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By Jan C. Ting

Latest U.S. jobs report, and a warning from Egypt, Brazil and Turkey.

Everyone knows that the fiscal and economic crisis in big cities like Philadelphia, in states like Pennsylvania, and throughout the United States is rooted in the disappearance of American jobs. Before last year's election, all we heard from both political parties was, "Jobs, jobs, jobs." Since the election, not so much, although the U.S. remains in the deepest and longest jobs crisis since the Great Depression.

We do get monthly jobs reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The most recent on July 5 for the month of June, was described by the New York Times as, "Strong, but not too strong," and "sufficient to please investors."

What the BLS actually reported was that the official unemployment rate which increased from 7.5% in April to 7.6% in May, was unchanged at 7.6% in June. The number of officially unemployed Americans was unchanged at 11.8 million, of whom 4.8 million were unemployed for more than 6 months. That didn't include involuntary part-time workers whose numbers increased by 322,000 up to 8.2 million in June. And that didn't include 1 million discouraged American workers who have given up looking for work because they have concluded that no work is available for them.

For African-Americans, the unemployment rate increased from 13.2% in April to 13.5% in May to 13.7% in June. White unemployment decreased from 6.7% in April and May down to 6.6% in June.

The unemployment rate for African-American teenagers seeking work was 43.6% in June, compared to 20.4% for white teenagers.

A new book about unwed, low-income fathers in Philadelphia and Camden, New Jersey, by Kathryn Edin and Timothy J. Nelson is titled "Doing the Best I Can: Fatherhood in the Inner City." In their study, the authors make clear the connection between the problems of these fathers and their children to the inability of these fathers to find employment.

Angry popular uprisings against elected governments in Egypt, Brazil and Turkey express the demand and rising expectations for jobs and better lives. Democracy is not enough if you don't have a job and a future. We could use some of that anger here, directed at our elected leaders, too.

Did we do the right thing bailing out big banks from their bad bets, but allowing millions of working Americans to lose their jobs, their homes, their health insurance, and their families? Warren Mosler and the modern monetary theorists at the Center for Full Employment and Price Stability he founded at the University of Missouri-Kansas City think not.

They argue the U.S. government, instead of saving the big banks, should have allowed them to fail, and should have directly created jobs to raise employment up to comfortable levels to restore the economy. And it's not too late now for the U.S. government to reverse course, abandon the politics of austerity and anxiety over deficits and inflation, and return the U.S. economy to full employment and prosperity.

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Senate (again) passes amnesty. High court decides marriage, voting rights.

After invoking cloture, the U.S. Senate on May 25, 2006, adopted the so-called Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 by a vote of 62 to 36. That bill was never voted on by the U.S. House of Representatives, and did not become law. This week, on June 27, 2013, the U.S. Senate again adopted a comprehensive immigration reform bill after invoking cloture, this time by a vote of 68-32.

This bill will also not receive a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives, and like its 2006 predecessor will not become law. Nor should it. The new bill again features an immigration amnesty that undermines legal limits on immigration and encourages future illegal immigration. It would effectively triple legal immigration over the next decade while we are stuck in the worst unemployment crisis since the Great Depression. It guarantees no additional enforcement. In an effort to garner votes, it is loaded with slush fund spending and special interest add-ons.

My favorite of the add-ons is the "Schumer E-3 Irish Visas", inserted into the bill by Senator Chuck Schumer to provide 10,500 annual work visas to Irish citizens only. No Mexicans or any other nationality can apply for these visas, although more Americans trace their family roots to Ireland than to any other country. These are the opposite of so-called diversity visas supposed to diversify America. These are anti-diversity visas.

R.I.P. anti-diversity visas, amnesty, false promises of enforcement, and pay-offs to big business. The senators who voted for this bad bill should all be challenged in their next primary elections.

Also this week, the Supreme Court finally recognized the overdue and unavoidable truth, that the constitutional right of homosexual Americans to equal protection under the law trumps the deliberately demeaning so-called "Defense of Marriage Act". It also sustained the lower court decision upholding California's legalization of same-sex marriage.

But because the Supreme Court did not explicitly declare same-sex marriage a constitutional right, states can continue to define marriage traditionally as limited to opposite-sex couples. The political battle over marriage rights will continue at the state level until a constitutional right to same-sex marriage is recognized, which now seems likely if not inevitable.

On the other hand, the Supreme Court invalidated parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which subjected jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to federal oversight, thus opening the door to new efforts to suppress citizen voting in those jurisdictions.

What I feel the majority in that case ignored was the martyrs who gave their lives before 1965 while defending voting rights in the very jurisdictions which came to be covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Those martyrs whose names should never be forgotten include Medger Evers, Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, James Reeb, Viola Liuzzo, and too many others.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965, and its renewal by overwhelming vote of Congress as recently as 2006, was a tribute to those martyrs. The efforts of Congress to fulfill the promise of the 15th Amendment which guarantees voting rights of citizens should have been supported and sustained by the Supreme Court.

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NSA leaker Snowden weakens U.S. against terrorism, China and Russia, and exposes public ...

It was foreseeable when Edward Snowden fled to Hong Kong and Moscow that all the secrets he was carrying on his four laptops would fall into the hands of Chinese and Russian intelligence agencies. Those agencies make constant and formidable efforts to acquire U.S. secrets, and could not be expected to forego the opportunity of acquiring the secrets Snowden brought to them.

Ask yourself what the U.S. would do if an equivalent defector from China or Russia stopped off in New York City en route to exile in South America while carrying laptops full of state secrets.

Some of the secrets would only be of value to a foreign intelligence agency, revealing the parameters of intelligence gathering capabilities. So besides tipping off terrorists to change their methods of communication, Snowden betrayed his country to China and Russia.

It's embarrassing to watch the pathetic U.S. protests to China and Russia demanding the return of the criminal Snowden to U.S. custody. China and Russia are both now more confident than ever in their defiance of U.S. wishes. They are happily demonstrating that we are the nation in decline, with zero leverage on rising powers like China and Russia.

The damage from the leaks to our intelligence infrastructure is incalculable. It will take an extraordinary act of boldness, like forcing down an airliner to capture Snowden, to demonstrate U.S. determination to limit future damage.

If Snowden had been a principled whistle-blower as his supporters claim, he would not have fled to China and Russia. He could have stood his ground and defended himself at trial like Daniel Ellsburg.

It's also embarrassing to hear the ignorance of so many Americans about technology and the existence of big data. Every click we send out onto the internet exists forever. The record of every phone call we make exists forever. All that data exists, and can't be put back into the privacy of Aladdin's lamp or Pandora's box.

Smart businesses mine that data to enhance their profits. Smart politicians mine that data to get themselves elected and re-elected. But some folks claim to be shocked, shocked, to learn that the U.S. government is mining that data to try to protect the nation against terrorism.

The humiliation of the United States by the defection of the NSA leaker Edward Snowden happened in the second term of President Obama's watch. It will continue as long as Snowden remains at large mocking his homeland. It can only end with Snowden's capture and prosecution.

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What’s wrong with our tax system and IRS?

As a law student in the 1970's, I studied tax law under Stanley Surrey, a former Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy under President Kennedy. Like most tax law professors at the time, Professor Surrey taught that our tax system had three basic requirements: It had to be fair, however we wanted to define that. It had to be easy to administer. And it had to actually raise the revenue required by the government.

When I began practicing, and then teaching, tax law, I felt that our tax system met those minimum requirements, and I even perceived some nobility in our tax system as representing the price to be paid for living in a free society. But over the years, I've become increasingly alienated from our tax system as perceptions of unfairness have increased, along with a dramatic increase in the complexity of the tax laws, and deficits have increased as the tax system fails to produce the revenue to meet government requirements.

All those changes for the worse were epitomized in the so-called fiscal cliff deal enacted in January which made most of the temporary Bush tax cuts permanent, including the treatment of dividends as capital gains instead of ordinary income, which they were treated as throughout the 20th century. That deal aggravates the perception and reality that high income taxpayers often pay a lower tax rate than middle income taxpayers. See Mitt Romney and Warren Buffet and his secretary.

Beyond its unfairness, the fiscal cliff deal compounded the complexity of the tax system. Some taxpayers will have to pay both the 15% and 20% rates on capital gains, not to mention the higher 25% and 28% rates on specialized capital gains. The phase-outs of personal exemption and itemized deductions are back, although no lobbyists asked for them.

The fiscal cliff deal insures that we do not collect sufficient revenue to fund the government, and significantly less than we would have collected if the Bush tax cuts had been allowed to expire. The Congressional Budget Office actually scored the fiscal cliff deal as INCREASING federal deficits over 10 years by $3.9 trillion compared to if it had not passed.

So on all three of Professor Surrey's priorities, the fiscal cliff deal set us further back. That's what has happened to our tax system. Why it has happened is harder to explain.

First, lawyers are no longer in charge of tax policy and administration. There used to be a common culture among the tax bar, the tax administrators, and the judges who ruled on tax cases. Now many more participants in our tax system are non-lawyers. Accountants and their firms have become major players. Economists and business people have occupied many top tax policy positions, including as IRS commissioner and Asst. Treas. Sec. for Tax Policy.

Second, more voices beyond tax lawyers means a more complex legislative process, a more rule-specific tax code, and more Congressional staff involved in tax policy in addition to the Joint Committee on Taxation. A deeply polarized and politicized Congress means members have much less time to master the tax system than in the past. See Wilbur Mills and Russell Long.

Third, more voices has led to delegation of more responsibility to IRS beyond the agency's primary mission of revenue collection. The most egregious example of this is social welfare programs administered by the IRS through refundable credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Additional Child Tax Credit. Why was IRS tasked? Economists think it's a more efficient model than having Health and Human Services administer a social welfare program. Credits can be characterized as tax cuts, which Congress supports, instead of spending, which Congress opposes, even though the impact on the federal treasury is the same.

But IRS is doing a terrible job on its non-revenue functions. The EITC and ACTC programs are being ripped off by organized crime and other criminals, and nobody knows or seems to care about the extent of the fraud, only that the money gets pushed out the door. Illegal immigrants are barred from collecting EITC, but not the ACTC. Bob Segall, a senior investigative reporter at WTHR-TV in Indianapolis, has received many journalism awards for documenting how illegal immigrants fraudulently claim the ACTC for children not actually living with them in the U.S. These claims were confirmed by the IRS inspector general without any change in IRS policy.

If the immigration amnesty passes, millions of legalized immigrants instead of paying taxes, will be claiming EITC and ACTC refunds. The IRS has already ruled in a June 9, 2000, published ruling that illegal immigrants barred from claiming the EITC can claim it retroactively after being legalized by filing amended returns.

Everyone knows now how well the IRS is performing in its non-revenue function of distinguishing social welfare organizations from political organizations. Like there's no other agency in the federal government that could do this, like the Federal Elections Commission?

And guess which agency has been designated to enforce the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare? The IRS is expected to assess and collect tax penalties for failures to comply with the myriad requirements of the new statute, and will no doubt be blamed for any sins of omission or commission in trying to execute its new responsibilities. Again, political motives will be attributed to its actions. Couldn't some other agency than the IRS do this?

In conclusion, I find our tax system to be a hot mess. It is not perceived as fair, and I think it's not a fair system for reasons beyond public perceptions. It is much too complicated and being poorly administered. And it's failing in its primary mission of collecting the revenue necessary to run the government.

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NSA leaks by Edward Snowden threaten constitutional self-government

Since its earliest days, the United States of America has been a great experiment testing whether a free people are capable of governing themselves through law without a king or dictator. King George III of England was the first of a long line of skeptics extending to this day, a line which includes the secessionists who triggered the American Civil War, and most recently Edward Snowden, the NSA leaker.

As all Americans are supposed to learn in school, we exercise our right to self-government through our Constitution which establishes the three branches of our government: executive, legislative, and judicial. Many difficult political questions must be resolved within that system of government. And if we are personally unhappy with any result, we always have a remedy, electing different leaders to the executive and legislative branches who appoint and confirm the members of the judicial branch.

The most difficult political question for 19th century Americans was the future of slavery. Because a minority of Americans were unhappy with the results of the 1860 presidential election of Abraham Lincoln, secessionists joined the ranks of those believing self-government under the American Constitution to be impossible. Americans still believing in self-government under the Constitution were forced, at enormous personal cost, to deal with those secessionists.

One of the most difficult political questions for 21st century Americans is the proper balance between liberty and national security. With the 1978 enactment of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and the frequent amendments to that act, including the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001, and later amendments to that act, Congress has authorized the President to act to protect national security through covert action, but where the rights of United States persons are concerned, only with the authorization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

That court has been described as a "secret" court because as authorized by law, its proceedings are not public, and its rulings, with a few exceptions, are not published. But all its past and present members have been and are named and sitting Article III federal judges, appointed like all federal judges by the President, and confirmed for life like all federal judges by the U.S. Senate.

So whatever rulings have been issued by that court, upon the request of the executive branch, have the institutional support and authorization of all three branches of our federal government. When former National Security Agency technician Edward Snowden leaks secret orders from that court, he's declaring that a 29-year old high school dropout lacks belief in the capability of the American people to govern themselves through the Constitution and law.

Perhaps if he had completed his high school education, Snowden might have learned about the checks and balances inherent in our three branches of government and the history of our continuing effort to govern ourselves and decide difficult political questions under the Constitution. A better educated person with his concerns might have discussed and shared them with the members and staff of the congressional intelligence committees, who have the same obligation to protect classified information as employees of the National Security Agency.

But by his act of unilateral grandiosity in publicizing classified information, Snowden is declaring his disbelief in our ability to govern ourselves under the Constitution and law. Those of us who still believe in our ability to govern ourselves under the Constitution and law will have to deal with Mr. Snowden.

I'm gratified to see that in every poll the American people continue to have faith that we are properly engaged in self-government under the Constitution and law on this admittedly difficult issue of liberty and national security.

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