Thoughts on Life, Love, Politics, Hypocrisy and Coming Out in Mid-Life
Saturday, July 11, 2015
Ireland Moves to Protect Gay Teachers in Religious Run Schools
In a move that needs to replicated in the United States, Ireland is moving forward legislation that would grant employment protections to gay, lesbian and bi-sexual teachers even in schools run by religious institutions. The move is yet another resounding slap in the face to the Roman Catholic Church which for decades - if not centuries - put protecting predators and sadist above protecting children. Here in America, such religious affiliated schools typically enjoy tax-exempt status and in some instances receive state funds. To continue to receive these benefit - which I personally would like to see eliminated all together - at a minimum the simple quid pro quo is that such institutions should be required to apply non-discrimination policies to all teachers, gay or straight. Sadly, it will not happen any time soon give the GOP's self-prostitution to the "godly folk" best known for hatred towards others and wearing ignorance as a badge of honor. But back to Ireland. Here are details from The Advocate:
Ireland’s government this week passed an amendment to the Employment Equality Act that would allow LGB employees working in religious-run organizations, such as schools and hospitals, to be out at work without fear of being fired, according to Irish LGBT site The Out Most.
The bill, which on Tuesday passed the first half of the two-chamber Irish legislature, the Seanad, still has to still pass the final stage in the Dáil before it can become law.
Leaders of the INTO LGBT Teachers’ Group cheered the amendment, telling reporters it will have a hugely positive effect on gay, lesbian, and bisexual teachers.
“LGB teachers can be secure in the knowledge that speaking about our families and our relationships, in the same way as our colleagues, and that being gay or lesbian will have no bearing on job security or on prospects for promotion,” said Anne Marie Lillis, the chairwoman of the INTO LGBT Teachers’ Group. “When signed into law this legislation will end the threat of discrimination in primary schools based on sexual orientation.”
Minister of State for Equality Aodhán Ó Ríordáin promised his offices are "working hard" to ensure the measure is enacted before the new school year begins in September. Gay and lesbian workers in other professions have had legal protections from discrimination since the 1990s.
The Republican War on Wages
With wealth inequality in America now at levels rivaling the banana republics of the past and many working Americans having seen no increase in the buying power since 1979, both political parties are talking about the need to spur economic growth and jobs. The problem, as laid out in a piece in Politico Magazine by former Congressman Barney Frank, the supposed solutions being offer by the Republicans is in reality more of the same policies that have spurred soaring wealth for the few and wage stagnation for the many. How do they get away with it? In a number of ways. First, much of the GOP base is ignorant and uneducated in contrast to the country club Republicans who are benefiting from toxic GOP policies. Perhaps more importantly, the GOP cynically use appeals to religious - read Christian - extremism, racism and mindless patriotism to sucker voters into voting against their own best financial interests. Here are column highlights:
The conflict between the two major parties over inequality has given rise to the most fundamental debate about economic issues since the end of World War II. Superficially, there has been some convergence. The reality that our increasing national wealth has gone disproportionately to a small percentage of the population has become impossible to ignore — even by Republican candidates seeking to appeal to a very conservative primary electorate. Yet the proposed solutions suggested to the problem by the two parties are even more diametrically opposed than often realized.To a great extent, the inequality debate has been presented as a choice between Democrats advocating specific interventions to diminish the wealth and income gaps, and Republicans countering that this will only exacerbate the situation; instead, they call for removing obstacles to economic growth.But this is a very incomplete picture of the Republicans’ agenda. What is too infrequently made explicit is that prominent on their list of impediments to that growth are both that wages earned by many working people are too high, and that several legal and institutional factors obstruct efforts to lower them.
The Republican tax agenda actually seeks to increase the inequality gap, both by diminishing the share of taxes paid by the wealthiest, and in turn, reducing the revenue available for paying public sector salaries, subsidizing higher education for working and middle-class families, providing income supplements to the working poor and easing the cost of health care.Republicans actively pursue efforts to restrain wages — and push them lower. One of the most important is the assault on the bipartisan efforts of the Federal Reserve under Ben Bernanke and Janet Yellen to combat unemployment through quantitative easing and low interest rates. Paul Krugman has documented the persistence of conservative predictions that these policies would somehow simultaneously cause inflation, recession and general economic malaise — outcomes in total contradiction to the impact they have actually had since their adoption in 2010.
Some other Republican income-depressing initiatives are more familiar: fighting any increase in — or even the very concept of — the minimum wage; denouncing any move toward local efforts to require a “living wage”; repealing Davis-Bacon so that construction workers can be paid less; and their general assault on unions both in the public and private sectors.Collectively, these efforts add up to a comprehensive, intellectually interlinked program to diminish the compensation paid to a very wide range of wage earners. The efforts are given greater force by the interaction of two important factors: the conservative drive to dismantle federal programs and send their missions to the states; and the interstate competition for economic activity that then ensues.Once again, this first phenomenon is an indication of how far right the Republicans have moved. Prominent among the Federalizers of public functions whose work they now seek to undo is Dwight Eisenhower, whose signal accomplishment of the interstate highway program would be essentially de-federalized and turned back to the states by today’s conservatives. One the main attractions this effort holds for its advocates is the substantially lower pay for those who build highways.[O]ne of the most significant and least generally recognized examples of the Republicans assault on working people’s wages I have seen: The use of public money by Tennessee Republicans to coerce the company and the workers at a Volkswagen factory there to abandon what had been a mutual desire to recognize the United Auto Workers as the bargaining agent at the plant.
[T]he Tennessee Republican Party intervened, using public money as an anti-union club. State Sen. Bo Watson, a Republican from Chattanooga, said in a statement, “Should the workers choose to be represented by the United Auto Workers, then I believe additional incentives for expansion will have a very tough time passing the Tennessee Senate.” Tennessee had planning to give VW public funds to increase its manufacturing capacity — funds which, evidently, were to be withheld if the majority of workers exercised their federal statutory right to support union representation.The last crucial part of this tale is why Corker and his colleagues used so much muscle to protect Volkswagen from a union it welcomed. Why was this a victory for his “community … state … (and) … citizens”? The answer he and others give is that it helped hold down wages, not just at the Volkswagen plant, but throughout the state. Had the UAW won, they said, it could have boosted pay for their members. This, in turn, would have put upward pressure on wages elsewhere in the state, and this, in turn, would have made it harder for Tennessee to lure businesses from other, higher wage jurisdictions.The morals — and morality — of this sordid story are too important not to emphasize. First, it stands as a repudiation of the argument that unions do not help raise wages.Second, it is an even more explicit acknowledgment that keeping wages lower than they might otherwise be is a deliberate part of the conservatives’ strategy for economic development in their states.
Finally, it demonstrates that if Republicans succeed in having more and more programs conducted at the state as opposed to the national level, it would make it easier and easier to depress the wages of those who carry them out — and that’s an agenda that should concern every working family in America.
The Limits of "Religious Liberty"
As a number of posts on this blog have explored, there are real limits to the "religious liberty" granted under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. And those limits are increasingly being ignored by the Christofascists who are showing themselves more and more to be self-centered people who care nothing about the rights of others. It is ALL about them and it is ALL about trying to force their hate and fear based religious beliefs on all of society, in part because they are terrified at the prospect of having to think for themselves and reevaluate childish beliefs that they were indoctrinated with. A column in the New York Times looks at the ongoing phenomenon of false claims of threats to religious liberty. It also looks at the parallels with Jim Crow era claims and also the possible long term damage done to religious freedom as contemplated by the Constitution as push back to the Christofascists grows. Here are excerpts:
Following the Supreme Court’s marriage ruling, religious objections to serving gay couples are mounting in more states. Invoking religious liberty in this way presents ‘‘special concerns’’ by prolonging social conflict, according to a recent article by two law professors, Reva B. Siegel of Yale and Douglas NeJaime of the University of California, Irvine. They point to the aftermath of Roe v. Wade: After the Supreme Court ruling legalized abortion throughout the country, Congress and state legislatures ensured that a doctor, nurse or other health care professional could refuse to participate in providing an abortion as a matter of conscience. Over the decades, these ‘‘conscience clauses’’ expanded in some states to include counseling, referral and pharmaceutical services, allowing people who fill prescriptions, for example, to exert a form of social control in the name of their own religious freedom.
All of this is making longtime proponents of religious liberty nervous. Douglas Laycock, a law professor at the University of Virginia, has helped write state religious freedom bills and supported the ones that foundered in Indiana and Arkansas. But in an article last year, he issued a warning to evangelical leaders. ‘‘It is a risky step to interfere with the most intimate details of other people’s lives while loudly claiming liberty for yourself,’’ Laycock wrote. ‘‘If you stand in the way of a revolution and lose, there will be consequences.’’Refusing to serve customers has an ugly history. A half-century ago, the civil rights movement held lunch-counter sit-ins to protest Jim Crow. No one succeeded then in claiming a God-given right to refuse to serve black customers. Throughout the South, businesses open to the public became open to all. Today, in the name of religious liberty, there is robust Southern opposition to same-sex marriage. But supporters say the analogy to the exclusions of Jim Crow is inapt, because racial segregation was never central to Christian teaching the way traditional marriage has been. They also correctly point out that strong national laws protect against discrimination on the basis of race, but not against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. In many states, in the South and elsewhere, a business or a landlord doesn’t need a special faith-based reason for turning away a gay client or tenant. They’re simply free to do so.
Given the speed with which public support for same-sex marriage is growing, gay people may win other rights against discrimination. But what about private religious schools and social-service organizations? ‘‘Hard questions’’ will arise, Chief Justice John Roberts predicted in his dissent from the same-sex marriage ruling, when, ‘‘for example, a religious college provides married student housing only to opposite-sex married couples, or a religious adoption agency declines to place children with same-sex couples.’’In the Senate and the House of Representatives, dozens of Republicans quickly signed on to a bill that would protect the tax-exempt status of a religious organization in such a situation and prevent any government action against a business that refused to serve a gay couple. On both sides of this fight, tolerance no longer seems to be the word of the day. ‘‘The religious resisters say, ‘It doesn’t matter if you can have the wedding you want, because you shouldn’t be getting married anyway,’ ’’ Laycock said over the phone last week.
4th Circuit: Liberty University's Insurer Does Not Have to Pay for Lisa Miller-Janet Jenkins Lawsuit
|Alleged conspirator Mat Staver and his equally crazy wife|
As regular readers will recall, Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia - a foul blight on Virginia in my view - is up to its eyeballs in involvement with Lisa Miller's kidnapping of her daughter and open defiance of court orders regarding child custody. Having lost before the Vermont Supreme Court and even the anti-gay Virginia Supreme Court, Miller with the aid of personnel at Liberty University, including former law dean Mat Staver, Miller absconded with her daughter and has disappeared somewhere in Central America. Federal prosecutions are ongoing against some of Miller's accomplices. Meanwhile Janet Jenkins has filed a lawsuit against Liberty University based on the belief that Miller was aided and abetted by Liberty personnel. Liberty has sought to have its insurance carrier pay for its legal defense. Now, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the alleged intentional unlawful acts of Liberty personnel are outside the scope of the university's insurance policies and that Liberty must pay its own legal fees and any resulting judgment. The ruling can be found here. WSET TV-13 has details. Here are highlights:
Many insurance policies contain “Intentional and Criminal Acts" exclusions - and such exclusions were in Liberty's policies. Tellingly, the Court found in part as follows:The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Liberty University's insurance company does not have to cover the university's costs to defend itself in a high-profile lawsuit. An earlier decision indicated Hanover Insurance Company was responsible for covering things like attorney's fees. This is all over the legal battle relating to a custody dispute between two women who were once in a legally recognized civil union.In the suit Jenkins filed against Liberty, she alleges they are in Nicaragua... and that employees at Liberty University, and others, helped the two leave the country. Most notably, Mathew Staver former Dean of Liberty's School Of Law and current Interim Dean Rena Lindevaldsen.Staver and Lindevaldsen, identified as Miller's attorneys, were not named in the suit against Liberty. But the court documents spell out the accusations - that Staver and Lindevaldsen encouraged and assisted Miller in violating court orders, solicited donations to groups aimed at preventing court ordered contact between Jenkins and her daughter, and conspired with others to kidnap Isabella - even using Liberty University phone lines to communicate with the man who drove Miller and Isabella to Canada in 2009.The issue before the court on Friday was whether the insurance company has to cover the costs of the defense. The answer from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals – no, for a variety of reasons.
. . . . we conclude that the criminal acts exclusion applies for two reasons. First, the Jenkins Complaint clearly and unambiguously alleges that Appellee and its agents committed criminal acts – namely, kidnapping and conspiracy to commit racketeering, which is a federal crime pursuant to 18 U.S.C.§1962(d). The Jenkins Complaint also specifically alleges Appellee’s role in these crimes. For example, the Jenkins Complaint contends that Staver used Liberty University’s phone lines to speak with Philip Zodhiates after Zodhiates deposited Miller and the child near the Canadian border and that other Liberty University employees assisted Miller while she was in Nicaragua. Second, the Jenkins Complaint unambiguously claims that Appellee is liable for injuries arising from those criminal acts. . . . .
Why is this case a big deal? Because it will hopefully send a message to other Christofascist organizations that (i) they are not above the law, and (ii) that they will be on their own in defending against actions that are intentional violations of the law.
Friday, July 10, 2015
Civil Servants' Illegal Defiance on Same-Sex Marriage
With "godly Christian" county clerk's across the South in particular refusing to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples based on their "deeply held religious beliefs" we see (i) a total perversion of the concept of religious freedom as envisioned by the Founding Fathers, and (ii) the demand of Christofascists for special rights writ large. The Founding Fathers NEVER envisioned civil servants being able to refuse to perform their duties based on claimed religious belief because their concept of religious freedom never extended beyond (a) the freedom to worship in a church of one's choosing, (ii) not being required to support a church that one did not belong to, and (iii) not being barred from civil office based on one's religious affiliation. The New York Times has an on point main editorial that slams the modern day Pharisee "godly folk." Here are excerpts:
The Supreme Court could not have been clearer when it ruled late last month that states may not refuse to marry same-sex couples.“The right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the court in Obergefell v. Hodges. “Under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty.”Most of the country has quickly accepted these words as the law of the land. But in several states where the resistance to marriage equality has been most entrenched, government officials whose job it is to license or perform marriages continue to misunderstand, stall or flatly defy the court. However they justify these tactics, their conduct is illegal and they must stop.In Hood County, Tex., County Clerk Katie Lang ordered her staff shortly after the ruling not to issue any same-sex marriage licenses because, she said, “I am instilling my religious liberty in this office.”She later backtracked to say that while she would personally refrain, her staff members were “available and ready” to issue the licenses. But that wasn’t true for Jim Cato and Joe Stapleton, a couple of 27 years who were repeatedly turned away by Ms. Lang because, she told them, the office did not have the updated license forms in hand.It took a federal lawsuit, which Mr. Cato and Mr. Stapleton filed on Monday, to convince Ms. Lang at last to follow the law and issue the license a few hours later.[S]ome county clerks in Kentucky and an Alabama probate judge have removed themselves from the marriage business entirely rather than help same-sex couples marry.
These public employees seem to forget that taxpayers pay them to do their job. If doing that job violates their religious beliefs, the best solution is to find another job, as several have done in the days since the Obergefell ruling.Some same-sex marriage opponents argue that under state religious-freedom laws, a government employee’s beliefs should be accommodated so long as another official is available to carry out the task. But government employees do not have a constitutionally protected right to pick and choose which members of the public they will serve, no matter their religious beliefs.Not so long ago, of course, government officials invoked religious beliefs to justify all manner of racial segregation and discrimination, including laws banning interracial marriage. The Supreme Court struck down that marriage ban in 1967 in Loving v. Virginia.
It is impossible to imagine any county clerk or judge now claiming a right not to marry an interracial couple based on religious beliefs. And yet, that would be analogous to what these public employees are doing in refusing to serve same-sex couples. The Constitution’s protection of religious freedom simply does not include the right to discriminate against others in the public sphere.
The answer to such behavior is simple. These clerks need to either do their jobs, or (i) resign, or (ii) go to jail for contempt of court. Can you imagine anyone other than Christofascists who would think they can simply ignore the law? Oh, I did I mention that when these people take their oaths of office, they swear to uphold the state and federal constitutions? Slavish obedience to cherry picked passages in the Bible is nowhere in their oaths of office.
Donald Trump is the Democrats’ Greatest Gift
With Donald Trump now topping several polls of the GOP presidential nomination contenders, I suspect that there are champagne corks being popped in Democrat campaign headquarters. Meanwhile, terror is spreading among Republicans within the so-called GOP establishment as Trump - with a great assist from Jebbie Bush - lays bare all of the real bigotries, the greed, and the contempt for working Americans that are the hallmarks of today's Republican Party platform. As noted before, I cannot wait to see Trump perform on the debate stage in Cleveland next month. A piece in Salon looks at Trump as the biggest gift the Democrats could have asked for. Here are highlights:
Hillary Clinton’s campaign may not develop the sizzle the would-be first Madam President and her team have long planned for. But the race has already created its first, truly searing image in the skin of the American nation.
To the Democratic Party establishment’s great relief, this is not the result of any of Hillary Clinton’s missteps, of which there have been some.
Rather, the problem emerged from the inside of the tent of the Republican Party. It is commonly called the “Donald Trump problem.”
The worst part for the Republicans is that Trump has the same effect as a Trojan horse. (Beware of the “Greeks” bearing gifts, Republicans of the United States!)
Trump’s emergence in the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire gives the Democrats a secret weapon to frame the race – and the entire Republican field — well before a Republican nominee emerges.
Trump’s troublesome personality characteristics and policies are essentially also true of nearly all the other Republican candidates, but nobody knows who they are and there are twenty of them.
It would be one thing if Trump’s downer effect were only that he embodies ostentatious – even offensive – wealth, far more so than Mitt Romney, the party’s 2012 candidate, ever did. Romney came to symbolize the 1% class with “just” $250 million. Forbes values the flamboyant Trump at a minimum of $4.1 billion.
Trump represents a similar brand of nativist economic populism that is popular with a sizable chunk of American voters. . . . That alone would not cause Republicans a problem, were it not for the unfortunate fact that nearly all their major candidates this cycle are promoting similarly ridiculous and nativist platforms on economics, immigration and beyond.
Trump highlights how not-ready-for-primetime the rest of the Republican field is.
His outrageous views on racial minorities are doubly politically problematic: First, he profits off employing “illegal” workers at construction sites. . . . And second, the silence of the Republican field to stand up to Trump’s race-baiting is as deafening as it is electorally deadly.
Worse for Republican leaders, Trump could conceivably go the distance, if he wants to. He certainly has the ego, the financial resources as well as . .
To the Democrats’ great delight, he is setting the tone and terms of the race on the Republican side of the field. . . . the memory of Trump’s attacks will be enduring for at least the next two years. It is quite unlikely that this will escape Hispanic voters’ minds.
South Carolina’s Lost Battle to Rewrite its Racist History
Having lived in the South for the majority of my life now, one steady undercurrent has always been the effort of some whites, perhaps not a majority, to keep minorities in their place. Here in Virginia the separate rest room facilities for blacks and whites are gone, but through voter ID laws and the difficulty faced by felons (blacks are disproportionately convicted) to regain voting rights, the theme of keeping blacks subservient is alive and well, especially among Virginia Republicans. But Virginia, despite the statues on Monument Avenue in Richmond, has been discrete about its racism compared to South Carolina, the state that started the Civil War, and which has flown the Confederate flag at its state house until today. A column in the Washington Post looks at South Carolina's losing battle to rewrite its very racist history. Here are excerpts:
For most of my life, a flag representing white supremacist violence against black people flew at the capitol of my native state. It is a very big deal that this emblem of hatred and oppression is finally coming down.Gov. Nikki Haley (R) was expansive after the state legislature finished action early Thursday on a bill consigning the Confederate battle flag to the museum displays where it belongs: “It is a new day in South Carolina, a day we can all be proud of.” I have to entertain the notion that she may be right.
In the South, William Faulkner wrote, the past isn’t even past. The flag represented, for some white South Carolinians, a past that was invented out of whole cloth — a past in which something other than slavery was the cause of a conflict Southerners called the “War Between the States.”
In truth, the Civil War only was about states’ rights in the sense that the Confederate states feared losing one specific “right” — to own human beings and compel their labor. No amount of Spanish moss can obscure this basic fact. No paeans to the valor of Confederate soldiers can change the fact that they were fighting for slavery.
And no amount of revisionist claptrap can change the fact that the flag was hoisted at the capitol in Columbia in 1961 and kept flying not to honor some gauzy vision of Southern valor but to resist the dismantling of Jim Crow segregation. The flag meant whites-only schools, whites-only public accommodations, whites-only voter rolls. It represented white power and privilege over subjugated African Americans.
[I]t was another woman — Republican state Rep. Jenny Horne — who guaranteed success with a powerful speech telling her colleagues that enough was enough.
“I cannot believe that we do not have the heart in this body to do something meaningful, such as take a symbol of hate off these grounds on Friday!” Horne thundered. She wasn’t having any of the “noble heritage” cornpone that flag apologists were selling; Horne is a descendant of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, she said, and still she knew it was time for the flag to come down.
Before Horne’s intervention, it looked as if the state House might cave to the latter-day Johnny Rebs who were seeking to stall the legislation into parliamentary oblivion.
For 150 years after Appomattox, the states of the Confederacy lived a twisted fantasy. As evidenced by the diehards in the South Carolina legislature, some white Southerners still refuse to wake from the reverie. But the rest of the state has finally moved on.
Does this mean that South Carolina and other former Confederate states will take a new look at all the monuments and memorials dedicated to white supremacists who advocated slavery and fomented armed rebellion against the United States? . . . . Probably not, or at least not anytime soon. Emanuel A.M.E. Church is on a street named for John C. Calhoun, the South Carolina “statesman” who defended slavery not as a necessary evil but as an absolute good, and who laid the philosophical groundwork for the treasonous act of secession.
The flag is more important, though, because of the way it has been used — not just as an instrument of repression but also as a way to deny history and thus avoid history’s judgments and responsibilities. What South Carolina’s governor and legislature have announced is clear: It’s time, finally, to stop pretending.
Symbols matter. South Carolina should have brought down the Confederate battle flag long ago. . . .
Thursday, July 09, 2015
It's Time To End Tax Exemptions for Religious Institutions
|Sacred Heart Cathedral, Richmond, Virginia - the bishop recently blocked the employment of a friend as a teacher because she was divorced|
The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution grants religious freedom to all citizens and provides that there shall be no established church. In drafting the First Amendment, the Founding Fathers were familiar with the special rights granted to the Church of England under British rule and the manner in which non-church members were required to pay taxes to support the established church. Now, we see the fastest growing religious segment in America to be the "Nones" - those who belong to no church whatsoever. Yet, through the tax-exemption granted to religious institutions, all citizens are forced to indirectly support churches that they not only do not belong to, but may also actively discriminate against them. It's a situation that violates the First Amendment's protections. A piece in Time makes the case that it is time to end tax-exempt status for religious institutions (a move that would give a financial boost to both states and the federal government). Here are excerpts:
Two weeks ago, with a decision in Obergefell v. Hodges on the way, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah introduced the First Amendment Defense Act, which ensures that religious institutions won’t lose their tax exemptions if they don’t support same-sex marriage. Liberals tend to think Sen. Lee’s fears are unwarranted, and they can even point to Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion in Friday’s case, which promises “that religious organizations and persons [will be] given proper protection.”
I’m a gay-rights supporter who was elated by Friday’s Supreme Court decision — but I honor Sen. Lee’s fears.
I don’t, however, like his solution. And he’s not going to like mine. Rather than try to rescue tax-exempt status for organizations that dissent from settled public policy on matters of race or sexuality, we need to take a more radical step. It’s time to abolish, or greatly diminish, their tax-exempt statuses.
The federal revenue acts of 1909, 1913, and 1917 exempted nonprofits from the corporate excise and income taxes at the same time that they allowed people to deduct charitable contributions from their incomes. In other words, they gave tax-free status to the income of, and to the income donated to, nonprofits. Since then, state and local laws nearly everywhere have exempted nonprofits from all, or most, property tax and state income tax. This system of tax exemptions and deductions took shape partly during World War I, when it was feared that the new income tax, with top rates as high as 77%, might choke off charitable giving. But whatever its intentions, today it’s a mess, for several reasons.First, the religious exemption has forced the IRS to decide what’s a religion, and thus has entangled church and state in the worst way. Since the world’s great religion scholars can’t agree on what a religion is, it’s absurd to ask a bunch of accountants, no matter how well-meaning.
The property taxes they aren’t paying have to be drawn from business owners and private citizens — in a real sense, you and I are subsidizing Mormon temples, Muslims mosques, Methodist churches.
Meanwhile, although nonprofits can’t endorse political candidates, they can be quite partisan and still thrive on the public dole, in the form of tax exemptions and deductions.
Defenders of tax exemptions and deductions argue that if we got rid of them charitable giving would drop. It surely would, although how much, we can’t say. But of course government revenue would go up, and that money could be used to, say, house the homeless and feed the hungry. We’d have fewer church soup kitchens — but countries that truly care about poverty don’t rely on churches to run soup kitchens.Exemption advocates also point out that churches would be squeezed out of high-property-value areas. But if it’s important to the people of Fifth Avenue to have a synagogue like Emanu-El or an Episcopal church like St. Thomas in their midst, they should pay full freight for it. They can afford to, more than millions of poorer New Yorkers whose tax bills the synagogue and church exemptions are currently inflating.
I can see keeping some exemptions; hospitals, in particular, are an indispensable, and noncontroversial, public good. And localities could always carve out sensible property-tax exceptions for nonprofits their communities need. But it’s time for most nonprofits, like those of us who faithfully cut checks to them, to pay their fair share.
There is absolutely no reason why churches and "religious" organizations like The Family Foundation or Family Research Council should be indirectly supported by every taxpaying American. Like the article's author, I believe some entities deserve continued tax exempt status, but the Catholic Church, the Mormon Church, Baptist churches and a host of others do not deserve to be supported by non-members and those they denigrate. If their members will not support them and pay the tax bills, then let these church sell of properties or have them go to tax sale - just like what happens to you or me.
Jeb Bush’s Plutocratic Fantasy Land
|Bush vacation "compound" Kennebunkport, Maine - Meanwhile, Jebbie wants us to "work longer hours"|
Not to beat a news item to death, but Jeb Bush's statement that working Americans suffering from declining wages need to "work longer hours" underscores just how out of touch he is from reality, especially the reality most Americans live in. Making matters worse, Jebbie supports more GOP voodoo economic measures that will benefit the very wealthy and screw over average Americans even more. A piece in Salon lays out the case that Jebbie is living in a "plutocratic fantasy land." Here are excerpts:
It’s possible that you can forgive Jeb Bush for not knowing about regular people, when in an interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader on Wednesday, he demonstrated a complete lack of appreciation for how hard Americans work — and for how little. Perhaps you can also forgive him for not recognizing that, in fact, Americans work more than their counterparts in other industrialized countries, that we get less vacation time, less maternity leave, and retire later than most anyone else, and that that trend is only intensifying. He’s from a family of millionaires, after all, whose parents were the millionaire children of yet other millionaires before them. It’s an unfortunate reality that the elite who enjoy that sort of privilege simply don’t have the means to understand the lives of those above whom they reside in luxury.
So perhaps you can think of him more like a prince than a former governor: Princes perform their princely duties to uphold the family’s prestige. That’s just the way it goes.
[W]hat shouldn’t be forgiven is when someone like Jeb Bush, entirely ignorant of how the rest of us live, seeks to tell us what we’re doing wrong; when he blames us, indicts us and thereby makes demands. And what’s most egregious is when it’s in the service of his fellow elites, when telling us to work even harder and longer is precisely what fills the pockets of his wealthy friends and supporters. It shifts the blame from the banks and the job off-shorers onto everyone else, and then presents the solution as something that hurts us more and pads the profits of those very same culprits.
[Bush is seemingly] unaware of how U.S. worker productivity has risen some 80 percent since the 1970s, or that we’re actually the most productive workforce in the world, yet with little in the way of commensurate wage and salary increases since the time his father joined President Reagan in the White House in 1980.
Jeb? I seem to remember a Wall Street crisis in the last year of your brother’s tenure, and millions of people losing their jobs because of it, but I don’t remember any sort of “productivity crisis” or “laziness crisis” on our end. I saw a crisis of financial capitalism in which the capitalists wrecked the ship and we lost our jobs. We didn’t abandon them. We’ve been taking care of our end of the bargain, us workers. It’s your lot that’s dropping the ball.
Mr. Bush. You have a multimillion-dollar vacation estate built by your great-grandfather. Your campaign donors are a who’s who of corporate elites. A career spent with some of the biggest banks in the world and your own private equity firm has people comparing you to Mitt Romney. And now you’re telling us that we’re the problem. Please proceed, Governor.
He and his ilk aren’t the problem, goes his logic, but rather that “high-sustained growth means that people work 40 hours rather than 30 hours.” You don’t know why Americans are kept working 30 hours per week? How can you not know that? They don’t choose to work less, it’s that their employers (you know, your buddies) have weekly thresholds that determine full-time work, and full-time work means that the company must provide benefits in addition to wages.
The blame he assigns to workers is moral, though: We choose “being dependent on government,” he says, “rather than getting in line.” It’s a moral failing that he’s comfortable assigning to us in what was supposed to be an attempt to mend the mistake he’d made earlier.
It’s still our fault, according to Bush. A dynastic front-runner of the GOP, swimming in millions and millions in corporate and Wall Street elite donations and literally swimming at his vacation estate, tells us that we’re the problem, that we’re living too easy.
I'm sorry, but Bush is an arrogant, despicable ASSHOLE. We do NOT need him in the White House. Hillary has her faults, but at least she grew up in a normal American household and still remembers where she came from. Unlike Jebbie, she is not utterly out of touch with reality.
The GOP’s Two Latino Problems - Moderate Voters Being Alienated Too
In tandem, Jeb Bush and Donald Trump appear to be well on the road to alienation both working Americans - the media is all over Bush's "people need to work longer hours" statement - and Hispanic voters thanks to Donald Trump speaking candidly about the racism that fuels much of the GOP. But, as a piece in Slate notes, it isn't just Hispanics who are being driven away by the harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric. Moderate white voters are being driven away as well and for the GOP, which must win a huge majority of the white vote to win the White House, this is not good news. Here are article highlights:
Trump also illustrates a second, more complicated problem. As long as his rhetoric has a place in Republican politics—as long as it has defenders—it won’t just alienate Latinos. It will offend and turn off voters who have conservative ideas and beliefs but won’t sanction or support anti-immigrant sentiment.As another piece in the Washington Post notes, the GOP has created its own monster now embodied by Trump and other crazies:
Before looking at this other side to the “Latino problem,” it’s worth examining the first one. In the past two presidential elections, Democrats have won more than two-thirds of Latino voters, reversing and eroding gains made during George W. Bush’s administration. Part of this is anti-Republican backlash after the 2008 recession and the tail end of the Bush presidency, but even more is the intense anti-immigration wave that swept the GOP in the wake of the Tea Party’s rapid rise to prominence.
At this point, Latinos don’t just oppose particular candidates, such as Mitt Romney. They disdain the Republican label itself. According to a 2014 survey from the Pew Research Center, just 10 percent of Latinos say that the Republican Party “has concern” for their communities, compared with 50 percent who say as much about the Democratic Party. Few agree with Republicans on policy . . .
[T]he second problem. The appeals the GOP uses to turn out disaffected whites—and maximize white support writ large—could backfire, both with Latinos and with other whites, who have nonwhite friends, neighbors, spouses, and partners and see themselves as tolerant. In working to maximize their share of the white vote, Republicans who take this path could lower their ceiling.
It’s not clear that there’s a way out of this dilemma.
I hope the GOP continues to twist on the rope of its own creation.
[T]here is one entity that can’t dump Trump, no matter how hard it tries: the GOP. The Republican Party can’t dump Trump because Trump is the Republican Party.
Trump has merely held up a mirror to the GOP. The man, long experience has shown, believes in nothing other than himself. He has, conveniently, selected the precise basket of issues that Republicans want to hear about — or at least a significant proportion of Republican primary voters. He may be saying things more colorfully than others when he talks about Mexico sending rapists across the border, but his views show that, far from being an outlier, he is hitting all the erogenous zones of the GOP electorate.
Anti-immigrant? Against Common Core education standards? For repealing Obamacare? Against same-sex marriage? Antiabortion? Anti-tax? Anti-China? Virulent in questioning President Obama’s legitimacy? Check, check, check, check, check, check, check and check.
Trump may be a phony, but he’s no dope: He recognized that, in the fragmented Republican field, his name recognition would take him far if he merely voiced, in his bombastic style, the positions GOP voters craved. The mogul’s broader basket of issues is also in tune with those of a slate of candidates who have compared homosexuality to alcoholism (Perry), likened union protesters to the Islamic State (Walker) and proposed elections for Supreme Court justices (Cruz), and who virtually all oppose same-sex marriage and action on climate change.
Trump may be a monster, but he’s the monster Republicans created.
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