first, there’s "senator" frist, who defended his effort to strip democrats of their ability to block votes on "president" shrub junior’s court nominees… the filibuster is one of democracy’s last ditch measures to make sure that people aren’t subjected to government which is not by, for, and of the people. the essential criminalisation of things like the filibuster and protection from self-incrimination should make everyone sit up and take notice!
then, when they’re through trying to take away another vestige of the democracy that failed, they decide that you’re not paying enough in taxes, that one fifth, or more, of your income isn’t enough, and they have to have more of your hard earned cash to support the massive
war effort waste of environmental resources sweetheart deals with places like enron and halliburton… um… er… things that aren’t evil in one way or another…
i am a terrorist! if something isn’t done to rescue our own people right here at home, from the stupidity of our own government, SOON you’re all going to wish that it had!
Sunday, April 24, 2005
By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent
WASHINGTON – Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist was telling conservatives on Sunday that judges deserve “respect, not retaliation,” no matter how they rule, and he defended his effort to strip Democrats of their ability to block votes on President Bush’s court nominees.
“I don’t think it’s radical to ask senators to vote. I don’t think it’s radical to expect senators to fulfill their constitutional responsibilities,” said Frist, whom Democrats have accused of engaging in “radical Republican” politics.
A potential candidate for the White House in 2008, the Tennessee Republican made no overt mention of religion in a brief address taped for a rally Sunday evening in Louisville, Ky., according to a text of his remarks released before the event.
Instead, Frist seemed intent on steering clear of the views expressed by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and other conservatives in and out of Congress who have urged investigations and even possible impeachment of judges they describe as activists.
“Our judiciary must be independent, impartial and fair,” Frist said in his taped remarks.
“When we think judicial decisions are outside mainstream American values, we will say so. But we must also be clear that the balance of power among all three branches requires respect — not retaliation. I won’t go along with that,” Frist said.
The event, organized by the conservative Family Research Council, was being held in a church and was to be broadcast around the country. Fliers for “Justice Sunday — Stopping The Filibuster Against People of Faith” said the filibuster, a tactic used by the minority party to stall debate and sometimes scuttle votes on presidential nominees, is “being used against people of faith.”
The No. 2 Democrat in the Senate said on Sunday that the Constitution prohibits a religious test for a person to be appointed to a public office.
“What’s happening today with the Family Research Council is wrong,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., told “Fox News Sunday.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaking on the same show, said the Family Research Council should not question whether Democrats are people of faith or religious bigots.
“I don’t think that helps the country and I don’t think it’s fair,” Graham said.
For months, Frist has threatened to take action that would shut down the Democrats’ practice of subjecting a small number of judicial appointees to filibusters. Barring a last-minute compromise, a showdown is expected this spring or summer.
While a majority of the Senate is sufficient to confirm a judge, it takes 60 votes under Senate rules to overcome a filibuster and force a final vote.
Rather than change the rules directly, Frist and other Republicans have threatened to seek an internal Senate ruling that would declare that filibusters are not permitted against judicial nominees.
Because such a ruling can be enforced by majority vote, and Republicans have 55 seats in the 100-member Senate, GOP leaders have said they expect to prevail if they put the issue to the test.
Democrats blocked 10 appointments in Bush’s first term. The president has renominated seven of the 10 since he won re-election, and Democrats have threatened to filibuster them again.
Republicans pushed two of the nominees — including Texas Supreme Court Judge Priscilla Owen — from the Senate Judiciary Committee last week on party-line votes.
In his remarks, Frist singled out Owen for praise, possibly indicating she will become the test case for the expected showdown.
“She has received praise from both parties,” he said of Owen, nominated for a seat on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“Justice Owen has also been a leader for providing free legal services to the poor. And she has worked to soften the impact of legal proceedings on children of divorcing parents,” Frist said.
Frist said that “even though a majority of senators support her, she has been denied an up-or-down vote on the floor of the Senate. … Justice Owen deserves better. She deserves a vote.”
In his remarks, Frist noted that some Republicans are opposed to ending judicial filibusters, fearing that they may someday want to use the same tactics against appointments made by a Democratic president.
“That may be true. But if what Democrats are doing is wrong today, it won’t be right for Republicans to do the same thing tomorrow,” he said.
Frist also said that the Democrats’ filibuster against Bush’s nominees was the first time ever that “a judicial nominee with majority support had been denied an up-or-down vote.”
Republicans held a Senate majority for six of President Clinton’s eight years in office and frequently prevented votes on his court appointments by bottling them up in the committee, knowing the nominees would be confirmed if allowed to go to a vote by the full Senate.
One nominee, Richard Paez, a district court judge when he was nominated, waited more than four years before being confirmed to the appeals court.
Frist’s comments on the independence of judges follow DeLay’s campaign against the federal courts since judges refused to order the reinsertion of Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube.
After the death of the brain-damaged Florida woman, despite swift congressional passage of a law giving federal judges jurisdiction to review her case, DeLay said, “The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior.” He later apologized, saying he had spoken in an “inartful” way.
Sunday, April 24, 2005
By MARY DALRYMPLE, AP Tax Writer
WASHINGTON – As taxpayers recover from finishing their annual filing chores, a presidential commission studying the tax laws has reached the conclusion that there are just too many deductions and credits.
Three credits and a deduction help taxpayers cut college costs. Special urban and rural tax zones encourage investment and job creation. Dozens of other tax benefits help families raise children and save for retirement, encourage adoption, nudge drivers toward hybrid cars and push businesses to invest in new equipment.
“We have lost sight of the fact that the fundamental purpose of our tax system is to raise revenues to fund government,” according to President Bush’s Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform.
The commission’s chairman, former Florida Sen. Connie Mack, said its nine members have been surprised at the number of tax deductions and credits.
“It wasn’t until we really had the opportunity to listen to so many different people talk about so many different aspects of the code that it really sunk in about how much and how often the code is being used these days to either create incentives or disincentives for either investment or behavior,” Mack said in an interview with The Associated Press.
The White House budget office ranks the cost of a deduction for businesses that provide health insurance to employees as the top tax break, worth $126 billion next year. Also high on the list are the popular mortgage interest deduction, a capital gains break for home sales, a deduction for charitable contributions and the child tax credit.
The list includes many tiny tax breaks. Among them are ones that encourage biodiesel fuel, help the elderly and disabled, make interest on educational bonds tax-free and allow teachers to deduct the cost of school supplies.
The problem comes when taxpayers try to decipher the rules that govern those credits and deductions. The tax breaks often overlap and typically come with pages of instructions and qualifications.
“It was clearly stated that the level of complication has become so great that in many cases it ends up deterring the activity that you’re trying to encourage,” Mack said.
Bush has asked the panel to preserve tax breaks that promote homeownership and charitable giving.
Tax breaks started proliferating in the 1990s for two reasons, said Eugene Steuerle, a former Treasury Department official and co-director of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center.
“There’s always been this political reward for claiming to do something new rather than merely cleaning up or slightly expanding something that already exists,” Steuerle said.
Lawmakers want to brand their own education tax breaks, for example, which means there are multiple deductions, credits and special savings accounts instead of one tax break everyone can use.
Tax breaks also provide benefits without creating a government spending program. But the proliferation of tax breaks end up costing the public because they mean lawmakers cannot lower income tax rates, Steuerle said.
“They make it look like smaller government, when in fact it’s actually bigger government,” he said.
The tax breaks amount to billions of dollars.
Tax benefits that provide indirect subsidies to homeowners add up to more than the entire budget of the Housing and Urban Development Department.
The earned income tax credit for low wage workers is bigger than any welfare program, including food stamps.
The tax break for businesses that provide health insurance is growing faster than almost all other domestic programs.
Some critics say no one tracks the tax breaks to find out if they succeed in promoting the behavior lawmakers want to encourage. Limitations often mean that some breaks are not available to wealthier taxpayers or poorer ones.
“It is worth noting that the deductions are of little or no benefit to the 40 percent of taxpayers who don’t owe taxes,” Fred Goldberg Jr., a former Internal Revenue Service commissioner, told the presidential panel.
Would taxpayers give up some of those deductions and credits to make the whole system simpler? Not likely.
“Anytime you’ve got a benefit, wherever it happens to be, whether it’s spending or taxes, people don’t want to give them up,” Mack said.
This summer, the panel plans to recommend ways to make the tax laws simpler and fairer.