Archive for the ‘Legal’ Category

[This is excerpted from an email exchange with my mother regarding the subject after she sent me a link about student loan forgiveness for teachers from a private company that claims they will get your loans forgiven. She’s a Trump supporter and I support Bernie Sanders. The reason I support Bernie is because he will work to prevent this from happening to today’s high school grads and fix the system so that I won’t be forced to become homeless in order to use the degrees I worked so hard to get to do work that I love.]

When student loan debt is forgiven, it counts as income to the IRS, so I would wind up paying taxes on $200,000 or so.  yup, at the current rate 33%, that’s $66,000 or 6 grand more than I make a year. All because we have fed loans go through banks now and they want their money! 1/2 of the amount that’s “forgiven” is actually issued back to the bank servicing the loan as a tax credit so they wind up not having to pay taxes on any of it. In fact, they get get a tax refund! Oh, and the tax debt for the “loan forgiveness” has to be paid in 2 tax years, and can’t be discharged through bankruptcy. It can’t even be spread out over 7 years in a chapter 13 filing. That’s what we get for giving banks and big business the ability to by politicians.

Here’s the info for teachers https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans/forgiveness-cancellation/teacher and it only covers up to $17,500 in forgiveness, but doesn’t forgive private loans. And Public Service Loan Forgiveness covers all federal loans (not private loans) if you work for a government entity for 10 years and don’t go into default during that time. https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans/forgiveness-cancellation/public-service

With my fed loans on “income based” – they take 30% of what they consider my disposable income – I pay $304.76 every month. My private loans are $276 and $180 a month in addition to that. I’ve yet to be able to make the minimum monthly payment on my private loans, so I’ve been in default for the past 4 years, with no way of ever catching up.

I’m now looking at them forcing me into bankruptcy, and with the way the laws are written, all of my consumer debt (medical bills) will be wiped clean (yay!) but my private loans will be accelerated payments from 25 years to pay off to 7-10 years to pay off. Meaning my monthly payments will be taken straight from my paychecks for $985 & $643. Out of a paycheck of $2000/twice a month. Add in rent, utilities, internet, car maintenance & gas, and $40 cell phone = no money at all for fur-babies, human food, insurance, or prescription drugs.

Do you see why Bernie Sanders’ proposal to have state colleges for undergrad be tuition free is a huge deal? It would prevent future students from being forced into this situation by channeling tax dollars from folks making over $250,000 a year and put it into college education. https://berniesanders.com/issues/its-time-to-make-college-tuition-free-and-debt-free/  It’s not that much money. Even the economists have backed him on the ability to tax this. His plan is to lower the tax rate on people/families making less than $70k a year while raising it on the higher earners.

The effective tax rate now for a person/family making $250k a year is 20% or less than what we pay. For good comparison of what the ultra-rich pay vs. the poorest look at this historic chart. http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/taxfacts/displayafact.cfm?Docid=543 And here’s how Bernie plans to pay for his proposals, all taxes on the rich. https://berniesanders.com/issues/how-bernie-pays-for-his-proposals/ If I made $100k vs. $60k, I’d be happy to pay more taxes.

When Warren Buffet says the rich don’t pay enough taxes http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/warren-buffett-raise-taxes-wealthy-friends/story?id=14307993 and Bill Gates’ dad says the rich don’t pay enough taxes, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2010-05-20/bill-gates-dad-says-rich-people-aren-t-paying-enough-state-income-taxes, we need to listen the reasonable men and women.

We need to reinstate estate taxes (remember the “Death Tax” the Republicans freaked out about?), which only kick in on estates valued at over $300k, we need to increase the taxes on stock revenue. We need to start looking after our poor, our working class, our middle class, and not the banks, big pharma, big ag, and businesses that are making money off our backs.

Pfizer, the largest drug company in the U.S., is merging with an Irish drug firm to avoid paying even more in U.S. taxes. And by even more, they want their effective tax rate to go from 25% to about 7% while still getting federal funds to cover over half of their drug research and development. If they move overseas, then they should not be able to get US funds for research.







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Thomas is a great free source for statutory law and legeslative history.   But linking to it?  Forget it, the links expire.  Enter the new tool tiny Thom.as.  Tiny Thom.as will create a permalink to the Thomas webpage you want to save or share.  Not only does it give you a permalink, it also gives you a variety of sources from which to view the information: Thomas, Open Congress(“/oc” at the end of the link), and GovTrack (“/gt” at the end of the link).

Very cool!  Another tool for my research tool box.

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The blogosphere has been all aflutter about Google Scholar‘s ability to search court cases.  I had some time earlier this week to play around with the Google Scholar features.  It’s pretty decent for keyword searching and excellent if you have the citation.  It also shows you how to properly cite the case (a big plus in my book!) and you can use the standard advanced search options for any Google search.  The downside, as far as I can tell, is the inability to update a case (Shepardize/KeyCite).  For this, Lexis and Westlaw (pay services) would seem to have the stronghold.

Then I heard about Xyggy legal.  Type in a case name or citation, and -bam! – the case is updated.  It’s seems pretty exhaustive for federal cases too.   The Xyggy hompage says it covers “United States Reporter (U.S.): 1 – 544, Federal Reporter, Second Series (F.2d): 178 – 999, Federal Reporter, Third Series (F.3d): 1 – 491.  Case coverage is incomplete for recent years and Xyggy will endeavor to complete the collection in the future. Till then the site is at beta status.”  But this is a big chunk of what I’m asked to research and update, so it will be helpful.

Of course, this is great news for someone like me who does legal research on contract basis – now there’s not as much need to charge clients more, which of course, translates to lower fees for their clients.  So, for now, Google Scholar and Xyggy legal are my first stops for case law.

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4 Down, 46 to Go

I rarely venture into politics here, but I’m going to go with this because I feel strongly about it. If you aren’t for same-sex marriage, well, don’t read, I want to preach to the choir for a bit.

I was excited last Friday when Iowa’s Supreme Court struck down their state’s DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act). If you haven’t already, read the opinion, or at least the facts section (the first part). The facts of the case, as written, are the strongest argument yet I’ve heard for same-sex marriage.  From the first paragraph of the facts: “Like most Iowans, they are responsible, caring, and productive individuals. They maintain important jobs, or are retired, and are contributing, benevolent members of their communities.  They include a nurse, business manager, insurance analyst, bank agent, stay-at-home parent, church organist and piano teacher, museum director, federal employee, social worker, teacher, and two retired teachers. Like many Iowans, some have children and others hope to have children. Some are foster parents.”  They (the plaintiffs, same-sex couples who want to get married) are just like us, all of us.  This made Iowa the 3rd state (after Massachusetts and Connecticut) to allow same-sex marriage.  

The Iowa Senate Majority leader explains why he won’t co-sponsor a bill to amend the Iowa Constitution:

Then, this past Wednesday, Vermont’s legislature over rode the veto by the governor to establish same-sex marriages.  The text of the legislation allows any religion/clergy member to refuse to marry any couple; the legislation only establishes civil marriage – which, when you think about, is all that’s needed legally.  A religious ceremony is not “official” unless the proper civil marriage form is filed.  I completely agree with this, as I think most same-sex marriage supporters would, as same-sex marriage is not about encroaching on religion, rather it’s about having the same civil rights as heterosexuals.  A poignant speech in favor of the legislation, given by a 17 year old.

So what’s up next?  Well, we’re still waiting to hear back from the California Supreme Court on the Proposition 8 challenge, though, this would be a technicality win, it would still bring back same-sex marriages in California.  Wisconsin has a case pending, waiting to hear if the State Supreme Court will rule on it.  The Governor of New York is promising to introduce a same-sex marriage bill into the state senate; we’ll see what happens there.  

And Congress may be taking up the issue, as the Washington, D.C. city council is voting on a same-sex marriage recognition law; Congress has the final say in any legislation the Washington, D.C. city council passes.  

All of this makes for an exciting time here, and makes for some absurd attack ads.

Really?  I don’t think they’re thinking.  The National Organization for Marriage talking points are great, as are their why marriage matters handouts (different ones for different religions, hmm….).  

This fear-monger deflects the issue, the issue of civil rights.  How can anyone not support a couple in love?  I think back to my own marriage; it lasted under 7 years.  Then I think of a couple I know who have been together for 8 years (9 years now?) but can’t get married because they are the same-sex.  Why is that allowed?  40 years ago, interracial marriages were illegal, now they are widely accepted.  They didn’t change anyone’s marriage, they didn’t affect the people who were already married.  

Okay, that’s my rant.  I hope you at least enjoyed the videos.

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