The taxing question

Bill Ritter's daily take on the news.

January 25, 2012 2:18:18 PM PST
Taxes and death. That's top of mind tonight.

And judging by the response of folks on my Facebook page to the President's State of the Union speech last night, how to tax Americans is a huge and important talker.

"Taxing the rich" is the in-vogue approach - although the definition of who's rich is a moveable object. Last night the President made it clear that no one who makes less than $250,000 would have a tax increase under his scenario.

Of course just a few months ago, Mr. Obama called those who made $250,000 "wealthy."

The debate over how to tax has long been emotional and testy. Where to draw the line over who's rich? $1 million a year? $5 million? $10 million? $100 million?

If you make $100,000, you think that a person making $1 million is rich. But if you make $1 million, it's the $5 million-a-year guy whose rich. And so on, up the line.

It's a little like the not-in-my-backyard position.

Hey - not from my bank account!

But the country's in trouble, and, despite the (now lesser heard) argument that taxing those with money is not what the country needs, most Americans believe that taxing those with money is indeed what's needed.

The Republican Presidential candidates are all weighing in - as they fight it out to try to take on Mr. Obama in the fall.

The latest poll from Florida shows Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich basically tied - this after a see-saw of who's-ahead polls that has seen Romney on top, then Gingrich, and then Romney coming back again. Florida's primary this coming Tuesday will help determine the latest GOP frontrunner - this after the first three political contests yielded three different Republican winners, the first time that's ever happened.

But now there's talk - and it's simultaneously hard to imagine and not outside the realm of possibility - of no candidate having enough delegates to get the nomination on the first ballot at the Republican National Convention this August in Tampa.

The last time there was a brokered GOP convention was in 1948, when Thomas Dewey eventually secured the nomination. (The last brokered Democratic Party convention was in 1952, with Adlai Stevenson eventually getting the nod.)

We'll have the latest on the Presidential campaign - and the debate over taxes - tonight at 11. As for the death part of the death-and-taxes discussion, a convicted murderer on death row in North Carolina tonight is stirring the debate over the death penalty.

Danny Robbie Hembree Jr. has written a letter to and published in his hometown paper, The Gaston Gazette, which seems to mock the whole death penalty sentencing.

"Is the public aware that I am a gentleman of leisure, watching color TV in the A.C., reading, taking naps at will, eating three well balanced hot meals a day?" Hembree wrote. "I'm housed in a building that connects to the new 55 million dollar hospital with round the clock free medical care 24/7."

The 50-year-old Hembree then says that the odds are "very slim" that he'll be put to death in the next 20 years.

He's a bad guy - he killed a young woman and cops believe he's killed others - but the points he makes are fascinating. And they may provide insight into why public support for the death penalty has fallen to a 40-year low. Fewer than one-out-of-three think the death penalty is a deterrent to murder.

Only one out of two Americans think the death penalty is applied fairly. And, perhaps most telling, more than seven out of 10 say they believe an innocent person has been wrongly executed in the past five years.

I'm just sayin'.

We're also at Penn State University at 11, for the ongoing memorials for long-time and recently disgraced football coach Joe Paterno. The funeral was today and a public memorial is planned tomorrow. Our Stacey Sager is there for us tonight.

And our Jamie Roth takes a look at one of those stories that quickly get people angry - the (still existing) discrepancy in pay between men and women. Yes, women have made great gains over the years, but the hard truth is men still significantly out-earn women.

Tonight, Jamie looks at ways women can change that - one negotiation at a time!

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Meteorologist Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Laura Behnke (in for Rob Powers) with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho (in for Sade Baderinwa) and me, tonight at 11.


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