Does anyone else find this convenient? Both McCain and Obama were able to publicly support the plan, though Obama hemmed and hawed some in the debate, but neither one of the had to actually go out on a limb and vote for the dumb thing because the bill failed in the House.
This stunt is designed to challenge the "censorship" of the Internal Revenue Code. You see, churches, like all other organizations exempt from taxation under Sec. 501, are not allowed to engage in political advocacy if they want to maintain their tax-exempt status. This has, from time to time, been labelled government "censorship". The author of the piece I quote claims it violates the first amendment.
Except that it doesn't. There is absolutely nothing in the tax law that prohibits any kind of speech. What the tax law does do is offer certain types of organizations that Congress has defined as being formed without a profit motive for the public good an exemption from taxation as a matter of legislative grace. If it were not for this provision, every non-profit, including churches, would be subject to income taxes.
In exchange for this rather wonderful benefit, Congress asks these organizations to make some trade-offs. One of those trade-offs is to refrain from partisan political activities. Whether you think this is good policy or not, the idea that it's "censorship" or violates the First Amendment is just loony. Censorship is taking active steps to prevent certain viewpoints from getting out. The First Amendment provides:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of
the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the
Government for a redress of grievances.
Presumably the author thinks that stripping tax-exempt status from churches violates either the establishment of religion clause (though I doubt this) or, more likely, the freedom of speech clause. How, exactly though, are either clause violated here? Certainly denying tax-exempt status doesn't lead to an establishment of religion. Nor does it prohibit the free exercise of religion. Even if you believe that supporting a candidates is part of your religion, no one's telling you that you can't do that. There just saying that if you do, you can't be exempt from tax. Being exempt from tax isn't a right, it's a privilege that Congress doesn't have to offer. The same goes for the free speech clause. No one's telling you what you can and can't say. They are saying that if you perform certain types of speech, we're not going to give you this benefit.
Again, you can reasonably differ on whether or not this is good policy, but offering people a benefit if they refrain from certain activities isn't censorship or a violation of their rights. It's making a deal with them. If they don't want the deal, that's fine. They can do whatever they want.
If these ministers believe that speaking their mind is more important than their congregation being exempt from tax, then they should give up their tax-exempt status. These people though want the benefits of the deal without doing their part.
Update: Glenn Reynolds makes a similar point. He would deal with the whole issue by chunking tax-exempt status completely (or keep it for only those providing direct services). Personally, I find the idea of taxing churches distasteful, but that's hardly a policy position.
1. I don't know if it was Leher's decision or an agreement by the candidates, but I thought that pretending that this was still exclusively a foreign policy/national defense debate by shoehorning "financial security" into national security was pretty lame. If you want to change the format so the first hour is about economics, just say so.
2. No major gaffes from Obama like I was hoping, but overall I thought McCain looked stronger.
3. McCain made Obama look outright foolish about Iran.
4. McCain clearly had a message he wanted people to hear about Obama. He repeated over and over, "Senator Obama just doesn't get it."
5. Obama either had no theme for the night, or didn't communicate it very well.
My general feeling about the bailout is that the Treasury buying up $700 million worth of debt, much of it bad, is a horrible idea and my conservative leanings say get me off this bus. (Or to "stand athwart it yelling "woah"!)
On the other hand, there is much to be said for the fact that Congress played a monstrous role in getting us into this mess. (See here for one of the simplest explanations I've seen.) As a result, I have this feeling that if the government got them into this, doesn't it have some responsibility to get them out?
Also, it does seem like a pretty huge financial crisis looms if nothing is done. Consequently, my view is probably something like, "I hate it, but I tentatively support it." Which, come to think of it, is pretty much the reasoning that led me to support McCain.
... is that I've probably blogged more this week than I usually do in a month. I miss the days when I spent tons of time reading the news and other blogs and posting away. However, times change and I generally don't have the time for that any more. Which brings us to the bad news, which is that the only reason I have time to do this is that I've been home sick pretty much all week. Oh well, at least I get to blog a little!
... but not this time. Eugene has been a consistent advocate of the idea that people should not make too much of politicians minor gaffes when speaking without a script. He has rightly pointed out that everyone makes mistakes and/or is sometimes less than clear when speaking.
Sometimes though, I think he takes this kind of thing a bit far.
As I've long said, these sorts of errors (here about what medium presidents were using to speak to the public in 1929, and even about exactly who was president in 1929) are inevitable when people speak extemporaneously, especially when they're in the middle of a hectic campaign and probably not getting much sleep. All this shows about Senator Biden is that he makes errors just like all the rest of us. But it's worth remembering incidents such as this one when people start mocking other candidates for similar slip-ups.
I'm all for giving people a great deal of leeway when speaking, but if the fact that Biden stated publicly that Roosevelt was President during the stock market crash of 1929 and was making televised speeches years before TV was a viable communication tool doesn't say anything about him other than that he's human, what kind of mistake would Eugene allow as revealing?
Let me share some info with you that I have gotten from excellent sources within the DNC:
On or about October 5th, Biden will excuse himself from the ticket, citing health problems, and he will be replaced by Hillary. This is timed to occur after the VP debate on 10/2.
Assuming Obama decided to engage in this maneuver, why on earth would they time it for AFTER the VP debate? Hillary would be free to fire away at Palin while Biden would have to bite his tounge to keep from looking like he's being condescending. Wouldn't it make more sense to substitute before the debate?
Canadian authorities are warning people not to give out their personal information after an apparent con artist infiltrated a county fair in British Columbia.
People who gave out their names and phone numbers for a contest promising a trip to Las Vegas have been getting calls demanding their credit-card numbers in exchange for a free "cruise" to the landlocked Sin City.
LEBANON, Va. -- "That's not change," Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., said of what Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is offering.
"You know, you can put lipstick on a pig," Obama said, "but it's still a pig."
Obama's people insist that he wasn't calling Palin a pig; they say he was just quoting an old saying.
That's probably true, but it's incredibly tone deaf. He desperately needs to keep Hillary's female supporters in the flock. Many of them are already accusing him of running a sexist campaign against Clinton. This isn't likely to help.
Does the Angry Left really want to launch a culture war over Sarah Palin? Fine. Lock and load.
That's the feeling of many conservatives who until last week were lukewarm at best about the prospect of a John McCain presidency. The unhinged malice of the cultural left's assault on the Alaska governor's personal life has focused their minds and stirred their hearts. Ms. Palin's astonishingly poised and confident performance in her convention speech proves that this Iron Lady is not about to quail before the judgment of her would-be betters.
Neither will conservatives. If they were indifferent or hostile to the Republican ticket, the cultural elite's savage treatment of Ms. Palin reminded them of what's really in play this year. It's the same snarling spite for small-town folks, religious believers and anybody else who ended up on the wrong side of the 1960s.
To me, the real question is whether McCain and his camp anticipated all this? Did they know the left would go absolutely insane in their attacks on a genuinely cultural conservative woman in the VP slot? Once this happened, it was fairly obvious that the right would close ranks with her, but was this reaction just fortuitous, or were they counting on this reaction?
As Dreher rightly notes, the conservatives were not at all energized by the thought of a McCain presidency. Now, many are quite energized indeed.
I think I've had time to gather my thoughts on the Palin nomination.
I like Sarah Palin. I like her quite a lot, actually. However, the primary issue when choosing a VP should be are they ready to be President? On this issue, the answer is that I don't know and I seriously doubt anyone else does either. She has little executive experience and no time on the national stage. This doesn't mean that she's not ready. It just means that nobody possibly knows enough about her to know one way or another.
On that score, it seems obvious that McCain should not have picked her. However, that's water under the bridge now because he did pick her. The issue now is, "Is she more ready to be president than Obama?" On that score, I believe the answer is "probably yes". While her executive experience is limited, it's far more than Obama has. (Assuming that you don't buy the Obama camps ridiculous assertion that running a successful campaign is sufficient executive experience. "I'm qualified because I won!")
Obama has shown himself to be shockingly naive on international matters and his soak the rich tax policy will be dsiastrous, so assuming Palin doesn't say some equally idiotic things she should have him beat.
So, while we have no way of knowing if she'd be a good president, she'd probably be better than Obama.
Politically, this was obviously a masterstroke. Win or lose, McCain managed to capture the momentum for the first time.
WASHINGTON - Democrat Barack Obama says he would delay rescinding President Bush's tax cuts on wealthy Americans if he becomes the next president and the economy is in a recession, suggesting such an increase would further hurt the economy.
Obama admits that the "soak the rich" tax strategy is bad for the economy! That begs the obvious question: Why does he want to do it in the first place?