Posts Tagged ‘rick warren’

And while we’re talking about taxes and whatnot, there’s an excellent post at Skeptic Money that looks at the popular claim that half of Americans “don’t pay taxes”.

That’s how Rick Warren put it in a tweet recently, expressing his annoyance that so many of his countryfolk have so little income that the law currently doesn’t consider it justified to claim any tax from them whatsoever. It’s the poor who should contribute more.

Of course, this is complete bullshit.

Significantly less bullshit is the original claim, before it got mangled and distorted into an ideology that someone found more comfortable: nearly half of American households pay no income tax.

That’s an approximation of the Tax Policy Center’s findings a couple of years ago, and although it’s a very different thing from what Rick Warren said, it still sounds rather shocking at first. It seems to imply that a lot of people are getting away with making no significant financial contribution to the welfare of the country as a whole, which seems a bit much, given that many of these people are surely making a liveable wage.

But that only seems like a problem until you consider the other kinds of tax people pay, beyond the federal income tax.

America’s got a lot of different kinds of taxes.

Sales tax means that buying goods – your average day-to-day stuff – often requires you to throw money the government’s way. Gasoline tax means you’re getting taxed by the government every time you fill up your car. Property tax hits homeowners and renters alike. And even people who don’t pay federal income tax get lumped with something called a FICA tax, which pays for things like Social Security.

Skeptic Money uses a hypothetical example and some estimated numbers, to show just how wrong it is to describe the poorest half of Americans as paying “no tax”, and how misleading it is to declare that they pay “no income tax” without providing any context. When all the above deductions are considered, as the blog post describes: “So… no income tax; just 30% of their income paid in taxes.”

This is what billionaire Warren Buffett is talking about when he says that his last tax bill, as a percentage of his taxable income, was lower than that of anyone else working in his office.

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– President Obama’s proclamation for Thanksgiving was unique in that he didn’t mention God, except when quoting George Washington. So, he sort of did bring him up. But still, LifeSiteNews can barely hold back their disdain.

There’s been a lot of bollocks written lately by people angry that non-believers or non-Christians should be daring to join in with the rigmarole of regimented gratitude. I can’t be bothered to go find some of it again and provide links, but it was just more inane rantings on the theme of “shut up, don’t express your opinions, STOP HAVING FUN GUYS” directed mostly at atheists. If anyone’s rebutted all of this any more articulately than me (my own thoughts didn’t really develop beyond “Oh, fuck off“), feel free to link to it in the comments.

– Uganda is making it legal to kill gay people. It’s called the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

And Rick Warren is apparently fine with this. Yes, that Rick Warren. The one who Barack Obama described as one of the three wisest people he knows, and who delivered the current president’s Inaugural Invocation.

Come on, guy. Give us something. If we just have to keep liking you because you’re a great orator and seem thoughtful and friendly, we’re not going to be any better than those people buying Sarah Palin’s book who have no idea why they like her except that she’s folksy. We appreciate the occasional namecheck for non-believers, but isn’t this kind of bullshit worth denouncing, and isn’t someone like Rick Warren worth publicly distancing yourself from if he won’t?

– Steve Novella is chairman of the recently formed Institute For Science In Medicine. That guy works insanely hard. And I’m impressed with how many other names I recognise from their list of members.

“A bloke cannot marry his brother; it is not right. A woman cannot marry their sister; it is not right. A bloke cannot marry a bloke because it is not right, and a female cannot marry a female because it is not right. I don’t support this.” Australian politics at work, ladies and gentlemen.

These slippery slopes just keep coming back. I really don’t see the connection. From a judicial standpoint, what would need to happen for incest or polygamy to be legal, in any form? What representatives or political leaders would have to vote on what bills, sign what documents, to put something like that into law? And in what ways does that answer change when some other unrelated legislation on gay marriage is passed?

– I’m not crazy about “The [representation of data] that [company or group of individuals alleged to be powerful and motivated by self-interest] doesn’t want you to see!” as a hook, but these are some pretty interesting graphs, which do a lot to undermine the resilient, annoying, and deeply naive idea that all illegal downloading is straightforward theft. Musical artists are making more and more money.

– I chimed in with a discussion on Twitter earlier today about climate change denialism. Jack of Kent seemed to be at its focus for the most part, and he’s just put up a blog on the subject. I was planning to write about this myself tonight, but all that other nonsense up there got in the way, and now it’s late. I’ll try and get it done tomorrow, because I don’t entirely agree with him, and I’d like to try and figure out exactly what it is that I do think about this.

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It’s late, and I’m tired, and nobody’s that desperate to hear my thoughts on anything anyway. But I’m finding the time for a brief comment, because Obama’s inauguration is one of those things that I can’t really not express an opinion on and still claim to be an active part of the atheist blogosphere. Although tempered optimism seems to be the universal mood now that he’s in (along with rather less tempered relief that we’re finally rid of the last guy), my part of the interwebs is somewhat split on the topic of the inauguration itself.

He actually mentions non-believers, in an inclusive way, as he’s made a point of doing before. The non-religious get included among the various categories of faith into which Americans fall, and he’s not overlooking or demeaning their significance. This is a big step forward from the position of Bush Senior twenty or so years ago.

But, taking an extra couple of seconds to throw in “and non-believers”, though more courteous than some of his predecessors, may seem to pale into insignificance against the backdrop of a lengthy prayer by Rick Warren, another by some other guy I haven’t heard of, and several God-references from Obama himself which go beyond professing a personal faith. “God calls on us”, he says, referring to the nation as a whole, apparently forgetting already the significant percentage of said nation who don’t accept this premise.

It is still a step forward, the Obama administration as a whole is still showing a lot of potential to get things really back on track, and the overall opinion is still a positive one. But I think people can be forgiven for a distinct sense of meh on this issue.

Greta Christina says some things like this, but better. Also, she’s actually a US citizen, not an irrelevant Brit, which is another reason you shouldn’t be listening to me about this.

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Rick Warren is an Evangelical Christian minister, author of a number of successful books on Christianity, and founder of the Saddleback megachurch in California. Yesterday this church hosted something called a Civil Forum on The Presidency, where Barack Obama and John McCain were both interviewed by Pastor Rick, before a ticketed audience who’d paid up to $1,000 a pop.

As ERV points out, it’s pretty depressing that none of the candidates wanted anything to do with Science Debate 2008, but they leap at the chance to share some platitudes, with a Christian minister, in a church, as part of their political campaigns.

Hemant has liveblogged the whole thing, and has a pretty comprehensive breakdown of the whole two hours. Obama seems to come off better, but to someone who was pretty well blown away by his speech on race a few months ago, in response to the whole Reverend Wright thing, this is a long way from being inspiring.

He plays up the Jesus talk, and moderates some of his views on abortion and gay rights, in front of a conservatively Christian crowd, because he can’t afford to alienate people by being brutally honest. I know, this is hardly a revelation – shock alliterative horror, politician panders to public opinion – but in the case of someone like Obama, who I think has some great ideas, and would be a good President, and who a part of me really wants to believe is as miraculously awesome as his hype, I resent how much of a cynic this presidential race is making me.

I really think that Obama is worth voting for, and I’d vote for him if I could, even though he does play the game, he can be disconcertingly slick, and some of the things he says and does make him sound like an empty populist – and even though I know part of my motivation for supporting him is that I think he’d be better for the job than John McCain. That’s an unavoidably cynical attitude. I guess I’m kind of a cynic.

Penn Jillette spoke recently about Bob Barr, the current Libertarian Party nominee for President, and the glorious joy and optimism that really infuses that campaign. They can talk about freedom and all the other things that are important to them as openly and optimistically as they like, whereas Obama “doesn’t have any hope; he’s got to do everything right.”

And Penn really kinda has a point. There is a degree of inspiration to the crazy libertarian position which Obama just can’t match. Because he’s mainstream, and needs to win this, and can’t put people off with the kind of honesty that the media will jump all over. He has to do everything right. That’s pretty depressing, and so is realising that I’m just cynical enough to go along with it.

Damn you, complex and diverse political arena.

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