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Federal Prison Population Has Increased 800% In 30 Years

Prison Inmates

The Article: Feds to Reconsider Harsh Prison Terms for Drug Offenders by Sarah Childress in PBS.

The Text: The federal prison population has expanded by nearly 800 percent in the past 30 years, spurred in part by the increasing use of tougher sentences applied to nonviolent drug crimes.

Now there’s a growing movement to scale it back. On Thursday, the U.S. Sentencing Commission, an independent federal agency, plans to vote on an amendment to sentencing guidelines that could ultimately begin to winnow the federal prison population, nearly half of whom are people convicted of drug offenses.

The amendment is part of a bipartisan push away from America’s addiction to incarceration, which prison reform experts say costs far too much, not only in dollars — $80 billion a year in 2010 — but also in the devastation primarily of African-American communities, who have been disproportionately caught up in the system.

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Can’t We Just Say The Roberts Court Is Corrupt?

John Roberts

The Article: Can’t We Just Say The Roberts Court Is Corrupt? by Mike Lofgren in Bill Moyers Online.

The Text: The Supreme Court’s decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission was not about aggregate limits on individual campaign donations to candidates in federal elections. The case was about what constitutes a bribe, how big that bribe has to be and whether an electoral system can be corrupt even in the absence of a legally demonstrable cash payment to an office holder or candidate for an explicitly specified favor. The Roberts court, or five of its nine members, adopted the misanthrope’s faux-naïve pose in ruling that private money in politics, far from promoting corruption, causes democracy to thrive because, money being speech, the more speech, the freer the politics. Anatole France mocked this kind of legal casuistry by saying, “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets and to steal bread.”

James Fallows has reminded us that during Chief Justice John Roberts’ confirmation hearing, the nominee described his own judicial approach as “Humility. Modesty. Restraint. Deference to precedent. ‘We’re just calling balls and strikes.’” Fallows goes on to say that Roberts is cynical for adopting that pose to get through the hearing. It is true that he is cynical, no doubt in the same way that prostitutes are cynical women, but I don’t think that term quite captures the key quality that makes Roberts decide legal cases the way he does. Nor does his cynicism differentiate him from his jurisprudential clones named Thomas, Scalia, Alito and Kennedy.

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You Pay Higher Taxes Than Boeing, GE And Verizon

Tax Rate

The Article: You Pay Higher Taxes Than Boeing (and GE, Verizon & 23 More U.S. Corporations) by Brandy Zadrozny in The Daily Beast.

The Text: You may be among the 95 percent of Americans who believe it’s their civic duty to pay their fair share of taxes, but sending a portion of your salary to the IRS still smarts. Even for the more than 100 million who will receive refunds, no day is more agonizing than April 15.

If only we could all be corporations. Although they all start with a flat 35 percent federal tax rate, most employ a team of clever accountants to whittle down their liability—sometimes to nothing at all.

After taking advantage of credits, exemptions, and offshore tax havens, U.S. corporations get away with paying an average of less than 13 percent, according to the Government Accountability Office. What’s more, the GAO found that more than half of them reported owing no federal taxes in at least one year between 1998 and 2005.

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Meet The Republican Who Thinks His Party Has Failed on Women’s Issues

Doug Cox

The Article: Meet the Republican Who Thinks His Party Has Failed on Women’s Issues by Elisabeth Garber-Paul in Rolling Stone.

The Text: As red states continue to rack up laws that restrict access to abortion, basic contraception and preventive care, it can seem that Republicans have put the needs of women second to toeing the Tea Party line. Oklahoma, for example, has continuously pushed through such legislation. But there’s a surprising voice in that state: Republican State Representative Doug Cox, an MD who has continued to practice during his 10 years in office. “This bill is prejudiced,” Cox said earlier this month, during a committee hearing for a bill that would make it harder for women under 17 to get the morning after pill. “It’s prejudiced against women. A 14-year-old boy can go to the truck stop and buy all the condoms he wants. He can control his destiny. This bill takes the ability to control their destiny away from women. But that’s what we do in the Republican Party these days.”

Rolling Stone spoke with Rep. Cox from his office in Oklahoma City.

What do you think of the current Republican Party’s approach to women’s reproductive rights?

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Why Americans Should Be In A Rage

Paul Ryan

The Article: We Should Be in a Rage by Charles M. Blow in The New York Times.

The Text: Voter apathy is a civic abdication. There is no other way to describe it.

If more Americans — particularly young people and less-wealthy people — went to the polls, we would have a better functioning government that actually reflected the will of the citizenry.

But, that’s not the way it works. Voting in general skews older and wealthier, and in midterm elections that skew is even more severe.

As David Wasserman wrote on the Cook Report last year:

“Voters under the age of 30 were 19 percent of all voters in 2012, but just 12 percent of all voters in 2010. Likewise, voters 65 and up were 17 percent of all voters in 2012, but 21 percent of all voters in 2010. Herein lies the biggest danger for Democratic candidates in 2014.”

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