Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Tax reform?

Robert Reich

Here’s what House Speaker Paul Ryan is saying about corporate taxes and why the U.S. must lower them: “We tax our corporations at 35 percent, and successful small businesses are taxed as high as 44.6 percent. The average tax rate in the industrialized world for businesses is 22.5 percent.”
Lies, lies, and more lies.

1. We don’t tax our corporations at 35 percent. That’s the official rate by law – the statutory rate. But it doesn’t include corporate tax deductions, which are abundant. The effective tax rate – what corporations actually pay after all deductions – is just 18.6 percent. Source: https://www.cbo.gov/…/re…/52419-internationaltaxratecomp.pdf
2. Small businesses aren’t taxed at 44.6 percent. A 2013 study commissioned by the National Federation of Independent Businesses found that the average effective tax rate for small businesses is 21.3 percent. Source: http://www.politifact.com/…/paul-ryan-says-us-taxes-small-…/
3. The average tax rate in the industrialized world for businesses is not 22.5 percent. Ryan got this number by averaging the statutory tax rates for all the countries in the OECD, including small countries like Iceland. When weighted according to the size of the economy, according to the Tax Foundation, the average statutory corporate rate in the OECD is 31.4 percent. Source: https://taxfoundation.org/corporate-income-tax-rates-aroun…/
Bottom line: Ryan is putting out fake facts. In reality, U.S. corporations pay about the same tax rate as corporations in other major economies. There's absolutely no justification for a corporate tax cut.
Watch your wallets and spread the truth.


Judge says businesses can discriminate so long as they write about it on Facebook

Ah yes, the well-known "it's okay if you put it on social media" exemption to anti-discrimination law.


In what can charitably be described as an idiosyncratic reading of the First Amendment, a George W. Bush-appointed federal judge in western Michigan held that businesses can discriminate against LGBTQ customers so long as they explain why they did so on Facebook.

Prior to Judge Paul Maloney’s Friday opinion in Country Mill Farms v. City of East Lansing, it was well understood that the First Amendment does not protect business owners who post signs announcing “blacks need not apply” or “we don’t serve women here.” As the Supreme Court once explained in a related case, “discrimination in employment is not only commercial activity, it is illegal commercial activity,” and “we have no doubt that a newspaper constitutionally could be forbidden to publish a want ad proposing a sale of narcotics or soliciting prostitutes.”

Yet Judge Maloney’s opinion does not simply disregard this longstanding rule, it suggests that a business that is actively engaged in discrimination can immunize itself from the law simply by writing about its discrimination on Facebook.

Country Mill Farms involves a farm in Charlotte, Michigan, about half-an-hour’s drive from East Lansing. The owner of the farm, Stephen Tennes, wished to sell his goods at a farmer’s market in East Lansing, but was denied permission to do so because his business discriminates against same-sex couples, in violation of an East Lansing ordinance.

In addition to selling goods, Tennes’ farm also rents space out to couples wishing to get married. Yet Mr. Tennes objects to same-sex marriages and will only rent this space to opposite-sex couples. It a Facebook post, Tennes explained that he engages in such discrimination because “it remains our deeply held religious belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.”

In fairness, there is a potentially difficult legal issue looming behind this case. Though Tennes discriminates at his Charlotte facility, he agreed not to discriminate against LGBTQ customers at the East Lansing market. There may be a plausible legal argument that East Lansing cannot extend its local anti-discrimination ordinance to sanction activity that takes place outside of East Lansing, so long as Tennes complies with the law within the city’s borders.

But Judge Maloney went much further than that, handing down a sweeping decision that, if taken seriously by higher courts, would have a devastating impact on laws banning discrimination.

Even if Tennes’ discrimination against same-sex couples is not protected by the Constitution, Maloney wrote, “Plaintiffs still engaged in protected activity when Tennes communicated his religious beliefs on Facebook in August and December. Even if the City is correct that talking about discrimination is not protected, Plaintiffs also talked about their religious beliefs, which is a protected activity.”

Had Tennes’ merely engaged in discrimination and said nothing about it, his activity may not have been protected, according to the judge. But because he wrote a Facebook post about it, Tennes is now allowed to discriminate. In essence, Maloney holds that Tennes’ discrimination became legal because Tennes posted the equivalent of a “we don’t serve your kind” sign online — or, at least, because that sign also incorporated a reference to Tennes’ religion.

Judge Maloney also holds, in a separate part of his opinion, that Tennes has a right to engage in discrimination because his beliefs were motivated by faith. This claim is also wrong, but it is, at least, a claim that is widely accepted by the judiciary’s right flank. Maloney’s suggestion that discrimination can become lawful so long as a business writes about it on Facebook is much more unusual — and possibly entirely novel.


Here’s why right-wing Christians think they are America’s most persecuted

Valerie Tarico
15 SEP 2017 AT 06:26 ET                 

A recent Pew study found that white American Evangelical Christians think they experience more discrimination than Blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, Atheists or Jews.


Christianity is the majority religion in the U.S. and many kinds of legally ensconced religious privilege are on the rise including the right to woo converts in public grade schools, speculate in real estate tax-free, repair religious facilities with public dollars, or opt out of civil rights laws and civic responsibilities that otherwise apply to all. By contrast atheists are less electable than even philanderers, weed smokers or gays; Hispanics and Muslims are being told to leave; Jews get accused of everything from secret economic cabals to destroying America’s military; and unarmed Black youth continue to die at the hands of vigilantes.

Given the reality of other people’s lives, a widespread Evangelical perception of their group as mass victims reveals a lack of empathy that should make thoughtful believers cringe. And indeed, Alan Nobel, managing editor of Christ and Pop Culture, and a professor at Oklahoma Baptist University, wrote a pained analysis this summer of what he called Evangelical persecution complex. Nobel contrasted the privileged position of American Christians with the real and serious persecution Christian minorities experience under ISIS, for example, and he examined the ways in which victimization can become a part of Christian identity to the detriment of Christians and outsiders alike. What he neglected to spell out clearly was the extent to which the Bible itself sets up this problem.

Christianity, born in the harsh desert cultures of the Middle East, got its start by defining itself in opposition to both Judaism and the surrounding pagan religions of the Roman empire. Consequently, from the get-go teachings emerged that helped believers deal with the inevitable conflict, by both predicting and glorifying suffering at the hands of outsiders. Indeed, persecution was framed as making believers more righteous, more like their suffering savior. Long before the Catholic Church made saints out of martyrs, a myriad of texts encouraged believers to embrace suffering or persecution, or even to bring it on.

This sample from a much longer list of New Testament verses about persecution (over 100), gives a sense of how endemic persecution is to the biblical world view.

• I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. Matthew 10:16-17

• Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Matthew 10:21-23

• You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. Mark 13:9

• Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Luke 6:22

• If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. John 15:19-20

• Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. Acts 4:27

• Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. . . . They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Acts 5:17-18,40

• On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison. Acts 8:1

• Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? Romans 8:35

• That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10

• For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him. Philippians 1:29

• Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. Colossians 1:24

• For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to everyone. 1 Thessalonians 2:14-15

• In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 2 Timothy 3:12

• Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:3

• But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” 1 Peter 3:14

• Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 1 Peter 4:12-14

• Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. 1 John 3:13

• Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown. Revelation 2:10

I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. Revelation 20:4

As any squabbling pair of siblings can tell you, claiming to be a victim is powerful stuff, even if you actually struck first. He started it! yells one kid. No, she started it! yells the other. Parental resolve waivers in the face of uncertainty, and both kids get an exasperated lecture.

Read more

The AC under Trumpattack

Robert Reich

Trump's efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act are doing serious damage to the insurance market, according to a new report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Analysts predict that premiums will rise 15 percent next year because of the Trump Administration's efforts. Here are 3 ways they're sabotaging the Act:
1) Threatening to withhold federal dollars to states that have expanded Medicaid under the Act.
2) Diverting funding for marketing campaign designed to promote enrollment to a campaign criticizing the Act.
3) Scaling back outreach efforts.
This is petty and vindictive. There are lives on the line. Millions of Americans depend on these insurance markets for care. If Trump let's the Affordable Care Act fail, it's up to us to hold him and the Republicans fully accountable.

What do you think?


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