Elections have very real consequences

Hai Thai, a Comcast employee, yells into a bullhorn as Comcast employees protest President Donald Trump's executive order banning refugees as well as immigrants from seven majority Muslim countries, at Dilworth Park in Philadelphia on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017. (David Maialetti/AP)

It’s an obvious statement, but there is some important nuance to consider when evaluating how the choice of a president, senator or any government official can affect those in our country and around the world. It is imperative that when we vote, we consider all of the ramifications of the policies that politicians implement. These policies can have drastic effects on the lives of individuals, and we cannot lose sight of this fact.

I speak specifically in regard to two recent developments that have come from our government. The Republican Congress is in the process of dismantling the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare for anyone who still hasn’t figured out that they are the same piece of legislation.) The other is the executive order by Donald Trump to bar citizens, including refugees, of seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States for a period of at least three months.

Let’s consider the Muslim ban (which I will address as so because that is more or less what it is). Supporters of this measure both in and out of government say that it is necessary to keep our country safe from radical Islamic terrorists. The Muslim ban is being justified in the name of saving lives, when in all likelihood it won’t. No people from any of the countries banned has committed a terrorist attack on American soil in decades.

While the terrorist attacks that do occur here are frightening, they are not numerous. Between 2005 and 2015 jihadists killed 94 people in the United States. Statistically that is very small. Terrorist attacks are scary, but our fear of them is not proportional to the actual risk of one occurring. In addition, the ban is undoubtedly a great recruiting tool for ISIL, which now has proof that Americans view Muslims as enemies and are not even willing to take war-torn refugees. What this boils down to is an action that does nothing but make some people feel a little safer, without actually ensuring their safety.

Since when is making one group of people “feel” safe more important than the actual lives of other groups? The people being turned away from our country are not terrorists or jihadists. They are those with family members in the United States who don’t want to be split up. They are college students who don’t know if they can go home. They are people who have lived here for years and contributed to the well-being of our country and just happened to visit relatives at the wrong time. In many cases, their lives are being ripped apart for no good reason.

While we ban decent people from our shores with the incorrect justification of saving lives, the government is repealing an act that is factually proven to save lives. Various studies have indicated that Obamacare has saved tens of thousands of lives, and an outright repeal could lead to more than 30,000 additional deaths per year. You would think that the people willing to shut thousands out of our country to save “even one person” would be totally against a repeal of legislation that has saved more lives than terrorists have ever taken from us.

Why are we willing to go to vast extremes to stop terrorists who kill less than 10 people a year in the United States while not willing to pay a little extra for a healthcare policy that saves tens of thousands a year? It quite honestly boggles the mind.

It is important to consider the literal effects of policies on people when making decisions on how to vote. It is easy to say, “I want a repeal of Obamacare because my premiums have been going up.” It is harder to say, “I want a repeal of Obamacare because I believe the increase in my premiums is more important than the tens of thousands of lives it saves every year.” In the future, we must ensure we ask ourselves the hard questions about our policy decisions. People’s lives are quite literally in our hands.


Jacob Kowalski is a weekly columnist to The Daily Campus opinion section. He can be reached via email at jacob.kowalski@uconn.edu