool, improve our ability to attract and retain new workers and make us a more competitive manufacturer.”7 The MTA’s incentives are equally prolific. By setting targets for service provision to
1. Center for Urban Future. “Behind the
Curb.” Center for Urban Future. Last modified February 2011. Accessed July 18, 2015. http://nycfuture.org/pdf/Behind_ the_Curb.pdf2. Parrott, James A., Ph.D. “Low-Wage Workers and the High Cost of Living in New York City.” Fiscal Policy Institute. Last modified February 27, 2014. Accessed July 22, 2015. http://fiscalpolicy. org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/FPIParrott-testimony-Low-Wage-workersand-Cost-of-iving-Feb-27-2014.pdf 3. Harshbarger, Rebecca. “Capital spending leaves MTA $34.1 billion in debt.” New York Post. Last modified February 11, 2015. Accessed July 21, 2015. http:// nypost.com/2015/02/11/subway-costsleave-mta-34-1-billion-in-debt/. 4. Metropolitan Transportation Authority. “MTA Twenty-Year Capital Needs Assessment 2015-2034.” MTA. Last modified October 2013. Accessed July 27, 2015. http://web.mta.info/mta/capital/pdf/ TYN2015-2034.pdf. 5. Smith, Gwen Chisholm. “Contractual
Means of Achieving High-Level Performance.” Transit Cooperative Research Program. Last modified June 2013. Accessed July 27, 2015. http://tcrponline. org/PDFDocuments/tcrp_lrd_43.pdf. 6. Roosevelt Institute Campus Network. “Rethinking Communities.” Roosevelt Institute Campus Network. Accessed July 27, 2015. http://www.rethinkingcommunities.com. 7. Center for Urban Future. “Behind the Curb.” Center for Urban Future. 8. MTA Bus Company (MTABUS).” NTD Program. Accessed July 23, 2015. http:// www.ntdprogram.gov/ntdprogram/pubs/ profiles/2013/agency_profiles/2188.pdf. 9. New York State. “Governor Cuomo Announces Second Round of Public-Private Partnership to Prepare Students for High-Skill Jobs.” New York State. Last modified August 7, 2014. Accessed July 27, 2015. http://www.governor.ny.gov/ newsgovernor-cuomo-announces-second-round-public-private-partnership-prepare-students-high-skill.. 10. The City of New York. “GOAL 6 New York City’s transportation network will be reliable, safe, sustainable, and accessible, meeting the needs of all New Yorkers and supporting the city’s growing economy.” #OneNYC. Accessed July 22, 2015. http:.. www1.nyc.gov/html/onenyc/visions/ thriving/goal-6.html. 11. City of New York. “Mayor de Blasio Releases One New York: The Plan for a Strong and Just City.” NYC. Last modified April 22, 2015. Accessed July 22, 2015. http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor-/news/257-15/mayor-de-blasio-releases-one-new-york-plan-strong-justcity#/0.
LMI workers in the least-serviced communities, the MTA could achieve a more expansive outer borough transportation network, generate increased revenue, and promote equitable job growth. Maintaining a profitable bus route in the outer boroughs is highly achievable given that ridership in the outer boroughs totals 1,671,815 riders per weekday compared to only 447,585 per weekday in Manhattan.8 This policy connects the public–private partnerships endorsed by Governor Andrew Cuomo with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s call for transportation expansion in the outer boroughs.9,10 Specifically, this proposal helps achieve Mayor de Blasio’s OneNYC goal that “in 2040, 90% of New Yorkers can access at least 200,000 jobs within 45 minutes by transit though the expansion of the bus lines.”11 It also satisfies Governor Cuomo’s focus on reducing costs through competitive applications and the use of specific employer knowledge. The New York City Council as well as the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) would be the institutions responsible for implementing this policy proposal.
Lifting an Unfair Burden: The Elimination of Money Bail By Rachel Knowles
t age 16, Kalief Browder was arrested for stealing a backpack. When his family could not post his $3000 bail, Browder was sent to Rikers Island where he was held in solitary confinement awaiting his trial. Two years later, the prosecutors dismissed the charges, but the damage had already been done. Two years in solitary confinement at one of America’s most notoriously brutal jails can deeply affect a person’s health and well being. Browder committed suicide last year. This innocent teenager was locked up for years because his family did not have that $3000 bail.1 The logic of money bail is simple. By asking defendants to hand over a sum of money to the court to be returned if they make all their court dates, the justice system incentivises appearance, which theoretically allows the judiciary to function more efficiently. Yet, in practice, money bail leads to the excessive incarceration of low-income defendants, wreaking havoc on many individuals’ financial security, mental health, and overall well being. In New York, 54% of defendants held pre-trial are in jail because they could not post a bail of $2,500 or less, usually for misdemeanor crimes.2 Whether the defendant’s poverty leads to an incarceration of 15 days or two years, there can be severe negative effects. Indigent defendants who are held pretrial are unable to attend work, care for their children, go to school, and communicate freely with their lawyers. No one should be incarcerated simply because they lack the financial means to make bail. The practice of money bail, which unfairly burdens low income citizens, must be abolished. New York must ensure that pre-trial detention is used only to ensure the safety of our community or to guarantee the appearance of unreliable defendants at trial. The system of money bail should be replaced with increased use of release on recognizance and pretrial monitoring. Background
New York has come to recognize the problematic nature of money bail in the past few years. In his 2013 State of the Judiciary speech, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman called for “a top-to-bottom revamping of the rules governing bail in our state,” arguing that the state must adjust bail policy to ensure that New Yorkers are not incarcerated simply because they lack financial means.3 In addition to this rhetorical call to arms by the Chief Judge, concrete efforts to address bail have been made. Mayor Michael Bloomberg created an experimental program in Queens run by the New York City Criminal Justice Agency that reduces pretrial detention by offering pretrial monitoring as an alternative to money bail for defendants who do not pose a significant risk for pretrial misconduct. As of 2012, the program had an 87.3% success rate, meaning clients fulfilled the obligations of their individualized supervision program and appeared in court in almost 9/10 cases.4 Unfortunately, this program is only available for nonviolent felony defendants, though indigent defendants accused of misdemeanors are often held pretrial on money bail as well. However, the program has shown that decreases in pretrial detention do not need to be accompanied by increases in failures to appear in court.5 In 2015, following the suicide of Kalief Browder, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he would spend $17.8 million to expand upon the experimental program begun by Bloomberg. His proposal will allow 3,000 people to be supervised by pretrial services agencies instead of held in jail. This is a good step, but unfortunately, New York City detains nearly 45,000 people on bail every year. This program will aide only a fraction of those held on bail. Additionally, de Blasio is asking nonprofits to undertake the active work of pretrial supervision, as was done in the Queens pilot program. By choosing to delegate pretrial supervi-
Recommended Action New York state must eliminate the use of money bail in all legal cases. Money bail unfairly privileges the middle and upper classes while leaving low-income defendants who are likely to appear in court and are no threat to society locked up for days, months, or years. This perversion of the justice system cannot continue. Money bail should be replaced by a system similar to that proposed by Senator Gianaris, where defendants are either released on recognizance, monitored pre-trial, or remanded to jail until the time of trial. Judges should make this determination by considering whether the defendant is a flight risk or a threat to the community. Defendants who are neither flights risks nor threats should be released on recognizance, meaning they simply sign a contract agreeing to appear in court. Defendants deemed to be at a moderate risk of failing to appear in court, being rearrested, or endangering the community should enter pretrial monitoring. Only the most dangerous defendants or those considered extremely likely and capable of fleeing the state should be remanded to jail until trial. To ensure that excessive incarceration is not simply replaced with excessive monitoring, the state must also create a statutory presumption that defendants will be
released under the least restrictive conditions possible unless it can be demonstrated that the defendant poses a threat to public safety or a legitimate risk of failure to appear in court. The goal must be to interfere as little as possible in the normal functioning of the defendants while still ensuring they appear in court and pose no threat to public safety. The monitored release component of this policy should be administered by a government agency, not a hodgepodge of nonprofit organizations. Kentucky and the District of Columbia have both created a Pretrial Services Agency to design each defendant’s individualized monitoring program and then ensure compliance by the defendant. Not only have these agencies kept thousands of people out of jail, but they also have great success in ensuring appearance in court. In Kentucky in 2012, ten thousand people were referred to monitored release programs as facilitated by this agency and kept out of jail, while Kentucky maintained a 92% appearance rate.6 In Washington, D.C., 85% of all arrestees are released either on recognizance or with pretrial monitoring, a proportion much higher than all but a few court systems. However, D.C. also has an incredibly high appearance rate of 88%.7 The use of release on recognizance and monitored release is a more just policy than money bail, but it also makes financial sense. Nationally, the average cost of pretrial detention is $19,000 per defendant, while supervised release costs about $4,000 on average and release on recognizance is free.8 Replacing only New York City’s money bail program with supervised release could save $675,000,000 a year, and this assumes the 45,000 people held on bail per year would all require supervision and not the default option of release on recognizance . There is already broad support for bail reform within the state. State legislators have shown willingness to sponsor the legislation and the New York City government has made experimental efforts to address the problem. There are numerous criminal justice oriented non-profits in the state that have expressed support for the policy including Bronx Defenders, New York Legal Assistance Group, the Criminal Justice Agency, and more. A targeted lobbying effort spearheaded by
progressive legislators and these powerful, well known nonprofits could elevate the profile of this issue. Criminal justice reform has become a bipartisan effort in recent months; there is no reason why a common sense reform policy such as this one should fail to be implemented. The setup of the new Pretrial Services Agency could be modelled on those that have been successfully created in Kentucky and Washington D.C. More research would need to be done to adapt the agency to New York state’s particular needs, but there is no reason to believe what has worked in D.C and Kentucky would fail here in New York. Bail reform is a common sense policy that, if passed, will likely create financial savings while massively improving the quality of life of arrested citizens. This policy can and should be implemented in New York state. Endnotes
1. Peak, Chris. “Each Day, 731,000 People
Are in Jail. How Many Are There Simply Because They Can’t Afford to Make Bail?” The Bronx Defenders. Nation Swell, 29 July 2015. Web. 22 Jan. 2016. 2. Ibid. 3. Lippman, Chief Judge Johnathon. “State of the Judiciary.” State of the Judiciary. Court of Appeals Hall, Albany. 2013. Speech. 4. Soloman, Freda F. Impact of the Queens Supervised Release Program. Rep. Criminal Justice Agency, Jan. 2015. Web. Jan. 2016. 5. Ibid. 6. Heyerly, Mark. Pretrial Reform in Kentucky. Rep. Kentucky Court of Justice, Jan. 2013. Web. Nov. 2015.
sion to various nonprofits around the city, mayors Bloomberg and de Blasio are creating a piecemeal solution to the money bail problem that cannot be easily broadened to serve larger populations. At the state level, Senator Gianaris has promised to introduce legislation in the New York State Senate that would eliminate money bail and replace it with either release on recognizance, conditional release with pre-trial monitoring, or a remand to jail until the time of trial with a judge choosing which option will be offered to each defendant. In making this evaluation, the judge would consider only whether the defendant is a flight risk or a danger to the community. This proposal goes much further than either of the mayors’ plans, but Senator Gianaris has not yet introduced the promised legislation or provided any details about how these programs would function.
7. “We Need More Bail Reform.” Pretri-
al Services Agency. District of Columbia, n.d. Web. 8. Lippman, Chief Judge Johnathon. “State of the Judiciary.” State of the Judiciary. Court of Appeals Hall, Albany. 2013. Speech.
Plea Bargaining: An Unfair Deal By Jay Rappaport
P Equal Justice 24
lea bargaining makes no sense. To plea is to admit guilt, while to bargain is to try to align the outcome of a situation to be in accord with your best interests. Unless one’s best interest results from admitting one’s guilt, any plea bargain necessarily poses a conflict of interest between a defendant’s obligation to justice to tell the truth and to himself for self-preservation. That said, plea bargaining, a defendant’s admission of guilt to a crime often of less severity than the one for which he was originally accused, certainly exists, and it flourishes on a large-scale in the U.S. criminal justice system. This practice produces decisions much more quickly. Because many cases settled with plea bargaining do not go to trial, plea bargaining certainly alleviates what would be a heavy burden of cases on courts and public defenders. However, plea bargaining is not all good news. Going to trial, serving a sentence, and hiring a lawyer for a plea bargain all impose higher costs on the poor than on the rich. The poor and uneducated are more likely to be intimidated by a prosecutor and his or her ability, during a plea bargain, to threaten to charge the defendant with a more severe crime. Therefore, plea bargaining both systematically moves the justice system forward from crime to punishment and methodologically skews the justice system against the weakest members of society. To solve the issues that plea bargaining poses, the Department of Justice needs to standardize the process so that it does not unduly harm the poor and uneducated. Prosecutors should be required to submit a baseline accusation before entering a plea bargain, which, barring the discovery of new and relevant evidence, they would not be able to charge the defendant of a more severe crime.
wherein the defendant pleads guilty “to some or all of the charges against them in exchange for concessions from the prosecutor,” according to Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute.1 It happens after someone has been accused of a crime and before the case reaches trial. The guilty plea works as a bargaining chip for both the defendant and prosecutor because the defendant can clout the prosecutor for a less severe charge in exchange for a certain guilty verdict, when a trial by jury may exonerate the defendant. The prosecutor may tempt a defendant with the prospect of a less severe punishment in exchange for the guilty plea. In most state and federal systems, the prosecutor has much more control over the terms of the guilty plea than either the defense counsel or presiding judge.2 This system poses a plethora of constitutional issues. Upon accepting a plea bargain, a defendant waives many of his or her constitutional rights. Amongst them are the privilege against self-incrimination, the right to plead “not guilty,” the right to favorable witnesses, the right to either testify or not at one’s trial, and the right to show any available defenses at trial. The defendant also exonerates the prosecutor from the obligation to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt.3 By pleading guilty, the defendant waives his or her rights to challenge the conviction or appeal the case on the grounds of having lost those rights.4 Plea bargaining, therefore, gives the defendant what would potentially be a less severe punishment than if the trial had gone to court while stripping them of many rights guaranteed to them by being accused. In 2013, plea bargains resolved 97% of criminal cases that would have gone to trial.5 They save the justice system an incredible amount of trials, work, and time. Background However, they have become a problem in the United States because they favor A plea bargain occurs when the defen- everyone but the poor defendant. The opdant and prosecutor reach a settlement portunity costs of going to trial and actu-
Recommended Action There exist a myriad of possible ways to improve the plea bargaining system so that it does not unduly hurt the weak. However, to choose a particular solution, one ought to minimize its burden on the justice system while still promoting the plight of the poor and uneducated. Eliminating plea bargaining entirely and providing everyone tried of any crime with a public defender would solve many of the problems plea bargaining currently poses, but both are simply infeasible. If plea bargaining did not exist, theoretically all accusations would go to trial, disposing of the problems plea bargaining itself poses for the poor. However, with over 90% of cases typically settled in plea bargains annually, the criminal justice system simply would not be able to function with such a large influx of new cases. Ensuring that all people have public defenders during a plea bargain would make the defendant and prosecutor equally knowledgeable about the process of plea bargaining, but the prosecutor would still have the advantage in
being able to threaten more severe charges during a plea bargain. The public defense system is currently too overextended to cover all cases in plea bargaining, including non-criminal ones. Providing more public defenders represents an incredibly important long-term solution to plea bargaining but requires too large an influx of new human capital to solve the issue at present. While eliminating plea bargaining and drastically expanding public defense might alleviate the problems of plea bargaining, both require too much work to change the system. An attainable way to solve many of the problems of plea bargaining would be to require a threshold charge before plea bargaining begins. With a threshold charge, barring the discovery of new evidence, prosecutors would be prohibited from charging the defendant with a more severe crime once plea bargaining has commenced. This system would nullify a big reason why people accept suboptimal or incorrect guilty pleas: the potential of receiving a harsher punishment should they refuse. Issuing a threshold charge would require the plea bargaining process have a formal start which it does not currently have. The extension of pretrial rights to plea bargaining also represents a feasible way to solve many of plea bargaining’s problems. Currently, when one accepts a guilty plea, one releases all pretrial rights, including the right to challenge an illegally obtained confession, because as written, such rights only apply when the defendant challenges the validity of a charge itself.9 Pretrial rights should be extended to defendants during plea bargaining to ensure that they are in the most beneficial bargaining position the law accords defendants generally. Finally, exculpatory evidence should be released during any plea bargain. In November 2015, the West Virginia Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors must release all exculpatory evidence—evidence that would benefit the defense— during a plea bargain. Such a mandate has applied to cases in court for over forty years.10 This decision should be enforced to allow for the defendant to achieve the most advantageous bargaining position. Criminal justice reform movements are plea bargaining reform’s biggest ally.
Republican and Democratic presidential candidates as well as current policymakers have indicated their support for liberalizing the criminal justice system in favor of the accused. Those pursuing plea bargaining reform should describe it as another step towards improving America’s criminal justice system. 2016 candidates would be excited to commit to the proposal to differentiate themselves from one another. More specifically, President Obama has indicated his support for liberalizing the criminal justice system through limiting mass incarceration. If plea bargaining can achieve national attention, then President Obama could direct the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance and Criminal Division to follow this policy proposal as a means to uphold the constitutional protection against self-incrimination and ease the burden on our bloated prison system. Plea bargaining puts those most susceptible to harm at the greatest risk of it. However, the current political climate about criminal justice reform and President Obama still in office provides the political pathway necessary to resolve plea bargaining. There are simple solutions to many of plea bargaining’s ills not requiring a complete overhaul of the criminal justice system. Hope persists for this conflict of interest
ally serving prison sentences weigh more heavily on the poor because they can ill afford to spend time on either. They are more likely to accept suboptimal pleas as a result of poor guidance from our overworked public defense system. Lack of funding, limited staffing, insufficient time to review cases all create a public defense system that provides suboptimal legal advice to those who need it, and the poor are the ones who need public defenders most.6 Under Gideon v. Wainwright, one is guaranteed a public defender only in a criminal case, so accepting a guilty plea during plea bargaining appeals even more to the poor rather than potentially needing to pay an attorney to proceed with the trial.7 Plea bargaining also favors the prosecution because they often pressure defendants into accepting plea bargains, even threatening more severe charges. The Supreme Court has allowed punishment for using such legal rights because accepting a plea bargain included no punishment.8 With worse knowledge of what more severe crimes they might actually be tried for, this system severely hurts the poor.
1. “Plea Bargain,” Legal Information Insti-
tute (Cornell University), https://www.law. cornell.edu/wex/plea_bargain. 2. Jed S. Rakoff, “Why Innocent People Plead Guilty,” New York Review of Books (November 20, 2014): http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/nov/20/ why-innocent-people-plead-guilty/. 3. A Jailhouse Lawyer’s Manual. (Columbia Law School), 188; http://www3.law. columbia.edu/hrlr/JLM/Edition_7/JLM_ v7_ch43.pdf. 4. Ibid. 5. Jed S. Rakoff, “Why Innocent People Plead Guilty,” New York Review of Books (November 20, 2014): http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/nov/20/ why-innocent-people-plead-guilty/. 6. “System Overload: The costs of Under-Resourcing Public Defense,” Justice Policy Institute, July 2011: http://www.jus-
ticepolicy.org/uploads/justicepolicy/documents/system_overload_final.pdf. 7. “Gideon v. Wainwright.” LII / Legal Information Institute. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2016. 8. Rakoff. 9. Ibid. 10. Erik Eckholm, “West Virginia Ruling Could Clarify the Rights of Criminal Defendants,” New York Times, November 10, 2015, http://www.nytimes. com/2015/11/11/us/west-virginia-ruling-could-clarify-the-rights-of-criminal-defendants.html.
Equal Justice 26
Defense and Diplomacy The Defense and Diplomacy Center of the Roosevelt Institute addresses many of the most urgent questions in global security. With an acute understanding that our security ensures our liberties, the authors in this section seek to preserve both in a perpetually delicate balance. By approaching these issues from both the public and private sectors, the selected proposals reflect the transforming makeup of international relations and domestic security in the 21st century. In the spirit of productive, progressive, and policy-oriented discourse, I am proud to present the following proposals in this edition of the Roosevelt Review. - Ademali Sengal
Expanding the Scope of the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest By Alexander Chen
ecruiting targets for the US military have decreased numerically in recent years, yet it is still difficult to find young Americans both willing to enlist and able to meet the standards. Nationwide trends such as obesity, poor education, and an improving job market have limited the pool of potential soldiers. At the same time, thousands of highly skilled non-citizens are applying for limited spots in the temporary Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program that allows expedited naturalization in exchange for military service. Expanding and making MAVNI permanent would both give these individuals citizenship while ensuring that the military can remain an effective, skilled fighting force.
Defense & Diplomacy 28
Background In July 2015, the US Army released its plan to shrink its number of personnel from 490,000 to 450,000, the smallest size since prior to World War II.1 This proposal continues a trend of downsizing among all four branches of the military since 2011 as the US gradually withdraws from over a decade of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.2 Yet even as the military shrinks in size, recruiters have had difficulty meeting yearly targets. For the fiscal year ending in September 2015, the military achieved its goal of 177,000 recruits only by drawing from the pool of recruits for the next year. The Army Reserve fell short of its goal of 17,300 recruits by 2,000, and had previously missed its goal of 20,130 by 4,561 in 2013.3 And while other branches have generally met their targets, commanders worry about decreasing quality in recruits. This dearth of recruits originates in both an unwillingness and an inability to enlist among recruiters’ key demographic of 17-24-year-olds. Between the end of the Vietnam War and the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the United States’ wars tended to be short, victorious, and relatively bloodless.
As such, the 5,300 combat deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, and countless more veterans returning with physical disabilities and mental health issues, have come as a shock to younger Americans.4 The relative lack of public support for the wars does not help; American youths do not want to risk their lives and health for a cause they do not believe in. Additionally, the financial incentives offered by recruiters are less enticing as the unemployment rate dips below 6%, giving high-school and college-age Americans better job prospects.5 Of those willing to enlist, many cannot meet the educational, physical, or legal standards. Trends that affect the entire nation like poor education and health have made an impact on recruiting: In states like West Virginia, Louisiana, and Alabama, over 75% of 17-24-year-olds are ineligible to serve.6 The principal cause is obesity, which rules out roughly one third of eligible adults.7 Another 24% have criminal records, or previous citations for alcohol or drug use. And nationwide, about 20% of students fail to graduate high school.8 Even among high school graduates, around one in four cannot pass the written entry exam.9 Low standards of education are particularly worrying, given the military’s shift towards more advanced technology and the increasing demand for skilled soldiers. These factors result in a dismal prognosis: Major-General Jeffrey Snow, in charge of recruiting, estimates that “less than 1% of Americans are willing and able to serve.”10 Gay soldiers can now serve openly, and women can serve in combat roles. But the removal of these barriers has little effect on recruiting. A recent Gallup poll estimated the number of gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender Americans at less than 4% of the total population.11 The areas now open to women only account for 10% of total roles, and even then women usually only comprise between 16-20% of recruits in the Army, the largest branch.12 Also, the nationwide issues of obesity,
this policy. Challenged but upheld in several legal cases, stop-loss involves the involuntary extension of a soldier’s term of service by up to 90 days. But during these 90 days, the military can then redeploy them for a theoretically unlimited amount of terms—some troops redeployed 3 times in Iraq, spending years longer abroad than they had originally planned. Courts ruled that soldiers are contractually obligated to obey stop-loss, and that they do not constitute draftees, having originally enlisted voluntarily. Stop-loss and the use of waivers indicate that the military cannot increase its size under short notice while maintaining both quality and voluntarism. These short-term options may seem unpalatable, but they are relatively mild compared to what increasingly seems like the only option if a major war breaks out: reinstituting the draft. Eliminated in 1973, the draft wrecked popular opinion of both the military and the Vietnam War, as well as sacrificing troop quality to increase quantity. A war of such scale as Vietnam is indeed unlikely, but the inability of Americans to enlist regardless of patriotic zeal threatens the military’s capacity to meet even its diminished troop requirements. A military unable to recruit the required number of highly skilled troops will not be able to serve as an effective arm of foreign policy. Recommended Action The Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program seeks to match the military’s interest in attracting skilled recruits with immigrants’ desire to obtain citizenship. Implemented in a pilot program in 2008, it allows legal non-citizens to apply for citizenship through military service. Not everyone can apply, though: Applicants must be either be fluent in one of 50 “critical languages” or be trained in one of several specific medical fields. The languages that are currently included are fairly evenly distributed geographically, with a slight focus on those spoken in Eastern Europe, India, and Southeast Asia. A notable exception is Spanish; increasing rates of recruiting among Hispanics mean that the military is not wanting for Spanish speakers. Language applicants must enlist for at least four years of active duty, and four years in
the reserves. For the Army, MAVNI applicants must also score at least 50 on the Armed Forces Qualification Test, compared to a minimum score of 31 for citizen applicants, and are ineligible for waivers.17 During the pilot program, 15,000 applied for 1,000 spots.18 Since then, MAVNI has expanded to allow 3,000 recruits in the fiscal year ending in 2015, and 5,000 in 2016.19 Non-citizen soldiers and their spouses have been able to apply for citizenship and undergo an expedited process, but they must obtain legal residency, or a green card, first. For some troops, that process has taken 10-15 years.20 MAVNI is open to non-citizens without a green card, including refugees, students, and most recently immigrants who arrived in the US under 16 years of age through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. Most MAVNI recruits are naturalized in 9-12 weeks, after completing basic training. Expanding the scope of the MAVNI program would both alleviate problems in recruiting skilled soldiers and provide highly educated immigrants an expedited path to citizenship. Statistics collected by the military show that non-citizens in the Army on average score higher on the entry exam, have a higher retention rate, and 71% possess a college degree. A US citizen with a undergraduate or advanced degree would need some convincing to enlist rather than find another job, usually through recruitment bonuses. At the same time, equally qualified foreign nationals are turned away in the thousands due to the quotas in MAVNI. As the military increasingly prioritizes skill over sheer numbers, MAVNI applicants cannot be wasted. House bill H.R.3698 would make the program permanent, and is still awaiting the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security’s action.21 In addition to making MAVNI permanent legislation through H.R.3698, the program should be tripled in size to allow 15,000 recruits per year. Past applicants have largely been rejected due to quotas rather than a lack of qualifications. Also, the program should be expanded to include persons in medical school, not just licensed practitioners. MAVNI is already cost-effective because of the lack of a need for recruiting bonuses and its higher retention rate.22 Assuming
Defense & Diplomacy
poor education, and high numbers of criminal convictions that have impacted recruiting affect those of all genders and sexual orientations. Now that these final barriers have been lifted, then, a solution to recruiting US soldiers will have to be found elsewhere. While maintaining the size of the military may not appear particularly pressing, current issues in recruiting threaten the military’s ability to fight effectively and grow if necessary. If war breaks out and the US needs to quickly increase troop numbers, repetition of policies enacted during the Iraq War troop surge of 2007 would most likely occur. The most immediate option for recruiters struggling with increased targets would be to lower standards. Recruiters may use their personal discretion to grant waivers, allowing potential recruits to enlist despite factors such as a criminal record, mental health issues, or a low entry exam score, which are normally disqualifying. In 2007, the Army granted a record-high 511 waivers to convicted felons, including 106 convicted of burglary, 43 convicted of aggravated assault, and two convicted of making terrorist or bomb threats.13 These measures were deemed necessary to realize a surge in recruitment—as General Snow has said, “We accepted a risk on quality.”14 Major John Spencer, who fought in Iraq, describes the effects of lowered medical standards on his unit: I had soldiers that could not leave our compound because they were medically prohibited from wearing their body armor or classified as mentally unfit. I had soldiers taking anti-depression, sleeping, anxiety and other drugs. I had a mentally unstable private viciously attack his sergeant, causing lifelong damage, and multiple other problem soldiers that detracted from the combat performance of my unit. This was symptomatic throughout the Army.15 Additionally, 36 of his soldiers were forced to redeploy even after their terms of service expired. Soldiers call this measure, officially known as stop-loss, the “backdoor draft.”16 From 2001 to 2009, around 120,000 soldiers redeployed under
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the cost of completing recruits’ education in exchange for reserve service through medical school and a mandatory 4+4 term akin to language applicants would be an investment in a higher-quality military. Bolstering the military while lowering barriers to immigration, MAVNI could ostensibly have the potential for bipartisan support. But a similar bill to H.R.3698, H.R.435, died in the last session of Congress. H.R.435, the Military Enlistment Opportunity Act of 2013, would have facilitated the recruitment of legal two-year residents and DACA members into the military. House Republicans criticized it in part for the addition of DACA applicants to the program, but this effect is nearly inconsequential: The overlap between DACA and MAVNI is so slim that only 43 have applied for MAVNI under DACA since the program’s addition.23 It would be a shame if MAVNI were ultimately scrapped due to the minor inclusion of DACA. Ultimately, programs like MAVNI can provide an opportunity to address two of the most pressing issues facing US policymakers today, improving our military’s ability to face future threats while helping qualified, driven individuals become US citizens. Endnotes
1. Lamothe, Dan. “Army Details How
It Will Cut to Its Smallest Size since before World War II.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 9 July 2015. Web. 04 Feb. 2016. 2. Coleman, David. “U.S. Military Personnel 1954-2014: The Numbers.” Research. N.p., 24 July 2014. Web. 04 Feb. 2016. 3. Who Will Fight the next War?” The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 24 Oct. 2015. Web. 04 Feb. 2016. 4. “Who Will Fight the next War?” 5. Mangla, Ismat S. “U.S. Army Expects To Meet Recruitment Goals Despite Slow Year Because Of Improved Economy.” International Business Times. IBT Media, 01 Aug. 2015. Web. 04 Feb. 2016. 6. “Who Will Fight the next War?” 7. Lee, Rhodi. “A Third Of US Young Adults Not Eligible For Military Recruiting Due To Obesity.” Tech Times. N.p., 16 July 2015. Web. 04 Feb. 2016.
8. Kurtz, Annalyn. “Getting into the Mili-
tary Is Getting Tougher.” CNNMoney. Cable News Network, 15 May 2013. Web. 04 Feb. 2016. 9. “Military Recruiting: Are We Passing The Test?” NPR. NPR, 2 Jan. 2011. Web. 04 Feb. 2016. 10. “Who Will Fight the next War?” 11. Newport, Frank. “Americans Greatly Overestimate Percent Gay, Lesbian in U.S.” Gallup.com. N.p., 21 May 2015. Web. 04 Feb. 2016. 12. Spencer, John. “The Military’s Real Problem: Fewer Americans Are Joining.” Politico. Capitol News Company, 15 Dec. 2015. Web. 04 Feb. 2016. 13. Kurtz. 14. “Who Will Fight the next War?” 15. Spencer. 16. Ibid. 17. Joy, Alex. “Outsourcing the Army: An Immediate Solution to a National Problem.” LinkedIn Pulse. N.p., 14 Dec. 2014. Web. 4 Feb. 2016. 18. Tam, Ruth. “MacArthur Fellow Margaret Stock: The Public ‘Doesn’t Understand’ Illegal Immigration.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 27 Sept. 2013. Web. 04 Feb. 2016. 19. Jordan, Miriam. “U.S. Army Expands Immigrant Recruitment Program.” The Wall Street Journal. News Corp, 8 Apr. 2015. Web. 04 Feb. 2016. 20. Tam. 21. United States. Cong. House. Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security. Library of Congress. 114th Cong., 1st sess. HR 3698. N.p., 7 Oct. 2015. Web. 04 Feb. 2016. 22. Bock, Fonda R. “Recruiting Summit Considers More Foreign Nationals.” ARMY.MIL, The Official Homepage of the United States Army. N.p., 9 June 2015. Web. 04 Feb. 2016. 23. Jordan.
Making ‘Secret Law’ Less Secret
he Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court is a body desperately in need of meaningful structural reform. This piece will focus on the following three problems with the structure of the court: • The opinions and rulings of the Court are classified by default, meaning that novel interpretations of law are kept from the public. More disturbingly, this means that the court establishes some legally binding precedent which amounts to a secret body of law.1 • While the Court’s ex parte nature is no longer as problematic as it was before -- the Court now appoints five amici curiae -- more must be done to ensure the court is as adversarial as can be. • The FISA Court is appointed solely by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and not subject to any confirmation procedure. The FISA Court of Review is appointed the same way. Background In response to numerous scandals and controversies surrounding the intelligence community (including Watergate), Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in 1978, establishing the FISA Court as the body responsible for ensuring that government surveillance is legal. According to its website, the FISA Court “entertains applications submitted by the United States Government for approval of electronic surveillance, physical search, and other investigative actions for foreign intelligence purposes. Most of the Court’s work is conducted ex parte as required by statute, and due to the need to protect classified national security information.”2 Since 1978, and especially after the events of September 11, 2001, Congress has made and amended numerous laws governing surveillance in the United States, generally giving the government expanded powers to conduct surveillance. In keeping with this expansion, the FISA Court’s mandate has simi-
larly expanded.3 The FISA Court is probably most wellknown for approving many of the secret NSA programs revealed by Edward Snowden in 2013, including bulk collection of telephone metadata and PRISM (widespread surveillance of Internet communications). This example will help to illustrate the structural problems with the FISA Court addressed in this article. The FISA Court is an ex parte court, meaning that it only hears the testimony of one side: the government. Strikingly, the FISA Court approved the NSA’s bulk metadata collection program without hearing from anyone representing the interests of the general public whose data the government became authorized to collect, or the interests of the telecommunications companies that became obligated to hand over massive amounts of consumer data. That the FISA Court authorized the NSA’s bulk metadata collection program means that the FISA Court interprets the laws of the United States, including the Fourth Amendment, as allowing such a program. This interpretation of the Fourth Amendment was not obvious -many have disagreed. It was significant, novel, and secret. Furthermore, its finality was equivalent in practice to a ruling of the Supreme Court, since the government is the only party that can appeal the FISA Court’s ruling to the FISA Court of Review (and then, if necessary, to the Supreme Court). The same is true for every other interpretation made by the FISA Court to justify a program’s approval. The FISA Court does nothing less than create a secret body of law. One, when the court consistently justifies its approval of government programs by interpreting the law in a certain way, a common law emerges.4 Two, as Jack Boeglin and Julius Taranto demonstrate in their article Stare Decisis and Secret Law: On Precedent and Publication in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the FISA Court “currently generate[s] at least some amount of formally binding precedent that they are under no legal obligation to publish.”5
Defense & Diplomacy
By Connor Haseley
Defense & Diplomacy
Not only is diversity of testimony lacking on the FISA Court due to its ex parte nature, diversity of opinion and judicial background among the Court’s judges is also lacking. Every FISA Court judge is appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court without any review. The FISA Court is usually stacked with judges whose philosophies align with those of the Chief Justice. Unsurprisingly, most of current Chief Justice John Roberts’ appointees have been Republicans.6 Since Edward Snowden’s revelations on government surveillance came to light in 2013, Congress and the general public have proven more amenable to policies that curb mass surveillance. On June 2, 2015, President Obama signed into law the USA FREEDOM Act of 2015. This law changed the mandate and structure of the FISA Court in two important ways. One, the FISA Court must now appoint no fewer than five amici curiae that are allowed to brief the Court in some cases. The law states that amicus briefs should be consulted when the FISA Court interprets the law in a way that is significant and novel, though the FISA Court judges do not have to if they do not believe it necessary.7 More importantly, this law mandated that the government stop collecting metadata in bulk, instead mandating the government apply for specific, more individualized warrants to access metadata, making the process by which the government accesses such information more like the process by which the government applies for a warrant to search an individual house. Recommended Action Congressional action to end the bulk metadata program demonstrates the following: • There is widespread popular momentum to curb the power of the intelligence community, and at least some political will to do so. • Questionable and/or controversial judicial decisions and legal precedent can be effectively overturned by the legislative branch. • Public knowledge, and subsequent public pressure, can spur the legislative branch to take action and overturn questionable precedent. Con-
versely, lack of public knowledge can hamper fixes to bad law. It is hard to believe that Congress would have ended the bulk metadata program without Snowden’s disclosures. The USA FREEDOM Act’s amici curiae provision is an important step forward. If applied effectively, it makes the ex parte nature of the court more palatable by giving the Court’s proceedings a de facto adversarial process. However, the scope of that provision was met with derision by the Court. In a memorandum that has been attributed to FISA Court judge F. Dennis Saylor IV, the Court forcefully reserved the right of the FISA Court not to consult amici curiae in cases he described as “straightforward,” even when the Court’s opinion is “novel” and “significant.”8,9 This reservation leaves too much in the hands of the FISA Court judges. The law should be changed so that the Court must consult amici curiae on every case, regardless of straightforwardness, necessity, simplicity, or novelty. The USA FREEDOM Act is in danger of becoming a law without any real effect. An alternative proposed by many, including Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut in the FISA Court Reform Act of 2013, would be to appoint a public advocate to argue for the public interest before the FISA Court.10 Not only should the Court hear more than one side when making a novel or significant legal interpretation, but such an interpretation should also be made public. Ordinary citizens should know the law. Thus far, the FISA Court has so far been unwilling to voluntarily disclose its interpretations of the law, saying that it would be difficult to separate what is a general interpretation and what is case-specific (and thus classified), and that such a mandate would complicate matters generally. However, whether it releases novel or significant interpretations on its own, or whether, as Blumenthal’s bill proposes, the office of the Attorney General is responsible for releasing the FISA Court’s interpretations, those interpretations should be released. Complexity and difficulty should not get in the way of citizens knowing the law.11 Lastly, the appointment procedure for FISA Court judges should be changed. I propose two different possible ways of going about this.
The first is to mandate Senate confirmation of all appointments. The Senate would confirm the Chief Justice’s nominations for the FISA Court just as it does the President’s nominations for the Supreme Court. Since the Court’s secret nature makes it less likely for bad legal precedent to be overturned by Congress, this would be a way of giving Congress oversight before such precedent is established. Senators would be able to ascertain where judges stand on, for example, the Fourth Amendment, and the Senate would be able to deny their confirmation. However, given the recent political battle over Antonin Scalia’s Supreme Court seat, confirmation hearings could be used to advance political ends to the degree that the functioning of the Court could be hampered. The second is to the appointment of FISA Court judges among the nine Justices of the Supreme Court. While this would do nothing to increase legislative oversight, it would ensure that a wide range of judges would be on the FISA Court. No longer would the legal philosophy of one person dictate who sits on one of the country’s most important courts. This mechanism would not be hampered by excessive Congressional politicking. Endnotes
1. Boeglin, Jack, and Julius Taranto. “Stare Decisis and Secret Law: On Precedent and Publication in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.” Yale Law Journal 124.6 (2015): n. pag. Apr. 2015. Web. 22 Jan. 2016. 2. United States of America. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. About the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, n.d. Web. 22 Jan. 2016. <http:// www.fisc.uscourts.gov/about-foreign-intelligence-surveillance-court>. 3. Kayyali, Dia. “What You Need to Know About the FISA Court-and How It Needs to Change.” Electronic Frontier Foundation. Electronic Frontier Foundation, 15 Aug. 2014. Web. 22 Jan. 2016. 4. Lichtblau, Eric. “In Secret, Court Vastly Broadens Powers of N.S.A.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 06 July 2013. Web. 21 Feb. 2016.
Decisis and Secret Law: On Precedent and Publication in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.” Yale Law Journal 124.6 (2015): n. pag. Apr. 2015. Web. 22 Jan. 2016. 6. Shiffman, John, and Kristina Cooke. “The Judges Who Preside over America’s Secret Court.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 21 June 2013. Web. 21 Feb. 2016. 7. McLaughlin, Jenna. “Secret Surveillance Court Picks First Outsider To Get a Look In.” The Intercept. The Intercept, 25 Sept. 2015. Web. 21 Feb. 2016. 8. Goitein, Elizabeth. “The FISC’s Newest Opinion: Proof of the Need for an Amicus.” Just Security RSS. Just Security, 23 June 2015. Web. 21 Feb. 2016. 9. United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. IN RE APPLICATIONS OF THE FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION FOR ORDERS REQUIRING THE PRODUCTION OF TANGIBLE THINGS. Washington, DC: United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, 17 June 2015. PDF. http://www.fisc.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/BR%20 15-77%2015-78%20Memorandum%20 Opinion.pdf 10. Richard Blumenthal United States Senator For Connecticut. Blumenthal Unveils Major Legislation To Reform FISA Courts. Richard Blumenthal United States Senator For Connecticut. Richard Blumenthal United States Senator For Connecticut, 1 Aug. 2013. Web. 23 Jan. 2016. 11. Ibid.
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5. Boeglin, Jack, and Julius Taranto. “Stare
Developing Mutually Beneficial Agreements between Multinational Mining Companies and Local Communities By Ademali Sengal
Defense & Diplomacy
conomic relations are amongst the most formidable in fostering meaningful and stable ties between nations. Particularly for developing and less developed countries, foreign investment in extractive industries is often an essential springboard for future growth and diversification. Investment in these industries, if it is to avoid conflict and corruption, should focus on a sustainable relationship between private and public entities. The notable history of extractive industries provides numerous examples, from Sierra Leonean blood diamonds to the Bougainville copper mine in Papua New Guinea, of a private sector disregard for local interests and an escalation to costly and violent conflict.1 In order to preserve stable long-term investments and development, a clear standard operating procedure should be developed in individual states and supranational organizations to ensure community consent and cooperation between corporate and civilian interests. Background For some, it might not appear immediately obvious why conflict arises between extractive industry companies and local communities or, for others, it might seem contrary to core interests of each actor to cooperate. A deeper understanding of the structure and history of deals between companies and developing countries could clarify the misconceptions in both views. Â The first concern is that the corporation operating in the area might not provide a positive economic impact. While reciprocity might seem evident in a standard patron-client relationship, the interactions between companies and communities fail to meet that form of interdependence. An example is the Antamina mine in Peru, where employing members
of the community was not necessary with high levels of mechanization and a decreased dependence on low skilled manual labor.2 The mines, owned by the Canadian companies Rio Algom and Inmet, limited the bargaining power available to local communities by reducing the need for labor. Conversely, engagement from Multinational Corporations (MNCs) can draw too many jobs and undermine local traditional economies.3 Albeit, that does not mean companies maliciously seek to marginalize local communities. Many companies, indeed, seek out means to engage in the interests of the community in order to continue with productive and sustainable growth. Many leading MNCs join independent groups such as the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) which establishes enforcement and compliance mechanisms by rating companiesâ€™ performance with communities as aligned with the Global Reporting Initiative sustainability guidelines.4 These programs, however, are in no way binding or obligatory for companies. Â As is common with claims of corporate social responsibility, MNCs promise to help local communities and build sustainable relationships, but fail to follow through.5 Each side desires better relations, but lacks incentives and means to foster those relations. The initial reason and cause of conflict stems from poorly developed agreements that often pit the state and MNCs against the local community. Given the pressures of globalization and the need for development, states are often at the will of MNCs when crafting deals and competing with other entities for contracts and competitive advantages. Additionally, when developing states attempt to place restrictions and regulations on foreign owned MNCs, they are often labeled as protectionist.6 In many agreements it is often disputed
tured system of dialogue and mutually binding agreements. These agreements cannot, however, be left to private actors alone. The legal and technical superiority MNCs can leverage over local communities has traditionally lead to abusive deals which exacerbate inequality. Of the public actors available, the governments in developing countries are ill-equipped to mediate due to their biases involved in revenue collection, export based development, and propensities for corruption.13 The ideal actor to mediate such deals and frameworks would be a supranational entity such as the UN, which has many pre-established bodies that advocate for human rights, economic integration, and conflict resolution.14 However, the UN lacks effective enforcement mechanism or influence over the actions of MNCs. Indeed, historically multinational organizations, particularly the World Bank, have pushed for greater liberalization that often leaves developing nations powerless and local communities vulnerable.15 The United States, through the US Agency for International Development (USAID), would best be able to initiate policy that could reform the actions extractive industry MNCs take abroad. USAID has already funded efforts directed to this end in Kyrgyzstan through the Local Transparency and Cooperation Initiative Program, which focuses on improving the methods of dialogue between companies and communities and informing communities about the benefits and risks.16 The United States and European Union would likely take the lead in this policy before it can be adopted by international regimes.
USAID should emulate similar practices as the private sector ICMM in establishing an impartial verification of best practices. Following the model of the ICMM, USAID will serve as an assurance for companiesâ€™ operations and verify the actions of companies then provide a ranking of company performance in relation to sustainability.17 This risk assessment provides two major benefits to companies and shareholders: first, shareholders and Recommended Action companies can better assess the risks associated with their investments, and second, Communities and corporations in- companies are further incentivized to devolved in extractive industry markets velop and foster positive relations with should foster cooperation through a struc- communities in which they operate. This
assurance serves as an official seal of approval from the United States government extended to the government in the developing country, which carries more validity than the privately orchestrated ICMM. This seal of approval, if standardized, required, and proven successful, could even encourage American companies that file taxes abroad to be brought under the United States tax code to gain more deals. By building sustainable partnerships these companies would serve as better longterm investments with more predictable returns. Endnotes
1. Paul Stevens et. al, Conflict and Coex-
istence in the Extractive Industries (London: The Royal Institute of International Affairs, 2013) Â p. 26 2. Cecilia Perla, Theorizing Encounters between Mining Companies and Local Populations: Using the Weapons of James C. Scott (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2014) p. 78 3. Alex Grzybowski et. al, Toolkit and Guidance for Preventing and Managing Land and Natural Resource Conflict: Extractive Industries and Conflict (New York: UN Interagency Framework Team for Preventive Action, 2012) p. 15. 4. International Council on Mining and Metals, Sustainable Development Framework: Assurance Procedure (London: ICMM, 2008), p. 2 5. Suzana Sawyer and Edmund Gomez, Transnational Governmentality and Resource Extraction: Indigenous Peoples, Multinational Corporations, Multilateral Institutions and the State (Switzerland: United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, 2008) p. 27 6. United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, United Nations World Investment Report 2013: Global Value Chains Investment and Trade For Development (Geneva: United Nations, 2013) p. 96 7. Sawyer and Gomez, p. 26 8. Ibid. p. 4 9. Stevens et. al. p. 43 10. Perla, p. 84 11. Sawyer and Gomez, p.25
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whether the state or MNCs are responsible for providing services to local communities.7 Moreover, states are often corrupt to the point where MNCs could use bribery, as was the case with the Chadian dictator, to get favorable deals that undermine local populations. These MNCs often provide temporary and superficial services and goods to local communities in order to get them to agree to a deal.8 Without full information, local populations often make deals that have severe long-term consequences for their way of life. This issue is magnified by the cost incurred when relationships are not successful. Among the growing trend is the nationalization of resources which acutely harms MNCs and in the long term leads to inefficiencies and greater corruption for the government.9 The likely responses to a conflict or threat of conflict include nationalization or the suppression of the conflicting forces. In either scenario sustainable development is pushed back and limited. While violent responses and striking are not typical, any form of marginalization that merits a response from the community can lead to less productive outcomes.10 Indigenous and minority populations accrue disproportionate disadvantages when the government sides with the MNC against the protests of the community.11 Furthermore, MNCs can often spark greater tension between governments and disadvantaged populations leading to more marginalization. From the macro perspective, these lopsided and abusive interactions between states, MNCs, and local communities hurt the bottom line. Recent scholarship from Lord John Browne, former CEO of British Petroleum, and McKinsey Global Institute has shown that 30 percent of the value of a company comes from their relationship with society.12 There is much to gain and lose based on the relationship that companies have with the communities with which they interact. The looming question is thus, how can companies be compelled to foster better long-term planning rather than shortsighted engagement?
12. Lord John Browne, Connect: How Companies Succeed by Engaging Radically with Society (London: WH Allen, 2015) 13. Grzybowski, p. 22 14. Ibid., p. 21 15. Sawyer and Gomez, p. 16
16. Vitaliy Katargin, â€œGovernment, Mining
Companies, and Local Communities Seek Cooperation and Understandingâ€? 02 Oct. 2014 <https://www.usaid.gov/kyrgyz-republic/press-releases/oct-2-2014-government-mining-companies-and-local-communities>
17. ICMM p. 4
Defense & Diplomacy 36
Economic Development At the Roosevelt Institute, we understand that the free-market versus government authority dichotomy with respect to the American economic system is somewhat fallacious. As there is an inherent role for the government to correct market inefficiencies, the question regarding economic policy then becomes whoÂ those rules will favor. We at the Roosevelt Institute Economic Development Center propose the government strengthen our economy by introducing the following policies: a cap-and-trade policy that corrects for the negative externalities of carbon emission that result from industry; increased support for the Social Security public social insurance program; additional funding for research and development of space aeronautics; and the quarterly public disclosure of money contributed to political 501(c)(4)s and 501(c)(6) s. Individually, these respective policies protect our environment, address the impending retirement crisis, invest in scientific R&D, and further transparency of the political process. In aggregate and in the longrun, we will have a more robust, stable, and fair economic system for all of us. - Brendan Moore
Climate Finance: How Global Investment can Lead to a Resilient Low-Carbon Economy By Rana Abuhilal
tabilizing the global climate is one of the most urgent challenges for current and future decades. I propose that major financial investments from both public and private sources—led by smart and equitable policies—are required to transition the world’s economy into a low-carbon economy, reduce greenhouse gases to a safe level, and help vulnerable economies build resilience to climate change. Background
Economic Development 38
Energy is vital to modern economies: from industry, agriculture, transport, infrastructure, and more. Thus, securing a robust energy supply is necessary for nations to grow their economies and improve their living standards. As these economies continue to grow, so will their energy use. In fact, high-income countries consume more than 14 times as much energy per capita as “Least Developed Countries,” and seven times as much as “lower-middle-income countries.”1 Furthermore, as more countries rise out of poverty and develop their economies, energy demand will rise with them, putting pressure on global energy systems. Investing in energy efficiency and low-carbon technologies upfront may increase costs, but it will also bring nations closer to a resilient low-carbon economy. Recent trends in the global economy— such as the dramatically falling cost of clean energy, the continuing volatility of oil prices, and the growth of international carbon pricing—are building momentum for low-carbon development.2 The World Economic Forum estimates that by 2020, approximately $5.7 trillion will need to be annually invested in green infrastructure, which will require the world’s $5 trillion in business-as-usual investments to shift to green investments.3 Currently, The Climate Policy Initiative estimates that there is roughly $360 billion annually in pub-
lic and private climate investments, with developed economies providing between $10 to $20 billion per year.4 Combining these public and private levels of funding is needed to sustain growth, and ensure that the pathway to meeting investment needs in 2020 and beyond is achievable. Recommended Action Expand the Green Bond Market To encourage climate-friendly investment, expanding the market for green bonds is an important step. Green bonds were created to increase funding by accessing the $80 trillion bond market, and expanding the investor base for climate-friendly projects worldwide.5 They are fixed income, liquid financial instruments that are easy to understand, and the funds green bonds raise are dedicated exclusively to climate-mitigation and adaptation projects, and other environmentally beneficial activities.6 This provides investors an attractive investment plan as well as an opportunity to support environmentally beneficial projects.7 An increase in bond issuance will support new low-carbon—or climate-resilient investment in energy, buildings, transport, and water sectors. Originally distributed by development banks, green bonds are now issued by utilities, car manufacturers and a plethora of other corporations. In 2008, The World Bank Treasury issued its first green bond at a time when investors did not have liquid, fixed income investment options that specifically supported climate-focused and environmentally-friendly projects.8 Since then, The World Bank has issued nearly $9 billion in green bonds in 18 currencies, including a 10-year $600 million benchmark green bond and green growth bonds linked to an equity index and designed for retail investors. Separately, the
Implement a Global “Cap & Trade” Program
nancial departments across Europe. Then, by allowing companies to buy international allowances, the “trade” component acts as a major driver for investment in clean technologies and low-carbon solutions. While emissions trading has the potential to cover many economic sectors and greenhouse gases, the focus and strength of a “cap & trade” system is on emissions, which can be measured, reported, and verified with a high level of accuracy. Geographically, performance can vary; however, if a similar “cap & trade” model is implemented at a larger, more collectivized level, the “cap & trade” system has the potential to achieve prolonged international environmental change.12 Overall, low-carbon investment levels are currently below those needed to avoid surpassing the global warming threshold to irreversible climate change within the century.13 Due to weak leadership in the private financial community, governments should prioritize a low-carbon, climate-resilient agenda and explicitly publicize their involvement in climate finance-related projects. To enhance demand for risk management, governments have an array of tools available to them including building awareness, appropriately subsidizing or mandating coverage, and facilitating the development of sovereign risk pools. More policy attention is needed to allow low-cost capital to flow towards climate finance mechanisms, such as the green bonds market and the “cap & trade” system. Moreover, enhanced disclosure rules, as well as stress-testing, will provide more and better quality information that can improve decision making by companies, investors, and regulators. However, this will require international coordination. Depending on national circumstances, capital flows to the low-carbon climate resilient economy can be further supported by tax incentives, interest rate subsidies, credit enhancement, and dedicated financial institutions for green financing to achieve long-term economic, and environmental resilience a reality.14
Global investment in “cap & trade” programs has tremendous potential to achieve a resilient low-carbon economy. Considered the cornerstone to the European Union’s policy to combat climate change, the Emissions Trading System (ETS) is the first, and still the biggest international system for trading greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, the ETS covers more than 11,000 power stations and industrial plants in 31 countries.10 Operating on a “cap and trade” principle, the ETS has the most potential to achieve climate change by its ability to regulate emission usage among its companies. The principle aims to reduce pollution by setting a maximum allowable level of pollution and financially penalizes companies that exceed their emission allowance. A “cap” or limit is set on the total amount of certain greenhouse gases that can be emitted by factories and power plants, and that limit is reduced over time so that the total percentage of emissions also decreases. The European Commission estimates a 21 percent decrease in emissions than in 2005; and by 2030, the mechanism is to reduce emissions from sectors covered by the ETS by 43 percent. The Environmental Defense Fund claims that a “cap & trade” system is the most environmentally, and economically sensible approach to controlling greenhouse gas emission because it encourages companies to use less.11 By this theory, the less companies emit, the less they pay, so it is in their economic benefit to pollute less. Furthermore, putting a price on Endnotes carbon gives a financial value to each one of the saved emissions, and thus the ETS 1. “Better Growth, Better Climate.” The succeeds in placing climate change on the New Climate Economy, 2014. agenda of company boards and their fi2. “Innovation and Investment: Drivers of
Low-Carbon Economic Growth for a New Climate Economy.” Climate Policy Initiative. Climate Policy Initiative, 2014. 3. Trends in Private Sector Climate Finance: Report Prepared by The Climate Change Support Team of the United Nations Secretary-General. Rep: United Nations, 2015. 4. “Innovation and Investment,” Climate Policy Initiative. 5. Trends in Private Sector Climate Finance, United Nations, 2015. 6. “Better Growth, Better Climate.” The New Climate Economy, 2014. 7. “Investor Expectations for the Green Bond Market,” Investor Network on Climate Risk. 8. “Innovation and Investment,” Climate Policy Initiative. 9. “Green Bonds Attract Private Sector Climate Finance.” The World Bank: Working for a World Free of Poverty. The World Bank Group, 10 June 2015. 10. “The EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS).” European Commission, 2016. <http://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/ets/ index_en.htm>. 11. “How Cap and Trade Works,” Environmental Defense Fund: Finding the Ways That Work. Environmental Defense Fund, 2016. <https://www.edf.org/climate/howcap-and-trade-works>. 12. Ibid. 13. “Better Growth, Better Climate.” The New Climate Economy, 2014. 14. “Innovation and Investment,” Climate Policy Initiative.
International Finance Corporation has issued $3.7 billion, including two $1 billion green bond sales in 2013.9 Proceeds from the World Bank and IFC green bonds are used to support renewable energy, energy efficiency, sustainable transportation and other low-carbon projects—including financing infrastructure projects to prevent climate-related flood damage—and build climate resilience.
Strengthen and Expand Social Security By Brendan Moore
Economic Development 40
ocial Security is the most successful gov- • Improve the accuracy of the Death Master File so less checks are sent to ernment program in our nation’s history. deceased recipients by hiring more Before it was signed into law, nearly half of SSA employees and mandating elecsenior citizens lived in poverty. Today, the tronic death reporting elderly poverty rate, although still to high, a much-improved 10 percent. For eighty • Abandon the stringent Chained-CPI method and use a more fair CPI meayears, Social Security has never failed to surement meet its obligations to millions of seniors, people with disabilities, and widows and children with deceased family members, Recommended Action even during deep recessions.1 Eliminate the Income Cap Background Today, a billionaire pays the same By 2035, largely because of baby boom- amount to Social Security as someone ers reaching retirement age and a subse- who earns $118,500, thanks to compensaquently declining worker-to-retiree ratio, tion limits on the payroll tax. For the 92% Social Security will be unable to pay out of households earning below that cap,3 full benefits to all recipients using only the both the worker and employer pay 6.2% Social Security trust fund. This does not of the employee’s wages towards Social mean benefits will be automatically cut, Security. The income cap, however, makes but rather that the institution will have the payroll tax regressive, especially when to borrow money for the first time in its you consider that over the last thirty years, existence. Meanwhile, the Social Security while the cap increases just gradually, the disability fund, which covers 11 million income of those earning above the cap has Americans unable to work, is projected increased very rapidly. Congress must lift this cap so that evto be underwater by the fourth quarter of eryone who makes over $250,000 a year 2016 unless Congress acts. Aside from the looming solvency cri- pays the same percentage of their income sis, the majority of seniors are on the verge into Social Security as middle class and of economic security, and 20% of senior working families. This action, even indecitizens are trying to scrape by on an av- pendent of the other policies in this proerage income of just $8,300 a year. Fur- posal, would not only extend the solvency ther, the United States is facing a looming of Social Security for the next 50 years, but retirement crisis, as over half of workers also allow the SSA to expand benefits by between the ages of 55-64 have no retire- an average of $65 a month.4 ment savings.2 Grow the Trust Fund Given these facts, Congress must not only expand Social Security so that every Whenever Social Security takes in American can retire with dignity, but also prolong its longevity for generations to more than it spends in entitlements, it come. For this reason, the United States invests in U.S Treasury bonds backed by and Social Security Administration (SSA) the full faith and credit of the U.S. government. Today, Social Security’s surplus must: • Eliminate the income cap from Social is $2.8 trillion, and interest from Treasury bonds accounted for 12% of Social SecuriSecurity for income over $250,000 • Grow the Social Security trust fund at ty’s income in 2013. Although these bonds a faster rate by investing in diversified are the safest interest-bearing securities in the world, they tend to produce less over assets rather than Federal bonds
Improve the Death Master File It is the SSA’s job to account for all deceased United States citizens. It does so by managing the Death Master File (DMF). Many deceased citizens do not make it onto the list, costing U.S. taxpayers billions in fraudulent Social Security payments. The accuracy of the DMF, and thus prudent spending of payroll tax dollars, relies upon correct and timely reporting from each of the fifty states. Thirteen states do not have a statewide electronic death reporting, largely because of lack of funding in various state offices.6 The primitive technology of some states contributes to a federal DMF that reports that there are 6.5 million Americans over the age of 111, a statistically impossible number.7 Congress must fund all states to use electronic death reporting. According to Sean Brune, SSA Senior Adviser to the Deputy Commissioner, such reporting is the “most effective, accurate reporting we receive” and would greatly increase the DMF’s accuracy. Use a Better CPI Social Security employs a cost of living adjustment (COLA) each January to ensure benefits do not lose their purchasing power no matter how long recipients live. Without accurate and timely adjustments, retirees and other beneficiaries would see their Social Security lose value as they age. However, the current inflation index, the Chained Consumer Price Index (CPI), underestimates how inflation eats away at the purchasing power of benefits. This is
because Chained CPI is calculated for the general public, not for seniors who spend more on health care—where prices rise faster—and less on items for which prices rise more slowly. When Congress grants a COLA each January, it should be done with the provision that Social Security use the CPI for the Elderly (CPI-E), which grants the fairest COLA to seniors who deserve to maintain their purchasing power. Currently, using the Chained CPI, a senior who lives 30 years beyond retirement loses a cumulative $45,667 in 2012 dollars.8 Not only is expanding and strengthening Social Security feasible, but it is also what the vast majority of Americans want policymakers to do. 71% of Americans support lifting the cap on taxable income, and 61% of the public supports doing so while expanding benefits.9 By lifting more seniors out of poverty by increasing the minimum benefits paid to low-income retirees, we can ensure that all seniors can retire with the dignity and respect they deserve. Endnotes 1. Nancy Altman and Eric Kingson. “Social Security Works!” (New York: The New Press, 2015) 16-19. 2. Altman and Kingson 68. 3. Stantcheva, Stefanie. “Tax and Inequality Information Project.” Harvard University Society of Fellows, 12 Jan. 2016 <http:// www.inequalityandtaxes.com/find-yourplace-in-the-income-distribution/whereare-you-in-the-income-distribution/> 4. Dixon, Kim. “Obama Backs Lifting Income Cap for Social Security.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 19 Apr. 2011. 2 Jan. 2014. 5. Altman and Kingson 112. 6. Linn, Allison. “TODAY Money.” TODAY. CNBC, 10 Oct. 2011. 7 Jan. 2014. 7. Ibid. 8. Altman and Kingston 154 9. “The American Majority Project Polling.” Campaign for America’s Future, 17 Jan. 2016 <https://ourfuture.org/report/ american-majority-project-polling>
time than investments in stocks. In order to grow Social Security’s fund, Congress should repeal the law which states that Social Security’s surplus must be invested only in Treasury bonds. This would allow the SSA to diversify its portfolio by investing a portion of its assets in broad-based stock funds. This is a common practice with many other public pension funds, including the Federal Reserve Board Plan and Canada’s Social Security system. The higher market returns from broad-based stock funds could aid expansion of benefits and prolong the system for years to come.5
Campaign Finance Reform: Disclosure Legislation for 501(c)(4)s and 501(c)6s By Upasna Saha
Economic Development 42
Campaign reform has become such a pressing issue that President Barack Obama even discussed it in his final State of the Union address, delivered on January 12 of this year: “We have to reduce the influence of money in our politics, so that a handful of families and hidden interests can’t bankroll our elections – and if our existing approach to campaign finance can’t pass muster in the courts, we need to work together to find a real solution.”1 In one sentence, the President addressed why campaign finance reform is so crucial to the American political system, as well as the reason that little to no legislation has effectively targeted this area. For a country that has prided itself on the crucial role its people play in the political process, there has been an incredible influx of money spent by outside organizations in recent elections, especially but not limited to our presidential elections. There are paltry restrictions which actually check who is contributing this money, information which the electorate needs to have access to in order to make informed decisions about whom to vote for. The few individuals and groups that are focused on campaign finance reform are erroneously approaching it from a First Amendment perspective; they are trying to challenge the assumption that money is speech in the American court system. This is a worthy goal but is proving to be unviable, with wealthy corporations and special interest groups winning the argument at the expense of the average voter. There is no tenet more sacred to American democracy than transparent elections. We cannot let wealthy special interest groups drown out the people’s voice. To practically reform campaign finance, Congress should pass disclosure legislation for 501(c)(4)s and 501(c)6s.
of money spent in American presidential elections has more than doubled, going from about $3.1 billion spent in 2000 to well over $6 billion in 2012.2 This trend shows no sign of declining in the 2016 presidential race, with the candidates raising close to $150 million just in the third quarter.3 The Supreme Court cases Citizens United (2010) and McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission (2013) – which struck down limits on corporate donations and individual aggregate donations, respectively – have made it easier for extreme amounts of influence, which only a small percentage of wealthy people and organizations control, to infiltrate our elections. Even more worrying, however, is the recent increase in tax-exempt organizations classified by the IRS as 501(c) (4)s, social welfare organizations, and 501(c)6s (business leagues). These groups can receive unlimited donations from all types of entities – individuals, corporations, unions – and are under no legal obligation to disclose the sources of their funds.4,5 The rationale for this non-disclosure clings to the assumption that these groups’ primary focus is not politics.6 But there are few rules which govern the actual activity that these groups can engage in; both groups can engage in “some political activities, so long as that is not its primary activity.”7,8 It is worth noting that the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity as well as the NAACP are both termed 501(c)(4) s.9 Additionally, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, as of October 2015, these groups have contributed close to $5 million to the current election cycle, a tenfold increase from their spending in 2012.10 The Court has ruled that limits on monetary donations, made by individuals as well as corporations, violate the First Amendment right to free speech (in this Background case, political speech). With this precedent in mind, it seems wise to target the In this millennium alone, the amount problem for another angle: disclosure. In
Recommended Action Considering PACs and 501(c)s engage in similar political activities and that a 501(c) is often affiliated with a PAC, Congress ought to pass legislation which puts the same restrictions on 501(c)(4)s and 501(c)(6)s mandating that any such organization file financial disclosure forms either monthly or quarterly.14 Having such stringent disclosure policies would ensure that voters are able to make a better informed decision about the candidate they decide to vote for. It allows them to trace the sources of some of the candidates’ funds, so that they know what special interest interest groups individuals are beholden to. 84% of Americans feel that there is too much money in our current political system, and 75% believe that groups not affiliated with a candidate should have to publicly disclose their donors.15 Clearly, this is one of the few current issues that still garners support across the political spectrum. Yet many calling for campaign finance reform are still championing commendable but impractical solutions like overturning Citizens United. Prominent non-profits such as Common Cause, the Campaign Legal Center, and the Campaign Finance Institute should instead redirect their efforts and rally around a single draft for legislation that focuses on disclosure instead of limits. This would pressure Congress to consider such legislation and force current presidential candidates to take a stance on disclosure and reaffirm their commitment to protecting the integrity of American elections. Furthermore, campaign finance reform has the potential for bipartisan cooperation;
both Republican Senator John McCain and Democrat Senator Russ Feingold sponsored the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), which included provisions on disclosure.16 Endnotes 1. “Remarks of President Barack Obama – State of the Union Address as Delivered,” The White House, accessed January 13, 2016, https://www.whitehouse.gov/thepress-office/2016/01/12/remarks-president-barack-obama-%E2%80%93-prepared-delivery-state-union-address. 2. “The Money Behind the Elections,” The Center For Responsive Politics, accessed December 1, 2015, http://www.opensecrets.org/bigpicture/. 3. The New York Times, “Which Presidential Candidates are Winning the Money Race,” The New York Times, October 16, 2015, accessed December 1, 2015, http:// www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/us/ elections/election-2016-campaign-money-race.html?_r=0. 4. “Types of Organizations Exempt under Section 501(c)(4),” Internal Revenue Service, accessed December 1, 2015, https:// www.irs.gov/Charities-&-Non-Profits/ Other-Non-Profits/Types-of-Organizations-Exempt-under-Section-501(c)(4). 5. “Business Leagues,” Internal Revenue Service, accessed December 1, 2015, https://www.irs.gov/Charities-&-Non-Profits/Other-Non-Profits/ Business-Leagues. 6. Kim Barker and Marian Wang, “Super PACs and Dark Money, “ ProPublica, July 11, 2011, accessed December 1, 2015, http://www.propublica.org/blog/item/super-pacs-propublicas-guide-to-the-newworld-of-campaign-finance. 7. “Social Welfare Organizations,” Internal Revenue Service, accessed January 16, 2016, https://www.irs.gov/Charities-&-Non-Profits/Other-Non-Profits/ Social-Welfare-Organizations. 8. “Political Campaign Activities – Business Leagues,” Internal Revenue Service, accessed January 16, 2016, https://www. irs.gov/Charities-&-Non-Profits/Other-Non-Profits/Political-Campaign-Activities---Business-Leagues. 9. Ibid. 10. Tom Kertscher, “Ten times more ‘dark money’ has been spent for 2016 elections,
U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin says,” Politifact, November 5, 2015, accessed December 1, 2015, http://www.politifact.com/ wisconsin/statements/2015/nov/05/tammy-baldwin/ten-times-more-dark-money-has-been-spent-2016-elec/. 11. Richard Rubin, “What a Presidential Candidate’s Financial Disclosures Do, and Do Not, Reveal,” Bloomberg, May 15, 2015, accessed December 1, 2015 http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2015-05-15/what-a-presidential-candidate-s-financial-disclosures-do-anddo-not-reveal. 12.“Presidential Reports,” Federal Election Comission, accessed December 1, 2015, http://docquery.fec.gov/pres/. 13. “Quick Answers to PAC Questions,” Federal Election Commission, accessed December 1, 2015, http://www.fec.gov/ ans/answers_pac.shtml. 14. Sean Sullivan, “What is a 501(c)(4), anyway?” The Washington Post, May 13, 2013, accessed December 1, 2015, https:// www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/ wp/2013/05/13/what-is-a-501c4-anyway/. 15. The New York Times and CBS News, “Americans’ Views on Money in Politics,” June 2, 2015, accessed December 1, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/06/02/us/politics/money-in-politics-poll.html. 16. Seth Gitell, “Making Sense of McCain-Feingold and Campaign Finance Reform,” The Atlantic, July/August 2003, accessed December 1, 2015, http:// www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2003/07/making-sense-of-mccain-feingold-and-campaign-finance-reform/302758/.
the Citizens United majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy himself wrote that disclosure is constitutional as the government has a compelling interest in letting the electorate know the origin of election-related money. Presidential hopefuls are required to file financial disclosures within thirty days of announcing their candidacy (forty-five if granted an extension), and file quarterly campaign finance reports throughout the election.11,12 Even political action committees, including the notorious Super PACs, file financial reports quarterly or monthly.13
A Powerful 1%: Increasing NASA’s Budget By Emma Warner
he National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) does so much more than just spaceflight and exploration, though those are both important aspects of the organization. According to NASA’s fiscal year 2016 budget request, their current purview includes science, aeronautics, space technology, exploration, space operations, education, safety, security, mission services, and construction, and environmental compliance and restoration.1 The entirety of NASA currently receives only about 0.5% of the United States’s federal budget. The only other time its funding was this low as a percentage of the federal budget was in 1960, two years after its inception.2 Increased funding would allow NASA’s various projects to progress at a faster rate, improve safety measures, and facilitate huge leaps in the progress of human spaceflight. As it stands, a large number of NASA’s programs and projects have been cancelled, postponed, or underfunded due to budgetary restrictions. NASA research and technology have led to many significant innovations in science, medicine, and communications, including the development of heat-reflective emergency blankets and an improved air traffic control system.3 Each year, reporters write scores of articles about the inevitable proposed budget cuts to various NASA programs and departments by both the House and Senate. This is a hotly debated issue as many do not see NASA’s operations as essential. However, NASA is a vitally important organization both domestically and abroad, due to the technologies it develops, the research it conducts, and the advances in space exploration that it makes every year. Background In 2016, NASA received $1.3 billion more than it did in 2015 for a total of approximately $19.3 billion in funding. This is about $0.8 billion more than the NASA request for 2016. However, this was not
enough to fully fund all of its programs, including their Exploration budget, for which they requested $4.5 billion and received $4.0, and their Safety, Security, and Mission Services budget – $2.84 billion and $2.76 billion.4 The Planetary Society has proposed funding for NASA’s Planetary Science Division at $1.5 billion a year for the next five years in order to keep both large and small programs afloat.5 Because NASA falls under the non-defense discretionary budget category, it has to compete for funding every year, with its funding as a percentage of the federal budget declining fairly steadily since the 1990s.6 It is important to note that while NASA’s budget is higher than expected in 2016, NASA projects the need for a higher budget each year for the next few years.7 A larger budget would mean more jobs and a boost to the economy, as well as a better standing in the eyes of the scientific community abroad.8 NASA is currently working on several long-term projects including a 2018 launch of the James Webb Space Telescope and several Mars-related missions.9 These endeavors would help bring the United States back to the forefront in terms of space exploration while continuing to lessen our reliance on the space agencies of other countries to launch missions. These projects are also very costly and require full and steady funding in order to stay on schedule. A higher budget would allow NASA to become self-reliant and to continue to contract with domestic companies such as SpaceX and Boeing on Commercial Crew launches. Such partnerships reduce the cost per seat of transporting NASA-trained astronauts to the International Space Station when compared to the cost of NASA’s current contract with Russian Federal Space Agency for the same service. Without the entirety of the funding requested for these contracts for fiscal year 2016 and on, NASA will continue to rely on Russia to transport its astronauts to the space station and stifle the growth
Recommended Action I propose increasing NASA’s budget to 1% of the federal budget of the United States. Though there are no major organizations that are dedicated to this figure, many prominent scientists and individuals have spoken out about how important NASA funding is to a large variety of fields. In 2013, popular science educator and mechanical engineer Bill Nye wrote an open letter to President Barack Obama urging him to fund NASA’s planetary science division $1.5 billion dollars, less than 10% of NASA’s total budget, which is in turn less than 0.5% of the total federal budget. He cited their work in searching for life on other planets and asserted that space exploration is “part of our national character.”12 The best way to reach the 1% figure is through public awareness campaigns. People do not realize how much of the technology that they interact with every day has been made possible by NASA technologies. According to a 2010 CNN/ ORC poll, 50% of Americans believed that the money spent on the (now defunct) space shuttle program would have been better spent elsewhere.13 The people of the United States need to contact their representatives. It is also important to consider the positions of Presidents and Presidential Candidates when voting. Essentially, the opinion that both the public and Congress hold of NASA has a significant impact on how it is prioritized when the federal budget is written. Lobbying efforts are also incredibly important. There are already many existing groups that actively support increased NASA funding, such as the Planetary Society and the American Association for
the Advancement of Science, though only the nonprofit Penny4NASA officially supports the 1% figure.14
1. “FY 2016 PRESIDENT’S BUDGET
REQUEST SUMMARY.” (2015): n. pag. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Web. 2. Rogers, Simon. “Nasa Budgets: US Spending on Space Travel since 1958.”The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 01 Feb. 2010. Web. 3. “Frequently Asked Questions.” NASA Spinoff. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, n.d. Web. 4. Dreier, Casey. “An Extraordinary Budget for NASA in 2016.” The Planetary Society Blog. N.p., 18 Dec. 2015. Web. 5. “Save Our Science: FAQ.” The Planetary Society Blog. N.p., n.d. Web. 6. Callahan, Jason. “The Competition for Dollars.” The Planetary Society Blog. N.p., 27 Aug. 2014. Web. 7. “FY 2016 PRESIDENT’S BUDGET REQUEST SUMMARY.” (2015): n. pag. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Web. 8. “NASA Orders SpaceX Crew Mission to International Space Station.” NASA. NASA, 20 Nov. 2015. Web. 9. Granath, Bob. “’Reach for New Heights’ -- NASA Budget Unveiled for Fiscal Year 2016.” NASA. NASA, 2 Feb. 2015. Web. 10. “NASA Orders SpaceX Crew Mission to International Space Station.” NASA. NASA, 20 Nov. 2015. Web. 11. “NASA Spinoff.” NASA Spinoff. N.p., n.d. Web. 12. Nye, Bill. “An Open Letter to President Barack Obama.” The Planetary Society Blog. N.p., 06 Dec. 2013. Web. 13. “Space Exploration.” PollingReport. Polling Report, Inc., n.d. Web. 14. “Planetary Society Joins Forces with Space and Science Organizations to Support NASA 2011 Budget Proposal.” The Planetary Society. The Planetary Society, 20 May 2010. Web.
of these private companies.10 The funding for this endeavor falls under the category “Commercial Spaceflight” in the budget request. NASA’s projects also regularly lead to many of the technologies that we use today – outlined in their annual Spinoff publication – including GPS systems and body imaging technologies such as CAT scans and MRIs. An increase in budget means more time and energy spent developing these incredibly important technologies.11
Education This year, the Education Center focused on improving our school systems to better prepare the leaders for tomorrow. We started with a fruitful discussion on the monopolization of standardized testing and studying the financialization of higher education along with the Economic Development Center. Throughout the second semester, we discussed stymying the school-to-prison pipeline and created a new initiative focused on integrating New York City schools. The Education Center’s section of the Roosevelt Review, begins with Emma Cloyd’s detailed examination of standardized tests and how districts can move away from them to facilitate more student engagement. Next, comes Nicole Felmus’ policy on integrating New York City high schools, which was appeared in a different form in The Roosevelt Institute Campus Network’s 10 Ideas journal. Finally, Karen Reppy’s article discusses sexual health education as a means to deter teen pregnancies. - Nicole Felmus
Redefining Standardized Testing
any public schools within the United States put a massive emphasis on state mandated standardized testing. As a result of federal pressure, high school rankings, funding, and teacher evaluations ultimately hinge on them.1 Although the recent repeal of No Child Left Behind has started to de-emphasize high stakes testing, it will continue to be present within the schools as they will always need a way to rank. Instead of standardized tests, many of which test students more on their mastery of certain test-taking tricks than the material itself, the United States should start moving towards a system more like the International Baccalaureate (IB), which is based off of essays; structured problems; short, data and test response questions and case studies.2 Multiple choice is rarely used.3 Along with this movement, the teaching strategies used within primary and secondary school classrooms should be modified to promote critical thinking rather than memorization. This change would better prepare students for real life situations in which they must problem solve, not just pick the best answer. By moving away from the multiple choice tests, governments will be able to analyze the level of critical thinking in addition to material being taught within schools.4 Background The era of high stakes standardized testing was ushered in during the Bush administration with the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001. A rewrite of President Lyndon Johnson’s Elementary and Secondary Education act (ESEA) first signed in 1965, the act was renewed and revamped regularly until Bush pledged to spend more money and resources to enact methods that he described as “Not feel good methods. Not sound good methods. But methods that actually work”.5 NCLB was based on the idea of high stakes standardized testing to evaluate students’ and teachers’ abilities. Starting in 2001, “test driven accountability policies” are all students in public schools have
known.6 The law was strictly opposed federally created tests and allowed the states to individually come up with tests to judge their students on their idea of “challenging” standards in math and reading, and if they did not do so they would forfeit their federal funding.7 While the NCLB act was repealed in 2015, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaced it, does still have standardized test-based components. The ESSA will still test students, however it will give more power to the educators on all levels rather than just higher ups.8 Furthermore, the bottom 5% of schools as determined by test scores will received additional attention and funding in order to help them meet educational standards. Though the testing is technically lower pressure, teachers will still have to prepare their students to do well on these tests to secure federal funding. As a result of this, teachers may continue to base their lessons around doing well on these tests, greatly limiting the scope analytical tools students develop. Indeed, the variance between every classroom cannot be encapsulated by one answer sheet bubble. By having written exams, scorers would be able to account for this variation through a grading rubric rather than having one, potentially trick, question deciding whether or not a student learned a concept. The SAT, which primarily relies on a multiple choice format, measures students on their preparedness for college. However, it has been found that only 10-20% of variance within first-semester college students’ GPAs is due to difference in SAT scores.9 Given the fact that there is little correlation between these test scores and college success, it is difficult to assume that these standardized tests are indicative of what the students are learning within the classroom. Of course, testing students regularly is necessary in order to adequately assess which teaching methods are working, which are not, and how the students are progressing. However, the multiple choice standardized tests that are currently used
By Emma Cloyd
are not the best way to get a comprehensive view of what students are accomplishing in school. Eliminating these tests in favor of more reasoning-based assessments, in which students apply what they have previously learned as well as interpret given information and data, would prepare them to face challenges in real world, where success is not typically defined by filling in a bubble. Recommended Action
The International Baccalaureate Program (IB), an academic path that is used in some high schools to cater to the needs of more advanced students, aligns with the aforementioned objectives. IB assessments, which are designed to test students retention of knowledge and key concepts through analyzing and presenting information, evaluating and constructing arguments, and solving problems creatively.10 When sheer memorization and strategies to “game the test” are no longer necessary to succeed, students are able to approach learning in an increasingly conceptual way, better preparing them to apply their knowledge outside a test setting. If states were to follow a similar model when designing the tests that they give their students, they could gain a more holistic picture of what students know. This would allow state governments to better respond to students’ and schools’ needs. Additionally, the United States spends a large amount of time testing students in order to have statistics to report and analyze. The greater the testing burden becomes, the more parents are having their children opt out of taking standardized tests. Students’ opting out makes it hard to take a representative sample of a given school’s student body.11 In 2015, 20% of students in New York opted out of taking the Common Core tests.12 Testing students every other year could further minimize this burden and the distraction students’ refusal to take standardized tests causes. Furthermore, comparing tests annually to track progress is difficult and gives little insight on how the student has actually improved. Michael Russell states, “educational leaders employ overly simplistic and, sometimes, misleading methods to summarize changes in test scores.”13 The statistics evaluated include percen-
tile rank, scale, or raw score change, and percentage change.14 As a result of the fact that comparing students to their prior test scores is a difficult way to track improvement, minimizing the testing burden and only testing students every other year will not have a wildly dramatic impact on measuring how schools are changing. As there is already an excessive amount of test-based infrastructure, getting schools on board to administer these tests would not be the hard part – generating the tests themselves would be. Currently, many of the state mandated tests are generated and graded by three large textbook companies including Pearson. Pearson makes state mandated tests for 25 states, equalling over a billion multiple choice tests per year. As a privately contracted company, Pearson is willing to design and score tests for states assuming they continue to profit. In order to have these companies, such as Pearson, create these tests, a federal law would have to be enacted requiring all states to abandon multiple choice testing as their sole way of collecting data about students. A change in grading methods would cause a larger change in current infrastructure. Given that multiple choice tests tend to be graded electronically, actual scorers would have to be hired by the testing companies to score the essays based on a rubric that allows enough room for variation while maintaining objectivity. In order to avoid becoming irrelevant, these companies would have to adopt these new, required practices. It is important to be able to gauge how well schools are serving the students; however, the practice of multiple choice, high stakes standardized testing that has been used in the United States since 2001 is not the best way to measure abilities. By trading out these tests for ones that allow students to display what they’ve learned in a more holistic, we will ultimately gain a better understanding of what our schools are teaching and how successfully they are teaching it. Endnotes
1. Thompson, Van, “Do Standardized Test
Scores Factor into How Much Money a School Will Receive?” Global Post. Web. 22 Jan. 2016.
2. “About the IB.” International Baccalau-
reate®. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Jan. 2016. 3. Ibid. 4. Pollard, Jonathan. “Standardized Testing: Measuring What Matters Least.” StandardizedTesting.net, n.d. Web. 22 Jan. 2016. 5. Turner, Cory. “No Child Left Behind: What Worked, What Didn’t.” NPR, 28 Oct. 2015. Web. 22 Jan. 2016. 6. Strauss, Valerie. “No Child Left Behind’s Test-based Policies Failed. Will Congress Keep Them Anyway?” The Washington Post, 13 Feb. 2015. Web. 22 Jan. 2016. 7. “The New Rules.” PBS, 22 Mar. 2002. Web. 22 Jan. 2016. 8. “The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).” NEA. 10 Dec. 2015. Web. 22 Jan. 2016. 9. Paulos, John Allen. “Do SAT Scores Really Predict Success?” ABC News Network, 01 July 2015. Web. 22 Jan. 2016. 10. “Assessment & Exams | Diploma | International Baccalaureate®.” International Baccalaureate®. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Jan. 2016. 11. Harris, Elizabeth A., and Ford Fessenden. “‘Opt Out’ Becomes Anti-Test Rallying Cry in New York State.” The New York Times, 20 May 2015. Web. 22 Jan. 2016. 12. “New York’s Common Core Test Scores Flop Yet Again — with 20 Percent of Students Opting out.” The Washington Post, 13 Aug. 2015. Web. 22 Jan. 2016. 13. Russell, Michael. “Summarizing Change in Test Scores: Shortcomings of Three Common Methods.” PAREonline. N.p., 26 May 2000. Web. 22 Jan. 2016. 14. Ibid.
Leveling Educational Opportunities: Integrating NYC High Schools
n New York City, selective academic hubs draw the best teachers, have the most parental involvement, and present a culture of academic success, which prevents minority and low-income students from receiving a quality education. The New York City Council should replace its specialized high school system with magnet programs—specialized academic curricula for select students in standard high schools—to level educational opportunities. Currently, there are 235,852 students in NYC public high schools. Only 27,000 of them attend specialized high schools. Across all five boroughs, there are nine specialized high schools that aim to “serve the needs of academically and artistically gifted students,” which students test into in 8th grade (excluding LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts).1 These schools, such as Stuyvesant High School, are predominately Asian and White, and therefore unrepresentative of the city’s population. All other NYC schools are more diverse.2,3 This creates several problems that include the fact that underrepresented groups are less likely to receive the same parent participation, underrepresented groups have less educational opportunities than peers at specialized high schools, and students at specialized high schools receive access to better quality teachers than those at non-specialized high schools. There is evidence that the measures of teacher quality—including experience, licensure exam score, and value-added estimates of effectiveness—are distributed unevenly, concentrating high quality teachers in specialized high schools.4
tend specialized public high schools were in the top income quintile, compared to 7 percent in other high schools.5 Furthermore, a 2014 study published by the NYC IBO shows that teachers at high-poverty high schools have 2.3 fewer years of experience than teachers at low-poverty high schools.6 This perpetuates a cycle of poor education, which makes access to and preparation for specialized high schools even harder to achieve for students from high-poverty schools. Additionally, NYC’s standard high schools have great room for improvement. Only 4 in 10 offer access to both chemistry and physics classes.7 Teacher attrition rates in high-poverty schools are 14 percent higher in a twoyear span than teachers in low-poverty schools. Many policy makers propose creating more charter schools to improve educational opportunities, yet these further exacerbate the problem, increasing the achievement gap – otherwise known as the education debt.8
By Nicole Felmus
New York City should end its specialized high school program and replace it with magnet programs within every high school. Teachers should be redistributed to help lead the magnet programs and teach magnet program classes as well as courses offered in the normal school environment. This would allow for the sharing of best practices, specifically in schools that are struggling to meet standards set by the city, state, and country, working towards eliminating educational disparities among minority groups. Additionally, magnet centers provide an opportunity for knowledge transfer between students of varying levels.To transition from the current speBackground cialized high school system, students curA study published in April of 2015 by rently in a specialized public high school the Independent Budget Office (IBO) would be given the opportunity to pick found that 26 percent of students who at- their magnet program of choice.
If the academic meccas of the nine specialized high schools were dismantled and funneled into magnet programs within non-specialized high schools, students from both arenas would benefit. Some studies have shown that racially diverse work environments lead to innovation.9 Studies also show that students at racially diverse schools are more likely to develop cross-racial friendships. If this policy were instituted, schools would better reflect the NYC population. In addition, more experienced teachers are more likely to use culturally responsive teaching, a method that takes into account the cultures that students come from and legitimizes these backgrounds in the classroom. This method has been proven to work towards reducing the school-to-prison pipeline.10 While charter schools offer greater educational choices, they often use a lottery system for admission and take away funding from regular city schools.11 If New York City were to implement a magnet schools system, it could divert some of the $1.5 billion allocated to charter schools to normal public high schools, giving more students the opportunity to receive a quality education.12 The New York City Council should redesign the current school choice and specialized high school programs. Through this process, the council should consider the racial demographics of specialized high schools, with specific attention to underrepresentation of Black and Latino students. This investigation can be done under the provisions of the School Diversity Accountability Act recently passed by the New York City Council.13 Legislative action should be taken to replace the specialized high school system with magnet programs in all high schools. Endnotes
1. “Specialized High Schools.” New York
City Department of Education. NYC DOE. Web. 30 Nov. 2015. 2. “2014-15 School Quality Snapshot/ HS: Stuyvesant High School.” New York City Department of Education. NYC DOE. Web. 30 Nov. 2015. 3. “Student Demographics by EthnicityAll Boroughs.” Hunter College School of Education. Hunter College. Web. 30 Nov.
2015. 4. Goldhaber, D., L. Lavery, and R. Theobald. “Uneven Playing Field? Assessing the Teacher Quality Gap Between Advantaged and Disadvantaged Students.” Educational Researcher 44.5 (2015): 293-307. Web. 5. “New York City by the Numbers.” New York City by the Numbers. New York City Independent Budget Office. Web. 17 Jan. 2016. 6. “A Statistical Portrait of New York City’s Public School Teachers.” New York City Independent Budget Office. New York City Independent Budget Office, 14 Jan. 2016. Web. 7. Decker, Geoff. “Report: Many NYC High Schools Don’t Offer Advanced Math and Science Courses.” Chalkbeat New York Report Many NYC High Schools Dont Offer Advanced Math and Science Courses Comments. Chalkbeat.org, 23 July 2015. Web. 4 Feb. 2016. 8. Ladson-Billings, G. “From the Achievement Gap to the Education Debt: Understanding Achievement in U.S. Schools.” Educational Researcher 35.7 (2006): 3-12. Web. 9. Kamenetz, Anya. “The Evidence That White Children Benefit From Integrated Schools.” NPR. NPR, 19 Oct. 2015. Web. 28 Mar. 2016. 10. Cramer, Elizabeth D., Liana Gonzalez, and Cynthia Pellegrini-Lafont. “From Classmates to Inmates: An Integrated Approach to Break the School-to-Prison Pipeline.” Equity & Excellence in Education 47.4 (2014): 461-75. Web. 11. Roda, Allison, and Amy Stuart Wells. “School Choice Policies and Racial Segregation: Where White Parents’ Good Intentions, Anxiety, and Privilege Collide.” American Journal of Education 119.2 (2013): 261-93. Web. 12. “DOE Overview.” NYC Department of Education. NYC DOE. Web. 16 Jan. 2016. 13. “City Council Passes “School Diversity Accountability Act”” City Council Passes “School Diversity Accountability Act” New York City Councilmember Brad Lander, 27 May 2015. Web. 14 Jan. 2016.
By Karen Reppy
n estimated 50% of all pregnancies in the US are unintended; among teenagers, more than 80% of pregnancies are unintended.1 These pregnancies come at a high cost to the mother, child, and society as a whole. Teen mothers are more likely to drop out of school, live in poverty and rely on public assistance in their lifetime than their peers.2 Furthermore, children whose conception was unplanned drop out of high school, engage in delinquent behavior, and experience negative mental and physical health outcomes throughout their life at higher rates than children who are the result of planned pregnancies. Unintended pregnancies also come with a large price sticker — considering just government expenditures through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, we spend an estimated $12.1 billion a year providing medical care for 1.25 million unintended pregnancies. While this accounts for all unintended pregnancies -not just teens -- it speaks to the magnitude of the problem. Despite declining steadily since the early 1990’s, the teen birth rate remains high. Moreover, teen births also disproportionately affect African American and Hispanic youth who have more pregnancies per capita than their white counterparts. Preventing teenage pregnancy and unintended pregnancy at any point in life are vital public health goals for the wellbeing of children and mothers. To this end, states should employ programs modeled after Colorado’s Family Planning Initiative which provide Long-Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC) at no cost to women. Coupled with comprehensive sexual education programs which specifically teach women about LARC, we can dramatically reduce teenage pregnancy rates nationally. Background Teenage pregnancy occurs in the con-
text of insufficient sexual education in American public schools. While every state requires some form of sex ed, the content of that education varies greatly.3 Notably, only 18 states require sex educators to provide information about contraception. 37 states require that abstinence be taught; further, 25 of those states specify that abstinence must be stressed.4 The federal government has continued to play a role in this emphasis on abstinence-only sexual education. Even though the Obama administration has ended several of these programs, $50 million a year was funneled to abstinence only sex education programs from 2010-2014.5 In his most recent budget proposal President Obama eliminated funding for all of these programs, it remains to be seen, however, if Congress will eliminate this funding in the budget it passes.6 An analysis of several federally funded programs by Mathematica Policy Research found that the programs had no effect on whether or not students were sexually active. And, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Society of Adolescent Medicine, and the American Psychological Association have all challenged the ethics of government support for such programs, believing that governments “have an obligation to provide accurate information to their citizens.” The American Public Health Association added that abstinence only education programs “are inherently coercive by withholding information needed to make informed choices.”7 While many states have opted out of these programs choosing not to apply for these federal grants, there is still work to be done. Even though there is evidence that comprehensive sexual education programs have positive behavior effects,8 programs can do more to promote Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptives (LARC).
Bringing LARC into the Classroom: A New Frontier in Preventing Teenage Pregnancy
Long-Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC) is heralded by the American Academy of Pediatrics as “the first-line contraceptive choice for adolescents who choose not to be abstinent.”9 LARC, which includes intrauterine devices (IUDs) and birth control implants, work for between three and ten years. Unlike the birth control pill, condoms, patches, and rings, LARC requires no effort from the user. For this reason, it is ideal for teenagers. Indeed, research by the Contraceptive CHOICE project found that LARC methods were 20 times more effective than short-term forms of birth control.10 Moreover, other research by the CHOICE project found individuals using LARC were much likely to still be using it three years later than other forms of birth control. 11 While LARC proves to be a promising option, there are many barriers to access, especially for the women who would benefit most from it. In an analysis of interviews conducted with medical providers in New York City, Susan E. Rubin, Kate Davis, and Diane McKee found that physicians infrequently discussed the use of LARC methods with their patients. In particular, they note that family physicians reported that they were unlikely to recommend IUDs to their patients. Even more concerning, many physicians, including many pediatricians reported that they were unaware they could even tell adolescents about IUDs. In particular, physicians expressed concern about parents getting upset if they inserted an IUD for a child without their consent. Supply and cost are also principle concerns. Rubin, Davis and McKee found that only 60% of family practices and none of the pediatric practices they surveyed had IUDs on hand.12 LARC methods are expensive initially. Planned parenthood estimates that an IUD can cost a patient up to $1,000 at insertion.13 Even at Title-X funded clinics where low income women can receive subsidized care, LARC can cost between $300 and $500 dollars.14 While an IUD or other form of LARC is quite cost effective long-term, the upfront cost can be prohibitively high for many women. Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), insurance is required to cover contraception for women, including various forms of LARC. However, some plans require payment or only allow for certain meth-
ods of contraception. Moreover, the contraception mandate only applies to new plans. Women still covered by plans predating the ACA may not be able to receive coverage for LARC (in 2014 as many as 25% of people covered by their employers may have been on old plans). Additionally, teenagers may be less likely to seek out LARC if they must be covered for it on their parent’s plan.15 Yet if women know about LARC and can access it for free, they overwhelmingly will choose it. Another study by the Contraceptive CHOICE project found that 70% of women ages 14-20 chose LARC methods when cost wasn’t a factor. Case Study: Colorado In 2009, Colorado implemented the Colorado Family Planning Initiative (CFPI). Funded by a private donation, this program offered free LARC through Title-X funded family planning clinics. This grant allocated funding both for clinics to provide LARC to patients and train providers at those clinics.16 With free LARC available, usage rates increased significantly in the state. The proportion of Title X clinic clients using LARC methods increased from 4.5% to 26.9% in 2014. Almost immediately, Colorado saw results. According to Sue Ricketts, Greta Klingler and Renee Schwalberg, in a report published by the Guttmacher Institute, in the counties in which the program was implemented, the birth rate among women aged 15-19 dropped 29% by 2009.17 And by 2015 the birth rate had dropped 48% according to data from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment.18 Ricketts, Klingler and Schwalberg also observed a 24% decline in the high risk birth rate, defined as births to unmarried women, younger than 25 without a high school degree. Moreover, the abortion rate for women ages 15-19 dropped 34% in counties where CFPI was implemented, decreasingly only slightly in other counties. While teenage pregnancy rate has been slowly declining since the early 1990’s, the degree of decline seen in Colorado after the implementation of CFPI “constitutes a new phenomena” according to Ricketts, Klinger and Schwalberg.19 However, Colorado’s program has maximized its private
funding source, and Colorado’s legislature declined to continue funding the program at a cost of $5 million for the 2015-2016 fiscal year.20 Despite initial costs, however, the state directly reaped financial benefit. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment estimates that for every dollar spent on the program Colorado saves an average of $5.85 dollars over three years that Colorado’s medicaid program would otherwise have covered.21 LARC and Schools Colorado’s program has been highly successful and could easily be implemented in other states. However, to further its effectiveness for young populations, family planning clinics that provide LARC free of cost should partner with schools. As a necessary pre-condition, states must have comprehensive sexual education programs in place. Then states should incorporate information about LARC into their sex ed curriculum. Clinic providers trained under program funding can collaborate with schools to this end. Teachers should then inform their students about Title-X funded clinics where they can get LARC for free to combat a key barrier to women using LARC: awareness. The other significant barrier to LARC is cost. As noted above, under the ACA health insurers are required to cover contraception; however, teenagers may not feel comfortable or be able to have their parents cover the cost of LARC for them. Under a program like Colorado’s, youth can confidentially receive LARC at clinics. Although anyone could come to a Title-X funded clinic and receive LARC under CFPI, 92% of those served in 2011 by these clinics were living at or under 150% the federal poverty level.22 Thus the program directly served at-risk populations. This program is ultimately very cost effective for states. The first year the program is implemented states will face a startup cost. However, the federal government can assist states with this initial cost (perhaps re-appropriating some of the funding spent on abstinence-only sex ed). Moreover, as the program is implemented it will provide direct savings to state Medicaid programs. Over three years every dollar spent on the program will be returned in state Medicaid savings,
Endnotes 1. “Unintended Pregnancy Prevention” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 22 January 2015. Web. 24 January, 2016. 2. Logan, Cassandra, Holcombe, Emily, Manlove, Jennifer and Ryan, Suzanne. “The Consequences of Unintended Childbearing.” The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and Child Trends. May 2007. 3. State Policies on Sex Education in Schools.” National Conference of State Legislatures. 1 December, 2015. Web. 24 January, 2016. 4. “State Policies in Brief: Sex and HIV Education.” Guttmacher Institute. 1 January 2016. Web. January, 2016. 5. “A History of Federal Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Funding FY10.” Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. Web, n.d. 24 January 2016. 6. “President Obama Cuts Funding for all Abstinence-onlySex Education” Women in the World. New York Times. 18 February, 2016. Web. 6 March, 2016. 7. Boonstra, Heather D. “Advocates Call for a New Approach After the Era of ‘Abstinence-Only’ Sex Education.” Guttmacher Policy Review 12.1 (2009): 6-11. Web. 24 January, 2016. 8. Boonstra, “Advocates Call for a New Approach After the Era of ‘Abstinence-Only’ Sex Education.” 9. “AAP Updates Recommendations on Teen Pregnancy Prevention.” American Academy of Pediatrics. 29 September, 2014. Web. 24 January, 2016. 10. “Committee Opinion: Increasing Access to Contraceptive Implants and Intrauterine Devices to Reduce Unintended Pregnancy.” American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. October 2015.
Web. 24 January, 2016. 11. Diedrich et al. “Three-year Continuation of Reversible Contraception.” American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 213:5 (2015): 662e1-66e8. Web. 24 January 2016. 12. Rubin, Susan E., Davis, Kate and McKee, Diane. “New York City Physicians’ View of Providing Long-Acting Reversible Contraception to Adolescents.” Annals of Family Medicine 11:2 (2013): 130136. Web. 24 January 2016. 13. “IUD.” Planned Parenthood. Web, n.d. 24 January, 2016. 14. Ricketts, Sue, Klingler, Greta and Schwalberg, Renee. “Game Change in Colorado: Widespread Use of Long-Acting Reversible Contraception and Rapid Decline in Births Among Young, Low-Income Women.” Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health 46:3: 125-132. Web. 24 January 2016. 15. Tavernise, Sabrina. “Colorado’s Effort Against Teenage Pregnancies Is a Startling Success.” New York Times, 5 July, 2015. Web. 24 January, 2016. 16. Ricketts, “Game Change in Colorado.” 17. Ricketts, “Game Change in Colorado.” 18. “Colorado’s Teen Birth Rate Continues to Plummet.” Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. 21 October, 2015. Web. 24 January, 2016. 19. Ricketts, “Game Change in Colorado.” 20. Colorado General Assembly. HB 151194. Web. 24 January, 2016. 21. “Preventing Unintended Pregnancies is a Smart Investment.” Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Web, n.d. 24 January, 2016. 22. Ricketts, “Game Change in Colorado.” Bringing LARC into the Classroom: A
“Teen mothers are more likely to drop out of school, live in poverty and rely on public assistance in their lifetime than their peers. Furthermore, children whose conception was unplanned drop out of high school, engage in delinquent behavior, and experience negative mental and physical health outcomes throughout their life at higher rates than children who are the result of planned pregnancies. ”
perhaps to the tune of $5 dollars of savings for states with similar Medicaid expenditures to Colorado. Expanding the program in collaboration with school sex education has the potential to positively affect teenagers lives by reducing teen pregnancy rates as well as assisting low income women beyond high school.
Energy & Enviroment This year was a seminal one for environmental issues and energy endeavors across the world. From climate talks in Paris and technological breakthrough in solar, wind and battery technology, all the way to student divestment movements on the home front right here at Columbia University, thereâ€™s reason to be optimistic about our collective energy future and the future of our planet. This year, the Roosevelt Institute at Columbiaâ€™s Center for Energy and the Environment focused on a wide range of policy proposals. Our members explored topics from fossil fuel subsidies to biofuels, tackling pressing environmental issues across the globe. As a center-wide initiative, the Energy and Environment Center chose to focus on air quality right here in New York City, providing policy solutions centering on such issues as second hand smoke, waste management, and climate-friendly transportation, all of which will be presented next fall to legislators at City Hall. - Charles Harper and Simon Schwartz
By Caravaggio Caniglia
he swath of plains past the 100th Meridian West is sometimes called the “Great American Desert,” a flat, semi-arid expanse made suitable for large-scale agriculture by the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the largest underground water sources in the world, centered in the Sand Hills of Central Nebraska.1 Arid land above the aquifer has been irrigated for farming and livestock raising, which has brought the aquifer’s level down significantly since industrial irrigation began during the 1950s. The water level dropped 9% between 1909 and 2009, a third of this change coming between 2001 and 2009, and water withdrawal rates are far more problematic where a vital minority of the water lies:, in Kansas, Texas, and Oklahoma.2 The threat to farmland in Nebraska, which holds most of the water, will likely take decades to surface.3 However, sharp declines in population and prosperity in rural communities, combined with shallower water levels and the fact that one fifth of land in Kansas irrigated by the aquifer has already dried up could severely cripple agriculture in Western Kansas and North Texas.4 With farmers unable to make ends meet and an ever-growing population worldwide dependent on the crops of the Central and Lower Plains, finding a way to farm sustainably so as to keep up both food production and water levels is of paramount importance. Furthermore, fixing the issue of water usage in the Great Plains could lay out a blueprint for how to address it in even harder-pressed regions, like the Upper Ganges in India.5 Background The coming effects of climate change on the Great Plains are not easy to predict. Depending upon the model, the degree of temperature increase expected widely varies, and, more importantly, there is little consistency in predictions about the corresponding increase or decrease in precipitation in the Missouri River Basin.6 How-
ever, the groundwater levels in the region irrigated by the aquifer in Southwestern Kansas, the Oklahoma Panhandle, and North Texas that drains to the Arkansas-Red-White River system are almost universally expected to grow drier climate change. This region is also seeing the fastest depletion of its groundwater reserves. A recent study by Kansas State University found that in Kansas, water drawn from the Ogallala must be cut by approximately 80 percent, and that this would only ensure the aquifer’s presence for a few generations, not inevitably.7 Excepting isolated regions in Central Nebraska, the same is true for the whole of the region atop the aquifer. So, any long-term plan must involve a move away from irrigated agriculture. While technology allowing a transition to dry-land or even hydroponic farming can plausibly be used to preserve the agricultural output of the Great Plains, a full-scale transition away from irrigated agriculture will take a long and uncertain length of time, meaning that, though the Ogallala Aquifer will not likely be a viable source of water forever, its availability for irrigation should be preserved as long as possible.
Energy & Environment:
First Steps Towards the Preservation of the Ogallala Aquifer for Irrigated Farming
Recommended Action A policy-based approach must, then, target a few specific water-wasting practices. First, the center-pivot irrigators upon which the irrigated agriculture in the High Plains depends have grown more efficient, but still often lose a sizeable portion of the water pumped through them to evaporation and runoff,8 not to mention leaks. Irrigated agriculture has also made possible the growing of corn in the semi-arid High Plains, which has since fed the ethanol and beef industries in the region.9 Corn requires almost twice as much water as sorghum and wheat to grow, and its dominance in the irrigated agriculture of the High Plains significantly exacerbates an already problematic sit-
Energy & Environment: 56
uation with regards to water usage.10 It seems logical to target these issues with a three-pronged approach, utilizing resources at the levels of state and national government to supplement a local push for greater emphasis on conservation of water resources. Perhaps most importantly, in regions receiving about twenty inches of rainfall or less each year, where irrigation sustains the agriculture-dependent economy, local measures need to ensure that no more water is pulled from the ground than is necessary for a given year’s crop. In Sheridan County, Kansas, farmers worked together with local government to agree upon a 20% cut in five-year average irrigation.11 The five-year average allows farmers to make significant cuts while also considering the possibility of a crippling drought like that of 2012. Other counties in Western Kansas have followed suit, and some farmers in North Texas are similarly trying to reduce their year-toyear use of groundwater. The initiatives in Texas are especially promising, as the state has traditionally resisted any measures that would limit access to water and other resources beneath private property.12 Imposing cuts in water usage on farmers would be heavy-handed and unlikely to gain support in local communities. However, hosting town-hall events with the goal of farmers deciding, collectively, that a 20% cut (give or take, and probably more in irrigated regions of Central Kansas and Nebraska that receive more rainfall than the rest of the region above the Ogallala Aquifer) in five-year average irrigation will allow for more sustainable irrigated farming that can be passed down to at least one more generation. When enough local communities have accepted such initiatives, pressure should be transferred to state governments to mandate (approximately) 20% reductions in irrigation across all counties to conserve water. As irrigation technology improves, furthermore, these reductions can be increased. Given the improvements in irrigation efficiency in even the past twenty years, it is not at all unreasonable to anticipate the possibility of an increasingly measureable reduction in irrigated water use after one or two five-year harvest periods. Indeed, there is a stark contrast between the irrigators of fifty (or even twenty) years ago, which lost vast quantities of
water to evaporation and runoff, and the irrigators of today, the most common of which (spray-head center-pivot irrigators, which are responsible for the large green circles of farmland in the Western Plains) are 92% efficient.13 Encouraging a transition to still more efficient irrigators could, in addition, become the basis for either state or national policy that could offer tax breaks per percentage above the 92% benchmark demonstrated on a farm, coupled with corresponding reduction in water usage. Considering the net income declines and general population loss that has long plagued the rural Plains, such an economic incentive might not only conserve water, encouraging investment in such developments as 98% efficient Low Energy Precision Application bubblers, which spray water at low angles and low pressure from mounts above the ground, but also stimulate a fragile economy.14, 15 Finally, while local and federal government action can significantly reduce the amount of water wasted in agriculture on the High Plains, state governments can also lend in attacking the issue of corn production. Corn requires far more water per acre to grow than wheat or sorghum, and in 2011, almost 40% of corn grown in the United States was used for the production of ethanol.16,17 Subsidies for the ethanol industry treat ethanol as an “alternative fuel” regardless of the fact that it is less efficient than petroleum and significantly negatively impacts the environment, helping the ethanol industry to boom in recent years.18,19,20 Discontinuing these subsidies at a national level would discourage farmers from producing corn for ethanol. Subsidies allowing the production of blended gasoline and ethanol mixtures, like E10, have been cut in the past, usually to be reinstated and then potentially cut again five or ten years down the road.21 The national government could lend a hand by consistently refusing to subsidize ethanol-gasoline mixtures, and, though the politics are more difficult, it is worth mentioning that cutting subsidies altogether for corn used to produce ethanol (an industry that is economically viable with or without subsidies) would encourage the farming of edible products, which hopefully will require less water.22 The beef cattle industry in the Plains also depends on feed products that of-
ten consist of about thirty-percent corn, and a sizeable portion of the corn grown in the High Plains is used in feedlots.23,24 Transferring cattle to a wheat-based, sorghum-based, or, as many small-scale cattle-raising sustainability programs advocate, grass-based diets would discourage the production of corn in regions like Western Kansas and North Texas, where its position as the most grown crop forces farmers to take more water from the ground than they would otherwise need to. Unfortunately, the corn is ideal for use in feed on clustered feedlots in the High Plains, and sorghum and wheat are already more heavily subsidized than corn in the region, meaning that any attempt to change the agricultural output of the region would likely run against the interests of large, national beef producers.25 While such an effort would be well-placed, it would also be difficult, and simpler-to-enact local and national policies should, as a result, be pursued first.) Until technology makes irrigation unnecessary in the High Plains, the Ogallala Aquifer must remain a viable source of water. This truth necessitates its conservation. A comprehensive local approach combined with national initiatives should make the goal of conservation possible long enough for technology to play its part. Endnotes
Walton, Brett. “Texas and Kansas Farmers Take Different Paths to Saving Water.” Circle of Blue. Circle of Blue. 19 January, 2014. Web. 25 November, 2015. 2 Plumer, Brad. “Where the world’s running out of water, in one map.” The Washington Post. Washington Post Company Llc. 10 August, 2012. Web. 25 November, 2015. 3. Walton. 4. Ibid. 5. Plumer. 6. Rosenberg, Norman J. et. al. “Possible Impacts of Global Warming on the Hydrology of the Ogallala Aquifer Region.” Climatic Change. The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1999. 677-692. Web. 4 January, 2016
Plains Turn to Dust.” The New York Times. The New York Times Company. 19 May, 2014. Web. 25 November, 2015. 9. Walton. 10. Ibid. 11. Ibid. 12. Ibid. 13. “Farm Family Income.” United States Department of Agriculture. United States Department of Agriculture. n. d. Web. 20 January, 2016. 14. Yonts, C. Dean; Kranz, William L., and Martin, Derrel L. “Water Loss from Above-Canopy and In-Canopy Sprinklers.” NebGuide. Spring 2007: n. pag. Web. 20 January, 2016. 15. Ibid. 16. Walton. 17. Bryce, Robert. “The Hidden Corn Ethanol Tax: How Much Does the Renewable Fuel Standard Cost Motorists.” Manhattan Institute. No.32 (March 2015): 1-10. Web. 20 January, 2016. 18. Alexander, Ryan. “Good News For Corn, Bad News For You.” U.S. News & World Report, 12 March, 2014. Web. 20 January, 2016. 19. Bryce. 20. Ibid. 21. Alexander. 22. Bryce. 23. Chiba, Lee I. “Beef Cattle Nutrition and Feeding.” Animal Nutrition Handbook. n. ed. n. p. 454-485. Web. 21 January, 2016.f 24. Walton. 25. Babcock, Bruce A. “The Concentration of U.S. Agricultural Subsidies.” Iowa Ag Review. Volume 7, Issue 4 (Fall 2001): 7-9. Web. 17 January, 2016.
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7. Walton. 8. Wines, Michael. “Wells Dry, Fertile
Miami: Immediate Measures to Save a Sinking City By Fernando Costa Piani Garcia
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he Miami metropolitan is the 8th largest in the country, as it is home to over 5.9 million people. Its cultural and economic influence on the world cannot be understated; it is to this day a major center for finance, trade, media, and immigration into the United States1. However, like many coastal regions around the country, this area is slowly sinking; since 1870, average global sea level rise was about 8 inches, whereas in Southeast Florida it has risen by 12 inches2. The rise in sea level caused by climate change has led to an increasing number of floods, and climate scientists estimate that significant patches of local land will be permanently flooded in the decades to come. By 2060, scientists estimate that the sea level in Southeast Florida can rise between another 9 inches to two feet3. A major problem specific to South Florida is that the region’s limestone soil allows water to seep in from underground and renders the building of dikes and levees mostly useless4. The only way to ensure the safety and economic well being of the region for future generations is to modify current infrastructure to keep up with the change. This can only be accomplished through swift political action to increase awareness of the issue, hinder construction in at-risk areas, and ensure that current structures are modified accordingly. Background Miamians like to call abnormally high tides king tides, and in recent years, these king tides have gotten increasingly higher, with each new one exceeding previous pessimistic predictions5. There are several different estimates of how much the sea level is going to rise and consequently how large of a socioeconomic impact it would have on the affected areas. In the case of a one-foot rise by 2060, climate scientists estimate that the amount of taxable prop-
erty value that would be lost runs upwards of $4 billion. With a three-foot rise, this figure reaches $31 billion6. Current public works projects to pump all this water back into the Atlantic will cost the city of Miami Beach alone over $500 million between 2016 and 2020. In various areas across the region, city experts are re-engineering and raising the street level in order to keep up with the ever-increasing tides. In spite of all this, experts agree that these efforts are merely a temporary fix7. Unlike in places such as the Netherlands or New Orleans, building levees in the region would not be effective because of South Florida’s limestone soil. This particular type of soil is extremely porous; which means that if a levee were to be built, water would seep in from underground.8 Another key issue facing the region is saltwater contamination of the Everglades. In addition to being a national park and protected wildlife reservation, the Everglades are also home to what the South Florida Water Management District calls “the world’s largest water control system.”9 Because of the rise in sea level, the gap between the water level in the canals and the level of high tide has been reduced to only 8 inches. The difference in elevation between the water canal level and the high tide level is essential to keeping water flowing off the land toward the sea. Because of the increasingly lower difference, many experts fear that during storms water will have nowhere to run off to.10 This will cause inland floods and increase the risk of saltwater contamination. Moreover, the Everglades canal system and the Biscayne aquifer are the main sources of freshwater for the region, and the prospect of this system being contaminated by saltwater means cutting off the water supply of millions of local residents. One city just north of Miami, Hallandale Beach, has already had to close most of its drinking wells due to excessive saltiness in the water.11 To compensate for this loss, the city
Recommended Action The first step to solving an issue of such large a scale is to ensure that everyone, on both ends of the political spectrum, agrees that a problem exists and that it must be addressed immediately. To begin with, the state government of Florida must create an awareness campaign that acknowledges that climate change is an issue and that sea level rise is a direct consequence of it. This can take many forms, such as the implementation of climate change education on school curricula, mass media campaigns on the Internet, radio, television, newspapers, etc. The state of Florida can also take advantage of the Environmental Protection Agency’s State Climate and Energy program, which was created in order to lend environmental assistance to subnational jurisdictions.16 Not only can the program lend outreach assistance to the state government, but it can also provide analytical and support tools for further research on the issue. The state should also drop the lawsuit against the EPA, a move that would signal Florida’s recognition of the issue and commitment to reducing
emissions. On the municipal level, local governments must strengthen building codes to include new requirements such as adequate seawalls in the most endangered areas. Despite not offering a lasting solution to the issue, seawalls can allow the government and private citizens more time to make the necessary adjustments in infrastructure. Municipal governments should also create subsidies for those homeowners that cannot afford to make modifications to their property. In at-risk areas that are maintained by the state, the government of Florida should allocate more funding for Department of Transportation operations to regulate roads in order to adjust for increasing flooding. The government of Florida has to allocate more funds acquired through federal science grants into limestone research given that fixing the limestone issue is the only way to ensure that a large part of South Florida remains habitable. In order to protect the region’s water supply, state and municipal governments must allocate more funding for the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD). The SFWMD has already detected more than 20 faulty pumps over the last 6 years, but has only been able to fix one due to budget cuts.17 Keeping these pumps flowing is essential for the protection of the water control system of the region. Millions of people depend on this system not only for their drinking water but also to keep their land dry. Environmental codes for the pumps should be stricter as well, as there have been reports of murky water near the outfalls.18 Instituting mandatory chemical treatment for the water to be pumped out would significantly improve water quality and the protection of local marine life. The Southeast Florida Regional Compact, a union of Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe, and Palm Beach Counties, was created in 2010 to coordinate climate adaptation efforts.19 Some of their proposals need to be carefully reviewed and implemented by state and municipal governments. A first step would be to officially define Adaptation Action Areas (AAA) in Florida state law as areas that are more at-risk for coastal flooding and need to be adapted. Alongside this system, state and local governments should create mapping
initiatives in order to identify areas at potential risk in different inundation scenarios. An alternative would be to improve and build upon current initiatives by groups such as the Compact Inundation Mapping and Vulnerability Assessment and Work Group, which is the mapping arm of the Regional Compact.20 Another issue is that even though storm water rates have been going up, multiple new developments in risky regions have been given the green light every year. Creating a proximity tax, essentially a tax on the development and occupancy of properties near at-risk areas, would serve to hinder new developments in risky areas as well as incentivizing current residents to move to safer locations. To implement this tax, the state should use the data acquired through the aforementioned research and mapping initiatives to create a scale of riskiness that would determine the appropriate taxation for different areas. Even if the current actions here proposed were instituted immediately, the sea level rise would still consume a sizeable part of the Miami-Dade metro area. Creating a tax incentive for residents to move to safer areas is the most effective way to ensure that the economy and society of South Florida transition gradually and smoothly into newer and safer areas.
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proposed in 2011 to build six new wells and water lines at a cost of $10 million.12 The socioeconomic impact of saltwater intrusion in South Florida is among of the gravest environment issues in the region, and is one that requires the utmost attention of policy-makers. Florida politicians have nevertheless taken little action to address these issues. Governor Rick Scott has largely ignored the climate change debate, and has even been accused of prohibiting employees of several state agencies from using the terms “climate change” and “global warming” in official documents.13 In June 2015, he vetoed a $750,000 budget proposal for Miami Beach’s pump program, a vital tool through which floodwater is removed from streets and low-lying properties.14 Florida also joined another 23 states in a coalition to sue the Environmental Protection Agency for President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. The plan seeks to slash 32 percent of carbon emissions in the power sector by 2030, compared to 2005 levels.15 This discrepancy between South Florida’s immediate reality and the state government’s agenda is disturbing.
Endnotes 1. The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Miami.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2016. 2. Forbes Tompkins and Christina Deconcini. “Sea-Level Rise and Its Impact on Miami-Dade County.” Would Resources Institute Fact Sheet (2014): n. pag. World Resources Institute. World Resources Institute, 2014. Web. 20 Apr. 2016. 3. Broward County, Natural Resources Planning And Management, ed. A Region Responds to a Changing Climate - Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact Counties - Regional Climate Action Plan (n.d.): n. pag. Southeast Florida Regional Compact. Oct. 2012. Web. 24 Jan. 2016. 4. Elizabeth Kolbert. “Miami Underwater.” The New Yorker. Condé Nast, 21 Dec. 2015. Web. 24 Jan. 2016. 5. Ibid.
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6. Broward County, Natural Resources Planning And Management, ed. A Region Responds to a Changing Climate - Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact Counties - Regional Climate Action Plan (n.d.): n. pag. Southeast Florida Regional Compact. Oct. 2012. Web. 24 Jan. 2016. – page 8 7. Joey Flechas and Jenny Staletovich. “Miami Beach’s Battle to Stem Rising Tides.” Miamiherald. N.p., 23 Oct. 2015. Web. 24 Jan. 2016. 8. Ibid. 9. Kolbert 10. Ibid. 11. Ibid. 12. Goodell, Jeff. “Goodbye, Miami.” Rolling Stone. Wenner Media LLC, 20 June 2013. Web. 20 Apr. 2016. 13. Tristram Korten “Gov. Rick Scott’s Ban on Climate Change Term Extended to Other State Agencies.” Miamiherald. N.p., 11 Mar. 2015. Web. 24 Jan. 2016. 14. Joey Flechas. “Gov. Scott’s Vetoes Affect Storm Water, Accessible Beach Projects in Miami Beach.” Miamiherald. N.p., 25 June 2015. Web. 24 Jan. 2016. 15. Timothy Cama. “Two Dozen States Sue Obama over Coal Plant Emissions Rule.” TheHill. N.p., 23 Oct. 2015. Web. 24 Jan. 2016. 16. Environmental Protection Agency. “Climate Impacts on Coastal Areas.” EPA. gov. Environmental Protection Agency, n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2016. 17. Flechas and Staletovich 18. Ibid. 19. Broward County 9 20. Ibid.
By Anneliese Gallagher
hough New York has recently made the move away from coal energy, energy production across the state is still far from sustainable. Rather, New York’s consumption of natural gas has skyrocketed within the past five years. According the the US Energy Information Administration, the state consumed 1,321.6 trillion British thermal units (Btu) of natural gas energy in the year 2013.1 This was the state’s primary source of energy, with motor gasoline energy coming in second and nuclear electric power coming in third. Out of these top three, the top two are energy sources that contribute significantly to the increase of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Therefore, the state of New York must transition to a source of sustainable energy that functions efficiently on a large scale: biofuels. Background Finding energy alternatives that reduce carbon emissions should be a priority for the New York due to the opportune timing of investing in sustainability as well as the fact that reduced carbon emissions would improve overall quality of life.2 Though there are undeniable costs associated with introducing new types of energy, the precarious state of natural resources and climate change mean that the switch to sustainable energy is inevitable. Since climate change is bound to produce ever more dire situations, it will be less expensive in the long run to reduce carbon emissions now rather than in the future. For New York in particular, reducing carbon emissions will also improve overall quality of life. In the Bronx, for example, children have higher asthma prevalence and morbidity than any other group of children in the US, and according to a study by the US National Institutes of Health this is directly related to low air quality.3 Furthermore, global climate change is a serious threat to life on earth and in New York. If damage to the earth is not reversed and remedied in the next 20 years, many square miles of Manhattan could disap-
pear underwater as sea levels rise. Climate change has the most traceable correlation with transport and electricity industries, and if it continues down the current path, arctic permafrost will eventually melt and release dangerous amounts of methane into the air and water.4 For both shortand long-term reasons, the state of New York must take action to reduce carbon emissions. Today, natural gas is considered a “clean” form of energy, but it’s practical cleanliness depends on which other energy sources we choose to compare it against. Compared to coal and oil, natural gas is relatively low-carbon and sustainable.5 According to the American Gas Administration, coal energy produces 208,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per billion Btu and oil produces 164,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per billion Btu, while natural gas produces only 117,000 pounds per billion Btu. Only considering these statistics, natural gas could be deemed a sustainable form of energy. But in context of the respective carbon footprints of other alternative energy sources, the natural gas carbon footprint is enormous. For example, the only carbon emissions of hydropower are those associated with its construction, producing only 0.00000646 to 0.00001938 pounds of carbon dioxide per billion Btu. Since the carbon footprint of natural gas is detrimental and avoidable, New York must look towards other sources of energy. The state of Iowa has an energy policy mandating that ethanol biofuel products be mixed into gasoline products every year until 2022, in the hope that this practice would promote common use of sustainable energy.6 This policy, however, has been relatively unsuccessful due to its ethanol volume-based nature rather than emission-based. The volume-based requirement has led to the prevalence of corn ethanol, which only reduces emissions by 20%. Cellulosic fuel, a biofuel derived from wood chips or non-edible parts of plants, is more expensive to pro-
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Biofuel As a Sustainable Alternative
duce but reduces emissions by 80%. Iowa’s mandate has made it significantly more difficult for the cellulosic industry to get off the ground, but the fuel-based government restriction on the auto industry has been largely successful and is on track to cut 2008 emission rates in half by 2025. This is particularly relevant to the aviation industry, for airplanes are unable to run on solar or fuel cell electricity in the foreseeable future, but the need for sustainable energy remains urgent. Biofuels mixed with gasoline have therefore grown more common in particular airlines and companies independently aiming to reduce emissions.7 These initiatives must penned into state law in order to produce a more profound impact. Recommended Action
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Bioenergy is a renewable source of energy that makes use of biological materials such as plants, animals, and waste. It harnesses the solar energy that has been stored in the Carbon bonds of these biological materials. In 2013, New York consumed a total of only 130.6 trillion Btu of biofuels, making it the seventh most popular source of energy and its consumption rate approximately 10% of that of natural gas.8 Over the past ten years, the United States as a whole has seen very little growth in bioenergy use, while Europe’s bioenergy use has increased by nearly 1000% since 2006.9 Yet US production has nearly doubled in this time, meaning that the US is producing biofuels simply for the purpose of international trade. By introducing biofuels as a main source of energy, New York can lead the way for the US to catch up to Europe and China in terms of self-sustainability and efficient energy use and allocation. Bioenergy is particularly relevant to heating and electricity industries for the future. According to the International Energy Agency, world biomass production will increase almost tenfold by the year 2050. This means that in order to avoid becoming obsolete in the international community, the US needs to invest in bioenergy. Furthermore, biofuels are both easily accessible and environmentally friendly. They are low-carbon and therefore emissions are present but minimal.
The noteworthy drawbacks of biofuel include the ways in which production might take up land space and causes deforestation. According to a study conducted at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, the advent of biofuels in industry will cause a potential competition for land and water between bioenergy and food crops. The study warns of possible tensions and allocation disputes that could result between the agricultural and energy industries within both national and international spheres. This means that visionary plans for a future of bioenergy might not even make it past the drawing board due to the more immediate concerns of agriculture. Furthermore, the carbon dioxide emissions associated with the use of biofuel are far higher than those of other alternative energy sources. While biofuels such as biohydrogen and algae-based fuels produce a fraction of the carbon dioxide emissions of fossil fuels, energy sources such as wind, solar, and hydroelectric power have almost zero carbon dioxide emissions associated with their energy production, with the sole emissions occurring during the setup of power plants.10 This means that bioenergy is not the most sustainable method that exists; however, it is the most pragmatic transitional method and an important step to take if we are to preserve the planet for future generations. Despite these drawbacks, bioenergy is still the most important option for the New York government to promote because it is a new and cleaner form of energy that does not make all our existing technology obsolete and uses existing infrastructure. This represents a far less expensive transition to sustainability, therefore partisan concerns about costs of combating climate change will not be a factor in the advent of biofuel. Consider the fact that many of today’s cars and heating systems are made to run off of gasoline, coal, or other fossil fuels. The presence of these gas-operated technologies means that the switch to a different kind of liquid fuel is a far more feasible and inexpensive goal than completely overhauling this system in favor of a solar- or wind-operated batteries. Of course, these zero-emission methods would be ideal, but are not nearly as accessible or reliable as biofuels. New York State has easy access to a
great deal of lumber, making cellulosic biofuels the most advantageous pursuit of any biofuel.11 Self-sufficiency will provide fuel security rather than reliance on politically precarious fracking, and the use of cellulosic fuel in particular will not increase deforestation, as wood chips and plant pieces can be harvested without dismantling ecosystems. Just as biofuel can function as a gradual transitional process to other types of alternative energy, the transition to biofuel itself must come in gradual steps. Therefore, I recommend that the state of New York provide enough funding to halve overall carbon emissions within the aviation industry by 2030 and for its bioenergy systems to expand by 5% each year until that time. By 2050, the International Energy Agency predicts that, worldwide, bioenergy will provide up to 27% of the world’s transportation, as opposed to 2% in 2015.12 The International Energy Agency further predicts that bioenergy used for heat in industry will increase rapidly by this time, thus compounding the relevance of bioenergy across the world. This means that if the United States is to build and maintain international leverage with regards to energy in the coming decades, investment in biofuels as well as other sustainable energy sources is imperative. As a state that is home to one of the most populous yet energy-inefficient megacities in the world, it is important that New York take this initiative as a state regardless of federal policy. Above all, an economy relying on bioenergy will be renewable and self-sustainable. Endnotes
1. US Energy Information Administra-
tion. “New York State Profile and Energy Consumption Estimates.” US Energy Information Administration. United States Government, n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2016. 2. “Benefits for Cities in Climate Change Action.” Cities and Climate Change: An Urgent Agenda 10 (2010): 14-17. World Bank. International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Dec. 2010. Web. 22 Jan. 2016. 3. Warman, Karen, Ellen Johnson Silver, and Pam R. Wood. “Modifiable Risk Factors for Asthma Morbidity in Bronx Versus
Other Inner-City Children.” The Journal of asthma : official journal of the Association for the Care of Asthma46.10 (2009): 995– 1000. PMC. Web. 22 Jan. 2016. 4. Stern, Nicholas. “What Is the Economics of Climate Change?” World Economics April-June 2006 7.2 (2006): 1-5. Humphrey Fellowship. World Economics, Summer 2006. Web. 22 Jan. 2016. 5. “Environmental Benefits of Natural Gas.” American Gas Association. American Gas Association, 2016. Web. 16 Feb. 2016. 6. Oge, Margo. “The Problem With the Ethanol Mandate That Iowa Loves.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 28 Jan. 2016. Web. 15 Feb. 2016. 7. Boeing Commercial Airlines. “Boeing and Sustainable Aviation Biofuel Development.” Boeing. Boeing Commercial Airlines, Dec. 2015. Web. 22 Jan. 2016. 8. “Bioenergy.” International Energy Agency. International Energy Agency, 2016. Web. 21 Jan. 2016. 9. International Energy Agency 10. “Types Of Biofuel.” Biofuels. Biofuel. org.uk, 2010. Web. 15 Feb. 2016. 11. Department of Environmental Conservation. “Biofuels.” New York State. State of New York, n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2016. 12. International Energy Agency
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Overhauling US Energy Policy: Rethinking Fossil Fuel Subsidies and Clean Energy Regulations By Ricardo Jaramillo
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merican energy policy is in vast need of reform. In order to make the necessary emissions reductions to avert catastrophic climate change, policymakers need to revisit energy development policies – most notably, fossil fuel and clean energy subsidies. Every year, American taxpayers subsidize fossil fuel and coal companies a remarkable $4.9 billion dollars every year.1 Although subsidies to renewable energy companies have increased over the past 8 years, the competitive disadvantage that renewable energy companies experience in the face of an energy infrastructure that was constructed on carbon based fuels is substantial.2 Moreover, the subsidies that the fossil fuel industry receives are vestiges of a time in which drilling for oil was dramatically more risky and expensive. Advanced technologies have radically decreased production costs and made drilling both easier and more profitable3. Given the entrenched economic strength of the fossil fuel industry and environmental necessity of keeping the majority of fossil fuel reserves in the ground, American taxpayers should no longer be subsidizing fossil fuel extractions. Specifically, the United States federal government should eliminate current tax credits including, but not limited to, the “Intangible Drilling Costs” tax credit and reform the current land-leasing process for coal companies. Additionally, the federal government should enact serious reforms for licensing of hydroelectric and nuclear power in order to encourage investment and research. Nuclear and hydroelectric energy sources remain hampered by ineffective government regulations. Removing some of the excessive red tape for these energy sources – particularly in terms of the licensing process – of hydroelectric and nuclear energy would go a long way towards reducing US emissions, meeting energy demands, and lowering electricity prices.
Given the environmental and economic unsustainability of fossil fuels, it is clear that the United States should rethink the necessity of economic benefits towards fossil fuel companies and some over burdensome regulations that hamper renewable energy development. Background Since the 1800s, the United States has subsidized the extraction and development of fossil fuels. Originally, fossil fuel extraction was a costly and risky affair and it made sense to provide a cushion in case an oil well came up dry4. Additionally, given the risk that exploring a site for an oil well could be empty, Congress subsidized the costs of oil drilling even if the well came up empty. This subsidy, known as the “Depletion Allowance,” enables companies to indefinitely claim 15 percent tax depreciations on gross incomes. Estimates of the Depletion Allowance subsidy suggest that costs the taxpayer around $1 billion a year.5 The largest subsidy for the fossil fuel industry, however, is the “Intangible Drilling Costs” subsidy. Intangible drilling costs -- which comprise two-thirds of the overall US drilling costs -- are non-taxed costs related to drilling that have salvage value such as labor or drilling fluids. Combined, total production-related fossil fuel subsidies total to $41.4 billion over a ten-year period.6 These subsidies, many of which are over a century old, has allowed the fossil fuel industry to drill even when it would otherwise not make economic sense to do so. The state of nuclear and hydroelectric energy in the United States is a very different scenario from that of fossil fuels. Nuclear energy provides around 20 percent of the nation’s overall energy and yet the industry is in need of revitalization: the average age of a nuclear reactor is 34
Recommended Action As evidenced by the moral, economic, and environmental imperatives of combating climate change, the United States needs to enact several policies both to curb the extraction of fossil fuels and to encourage the safe development of nuclear and hydroelectric power. There are various policy solutions the United States government can pursue in order to reach these goals. First, the United States Congress and President should repeal the following fossil fuel subsidies and tax exemptions:
Intangible Drilling Costs Percentage Depletion for Oil and Natural Gas • Domestic manufacturing deduction for fossil fuel • Two-year amortization period for geological & geophysical expenditures • Percentage depletion for hard mineral fossil fuels • Expensing of exploration and development costs for hard mineral fuels • Capital gains treatment for royalties of coal • Deduction for tertiary injectants • Exception to passive loss limitation working interests in oil and natural gas properties • Enhanced oil recovery credit • Marginal wells cut Second, The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) should renew a 20 year operating license extension for all currently operating nuclear power plants. The NRC should adopt a “test-then-license” approach for future licensing procedures and establish a national testbed facility for nuclear reactor prototype development. Finally, the United States Congress and President should pass and sign the Hydropower Improvement Act of 2015. The aforementioned fossil fuel subsidies are not only economically misguided but also send the wrong signal to other countries at a time when the United States is trying to present itself as a leader of action on climate change. Moreover, the elimination of these subsidies could free up around $41 billion dollars over a decade – money that can be then re-invested into renewable energy initiatives. Given that the amount of US domestic oil production is expected to double over the next decade, the actual amount of money saved from eliminating these subsidies will likely be much higher. Although critics might claim that the elimination of these subsidies would eliminate jobs and raise electricity prices, studies show that their elimination would have no harmful economic effects because the major beneficiaries of these provisions are the executives of big oil companies.14 Furthermore, the very low fuel prices prove that consumer subsidies are wholly unnecessary because fuel is already cheap independent
of subsides. Although eliminating subsidies for fossil fuel companies might face some serious political opposition from Republican lawmakers, this provision could be incorporated into a larger corporate welfare reform bill that could draw upon bipartisan desire for a simplified tax code and elimination of wasteful spending and deficit reduction. The transition to a renewable energy economy faces serious economic and political challenges. The collapse of global oil prices has made it harder for renewable energy to compete and has encouraged demand. Already, however, the economic benefits of low oil prices have been proven to be overstated. Although low oil prices traditionally result in economic growth, economic analyses reveal that this time around that assumption is not necessarily true. JPMorgan, for example, revised their original prediction that low oil prices would contribute 0.7% growth to the total GDP to 0.1%.15 Oil-related private investment has halved, further undermining the economic benefits associated with expanded production. The weakened economic benefits associated with low oil prices has created a unique opportunity for renewable energy to expand production in the energy sector. Nuclear energy, already providing around 20% of U.S. energy, is primed to meet future energy needs. Nuclear energy, which generates zero emissions and can produce massive amounts of energy twenty four hours a day, does not suffer from the same intermittency problems as other renewable energy sources (like wind and solar) and creates thousands of jobs. Although some have voiced concern over the safety of nuclear power plants, many of these concerns are rooted from past nuclear meltdowns that occurred more than 30 years ago prior to advances in nuclear technology that have dramatically increased the safety of the facilities. Already the Obama administration has increased investment in nuclear energy R&D, recently approving a $40 million grant to help research alternative nuclear reactor designs.16 The federal government, however, needs to play an active role in both encouraging private investment in nuclear energy and also bridging the “valley of death” between the research efforts of nuclear power and the introduction of
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years and until recently no new nuclear reactors had been built for 30 years7. Current licensing regulations stifle innovation and development of new nuclear reactors – it can take millions of dollars and more than a decade to get a license for a prototype reactor.8 Such regulations have caused investors and companies to take their ideas elsewhere instead of the United States. Nuclear power is not the only clean energy industry that suffers from stifling regulations. Despite the fact that only 3 percent of America’s 80,000 dams currently produce electricity, hydroelectric power provides 6 percent of the nation’s total energy use.9 According to the US Department of Energy, electrifying just 100 locks and dams in certain rivers operated by the US Army Corps of Engineers could produce enough electricity to power 3 million homes10. America’s hydropower potential remains dramatically underinvested. A majority of dams and turbines use equipment that was designed and installed more than 50 years ago. Outdated and unnecessary licensing regulations have not only made maintaining and creating new dams incredibly expensive but also causes uncertainty that scares investors.11 The consequences of climate change are severe. Indeed, climate change brings serious damage to the economy;12 however, it is also recognized as a national security risk because of the potential for increased troop deployments to deal with natural disasters.13 If the United States is serious about combating climate change and the other harmful effects of fossil fuel consumption then it needs to change its energy policies to encourage the safe development of more forms of clean energy.
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nuclear energy into the market. To encourage private investment and provide regulatory certainty, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is in charge of regulating nuclear power plants in the US, should renew a 20 year operation license for all power plants whose current licenses are set to expire within the decade. By 2030, there will be an increasingly significant number of reactors seeking license renewals. A rapid short-term shutdown of nuclear reactors because of an inefficient licensing process could bring devastating results.17 It could have devastating implications for electricity prices and could cause thousands of jobs to be at stake. In addition to renewing the operating licenses for nuclear reactors, the NRC should also adopt a “test-then-license” approach to nuclear reactor development – similar to how the Federal Drug Administration tests and approves drugs. As part of creating an alternative licensing regime, the NRC should create a national testbed facility for nuclear reactor technology. The problem that nuclear energy businesses face in developing new reactor models is that they lack a facility in which they can safely test their new technology. The government can and should invest in the creation of a facility where nuclear reactor testing is conducted in safe and collaborative ways. By streamlining government licensing and providing research support, the government can help make nuclear energy more competitive not just by making it easier for nuclear energy businesses to increase production but also by producing research that decreases the high startup costs normally associated with nuclear reactors. In addition to providing regulatory certainty, reforming nuclear energy regulations will prevent the current tech drain of nuclear energy going to other countries to China and instead encourage companies to invest in the US. Nuclear energy is not the only form of renewable energy that would benefit from a regulatory facelift. Hydroelectric power has an important role to play in the nation’s transition to a renewable energy economy. Hydroelectric power has positive environmental and economic benefits and enjoys bipartisan support. Congress passed previous laws making it easier to license smaller hydropower plants, and the current 2015 Hydropower Improvement
Act is being debated in Congress and has a good chance of making it through both chambers. The Hydropower Improvement Act not only lowers the burdensome costs of licensing for hydropower projects (which oftentimes cost more than the actual construction of the facility) but also eliminates duplicitous and unnecessary review processes that result in regulatory uncertainty and delays. President Obama, in his last year of office, should reconsider his original opposition to the bill and instead view hydropower as a useful and powerful tool to reduce US carbon emissions. Although the President is concerned with the ecological impacts of increasing the amount of dams, he should consider the massive energy benefits and the long-term decrease of fossil fuel emissions that investing in hydroelectric power would bring. From a political perspective, all of the aforementioned policies have arguments that should be persuasive to both Republicans and Democrats. Republicans that are interested in eliminating wasteful spending and regulatory red tape or securing energy independence. They could also be interested in ensuring the viability of American nuclear and hydroelectric power. Moreover, there are many Republicans who would look favorably upon the opportunity to beat China in energy innovation. There are also reasons why Democrats should be supportive of the aforementioned policies – most notably because of widespread support among Democrats for taking action aimed at combating climate change. That being said, Big Oil will likely spend millions in lobbying to attempt to stymie any sort of sweeping energy reform that threatens their privileged status within the tax code. There are also a variety of environmental groups that are opposed to nuclear energy and hydroelectric power because of concerns about the potential destruction of ecosystems. While environmental regulations are certainly necessary, many environmental concerns are based on outdated science that does not assume for both the effectiveness of fewer regulations and the advanced technologies that have made these forms of alternative energy safer. And even if there are some marginal environmental costs, the current environmental toll being collected by coal and fossil fuel extraction is substantially
greater. Ultimately, what remains in question is whether policymakers can get serious about tackling climate change and, rather than continue to subsidize the dirty energy of the past, invest in the clean energy solutions of the future. By eliminating fossil fuel production subsidies and reforming regulations concerned nuclear and hydroelectric power, the United States can lead the way towards the a zero-emissions future and encourage other countries to do the same. Too many energy policies are outdated and in dire need of an update. Americans deserve subsidies and regulations that reflect the 21st century energy needs — not the energy conditions of one hundred years ago. Eliminating fossil fuel subsidies and rethinking nuclear and hydropower regulations would send a strong signal that the United States is doing its fair share to help tackle a global problem. Endnotes
1. Joseph Aldy, “Money for Nothing: The
Case for Eliminating US Fossil Fuel Subsidies,” Money for Nothing: The Case for Eliminating US Fossil Fuel Subsidies. Resources for the Future, 11 Apr. 2014. 2. Gordon, Kate. “Why Renewable Energy Still Needs Subsidies.” The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, published 14 Sept. 2015, Page online at http:// blogs.wsj.com/perts/2015/09/14/why-renewable-energy-still-needs-subsidies/, last accessed February 19th, 2016 3. Aldy, “Money for Nothing”, 34 4. Ibid. 5. Kroll, Andy, “Triumph of the Drill”, Mother Jones, published 14th April 2014, page online at http://www.motherjones. com/politics/2014/04/oil-subsidies-renewable-energy-tax-breaks 6. Aldy, “Money for Nothing”, 35 7. Nuclear Energy Insitute, “Building New Nuclear Facilities”, page online at http:// www.nei.org/Issues-Policy/New-Nuclear-Energy-Facilities/Building-New-Nuclear-Facilities, accessed February 19th 8. Richard Martin, “Advanced Nuclear Industry to Regulators: Give Us a Chance”, MIT Technology Review, published October 13th, 2015, page online at http:// www.technologyreview.com/s/542411/
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advanced-nuclear-industry-to-regulators-give-us-a-chance/, accessed February 19th, 2016 9. Lisa Murkowski and Jay Faison, “Stop Wasting America’s Hydropower Potential,” The New York Times, published13 Jan. 2016, page online at http://www.nytimes. com/2015/01/14/opinion/stop-wasting-americas-hydropower-potential. html?_r=2, accessed February 19, 2016 10. Report from the United States Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. An Assessment of Energy Potential at Non-Powered Dams in the United States. By Boualem Hadjerioua and Yaxing Wei, published April 2012. Print. 11. Murkowski and Faison, “Stop Wasting America’s Hydropower Potential” 12. Alicia Mundy and Colleen Nelson, “ Climate Change is Hurting the Economy, Report Says”, The Wall Street Journal, published may 6th, 2014, page online at http:// on.wsj.com/1w2GfbS, accessed February 19th, 2016. 13. Rowan Scarborough, “Climate Change ‘urgent and growing threat’ to national security: Pentagon”, Washington Times, published July 29th, 2015, page online at http:// www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/ jul/29/climate-change-urgent-security-threat-pentagon/ , accessed February 19th 2016 14. Aldy, “Money for Nothing”, 36-37 15. The Economist, “Who’s Afraid of Cheap Oil”, published January 26 2016, page online at http://www.economist. com/news/leaders/21688854-low-energy-prices-ought-be-shot-arm-economythink-again-whos-afraid-cheap, accessed February 19, 2016 16. Henry Fountain, “U.S. Acts to Spur Development of High-Tech Reactors,” The New York Times, published Janurary 19th, 2016, page online at http://nyti. ms.1njQtnE, accessed feubrary 19th, 2016. 17. Nuclear Energy Institute, “Second License Renewal for Nuclear Plants”, page online at http://www.nei.org/Issues-Policy/Second-License-Renewal-for-Nuclear-Plants
Tackling Urban Development in a Smart and Sustainable Manner By Simon Schwartz
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rban Sprawl is a problem. This is evident both in my adopted city of New York, and Washington DC, much closer to my actual home. In New York, and especially in Manhattan, space is at a premium – Columbia itself can certainly attest to this. Thus, the continued urban development of the city must be a creative process, maximizing utility for residents while fostering a community which businesses feel is an opportunity to enter. In Washington DC, there is actual space available to develop, unlike in New York City, but this space is a double-edged sword. While Washington does not have to deal with many of the municipal space-related problems of New York, the relative abundance of space has allowed Washington-area developers to be careless with their projects. The once-bucolic region of Northern Virginia and Southern Maryland are now best known as Washington’s sprawling suburbia, dotted with inefficient and unimaginative strip malls. In both situations, however, Urban Sprawl represents a continual and growing danger to the environment. Thoughtless urban development and poor infrastructure are key drivers of both air and noise pollution in the world today. While fundamentally, the role of urban planners adhering to smart growth is to maximize efficiency and utility, clean technology, “green” energy creation and building construction are increasingly finding a place in smart growth development plans. Additionally, often smart growth is a question of antiquation, where replacing outdated infrastructure and municipalities represents the key to reinventing urban communities. In the case of planning for future urban expansion, creative infrastructure and municipality options often represent a chance – however costly – to experiment with new and improved forms of community development, which of course includes environmental considerations.
Background The standard definition of Smart Growth is “planned economic and community development that attempts to curb urban sprawl and worsening environmental conditions,”1 which is certainly true, but often invites a response along the lines of, “such planning sounds like a serious curtailment of potential profitability for firms looking to occupy that location.” While it is true that Smart Growth development leaves no room for “strip malls” and massive retail chain stores, when done right, Smart Growth development promotes powerful economic and social advantages of other kinds, many of which have positive environmental rewards. Such advantages include: Shift in Traffic from Automobile traffic to Foot Traffic At first glance, strip malls may seem like an efficient way to cluster retail locations, but while there is efficiency in proximity, there is an incredible amount of inefficiency brought on from congested traffic patterns, which in turn lead to a higher number of vehicles on the road at any given time. This means higher greenhouse emissions in the form of exhaust gas. Developers tend to try mending congestion by simply widening the highways, but simple magnitude of traffic is not the entirety of the problem. Congestion stems from traffic “options” – the multitude of exits, ramps, cross streets, traffic lights, and parking lots – that are necessary infrastructure in strip malls and other urban sprawl-type development. In smart growth developments, where retail stores are clustered around a main street or some other distinct location with infrastructure for foot traffic, the traffic congestion that stems from traffic options ceases to be an issue. The economic metric for this concept is a walkability score, or “the degree
Boosting Compacted, Localized Economies Smart Growth Projects such as mass transit, urban renewal and civic beautification help to create a clear sense of “destination” for a specific location, instead of melding into the monotonous urban sprawl that surrounds most American cities today. Creating this sense of destination helps to strengthen local economies by providing the opportunity for the locale in question to brand itself unique, apart from the urban mass around it, and create a micro-culture that is distinctive and enticing. One of the first examples of this was Reston Town Center in Fairfax County Virginia4. Reston brings together retailers and residential units, and binds them with a distinct and aesthetically pleasing infrastructure. Since its inception in 1962, Reston has become a hub for commerce in Northern Virginia – over 50% of regional venture fund stems from firms in Reston – and has managed to do so without surrendering to the urge to blend into the urban sprawl that consumes most of Northern Virginia. Building compact commercial and residential development footprint certainly qualifies as an environmentally conscious strategy for a region. Compact and locally focused townships like Reston uniformly score well on emission and waste management scores, in part because the centralized nature of the community means that structures are shared and walkability scores are generally high, and additionally because environmental concerns are increasingly being strongly considered in the initial building process of these communities. Defining the Limits of Urban Zones
ters. In fact, it is suburban areas and rural townships that perhaps have the most to gain from smart growth. A fantastic case study is the town of Marshall Virginia. Originally settled in the 1750s, Marshall sits at exit 24, right off I-66, which is the main thoroughfare through the urban sprawl that belts Washington DC to the south and west. As urban sprawl has crept closer and closer down I-66, citizens of Marshall have scrambled to undertake smart growth projects as a means of defense. Beginning in 2015, Marshall’s Main Street will receive a much needed facelift, through replacing sidewalks and implementing new ones, and burying power and transmission lines underground. Additionally, private investors have worked to attract local entrepreneurs to locations on and around Main Street Marshall that will serve create a unique brand, making Marshall a tourism hub for those who want to experience the bucolic region of Hunt Country Virginia, and the greater Shenandoah. By creating a brand for the rural locale, Marshall is able to attract business – in the form of tourists who want to experience the region and entrepreneurs or small business owners who want to take part in the Marshall brand – and make it clear to developers that any development that take place in Marshall needs to fit the smart growth vision. The end result of these smart growth developments is to create a distinct and purposeful boarder around major urban centers, defining the limits of residential and commercial development, and therefore defining the limit of city-wide emissions, and reinforcing the need for creative and efficient environmental-conscious urban infrastructure. Case Study: Greater-Washington DC
Washington DC has some unconventional building code restrictions that prevent vertical construction - a 1910 act for example restricted the height of any building to the width of the adjacent street plus 20 feet5 - but throughout recent times the city has been creative in many ways of expanding. Washington’s metro system opened in 1976 and by 1983 had expanded into the surrounding counties Smart Growth communities are not of Fairfax VA and Montgomery MD6. This limited to subsectors of major urban cen- seemed to herald the coming of econom-
ic and commercial growth in the greater Washington DC area, and while that did indeed occur, the smart growth, mass transit infrastructure that was put in place was not matched with the zoning regulations that prohibited urban sprawl. While making Washington very commutable, this growth also set off the suburbanization that has swallowed up many of the counties surrounding Washington DC, and now threatens the rustic landscape of north-western Virginia and southern Maryland. Recommended Action A joint program should be established between Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia, that raises the fare of tolls on highways into and out of Washington DC, and uses the revenue to fund urban renewal and sustainable infrastructure projects in the District. Washington has saw great success post-recession in urban renewal projects. For example, following the construction of National’s Park in 20087, the area around the Anacostia Waterfront, long considered a remnant of an older, seedier Washington, saw a massive investment of capital in an effort to create the type of destination branding defined above. The same investment of capital could go to revitalizing other parts of Washington DC in sustainable, environmentally conscious ways, through projects such as renovating the metro-rail and incentivizing entrepreneurs and small business owners to come and claim Washington DC neighborhoods for themselves these projects come with the added benefit of being funded by policy that reduces the number of automobiles travelling in and out of the city, reducing emissions. Raising toll fares helps to reduce traffic magnitude in surround states as well, by forcing commuters to carpool or use mass transit, and although the revenue raised would not go back to Virginia or Maryland directly, the policy would be the first step in the process of curbing Washington’s urban sprawl and transitioning to a smart (re)development of the region that is more environmentally friendly. There is economic benefit in this shift in development tactics as well. Each metro hub has the potential for smart growth, and the
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to which an area encourages walking for recreational or functional purposes.”2 Logically speaking, walkability score varies indirectly with the amount of greenhouse emissions given off from a community. This is due to in part to a reduction of automobile exhaust in the area. Additionally, recent studies from the University of Arizona show that a community’s walkability score correlates positively with the value of commercial property.3
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potential to be a branded destination with easily accessible retail options; one that is environmentally conscious, and highly walkable at that. These metro hubs would, in a way, be following the Reston Town Center model: simultaneously deriving environmental and economic benefit out of creative development while taking a stance against monotonous urban sprawl. Smart growth means many things to many different communities. In Washington DC it means supporting economic growth in efficient, environmentally sustainable and aesthetically pleasing ways. In Rural Virginia it means deriving economic growth from the preservation and marketing of a distinct cultural identity. In my adopted home of New York, where horizontal space is at a premium, perhaps the definition of smart growth lies in finding the optimum way to utilize the vertical space above, and in the complex waste management of America’s largest city. One point, however, is clear everywhere: uniformity is not the answer. Both environmental and economic planning requires situational and background knowledge and a creative strategy to develop the locale into the best version of itself, instead of a reflection of the antiquated development that came before it. Endnotes 1. “What is “smart growth”?.” Smart Growth America. N.p., 20 Apr. 2016. Web. 22 Apr. 2016. <http://www.smartgrowthamerica. org/what-is-smart-growth>. 2. “Smart Growth Boosts Foot Traffic.” Smart Growth America. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2016. <http://www.smartgrowthamerica.org/issues/business/ smart-growth-boosts-foot-traffic/>. 3. “THE WALKABILITY PREMIUM IN COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE INVESTMENTS.” Real Estate Economics. Ed. Gary Pivo and Jeffery Fisher. University of Arizona, n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2016. <http://www.u.arizona.edu/~gpivo/Walkability%20 Paper%20February%2010.pdf>. 4. “Reston Master Plan.” restonmuseum. com. Reston Museum, n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2016. 5. Loislaw., . “Primary Acts passed by U.S. Congress. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print. 6. “”Metro’s Orange Line Begins Service Today”.” The Washington Post (1978): C1.
Print. 7. Ladson, Bill. “ “All Eyes on Nationals to Open Season”.” MLB Advanced Media. , 18 Dec. 2007. Web. 22 Apr. 2016.
Healthcare In the Healthcare section of the Roosevelt Review, Sumya Akkas (CC’19) discusses the need for comprehensive care access for undocumented immigrants across the nation, and presents successful pilot programs and best practices for this cause. Next, Olivia Ghosh argues against the future regulation of the human gene editing tool Crispr-Cas9 (CC’19). Then, Emma Gomez CC’19 strategizes how to improve reproductive health care for women in North Carolina. Catherine Hoang (BC’19) proposes a move away from police forces as the sole source of help in emergency situations involving mental health. Madison Marko (BC ’19) advocates banning the reintroduction of the Hyde Amendment in order to make abortion more affordable. I (Kunal Shah (CC’17) discuss the need for improved telehealth access in rural areas of the U.S., especially for treatment of mental disorders and psychological screenings. Chapter President Nikita Singareddy (CC’17) proposes the use of smart card technology by Medicare patients in conjunction with Electronic Medical Records to better safe keep protected health information while promoting healthcare information exchange for research. Finally, Jordan Singer (CC’19) relays the need for New York to switch to an opt-out system for organ donations. - Kunal Shah 71
“Direct Access” to Healthcare for Undocumented Immigrants By Sumya Akkas
he United States is the only wealthy member nation of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that does not guarantee universal health coverage.1 Healthcare is linked to lower mortality rates, improved education, and employment outcomes. Moreover, a high uninsured population hinders the ability of hospital systems –which provide care regardless of insurance coverage - to provide affordable, efficient, accessible, and quality care.2 In 2014, an estimated 33 million Americans (10.4% of residents) did not have health insurance and about 7 million (21.2%) of these uninsured residents were undocumented.3 Health insurance is nearly inaccessible to undocumented immigrants, placing a burden on them, their municipalities, and their hospital systems alike. Municipalities can ameliorate this issue by implementing direct access primary and preventative healthcare programs that provide healthcare where federal and state efforts have failed to expand coverage. Background The passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010 allowed for the largest increase in the number of insured residents in four decades. Despite the legislation’s success in expanding healthcare, the ACA excludes 11 million undocumented immigrants by explicitly prohibiting them from purchasing insurance through Health Exchanges, organizations set up to facilitate the purchase of health insurance in each state.4 The Obama Administration’s passage of the November 2014 Executive Action removed this barrier for some immigrants by expanding health coverage to individuals with both deferred action status and income-eligibility for Medicaid.5 Other undocumented immigrants will remain subject to the same insufficient health care options. Under current legislation, Medicaid
offers funding for lifesaving emergency care, labor and delivery, and safety-net clinics. These clinics offer free or low-cost primary care services to all uninsured individuals, regardless of their immigration status. However, they frequently fail to provide competent care for many forms of chronic and fatal illnesses, because Emergency Medicaid does not bear the cost of all medication and care, including prenatal care, outpatient dialysis, and life-saving chemotherapy.6 Uninsured individuals also have access to public hospitals, which are partially funded by their respective municipalities. These nonprofits face tremendous costs due to emergency visits or treatment that could have been avoided if patients received adequate primary and preventative care. In 2009, the estimated cost of treating uninsured, undocumented immigrants at safety-net facilities (including emergency rooms and community health clinics) amounted to a colossal $4.3 billion per year. In 2013, estimated emergency treatment costs to Medicaid alone amounted to about $2 billion a year, the majority of which is attributed to the care of undocumented immigrants. Frank Rodriguez, president of the Latino Health Care Form in Texas, and an advocate for immigrant health coverage, argues that “Those bills could’ve been drastically reduced. There are no preventative health measures, so [undocumented, uninsured immigrants] end up having to use emergency care.”7 In 2014, when California expanded Medi-Cal, the state-run health program, Los Angeles County’s three largest public hospitals noted a 9% decrease in care for uninsured patients.8 Simply granting access to primary, preventative, and diagnostic care drastically reduces costly emergency visits; the absence of this care causes avertable hardship upon individuals and diminishes their ability to provide for their families and contribute to their city. A group of UCLA researchers esti-
Recommended Action State shortcomings recently impelled New York City Mayor De Blasio’s office to address the issue within the municipality, and other cities should follow suit. In Spring 2016, NYC will launch Direct Access, an initiative to provide improved access to primary, preventative, and diagnostic healthcare to the estimated 350,000
undocumented residents without health insurance. The plan is modeled after local efforts in Los Angeles and San Francisco, MyHealth LA (MHLA) and Healthy San Francisco (HSF), to offer undocumented residents comprehensive health care options; the NYC plan includes necessary modifications that MHLA and HSF should apply and prospective programs should implement.11 MyHealth LA is a no-cost health care program that was launched in October 2014. It offers primary, preventative, and some diagnostic services to low-income (at or below 138% of the Federal Poverty Index (FPL)), uninsured residents through a network of 164 community clinic medical home sites. Healthy San Francisco also offers comprehensive health care for a participation fee and point-of-service fee to all low-income residents (up to to 500 percent of the FPL) through a network of public, nonprofit, and for-profit providers.12 The NYC program will (1) provide comprehensive services delivered in a coordinated fashion across a dedicated network of providers, (2) provide patient care coordination and customer service to facilitate timely access to care, (3) assign patients to culturally competent primary care medical homes that use technology-based solutions to coordinate care, and (4) include predictable and affordable participant point-of-service fees scaled to income and consistent across the entire network.13 All three local efforts and the programs in Massachusetts and Nevada fill the gaps in safety nets by providing coordinated comprehensive services across a network of providers and emphasizing care coordination between health centers, specialists, and hospitals. They use a variation of a primary care medical home, which ensures access to care, prevents health issues from developing into more serious illnesses, and reduces unnecessary and costly emergency visits. Community centers and hospitals do not have access to the same specialists and are unable to determine where they can send their uninsured patients in situations of life-threatening and chronic conditions; designating primary care providers to individuals allows the primary care center to identify whether health issues can be resolved in a primary care center or whether patients should be
referred to a specialist. This coordination allows patients to receive access to timely, affordable, and quality care by reducing medically unnecessary appointments and long wait times at specialty clinics.14 NYC’s Direct Access is designed to provide these services in the most comprehensive and accessible manner. It will offer translation services and ensure that patients receive culturally competent care because language and cultural barriers have prevented many immigrants from receiving adequate care or even obtaining knowledge of the services available to them. The program is also accessible to anyone with an IDNYC card, a municipal identification card that can be obtained with proof of identity and residence. Currently, primary care health care providers in New York, California, and many other states are not required to serve patients that are uninsured, so the absence of an income requirement (unlike MHLA and HSF) allows uninsured individuals who are not low-income (and even lawful residents) to participate and pay based on their income. This also allows some patients to contribute to the cost of the care. NYC’s one-year pilot project has an estimated cost of $6 million and expects to serve about 1000 people in two neighborhoods. This cost will be covered by the Mayor’s Fund and philanthropic organizations. City Council will also provide $2.5 million to finance programs to disseminate information about the new health services among immigrants and to increase the system’s capacity to serve more people. The City expects this cost to be countered by a reduction in more expensive emergency room visits. The program will also funded by private and public partnerships in the future, like HSF, to provide the most comprehensive care.15 HSF, which charges participation fees and point-of-service fees (except for persons who are homeless or living below the FPL), expanded its public safety-net to establish a public-private partnership that includes private hospitals and physicians.16 This partnership allows the program to provide more comprehensive care and reach more individuals. Efforts to establish private-public partnerships in LA were defeated by organized labor objections to expanding country contracts to private providers; thus, MHLA depends entirely
mated that 5.1 million undocumented immigrants will be uninsured by 2016;9 therefore, health care reform is imperative for the lives of millions of Americans, but the federal government’s legislation excludes undocumented immigrants and consequent state efforts have had limited success. Nevada and Massachusetts have successful state programs that ensure sufficient primary and preventative care to all residents, whereas states like New York and California have been unable to pass legislation that encompasses the needs of all residents. A nonprofit organization in Nevada, Access to Healthcare Network (AHN), offers medical discount programs, specialty care coordination, and a health insurance program. In Massachusetts, all immigrants are eligible for some form of comprehensive health care through Mass Health Limited (the state’s form of Emergency Medicaid). The Children’s Medical Security Plan (est. in 1996) also guarantees primary and preventative care to all children. However, California Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 4 just last year to extend eligibility for Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid program, to all undocumented residents under the age of 19. This program offers the same coverage that has been available to children in Massachusetts for the past twenty years. The California bill originally intended to extend coverage to all undocumented immigrants, but it received opposition due to fear of the high cost of expanding Medi-Cal coverage (estimated $170 to $740 million annually) and the possibility of encouraging an influx of undocumented immigrants.10 Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin’s 4-year initiative to establish a statewide Single-Payer Health Care System ended in 2015. Like Vermont and California, most states require health care reform that addresses the needs of undocumented residents.
on public safety-net systems. Nevertheless, the program has a $61 million annual budget and the potential to serve 280,000 of the estimated 4000,000 uninsured residents. In 2015, the program successfully served approximately 135,000 patients. Prospective direct access programs can expect to have similar costs and should be financed by public-private partnerships to provide the most comprehensive care.17 One gap that the direct access program fails to address is the inability of health care providers to meet the increased demand for primary care. As more residents are insured, especially following the Affordable Care Act, the insufficient quantity of primary care physicians and dentists contributes to the inefficiency of community clinics. Moreover, current regulations in some states, like New York, prevent clinicians from practicing to the full extent of their education and training. In addition to expanding the primary workforce, practice regulations must be revised to meet the current and projected primary care needs of low-income communities.18 “It’s critical to get these people, who are American in everything but a piece of paper, access to care they need now before it becomes something we’re paying for in the long run,” said Alaro Huerta, a staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center.19 In the face of lack of federal or even state action, municipalities should aim to provide the necessary accessible, affordable, and quality health care services all residents deserve. Endnotes
1. Jon Greenberg. “Bernie Sanders: U.S.
‘Only Major Country’ That Doesn’t Guarantee Right to Health Care,” PolitiFact. 2 Jun 2015, 22 Jan. 2016. <http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2015/ jun/ 29/bernie-s/bernie-sanders-us-onlymajor-country-doesnt-guaran/>. 2. Shannon McConville, et al., “Health Coverage and Care for Undocumented Immigrants,” Public Policy Institute of California, Nov 2015, 19 Jan. 2016, <http://www.ppic.org/main/publication_ quick.asp?i=1167>. 3. Anna Maria Barry-Jester and Ben Casselman. “33 Million Americans Still Don’t Have Health Insurance.” FiveThirtyE-
ight. 28 Sept. 2015, 21 Feb. 2016, <http:// fivethirtyeight.com/features/33-millionamericans-still-dont-have-health-insurance/>. 4. Steven P. Wallace, et al., “Undocumented Immigrants and Health Care Reform,” 31Aug. 2012, 22 Jan. 2016. <http://healthpolicy.ucla.edu/publications/Documents/ PDF/undocumentedreport-aug2013. pdf>. 5. Nancy Berlinger, et al., Undocumented Immigrants and Access to Health Care in New York City,” Apr. 2015, 2 Jan. 2015, <http://www.undocumentedpatients.org/ wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Undocumented-Immigrants-and-Access-toHealth-Care-NYC-Report-April-2015. pdf>. 6. Wallace., 11. 7. Soumya Karlamangla and Ryan Menezes. “Since Obamacare, LA County ER Visits Show Hospitals in “State of Flux.” Los Angeles Times, 1 Jan. 2015, 13 Mar. 2016, <http://www.latimes/com/local/california/ia-me-emergency-visits-20120102story.html>. 8. Rohit Kuruvilla and Rajeev Raghavan, “Health Care for Undocumented Immigrants in Texas,” TexasMedicine, Jul 2014, 21 Jan, 2016, <http://www.texmed.org/July14Journal/>. 9. Ibid., 4. 10. Elizabeth Whitman, “Immigration Health Care Reform 2015: States Move to Help Undocumented Immigrants Without Medical Insurance,” International Business Times, 19 Feb. 2015, 19 Jan. 2015 <http://www.ibtimes.com/immigration-health-care-reform-2015-states-move-help-undocumented-immigrants-without-1820458>. 11. Press Office of the Office of the Mayor, “Mayor de Blasio Announces Plan to Improve Immigrant Access to Health Care Services,” The City of New York, 8 Oct., 2015, <http://www1.nyc.gov/officeof-the-mayor/news/701-15/mayor-deblasio-plan-improve-immigrant-accesshealth-care-services>. 12. Berlinger., 12. 13. Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, “Improving Immigrant Access to Health Care in New York City, Oct 2015, 26 Dec 2015, <http:// www1.nyc.gov/assets/home/downloads/
pdf/reports/2015/immigrant-health-taskforce-report.pdf>. 14. Berlinger., 12. 15. “City Plans to Bring ‘Direct Access’ Healthcare to Undocumented Immigrants,” NY1 News, 10 Nov. 2015: 2, Time Warner Cable News NY1, 11 Mar. 2016, <http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/ health-and-medicine/2015/11/10/direct-access-healthcare-plan.html>. 16. Berlinger., 11. 17. Ibid., 12. 18. Ibid, 9. 19. Whitman., 3.
CRISPR: An Argument Against Future Regulations
In early December, 2015, a group of scientists convened in Washington, D.C., to discuss the emerging ease of human gene editing with the discovery of a tool called CRISPR-Cas9.1 In simple terms, this tool gives scientists the ability to basically cutand-paste sections of the human genome, and in effect, engineer humans to be free of hereditary disease. However, there is concern because this method makes gene editing easy and inexpensive. What does it mean to artificially alter the code that makes us individuals? What policy can be put in place to protect both the freedom of scientific research and society? Background
unprecedented preventive medicine for inheritable diseases, there are social and political implications of the technology and fears that this technology could harm society in unforeseen ways. In addition to the medical potential for the eradication of certain diseases, the use of CRISPR introduces an underlying notion that certain genes are better than others. While that notion may be true concerning health and physical ability, when that idea is applied to appearance, the technology is eerily reminiscent of eugenics. Columbia Professor Robert Pollack writes, “the positive selection of “good” versions of the human genome and the weeding out of “bad” versions, not just for the health of an individual, but for the future of the species,” is a nod to eugenic theories, and should not be tolerated.4 When humans begin to decide which traits are desirable, outliers are not only socially ostracized, but they are at a genetically engineered disadvantage. CRISPR opens the door to a social hierarchy reliant on genetics, driven to benefit the only those who can afford it. Wealthy people with enough resources can afford the genetic enhancement of their offspring, which would widen the wealth gap considerably. Not only do the genetically engineered offspring, or “designer babies,” have social privilege, but they are also created with genes to make them stronger, faster, smarter, more beautiful humans. In the MIT Technology review, Antonio Regalado writes that human germline engineering puts humans on the “path toward a dystopia of superpeople and designer babies for those who can afford it. Want a child with blue eyes and blond hair? Why not design a highly intelligent group of people who could be tomorrow’s leaders and scientists?”5 The upper echelons of society become even farther removed from the lower, and social mobility becomes obsolete. Many of
Before this question can be answered, it is important to understand the background of scientific discovery and policy. The most easily applicable historical antecedent is the discovery of the technique to clone mammals. Though it was a significant revolution in genetic research, cloning was also condemned by those who felt it was unethical given the health risks associated with the technique. Human cloning was banned by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and by the United States Federal Government with a series of bills in the early 2000s.2 Despite cloning being a potential new reproductive method, the skeptics of its ethical merits prevailed, and it was banned in humans.3 Now, a new genetic revolution is facing the scientific community, and society as a whole. The New York Times writes, “The technique, known as CRISPR-Cas9 and now widely accessible, would allow physicians to alter the human germline, which includes the eggs and the sperm, to cure genetic disease or even enhance desirable physical or mental traits.” Essentially, the technology allows for the concept of “designer babies” to become reality. While it is true that the technology would allow for these critics of genetic enhancement state that the American dream will die because it is im-
By Olivia Ghosh
possible to fight privilege that is encoded in DNA. There are some scientists who argue that human germline editing, with tools like CRISPR, is important to the innovative well-being of scientific research, and that there should be no ban on the practice. Harvard geneticist George Church is one such proponent, and he addresses the point of human enhancement by arguing that no formal agreement or policy will stop ambitious scientists from pursuing the field of study.6 Citing the indomitable practice of doping in sports, he asserts that people will stop at nothing to improve their performance, even in the face of calls for fairness and equality. The ban on editing would merely slow progress in genetic research and innovation in science. Recommended Action
Scientific research should not be inhibited by governmental policy that serves to protect people if there is no real threat. Given that the research will be happening whether the government regulates it or not, especially in foreign countries, it is important that the United States government not let this country’s scientists fall behind. For that reason, I do not recommend a ban on further research into human gene editing. Instead, the policy that would govern the science must keep in mind the social dangers in relation to the medical advantages of CRISPR. CRISPR-Cas9 has the potential to revolutionize preventive medicine, and it would be cruel to keep such technology away from medical practice for the sake of the unborn children who may not have to suffer as much as their parents from hereditary disease. However, I believe that changes to the human germline that cause cosmetic effects, such as changes in skin color, hair color, eye color, height, etcetera, should be banned. CRISPR and other human gene editing techniques should target previously determined predispositions for diseases, and they should not be used to create an artificially perfect human being. This policy would protect the scientific community in continuing its research on this powerful technique, but it would also protect society from an influx of “superhumans” with undue opportunity, privilege, and ability.
1. Wade, Nicholas. “Scientists Seek Mor-
atorium on Edits to Human Genome That Could Be Inherited.” The New York Times. The New York Times Company. 3 Dec 2015. Web. 27 Jan 2016. 2. “American Association for the Advancement of Science Statement on Human Cloning.” AAAS. AAAS. 14 Nov 2013. Web. 27 Jan 2016. 3. “Laws and Public Policy about Cloning.” Cloning: A Webliography. Michigan State University. 4 Mar 2009. Web. 27 Jan 2016. 4. Pollack, Robert. “Eugenics Lurk In the Shadow of CRISPR.” Science. AAAS. 22 May 2015. Web. 27 Jan 2016. 5. Regalado, Antonio. “Engineering the Perfect Baby.” MIT Technology Review. MIT. 5 Mar 2015. Web. 27 Jan 2016. 6. Church, George. “Perspective: Encourage the Innovators.” Nature. Nature Publishing Group. 3 Dec 2015. Web. 27 Jan 2016.
Complicit in Healthcare: Reproductive Healthcare Accessibility in Rural North Carolina
ccording to NARAL Pro-Choice America, a non profit organization dedicated to advocating for the reproductive rights of women across the country, North Carolina earned a grade of F with regard to its policies surrounding womenâ€™s access to safe and affordable reproductive healthcare. The combination of an anti-choice House, Senate, and Governor has only exacerbated the issue in recent years, as these forces have collaborated to pass a series of anti-choice legislation.1 Many of these laws have made it difficult for youth and low income women to make informed decisions regarding how and where they should be seeking proper care. Background Issues of reproductive healthcare access are even worse in rural communities where residents are more likely to live in poverty, lack health insurance, and be isolated from quality clinics. Despite the steps organizations like Planned Parenthood have made to appeal to low-income patients, these clinics are still located in areas where the stateâ€™s wealth is concentrated, leaving rural women hours away from the services they desperately need. While these organizations do great work for the women in their respective areas, these facilities are farthest away from the regions with the highest rates of teen pregnancy, according to SHIFT NC.2 The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) reaffirmed this disparity in a report explaining that less than half of rural women live within a half an hour drive of the nearest hospital offering prenatal care. Within a 60 minute drive, this number increases to 87.6% in rural towns, and nearly 80% in the most isolated of locations. Moreover, less than 7% of OBGYN specialists practice in rural towns as of a 2008 study.3 In North Car-
olina in particular, 90% of counties lack a proper abortion clinic, meaning patients must drive further to receive the services they are legally obliged to according to North Carolina and federal law.4 Even if there is a facility capable of performing an abortion, North Carolina puts extra regulations on clinics that may not even pertain to the safety of a woman during the procedure. NARAL reports that the government will disallow certain health centers from offering certain procedures for extraneous reasons such as the improper dimensions of janitor closets or length of grass.5 Lawmakers have also recently implemented a law that forces women who undergo an abortion to hand over an ultrasound to the state, an emotional obligation for women already in a fragile condition. While lawmakers such as Governor McCrory argue that these regulations are put in place to ensure the safety of the patient, all these policies end up accomplishing is putting doctors out of work and limiting the options of women who seek to obtain a legal abortion. In certain cases, women who are able to reach a far away facility and adhere to the regulations are still unable to receive the procedure if they are on Medicare or Medicaid as abortions for those recipients are only given if the life of the mother is in danger.6 The problem originates even earlier than when a pregnancy begins. Until 2010, North Carolina law mandated that sex education speak only of abstinence-only-until-marriage.7 While the law has since been revised, many schools defer back to this standard way of thinking in order to be aligned with community values. This especially occurs in the most conservative, rural counties. With no information about how to make proper decisions regarding their sexual health at a young age, many of these girls end up pregnant before they graduate high school or college, and are
By Emma Gomez
faced with limited resources. Recommended Action
Given the multitude of issues surrounding access to reproductive healthcare for women and girls in North Carolina, there will never be a single solution that will easily remedy the breadth of these problems. While shifting cultural attitudes regarding some forms of reproductive health care will take extended periods of time to resolve, overhauling current sexual education curriculums is the first critical step that lawmakers must take immediately. This reform involves increased education involving ways to avoid pregnancy, and information regarding what to do in the case that an individual finds themselves in a situation where they must utilize the services they have a right to access. For his 2017 budget, President Obama decided to cut all funding for abstinence-only sexual education programs in the United States. This symbolic gesture is the right step forward in regard to shifting cultural attitudes, but it does not fix everything. Many schools, especially in rural areas, rely on private sexual education programs to come into their schools and instruct students on the dangers of sexual activity. Within these curriculums, there is no discussion of methods for practicing safe sex, resulting in in a plethora of unwanted teenage pregnancies. This is why a nationwide, standardized curriculum that focuses on pregnancy prevention is essential. The curriculum must center on methods of contraception available to girls, and where they may access safe and affordable birth control in their communities. Access to these items is a right, and too many women and girls today are still unfamiliar with where and how to seek them. While clinics do the best they can to publicize the services they offer to young girls, this information can be most easily disseminated in the school curriculums. To be carried out effectively, this new standard must be set by health professionals and implemented nationwide. Implementing the policy on a state level would be problematic, as cultural biases could affect curriculum writing and implementation. However, the instruction on where and how to access the materials would vary region-by-region. Community sentiments
have the possibility of restricting the law’s proper implementation, but this is no excuse to prevent students from receiving the education they are legally entitled to. Despite the grade of F that NARAL Pro-Choice America gave to North Carolina regarding reproductive health care accessibility, the state and a variety of independent nonprofits have made available a wealth of services. These include birth control, sexually transmitted disease testing, and prenatal care without parental consent. The problem is that there is little to no information accessible to women regarding how and where they can seek these services. This again is why a total reformation of the way sexual education is taught in high schools is absolutely critical. Again, setting a curriculum by the health experts who provide these services in the first place would ensure that students would know how to access them. Furthermore, there needs to be increased awareness of the discriminatory laws in place in the state. Unless a citizen actively seeks to become aware of the practices in place, it is unlikely they would understand just how dire the situation is for North Carolina residents seeking safe and accessible reproductive care. Many people are simply uninformed about these laws because they’ve never had to confront them. However, when a citizen does have to face these discriminatory laws, it’s too late to attempt to change them. This is why a collective effort to inform citizens of the discriminatory nature behind some of these laws will allow citizens to be informed of the laws they’re facing before they may need to seek services. The increased information could also aid in the advocacy campaigns of non-profits who are working to combat them, such as NARAL Pro-Choice America. What lawmakers in North Carolina and across the country need to understand is that access to information regarding reproductive health care is a fundamental human right. In fact, Article 13 of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) explicitly states that every woman has the right to access health care services, even those related to family planning. While resolving this issue will take time as a result of community sentiments, reforming sexual education curriculum is
the first and necessary step to combat this growing inequality. Endnotes 1. “North Carolina.” :: NARAL Pro-Choice America. Web. 22 Jan. 2016. 2. “SHIFT NC.” Resources for Young People. SHIFT NC: Sexual Health Initiatives for Teens. Web. 22 Jan. 2016. 3. “Women’s Health Care Physicians.” Health Disparities in Rural Women. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Feb. 2014. Web. 22 Jan. 2016. 4. “North Carolina.” 5. Ibid. 6. Ibid. 7. “SHIFT NC.”
No More Leaps of Faith: On the Mental Health Services and Policing
“The truth is that the police reflect America in all of its will and fear [...] And so to challenge the police is to challenge the American people who send them into the ghettos armed with the same self-generated fears that compelled the people who think they are white to flee the cities and into the Dream.” —Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me
015 ushered in unprecedented levels of dialogue about police violence and criminal justice reform, with movements like Black Lives Matter and Say Her Name standing at the forefront of demands for reform and revolution. This past year also bore witness to the struggles—shared by activists and politicians alike—of enacting legislative and social change that could effectively address problems faced by communities with varying intersections of marginalized identities. Transgender women of color, for example, faced rising levels of reported violence in 2015, while poor urban communities of color dealt with the rapid gentrification of their neighborhoods. Violence found itself at the intersection of mental illness and race, as well: according to a database compiled by The Washington Post, of the 987 people fatally shot by police officers in 2015, approximately a quarter of them—253, 39 of whom were black—showed signs of mental illness.1 Discourse surrounding police brutality and mental illness has rightfully held police officers responsible for the deaths they have caused, but little has been said about the system in place that, in times of disturbances involving mental illness, leaves citizens with no other option than to call armed officials for assistance. Insufficient consideration has been given to creating alternative services to those provided by the police, services that could become part of a larger initiative to provide further security for its citizens. Such an initiative ought to, at once, expect more of its police officers, but also demand more of its society which, in its current state, relies on its police to be the armed, catch-all safety mechanism. Ultimately, not enough has been done to address the flawed logic that relies on armed officials to de-escalate situations involving unarmed individuals with mental illnesses. When considering other possible emergency services for mental health crises—which, generally, are situations in which individuals with mental illnesses are putting themselves or others
at physical or emotional risk—emergency response teams comprising of unarmed mental health experts and medical experts exist as a viable alternative to, or at least productive partners for, police forces. While unarmed, such emergency response teams—comprising either of police officers and mental health experts, or solely the latter—could receive training, physical and otherwise, about deescalating potentially dangerous situations. Background On December 26, 2015, police officers fatally shot Quintonio LeGrier, a black 19-year-old, after responding to a domestic disturbance call. LeGrier was allegedly holding a baseball bat when officers arrived; LeGrier was a college student at home during break, and according to his mother, was recently facing issues with emotional instability. He was shot six times. “You call for help, and the police are supposed to serve us and protect us, and yet they take the lives,” said Janet Cooksey, mother of Quintonio LeGrier. “What’s wrong with that picture? It’s a badge to kill?”2 Cooksey’s concerns address the root of the problem—that the police may not always be the safest option to call for protection. But what alternatives exist, for those seeking emergency assistance with a loved one suffering from mental illness? As of right now, police forces in America have been expected to serve as the catchall solution to any and all domestic problems pertaining to mental illness—an expectation that has been detrimental for those called to provide protection as well as the citizens whom they were supposed to protect. The negative effects of policing those with mental health problems are not only prevalent in encounters resulting in serious injury or death to those with mental health issues. This problem extends well into the incarceration system as well. The
By Catherine Hoang
likelihood of mental illness among people confined in state prisons and local jails is three to four times higher than in the general population.3 Furthermore, compared with other inmates, it is at least twice as likely that mentally ill individuals will be injured during their incarceration.4 Additionally, what few protective services that exist for mental health crises have been under consistent attack by state governments; between 2009 and 2011, the state of Illinois—Quintonio LeGrier’s home state—eliminated over $113 million in community mental health treatment services, which include affordable access to medication, psychiatry, therapy, and other forms of counseling focused on wellness and prevention.5 But Illinois has not been alone in its state budget cuts; between 2009 and 2011, more than $1.8 billion dollars were slashed from non-Medicaid state mental health spending across the United States.6 So what role, then, has been delegated to the police as a catch-all service? Currently, the predominant model in police departments has been Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training.7 A 40 hour curriculum, CIT training has been described as “the most comprehensive police officer mental health training program in the country.”8 While not enough research has been compiled about the effectiveness of CIT in reducing the use of force by police officers, another problem presented is the insufficient percentage of officers who are CIT trained. Only 15% of Chicago police officers—who belong to one of the most widely scrutinized police departments, work within one of the most racially segregated cities in in the United States, and were responsible for the death of Quintonio LeGrier—are CIT trained.9,10,11 The neglect of the policing and mental health crisis in America cannot justly continue much longer. In considering alternatives—or additions, perhaps, to programs like Crisis Intervention Training—it is worth examining what has already been implemented to move beyond policing as the only source of aid in mental health crises.
source of help in emergency situations involving mental health. In paving the way for a more comprehensive safety mechanism, states and counties have focused on collaboration, working with the programs and training initiatives already been. Sonoma County, California, for example, has expanded its CIT training program to become a collaboration between its Sheriff ’s Department and its Department of Health Services Behavioral Health Division (BHD).12 The goals of the collaboration, according to Sonoma County’s website, are to: “Ensure the safety of officers and civilians; Increase officer understanding of mental illness; Improve relationships with the community, particularly with mental health professionals, people with mental illness, and family members.”13 Most worth noting is Sonoma County’s emphasis on strengthening bonds between community members—police officers, mental health professionals, and average civilians alike—and then using those bonds to improve the protection of the community as a whole. The program itself has been described as an effort on behalf of “specially trained law enforcement personnel, mental health professionals, mental health consumers, and family advocates.”14 As officers and mental health experts are better able to understand the people they are serving—their needs and specific circumstances—they can more safely and efficiently respond to emergency situations. The training itself includes “identification of types of mental illness, verbal skills for de-escalation of potentially violent situations, specifics on suicide intervention, and a mental health system overview.”15 That family advocates and police officers are equally privy to the training process matters; it ensures families that the basis for the protection of their community is, in fact, the needs of the community itself. Ultimately, what seems most efficient about Sonoma County’s approach is its recognition of the various fields of expertise that must be drawn upon to truly care Recommended Action for and protect a community. Police training alone is not enough, nor is theoretical Initiatives have already been taken to knowledge about mental illness or mental move away from police forces as the sole health counseling. Personal knowledge
about a person or a family certainly cannot be effective on its own. But when combined, the result can be rather powerful and empowering for the individuals and advocates involved. Orange County, also in California, has a similar emergency response team, entitled the Centralized Assessment Team (CAT). In addition to police officers, behavioral health specialists, and licensed clinical social workers, the team also is comprised of bilingual and bicultural staff members who offer Spanish and Vietnamese as alternative languages of communication. Orange County addresses an incredibly fundamental problem for the rapidly diversifying America: the lack of resources available in alternative languages. In acknowledging the diversity of its own community—Orange County has a significant Asian and Latino population, and is comprised of a population in which 45.5% of people speak a language other than English at home—the CAT has increased its effectiveness by improving its ability to communicate with citizens.16 As police departments and mental health service providers are as unique as the regions they serve, initiatives to collaborate and expand mental health protective services would have to be at the state or local level. State governments should be responsible for establishing standards and precedents specific to their communities; states like Texas and California, for example, are home to large populations of native Spanish speakers, as are New York and Massachusetts to native Chinese speakers, so such states could focus on providing emergency services available in their respective languages.17 At the local level, police departments and mental health service providers should be responsible for establishing unique systems that work best for their respective communities and emergency response team members. The state government could also incentivize the expansion of training (such as nonviolence training) among local departments with monetary compensation, or other such rewards. And while the progress of such initiatives would be difficult to track at the federal level, the mental health crises plaguing communities have hardly even been general enough for the federal government to effectively tackle; as it pertains to the subject at hand, the work
1. The Washington Post. https://www.
washingtonpost.com/graphics/national/ police-shootings/ 2. Monica Davey, “Families of 2 Fatally Shot by Chicago Police Question Officers’ Training,” The New York Times, Dec. 27, 2015. http://www.nytimes. com/2015/12/28/us/families-of-2-fatally-shot-by-chicago-police-question-officers-training.html 3. Paula M. Ditton, Mental Health and Treatment of Inmates and Probationers, US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics (Washington, DC: 1999), NCJ 174463. 4. James, D. & Glaze, L. “Mental Health Problems of Prison and Jail Inmates,” U.S. Department of Justice, 2006. http://www. bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/mhppji.pdf 5. “The Path Forward: Investing in the Illinois Community Mental Health System,” Thresholds, Nov. 2013. http:// w w w. t h r e s h o l d s . o r g / w p - c o n t e n t /
uploads/2013/11/Path-For ward_In- 18. Thresholds, “The Path Forward: Investing-in-Illinois-Community-Men- vesting in the Illinois Community Mental Health System.” tal-Health_Final.pdf 6. “State Mental Health Cuts: A National Crisis,” National Alliance on Mental Illness, March 2011. https://www2.nami. org/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm?ContentFileID=125018 7. Matthew Epperson, “Where Police Violence Encounters Mental Illness,” The New York Times, Jan. 13, 2016. http:// www.nytimes.com/2016/01/13/opinion/ where-police-violence-encounters-mental-illness.html 8. Megan Pauly, “How Police Officers Are (or Aren’t) Trained in Mental Health,” The Atlantic, Oct. 11, 2013. http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/10/howpolice-officers-are-or-aren-t-trained-inmental-health/280485/ 9. Monica Davey, and Mitch Smith, “Justice Officials to Investigate Chicago Police Department After Laquan McDonald Case,” The New York Times, Dec. 6, 2013. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/07/us/ justice-dept-expected-to-investigate-chicago-police-after-laquan-mcdonald-case. html 10. Lolly Bowean, “Segregation declines in Chicago, but city still ranks high, census data show,” The Chicago Tribune, Jan. 4, 2016. http://www.chicagotribune.com/ news/ct-segregation-declines-neighborhoods-change-met-20160103-story.html 11. Epperson, “Where Police Violence Encounters Mental Illness.” 12. County of Sonoma, California. “Mental Health Services: Crisis Intervention Training for Law Enforcement Personnel and Mobile Support Team.” Web. http:// www.sonoma-county.org/health/services/ citmst.asp 13. Ibid. 14. Ibid. 15. Ibid. 16. “State & County QuickFacts,” United States Census Bureau, Web. http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/06/06059.html 17. “New Census Bureau Report Analyzes Nation’s Linguistic Diversity,” United States Census Bureau, Web. https://www. census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/ american_community_survey_acs/cb10cn58.html
of the federal government remains in regulating gun laws and providing access to health care. Centering community needs to remobilize broader protective services has other benefits as well. While Illinois attempted to cut its community mental health services budget by $113 million from 2009 to 2011, these cuts only ended up costing the state and hospitals an estimated $131.4 million due to a rise in hospital emergency room visits by individuals in mental or behavioral crisis during the same period.18 Deescalating mental health crises before they require hospital visits has a wide-reaching effect that must not be ignored; the elimination of certain budgets does not mean that others will not be paying the price elsewhere. Calls for police reform reached their pinnacle in 2015, as activists, family members, and communities alike stood up to demand more from our police, those who were called to protect. But what has yet to be truly brought to the forefront is the need to demand the right to have a public safety network that is not limited to armed police forces. A new ideal of safety must be conceptualized; a new vision of community must be born.
Banning the Hyde Amendment to Give Low-Income Women Access to Abortion By Madison Marko
very year, tens of thousands of women on Medicaid who carry a pregnancy to term do so solely because they can not afford an abortion under the restrictions of the Hyde Amendment. An estimated 18-33% of women on Medicaid who want abortions are unable to have one due to the cost.1 These women are forced to give birth against their will, denied their constitutional right to an abortion and their human right to bodily autonomy. The Hyde Amendment is an annual rider attached to appropriations bills every year in the United States congress, meaning no laws would have to be created or changed in order for this policy proposal to be enacted; congress has the opportunity to stop re-adding the amendment every year. However, when Obama enacted Executive Order 13535, he reaffirmed that federal funds can not be used for abortions (under the Affordable Care Act); it is possible this order would need to be reversed in order to use federal funds for abortion in any program. Congress should pass a piece of legislation stating that Medicaid coverage of abortions should be treated the same as prenatal care or other womenâ€™s health services. Background Forty-two years ago, the Roe. v. Wade decision was widely celebrated by women as a new era; one in which abortion would be widely accessible to women who were not white and wealthy. In reality, a classist system is maintained to this day, as low-income women can be denied their constitutional right to medical care and an abortion and be forced to carry a pregnancy to term against their will. Three years after Roe. v. Wade, the Hyde Amendment to Medicaid appropriation was passed by Congress, banning the use of federal Medicaid funds for abortion except when the life of the woman was in danger. Since then, the the amendment has been changed to mandate federal abortion
funding in cases of rape or incest in addition to ones where the pregnant womanâ€™s life is endangered. Currently, there are 6.5 million women in America who obtain health care, reproductive and otherwise, through Medicaid.2 The Medicaid program is a joint federal-state system that covers all pregnancy-related services, but includes many federal and state restrictions on funding for abortion. One of the primary reasons women cite for having a second-trimester abortion is that they were unable to gather the necessary funds earlier, and one-fourth of women receiving Medicaid would have had an abortion but are forced to carry the pregnancy to term against their will due to an inability to afford an abortion.2 In 2000 alone, there were 83,000 Medicaid recipients who wanted an abortion but were unable to obtain one; it is likely that number is even higher today, as over 200 new state restrictions, including bans on state Medicaid payments, have been passed in the past 5 years, making abortion the hardest it has ever been to obtain in the 21st century.3 This policy primarily impacts low-income women of color, a community that has little political power and is frequently the scapegoat of American politics. However, this policy not only affects women; it also affects their children, who are frequently brought into a home that cannot afford to take care of them or are given up for adoption. In addition, it impacts girls under the age of 19 who are on the Childrenâ€™s Health Insurance Program and Native American and/or disabled women who rely on government funding for their healthcare or insurance.4 Recommended Action As the Hyde Amendment has a long-standing precedent, it is likely that a law would need to be passed explicitly banning the Hyde Amendment from be-
or ethical perspective. Sex education standards desperately need to be raised, but doing so will cost a significant amount with uncertain financial outcome, while abolishing the Hyde amendment will directly decrease the amount the government must spend each year. In addition, no matter how accessible contraception is or how effective sex education programs are, there are inevitably some women who will become pregnant who do not want to be, and the current cost of abortion places an undue burden on women who want them, denying them a constitutional right. Another problematic aspect of the Hyde Amendment is that it claims it provides exceptions in cases of rape, but many women are unable to come forward about their rape out of fear or shame, and even if they do, they may be denied an abortion if it is deemed there is insufficient evidence the pregnancy resulted from sexual abuse. This policy change is one that would be extremely difficult to achieve in the current political climate, given that it involves abortion and welfare, two of the most controversial and divisive political topics in America. As a result, earning political support for this policy from republicans and democrats would be achieved very differently. Many prominent moderate Democrats, including presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, have publicly endorsed ending the Hyde Amendment, citing mainly ethical reasons for their support; women have a constitutional right to an abortion, it is immoral to force a woman to carry a pregnancy to term against her will, etc. Due to the rise in influence of Christian organizations in the Republican party, it is highly unlikely that many Republican congress members would endorse this policy; however, emphasizing the reduction in welfare expenses, however minor, would likely be the most effective strategy in changing the Republican position on the issue. While Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, and several other influential national organizations have called for an end to the Hyde Amendment, these organizations rarely change the minds of right-leaning moderates. Publicized endorsements by prominent liberal religious organizations and leaders could potentially be effective in swaying public opinion.
1. American Civil Liberties Union. “Access Denied: Origins of the Hyde Amendment and Other Restrictions on Public Funding for Abortion.” N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Jan. 2016. <https://www.aclu.org/access-denied-origins-hyde-amendment-and-other-restrictions-public-funding-abortion>. 2. Ibid. 3. Pollitt, Katha. Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights. New York: Picador, 2014. Print. 4. American Civil Liberties Union. “Public Funding for Abortion.” American Civil Liberties Union. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Jan. 2016. <https://www.aclu.org/public-funding-abortion>. 5. Center for Healthcare Quality and Payment Reform. “How to Save $5 Billion in Healthcare Spending for Employers and Taxpayers.” Healthcare Quality and Payment Reform ». N.p., 07 Jan. 2013. Web. 18 Jan. 2016. <http://chqpr.org/blog/index. php/2013/01/how-to-save-5-billion-inhealthcare-spending-for-employers-andtaxpayers/>. 6. Guttmacher Institute. “Abortion Incidence and Access to Services In the United States.” (n.d.): n. pag. 2008. Web. 15 Jan. 2016. <http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/ psrh/full/4304111.pdf> 7. Guttmacher Institute. “Induced Abortion in the United States.” Induced Abortion in the United States. N.p., July 2014. Web. 17 Jan. 2016. <http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_induced_abortion. html>. 8. Gold, Rachel. “Wise Investment: Reducing the Steep Cost to Medicaid of Unintended Pregnancy in the United States.” Guttmacher Institute. N.p., Summer 2011. Web. 15 Jan. 2016. <https://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/gpr/14/3/gpr140306. html>.
ing re-introduced in order to give low-income women access to abortion. Some argue that taxpayers should not be responsible for covering the expense of abortion. However, maternal and newborn care are the largest single category of hospital expenditures for Medicaid programs; it is far cheaper to pay for an abortion than prenatal care.5 The average cost for a first trimester non-hospital surgical abortion is $470; an abortion at 20 weeks is over three times that cost, with the average woman paying $1500.6 89% of all abortions are first trimester; as abortion in the third trimester is illegal except when the woman’s life is in danger, which is fairly rare. I will assume the other 11% of abortions are second trimester.7 As previously mentioned, providing Medicaid funding for abortion would decrease the number of second trimester abortions, but as it is impossible to calculate the exact degree to which it would decrease, I will assume this ratio will remain constant even after the policy has changed. Even conservative estimates suggest there are 100,000 women who receive Medicaid funding each year that want an abortion but are unable to have one due to the cost. The estimated total expenses for 100,000 abortions then is $58,330,000. The estimated expense to taxpayers each year from unintended pregnancies is 11.3 billion dollars.8 Repeated surveys indicate that at least one quarter of these pregnancies would be terminated if abortion was covered under Medicaid, saving taxpayers around 2.825 billion dollars. Including abortion services under Medicaid would result in an estimated net gain of 2.2417 billion dollars for the United States government. In addition, if a woman on Medicaid gives birth to a child, that child will also rely on the government for its health care, creating additional expenses the government must pay for, possibly until the child reaches adulthood. While there are no clear policy alternatives to make abortion affordable for low-income women, some suggest increasing access to contraception and improved sex education would reduce the number of women who have unintended pregnancies. These are both smart policy options – Medicaid already covers most forms of contraception – but neither completely solve the problem from a financial
Rural Access to Behavioral Telehealth Services By Kunal Shah
urrently under the Medicare Fee-For-Service program, behavioral services such as annual depression screenings, psychoanalysis, psychiatric diagnostic interviews, and individual psychotherapy service are reimbursed when provided in a telehealth setting to beneficiaries in rural areas.1 However, CMS authorizes beneficiaries to receive these services only in settings where healthcare services are provided, such as physician offices, hospitals, and clinics.2 These settings, known as Rural Healthcare Clinics, are designated in Health Professional Shortage Areas to be accessible to rural Americans; however, travel remains a significant issue, as these clinics can still be up to 150 miles away from a rural patient interested in accessing medical services.3 Even for those who are close to rural health clinics, a significant number of patients still fears stigmas against accessing these types of mental health services.4 These stigmas have a large impact; while 60 million Americans suffer from mental illness, only 60% of adults and 50% of youth with these conditions seek care annually.5 For those who seek professional help, mental health treatment is extremely expensive, accounting for about 9% of personal health spending.6 Clearly, access to mental health treatment is an issue affecting many, but disproportionately impacting those in rural communities, who have the least access to behavioral health facilities and professionals.7 More than 85% of rural Americans live in mental health professional shortage areas, and more than 65% of rural Americans receive their limited mental health evaluations from their primary care physicians, who are frequently reported to misdiagnose mental health problems, contributing to higher rates of untreated mental disorders and suicide in rural areas.8,9,10 Background
Currently, Medicare provides reimbursement for patient access to remote mental health screenings via videoconference or telecommunication when present at a rural health clinic; however, Medicare does not reimburse for investment in these technologies at said health clinics, leading to consistently low adoption rates of telecommunication systems and interoperable medical records at rural health clinics. As a result, access to technology in rural areas for healthcare use is limited; meanwhile, a myriad of studies has shown that technology access supports the treatment of depression and other mental health conditions in rural areas. While additional clinical research may be necessary to support the use of telehealth in psychiatric evaluations, best practices and successful models of â€œtelepsychiatryâ€? are available for adoption. The Burke Mental Health Emergency Center (MHEC) is located in rural eastern Texas, maintaining a partnership with JSA Health Telepsychiatry, a Houston-based psychiatric telemedicine company.11 Burke provides comprehensive psychiatric services to over 370,000 rural patients; these patients can arrive to the Burke center, a seemingly non-medical setting, and receive telepsychiatry services around the clock, be it evaluation or for emergency treatment.11 A study of the rural patient population of Burke showed a 70% reduction in hospital referrals for patients, and reduction in hospital stays to under 4 hours per stay.12 While it is unlikely that centers dedicated entirely to emergency psychiatry such as Burke will be prevalent in the near future, the MHEC model allows patients to access strong psychiatric care from relatively proximal locations through the use of technology. Federal funding support for investment in videoconferencing technology would allow similar access at current rural health centers, and pay strong dividends through the decrease of lengthy, repeated hospital admissions, pharmaco-
Recommended Action SNFs already provide a significant amount of services to senior citizens, who would see improvement in acute treatment responses with telehealth services. However, telehealth connectivity in rural SNFs would allow existing facilities to adopt a model like that of Burke MHEC; SNFs could act as locations where any rural patient would be able to receive emergency telepsychiatry services or psychiatric screenings. SNF broadband access could potentially provide thousands of additional rural facilities where patients may receive mental health services amongst others. Nevertheless, the HCF still requires a competitive bidding process for funding of rural telehealth access, and the 35% funding requirement of rural health facilities remains high. A pilot study in Montana provided an 85% discount to rural
clinics for HCF-like services, resulting in large scale adoption and success; however, when the discount was reduced to the 65% rate in the current program, many rural facilities unaffiliated with larger consortiums dropped out of the program, and adoption declined, as this discount was still insufficient.16 The maintenance of a competitive application process and lower discount rate is problematic in light of FCC statements suggesting the $400 million funding cap for HCF is unlikely to be reached.17 The FCC should utilize existing Medicare communication channels with rural health clinics and skilled nursing facilities to better inform rural clinics of this funding opportunity; considering that many patients who may access these services use Medicare, Medicaid, and insurance provided under the ACA, CMS ought take measures to improve HCF application amongst clinics in HPSAs as well. These changes would be meaningful, cost effective first steps to encouraging more rural Medicare beneficiaries to utilize behavioral telehealth services from their own homes rather than clinics. They would also incentivize distant health service sites to invest in remote patient monitoring technology for observation of rural mental health patients. Finally, CMS should consider contributing additional funding to the $400 million cap of the current HCF model to increase the discount from 65% and thus improve rural health center adoption of telehealth infrastructure. The cost of beneficiaries with chronic conditions and untreated depression to Medicare is over $20,000 annually, compared to the cost of those without depression being about $12,000.18 Increasing the availability of behavioral health treatment for these beneficiaries, especially those without readily available health care access, would mitigate these costs by reducing hospital admission rates and negative outcomes caused by unaddressed psychological issues. Just as telehealth began as a rural initiative and is now gaining traction in urban hospitals and ACOs, acting on this proposal can be a meaningful step towards all people receiving behavioral health treatment at the low cost of telehealth technology.
1. “Telehealth Services: Rural Fact Sheet Series.” (2013): n. pag. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Dec. 2014. Web. <https://www.cms.gov/Outreach-and-Edu c a t i o n / Me d i c a r e - L e a r n i n g - Ne t work-MLN/MLNProducts/downloads/ TelehealthSrvcsfctsht.pdf>. 2. Ibid. 3. Mohatt, D.F. “Rural Mental Health: Challenges and Opportunities Caring for the Country” WICHE Mental Health Program Presentation, 2010 Web. 4. “Increasing Access to Behavioral Health Care through Technology.” Page 4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Feb. 2013. Web. <http:// www.hrsa.gov/publichealth/guidelines/ behavioralhealth/behavioralhealthcareaccess.pdf>. 5. Rosato, C.P. “Making the Case for Increased Telehealth Adoption in Behavioral Health.” Fonemed. N.p., 30 Aug. 2015. Web. Jan. 2016. <http://www.fonemed. com/wordpress/making-the-case-for-increased-telehealth-adoption-in-behavioral-health/>. 6. Gustafson, Diane Travers, Kim Preston, and Julia Hudson. “Mental Health: Overlooked and Disregarded in Rural America.” Center for Rural Affairs, May 2009. Web. <http://files.cfra.org/pdf/Mental-Health-Overlooked-and-Disregarded-in-Rural-America.pdf>. 7. Ibid. 8. Smalley, KB., Yancey, CT., Warren, JC., Naufel, K., Ryan, R. & Pugh, JL. (2010). Rural Mental Health and Psychological Treatment: A Review for Practitioners. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 66(5): 479489. 9. Mohatt, D.F. “Rural Mental Health: Challenges and Opportunities Caring for the Country” 10. Bailey, J. M. (2009). The top 10 rural issues for health care reform. Center for Rural Affairs, 2, 1-8. Retrieved from www. cfra.org/newsletter/2009/03/top-10-rural-issues-health-care- reform 11. “2011 APA Gold Award: A telepsychiatry solution for rural eastern Texas.” Psychiatric Services 2011; 62 (11): 1384– 1386. doi:10.1176/ appi.ps.62.11.1384 12. Ibid. 13. “Rural Health Care Program” Federal
logical treatment, and comorbidities. In order to improve telecommunications access available to rural health clinics, the Federal Communications Commission in 2012 launched the Healthcare Connect Fund (HCF), which provides eligible rural public and nonprofit health clinics with a 65% discount on expenses for setting up broadband connectivity, including equipment and broadband services.13 The HCF is an excellent first step to improving telepsychiatry access, amongst other telehealth services, to rural patients. However, the HCF has deferred the provision of this discount to rural skilled nursing facilities (SNF), of which there are approximately 4200 in the United States as of 2013.14 While $50 million had been previously allocated to a rural SNF pilot HCF program, these funds were diverted to pilot programs focused on consumer-oriented healthcare access efforts instead.15 As an incredible amount of research underlines the importance of improving direct patient healthcare access, these pilot programs in rural areas where healthcare is so difficult to reach are extremely important. Unfortunately, funding diverted to these programs come at the immediate cost of a significant portion of the rural patient population, who would encounter immediate benefits from telehealth access in skilled nursing facilities.
Communications Commission. Updated 2016. https://www.fcc.gov/general/ruralhealth-care-program 14. “Skilled Nursing Facilities Report” The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission. March 2015. http://medpac.gov/ documents/reports/chapter-8-skillednursing-facility-services-(march-2015-report).pdf 15. “Rural Healthcare Program” FCC 16. Windhausen et al. “Amendment of Part 54 of the Commission’s Rules to Further Modernize the Rural Health Care” CC Docket No. 02-60 Federal Communications Commission Petition, December 7 2015 17. “Healthcare Connect Fund: Frequently Asked Questions.” Universal Service Administrative Company. 2014. https:// community.brocade.com/dtscp75322/ attachments/dtscp75322/healthcaresolutions/21/1/Brocade_MiCTA_HCF_FAQ. pdf 18. Unützer J, Schoenbaum M, Katon WJ, et al. “Healthcare costs associated with depression in medically Ill fee-for-service medicare participants.” J Am Geriatr Soc. 2009;57(3):506-10.
By Nikita Singareddy
The United States lacks an integrated patient-record system. Our decentralized healthcare system, with its unlimited combinations of managed care, medicine specialization, and insurance providers, holds records in a variety of formats ranging from paper to rudimentary electronic files.1 Such hybrid, incomplete data management is outrageously expensive and impedes continuity-of-care standards.2 Our healthcare system must make better use of information technology. Electronic health records (EHRs) have received considerable attention since President Obama committed $19 billion in 2009 to encourage healthcare providers to digitize patient data.3 As Medicare expenditures hit $600 billion, Americans should push for a system that protects information while enabling information exchange. Thus, we should upgrade the paper Medicare card with the same underlying smart card technology used by the Department of Defense.4 Verifying identity through a secure smart card would provide numerous benefits including cost reduction, fraud safeguards, and enhanced records keeping - with the added potential of using data for healthcare quality improvement. Background In 1996, Congress passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Although this act concerned the portability/exchange of information, the majority of healthcare providers continue to use traditional paper-based records to secure confidential information.5 This patchwork of patient data has resulted in too many medical mistakes and redundant processes. Incomplete information is a leading cause of medical errors that claim the lives of nearly 100,000 patients each year.6 Moreover, it is estimated that 31 cents of every U.S. healthcare dollar are spent on administrative costs like billing and coding, approximately $186 billion in Medi-
care spending.7 In a study by the Commonwealth Fund of healthcare spending in eight countries, it was found that the United States had the highest administrative costs. But importantly, they found no apparent link between this expenditure and better-quality care.8 The U.S. can look to France’s carte vitale and Germany’s electronische Gesundheitskarte (eGK): reducing wasteful spending and improving healthcare with smart card technology. Smart cards resemble a plastic credit card with an embedded memory chip. This chip enables access to patient information regarding demographics, allergies, medications, immunizations, recent healthcare interactions, and insurance identification.9 A personal photograph and ID pin number further authenticate beneficiary and provider presence at the point of care. Beyond eliminating the costs of fragmented records and boosting information exchange, smart card technology can constrain the $65 billion dollars lost per year in Medicare fraud and abuse according to a study by the U.S. Government Accounting Office (GAO).10 11 The Medicare reform bill passed in May 2015 included a long overdue privacy fix to Medicare holders’ cards by removing Social Security numbers from the front. But to further reduce potential identity theft, medical records communication with smart cards would only occur when the chip interacts with a reader provided by the U.S. government to approved Medicare providers. None of this information is online; everything passes through local, offline data systems. New York’s Mount Sinai Medical Center and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center are among several providers that have piloted smart card information systems. All reported improved patient care, prompt record access, and reduced medical expenditures.12 In 2005, Health Affairs moreover concluded that interoperable record keeping could produce savings of $142-$371 billion.13
Adopting Smart Card Technology for Better Medicare
These case studies affirm that smart card technology is ready to provide Medicare with great cost efficiency while protecting sensitive beneficiary data. The eGK’s development and deployment to 71 million Germans in 2007 equaled $1.7 billion USD alongside $150 million in yearly costs.14 Given the 55 million Medicare enrollees, a comparable smart card program (cards, systems, and readers included) would cost the U.S. nearly $1.5 billion in its first year, $120 million thereafter. Recommended Action
Attempts to upgrade the Medicare identity infrastructure have been stymied by concerns about patient privacy and budget limitations. However, smart card technology standards are already in place for citizen credentials through the Department of Defense’s “Identity Credential and Access Management (ICAM)” program. The DoD has leveraged its fifteen years of smart card experience to use ICAM for not just security/authentication but integration in a user’s daily lives. It has linked ICAM to metro transit, and is looking to partner with banks that would allow users to access government/personal credit on their card. Given this existing framework, Congress should authorize healthcare smart cards pursuant of Section 3021 of the Affordable Care Act. This permits Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Innovation Center to test “innovative payment and service delivery models to reduce program expenditures” for those receiving Medicare, Medicaid, or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) benefits.15 Marrying Department of Defense credential standards with CMS technology will undoubtedly produce secure smart cards given preexisting programs/ compliance protocols. We can begin trialing smart card technology in 50 randomly selected Medicare populations for a year. After the year, CMS should review the successes and failures of the program with nonprofits, hospitals, insurance providers, smart card producers, the DoD, and other healthcare stakeholders. This analysis would examine the ease of exchange, smart card security, and the viability of data exchange for decision
making. By identifying best practices, 11. United States Government AccountCMS will be ready to bring this into the ability Office, MEDICARE Potential Uses larger Medicare market. of Electronically Readable Cards for Beneficiaries and Providers, GAO-15-319, Endnotes (Washington, D.C: GAO, 2015), 7-10. 1. Elhauge, Einer, “Why We Should Care http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/669228. about Health Care Fragmentation and pdf How to Fix It,” in The Fragmentation of 12. Smart Card Alliance with contribuU.S. Healthcare (New York: Oxford Uni- tions from Contino, P. “Mount Sinai Medversity Press, 2010), 1-20. ical Center Personal Health Card.” Last 2. ASTM E2369 - 12. “Standard Specifica- modified 2007. http://www.smartcardallition for Continuity of Care Record (CCR) ance.org/resources/lib/Mount_Sinai_Pro- Book of Standards Volume: 14.01.” file.pdf. ASTM International. 2012. http://www. 13. Hillestad, Richard et al. “Can Elecastm.org/Standards/E2369.htm. tronic Medical Record Systems Trans3. Greenemeier, Larry. “Will Electronic form Health Care? Potential Health BenMedical Records Improve Health Care?” efits, Savings, And Costs.” Health Affairs Scientific American, December 1, 2009. 24, No. 5 (2005): 1103-117. doi:10.1377/ http://www.scientificamerican.com/arti- hlthaff.24.5.1103. cle/electronic-health-records/ 14 Smart Card Alliance. “German 4. “FY2015 Budget in Brief - CMS Medi- Health Card.” Last modified 2006. http:// care.” HHS.gov. June 4, 2014. http://www. www.smartcardalliance.org/resources/ hhs.gov/about/budget/fy2015/budget-in- pdf/German_Health_Card.pdf. brief/cms/medicare/index.html. 5. Xiao, C. and Yu, A. (2009). Medical 15. Ibid. Smart Card System for Patient Record Management (Science, Technology, and Energy Policy White Paper Competition). Retrieved from http://step.berkeley.edu/ White_Paper/Xiao_Yu.pdf 6. Donaldson, Molla Sloane. “An Overview of To Err is Human: Re-emphasizing the Message of Patient Safety.” in Patient Safety and Quality: An Evidence-Based Handbook for Nurses (Rockville: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 2008). Retrieved from http://www.ncbi. nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK2673/ 7. Woolhandler, Steffie et al. “Costs of Health Care Administration in the United States and Canada.” New England Journal of Medicine 349, No. 8 (2003): 768–775. 8. D. U. Himmelstein, M. Jun, R. Busse et al., “A Comparison of Hospital Administrative Costs in Eight Nations: U.S. Costs Exceed All Others by Far,”Health Affairs, Sept. 2014 33(9):1586–94. 9. Hansen, Margaret. “Smart Card Technology and Healthcare Information.” CIN: Computers, Informatics, Nursing 26, No. 5 (2008): 254-57. doi:10.1097/01. NCN.0000304842.44584.42. 10. “Health Policy Brief: Eliminating Fraud and Abuse,” Health Affairs, July 31, 2012. http://healthaffairs.org/healthpolicybriefs/brief_pdfs/healthpolicybrief_72. pdf
By Jordan Singer
hile the United States is quick to rally around epidemics overseas or the annual flu season, little attention is paid to the silent suffering of millions of Americans awaiting organ transplants. Little do most people know that every 10 minutes, someone in the United States is added to the national transplant list, and on average, 22 people die each day while waiting for a transplant. 122,505 people need a lifesaving organ transplant (total waiting list candidates); of those, 79,100 people are active waiting list candidates.1 Although such statistics may seem bleak, these people are not without help. One person who donates organs -- a heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, pancreas and intestines -- can save up to eight lives, while one tissue donor can improve twelve or more lives using donated corneas, skin and muscles. By enrolling in the New York State Donate Life Registry, a New York resident gives legal consent for the recovery of your organs, tissues and eyes for the purposes of transplantation and research at the time of your death.2 Most people register at the Department of Motor Vehicles when signing up for or renewing a driverâ€™s license or other form of state identification; however, one may do this online in between visits to the DMV.3 Currently, New York State employs an opt-in system of organ donation in which residents are presumed to not want to donate their organs unless otherwise specified. However, making the simple switch to an opt-out system in which it is presumed that citizens waive their rights to their organs after death would increase the number of organ donations will still allowing citizens to retain the rights to their organs if they so choose. Existing infrastructure by which one declares his or herself a donor could be used in reverse to opt out.
nization (WHO), sixteen countries have adopted opt-out laws including Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Turkey. WHO reports that these countries experience an average 25 to 30% higher donation rate than countries with opt-out laws.4 Some countries have also adopted the practice of giving priority for receiving organs to donors themselves in conjunction with an opt-out system. This opt-out with priority system theoretically provides a dual-incentive for donation: avoiding the cost of opting out, and receiving priority on the waitlist in the event of an emergency. Singapore adopted such a policy with the passage of the Human Organ Transplant Act in 1987. The countryâ€™s combined efforts have been moderately successful in increasing organ donations. As it stands, more research is needed to confirm the explicit benefits of a priority system in conjunction with an opt-out system, although U.S. policymakers may want to consider this option in the future.5
A Dearth of Donors: Increasing Organ Donation with an Opt-Out System
The New York State Senate and Assembly should adopt an opt-out system for organ donation in order to make it easier for people to relinquish their organs to a terminally ill patient after death. There are four active organ procurement organizations and three active organ transplant centers in New York State, and there is no cost to the donorâ€™s family or estate for a donation.6 Furthermore, existing registration infrastructure could be maintained by simply reversing the language to facilitate opting out rather than opting in. Therefore, this policy change does not place a significant burden on the state or its people. Background While some might raise concerns about the speed with which refusals to donate According to the World Health Orga- are processed, online registration systems
already in place could serve as an efficient mechanism of recording one’s decision so as to avoid a situation in which a refuser dies in the interim between filing a request and its being processed. These online registration systems could in the future feed automatically into a database coordinated by the United Network for Organ Sharing, eliminating this wait time. Checking this registry before removal would need to be made mandatory. Furthermore, the system would need to account for minors and people who have never been competent enough to consent to a legal matter such as organ donation. New York State would also need to allow sufficient time before the legislation went into effect in which citizens could register objections.7 As the Washington Post cited, “Countries that have experienced the greatest donation increases in recent years, such as Spain and Italy, have hired more transplant coordinators, improved training for doctors who talk to bereaved families about their choices, and installed 24-hour organ retrieval teams at hospitals. Some countries have also embarked on major public awareness campaigns.” An opt-out system in New York would see the most success if the state adopted these practices as well.8 While some speculate that consenting to organ donation could lead to suboptimal care when hospitalized for a critical condition, hospital staff have no financial incentive to notify potential procurement agencies of potential donors who are currently under their care.9 Sustained media engagement is necessary not only to make sure people understand what an opt-out system would mean for them but also to ensure that all citizens are aware of their ability to waive their rights before the policy goes into effect. One Canadian study found that citizens who are unfamiliar with the concept of organ donation in general are much more likely to reject an opt-out system as they believe it took away their right to choose whether to donate organs, which is not the case.10 All media campaigns should be careful to use language of “opting out” rather than “presumed consent” as studies have proven that the latter is more likely to receive a negative response from policymakers.11 Amongst the rampant debate about
solutions to our country’s health needs, organ donation often goes unaddressed. This policy should find bipartisan support as it does not encroach on citizens’ individual liberties while still enhancing the common good. Not only will an opt-out system help those suffering from illnesses today, but it will also begin to build a safety-net for future patients. This cumulative effect makes an opt-out system a wise investment for our health infrastructure. Endnotes 1. “Data.” UNOS. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2015. 2. “Organ and Tissue Donations.” Organ and Tissue Donations. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2015. 3. “Becoming a Donor.” Organdonor.gov. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2015. 4. “Increasing Organ Donation by Presumed Consent and Allocation Priority: Chile.” WHO. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2015. 5. Ibid. 6. “Facts about Organ Donation.” UNOS. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2015. 7. Dolling, Jennifer. Opting in to an OptOut System: Presumed Consent As a Valid Policy Choice for Ontario’s Cadaveric Organ Shortage. , 2009. Print. 8. “Organizing Organ Donation.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 23 Jan. 2008. Web. 23 Apr. 2016. 9. “Facts about Organ Donation.” 10. Dolling. 11. Hamm, D., and J. Tizzard. “Presumed Consent for Organ Donation.” Bmj336.7638 (2008): 230. Stanford University. Web.
â€œI do not look upon these United States as a finished product. We are still in the making.â€? - Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1936