A License To Discriminate


What You Need To Know About Indiana’s New “Religious Freedom” Law

Indiana Governor Mike Pence (R) signed a law last Thursday that further enables discrimination against gay and lesbian people in the state. The so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” or RFRA, uses the guise of protecting religious liberty to enable private citizens and organizations to deny services to others if they claim that their religious views are “substantially burdened.”

The event has led to an enormous, broad-based backlash, including from a number of companies that are worried the law is bad for business. It also has led to some confused reporting from major news outlets about what the new law actually does.

Here are the four things you need to know about this license to discriminate.

1. Religious freedom is a core American value and a basic right, which is why it is already protected by the Constitution. The Indiana RFRA is an unnecessary law — one that opens a can of worms that would allow corporations and other private entities to justify discrimination against individuals that might otherwise be protected under law. Religious freedom doesn’t give us the right to harm others or force our religious beliefs on those who hold different views.

2. The new law has caused a massive wave of high-profile backlash. More than a dozen high-profile companies with presences in the state have protested the law, including major tech companies, three of the state’s major universities, the NCAA, the Indiana Pacers basketball team, and Eli Lilly and Company, the global drug giant which employs 11,000 in the state. Hillary Clinton expressed her displeasure, and celebrities from pop star Miley Cyrus to actor George Takei took to social media to slam the law.

3. The Indiana RFRA is different — and worse — than the federal RFRA and other state RFRAs. The Washington Post has written that there are other states with laws like Indiana’s, and Gov. Pence has claimed that President Obama, as an Illinois state Senator, voted for “the very same language.” But while at first glance they may appear similar, there is a significant distinction that extends the ramifications of the Indiana law beyond many others. While other RFRAs apply to disputes between a person or entity and a government, Indiana’s includes a clause that applies to disputes between private citizens or entities. What’s more, while the federal, and many state RFRAs, provide protection only if a law in question substantially burdens a person’s religious exercise, the Indiana RFRA only requires that the complainant believe their religious freedom may “likely” be violated to invoke the law’s protection.

4. Even if the Indiana RFRA is clarified, LGBT discrimination will be legal in much of Indiana and most of the U.S. As we have written about before, 29 states lack explicit sexual orientation nondiscrimination protections, and 32 states lack explicit gender identity nondiscrimination protections. That means a gay person can be legally married one day, and then legally fired based on sexual orientation or gender identity the next.

BOTTOM LINE: Rather than expand exemptions for people who don’t want to follow the law, we should be working to protect all people from discrimination and create the inclusive prosperity that helps our economy and our families. Hopefully the politicians in Indiana (and elsewhere) promoting these kinds of laws to discriminate will see that citizens are not behind them, and companies will take their business elsewhere.

3 Social Security Facts …

3 Social Security Facts You Need to Know in 2015

Source: Social Security Administration.

For the most part, Social Security is a straightforward concept. You pay taxes to the program throughout your working life, and then, upon reaching retirement age, you collect monthly benefits based in large part on the amount you paid into the system over that career.

Still, there are small shifts to the program every year, and 2015 will be no different. Let’s go over three developments to watch for in 2015 if you’re one of the millions of Americans either paying into or receiving money from Social Security.

Payment amounts and income subject to taxes are rising
In January, Social Security payments will increase 1.7% thanks to the annual cost-of-living increase, and the income limit subject to Social Security taxes increases to $118,500 from $117,500. The average monthly payment to a retiree will be $1,328, up from $1,306 prior to the adjustment.

The maximum possible Social Security benefit to a new retiree just reaching full retirement age in 2015 will also increase to $2,663 per month from $2,642 per month in 2014.

If the payments and increases seem woefully inadequate to cover your lifestyle in retirement, you’re not alone. Social Security was never designed to be your only source of income in retirement — just a foundation to be supplemented with pensions and/or personal savings.

Mailed personal statements are making a comeback (for some people)
Until 2011, Social Security mailed out annual statements telling people who weren’t collecting payments what their eventual benefits would be. Budget cuts curtailed that practice, but it’s making a partial comeback. If you are turning 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, or 60 in 2015, and you haven’t signed up for an online Social Security account, then you can expect to receive a statement this year.

The statement provides an excellent estimate of your benefit and a copy of your earnings record. If you don’t want to wait until your multiple-of-five birthday to see your statement, you can sign up online at this link.

The financial health of the program will be evaluated around April 1
Every year, the Social Security Trustees publish a report detailing the program’s stability and financial health. The report is due by April 1, but it doesn’t always get published on time. The 2014 report, for instance, was published on July 28.

Key in that report will be an update on the estimated timeline of when the Social Security Trust Funds will empty. In the last report, the trustees estimated that the funds would empty by 2033 and that payments would be cut by about 23%. History suggests Congress will likely pass some combination of tax hikes and benefit cuts to shore up the system between now and then.

Unless and until that happens, though, your best bet is to invest as if you will have to make up for that cut on your own. After all, if taxes rise to cover the gap, it’s easier to dial back your investing to cover the reduction in your take-home pay than to cut your basic costs of living. On the flip side, if benefits are cut, you’ll be glad you have a buffer built up.

It’s your retirement. Take control
Despite the long-term challenges facing Social Security, it remains a key part of millions of Americans’ retirement plans. It appears there will only be modest adjustments to Social Security in 2015, which provides an excellent opportunity to update your end-to-end retirement plans around what you’ll need to retire comfortably. Take advantage of the relative calm to take control of your retirement. Your future self will thank you for it.

How one Seattle couple secured a $60K Social Security bonus — and you can too
A Seattle couple recently discovered some little-known Social Security secrets that can boost many retirees income by as much as $60,000. They were shocked by how easy it was to actually take advantage of these loopholes. And although it may seem too good to be true, it’s 100% real. In fact, one MarketWatch reporter argues that if more Americans used them, the government would have to shell out an extra $10 billion every year! So once you learn how to take advantage of these loopholes, you could retire confidently with the peace of mind were all after, even if youre woefully unprepared. Simply click here to receive your free copy of our new reportthat details how you can take advantage of these strategies.


Pamela Anderson via Change.org

Petitioning Gordon Food Service, Dan Gordon, John Gordon, Jim Gordon, Tony Groll, Courtney Ainsworth

Help Pamela Anderson End Horrific Animal Abuse

Petition by Pamela Anderson and Mercy For Animals

Protecting Working Americans’ Paychecks

 The White House, Washington

In this week’s address, the President highlighted the progress made protecting American consumers since he signed Wall Street reform into law five years ago, including an important new step taken by the independent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau earlier this week toward preventing abuses in payday lending.

The President emphasized his commitment to fighting to advance middle-class economics and ensure everybody who works hard can get ahead, while opposing attempts by Republicans both to weaken the CFPB and give large tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans at the expense of the middle class.

Watch the President’s Weekly Address here.




Watch President Obama's address here.
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5 Years LaterOn March 23, 2010, President Obama signed a historic law that has transformed the lives of millions of Americans. Thanks to Obamacare, people across the country have more affordable coverage, higher-quality care, and better health.Today, more than 16 million Americans have gained health coverage that suits their needs. 76 million people are now benefiting from preventive care coverage. Up to 129 million people with pre-existing conditions are no longer at risk of being denied coverage. The facts are in: The Affordable Care Act is working.Look back at the passage of Obamacare.READ MOREWatch: The President Talks with the Creator of “The Wire” About the War on Drugs

A beat reporter in Baltimore and a state senator from Chicago: two men who saw the disproportionate impact of America’s war on drugs firsthand early in their careers.

This week, that former reporter and creator of HBO’s “The Wire” — David Simon — and that former young senator — President Barack Obama — sat down to talk honestly about the challenges law enforcement face and the consequences communities bear from the war on drugs.

Listen to what President Obama and David Simon said about the war on drugs.


“Keep Exploring, Keep Dreaming, Keep Asking Why”

The halls of the White House were filled with science projects on Monday, as President Obama welcomed more than 100 young scientists for the fifth-annual White House Science Fair.

The President spoke with students about the role that science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) plays in their lives, and urged them to keep exploring, dreaming, and asking why. He also announced a number of ambitious steps to inspire young people to engage with STEM fields and help them achieve their goals.

See more from the fifth-annual White House Science Fair.


To see more of the week’s highlights, check out the latest edition of West Wing Week.