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April 19, 2012 1:59 pm

The Amend Corner: Presidential goofs, broccoli, standing your ground and taxes

Written by Don Amend

With all the stuff in the news these days, it’s a little difficult to focus on one subject for this column. So here are a few musings about this and that.
Republicans have been rejoicing over President Obama’s mistaken statement that the Supreme Court has “never overturned a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically-elected Congress.” The president obviously didn’t do all his homework before making that statement.


There’s a little irony here, though, since conservatives have been complaining that the justices shouldn’t overturn acts of Congress that they like since Earl Warren was Chief Justice half a century ago. They’ve even gotten a bit vicious about it, such as preacher Pat Robertson’s pronouncement that we should pray for the death of liberal justices a few years ago. Had Obama only proclaimed that the court shouldn’t overturn such an act, rather than asserting that they never had done so, he would have sounded just like a Republican when he made his speech, which should have bothered Democrats at least a little bit.
In any case, Obama’s mistake is only one of many errors you’ll hear between now and November, and it’s probably not the most outrageous one you’ll hear.
Staying on subject of the Supreme Court hearing on the Health Care law, it’s rather disconcerting that Justice Scalia can’t tell the difference between broccoli and health insurance.
Well, for the esteemed justice’s benefit, I would offer two differences.
Have you ever heard of a broccoli emergency, in which someone unexpectedly had to have broccoli immediately or die? That’s a pretty common occurrence in the health care market, which is one reason why it’s a good idea to buy health insurance, and why the government will never require you to buy broccoli.
Then there’s this: If you do need broccoli, you can just go down and buy it. The guy at the grocery store will be happy to sell you all you want. He won’t check into your previous use of broccoli and decide you’ve eaten too much in the past, so he has to double the price, or even refuse to sell you any broccoli at all.
Health insurance companies certainly aren’t going to act that way.
I hope that helps Justice Scalia, and if he needs more differences, I can probably think of a lot more.
Then there’s the controversy down in Florida over the shooting of a young man by an over-zealous neighborhood watch volunteer who thought the young man looked suspicious. The shooter, George Zimmerman, claimed he shot Trayvon Martin in self defense. He was not initially arrested because, under Florida law, you don’t have to back down when you’re threatened and can use deadly force if you think you’re in danger of death or serious injury.
Now, this incident has a racial element, but since Zimmerman was following Martin, even though when he called the police, he was told not to do so, that’s not the real question. The big question is whether this law works both ways.
Think about it — if you were walking down a dark street and some guy started following you, would you feel threatened? Did Martin, who apparently told his girlfriend on the phone that he was worried about this guy who was, in effect, stalking him, have the right to “stand his ground?” Didn’t Martin have the right to use deadly force to defend himself against Zimmerman, who was carrying a deadly weapon?
So, if Martin had been carrying a weapon, and upon noticing that Zimmerman was armed, beat him to the draw, would the police who responded let him go the same way they, at first, let Zimmerman go?
And whatever your answer, think about this: Do we Americans want to live in a society where this kind of shooting can happen?
One final observation. Tuesday was apparently Tax Day in more ways than one. Not only was it the deadline for filing your 1040, it was also “Tax Freedom Day.” That’s the day, according to a national lobbying organization, that the average person has earned enough money to pay all his taxes, federal, state and local. In other words, they say, I have worked nearly one-third of the year just to pay all those taxes.
I have two questions about that. A decade or so ago, that same organization set that date about three weeks later, in early May. The earlier date, the result of the tax cuts passed during the Bush administration, is proof that taxes are lower than they were a decade ago.
So why didn’t those cuts prevent the big recession, and why should I believe even lower taxes will get us out of it?
My second question has an easier answer. When do all of us stop enjoying the benefits of those taxes, such as military defense, police protection, irrigation water and recreation provided by federal and state water projects, drivable highways and state and federal parks to drive to, education in public schools and universities, and thousands of other benefits?
Think about that question in December when you’re enjoying a Panther basketball game, watching your grandkids in an elementary Christmas program, flying off to visit family under the guidance of federal air traffic controllers, or watching city workers haul away the trash generated by opening all those presents, and the answer to the question is obvious.
It’s Dec. 31.

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