The Church's Political Neutrality

During the last Presidential election season, I wrote the following letter to the editor, which was printed in a prominent newspaper:

Lost amid the hype about Mitt Romney's religion speech and Mike Huckabee's surge is a story about a church that, unlike most contemporary Christian organizations, does not participate in partisan politics. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, otherwise known as the Mormon Church, has stated for years that it does not "endorse, promote or oppose political parties, candidates or platforms." The Mormon Church also does not allow its church buildings to be used for partisan political purposes; nor does it tell its members whom to vote for.

When many evangelical leaders are eager to blur the line between church and state by endorsing candidates and tacitly (and sometimes explicitly) telling their followers whom to vote for, and when many churches allow candidates to use their pulpits, it is refreshing to know that at least one church is honoring a principle established by the Founding Fathers by keeping religion out of politics. As a practicing Mormon, I am a product of this political neutrality. (By the way, I will not be voting for Mr. Romney.)
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WhichMitt.com Part 2

I recently posted two video clips of Mitt Romney contradicting himself on economic stimulus and President Obama's health care reform bill. While most politicians' views on various issues change a little over time, Romney's shift on these issues was a complete 180 degree shift and only occurred since Obama has been in office. The Republican Party has carefully crafted their message of opposition to Obama. They have taken great pains to paint his actions as that of a reckless socialist, as big government overreach. And they have specifically targeted President Obama's Recovery and Affordable Health Care Acts as the preeminent examples of such overreach. In other words, opposition to government economic stimulus and health care reform form the core of the GOP's argument against Obama's Presidency!

How can the GOP claim that it seeks to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act if the GOP frontrunner, Mitt Romney, is the architect of a plan that is almost identical to the one Obama signed into law? This is compounded by Romney's quote in the video below where he acknowledges applying a similar program at a national level would be a good idea. How can Republicans claim that economic stimulus act destroyed our economy and aggravated the recession when the GOP frontrunner supported the notion of economic stimulus in the form of government spending in 2008 at the height of the recession? Any Republican who supports a politician like Romney but attacks Obama for these signature pieces of legislation is guilty of immense intellectual honesty.

Kudos to Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney - And I Mean It!

On August 18, Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Tweeted, "To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy." With that short statement, Mr. Huntsman proved himself one of the few reasonable figures in the Republican Party. While most of the Republican field has run away from previously stated positions affirming climate change (or simply continuing their nonsensical denial of the science) it was incredibly refreshing to hear this kind of language from Huntsman. In a previous post, I outlined the clear positions of several of the most important scientific organizations in the U.S., which showed that there is a scientific consensus on global warming- that it is happening and is largely being caused by human activity. If you have not read the statements of these organizations -- the consensus statements of actual climate scientists -- you are depriving yourself of essential primary source information about an issue that has been spun and distorted by the media and particularly by right-wing commentators. That Huntsman has stuck to his belief in climate change despite the strong global warming denialist crosswinds that have overtaken the GOP in the past couple of years shows immense intellectual honesty and fortitude.

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WhichMitt.com

WhichMitt.com is a hilarious website put out by the DNC. Take the quiz! Mitt Romney's constantly changing opinions make him a really easy target. This highlights his contradictions on abortion, the need for an economic stimulus plan during the current recession, health care, and more. Romney's penchant for flip-flopping makes John Kerry look like an anchor of resolve.

Here are a few of the infamous Romney quotes:

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Announcing the LDS Democratic Caucus!

Soon, LDS Democrats will be an official caucus of the Utah Democratic Party! This is a pretty exciting development in Utah state politics. Utah has been effectively a one-party state since the 1960s, which is unfortunate because it means that the governing party has had little reason to worry about accountability, since they do not fear losing power. I previously posted a statement by an LDS General Authority regarding party politics in Utah. Specifically, Elder Marlin K. Jensen noted that the Church leadership did not want the Church to be viewed as a one-party organization. Additionally, he clearly stated that faithful members of the Church can be active members of any political party and attacked the misconception, perhaps spread by the Utah Republican Party, that devout Mormons cannot be Democrats.

In any case, for those who live in Utah and may be interested, the LDS Democrats caucus of the Utah Democratic Party is kicking off their organization in an event on October 1st in Salt Lake City. For more information, visit their website. The Salt Lake Tribune had a nice article today about the LDS Dems caucus.

Taxes and Used Car Dealers

To support their argument against President Obama's calls additional revenue to solve the budget deficit, Republicans have argued that the U.S. has one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world. Democrats, on the other hand, have pointed out that companies and wealthy Americans are paying historically low levels of taxes. Paradoxically, both parties are right. To understand why, you need to think of the U.S. tax code like code like a user car dealership. Sticker prices are usually high at used car dealerships, but hardly anyone ever pays sticker price. The same is true with federal tax rates, especially with corporate taxes. Although the corporate federal tax rate in America is high (too high in my view), most companies take advantage of a plethora of loopholes and deductions that result in a much lower actual corporate tax. The Government Accountability Office released a study in 2008 that revealed 55% of U.S. companies paid no federal income taxes during at least one year in the seven-year period covered by the study. This makes our tax code look like a proverbial block of Swiss cheese, as the wealthiest companies and individuals are able to become savvy at tax avoidance by hiring the best accountants and tax attorneys who can find loopholes. The U.S. corporate tax rate needs to be competitive with the rest of the world. However, most countries do not have the kind of loophole-ridden tax system we have. Simply stated, we can help solve the massive budget deficit by raising revenue while actually lowering the corporate tax rate. This means we need to close the loopholes, end the subsidies (corporate welfare) and make the tax code fairer and the tax environment more predictable for businesses. The current Administration has supported this, but to date, the Tea Party element of the House Republican caucus has opposed anything that would increase the amount of revenue coming into the Treasury. Hopefully saner heads will prevail.

Presidents and Vacation

I meant to post this in August while Congress was on recess and President Obama was on vacation. It's not exactly a timely topic anymore, but I think it still warrants mentioning:

This August was a crazy time for American politics. The debt ceiling debate (or debacle) along with the "compromise" bill where the Democrats essentially gave in to nearly all of the GOP's demands, followed by the stock market's precipitous drop and frightening volatility have resulted in hysteria among some of the political talking heads. One thing that annoyed me a bit was constant criticism of President Obama for taking a vacation after the debt ceiling crisis was finally solved. It seems to me that every time Barack Obama and his family take some vacation time, they are subject to relentless attacks by the right-wing media. Conservative pundits on FOX News and elsewhere assaulted the President for taking vacation during such distressing economic times. Of course after the debt ceiling compromise bill was passed, Congress took a three-week recess, and there isn't much the President can do about the economy without Congress. Even if the President recalled Congress, everyone should know by now that there is little chance the two parties could come to an agreement on measures to stimulate economic growth and fight unemployment anytime soon.

In hearing all of this criticism of the President and his vacation-taking, I wondered how he compared with his predecessors regarding the amount of vacation days he's taken. Fortunately, there are folks in the media who have nothing better to do than track Presidential vacation days.

CBS Radio's Mark Knoller observed the following in August:

So far, President Obama has taken 61 vacation days after 31 months in office. At this point in their presidencies, George W. Bush had spent 180 days at his ranch where his staff often joined him for meetings. And Ronald Reagan had taken 112 vacation days at his ranch. Among recent presidents, Bill Clinton took the least time off — 28 days.

Would FOX News care to publicize that comparison during their prime time shows?

Where Did All That Debt Come From?

I've intended since the spring to write about our country's current fiscal situation and how we arrived here. For months, Congressional Republicans have been asserting that our federal government does not have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem, and have argued for draconian spending cuts largely aimed at programs that benefit the middle class. And President Obama and many Democrats have largely conceded to the GOP on the issue, allowing them frame the debate about our economic woes as being the result of a large federal debt and ongoing budget deficit. Polling shows that a large majority of Americans blame our country's budget woes on wasteful government spending. However, it is critical to examine our country's fiscal policy during the past decade, to fully understand why our deficit and debt have become so large. The data show that the current budget deficit is primarily the result of 3 factors:

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Warren Buffet Paid a Lower Tax Rate Than His Secretary in 2010

In today's New York Times, billionaire investor Warren Buffett pointed out that he pays a lower federal income tax rate than his staff. His effective tax rate last year? 17.4 percent! His is not a unique case. Our tax code is written so that the wealthiest have the best tax breaks. As the President has said, everyone needs to pay their fair share. And since debt reduction is the pressing issue on politicians' minds in Washington, I hope that the new 'Super Congress' takes a balanced approach that includes significant revenue increases when they look for ways to improve our nation's budgetary problems. I plan on writing more about this and the recent debt ceiling debate - there is a lot more to the subject- but I was impressed by Buffett's Op-Ed.

Buffett states, "my friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice."

Reagan a Supporter of Collective Bargaining Rights


It has seemed apparent for some time that Ronald Reagan, the greatest icon of the conservative movement, would not be conservative enough for today's Republican Party. Attempts by Republicans in several state legislatures across the country to eliminate collective bargaining rights of public employee unions has truly been explosive-- the equivalent of the "nuclear option" in politics. Contrary to claims by Republicans such as Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, that these moves were made simply to help fight budget deficits, these attempts are nothing more than a power grab.

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