Gingrich, Wildmon and Judicial Activism, Oh My!

Newt Gingrich secured a major endorsement from the social conservative community Tuesday with a nod from Mississippi-based Rev. Donald E. Wildmon, founder and chairman of American Family Association.
“Newt Gingrich recognizes the threat to our country posed by judges and lawyers imposing values upon the country inconsistent with our religious heritage, and has proposed constitutional steps to bring the courts back in balance under the constitution,” Wildmon said in a statement. “We need someone in the White House who can balance the budget and get the economy moving again. Newt has done it before and I believe he can do it again.”
Gingrich accepted Wildom’s endorsement, calling him “one of the most important leaders in the country in the battle to uphold our founding principles.”
For those who aren’t familiar with this organization, listed as a right wing organization by RightWatch, the AFA fights against less than wholesome television programming, the separation of church and state, pornography, “the homosexual agenda,” premarital sex, legal abortion, the National Endowment for the Arts, gambling, unfiltered internet access in libraries, and the removal of school-sponsored religious worship from public schools, while opposing workplace equality.
Until 2005, a major target of AFA’s had been Disney and its subsidiaries; “Disney’s attack on America’s families has become so blatant, so intentional, so obvious, that American Family Association has called for a boycott of all Disney products until such time as this activity ceases.”  The AFA called off the boycott conveniently when Eisner resigned as CEO to focus on other causes.
The American Family Association (AFA) alerts its members to companies who are supportive of GLBT employees and asks “Christian consumers…to think twice before they patronize companies that support the homosexual agenda.”  AFA list includes major corporations that have non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation or that offer domestic-partner benefits for same-sex couples, including Eastman Kodak, Citigroup, PepsiCo., American Airlines, Allstate Insurance, and the Coca-Cola Company. In fact, it isn’t hard to find these policies at most Fortune 500 companies keeping the AFA busy alerting its members.  
Workplace equality is a focus for most, if not all, successful large companies to avoid legal battles, recruit the best employees, and create an environment of success for its shareholders.  Creatively this target of attacking large companies provides Wildmon a continuous income stream from donors, tax-deductible in most cases, for his efforts while he rarely has to answer for his lack of success.  If an assessment were done, the AFA, while having momentary successes along the way, has consistently lost ground to his opposition in nearly every political cause.  He would be replaced in corporate America to retire in obscurity, angry, and watching Faux News.
Wildmon has created a draconian empire by reinterpreting Biblical teachings to adhere to traditional beliefs of censorship and discrimination.  His lifetime dedication to opposing the homosexual agenda suggests that only he knows what that agenda is.  He and his employees articulate discredited information as fact when it comes to gays and lesbians thus creating poisonous political environments where his organization flourishes.
The sole reason Wildmon is endorsing Gingrich is in the belief that Gingrich will actively pursue impeachment of judges who are deemed “activist”.  Examples of judicial activism include:
·                    Brown v. Board of Education – 1954 Supreme Court ruling ordering the desegregation of public schools.[15]
·                    Roe v. Wade – 1973 Supreme Court ruling decriminalizing abortion.[16]
·                    Bush v. Gore – The landmark United States Supreme Court case between the major-party candidates in the 2000 presidential election, George W. Bush and Al Gore. The judges voted along ideological lines, 5-4, to halt the recount of ballots in Florida and, in effect, elect Bush President.[17]
·                    Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission – 2010 Supreme Court decision overturning Congressionally enacted limitations on corporate political spending and transparency.[18]
·                    Perry v. Schwarzenegger – 2010 decision by federal judge Vaughn R. Walker overturning California’s constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.[19]
Judicial activism is used as a pejorative normally reserved by conservatives when they lose an argument in court.  The Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that corporations were individuals thus giving corporations the rights to donate to political action committees, thus greatly changing the financing of political elections.  This court wasn’t called activist.   Yet, judges who identify people as having more rights than voters felt they deserved are called activist.  Robert Green articulates the importance of Judicial Activism “is vital to any legal system that (like ours) contains broad judicial discretion.”  Judicial activism has no inherent link to boosting liberty over the majority or curbs governmental power specifically.
To quell the idea of judicial activism, as Gingrich is demanding, is to refuse to consider how inclusive the concept of “We, the People” has become over time, since its initial writing of the Preamble.  At its origin, it included land owning individuals.  Later it include Blacks, then women, then those others who identified that certain rights were being denied them.  This process of the progression of law would end under Gingrich. 

Allison Kilkenny in 2009, during Sotomayor’s Senate hearing to become a Supreme Court Justice, Senator Jeff Sessions complained Sotomayor would bring empathy to the court and be an activist jurist.   Kilkenny identifies Scalia and Thomas as wildly ideologically partisan yet they escape being labeled “activist”.   Certainly, conservative judges are as activist as liberal judges — just for different causes.

Wildmon’s political support of Gingrich is a last ditch effort of a crazy man to stop the progress in the fight for the legalization of Gay Marriage.  Several legal fights are headed to the Supreme Court where Gay Marriage could become legal.  In his panic, he endorses someone who clearly does not value Marriage as an institution, in the hopes of denying that institution to others.   Certainly, politics makes strange bed fellows. 
Wildom recognizes that demographically, he will continue to lose to the acceptance in America of the LGBT community.  His only hope is to radically reduce judiciary power through Presidential or Congressional action to stop the progress.  Rather than allow progress, he would endorse a democratic poison pill.  Placing the judiciary under Presidential review would destroy the liberal democracy that we currently enjoy.
Presidential Review of the Judiciary to hinder judges from using their own experience, perspective, and thought, while balancing it with the law, hinders what I define as mercy.  When a judge refrains from considering the personal and simply regurgitates politically compromised law with an accompanied punishment, without being mindful of the merits of mercy, then all that is left is judgment, not justice.  And, without justice, the people perish.
This is one more bad idea from Gingrich.  And, it only took Wildmon to support it for me to carefully consider it and understand it as a true threat to America’s future.

Three Trillion in Revenue and Savings – in Three Hours!

This last week the Super Committee made up of Republicans and Democrats surprised no one at their failure to identify revenue and cost cutting measures that would create a more responsible fiscal federal budget for the coming decade.  I was disgusted and greatly disappointed that these politicians chose to risk the poor, the elderly, and families for the traditional political football of special interests.
In an effort to identify places savings and revenue for a more balanced approach, I challenged myself to identify areas where a majority of Americans would agree to take action.  I avoided the issue of Social Security entitlements.  I ignored the argument about the Bush tax cuts, because with a do nothing Congress, I want to consider the elimination of this tax break for more wealthy Americans a strategy for 2012, and more of a bonus.  I avoided discussion of an income tax deduction on the top 1% of Americans, or an increase on the bottom 99%.  These three strategic discussions would create a budgetary impasse rather than a budgetary impact.  Each of these topics could individually be addressed in future blogs.
Yet, if I can identify over $1.2 Trillion in an evening, I reason, shouldn’t our elected leaders be accomplish the same in a few weeks?  My only requirement is that these items must be acceptable to at least 60% of the American Public.   My secret goal was $4 trillion.
My strategy included a time limit.  I would begin after enjoying a holiday movie with my sister and my mother.  This would assure that I would have a heart full of cheer and avoid the spirit of Scrooge.  As I saw “The End” on the flat screen, I started my endeavor.  I leapt to the internet and typed “Super Committee suggested cuts.”   I reviewed three different groups and their suggestions, writing down the reports and proposals from the White House, the House of Representatives, the Office of Management and Budget, the US Treasury, the IRS, The Department of Defense, the General Accounting Office, to name a few. 
While the numbers in these reports may only address one year of savings, or perhaps a four year stretch, I identify already reported amounts to be considered.  I used basic arithmetic (addition and subtraction).  In order to assure accurate savings over the next decade, I used basic multiplication to complete a 10 year savings or revenue stream.  So as not to confuse or use political fuzzy math, I did not use a net present value calculation or a future value calculation.  If that calculation was used in the original report, it is not corrected in my report.
To my surprise, I even identified a potential revenue stream under the EPA, a department Governor Perry could not even name in a national debate.  But, then again, I am for breathing clean air, having pothole free roads, and food that doesn’t kill you.  I like to consider myself a common sense American.
All of the subsidies, loopholes, and ‘deals’ eliminated are calculated over 10 years unless it was a lesser number of years, or a one time cost cutting.  It is assumed that if these expenses are currently being spent that it is likely the cost would be continued through the next 10 years, whether currently expected to be dropped or not, due to the impasse in Congress.  Please see the web site footnotes for further information…  And, I hope you will forgive the lack of professional columns.  I did have a time limit!
And in three hours, this is what I found I could either raise or reduce!
Federal Trade Commission – Eliminate pay-for-delay drug deals –   $   2.67 billion
Defense –
Reduce the Use of High-Risk Contracts, Increase Competition and Improve Contract Oversight per the White House                                      $400 Billion
End Orders for Obsolete Spare Parts and Supplies as determined by the GAO for:
The Defense Logistics Agency and the Armed Forces             $ 70 Billion
The Army                                                                    $ 36 Billion
The Navy                                                                     $ 74 Billion
The Air Force                                                              $ 186 Billion
                                                Defense Savings          $776 Billion
Medicare & Medicaid –
            Eliminate Payment Errors                               $   65 Billion Savings
            Reduce Geographic Disparities in Medicare Provider Payments
                                                                                    $   11 Billion Savings
            Better Align Payments to Teaching Hospitals Based on Actual Costs
                                                                                    $   48 Billion Savings
            Implement Information Technology Solutions
$   14 Billion Savings
            Allow Medicare to Pay Medicaid Prescription Drug Rates
$100 Billion Savings
                                                Medicare & Medicaid Savings $ 238 Billion
EPA
            Reinstate Superfund Fee on Polluters                        $ 8 billion in Revenues
Homeland Security
            Reduce the Use of Offshore Tax Havens for Tax Avoidance and Evasion
                                                $ 1 trillion Revenue (That’s a “T” for Tea Party)
Eliminate Homeland Security Contracts Already Identified as Wasteful by the House
$ 340 Billion
                                                Homeland Security Savings   $ 1,340 Billion
Department Energy
            Eliminate Oil & Gas Subsidies                   $ 38 billion
Tax Savings
            Close Carried Interest Loophole                     $   31 billion
            International Tax Reforms                              $ 557 billion
            Delinquent Taxes from Contractors                $   38 billion
                        Other Tax Savings                            $ 626 billion
Total Savings in first two hours of research          
$3 Trillion Dollars over the next decade!
Footnotes:

http://oversight.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2507&catid=44:legislation
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-10-469
http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d09199.pdf
http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d09103.pdf
http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d07232.pdf
http://www.ustreas.gov/press/releases/tg506.htm
http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/ftt-revenue-2009-12.pdf
http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/fy2011/assets/tables.pdf
http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d08617.pdf
http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d07742t.pdf
http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/fy2011/assets/tables.pdf
http://levin.senate.gov/newsroom/supporting/2008/071708PSIReport.pdf
http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/blog/10/06/18/Do-Not-Pay-Do-Read-This-Post/
http://www.cbo.gov/doc.cfm?index=9925
http://oversight.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2507&catid=44:legislation

Taxation Inequality, Income Inequality, and the Occupy Movement

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I volunteer my time impacting communities that face discrimination.  I share my time, give from what I have, and contribute what I can.  I spend my time urging change, convince others to move beyond themselves, and plant ideas of hope, growth and opportunity.  I worry about the growing numbers of seniors living in poverty, the growing numbers of those in their 40s and 50s living just above poverty with no ability to save for their retirements.  I work to create opportunities through a chamber.
My fear is that the result of my efforts is effectively countered by the negative impact of the tax changes the federal government has assaulted Americans with over the last three decades continue.  Democrats and Republicans have been complicit in the effects
.

From 1979 and 2005, the mean after-tax income for the top 1% increased by 176%, compared to an increase of 69% for the top quintile overall, 20% for the fourth quintile, 21% for the middle quintile, 17% for the second quintile and 6% for the bottom quintile. (see http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&id=957)  Decreased labor union political clout, accompanied with major decreases in social services, redistribution programs and entitlements have exacerbated the trend.  Certainly there are determinants that economists would add but the dizzying drop of the tax rates to income and capital gains has created the most significant mayhem.

Americans have the highest income inequality in the rich world and over the past 20–30 years Americans have experienced the greatest increase in income inequality among developed nations. The more detailed the data, the more divergent the change appears.  If you weren’t aware, the richest are getting much richer.

Public policy and partisan politics are the root factors causing Americas growing inequality.  Education, labor force, and demographic changes can be ruled out as the causes of the widening gap between the rich and the poor.  Simply, the U.S. is unique in having experienced such a rise in inequality – a trend that, if caused by education, labor force, and demographic factors, would have manifested itself in other developed nations.

Congress needs to learn the art of sharing.  Reducing taxes on the wealthiest of Americans and receiving huge PAC donations isn’t sharing.  It is a simple transaction.  Sharing is a principle that should be applied to the tax debate more appropriately.  When Warren Buffett pays less of a percentage of his adjusted gross income than my mother, it is unfair.  The wealthy should not pay 15% when the poor pay more than 25%.   The wealthy should share in the burdens of America – the wars, the fight in global warming, the education of our young, and the responsibility to address the care of our seniors.  They should not require a discount simply because of their wealth.
There is no question in my mind why the Occupy movement has started.  It is simply a poorly focused movement.  Consider occupying Congress, along with every Congressional office, every congressional meeting, and every meeting where a congressman will meet with constituents around the country until elected officials address tax policy to the betterment of the American majority.  That way Rep. Cantor can explain to Americans how he can allow more and more Americans to end up in poverty, simply by tax policy results, and yet he continues to advocate for it.
For years, I have worked with individuals and business owners to plan for their financial future.  I assist them to invest what they have earned, after the costs of living.  I work with them to address future risks and help them insure against the unexpected.  Unfortunately, current federal tax policy and the widening gap continues to diminish the group of people I can serve and inevitably everyone but the richest will join the growing group of individuals and professionals who have become the victims of this sad strategic policy of Congressional tax policy.