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Happy Gay Marriage Day

August 5th, 2010 No comments

Liberals can celebrate a big victory in the so-called “Culture War” today, as a federal judge in California ruled that Propostion 8, which bans same-sex marriage, is unconstitutional.

The gay community, as well as those of us who care about civil rights, ought to thank former rivals Ted Olson and David Boies for coming together and making the case that moral prejudice is not sufficient grounds to deny a certain group of people their equal rights under the constitution. The judge listened to the arguments and agreed with what I’ve been saying, that there is no logically-defensible argument for banning gay marriage.

Now we’ll have to bite our nails until the case makes it to the ultra-conservative U.S. Supreme Court, where we risk a proclamation that gay marriage is not protected by the Constitution—a ruling which could take decades to undo. But just because the current SCOTUS leans heavily toward the right doesn’t mean it’s hopeless. They certainly rule in favor of big corporations against the little guy in every single case that comes before them, but the big corporations don’t really have a dog in this fight.

Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, and Alito will likely vote to overturn the California ruling, while Ginsberg, Breyer, Sotomayor and [presumably] Kagan will vote for it. That leaves Anthony Kennedy, who has a history of ruling in favor of gay rights. That’s 5-4 in our favor.

But that’s not to say we should rest easy. As recently as 2009, the SCOTUS ruled in Stafford v. Redding that schools are allowed to strip-search children, and the big corporations didn’t have a dog in that fight either. Plus, extending Partner’s Benefits to gay couples could cost Big Health Insurance some money, so that’s also some cause for concern.

In any case, this is a step in the right direction. Whether or not the Supreme Court sends us ten steps back in a few years, gay rights advocates have at least earned the right to celebrate for now.

The Unemployment Truth

August 5th, 2010 No comments

Everyone knows the economy is awful and the unemployment level is terribly high—somewhere around 10%. That’s what we hear on the news all the time because that’s the unofficial employment index, which counts everyone who reported looking for work in the last four weeks.

Well it turns out that the reality is even worse. Obviously not every single unemployed person reports looking for work. The official number doesn’t include those who have given up looking for work, and it doesn’t include the underemployed—people with part-time jobs that don’t cover all their expenses.

The Bureau of Labor statistic takes a measurement which takes these people into account, and this chart shows the difference between that figure (U-6) and what the government reports:

When you take the underemployed and the discouraged into account, the number turns out to be somewhere around 17%. Not just one-in-ten, but nearly one-in-five Americans are out of work or in need of more work.

And it gets worse:

The truth is that even the broader measure of unemployment doesn’t fully capture how difficult the job market is for U.S. workers. It doesn’t include self-employed workers whose incomes have shriveled. It doesn’t look at former full-time employees who have accepted short-term contracts, without benefits, and at a fraction of their former salaries. And it doesn’t count the many would-be workers who are going back to school, taking on more debt, in hopes that advanced degrees will improve their chances of landing jobs.

It really is a dismal state of affairs. And nobody is willing to do what’s necessary to fix it. Banks aren’t lending to the middle-class anymore because it seems a foregone conclusion that soon there won’t be a middle-class anymore but merely a two-tier society of super-rich and various degrees of poor.

If we had a president with some balls, he might raise taxes on the rich and try to reduce the ever-expanding wealth-disparity, but he’s too worried about losing campaign funding from the moneyed-interests so he won’t stand up and fight them. Either we do it ourselves, or we accept that America as it has existed since the end of WWII is dead and is never coming back.

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