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A Taxing Subject

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 7:17 AM

This little bit from coverage of the Supreme Court's hearings on President Obama's healthcare plan is fascinating — there are reasons why the administration wants the fines for non-compliance to be viewed as a tax and other reasons why everyone wants it to not be viewed as a tax (viewing it as a tax would delay the decision for years).

“General Verrilli, today you are arguing that the penalty is not a tax. Tomorrow you are going to be back and you will be arguing that the penalty is a tax,” said Justice Samuel Alito, in one of the few laugh lines throughout the 90 minutes of argument Monday.

The remark underscores the fine line the White House is walking in its argument. On one hand, it says the backstop is not a tax, because that could subject it to the Anti-Injunction Act — the focal point of Monday's arguments — and delay a ruling to at least 2015. On the other, they claim that the power to impose a penalty derives from Congress' broad taxing power. That's in part because calling it a tax makes defending the mandate easier — Congress' power to levy taxes is less in question than its power to require people to do things.

Nothing like a few good technicalities to make a Supreme Court hearing more interesting.

Werewolves, Again, Get Passed Over for Vampires

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 7:43 AM

John Dickerson writes on Slate:

The GOP nominating race has become a clash of vampires and zombies. Candidates like Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich appear to die only to rise again, while Mitt Romney walks around not quite alive. In the wild narrative authored by cranky voters (who must not have heard the smart people who declared the race over months ago), the newest plot line is the battle between Rick Santorum, a candidate defined by his conviction, and Mitt Romney, one who has been defined by his lack of same.

So which one's Edward, anyway?

Fascinating

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 7:39 AM

I commented earlier today on Facebook that the Missouri Presidential Primary was rather uninteresting. Think about it, on the Democratic side, of course, there was no real race, despite a bunch of names on the ballot. On the Republican side, one of the four major candidates wasn't even on the ballot. And, there were no delegates at stake — the election was merely a “preference poll.”

All that said, the results of the Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado races did turn out different than I expected. It'll be interesting to see if Missouri's caucus next month goes the same way as today's vote or if those who go to caucuses are of a different mind.

Momentum

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 7:22 AM

Oh, why not? I haven't made any predictions on here concerning politics in ages. While refraining to comment on who I'm rooting for, I'll say this: after Newt's performance in Thursday's debate, his notable endorsements, etc., I think South Carolina will go for the former speaker tomorrow.

The Internet Blackout

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 6:10 AM

OFB participated in the Internet Blackout today, an event which involved many sites replacing their normal content with information on stopping the dangerous bill known as SOPA from continuing through Congress. Overall, I think the blackout was a success. According to one statistic I read, approximately 1 billion people encountered part of the blackout today, most notably through Wikipedia's participation in the event. By my count, 18 senators have turned against the act over the course the day today.

Let's just hope they stick to their new found principles.

Drum Major

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 7:55 AM

The MLK memorial is (thankfully) going to be revised to have a proper quote from the civil rights activist:

“I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness,” the monument says. What an odd choice for a quote, I thought, when I visited in August before its scheduled dedication. It sounded almost … conceited. And it was past tense, as though King was speaking from the grave. It didn't sound like King at all.

I went looking for the context, read the whole speech and found there was a reason it didn't sound like him. “If you want to say I was a drum major, say I was …” is how King began his statement. As many have since pointed out, the “if” and the “you” entirely change the meaning. To King, being a self-aggrandizing drum major was not a good thing; if you wanted to call him that, he said, at least say it was in the service of good causes.

Context, as one of my professors from Covenant likes to say, is king. I'm glad that Martin Luther King's context, a context that does not sound conceited, is going to be restored.

Minutes to Midnight

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 7:49 AM

Jason Ukman writes on the “Doomsday Clock” moving closer to midnight:

BAS said not all news was bad over the past year. The group's members say they were heartened by the Arab Spring, the Occupy movements and political protest in Russia.

I think the clock's message is becoming diluted. Obviously, it has always been quite subjective, but when the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is factoring in points such as the Occupy movement, they've not only made it even more subjective, they have also boldly positioned themselves chasmal distance from their area of study.

Including the Arab Spring is nearly as bad, showing that atomic scientists make lousy political scientists. To the extent that the Arab Spring has affected the coming of “doomsday” in the nuclear sense the clock was suppose to symbolize, I would wager it moved us closer to midnight. (Not because I am against middle eastern democracies, obviously, but the parties looking poised to take control potentially could destabilize the region further.)

The Cult of Centrism?

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 2:25 AM

Paul Krugman opines that the president has managed to get himself caught in a “cult of centrism:”

We have a crisis in which the right is making insane demands, while the president and Democrats in Congress are bending over backward to be accommodating — offering plans that are all spending cuts and no taxes, plans that are far to the right of public opinion.

So what do most news reports say? They portray it as a situation in which both sides are equally partisan, equally intransigent — because news reports always do that. And we have influential pundits calling out for a new centrist party, a new centrist president, to get us away from the evils of partisanship.

The reality, of course, is that we already have a centrist president — actually a moderate conservative president.

The must read tech blogger John Gruber apparently agrees. The problem with this analysis is that it implies that a basic sensible fiscal policy — that when one is spending too much, one should lower spending — is somehow “radical.”

As Gloria Borger noted on CNN last night, the president is the only notable figuring advocating further taxes right now. Obviously, spending cuts are the Right's answer to government spending problems, but when a one trillion dollar debt ceiling increase only staves off the problem for six months, can anyone really provide an explanation of how spending is not out of control?

The only reason Krugman can look at President Obama and suggest he is somewhat “conservative” is that the columnist is so far left that anything in the American mainstream of politics must be of the radical right. Even if his reputation was set aside, Krugman's incredible remarks suggesting that the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 was some sort of quasi-conservative health care bill make it clear how radical the columnist, and not the alleged conservatives in the Congress, are.

The people did not elect boatloads of Tea Party candidates last year because they thought increased taxes and spending would be the way to fix our situation. How about this: before we talk about how Uncle Sam needs more of the citizenry's money, let's see if we can quit wasting the money he already takes.

How to Hurt Small Businesses with the Amazon Tax

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 3:49 PM

Because it is unconstitutional to tax companies without a physical presence in a state, various states have been passing laws that absurdly count having affiliates such as myself in a state as having a “physical presence” in that state. It doesn't work out well:

Board of Equalization Member George Runner blasted Brown for signing the law. “Even as Governor Jerry Brown lifted his pen to sign this legislation, thousands of affiliates across California were losing their jobs. The so-called 'Amazon tax' is truly a lose-lose proposition for California. Not only won't we see the promised revenues, we'll actually lose income tax revenue as affiliates move to other states.”

Given that affiliate programs are essentially advertising programs, the legislation's concept is fundamentally flawed. Moreover, since the major online retailers terminate affiliates in a given state when that state passes this sort of crazy law, the laws do not produce revenue for the state, they only eliminate revenue for the affiliates.

This is helpful how?

Buy Partisan

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 7:43 AM

If you follow Woot, you know the minds behind it come up with a humorous story to go with each day's deal. Today's is a must read for every political junkie.

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