Sunday, January 18, 2015

Last Call For Lochner

It's pretty easy to dismiss Sen. Rand Paul's run for president as the doomed prattling of a glibertarian slimeball who will drown in his own "all for me but none for thee" flop sweat.  But the problem is like his father's rampant racism and outright hatred for the poor, Rand has some pretty poisonous ideas, and none more so than his views on the Supreme Court and the kinds of justices he'd appoint to it.
In a speech this week, Paul voiced his support for an infamous and long-obsolete Supreme Court ruling asserting that "liberty to contract" was a fundamental Constitutional right — a case, Lochner v. New York, that lent its name to one of the most controversial periods of the Court's history. 
During this "Lochner era", which spanned several decades, the Court struck down several minimum wage, labor, and other regulatory laws for unduly interfering with this liberty of contract. The justices interpreted the Constitution "in such a way as to protect businesses from regulation," says Professor Paul Kens of Texas State University, author ofa book on the case. In the 1930s, though, the Court abandoned this position, and theLochner era is now remembered by most legal scholars as an aberration. 
But Paul believes the Lochner justices had it right. He's previously called it "a wonderful decision," and in his speech at a Heritage Action policy summit last Tuesday, he again praised the ruling as a key example of when judges should step in to strike down government laws or regulations. "I'm a judicial activist when it comes to Lochner," Paul said. 
The full legal implications of Paul's position aren't clear, and his office didn't respond to requests for comment. But it's apparent that Paul's unafraid to embrace a provocative position — in a way that might make the libertarian faithful cheer him on, but could open him up to criticism. "It's a return to the playbook of the early 20th century, and an attack on the progressive movement," says Yale Law professor Akhil Reed Amar.

What the return of the Lochner Era would mean is the complete end of worker's rights in America. It's hard to think of things getting too much worse than they are now with the slow, painful death on unions, but Paul would bring about justices who would want the end of minimum wage laws, worker discrimination protections, and the 40-hour work week.

Paul would effectively make the business contract that employers had over employees to be sacrosanct legally, and that the notion of worker protections, wage laws, overtime, and minimum benefits (like the Affordable Care Act) would all be thrown out because they would violate the employer's right to set whatever contract conditions they wanted when hiring an employer.  The Lochner decision affirmed that this was in fact a Constitutional right and for the first 30 years or so of the 20th Century, worker's rights were smashed.

The "Lochner era" was a period in early 20th century American history during which federal courts routinely struck down laws on the basis of personal liberty and freedom of contract -- two concepts embodied in the guarantees of due process. The era derives its name from the infamous 1905 case of Lochner v. New York.

In Lochner, the Supreme Court considered, in its own words, whether a state maximum hour law "is a fair, reasonable and appropriate exercise of the police power of the State, or is it an unreasonable, unnecessary and arbitrary interference with the right of the individual to his personal liberty or to enter into those contracts in relation to labor which may seem to him appropriate or necessary for the support of himself and his family?"

The Supreme Court in Lochner answered the question in the negative. To reach that conclusion, the Court dismissed the health and welfare purposes of the law as without "reasonable foundation," and reasoned that due process protects a worker's "right to purchase or to sell labor" -- even at his or her own peril. The Lochner decision marginalized the greater good in favor of individual economic rights.

That's the kind of "libertarianism"  that Rand Paul wants to bring back, where government had no right to step in and protect workers from anything.  Our Supreme Court as it is seems to be getting closer and closer to Lochner again, an age where corporations had 100% ownership of employees. but Paul would appoint justices who would no doubt make that the law of the land as soon as possible.

Sunday Read: Paying For Free Community College

Saturday the White House announced its plan to pay for the President proposal to send millions of people to community colleges by covering tuition: raising the capital gains tax, and assessing fees on the megabanks.

The president’s plan would raise $320 billion over the next decade, while adding new provisions cutting taxes by $175 billion over the same period. The revenue generated would also cover an initiative Mr. Obama announced this month, offering some students two years of tuition-free community college, which the White House has said would cost $60 billion over 10 years.

The centerpiece of the plan, described by administration officials on the condition of anonymity in advance of the president’s speech, would eliminate what Mr. Obama’s advisers call the “trust-fund loophole,” a provision governing inherited assets that shields hundreds of billions of dollars from taxation each year. . The plan would also increase the top capital-gains tax rate, to 28 percent from 23.8 percent, for couples with incomes above $500,000 annually.

Those changes and a new fee on banks with assets over $50 billion would be used to finance a set of tax breaks for middle-income earners, including a $500 credit for families in which both spouses work; increased child care and education credits; and incentives to save for retirement.

Of course the problem is now that Obama has said "Hey, Republicans agreed to this in the past, let's do this" Republicans can now say "That was before your immigration thing" and it becomes another hostage situation.

It was cool before Obama thought it was a good idea.

Brownback To The Future

Well, if you thought that Kansas Republican Gov. Sam Brownback was going to change course after driving the state into a $700 million hole from his massive tax cut scheme, well, you'd be completely wrong. Not only is he going to continue cutting taxes and assuming growth will somehow magically appear, he's going to raise regressive taxes on the little people.

Kansas would dramatically raise its tobacco and liquor taxes and slow the implementation of promised income tax cuts to help close a projected deficit under Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget proposals for the next two fiscal years, which were unveiled Friday. 
The state’s cigarette tax would be nearly tripled, from 79 cents to $2.29 a pack, and the tax on packaged alcoholic beverages would go from 8 percent to 12 percent under the Republican governor’s budget plans.

Oh, but that'll only make up about half of the hole.  The rest?  Going after Medicaid, of course.

The governor said he wants to move the state from income taxes to consumption taxes to “reward productivity.”

Transitioning to consumption taxes allows Kansans more freedom to determine their spending and reinforce the principle that the family budget is more important than the government budget,” he said in a statement. 
Brownback also proposed levying $162 million in fees over two years on the three private health insurance companies managing the state’s Medicaid program since 2013. 
Other measures would further eliminate the shortfalls, including spending cuts and changes to the Medicaid program, which provides health coverage to the poor and disabled.

In Sam Brownback's state, if you're sick or poor, you're not rewarded for your productivity, you're punished for lack of it.

I want to know how many people who happen to be smokers voted for Brownback in November specifically because of his tax cut plan.

And when the tax cuts don't grow revenues, and the budget shortfall gets even worse, I wonder which "consumers" that Gov. Brownback will target next?  My guess is all of them, through a ridiculously high state sales tax.  That's the next step.

Oh?  You didn't vote for tax increases on cigarettes and booze?  Oh, but my dear droogies, you did. You most certainly did.  You elected a Republican.

New tag: Sam Brownback.
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