MoJo Blogs and Articles | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/rss/blogs_and_articles/wp-login.phphttps%3A/motherjones.com/files/images/Adnkronos%20International http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en Will Republicans Finally Find a Tax Cut They Hate? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/will-republicans-finally-find-tax-cut-they-hate <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Charles Gaba makes an interesting point about today's <em>Halbig</em> decision: if upheld, <a href="http://acasignups.net/14/07/22/gop-shoves-massive-tax-hike-down-middle-class-voters-throats" target="_blank">it would amount to a tax increase.</a> Everyone who buys insurance through a federal exchange would lose the tax credits they're currently entitled to, and losing tax credits is the same as a tax increase. This in turn means that if <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_grover_norquist.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">Democrats introduce a bill to fix the language in Obamacare to keep the tax credits in place, it will basically be a tax cut.</p> <p>This leaves Republicans in a tough spot, doesn't it? Taken as a whole, Obamacare represents a tax increase, which makes it easy for Republicans to oppose it. But if the <em>Halbig</em> challenge is upheld, all the major Obamacare taxes are unaffected. They stay in force no matter what. The <em>only</em> thing that's affected is the tax credits. Thus, an amendment to reinstate the credits is a net tax cut by the rules that Grover Norquist laid out long ago. And no Republican is allowed to vote against a net tax cut.</p> <p>I'm curious what Norquist has to say about this. Not because I think he'd agree that Republicans have to vote to restore the tax credits. He wouldn't. He's a smart guy, and he'd invent some kind of loophole for everyone to shimmy through. Mainly, I just want to know <em>what</em> loophole he'd come up with. I'm always impressed with the kind of sophistries guys like him are able to spin. It's usually very educational.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Supreme Court The Right Wed, 23 Jul 2014 01:38:50 +0000 Kevin Drum 256791 at http://www.motherjones.com Seven Hours of Sleep Is Just About Optimal http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/seven-hours-sleep-just-about-optimal <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>How much sleep does a normal, healthy adult need? <a href="http://online.wsj.com/articles/sleep-experts-close-in-on-the-optimal-nights-sleep-1405984970?mod=trending_now_1" target="_blank">The <em>Wall Street Journal</em> reports:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Several sleep studies have found that seven hours is the optimal amount of sleep&mdash;not eight, as was long believed&mdash;when it comes to certain cognitive and health markers, although many doctors question that conclusion.</p> <p>Other recent research has shown that skimping on a full night's sleep, even by 20 minutes, impairs performance and memory the next day. And getting too much sleep&mdash;not just too little of it&mdash;is associated with health problems including diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease and with higher rates of death, studies show.</p> </blockquote> <p>That's sort of interesting. In the past, I would have had no idea how to guess at this. I always slept exactly the same every night, so I always felt about the same every morning. Over the past couple of years, however, my sleeping habits have become far more erratic, spanning anywhere from six to eight hours fairly randomly. And sure enough, I've vaguely come to the conclusion that six hours makes me feel tired throughout the day, and so does eight hours. Seven hours really does seem to be pretty close to the sweet spot.</p> <p>Unfortunately, I don't seem to have much control over this. I wake up whenever I wake up, and that's that. Today I got up at 6, tried to get back to sleep, and finally gave up. There was nothing to be done about it. And right about now I'm paying the price for that.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Science Wed, 23 Jul 2014 00:11:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 256786 at http://www.motherjones.com The Late Historian Who Predicted The Years of War After September 11 http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/07/jonathan-schell-predict-war-september-11 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><em>This <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175871/" target="_blank">story</a> first appeared on the </em><a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/" target="_blank">TomDispatch</a><em> website. </em></p> <p>In December 2002, finishing the introduction to his as-yet-unpublished book The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People, Jonathan Schell wrote that the twentieth century was the era in which violence outgrew the war system that had once housed it and became "dysfunctional as a political instrument. Increasingly, it destroys the ends for which it is employed, killing the user as well as his victim. It has become the path to hell on earth and the end of the earth. <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com" target="_blank"><span class="inline inline-left"><img alt="" class="image image-preview" height="33" src="http://motherjones.com/files/images/tdispatch-notch.jpg" title="" width="100"></span></a>This is the lesson of the Somme and Verdun, of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, of Vorkuta and Kolyma; and it is the lesson, beyond a shadow of a doubt, of Hiroshima and Nagasaki." More than a decade later, that remains a crucial, if barely noticed, lesson of our moment. Jonathan Schell died this March, but he left behind a legacy of reporting and thinking&mdash;from The Real War and The Fate of the Earth to The Unconquerable World&mdash;about just how, as the power to destroy ratcheted up, war left its traditional boundaries, and what that has meant for us (as well as, potentially, for worlds to come). In The Unconquerable World, published just before the Bush invasion of Iraq, he went in search of other paths of change, including the nonviolent one, and in doing so he essentially imagined the Arab Spring and caught the essence of both the horrors and possibilities available to us in hard-headed ways that were both prophetic and moving. Today, partly in honor of his memory (and my memory of him) and partly because I believe his sense of how our world worked then and still works was so acute, this website offers a selection from that book. Consider it a grim walk down post-9/11 Memory Lane, a moment when Washington chose force as its path to... well, we now know (as Schell foresaw then) that it was indeed a path to hell.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2014/07/jonathan-schell-predict-war-september-11"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics Afghanistan Iraq Military Tom Dispatch Tue, 22 Jul 2014 21:43:58 +0000 Tom Engelhardt 256736 at http://www.motherjones.com 785 of This Year's Unaccompanied Migrants Were Under 6 Years Old http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/07/unaccompanied-child-migrants-younger-than-five-pew-research <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/migrants-age-pew630.png"><div class="caption">Pew Research Center</div> </div> <p>Little kids, including a troubling number of children age five or younger, make up the fastest-growing group of unaccompanied minors apprehended at the US border in fiscal year 2014. So far this year, nearly 7,500 kids under 13 have been caught without a legal guardian&mdash;and 785 of them were younger than six.</p> <p></p><div id="mininav" class="inline-subnav"> <!-- header content --> <div id="mininav-header-content"> <div id="mininav-header-image"> <img src="/files/images/motherjones_mininav/migrants_225.jpg" width="220" border="0"></div> </div> <!-- linked stories --> <div id="mininav-linked-stories"> <ul><span id="linked-story-252671"> <li><a href="/politics/2014/06/child-migrants-surge-unaccompanied-central-america"> 70,000 Kids Will Show Up Alone at Our Border This Year. What Happens to Them?</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-255056"> <li><a href="/mojo/2014/06/map-unaccompanied-child-migrants-central-america-honduras"> Map: These Are the Places Central American Child Migrants Are Fleeing </a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-256016"> <li><a href="/politics/2014/07/immigration-courts-backlog-child-migrant-crisis"> Why Our Immigration Courts Can't Handle the Child Migrant Crisis</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-256341"> <li><a href="/politics/2014/07/are-kids-showing-border-really-refugees"> Are the Kids Showing Up at the Border Really Refugees?</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-256331"> <li><a href="/politics/2014/07/child-migrant-ellis-island-history"> Child Migrants Have Been Coming to America Alone Since Ellis Island</a></li> </span> </ul></div> <!-- footer content --> <div id="mininav-footer-content"> <div id="mininav-footer-text" class="mininav-footer-text"> <p class="mininav-footer-text" style="margin: 0; padding: 0.75em; font-size: 11px; font-weight: bold; line-height: 1.2em; background-color: rgb(221, 221, 221);"> See <em>MoJo</em>'s <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/topics/child-migrants">full coverage</a> of the surge of unaccompanied child migrants from Central America. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>It's still mostly teens who travel solo to the United States from countries like El Salvador and Honduras, as the <a href="http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/07/22/children-12-and-under-are-fastest-growing-group-of-unaccompanied-minors-at-u-s-border/" target="_blank">Pew Research Center</a> revealed today in a new analysis of US Customs and Border Protection data. But compared to 2013, Border Patrol apprehensions of kids 12 or younger already have increased 117 percent, while those of teens have jumped only 12 percent. Apprehensions of the youngest group of kids, those under six, have nearly tripled.</p> <p>These new stats reveal a trend made all the more startling as details of the journey continue to emerge. In his <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/06/child-migrants-surge-unaccompanied-central-america" target="_blank">feature story</a> about this influx of child migrants, for instance, <em>MoJo</em>'s Ian Gordon tells of Adri&aacute;n, a Guatemalan kid who dodged attackers armed with machetes, walked barefoot for miles through Mexico, and resorted to prostitution to reach sanctuary in America. And Adri&aacute;n was 17. For the increasing number of kids under 13 making this harrowing trek without parents, the vulnerability to exploitation is only magnified, the potential for trauma and even death only amplified.</p> <p>That so many young kids feel compelled to leave home, or that their parents feel compelled to send them, sends a grim message about the state of their home countries. As El Salvadoran newspaper editor Carlos Dada told <em>On the Media</em>'s Bob Garfield <a href="http://www.onthemedia.org/story/on-the-media-2014-07-18/" target="_blank">last week</a>, quoting a Mexican priest who runs a shelter in Oaxaca, Mexico: "If these migrants are willing to take this road, knowing everything they are risking, even their lives, I don't even want to imagine what they are running away from."</p> <p>Here's another Pew age breakdown, this time by country of origin:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/pew-kids-country310_0.png"><div class="caption">Pew Research Center</div> </div> <p>&nbsp;</p></body></html> MoJo Charts Immigration child migrants Tue, 22 Jul 2014 20:49:51 +0000 Maddie Oatman 256751 at http://www.motherjones.com Be Still, My Heart: Beyoncé As Rosie the Riveter http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2014/07/beyonce-rosie-the-riveter <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>On Tuesday, Beyonc&eacute;, a whisper of perfection in an otherwise cruel and inhumane world, posted this photo of her as Rosie the Riveter to <a href="http://instagram.com/p/qwWCsgPw7N/?modal=true" target="_blank">Instagram</a>.</p> <p><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="710" scrolling="no" src="//instagram.com/p/qwWCsgPw7N/embed/" width="612"></iframe></p> <p>Beyonc&eacute; has become somewhat of a feminist hero recently, putting overtly feminist lyrics into her songs, and making genuinely heartfelt public statements about women's rights. In January, she wrote an <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2014/01/beyonce-gender-inequality-essay-shriver-report-center-american-progress" target="_blank">essay about income inequality.</a> On the other side of the pop star aisle there is Lana del Rey who is more interested <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2014/06/lana-del-rey-feminism-spacex-tesla-intergalactic-possibilities" target="_blank">in Tesla and "intergalactic possibilities."</a></p></body></html> Mixed Media Music Tue, 22 Jul 2014 19:54:46 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 256766 at http://www.motherjones.com Study Finds Kids Prefer Healthier Lunches. School Food Lobby Refuses to Believe It. http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2014/07/school-lunch-study-student-perceptions <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>From all of the commotion around the new federal school lunch standards, you'd think they were really Draconian. Republican legislators have <a href="http://aderholt.house.gov/press-releases/congressman-aderholt-hosts-school-meal-forum-in-cullman-county/" target="_blank">railed against them</a>. Districts have <a href="http://www.jsonline.com/news/health/some-districts-balk-at-latest-serving-of-school-lunch-rules-b99288269z1-265421821.html" target="_blank">threatened</a> to opt out. The School Nutrition Association (SNA), the industry group that represents the nation's 55,000 school food employees, has officially <a href="http://www.schoolnutrition.org/uploadedFiles/Legislation_and_Policy/SNA_Policy_Resources/Implementation%20of%20Nutrition%20Standards.pdf" target="_blank">opposed</a> some of them&mdash;and <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2014/07/21/school-lunch-lobbying-michelle-obama/12964211/" target="_blank">doubled its lobbying</a> in the months leading up to July 1, when some of the new rules took effect.</p> <p>Here's who doesn't mind the new standards: kids. For a <a href="http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/pdfplus/10.1089/chi.2014.0038" target="_blank">study</a> just published in the peer-reviewed journal <em>Childhood Obesity, </em>researchers asked administrators and food service staff at 537 public elementary schools how their students were liking the meals that conformed to the new standards. Half of those surveyed said that the students "complained about the meals at first," but 70 percent said that the students now like the new lunches. Rural districts were the least enthusiastic about the new meals&mdash;there, some respondents reported that purchasing was down and that students were eating less of their meals. But respondents from schools with a high percentage of poor students&mdash;those with at least two-thirds eligible for free or reduced-price meals&mdash;were especially positive about the new standards: They found that "more students were buying lunch and that students were eating more of the meal than in the previous year."</p> <p>"Kids who really need good nutrition most at school are getting it," says&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ihrp.uic.edu/researcher/lindsey-turner-phd" target="_blank">Lindsey Turner</a>, the <em>Childhood Obesity</em> study's lead author and a research scientist at the University of Illinois-Chicago. "That's really good news."</p> <p>SNA's response? To issue a <a href="http://www.schoolnutrition.org/5--News-and-Publications/2--Press-Releases/Press-Releases/SNA-Comments-on-New-Study-on-Perceptions-of-School-Meals/" target="_blank">statement</a> declaring that "these reported perceptions about school meals do not reflect reality." The group cites USDA data that participation in school meals has declined by 1.4 million since the new rules went into effect in 2012. But Turner, the <em>Childhood Obesity</em> study's lead author, notes that this is only about a 3 percent drop. She also points to a Government Accountability Office <a href="http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-104" target="_blank">study</a> that found that most of the drop-off was among students who pay full price for lunch.</p> <p>What makes SNA's stance on the new rules even stranger is that they actually are not all that strict. For example: Foods served must be whole grain rich, but as I <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/07/school-lunch-conference-cheetos" target="_blank">learned</a> from my trip to SNA's annual conference last week, that includes whole-grain Pop Tarts, Cheetos, and Rice Krispies Treats. Students are required to take a half cup of a fruit or vegetable&mdash;but <a href="http://rosatiice.com/products/" target="_blank">Italian ice</a>&mdash;in flavors like Hip Hoppin' Jelly Bean&mdash;are fair game.</p> <p>Not all members of SNA consider the task of tempting kids with healthy foods onerous. As I reported last week, Jessica Shelly, food director of Cincinnati's diverse public schools, has <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/07/pity-poor-school-food-professional" target="_blank">shown</a> that all it takes is a little creativity.</p> <p>HT <a href="http://www.thelunchtray.com/sna-challenges-study-kids-like-healthier-school-food/" target="_blank">The Lunch Tray</a>.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Food and Ag Tue, 22 Jul 2014 19:29:37 +0000 Kiera Butler 256741 at http://www.motherjones.com What Happens If Obama Loses the Halbig Case? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/what-happens-if-obama-loses-halbig-case <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>So let's suppose the <em>Halbig</em> case goes up to the Supreme Court and they rule for the plaintiffs: in a stroke, everyone enrolled in Obamacare through a federal exchange is no longer eligible for subsidies. What happens then? Is Obamacare doomed?</p> <p>Not at all. What happens is that people in blue states like California and New York, which operate their own exchanges, continue getting their federal subsidies. People in red states, which punted the job to the feds, will suddenly have their subsidies yanked away. Half the country will have access to a generous entitlement and the other half won't.</p> <p>How many people will this affect? The earliest we'll get a Supreme Court ruling on this is mid-2015, and mid-2016 is more likely. At a guess, maybe 12 million people will have exchange coverage by 2015 and about 20 million by 2016. Let's split the difference and call it 15 million. About 80 percent of them qualify for subsidies, which brings the number to about 12 million. Roughly half of them are in states that would be affected by <em>Halbig</em>.</p> <p>So that means about 6 million people who are currently getting subsidies would suddenly have them yanked away. It's even possible they'd have to <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_obamacare_site_new.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">pay back any tax credits they'd received previously.</p> <p>So what's the political reaction? The key point here is that people respond much more strongly to <em>losing</em> things than they do to <em>not getting them in the first place</em>. For example, there are lots of poor people in red states who currently aren't receiving Medicaid benefits thanks to their states' refusal to participate in Obamacare's Medicaid expansion. This hasn't caused a revolt because nothing was taken away. They just never got Medicaid in the first place.</p> <p>The subsidies would be a different story. You'd have roughly 6 million people who would suddenly lose a benefit that they've come to value highly. This would cause a huge backlash. It's hard to say if this would be enough to move Congress to action, but I think this is nonetheless the basic lay of the land. Obamacare wouldn't be destroyed, it would merely be taken away from a lot of people who are currently benefiting from it. They'd fight to get it back, and that changes the political calculus.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Top Stories Tue, 22 Jul 2014 18:54:34 +0000 Kevin Drum 256756 at http://www.motherjones.com An Extreme Court Decision Threatens Obamacare http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/07/halbig-burwell-dc-circuit-court-obamacare <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Talk about a David and Goliath case. On Monday, a guy from West Virginia who doesn't want to pay $21 a year for health insurance scored a victory over the Obama administration in a lawsuit that could deprive nearly 5 million Americans of their newly won health care.</p> <p>In a 2-1 decision, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit sided with plaintiff David Klemencic and gutted a key provision of the Affordable Care Act that provides premium subsidies to millions of low-income Americans. The decision in <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/documents/1225631-halbig-dccircuit-20140722" target="_blank"><em>Halbig v Burwell</em></a>, a case spearheaded by a battery of conservative groups who backed Klemencic and his co-plaintiffs (<a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2013/12/dc-appellate-court-hear-latest-aca-attack" target="_blank">many of whom are GOP political operatives)</a>, is based on what is essentially a typo in the ACA. The opinion is a symptom of what happens when a dysfunctional Congress can't manage to do even the simplest part of its job, such as correcting routine drafting errors in legislation.</p> <p>Hours later, though, a federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, issued a diametrically opposed decision affirming Obamacare and perhaps setting up a future battle before the Supreme Court.</p> <p>Here's the backstory, <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2013/12/dc-appellate-court-hear-latest-aca-attack" target="_blank">as I reported last winter</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>When Congress wrote the ACA, it said that premium subsidies would be available for certain qualifying citizens who were "enrolled through an Exchange <strong>established by the State</strong>." (Emphasis added.) The law doesn't say that those subsidies are available to people in the 34 states that declined to set up exchanges, where residents must utilize the now-infamously buggy Healthcare.gov, the <em>federal </em>exchange.</p> <p>That's where Obamacare&nbsp;opponents see a fatal flaw in the law. The plaintiffs in <em>Halbig</em> claim&nbsp;that they won't be eligible for tax credits because their states didn't start an exchange, so they won't be able to afford insurance. As a result, they argue that they'll be subject to the fine for not buying insurance, or to avoid the fine, they'll have to pay a lot for insurance they don't want. They want&nbsp;the court to block the IRS from implementing the law...</p> <p>The Obama administration argues that the language Halbig's case is premised on is merely a&nbsp;drafting error common in legislation and routinely reconciled after passage. (Indeed, if Congress were functioning normally, such copy mistake would have been corrected by now, but given the level of polarization in that body, it's been impossible to make such fixes that were once routine.)&nbsp;An <a href="http://www.scribd.com/doc/185463077/Nov-12-Brief-of-Amicus-Curiae-Families-USA" target="_blank">amicus brief in the case</a> filed by Families USA, a nonprofit health care advocacy group helping the administration combat some of the bad PR surrounding Obamacare, argues that the plaintiffs are disregarding the vast body of evidence showing that Congress intended for all low-income Americans to be eligible for tax subsidies, regardless of which exchange they used to purchase insurance.&nbsp;</p> </blockquote></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2014/07/halbig-burwell-dc-circuit-court-obamacare"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics Congress Health Care Top Stories Tue, 22 Jul 2014 18:43:04 +0000 Stephanie Mencimer 256711 at http://www.motherjones.com A 70-Year-Old Reflects On the So-Called "American Century" http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/07/tom-engelhardt-reflect-american-century <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><em>This <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175870/" target="_blank">story</a> first appeared on the </em><a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/" target="_blank">TomDispatch</a><em> website.</em></p> <p>* Seventy-three years ago, on February 17, 1941, as a second devastating global war approached, Henry Luce, the publisher of <em>Time</em> and <em>Life</em> magazines, <a href="http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article6139.htm">called on</a> his countrymen to "create the first great American Century." Luce died in 1967 at age 69. <em>Life</em>, the pictorial magazine no home would have been without in my 1950s childhood, <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_%28magazine%29">ceased</a> to exist as a weekly in 1972 and as a monthly in 2000; <em>Time</em>, which launched his career as a media mogul, is still <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/09/business/media/time-inc-to-set-a-lonely-course-after-a-spinoff.html">wobbling on</a>, a shadow of its former self. No one today could claim that this is <em>Time</em>'s century, or the American Century, or perhaps anyone else's. Even the greatest empires now seem to have shortened lifespans. The Soviet Century, after all, barely lasted seven decades. Of course, only the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/08/world/europe/florence-green-last-world-war-i-veteran-dies-at-110.html">rarest</a> among us live to be 100, which means that at 70, like <em>Time</em>, I'm undoubtedly beginning to wobble, too.</p> <p>* The other day I sat down with an old friend, a law professor who started telling me about his students. What he said aged me instantly. They're so young, he pointed out, that their parents didn't even come of age during the Vietnam War. For them, he added, that war is what World War I was to us. He might as well have mentioned the Mongol conquests or the War of the Roses. We're talking about the white-haired guys riding in the open cars in Veteran's Day parades when I was a boy. And now, it seems, I'm them.</p> <p><a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com" target="_blank"><span class="inline inline-left"><img alt="" class="image image-preview" height="33" src="http://motherjones.com/files/images/tdispatch-notch.jpg" title="" width="100"></span></a></p> <p>* In March 1976, accompanied by two friends, my wife and I got married at City Hall in San Francisco, and then adjourned to a Chinese restaurant for a dim sum lunch. If, while I was settling our bill of perhaps $30, you had told me that, almost half a century in the future, marriage would be an annual <a href="http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/02/12/182794/how-pinterest-powers-charlottes.html">$40 billion dollar</a> business, that official couplings would be preceded by elaborate bachelor and bachelorette parties, and that there would be such a thing as <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/travel/destination-weddings-blessing-or-burden/2011/06/30/gIQABf1f3H_story.html">destination weddings</a>, I would have assumed you were clueless about the future. On that score at least, the nature of the world to come was self-evident and elaborate weddings of any sort weren't going to be part of it.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/politics/2014/07/tom-engelhardt-reflect-american-century"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Politics Tom Dispatch Tue, 22 Jul 2014 17:39:30 +0000 Tom Engelhardt 256611 at http://www.motherjones.com The (Possibly) Frightening Implications of the Halbig Case http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/possibly-frightening-implications-halbig-case <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>In the <em>Halbig</em> case that struck down subsidies on federal Obamacare exchanges earlier today, one of the key issues was deference to agency interpretation of the law. Longstanding precedent holds that courts should generally defer to agency interpretations as long as they're plausible. They don't have to be perfect. They don't even have to be the best possible interpretations. They merely have to make sense.</p> <p>The DC circuit court decided that there really wasn't any serious ambiguity in the law, and therefore no deference was due to the IRS's interpretation that state and federal exchanges were meant to be treated the same. The dissent was scathing about this, since the record pretty clearly showed tons of ambiguity. So if and when this case makes it up to the Supreme Court, what's going to happen? A lawyer buddy of mine is pessimistic:</p> <blockquote> <p>Sadly, I think the Supreme Court will eagerly uphold the challenge because it gets to an issue that conservatives have generally despised: deference to administrative agencies' interpretation of statutes.</p> <p>It's long been a fundamental principle in administrative law that an agency's interpretation of a federal statute that they are charged with enforcing is entitled to judicial deference, unless such deference is unreasonable. Conservatives would prefer that courts not defer to the government because #biggovernment. Thus, they want to weaken the deference standard and <em>Halbig</em> gives them basically a two-fer. Or a three-fer since the agency interpreting the statute is the IRS: Take out Obamacare, knock back the deference standard, and punch the IRS. This invariably will help advance the conservatives' legal goals because with a lower deference standard, their eccentric theories (such as on tax issues) have a better chance of surviving.</p> <p>In normal times, the deference standard would likely be left intact because weakening it raises serious issues with government enforcement across all agencies, and courts are loath to send the country into a tailspin. But those days are apparently long past. Truly frightening times.</p> </blockquote> <p>So what's next? <a href="http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2014/07/22/breaking-fourth-circuit-panel-unanimously-upholds-obamacare-subsidies-for-all-eligible-purchasers/" target="_blank">In breaking news,</a> the Fourth Circuit court has just upheld the federal subsidies in Obamacare, ruling squarely on deference grounds&mdash;and disagreeing completely with the DC circuit opinion, which held that the legislative language in Obamacare was clear and plain. In fact, said the Fourth Circuit, the statute <em>is</em> ambiguous, and therefore the court owes deference to the IRS interpretation. This is good news for Obamacare, especially if today's DC circuit decision by a three-judge panel is overturned by the full court, thus giving the government two appellate court wins. If that happens, it's even possible that the Supreme Court would decline to hear an appeal and simply leave the lower court opinions in place.</p> <p>But I'd say an eventual Supreme Court date still seems likely. There's no telling if my friend's read of the politico-legal climate among the Supreme Court's conservative majority is correct, but I thought it was worth sharing.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Supreme Court Tue, 22 Jul 2014 17:07:36 +0000 Kevin Drum 256726 at http://www.motherjones.com