Having lost the argument over the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, Republicans are now seizing on the fact that the law was upheld under Congress’ taxing power to falsely claim that it is a “massive tax hike” on the middle class. And some Republicans have gone even further, claiming that the law is the “largest tax increase in history.” As Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) said today on CNN:
BLACKBURN: Uh, we said all along it was a tax. And as I was out over the weekend at farmer’s markets and at church and at the grocery store and visiting with constituents, so many people said, ‘You know, back in August ’09, we were all saying that this seemed to be a tax,’ and if it was a tax, then this was going to be the largest tax increase in history. Indeed it was, and is.
Actually, as a percentage of the economy (which is the proper way to measure the size of a tax increase), the taxes in Obamacare are smaller than those in several tax packages of the last half century, including President George H.W. Bush’s in 1990, President Bill Clinton’s in 1993, and President Ronald Reagan’s in 1982. And of course, Obamacare will actually cut taxes for millions of middle class families. The bulk of the Affordable Care Act’s tax increases are on upper-income Americans.
The Incidental Economist put together this chart showing the difference:
A new document has surfaced indicating that the late North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il had ordered the production of a “massive amount” of both uranium and plutonium-based nuclear weapons. AFP reports that according to media accounts from Japan, the document said that “from a military point of view, it is a matter of course that we should use plutonium and highly-enriched uranium for atomic bombs.” The document is the first that officially illustrates the explicit instructions from Kim Jong-Il to develop nuclear technology, and is believed to be intended to make clear that Kim Jong-Un — Kim Jong-Il’s son and successor — will continue his father’s foreign policy.
– Now that the Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Care Act, Republicans are debating whether to implement the law.
– After Thursday’s ruling, support for Obamacare jumped 5 percentage points, and opposition went down an equal amount.
– Medicare’s costs have grown significantly slower than costs in private insurance for the last four decades:
– The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) will launch a new campaign Monday “targeting vulnerable GOP lawmakers on healthcare ahead of the House vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act.”
– And finally: Mitt Romney modified his family’s Olympic games “to give himself a better shot.”
Next year, the Supreme Court will have its first opportunity to weigh in on same-sex marriage, as House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has filed an appeal in one of the many cases in which the Defense of Marriage Act has been found unconstitutional. Though numerous cases are advancing, House Republicans appealed the pair of cases from the First Circuit: Gill v. Office of Personnel Management and Massachusetts v. HHS. In the filing, Boehner’s attorneys continue to ignore the reality of same-sex families, arguing that Congress did nothing to harm or discriminate against them:
DOMA does not bar or invalidate any marriages but leaves states free to decide whether they will recognize same-sex marriage. Section 3 of DOMA simply asserts the federal government’s right as a separate sovereign to provide its own definition which “governs only federal programs and funding.”
Congress, of course, did not invent the meanings of “marriage” and “spouse” in 1996. Rather, DOMA merely reaffirmed and codified the traditional definition of marriage, i.e. what Congress itself has always meant ? and what courts and the executive branch have always understood it to mean ? in using these words: a traditional male-female couple.
In addition, the filing argues that Congress wanted to save money by simply not paying for the tax benefits same-sex couples would be afforded with marriage equality. Besides the blatant discrimination inherent in that argument, there 1,138 federal rights, benefits, and privileges that are denied to couples under DOMA. Republicans’ interest in “traditional marriage” ignores the millions of same-sex couples raising families who are denied the same securities and protections as their heterosexual neighbors.
This DOMA case may not be the Supreme Court’s only opportunity to weigh in on marriage next year. Proponents of California’s Proposition 8 have also promised to take their case to the Supreme Court, though they have not yet filed such an appeal. It is possible, though, that the Court could rule in favor of equality in both cases without mandating a right to same-sex marriage. For Proposition 8, the Justices could simply rule that it’s unconstitutional for a state to revoke a right like marriage equality after it’s already been granted. Similarly, the Court could overturn DOMA, requiring the federal government to recognize same-sex marriage but not mandating that any state to do the same ? navigating the so-called “Alabama Problem.” Regardless, it will be an interesting year for human rights jurisprudence.
At a rally in Florida yesterday, Rep. Allen West (R-FL) thought he found the perfect way to mock the Supreme Court’s finding that the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate — which requires individuals who do not carry health insurance to pay slightly more income taxes — constitutes a lawful application of Congress’ power to set tax policy:
What will be next? If you don’t buy a certain kind of green car, they will tax you. If you don’t buy a certain kind of food, they will tax you. Well I got a great idea. I believe that for personal security every American should have to go out and buy a Glock 9 mm, and if you don?t do it, we?ll tax you. Now I wonder how the liberals will feel about that.
First of all, there’s nothing even vaguely unusual about a law which allows people who take a certain action to pay lower taxes. People who take out mortgages, who buy fuel efficient cars, or even many families who have children all receive a tax break. By West’s logic, this means big government is unconstitutionally forcing people to breed.
Moreover, while requiring every American to “go out and buy a Glock” is indeed a stupid idea — unsurprisingly, research shows that gun ownership strongly correlates with gun homicides — the fact that a proposed law is really, really stupid does not make it unconstitutional. Indeed, President George Washington signed a law in 1792 that required most free male citizens to “provide [themselves] with a good musket or firelock.”
It’s a good bet that George Washington knew a little bit more about what the Constitution allows than Allen West.
David Corn sets up his explosive scoop about Mitt Romney's role in Bain Capital's investment in Stericycle, a medical-waste firm that disposed of aborted fetuses, among other things:
Earlier this year, Mitt Romney nearly landed in a politically perilous controversy when the Huffington Post reported that in 1999 the GOP presidential candidate had been part of an investment group that invested $75 million in Stericycle, a medical-waste disposal firm that has been attacked by anti-abortion groups for disposing aborted fetuses collected from family planning clinics.As Corn points out, this happened just as voting was getting underway in the Republican primary, when Mitt Romney was at his most vulnerable with both Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum posing serious threats to his candidacy. Romney simply couldn't afford a controversy that would put him at odds with the GOP's evangelical base, so instead of defending the investment in Stericycle, he denied having anything to do with it.
You know what's coming next, right? Yep:
But documents filed by Bain and Stericycle with the Securities and Exchange Commission?and obtained by Mother Jones?list Romney as an active participant in the investment. And this deal helped Stericycle, a company with a poor safety record, grow, while yielding tens of millions of dollars in profits for Romney and his partners. The documents?one of which was signed by Romney?also contradict the official account of Romney's exit from Bain.So instead of admitting to social conservatives that he played a role in Bain's investment in Stericycle, Romney lied. It would be bad enough if the safety issues were what he was dodging responsibility for, but he was scared to admit that he had helped fund a company because it was doing something which any reasonable person recognizes must be done: dispose of medical waste from abortions.
But this isn't just a profile in cowardice, it's a profile in dishonesty. Not only did Romney have a role in the deal and sign documents related to it, but as Corn points out, contemporaneous press releases and news reports demolish Romney's claim to have had nothing to do with Bain Capital after departing for the Olympics. According to both Bain and the media, Romney continued to participate in decision making at the company, even during his "part-time leave of absence."
This story doesn't just undercut Romney's claims about Stericycle, it also calls into question every other defense of his practices at Bain Capital. Because Romney and Bain refuse to open their books, their response to criticism has always been some variant of "trust us, that's not true." And as this story shows, trusting them is a fool's errand.
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Three of the D.C. Court of Appeals?s judges delivered climate regulation opponents what can only be termed a righteous smack down last week. Their opinion on the Environmental Protection Agency?s work to regulate greenhouse gases is, as much as any legal opinion can be, a delight to read.
From the barely tempered exasperation in the court?s opening salvo??We begin with a brief primer on greenhouse gases??to the impatience with the lines of reasoning called upon by industry and its allies in state government??This argument is little more than a semantic trick??this legal document is a salve for anyone sick of the protestations against taking any action, ever, to tackle the looming disaster that is climate change.
The case at hand combined a mountain of complaints about almost every action the EPA has taken to regulate carbon. The agency began the process in 2007 in response to the Supreme Court?s requirement that it consider whether the Clean Air Act covered greenhouse gas emissions. In 2009, the EPA found that it did. The agency next needed to make rules governing the emission of greenhouses gases by cars and trucks. It made those rules.
Next, the law required the agency to start regulating greenhouse gas pollutants at power plants, refineries, and other ?stationary sources.? Greenhouse gases are emitted at much higher volumes than pollutants like sulfur dioxide or carbon monoxide, and the thresholds set in the Clean Air Act pull much smaller operations into greenhouse gas regulation. In the short-term, the EPA released rules that limited initial regulation to only the largest sources of greenhouse gas pollution.
Industry groups, along with states from Alaska to Texas to Virginia, objected to every single one of these decisions. The D.C. Court of Appeals told the protesters that on each count, they were either wrong to complain or had no standing to do so.
Just listen to how the judges shot down industry arguments that the EPA should not have relied on reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and National Research Council:
"It makes no difference that much of the scientific evidence in large part consisted of ?syntheses? of individual studies and research. Even individual studies and research papers often synthesize work in an area and then build upon it. This is how science works.?
Less stirring, but equally heart-warming, is section F(1), in which the court sweeps away complaints about the IPCC's scientific work. Pieces of climate skeptics? much-polished evidence were brushed off by the court as "isolated errors" that crumble when facing the large body of science supporting the EPA's decision.
When everyone in politics seems determined to either ignore the EPA or work to slash its funding, the court?s insistence that the EPA is doing exactly what it should be doing is a godsend. And it is pleasing to witness the frustration of attorneys general faced with the reality that, while they may dislike a particular law, their personal tastes carry no weight in court.
But this judicial vindication of carbon regulation also makes the EPA?s foot dragging on taking action all the more frustrating.
In the case, industry groups complained that the EPA came up with the wrong answer to the question of whether greenhouse gases pose a danger to the country?s health and welfare. In their opinion, the court of appeals judges swept away many of those complaints by arguing that they ?are about what would happen were EPA to answer that question in the affirmative.? In 2010, EPA did conclude that yes, carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse pollutants do pose a danger, and ever since has been letting complaints like the industry presented in this case slow its work to act on that danger.
In 2011, for instance, it gave a slew of polluters a grace period in which they would not have to deal with carbon dioxide emissions. Some of these industries?ethanol production, landfill gas power generation?could fall under the broad rubric of ?clean energy.? But many, like ?manure management? operations tied to industrial agriculture, were simply producers of carbon dioxide that the EPA decided to deal with in a few years, rather than right away. Earlier this year, the agency planned to regulate existing power plants but cut out those measures from the rules it released, which cover only new power plants.
It?s certainly possible to regulate existing power plants, the old, coal-fired, carbon-belching piles of nastiness that account for about a quarter of the country?s greenhouse gas emissions. The administration has chosen to delay that work until after the election. This is how politics works. But the greenhouse gases that are concentrating in the atmosphere as the EPA waits to complete its legally obligated work are not influenced by polls or Electoral College predictions. The more pollutants that reach the atmosphere, the more they will warm the earth, bringing on droughts and wildfires and sea level rise. That is how science works.
At least twenty-seven people were arrested in an impromptu march at the Occupy National Gathering in Philadelphia. Two of the people arrested were livestreamers?Jesse Hadden of Occupy PDX and "Cowboy Mike" of Occupy Philly. Two of the people arrested[...]
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WHO/WHAT: Live lottery for free speech activities during DNC
WHEN: Monday, July 2
WHERE: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center – 600 E. Fourth Street
WHY: The City of Charlotte will conduct a live lottery at 2 p.m. to randomly assign times on
September 4, 5 and 6 during the DNC to participate in the designated parade route and
The lottery is open to the public. It will also be carried live on the GOV Channel (Cable 16)
and streamed on DNCinfo.CharlotteNC.gov.