Friday, January 28, 2011

Senate Tea Party Caucus: "We Hate Transparency and Efficiency"

The Senate used to have a process where one senator could place an anonymous secret "hold" on any nomination or bill to prevent it from coming to a vote.  It represented all that was wrong with the Senate.  It was undemocratic, anti-transparent, and cowardly.  The Senate voted to end secret holds by a 92-4 vote.  Who were the four opposed?  The Senate Tea Party Caucus, of course, with Utah's own baby-faced tea-party senator, Mike Lee, included.

Mike Lee, Rand Paul, Jim DeMint (all founding members of the TPC), and John Ensign voted against ending secret holds.  They voted against democratic procedures, against transparency in our legislative process, and for cowardliness.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

State of the Union Highlights

I was at scouts last night and couldn't watch the State of the Union Address, but as I've browsed through it there are several items that I believe are worth highlighting.  The theme was Win the Future, which I guess is the new Hope and Change.  In both cases, President Obama wants to exude optimism, which is something, as I've said before, we dearly lack around here.  So with optimism in mind, here are a few things worth looking at.

As some of you know, I'm a proud and moralistic environmentalist, so I appreciated the renewed emphasis on renewable energy:

Monday, January 24, 2011

Update: Expanding the House of Representatives Just Got Cooler

My post a few weeks ago about the need for our House of Representatives to be expanded just got some support from people smarter than me with slightly more conspicuous platforms.

A couple of PhDs, Jacqueline Stevens from Northwestern and Dalton Conley from NYU, wrote an op-ed for the NY Times touting the need for a dramatic expansion of the House of Representatives and the attendant benefits it would create.  Ms. Stevens also appeared on NPR's Talk of the Nation to discuss the issue.  Thanks for picking up where I left off, professors.

Now is the time to jump on the expansion bandwagon if you want to seem cool in a couple of years when this gets big.  You'll want to hear yourself saying, "I was back reading the Mormon Left about expansion when you were still in diapers."

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Constitutional Over-Correction: Extreme States' Rights

Utah's very own baby-faced tea-party senator, and self-styled Constitutional scholar, Mike Lee, recently held forth that, of all things, child labor laws are unconstitutional.  I guess I'm more sad than anything.  Sad because we have completely stopped thinking through issues and ideas carefully.  Rhetoric rules.

The best way I can describe what is going on is with a car analogy, which I understand is worn and cliche but I am nothing if not worn and cliche.  So, you are driving along on a road trip and you are eating a Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich and you look down for a second to rearrange the wrapping for your next bite and when you look up you are drifting into oncoming traffic.  The natural reaction is to jerk the wheel back.  But this is how rollovers happen, by over-correction.  The proper response is to course-correct more smoothly.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Too Much Air in the War We Breath

War has become the single most pervasive theme in modern society. We wage War on Terror, sports arenas are battlefields, and any significant level of destruction is deemed a war zone. Even positive efforts fall prey to the theme - the War on Cancer, War on Drugs, and the Battle Against Hunger. It's become so common that we are desensitized to the violence conveyed with such a theme. Is the recent political rhetoric just a result of the common vernacular? Or is it the cause?

Violent, war-laced imagery exists on all sides of the aisle, and has been present for generations. Consider Lincoln's "House Divided" - , Roosevelt's "Man with the Muckrake" - , or more modern examples like McCain's 2008 GOP Convention Speech "Fight with me. Fight with me. Fight for what's right for your country", and even Obama last year in Ohio "I'll never stop fighting to give every American a fair shake.".

While the last two references seem relatively mild, the frequency and amplitude of the imagery has increased dramatically as of late; with phrases like "kill the bill", "battleground states", and the now infamous crosshairs from Sarah Palin. Current debate has arisen over the relationship between the political jargon and the horrible events in Arizona.

I personally haven't decided if there is a quantifiable dependence on the actions of psychopaths and the violent allusions of politicians, media, and society. Nevertheless, I do feel strongly that action needs to be taken against the perpetuation of violence. Joseph Smith had it right when he said, "Let us conquer ourselves, and then go to and conquer all the evil that we see around us, as far as we possibly can. And we will do it without using violence; we will do it without interfering with the agency of men or of women. We will do it by persuasion, by long-suffering, by patience, and by forgiveness and love unfeigned, by which we will win the hearts, the affections and the souls of the children of men to the truth as God has revealed it to us."

Thankfully modern commentators and politicians echo this same idea:

There is no need for violence. It has no place in our society, nor in our hearts.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Worst News Story Ever

Apparently a washed up old rocker is not yet ready to endorse a half term governor and reality TV star as President of the United States of America.  We'll keep you updated as the story evolves.

Everyone please say a prayer for the future of our country, because if this is news we've got some serious issues.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Progressive Taxation

A recent poll showed that over 60 percent of Americans think that the government should tax the rich in an effort to reduce the budget deficit.  Polls also consistently found that a majority of Americans wanted the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy to expire.  Conservatives, inexplicably, won that battle in their larger war against progressive taxation.

So with all the recent talk about taxes, I wanted to try to explain why liberals, and a majority of Americans generally, support a progressive tax scheme.  A progressive tax is one where the tax rate increases with taxable income.  So a person making a smaller salary pays a smaller percentage in taxes than a person making a larger salary.  Currently in the US, we have a progressive federal income tax that ranges from 10% for the lowest income earners to 35% for the highest marginal rates.

Mainstream conservatives typically oppose a progressive tax for moral reasons.  They argue that it is unfair to tax the wealthy at higher rates just because they have a lot of money, that it is a form of class welfare, that the poor are getting off easy, and that it disincentivizes hard work.  These arguments miss the point.