Under a new rule, registered lobbyists whom Mr. Obama had previously barred from serving on government advisory boards may now participate if they are representing companies or groups and not acting on their own behalf.

Obama Administration Loosens Ban on Lobbyists in Government - NYTimes.com

Oh, good. As long as the lobbyists are working for a company with the money to pay them and not for themselves.

Pastors who don’t preach one way or the other on Medicaid expansion aren’t callous or apathetic, says Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. They may be suspicious of a bigger government and skeptical of whether this move will solve the problem.

“The Bible calls on Christians to answer the cries of the poor,” he says. “All Christians must do that. The question of the Medicaid expansion is a question of how we do that. I don’t hear many people arguing that we shouldn’t care about the plight of the poor when it comes to medical care. The question is a genuine debate about the role of the state.”

Look: I hear this. I hear that the role of government genuinely troubles some people. I hear that there is skepticism about whether the government’s intervention in this (huge-scale, nationwide, complex—obviously I’m tipping my hand here, but also, nobody is surprised) problem will really help. I understand that good people genuinely wonder that.

But like Squashed’s last post, I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that private charity, through churches or individual donations to non-profits, absolutely cannot and will not fix it. It won’t because it can’t, but more to the point being made above: the huge majority of people making this claim—that the state shouldn’t be doing this and private charities/churches should—will not do a single damned thing about it. They will not donate heavily to charities. They will not organize within their church to do something. They will take a ~principled stance~ against the government doing something big because big government is bad and ineffectual and inefficient, and then they will do nothing.

The sick anger I feel about this, about the sleight of hand that says “we don’t debate caring for the poor, only the role of government therein” that leaves the suffering to their misery, is not because of the protest against government, it’s because of how disingenuous the objection so frequently is. It’s because it is a sleight of hand.

It’s also, if I’m being totally frank, shitty theology. Read the fucking Old Testament (something besides the anti-gay laws), assholes. #aspiring pastor

Link h/t Squashed.

The Obamacare ‘scandal’ you haven’t heard about – CNN Belief Blog - CNN.com Blogs

I tried to imagine a scenario where I urged people to write our governor encouraging him to reconsider his decision regarding the expansion of Medicaid for the poor. As I imagined that, I got the feeling that by the time I finished explaining the issue, people’s eyes would be glazed over.

Andy Stanley, mega church pastor. I’ve wondered how such a large number of the Bible-belt pastors can justify standing on the sidelines as their states refuse to extend medical coverage to millions of the most vulnerable. Apparently the answer for Mr. Stanley is that his flock has a really short attention span.

(I don’t mind skepticism of “big government solutions.” But I think rejecting the Medicaid expansion at the expense of those less fortunate than you gives you an obligation to come up with a credible solution of your own.)

Christianity and the Medicaid Expansion

squashed:

Seriously, though, I’m pretty mad about this.

Here’s the deal, conservative Christians. You’ve got your chance. Is the church going to care for the poor? Is private charity going to step up to the plate? You’ve got 25 states that rejected the Medicaid expansion. Here’s your chance to put up or shut up.

Can the church step up an take care of the needs of the poor and uninsured? Or let’s set the bar even lower. Can the private charities in one single state step up to the plate enough that the previous question can be asked without bitter sarcasm?

Philanthropy, Math, and the Fiscal Cliff Deal

squashed:

I’ve seen a couple of posts by claiming that the fiscal cliff deal will reduce charitable giving by reducing the incentive to give. The math on those claims doesn’t add up.1 Here’s what the deal actually did.

If you2 make over $250,000, the total amount of itemized deductions you can claim is reduced by certain amount. In other words, if your previous itemized deductions were x, your itemized deductions are now x - (Your Adjusted Gross Income - 250,000)*.06.

So let’s break out how charitable deductions fair in this. We know that x = State Tax + Other Deductions + Charitable Deductions. Because State Tax and Other Deductions are likely to be fixed, the tax benefits to charitable deductions are only going to get pinched if State Tax and Other Deductions are less than 6% of your income less the $250,000. In most states, income tax alone is going to be more than 6% of the income. If you own any real estate, property taxes will cover the rest on that. In other words, you’d need to have astonishingly few low deductions for there to be any decreased incentive at all for charitable giving. And even then the disincentive is only to the first smidgeon of giving.

In other words, the chance that this change will affect any individual taxpayer’s economic incentives for philanthropy are lighting-strike low.


  1. Somebody is likely to point out that a tax incentive shouldn’t be necessary to get people to make charitable contributions. I get that. For most people it isn’t. But a lot of nonprofits rely on megadonations from a relatively small set of highly-sophisticated uberphilanthropists. The deduction allows a donation of $1,000,000 to have a post-tax effect of $600,000 or less, depending on how it is structured. A hard cap on deductions would probably lead to a pretty dramatic decrease in giving. 

  2. To be technical, the maximum cap is 80% of the itemized deductions—but this 80% bit isn’t going to be relevant unless the remaining 20% of the itemized deductions exceed the the standard deduction of $5,950. So you would need to fall into some narrow sliver of people who have incomes above $750,000, and itemized deductions above about $30,000 but below 6% of your AGI - $250,000. 

kohenari:


When I was having a little discussion on Facebook about the fine that Hobby Lobby will soon incur because its owners don’t understand that a) businesses aren’t religious organizations and b) emergency contraception doesn’t cause abortions, I managed to incur the wrath of liberty-loving Colorado State Senator Tim Neville, who compared the Affordable Care Act with the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 … since mandating that employers provide access to health insurance and mandating the return of slaves to their owners are pretty much identical.
Not only is the Affordable Care Act tantamount to slavery, he notes, it’s also socialism … which leads inexorably to slavery.
According to Neville, one should never have to pay a tax to operate a business nor should one ever have to violate the tenets of his religious faith … even, it seems, if those tenets are entirely made up by the individual or violate the rights of others.
Neville concluded his lesson in liberty by arguing that a far better option than the health care that’s subsidized by my employer would be for me “to visit ehealthinsurance.com and choose a high deductible insurance plan with a health savings account, allowing opportunities to lower your cost of insurance by choosing a policy that covers what you need.”
So … the best way to increase liberty for everyone is for me to pay more for my health care needs. Because let’s not fool ourselves, that’s what “a high deductible insurance plan” means: When I go to the doctor for a well visit, I pay that high deductible. When my child has a persistent cough and then later an ear infection and then later needs vaccinations or to see a specialist, I pay that high deductible and then I pay it again and then I pay it again. When my wife needs surgery, I pay that high deductible.
And I’d better plan at the beginning of the year for any and every health care needs that we might have all year long. Because if I plan wrong, we might end up bankrupt. Or maybe we’ll only have to decide not to vaccinate our kids since it’s prohibitively expensive.
In Neville’s world, this makes sense … either because he has a lot of money or because he’s not worried about having a bunch of health care needs this year. Or both!
This is liberty and anything else is slavery, as far as Neville is concerned. No one should ever have to do anything he doesn’t want to do … except pay a high deductible for every single health issue that arises. This is, apparently, the only way that Hobby Lobby can maintain its corporate religious freedom — which isn’t actually a thing that exists — by not paying fines for freely choosing to deny coverage of certain reproductive health care options to female employees … because those women shouldn’t be making those reproductive health choices in the first place (since Neville and others like him believe they are “morally problematic).
Incidentally, here’s a little news item about the way that Neville got appointed to his state senate seat:





A Republican vacancy committee on Thursday night denied veteran state Rep. Jim Kerr, R-Littleton, a promotion to the upper chamber by the narrowest of margins and instead chose activist Tim Neville to take over for retiring Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp. But the proceedings turned sour after the 60-58 vote was confirmed in a supervised recount as Kerr supporters charged that a handful of Republicans who should have voted hadn’t been notified of the meeting.






Liberty! Freedom! Having things handed to you on a silver platter! Corporations are people!

kohenari:

When I was having a little discussion on Facebook about the fine that Hobby Lobby will soon incur because its owners don’t understand that a) businesses aren’t religious organizations and b) emergency contraception doesn’t cause abortions, I managed to incur the wrath of liberty-loving Colorado State Senator Tim Neville, who compared the Affordable Care Act with the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 … since mandating that employers provide access to health insurance and mandating the return of slaves to their owners are pretty much identical.

Not only is the Affordable Care Act tantamount to slavery, he notes, it’s also socialism … which leads inexorably to slavery.

According to Neville, one should never have to pay a tax to operate a business nor should one ever have to violate the tenets of his religious faith … even, it seems, if those tenets are entirely made up by the individual or violate the rights of others.

Neville concluded his lesson in liberty by arguing that a far better option than the health care that’s subsidized by my employer would be for me “to visit ehealthinsurance.com and choose a high deductible insurance plan with a health savings account, allowing opportunities to lower your cost of insurance by choosing a policy that covers what you need.”

So … the best way to increase liberty for everyone is for me to pay more for my health care needs. Because let’s not fool ourselves, that’s what “a high deductible insurance plan” means: When I go to the doctor for a well visit, I pay that high deductible. When my child has a persistent cough and then later an ear infection and then later needs vaccinations or to see a specialist, I pay that high deductible and then I pay it again and then I pay it again. When my wife needs surgery, I pay that high deductible.

And I’d better plan at the beginning of the year for any and every health care needs that we might have all year long. Because if I plan wrong, we might end up bankrupt. Or maybe we’ll only have to decide not to vaccinate our kids since it’s prohibitively expensive.

In Neville’s world, this makes sense … either because he has a lot of money or because he’s not worried about having a bunch of health care needs this year. Or both!

This is liberty and anything else is slavery, as far as Neville is concerned. No one should ever have to do anything he doesn’t want to do … except pay a high deductible for every single health issue that arises. This is, apparently, the only way that Hobby Lobby can maintain its corporate religious freedom — which isn’t actually a thing that exists — by not paying fines for freely choosing to deny coverage of certain reproductive health care options to female employees … because those women shouldn’t be making those reproductive health choices in the first place (since Neville and others like him believe they are “morally problematic).

Incidentally, here’s a little news item about the way that Neville got appointed to his state senate seat:

A Republican vacancy committee on Thursday night denied veteran state Rep. Jim Kerr, R-Littleton, a promotion to the upper chamber by the narrowest of margins and instead chose activist Tim Neville to take over for retiring Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp. But the proceedings turned sour after the 60-58 vote was confirmed in a supervised recount as Kerr supporters charged that a handful of Republicans who should have voted hadn’t been notified of the meeting.

Liberty! Freedom! Having things handed to you on a silver platter! Corporations are people!

the-danilion:

baileyeverywhere:

This is a somewhat snide response to my somewhat snide reblog of a sentence from a longer quote by Marco Rubio.
On the one hand, this is a fair response to my post, because both quips are political men refusing to answer difficult questions (the original question asked of Obama was actually when babies get human rights, which reads to me as a question on abortion but could I suppose be a larger one), since any answer gets them into trouble. The implication, I think, is that I ought not crap on Rubio for doing something the President did.
On the other hand, this is a false equivalency, since “when does life begin” is actually a question that is difficult to answer without putting fingers into the philosophical and religious, “life” being a concept that’s both nebulous and very loaded. The age of the earth, on the other hand, is a question that has an actual answer made of numbers that has been around for quite a while. I learned it in a school grade that only needed a single digit. You don’t have to be a scientist to know how old the earth is.
Thus, while point taken on wiggling out of tight spots being a bipartisan past-time, I do suggest a fairly basic difference in the two responses. To wit, Obama’s was flip, while Rubio’s is an explicit refusal to recognize real-life facts. The age of the earth is not something we “may never be able to answer,” or “one of the great mysteries,” or “a debate between theologians.” It’s a question with a concrete answer made available to laypeople by science. Kind of like, if I may remind us, the tides.

I agree with you on how the two instances are different. But in my mind I think the abortion issue is a scientific one as well. It isn’t purely philosophical/religious (though, the majority of it is, I admit). I don’t know why anyone would bother asking Rubio how old he thinks the earth is, it has absolutely no bearing on political matters. So honestly, it doesn’t bother me too much that he answered that way. But at the same time, I know he did it for political reasons. Either answer could have been political suicide.

"The abortion issue is a scientific one as well": I’m not sure what you mean here. "Is birth control abortion" has a scientific answer. "When does life begin?" does not, at least without defining "life" (viability outside the womb? heartbeat? a certain number of cells?). And if "life begins" is code for "gets a soul," we’ve left science behind altogether.
"It has absolutely no bearing on political matters": Patently false and disingenuous to say so: teaching creationism in schools (which he advocated in that quote), the content of textbooks used all over the country, and, if extrapolating from absurd science-is-pretend attitudes, issues of climate change and environmental regulation, classification of birth control…
"Either answer could have been political suicide": The fact that recognition of established scientific fact could be political suicide and the genuflecting of the GOP almost in toto to that mentality are problems to be solved, not unfortunate realities to be shrugged at.

the-danilion:

baileyeverywhere:

This is a somewhat snide response to my somewhat snide reblog of a sentence from a longer quote by Marco Rubio.

On the one hand, this is a fair response to my post, because both quips are political men refusing to answer difficult questions (the original question asked of Obama was actually when babies get human rights, which reads to me as a question on abortion but could I suppose be a larger one), since any answer gets them into trouble. The implication, I think, is that I ought not crap on Rubio for doing something the President did.

On the other hand, this is a false equivalency, since “when does life begin” is actually a question that is difficult to answer without putting fingers into the philosophical and religious, “life” being a concept that’s both nebulous and very loaded. The age of the earth, on the other hand, is a question that has an actual answer made of numbers that has been around for quite a while. I learned it in a school grade that only needed a single digit. You don’t have to be a scientist to know how old the earth is.

Thus, while point taken on wiggling out of tight spots being a bipartisan past-time, I do suggest a fairly basic difference in the two responses. To wit, Obama’s was flip, while Rubio’s is an explicit refusal to recognize real-life facts. The age of the earth is not something we “may never be able to answer,” or “one of the great mysteries,” or “a debate between theologians.” It’s a question with a concrete answer made available to laypeople by science. Kind of like, if I may remind us, the tides.

I agree with you on how the two instances are different. But in my mind I think the abortion issue is a scientific one as well. It isn’t purely philosophical/religious (though, the majority of it is, I admit).

I don’t know why anyone would bother asking Rubio how old he thinks the earth is, it has absolutely no bearing on political matters.

So honestly, it doesn’t bother me too much that he answered that way. But at the same time, I know he did it for political reasons. Either answer could have been political suicide.

  • "The abortion issue is a scientific one as well": I’m not sure what you mean here. "Is birth control abortion" has a scientific answer. "When does life begin?" does not, at least without defining "life" (viability outside the womb? heartbeat? a certain number of cells?). And if "life begins" is code for "gets a soul," we’ve left science behind altogether.
  • "It has absolutely no bearing on political matters": Patently false and disingenuous to say so: teaching creationism in schools (which he advocated in that quote), the content of textbooks used all over the country, and, if extrapolating from absurd science-is-pretend attitudes, issues of climate change and environmental regulation, classification of birth control…
  • "Either answer could have been political suicide": The fact that recognition of established scientific fact could be political suicide and the genuflecting of the GOP almost in toto to that mentality are problems to be solved, not unfortunate realities to be shrugged at.

(via ho-ho-beriberi)

This is a somewhat snide response to my somewhat snide reblog of a sentence from a longer quote by Marco Rubio.
On the one hand, this is a fair response to my post, because both quips are political men refusing to answer difficult questions (the original question asked of Obama was actually when babies get human rights, which reads to me as a question on abortion but could I suppose be a larger one), since any answer gets them into trouble. The implication, I think, is that I ought not crap on Rubio for doing something the President did.
On the other hand, this is a false equivalency, since “when does life begin” is actually a question that is difficult to answer without putting fingers into the philosophical and religious, “life” being a concept that’s both nebulous and very loaded. The age of the earth, on the other hand, is a question that has an actual answer made of numbers that has been around for quite a while. I learned it in a school grade that only needed a single digit. You don’t have to be a scientist to know how old the earth is.
Thus, while point taken on wiggling out of tight spots being a bipartisan past-time, I do suggest a fairly basic difference in the two responses. To wit, Obama’s was flip, while Rubio’s is an explicit refusal to recognize real-life facts. The age of the earth is not something we “may never be able to answer,” or “one of the great mysteries,” or “a debate between theologians.” It’s a question with a concrete answer made available to laypeople by science. Kind of like, if I may remind us, the tides.

This is a somewhat snide response to my somewhat snide reblog of a sentence from a longer quote by Marco Rubio.

On the one hand, this is a fair response to my post, because both quips are political men refusing to answer difficult questions (the original question asked of Obama was actually when babies get human rights, which reads to me as a question on abortion but could I suppose be a larger one), since any answer gets them into trouble. The implication, I think, is that I ought not crap on Rubio for doing something the President did.

On the other hand, this is a false equivalency, since “when does life begin” is actually a question that is difficult to answer without putting fingers into the philosophical and religious, “life” being a concept that’s both nebulous and very loaded. The age of the earth, on the other hand, is a question that has an actual answer made of numbers that has been around for quite a while. I learned it in a school grade that only needed a single digit. You don’t have to be a scientist to know how old the earth is.

Thus, while point taken on wiggling out of tight spots being a bipartisan past-time, I do suggest a fairly basic difference in the two responses. To wit, Obama’s was flip, while Rubio’s is an explicit refusal to recognize real-life facts. The age of the earth is not something we “may never be able to answer,” or “one of the great mysteries,” or “a debate between theologians.” It’s a question with a concrete answer made available to laypeople by science. Kind of like, if I may remind us, the tides.

Our strategy worked well with many people, but for those who were given a specific gift, if you will, our strategy did not work terribly well.

Mitt Romney blaming presidential loss on Barack Obama bestowing “gifts” on minority voters.  (via officialssay)

I wrote and deleted about five acerbic responses to this and am just going to leave it here instead.

Glad to know we’re standing strong on our principles of never, ever, ever, ever, ever mentioning the “p” word.

Glad to know we’re standing strong on our principles of never, ever, ever, ever, ever mentioning the “p” word.