Hereâ€™s the problem with cutting Medicare. Unlike cutting funds for a fighter jet or canceling a research program, even if you take the governmentâ€™s checkbook out of the picture, the costs of health care will remain, and someone will still have to pay for them!
Hello? Seniors will continue to have strokes and heart attacks, and they will continue to undergo MRIs and CAT scans and whathaveyou. So taking away Medicare benefits simply transfers the cost of health care onto the seniors themselves and their children (assuming the kids want mom and dad to survive a few more years).
Period. Itâ€™s as simple as that.
So, fine. The big bad long-term deficit shrinks a bit. But so does the future economy as health care eats up the savings and income of Americans on all levels of society, particularly the middle class. And even if mom and dad have enough money to pay for their own care, all of that money is cash that their heirs will never see.
What these Tea Party jokers fail to understand is that the finances of the government and the American people are deeply interrelated. The inane analogy of the family sitting around the table to balance their budget is simplistic to the point of inaccuracy. Deficit spending is not automatically wrong or dangerous for the United States. Sure, there are high levels of debt that can lead to instability. But not only are we not at that point, the healthiest way to improve our ratio of debt to growth is to expand economic growth, something the Tea Party is deliberately trying to undermine both for political and ideological motives.
They want Obama out of office, and they want â€śsmaller governmentâ€ť without having given the slightest thought as to what that might mean for our countryâ€™s future.
Back to health care. Given that we canâ€™t legislate an end to sickness, we have two options. First, lower health care costs, which is exactly what Obama was trying to do in his first two years. Second, raise taxes on wealthy individuals who can afford it. Oh, sorry. I meant raise taxes on the â€śjob creatorsâ€ť because we all know that the only way anyone in this country can earn seven figures or more is to run a small family business with a dozen employees. Yes, that was sarcasm. And for the record, if you do run a business, you normally keep it separate from your individual accounts. For those that donâ€™t, give them a special tax exemption tied to their status as a direct employer.
As I said, I understand why the Tea Party nutcases went all in on the idea of cutting Medicare. What I donâ€™t understand is why the media and the Democrats didnâ€™t do a better job of explaining their position and challenging the erroneous assumptions of their counterparts. All we heard from both sides were talking points and sound bites, and it became surreal.
And, by the way. While we were bickering about â€śwhat the American people want,â€ť and â€śsaving our grandchildren,â€ť the large percentage of Americans who hold retirement accounts just lost a trillion dollars or more over the space of - not ten years - but two weeks. I donâ€™t know the exact number, and itâ€™s not entirely due to the debt ceiling debate. But the market crash is at the very least exacerbated by the specter of Washington focusing on a long-term problem and ignoring the short-term growth crisis that threatens to put us back into a recession. Yes, the roof has to be replaced ten years from now. But did you not notice the front door is off its hinges, and we have five broken windows?
Sorry for another dumb analogy, but it seems as if we lack the ability to discuss the economy unless we reduce it to platitudes. On a lighter note, why donâ€™t we ever rail against our own grandparents? Letâ€™s blame them for putting us, their grandchildren, into this position. Think how much we could have saved without the interstate highway system or the Cold War or the space program. As for our own grandchildren, when they come into their own, they can suck it up and sell a few extra 30-year T-bonds.
Balls of Plastic
Oops. I forgot I was writing about the LGBT community. In consideration of my primary topic, I will forgo any discussion of Social Security. Howâ€™s that? But before we dive nose-first into this weekâ€™s news barrel, I have the Volokh Conspiracy to thank for an interesting item indeed. According to this legal website, a woman in South Carolina is being prosecuted for sporting a pair of plastic testicles on the back of her car.
According to Palmetto law, the Conspiracy tells us, a driver can be fined for operating â€śa motor vehicle in this State which has affixed or attached to any part of the motor vehicle which is visible to members of the public not occupying the vehicle any sticker, decal, emblem, or other device containing obscene or indecent words, photographs, or depictions.â€ť
My my my! It seems that the â€śdeviceâ€ť or maybe the â€śdepictionâ€ť in question is considered â€śindecent,â€ť which would mean in this instance that it portrayed a part of the human body in a â€śpatently offensive wayâ€ť and lacked artistic value to boot.
Fortunately for the driver, the sages at the Conspiracy believe that South Carolina would be hard pressed to defend their plastic testicle policy under settled principles of constitutional law. The Supreme Court has ruled that â€śvulgarity, with no sexually arousing component,â€ť is protected under the First Amendment, ergo, the naughty accessories dangle well above the reach of the law. Weâ€™re all assuming here that the sight of plastic testicles does, in fact, lack a â€śsexually arousing component,â€ť and here, I can only speak for myself, and perhaps as well for my cohort of lesbian baby boomers.
Finally, although Iâ€™m not an advocate for smaller government as a rule, I am all in favor of keeping the meddlesome police state off our bumpers. Unless, of course, something really offensive requires state censorship. Iâ€™m thinking University of Oklahoma decals, for example. Or Missouri.
Dollywood is So Gay
Speaking of offending people, how about the gay woman who visited Dollywood with her family the other day, where she was ordered to remove a shirt that said: â€śMarriage is so gay.â€ť Power crazed martinets at the Pigeon Forge, Tennessee facility told Olivier Odom to turn her shirt inside out because Dollywood, they claimed, is â€śa family park.â€ť Odom did as she was told, but she and her partner later wrote to the park asking authorities to expand their dress code to respect gay and lesbian families.
Dollywood replied at once with assurances that everyone is welcome at the park. A few days later, Dolly Parton herself issued a statement to ABC News regretting the incident, pledging further investigation, and insisting that Dollywoodâ€™s friendly policies extend to all families, including gay ones.
So thatâ€™s that. Still, it seems as if every week thereâ€™s another incident of this ilk involving private security guards with nothing better to do than impose their anachronistic personal values on hapless gay or lesbian clients in the name of public protection. Last week it was hand holding in a San Francisco museum. A few weeks earlier, it was a kiss on the cheek at a ballpark. Whatâ€™s with these pompous wannabe officers? Maybe the companies that hire them out should give them some rules and regulations before theyâ€™re unleashed on an unsuspecting crowd.
Prop 8 Case Back on Track
I know I have some important legal news. Oh yeah, I almost forgot. The California Supreme Court is going to hear oral arguments in the Prop 8 case on Sept. 6, or around there. Iâ€™ll look it up.
As you recall, the California Supremes are going to tell us whether the proponents of Prop 8 would have legal standing under state law to defend their marriage ban against court challenge. This will be nice to know. But considering the Prop 8 case is being heard in federal court, not state court, the California ruling will serve only to provide a tangential legal detail to the federal appellate court.
Once California rules, within three months of next monthâ€™s hearing, then the Ninth Circuit panel will continue its own deliberations, which have been stalled for months.
Bay Times legal experts are assuming that the Ninth Circuit believes the question of federal standing turns on the question of state standing. Otherwise, why would they have sent us on this tedious legal detour?
Once the case resumes its trajectory through the federal court system, we will face one of two main outcomes. First, the Ninth Circuit may decide that the Prop 8 people lack standing to appeal their lower court defeat. If that ruling withstands further review, the appellate court would then withdraw their hold on Judge Vaughn Walkerâ€™s pro-marriage ruling and Prop 8 would be dead.
Alternatively, if the antigay side has the right to appeal, the Ninth Circuit will continue to consider the merits of the case against Prop 8. Whatever they decide may also be appealed to the full Ninth Circuit or to the Supreme Court.
And so, on we go. Through next year and into 2013, assuming that everyone appeals every little thing. Hey, we could even have the issue of standing reviewed by the full Ninth Circuit (a year or more) and then have their decision sent to the High Court. Maybe that process will send the case back to the three-judge panel for review on the merits and we could repeat the entire trip back up on appeal. In theory, the case could take five more years!
When approached with this scenario, Bay Times legal experts threw up their hands and requested the cocktail menu.
Meanwhile, our six major Defense of Marriage Act challenges continue apace. Itâ€™s not as if they are zinging their way through the courts, but they are all making steady progress and do not seem headed for any major tie-ups. Plus, even if some procedural matter stalls out one of these cases, there are five others trotting along on schedule.
For your review, we have the two Massachusetts cases awaiting arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. We have the Golinski federal partner benefits case pending before a San Francisco federal judge. We have a demand for federal long-term care insurance now in a federal court in Oakland. We have the Edie Windsor estate tax case getting headlines in a federal court in New York. And we have another case pitting several gay and lesbian plaintiffs against DOMA in federal court in Connecticut.
It looks to me as if the Massachusetts cases, which are furthest along, will also be the first to cross the finish line. I would ask the Bay Times legal analysts about this assumption, but theyâ€™re all at the bar arguing about the level of bacteria found on lemon rind and whether or not their twists are compromised.
I wonder, however, whether the High Court will deliberately wait until several of these challenges work their way through the appellate levels in order to develop a larger body of legal analysis. That would leave the First Circuit hanging while the Ninth and the Second make up their minds.
It seems you can wash your lemon, shave off the tiniest top layer of rind, make your twist and hope that the alcohol kills any residual microbes. Alternatively, have one strong drink without a twist and then you wonâ€™t care one way or another.
Finally, thereâ€™s another big gay couples case careening towards a decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and I keep ignoring it simply because itâ€™s not an official DOMA or marriage case. But it could be really big.
This is Lambda Legalâ€™s lawsuit against the state of Arizona, where Governor Jan Brewer cut domestic partner benefits for state employees (gay and straight) as a â€ścost savingâ€ť move. A lower court suspended these so-called savings, which actually saved the state next to nothing. Our legal eagles insisted that the faux budget policy was little more than an excuse to discriminate against those partners who could not marry, and a three-judge panel of Democratic appointees heard arguments in February.
That means that a ruling could come down at any time. If we were to win this case, depending on how the opinion is framed, we might have another major pro-gay precedent emerge from the Ninth Circuit. That, of course, would further bolster our legal status in the western states and beyond and be a major cause for celebration. Bring on the cocktails!