Louisiana: Helping Build Family Values … and Families


¡Freak Flag Fly!

Begging your pardon, there are certain things we need to make clear. Let us start with two paragraphs from Judge Edward D. Rubin that bear actual life-altering influence:

The court grants the Petitioners’ Motion for Summary Judgment and denies the Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment. It hereby declares that La. Const. Article XII, Section 15 (the Defense of Marriage Act/DOMA) and La. Civil Code Articles 86, 89, and 3520(B) are unconstitutional because they violate the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article IV, Section 1, the Full faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution. Louisiana’s Revenue Bulletin No. 13-024 (9/13/13) is likewise declared unconstitutional as it violates the petitioners’ rights guaranteed by the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Hence, Tim Barfield in his official capacity as the Secretary of the State of Louisiana Department of Revenue, is hereby ordered to act in accordance with this court’s ruling and allow the petitioners to file their state tax returns as a couple whose marriage is valid and recognized in Louisiana. The court hereby enjoins the state from enforcing the above referenced laws to the extent that these laws prohibit a person from marrying another person of the same sex. Additionally, having ruled that the petitioners’ marriage shall be recognized by the state of Louisiana, it follows that Angela Marie Costanza has satisfied the requirement of stepparent under the provisions of La. Ch. C. article 1243, which allows for intrafamily adoption. The court reaffirms its previous decision in Adoption of (__) which declared Angela Costanza’s adoption of (__) to be in the child’s best interest. The minor child, (__), is declared, for all purposes to be the child of petitioner, Angela Marie Costanza to the same extent as if (__) had been born to Angela Costanza in marriage. As such, the court further orders Devin George in his official capacity of the State’s Registrar of Vital Records, to issue a new birth certificate naming Angela Costanza as (__)’s mother.

The State of Louisiana is hereby ordered to recognize the Petitioners’ marriage validly contracted in California as lawful in this state, pursuant to the Full Faith and Credit guaranteed by Article IV, Section 1 of the United States Constitution.

This is what it looks like when justice comes.

There is, of course, a backstory.

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On the Complexity of Making Things Complicated


Hillary Clinton

Sometimes the key to politics is to make things complicated not so much by making them actually complicated, but by complicating things with additional layers and steps. Political discourse is something like the living, realtime inspiration for internet chatter; after two or three quick rounds it’s hard to tell what anyone is referring to, anymore.

But at the same time, it is not as if the rhetorical devices of American politics are especially complex. Consider, for instance, Paul Krugman:

This policy unity has been helped by the fact that Obama has had a moderate degree of success in achieving these goals. If he had had an easy time, the party might be divided between those wanting more radical action and those not in a hurry; if he had failed utterly, the party might be divided (as it was for much of the past three decades) between a liberal faction and a Republican-lite faction. As it is, however, Obama has managed to achieve a lot of what Democrats have sought for generations, but only with great difficulty against scorched-earth opposition. This means that the conflict between “the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party” — exemplified these days by Elizabeth Warren — and the more pro-big-business wing is relatively muted: the liberal wing knows that Obama has gotten most of what could be gotten, and the actual policies haven’t been the kind that would scare off the less liberal wing.

One would think this easy piece of political perspective would not be so rare in our discourse, but for some reason—perhaps a tendency toward equivocation for the sake of narrative simplification—it sometimes seems useful to take a moment and think about how it comes about.

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The Appearance of … Well, Something


George Washington BridgeIs it fair to say that by the time the key players lawyer up, as such, we can start taking what should have been the silliest political conspiracy theory of the year seriously?

Even worse … well, the transition from silly to serious seems nearly obligatory, doesn’t it?

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A New View of Austerity?


When it comes to things that bear repeating, thankfully there are bloggers to do the job. After all, if the point doesn’t communicate the first few times, only saturation will suffice. What? Okay, not exactly, but still, there are some things that shouldn’t require such repetition. To wit, Steve Benen:

When a nation tries to recover from an economic downturn, there are a variety of things policymakers have no control over. After the Great Recessions, for example, neither the White House nor Congress could control the Eurozone crisis, a natural disaster in Japan, or unrest in the Middle East.

It’s an unpredictable world with inter-connected economies and volatility often lurking just out of sight. But this realizations only reinforces a lesson congressional Republicans have forgotten: U.S. policymakers should, at a minimum, not make matters worse.

Consider, for example, what unemployment would be if government weren’t trying to create jobs and lay off public-sector workers at the same time.

He’s actually pointing to Phil Izzo’s blog post for The Wall Street Journal, which makes a point that ought to be familiar to all by now:

Federal, state and local governments have shed nearly 750,000 jobs since June 2009, according to the Labor Department‘s establishment survey of employers. No other sector comes close to those job losses over the same period. Construction is in second worst place, but its 225,000 cuts are less than a third of the government reductions. To be sure, construction and other sectors performed worse during the depths of the recession, but no area has had a worse recovery.

A separate tally of job losses looks even worse. According to the household survey, which is where the unemployment rate comes from, there are nearly 950,000 fewer people employed by the government than there were when the recovery started in mid-2009. If none of those people were counted as unemployed, the jobless rate would be 7.1%, compared with the 7.7% rate reported on Friday.

What’s that? Well, it’s one of those weird issues that stays in the background no matter how important it actually is, regardless of how often it is actually thrust into the spotlight.

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Republicans and Jobs


Brief notes worth remembering:

Paul Krugman, shortly after the midterm election:

Eric CantorSo what’s really motivating the G.O.P. attack on the Fed? Mr. Bernanke and his colleagues were clearly caught by surprise, but the budget expert Stan Collender predicted it all. Back in August, he warned Mr. Bernanke that “with Republican policy makers seeing economic hardship as the path to election glory,” they would be “opposed to any actions taken by the Federal Reserve that would make the economy better.” In short, their real fear is not that Fed actions will be harmful, it is that they might succeed.

Hence the axis of depression. No doubt some of Mr. Bernanke’s critics are motivated by sincere intellectual conviction, but the core reason for the attack on the Fed is self-interest, pure and simple. China and Germany want America to stay uncompetitive; Republicans want the economy to stay weak as long as there’s a Democrat in the White House.

GOP stalwart Bruce Bartlett, a veteran of the Reagan and Poppy Bush administrations, as well as former aide to Reps. Jack Kemp and Ron Paul:

Deficits and thh Economy During the Great DepressionIt is starting to look like 1937 all over again. As the table below indicates, the economy made a significant recovery after hitting bottom in 1932, when real gross domestic product fell 13 percent. The contraction moderated considerably in 1933, and in 1934 growth was robust, with real G.D.P. rising 11 percent. Growth was also strong in 1935 and 1936, which brought the unemployment rate down more than half from its peak and relieved the devastating deflation that was at the root of the economy’s problems.

By 1937, President Roosevelt and the Federal Reserve thought self-sustaining growth had been restored and began worrying about unwinding the fiscal and monetary stimulus, which they thought would become a drag on growth and a source of inflation. There was also a strong desire to return to normality, in both monetary and fiscal policy.

On the fiscal side, Roosevelt was under pressure from his Treasury secretary, Henry Morgenthau, to balance the budget. Like many conservatives today, Mr. Morgenthau worried obsessively about business confidence and was convinced that balancing the budget would be expansionary. In the words of the historian John Morton Blum, Mr. Morgenthau said he believed recovery “depended on the willingness of business to increase investments, and this in turn was a function of business confidence,” adding, “In his view only a balanced budget could sustain that confidence.”

Roosevelt ordered a very big cut in federal spending in early 1937, and it fell to $7.6 billion in 1937 and $6.8 billion in 1938 from $8.2 billion in 1936, a 17 percent reduction over two years.

At the same time, taxes increased sharply because of the introduction of the payroll tax. Federal revenues rose to $5.4 billion in 1937 and $6.7 billion in 1938, from $3.9 billion in 1936, an increase of 72 percent. As a consequence, the federal deficit fell from 5.5 percent of G.D.P. in 1936 to a mere 0.5 percent in 1938. The deficit was just $89 million in 1938.

At the same time, the Federal Reserve was alarmed by inflation rates that were high by historical standards, as well as by the large amount of reserves in the banking system, which could potentially fuel a further rise in inflation. Using powers recently granted by the Banking Act of 1935, the Fed doubled reserve requirements from August 1936 to May 1937. Higher reserve requirements restricted the amount of money banks could lend and caused them to tighten credit.

This combination of fiscal and monetary tightening – which conservatives advocate today – brought on a sharp recession beginning in May 1937 and ending in June 1938, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. Real G.D.P. fell 3.4 percent in 1938, and the unemployment rate rose to 12.5 percent from 9.2 percent in 1937.

And then there is this, from John S. Irons of the Economic Policy Institute:

The agreement to raise the debt ceiling just announced by policymakers in Washington not only erodes funding for public investments and safety-net spending, but also misses an important opportunity to address the lack of jobs. The spending cuts in 2012 and the failure to continue two key supports to the economy (the payroll tax holiday and emergency unemployment benefits for the long term unemployed) could lead to roughly 1.8 million fewer jobs in 2012, relative to current budget policy.

Economic Policy Institute Debt Ceiling Jobs Outlook

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On debt and deficits


The costs of two presidencies, juxtaposedJames Fallows of The Atlantic calls it, “The Chart That Should Accompany All Discussions of the Debt Ceiling“:

It’s based on data from the Congressional Budget Office and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Its significance is not partisan (who’s “to blame” for the deficit) but intellectual. It demonstrates the utter incoherence of being very concerned about a structural federal deficit but ruling out of consideration the policy that was largest single contributor to that deficit, namely the Bush-era tax cuts.

An additional significance of the chart: it identifies policy changes, the things over which Congress and Administration have some control, as opposed to largely external shocks — like the repercussions of the 9/11 attacks or the deep worldwide recession following the 2008 financial crisis. Those external events make a big difference in the deficit, and they are the major reason why deficits have increased faster in absolute terms during Obama’s first two years than during the last two under Bush. (In a recession, tax revenues plunge, and government spending goes up – partly because of automatic programs like unemployment insurance, and partly in a deliberate attempt to keep the recession from getting worse.) If you want, you could even put the spending for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in this category: those were policy choices, but right or wrong they came in response to an external shock.

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The magic of Herman Cain


Cain 2012 LogoTo what degree is the maxim true, that there is no such thing as bad press? Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain may well be putting it to the test.

Recent days have witnessed what might be the official beginning of the public discourse debate about Herman Cain’s outlook on Islam and Muslims. The Hermanator has already challenged conventional wisdom by arguing that because of his race—i.e., black—we should vote for him because he takes the race card off the table against Obama. And then he went on to prove his point by arguing that President Obama is not a strong black man. When pressed, he acknowledged that he felt President Obama is not really a black man.

So there are plenty who have been watching with interest as Cain has repeatedly challenged conventional wisdom in terms of religious identity politics. Perhaps it comes down to the notion that Herman Cain is simply not going to win the GOP nomination, and it really does seem a safe bet.

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