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Tag Archives: Ronald Reagan

Final Thoughts on the Troy Davis Case

I can’t think of a time when I have been drawn to a court case the way the Troy Davis case has pulled me in.  Who can honestly say they have sat down and read a 100+ page court ruling?

There is much we can learn from the goings on of this case.

IN GENERAL, PEOPLE DON’T RESEARCH.  We are a busy society.  We don’t have time to fact check, research, look up things.  We like the first part of what former president Ronald Reagan said (“trust”) but leave out the second part (“but verify”).  It is not a stretch to say that many people made a decision based simply on hearing many times how 7 out of 9 witnesses recanted their testimony.   I’m willing to bet that for many, they immediately assume there were 9 total witnesses, and that 7 previously said Davis did the crime but were now saying that he didn’t.  Simply reading even a synopsis of the testimony given would show that wasn’t the case.  Further, even the media doesn’t get it right.  Members of the media would also use the 7 out of 9 line.  But we must remember, whether its an opinion piece or a non-slanted article, it’s all meant to sell newspapers (or drive clicks to a website). My buddy over at the Nullspace has a good piece on that:  http://thenullspace.wordpress.com/2011/09/26/on-capital-punishment-troy-davis-media-bias/

UNDERSTANDING THE COURT SYSTEM IS KEY.  Reading through court docs was very eye-opening.  One of the main points I took from this is that simply saying someone recanted is not grounds enough for a new trial.  The judge from the Savannah hearing stated it best in his ruling.  If it were that easy to get a new trial, especially after the fact, we would have people gathering witnesses to recant all the time.  Then, said witnesses would just fail to show up for court.  When requesting a new trial, defendant needs to show that new evidence not shown at trial has become available, or that the prosecution acted improperly.  Most importantly, whatever the new evidence is must be enough to where the jury in the initial trial would have found the defendant not guilty.  We may look at that and say its bad, or that the system is broken, but without that, the justice system could implode from trials and retrials.

HOW MANY WITNESSES DOES IT TAKE?  Take away the witnesses who are on the “recant” list.   When looking at the people who did not change testimony, who identified the shooter based on what he was wearing, and based on other testimony, it seems there is still a strong case that Davis was the shooter.  The question is, if there was a new trial, how would you handle the testimony of those who didn’t change theirs, especially if they weren’t available for the new trial?

AFFIDAVITS DON’T CARRY A LOT OF WEIGHT IN COURT.  The recanters all signed affidavits.  Sounds good.  But the difference between an affidavit and a statement on a piece of paper is simply a notary stamp.  They don’t carry a lot of weight until the person making the statement can be cross examined in court to determine credibility.  In Davis’ case, there were at least two who were actually at the last hearing but were not called to testify.  In the court’s eyes, that make their statement suspicious.  Also, without cross examination, the statements by people saying that Coles (the guy Davis said shot the officer and who was with him that night) did it is considered hearsay. This link– http://legalcases.info/troydavis/ –has a good breakdown of the case and further, has a very good breakdown of what the witnesses said at trial and later so that you can actually see what is and isn’t a recant.

 

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Another Person Who Agrees With Me–Reagan Would Be Persona Non Grata in Today’s GOP

On a couple of different occasions, I wrote about how former President Ronald Reagan probably could get elected by today’s GOP no matter how much they revere him (see here and here). It’s an opinion shared by a number of pundits across the blogosphere. Here is another example of exactly what I mean:

After trying (and failing) to disembowel Social Security, Reagan did an dramatic about-face and bailed out the program to the tune of $165 billion and made Social Security taxes more progressive, forcing upper-income Americans to shoulder more of the burden than their poor counterparts.
Reagan raised taxes 11 times! He passed the largest tax increase since World War II and introduced hefty new corporate taxes.

While conservatives like Sarah Palin tout Reagan’s record for standing up to the Soviet Union, they ignore that Reagan was attacked by far-right conservatives for being too conciliatory to the Communist bloc. When Reagan engaged in direct talks with Gorbachev and the Soviets, conservative leader Paul Wyerich wrote in The Washington Post, “Reagan is a weakened president, weakened in spirit as well as clout.”

Go here to read the rest. It’s definitely worth the read.

Random Thoughts: Obama/Boehner Disrupting Prime Time, “Fair Share,” Political Garbage Speak, ect

Just some random thoughts:

Why did the President and the Speaker waste our prime time last night?  President Obama took his time to get in front of the mic and say the same things he has said in his press conferences the past few weeks.  He threw in some statements about negotiations, made some nice statements about Speaker Boehner, and made sure to trot out his tried-and-true, base-energizing catchphrases:  “corporate jet owners;” “millionaires and billionaires;” “breaks we don’t need” (paraphrased).  You pushed back the start of our 8 pm shows for this??  Even worse, I listened to Chris Matthews afterwards and heaven forbid, he said something I agree with; he said usually, Presidents only request prime time to make an announcement or to make news.  This speech was neither and shouldn’t have been done in prime time.  Write it down somewhere–I agreed with Chris Matthews!  Then, House Speaker Boehner jumps up with the canned response.  There are really only two things I pulled out of his speech:  1)he had a couple of zingers at Obama’s expense that were funny, and 2)Republicans are now going to position the President’s stance as wanting a “blank check” since he did not support their Cut, Cap, and Balance bill.  The election may be next year, but the game is already afoot.

Speaking of corporate jets:  First, if the tax break in question was eliminated, it would save a whopping $3 billion.  Over ten years.  Yes, ten.  Trillions in deficits and we’re talking $3 billion.  Second, Obama is responsible for the very tax break he criticizes.  See the stimulus bill for more details.  Third, he has people thinking these “corporate jet owners” are just average wealthy individuals with money to burn.  For the most part, based on the tax break, the owners of corporate jets tend to be…wait for it…CORPORATIONS!!  Way to muddy the issue for duh masses, Mr. President.

Did he really mention Reagan?:  Obama referred to Ronald Reagan in his speech in order to take a swipe at Republicans.  Reagan’s quote somewhat supported what the Left has been saying.  The irony is, I noticed Obama didn’t quote HIMSELF from 2006, when he was talking about how raising the ceiling was a failure in leadership.  Or what about Harry Reid, who  fought against a debt-celing increase that same year and asked  “How can (Repubicans) explain that they think it’s fair to force our children, our grandchildren, our great grandchildren tofinance this debt through higher taxes?”  Now THOSE are quotes that should’ve gotten some airtime.

If all else fails, let’s create some wealth and income envy:  My friends on the left need to own up to this.  Their belief in raising taxes creates a need to make the rest of America mad at the wealthy.  You can hear it when the President speaks of the previously mentioned corporate jet owners.  Or when he talks about tax breaks that high-earners “don’t need.”  You even get it when he speaks of the oil companies.  Lest we forget, Dems want to take a tax break away from the top 5 oil companies, since they are making so much money.  Absurdity, not only because we’re talking about a small amount of money ($21 billion over 10 years), but because it would then be a break that every company in America EXCEPT those 5 oil companies could take advantage of.  But hey, Big Oil is evil and they need to pay up!

Can someone define “fair share?”:  Sometime soon this will get its own post.  I’ve heard my friends and the President refer to fairness in various terms when it comes to taxes.  But I don’t understand what that means, since I’ve never heard it defined.  What is fair?  Based on the proportion of taxes paid, high-income earners pay a ton.  We hear about hedge fund managers paying less than their secretaries, but is it unfair that they take advantage of lawful tax deductions and such?  And do they really pay less than the secretary, or is that just another one of those garbage speak political catchphrases referred to earlier?  I would go with the latter.

GOP Claims “Reagan Conservatism” but Reagan Would Disagree

I’d written before that if Ronald Reagan ran for president, he wouldn’t make it our of the Republican primaries these days. Why? Because of his stance on taxes. You see, for all the railing today’s GOP is doing about no tax increases or ending of tax breaks, what gets overlooked is Reagan’s overall record on taxes and revenue.

Surely we’ve all heard that Reagan cut taxes. The storyline goes “Reagan cut taxes and the economy grew.” But therein lies some serious policy omission. After a massive tax rate cut in 1981, Reagan along with Congress (which included a Republican-led Senate) proceeded to pass a number of measures designed to raise revenue. Any of those measures would be criticized today as tax increases.

I’d been surprised that little has been said about this. But finally, an article in Politico spells it out:

The Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 (TEFRA) is the most famous, because of its historic size and timing, a dramatic course correction that quickly followed Reagan’s signature income tax cuts in 1981. But in the six years after were four more deficit-reduction acts, which combined to almost double TEFRA’s revenue impact on an annual basis.

Translated into current dollars, the total revenue increases for the five bills would then be equal to about $190 billion a year. That’s far in excess of anything that has been proposed by the White House in recent deficit talks led by Vice President Joseph Biden, yet most of these increases were approved when Republicans controlled the Senate in the 1980’s.

Democrats could really bash Republicans’ heads with this. Instead of the insipid arguments we keep hearing about “tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires” and “tax breaks for Big Oil” a simple tack of “well, Reagan did it” would be nearly impossible for Republicans to counter. After all, Reagan is patron saint of conservatism.

Where Does Tax Rhetoric Meet Reality?

There has been a lot of talk lately about taxes.  George W. Bush lowered tax rates twice while in office.  Democrats portray those cuts as “tax cuts for the rich” as though no one else benefitted–not even the large number of folks who were removed completely from the tax rolls due to the minimum taxable amount being increased.  Democrats also complain about the cost of the cut for the richest folks, constantly ignoring that the cost of the cut for the other brackets was 3 times as much.  Obama then extended those cuts, much to the chagrin of the Dems.

Now, as talk of deficit reduction and debt reduction heats up, there is much hand wringing going on regarding what to cut and where to get more revenue.  Democrats, of course, say raise taxes.  Republicans say no.

Republicans are playing hardball in terms of tax policy, saying no tax increases will be on the table.  In a way, I can agree, as the more important thing is to lower spending.  Not only that, but the government has a pattern in place:  every time more money comes in, they find a way to spend it.  Without going into detail, the fact that by law, surplus Social Security money is put into the general fund for spending purposes is a prime example.  Anyway, Republicans have their own tax mantra that they will say over and over and over again:

Tax cuts spur economic growth.  But tax increases destroy the economy and destroy jobs!

Having heard this so many times, I finally wondered how much truth there is to this.  Nevermind that I personally believe that taxes can be increased with with no devastating effect to the economy.  I wanted to know what history has shown.  Was there any conclusive proof that showed where tax increases had really hurt the economy?

From what I knew already, I knew that there were examples where tax rate cuts had at least helped spur the economy.  Higher taxes helped fund World War II.  JFK also decreased taxes, which led to economic growth.  Even under G.W. Bush, the economy grew after his tax rate cuts, though in a very tepid fashion.  But what about tax increases?

I was skeptical that I would find evidence and was convinced that the notion was simply a Republican talking point, but there is indeed proof.

  • President Herbert Hoover signed a major tax increase in 1932.  The top marginal rate was increased from 25% to 63%, among other rate increases.  Tax revenues in 1933 were 42% of what they were just two years prior.  Unemployment rose to nearly 25%.  Slowly, though, the economy recovered until…
  • In 1937, Roosevelt signed into law new tax increases.  The result was that the economy went back into recession and didn’t come back until during WWII.  Truman actually cut taxes during that time and by the end of the decade there were budget surpluses.
  • Reagan signed a major tax rate cut in 1981.  Many Republicans like to point this out about Reagan and say that those cuts are why the economy grew during the Reagan years.  But that leaves out part of the story.  Reagan signed a number of tax increases starting in 1982.  Tax loopholes were closed and Social Security was overhauled.  Businesses ended up paying more taxes as a result.  Despite this, there was still economic growth.
  • During the 90s, Clinton raised taxes.  The country was coming out of a recession, and even with the tax increases, the economy grew.  Clinton did, however, also lower taxes on capital gains in the mid-90s.  Many say it was actually the tax cut and not the increase that provided the huge boost in revenue to the government.

So, what is the outcome of my info hunt?  Well, as usual, both sides will make declarations without telling the entire story.  But right now, Republicans are most guilty of cherry picking.  While it’s true that some tax increases did real damage, both Reagan and Clinton showed tax increases can be done and they NOT throw the economy into chaos.  I will also point out that they are especially guilty of ignoring Reagan’s tax increases (yes plural) when talking about how his cuts grew the economy.

Bottom line, rolling tax rates back to pre-Bush levels will not damage the economy.  Just like before, businesses will still find a way to survive and eventually thrive, the economy will grow, and there will be jobs.

Reagan is Conservatism’s Patron Saint But Would Never Get Elected By Today’s GOP

Official Portrait of President Ronald Reagan

Image via Wikipedia

Aside from Feb. 6th being Super Bowl Sunday, it was also what would’ve been President Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday.  As Reagan is considered a hero by many on the right, there have been remembrances, dedications, shout outs, flashbacks, and countless other looks back on Reagan and his legacy in the last week.  Of course, folks on the left are having none of that, understandably choosing to focus more on those “accomplishments” that they feel did more bad than good.

I (as is often the case) am in the middle on Reagan.  I wouldn’t call him a hero, but then again, I wouldn’t try to back over him with a MARTA bus, either.  But I’m pretty convinced that based on his overall record, if an exact Reagan clone popped up today and attempted to run for President saying he would do exactly as Reagan did and be exactly as Reagan was, he wouldn’t even make it out of the primaries.  Why?  Simple.  Reagan doesn’t fit the mold of today’s Republican.

First, there is his track record on taxes.  In 1981, Reagan signed the The Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 also known as the ERTA or “Kemp-Roth Tax Cut.”  The top marginal rate for personal income taxes went from 70% to 50%, and the bottom rate dropped from 14% to 11%.   In general, the Act lowered marginal tax rates on average 23% across the board.  He also lowered taxes in 1986.  After that, the top marginal rate was 28%.  While tax revenues decreased over the short term, over the long term there was not only an increase in the amount of tax revenues to the government, but also a long period of economic growth.  But, that’s not the entire story.

As the budget deficit grew, Reagan knew something had to be done.  So, he signed into law legislation that, in essence, were tax increases.   Bills signed in 1982 and 1984 closed tax loopholes and increased the tax base by making more transactions taxable.  The 1986 reform bill eliminated many deductions that high income earners had been allowed to use, increasing their tax bills.  In the end, his tax increases actually increased tax revenue to the government and offset much of the revenue lost from the earlier tax cuts.

In 1982, Reagan led efforts to privatize Social Security.  Not only did it not work, but (as is usually the case in midterms) the GOP lost many seats in the following elections.  In 1983 he signed legislation that bailed out Social Security.  Pricetag:  $165 billion. Results of the bailout included higher  payroll taxes for higher income earners and the self-employed, expanded the system to include federal workers, and made Social Security benefits taxable.

These tax increases are rarely mentioned.  In today’s environment, once it came to light, the Reagan-clone would get skewered for ever considering tax increases as fiscal policy.

The national debt also tripled under Reagan.  It went over $1 trillion during his first year, and was $3 trillion when he left.  Of course, that was a bipartisan effort, as the House was under Democrat control all 8 years of his presidency, and the Senate was for 2 of his 8 years.  But evidently, veto wasn’t an option.  Of course, many will say that much of the spending was to counter the Soviet Union.  But SOMEONE has to account for the money vacuum that was SDI, which never worked.

Among other things that are rarely mentioned:

  • Reagan promised to reduce the size of government, in part by eliminating the Departments of Energy and Education.  Instead, he added a new Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • There was little done in the way to reduce government spending over Reagan’s 2 terms.
  • Many will always repeat Reagan’s call to Gorbachev to “tear down this wall” and say “see?  you have to be tough!”  In actuality, Reagan and Gorbachev nearly agreed to eliminate ALL nuclear weapons from each country’s arsenal.  Plus, to help Gorbachev enact reform, the US reduced defense spending in the latter part of Reagan’s second term.  How’s that for “peace through strength?”

Finally, the the proverbial straw that would bring our Reagan-clone’s hopes to an end–and yet one more point rarely mentioned–is immigration.  In 1982, Reagan signed a bill that allowed any illegal alien in the US before that year to be eligible for amnesty.  Yep, blanket amnesty.  In today’s environment, that would be a big no-no.

In the end, Reagan gains sainthood by default.  For those keeping up with conservative politics, there is no one else that can take his place.  Nixon resigned.  Ford was considered weak.  Bush I lost his reelection bid despite removing Saddam Hussein from Kuwait (taxes played a role in his defeat).  Bush II had two terms, but many on the right don’t consider him conservative enough.  So who is left?  No one but the Gipper.  But he’d never make it today.

Via OCD3 and CNN: Palin ain’t Reagan

Much debate has been had about Sarah Palin and pinning blame on her regarding the Arizona shootings.  I’ve had an interesting time with this–balancing my opinion that she shouldn’t be blamed the way the left is applying blame to her and the right, while trying not to come across as a Palin fan, which I am not.  Still, I appreciate different perspectives, and my good friend (and Front and Center contributor OCD3) caught this article on CNN and recommended I post it.  In it, Paul Begala explains how “Palin is no Ronald Regan:”

Official Portrait of President Ronald Reagan

Image via Wikipedia

When she first burst on the national scene, I watched her convention speech an

d could not imagine Ronald

Reagan delivering it. She was sarcastic and caustic and harsh — everything Reagan was not. I felt the same thing watching her post-Arizona video presentation. The Gipper was a tough partisan and a strong conservative, but he had a sunny, optimistic worldview and a resilient, Teflon manner that slipped

punches, drawing in even those who disagreed with him, and driving Democrats to distraction.

Reagan understood the biblical wisdom that “A soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger.” Palin seems hell-bent on using the most grievous words (including the calumnyblood libel“) to stir up still more anger: the one thing we already have a surplus of.

More on the shooting in AZ of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords

From the UK Daily Mail, “America’s elite hijack a massacre to take revenge of Sarah Palin:”

History shows how dangerous it is to try to second-guess the motives of political assassins.

John Hinckley shot Ronald Reagan because he was obsessed with the actress Jodie Foster, not because he hated Right-wingers.

Likewise, Lynette Fromme tried to shoot Gerald Ford because she revered the cult killer Charles Manson.

But those lessons from ­history won’t stop some Democrats exploiting the shooting of a nine-year-old girl and five others at the weekend with precisely the sort of foam-flecked over-reaction for which they love to condemn their opponents on the Right.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1345952/Arizona-shooting-Americas-elite-hijacked-massacre-revenge-Sarah-Palin.html#ixzz1Aq64ytkB

From Reason.com, “The Extreme Rhetoric about Extreme Rhetoric:”

But this debate about the “tone” of American politics is ideologically unidirectional, designed not to elevate debate but to vilify a political enemy. The call for calm—with its frequent invocations of Tea Party “fascism”—is stupid partisan politics dressed up as incoherent moral politics.

From the Huffington Post, Rev Jesse Jackson weighs in on “Hate Speech in Arizona:”

In Arizona, the kindling was there. The economy has been hit hard by the financial collapse, with employment opportunities for young people particularly limited. With families losing jobs or homes, fear and depression are inevitable. Add to this a venomous, racially charged debate on immigration and health care reform, as well as some of the worst gun-control laws in the country.

And a good one from David Harsanyi at RealClearPolitics, “A Phony Climate of Hate:”

The always-civil Jacob Weisberg of Slate was more forceful in this regard, claiming that “at the core of the far right’s culpability is its ongoing attack on the legitimacy of U.S. government.”

Which, as you know, should not be confused with those heady times liberals claimed that George W. Bush was “not my president” or that we needed a “regime change at home.” That kind of talk strengthened the legitimacy of government. Just as the “far right” — and I will assume this consists of anyone not named David Frum — could probably make the case that demanding government honor its constitutional limits is a demand for legitimacy.

We can argue about those things, I know. We can cobble together stupid remarks by radio talk show hosts or union activists or members of Congress and smear half the country. We can play tit for tat with tea party banners and anti-war bumper stickers and dig up some figurative rhetoric that sounds over-the-top retroactively and blow it out of proportion.