What You Should Know About Politics . . . But Don’t, Fourth Edition | Jessamyn Conrad

Summary of: What You Should Know About Politics . . . But Don’t, Fourth Edition: A Nonpartisan Guide to the Issues That Matter
By: Jessamyn Conrad


Dive into the world of politics and gain a clear understanding of the major issues that have shaped the United States over the past few decades. This summary of ‘What You Should Know About Politics . . . But Don’t’ examines the intricacies of the American economy, the role of the United States in international affairs, the constant struggle for healthcare reform, the ongoing debate on climate change, and the ever-evolving cultural and social issues. As you explore this nonpartisan guide, you can expect to unravel the core of political and economic debates, discover the key players, and grasp the overarching themes that have influenced policy decisions.

Striking the Economic Balance

The federal government aims to maintain “just right” economic growth without overheating the machinery. The housing bubble of 2008 led to the scrutiny of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac while sparking the Occupy Wall Street movement, criticizing the power and influence held by Wall Street and DC elites. There are disagreements over tax policies between Republicans and Democrats with the latter asserting the necessity of taxes to fund social programs, safety nets, and public infrastructure. The fundamental mistake lies in the opposite views on the role of government – the liberals prefer state intervention while the conservatives view it as the enemy of societal progress.

America’s Foreign Policy in Recent Decades

The United States established its neutral party status in 1823 while warning European powers to halt further Western Hemisphere colonization. In 1898, they became a colonial power after the Spanish-American War. During World War I, President Woodrow Wilson adopted an isolationist position, but later, the United States became a global war participant. The Cold War led to American intervention in Vietnam. Recent foreign entanglements occurred in the Middle East with President George H.W. Bush’s Gulf War, which left Saddam Hussein in power, fearing a subsequent civil war if he were removed. After the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush ousted Hussein, despite lacking United Nations approval. The media and Congress supported his claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, but the outcome was not as anticipated, and Iraq plunged into chaos.

The Pitfalls of US Healthcare

While the US boasts of the best healthcare in the world, over 40 million citizens lack insurance coverage, and medical bills push many Americans into bankruptcy. The government only provides care to those aged 65 and over and the poor. Democrats believe in universal access, but Republicans oppose more government involvement. Factors driving up medical costs include high drug prices and competition between hospitals for the newest treatments.

The American healthcare system is renowned for its high standards of care, but for many citizens, it is financially out of reach. The United States is the only industrialized country without universal healthcare coverage. Over 40 million Americans lack insurance coverage, which makes medical bills a leading cause of personal bankruptcy. Most people gain health insurance through employers, who provide health management organizations or preferred provider organizations. The government provides care through Medicare and Medicaid, but only for specific groups.

The country is divided on how to address the issue of universal healthcare access. While Democrats believe it is a fundamental human right, Republicans oppose more government involvement in healthcare. High drug prices are another problem, with pharmaceutical companies citing research and development costs, while skeptics argue that patients can purchase the same drugs for less abroad. Furthermore, hospitals compete by investing in cutting-edge equipment, adding to overall costs. The question is whether access to medical treatment is a basic human right or a privilege only for the privileged few.

Climate Change Solutions

Despite the scientific reality of climate change, political action has not sufficiently addressed the issue. Cap-and-trade systems, including carbon credits and offsets, offer one solution. Additionally, alternative energy sources like solar, wind, and ethanol present themselves as viable green options to replace fossil fuels. However, challenges remain, as wind and solar power are not always reliable, and traditional ethanol production methods require high resource inputs. As an alternative, switchgrass is a low-maintenance plant that can replace corn as a source for ethanol. Overall, the debate has shifted from the existence of climate change to the best solutions to mitigate its effects.

Civil Liberties and Government Actions

In the United States, political debates over civil liberties often focus on gun rights, torture, and wiretapping policies. Liberals tend to support stricter gun control policies, while opposing torture and wiretapping. Conservatives are the opposite, opposed to gun control but supportive of torture and wiretapping. Libertarians consistently advocate for civil liberties. Disagreements over gun control policies are based on opposing interpretations of the Second Amendment. The Fourth Amendment, which guarantees protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, is another source of controversy. After the 9/11 terror attacks, warrantless wiretaps of American citizens speaking to foreign nationals were allowed under the Bush administration. Republicans argued that the initiative targeted enemies of the state during a time of war and that foreign nationals do not receive Fourth Amendment protections. This issue highlights a strong division between urban and rural attitudes toward guns, as well as differing opinions on the limits of government power and individual liberties.

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