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The Brush-Up: Your Weekly Current Events Cheat Sheet

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Welcome to mid-April, sports fans. Restaurant patios are opening their doors, pairs of shorts are getting yanked from the bottom of the drawer and dusted off, and single people everywhere are sitting down with a bottle of wine to discuss the Buffet Rule.

Let’s Brush-Up.

1. Romney soars, Santorum (kind of?) drops out, and the Big Game begins

   

 The Gist: Remember that whole “lipstick on a pig” comment about Sarah Palin that got then-candidate Barack Obama in some trouble in ‘08? You could tell the general election officially began this week when Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen claimed that Ann Romney, the former Governor’s wife, has “never worked a day in her life” and the whole political world exploded. The GOP has been trampling all over the comment, everyone near the Obama reelection campaign has been distancing themselves like crazy, and before you knew it Ann Romney had a twitter account.

Facing the prospect of losing his home state Pennsylvania, Sen. Rick Santorum suspended his campaign this week, but the bigger news was that he stopped short of actually endorsing Romney for the nomination. You could read a lot into this, or not, but it’s certainly not the jolt Romney was probably hoping for to kick off the general.

Conversation starters: This whole Rosen-Romney thing will be gone by next Monday, but the points themselves could make for an interesting convo: is it weird for Mrs. Romney to be Mitt’s expert on women who are struggling to support their family? That’s what Rosen claims her comment was about. Or was she demeaning the claim of homemaker as career, as many on the right have framed it? And as things heats up, how much will the Romney family’s wealth come into play for middle class Americans? Is it “model of American success” or “out of touch”?

2. Zimmerman charged with second-degree murder, pleads not guilty, Florida State Attorney is kind of awesome

The Gist: We’ve been on this story for a few weeks now, and it, sorta like the 2012 election, just hit its first act break. George Zimmerman was arrested Wednesday in the killing of 17 year-old Trayvon Martin, and has plead not guilty, under Florida’s stand your ground law. Meanwhile, the State Attorney Angela Corey schooled reporters during her press conference announcing the charges (full video here, worth at least a skim-through).

Three Things to Know That Could Start a Conversation:

1. To get a second-degree murder conviction, the prosecutor’s going to have to prove that Martin’s death was caused by a criminal act. (As in, not just manslaughter; murder requires some evidence of malice.)

2. The judge could quite conceivably throw the case out before a jury even hears it, because of the low legal standards Zimmerman’s lawyers face: they only have to show by a preponderance of evidence (as in, more likely true than not) that Zimmerman was acting in self defense.

3. Because of Florida’s “Sunshine Law,” all forthcoming evidence will be made available to the public, and if there’s a trial it will almost certainly be televised.

 

3. The Hot-Date Special: Debating the Buffet Rule

The Gist: Nothing may end up being more central to the 2012 election than the philosophical and practical debates over how to rebuild the American economy. Zero in on a specific bill illustrating that debate, and you get the Buffet Rule. (Or, what’s going to be voted on in the Senate next week, the “Pay a Fair Share Act”.)

The bill basically creates a ramp of tax increases on people making between $1 to $2 million a year: the more you make, the higher the tax, up to 30%. But the debate couldn’t have less to do with the specifics. It’s about the same principles at stake in the Bush Tax Cuts, and the same that drove the drama over the raise in the debt ceiling last summer:

Should high-income Americans pay more taxes, or do they already pay enough?

The Debate: Obviously it helps to be an economist, but you don’t have to be one to get in on this trickle-down job-creator class-warfare goodness! Should high-income earners be paying more than low-income earners, the same, or less as a percentage? Is it punishing success? Or how we start to pay down our massive debt?

And there are a lot of tangential springboards here, because we all know financial views and behavior is a reeeaallly important thing to discuss with someone you’re thinking of gettin’ with.

4. Totally not critical but great talking point: There was a fire in Oklahoma City last weekend. Did you hear?

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