No one supports closing the tax loopholes the GOP is after

boehner budget

The White House wants to include tax reform in the entitlement discussion, but the Republicans will only talk if that means closing loopholes and lowering rates:

Privately, House Republican leaders think they’ve checked two of the three boxes of a grand bargain: first, the Jan. 1 tax increases; second, the spending cuts via the sequester. Now, in their view, all that’s left is entitlement reform. Top Republicans are also skeptical Obama would agree to the kind of tax reform that House Republicans have drawn a firm line on: The revenue to be generated by closing loopholes would go to lowering rates.

Too bad this strategy is unpopular with just about everybody:

But any tax expenditures, or loopholes, worth undoing already enjoy huge support from the electorate.

Will anyone really eliminate the 401(k) exemption, which allows us to park tax-free dollars in a retirement fund? Or how about that mortgage-interest tax deduction, which allows us to deduct interest from our taxes, or the capital gains exclusion, which allows us to keep any profit we make on our homes? What about the deduction for state and local taxes? How about charitable deductions?

The state of racism today

racism today

Something that should be talked about more:

Now that racism is no longer respectable, it’s tempting to reason conversely and suggest respectable people can’t be racists. But to do that is to reason racism virtually out of existence. Most of the world’s religious and moral traditions try to remind us that while good works are always to be valued, there is something in the human soul that makes good people prone to doing bad things. That did not stop being the case when racism was deemed “bad” by national consensus in this country, and those of us who will never suffer a single indignity for the color of our skin should remember that before turning all human experience on its head and claiming we are the victims of racism if our own good will is challenged.

President Bill Clinton: overturn the Defense of Marriage Act

bill clinton overturn doma

Here’s President Clinton, in an op-ed for the Washington Post:

We are still a young country, and many of our landmark civil rights decisions are fresh enough that the voices of their champions still echo, even as the world that preceded them becomes less and less familiar. We have yet to celebrate the centennial of the 19th Amendment, but a society that denied women the vote would seem to us now not unusual or old-fashioned but alien. I believe that in 2013 DOMA and opposition to marriage equality are vestiges of just such an unfamiliar society.

The Defense of Marriage Act was passed in a time when Americans were less tolerant. It’s about time we overturned it.

Associate Justice Antonin Scalia: the Supreme Court scumbag

justice antonin scalia scumbag

Linda Greenhouse, on Antonin Scalia during the Shelby County v. Holder argument:

“Even the name of it is wonderful: the Voting Rights Act,” Justice Scalia said, his voice dripping with sarcasm as he suggested that only political correctness, rather than a principled commitment to protect the right to vote, had kept the disputed Section 5 of the act alive through four successive Congressional re-enactments. (And, he might have added and no doubt thought, four successive Supreme Court affirmations of the law’s constitutionality.)

Why is Section 5 important? Well, let’s look at what it prevented in 2012:

 Last year, Section 5 kept Texas from enforcing what would have been the country’s most stringent voter ID law. At the same time, Section 5 induced South Carolina to make sufficient changes in a proposed voter ID law to satisfy a federal court, an illustration of how the provision has often served as a deterrent to mischief or as negotiating tool to avoid it.

This isn’t the first time Justice Scalia has attacked those fighting for civil rights. Here’s his dissent from 2003’s Lawrence v. Texas, a case involving Texas’s anti-sodomy law:

“Today’s opinion is the product of a Court, which is the product of a law-profession culture, that has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda, by which I mean the agenda promoted by some homosexual activists directed at eliminating the moral opprobrium that has traditionally attached to homosexual conduct.”

TLDR – In Antonin Scalia’s opinion:

  • If you think it’s important to ensure that people have the right to vote, you’re being too politically correct.
  • If you think that the government has no damn business in what Americans do in their own bedrooms, you’ve been taken in by the “homosexual agenda.”

The “terror gap”: terror suspects legally permitted to buy guns

nra gun control terror loophole

Francis Clines, “The Terror Loophole”:

The law that requires background checks on gun buyers is full of loopholes, some big and some small, but the most egregious loophole of all may be the fact that people on the F.B.I.’s terrorist watch list are legally entitled to buy firearms and explosives. And they have been doing so at an alarming rate. Between February 2004 and December 2010, individuals whose names turned up on the list were cleared to purchase firearms or explosives a total of 1,321 times, according to the General Accounting Office.

Who could possibly be against stopping this? Oh right, the NRA:

[A proposed measure] would give the Attorney General authority to stop a firearm or explosive sale when a background check reveals the buyer is a known or suspected terrorist who the Attorney General reasonably believes may be planning mayhem. The National Rifle Association opposed the measure in the past because the terrorist watch list has been shown to contain errors.

That’s right – we have to let terrorists buy guns so that the small percentage of people who might not be terrorists can bear arms to their heart’s content.

Obama’s new Republican outreach strategy

obama republican outreach

Greg Sargent, “The GOP’s easy route to victory in fiscal fight”:

Even if the GOP leadership is entirely entrenched in its no-revenues stance, sooner or later, the basic reality of the situation will become impossible for other GOP lawmakers to fail to acknowledge. These lawmakers have ducked this reality by taking refuge behind a party-wide distortion (Obama only wants more tax hikes!) of the actual compromise Obama is offering.

But the White House’s new outreach strategy is making that position harder to sustain. Via Steve Benen, consider this remarkable tidbit from First Read’s write-up of yesterday’s Obama dinner with Senators: “one senator told us that he learned, for the first time, the actual cuts that the president has put on the table. Leadership hadn’t shared that list with them before.”

There will be a lot more of this, as more GOP officials acknowledge what it is they’re actually being offered. This dynamic could be hastened if the pain of the sequester starts to be felt in individual districts and states, thanks to defense and other cuts, focusing the minds of the lawmakers who represent them. And there actually is a (difficult) route to a place where enough non-leadership Republicans agree to a deal.

GOP leadership: “We’re not going to work with you.”

White House: “No problem, we’ll just talk to vulnerable Republicans behind your back from now on.”

Republicans have the statistics backwards on pregnancy from rape

celeste greig california republican assembly

Proving yet again that Republicans don’t know when to stop talking, here’s Celeste Greig, president of the California Republican Assembly:

“Granted, the percentage of pregnancies due to rape is small because it’s an act of violence, because the body is traumatized,” Greig told the newspaper. “I don’t know what percentage of pregnancies are due to the violence of rape. Because of the trauma the body goes through, I don’t know what percentage of pregnancy results from the act.”

Yeah, the percentage is “small” if small means, you know, “twice the per-incident rate for consensual sex”:

The newspaper cited statistics from a 2003 study by St. Lawrence University that showed women get pregnant after rape at a rate that is more than double that for a single act of consensual sex. Relying on data from U.S. National Violence Against Women survey, the study said the per-incident rape-pregnancy rate was 6.4 percent while the same rate for women having consensual sex was 3.1 percent per encounter.

This is why New World Order believers are idiots

 

seth myers amy poehler really

From a Yahoo News piece about North Korea threatening to nuke the United States:

The resolution specifies some luxury items North Korea’s elite is not allowed to import, such as yachts, racing cars, luxury automobiles and certain types of jewelry. This is intended to close a loophole that had allowed countries to decide for themselves what constitutes a luxury good.

“These sanctions will bite and bite hard,” said U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice.

The export of luxury goods to North Korea has been prohibited since 2006, though diplomats and analysts said the enforcement of U.N. sanctions has been uneven.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, a former South Korean foreign minister, welcomed the council’s move, saying in a statement that the resolution “sent an unequivocal message to (North Korea) that the international community will not tolerate its pursuit of nuclear weapons.”

The organization that has trouble keeping Communists from having yachts and sports cars is supposed to take over all world governments and behead the Christians. 

Really?

The one easy step to fix Social Security

fix social security

Tom Edsall, for The New York Times:

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the amount of new revenue required to bring the Social Security trust fund into balance over the next 75 years would amount to 0.6 percent of G.D.P.

The same C.B.O. document presents a series of alternative ways to achieve such a goal, including the elimination of the current $113,700 cap on income subject to the Social Security payroll tax. If the cap or ceiling were lifted, the amount of money raised would be 0.6 percent of G.D.P., the exact amount of income needed to get Social Security out of the red — a striking coincidence.

Simply taxing the top 5.2 percent of workers at the same rate as everyone else would ensure the livelihoods of millions of seniors and eliminate a significant chunk of our projected deficits.

I’d like to clarify that when I say “ensure the livelihoods,” I mean that it keeps millions of seniors out of poverty:

These facts include the following: Two-thirds of Americans who are over the age of 65 depend on an average annual Social Security benefit of $15,168.36 for at least half of their income.

Mahmoud Tabei Brings the Harlem Shake to Politics

 Tunisian Harlem Shake Protest - Feb 27, 2013

From Amar Toor at The Verge:

After months of political unrest, Tabei says he and his friends see the “Harlem Shake” meme not only as a platform for their message of reform, but as a way to “raise the hopes and spirits” of an increasingly frustrated opposition movement.

Tabei isn’t alone, either. As the nonsensical trend passes its saturation point in the West, it’s evolving into a distinctly more political phenomenon in both Egypt and Tunisia, where students and opposition movements have re-appropriated Baauer’s bass-heavy anthem as a rallying cry for reform — much to the chagrin (and perhaps befuddlement) of conservative authorities.

This is certainly a case where the medium is the message

While the excessive virality of the “Harlem Shake” and Gangnam Style can make them all too pervasive in Western media, dissidents like Mahmoud Tabei and his compatriots raise hope as they appropriate the web’s tools and culture to promote social and political change.

Of course, the fact that these gatherings lead to arrests and tear gas, as in the case of 75 Tunisian high school students, show just how much work still needs to be done in the name of an open political and civil society in much of the Middle East.

Ultimately, though, Tabei remains realistic about the chances of a viral video resulting in any substantive change. After having already seen seven of his friends killed since the beginning of the Arab Spring, the teenager is markedly disillusioned with his country’s revolution. Publicity aside, he says a fundamental goal of his group’s “Harlem Shake” movement is to simply build morale — a way to “refresh our minds in order to continue with our larger struggle.”

That last point is where the “Harlem Shake” protests become fundamentally different from many other acts of civil disobedience: mixing fun and freedom with political expression.