Citizens United Revisited

Citizens-United

Now that the first major election post-Citizens United has passed I thought it would be worth opening the floor to some discussion of everybody’s view on whether Citizens United was a good decision both as constitutional law and in practical application during the election.

I wrote a piece for Political Realities before the decision was issued that was very critical of the decision by the Court to rehear the case a second time. John Roberts asked both sides to prepare to address questions that vastly expanded the scope of the case. Roberts was well known for an earlier comment concerning “the cardinal principle of judicial restraint – if it is not necessary to decide more, it is necessary not to decide more.” Citizens United was → Read More

Smart Stimulus: Retrofitting

I confess that I knew that the term “retrofitting” had something to do with updating buildings to make them more modern and efficient but I really wasn’t aware of the enormous potential benefits that can be achieved by retrofitting. Here’s a program that creates jobs, modernizes schools, reduces energy usage, reduces carbon emissions, is self-financing, and frees up money that can be reallocated to more productive uses in our education systems. I’m not sure why I haven’t heard more about this but it strikes me as a no-brainer for stimulus that can be embraced by both sides of the political aisle. Obama made it a part of his stimulus package so that probably makes it politically damaged goods — and that is a shame.

I → Read More

The Buffett Rule and Paying a “Fair Share”

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Much has been made in the days following Obama’s State of the Union speech about the presence of Warren Buffett’s secretary alongside Michelle Obama, and the president’s support for a minimum tax rate on millionaires. The so-called Buffett Rule would require individuals with an income above $1 million per year to pay a minimum tax rate on their income of 30%. This, Buffett and the president say, is only fair. I think that blanket statement is wrong and can damage the economy; but I think there is a basis of truth and logic in thinking there are elements of the current tax laws for millionaires that are unfair and leave them paying less than a reasonable tax rate on certain income.

The most simplistic approach → Read More

What’s With the Recall Elections?

Recall

The recent recall elections of state senators in Wisconsin leads me to ask a simple question: why? What is the logic behind movements to hold up to 17 state level recall elections in a single state and what is the law that would allow such movements to proceed? My initial response was “this is not how the democratic process is supposed to work” and there is nothing in my research to lead me to change that conclusion. Wisconsin and the other states that allow recall elections for any reason at all do a disservice to the state and to democratic principles.

Unfortunately there is little momentum to make changes leading to more restrictive use of recall election and, in fact, here in North Carolina, the → Read More

Let the Bush Tax Cuts Expire

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The argument over the pending Bush tax cuts has reached fevered pitch. I know most of you support the Republican position of permanently extending all the tax cuts and you’re probably aware that I think the Democrat position is more reasonable if we are to address our existing and growing budget deficits and national debt. In fact I am continually puzzled by the GOP argument over extending the top tax rate cut while saying the deficit/debt issues are of overriding concern. Nevertheless, for today jobs are issue number one and though I completely disagree that a tax increase on the top 2% would have any meaningful impact on job growth I accept that many people who fall into that $250,000 category spend their money and → Read More

Meeting in the Middle: A Centrist Position

Tomorrow we go to the polls (actually we have early voting here so I’ve done my citizens duty) and see how strong the political winds have been that are driving the GOP. As our political parties become more partisan and retreat deeper into their respective corners preparing for the next great battle any hope of compromise and effective governance becomes less likely. But for those of us who retain some glimmer of hope of our politicians acting in the best interest of our country,the centrist position, where independents and moderates reside, offers some idea of where progress on bipartisan legislation can be made…if men and women of good will go to Washington to govern.

On the economic front there are lots of good ideas → Read More

Six More Days to Go!

I’m sure many of you are as excited as I am about the changes we will see when Election Day finally arrives; but I doubt our excitement comes from the same source. Many of you anticipate the GOP stampede that will take over the House and perhaps the Senate. There are many GOP and Tea Party themes that I share including the goals of fiscal conservatism, a return of greater power to the states, and a smaller federal government; but those are too far down the road for me right now. No, at this time I’m simply giddy at the prospect of this election finally coming to an end. The list of things I won’t miss is extensive but here are a few highlights:

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A House Divided

lincoln

I begin my return to writing for Political Realities with a message shared by Jesus and Lincoln: a house divided against itself will not stand. The United States has become such a house and the repercussions of a divided nation are chilling. As our political parties retreat further and deeper into ideological corners the opportunities for finding common ground that benefits our nation become fewer and fewer. We might debate Obama’s place on the political spectrum but there is no denying where Pelosi and Reid stand and I would argue that they have dragged Obama deeper into a corner than he expected to go. I don’t argue that he was unhappy to go along for that ride (and, in the case of health care reform, → Read More

California Passes Prop 14

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The Tea Party is no longer the archetype of “radical”. California claimed that title this week when it voted to adopt Washington State’s “top two” political system under Proposition 14 and with strong support from The Governator. Say goodbye to party primaries and hello to a wide open field of primary candidates. Under the new system, which will cover all state elections plus elections to the House and Senate (but not presidential elections), the two candidates receiving the greatest number of votes in the wide open primary will move on to face each other in the general election. Those final two may be of different parties, the same party, or no party at all. Consider the 2000 presidential election with Bush facing Gore – and → Read More

Supreme Court issues confounding decisions

The Supreme Court issued two decisions on Monday that I find quite surprising and disturbing. Ordinarily I would write up each case separately but the first, involving the decision to allow to stand a law allowing the federal government to extend the “civil commitment” of sex offenders, was handled extremely well here by Steve Dennis at America’s Watchtower and anything I say would be redundant and not nearly so eloquent. The second case involved the Court’s decision to reject life sentences without any chance for parole for juvenile offenders convicted of crimes where no life was taken. The case itself is interesting and I will go into it; but it also raised two important ancillary arguments that I want to discuss further – the reference → Read More

$500 Million awarded to hepatitis C victim

This seems like a good time to revisit the issue of tort reform. Why now? Because of this story from AP:

“Drugmaker Teva Pharmaceutical says it will appeal a $356 million Las Vegas district court verdict awarded to a plaintiff who says he contracted hepatitis C when one of Teva’s drug vials was used by more than one patient.

A jury in Las Vegas ordered Teva and Baxter Healthcare Corp. to pay a combined $500 million in punitive damages in the first of nearly 250 civil cases stemming from a hepatitis C outbreak related to its drug propofol two years ago.

Baxter also plans to appeal the decision.

The drug manufacturer and distributor provided the propofol used by endoscopy clinics at the heart of the → Read More

Terrorists, Miranda, and Guns

The Times Square bombing case has produced some interesting side stories not least of which is the proposal, put forward by Joe Lieberman and seconded by John McCain and others, to revoke US citizenship from Americans who join foreign terrorist organizations in fighting against the United States. Lieberman and McCain also assailed the decision to read Faisal Shahzad his Miranda rights saying that Shahzad should be treated as an enemy combatant and turned over to a military tribunal. There are so many problems with this statement that it’s truly hard to fathom two intelligent, well-informed senior Senators proposing such a ridiculous idea. First, let’s see what Lieberman said on Fox News:

“Some of us have started to talk about it here, which is that there → Read More

Oklahoma City — a lesson learned?

The following is extracted from an op-ed written by Bill Clinton and appearing in today’s NY Times:

Finally, we should never forget what drove the bombers, and how they justified their actions to themselves. They took to the ultimate extreme an idea advocated in the months and years before the bombing by an increasingly vocal minority: the belief that the greatest threat to American freedom is our government, and that public servants do not protect our freedoms, but abuse them. On that April 19, the second anniversary of the assault of the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, deeply alienated and disconnected Americans decided murder was a blow for liberty.

Americans have more freedom and broader rights than citizens of almost any other nation in the → Read More