Thursday, February 28, 2013

Supreme Court Ruling on Surveillance Case Should be Guide to Ruling on Gay Marriage

But It Won’t – Conservatives Justices Vote Their Preferences, Not the Law

The Supreme Court has ruled that a group of journalist challenging a U. S. surveillance law could not challenge a U. S. surveillance law.  The reason, the group lacked standing.

Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said that the journalists, lawyers and human rights advocates who challenged the constitutionality of the law could not show they had been harmed by it and so lacked standing to sue. Their fear that they would be subject to surveillance in the future was too speculative to establish standing, he wrote.

Hm, interesting situation, where the Conservative Justices ruled that in order to challenge a ruling the challenging party must show that they are harmed.  The interesting part is that in March the Supreme Court will consider a challenge to a ruling that Proposition 8, the California Initiative that rejected legalizing gay marriage was wrongly decided.  See if the Court is to be consistent, then in this case the people challenging the rejected law would have to show that they are harmed by gay marriage.

They are not of course, nobody is harmed by another couple become legally married.  So rational people would expect the Supreme Court to reject overturning the lower court decisions invalidating the prohibition of gay marriage, in part because those challenging cannot show that they are harmed by gay marriage.  They don’t have standing, and as Justice Alito has so eloquently just stated, no standing, no right to challenge.

But no one expects the Conservatives on this Court to think that way.  The four ultra conservative Justices will almost certainly rule against gay marriage on the grounds that they are personally opposed to gay marriage and hence have the right to reject it.  No it’s not the right thing to do legally, but Conservative don’t care, they are outcome oriented and want government to rule in their favor regardless of the principles involved.  Principles of law are valid only when the result is the outcome Conservatives want.

North Carolina Republican Keep 500,000 Low Income Individuals From Getting Health Care Insurance

And Here’s What They Have to Say About It

[News That Didn’t Happen, But Could Have]

The transition of North Carolina from a forward thinking moderate southern state into Alabama continues, with the Republican controlled government declining to allow 500,000 individual access to Medicaid, coverage that would be paid for by the Federal government.  Here’s what they had to say about it in an exclusive interview that didn’t happen.

DPE:  What was the single most important factor in your decision to keep these individual from getting Medicaid?

North Carolina Conservative:   They are poor people. And since God is the Creator of everything, if God didn’t want them to be poor He would not have made them poor.  So allowing poor people to have access to health care is defeating God’s will.

DPE:  Uh, doesn’t God support decent treatment for all?

North Carolina Conservative:  Well yes, and He manifests his will by having the state of North Carolina provide health care insurance for all of us Republicans legislators.  We deserve it.  They don’t.

DPE:  How much money will this save the citizens of North Carolina?

North Carolina Conservative:    Well none, because the Feds would have paid for all of it in the first few years.  In fact this will probably cost the state money since some of these deadbeat poor people will somehow get to Emergency Rooms where bleeding heart hospitals will treat them.  But that’s not the money that is the issue, principle is at work here.

DPE:  What principle is that?

North Carolina Conservative:   If you cannot afford health care treatment you have no business getting sick.  That’s just irresponsible behavior.

DPE:  Do Republicans in North Carolina have an alternative in mind for low income people who will not have access to Medicaid?

North Carolina Conservative:  Absolutely.  We are going to make private insurance plans post their programs on the Web, and poor people can pick any one of those.

DPE:  But those programs are unregulated and may cost over $1,000.00 per month.  How can low income people afford them?

North Carolina Conservative  That’s the beauty of the free enterprise system.  If they cannot afford something they don’t get it.  Get it?

DPE:  Uh no.  

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Think the Crazies Haven’t Taken Over the Country – In South Carolina They Are Raffling Off a Handgun to Support High School Students

No, They Just Couldn’t Get an Assault Rifle

Everybody really feels good when a community rallies around the local high school.  So in South Carolina (too small to be a country, too large to be an insane asylum) everyone has to feel wonderful that a local booster club is raffling off a Sig Sauer to raise money.

7 On Your Side Found out the Blacksburg High Athlete Booster Club, which started up this school year, is selling raffle the tickets. The winner gets a Sig Sauer 938.

High School Booster Club Set To Raffle Off Gun

Now the really amazing part of this story is that some people actually objected to this.

The Cherokee County School District is up in arms after learning about a hand gun raffle taking place in Blacksburg.

"I was unaware of this and we are going to be investigating and find out what we can about the raffle," said Craig Bramlett, Blacksburg High School Principal.

And yes, in consideration of the Newtown shootings the booster club did decline to raffle off an automatic weapon.

We asked Tessner if he considered the recent Newtown school shooting when deciding to raffle off a gun.

"Yes, that's the reason why I didn't do an assault rifle or anything like that," said Tessner. "I thought with everybody that's taking concealed weapons permit classes and all... women, men or whatever... we could do it that way. I didn't think it would offend that many people."

Wow, what a nice considerate man.  We hope he wins.

Memo To Radical Conservatives – Don’t Think You Have Lost the Marriage Equality Issue?

Think Again

As has been noted before on this Forum, Jennifer Rubin is the Mitt Romney representative to the Washington Post, a front for the Romney campaign masquerading as a Commentator.  Now that Mr. Romney has returned to his roots (corporate boards) Ms. Rubin is searching for a way to remain relevant. 

So it is interesting that a strident and vicious Conservative like Ms. Rubin has this to say about the opposition to bigotry towards the gay and lesbian community.

The growing support for gay marriage

·             Posted by Jennifer Rubin on February 20, 2013 at 12:30 pm

Some social conservatives bristle when I say the gay marriage issue has been “lost.” But if polling and a series of state referendums don’t convince them of this, maybe the people who appear in this ad from Respect for Marriage Coalition (launched nationally today) will signal that there has been a sea change on the issue:


So why is this news?  Well those endorsing equality are former Vice President Dick Cheney and former First Lady Laura Bush.

It must pain the left to see Laura Bush and Dick Cheney carrying the banner of marriage equality. It sort of messes up its narrative of the evil Bushies. But it should be pleased that this cause has such robust, bipartisan support.

So which is a bigger threat to traditional marriage — the people of Maryland voting for gay marriage or Mark Sanford declaring that his public deception and destruction of his family shouldn’t disqualify him from public office? Just asking.

And no Ms. Rubin, we don’t think the endorsement of Mr. Cheney and Mrs. Bush will pain anyone except those still holding the prejudicial view against decent and honorable people.  The good new, those holding those views are going to have a lot more pain in the future.

New York Times Has Put Up Boston Globe for Sale – Gets Bid of $100 Million

 Uh NYT There’s a Lesson Here - Please Stick to News Reporting

A number of years ago, when newspapers were thought to be a constant in the economy for decades to come the New York Times Corporation bought the Boston Globe.  But for the past several years they have been trying to sell it.  And now they have a bid.

New York Times Co. NYT received a formal bid valuing the Boston Globe at more than $100 million last month from a former Globe executive and a Boston private-equity firm, though about a third of the value would come from the buyers assuming some of the paper's pension liabilities, according to people familiar with the matter.

Ok, that sounds pretty good.  Considering that the Globe is losing a pot full of money this looks promising.  So why the advice to the NYT to stay out of the acquisition business?  It’s this interesting fact.

The Times acquired the Globe for $1.1 billion in 1993 but took an $814 million write-down on the paper and other New England Media Group assets in 2006.

Yep, all the news that’s fit to print, and next time NYT, stick with what you know.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Pro-Life Position The Pro Abortion Rights and Everyone Else Agrees With

Free to Choose Means Free to Choose.  Period

A Texas abortion rights issue has been publicized in which a 16 year old girl was allegedly being forced to get an abortion by her parents.

The 16-year-old girl, identified in the lawsuit as “R.E.K.,” said that after she revealed she was pregnant, her mother threatened to "slip [the teen] an abortion pill," took her phone and car and kept her home from school to punish her for refusing to have an abortion.

According to the lawsuit, the woman told her daughter that she was "making the biggest mistake of her life" by choosing to have the child and that she herself had undergone numerous abortions.

The girl's parents are divorced, and she lives with her mother.
The girl’s father, according to the lawsuit, told her he "was going to look into canceling" her health insurance and sent her a text saying she "needs an ass whoopin'.”

Both parents allegedly told the girl, now 10 weeks pregnant, that she could "continue to live in misery" in their home or "have the abortion and tell everyone it was a miscarriage," according to the lawsuit.

A Texas anti-abortion rights took up the case, and it has been settled with the young lady having her full rights restored, including the right to carry her baby to term and to have it and raise it.  Two interesting points come out of this.

This is a tremendous victory and another life has been saved,” said Greg Terra, an attorney and president of the Austin-based Texas Center for the Defense of Life in a statement. “Our victory today stands for the principle that ‘choice’ goes both ways.

Yes, anti-abortion rights group, choice does go both ways.  Glad to see you coming on board the concept that it is women who get to choose, not their parents, not interested parties and not the government. 

Oh, and the second point.  If what has been alleged about the parents is true, than science must be re-written. Neanderthals truly do walk amongst us.

The Nastiness of the Right Wing - Washington Post Columnist and Romney Attack Dog Slams Michelle Obama for Being on the Oscars

But Unlike Conservatives Don’t Expect Ms. Obama to Whine About It

In their post election disappointment many conservatives have turned on the Obama’s.  Peggy Noonan, once a somewhat rational commentator for the Wall Street Journal has now joined the National Association of Professional Obama Haters.  But Ms. Noonan’s earlier remarks about how mean the President is now look even more foolish, as the critics of the President weigh in full force.

Michelle Obama
Michelle Obama, with service members behind her, announcing the
 winner of the Best Picture Academy Award (Mario Anzuoni / Reuters)

Up to bat recently was Jennifer Rubin  whom the Washington Post appointed last year as the official unofficial conduit for the Romney campaign.  Inexplicably now that Mr. Romney fades into history is that the WaPo kept her on, and without Mr. Romney as her raison d’etre Ms. Rubin launches into the very bitter personal attack mode.  Here she is commenting (about the best word that can be used to describe her writing) on Michele Obama’s appearance on the Oscar telecast.

It is not enough that President Obama pops up at every sporting event in the nation. Now the first lady feels entitled, with military personnel as props, to intrude on other forms of entertaining (this time for the benefit of the Hollywood glitterati who so lavishly paid for her husband’s election). I’m sure the left will holler that once again conservatives are being grouchy and have it in for the Obamas. Seriously, if they really had their president’s interests at heart, they’d steer away from encouraging these celebrity appearances. It makes both the president and the first lady seem small and grasping. In this case, it was just downright weird.

Well that is pretty mean, as is this.

No one, it seems, gets within a mile of the White House with any sense of restraint. No one there would dare suggest nearly half the country didn’t vote for him and doesn’t much like him and might want to be left to their small daily pleasures. (Greta Garbo said it best.) And no one there is apt to explain that the White House, the military and the first lady (not this one in particular) are institutions bigger than the Obamas and their e-mail list.

Notice that there is nothing about policy here, no incisive commentary, just personal venom towards Ms. Obama and her husband.  A fitting example of just how desperate conservative commentators are, and how low the WaPo has sunk to publish such stuff.

The good news, Ms. Obama is such a gracious person, such a towering presence and such a strong and decent and magnetic personality that she doesn’t need this Forum or anyone else to defend her from the likes of people like Ms. Rubin.  And as for Ms. Rubin, our advice is to keep on doing this.  It just exposes you and your cohorts for what you are.  And trust us, you really don’t want that.

Two Mysteries of the 21st Century – Who Are the Kardashians and Why Don’t Rich People Love Mr. Obama

Enigmas That May Never Be Explained

The vitriol that the top 1% or top 5% or top whatever percent have for Mr. Obama just doesn’t make sense.  To listen to them one would think that the first term of Mr. Obama was just devastating.  But as this post from Paul Caron’s excellent Tax Prof Blog shows, they very wealthy have done very well.

NY Times: Incomes Flat in Recovery, but Not for the 1%

Incomes rose more than 11% for the top 1% of earners during the economic recovery, but not at all for everybody else, according to new data. The numbers, produced by Emmanuel Saez, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, show overall income growing by just 1.7% over the period. But there was a wide gap between the top 1%, whose earnings rose by 11.2%, and the other 99%, whose earnings declined by 0.4%. [Striking It Richer: The Evolution of Top Incomes in the United States (Updated with 2011 estimates)]

Saez Chart

(Hat Tip: Mike Talbert.)

So one can only conclude that the animosity of the extremely wealthy in this nation is totally unfounded. Which leads to just another mystery.  How can people this stupid, this unaware of their own self interests be this rich?  It can’t be that all of them inherited their money can it?

Monday, February 25, 2013

White House Says If Sequestration Takes Place Air Travel Will Be Negatively Impacted

Really, How Is It Possible To Get Any Worse?

This Forum has not written on the looming cut in Federal spending known as Sequestration, because unlike everyone else, we have absolutely no idea of what will take place.  But we do see that the Administration is talking about how cuts in spending will impact air travel.  The news is neither good, nor believable.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood,

LaHood said the more than $600 million cut to the FAA would be a “meat ax” that would bring pain to Americans and have “a very serious impact on the transportation services that are critical to the traveling public.”

Really?  Mr. LaHood and the White House actually think they can make the flying experience worse.  The cannot.  In fact, it is well know that after resisting water boarding and other tortures, several accused terrorists confessed to everything and told all after being threatened with a trip that involved traveling coach on Delta and having to change planes in Atlanta.

Titan CEO Maurice Taylor Gets Into Conflict With the French For No Apparent Reason

Well No Reason Other than to Pontificate in the Press

For reasons somewhat unknown a previously unknown CEO named Maurice Taylor has decided to openly impugn and insult the French.  Seeking to purchase a French  factory, Mr. Taylor ultimately declined, citing the lack of work ethic and other labor problems at the factory in particular in and in France in general. He then got into a public shouting match with a member of the French government.

Maurice Taylor - chief executive of Titan International - had alreadyincensed the French once this week by saying the country's “so-called” workers put in “three hours a day” with the rest spent eating and talking.

Industry minister Arnaud Montebourg hit back in a written response in which he told Mr Taylor his comments were “extremist and insulting” and displayed “a perfect ignorance of what our country is about”.

Not smart enough to leave well enough alone, Mr. Taylor has again responded in the tones of what used to be, and maybe still is, called the Ugly American.

Mr Taylor has today responded: "You letter shows the extent to which your political class is out of touch with [real] world problems”.

"You call me an extremist, but most businessmen would agree that I must be nuts to have the idea to spend millions of US dollars to buy a tyre factory in France paying some of the highest wages in the world."

Now Mr. Taylor’s complaint with France is, to put it in objective terms, the fact that in France productivity is low and the labor markets make it difficult to do business in France.  Ok, that may well be true.  But the proper response by people like Mr. Taylor is to simply shut up and not do business there.   Instead Mr. Taylor somehow thinks it is his duty to publically defame the entire country.  How is that helpful?

France is a democracy.  If its citizens choose, unwisely as it may be, to have an excessive public sector, a low productivity workforce and highly protective labor laws, so be it.  They are the ones who have to live with the results, ie, a lower standard of living.  As for Mr. Taylor, just because you are a highly compensated CEO that doesn’t give you the right to pass judgment on other people’s lives.  Oh, maybe in your mind it does, after all that is the entitlement attitude of the wealthy these days.

Rush Limbaugh Says He is Ashamed of His Country

And That is Only Fair Because . . .

[Editor’s Note:  Why does Rush make it so easy for us?]

The great national embarrassment known as Rush Limbaugh has now said

Thursday that for the first time he’s “ashamed” of the United States — this as President Barack Obama and Democrats plead to the public to urge Congress to reach a deal on the sequester.

“Ladies and gentlemen, for the first time in my life, I am ashamed of my country,” the conservative commentator said on his radio program.

Welcome to the club Rush, the rest of the country has been feeling ashamed about you for years, maybe even forever.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Britain’s Conservative Government Becomes a Laughing Stock

Here’s Why We Are Laughing At Them, Not With Them

Despite being close allies, the United States and Britain took opposite positions with respect to recovering from the Great Recession.  The United States decided to use fiscal policy to stimulate the economy, and although its fiscal measures were insufficient and badly targeted, they did result in a mild and ongoing recovery.

In Britain the Conservatives took power and decided that reducing the deficit and maintaining the country’s Triple A bond rating would lead to economic success.  And here’s what happened.

Moody's Investors Service stripped the United Kingdom of its triple-A rating. Shown, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben in London.  Yep, London in a fog, just like the Conservatives governing the country.

Moody's Investors Service  stripped the United Kingdom of its triple-A credit rating, predicting economic weakness will weigh on public finances for years to come.

Moody's lowered the U.K.'s domestic and foreign-currency bond rating one notch to Aa1 and changed its outlook to stable. It is the first of the three major ratings firms to do so, though both Standard & Poor's Ratings Services and Fitch Ratings have the U.K. on negative outlooks.

So where is the humor in this?  Here we go.

Messers. Osborne and Cameron had made retaining the triple-A rating one of their priorities when they took power in 2010. Since then, the U.K. economy has barely grown.

More recently, however, Mr. Osborne has downplayed its significance. In December, he told a parliamentary committee that although losing the rating "wouldn't be a good thing," it was only one test of the U.K.'s economic policy. "The ultimate test is what you can borrow money at."

Late Friday, he issued a response to the downgrade, saying he planned to stick to his austerity plans. "Tonight we have a stark reminder of the debt problems facing our county," he said. "Far from weakening our resolve to deliver our economic recovery plan, this decision redoubles it."

That’s right, instead of learning from their mistakes, and changing policy because the current policy is resulting in exactly what they were trying to avoid the British Conservatives will have even greater resolve to continue the failed policy.  So unless you are the British population, that’s funny.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Note to Republicans – Please Continue With Your Anti-Immigration Stance

It Does Great Things for Your Opponents

Less than 20 years ago California supported and passed what was then the most anti-immigrant state measure ever enacted.

A generation ago, California voters approved a ballot initiative that was seen as the most anti-immigrant law in the nation. Immigrants who had come to the country illegally would be ineligible to receive prenatal care, and their children would be barred from public schools.

The idea, of course was to make California so in-hospitable to Hispanic immigrants that they would not come to the state.  It didn’t work.

Monica Almeida/The New York Times
Students after school in Glen Avon, east of Los Angeles. Latinos now make up more than two-thirds of many cities in that region.

In 1990, Latinos made up 30 percent of the state’s population; they will make up 40 percent — more than any other ethnic group — by the end of this year, and 48 percent by 2050, according to projections made by the state this month. This year, for the first time, Latinos were the largest ethnic group applying to the University of California system.

Towns that just a decade ago were largely white now have Latino majorities. Latinos make up an important power base not only in urban centers like Los Angeles, but also in places that were once hostile to outsiders. There are dozens of city councils with a majority of Latino members, a Mexican-American is the mayor of Los Angeles and another is the leader of the State Assembly. Nearly all of the 15 California Republicans in Congress represent districts where at least a quarter of the residents are Latino.

But it did a great thing for the politics of the state.

Proposition 187, the 1994 ballot initiative, prompted thousands of immigrants to register to vote and ignited a generation of activists, including dozens who now hold public office or run immigrant rights organizations that lobby for change in federal laws.

“The fact that the Republican Party got identified with anti-immigration has made things very difficult for them,” said Mark Baldassare, the president of the Public Policy Institute of California, which closely monitors shifts in the state. “It is what is going on nationally now, but California started much earlier.”

So the message to Republicans is please, please keep your hatred of immigrants in full public view.  Democrats are a weak party, despite holding the Presidency and the Senate and they need all the help they can get.  Keep it up and you will find a grateful nation.  No not grateful enough to vote for you but grateful just the same.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Why is Martin Feldstein Allowed to Comment on Economics?

No Just Because He is a Ph. D. and on the Harvard Faculty Doesn’t Mean He Makes Sense

Former Reagan economic adviser Martin Feldstein certainly has the credentials expound on economic policy, but most of the time what he says just doesn’t make sense.

Consider this from the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal (ok, very little there makes sense, we already know that)

Martin Feldstein: A Simple Route to Major Deficit Reduction

A 2% cap on tax deductions and exclusions would reduce the national debt by $2 trillion over a decade.

Well we were pretty excited, until we read this.

Putting a cap on tax expenditures—those features of the tax code that are a substitute for direct government spending—can break the current fiscal impasse and prevent the dangerous explosion of the national debt. If a cap is combined with entitlement reforms, the government will also be able to reduce tax rates and increase some spending to accelerate the economic recovery.

Yep there it is again, the government can cut tax rates (and even increase spending) and still reduce the deficit.  How does this happen?  We don’t know.  No one knows.

As for the ‘simplicity’ of it, well there is this.

Limiting the tax savings from all deductions and the two major tax exclusions to 2% of an individual's adjusted gross income would reduce the deficit in 2013 by $220 billion. This 2% cap does not refer to the amounts of the deductions and exclusions but to the tax saving. This means that for someone taxed at a 25% marginal tax rate, the 2% cap would limit deductions and exclusions to 8% of that individual's adjusted gross income.

The 2% cap could also be modified to retain the existing deduction for all charitable contributions and to allow employees to exclude the first $8,000 of employer-paid health-insurance premiums from the cap. This would still reduce the current year's deficit by $141 billion. That translates to about a $2.1 trillion reduction in the national debt over the next decade.

Yep that is simple. (No it’s not, this is sarcasm.  Use the example in your classes if you need to.) Still we would support Mr. Feldstein if, like all Conservatives, he would just leave his limitation on deductions alone. But he won’t.  He wants to use the savings to cut taxes for the wealthy.

Higher tax rates, in short, are not necessary in order to raise substantial revenue. Indeed, some of the $2.1 trillion could be used to reduce current tax rates and promote growth.

Yes, we know, he doesn’t say whose taxes would be cut.  But look, he is a Conservative writing in the Wall Street Journal.  Just whose taxes do you think he wants to cut?

Conversion of Abandoned Rail Tracks in Atlanta into Parkland Shows Government Can Work

Just Don’t Tell Conservatives

In Atlanta about 14 years ago a student at Georgia Tech wrote a purely academic program on an idea, the idea being for the city to buy up old abandoned railroad right of ways and replace the tracks with parks, bike paths etc. 

The idea began humbly, as a graduate thesis at Georgia Tech. In 1999, a student, Ryan Gravel, proposed an overhaul of the railroad corridor. He expected the 120-page academic paper to gather dust at a campus library, he said.

But amazingly the project was made into a reality.

Instead a city councilwoman, Cathy Woolard, who later became the Council’s president, heard about the proposal and seized on it. She forged an unlikely coalition of environmentalists, transit officials, local artists and real estate developers. The city began buying the railroad corridor in 2007.

And amazingly, economic development followed.

Rich Addicks for The New York Times
Bonjovi the dog got a concert and a ride on the Eastside Trail one Saturday last month. The BeltLine project links 45 neighborhoods.

Construction along the Eastside Trail has boomed. The largest real estate project is a 2.1 million-square-foot former Sears distribution center that is being converted into apartments, restaurants and a rooftop miniature golf course.

Skip Engelbrecht owns an antique furniture store, Paris on Ponce, that backs up to the Eastside Trail. He said business has increased tenfold over the past two years as the trail opened.

Wow, business development and job growth, something Conservatives must surely supporting.  Well no, because it involves taxes and government spending, something Conservatives hate even if it does promote their own positions.

Egads, Even One of the Meanest of the Republican Governors, Florida’s Rick Scott, Will Now Allow Medicaid Expansion in the State

Incredible That There Are Now Republicans Even Nastier Than Gov. Scott.

The Medicaid expansion in the new health care law is a no brainer.  The Feds will pick up 100% of the cost for at least three years, and 90% thereafter.  The money will go into the health care system to defray costs and low income people will get health insurance.  But because Republicans hate Mr. Obama, who sponsored the legislation and because they hate poor people, many are opposed to the expansion.

Now in Florida Gov. Rick Scott has apparently reversed himself and is willing to take on the Medicaid expansion. 

Mr. Scott said on Wednesday that he now supported a three-year expansion of Medicaid — through the period that the federal government has agreed to pay the full cost of the expansion, and before some of the costs are shifted to the states.

“While the federal government is committed to paying 100 percent of the cost, I cannot in good conscience deny Floridians that needed access to healthcare,'’ Mr. Scott said at a news conference. “We will support a three-year expansion of the Medicaid program under the new health care law as long as the federal government meets their commitment to pay 100 percent of the cost during that time.”

While everyone would like to applaud Gov. Scott for coming to his senses, it is more likely politics rather than compassion and economic good sense that caused the change.  Gov. Scott faces a tough re-election campaign, as many Floridians found out they were fooled in the election that brought him to power.  So most likely the Governor wanted to remove an obstacle to his re-election, and might certainly withdraw his support for the expansion if he is re-elected.

Also, Gov. Scott may have been lobbied by the health care industry.  Their argument is that taxpayers are already paying for health care for the uninsured, but in a very ineffective and inefficient manner, so why not do it the right way.  Amazingly, Gov. Scott may even be smart enough to see the truth in that logic.

So for now this Forum will salute Gov. Scott, he is doing the right thing even if it is for the wrong reasons.  And everyone prefers the right thing for the wrong reasons over the wrong thing for the right reasons. [Editor’s note:  That last sentence doesn’t any make sense.]

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Farm Income is Soaring – Maybe Its Time to End Farm Programs and Subsidies

But Where to Find the 'Free Market'  Politicians to Do So?

A combination of factors, world economic growth, freer markets, biofuels and the like have made working and owning a farm a very good business decision.


Farm Income Is Projected to Be Highest in 40 Years


CHICAGO—Federal forecasters expect U.S. farm income to climb this year to its highest level in 40 years as crop production rebounds from a deep drought and prices farmers fetch for livestock and poultry rise.

The Department of Agriculture projected in a report Monday that net farm income in the U.S. will reach $128.2 billion in 2013—the highest since 1973 when adjusted for inflation and the highest on record on a non-adjusted basis.

So gosh, maybe the time has come to look at all those farm subsidies that were enacted in the 1930’s to help struggling individual farmers.  Maybe the time has come to return the agriculture sector to the forces of the free market, free of government intervention.

The question, though, is where would we find politicians or a political party whose philosophy supports free markets without government intervention?  Republicans?  No, they are two busy lobbying for support from the Federal government for their farm and agricultural states electorate.  The battle in the Republican Party over agriculture is not the battle to end the programs, it’s the battle of directing aid to the South, for rice and cotton vs. directing aid to the Midwest for grains.

So just like the people they decry, everyone can find the Republicans feeding at the trough of farm support from the Federal government.  And they wash it down with a nice full glass of hypocrisy.

James Steward in the NYT Exposes Another Right Wing Myth – that High Tax Jurisdictions Result in Mass Migration of Millionaires

Facts and Data – The Enemy of Conservatives – Show It Just Ain’t True

Conservatives get very excited when  a state or country passes higher taxes and immediately publicity abounds that the wealthy people in that area are packing up and moving. 

It’s an article of faith among low-tax advocates that income tax increases aimed at the rich simply drive them away. As Stuart Varney put it on Fox News: “Look at what happened in Britain. They raised the top tax rate to 50 percent, and two-thirds of the millionaires disappeared in the next tax year. Same things are happening in France. People are leaving where the top tax rate is 75 percent. Same thing happened in Maryland a few years ago. New millionaire’s tax, the millionaires disappeared. You’ve got exactly the same thing in California.”

But financial writer James Stewart of the New York Times looked at some studies, and the conclusion is that the migration is just an urban myth.  For example, in Maryland

Maryland created a millionaire tax bracket in 2008 with a top rate of 6.25 percent. But a year later, the state reported that the number of millionaires filing returns had dropped by a third, and that total tax revenue from the group fell despite the rate increase. After a chorus of media criticism — “Millionaires flee Maryland taxes“ (The Washington Examiner) and “Millionaires Go Missing“ (The Wall Street Journal) — the state legislature let the increase expire in 2011.

But a study by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a nonprofit research group in Washington, found that nearly all the decline in millionaires was the result of a drop in incomes largely attributable to the stock market plunge and recession, and not to migration — “down and not out,” as the study put it.

Darn.  Is there more evidence of the fallacy of the Conservatives’ position?  You betcha.

Cristobal Young, an assistant professor of sociology at Stanford, studied the effects of recent tax increases in New Jersey and California. “It’s very clear that, over all, modest changes in top tax rates do not affect millionaire migration,” he told me this week. “Neither tax increases nor tax cuts on the rich have affected their migration rates.”

The notion of tax flight “is almost entirely bogus — it’s a myth,” said Jon Shure, director of state fiscal studies at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonprofit research group in Washington. “The anecdotal coverage makes it seem like people are leaving in droves because of high taxes. They’re not. There are a lot of low-tax states, and you don’t see millionaires flocking there.”

This is not to say that no movement happens because of taxes, sure it does.  But consider this.

Professor Young said his study looked at every millionaire tax record filed in California over the last 20 years, and “neither tax increases nor tax cuts on the rich have affected their migration rates.” He said that the two major tax overhauls before the recent increase didn’t have any effect on migration rates of millionaires. “Among the very richest, people making more than $2 million, out-migration actually declined slightly after the 2005 millionaire tax,” he said.

Will any of this information change the minds of the virulently anti-tax crowd.  No.  Data and information is not something they base their opinions on, not when they can get their opinions conjured up out of thin air.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

How Low Has the United States Sunk ? – It is Now the Recipient of Aid from Foreign Countries

The ‘Hell No We Won’t Pay Taxes’ Group Gets Charity from the United Arab Emirates

That there is massive wealth in the United States is a given.  That many of those who hold the massive wealth are excessively greedy and refuse to support government programs designed to aid and enrich a community is also a given.  In fact, an entire political party is based on the philosophy that the wealthy should have their taxes cut.

The result is that there is a huge divide in this nation between those who have and those who need.  For example, in Joplin, Missouri where a tornado destroyed the town the rebuilding effort has been hampered by a lack of funding.

Six schools, including the city’s sole high school, were destroyed in the May 2011 disaster. Insurance would cover the construction of new buildings, but administrators were scrambling to replace all of the books that had blown away. . . .

a proposal to obviate the need for high school textbooks that had been shelved two years earlier because nobody — not the cash-strapped school system, not the state of Missouri, not even local charities — had the money for it: Give every student a computer.

Gosh, where to get the money.  It turns out the money did arrive, from foreign aid from the UAE, an oil rich country of the Middle East that, it turns out, has been doling out foreign aid for some time.

Joplin, Missouri Rebuilds with Foreign Aid

Today, the nearly 2,200 high school students in Joplin each have their own UAE-funded MacBook laptop, which they use to absorb lessons, perform homework and take tests. Across the city, the UAE is spending $5 million to build a neonatal intensive-care unit at Mercy Hospital, which also was ripped apart by the tornado.

The gifts are part of an ambitious campaign by the UAE government to assist needy communities in the United States. Motivated by the same principal reasons that the U.S. government distributes foreign assistance — to help those less fortunate and to influence perceptions among the recipients — the handouts mark a small but remarkable shift in global economic power.

Now this is not to say this is a huge amount, for the oil rich UAE it is pretty much loose pocket change. And the motives here are not humanitarian, but political.   But it is appreciated anyway, certainly by the recipients.  As for the rest of us, well, our obligation in this affair is to try and hide our embarrassment at having to rely on the kindness of strangers because of the selfish greed of the wealthiest in this country who just want more and more for themselves.

And if the citizens of a place like Joplin have to suffer, well Conservatives would say that if they cannot afford a tornado then they should not have had one in the first place.

The Economics of Reality Rear their Ugly Head – Americans Will be Working Longer, Retiring Later and Have Less Retirement Income

And No, the Federal Government Cannot Bail Everyone Out

The demographic trends of the post World War II United States have condemned the baby boomer generation to a not very appealing retirement.  For the next 20 years or more those seeking to retire will either be unable to do so financially, or if they can, will do so only at a substantially reduced standard of living.

For the first time since the New Deal, a majority of Americans are headed toward a retirement in which they will be financially worse off than their parents, jeopardizing a long era of improved living standards for the nation’s elderly, according to a growing consensus of new research.

The Great Recession and the weak recovery darkened the retirement picture for significant numbers of Americans. And the full extent of the damage is only now being grasped by experts and policymakers.

The only unusual thing in the above quote from a Washington Post article is that claim that only now is the problem being grasped by experts and policymakers.  The problem has been known for decades, ever since anyone looked at the birth rates from 1945 to 1965.

An economy does not prosper because of low or high taxes or a rising stock market.  An economy is made up of the amount of goods and services produced.  Old people, retired people do not produce goods and services, they consume them.  So with more old people and less goods and services producing people the economy must suffer.

The result here is that retirement will have to be delayed.  Many people will have to work until well into their 70’s.  Those that do retire will either be the lucky wealthy, the savers or those who get by on minimal income.

And no there is nothing to be done about this, its is foreordained by the baby boom which was followed by the baby bust.  Unlike political dogma, economics and demographics can neither be spun nor denied.

Paul Krugman Illustrates Fact Based Economics –

Why Higher Taxes on the Wealthy Are Not Destructive, and Why The Stimulus That Was, Wasn’t

Conservatives argue that they just have to be right, because in their minds their logic is correct and if data, facts and objective analysis does not confirm their logic, the data, facts and objective analysis must be wrong. 

Several examples of the fallacy of Conservative thinking are exposed by Paul Krugman in several posts on his New York Times Blog.  For example, here is a chart that shows investment and profits as a percent of GDP over the past several decades.

Yes, the red line is profits during the business hating term of Mr. Obama

The blue line is fixed investment as a percent of GDP, and OMG it rose dramatically during the Clinton years, when the Feds enacted higher tax on the rich, you know, the so-called ‘job creators’.  So this experience totally contradicts Conservative policy prescriptions about ‘job killing taxes’.  It just ain’t true.

The red line shows corporate profits as a percent of GDP.  Wow, look at what happened in the first term of that socialist, communist, collectivist, anti-capitalist President Obama.  Yes, profits rose tremendously.  No wonder Wall Street hates the President.

This next chart shows government spending as a percent of potential GDP.  Yes it is falling.  Paul's conclusion,

Spending is still elevated a bit relative to pre-crisis — reflecting higher spending on unemployment benefits and food stamps, plus the ongoing pressures of baby-boomer retirement and rising medical costs. But it’s way down from the peak. Yes, we’ve been engaged in austerity — and this is a major reason the recovery has been so weak.

So yes,  the Stimulus was mild indeed and not the failure that its critics claim.  And if higher taxes and lower spending takes place in FY 2013 and beyond, then just like Conservatives claim the U. S. will start to look like Europe.  There the Republican style austerity has claimed as its victims economic growth.  So if the U. S. does implement European style policies urged on by Conservatives then yes, it will get European like results.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Turmoil at Cedarville University Exposes the Ugly Nature of Religious Fundamentalists

And Let’s Hope the Exposure Continues

This Forum has no knowledge of Cedarville University (no Rose Bowl games, no Final Four appearances), but it is a private religiously affiliated college near Dayton.

For much of its history, Cedarville, which was founded in 1887, was affiliated with the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches, a fundamentalist organization wary of association even with other conservative groups.

The college has attracted the attention of the New York Times for a series of controversies that have engulfed the campus.  For example, despite the fact that the law requires these types of institutions to be apolitical,

Last fall, two philosophy professors caused a stir with “Why I Am Not Voting for Romney,” an editorial in the university newspaper that upset many on this right-leaning campus.  . . .

Meanwhile, philosophy has been eliminated as a major, which will most likely mean the departure of Shawn Graves, the untenured half of the duo that wrote the anti-Romney editorial.

obviously that is not the case here.  And the science program is rather suspect

Last summer, the contract of another professor, Michael W. Pahl, was not renewed because he had written a book that some critics asserted failed to make strong enough claims for the creation of the world in six days.

Dr. Pahl’s “doctrinal views were inconsistent with doctrines the university holds,” was how Mark D. Weinstein, a spokesman for Cedarville, explained Dr. Pahl’s departure.

Gosh, we wonder how well students expressing those beliefs do when applying for a job.  And while we have not checked, we doubt if there is a geology department at Cedarville. 

Of course, the issue of gay and lesbian people is always present at a place like this.  The former President, Mr. Ruby who resigned may have come afoul rules that say gay and lesbian people should be persecuted,

But a longtime faculty member, who asked not to be identified for fear of losing his job, enumerated several factors that may have sealed Dr. Ruby’s fate. In an interview at Young’s Jersey Dairy, a landmark hangout in nearby Yellow Springs, he said that in 2007, when Soul Force, a gay rights group, announced that its “Equality Ride” would stop at Cedarville’s campus, Dr. Ruby was, some felt, a bit too welcoming. He helped organize a series of chapel talks about homosexuality, and he encouraged Cedarville students to welcome Soul Force with love.

Dr. Ruby told me, “The Bible condemns homosexual acts, but we also thought that this was an opportunity to teach our students how to gracefully engage those with whom we may disagree.”

Yeah, everyone can see how his behavior would offend religious oriented people who say they believe in goodness and mercy.

And finally there is this which describes the fundamentalist support of a peaceful and tranquil world.

Dr. Ruby also conceded that in 2008, he gave in to pressure from university officials to cancel an invitation he had extended to the evangelical Christian writer and activist Shane Claiborne, the author of “The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical.” Mr. Claiborne’s teachings against war and poverty struck some critics as incompatible with Cedarville’s conservative message.

Yep, can’t have religious people going around being against war and poverty, why the next thing they might oppose is bigotry and hatred, and we all know where that would lead to.

And lest anyone think otherwise, this Forum strongly supports the right of people like those who run Cedarville University to not only have these beliefs but to publicize them in the strongest possible way.  See the rest of us may regard people like this as harmless quirks in society, but if they are allowed, and indeed even encouraged to pontificate in the manner above everyone will see them for what they really are.  And that is the only way to defeat their prejudices and intolerance.

And as a public service this Forum will denounce the rumor that the office of the President of Cedarville University has been renamed the Office of the Chief Ayatollah.  And no, there is no Professor holding the Torquemada Chair of Religious Studies.  At least not yet.