Category Archives: Equal Protection

The Challenge of Creating an Economically Sound, Simpler, and More Just Tax Code (Part 1 of 3)

If there is one positive thing Herman Cain has contributed to the national debate it would be this renewed discussion about tax reform. While I am skeptical of some of the specifics of his 9-9-9 plan, if nothing else, Cain has forced the other candidates to come out with proposals of their own. Gov. Rick Perry in a seemingly desperate move to remain relevant proposed an alternative 20% flat tax – a single rate that’s less than the sum of all of Cain’s 9’s.

Before I was aware of and became a supporter of the Fair Tax (a 23% consumption tax that would replace the income tax, payroll tax and all other federal taxes; Gary Johnson and Herman Cain* both support the Fair Tax) I was a supporter of the Flat Tax as proposed by Steve Forbes in his 2000 presidential bid. If we must be subject to an income tax, it seems only fair that everyone pay the same tax rate. None of these proposed plans are perfect but at least everyone is subject to the same rates.

But apparently my definition of “fair” differs quite a bit from those who think a “progressive” tax (i.e. the more you make, the more the government will take) is fair. Take this article from Politico for example:

Taxing the poor has become a badge of honor among conservatives. When Occupy Wall Street protesters launched their cry of “We are the 99 percent,” the right-wing blogosphere responded, “We are the 53 percent,” meaning the 53 percent of American households that they say pay federal income taxes.

Conservatives have become fixated on the notion that largely because of the Earned Income Tax Credit — passed under Ronald Reagan and expanded under Bill Clinton — almost half of all Americans pay no income taxes.

Perry launched his presidential campaign expressing dismay at the “injustice that nearly half of all Americans don’t even pay any income tax.” And he was not alone. Every major candidate — Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Mitt Romney and Cain — has suggested that too many of the working poor aren’t paying income taxes, a position The Wall Street Journal describes as “GOP doctrine.”

[…]

The argument is disingenuous. Working poor people do pay taxes. They pay a larger portion of their incomes in payroll taxes and sales taxes than the wealthy. And they pay property taxes indirectly in their rental costs. Poor workers pay about one-eighth of their incomes in taxes, on average.

For the sake of argument, I will assume that the author’s assertion is correct that the working poor pay a greater share of their incomes than the wealthy counting both direct and indirect taxes. Indeed there are all sorts of hidden taxes that are embedded in every good or service we all buy.

Regulations on business (which the author of this article undoubtedly supports) that contributes to the overall cost of employing a worker** are potential earnings the worker might otherwise be paid. » Read more

Rick Santorum Revives The Lincoln-Douglas Debates; Unwittingly Takes Douglas’ Side

Wow… Just, wow. I’ve heard of people taking quotes out of context, but Rick Santorum is treading down a slippery slope that I think even he, as a hardcore social conservative, would find himself quickly uneasy with:

His spokesman Hogan Gidley emails me in response to Mark Miners comments: “Senator Santorum is certainly an advocate for states’ rights, but he believes as Abraham Lincoln – that states do not have the right to legalize moral wrongs. The Senator has been clear and consistent – and he believes that marriage is and can only be: between one man and one woman.”

Now, it’s easy to see where Santorum is coming from — the Lincoln-Douglas debates. Lincoln at the time was arguing, as so many libertarians argue, that there are some rights which are not to be voted on. Popular sovereignty can be good for making some decisions, but that in the case of slavery, it is used to uphold a moral wrong. Infringements upon rights granted by natural law cannot be justified by majority vote:

Lincoln’s strategy was to isolate Douglas’s doctrine of popular sovereignty from the national mainstream as a form of moral dereliction for its indifference to the corrupting effect of slavery in republican society. Douglas insisted that in his official capacity as a United States senator he did not care whether the people in a territory voted slavery up or down. Lincoln admonished: “Any man can say that who does not see anything wrong in slavery, but no man can logically say it who does see a wrong in it; because no man can logically say he don’t care whether a wrong is voted up or voted down.” Douglas argued that the people of a political community, like any individual, had a right to have slaves if they wanted them. Lincoln reasoned: “So they have if it is not a wrong. But if it is a wrong, he cannot say people have a right to do wrong.”

Lincoln and Douglas were coming from different first principles. In fact, the argument is not at all unlike modern arguments about abortion, a point I’ve made before. The question is not whether abortion should be allowed, the question is whether a fetus is inherently “person” enough to have natural rights. If it is, abortion is murder. If it is not, abortion is no different morally from removing a cancerous growth from one’s uterus. Yet both sides constantly talk past each other without acknowledging that they are working from wildly different first principles.

Abraham Lincoln, contrary to what Santorum suggests, is not suggesting that all men must be forcibly stopped by government from engaging in moral wrongs. He explicitly acknoledges the libertarian right of natural law — you can do what you wish with what is yours. You may self-govern; the nanny state is not there to stop you from acting within your personal domain. From his 1854 speech in Peoria, IL (same source link as above, italics original, bold added by me, and one sentence from the original speech inserted into the below passage for continuity):

The South claimed a right of equality with the North in opening national territory to the expansion of slavery. Rejecting the claim, Lincoln denounced slavery as a “monstrous injustice” and a direct contradiction of “the very principles of civil liberty” in the Declaration of Independence. Lincoln said that the right of republican self-government “lies at the foundation of the sense of justice,” both in political communities and in individuals. It meant that “each man should do precisely as he pleases with all that is exclusively his own.” Declared Lincoln: “The doctrine of self-government is right—absolutely and eternally right—but it has no just application” as attempted in the Nebraska Act. Spelling out the natural-law premises of his argument, Lincoln continued: “Or perhaps I should rather say that whether it has just application depends upon whether a negro is not or is a man. If he is not a man, why in that case, he who is a man may, as a matter of self-government, do just as he pleases with him. But if the negro is a man, is it not to that extent, a total destruction of self-government, to say that he too shall not govern himself? When the white man governs himself that is self-government; but when he governs himself, and also governs another man, that is more than self-government—that is despotism.” Recurring to the nation’s founding principles, Lincoln summarized: “If the negro is a man, why then my ancient faith teaches me that ‘all men are created equal'; and that there can be no more moral right in connection with one man’s making a slave of another.”

Note my bolded portion on self-government. It seems that Abraham Lincoln and Rick Santorum have some agreement that a state cannot legalize a moral wrong — they merely happen to have WILDLY different definitions of what constitutes a moral wrong.

Abraham Lincoln is following the traditions of natural law and natural rights. Each man is his own, and barring his attempts to coerce others to do his bidding, he should have freedom to operate as he sees fit. Slavery is an attempt to coerce others to do his bidding, and therefore it is an abhorrent moral wrong that has no place in a free society.

Rick Santorum is following a different tradition, one that states that man is NOT his own, and should forcibly be stopped from operating in his own domain if his actions violate no ones natural rights, but violate Santorum’s own sensibilities. If two members of the same sex, wholly consensually and within the bounds of their natural rights, want to engage in a right of contract such that they bound themselves together for all the legal purposes we generally associate with marriage, they must be barred from doing so. This consensual and voluntary action must not be permitted!

Abraham Lincoln says that the government must not condone the violation of one man’s natural rights by another, and that democracy is not an adequate justification for doing so. Rick Santorum says that government must be in the job of actively violating those natural rights, even if the people of a territory choose to vote to recognize those rights! Abraham Lincoln says that slavery is wrong because it takes away the right of self-government; Rick Santorum says that we must all be slaves of the state, because he doesn’t like what we choose to do with our freedom.

Abraham Lincoln decries a situation which denies the equality before the law of human beings; Rick Santorum claims the mantle of Abraham Lincoln while cheering laws that deny that equality! In doing so, Rick Santorum misses the irony: he’s replaying the Lincoln-Douglas debates in modern times, but he doesn’t realize that he’s taking Douglas’ side, not Lincoln’s.

Does Gay Marriage Imperil Free Speech?

One would think that one has very little to do with the other. That is, unless one is Gary Bauer, who seems to be taking a tactic I’ve seen too often out of leftists suggesting that if someone in the private sector wants to fire you for saying something bigoted, that it’s an assault on your freedom of speech.

Recently, Frank Turek, an employee for computer networking firm Cisco Systems, was fired for authoring a book titled “Correct, not Politically Correct: How Same-Sex Marriage Hurts Everyone.” Turek had a stellar work record and never talked about his religious or political views on the job.

But after a homosexual manager at Cisco Googled Turek’s name, learned about his views and complained to a human resources professional at Cisco, Turek was immediately fired.

Also recently, Canadian sportscaster Damian Goddard was fired for declaring his opposition to gay marriage. Rogers Communications fired Goddard after he tweeted his support for Todd Reynolds, a hockey agent, who had earlier voiced his opposition to the activism of Sean Avery , a New York Rangers player who was part of the New Yorkers for Marriage Equality campaign in the lead-up to the same-sex marriage vote in the New York State Legislature.

Now, I don’t know the workplace policies of either corporation, but I would assume that in the first case, Turek violated some section of his employment contract with Cisco. I might call that an overreaction, but I wouldn’t call it a violation of his freedom of speech. It was, rather, an exercise in freedom of association (or, in this case, disassociation). The second case, the sportscaster is a public figure, and I think it’s quite likely that Rogers Communications might believe that his thoughts on gay marriage would impact ratings or the bottom line.

Should either corporation be forced to retain an employee that publicly espouses values — values that I’d call bigoted — inconsistent with those of the corporation? Cisco is a multinational company with highly diverse employees, and it’s quite possible that someone hired to put together leadership seminars [as Kurek was] may not be seen as a leader himself if he publicly advocates legal oppression against people who he is to lead.

But let’s take it a step farther. Let’s assume instead that either Kurek or Goddard were advocating against interracial marriage. Let’s say that Kurek was writing books claiming interracial marriage hurts families, and that the races shouldn’t mix. After all, many of the arguments at the time of Loving v. Virginia were based on religious beliefs. Would Gary Bauer be defending either? I fail to see any difference in principle here — in both cases, one would be arguing against legal equality based upon one owns religious convictions of what defines a proper marriage. And in both cases, the issue at hand LEGALLY [not morally] is whether the state can withhold access to a LEGAL CONTRACT between two adults.

Bauer continues with a slightly more thorny issue:

Same-sex marriage is already having a chilling effect on religious freedom. In states that have legalized civil unions or gay marriage, Catholic adoption agencies have been shuttered or lost their tax-exempt status for refusing to let gay couples adopt children.

Last week in Illinois, Gov. Pat Quinn affirmed a decision by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services not to renew adoption contracts with Catholic Charities for the same reason because of the state’s law recognizing same-sex civil unions.

This seems like outright state hostility to religion, when viewed through Gary Bauer’s eyes. However, from a legal perspective, the 14th amendment demands equality before the law. If gay marriage is legal, then gays should be allowed the same rights as straights when it comes to adoption. And if an agency looking to work with the state on adoptions refuses to comply with equal protection clauses, those agencies should not get state funding.

Again, this can be greatly simplified if we refer back to other cases of equality before the law. Should adoption agencies be free to take state funds and refuse to allow interracial straight couples to adopt? Should state charter school funds be given to schools which admit white and asian students, but bar blacks and hispanics? The state itself is barred from discrimination in most cases, and while some wholly private organizations can discriminate, state adoption contracts and state school funding are most certainly not wholly private. If a religion wants to work WITH the government, they have to do so on the government’s terms.

I would think that if the arguments were advanced today, Gary Bauer would call the person advocating against interracial marriage a bigot. I think if someone were arguing for re-segregating the schools, Gary Bauer would call that person a bigot. A Gary Bauer of 50 years ago, I’m not so sure.

Of course, a Gary Bauer of only 3 years ago might give us a different tone:

Last week, a few days before Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to America, TV talk show host Bill Maher went on a profanity-laden tirade against the Pope and the Catholic Church. On his HBO Real Time program, Maher claimed that the Pope “used to be a Nazi,” and called the Catholic Church a “child-abusing religious cult” and “the Bear Stearns of organized pedophilia.”

The result: (Cue sound of crickets chirping.)

Maher believes he can get away with such overt bigotry under the pretext of “creative license.” As Maher said in his non-apology apology: “Now first of all, it was a joke, during a comedic context…”

And when the Catholic League confronted HBO about why it continues to give Maher airtime, the station insisted that his anti-Catholicism was a matter of “creative freedom.” Needless to say, such “creative freedom” would not be extended to those who make racist, anti-gay or anti-Muslim remarks. Ask Don Imus.

Based on a *very* charitable reading of that op-ed, one can potentially infer that Bauer things nobody should be fired for bigoted remarks, and that he’s merely upset at the double standard of the left. It seems, based on my reading of his article, that his concern with the double standard is that Bill Maher isn’t punished, not that right-wingers who make bigoted statements are.

Gary Bauer is not fighting for religious freedom, he’s fighting for the right to espouse bigoted politics with no social cost. Sorry, Gary, that’s just not how it works. You might not think that treating gays like they’re not worthy of the same legal rights is bigotry, but I’m afraid that an ever-growing portion of the country disagrees with you on that. If we call you on it, that doesn’t mean you’ve lost your right to free speech. It means we think you’re a bigot.

Double Standards

Now, I’m not one to regularly bang the feminist drum around here… But this is f’ing ridiculous:

Officer Sashay Brown returned to work in May after having her second child. At first, she worked a desk job. Soon after, though, she was forced to patrol the city streets under a new department policy that was meant to force officers who had made dubious claims of health issues back to the street. The Washington Examiner first reported the new policy last week.

“Because of my condition, I am unable to wear my [bulletproof] vest,” Brown wrote in her June 12 request to be detailed back to her station on limited duty. “Wearing my vest is extremely painful and could clog my ducts and slow down the production of my milk supply.” She was then checked out by a department doctor, who advised that Brown be given a limited-duty desk job.

In a June 24 memo to Brown, medical services branch director William Sarvis wrote, “I have reviewed your case and determined that you will not receive authorization to participate in the limited duty work program.”

Sarvis said that until department doctors determine Brown is fit for full duty, she’d either have to take sick leave, or unpaid leave if she didn’t have sick days left.

I’ve been known to offer criticism for some police policies, such as the paid vacations administrative leave that officers often get placed on after shooting someone in a questionable fashion. Or, of the viability at all of public sector unions that work to allow “spiking” of pensions to ensure that officers retire at higher pensions than they ever received in salary. That goes without even getting into the militarization of police in the drug war and the “thin blue line” mentality towards whistleblowers that seems to pervade the industry.

I just don’t understand how you can have a workplace where all that goes on, but if a woman who wants to continue working, and has been advised by the department’s own doctor to go on limited duty, she gets told she has to take sick time or unpaid leave.

I simply can’t imagine such a double standard to be evidence of anything other than outright discrimination.

My family and I spent the past weekend with some friends in northern California, both of whom are police officers. We were discussing work, vacation time, etc, and the husband asked me how my employer accounts for sick time, and I told him that sick time is paid, accounted for separately from vacation time, and generally not really worried about unless someone abuses it to the point where it needs to be addressed. His response: “At least in the private sector you’re allowed to address it. We have some guys taking the max 25-30 days sick every year and can’t do a thing.”

I’m sure the new department policy in this case was put in place to crack down on people abusing the system — something that likely has been going on for many years. Applying the policy in what appears to be such a tone-deaf discriminatory manner is not likely to win them any PR points, and might get them slapped with a lawsuit. Well done, morons!

The Scales of Justice Need Rebalancing

In support of our fundraising efforts for The Innocence Project, I have decided to dedicate at least one post per week over the next four weeks to the cause of criminal justice reform – many of which are the very reforms The Innocence Project are working to bring about. As of this writing, I am pleased to announce that in this very first day of fundraising, you readers have already donated $285 – 57% of our $500 goal! Thanks to everyone who has donated so far or plans to donate. Remember: your donations are 100% tax deductible.

The post below is one I originally posted back in November of 2007 and my first post of any substance here at The Liberty Papers. I’m also very honored to say that this post was chosen by my peers (who I have such a great deal of respect for as thinkers, writers, and individuals) as #5 on the list of the “Top 10 Liberty Papers Posts of the last 5 Years” marking The Liberty Papers 5 year blogiversary. At the time I wrote this post, I had never even heard of The Innocence Project nor its aims to make one of the very reforms suggested in this post: compensation for the wrongfully convicted. The Duke Lacrosse case was also one of the hot issues when I wrote the post (and therefore may seem somewhat dated).

As ‘unbalanced’ as I thought the scales of justice were back then, I now know its much worse than I realized even back then. The Innocence Project is working hard to correct this imbalance but they cannot do it alone. Be part of the solution and help us reach our goal and if you feel so motivated, you can even set up your own page to help The Innocence Project reach their $20,000 goal by April 7, 2011.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here at The Liberty Papers either by the post authors or views found in the comments section do not necessarily reflect the views of The Innocence Project nor its affiliates.

    The Scales of Justice Need Rebalancing


In civics class, we are taught a few lessons about the American criminal justice system: the accused is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, has the right to a court-appointed attorney if the accused wishes not to pay for his or her own, has a right to a trial by a jury of his or her peers, and jurors can only convict the accused if there is a lack of reasonable doubt in their minds. We are told that the accused is guaranteed a fair and speedy trial. We are told the burden of proof falls on the state; the accused only has to provide reasonable doubt (meaning the accused ‘probably’ did not commit the crime). We are to believe that an individual who is innocent would rarely (if ever) be wrongfully convicted because our criminal justice system is about finding the truth and rendering justice.

What the civics classes usually fail to mention is that regardless of the fact that jurors are supposed to consider the accused innocent until proven guilty, it is human nature to assume the worst of someone who is accused of committing a heinous crime. Jurors come with their own biases and world views and may find it difficult to suppress their inclinations and deal with the facts of the case. The civics lesson also usually fails to point out that if the accused chooses to go with a court-appointed lawyer, he or she will not be as likely to have an as aggressive and competent advocate as the state will. If the accused makes the wise decision to pay for his or her own defense, he or she can expect to spend his or her entire life’s savings (and perhaps the life’s savings of other friends and family members) just to have competent representation. Even if the accused has the means to pay for such a competent lawyer, there are no guarantees that he or she will be found not guilty regardless of the evidence or whether or not the accused committed the crime. And if the jury finds the defendant not guilty, then what? Sure, he or she is technically cleared of the crime but he or she still has to pay all the legal fees for his or her lawyer and the fact that he or she was ever charged will remain on his or her criminal record. » Read more

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