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Justice Kennedy
Justice Kennedy, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Recently, Justice Kagan made what could be considered her first distinct impression as a member of the Supreme Court's liberal minority. The Court's junior justice wrote what The Atlantic called a blunt and pointed dissent; it was the first of her tenure, and her three liberal colleagues signed on in toto.

The case, Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn, is not very complex; at issue was whether the State of Arizona's practice of giving tax credits to individuals who gave money to so-called "school tuition organizations" that in turn funded scholarships to private and religious schools constituted a violation of the First Amendment's establishment clause. The Supreme Court's ruling did not touch on whether those tax deductions violated the establishment clause; rather, the conservative majority, in its usual 5-4 fashion, ruled that the litigants had no standing to contest the tax breaks. Writing for the majority was Justice Kennedy, who opined:

A dissenter whose tax dollars are "extracted and spent" knows that he has in some small measure been made to contribute to an establishment in violation of conscience. In that instance the taxpayer's direct and particular connection with the establishment does not depend oneconomic speculation or political conjecture. The connection would exist even if the conscientious dissenter's tax liability were unaffected or reduced. When the government declines to impose a tax, by contrast, there is no such connection between dissenting taxpayer and alleged establishment. Any financial injury remains speculative. And awarding some citizens a tax credit allows other citizens to retain control over their own funds in accordance with their own conscience.

This last part is crucial. In his opinion, Justice Kennedy has stated that tax deductions or credits, no matter the purpose, do not result in any connection between the "dissenting taxpayer and alleged establishment." In other words, tax breaks—no matter the incentive they are designed to produce—cannot be viewed as taxpayer funding per se on the grounds that the individual taxpayer is not directly funding the practice or establishment that the taxpayer may find objectionable.

This decision could potentially have far-reaching implications: not only did the conservative majority decide that tax deductions did not constitute establishment, they also opined that taxpayers did not have any legal right to sue over such decisions, thus outlining a clear path for states interested in getting the government to fund religious education: simply offer tax incentives, and according to ACSTO v. Winn, no taxpayer will meet the standing to challenge it in court.

Kagan strongly disagreed on both counts, Her sharp and biting dissent directly challenged the distinction between expenditures and deductions as it related to the establishment of religion:

Taxpayers who oppose state aid of religion have equal reason to protest whether that aid flows from the one form of subsidy or the other. Either way, the government has financed the religious activity. And so either way, taxpayers should be able to challenge the subsidy.

Still worse, the Court's arbitrary distinction threatens to eliminate all occasions for a taxpayer to contest the government's monetary support of religion. Precisely because appropriations and tax breaks can achieve identical objectives, the government can easily substitute one for the other. Today's opinion thus enables the government to end-run Flast's guarantee of access to the Judiciary. From now on, the government need follow just one simple rule--subsidize through the tax system--to preclude taxpayer challenges to state funding of religion.

The sense of Kagan's dissent matters little, however, as in our overtly politicized Supreme Court, there are only three other justices that agree with her on such things. The conservatives on the court all argued and voted for the contrary opinion: that there is a definite distinction as it relates to establishment of religion between direct taxpayer subsidies, and tax deductions. But one question remains: how far does this conservative philosophy regarding the principles of establishment and taxation extend?

The answer? Not far.

Ever since taking office, Congressional Republicans have been on an ideological culture crusade, apparently believing that the country's voters swept them back into office after two cycles of Democratic dominance to subjugate women rather than create employment. Threatening to shut down the entire federal government over Title X funding for Planned Parenthood, which does not even use any federal funding to provide abortions, is just the latest in a long line of misogynistic outrages perpetrated by tea-addled House Republicans. Of special note here was the odious H.R.3, the so-called End Taxpayer Funding of Abortion Act.

Of course, no taxpayer funding actually goes to fund abortions; the annually renewed Hyde amendment already ensures that, which is exactly why the portion of Planned Parenthood's services that are abortion-related (a total of three percent, rather than the over 90 percent claimed by Senator Kyl in a statement not intended to be factual) must be provided by non-government sources. So, taxpayer funding for abortion is already outlawed. So what would H.R.3 have done? First, it would have redefined rape. But it also would have significantly expanded the way that "taxpayer funding" is defined in relation to the question of abortion. To quote a previous piece on the subject:

The objective of H.R.3 is not to prevent taxpayer funding of abortion. As mentioned, the Hyde Amendment already does that. Rather, the objective is to influence private insurers to stop spending their private dollars paying for abortion services by preventing individuals and businesses who pay for those insurance plans from taking the tax credits that they would normally receive from doing so. (emphasis not original.)

Anyone smell the hypocrisy here? The basis for H.R.3, as well as other Republican initiatives such as anti-union arguments in Wisconsin as well as legislation aimed at families of striking workers, is one that DailyKos contributing editor David Waldman calls "fungibility":

H.R. 3 declares that because all money is "fungible," when you take a tax deduction that puts "federal dollars" in your pocket. And because those dollars are then available for you to use to pay for... anything... including your health care coverage, in order to prevent you from using them to pay for the kinds of coverage these Republicans don't like, the government will step in and take your deductions away.

So, the conservatives in Congress are pushing in several arenas for an end to tax deductions that cover activities they don't like using arguments based entirely on the fungibility of federal money. Meanwhile, a stone's throw away, the conservatives on the Supreme Court rule that tax deductions are not in fact fungible and that only direct appropriations of federal money would violate the establishment clause of the first amendment.

In conclusion: When are tax breaks like taxpayer subsidies? When saying so fits the social conservative agenda. And when are tax breaks NOT like taxpayer subsidies? When saying so fits the social conservative agenda.

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Comment Preferences

  •  They could be biting their own ass with this one (17+ / 0-)

    Seems like we can use this to their disadvantage somehow, due to the fundamental contradictions in their positions.

    -9.00, -5.85
    If only stupidity were painful...

    by Wintermute on Sun Apr 10, 2011 at 08:14:26 AM PDT

    •  I would hope so! /nt (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JML9999, dotsright

      Be the change you want to see in the world. -Gandhi

      by DRo on Sun Apr 10, 2011 at 08:32:42 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Zealot and Self destructive seems to (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DRo, dotsright, Amber6541

      be closely tied together. See-trying to kill the tax exempt status of AARP. Implicitly and Right wing think tanks as well as the CofC could be subject to the same scrutiny.

      I'm the terror that blogs in the Night,. and the daytime too.

      by JML9999 on Sun Apr 10, 2011 at 08:36:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  How do opponents of the decision reconcile (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lexington1, Debby, dotsright, Amber6541

      A charity contribution to build a church that will only be used for religious services is 100% tax deductible and 100% religious, but the government does not violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment because the government does not choose the religion.

      So why should this ruling be any different when there is a dilution factor in that some receiving schools will not be religious and the religious schools provide non-religious education in addition to religious instruction.

      Opponents of this decision should make a direct attack on this issue, by challenging the tax deductibility of purely religious charity contributions.  If 100% religious purposes are tax advantaged, how can purposes that are 20% religious be denied their tax advantage because they are partially religious?

      The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

      by nextstep on Sun Apr 10, 2011 at 08:48:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  LIke taxpayers not funding abortions by (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      getting a tax credit for donations to PP, or the argument that taxpayers are funding NPR and the evils it endorses? Something like that?

      "I've taken up sculpting recently. Landscapes mostly." ~ Yogi Bear

      by eXtina on Sun Apr 10, 2011 at 09:27:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  bingo- the flaw in the diary ID'd in first comment (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The diarist supposed that the court and the GOP politicians were on the same page here, but the holding actually kills the concept that credits and levies are equal - for abortion funding or anything else.

      While I dont like the holding in the establishment sense, I think its el grande in the political sense for GOP meddling in health care and other areas of social policy.

      Out of my cold dead hands

      by bluelaser2 on Sun Apr 10, 2011 at 10:30:59 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  They're introducing this (25+ / 0-)

    all over the country. I know of it going on in Virginia and North Carolina specifically.

    All the tax credit is going to do is give a big cash grant to people who can afford to send their children to private schools. Namely, the wealthy and well-off.

    Make no mistake, this tax credit idea has but one goal in mind: the end of a free, public education.

    •  it has many goals in mind, methinks, not just one. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      brooklynbadboy, dotsright, Amber6541

      really this is a huge can of worms which is sneaking in without many noticing.

      Looks like an excellent way, as Dante points out, to effectively fund the move to a theocracy.

      American Taliban, indeed.

      big badda boom : GRB 080913

      by squarewheel on Sun Apr 10, 2011 at 09:45:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  It's (0+ / 0-)

      Subsidized class segregation

    •  I really hate to say this but I partially agree (0+ / 0-)

      with the majority's opinion.

      Unfortunately delegating tax breaks is one of congress's main jobs, which means that they can give them to rich people and private schools if they want. Now, this case is different because it certainly seems like they were violating the establishment clause, but in general as long as it doesn't violate another part of the constitution (which, I will say again, they seem to do in this specific case) they are allowed to do it.

      So it sucks that all of the tax credits are going to go to rich people, but you can't sue over that, the only way to fix it is to elect congressmen who won't give those breaks. Otherwise the entire legislative branch would be rendered useless. It wouldn't make any sense for someone to sue over a tax break they don't like, because the person who does like the tax break would have just as much of a right to sue.

  •  So does this mean (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marina, Sychotic1, DRo, eXtina, Debby

    that if something like HR 3 becomes law - and some rider is likely to get attached to some funding bill making at least part of it law - those who contest it can use this case as precedent?

    That was the first question that occured to me reading about this decision.  (I live in Arizona, so seeing anything good come of lousy law is only self-defense.)

    When shit happens, you get fertilized.

    by ramara on Sun Apr 10, 2011 at 08:15:16 AM PDT

  •  A modern fable (21+ / 0-)

    A hard working tax paying American mom and dad decided to take their whole family to a theme park for their vacation.  They of course took the children, but they also decided to take Grandma and Grandpa, and the disabled child who was their neighbor, and they took Uncle Joe, a vietnam war veteran.  They bought the tickets and handed them out to everyone and then walked up to the democratic congressman who was taking up the tickets to allow entrance into the park.  As they approached the gate they noticed a group of CEO's and a republican congressman standing by the gate.  The republican congressman came up to the family and took Uncle Joe's ticket and gave it to the CEO of Chevron.  Then he took the disabled childs ticket and gave it to the CEO of Exxon who went into the park.  He then took the tickets from Grandma and Granddad and gave them to the CEO of GE.  Then the republican congressman took the tickets from the children and gave them to to CEO of Bank of America.  Then he took the tickets from the hard working tax paying American mom and dad and handed them to the CEO of Goldman Sachs.  The family turned to the Democratic congressman who was taking up the tickets and he looked at the family and shook his head sadly and told them they couldn't afford to go into the park and needed to cut their spending.

  •  The parable of the good American (10+ / 0-)

    A man was going on the road to town when he was mugged and beaten.  As he lay on the side of the road calling for help, a group of CEO's passed by and paid him no attention as they were counting their profits.  A republican congressman walked by and told the man he was lazy for laying on the road asking for help.  A tea bagger walked by and looked on the man with hatred because he was a minority.  Then the good hard working tax paying American walked by and helped the man up and took him to the hospital.  The CEO's who had passed the man by were there as was the republican congressman.  When the Good American took out his wallet to pay for the injured mans needs, the republican congressman came up and took his wallet and gave it to the CEO's.  The Good American turned to a democratic congressman who had watched the whole exchange, and the democratic congressman looked sadly at the Good American and told him he didn't have enough money to take care of the poor injured man and that he needed to cut his spending.

  •  Similar to Obama care calling a fine a tax, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I smell the hypocrisy there.  Maybe the kids in Arizona will get a better education.

  •  Hypocrisy is nothing new for conservatives. (10+ / 0-)

    I really don't like how we've ceded ground with the Hyde Amendment. I have never heard a reasonable argument justifying why funding abortions with federal funds should be prohibited. There's nothing wrong with using taxpayer dollars to fund abortion. 17 states fund it with their medicaid programs:

    It's time for the Scalia, Alito, and the Hyde Amendment to retire.

  •  This ignores... (9+ / 0-)

    ...the fact that one of the conservative Supreme Court's fundamental goals over the last 30 years has been keeping those who would challenge the legality of government decisions, legislative or otherwise, out of court.  Regardless of the viewpoint of politically conservative politicians, the right-wing Justices have been exceedingly consistent on screwing over people who wish to have their day in court.

    •  That is SO not true! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      eXtina, dotsright

      George W. Bush got his day in court and he wound up being POTUS. But it was just for him. And just for that case. The SCOTUS swears. Pinkie swear. Honest.

      But everybody ELSE who needs their day in court? Well, they better be CEO's or Republican donors or they're SOL.

      A village can not reorganize village life to suit the village idiot.

      by METAL TREK on Sun Apr 10, 2011 at 08:35:07 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Why am I not... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sychotic1, dotsright


  •  Hello. . . (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Two different branches of government. Who's to say the same standard would not apply to HR 3? The problem we have though, is that even if the Court believed that the understanding of terms was the same, they cannot force Congress to appropriate funds for any reason, only whether they cannot appropriate funds for a particular reason. Can you say, "Over a barrel?"

  •  I don't want to pay for imperial aggression. (10+ / 0-)

    I don't want other people's religious beliefs to be enshrined in laws that affect me.  
    Is there any redress of grievances for me?

    Didn't think so.

    The SCOTUS is violating our Constitutional rights.  And their oaths.
    Back to Congress and elections with surprise ballots.

  •  "Tax Expenditures" is the issue (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    judyms9, DRo, dotsright, Amber6541

    Something even more fundamental than policy preferences is at stake in this 5-4 decision and Justice Kennedy's ill-considered opinion.

    Conservatives have argued for decades that it is better not to tax at all, for taxes take money that is rightfully the taxpayers' to keep. From this pedestal of principle, deductions, credits, preferences, loopholes, etc., are simply "tax expenditures" for various things the government couldn't - for one reason or another - spend money for more directly, such as in direct appropriations and earmarks. Under this argument, tax expenditures are bad, too. However much we disagree with the philosophy, that is an honest argument from principle.

    Justice Kennedy, on the other hand, reasons that a tax credit is the equivalent of a government declining to tax. Saying there's no standing to contest such a credit is specious.

    Fortunately for the guidance of future decisions and a differently composed court, Justice Kagan called him out:

    Precisely because appropriations and tax breaks can achieve identical objectives, the government can easily substitute one for the other.

    I'd rather laugh with the sinners, than cry with the saints. The sinners have much more fun!

    by TRPChicago on Sun Apr 10, 2011 at 08:26:01 AM PDT

    •  somehow (8+ / 0-)

      when a bunch of muslim schools are funded via these tax funded loopholes, suddenly these christian righwingers and their court stooges will cry foul.

      I just wish these christian schools actually taught christianity.  I mean Jesus their Lord never spoke out against being gay, but he sure did about being rich.  Hell, Christ even got violent when it came to money changers (banking scum) he detested them so much.

      I mean that the real ironic rub here, these schools dont even teach the teachings of their lord, for if they did, being rich would not be aspired to, since if you are rich you assuredly are not getting into the kingdom of god.

      The stupidity of the right is just mind boggling.

      Bad is never good until worse happens

      by dark daze on Sun Apr 10, 2011 at 08:34:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Tax Breaks for Religion are as American as (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cynic in seattle

    apple pie, or gun sales, or racial hatred.    Remember that the entire basis for the existence of many churches is the tax exemption on church income.  

    I agree that the case discussed is particularly egregious, but generalization of Kagan's argument would logically reverse the long-standing exclusion of church assets from taxation, wouldn't it?  

    I'd support such a change in our law, of course, it would be a good thing in many ways.

    •  Fundies do that all the time IIRC! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dotsright, tarminian

      I read that the Duggar clowns (the ones with the TV show & 19 kids) do something like that. Dad calls himself a "preacher", his house is his "church", and the wife, kids, and in-laws his "congregation". Voila! No taxes (and then he rakes in the cash he gets from the show).

      I think Fred Phelps does that too. His house is his "church" and the family is his "flock".

      Makes me want to get into the preachin' business. Maybe I'll build a temple to Zeus & save a few bucks on taxes. Everybody else is doing the Jeezus thing so I'll have a niche market with some OLD time religion (emphasis on OLD). :)

      A village can not reorganize village life to suit the village idiot.

      by METAL TREK on Sun Apr 10, 2011 at 08:44:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Not just churches, though (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      johnny wurster

      Non-profits too, even non-religious. You entirely miss the point here.

      "Those who stand for nothing fall for anything...Mankind are forever destined to be the dupes of bold & cunning imposture" --Alexander Hamilton

      by kovie on Sun Apr 10, 2011 at 08:51:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  So what? (0+ / 0-)

        The Arizona credit is open to all schools, not just religious ones, so I don't understand why you point out that deductions are open to religious and secular charities.

      •  Miss the Point? (0+ / 0-)

        Well, perhaps.  

        I was reacting to this quote from the Kagan opinion, which pertains to religion and tax breaks:

        "Taxpayers who oppose state aid of religion have equal reason to protest whether that aid flows from the one form of subsidy or the other. Either way, the government has financed the religious activity. And so either way, taxpayers should be able to challenge the subsidy.

        Still worse, the Court's arbitrary distinction threatens to eliminate all occasions for a taxpayer to contest the government's monetary support of religion. Precisely because appropriations and tax breaks can achieve identical objectives, the government can easily substitute one for the other. Today's opinion thus enables the government to end-run Flast's guarantee of access to the Judiciary. From now on, the government need follow just one simple rule--subsidize through the tax system--to preclude taxpayer challenges to state funding of religion."

        So I'm puzzled by your confusion.

    •  Which is why it would help (0+ / 0-)

      if this diary didn't wander back and forth between deductions (which are perfectly ordinary) and credits - the issue in this case - with no obvious awareness that Dante is talking about 2 different things.

    •  I'm up for a tax the churches movement. (0+ / 0-)

      as you long as you tax religious organizations equitably, you are not promoting one over the other.

      on the other hand, letting creationism be taught in public schools is most definitely promoting religion.

      big badda boom : GRB 080913

      by squarewheel on Sun Apr 10, 2011 at 09:47:30 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  yes it's about time to tax the churches.... (0+ / 0-)

        seeing as how they are using their monies and political favors to influence public policy.

        IMO if they don't want federal funding going anywhere near planned parenthood/abortion, then no federal or state funding for ANY fucking religious reason whatsoever.

        Fucking baggers want it all, all the laws, all the money, and they want to shove their ideologies on the whole

  •  Thank you for the post in general but specifically (0+ / 0-)

    the last paragraph.  I don't know if it's because the Sunday morning coffee isn't kicking in or what, but reading the entire post (3 times now) has worn me out.

  •  They got all the judges and polititians in (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    their pocket. The US Supreme court is another weapon in the ongoing class war selected by evil men.

    The radical Republican party is the party of oppression, fear and loathing.

    by a2nite on Sun Apr 10, 2011 at 08:37:34 AM PDT

  •  with all the hoopla about Planned Parenthood (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Loge, DRo, Cynic in seattle, Debby

    using taxpayer monies to "fund" abortions - I'd be interested in other instances of taxpayers funding causes they oppose - like the government funding NASCAR races to promote military recruitment.

    If the GOP did ONE thing to help the average worker, Unions would donate to THEM.

    by MartyM on Sun Apr 10, 2011 at 08:39:02 AM PDT

  •  The rightwing end-around once again. Kagan's (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Loge, COBALT1928, Cynic in seattle, DRo

    dissent highlights what a great choice she is for the Court.  Her presence helps maintain some modicum of respect for a panel of five robed legislators.

  •  Cases like this are the best example of (6+ / 0-)

    why liberals need to vote in elections, imo. 5-4 majority, with both Bush 43 appointees in the majority, and both Obama in the minority. Imagine it had been Kerry or Gore appointing replacements for OConnor and Rehnquist, instead of Bush. Imagine McCain appointing replacements for Souter and Stevens instead of Obama. Imagine Romney or Huckabee appointing a replacement for Ginsburg instead of Obama.

    •  Makes me very angry thinking (0+ / 0-)

      what could have been.  It's also an example of people needing to apply critical thinking skills when choosing a candidate.  A lot of people who tended to disagree with Bush on policies still voted for him!!  because they somehow felt safer or they liked him and didn't see him for the incompetent plutocrat crony loving fascist that he was.

      Imagine it had been Kerry or Gore appointing replacements for OConnor and Rehnquist, instead of Bush.

      "Sisters, brothers and the whities, Blacks and the crackers, Police and their backers, They're all political actors"--Curtis Mayfield

      by Cynic in seattle on Sun Apr 10, 2011 at 09:45:52 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The Arizona decision was a trap for the right (0+ / 0-)

    When this decision came out, I immediately thought of the "money is fungible" argument used in these abortion cases.  The Court ruled that it wasn't -- the tax expenditure was not the same as funding.  So the argument that the House was making was being called out by their own side.

    By the same token, I'm a bit concerned about Kagan's view, simply because it gives them the same tool.  I did not read her whole Dissent.  I might want to draw a distinction between a tax credit and a tax deduction, the latter being less directed and smaller in impact.  Tax expenditures for religious education are a real problem, but if every dollar spent on anything by any private party that also gets a tax break for its costs could be treated as a government expenditure, then pretty much all private expenditures are open to it.  It might be fun to go after GE's tax-sheltered innards, but it doesn't seem productive to do it in such an indirect way.

    •  For standing purposes, that's correct (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      The Court ruled that it wasn't -- the tax expenditure was not the same as funding.  

      Remember, they're just ruling on standing.  They're not holding that deductions and credits aren't actual money or don't shift money to the donee charity.

      In addition to misreading the case (the court didn't reach the question of whether credits are a violation of the establishment clause; they ruled on standing grounds precisely so they wouldn't have to do that!) Dante wayyyy oversells the significance of this new exception to Flast.

      •  Completely agree here (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        johnny wurster

        It's also only a plurality opinion, Scalia and Thomas are both only concurring on the judgement, not the reasoning.
        Having to depend on Flast to get standing is pretty shaky no matter what your case is, better to find a plaintiff who can actually show direct harm and redressability.

  •  It seems to me that the big dispute (7+ / 0-)

    here is, in fact, ideological.  Justice Kennedy says that granting a deduction or exemption or credit is "declining to tax" and not a government expenditure.  That fits in with the conservative view that the money belongs to those who generate it and that declining to tax is letting people "keep their own money." That's the conservative talking point.

    Justice Kagan calls those same things a "tax subsidy."  That fits in with the more progressive view that, for example, cutting taxes or giving a tax break is a "giveaway" in the sense that government is giving the entity or person something, as in "giveaways" to the rich or to big corporations.  

    Ironically, it kind of captures a fundamental dispute over the framing of government tax policy.  Is a deduction/exemption/shelter a "giveaway" (progressive veiw) or "letting people keep their own money" (conservative view)?

    Justice Kennedy, who is going to be the closest thing there is to a swing vote on this Court, has come down on the side of conservative framing on this issue.  

    •  However real Arizonans are being harmed (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DRo, SingerInTheChoir

      by this decision as AZ legislators slash education and human service funding and drown the AZ government in a tax credit bathtub.

      The author of this tax credit :

      Representative Steve Yarbrough owns the largest STO in Arizona, the Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization. Yarbrough's organization took in over $11.4 million of tax credit money in 2007, over 21% of all tuition tax credit dollars collected statewide.

         * As Executive Director of ACSTO, Yarbrough receives an annual salary of about $96,000. The tax form says the salary is compensation for 40 hours work per week. I suppose it's possible for him to work full time as Exec Director of ACSTO and still maintain his duties as a legislator. But it wouldn't give him a whole lot of time to do anything else.
          * Yarbrough is also a working lawyer, and under the title of Steven P. Yarbrough, PC, he gets paid by ACSTO, which lists its legal fees at about $60,000 per year. There's no breakdown of the legal fees on the tax form, so there's no way for me to know whether or not the entire $60,000 is spent on Yarbrough's legal services. It does seem strange, though, that the Executive Director working 40 hours a week puts on another hat and pays himself extra to offer legal counsel.
          * Beginning in 2006, by far the biggest charge to ACSTO is "Processing Expenses": $363,620 in 2006 and $426,895 in 2007. In 2005, Processing Expenses are listed as only $24,440. Before 2005, there is no specific listing for the service. Interestingly, on October 21, 2005, Yarbrough incorporated a new business, HY Processing, LLC. The corporation is listed on ACSTO's tax return in 2006 and 2007, and the description of services in 2007 is, "Processing of scholarship requests and grants. Payments of guaranteed payments." Because the new six figure processing charges begin at the same time HY Processing is first listed on ACSTO's return, I'm guessing there is a direct connection, and most or all of the processing costs are flowing from ACSTO to HY Processing.

      As always, follow the money.

      •  SCOTUS decisions are rarely (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        about only the parties in front of them.  Important as the issues seem to the actual parties to the case, in most cases, the decision is usually much, much more important for the bigger principle decided than for the actual parties before the Court.  

        In other words, Brown v. Board of Education was not about whether a handful of children could attend a particular school in Topeka.  

        When a case like this comes to the SCOTUS, they are usually more concerned with the principle.  Here, the principle is whether a deduction/exemption/credit is a "subsidy" as Justice Kagan says, or the government simply "declining to take the public's money" as Kennedy would frame it.  Important as the issue may seem to some in Arizona, the SCOTUS is more often focused on the principle, as that typically has far, far more importance in the long run.

        If the people of Arizona disagree with these tax credits, they still have recourse, and that is to elect different representatives.  After all, the STO's are simply a matter of law, and that law is passed by the elected representatives.    

        I'm not saying the SCOTUS decision is right or wrong -- that depends on how you view the fundamental issue of whether a deduction/exemption/credit is, or is not, a governmental "expenditure."  

        •  Current SCOTUS decisions (0+ / 0-)

          are extremely ideological, with much to do with the impact on larger principles.

          •  Yes, ideological (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            but more in line with the ideological principle involved than the identity of the party.   In other words, conservative justices usually follow the Gideological principle rather than the identity of the party.  Bush v. Gore may be the one striking exception, but in that case, both sides departed from their typical ideology in writing opinions.  That's an exception that demonstrates the undeniable fact that the SCOTUS is, and always has been, a political institution.  

            That is why (in my opinion) all those who think that the SCOTUS will uphold the Health Care Bill "because it helps insurance companies" are completely missing the point.  The overriding ideological principle there is the conservative view that the Constitution limits the power of Congress to those powers enumerated in the Constitution, and that the Commerce Clause power cannot be read so broadly as to give Congress the power to do anything it wants.  That's the ideology that will drive that decision (if I had to predict) regardless of the fact that it will financially benefit certain corporations.  I certainly think that will be the view of Scalia, Alito, Thomas, and Roberts.  

            The wild card in that decision will be, as usual, Justice Kennedy.

  •  Thank you. This particular piece of hypocrisy (0+ / 0-)

    has been twisting my shorts for some time.  (Although from the "No money for women's health!" vs. "Wall Street bonuses come out of profits" dichotomy.)

  •  No FOIAs, No Sunshine, Just Slush Funds? (0+ / 0-)

    Who's running this, Bernie Madoff?

    Or like many other scams, giving money  to strangers with no strings attached is OK because it is vaguely church endorsed?

    It's all so clear to me now. I'm the keeper of the cheese. And you're the lemon merchant. Get it? And he knows it.

    by bernardpliers on Sun Apr 10, 2011 at 08:48:21 AM PDT

  •  BTW, Did designated foul-line shooter Thomas (0+ / 0-)

    add any points for the winning team?

  •  US history is marked by an unending struggle (3+ / 0-)

    between the liberal and reactionary impulse (I won't even dignify the latter with the word "conservative", as it would be inaccurate and misleading). I.e. between people wanting to further liberalize the US so as to make life more free, fair and comfortable for all, be it through government or from outside of it, and those who wish to make life more restricted, unfair and uncomfortable for most, be it for reasons of (twisted) ideology or amoral self-interest.

    We saw it at the founding in the struggle between those who wanted to end slavery and the unfair hold on power of southern aristocrats and northern machine politicians, and those who wanted to preserve both.

    We saw it in the 30's as FDR tried to not only get us out of the depression but also extend the bounty of American prosperity to all Americans, and a cabal of southern racists and northern businessmen tried to stop him.

    We saw it in the 50's and 60's as liberals and freedom marchers tried to end Jim Crow once and for all, and southern racists (this time mostly without the help of northern businessmen) tried to resist it.

    And we're seeing it yet again (as we always will, unfortunately) as an alliance of (mostly) southern racists and very rich businessmen conspire to roll back all of these liberal gains, literally going all the way back to the founding (e.g. this ruling and destroying the separation of church and state).

    In the US we like to highlight and trump our liberalism, which is only proper because despite what the media tells us, the US is a liberal country, having been founded on liberal principles (albeit of a late 18th century sort). But we should also note our reactionary tendencies, because they've been with us (and dragged us down) from the start. Right now, and really since the 70's, reactionaries have had the upper hand, and mostly gotten their way.

    We have to reverse that, if we're to continue the legacy of 1776.

    "Those who stand for nothing fall for anything...Mankind are forever destined to be the dupes of bold & cunning imposture" --Alexander Hamilton

    by kovie on Sun Apr 10, 2011 at 08:50:49 AM PDT

  •  Is there a constitutional remedy to fix SCOTUS? (0+ / 0-)

    How do we get fascists off the court?

    I can't believe it, And people are strange Our [congress] is crazy, Did you hear what [they] said Business and pleasure, Lie right to your face Divide it in sections And then give it away David Byrne/Talking heads (with apologies)

    by caseynm on Sun Apr 10, 2011 at 08:50:52 AM PDT

  •  They don't care. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Egalitare, mike101

    They don't care if the are hypocritical in their reasoning. To conservatives, everything lives in it's own mental compartment, each compartment labeled "right" or "wrong". There is no continuity, no interlinking. Two identical things can wear opposite labels, and there is no conflict.

    That's how they could, for example, stop the Florida recount and throw the election to Bush, and at the same time declare that their reasoning must never be applied to any other similar situation.

    They want to fund religion, therefore it shall be done, constitution and precedent be damned. They want to prevent abortion, regardless, and that will be done also.

    That is the essence of the authoritarian mindset that so many conservatives have. They are right. They are always right.

    "A lie is not the other side of a story; it's just a lie."

    by happy camper on Sun Apr 10, 2011 at 08:51:09 AM PDT

  •  In all seriousness (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dougymi, karenc13, Debby

    I know a lot of people here are disappointed with Obama, but as I said going into 2008, keep your eyes on the REALLY big prize: the SCOTUS. Kagan & Sotomayor are turning out to be good justices. If Fat Tony chokes on a meatball sub* or Thomas has a porn induced heart attack*, we have a better chance of tilting the court back in our favor with Obama, than we would have had with Grampy McSame or Romney or Palin or (take your pick of Republican asshats).

    *Not advocating this at all. Just making a tasteless joke at the expense of Republicans.

    A village can not reorganize village life to suit the village idiot.

    by METAL TREK on Sun Apr 10, 2011 at 08:53:15 AM PDT

  •  NOW can we get behind the President?? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DRo, Debby

    Sotomayor questioned the personhood of corporations and Kagan, the separation of church and state confirmed...if we can hold the presidency we have a chance at another great justice for the people.

    can't we be like the GOP for the next year and just get OUR guy re-elected???  

    •  I wrote this comment elsewhere, but it fits: (0+ / 0-)

      Kagan may be on the losing side, but her dissent is a stinging rebuke and if she keeps doing it, it may help.  Of course, I don’t think most of the other side can be shamed.

      At least I can look at something Obama did (pick her) and be happy.  It has been a long time since he has made me happy.  I may believe he is a fake Democrat in many ways, he has picked justices that I can believe in.  This is the reason Obama will get my vote.

  •  Obama Justice Dept. Filed a brief (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hcc in VA, COBALT1928, squarewheel

    Supporting use of tax deductions for donations to religious schools.  Why did you omit that from your story?

  •  This is a big deal (4+ / 0-)

    I had not heard about this decision. We decided to send one of our children to a private school at great harm to our bank balance, but at no time did we consider that we deserved a tax deduction for it, since we firmly believe that all children are entitled to a good public education, and that such tax breaks would greatly endanger this.  Now the door has been thrown wide open.

    The Court's decision is so specious, arbitrary, and political (well, they really broke ground for that during the 2000 election, didn't they), that it is bordering on disgraceful.  The Supreme Court is doing not only itself but the country great harm. It will rapidly lose the confidence invested in it as the ultimate arbiter, and become just another political arm of the government

    "The only thing we have to fear - is fear itself." - Franklin Delano Roosevelt

    by orrg1 on Sun Apr 10, 2011 at 09:01:35 AM PDT

    •  Actually, it's the society that benefits (0+ / 0-)

      when the next generation is well educated and appreciative of its heritage.  It's not a matter of deserts.  It's a matter of social obligation and self-interest.

      by hannah on Sun Apr 10, 2011 at 09:44:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent observation. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Is it hypocrisy or a lacking of the cognitive tools needed to understand the disconnect? Even if this was pointed out to most conservatives their response would be "it's different" as if they truly believe it's different.

    Unapologetically pro-citizen. Not anti-corporation just very pro-citizen.

    by CanYouBeAngryAndStillDream on Sun Apr 10, 2011 at 09:01:57 AM PDT

  •  Why are contributions to Non-profits,,, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    COBALT1928, hannah, Desert Rose

    and churches counted as charitable deductions. They should be made to show how much is spent on "charity".

    "Education is dangerous - Every educated person is a future enemy" Hermann Goering (NRSC?)

    by irate on Sun Apr 10, 2011 at 09:03:58 AM PDT

  •  The Constitution is pretty much a scam. (0+ / 0-)

    It means whatever those in control of the court want it to mean.

    Yet we have Consitution Cultists on both sides of the political spectrum.

    They're fools.

    Ideology is an excuse to ignore common sense.

    by Bush Bites on Sun Apr 10, 2011 at 09:10:21 AM PDT

  •  Drain a public pool into my garden? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Think of it this way. If I put a suction hose into a public swimming pool and use that to water my back yard garden, that's legal, right?

    Sure it is, says the Gang of Five, as long as I first plant a Christian cross in my garden. If your son Johnny jumps off the diving board and lands on the bottom of the drained pool, you have no right to sue me, because I dumped a pail of water into it just last week, like everybody else...

    Oh wait, I didn't....

    Well then, it's legal because the Gang of Five says so!

    Please contribute to Doctors Without Borders today.

    by jimbo92107 on Sun Apr 10, 2011 at 09:10:40 AM PDT

  •  asdf (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    thus outlining a clear path for states interested in getting the government to fund religious education

    We already do, through deductions.  Note that a state couldn't provide a credit or deduction solely to religious schools.  It would have to include secular ones.
    •  asdf (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      This decision could potentially have far-reaching implications: not only did the conservative majority decide that tax deductions did not constitute establishment

      That's not what they ruled.  They dismissed on standing, so they didn't have to reach the establishment clause issues.
    •  Seems to me the principle here (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      that is the most far-reaching is the notion that declining to tax, or reducing taxes, is not the same as a government "expenditure."  

      In layman's terms, this is precisely the conservative view.  This Court is saying that tax cuts are not government spending, and that lowering or reducing taxes are not spending.    

      I have a feeling that, in the long run, this case will be far more cited for this principle than it will be for whether government  can provide tax incentives that support private schools, which was not actually the issue here.

  •  Would this then provide the basis for a (0+ / 0-)

    constitutional challenge to HR 3?

    If the Supreme Court says federal money is NOT fungible, then prohibiting payment for a legal procedure on the basis that federal funds ARE fungible, appears to raise some issues
    with HR 3.

    I realize there is probably a legal reason why this won't work and someone here knows what it is.  I'd like to hear it so as to understand the issue better.

    The community of fools might be small if it were not such an accomplished proselytizer.

    by ZedMont on Sun Apr 10, 2011 at 09:33:52 AM PDT

  •  Personally, I think "taxpayer" is just (0+ / 0-)

    the latest euphemism for "property-owner" in the ever elusive quest for some designation that would return us to the traditional social order where the owners of property (including wives and children) rule the roost.
    When you understand that's the definition, there's no hypocrisy, just deception.

    Let's not forget that children are the property of parents and, in objecting to the professional termination of a pregnancy, it's the property right of the male parent that's being protected by the state.

    That children are the property of their parents is a very sensitive subject that nobody wants to talk about.  Yet, it is a fact that children are "emancipated" at age eighteen.  If they're not emancipated from the ownership of their parents, what are they being emancipated from?  And then there's the evidence of the U.S. failure to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Why do you think it is that, alone of 195 nations (we won't count Somalia), the U.S. has refused to pledge to respect the human rights of children?
    Has Obama submitted it recently to the Senate?

    by hannah on Sun Apr 10, 2011 at 09:40:32 AM PDT

  •  so here's the thing, will we get another (0+ / 0-)

    reasonable SC justice from Obama 2012-2016 ?

    I'm not sure, but I really the hope that it will be, because a good SC nominee is one of the few reasons I have to feel good about voting for him.

    Otherwise it's the lesser of two evils, as usual.

    big badda boom : GRB 080913

    by squarewheel on Sun Apr 10, 2011 at 09:43:20 AM PDT

  •  How is this fundmentally different from (0+ / 0-)

    funding Pell grants and other federal aid (including research) at places like Notre Dame, DePaul and other religiously affiliated universities?

    I can't see anything about the difference between high school and college that should matter.

    LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

    by dinotrac on Sun Apr 10, 2011 at 10:28:41 AM PDT

  •  They don't seem to be woried about fungibility (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lostinamerica, IdaMena2

    when it is the Chamber of Commerce getting money from foreign corporations and  spending it on political adds.

  •  Obama may not be perfect but (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Terranova0, tarminian

    do you want Romney, Pawlenty, Trump et al to have the opportunity to appoint to the Supreme Court?

  •  Time for an IRL troll (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Offer tax credits to women that get abortions.  See right-wing heads explode.

  •  in other words, sharia law without sharia nt (0+ / 0-)

    "A union is a way of getting things done together that you can't get done alone." Utah Phillips

    by poemworld on Sun Apr 10, 2011 at 01:20:03 PM PDT

  •  Ha ha they will all be SO sorry (0+ / 0-)

    when the local Church of Mother Peyote gets the bread!

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