50 shades of abuse: Book, movie set stage for future victims by Lauren Jones

50 shades of abuse: Book, movie set stage for future victims
by Lauren Jones The Marietta Daily Journal
February 17, 2015
Lauren Jones

Lauren Jones

He was perfect and he wanted me.

He was debonair and handsome. He knew all the right things to say and do. He made me feel beautiful, something I rarely felt. He drove a really nice car and had an impeccable appearance. He was smart, my God, was he brilliant. He was a 21-year-old naval officer, training to be a pilot. He was king and I was his queen at the proverbial masquerade ball; it was a fast and furious romance. And though I wasn’t Anastasia Steele, the main character in “Fifty Shades of Grey,” he was my Christian Grey.

And he was the reason why, five months later, I spent the night in a domestic violence shelter in Corpus Christi with a broken eardrum and dried blood still caked in the creases of my nose.

The film “Fifty Shades of Grey,” based on the novel series by E.L. James, (was released) on Valentine’s Day, and I am afraid. I am very afraid of the violent chaos the impact of this film is all but guaranteed to cause in our culture.

The main characters in “Fifty Shades” fit all the criteria of a very abusive relationship, but the story ends well. In real life, relationships that follow that same pattern usually end with several people in therapy trying to rebuild their spirits, if they’re not yet in the ground.

I am afraid that women all over the world and especially young, adolescent women have come to view Mr. Grey as Mr. Right and are seeking him, while at the same time risking their lives.

THE PREDATOR’S GAME

Dating and domestic violence is one person in a relationship using control and manipulation to dominate the other person. It is a degrading pattern of abusive behavior that isolates someone and objectifies them by denying them their personal dignity and freedom.

The truth is, when you’re young and have little experience in romance, you’re developing your own ideas of what relationships are supposed to be like. This makes one vulnerable and impressionable. So reading books and consuming media such as “Fifty Shades” can have serious repercussions on people in romantic relationships.

Some of the major warning signs of DV are: isolation, intimidation, excessive jealousy and possessiveness, stalking, your partner having a bad/unpredictable temper, feeling emotionally helpless, nervousness, your partner controlling what you do, where you go, what you wear, who you interact with. The list goes on.

Within the first four chapters of “Fifty Shades,” we see Grey stalk Ana twice — once showing up at her workplace, despite her never having told him where she works, and another time showing up at a bar where she is with her friends.

We later learn that Grey is tracking Ana via her cellphone. He also attempts to coerce her into signing a contract that prohibits her from talking about him or their relationship to anyone.

He becomes insanely jealous after he sees her talking to one of her male friends, then leaves her without any explanation, essentially punishing her. So you have excessive jealousy, stalking, bad temper and isolation on a silver platter in those examples, and there are more-severe examples later on in the story.

The character of Christian Grey perfectly exhibits predator behavior.

He preys on Ana, interpreting right off the bat because of the way she carries herself that she has low self-esteem, is shy and inexperienced, yet smart.

He makes a game of pushing her limits and, throughout the series, enjoys watching both sides of her conscience play tug o’ war with whether or not she will succumb to his dominance.

A TRICKY POSITION

There seems to be some confusion regarding the abusive relationship in “Fifty Shades” and BDSM (bondage, dominance, sadism and masochism). The abusive behaviors in the relationship and BDSM are not mutually inclusive. BDSM is a subculture of intimacy that explores kinky sexual techniques but has very strict rules regarding consent and communication.

Both parties have very, very clear communication rules as to what their limits are, and those limits are fiercely respected. Trust and clear communication are the foundation stones in any intimate relationship, handcuffs or no handcuffs.

BDSM experts have spoken out since “Fifty Shades” hit the shelves, about the abysmal portrayal of BDSM in the story. Grey has antagonized and intimidated Ana to the point that she is afraid to openly communicate with him, and his instillation of fear in her is one of the things that makes that relationship so abusive. She can’t communicate whether or not she consents to the nature of their intimacy.

Emma Green, assistant managing editor of The Atlantic, wrote in her article, “Consent isn’t Enough: the Troubling Sex in Fifty Shades,” that “Bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, and sadism are ‘varsity-level’ sex activities, as the sex columnist Dan Savage might say, and they require a great deal of self-knowledge, communication skill, and education. ‘Fifty Shades’ eroticizes sexual violence, but without any of the emotional maturity and communication required to make it safe.”

Furthermore, to excuse Grey’s behavior because we learn later he was abused as a child is dangerous. While it gives insight into his behaviors, it does not make them acceptable. He should have gotten more intensive therapy about his abuse years before the book even started. Though statistically their chances are higher, it is dangerous to suggest that all victims of child abuse grow up to be abusers or the abused.

We do not let a child-raper off the hook because he or she was molested as a child, therefore we should not sweep Grey’s behaviors under the rug, either.

A HAPPIER ENDING

The first thing an abuser does is completely charm and seduce you. The second phase is to isolate you, and the final phase is to introduce violence into the relationship to see how you react.

This cycle is seamlessly followed in “Fifty Shades,” and what’s worse is that it has a happy ending. They ride off into the sunset at the end, happily married with a baby and all is well. This says to the emotionally vulnerable reader that with enough patience, love and understanding, we can change broken, abusive partners.

Nothing is further from the truth. The best thing you can do to change an abusive relationship is to get out of it. The best thing an abuser can do to change his or her behavior is to realize they have a problem and seek help for it.

My Christian Grey isolated me. He moved me from Georgia to Florida and then Texas to ensure I had no support system. He slowly introduced abuse into our relationship, calculatedly increased its severity, until I woke up one morning having fainted from blood loss to find myself locked in a house, being closely monitored to prevent my leaving. I managed to escape three days later, got to a domestic violence shelter, and eventually got home and started putting my life back together again.

I am afraid for the Anas out there, the current ones and the future ones who think “Fifty Shades” is an exciting method to spice up their love lives. Because I highly doubt E.L. James will write a fourth book in the series, depicting Ana trying to flee her relationship while trying to protect her baby from the abuse.

But that’s a story that happens every day.

Lauren Jones is the outreach advocate at the Hospitality House for Women Inc. in Rome and a freelance writer. Her email address is fvahhouse@gmail.com.

Copyright 2015 The Marietta Daily Journal. All rights reserved.

|
February 19, 2015
Saw my neighbor women reading the book at the pool, etc. and decided to see what the deal was. I thought it had and interesting idea, but by the time I got to the end, I had a bad taste in my mouth (no pun intended) not because of the sex (I’m no prude) but because it was such an abusive, strange and really DUMB relationship. I could see how it could screw you up if you were 18 and inexperienced.

The book series and movie are made for dumb women. Not thinking women. Sexual content notwithstanding.

*We welcome your comments on the stories and issues of the day and seek to provide a forum for the community to voice opinions. All comments are subject to moderator approval before being made visible on the website but are not edited. The use of profanity, obscene and vulgar language, hate speech, and racial slurs is strictly prohibited. Advertisements

Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal – 50 shades of abuse Book movie set stage for future victims

Posted in Breakdown of Marriage, Breakdown of the Family, Cultural Barometer, Society at Risk | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Fifty Shades of Grey: Legitimizing Perversion by Jim Eckman

Fifty Shades of Grey: Legitimizing Perversion

Feb 28th, 2015 | By | Category: Culture & Wordview

In 2011, British author E.L. James self-published Fifty Shades of Grey.  Vintage Books acquired the publishing rights of the book and Hollywood released a movie adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey this Valentine’s Day.  The book and movie chart the fictional romance of a recent college graduate, Anastasia Steele, and billionaire businessman, Christian Grey.  In both the book and the movie are explicitly erotic scenes, which also feature sexual practices of BDSM (bondage/discipline, dominance/submission and sado/masochism).  Among other perverse aspects of the story is Christian’s insistence that Anastasia sign a “dominant/submissive contract,” which she eventually signs.  Amazingly, the book has sold over 100 million copies and the recently-released movie gives evidence of being a Hollywood success.  The phenomenon of the book and movie is energized by their appeal to women, who have bought the book in record numbers.  In short, one could make the case that Fifty Shades of Grey is female erotica/pornography in both narrative and visual form.

Any discussion of this cultural phenomenon must begin with two propositions:  (1)  We live in a Postmodern, Post-Christian civilization that embraces the absolute autonomy of the individual.  Combined with a radical pragmatism, this worldview maintains that what works for the autonomous individual is true and right for that individual.  There are no binding absolutes.  (2)  Genuine, biblical Christianity is by definition countercultural.  As Jesus’ disciples, we identify with the culture in which Christ places us, but separate from its evils; all the while seeking to be the agents of God’s transforming grace.  These two propositions collide when discussing Fifty Shades of Grey.  Since the Postmodern, Post-Christian worldview is firmly anchored in mid-air, when considering human sexuality, confusion naturally results.  We live in a culture that has distorted and perverted the beauty and fulfillment of the one-flesh union so central to God’s Creation Ordinance (Genesis 1-2) and to Paul’s principles detailed in 1 Corinthians 7:1-10.  Technology, the media and the assumptions of the secular, Postmodern worldview have enabled humans to create their own fantasy world when it comes to sexuality.

When problems develop, the therapeutic culture avoids any mention of sin and merely affirms that “you are okay.”  The result is the ruinous dysfunction of practices that undermine the one-flesh, complementary union between a husband and wife within the protective security of marriage:  (1)  The dysfunction of adultery causes another person to intrude into the one-flesh union, so central to God’s design.  It thereby completely destroys the trust in that union.  Adultery violates the 7th commandment (Exodus 20:14) and Jesus’ interpretation and application of that commandment in Matthew 5:27-28.  To build a hedge of protection around marriage, Jesus calls for the sanctification of the heart—because a disordered heart, leads to a disordered life, which produces a disordered culture.  Adultery is finally a grotesque violation of Ephesian 5:32.  (2)  The dysfunction of pornography (“adultery of the heart”).  Because it fosters a lust-filled fantasy world that entices and deceives but never fulfills, pornography flouts Jesus’ warning about lustful intent (Matthew 5:28).  Accordingly it distorts reality, creates long-lasting, harmful memories and can destroy meaningful intimacy within marriage.  It likewise dehumanizes other humans, treating them as lustful objects of pleasure.

The Fifty Shades sexual fantasy takes the sexual revolution in Western Civilization to a perverse end of radical libertinism that, in the words of columnist Ross Douthat, “is about ushering in a society where everyone can freely love and take pleasure in anyone and anything they want.  But viewed from another angle, that same revolution looks more like a permission slip for the strong and privileged to prey upon the weak and easily exploited. ”  The absurdity of Fifty Shades is that Christian Grey is a man who will “first dominate you but ultimately love you—providing that, like Anastasia Steele, you’re careful to sign a rigorously detailed contract detailing how much domination you’ll take.”  But such perversion is an assault upon human dignity and beauty so central to God’s Creation Ordinance.  This phenomenon also constitutes an abandonment and loss of shame as a culture, “an act of defiance against the goodness of the gift of sex as granted to humanity by God [and] . . . an assault upon the dignity of every human being.”  American culture seems to view Fifty Shades as cultural progress; it is not!  It is evidence of cultural deterioration and decline.

The corrective is a review of our Creator’s view of marriage and sexuality.  The Creation Ordinance of God clearly connects the “image of God” concept with gender and human sexuality (“male and female He created them”, Gen. 1:26-27) and the institution of marriage and the family (Genesis 2:18-25):  Marriage, as a “one-flesh” union, is monogamous, heterosexual and establishes a covenantal relationship (see Malachi 2:14).  It is also an archetype of Christ’s relationship with His church (Ephesian 5:32).  But what does this “one-flesh” union look like?  In 1 Corinthians 7:1-10, the Apostle Paul provides the answer.  Paul is addressing a church centered in a pagan, sex-saturated culture, not at all unlike our own.  Some in the Corinthian church had swung to the other side of the spectrum and were now arguing that Christians should all be celibate.  While recognizing the spiritual gift of celibacy for those not married, Paul emphatically says that, in Christ, sexual intercourse is central to the one-flesh union of marriage; celibacy is not an option in marriage.  He articulates three guiding principles:  (1)  The principle of mutual reciprocity, vv.1-2.  Paul intentionally mentions both the husband and the wife, indicating that intimacy is not only for the husband; it is also for the wife.  (2)  The principle of mutual rights, v. 3.  There is an obligation, a duty for both the husband and the wife in the marriage bed.  This principle clearly argues against using sex as a weapon, or as a tool for manipulation and control in a marriage.  The moment we say “I do,” as equal partners in this complementary relationship, we realize it is no longer just about me; it is about us!  We have conjugal rights and obligations that transcend a self-centered approach to intimacy.  (3)  The principle of mutual authority, v. 4.  As complementary partners, we no longer have authority over our own bodies; our bodies are an extension of our spouse.  We belong to each other.  There is now a shared, mutual concern for the well-being, health and ownership of our respective bodies.  We are truly a one-flesh union.  Finally, marriage serves a protective function, keeping and shielding us as partners from the immorality and sexual temptation of a self-indulgent, extra-marital ethic of sex so pervasive in culture (see vv. 5-10).  Sexual intimacy within the marriage bond is intended by God to manifest the joy and fulfillment of other-centered sexual expression and love between a husband and wife.  It is the ultimate expression of femininity and masculinity within the marriage bond.  Sexual intimacy also enhances and strengthens the marriage roles so clearly pronounced in Ephesians 5:22-32 and Colossians 3:18-19.  The Song of Solomon and Proverbs 5:15-19 represent poetic expressions of sexual intimacy in the one-flesh union God creates in marriage.  They are to be read, enjoyed and celebrated by both sexual partners in a God-centered, Ephesians 5:32 marriage!  Fifty Shades of Grey bears no resemblance whatsoever to this ideal.  It is a selfish, self-centered, self-indulgent perversion of something beautiful, good and precious.

Posted in Breakdown of Marriage, Breakdown of the Family, Cultural Barometer, Death of Western Culture, Dr. James P. Eckman, God's Order for His Creation, Humanism, Not Following God's Plan, Postmodernism, Progressives, Society at Risk, Worldview | Tagged , | Leave a comment

JAY COST: POLITICAL CORRUPTION IS WHY OUR TAX CODE IS A MESS

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Jay Cost’s new book “A Republic No More: Big Government and the Rise of American Political Corruption,” which is available now at Amazon.com.

With a new, all-Republican Congress now seated for the first time since 2007, tax reform is once again a top issue. House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan — the GOP’s most valuable legislator — has made it a priority.

Tax reform is long past due. Almost everybody agrees that United States’ corporate tax code is an embarrassment. Inefficient and unfair, it distorts the free flow of capital from its most useful destinations, and showers indefensible benefits upon politically connected businesses. Bipartisan reform that broadens the base by closing loopholes, coupled with an across-the-board lowering of rates, would benefit the nation enormously.

Unfortunately, near-universal consensus is not enough. In truth, tax reform is hotly opposed by important agents. First, there are the interest groups that lobby hard to get tax loopholes embedded in the law. Second, there are the professional politicians, especially in Congress, who abuse the taxing power to extract campaign contributions, public support, and cushy jobs for when they leave office. These agents worked hard to create our mess of a tax code; they will work twice as hard to keep it that way.

Thus, the main challenge for reformers is not so much ideological conflict, partisan gridlock, or public indifference. Rather, the impediment is best understood as political corruption — or politicians who put narrow factions of interest groups ahead of the public good. If tax reform is (finally) going to become a reality, reformers have to treat the problem accordingly.

****

Public support of private business has a very august pedigree in our nation. No less an eminence than Alexander Hamilton laid out the original case for why the federal government in particular should worry about economic development. In the Report on Manufactures (1791) Hamilton proposes lending public assistance to the search for private profit, in the belief that, over the long run, the benefits would accrue to society at large.

Today, both political parties essentially adhere to this view. Though the partisan rancor often generates a lot of heat, the main difference between them has more to do with emphases rather than first principles. Republicans prefer to expand programs like the Small Business Administration; Democrats like investments in green technology.

On paper, this often reads as noble and quite high-minded. Hamilton’s prose in the Reportis the literary embodiment of earnestness, and the quadrennial platforms of the Republican and Democratic parties brim with confidence about all the great ways they can develop the economy.

However, in practice Hamiltonian economic stimulus lends itself to corruption. Our government can never quite live up to Hamilton’s ideal. It is simply not capable of selecting economic winners in a socially responsible manner.

And yet Uncle Sam continues to try, blithely assuming that he can do something that in fact he cannot. Nowadays this means that government support of business creates a wide-ranging, patchwork, and occasionally bizarre system of corruption. That is, under the guise of developing the economy in general, it has wasted untold billions of dollars funneling money to politically well-placed factions that offer a questionable return on the investment.

The tax code, through tax expenditures and leakage via aggressive tax sheltering, amounts to the largest kind of corporate payoff with the most far-reaching effects.

****

Corporate tax expenditures have been roughly constant, at least when measured as a share of GDP for the last thirty years. In 1985, they were nearly 2 percent of GDP; they fell to 1 percent in 1988 and have more or less remained there ever since. This is good news, but only in a modest sense. The Tax Reform Act (TRA) of 1986 eliminated only the most politically vulnerable expenditures. Many still remain—more than eighty according to the Government Accountability Office, at a total annual cost of about $150 billion in foregone revenue—and many are of dubious social value. A few of the minor expenditures are quite eye-popping for their absurdity:

  • The “Apple Loophole” allows U.S. multinationals to defer taxes on certain passive incomes like royalties earned by foreign subsidiaries. By creating subsidiaries in Ireland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and the Virgin Islands, Apple has used this to reduce its tax burden substantially.
  • In 2004, Congress allowed a complete write-off of the purchase price of a professional sports team in just fifteen years. This prompted one wag to joke, “Does a sports franchise depreciate in value?” Of course not. It is merely a payoff to franchise owners.
  • The Historic Preservation Tax Credit offered $27 million for investors to fund a microbrewery at an old Coca-Cola plant in St. Louis.
  • Hollywood can deduct up to $15 million to produce television episodes where 75 percent of the compensation is for work done in the United States.
  • Logging companies can deduct up to $10,000 in reforestation expenses per unit of property. This may not sound like much, but its estimated ten-year cost is $4.8 billion.

Tax breaks like this make for good headlines when one wants to write about the absurdity of the tax code. Still, they are not the main drivers of the corporate tax expenditure budget. The most expensive, far and away, is accelerated depreciation. It accounts for more than 40 percent of all corporate tax expenditures. Businesses are allowed to deduct the cost of machinery, software, buildings, and more at a rate much faster than they actually lose their value. Thus, it amounts to a subsidy for businesses, particularly capital-intensive ones. A review of extant scholarly studies conducted by the Congressional Research Service concludes that bonus depreciation “in general is a relatively ineffective tool for stimulating the economy.”

Accounting for about 20 percent of corporate tax expenditures is the foreign income exclusion. Foreign income is subject to U.S. income tax when it is repatriated through payment of dividends to the parent corporation, minus a credit for taxes paid overseas. In some sense, this is necessary to create a fair tax base—corporations should not have to be taxed twice (once by the United States, once by a foreign government)—but this has become the backbone for expansive schemes to avoid any and all taxation.

Accounting for about 5 percent of total corporate tax expenditures is a research tax credit. In theory this may be a good idea, but research is an ambiguous concept in the tax code. Creative accountants have helped corporations take advantage of this, for instance by redesigning food wrappers and calling the effort research.

Finally, accounting for 3 percent of corporate tax expenditures is the active financing loophole, often called the “GE Loophole.” This allows corporations to defer taxes on some financial income that was really earned in the United States, but was shifted overseas. It is called the GE Loophole because GE’s financing arm, GE Capital, makes such heavy use of it.

One study from the Tax Foundation concludes that of the estimated $150 billion spent on corporate expenditures in 2014, about $45 billion was properly corporate welfare, or subsidies to corporations. The rest was spent to make the code more neutral toward different types of income.

But the trouble does not end there. In fact, the GE and Apple Loopholes point to a much bigger problem in the tax code, which the conventional understanding of tax expenditures only captures to a limited extent. That is, multinational firms can move profits around overseas to avoid paying federal taxes. In theory, corporations should not have to pay taxes on income earned overseas; they should pay it to the foreign government under which it was generated. Yet multinational companies use a whole host of artifices and tax shelters to shift domestic profits overseas. Meanwhile, it is virtually impossible for the federal government, with its existing tax laws and enforcement assets, at any rate, to assess how much is actually owed.

This problem is often called leakage, and it could cost up to another $150 billion in lost tax revenue per year. By most accounts, it has gotten worse over the last twenty years. In particular, there has been a marked increase in corporate tax sheltering practices. Multinational corporations create shelters that span the globe, often housing money in countries like the Cayman Islands that are actively seeking tax refugees.  A recent study found that a handful of tiny countries book profits from U.S. subsidiaries that dwarf their GDP. Profits booked in Bermuda amounted to 1,643 percent of its GDP; in the Cayman Islands, 1,600 percent; in the Virgin Islands, 1,102 percent; in the Bahamas, 123 percent; in Luxembourg, 106 percent; and in Ireland, 42 percent. Moreover, a 2011 investigation by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs found that roughly half of the more than $500 billion in corporate earnings housed overseas was in fact invested in domestic financial institutions.

****

Tax experts have been complaining about this kind of spending for nearly a century. As early as the 1920s, they were warning about various forms of leakage in the tax code. There were similar complaints in the 1940s, ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s, with various, unsuccessful attempts to reform the code. Today, just a quarter century after the TRA, experts are saying once again that the tax code needs to be rationalized.

So, if the tax code is an unfair, inefficient, and socially harmful mess that almost every disinterested expert has despised for nearly a century, why has it not been substantially reformed? The answer is the same reason so many of the policies that we have studied persist: political corruption. In fact, tax expenditures are a way to tinker with the tax code to favor factions in society: the government sets broad-based rates that it largely leaves unchanged over the decades, then sets up exceptions for well-placed interest groups. This is more important to our government than creating a fair, efficient tax code.

The principal culprit here is Congress. The legislature can choose to delegate responsibility to the bureaucracy, and has often done so on other matters, but it has retained primary authority over the income tax code because it is so politically useful. It is a noticeable and direct way to funnel money to preferred interest groups, which realize immediately that they have received a bounty and can easily credit Congress for securing it.

Moreover, the balance of pressures placed upon Congress is uniquely tilted toward favoritism. In the field of industrial regulation, for example, there is often a battle between environmental groups and industry groups. This is far from a guarantee that the public interest will prevail, but the competition is at least helpful for that purpose. There is really no such competition over taxes. When Congress elects to give an industry a special tax break, who really loses? The public at large, but in such an indirect and imperceptible way that nobody really notices, which means there are no interest groups that emerge to oppose the payoff. There are public-spirited groups that fight for tax reform—think tanks like the Heritage Foundation on the right and Citizens for Tax Justice on the left—but they are seriously out-matched.

To see how influence peddling works in practice, consider the fight over the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981. Campaigning in 1980, Ronald Reagan advocated lower income tax rates for all payers, believing that this would help producers create more and investors better direct capital to productive ends. Business-specific corporate tax expenditures (or loopholes) were not at the top of his list; however they were a major priority for corporate America. It organized aggressively during this period to expand the investment tax credit created during the Kennedy years and also to speed up (already accelerated) depreciation. The famed Carlton Group, formed in 1978, was a loose collection of lobbyists that included the business community’s heaviest hitters. It met every Tuesday morning at the Sheraton-Carlton Hotel in Washington to plot strategy on how to enact its 10-5-3 proposal, which would reduce the timeframe of depreciation to ten years for buildings, five years for equipment, and three years for vehicles.

Reagan quickly found himself embracing new corporate tax expenditures. The reason was that congressional Democrats, led by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Rostenkowski, were drafting an alternative tax plan that did not reduce rates as much as Reagan wanted; rather, it was extremely favorable to businesses with its tax expenditure policies. Reagan had no choice but to counter the offers made by House Democrats, and soon both sides were locked in a bidding war for industry support. Eventually, congressional Democrats, belying their claims of populism against Reagan’s elitism, actually offered full expensing for business equipment. As Boston University political scientist Cathie Martin puts it: “Corporate tax benefits … became the medium of exchange for buying legislative support … [S]pecial interests played an extremely prominent role and more concessions were made than usual.”

Thirty-five years later, precious little has changed. Today, members of Ways and Means are thoroughly lobbied and showered with generous campaign cash. As of July 20, 2014, in the 2013–2014 election cycle, for instance, the average Ways and Means Committee member had already received $1.3 million in contributions from political action committees and individuals, more than any other average member on the other committees. This money does not go to waste. A team of researchers led by Matthew D. Hill of the University of Mississippi recently took a look at the influence of lobbying on corporate tax bills. They find “corporate tax lobbyers exhibit lower effective tax rates and greater book-tax differences.” In other words, these corporations are not wasting their money.

Money is but one piece of the puzzle. In 2014, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp released a tax reform proposal that was not expected to go anywhere during the 113th Congress, and yet it drew heavy attention from tax lobbyists. Similarly, a battle in 2014 to extend various business tax expenditures (like the GE Loophole) drew what one think tank calls an “army” of lobbyists. On the extender bill alone, 1,359 lobbyists attempted to contact members of Congress or their staff 12,378 times; 58 percent of these lobbyists had previously worked somewhere in the government.

****

This may just be “the way things work,” but it is not the way things are supposed to work. The Framers designed our government to place the public interest ahead of private, parochial concerns. When government behaves to the contrary, it is acting corruptly. The fact that we are inured to this misbehavior is merely an indicator that our tax code has been corrupt for a very long time.

So yes, reforms are overdue, but reformer cannot underestimate the challenge that they face. The divide is not primarily ideological. After all, the left and right came together for tax reform in 1986. Rather, the point of conflict is between the advocates of special interests and the rest of us. This is a fight, frankly, that the special interests usually win.

Posted in Abuse of Power, Death of a Nation, Economics, Government is Too Large, Government Waste, Politics, Shrink the Size of Government, Tax Abuse | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jonah Goldberg: Obama’s comparison of Christianity, radical Islam defies logic

Jonah Goldberg: Obama’s comparison of Christianity, radical Islam defies logic

President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, in Washington. Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, listen in the background. (AP Photo/Mandel Ngan, Pool)

On Feb. 3, the so-called Islamic State released a slickly produced video showing a Jordanian pilot being burned alive in a steel cage. On Feb. 4, the United Nations issued a report detailing various “mass executions of boys, as well as reports of beheadings, crucifixions of children and burying children alive” at the hands of the Islamic State.

And on Feb. 5, President Obama seized the opportunity of the National Prayer Breakfast to forthrightly criticize the “terrible deeds” … committed “in the name of Christ.”
“Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history,” Obama said, referring to the ennobling aspects of religion as well as the tendency of people to “hijack” religions towards murderous ends.

“And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”

<!– BEGIN JS TAG – Digital First 300×250 OH (FX)

Advertisement

Obama’s right. Terrible things have been done in the name of Christianity. I have yet to meet a Christian who denies this.

But, as odd as it may sound for a guy named Goldberg to point it out, the Inquisition and the Crusades aren’t the indictments Obama thinks they are. For starters, the Crusades — despite their terrible organized cruelties — were a defensive war.

“The Crusades could more accurately be described as a limited, belated and, in the last analysis, ineffectual response to the jihad — a failed attempt to recover by a Christian holy war what had been lost to a Muslim holy war,” writes Bernard Lewis, the greatest living English-language historian of Islam.

As for the Inquisition, it needs to be clarified that there was no single “Inquisition,” but many. And most were not particularly nefarious. For centuries, whenever the Catholic Church launched an inquiry or investigation, it mounted an “inquisition,” which means pretty much the same thing.

Historian Thomas Madden, director of the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Saint Louis University, writes that the “Inquisition was not born out of desire to crush diversity or oppress people; it was rather an attempt to stop unjust executions.”

In medieval Europe, heresy was a crime against the state, Madden explains. Local nobles, often greedy, illiterate and eager to placate the mob, gleefully agreed to execute people accused of witchcraft or some other forms of heresy. By the 1100s, such accusations were causing grave injustices (in much the same way that apparatchiks in Communist countries would level charges of disloyalty in order to have rivals “disappeared”).

“The Catholic Church’s response to this problem was the Inquisition,” Madden explains, “first instituted by Pope Lucius III in 1184.”

I cannot defend everything done under the various Inquisitions — especially in Spain — because some of it was indefensible. But there’s a very important point that needs to be made here that transcends scoring easy, albeit deserved, points against Obama’s approach to Islamic extremism — which he will not call Islamic. Christianity, even in its most terrible days, even under the most corrupt popes, even during the most unjustifiable wars, was indisputably a force for the improvement of man.

Christianity ended greater barbarisms under pagan Rome. The church often fell short of its ideals — which all human things do — but its ideals were indisputably a great advance for humanity.

Similarly, while some rationalized slavery and Jim Crow in the U.S. by invoking Christianity, it was ultimately the ideals of Christianity itself that dealt the fatal blow to those institutions. Just read any biography of Martin Luther King Jr. if you don’t believe me.

When Obama alludes to the evils of medieval Christianity, he fails to acknowledge the key word: “medieval.” What made medieval Christianity backward wasn’t Christianity but medievalism.

It is perverse that Obama feels compelled to lecture the West about not getting too judgmental on our “high horse” about radical Islam’s medieval barbarism in 2015 because of Christianity’s medieval barbarism in 1215.

It’s also insipidly hypocritical. President Obama can’t bring himself to call the Islamic State “Islamic,” but he’s happy to offer a sermon about Christianity’s alleged crimes at the beginning of the last millennium.

We are all descended from cavemen who broke the skulls of their enemies with rocks for fun or profit. But that hardly mitigates the crimes of a man who does the same thing today. I see no problem judging the behavior of the Islamic State and its apologists from the vantage point of the West’s high horse, because we’ve earned the right to sit in that saddle.

— Tribune Content Agency

About the Author

Posted in Christianity, Islam, Muslim, News and politics, Obama, religion | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Football and Family Dynamics by Evan Lenow

This week, ESPN released the results of a survey they conducted with 128 current and former NFL quarterbacks. Some of those surveyed include Super Bowl winners Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Joe Flacco, and Russell Wilson. Among the retired quarterbacks surveyed were Hall of Famers Joe Namath, Bob Griese, and Steve Young.

Some of the questions included in the survey considered typical football-related topics, such as when they first threw a football, if they played in a spread offense in high school, and if they attended an instructional camp to develop skills or be seen by scouts. But the most interesting results to me were the ones about their families.

Nearly 90% of the quarterbacks surveyed came from 2-parent households!

In addition, over two-thirds of them came from families of 3 or more children. Thus, it seems that the typical NFL quarterback (including some of the best of all time) comes from what would be considered a larger family with both parents. ESPN reports:

[A]ccording to the Child Trends Databank, ‘the number and type of parents (e.g. biological, step) in the household, as well as the relationship between the parents, are strongly linked to a child’s well-being.’ Our survey did not seek details beyond the number of parents in the household, but the overwhelming presence of two parents (nearly 90 percent) in quarterback homes outpaced the overall nation average.

NFL quarterbacks seem to be passing over the top of all the cultural trends. Almost 41% of all children born in the United States today are born to unwed mothers. 37% of families with children under 18 do not include married parents.

In addition, the typical American family has less than two children today, but the typical quarterback comes from a family with 3 or more children. Perhaps one could see this as an advantage to have more receivers to throw the ball to and more defenders to allow him to practice avoiding the rush. No matter how you look at it though, the successful quarterback at the highest level of football comes from a family that is no longer normal in the United States. Instead, they come from traditional married families with more than the average number of children.

I can’t tell you how many parents are convinced that their kids are going to play professional sports when they get older. Some have even limited the size of their families in order to pour their energy and resources into giving a child or two that special opportunity. Some might even be willing to sacrifice their marriages in order for a child to hit that big payday in the NFL. But it seems from this research that the best place to start a pro career is by throwing the ball to your brothers and sisters in the yard while your mom and dad lovingly look on.

Posted in Cultural Barometer | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

German-Americans The silent minority

America’s largest ethnic group has assimilated so well that people barely notice it

ON A snow-covered bluff overlooking the Sheboygan river stands the Waelderhaus, a faithful reproduction of an Austrian chalet. It was built by the Kohler family of Wisconsin in the 1920s as a tribute to the homeland of their father, John Michael Kohler, who had immigrated to America in 1854 at the age of ten.

John Michael moved to Sheboygan, married the daughter of another German immigrant, who owned the local foundry, and took over his father-in-law’s business. He transformed it from a maker of ploughshares into a plumbing business. Today Kohler is the biggest maker of loos and baths in America. Herbert Kohler, the boss (and grandson of the founder), has done so well selling tubs that he has been able to pursue his other passion—golf—on a grand scale. The Kohler Company owns Whistling Straits, the course that will host the Ryder Cup in 2020.

German-Americans are America’s largest single ethnic group (if you divide Hispanics into Mexican-Americans, Cuban-Americans, etc). In 2013, according to the Census bureau, 46m Americans claimed German ancestry: more than the number who traced their roots to Ireland (33m) or England (25m). In whole swathes of the northern United States, German-Americans outnumber any other group (see map). Some 41% of the people in Wisconsin are of Teutonic stock.

Yet despite their numbers, they are barely visible. Everyone knows that Michael Dukakis is Greek-American, the Kennedy clan hail from Ireland and Mario Cuomo was an Italian-American. Fewer notice that John Boehner, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Rand Paul, a senator from Kentucky with presidential ambitions, are of German origin.

Companies founded by German-Americans tend to play down their roots, too: think of Pfizer, Boeing, Steinway, Levi Strauss or Heinz. Buried somewhere on their websites may be a brief note that “Steinway & Sons was founded in 1853 by German immigrant Henry Engelhard Steinway in a Manhattan loft on Varick Street”. But firms that play up their Germanic history—as Kohler does, in a short film shown at the Waelderhaus—are rare.

German immigrants have flavoured American culture like cinnamon in an Apfelkuchen. They imported Christmas trees and Easter bunnies and gave America a taste for pretzels, hot dogs, bratwursts and sauerkraut. They built big Lutheran churches wherever they went. Germans in Wisconsin launched America’s first kindergarten and set up Turnvereine, or gymnastics clubs, in Milwaukee, Cincinnati and other cities.

After a failed revolution in Germany in 1848, disillusioned revolutionaries decamped to America and spread progressive ideas. “Germanism, socialism and beer makes Milwaukee different,” says John Gurda, a historian. Milwaukee is the only big American city that had Socialist mayors for several decades, of whom two, Emil Seidel and Frank Zeidler, were of German stock. As in so many other countries where Germans have settled, they have dominated the brewing trade. Beer barons such as Jacob Best, Joseph Schlitz, Frederick Pabst and Frederick Miller made Milwaukee the kind of city that more or less had to call its baseball team the Brewers.

“Germans were not part of the colonial aristocracy,” says Rüdiger Lentz, director of the Aspen Institute Germany. Many Italian and Polish immigrants were middle-class, and they quickly became politically active. German immigrants tended to be poor farmers, which is why they headed for the vast fertile spaces of the Midwest. “The Italians stormed the city halls; the Germans stormed the beer halls,” went the saying.

During the first world war, parts of America grew hysterically anti-German. Some Germans were spat at in the street. The teaching of their language was banned in schools. Sauerkraut was renamed “liberty cabbage”. German books were burned, dachshunds kicked and German-Americans forced to buy war bonds to prove their patriotism. When New Ulm, a predominantly German town in Minnesota, refused to let its young men join the draft, the National Guard was sent in. After the war, German-Americans hunkered down. Many stopped speaking German and anglicised their names.

The second world war saw less anti-German hysteria, although some 10,000 German-Americans were interned as enemy aliens. President Franklin Roosevelt conspicuously appointed military commanders with names like Eisenhower and Nimitz to fight the Axis powers. But the Holocaust gave German-Americans yet another reason to hide their origins.

Länder of the free – A selected history of German-Americans

  • 1607

    First German arrives in America
    A Teutonic botanist lands in Jamestown, the first European settlement in North America

  • 1776

    Throwing off the German yoke
    Americans reject George, King of Hanover (and Britain)

  • 1820-1914

    First wave of immigrants
    Nearly 6m Germans emigrate to the United States. Not all travel business class

  • 1873

    Levi Strauss patents jeans
    Riveted denim trousers quickly become a symbol of rugged individualism and a disinclination to do the ironing

  • 1876

    Budweiser is introduced
    Adolphus Busch creates the “King of Beers“. For some reason, Americans still drink it today

  • 1914-1918

    First World War
    Anti-German hysteria reigns. Sauerkraut renamed “liberty cabbage“

  • 1930s

    German Jews flee to US
    As persecution intensifies, many of the cleverest people in Nazi Germany move across the Atlantic

  • 1957

    The Cat in the Hat
    “Your mother will not mind at all,“ said Dr Seuss’s most famous creation. Really?

  • 1982

    Sophie’s Choice
    Meryl Streep wins an Oscar for Best Actress. Ms Streep’s unmatched ability to pretend to be anyone at all perhaps explains why few people realise she is German-American

  • 1989

    Baywatch
    Premiere of “Baywatch“, starring David Hasselhoff. Shortly afterwards the hirsute entertainer helps topple the Berlin Wall

  • 2011

    Boehner becomes Speaker
    As Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner is second in line to the presidency. He has wisely anglicised the pronunciation of his name

Today German-Americans are quietly successful. Their median household income, at $61,500, is 18% above the national norm. They are more likely to have college degrees than other Americans, and less likely to be unemployed. A whopping 97% of them speak only English at home.

They have assimilated and prospered without any political help specially tailored for their ethnic group. “The Greeks and the Irish have a far stronger support network and lobby groups than we do,” says Peter Wittig, Germany’s ambassador in America. There was no German-American congressional caucus until 2010, though there were caucuses for potatoes, bicycles and Albanian affairs. The German caucus has quickly grown to about 100 members, who lobby for trade and investment as well as the preservation of their common cultural heritage.

Five years ago a small German-American Heritage Museum opened in Washington, DC. “Germany has never been as popular as it is today,” says Petra Schürmann, the museum’s director. German fests and Oktoberfests have sprung up all over the country, and they are not only about brats and beer, but also about tracing genealogy and displaying traditional dress and craftsmanship. Stuff made by Germans sells. And Americans travel to Germany in droves: the young to hip Berlin and older folks to pretty Heidelberg.

On February 9th Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, will meet Barack Obama in the White House. They will discuss the war in Ukraine, transatlantic trade, the wobbling euro zone and the upcoming G7 summit in Bavaria. Unlike Indian-Americans, who went wild when their new prime minister visited America, German-Americans will barely notice.

Timeline picture credits: Alamy; Getty Images; Ronald Grant Archive

Posted in Immigration | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Arthur Brooks: Europe’s core problems are demographic, not economic

Arthur Brooks: Europe’s core problems are demographic, not economic

AEI President Arthur C. Brooks writes about Europe’s most pressing problem in the far-left New York Times, of all places.

He writes:

According to the United States Census Bureau’s International Database, nearly one in five Western Europeans was 65 years old or older in 2014. This is hard enough to endure, given the countries’ early retirement ages and pay-as-you-go pension systems. But by 2030, this will have risen to one in four. If history is any guide, aging electorates will direct larger and larger portions of gross domestic product to retirement benefits — and invest less in opportunity for future generations.

Next, look at fertility. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the last time the countries of the European Union were reproducing at replacement levels (that is, slightly more than two children per woman) was the mid-1970s. In 2014, the average number of children per woman was about 1.6. That’s up a hair from the nadir in 2001, but has been falling again for more than half a decade. Imagine a world where many people have no sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts or uncles. That’s where Europe is heading in the coming decades. On the bright side, at least there will be fewer Christmas presents to buy.

There are some exceptions. France has risen to exactly two children per woman in 2012, from 1.95 in 1980, an increase largely attributed to a system of government payments to parents, not a change in the culture of family life. Is there anything more dystopian than the notion that population decline can be slowed only when states bribe their citizens to reproduce?

Finally, consider employment. Last September, the United States’ labor force participation rate — the percentage of adults who are either working or looking for work — reached a 36-year low of just 62.7 percent.

Yet as bad as that is, the United States looks decent compared with most of Europe. Our friends across the Atlantic like to say that we live to work, while they work to live. That might be compelling if more of them were actually working. According to the most recent data available from the World Bank, the labor force participation rate in the European Union in 2013 was 57.5 percent. In France it was 55.9 percent. In Italy, just 49.1 percent.

[…]It is true that good monetary and fiscal policies are important. But the deeper problems in Europe will not be solved by the European Central Bank. No matter what the money supply and public spending levels, a country or continent will be in decline if it rejects the culture of family, turns its back on work, and closes itself to strivers from the outside.

Either people keep their own money and run their own lives, or bureaucrats take their money and make the decisions about social programs. In America, we used to prefer the former, but Europe has been preferring the latter for decades. Would I get married and have kids in a society run by European bureaucrats? Do I want secular leftist public schools to tell my children what to believe? It doesn’t sound very exciting to me. And I’ll bet it doesn’t sound very exciting to a lot of men in Europe. Men don’t want to be taxed, so that they can be replaced by the state’s social programs. We want to chart our own course, and guide our own families. But that’s not OK with people who want to replace men with government social programs.

Posted in Aging, Cultural Barometer, Death of Western Culture | Tagged , , | Leave a comment
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 220 other followers

%d bloggers like this: