Yet Another Stupid NCAA Policy

Well this is certainly the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard all day:

USC tailback Dillon Baxter hopped on a golf cart for a ride across campus a few days ago, but it turned out that the fellow student driving the cart is a certified agent with the NFL Players Assn. and an aspiring sports mogul. Punishment was duly meted out:

Baxter was ruled ineligible for last week’s game at Oregon State because the ride was regarded as a prohibited extra benefit. USC reported the incident to the NCAA, and Baxter is expected to be reinstated this week after making a $5 donation to charity — the approximate value of the benefit he received.

(h/t) Kevin Drum

This is what happens when you have ridiculous rules that allow people to make, literally, hundreds of millions of dollars off of student athletes but won’t even allow their millionaire coach to buy  a winter jacket for a player who can’t afford one.

Also, what the hell is the world coming to when we have students who are certified as NFL sports agents? Are players going to start getting busted because their tutor happens to an agent?

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Why Taxes Are Good For The Wealthy

The LA Times has an interesting editorial from a wealth venture capitalist on taxes in America:

For nearly the last decade, I’ve paid income taxes at the lowest rates of my professional career. Before that, I paid at higher rates. And if you want the simple, honest truth, from my perspective as an entrepreneur, the fluctuation didn’t affect what I did with my money. None of my investments has ever been motivated by the rate at which I would have to pay personal income tax.

….No one particularly enjoys paying taxes, but one lesson we should have learned by now is that for the good of the country, we need to tax people like me more. At a minimum, we need to return to the tax rates of the Clinton era, when the economy performed far better. Simply taxing the wealthiest 2% of Americans at the same rates they were taxed before the Bush tax cuts could reduce the national deficit by $700 billion over the next 10 years. Remember, paying slightly more in personal income taxes won’t change my investment choices at all, and I don’t think a higher tax rate will change the investment decisions of most other high earners.

What will change my investment decisions is if I see an economy doing better, one in which there is demand for the goods and services my investments produce. I am far more likely to invest if I see a country laying the foundation for future growth. In order to get there, we first need to let the Bush-era tax cuts for the upper 2% lapse. It is time to tax me more.

Word yo.

Ezra Klein once made the point that he had never seen someone quit their job or sell their company because they were being taxed too much. I agree, its not like wealthy conservatives or Wall Street CEO’s have ever decided to take a smaller executive bonus because of taxes.

“Whoa there, a $30 million retirement package. Do you know how much that is in taxes? I think I’ll pass buddy.”

At the same time people often overlook the positive externalities that come from properly taxing Americans. Tax cuts might make you feel warm and fuzzy on the inside but the ultimate goal of any economic policy should be to strengthen the economy, rather than promoting one’s fanatical die hard beliefs that what’s mine is mine.  Ultimately, if your economic philosophy can be summed up as “Screw you I got mine”, you are wrong.

(h/t) to Kevin Drum

Politics Over People: The Republicans Playing Deadly Game on Health Care Reform

This is your modern day Republican party:

Conservative leaders will push delay any vote on health care reform until after the August recess to capitalize on what they say is a growing tide of opposition to reform measures, they said on a conference call with “tea party” participants today.

“I can almost guarantee you this thing won’t pass before August, and if we can hold it back until we go home for a month’s break in August,” members of Congress will hear from “outraged” constituents, South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint said on the call, which was organized by the group Conservatives for Patients Rights.

“Senators and Congressmen will come back in September afraid to vote against the American people,” DeMint predicted, adding that “this health care issue Is D-Day for freedom in America.”

“If we’re able to stop Obama on this it will be his Waterloo. It will break him,” he said.

Republicans delay health care reform meanwhile sick people die, children go without necessary treatment, and small businesses continue to crumble under the weight of rapidly growing health care costs. I wish this was hyperbole but sadly its a grim reality.

But I wish I could say that I’m surprised by the GOP’s usage of obscure political tricks to block health care reform. Despite popular support from the majority of Americans and their concession during last year’s election that health care reform was important, Conservatives are sticking to their bread and butter…not small government and free markets, no they don’t actually support those. I’m talking about shady tactics used to delay, hold, and filibuster any legislation looking to  address the need of the average American. (Instead of the special interests who pour millions dollars into Republican campaign coffers.)

Of course, a lot of people would will probably respond with some prepacked conservative talking point about how “socialized medicine” is horrible or the high costs of the democratic plan.  But that misses the point. Aside from the obvious facts those rhetorical musings  get wrong, democrats aren’t proposing a socialized health care reform and their plan is deficit neutral, the real focus of Republican’s demagoguery should be on the conservative alternative.

…oh wait… there isn’t one.

And therein lies the real problem with the Republican party’s strategy. It isn’t their policies or, and I emphasize, alleged support of  “conservative” principles. The problem is the fact that the Republican strategy on health care reform, like many other important issues, is to to avoid the issue altogether. In other words: 1) admit that the issue needs to be solved while emphasizing that it needs to be done “right” 2)  attack the proposals being offered by democrats 3) Demagogue, delay, and filibuster proposed bill in order to kill it 4) High five each other and pound their chests once the bill is killed and the issue has been tabled for future considerations, ie never.

That might be a good way of accomplishing short term political gains but its an even better way of sitting around and watching as American society crumbles.

Harold Ickes is a Badass

Just in case you didn’t know. Harold Ickes, Hillary Clinton’s senior adviser, is a badass:

And the man in charge of Clinton’s feverish effort to lock up superdelegates is Ickes, whose enthusiasm for no-holds-barred politics sometimes rattles friends and foes alike. Ickes once got so carried away that he bit another political operative on the leg. Now, some 35 years later, at age 68, he has mellowed so little that it could happen again.

“It depends on how heated the circumstances are,” he says.

This is one of the many reasons I like Hillary Clinton. Her staff if filed with professional, old school pols who are willing to go to the mattresses when circumstances call for it.

People tend to have this candyland notion of Washington. The truth is Washington DC is a giant trench, both literally and metaphorically, where political operatives who are capable of fighting a trench warfare campaign are not only desirable but necessary.

“Oops; wrong Button”

This from the LA Times :

Barack Obama angered fellow Democrats in the Illinois Senate when he voted to strip millions of dollars from a child welfare office on Chicago’s West Side. But Obama had a ready explanation: He goofed.

“I was not aware that I had voted no,” he said that day in June 2002, asking that the record be changed to reflect that he “intended to vote yes.”

That was not the only misfire for the former civil rights attorney first elected to the state Senate in 1996. During his eight years in state office, Obama cast more than 4,000 votes. Of those, according to transcripts of the proceedings in Springfield, he hit the wrong button at least six times.

The rules allow state lawmakers to clear up a mishap if they suffered from a momentary case of stumbly fingers or a lapse in attention. Correcting the record is common practice in the Illinois Legislature, where lawmakers routinely cast numerous votes in a hurry.

But some lawmakers say the practice also offers a relatively painless way to placate both sides of a difficult issue. Even if a lawmaker admits an error, the actual vote stands and the official record merely shows the senator’s “intent.”

Why does Barack Obama always have a convenient excuse for voting mishaps in his record? But even if Obama did “make a mistake” this really makes you wonder if he’s the guy you want with “his finger on the button”