Dec 7, 2016 – Arsenal For Democracy Ep. 160

Posted by Bill on behalf of the team.


Topics: Flint funding and Republican strategies for attaching big policy changes to must-pass bills; moderate Republicans, state legislature defeats, gerrymandering, and more. People: Bill and Jonathan. Produced: Dec 7th, 2016.

Episode 160 (1 hour 5 min):
AFD 160

New Reading Materials (from Jonathan):

The GOP May Not Eliminate the Filibuster, But It Can Still Pass Its Reactionary Agenda. Here’s How.
Republican Cruelty, Democratic Passivity, and What the Lack of Flint Funding Can Tell Us about the Trump Years
Not Seeing the Cleared Forest for the Largest Felled Tree: Democrats & the States

Archive Materials:

State Attorneys General are ruining the Earth. Literally.
Beyond the Senate: The 2014 state losses
AFD 62 – Role of Government
posts about the 2014 CRomnibus & NDAA


RSS Feed: Arsenal for Democracy Feedburner
iTunes Store Link: “Arsenal for Democracy by Bill Humphrey”

Music by friend of the show @StuntBirdArmy.

Regressive income pressure in the tax code of U.S. states


“Robin Hood in Reverse:” “State and local taxes in the United States take the most from those who have the least, undermining efforts to redress inequality.”The Atlantic:

Those who earn the least pay the most in nearly every state across America. Or rather, the poorest citizens pay the highest proportion of their incomes to local and state governments—twice as much in fact, as the top one percent.

According to The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, as cited by The Atlantic:

…in every single state “at least some low- or middle-income groups pay more of their income in state and local taxes than wealthy families.”

On the other hand:

Some of the most regressive aspects of the tax code are designed to advance broadly popular goals. The gas tax, for example, falls hardest on middle-class families, but it may promote environmentally friendly modes of transportation [and infrastructure?]. Tobacco taxes discourage tobacco consumption.


Yet combining America’s regressive state and local taxes with the progressive federal code reveals a system that barely asks more of its most comfortable citizens than of the middle-class.


Maine’s governor is just vetoing everything now

The Portland Press Herald reports the latest on the escalating state of siege in the Maine government right now as controversial Gov. Paul LePage blocks just about every piece of legislation coming out of the state legislature, even when they had strong bipartisan support:

LePage initially said he would veto all bills sponsored by Democrats because they refused to support a constitutional amendment to eliminate the income tax. Democrats said the governor has failed to come up with a plan to replace the revenue that would be lost.

Then the governor said he would veto all bills sent to his desk, regardless of the party of the sponsor, because lawmakers “wasted” time coming up with a budget the governor didn’t like. In retaliation, he said, he would waste their time.
Lawmakers are returning Tuesday to consider whether to override more of LePage’s vetoes. He has vetoed well over 100 bills so far this session, and the Legislature has overridden dozens of vetoes.

LePage also issued 79 line-item vetoes in the state’s two-year budget and a separate transportation budget. Those line-item vetoes were all overridden by the Legislature last week, but the governor is expected to veto the entire budget.

I suppose vetoing all bills is, in some ways, an improvement from just vetoing bills co-sponsored by Democrats. Ultimately, I think his plan is still to eliminate all Democrats for daring to not be right-wing Republicans.

Graphic by Bill Humphrey for Arsenal For Democracy.

Graphic by Bill Humphrey for Arsenal For Democracy.

That’s not terribly likely to succeed in Maine. But we’re not talking about a particularly rational political actor, considering he’s friends with people who believe government should not exist at all beyond the county sheriff level.

March 11, 2015 – Arsenal For Democracy 119


Topics: A hypothetical journey through reorganizing America’s representative democracy, from elections to a parliamentary system to unicameralism. People: Bill, Nate. Produced: March 9th, 2015.

Discussion Points:

– Should U.S. state legislatures all have only one chamber?
– What reforms could make State Senates more useful and the US Senate more fair?
– Should the legislative branch hold executive power like in a parliamentary system?
– When do checks and balances just become pointless gridlock?
– Should US states move toward proportional voting elections?

Episode 119 (47 min):
AFD 119


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iTunes Store Link: “Arsenal for Democracy by Bill Humphrey”

And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video blog of our announcer, Justin.

Texas bill would nullify Federal court orders on marriage

I’m not sure why anyone would think this could work after the U.S. proved state employees could not unilaterally refuse to implement Federal court orders by deploying the U.S. Army 101st Airborne Division paratroopers to Arkansas to enforce school desegregation, but one very petulant Texas legislator aims to block state implementation of same-sex marriage if the Federal courts (including the Supreme Court) order licenses to be issued and/or recognized from other states. KVUE Austin:

Dubbed the “Preservation of Sovereignty and Marriage Act,” House Bill 623 says state and local government employees “may not recognize, grant, or enforce a same-sex marriage license.” If they do, “the employee may not continue to receive a salary, pension, or other employee benefit at the expense of the taxpayers of this State.”

The bill’s author, State Rep. Cecil Bell (R-Magnolia), says the Texas Legislature doesn’t work for the federal courts — which have no business striking down laws passed by Texas voters.

“Because we’ve seen activist federal courts, it’s important that we as Texans take steps to make certain that we’re able to protect traditional marriage and traditional values,” Bell told KVUE Friday. “One of the ways that we can do that is through the power of the purse.”

The result could be a potential quandary for government workers: Follow a court order or keep earning salary. Asked whether the bill would put government employees in a position of having to choose between being subjected to a federal lawsuit or losing their pension, Bell suggested employees would continue earning as long as they’re following state laws.

“I don’t see it as losing their pension except during the period of time which they are outside the [state] laws,” said Bell.

The full text of the bill also threatens the same consequences to any state employee or official who tries to violate or interfere with this new provision, meaning that all state officials — including the governor and attorney general — might face consequences (from whom is less clear) for giving an order allowing clerks to ignore this section as de facto unconstitutional and proceed with following Federal court orders to issue or recognize same-sex marriages.

I hope this bill doesn’t have a chance of passing, but if it does, it will put a lot of people in a very precarious position, financially or legally. It is also blatantly unconstitutional.

“I don’t see it as a threat at all,” countered Bell, who maintains his target is activist courts — and he has his colleagues’ support. “I think it is the ability of the state legislature to try to make certain that we affirm the sovereign right and sovereign nature of the state.”

It’s just another attempt to institute backdoor secession from Federal authority.


December 3, 2014 – Arsenal For Democracy 109


Topics: Big Ideas – Cash transfers for poverty; Nigerian politics; US state legislatures. People: Bill, Nate, Sasha. Produced: December 1st, 2014.

Discussion Points:

– Big Ideas: Are cash transfers more effective on poverty than “workfare” and tax cuts?
– Is Nigeria’s ruling PDP feeling threatened in the upcoming elections? Are Boko Haram attacks widening?
– What should we expect from US state legislatures after heavy Republican wins in 2014?

Episode 109 (53 min)
AFD 109

Related links
Segment 1

AFD: “Social inclusion, anti-poverty policy are great for the economy!”
The Globalist: “Bolivia: Where Socialism Appears to Work”
AFD: “Weirdly, tax cuts don’t solve poverty, finds UN in New Zealand”
AFD: “Indonesia debuts world’s largest cash transfer program ever”

Segment 2

AFD: “Report: Tear gas used in Nigeria parliament”
AFD: “Nigeria government raids opposition offices”
AFD: “Kano: Boko Haram strikes Nigeria’s 2nd largest city”
African Arguments: “Nigeria Forum – What Happens When Oil Prices Fall?”

Segment 3

AFD: “Beyond the Senate: The 2014 state losses”
Al Jazeera America: “The Democratic comeback plan”


RSS Feed: Arsenal for Democracy Feedburner
iTunes Store Link: “Arsenal for Democracy by Bill Humphrey”

And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video blog of our announcer, Justin.

Beyond the Senate: The 2014 state losses

Certain people of this country have realized that their true political power lies in their local governments. The states and counties that they reside in have lots of power thanks to the 10th amendment, and by golly they intend to use it to the fullest extent.

This November, not only did the Republicans shellack the Democrats on a national level, they improved their ground game and hit them where it hurts. Jill Lawrence, writing for Al Jazeera America, recaps:

Republicans took over 11 state legislative chambers that had been held by Democrats. They now control 23 states entirely — governor and both legislative chambers — versus seven for Democrats. They netted three new governors for a total of 31, versus 18 for Democrats. They gained more than 300 legislators and now hold the most state legislative seats since 1920.


Map of 2014 United States state legislature election results, comparing partisan control of the legislative chambers and governor's office in each state. (Credit: Note: Alaska's governor is an independent.

Map of 2014 United States state legislature election results, comparing partisan control of the legislative chambers and governor’s office in each state. (Click map for full-sized view.) Note: Alaska’s governor is an independent.

The significance of these gains is two-fold. First, implementing policy on a national level is difficult when it means communicating and negotiating with Republican dominated state houses. Landmark legislation like the Affordable Care Act depends on cooperation of the states. 25 states didn’t expand Medicaid as a part of the ACA, essentially making the law useless for the low-income uninsured.

Similarly, any hope for increasing the minimum wage in individual states rather than nationwide will be impossible in states with the Republican held legislatures. State Republicans that continue to base their decisions on party politics instead of the needs of the people are sure to face repercussions later down the road, but for now they have other intentions.

Which brings me to my second point. These newly elected Republican legislatures and governors will no doubt pass questionable legislation, as they have done in the past. In 2013, North Carolina tried to establish Christianity as their state religion, until someone realized that would be totally unconstitutional. Michigan lawmakers extended gun owners the right to conceal and carry in daycares, but it was vetoed by the Republican Governor a few days after the Sandy Hook shootings. And Tennessee attempted to pass a bill that would cut low-income families’ welfare if their children received poor grades in school.

State legislatures fly under the radar of most people, but local advocates have been able to push their agenda through these state houses. Based on their recent track record, the new Republican majorities will inevitably bring a fresh onslaught of anti-abortion laws to states that have already restricted a woman’s right to choose, as well as to new states. Laws that would clearly never make it through a national Congress, are snaking through the states and slowly but surely making it more difficult for a woman to have fair access to an abortion.

Issues like this are where some people have realized their true potential as voters. Local laws reflect local attitudes. And despite the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe v. Wade, local attitudes will continue to work towards limiting, and potentially barring, access to legal abortions.

So as concerning as it may be for Democrats that they lost control of the U.S. Senate, focus should instead be on the amount of power Republicans now hold in the states. And most importantly, how they intend to use that power.