Obama backs down on proposal to get rid of 529 plans

Obama’s plan to gut the 529 college plan has evidently hit some hard opposition from both parties, and he has decided to drop that effort. I was actually surprised when I learned that he was trying to do away with 529’s. His rationale is that wealthy Americans get a lot more in tax savings than non-wealthy people. From the NY Times:

Of the roughly seven million existing 529 plans, about 80 percent of the tax benefits go to households above $150,000, supporters of the Obama proposal say; 70 percent go to households with incomes over $200,000. That is because those people have the most money invested and can contribute $14,000 a year or more without worrying about reaching federal gift tax limits. Investment gains can then be used for education expenses without a capital-gains tax.

GOP takes the Senate

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Mitch and Elaine, Photo credit: Reuters/John Sommers II

It’s a historic day. For the first time ever, we’ve got an Asian woman married to a Majority leader, and they’re Republicans. Maybe now they can help put some good laws into place to stop affirmative action from discriminating against Asian kids! And cut government spending! In other news, Tim Scott became the first African American Senator to win an election in the South since Reconstruction. He’s also the first African American in history elected to both the House and the Senate. He’s a Republican.

Gary Hart, the personal lives of politicians, and the death of nuance

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There’s a great article in the NY Times Magazine about Gary Hart, written by Matt Bai: How Gary Hart’s Downfall Forever Changed American Politics. I remember how Hart’s fall was a big thing. I remember the old joke: What do Gary Hart and Chinese people have in common? They both like Rice.  The article itself is interesting because it seems clear that Hart had no idea that the entire media’s relationship to politics was about to change–before his scandal, it was never a big deal. He expected it never to be a big deal. And then everything came down.

No such thing as a free lunch

Over the next week or two, I’d like to discuss some principles behind reasonable arguments and what the preconditions of a reasonable argument are. I think many on the far extremes of the political spectrum tend to prefer emotion over logic and fact. Many people get emotional during debates, of course, but a principled debater will rarely let his or her emotions get the best of him. It is possible to use logic while engaged in a heated debate.

Every story can always get more interesting

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Photo credit: Channel 9 60 Minutes/Associated Press

I first heard about the story while driving in the car and hearing it on the radio: an Australian couple had abandoned their biological baby who had come from a surrogate mother in Thailand because the baby had Down Syndrome. I thought that maybe it was an example of Western exploitation, a case in which rich Western parents had hired a poor Asian surrogate and then jumped at signs of trouble.

Jose Antonio Vargas detained

Jose Antonio Vargas has been detained. He was detained at an airport in Texas while trying to travel to LA. He thought that he might have trouble since he was leaving from a border area. He was right. Vargas is the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who came out as an undocumented worker three years ago. Since then, he has been traveling the country and talking with other undocumented workers.

The Hobby Lobby debate and Biblical companies

People are angry at the recent Supreme Court decision concerning Hobby Lobby and its refusal to pay for insurance that includes contraception for female workers. The NY Times reports:

The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that requiring family-owned corporations to pay for insurance coverage for contraception under the Affordable Care Act violated a federal law protecting religious freedom. It was, a dissent said, “a decision of startling breadth.”