The latest GOP debate

You report.  I didn’t watch it.  It does seem like something comes out of each debate, often including another front runner.  So what happened?

The Penny Plan for deficit reduction

Florida Republican congressman Connie Mack has put forward an ingenious approach to deficit reduction:  cut one penny (1%) from every dollar spent for six years.  This modest across the board reduction would be in place of the percentage increases every year that have become the norm (so that even talk of reductions are actually reductions in the rate of growth).   Even some liberals are coming out in favor of this option.   One of them, ex-Clinton official Lanny Davis, explains how it would work:

Mr. Mack’s bill, H.R. 1848, would cut one-penny-out-of-every dollar actually spent by the federal government from year-to-year for the next six years, from FY 2012-FY 2017. Beginning in FY 2018, there would be a budget cap of 18% of GDP (the average federal revenue as a percentage of GDP over the past 30 years). And by FY 2019 America would finally have a balanced budget – that is, assuming revenues naturally increase from the current 14.8% of GDP to 18% of GDP by 2019, after which the budget would be in surplus.

There is an automatic spending cut “trigger” under Mr. Mack’s plan – one he came up with well before the trigger used in the recently passed national debt ceiling bill. If congress failed to enact a budget implementing the one-percent-actual-spending cut required under Mr. Mack’s measure, then there would be automatic, across-the-board actual cuts in all federal programs to meet the one percent reduction, and that means all: in defense, Social Security, Medicare, Food Stamps, defense and national security spending, everything.

Mr. Mack’s plan may seem draconian to some. It would cut the accumulated budget deficits by an estimated $7.5 trillion over ten years – more than three times the amount achieved by the debt ceiling deal congress approved last Tuesday. . . .

Democrats need to find a spending cut formula that they can live with. The Mack Penny Plan seems a good place to start — it is simple, it makes common sense, and with some adjustments protecting the poor and the unemployed, it could be seen as fair even to many of the most liberal Democrats.

via Why Rep. Connie Mack’s Penny Plan Is Worth A Second Look | Fox News.

What do you think of this idea?

Legalizing Group Marriage

Elizabeth Marquardt notes that three different strands are coming together to legalize group marriage:  the far left, the far right, and the new reproductive technology:

From the fringy left: Polyamory

Polyamory describes relationships of three or more people — it literally means “many loves.” Polyamorists say they practice “ethical non-monogamy,” or relationships that emphasize open communication, respect, and fair treatment of one another.

The debate about legal recognition of polyamorous relationships is already well underway. A major report issued in 2001 by the Law Commission of Canada asked whether marriages should be “limited to two people.” Its conclusion: probably not. A British law professor wrote in an Oxford-published textbook that the idea that marriage meaning two people is a “traditional” and perhaps outdated way of thinking. Elizabeth Emens of the University of Chicago Law School published a substantial legal defense of polyamory in a legal journal. She suggested that “we view this historical moment, when same-sex couples begin to enter the institution of marriage, as a unique opportunity to question the mandate of compulsory monogamy.”

Mainstream cultural leaders have also hinted at or actively campaigned for polyamory. Roger Rubin, former vice-president of the National Council on Family Relations–one of the main organizations for family therapists and scholars in the United States–believes the debate about same-sex marriage has “set the stage for broader discussion over which relationships should be legally recognized.” The Alternatives to Marriage Project, whose leaders are featured by national news organizations in stories on cohabitation and same-sex marriage, includes polyamory among its important “hot topics” for advocacy. The Unitarian Universalists for Polyamorous Awareness hope to make their faith tradition the first to recognize and bless polyamorous relationships. Meanwhile, a July 2009 Newsweek story estimates that there are more than half a million “open polyamorous families” living in America. Nearly every major city in the U.S. has a polyamory social group of some kind. . . .

From the radical right: Polygamy

Coming from a very different direction, another challenge to the two-person understanding of marriage is resurging–polygamy, a marriage form with deep roots in human history and still in evidence in many parts of the world.

The debut in spring 2006 of HBO’s television series, Big Love, which featured a fictional and in some ways likeable polygamous family in Utah, propelled polygamy to the front pages of American newspapers and put the idea of legalized polygamy “in play” in some surprising quarters. That March, a Newsweek article with the title “Polygamists Unite!” quoted an activist saying, “Polygamy is the next civil rights battle.” “If Heather can have two mommies,” he argued, “she should also be able to have two mommies and a daddy.” That month the New York Times devoted much attention to the subject of polygamy. One economist snickered that polygamy is illegal mainly because it threatens male lawmakers who fear they would not get wives in such a system. In an opinion piece, then-columnist John Tierney argued that “polygamy isn’t necessarily worse than the current American alternative: serial monogamy.” He concluded, “If the specter of legalized polygamy is the best argument against gay marriage, let the wedding bells ring.” . . .

Back home, a pending court case is offering a defense of polygamy, with lead counsel and noted legal scholar Jonathan Turley of George Washington University arguing this summer in the New York Times that the Lawrence vs. Texas Supreme Court decision in 2003 should protect the private choices of polygamists.

From the labs: Three-person reproduction

Another route to legalized group marriage could evolve via new court decisions and expert proposals that recognize group-parenting arrangements. Judges in the U.S. and Canada have already given legal parental status to a sperm donor father whose offspring had two legal mothers — resulting in the first instances ever in which a child has three legal parents. In New Zealand and Australia, commissions have recommended allowing egg and sperm donors to “opt in” as children’s third legal parents. Meanwhile, scientists in the U.K. have received state permission to create embryos that have the DNA of three persons. It will not be long before group marriage proponents ask: How can children with three legal parents be denied the same marriage rights and protections for their families that children with only two parents have?

via Elizabeth Marquardt: Get Ready for Group Marriage.

Do you see any legal obstacles to this, now that the door has been opened to define marriage in any way we want?  (What’s best for children and women won’t carry any weight, if recent rulings are a guide.  It has to be about “rights.”)

HT: Joe Carter

Baseball’s new labor agreement

Major League baseball, unlike the National Basketball Association, has a new labor agreement, one attained with no strikes, lockouts, or threats to the season.  Here are some highlights:

HGH [human growth hormone]: Baseball will be the first North American team sport with HGH blood testing once it begins next spring. All players will be tested during spring training and will be subject to random offseason tests. The sides agreed to explore in-season tests, which can be conducted on a “reasonable cause” basis, which was not immediately defined. Weiner said the union wanted to learn more about the effect of taking blood on players’ performances. A first positive test would result in a 50-game suspension.

Replay: Expansion of video review from the current limit of potential home runs is subject to negotiations between MLB and the World Umpires Association. But MLB and the players agreed to add fair/foul calls and whether balls are caught or trapped.

Playoffs: The addition of a second wild-card team in each league was announced last week; each league’s two wild cards will meet in one-game playoffs for the right to advance to the division series. If a decision is reached by March 1, the format will make its debut in 2012; if not, the wild cards will be added for 2013.

Realignment: As previously announced, the Houston Astros will move from the National League Central to the American League West in 2013. That means interleague play virtually every day of the season. A committee has been formed to work out the scheduling formula.

Draft: Players taken in the June draft can sign only minor league contracts, eliminating major league deals agents often bargained for. The signing deadline for drafted players will move from Aug. 15 to July 12-18.

The most significant change is a compromise on owners’ hopes for a bonus slotting system. Teams will be assigned an annual pool based on industry revenue, which will cover bonuses to picks in the first 10 rounds plus any bonuses over $100,000 to later picks. Teams can spend beyond the pool but will be subject to penalties: 75% tax on amounts up to 5% over the pool; 75% tax and loss of first-round pick for 5%-10% over pool; 100% tax and loss of first- and second-round picks for 10%-15% over; 100% tax and loss of two first-round picks for more than 15% over. Teams’ bonus pools will be determined by their draft position and number of draft choices.

Tax money will go into revenue sharing for teams that did not exceed their pool; those teams also will garner the forfeited picks through a weighted lottery based on teams’ records.

Competitive balance lottery: Will provide extra draft picks for the lowest-revenue and smallest-market teams. The first 10 teams in each category will be in a lottery — weighted by previous year’s record — for six extra picks after the first round. Teams not getting a pick in that lottery will go into a similar lottery for six picks after the second round.

Free agent compensation: Rules for compensating teams that lose free agents will be abolished. Instead, teams will be eligible for compensation if they offer the player a contract equal to the average salary of the 125 highest-paid players from the previous year. That was just over $12 million last season. The offer must be made within five days of the end of the World Series, and the player has seven days to accept. Only players with their team for the entire season are subject to compensation.

Teams signing a compensation-eligible player lose their first-round draft pick unless that pick is in the first 10, in which case they lose their next pick. Teams that lose such a free agent get an extra draft pick after the first round.

•International free agents: A committee will begin studying drafting of international players. In the meantime, teams will be assigned equal signing bonus pools for the year beginning next July.

Social media: All players will be subject to a new policy.

Salaries: The minimum rises from $414,000 to $480,000 and incrementally to $500,000 in 2014, followed by cost-of-living raises the next two years.

Smokeless tobacco: Players, managers and coaches cannot use tobacco when fans are present or in televised interviews, nor can they carry the products in their uniforms.

Equipment: Beginning in 2013, no player entering the major leagues can use maple bats that have come under scrutiny for how often they break. Tougher helmet requirements will be in place as part of enhancing the concussion protocol.

Rosters: Teams can add a 26th player for some as yet unspecified doubleheaders.

via What’s new in baseball’s new labor deal? – USATODAY.com.

Did Gingrich divorce his wife on her deathbed?

One of the most troublesome charges against Newt Gingrich is that he served the divorce papers to his first wife in her hospital room where she was dying of cancer.   The increased scrutiny due to his front-runner status in the Republican presidential  race has at least uncovered the evidence that the story is not true.  From the Washington Post:

Although the thrust of the story about his first divorce is not in dispute — Gingrich’s first wife, Jackie Battley, has said previously that the couple discussed their divorce while she was in the hospital in 1980 — other aspects of it appear to have been distorted through constant retelling.

Most significant, Battley wasn’t dying at the time of the hospital visit; she is alive today. Nor was the divorce discussion in the hospital “a surprise” to Battley, as many accounts have contended. Battley, not Gingrich, had requested a divorce months earlier, according to Jackie Gingrich Cushman, the couple’s second daughter.

Further, Gingrich did not serve his wife with divorce papers on the day of his visit (unlike a subpoena, divorce papers aren’t typically “served”). Gingrich’s marriage to Battley had been troubled for many years before it dissolved 31 years ago, both parties have said.

via Aspects of Gingrich divorce story distorted – The Washington Post.

Still, he has been married three times.  His second divorce came in 1999 and involved an extra-marital relationship with a congressional staffer who is now his third wife.

Do you think these transgressions should disqualify him from the presidency?

Luther on big business

Thanks to Tom Hering for this quotation from Martin Luther, On Trading and Usury, 1524:

Of the companies I ought to say much, but that whole subject is such a bottomless abyss of avarice and wrong that there is nothing in it that can be discussed with a clear conscience. For what man is so stupid as not to see that companies are nothing else than mere monopolies? Even the temporal law of the heathen forbids them as openly injurious, to say nothing of the divine law and Christian statutes. They have all commodities under their control and practice without concealment all the tricks that have been mentioned; they raise and lower prices as they please and oppress and ruin all the small merchants, as the pike the little fish in the water, just as though they were lords over God’s creatures and free from all the laws of faith and love …

… How could it ever be right and according to God’s will that a man should in a short time grow so rich that he could buy out kings and emperors? But they have brought things to such a pass that the whole world must do business at a risk and at a loss, winning this year and losing next year, while they always win, making up their losses by increased profits, and so it is no wonder that they quickly seize upon the wealth of all the world, for a pfennig that is permanent and sure is better than a gulden that is temporary and uncertain. But these companies trade with permanent and sure gulden, and we with temporary and uncertain pfennigs. No wonder they become kings and we beggars!

via Comments ‹ Cranach: The Blog of Veith — WordPress.

Now I don’t think this means Luther would Occupy Wall Street if he were here today, but there is quite a bit here:  He opposes monopolies, which are always anti-free-market.   (The paradox that the free market will create businesses that try to prevent the free market from working against them by establishing monopolies was noted by Marx, but I believe conservatives agree with this problem.)  He also seems to want “strong money,” as opposed to inflationary and easily-manipulated soft currency.

Luther speaks as a theologian, not as an economist, as if that field existed then as it does today, but doesn’t this strike a chord?


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