Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) reiterated his belief that states should have the right to legalize same-sex marriage during a Fox News GOP presidential debate in Greenville, South Carolina. “I think the government should just be out of it. I think it should be done by the church or private contract and we shouldn’t have this argument, who is married and who isn’t married,” Paul said, insisting that “if we want to have something to say about marriage it should be at the state level and not at the federal government.” Watch it:
In March, Paul made similar remarks during an appearance at a “Presidential Symposium” sponsored by the FAMiLY Leader— an anti-gay group working to repeal same-sex marriage in Iowa. At that event, Paul said that the Iowa Supreme Court (which overturned the state’s Defense of Marriage Act) has the constitutional right to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry.
Paul also defended the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), arguing that the measure preserved the rights of the states to establish marriage laws.
In an effort to fend off Democratic budgetary proposals that include higher tax rates on the rich and corporations, Congressional Republicans are dusting off one of their favorite talking points: that America’s debt and deficits are caused entirely by spending and not at all by decreasing revenue streams. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made the argument on the Senate floor yesterday, saying: “We all know that raising taxes would stall the rebound we all claim to want. Let’s just admit we don’t have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem.”
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee, has been making the argument in a different way, pushing a recent report that 51 percent of Americans don’t pay any income taxes. To Hatch and his Republican colleagues, the report is perfect evidence that the rich already pay too much in taxes. The answer to that problem, as Hatch explained on MSNBC’s Daily Rundown today, is to revamp the tax code in order to make middle- and lower-class Americans pay their fair share:
HOST: Do you reform the tax code system? The president’s own fiscal commission came out and said that if we reform the tax code, you could save and add a trillion dollars.
HATCH: Well, Bastiat, the great economist of the past said, the place where you’ve got to get revenues has to come from the middle class. That’s the huge number of people that are there. So the system does need to be revamped. As far as, I think I made the point that if you just go with what the president says about the wealthy, you might get $36 billion compared to the $1.5 trillion expenditure this year, or should I say deficit this year. And the problem with that is that you hit about 800,000 small businesses where the jobs are created that would hopefully get enough people to pay taxes. So, yeah, we have an unbalanced tax code that we’ve got to change.
I tell you, if we get control of that committee, the Finance Committee, I intend to see that it’s changed. Not to hurt the poor. We should help the poor. But to make sure that there’s a civic duty on the part of every one of us to help this government to, uh, to be better.
By using the report to make the assertion that poor and middle class Americans aren’t paying their fair share in taxes, Hatch and his Republican colleagues are ignoring all sorts of realities. The majority of Americans who do not pay federal income taxes don’t make enough money to qualify for even the lowest tax bracket, a problem made worse by the economic recession. That includes retired Americans, who don’t pay income taxes because they earn very little income, if they earn any at all.
And while many low-income Americans don’t pay income taxes, they do pay taxes. Because of payroll and sales taxes — a large proportion of which are paid by low- and middle-income Americans — less than a quarter of the nation’s households don’t contribute to federal tax receipts — and the majority of the non-contributors are students, the elderly, or the unemployed.
Meanwhile, tax rates for upper-income Americans continue to drop. As ThinkProgress’ Zaid Jilani has reported, the 400 richest Americans — who have more wealth than half of America combined — are paying less than they were a generation ago. As a result, the United States now boasts one of the largest income gaps in the industrialized world, as our level of income inequality is now comparable to that in Uganda and Pakistan.
Hatch is also wrong in his assumption that raising tax rates on the rich would hurt job creation. As Wonk Room’s Pat Garofalo notes, fewer than two percent of American businesses fall into the top two income brackets, the only two brackets that would be affected should taxes on the rich increase. Only three percent of Americans who claim business income would be affected by the increase.
Hatch attacked low-income Americans on Twitter earlier this week, saying, “51% of US households did not pay any federal income tax in 2009. It’s easy to want more gov’t benefits when you aren’t paying.” Though Hatch and his colleagues pretend that their hardline stance on budget cuts to vital programs is about “shared sacrifice,” they have made it clear that if they get their way, the only Americans sharing in the sacrifice will be those who can afford it least.
Republicans in Minnesota have fast-tracked a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage that could appear on the 2012 ballot. The measure — which would amend the state constitution to say “Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota” — passed out of committees in the Senate on Friday and the House on Monday and will likely move to the floor of both chambers in the coming days.
Yesterday, 63 current and former law school faculty members from the University of Minnesota formally pushed back against the effort, signing an open letter to state legislators urging them to vote against the bill. The professors argued that it would “set in constitutional cement the existing hardships on thousands of families, including children” and create new expenses for the state:
The potential applications of an amendment and its collateral consequences in other areas of the law could be far- reaching. Frankly, the full implications of the proposed amendment are unknown. Accordingly, it will likely generate litigation over both its validity and its scope; in effect, the legislature is inviting significant and needless expense for the state and its citizens during a time of extraordinary economic difficulty.
In its 153 years of statehood, Minnesota has enacted many changes in the practice and law of marriage, and in family-related topics like divorce and adoption. Many of these changes have been controversial and have generated considerable debate in the state legislature and among the public. Minnesotans of good will may continue to debate the merits of legally recognizing same-sex couples through marriage or some other status. But in its entire history, Minnesota has never cut short the ordinary legislative process regarding marriage and family law by enshrining one particular view into its constitution. There is no compelling need to do so now.
Minnesota state law already bans gay and lesbian couples from marrying and as a result same-sex couples in the state face “515 legal challenges, from serious issues involving taxes and end-of-life issues to more mundane concerns such as the inability to purchase a family fishing license.” According to the Williams Institute, in 2005, there were an estimated “175,611 gay, lesbian, and bisexual people (single and coupled) living in Minnesota” — 16,081 of whom were coupled.
Since Osama bin Laden’s death, conservatives have tried to resurrect the debate on the value of tortue in a seeming attempt to defend their own defense of illegal activity. Based on news reports that small pieces of information that eventually led U.S. intelligence to locate bin Laden were obtained under the Bush administration’s terror detainee torture program, right-wing torture apologists have projected that this must mean that torture works and Bush and co. were justified in authorizing it.
But aside from whether or not torture works (it actuallydoesn’t), today on a Center for American Progress-sponsored press call, Matthew Alexander, former Air Force interrogator who led the team that tracked down Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, wondered, “Why are we having a discussion about efficacy?” “Torture is wrong,” he said, noting that “it’s a moral issue…and it’s a legal issue.” He then astutely compared the issue to soldiers using illegal weapons on the battlefield:
ALEXANDER: And we don’t apply that same standard to other fields like the infantry, who despite facing some obstacles in battle, are not allowed to use chemical weapons which are 100% effective. So I reject the fact that we reduce this to an argument about efficacy.
Also on the call was Glenn Calme, a former CIA official who led the interrogation of a high level terror detainee. Calme told ThinkProgress yesterday that torture is never justified, and today agreed with Alexander’s point that debating the efficacy of torture is useless:
CARLE: No one would would accept in the United States that if we knew that there was one guilty party in a room of 20 people that we would kill all 20 people because that would eliminate the problem. We simply don’t do it. It’s unacceptable. Similarly you might believe that an individual has one bit of information or some information useful among a host of other things that he knows that are not relevant, you shouldn’t torture that person any more than you would kill 20 people to extract one theoretical piece of information. That is an insane argument that we’re actually even having.
Aside from the many reasons why the United States should never use torture, the fact is that not using torture works better! As Alexander noted during the call:
ALEXANDER: We do know that other interrogation techniques would have worked and produced more info definitively. And why do I say that? Because we have Saddam Hussein who was captured without using them. And we have Abu Musab al-Zarkawi who my team tracked down and killed without using them. We have an entire generation of interrogators in World War II, Vietnam, Panama, the first Gulf War, all did their jobs without enhanced interrogation techniques. There’s no doubt in my mind that we could have gotten more without enhanced interrogation techniques.
On why he invests so much in nuke R&D: “The good news about nuclear is that there has hardly been any innovation.”
Is there any super-rich tech geek who knows less about WTF he is talking about than Bill Gates? Bizarrely, he keeps dissing technology deployment as a source of innovation, even though that’s how he innovated and got rich (see below).
Even more bizarrely, Gates loves nuclear power because … wait for it … there’s been no innovation. He just said at the Wired business conference:
“The good news about nuclear is that there has hardly been any innovation. The room to do things differently is quite dramatic”
Seriously. That must hold the record for trying to make lemonade out of lemons. It is certainly possible to believe that the lack of innovation in nuclear power is due to, oh, I don’t know, businesses simply sleeping on the job for the past 30 years.
Or perhaps there is another reason, as a 2010 paper argued (see Does nuclear power have a negative learning curve? ‘Forgetting by doing’? Real escalation in reactor investment costs): “It may be more productive to start asking whether these trends are not intrinsic to the very nature of the technology itself: large-scale, lumpy, and requiring a formidable ability to manage complexity in both construction and operation.”
But it isn’t enough for Gates to tout his big brilliant bet on nukes — “In recent years [Gates] has invested hundreds of millions in nuclear energy start-ups” – or for him to bet big on geo-engineering. No, he has to attack energy efficiency and solar PV:
Part 1: “You can’t just have an adaptation strategy. There’s no chance of that working.”
You can see Paul Gilding in DC Saturday at 5:30 pm — and Portland tonight and Seattle Friday (details here).
You may remember Paul Gilding, former executive director of Greenpeace International, from Tom Friedman’s column on how the global economy is a Ponzi scheme. I was quoted in that column, too, and as a result, I have gotten to know him.
He doesn’t think averting catastrophic global warming will be easy, but he believes we will do it through a World-War-II-scale effort, since the alternative is almost beyond imagining and certainly beyond what people euphemistically call “adaptation.”
In this first video, he talks about the unbelievable drought and then equally unbelievable flooding that hit his home country of Australia, and why he remains optimistic in spite of that:
Even before he was in office, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) proposed privatizing much of Florida’s prison system, and state House and Senate negotiators agreed to do just that Monday as legislators hammer out a budget. The agreement will move thousands of inmates to prisons run by for-profit companies in an 18-county region in Southern Florida.
As the Maimi Herald reported last month, Scott’s plan “could open a lucrative door to politically connected vendors who stand to profit.” GEO Group appears to be the company with the most to gain. The nation’s second largest private corrections company, GEO — based in Boca Raton, FL — already manages two of the state’s seven private prisons and four of its seven mental-health facilities.
The company has also deployed a small army of lobbyists in Tallahassee, including Florida “uber-lobbyist” Brian Ballard. Ballard and Scott have an unusually close relationship. Scott appointed Ballard to the finance committee for his inaugural fund and Ballard helped raise $3 million for the festivities. The month after Scott was sworn in, Ballard hosted a fundraiser Superbowl party at his Tallahassee home — Scott was the guest of honor.
Ballard is also a lobbyist for the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) — the nation’s largest corrections company with close ties to GOP statehouses across the country — which also stands to gain from the privatization scheme. The company has spent $373,000 in political contributions in Florida since 2003, over 60 percent of which have gone to Republicans.
Meanwhile, a third company, The Boca Raton company, is a “a reliable contributor to the Republican party” and gave Scott’s inaugural fund the maximum $25,000. It also employs a stable of 16 lobbyists in Tallahassee.
The Illinois legislative session is drawing to a close this week, and Catholic Charities is fervently pushing for legislation that would “protect” the organization from having to offer adoption services to same-sex couples once the civil unions law takes effect June 1. After such a provisionfailed last month, it’s extremely unlikely another will see headway this week. At a press conference today, Trish Fox of Catholic Charities of Peoria tried to spin this intention to discriminate as just being consistent with past practices:
The Catholic Church is not going to be OK with Catholic Charities processing applications from anyone in a civil union and all we’re asking is that we can continue what we’ve always done, which is refer cohabitating couples, heterosexual or homosexual, to another agency.
The state’s attorney general will likely issue an opinion before couples begin applying for civil unions about how the law will impact adoption and foster care services. Most suspect that any agency that accepts public funding will be required to provide services to couples in civil unions.
Catholic Charities’ threat in Illinois is not new. In fact, Catholic Charities regularly responds to advances in LGBT equality by self-victimizing — claiming that it’s getting “pushed out” by policies that don’t respect its freedom of religion. The clear and honest truth is that Catholic Charities voluntarily ends its charitable services when required to provide them to gays and lesbians.
Back in March, when the Obama administration announced that the Department of Justice (DOJ) would no longer defend the definition of marriage set forth by Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), several immigration offices responded by putting applications and petitions involving married, binational same-sex couples on hold until the issue was resolved. Normally, members of the LGBT community who are married to a foreign national would not be able to sponsor their partner for a green card and prevent his or her spouse from being deported. The immigrant rights and LGBT communities were crushed when in April the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services indicated that “the hold is over, so we’re back to adjudicating cases as we always have.”
Today, in what is being described as a “very rare decision,” DOJ Secretary Eric Holder announced that he has vacated — or essentially wiped out — a decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals in reference to a recent case in which the BIA applied DOMA’s Section 3. In his decision, Holder listed the criteria the BIA should consider:
1) whether respondent’s same-sex partnership or civil union qualifies him to be considered a “spouse” under New Jersey law;
2) whether, absent the requirements of DOMA, respondent’s same-sex partnership or civil union would qualify him to be considered a “spouse” under the Immigration and Nationality Act;
3) what, if any, impact the timing of respondent’s civil union should have on his request for that discretionary relief; and
4) whether, if he had a “qualifying relative,” the respondent would be able to satisfy the exceptional and unusual hardship requirement for cancellation of removal.
Attorney Eric Berndt of the National Asylum Partnership on Sexual Minorities at the National Immigrant Justice Center told Metro Weekly that Holder’s decision “adds some heft to our requests for prosecutorial discretion in individual cases in which the foreign partner” of a same-sex bi-national couple is seeking a green card because of his or her citizen same-sex partner.
Queerty points out that Holder’s decision isn’t just significant because he is asking the BIA to stop and reconsider this specific deportation, he has chosen to vacate a decision involving a civil union rather than a marriage. “This is a huge huge huge deal for all the bi-national couples in states that do not have marriage,” notes the blog.
Coincidentally, Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) reintroduced the Reuniting Families Act today, a bill that would eliminate discrimination in immigration law against LGBT citizens and their foreign born partners, amongst other things.