Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Should Obama Invoke 14th Amendment? Yes.

With Republicans continuing to hold the debt ceiling hostage by refusing to compromise with the majority party, Democrats are increasingly looking towards the 14th Amendment to circumvent GOP obstruction.

Section 4 of the 14th Amendment states: “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payments of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned." Since the "public debt" cannot be questioned, Democrats argue that the debt ceiling is unconstitutional.

In my opinion, President Obama should invoke the 14th Amendment for two reasons. One reason is because Republicans claim a monopoly on constitutional interpretation (mainly to advance their agenda at any cost), and the second reason is because according to the amendment, the debt ceiling is unconstitutional.

Why is the debt ceiling unconstitutional?

Conservatives argue that the amendment only applies to Congress and that it would be an overreach of power for the president to ignore the debt ceiling, and they base this off of Section 5 which states "Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article."

The problem is that Republicans refusing to permit an extension of the debt ceiling is a failure to enforce the amendment.  They are questioning "public debt," which the amendment states shall not be questioned.  Essentially, Congress is in violation of the Constitution and the president, by invoking the 14th Amendment, would be forcing Congress to adhere to the entire amendment.

Also, the public debt that would be in question was debt that the government had accrued due to past actions of Congress.  To allow the government to accumulate debt but limit the ability to pay such debt would be a ridiculous notion, which is why "public debt" cannot be questioned.

I don't understand why Republicans are upset about this anyway - they may potentially avoid further negative press because of their unwillingness to compromise and the Supreme Court, which will most likely hear this case if there were to be any case at all.  It is questionable as to whether Congress, or anyone at that, would have standing to challenge such a maneuver.

Carlyn Kolker wrote the following for Reuters:
Regardless of how controversial a 14th Amendment maneuver might be, a legal challenge would be very hard to mount and so far, no one has stepped forward to say they would challenge him in court.

Nor has anyone said they would sue him if he took the alternative, equally controversial, step of using his broad authorities as guardian of the constitutional order to unilaterally raise the borrowing threshold.

Theoretically, there are aggrieved parties who might consider legal action, including Congress, individual citizens or interest groups, and investors such as foreign governments...

It wouldn't be enough for a plaintiff to claim that Obama is overstepping his authority or acting illegally. "In order to sue, you have to have injury in fact. The touchstone issue is, can someone get to court?" said Jonathan Zasloff, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.

That same standard would apply if a party pre-emptively filed a lawsuit to stop Obama invoking the 14th Amendment.

Challengers might argue that relying on the 14th Amendment to raise the debt ceiling qualified as an abuse of executive power. But it would be extremely difficult for them to show that they would suffer specific harm such as lost money, property or rights, legal experts said.

The anti-tax group Club for Growth, which opposes increased federal borrowing, does not consider a legal challenge over the 14th Amendment likely, said executive director David Keating. "It's difficult to get standing," Keating said.

Individual members of Congress, congressional leaders, or Congress itself might have better luck suing, by claiming their constitutional authority to handle appropriations was violated by the President's move.
Seeing that if Obama were to prevent default by raising the debt ceiling, he would essentially be paying bondholders back, and I doubt any of those individuals would be claiming specific harm.  That would probably not stop conservative lawmakers who have claimed such a move would be an impeachable offense, but coming up to an election year, would Republicans seriously toy with the idea of impeaching the president over an issue where the public overwhelmingly side with the Democrats?  The backlash for Republicans would be horrific. After all, didn't many of them get elected on the promise of focusing on jobs - not political witch hunts?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Wisconsin Republicans Aim To Close DMVs in Democratic Districts

An article from Bloomberg Businessweek stated the following:
Gov. Scott Walker's administration is working on finalizing a plan to close as many as 10 offices where people can obtain driver's licenses in order to expand hours elsewhere and come into compliance with new requirements that voters show photo IDs at the polls.

One Democratic lawmaker said Friday it appeared the decisions were based on politics, with the department targeting offices for closure in Democratic areas and expanding hours for those in Republican districts.

A high-ranking DOT official rejected that claim, saying the changes were based on economics, not politics.

Rep. Andy Jorgensen, D-Fort Atkinson, called on the state Department of Transportation to reconsider its plants to close the Fort Atkinson DMV center. The department plans to expand by four hours a week the hours of a center about 30 minutes away in Watertown.

Jorgensen said he was concerned doing that would discourage people from Fort Atkinson from participating in elections.

"What the heck is going on here?" Jorgensen said. "Is politics at play here?"
Why is this interesting?

Republicans in Wisconsin (as well as in other states) recently changed voting laws requiring voters to have present a driver's license, state ID, passport, military ID, naturalization papers or tribal ID in order to vote. Eliminating DMVs in Democratic areas is an easy way to restrict access to receiving an acceptable form of identification, not to mention disenfranchisement of those unable to make the thirty minute trek to the DMV in the conservative district.

While some may look at these decisions and consider them to be routine business, just consider all the other tactics Republicans have used in the last year to pass their agenda, whether it was destroying bargaining rights for public employees and forcing pay cuts on them, tightening voting requirements, or even preventing maintenance funds from reaching public schools (while giving that money to a handful of charters).  Republicans are engaged in a full assault against Democrats.

Why can't they fight fair?

As a bonus, here is a video of someone applying for a voter ID in Wisconsin:

Rick Scott, GOP Give Cash To Charters While Ignoring Public Schools

I found this particular story to be interesting - Florida Republicans have decided to cut approximately 3,000 public schools out of the Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) program instead giving those funds to 350 charter schools. The program is derived from the tax collected on the gross receipts from the sale of utility services.

Dave Weber wrote the following for The Orlando Sentinel:
Traditional public schools in Florida will get no money from the state this year for additions or needed repairs to thousands of aging buildings, but charter schools will score big.

All of the state cash budgeted for school construction and maintenance is going to the independent, tax-financed charters favored by the Republican-dominated Legislature and Gov.Rick Scott.

The charter school operated for children of employees of The Villages, the Republican stronghold in north Lake County frequented by Scott and former President George W. Bush, is expected to receive about $1 million.

School district officials across Florida are bemoaning the Legislature's decision to cut traditional public schools out of PECO — the Public Education Capital Outlay program. The state's 350 charter schools will share $55 million, while the approximately 3,000 traditional schools will go without.

"Every cent allocated for school construction went to charter schools," complained Lee Swift, a Charlotte County school board member who heads the Florida School Boards Association.
It is no secret that Republicans hate public education - they have spent the past couple years villainizing public educators and trying to defund public schools.  This latest issue is just their newest assault.  They are pushing traditional schools into obsolescence, and they are doing so to reward political allies.  Why do you think Republican haven, The Villages, received $1 million dollars for their charter school - that is one school receiving one million dollars.  To put that into perspective, Orange County, which has 200 schools, received only $6.7 million in the past year.

If that isn't proof that these fund being steered to charters isn't politically motivated, how about this: Sen. David Simmons, a Maitland Republican who chairs the Senate's subcommittee on school appropriations, stated that public schools don't need the funds because they over-extended and  had gone through a heavy construction phase.

"We did a whole lot of building a few years ago," Simmons said. "Growth has stagnated, and there has been some overbuilding of schools in some areas."

If that is the case, then how does Simmons explain giving  money to the Choices in Learning charter school in Seminole County, which plans to use the funds to repay construction bonds for their new $10 million dollar facility?

I thought public schools don't deserve the money because they over-built?

Also, let's not to mention that this school is an "A" school currently located in a Baptist Church. Wouldn't it make more sense to give that money to schools that actually need the funds? Why would this school build a $10 million dollar facility when they don't have the funds, unless they were promised these funds from political supporters?

It appears to me Republicans are trying to make public schools inferior by defunding them while awarding those dollars to their charter school friends.

It also sounds as if Republicans are ignoring the Florida Constitution.

Article IX, Section 1 reads as follows:
The education of children is a fundamental value of the people of the State of Florida. It is, therefore, a paramount duty of the state to make adequate provision for the education of all children residing within its borders. Adequate provision shall be made by law for a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education and for the establishment, maintenance, and operation of institutions of higher learning and other public education programs that the needs of the people may require.
Doesn't really sound like the GOP are making adequate provisions for the maintenance  for education institutions...

Monday, July 25, 2011

Democrats Should Refuse GOP's Short-Term Debt Ceiling Deal

Why can't Democrats see that Republicans are playing politics with the debt ceiling?

Every time they open their mouths about raising the debt limit, they talk about Obama's reelection campaign.

"It's interesting that since 1972, Congress has raised the debt ceiling for six months or less 38 times. So we can surely extend it for five or six months -- have this committee of Congress come back and report on the way to continue to reduce our deficit, and in that way avert the disaster and make forward progress," said Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) on CBS's "Face the Nation." "The problem, I think, is that the single most important thing to President Obama is extending this beyond his reelection campaign. He just doesn't want to have to deal with it again."

"I know the president is worried about the next election. But my god, shouldn't we be worried about the country?" added Boehner on "Fox News Sunday."

In my honest opinion, Republicans are the ones worried about next year's elections.  Many of them were elected on these grand promises to their conservative base but nothing has been accomplished.  While the GOP promised jobs, they were busy pushing their social agenda in Washington - mostly wasting their time crafting symbolic legislation that would never pass the Senate.

Republicans turned down an overly generous deal because it included revenue increases, such as closing tax loop holes, and have since floated their numerous cuts that are smaller that do not solve the long term problem.  Consider Sen. Kyl's comments on "Face the Nation"- he wants to solve this problem and then come back in a few months and talk about it some more and the reason why he wants to talk about it some more is because Republicans believe discussing the economy during an election year would be damaging to Obama's reelection.  Consider the latest plans being floated by Republicans.

Jennifer Bendery wrote the following for The Huffington Post:
The Nevada Democrat said talks broke down again on Sunday night as Republican leaders insisted on passing a short-term debt ceiling increase. During a Saturday briefing with House Republicans, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced his plan to push for a more than $3 trillion deficit reduction package that would raise the debt ceiling in increments, by $900 billion at first and then by about $1.6 trillion next year. The White House and Democratic leaders have ruled out any type of short-term extension out of concerns that it would create uncertainty in financial markets and expose the already fragile economy to greater risks.
It's a trap!

Why else would the Republicans push a plan that calls for smaller increases now and one almost twice as large next year during an election year?  It would be a reminder of the economic problems that have dogged Obama's term and Republicans would be able to satisfy their tea party-base by claiming they are trying to make the big cuts as promised.

Democrats need to stand strong and realize this is one big game of political chicken or else they will end up the losers in the long run.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Do Companies Pass On Lower Tax Burdens To Customers? Think Again.

Grant Martin wrote the following for the blog Gadling:
Recent budget woes in the legislative branch of our US government have been creating a cascade of disruptions, and the most recent hiccup involves the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Without proper agreement on a fiscal plan moving forward, the government has been forced to shut down a portion of the agency, most notably the section that collects taxes on our domestic airplane tickets.

Those taxes account for a modest percentage of each flight, roughly between 5 and 10%, and when travelers caught wind that the taxes would be discounted, they saw the silver lining of the shutdown as being a temporary sale on domestic tickets.

As planned, the FAA shutdown took place at midnight this morning, but the savings have barely matured. What happened?

Turns out, some of the airlines also realized the gap in price difference and decided to make that up by increasing their fares. So rather than passing the tax savings along to customers, they're greedily taking the margin for themselves.
Isn't the typical argument for reducing taxes is that by doing so corporations will be able to provide a good for less or employee more people?  Isn't this why Republicans constantly refer to such entities as "job creators?"

The companies that raised ticket prices to compensate for the tax cut - American, United, Continental, Delta, US Airways, Southwest, AirTran and JetBlue - increased prices by an average of 7.5 percent, roughly the amount of the cut.  Companies have a lot to gain from their price hikes.

David Koenig wrote the following for Star News Online:
The Transportation Department says it will lose $200 million a week until Congress restores the taxes. J.P. Morgan analyst Jamie Baker said airlines could take in an extra $25 million a day by raising fares during the tax holiday. That's a tempting sum for airlines that have struggled against high jet fuel costs for most of the last three years.
Let's take a look at one of those airlines that decided to raise ticket costs.

US Airways recently announced it would cut jobs and earlier in the year, the company increased overweight baggage fees by as much as 80 percent.

"We adjusted prices so the bottom-line price of a ticket remains the same as it was before ... expiration of federal excise taxes," said American spokesman Tim Smith. US Airways spokesman John McDonald said pretty much the same thing - ticket prices will remain the same.  According to the airlines, they were doing us a favor before by lowering their prices a certain percentage to compensate for the federal taxes and now that those taxes are gone they can increase their prices again.  Did I forget to mention that companies like US Airways was already profitable, in part because of their added fees?

Does that sound like a company looking to create jobs or a a company that is looking to profit even more on the backs of consumers? 

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Problem With The Planned Parenthood Fight and Why The Provider Is On The Losing Side

Laura Bassett wrote the following for The Huffington Post:
"The real purpose here, as I've come to view it, is to impose a traditional view of a women's role," Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) told HuffPost. "Republicans don’t really care what the benefits of Title X funding are in terms of women's health, so women's health is held hostage. Planned Parenthood can prevent 4,000 women a year from dying of cervical cancer with screenings and vaccines, but that is not of interest to them because of a personal and philosophical agenda."

GOP lawmakers argue that they have a problem with the taxpayer funding of abortion, although the Hyde amendment has prevented government money from being used to pay for abortions for the past 30 years...

But Planned Parenthood is fighting back against the barrage of defunding bills in federal court. So far, it's been successful. On June 24, a federal judge in Indiana temporarily blocked the implementation of a bill that prevented Planned Parenthood from receiving any Medicaid dollars for breaking federal Medicaid rules. And on Wednesday, the Health and Human Services Department issued a warning to New Hampshire: restore the $1.4 million in Title X funds to Planned Parenthood or potentially lose federal family planning money allocated for the state.
Unfortunately for Planned Parenthood, Republicans would revel in the consequences from defunding the medical provider.  Cut funding and Planned Parenthood (and women) suffer.  Don't restore funding and the would lose federal funding, essentially accomplishing their original goal.  How is that supposed to be a punishment?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Defund Bachmann & Associates! SIGN THE PETITION!

2012 GOP Presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann loves talking about smaller government, reduced taxes and subsidies, and how much she loves America and the Constitution, but when it comes to her family, all those things she holds near and dear to her heart can be thrown out the window.  Michelle Bachmann's family has benefited from federal and state subsidies receiving funds for their radical Christian counseling center, Bachmann & Associates.

Bachmann's clinic uses controversial (and outright wrong) treatments, such as bible-based anti-gay therapy to help keep patients heterosexual and "moral."  Hidden cameras revealed clinic employees telling patients to read scripture, pray, and seek out masculine heterosexuals to train them on being straight and to repair their sexuality.

Sign this petition for elected officials of both the state of Minnesota and the Federal government telling them that it is wrong for such a clinic to be receiving taxpayer money.

Big Peace Needs To Learn The Definition Of "Stacking..." and Some Math!

From the Army Times:
President Obama on Tuesday appointed an openly gay former Army officer to the U.S. Military Academy’s Board of Visitors.

Former Capt. Brenda S. “Sue” Fulton, a founding board member of OutServe, an association of actively serving gay military personnel, is also co-founder and executive director of Knights Out, an organization of gay West Point graduates. She graduated in 1980 with the first West Point class to include women.

After receiving her commission, Fulton served in the Army Signal Corps for five years in Germany. She commanded a military intelligence company and was honorably discharged.

Fulton is the first openly gay member of the academy’s board.
Here was Big Peace's headline written by one of their numerous anonymous authors:

The article points out that the U.S. Military Academy's Board of Visitors is comprised of nine members of Congress and six presidential appointees, totaling 15 total members.

In addition to Fulton, Big Peace was quick to point out that former congressman and Iraq war veteran Patrick Murphy, who was an outspoken advocate against "don't ask, don't tell" was also recently appointed to the board.

By my calculations, that would make two pro-gay board members out of fifteen, or roughly 13 percent.  Not only that, the president can only appoint six people to the board meaning that the most stacking the president is capable of is 40 percent.  Stacking would be if the president appointed a majority to push through an agenda, and it looks as though the actual 13 percent is a long way away from being classified as being "stacked."

Maybe Big Peace (and the rest of Breitbart's propaganda sites) should focus less on creating numerous anonymous profiles and more on the facts.

Oh yeah - how exactly is it stacking the board with "activists" when "don't ask don't tell" was repealed?  You would think appointing the board with opponents would be stacking some activists...

Friday, July 8, 2011

Fox News Wages War On Media Matters

Keach Hagey wrote the following for Politico:
For seven years, Fox News has pushed back against the daily scrutiny and criticism leveled at it by Media Matters, the liberal watchdog group. But after founder David Brock said in March that his group’s new strategy amounted to a “war on Fox,” the network ratcheted up its response.

In the past 10 days, Fox has run more than 30 segments calling for the nonprofit group to be stripped of its tax-exempt status. Its Fox Nation website has even provided a link to pre-completed complaint forms against Media Matters to send to the Internal Revenue Service. (See also: Can Fox quash its fiercest critic? in The Arena)

While Fox News personalities like Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly have long grumbled about Media Matters, this attack on the group has been carried out across the channel’s news and opinion programs. It has included shows like “The O’Reilly Factor,” news coverage of the complaints to the IRS and even a psychological profile of Brock, a former conservative journalist who went over to the liberal side, on “Fox & Friends” that suggested he might be “full of self-hatred” because he was adopted.

“Media Matters is not a media investigative organization,” Fox News contributor and Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer said on “Special Report With Bret Baier” last week. “It’s a war on Fox. And you’re allowed to do that in a democracy. You can be as nasty as you want. The only thing is, don’t ask for a government subsidy.”

To get tax-free status, educational nonprofits have to support their claims with facts and refrain from directly engaging in politics — though they can be as ideological as they like. Fox argues that Media Matters has veered from that educational mission and should be stripped of its special status.
I find this interesting for two reasons.  The first reason is because Fox Asserts it is a "news" organization that is "fair and balanced" yet they are engaging in a smear campaign to take down perhaps their most vocal critic, and secondly, all Media Matters does is publish exact quotes of Fox News programs (as well as other prominent conservative pundits), and research those quotes pointing out flip-flops and flat-out lies.

If you consider the requirements to become a tax-free entity - support their claims with facts and refrain from directly engaging in politics - Media Matters fits the bill.  Sure they are ideological but they meticulously back up their claims and they do not directly engage in politics.  Fox on the other hand continuously fails to fact-check their "journalism" and consistently push false information.  Media Matters is simply educating people on the things Fox leaves out.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Fox News Twitter Announces Obama Assassination. Hack Or Cruel Joke?

It seems that Fox News' Twitter account has either been hacked or one of their employees decided to have some fun for the holiday weekend.

Considering Fox News' website makes no mention of a hack (except for this article about a hacker targeting Apple and this one for one hitting the Arizona Police), I am leaning more towards a Fox Employee, but I could be wrong.

The Script Kiddie is claiming responsibility for this hack.

Here some of the other tweets made: