Skip to main content

tv   U.S. Senate  CSPAN  August 29, 2011 12:00pm-5:00pm EDT

12:00 pm
there were many democrats in conservative districts around the country and he made the decision early in his first term that he wouldn't campaign against some of these so-called bull weevil democrats because he made the judgment that the long-term interests of the republican party would be in legislative success and so he knew he could help recruit them to vote for his tax cuts, to vote for his budget and so because he made sort of tactical judgment there, i think that made it easier for some of these democrats to come over and vote against their leadership and vote for the president of the other party. i mean, this is sort of a big challenge that each white house has to deal with and that's had to put together a majority in each chamber especially in the house and sometimes you need 60 votes in the senate. and that's the way you could do it. you have to do -- you have to do sort of the total package if you will. you have to have good relations on the hill. you have to spend time with
12:01 pm
them. but most of all, you need to be able to connect with the american people so that congress who they feel virginia tech vote with you they are voting with the way their constituents want and it makes it easier for them. >> how important is personality in a president in dealing with the congress or in dealing with the president or -- is that a -- does it take intelligence and experience but is personality important? president reagan had a great sense of humor. he loved to tell stories. there's just been a wonderful book published called "the notes" which is in print form. the president's handwritten anecdotes, jokes, stories that he kept for decades in a book that he used as he developed his remarks. and that's a real skill in reference to the -- in his years as an actor and in broadcasting. and how important is that in modern politics when so much is media-driven to have that kind
12:02 pm
of personality that's camera-friendly but people friendly. not everybody has both. >> likability is important. and i think in all of our lives, humor draws, you know, someone to you and, you know, it's one of the things that we know we struggled with for president bush, those of us, of course, who knew him well and worked with him well and knew how funny and likeable, you know, that he was. it was difficult to have that projected in the media, whether it was through print or whether it was through television, even radio. there was an impatience about president that was conveyed and the press always reported on him that way. and they, you know, came into office and told the american people he was someone who didn't read a book and was real well
12:03 pm
but yet he was a voracious leader and had a great commander of language and knew how to use words and had a big impact and it was never conveyed that way and i think that was very frustrating. >> we have another student. >> i'm christian from maryland. last night in our workshops we talked about forms of debate, ed quit and procedure and the two definitions we're debating with passion and emotion and with civility and respect and my question is, which do you think is the most effective to ensure lasting progress? >> i think you have to have it all, go ahead. >> passion, emotion, civility and respect? >> well, to have all of those things. mine is emotion, passive is good but emotion is distracting. i mean, if you're going to be a good advocate in any context, whether it's in a presidential debate or anywhere else, you first have to know your facts. if you don't have any facts
12:04 pm
behind you, then you're not going to convey anything except for bluster maybe. but then you have be able to communicate those facts passionately, compellingly. i think kind of looping into your the last question, it's important to be able to advocate to them in a way that regular people can connect with. i've been watching the various presidential candidates in this cycle talk about things like smaller government. it's kind of hard to explain why -- why does smaller government benefit you and me? except in kind of an esoteric kind of political science kind of way. there's good reasons that it does but if you can articulate those it's anecdotes and things that people connect with and that's what reagan was so great at. he would have these funny little lines, i'm from the government and i'm here to help you. he would have these little lines that would kind of catch on with people. so if you can have your facts and you can have your passion and you can have your accessibility and your connection with regular people, i think that combination is the
12:05 pm
goal. >> hi there. i'm kyler ross and i'm from stanford connecticut. thank you for taking the time for speaking to us today. how do you believe civil discourse is either facilitated by or inhibited by the american system of checks and balances? >> i'm from bridgeport, connecticut, so it's nice to have someone from connecticut here. well, i think with all of its thoughts our system of government is the best in the world. i really believe that. there was articles that was in the political newspaper, you know, talking about america in decline. and i think one of the articles was written by a member of congress, and i thought about, you know, how that kind of language from anyone, and particularly from someone in
12:06 pm
government would really, i think, upset president reagan and i think it would anger, you know, him because if anything, he really believed in america. he believed in american. i think that's what was so likeable about him, too, and you wanted to believe in your country. you wanted to accept that we're not perfect and we do have, you know, this perfect system yet it is the finest in the world. so i think our system of checks and balances is probably important. it's what keeps us honest. and why in our country and around the world we are looked at as a nation that can elect a transition and inaugurate a president peacefully and i think that's a wonderful example particularly to emerging democracies around the world who are really struggling on how to set up their system of
12:07 pm
government so that it doesn't end up being corrupt and that it does serve the people in the best way that it possibly can. >> i think that checks and balances necessitates some level of civility because if the president didn't need the congress and the congress need the president it would be difficult. you deal with it in a much formal process but, you know, if congress had passed laws in their presidential signature why do they bother to have much of a relationship with the president. they wouldn't need to do that. >> thank you. >> thank you for the question. let's take one more from the same time. >> i'm from miami, florida. you guys previously all spoke about how ronald reagan was very optimistic and he really didn't speak badly about anyone which made him very effective so my question is, do you think the lack of negative discourse negatively affect government's
12:08 pm
decisions that's intended to benefit the nation as a whole? >> yeah. you perceive there's a lack of civil discourse and the question is if that negatively affects people. so i do think -- well, there's sort of principles and then there's civility and you got to have some. you're not going to give principles just to be civil and at the same time you need to find a balance between the two. anita? >> i think that's a great answer. >> thank you. >> my name is joe from the state of south dakota. ms. mcbride you worked for bush so you know what kind of impact she had on the white house and i guess my question was, what role did nancy play in making ronald reagan a great president? >> well, they were a true partnership. and i think it was -- i will say
12:09 pm
as a young staffer, new in the white house, i was very much aware of mrs. reagan's presence. it was very clear to all of us. she was there as a protection for her husband. she really felt she had her antenna there in support of her husband and the people around him. so i think she had an enormous influence. i think she also was able to very effectively use the diplomatic tools at her disposal to help present president reagan on the world's stage, whether it was through their large number of wonderful state dinners where people -- important relationships to us around the world were hosted that were very respected and beautifully done. so i think she used her tools at her disposal to put her husband
12:10 pm
in the best light that she possibly could and using the venue, the stage of the white house around the world was one very effective way where she did that. >> she's also a great champion of the just say no campaign. with young people around the nation. >> that's right. and foster grandparents and so things that she did, of course, to help her husband. she also brought things with her from california that she had worked on like the foster grandparents program. and she also was a brave, you know, woman to laugh at herself and take -- she took a lot of ridicule from the press from that first year and yet she turned that around and the press began to look at her a little bit differently when she showed up at a major washington event called the gridiron dinner and she was dressed in really tattered clothes and there was a song about her that she sang called secondhand clothes to the
12:11 pm
tune of secondhand rose and i think, you know, the media began to see, you know, this is a woman is a human being like all of us are. and whether some believe she made mistakes or not, you know, she could laugh at herself. >> that costume that anita mentions is actually at the reagan library if you've not had a chance to visit these library in simi valley, there's 12 locations and the reagan library just reopened in february and it's an extraordinary experience of history about ronald reagan and those important eight years in history and you can see things like that. >> it's funny. >> and important things, for example, about the president's four summits with gorbachev. and there's clearly something about the international perception and the role internationally and as you have all worked with colleagues and interfaced with other countries i know anita you've done quite a bit in afghanistan, how is the
12:12 pm
role of the president and the image of america is conveyed and how president reagan met with four summits with gosh she have that eventually led to the fall of the soviet union but yet there was a strong component of relationship and his personality and the leverage of that involved in that dynamic? what can you talk about in terms of your experience and perspective and the other you may have about the influence of the president on the world's stage and that being able to deal civility with our opponents on an international vein? >> i will just say one thing about that and i will let my colleagues get their perceptions. but i think what makes effective relationship between leaders is that they could really trust each other. that they could have, you know, conversations that may be private that will remain that way. and i think, you know, one of
12:13 pm
those four summits where president reagan accused all of his staff and gorbachev excused his staff and the two spoke, obviously, through interpreters. president reagan never betrayed confidences of world leaders. i know, you know, president bush didn't do that. people could count on his word i think, you know, those dynamics of being able to trust each other are really important >> it's part of the reasons we send our presidents abroad to visit different countries around the world. it's in part to build a rapport with foreign leaders. it's extremely important for any coalition that you're trying to build, whether it's to get other nations to help us in libya or to help get other folks at the united nations to vote with the
12:14 pm
united states and our allies to have sanctions against iran and it's very important and sort of the indispensable part of this is the personal relations that the president has with each one of the leaders and that's why they need be able to get around the world and that's why they try and do cultural events and the like when they travel abroad because that's important to be able to convey the respect that the united states has on their processes and their culture and the rest and that all sort of translates into something and a way that we are able to try and inspire other nations to vote with us or to stand with us when things get stuff. that's a really indispensable ingredient. >> hi i'm connie and i'm also from maryland. my question is -- i feel that a lot of students right now are kind of have the reputation of being ignorant and indifferent to political activity.
12:15 pm
and in comparison to the youth of the 1970s and '80s, it's like a stark contrast. so i'm asking how can the youth of today effectively create change in the government while also practicing civil discourse? >> rachel made a good point earlier. >> you guys have a leg up already because of the kind of media that's available to you. i was born in 1973, not that i should be tell our age but that's how old i am. and, you know, we didn't have -- there wasn't really internet until i was in college. i mean, i think i first sent an email when i was in college. there certainly wasn't facebook or twitter or any of that stuff. and by virtue of being here you were more in tune with politics than i was at that age. you were already involved and you're already affecting government. president obama's election i think in large part was motivated by young people who sort of took hold of the
12:16 pm
opportunities that the media gives them. you're already doing it. the premise of your question, i think, is wrong, actually, that you are less informed and less involved than people in the past. i think that you're probably more involved. >> you know, an important part of the reagan centennial is not just to be nostalgic or reflective on a great president and all he accomplished in his life. but it's to connect that man and his life and his legacy with the next generation of young americans. that's what this conference is about where we brought 102 students from across america, we have a lot of other educational programs and academic programs going on throughout the year and go to you'll see all about that. but we talked about last night in our group that at the end of this week we have students from all 50 states who will have friends from all 50 states. there's probably some candidates running for president in the united states who don't know people from all 50 states yet these students will have relationships and be friends and that's a huge leg up over our
12:17 pm
generation. and certainly president reagan. when he came to office there was one fax machines. >> we had electric typewriters. >> the first fax machine i ever saw was in 1989 in the new bush administration was coming in. it's sort of unbelievable that you are connected as rachel said by the internet and can make the connections between young people in the middle east rising up over a dictatorship, wanting freedom, wanting the ability to have this kind of thing that you are participating in and to make that connection between them and yourself. i agree with rachel you're doing a lot more than you think you're doing but how you share this and, you know, help to proliferate the message that you're learning here, i think is
12:18 pm
really, really important. >> i'm from virginia. and this discussion is for any of you, but what about ronald reagan's beliefs and ideals do you think enabled him to have such a close relationship with house speaker tip o'neill despite their differing views? >> one thing that i think is important and then i'll let michael take this on, but i think it was a shared ancestry, you know. they were contemporaries, the same age. they experienced some of the same, you know, things in their life. and growing up. and so i think there was, you know, a basis of understanding right there personally, a connection, that led to, you know, a further deepening of their personal relationship. i don't know if you want to add to that, michael. >> i would agree with that and then also just reagan's confidence. he didn't have to prove himself to any particular group of people. he was who he was.
12:19 pm
he was a staunch conservative and sort of given, you know, hundreds and hundreds of speeches when he worked with general electric when he ran as governor for california and he knew who he was and i don't think he thought he was compromising himself when he had to deal with people who might have diametrically opposed views. that's not to say that he didn't ever sort of, you know, get the conservatives upset or different factions in the republican party upset in one position or another, but i think he sort of had this enduring confidence that he felt like he could deal with whoever he wanted to and not be seen as suspect for doing so. >> it's a good example of a general thing that people might not realize. even like in the senate, in the house, personal relationships are really important in terms of policy because, you know, if michael and their are different parties but we get along really well and we admire each other and we like each other, we're much more likely to do business across the aisle with each
12:20 pm
other. and really go out of our way to agree that if we don't like each other and you see that in the confirmation process if you have john roberts going up to everybody in the senate and he did and he was highly competent but it didn't hurt that many people liked him. >> i'm from dixon, illinois. my question is do you think that it would be a good idea for students our age to already affiliate ourselves with a certain political party? or it would be better to keep our minds occupy and not necessarily affiliate ourselves so that way we can go within our own selves and discover what we want rather than a party than we're with one? >> that's great. i hope we earn your trust with the republican party but we have to do that by making sure we have effective communicators and policies on issues that you can believe in. so, here, i came from a family of democrats, all immigrants. foreign countries from italy to this country.
12:21 pm
i was the only one born here in my family. and, you know, they came up through unions and, you know, were really aligned with the democrats. and when i first registered to vote, i did the same thing. but it was an out of country experience in 1979. i was in italy when the american hostages were taken by iran and it forced me to think differently. but i started paying attention to the people that were running for president when i came back home in 1980 and that was jimmy carter and ronald reagan. and it took an event to sort of propel me to pay more attention to what was being said. i began to volunteer for ronald reagan. i changed my registration and voted, you know, for him and it was one of the greatest decisions i ever made in my life. but i didn't necessarily know when i was registering what i was registering, you know, for. i just -- i followed what my
12:22 pm
families did but then i began to understand -- i paper more of a participant in the process and understand the candidates and what they were saying so you got to pay attention to what the candidates are saying. >> and we have two of our students here from illinois. they are both from dixon which is president reagan's hometown. >> right, exactly. >> we talked last night of the importance of remembering where you're from and where you're going in life. and president reagan was certainly true of that. he never lost those midwestern values and the influence of his mother's family and his community had on his life at dixon and eureka college. >> right. >> how important is that as a member of congress, a congressman, a senator and president of the united states staying in tune and in touch with that home base, that home port, those people that you not only represent that molded you and made you who you became as an elected leader? >> well, it's very important as you know. members of the house of representatives go home almost
12:23 pm
every weekend. and there's a lot of weeks that they spend in their districts, and the reason they do that is to stay contended with their constituents that they know sort of and they have their finger on the pulse. it's very important to remember where you're from, and that probably helped form the values in the way you've made decisions about your politics, the way you're going to vote or vote in a presidential election or vote in congress and so it's tremendously important and i think you ask a lot of members in congress who have lost their seats, they might cite that they sort of gotten out of touch with their constituents. and so one way they try and do that is go home frequently, so it's critically important. >> hello, my name is aide dre-anna, and i'm from columbus, georgia. thank you for being with us. >> as you can see our group is very diverse and i think diversity is a big thing that's going on in our nation today.
12:24 pm
what would you recommend for us in expanding our views of people of different backgrounds while still being civil in public discourse? >> hmmm. well, you came here. that's -- honestly, you know, i grew up in iowa and i went to college in minnesota and then i went to law school at harvard. and each place, you know, i come from a very small town, kind of homogenous and everybody is dutch and i went to minnesota and much more diverse in harvard in terms of background and getting to know a lot of different people really expands your horizons and i think you're doing it right here, you know, as a younger age than i did so you've already taken a good step. >> i'm from west virginia. and i wanted to say rhetoric is a powerful tool within a discourse. i wanted to know like what you think politicians can learn today from the way that reagan used rhetoric? and what do you think about the way media is using the rhetoric?
12:25 pm
and if you believe it's being used correctly or incorrectly? and if you believe rhetoric is affecting the way that -- affecting civility? >> we see candidates in the republican party still trying to emulate reagan's message, one of those things that you hear you can find it in the newspaper each week if you tried the republican nominees or folks that are running for the republican nomination talking about reagan's optimism, and that was a big strength of his and so i think it's something that's -- that many conservatives want to emulate because it appeals to sort of our ideals of who we believe we are as a special nation. and so to the degree that you could be optimistic, you know, people are attracted to optimistic people. >> right. >> and so i think that's important for presidents and i think that's why all of our
12:26 pm
presidents in the darkest days try to summon up something about our values and our history so that we know that they'll be reassured that the united states is going to come through it. >> anyone on this side? >> after the presidency of president roosevelt, there was an amendment added that limited the president's tenure in office to two terms, two four-year terms and this was mainly supported by republicans. and interestingly enough, the next two presidents that were capable of running for a third term were president eisenhower and president reagan. and i just wanted to know -- it may be kind of a broad question, what affect do you think a third term by president reagan would have had on the late '80s, early '90s of america? >> i have very strong opinions on this. i think two terms is enough. i really do.
12:27 pm
for anybody. in fact, there was sometimes where i was thinking six years was enough to do the job. but, you know, our country handles transition very well. there are institutions within the government and all the agencies that are civil servants that continue the work, continuity of operations means even more now than it ever did after 9/11 and we go through exercises to make sure our country is safe. but these -- when you come in to jobs, political jobs, you come in as president and all the appointees to bring with you. these are extraordinarily demanding jobs. and they really -- after a period of time, you do really burn out and you're not -- you run the risk of not being as effective as new ideas and with people really following you. you know, americans get tired of
12:28 pm
things maybe way too quickly. so i think, you know, two terms is plenty. >> very interesting question, though. >> very. >> and president reagan had the support of an excellent vice president in george h.w. bush who was elected president of the united states. >> right. >> when president reagan was termed and could not run again and was a very effective president on his own. >> and he had to work hard and he was his own person. that it wasn't another, you know, four years of president reagan, although, it was hard for george h.w. bush because he's so respected and loved ronald reagan and they were so close, and he was probably, you know, the most loyal vice president anyone could ask for. so to branch out on his own, yet still benefit from this, you know, extraordinary run by an extraordinary person and ronald reagan, you know, was a very delicate balancing act. >> and their relationship is
12:29 pm
another example of where contentiousness can lead to collaboration in their position to each other in the 1980 election and the primaries. it was rather heated. >> exactly. >> and then vice president bush supported bush president reagan very loyally and they supported each other throughout the administration. >> my reagan friends really believed i entered into a mixed marriage when i married the personal aide of vice president george h.w. bush. it was between the staffs too. you know, but we bridged that gap after 20 years, thank god. [laughter] >> thank you very much. hi, i'm david strong and i'm from new hampshire. and this question is for any of you guys. what would ronald reagan think of the way we conduct the war on terrorism? what changes would he recommend to accomplish our goal of keeping the united states and the world safe from this threat? would he negotiate with these
12:30 pm
enemies of freedom? .. has continued a lot of president bush's policies. so this is still a work in progress but i think a lot of people see that there is sort of a lot of continuity to what we're trying to do as a country to fight this particular threat. >> well our time has come to
12:31 pm
a close. it was a fast hour. i want to thank our panel. anita mcbride, michael allen and being with us this afternoon. ronald reagan close up, civil discourse in our country and the importance of the executive branch and the president working effectively with the congress and the judicial branch as well. we want to thank our students from close-up, representing all 50 states here with us today. thank c-span for the coverage and for the national archives hosting us today. president reagan was a prolific diary writer and one of his handwritten diaries is here in the national archives on display. i hope y'all have a chance to see it after this. i want to invite everyone here in this room and everyone watching c-span to visit the reagan library and check out our reagan centennial events for the year on thanks for being here today. [applause]
12:32 pm
[inaudible conversations] >> here's what is coming up next. a discussion on freedom of the press in the age of wikileaks. then a look at the mortgage interest deduction.
12:33 pm
and later, a senate hearing on the defense of marriage act commonly known as doma. join us tomorrow when "washington journal" starts a week-long series on weather issues. we'll start with a look at disaster relief and preparedness. wednesday, the focus will be climatology and weather dynamics. and thursday we turn to the role of noaa, the national oceanic and atmospheric administration. we'll wrap things up friday with a look at the role of the national weather service. "washington journal" is live every day, starting at 7:00 a.m. eastern with our series own weather issues at 9:15. >> we think good things come in twos. there is c-span with the live coverage of the senate on c-span2. >> you watch live events on love at >> or see them whenever you want at the c-span video library. >> c-span2 has none fix books every weekend on book
12:34 pm
6 tv. >> explore the more american history tv. >> list len on the iphone. >> or your blackberry. >> join us on facebook. >> it is washington your way on c-span. >> created by cable and provided as a public service. >> up next, a panel of law professors and journalists talk about first amendment rights versus national security interests in the age of wikileaks. this is from the aspen institute's 7th annual ideas festival which brings hundreds of he can speakers from around the country to discuss arts, politics, and economics before an audience of just over a 1,000. this is just over an hour. >> welcome to the aspen ideas festival on this glorious aspenn morning. the wikileaks release of government files last year has been described as one of the largest leaks of u.s. military and diplomatic
12:35 pm
information in american history. but in truth it is much more than that. the wikileaks disclosure of national security information represents a symbolic and transformation particularly because the means by which the information was released so quickly and without attribution to a particular source or person. the u.s. has struggled for centuries to determine the appropriate tradeoffs among security, privacy, transparency, and access but the disclosure of critical government information is not really new or unique. for example, how is this any different from the disclosure of the pentagon papers many, many years ago? what is new, however is the use of anonymous technologies instantly disseminate massive amounts of data? we need to ask ourselves what is is different now and how will the actions of wikileaks affect interactions between
12:36 pm
government and the traditional media in the future? and how will such releases impact our enhanced understanding as citizens and as voters of the events on which they report? is it investigative journalism or is it as some have said, promoting a culture of anarchy exposure i don't understand traditional politics and openness and transparency to be picked apart by the sound bite culture of the 24-hour news cycle. in the complicated and ongoing dance between the first amendment and national security this event has raised some fundamental questions, questions which defy simple answers. at one extreme the disclosure can be seen as a natural consequence of a society using web technologies to do business and represents nothing wrong. that is, you can't take the benefit of instantaneous access without assuming some
12:37 pm
related risks. at the other extreme the disclosure seems, is seen by some as nothing more than a violation of the law. it matters little the means by which the law is broken. it is the result we must focus on. both points may be reasonable based on your perspective but neither really satisfies. today we will discuss what follows in the wake of wikileaks. we have a diverse panel to help us explore these issues today. all have written on the technologies which afford much greater access to information and how they impact the society. we have one full-time journalist, and three law professors who, as the one-time, full-time journalist said, a journalistic bent. i don't know whether this comment was met to improve or diminish the social standing of lawyers or vice versa but if kitty boon is
12:38 pm
here perhaps that is a question for another panel. jim fallows, sitting here is a national correspondent for the atlantic. he has worked for the magazine for more than 25 years with assignments around the world having most recently lived in china. in addition to working for "the atlantic" he spent time as we've white house speechwriter for jimmy carter and editor of "u.s. news & world report." jim has been a finalist for the national magazine award five times and won once. he also has won an american book award for nonfiction. he author of blind to baghdad and report from china. larry lessig is the professor of law at harvard. he is the author of several books and cofounder of fix congress he founded stand for law school center for internet and society and was a professor of law at the university of chicago. he once clerked for judge
12:39 pm
richard posner on the 7th circuit court of appeals and for justice anthony scalia on the u.s. supreme court. jeff rosen on my far right is a professor of law at george washington university and the legal affairs editor of "the new republic.". he is a senior fellow at the brookings institution where he speaks and writes about technology and the future of democracy. he writes frequently about the effects of technology on privacy and liberty including articles about the fourth amendment implications. and finally jonathan zittrain right here is a professor of law at the harvard law school and the harvard kennedy school of government as well as professor of computer science at the harvard school of engineering and applied science. he is cofounder of the berkman center for internet and society. jonathan performed the first large-scale tests of internet filtering in china and saudi arabia and as part of the open net initiative
12:40 pm
he has coed ted a series of studies of internet filtering by national governments. his book, the future of the internet, was published in 2008. let me begin with letting these panelists talk about this question. and i would like to ask each of you the following question. wikileaks, good or bad? is wikileaks legitimate journalism? and if not, what is it? >> like my colleagues and in the aspen spirit i'm going to say wikileaks good and bad. second, wikileaks should not be prosecuted. third, there is an alternative. it is called open leaks and it preserves the benefits of wikileaks while avoiding its troubling aspects. so wikileaks good and bad. my views in this are shaped by a remarkable memoir recently been published by daniel berg, who was julian
12:41 pm
assange's number two man at wikileaks for three years before assange expelled him from the organization. he basically supports the transparency message of wikileaks. he praises its early successes like publishing the records of swiss banking house which exposed tax shelters. there were other successes like release of video of the u.s. apache helicopter strike that killed unarmed people in iraq. but he became convinced the troubling aspects of wikileaks soon came to overwhelm the benefits because assange was, had a paranoid resistance to transparency. he had a lack of political neutrality and he was addicted to concentrating power in his own hands. ironly the very vices wikileaks was founded to oppose. from the beginning assange and his tiny staff were unwilling to distinguish between principled whistle blowing which requires editing to decide what is in the public interest and raw
12:42 pm
document dumps. this led to serious privacy invasions that berg deplors. for example, there was the mistaken identification after german citizen as a tax evader of the last summer the organization published the raw police file after belgian politician mo had been associated with pedophile jailed for murdering children. the allegation that this man was involved with pedophilia were completely false but his can veer was harmed by result. berg was troubled by hypocrisy and recklessness under assange's. release of after began war records where wikileaks release dozens of names of afghan forces. and berg worried that assange didn't engage in the basic harm minimization procedures he misleading promised to engage in, blacking out names to protect innocent afghans. he was appalled assange floated idea getting paid
12:43 pm
directly for leak documents auctioning off exclusive access to them. he called this ebay for wikileaks. repeatedly refused to make wikileaks finances transparent. he became convinced that assange was more addicted to his own global celebrity and getting on television and to embarrassing america at all costs then to neutral and making decisions in the public interest. interestingly assange kicked berg out of the organization eventually because he wouldn't tolerate any criticism. he gave as a reason, quote, disloyalty, unis a bored nation and destabilization in times of crisis. these are concepts taken from the espionage act of 1917, the very act the obama administration is thinking about invoking to prosecute assange. now on the legal question. we're all lawyers. i don't want to spend a tremendous amount of time, at least we play them on panels. >> the question is answered. >> for first amendment purposes, jim, you make the same judgement we can that julian assange should not be
12:44 pm
prosecuted. there is no principled way of distinguishing between wikileaks and "the new york times" if you start punishing publishers rather than leakers. in the u.s. constitutional tradition you can only ban speech if imposesism meant threat of serious lawlessness action that. is not a standard wikileaks can meet. secretary of defense robert gates, the former secretary wrote effect of leaks on u.s. diplomatic cables was fairly modest. congressional reserve service concluded wikileaks didn't break the law when it published diplomatic cables. efforts to expand the espionage act to cover wikileaks are troubling. senator joe lieber about man called for the espionage act to be amended to allow prosecution of publishers. he is a emerged as mitchell palmer of the age. he was woodrow wilson attorney general who prosecuted suspected reds. what is the alternative if prosecution is not option. alternative is open leaks.
12:45 pm
this is organization which berg founded with other former disaffected wikileaks colleagues. their goal to create a generally neutral platform for whistle-blowers. wikileaks, rather open leaks unlike wikileaks is not a publishing platform. it allows whistle-blowers to deposit material a anonymously in encrypted dropbox and specify the recipient. you can decide whether you want the leak to go to the "new york times" or the guardian or trade union or ngo you can also specify for how long the recipient should have exclusive access for offering a series of digital mailboxes for even of the media and other partners open leaks doesn't have to choose between large and small leaks. it allows publishers that will choose the platform most response whether i. the key idea separating receipt of documents from their publication, open leaks solves the problem of centralization that allowed assange to accumulate too much power and exert political influence more
12:46 pm
focused on his personal aggrandizement. to the some have ambivalence of wikileaks but want to preserve its benefits open leaks provides valuable alternative, genuinely neutral technology for whistle-blowers. >> i will put pressure on two gentlemen on my left. i know they want to have a interesting contrarian point of view. i come out on the same side jeff does, the pressure will be not both good and bad but either all good or all bad. i will argue there is both good and bad, extreme versions of both and what wikileaks has done and talk a little bit more about the journalistic aspects of this the good of it is obvious but might be worth of a bit of elaboration. the natural tendency of any organization to think details within its own purview are better kept quiet than shared with the general public because people are better off not knowing. we saw that within the speckel of wikileaks of course with julian assange wanting to keep things private. my wife and i have been in
12:47 pm
china again for last couple months. interesting the exact same rationale. the chinese authorities use the exact same rationale for their very, very sweeping suppression going on right now as serious members of the u.s. government would do as if julian assange leak. if these details were freely disseminated it would be bad for everyone. public order would be threatened, et cetera. the basic foundation. first amendment and checks and balances system there should be some check on institutions that want to preserve information and so we see benefits in the transparency that wikileaks in some cases is able to provide. the bad i think are equally obvious but worth elaboration. unless you are willing to make a total nihlist type argument that know information of any sort should be secret in any circumstance then you concede the dangers here. in addition to the real world cases that jeff was just giving we can think of a few other thought experiments. suppose for example, in the recent dump of afpac
12:48 pm
documents there was tracking information where usama bin laden had been hanging out and this had been gestated over some time that could have been leaked? as opposed there were dealings underway now to ease moammar gadhafi out of libya. i would argue those are bad all around if those were publicized. real world circumstance i know about, u.s. embassy in bay jeepg is in frequent touch with dissidents in china. they would be at tremendous risk if that was publicized in domestic circumstances disaster preparedness, other things you can think of ways which all would be worse off if the nihlist view prevailed. what strikes me about the journalism here that at the end of a decade or two in which everything about the mainstream media has seemed under assault in its finances, in its own presentation of itself, increasingly in sort of circus-like ways, in all the other forces we know that
12:49 pm
mainstream news organizations jeopardized compared to their position in the cronkite era, nothing i think has reinforced the centrality of institutions like "the new york times" or the guardian, then their dealings with wikileaks. they have been the place to draw the reasonable balance saying this is in the public interest to disclose. this is not and so, oddly, the so far, i think that we've seen a reassertion of traditional journalistic responsibility by the way they have had to make these judgements. just one other point, jeff mentioned a positive technological alternative for allowing people to express dissents without having all the disadvantages of a purely nihlist point of view. i don't know what the technological barrier will be if in the future some bradley manning counterpart has direct access, just able to get all of his information up there immediately and there's not intermediation of "the times" garthian, whatever. that will be a different
12:50 pm
filth othering challenge i don't know the solution to but perhaps my colleagues do. >> so, i think we should distinguish the problem, the general context wall problem from the specifics of wikileaks or particular way it is dealt with. the general contextal problem we moved from an age of leaks which invokes fawcett and a little drop coming down from the fawcett to the age of the tsunami where what's actually confronting policymakers is a time when leakers are taking huge amounts of data and dumping it out there. the challenge in the age of the tsunami is to figure out how responsibly to serve this essential public function of facilitating leaks to criticize the government for things that the government should be criticized for. that is a genuinely hard problem. you know, at one extreme you can imagine just turning all this stuff over to the government and saying to the government, you tell us what
12:51 pm
you want release and their answer would be nothing. the other extreme you could imagine them just publishing it on the internet you were talking about bradley manning and that would be terrible too for all the privacy reasons jeff was describing. the question is, what is the mechanism to find the right balance between these two extremes that deals with this fundamental problem that we're going to be in an age where it is not ten pages or even pentagon paper, you know, sourced material but it's, gigabytes of data nobody has the time to actually investigate. now, framed like that problem my understanding of the history of wikileaks is a little bit different or a little more charitable than i think jeff's. i think the early version of wikileaks was actually kind of grotesque, oblivious, nile listic entity jeff was criticizing. they said our job is put the data out there and let the world figure out how to deal with it. there was evolution in
12:52 pm
wikileaks towards what is the way to filter this effectively, to protect the right kind of entities? part of that was exactly jim, what you were saying. turning over the archives to six or seven journalistic entities and saying to them, you tell us what is the real stuff that out to be out there. in this sense wikileaks is serving almost like the cache server which is making available material journalists say ought to be made available. at this stage you could say, some of the journalists were more interested in getting out the salacious, newspaper-selling facts than they were in bringing out the stuff that was really important to policy makers. >> real shocker. >> yeah, surp prize, surprise. then the criticism should be directed defense the guardians of the first amendment, the journalists not so much the cache server making this stuff available. i think the point, person i really want to criticize, entity i want to criticize is the policymaker, the government in response to this.
12:53 pm
right? so, the government in response to this should be asking, okay, we're in a world where people are going to be dumping stons of data out there. we should be earn couraging good behavior. we should find a way to encourage good behavior. encouraging entities to behave well or create relationships with entities that behave well so they will behave well again. our government did not do anything like that. they tried to throw it up. threatening prosecutions threatening death penalty. threatening suppliers. threatening amazon. threatening visa. what if nixon called up the paper suppliers to the "new york times" and said to the paper supplier in "the new york times", if you don't shut down the supply of paper to the "new york times", we're going to be punishing you in 20 other places. that would be an outrageous response for us to imagine there. that is precisely what our government did in response to wikileaks here. our government turned to the entities that were making
12:54 pm
wikileaks function and basically threatened them in a way that forced them to pull back and forced wikileaks into a bad position. it's not, and my criticism of that it's stupidity. the stupidity is that it breaks the opportunity for creating the right kind of relationship that could encourage entities like wikileaks to become quasi-responsible entities for facilitating what will be in a central part of the way information flows in the 21st century. so it remind me of when, the in the early days, when napster first happened there was a moment in the history of napster when napster said to the recording industry, look we'll give you a billion dollars if you just let us survive. we'll give you a billion dollars. we'll pay you for the stuff that's shared. just let us survive. and the recording industry said no. we're going to blow you up. they blew them up. the consequence of blowing napster up, 30 other napster-like entities appeared immediately afterwards.
12:55 pm
they were much less controlable and much less profitable for the recording industry. recording industry got nothing what it wanted it i was less five-sharing. the didn't get any money from napster. napster was blown up out of spite. it was anger that fueled this irrational way. this is way the government reacted to wikileaks. there was a mature response, to say okay, here is the 21st century how do we deal with entities like this? how do we get them to behave? there was a response of spite, how do we blow them up? how do we assassinate the leaders? how do we make it so the people fear us? the point the second response is self-defeating. it will not produce the thing that they want to produce. it will produce a world where there will be one open leaks, which i agree is fantastic alternative and 30 other anonymous or 30 other entities out there trying to do as much harm as they can because they can get away with it. >> so i think if you're the
12:56 pm
american government, you have plenty of reason at the moment for the current situation to feel pretty good about things. and i don't know how many people in the american government contemplating wikileaks are feeling pretty good about things. so my hope is to first put some american government types at ease. and that's because the backdrop as a national security apparatus that's gathering as much data as possible, kind of the, the sort of human, humint, follow someone along, cultivate a single source close to the president of some country, those days may still be here but the real volume is in the vacuum cleaner and what you can slurp up from all around the worm and then process as best you can. and i imagine that many people near that vacuum cleaner, if they think about it, are pretty amazed at the sheer volume of what they are getting and what it translates to as far as just how much intel the united states has about the plans
12:57 pm
and strategies of all the various people and institutions and governments they want a heads up on what's going on out there and that information in order to be useful for policymakers for, others has to be shared. that is the post-9/11 sort of mandate and there is a security apparatus that has been developed at great cost to try to share it as much as possible without letting it escape the boundaries of the people who are charged with protecting the information while making use of it. and if you look at that, there's this rough categorization of information, top secret, secret, confidential, that kind of stuff, and to the secret level, to an order of magnitude a million people, a million people, are trusted with access to that. so much so that in retrospect maybe this was too much. that an army private could go and read state department cables. maybe there is good cross-fertilization that can go on there.
12:58 pm
bradley manning is like, guys there is something you missed here, like wikileaks internally. it was cost effective. the state department was sort of using the defense department's network to use its secret cables back and forth and bradley manning was able to walk out were with a cd-rom. one thing how rarely this happens should be some reason to take heart. out of those million people, if a handful more of them wanted to walk out with cd-roms and send them to anybody, you would have an even larger tsunami it hasn't happened. my guess it hasn't happened not just for fear of prosecution or something but the people charged and protecting it identify with the mission. they don't want to just put this stuff pell-mell and perhaps one hopes if they see some abuse of this extremely powerful mechanism to gather data and to learn about what's going on in the world, possibly for bad ends, one hopes there are internal channels with which to complain. inspectors general, congressional committees, whatever might be to the he
12:59 pm
can tent there aren't, you see so far one person making the choice whether it was a reasonable one or not, will be examined perhaps should he go on trial, making a choice to go externally rather than proceed through channels with whatever beef he had that led him to do what he did. but that's incredible. to me it is sort of talk about a glass 999,000, 999, one millionth full rather than one millionth empty. even he walked out with the cd-rom and takes it to a guy, to be charitable, eccentric the least. as clay said all he needs to be perfect james bond villain is a hairless cat. and then it turns out, this guy doesn't spew it out. as larry said, that was wikileaks 1.0. we'll spew it out and let people comb over it. no, this guy gets into a collaboration with "the new york times" and "der spiegel" and like the
1:00 pm
big known parties that call up the government. hey i've got classified documents. do you mind if i leak them? government, let's meet, we'll talk about it. . you. >> and there will be no cd-roms
1:01 pm
allowed in your area at which point you're going to do your iphone and do your real work outside. all of this to say the government has ways, because the information is meant to live in a bubble to try to keep that bubble protected, to take the really big secrets and categorize them in a way that it doesn't get shared with a million people, not much to see here, okay. the thing that the government one hopes would be learning from this, however, is that just as we are asking members of the government to identify enough of the project that they should keep the secrets, even if there were a way to leak them, there ought to be a way to importune our citizens and our entities around the world to be not in identity with the government that they have no interest in spewing osama bin laden locations somewhere even if it were available. and i think we can get there. the big picture is, how to
1:02 pm
create an establishment where you see enough trust of the government, including and proactively releasing information that has just been habitually classified as secret and i think almost everybody -- i defy somebody to say i'm from the government and i think there is not enough classification or just the right amount. anybody you talk to would say there's too much. let's figure out a way to get that stuff processed and out there and should there be a leak be able to to sit down and make it as undamaging as possible and that to me is the way forward prompted by the sort of event and that leaves behind the private companies that don't have the money to invest in the kind of security the federal government does, that are naturally more porous. they got contractors coming in and out and they need to figure out how to protect credit card numbers, sensitive health information, that sort of stuff so there isn't a tsunami of that there. and that remains a big
1:03 pm
challenge. >> thanks very much. let me ask you a couple of questions here and i'm a little embarrassed to admit i read a whole bunch of articles that were written by all of you on the plane on the way out and i don't remember exactly who to attribute this to. [laughter] >> i'm going to ask whoever wrote this to elaborate on it. [laughter] >> there was this concept of transparency to naked transparency that either one of you referenced or one of you wrote about. >> one on the panel wrote about? right, right. [laughter] >> who is the murderer elaborate on it because i thought it was fairly interesting in terms of sorting out the kind of information that should be put out there and others that need to enter into what i think was
1:04 pm
called complex chains of comprehension. [laughter] >> that does sound like you. >> right. [laughter] >> yeah, so i take responsibility for -- >> the naked transparency movement. it's unrelated to wikileaks. the way of thinking about a lot of us activists in the transparency movement who are starting to produce all sorts of transparency about government and a lot of it i think is absolutely essential and good but some of it is inherently ambiguous. for example, of course we need to have all sorts of information about what campaign contributions every member of congress takes, but all of that transparency gets used to produce all sorts of cynicism about the way congress works because everybody thinks everybody has been bought because you can always find a particular connection between what congress does and the contributions they have. so the naked transparency
1:05 pm
movement helps ease this cynicism that surrounds government entities. and some people like the cynicism. other people -- i would like to find a way to produce governments where we weren't cynical about it and transparency alone is not going to -- is not going to do that. so i take responsibility for that part of it. you have to recognize that just throwing it throwing it all out there doesn't necessarily produce more understanding. it often produces, you know, more scandal, more misunderstanding, more gotcha journalism, opportunities but not understanding in the public that you're trying to affect. and that should lead us to take more sensibly about what the right way to respond to getting it. >> the debate about wikileaks clearly centers on first
1:06 pm
amendment issues when is it appropriate for government to punish publications on classified and unclassified related to national security and where is it is not? where's the balance there. >> standards are with exquisite precision. there was a series of prosecutions during the post-world war i era where anarchists who advocated nothing more than general opposition to the war efforts were prosecuted for their speech. and in the series of heroic dissenting position by oliver wendell holmes and my hero oliver wendell price. the supreme court said, no, you need speeches that poses an imminent threat of action and the publication of movements.
1:07 pm
it's controversial it's not if we should accept its limited requirements that require you to know that you're leaking classified national security information and that you intend to harm the government at the same time. and efforts to invoke this act have just been remarkably unsuccessful. you'll remember that scooter libby leak prosecution and the reason scooter libby was prosecuted for false statements because it would have been nearly impossible to prove that he knew the information was classified and that he attempts on the government. more recently the obama administration disgracefully tried to prosecute an individual named drake and they dropped the prosecution because they knew they wouldn't have been able to meet the spunk requirements. and that's where the law draws the line and it's to expand the definition and to allow for the prosecution not only of leakers under this very limited definition but also of public
1:08 pm
publications themselves and that would represent a tremendous threat to the first amendment. i agree with the many people that it would be requirements and i don't think prosecution is a productive angle. >> yes, i want to say that our political and governmental cultures make it the authority to exercise discretion on whether to bring a prosecution or to make an exception. there's a lot of pressure on them once they are in authority not to do it. there was something going around right after wikileaks happened where somebody had surmised that if you were a law student, for example, one of our students and you had heard about wikileaks and maybe were going to click through the handful of cables that actually had been published of the 200,000, i think, at that time only maybe 200 had been published and still only a small
1:09 pm
fraction have, our students were wold if you ever want a job in the federal government you are not to read the cables because they are still classified. they're one link away -- like a child could click on the link and read the document if a child knew how to read but you can't because if you do, that will mean you will have downloaded the cable to your computer, which is not a classified handling machine, it's not properly outfitted to take the cable in which exposes it to more and that is absurd. if you're a student don't click through the cables. was there okay to read the "new york times"? well, it might not be good for your health department but, yes, it's okay to read it don't read the cables themselves because when you're reading the "times" you're not downloading the information. the government people who said that realized how absurd it was as they said it but did not feel
1:10 pm
they had the authority to belay the fact that it remained classified. and i think only recently where the pentagon papers officially released and declassified. so being able to somehow match the needs of security with the realities of a situation so you don't end up with those kind of absurdities i think would help a lot in having the government handle this stuff. >> it's even worse than that because government contractors were also the same rules which made my job preparing for this thing particularly difficult because i couldn't read any of it. >> if you read the cable you would have to cover your ears and sing la-la. >> and talking about the absurdity of these rules and make a political point which strikes me using my nonlawyer privilege here. i did some articles on the atlantic's website about the absurdity of these notices at various government departments they'd say these things are in the "new york times." do not read them on your computer and somebody wrote back with the only sensible rationale
1:11 pm
i heard from that approach at least in government agencies which is if within the government if a government machine had what was still officially classified material on it, then all sorts of declassification routines would have to be applied to the department. so this just doesn't make sense for the graduate students weren't allowed to read it but the department of transportation was like a prophylactic point. here's my political argument. usually my role in journalism as my journalistic pals will know the amelioratists and as some colleagues have suggested and it may come from the fact that my job i'm more exposed to kind of all the random wild opinions of the reading public and some flowing in even to the atlantic. and what we see from those. first, i think it was larry reducic who was pointing out the sort of irrationality and peak that came through a lot of the
1:12 pm
government's apparent response from the wikileaks and where president obama is famous for his calm on all matters, it strikes me that in this realm, when it comes to anything involving executive authority and national security, president obama has been just as prone to peak and to a sense of how dare you challenge my executive authority as any of his predecessors. i think we see that as inexplicable. i'm suggesting on number 1 that any president is going to take on this mantle when he's in office. and the good news and the glass is, you know, all but one millionth part full it strikes me actually that the one millionth part empty is significant because even to the one millionth part was able to do quite, quite considerable damage and if you have any
1:13 pm
exposure to the american public as you all do you recognize even if there's an absolute minimum of cynicism, even if the congress is as transparent as it can be there's going to be large numbers of people who are outraged, angry, want to kill people in authority, et cetera and so there's always going to be enough people who have the motivation -- >> employed by the federal government. >> there will be more than zero and the crucial thing is zero than more than zero. i suggest more than zero is likely. therefore, we're in -- the leak of possibly damaging information is in the same category as the fact that the world is full of nuclear weapons. and if any one of them goes off we're in trouble. the world is full of biotoxins, if any of those goes off we're in trouble. we're vulnerable unless we have perfect protection against it and this is one field. >> wow, danger lies that way, i think. >> can i chime in with a further note of gloom just to re-enforce
1:14 pm
a lawyer journalist i'm a gloomy on the side of the things because our lawyer colleagues detected the tech noprogressive optimism. jonathan said to the government and submit the information responsibly and also larry's hope which is an ernest one that people could like wikileaks be tamed and all the leaking organizations might act responsibly. there's a nuclear arms race among the journalists and as long as the technology of the unfiltered alternative exists, then all the stuff will go out there. the latest guantanamo raw detainee files prove this. the responsible wikileaks have been trying to act in conjunction with the "new york times" and other newspapers but it was so furious when it was leaked the files to the "times" which had broken to assange and assange retaliated by releasing all the raw police files on the
1:15 pm
web and he got angry. that wasn't great for all the detainees some of whom will be accepted for other countries for repatriation and i think given that possibility and especially the likelihood that people will be able to post stuff themselves directly the hopes that wikileaks could become more like a filtering organization seems hollow and what will be the consequences of this world? i want to put this on the table larry in his brilliant work on transparency talked about the cost of a world where everything was out there. and i think of the great novel where it's described the hero of the prague spring who was totally discredited when the government recorded his conversations with a friend and broadcast them as a radio serial and all of a sudden the whole country hears this guy telling dirty jokes, saying outrageous things he didn't mean and all the things we say to let off steam and he's discredited and i wonder if this world is
1:16 pm
irresistible and if it is, it's one that makes me very gloomy indeed. >> well, i just want to say i share some of your concerns particularly in the invasions of privacy that may be possible with peer-to-peer without needing a big brother and everything can be recorded and that's a no, ma'am problem we've got with or without the good assiduously enforced espionage fact but the one piece of tech nooptimism you're right i'm clinging to is the prospect that four of our most precious secrets and i don't want to lump everything marked secret together because the minute leaks your nuclear analogy comes in and announce a zero tolerance policy and i get zero tolerance for nukes which is why the procedure for handling them looks so -- you know, i think it would be better to do it this way. no, there's a manual and the way like at mcdonald's when the friar goes off that's when you take the fries out. you don't say i think they should be a little browner. like that guarantees they're always good. that's sort of --
1:17 pm
>> they're never good. [laughter] >> they're always the same. >> oh, larry, you're missing out. [laughter] >> they're never good for you. >> yes, they're not good for you. but they are just perfect when that alarm goes off, that's like the dog whistle to my ears salivating. anyway, but for the nuclear weapons this is the rule. you follow the rule that keeps us safe and nukes are supposed to be with a handful of people. we still know it's dangerous. ask about nuclear proliferation trying to keep them under lock and key. when we generate tons of stuff called information which we then call kryptonite and it's dangerous whoever has it including a government who has it and doing its best not to abuse what it has, if you announce that zero tolerance suddenly what you would need -- >> i'm not saying zero tolerances. i'm the farthest thing away from, you know, zero tolerance. no, i'm saying that that
1:18 pm
information is now in the same category as nukes and bioweapons or whatever in that some little quantum of it could be harmful and it's very difficult to protect. >> yeah. i mean, let me just respond to the outrageous suggestion that i'm being optimistic. [laughter] >> i've never actually seen it. [laughter] >> i was surprised. >> the weather is beautiful today. [laughter] >> news men can do that. [laughter] >> the question isn't whether you're optimistic about the balance, whether the world's going to be a happier place or a less happier. the next way to respond to a tsunami and what's the less sensible to the no, ma'am and it's not to stick your finger in the eye of the enemy. the sensible strategy is try to find a way to bring them long. now, you're going to fail, i agree there's going to be all sorts of other people out there -- but the economy of succeeding there is more complicated and subtle and
1:19 pm
sophisticated than joe biden going off and trying to suggest that we should be nuking all these opponents. >> i'm with you about the horrors. i understand the horrors of what we're looking at in the future. but given that, there's a better way and there's a worse way to react. and i'm just pushing for better. >> could we get the stand set up and get questions from the audience here while i -- i'll ask one more question and then we'll take some questions from the audience. what are the implications of high profile information on the general concept of freedom of information. >> freedom of information, i think that that -- it's one more reminder of the timeless balance that is struck in freedom of the press and everything else and the responsibility of the press that in general the press -- and i think the public should have a strong bias towards publication -- the bias should be in favor of publication in favor of transparency but
1:20 pm
recognizing that there are exceptions and thinking that there's be impressions and the all the comic meditation that went through as they are portrayed they tried to strike that balance. i think this is the new instance of something that's been a long-standing challenge. >> i firmly agree with the -- >> please state your name. >> joe nye from harvard university. i wrote an op-ed for the financial times several months ago saying do not prosecute julian assange. the main reason not to prosecute him is it treats assange as a cause rather than a symptom and the real cause we should be focusing on is how we manage government data sources. and like george bundy had a wonderful statement in which he said if you treat toothpaste and
1:21 pm
diamonds the same way, you're going to lose fewer toothbrushes but you're going to lose a lot more diamonds and that's where we should really be responding to this wikileaks thing. and we're not. so i fully agree with that. but i had a response that i want to ask jeff. i have a response to my column that was a legal response. you're lawyers. you cannot distinguish assange from the "new york times" in terms of possession of stolen property. so you can't prosecute that way. that would be a terrible first amendment flaw. but this lawyer said, you can if you look at the espionage act intent matters. and if there's an intent to harm, you can prosecute. and that if you look at assange's writings before he became -- he moves gradually as somebody said to becoming more like a journalist to protect
1:22 pm
himself. but in his earlier writings much clearer. that he wants to do harm and harm to the u.s. government. and so this lawyer said that my argument failed because i based it simply on first amendment but if i had based it on the espionage act and taken into account intent, assange's own writings were grounds for prosecution. as a lawyer, what's the answer? >> the espionage act as currently written does not clearly allow for the prosecution of publishers. and as a matter of policy the government has never prosecuted a publisher. now, you can amend the espionage act for the publication matters and it's a question of intent and you could say assange intended harm and the "times" did not. once publishers are vulnerable to prosecution, then in every case the "times" at least would be subpoenaed and could be held before court. i see that senator lieberman is not concerned about maintaining that distinction. he has said i certainly believe that wikileaks has violated the espionage act but then what about the news organizations
1:23 pm
including the times that accepted and distributed it? that's why he wants to amend the espionage act to cover the "times" which he believes doesn't currently cover and the basic first amendment point is that allowing prosecutions to be brought and allowing intent to be the only defense is no defense at all it would make publishers tremendously vulnerable and that might be such a bad idea to prosecute. >> over here. state your name. >> eric. so my question goes to -- as you all pointed out in this case the traditional media were the ones that disseminated the information for wikileaks. as jim pointed out, when you put on top of that the fact that the traditional model for media for the "new york times" and many of these publications is broken. there's a lack of financing. are we now in a world where traditional media can no longer afford to be independent investigators of abuse in crisis
1:24 pm
in this country? same thing, in fact, for international -- international news. and so are -- is traditional media now relegated to a point where they're really just disseminators much like the "huffington post" and that we really need to if we're going to have, you know, this fourth estate to check on abuses have to rely more and more on these types of organizations? >> yes. so let me reassert my dark doom reputation by saying this is absolutely the problem. that, you know, we went from an era where journalists, journalism could afford to be journalists because newspapers were relatively profitable and could afford public good of funding invest gaytive journalism that we all benefited from. we're past that age. we don't have that anymore. and instead, the business model of journalism is increasingly skewing to the polar extremes because it turns out to pay
1:25 pm
because you get a more active audience and translates into better revenues and not into the kind of journalism that i think we all here would hope could be the future of journalism. now, what's the alternative to that? we don't have the business model yet. is it just a commercial business model, i'm not sure there's an alternative yet and that's why people are thinking about foundation models or nonprofit models or propublica is a way to fund it. but it's strangely a public of the increasing competition in media. you know, in 1969, one-half of american families every single evening watched one of three news shows. one-half. and those news shows had to aim right down the middle. that's what they did. and they spoke to the middle. that is not the incentive of this economy of news today. and it will not be for a long
1:26 pm
time because there's so many potential sources. you've got to find your niche. and we're not going to have the opportunity then to encourage the market that would support the kind of, you know, golden age of investigative journalism which, of course, was only 40 or 50 years but still it is how we think of journalism today. >> a brief answer, this is a huge topic which i've gone into a lot over the last couple of years. i see the problem a little bit differently from the way larry does. that the business model of journalism is in tremendous flux as we all know. i think when it comes to international reporting, i would argue there's actually more reporting and investigation being done now than even during the golden age. i think the specific failure is shea house coverage and that's where we're going to have a lot of this -- these other models that we'll need to come up with. so i think there's all this flick going on internationally. one other sense about joe nye's
1:27 pm
comparison of toothpaste and diamonds. we should have a panel on the tsa and diamonds but that's the wrong way to run. >> [laughter] >> i'm steve adler and i'm remembered and chief by reuters and by the way we have 3,000 journalists around the world and we do invest heavily in investigative journalism but that's not my question. >> i've never heard of you. [laughter] >> but my question is this, if we had four 25 years old up on the stage who were very active in social media would this conversation sound different? and the reason i'm asking the question it seems what some of it is going on is the a major change in the way information is being shared and disseminated and being thought about in the world today. and the -- and some other kind of establishment viewpoints about how do we do this responsibly is probably what's not in the air now.
1:28 pm
and i wonder if you would just comment on the generational and cultural changes that have occurred that are affecting about how we should be thinking about this? >> i think this hooks up nicely with -- >> you're closer to that. >> i'm doing my best, jerry. [laughter] >> but time keeps ticking. it links up nicely with jeff's point about -- i think it was jeff's point even president obama, who has been an avatar of transparency and relating to the kids and that kind of thing, once he has the mantle of commander in chief on him he's got to -- you got to play his role. and suddenly tighten up in ways that you can understand he's got a big burden on -- it's on his shoulders to protect us and that's why he resolves things in a different way, which is why. there needs to be other people in the mix, precisely, you have congress that doesn't have that responsibility as much as a singular person does. and that all the way down the spectrum you have 25 years old
1:29 pm
who are among the least responsible people in the world. and god bless them for it, but that's how they're going to be. and you're right. if they were up here, they would generally be talking about how great it is that stuff can go free. so far as they can tell nobody got hurt by wikileaks and maybe there should be more to where it comes from and deal with it and it would be worth for the establishment to really digest that message a bit before wholeheartedly rejecting it. it really is a new world in which we're being forced as our check examples showed to confront the fact that it is harder to present one face to the world that differs too much from the face that faces inward. and that's a corporate issue. a government issue and a personal issue. and you can do your best to maintain that, i dare use the word although it's very overrated hypocrisy. that hypocrisy can be very good by acknowledging or trying to aspire to something more refined or better than we really are.
1:30 pm
that's a nice personal kind of growth thing to go back and forth with. but the other thing sometimes is you might have to just reconcile those faces and hope that the world is more forgiving than it would be in appearance and everything. >> just a brief point which we're all eager to step in on this. i do not buy for a moment the claim that younger people don't care about privacy. it's all over. get over it. they're just celebrating the benefits the benefits and costs. when you look at polls when it comes to social networks young people want to be able to share but in a protected way and they're shocked and upset when they lose jobs over drunken facebook pictures and want to have control over -- >> they're not teenagers. >> they're 12 years old usually those drunken pictures. [laughter] >> things are really get rough out there. but poem don't care about privacy until their own privacy
1:31 pm
is affected. as young people are harmed by these exposures -- such as, for example, the disclosure of sarah palin's emails harmed not only palin but also her innocent children. i imagine younger people will be just as sensitized to the dangers of this and everyone else. you write descriptively that young people may be less sensitive and more optimistic about these technologies than the rest of us but these harms will affect people of all ages and the necessity of filters is one that shouldn't be a focus point. >> but here's one really important difference that i think a social media people would have interest on. use consumption or story consumption in the 1970s and 1980s was very passive lead only. like you listen to the news. and, you know, with your close friends you might talk about one or two subjects but that wasn't what you did. it wasn't about spreading the news. your job is not to take a story out of the "new york times" and give it to your 20 best friends.
1:32 pm
the current generation -- it's very read-write. i hear a story and i'm not only going to tell you my view on it and share it with my twitter or facebook page and i'm going to tell you my view on it. and part of being a member in this community is to engage in that kind of public speaking activity. it's like take responsibility or be critical or be supportive and do something with it. i think that's fantastic. i think that's an extraordinarily important transformation and what happens with the news media is they increasingly think, how do we say things that other people are going to want to spread for us? not how do we advertise. how do we get people to want to in this free media way take our message and share it with others? so they play into this, too, but what that does is produce a generation that feels much more connected about talking about and being critical about stuff than i think i was. maybe not jeff, but i was. >> as a representative of father time here, i will assert, this is constant human nature and there's new technological leverage for it and i'll give
1:33 pm
you examples later on even back in the day we would share stories. [laughter] >> around the fire. [laughter] >> about going west. [laughter] >> back to basics, the big question, back to basics, all governments lie, that's what secretary gates admitted to. a governmental lie is exposed by a leak if the governmental lie is truly exposed and shown to be flawed, should that be suppressed or not? >> so if all that was being exposed was the governmental lie, it would be less troubling. i think the problem here -- what i was trying to suggest in the age of the tsunami dumps, the problem is in the process of exposing the governmental lie, you're also exposing a billion other facts which harm all sorts of people in ways that they should not be harmed. so how do you filter out that from the governmental lie that
1:34 pm
you want? >> there's a new book out by james stewart about how false statements are undermining america, tangled web and he doesn't like lies at all but he does paint the story the effort to express the governmental lie specially bush's claim that the british intelligence discovered uranium in the middle east led to this astonishingly complicated series of secondary and tertiary false statements and challenges and prosecutions involving who said what to whom. and by the time you actually got to the prosecution of cheney's chief of staff for lying about what he told a reporter about when he learned the identity of a husband who not responsible for the original lie to begin with, you have one journalist in jail and others who lost millions of dollars in legal fees, the cost of prosecuting these subsidiary lies is so overwhelming and this new governmental preference for prosecuting false statements unconnected to other wrongdoing
1:35 pm
is so pervasive that i'm just very troubled by the cost of bringing the law into this area at all. >> another way of putting that question that calls to mind the dialog that jeff and joe had as part of joe's question is what should the constitutional standard be for when you could prosecuted a leaking government official? somebody receiving it particularly in cooperation with the "new york times" getting it from that someone when the documents in question are clearly marked classified. they are, in fact, classified, but they are not harming the national security to be known as it turns out where they are, in fact, lies made better and this particular lie to know about it. can you still go to jail even as the leaker, as bradley manning, if you take a classified document, project it on one of these screens here and it turns out to be the lunch menu and it just happened to be classified and i think the answer to that is that under the constitution
1:36 pm
because we don't know for sure. the case against ellsberg ended up in a mistrial for all sorts of reasons. but at least the supreme court was not willing to say the fact that it's classified and you released it is enough for you to go to jail. that's enough for you to lose your job and never work for the federal government again but we don't want to protect lies or affect the flow of information in a negative way unless we absolutely have to. >> a 15-second point it's probably obvious to you but it's worth saying the difference between the pentagon papers and the tsunami you're talking about, the pentagon papers was a digested narrative, not this dump from all these cables. it's a very different circumstances. >> and they didn't leak all of them because not all of them were not in the public interest. >> my name is larry rand nyu stern and i'm also on the advisory council for propublica
1:37 pm
and, larry i thank you for that little nod to propublica and i think steve adler may appreciate this. if you talk about wikileaks as a somewhat proxy for the blogosphere and all and data dump that's coming. if you move this into the corporate realm there are so many rumors, damages, millions of dollars can be had on a false posting. who will be the filter and steve will say his organization. but who will be the filter when that news hits whatever it hits your terminal? >> so are you saying if somebody published a rumor let's say the ceo of a company was sick or there was -- >> other sleeping with dogs? [laughter] >> i think that this is -- again, my white motif here as somebody who's a new fan of all
1:38 pm
these new technologies these are new instances of the old problems and the old problem is how -- there's more leverage through information now and so if these seem to be legally damaging and actionable events, then you can take legal action later on and i think there will be something in the whole economic ecosphere and there will be responsible bloggers and, quote-unquote, responsible news organizations and i think a solution will evolve. >> jeff, has the law caught up with this? >> larry will know better than i but my sense is that the law will make things much worser -- not worser, much worse for corporate leaks than even for national security leaks. once the corporate sector really feels itself threatened there will be new laws passed that will make it even more punitive to leak trade secrets. intellectual property will be enlisted to try to crack down.
1:39 pm
and i.p. architecture will be enlisted as well to make it much harder. so i would think that the dangers of overcriminalizing and limiting the prosecution of worthwhile private information might be just as great as the dangers. >> but just to push back a little bit on jim's characterization. it's just an old problem with new technology. it's an old problem and this is new technology. the consequences of the new technology is the problem can be much, much greater. so in the old days you write a rumor about some chairman of some board and say that he sleeps with dogs, people aren't going to repeat it unless they have some sense to repeat it. a news organization is not going to repeat it and it's not going to be on the front page of the "new york times" or even in the back page because there's layers and layers of responsibility built in this system. there's no such thing. >> correct. >> and the fact said it can be
1:40 pm
anywhere and people say i don't believe it and the character, you know -- that person's character has been affected by this. unjustly, i'm assuming in the case, but it's a significant difference it's an old problem but it's a significant difference. >> it's really interesting because one way to deal with the wikileaks if you're the government is start assaulting the networks with fake documents, thousands of cables which you can't distinguish the same stuff i met with the ambassador and it went okay. at that point, you get a kind of epidemic paralysis 'cause you don't know what's true and what's not. and that's the paralysis you're talking about which is very different from the idea of the marketplace of ideas if it all gets out there, somehow it magically gets sifted and i don't know if we know the answer to that but it's funny to link your problem with some ways will be a solution to corporates and other secrets going on. for personal privacy there will be, mark my words venture
1:41 pm
capitalists here let's have software that you can put on your machine and create a lot of quicken files with fake credit card numbers and fake transactions when your computer gets hacked by anonymous or whoever they won't know which was the right credit card from the wrong one. >> but this is not an answer to larry's problem. the optimistic hope that we'll just flood the world lots of bad stuff -- >> i agree. >> that doesn't harm the ceos who's got this false rumor permanently attached to this resume or it doesn't help senator santorum here's a good example who is now running for president and when you google him the first link that comes up is this unspeakable sexual practice which gay rights opponents of santorum decided to define with the word santorum and in wikipedia and it's associated with that and
1:42 pm
regardless what you think of his politics is unfairly connected with this problem. >> we miss you. activists can you give me the idea of the legal questions here 'cause obviously it's international and in a different situation but certainly in your sphere how -- what kind of prosecution is possible here? >> i don't think we have a clear sense of that because the exposure, the legal exposure is going to be jurisdiction-specific and the jurisdictions are so diverse here. and i think the reality is the hacktavist and if they're careful they're going to be immune from any police station it's interesting -- some of the anonymous are out there strongly and others feel like they're going to make their hit and then retreat. for fear of something. like somebody -- >> yeah.
1:43 pm
>> and they announced they're no longer going to do this as a way maybe to call off the dogs or say please don't make our life miserable so that might be counter to what i just said that there's no effective way to do it. but there's going to be an arms race here inevitably so -- and it's not clear the good guys are going to win. >> the paralysis we were just talking about, about so much information often generated for the purposes of misleading or hiding needles in hay stacks makes you not even know what to believe anymore. there's a sort of parallel paralysis that almost any computer can be so easily hacked, known and taken down against the most bunkerized of them this is no way to live. >> i agree. this is not a great equilibrium and i guess the only hope -- the only savings is it is also not an equilibrium. >> we've had an interesting segue and morphing of optimism and pessimism on the panel through the course of our discussion. i guess -- i think a place where we would come to a harmonic
1:44 pm
meeting is we recognize there's privacy and transparency and we're going to fight these out on a new technological battlefield and it will be as difficult as ever to come as a solution and we'll all keep trying? >> i don't -- i don't think i could sum it up any better than jim just did. you know, it's neither -- it's not either/or. it's somewhere in the middle. i'm not sure what it is. but the discussion on wikileaks this morning sort of has elaborated with us with these panelists has enhanced our understanding of what they are. some are old and some are new but they will evolve over time. let's give a big round of applause to the panelists. [applause]
1:45 pm
>> here's what's coming up next.
1:46 pm
>> want more videos on the candidates and track the latest campaign contributions with c-span's website for campaign 2012. easy to use. it helps you navigate the political landscape with twitter feeds and facebook updates from the campaigns. candidate bios and the latest polling data plus, links to c-span media partners in the early primary and caucus states. all at >> some of the plans being discussed in washington for tackling the nation's deficit and debt problems include overhauling the nation's tax code. one idea for changing the code has been eliminating or phasing out the mortgage interest tax deduction. the tax policy center and the reason foundation recently
1:47 pm
hosted a discussion and speakers at this 90-minute event include a former congressional budget office deputy director and a former irs research director. >> my name is donald maren. i'm the director of the urban brooks tax policy center. it's my pleasure to welcome you here today. today's event is about rethinking the mortgage interest deduction. we're cosponsoring with our friends from the reason foundation. washington today is focused on a very urgent pressing fiscal challenge which is the need to increase the debt ceiling. but here at the urban institute, and also for our friends at the reason foundation, also like to think ahead to the long-term challenges we face like get away from the day-to-day fighting and think about long term policy challenges and one of the key challenges we face is our broken tax code. america's tax code is in very sorry shape. it's excessively complicated. it's inefficient. harm's the economy. it's unfair. and it doesn't, frankly, raise enough money to fund our
1:48 pm
government. and so for all those reasons it makes sense to take a step back and think about, okay, what things can we do to fix our tax code? the thing that is most noticeable about our tax code is how many tax breaks are embedded in it. those tax breaks deserve a close review and so the spirit of today is undertaking is to look at the most famous one. the deductibility of mortgage interest, the interest people pay on their mortgages. to do that, i'd like to revisit that large tax break in the code. we've put together a panel of four experts. the first is eric toder my colleague here at the urban institute where he's an institute fellow and codirector of the urban brooks tax policy center. dean stansel who teaches at florida gulf coast university and is an adjunct fellow at the reason foundation. third, seth hamlin who's at the center of american progress. and finally, lawrence who is senior vice president of senior research at the association of realititers.
1:49 pm
we're also very lucky to have ed andrews as our moderator who's can you remember the managing editor for economic taxes and budget at the "national journal." let me turn it over to you. >> thank you very much. >> it's a great pleasure to be here. i can't think of a better forum for powerful conversation than here at the urban institute and i think this is a great, great way to attack the whole tax reform, the mortgage interest deduction, you know, is one of the very biggest and certainly the most popular tax deductions out there. it's expensive. critics say it's unfair. and if we're going to tackle tax reform, dealing with it in microcosm, if you will is will bring to light all of the issues that we -- you know, we have to
1:50 pm
grapple with in talking with tax reform. so i really look forward to getting underway. i'm going to get -- i just want to cover a couple of small housekeeping details. the way we're going to work at this is that each of our panelists is going to speak -- give an opening presentation that will hopefully last about 8 minutes. that will get us off to a very good start on the discussion, crystallize a lot of the issues. and then i will take a few minutes, a bit of time to fire my own questions at the panelists. and in our third section of this, i will -- i will open it up to questions from you here in the room, the audience in the room as well as our online audience. and to those who are watching online, i urge you to email in questions to the panelists at
1:51 pm and we will try to handle as many as we can. so with that, why don't we proceed with our speakers. we're beginning with -- sorry. yes. >> okay. well, thank you very much. i'm pleased to be here. my role on this panel is to provide a little bit of an overview of the mortgage interest deduction and we'll get the opinions out later. so i wanted to talk about four things very briefly. one a little bit about the background and history of the just. second, where it fits in, in an income tax system, how it relates to the tax neutrality principles and then i'll go on who claims it and who benefits from it. and there are some cables in your package which i will be referring to. the first on the background in history, i think we could possibly call this an accidental
1:52 pm
tax subsidy when the modern income tax started, all interest was deductible. interest payments were viewed as answer extensive earning business and investment income however, the congress made no distinction in 1913 between interest used to produce taxable income and interest that was used to generate nontaxable income such as a return from a home. at that time the deduction had very little affect on the housing market, the mortgage market was not that vel developed and more to the point only the very highest incomed individuals paid any income tax. so the deduction wasn't very important. things changed in world war ii and the aftermath. the income tax became a mass tax instead of a class tax. the availability of long-term low interest mortgages fueled a large post-war expansion in homeownership and by the 1970s
1:53 pm
when people first started to count tax expenditures, the mortgage interest deduction, one of the largest ones in the tax code and it remains so. 1986 tax reform act made some other important changes. it eliminated the deductibility of consumer interest which left mortgage interest sort of standing alone as the only form of nonbusiness interest which was deductible. it limited the deduction to loans to a million dollars. and -- up to a million dollars in loans and allowed taxpayers to deduct an additional 100,000 of interest on home equity loans. an interesting sign line when treasury was developing a tax reform proposal in 1984, we were given full rein to look at whatever we wanted except the interest mortgage deduction. president reagan specifically said hands off that. however, things have changed and when we look at recent tax reform proposals, the bush tax
1:54 pm
reform panel in 2005 proposed converting it to a 15% credit and imposing a tighter caps and geographic base maps and the bipartisan policy center in their debt reduction plans had proposed replacing the mortgage interest deduction with a refundable tax credit. so while nothing has happened in response to any of these ideas, it is definitely now on the table as it's never been before. let me discuss a little bit about the policy. under an interest tax investments are taxable and interest payments are deductible. but housing generates nontaxable returns so there was always the question, should you allow a deduction for something that generates nontaxable returns? and there were two separate entities. one if you deny the deduction for mortgage interest, you would
1:55 pm
be giving a preference tore people who could finance their homes by equity who didn't have to borrow over those who had to borrow. one group would face the after-tax cost and the other would the pre-tax cost of capital but on the other side if you extended the preference to borrowers then you would be increasing the amount to which you favor owner-occupied over rental housing. so you had these two competing neutrality issues. however, the mortgage interest deduction over time has become more of an anomaly in the income tax than it used to be. partly because other forms of consumer debt are no longer deductible and more importantly because most people don't have to pay taxes on their incomes. and people have access to their 401k plans or iras it's no longer the case most income is
1:56 pm
taxable that's true at the very high end. so there's much less under this kind of consumption tax treatment justification or none really for interest deduction on tax policy. so i'll go on now to who came -- can claim the credit. that's table 1 in your handout. this comes from 2011 s.o.i. data the most recent information on the irs data are available. and also the most recent year in which before the crash. in 2007, people who earned between 50 and $200,000 were 31% of all tax returns but they were 65% of returns claiming the mortgage interest deduction. they counted for 46% of adjusted gross income but 64% of mortgage interest deductions so that's where the deductions are
1:57 pm
concentrated in that kind of upper middle incomed groups. only taxpayers who itemize the deduction. but in each group with income over 75,000, more than 62% claimed the deduction as you look at the table in sum it was over 70%. another thing not on the table, the benefits of the deduction are highly concentrated geographically. a study some years ago estimated the net benefit as what you would get from having a deduction rather than the money being distributed equally to people per capita. they made this calculation of which regions benefited and which didn't and found the deduction provided net benefits to only 20% of the state and 10% of the metropolitan areas. and that 75% of the net benefits came to three metropolitan
1:58 pm
areas, new york, new jersey, the los angeles area, riverside county and the san francisco oakland and san jose. so it's really kind of amazing how some parts of the country that gets such a large share of this benefit. finally, the question is how is it distributed by income group? the benefits distributed by income group. we did some simulations in the tax policy center they're tables 2 and 3. one is looking at current laws of the baseline assuming tax cuts expire. one is current policy assuming everything is extended. these are numbers for tax year 2015. i'll just summarize briefly our findings, but to put this in perspective, we don't assume any behavior when you eliminate the mortgage interest deduction. we don't assume any real behavior. we don't assume people change the way they, you know -- how
1:59 pm
much house they buy or whether they buy houses and so forth. >> but we do make two assumptions. one is a tax optimization when one switches from the standard deduction we do and the other is a financial optimization. we assume people who have other sources of capital incomes will not pay taxes and if they have other taxable income they will avoid the elimination of the deduction by paying down their mortgages and reducing their tax burden on that income. so when we go through these calculations eliminating the mortgage checked and parts of the distribution would change only minority for taxpayers it would raise for a majority only in the top quintile of the income distribution. the taxpayers between the 80th and 95th quintiles experienced
2:00 pm
the largest cuts in after-tax income from eliminating the deduction. .. >> that's people with higher rates. and finally, at the top, people are relatively less hurt by the elimination of the deduction. the very richest people, for two reasons. one they can avoid a good part
2:01 pm
of the tax increase by paying down their mortgage and financing their homes by equity, second, the rising housing income cost become a smaller share of income. those are the -- some basic facts. i look forward to participating in the back and forth. >> great. thanks a lot, eric. let's hear next from dean stansel. >> hi, when anthony first came to me with the idea of looking at the mortgage interest deduction, one the our biggest question as you see in the subtitle, we got the vague idea if we got rid of the mortgage interest deduction, there would be an impact. who benefits and by how much? we looked around and couldn't find a lot of good independent analysis. we went out and collected data. i have six things to talk about in eight minutes. i may talk fast. there are a summary in your chair. the six things, how effective is
2:02 pm
the mid as a tool to increase home increase, how big is the mid, who benefits, how much, housing market effects and tax policy. we'll see how it goes. first of all, how effective is it? you would think if the mortgage interest deduction were an effective tool, you would see some sort of relationship between the amount of m.i.t. and the home ownership rate. the home ownership rate has been fairly stable about 64 and 69% over the last couple of decades. so it could be if your goal is to increase the home ownership rate, maybe this just isn't really the right tool. but the larger point is how big is the mortgage interest deduction? if you just look at the irs data, they say it's nearly $500 billion. that's certainly the total amount on the tax returns. nothing about that number in particular. the problem with that measure is it's important to consider. say you have john and jane doe
2:03 pm
and you have average itemized deductions of say $19,000. that's just based on the irs average, and that's includes mortgage of $10,000. what are you going to do, just claim then the $9,000 that you have left in itemized deductions or look and say the standard deduction is higher. you are going to take the standard of $11,400. the jct addresses it, you don't lose the whole m.i. d., only the amount by which it exceeds the standard reduction. that incorporate that into the estimate, it's about five and a half times smaller. how big is the m.i.d., maybe about $85.5 million. i teach economics and in the first chapter, people respond to incentives. even the number is too high. this is why. you are john and jane richie, and you have just -- empty nest.
2:04 pm
just sold your house on long island for $500,000 in liquid assets. you go down to buy a condo in palm beach for $300,000. what do you do? do you pay cash or look at the fact that mortgage interest rates are record lows, you've got the tax incentive, you take out a mortgage. if you get rid of the m.i.d. and tax incentive, what are they going to do? lower investment income. it's not just the $85 billion that you would gain by getting rid of the m.i.t. -- m.i.d. i should say, it's going to be smaller because less revenue from taxes of investment income. okay. who claims -- who benefits from the m.i.d.? it turns out it's been fairly stable. it's about 25% or actually lower for most of this period. i say roughly 1/4. 1/4 of taxpayers actually benefit from the m.i.d. what does that mean? 75% don't.
2:05 pm
75% don't benefit from it at all. it varies by income level. the national association of realtors claim that 2/3 of the people that claim mortgage income are middle income earners. the medium household definition is about $50,000. look at the middle group there, it's nowhere near the 2/3. about 8% of the m.i.d. claimants earn between 30 and 50,000. about 30% if you expand it out. 60% earn over 75,000. it varies by age, of course, as well. when you are younger, you have a bigger mortgage that you haven't paid as much of the principal off yet. how much do they benefit inform well, the issue here is income level. and eric did a great job summarizing this as well. i won't spend a lot of time on this. also in the paper, you can see we use the joint committee on
2:06 pm
taxation day. all of the information is easy to find and replicate. the biggest in dollar terms are at the top. to be fair if you measured in percentage terms, the disparity it smaller at this table, which gives way too much detail for a powerpoint slide, does show you some of that here if you look at the far right column, average tax savings as a percentage of the tax bill. well, if you look at it as a percentage of the tax bill, the rich don't benefit anymore the middle class. one thing to keep in mind, most of them aren't claiming. it's somewhat changed that point. what happens to housing prices? well, it depends on who you ask, i suppose. what we did is a similarration. we took four taxpayers and worked through the average tax savings that we used on the joint committee and found and used mortgage interest calculator. well, if you have the tax
2:07 pm
savings listed in the first column, how much more would you be able to afford to pay. that's over there on the far right column. the percentage increase and how much you can afford to pay, less than 1%. the nar claims it would be a 15% reduction. researched by economist at the university of pennsylvania at m.i.t. found it would be about three and 6%. you see 12%, 3-6, less than one, both of the latter estimates are much lower than the 15% that's often claimed. ideal tax policy involved broad base, low rates. the problem with taxes they created problem called dead rate loss. that means destroyed wealth. it's larger if the rate is higher. from our perspective, this is where we are going to differ, the ideal reform would be the broaden the base by getting rid
2:08 pm
of the m.i.d. and making a reduction in the rates. right, the debate over how much revenue to raise, that's from a different forum. here we're looking at tax policy. in my view, the best thing would be to minimize the impact, broaden the base, lower the rates. our calculations show it would be about 8% reduction in rates. and so if you think about what that really means, for those who don't itemize, that's 75% of us, we get an 8% tax cut. now, of course, where is the money coming from? those who do there's going to be some adverse impact of this reform. and the study will give you more details on that. i'm going to just go ahead and gloss over those. in conclusion, the tax savings from the m.i.d. and it's effect on housing prices is much smaller than is often claimed. only about 1/4 of the taxpayers even benefit from it at all. revenue neutral repeal that we advocate would allow for substantial reduction in income
2:09 pm
tax that is would be beneficial to the economy and give us substantial tax cut to most taxpayers who earn under $100,000. and by the way, the url for the study there is the correct one. the correct one, the one on your chair is not. thank you. >> thanks for a very quick and lucid run through of the criticism here. would you like to pick up. >> sure, my name is seth hanlon, i'm at the center for american reform at progress. it's a pleasure to be here. these are tax policy questions. there should be distinction from questioning of rates. i think i would disagree with that. when we're talking about the mortgage interest deduction, we can't separate it at all from the fiscal challenges that our country faces. obviously we're here at a time when there's an immediate crisis
2:10 pm
about extending and raising the debt limit. and a lot of, you know, obviously partisan ill will over that. i think, you know, from all sides of the political spectrum, there's an understanding we're on an unsustainable fiscal, of course. and, you know, we think that it's pretty clear that we have both the spending and a revenue problem. revenues there's a share of gdp this year. or estimated to be less than 15%. that's the lowest they've been since 1950 when harry truman was president. and it's pretty clear they have declined since the last time the budget was balanced during the clinton years, and not only that, but we have, you know, serious challenges with an aging population, rising health care costs, that we need to bring under control further. but it's clear that our current revenue base is not sustainable at all. and so we need a balanced approach fiscally.
2:11 pm
and i think the key to a balanced approach is is look at both sides of the government legender, spending and taxes and looking at the cost effectiveness of both of our spending programs and the embedded programs, social programs, business incentives, that are embedded in the tax code, tax expenditures. the total, of course, of the tax expenditure budget as estimated by treasury is about $1 trillion per year. that's single largest. if you compare the social security payments or medicare, it's larger than that. it's more than twice as large as the domestic discretionary budget. to leave the area of spending off of the table is really a myopic approach. we have a project at the center for american progress called doing what works. the idea is we look at both sides of the government legender, spending and revenue, and focus on identifying the programs that work at achieving
2:12 pm
their purpose in a cost effective way and looking at the ones that don't and seeing if we can reform them so that they do. the mortgage interest deduction, i think, can fall under this analysis. it's equivalent to a government spending program, the government could essentially matches homeowners mortgage interest payments, a percentage, based on the marginal tax rates. it could just as easily provide a tax or refund and the economic effect would be the same. so it's pretty clear the mortgage interest deduction should be looked through as -- through the prism as a spending program. and not only that, but it's an enormous spending program. it's revenue cost, so in other words, the fiscal cost of the government is projected to be by both treasury and the joint committee to be just shy of $100 billion this year. and to put that in perspective, that's about twice the size of the budget requests for the
2:13 pm
department of housing and urban development. in a sense, it's twice as big as all of our other housing programs combined. so i mean the key questions are, you know, of any program are what are the programs purposes? are those purposes important? and is the way we're doing -- the way we're advancing those purposes the most cost effective way? i think we would agree, most progressives and the center for american progress would agree home ownership is a worthy goal with intangible benefits. people throughout the income scale should be should be -- itr than not to give them the opportunity to own. so -- but if you look at closely at the mortgage interest deduction, that's the question is are we doing it in the most effective way? i think clearly the answer is no. if we wanted to increase home ownership, if that indeed was the goal, we'd target the incentives towards the families that -- who are on the margin of
2:14 pm
possibly not being able to afford to own a home. and eric, you know, mentioned some of the numbers. but it's pretty clear that's not what the mortgage interest deduction does in the way it's currently designed. wealthier families get a much bigger benefit because of what's known as the upsidedown effect, not only did they have clearly, you know, tend to have bigger homes and bigger mortgages and thus more mortgage interest to write off, but they also can deduct interest against a higher marginal rate providing a bigger tax benefit. and so eric had mentioned some of the numbers. i think they square with recent report in the national tax journal by james and todd and they looked at -- if we look at the static effect of the mortgage interest deduction, homeowners in the $40,000-$75,000 dollar income
2:15 pm
band benefit on average $542 per year, and those above $250,000 benefit by $5400. in other words, we have ten times the subsidy for wealthy as middle income taxpayers. of course, there's the issue of that's the static estimate. and well, you know, if we were to eliminate the mortgage interest deductions, there's some dynamic effect where wealthy taxpayers could pay down the mortgages and adjust the port tole owes. even with -- even if you take the most conservative assumptions about that, still wealthy taxpayers receive a far outsized benefit compared to middle class, six to eight times the benefit. i think all of this creates fairness issues. but it also suggests the need for efficiency. and i just wanted to be clear.
2:16 pm
a lot of times you hear proposals or polling questions about eliminating the mortgage deduction. but i would say that keeping the mortgage interest deduction in the current form or eliminating it tomorrow are not the only two options. there's a huge range of options in between that we can and should be looking at. so i think, you know, there's different ways of reducing and better targeting. there's lowering the amount of debt on which interest can be deducted, which is currently effectively $1.1 million. even lowering that to $250,000, the national tax journal study found which is more than most proposals would suggest, actually effects only 7% of homeowners. and also there's reducing the outside benefit that goes to people in higher tax brackets. either by reducing the value of the deduction from its current
2:17 pm
maximum of 35 or 33% to 28% which is what president obama has proposed in this budget for all itemized deductions, or one step further, moving to a credit which will be flat for all taxpayers, and if done at the lowest or about the lowest marginal rate of 15%, what would be the lowest marginal rate of 15% if the bush tax cuts expire, you'll have a flatter and what would be a much fairer subsidy for home ownership. so -- and finally, i think there's two aspects of the mortgage interest deduction that really -- it's hard to see how they advance the primary purpose of home ownership. that is the deduction is allowed on second homes, including vacation homes and not just vacation houses, but boats that could be used as houses. and it's also up to $100,000 in
2:18 pm
home equity debt, the interest on that is deductible too. it's hard -- that is actually a subsidy for taking and reducing the equity in ones home. it's hard to see how that advances the primary purpose of home ownership. so just to wrap up, the center for american progress recently released a long term balanced budget report, it's called budgeting for growth and prosperity. and i think a key point is that it's not necessarily -- it's not necessary and it would be undesirable to make too many radical changes to the mortgage interest deduction too quickly. i think that's true of all deficit reduction measures because of the fragility of the economic recovery. we don't want to cut -- either raise taxes or cut spending or cut too much too fast. i think that's true, the mortgage interest with the fragility of housing markets. so we can look at making these changes over a long period of time. that's what we do in our plan,
2:19 pm
essentially we step down the value of the deduction and until it's transferred into a 15% credit, flat for our households, limited to $25,000 in interest and just on a primary residence. but we do that over a 20-year time frame to -- so as not to upset the economic expectations undually and to minimize the impact on house prices. the one international example would be britain which used it's mortgage interest deduction over a 25 year time frame with little effects on home ownership or onn -- or shocks to house prices. it's a -- there's a balanced approach that's more fiscally responsible and targets the subsidy for home ownership in a more cost effective way. >> great. thanks very much. lawrence, you are on the receiving end.
2:20 pm
now you've had all of these pitches thrown straight at your head. so take it away and tell us why they are all wrong. >> well, first, i want to thank the center for inviting me to give an opposing view point. and in washington people say nothing gets done because there's too much debating and bickering over issues, yet we have urban institute of center for american progress who will be considered at left of center, reason foundation would be considered way on the right a dream. and then one reads the opposed new times editorial, wall street journal, and there are so in agreement in regards to what needs to be done regarding mortgage interest deduction. where do i stand and where do the association stand in -- stand? well, let's look at the situation first. it's the worst possible time to discuss, because the fragility of the housing market and ben
2:21 pm
bernanke laid out without the housing recovery would be lack lust person the fact that we are discussing is not a good timing issue. now assume we're not in a worse housing crisis and that is the appropriate time. i lay down some of the reasons on the recovery process. what about during the bubble years? during the bubble years, one would try to identify the cost of the bubble, things like the growth in gse port tole owe, higher hud mandate on housing goals as to how much mortgage needs to be purchased, the credit rating agency, these perverse incentives to provide a aaa credit rating agency. but one less fact to -- and i would also mention on the very last point where there were some key people making pronouncement this is not a bubble. encouraging people to buy, bye, -- buy, buy, and buy.
2:22 pm
which in the hindset was misplaced. mortgage interest deduction was in place for 100 years. we would be looking for the bubble situation something that is peculiar to recent times and not something that has been in place for 100 years. one can do a study on it. perhaps mortgage interest deduction in light with credit bubble perhaps caused some aspect of the bubble. mortgage interest deduction by itself is hard to figure that out given that the existence. similarly some people with points at the community reinvestment. you are being around for 40 years. you start to argue something that is in place for a long time as causing the source of the bubble. some the facts that i use just pretty much in line with what was said earlier. things that this figure, potential revenue raising potential maybe $100 billion. but the figure is measurable in the light of the current debt ceiling debate.
2:23 pm
we are removing m.i.d., some people view it as well. this is tax expenditure. economist turn for government spending. so you see one can find the equivalent of it. but i would say that most americans would be removing the mortgage interest deduction not as a tax expenditure, but as a tax increase. you can ask people how do you feel about it? furthermore, i believe that the sovereignty resides with the law and the democratic process and the tax code clearly say this mortgage interest deduction you pay less tax. despite the strong economist argument, strong washington arguments, removing the mortgage interest deduction is a tax increase. it's not a reduction in government spending. regarding what happens if we remove mortgage interest reduction, well, given the $100 billion annual tax revenue potential, this is how much the
2:24 pm
homeowners are giving up. you put your money in the bank, somebody gives $100 billion a year. how much is the asset worth? when they present value, analysis, capitalization. at current 5% interest rate, they would be worth about $2 trillion. depending about how one plays the interest rate discount rate, one could get 10% price decline, 20%, depending on how one with this count. he could impact not only people who are taking mortgage interest deduction, but every homeowners. so dean and i own an identical home. we are neighbors. i have a huge mortgage interest deduction, he has paid off the debt. if my home values go down, his do also. impact on all homeowners and not only the people getting the interest deduction. some facts certainly the rich are getting more benefit because higher tax bracket. but that's looking only at the
2:25 pm
one side of the legender. on the other side of the ledger, they are paying more in taxes. in terms of percentage in relation to the income, we find it is the younger families who are most beneficiary of the mortgage interest deduction. in fact, among the people who take out the mortgage interest deduction, people who take out mortgage interest deduction, 91% earn less than 200,000, 65% less than $100,000. the current homers pay about 80% of the federal increase tax. if we remove it, homeowners maybe paying up to 95% of all federal income tax. other people can argue it doesn't include fica and other social security taxes, but it depending on how you define tax, or whether fica is not social security, but should be part of the revenue income. in absolute dollar terms, no count wealthy families do get
2:26 pm
the benefit. in terms of the percentage, if the younger families that is clearly benefiting. one of the strong economic argument for having some type of economic incentive would be to say if there's a market failure, what a negative such as pollution, then you tax. if there's some positive externality, then you try to provide incentive. nudge people to go on. we find that sustainable home interest, not the bubble, sustainable home ownership is associated with higher student test scores among the home owning families, lower juvenile delinquency rate, higher participation time in charitity, and many, many more. there are societal benefit that's true to being the homeowners, being in the community, and the research on sustainable home ownership, not the bubble home ownership. i wouldn't want to have the repeat of the bubble. nar, we have some influence in
2:27 pm
washington. you know, when we knock on congressional office, they open the door. now the question is are they a special interest group or is it the case of when mr. olsen was my professor and he actually asked you to go to the former society republic in my bio he's the one that forced me to go there. [laughter] >> he's -- you know, his book was on the ransacking special interest group. the nar creates so much debt to the society. well, many of the policy advocates position that we provide certainly benefits our members. but the true beneficiaries are the homeowners, existing homeowners. they own reduction of their home values and homeowners make up 75 million families. that are the comfortable majority. homeowners according to the logic of collective action cannot organize. they don't have the incentive to organize. nar is representing their point of view.
2:28 pm
rather than a special interest, is nar promoting a public interest in representing? so i'm just raising the question. i know we are a group of economist think here. the -- assume, now this is just a big assumption, excuse me there is a loss of m.i.d., and then you say, well, we need to change the tax code to assure that we don't have the debt weight loss. as i mention, if we change the rules in the middle of the game, it impacts the current people that made the decision based on the current rules. say the global warming and everybody moves to the north pole and start all over, perhaps mortgage interest deduction is not over. we are not starting all over. we have history of people who made their decision knowing that was in place. is it fair? if there is a debt weight loss, there's always a way to negotiate it and provide a necessary way to remove the debt weight loss. i'm not sure what that is.
2:29 pm
i'm just trying to raise the question for people that thing that has a debt weight loss. wall street journal editor would say housing is a dead investment. you invest in factory, you produce widgets. houses do not produce widgets. it's a dead investment. house does not widgets, but work ethic. you provide for people wants to work hard. we don't know because story to the group model, it's not only the capital deepening that produces the economic growth, it'ses measure. we don't know what the productivity growth is. many homeowners when they are buying the home, they are making the long term decision. some of the psychological journal thinking that people who are thinking long term make more prudent decisions, whether than they are thinking week to week or month to month. buying the home changing the outlook. again, the debate is a lot of questions to say the anxious is
2:30 pm
clearly not resolved. and the fact that the u.s. has the fastest world economy, fastest in the largest world since 1913, since the introduction of mortgage interest deduction. is it because of or inspite of? and it's one of those questions that i guess can never be answered. knowing that dean was here, i also wanted to bring up his professor james buchanan's idea of government getting larger and larger and there's no way to stop it. if the m.i.d. one way to prevent the government from getting larger. we have $1 million members. we have people of all political stripes. 20% of the members i would say is probably from the tea party. they come up to me and say i want a lower tax rate, give up the m.i.d. they say let's look at the reality as an information item. what if you give up the m.i.d., lower tax rates, and who knows five years, ten years, tax rates goes up.
2:31 pm
you lost your m.i.d., and higher tax rate. after thinking that over, you know, some people changes their mind about it. i think in theory, lower tax rate is good. reality, you know, what happens in the real world. so society of renters, it's often used in the international comparison. i'm always cautious about apple to apple or apple to oranges. but if m.i.d. is is removed, let's remember, they get m.i.d. and depreciation and other benefits. it could be the case where i buy a home for my brother and my brother buys a home for me, and they get m.i.d. and depreciation. what happens? and we also know that in a rental society heavily populated rental areas, there tend to be more incidents of rent control. to help housing, rent control would be the most effective way. if you have the rental society
2:32 pm
and voting, that leads to more and introductions more distinction and more inefficiency into the system. certainly it is there. aging population. and not only would i mention perhaps there would be some piece dividends where more countries become democratic or it could be the repeat of the bloodiest century in human history. i'm going off of the tangent now. i'm mentions because there are some people that are clearly just evil. one can look at hitler and germany, and one can also look at many places where there's a massive debt, whether in china, russia, and others, and due to land reform. people say 90% of us are not owners. 10% of the owners. kill the owners and the land is ours. so we had the bloodiest century due to the land reform situation. if you have a society of solid majority who are owners, you know, one has to think about whether that leads to more
2:33 pm
stable social outcome. and my final slide, i mean i just put this is my personal -- it's not nar statement, just to say i'm not mr. no, no, no and everything. but my final slide is two most transfortive president on which most people would agree, fdr, mentioned the nation of homeowners are unconquerable. perhaps it's something more than numbers regarding the home ownership. ronald reagan came to the nar convention and said at our convention that he will not touch the mortgage interest deduction because it symbolized the american dream. that's the president who are not only thinking of one segment, butt -- but the broader society of many aspects. there's large agreement in washington left and right, and i again thank the tech center for inviting me to this and to be on the opposing end.
2:34 pm
i have to come up with as many, many possible counterarguments to the discussion. thank you. >> thank you. i've heard all of my life about how home ownership is the key to the american dream and that the mortgage interest deduction is key to the american dream. i hadn't thought it was key to the future of the world. it was a great and roosing defense. i would like to start by trying to bring the discussion together a little bit. lawrence on your side, seth made a number of points. where the arguments seem to be doing towards the end was not to abolishing the tax references for home ownership, but to change them really.
2:35 pm
it seems to me he was outlining an approach that would have made the distribution of the benefits fairer and reduce them for those that don't need them so much, the wealthy. is it reasonable to talk about fixing the system if you feel there needs to be support? seth, on your end, i think that lawrence, you know, raising some really important questions which i think are, you know, very hard to unravel about, you know, what i think economist sometimes called the transition cost. and i know that you were sort of speaking if you make the
2:36 pm
changes. you have to do them over time, because, you know, you've got all of the property values in this country just about embed the assumption of these tax deductions. if they are gone, you suddenly pull value out of, you know, huge slice of american assets. so you have to do this very carefully. but if you sort of go in the direction that you were talking about, you know, kind of reforming it, and so forth, do we really end up in a terribly different place? in other words, we're still trying to -- we're still trying to talk up home ownership through the tax system and maybe in a way that's almost as expensive. so let me talk with you, lawrence, you were on the receiving end so much. >> well, i appreciate seth's thinking through the transition process. that any changing need to be
2:37 pm
gradual. sudden changes as i mention, would be disruptive, particularly at to point in the economy and the housing market. regarding the distributional impact, i think it really comes down to exactly that, the distribution impact. which is not really a question about the mortgage interest deduction, even though the data was clearly laid out. but it's more of a question of about why shouldn't if warren buffett doesn't have the m.i.d., does he need the extra income? i think if the question is about the distribution part, it would be on the broader tax reform or tax structure to say, well, the wealthy people, some people would view as wealthy people that are not paying the share. they should be paying the higher share of the income. i think that's a broader issue on the -- and not specifically directly related to mortgage interest reduction. and one other thing about the distribution on the impact,
2:38 pm
there is, i believe, some consensus among the economist that current economic recovery would be quite slow. this is due to releveraging impact. everyone look at the situation. i think one aspect of the deleveraging that is nothing looked at closely is that many small business owners, so these are not microsoft, amazon who couldn't issue aaa or go to bank. small business owners, where do they get the money? and often they tap housing equity, or they tap their family, you know, their parents housing equity to get the start up money to start the business. given the home values from declined so much, i think this will make it extremely difficult for many small businesses to actually tap into that -- some of the capital source to get the small business going which is another reason why the economic recovery, the way things have set up looks to be very, very
2:39 pm
slow. not only for the one or two years, but probably for the next five years. >> on the fiscal issues, i mean i think, you know, i certainly would agree with them, lawrence about, you know, we really need to think through the transition issues and not do things too quickly. i think, you know, in the way the policy and budget process here in d.c. works, you know, all of these discussions about reducing the debt, you know, as part of the debt limit or focus on a ten year budget video, i think that's really unfortunate that we are not looking farther out. it's hard to look 20 years out. but i think that's really what we need to be doing is prepare ing for the decade after this one. on the current law base which is unrealistic in some ways. if we don't reform, absolutely nothing, the debt is a share of
2:40 pm
gdp, will only go up to 76% by 2021, and then it will begin to rise after that. we have -- the fiscal problem that we have is not immediate. we don't have to do too much deficit reduction, not just in the housing, but all areas, we could threaten and makers worst off because of that. so thinking, you know, ten years ahead, 20 years ahead, i think a gradual stepdown in the value of the deduction from whatever the top rate is, you know, it's scheduled to rise to 39.6 at the end of the 2012 to something that's lower and flatter for all households, really puts us on a much better fiscal footing. i think, you know, the estimates are if you do that coupled with some changes like reducing the, you know, size of the mortgages
2:41 pm
that are eligible for the deduction, you know, we can cut the cost of the mortgage interest deduction in half. and so we can plan to do this now. we can discuss and plan to do it now and put things in place that's very gradually and slowly take effect and put us on a much better fiscal footing ten years from now when the real problem is. >> let me back up for just a second to again housekeeping for people who are watching us online, and anybody who wants to send in questions. again the e-mail address is public affairs -- publicaffair it seems to me a core question here if we're talking about tax reform and you go to sort of
2:42 pm
both danced all it, all of you have kind of been circling around it, if we're going to do something about the mortgage introduction, fix it up, whatever, first question is do we start from the premise that it is flawed and needs to be fixed, or eliminated completely in the broader context of those tax reform? is it so big of an issue that it cannot be avoided in a tax reform? or is it so entrenched in our economy, so important to so many people and so disruptive to change that we just have to hive it off and keep -- and have a tax reform that just leaves that part of the code unchanged. and eric alluded to, that was
2:43 pm
exactly what the reagan administration did in 1956. this is too tough to hang, the american dream and all of that. but basically, it is too big to mess with, so they left it alone. so the question is from a fiscal and policy perspective, can we afford to not tackle the huge tax expenditure, both for reasons of fiscal strength and, you know, to sort of good policy. or is this break so big that we -- and so entrench thatted the political reality is we are going to miss the chance for reform and all other areas. and i'd just like to throw in sort of a political and economic question. i'd like to throw in. perhaps eric, since you did have a little experience, you know,
2:44 pm
in the real political world you'd like to take a stab at it. gail has said that, i don't think it's possible to do anything to address these without doing something that's politically unrealistic. i think just saying this is politically unrealistic in today's context is not enough to push it off of the table. i think the other thing i would say, if we are viewing this as a form of back door spending which is the way that i look at it, and many, many people do, maybe not lawrence, but there are many other forms of back door spending through the tax code, and we've never taken a position with front door spending that we just say all spending has to go, or all spending has to stay. we look at things on a case-by-case basis.
2:45 pm
we ask is it worth keep, not worth keeping, our can we pair it down a bit, can we improve it a bit, can we make it cost less and work better? i think certainly something along that last cost less and work better is the way we ought to think about something like this. >> how do you feel about this, steve? i have a feeling your instincts are more just get rid it have? >> that would be my instincts. i think my co-author has different views, he works in washington, i used to work in washington. my perspective change what's you leave here. i think a repeal today would have some effects that maybe we wouldn't want, and phase is out or grandfather in current mortgage holders, some compromised position along those lines would be a wiser way to go. >> right. right. i'd like to ask lawrence sort of a core question here. you know, in all of your defense
2:46 pm
of the sort of the economics of the mortgage interest deduction, i didn't hear you or anybody else actually question -- really question the assumption that at the end of the day, the deduction, tax breaks make homes cheaper. and i just on a gut level have never bereaved that. -- believed that. because it seems to me when you are putting a piece of property on the market, buyers and sellers both know what the tax advantages there, the price adjusts. for all of the particularities of the disruption that might be caused, is it really defensible to say that, you know, that the deduction makes at the end of the day homes more affordable? they certainly skew the decision for a buyer in favor of
2:47 pm
ownership. there's no question about that. but do they really benefit the home owner at the end of the day by making the home actually more affordable? >> so the capitalization issue, if there is a benefit that goes out for many years, then the home values gets capitalized and therefore if one removes the benefit, home values declines. what ed is asking because of the mortgage interest deduction, it has boosted up the home values from buyers perspective, and they are paying higher home price, they may get the deduction, and they are not getting any net benefit situation. there's two academic studies, one from the national bureau of economic research which looked at home ownership on some m.i.d.s, and they found that the impact is about 5 percentage point. this study was done, i think, more than ten years ago, it was
2:48 pm
before the bubble and crash. five percentage rate. without it, it would be 61%. that's quite sizable in terms of impacting the number of families. i think there's one more than recent paper that came out, i forget the authors one from kansas state and one from school of economics. they looked at it to say that m.i.d. has no impact on the home ownership in the restrictioned building area like the coastal markets, san francisco, boston, new york, it has positive impact in the middle of the country where people can be on the homes more easily. just basing on that, it appears that mortgage interest deduction do provide a little edge in terms of the ownership. but i think the principal reason for that changes to m.i.d. is really on the existing current homeowners who have already made their decision based on what exists, and now they will be
2:49 pm
suddenly hit financially as a result of a change. >> lease. i think what we have here is an information problem. think about those of you in the audience who are home ouncers, how much of you you know the following three things, what was the size of your mortgage interest deduction last year, what does that translate to in the lower tax bill, and number three, what does that translation into the higher mortgage that you can afford? i would say probably zero of you. if you don't have the information as to the size of the benefit of the m.i.d. provides, how on earth can that make you able to spend more on housing? the information just isn't there. and picking up on your skepticism about the price. >> actually, i think your argument -- if that's the case, then that would argue for the idea that, in fact, it actually does have a meaningful impact on prices. or in other words if i the buyer don't really know what the
2:50 pm
benefit is, maybe i'm getting ripped off i guess is is what you are saying. >> i'm saying you as the buyer unless you go through and make the detailed calculations, you don't know how much you can afford. you just don't know. if you don't know, how can it cause you it spend more on housing? >> well, it's hard to me to understand how at the end of the day, long term markets aren't going to settle out. and all of the tax factors into it. let's hone in a little bit more on the question of reform and speaking long term, reform versus getting rid of the deduction entirely. if you don't like deduction, if you don't like it, is it smarter
2:51 pm
to -- is it smarter or wiser to try to repair the things that people are most frustrated about such as that it tends to benefit -- benefits go mostly to higher income people, and arguably raise prices for homeowners at the lower end of that. so the question is, repair, or start from scratch with the clean sheet of paper? in a broad tax reform. eric? >> well, uni, i think a lot of things that are said about home ownership and seem to be widely believed may not be true. there are a lot of studies out there that associate home
2:52 pm
ownership with all kinds of good social and community characteristics, people voting more, lower crime rates and so forth. but nothing that my knowledge establishing that home ownership is causing these good things. it may very well be the case that people who have certain characteristics also own homes. it's not a very good to medy fintive indicator. in fact, we've had an experience in the last decade where a lot of people were induced through policy to own homes who maybe should not have been owning homes. it's very good to have home ownership, but it's opportunities for it. but it's also for many people renting is a very good option, appropriate option, and i don't know that we could necessarily establish that the benefit should be deciding we should have more homeowners that we
2:53 pm
otherwise would. as long as the markets are working and opportunities are available. having said that on a purely policy grounds, one can argue that maybe you should just not have any preference at all. there are many countries in the world that don't. canada doesn't have a mortgage interest deduction, new zealand doesn't, australia doesn't, their home ownership rates are comparable to ours. which leads to the second point, how much is the mortgage deduction really doing for home ownership? if you really wanted to help home ownership, you wouldn't be giving deep subsidies to high income people who would most likely be owning in any case, you'd be giving broader subsidies and even refundable credits to people throughout the distribution, people who might be induced to own even if they don't.
2:54 pm
i'm contradicting myself. this is where you ought to be directing the subsidy. a different form of subsidy which some people have proposed and i think seth is advocating something of that sort would make a lot more sense than what we have now. >> i've got the question from that was e-mailed in from people outside of the room. the first one is given the long term solvency is due to mostly inadequate population growth, would it not be better to rechannel the mortgage tax benefit and extent child tax credit, given the choice between lowering debt and subsidizing families, wouldn't it be better to subsidize the families directly? >> there's a population growth that will raise the housing
2:55 pm
demand and hopefully the coax folks. i don't think the mortgage deduction is the same as child tax credit. the mmms of current homeowners who made their decision based on certain rules of the game. if the rules of the game changes, it effects the financial value. other tax expenditure, things like the health insurance employer providing health insurance, it doesn't have the capitalization impact. so -- but in the case of home, this is where the tricky part comes, which is the reason why it's difficult to say less start and what's the most efficient way to design a tax code and let's go with that. >> clearly the sort of the debate that's happening in here is a long term debate. in other words, a discussion
2:56 pm
about where you ultimately want to go. acknowledging that those disruptions, you know, are things that you want to avoid. you don't want to move too suddenly to abruptly, you want to think it through, because people do have valued locked up in their properties. but what about, you know, starting over or at least thinking long term about what makes sense. another question that came in from the audience is about home equity loan twices. that speaks to a broader question in my mind that there are an awful lot of aspects and of home ownership tax incentives that just seems so far field from the traditional idea of supporting the young family buying the house.
2:57 pm
vacation homes, home equity loans to pay for vacations, boats, or whatever. this seems to be, you know, so -- you know, so removed from, you know, even the -- from the core original rational. couldn't -- >> i think this is the problem that you get what you try to put social goals into the tax code. you get the law run into the consequences, and you get things like deductions vacations. it's an inevitable part of the process. >> one of the things it speaks to in my mind is the fact that as eric described at the beginning, what -- this is a whole tax system that evolved almost by accident. now it's sort of entrenched in almost every part of our society. it's extraordinary.
2:58 pm
and i just wonder, you know, if -- i keep looking at you, lawrence, because you are the point man here, but it's a very barnacle-encrusted system just as the whole tax system is. it's a great microcosm; right? but it's also the industry that needs to take responsibility for looking at ways to clean up. >> ed, you make a good point. i want to agree with one section that eric said earlier, the bubble home ownership is not something that we want. it's the question about the sustainable ownership. clearly there were mistakes related to the bubble or the crash. going back to the ed's question, i would say that if there was a survey of economic professors across the country and saying a question about m.i.d., and i would not be surprised to see 90
2:59 pm
% of the responses saying, yes, m.i.d. needs to be adjusted m.i.d. is another distortion, and the another solution and given the extortion and success. i think again the tricky part as people who make the immediate position as to whether m.i.d. is good or bad. i think they are over looking the fact again that millions of homeowners that made that decision. how do you tell the people who have already made the decision to say we have changed the rules of the game and current -- at the current median home values of say $170,000, say one takes away 15%, that's about $34,000 to say to homeowners, sorry, you will lose $34,000. that's the assuming total
3:00 pm
elimination of m.i.d., trimming would would be less of an impact. :
3:01 pm
>> what makes the m.i.d. so different? and that's pretty much it. >> yeah, i can answer that. i think it's a good point. i don't think it's a different in a lot of different areas, not just the tax expenditures but it's been. if we talk about economic expectations, you know, and that people have, people taking out a mortgage with the expectation of tax benefits. there's economic expectations throughout the economy better based on both tax and spending policies. from government contractors to just peoples economic planning, retirement planning. so any measure of deficit reduction is going to upset those in some way. but i think housing, i think we do need to be particularly careful. i think there is a reason we need to be particularly careful with what's happened with the housing markets in the last three years, and the fact that
3:02 pm
we have so many people that are underwater, you know, and we don't want, so we people who were on the brink of being underwater, we don't want to do something to immediate that would possibly push more people underwater, triggering more foreclosures and more economic pain. that could threaten the whole recovery. yes, sir. >> my name is dan. i was wondering, no mention was made up on the specific incentive for homeownership or benefit, the $250,000 per person exclusion on income when you sell your house. that factors into at least another benefit, i understand the rationale was made more simplification. and again maybe it's such a small number in the economy it doesn't matter, but at least i'd like to hear folks comment, why that hasn't been raised in the
3:03 pm
discussion as another tax benefit related to homeownership. >> eric, do you want to take a stab at that? >> i to talk a half hour on that. it certainly is a tax benefit in all the tax expenditure listings. there is a concern, again, that's true for capital gains but particularly with homeownership when people are moving and you have to move and you then have to pay this tax because you're forced to move. your neighbor has the same gains accrued on the house and they don't have to sell and they don't have to pay the tax. so i don't think there's a desire to burden people with this extra tax on that kind of occasion, or intuit -- were to encourage people to be locked in their homes or rent it out instead of selling it and so forth. now, what is replaced, this exemption, was a very complicated proposal where people were allowed this one
3:04 pm
time rollover of houses. and that really did have the effect of discouraging older people in many cases from downsizing, and because you get a complete exemption if you rolled over into a house of equal value. but if you lowered the value for house, you would pay some capital gains tax. so this was actually a considerable simplification relative to what existed before. [inaudible] >> my name is francis. i'm a retired civil employ. i'd like to follow up on a point that eric made about homeownership. isn't necessarily always a good thing that we should be promoting? what about people whose homes in
3:05 pm
the rust belt, for example, have lost value? and their unemployed, or they would like to move elsewhere in pursuit of employment opportunities, but yes, they have community involvement when they owned their homes. but now they may be tied down by their homes in the communities where they can no longer find income. >> i think that's a good point. i was thinking as you were talking earlier, lawrence, all of these potential benefits of homeownership, you know, stability, also the opportunities for people to extract money to invest in businesses and so forth. but all those are a little hypothetical. and your downside risks, too. so is it really useful to spend much time talking about fees, you know, theoretical side
3:06 pm
effects. they may be valid, they undoubtedly are valid for many people, but it's always going to be a mixed bag. and maybe we should just focus the policy on to one specific thing we're trying to do. >> just on the labor immobility issue. i mean, first one is a jobs issue, but i think your example is someone has a job. in texas except they cannot sell their home in ohio which prevent them from moving. certainly it brings this lock in that because want to have higher labor mobility. that will be much more efficient for the economy. we want a mobile society. yet the underwater homeowners cannot sell their home because i cannot come over with additional cash to recover the additional balance. i think this is question really about housing market bubbles and crash which should never ever encounter in the future. now, it's after the fact. there are people who are underwater.
3:07 pm
and what do we do? there's so much of short sale process going on which requires bank approval, charge off. and so there's some mechanism there, but i assure you concerned that without a doubt that renters would have far better flexibility moving compared to homeowners, say, in michigan who may need to sell packages can not because the underwater situation. >> back of the room. >> greg squires, george washington university. so far there's been no discussion of race. in his book, jim loewen has suggested that mortgage deduction should be eliminated for residents of highly segregated communities, particularly all white communities. the argument he makes following the logic of incentives that economists like to talk about, it changes the incentive from one of creating barriers to restrict access to one of wanted to encourage more minority stumbled into all white communities. so that you can get the mortgage
3:08 pm
deduction back. i'd like to know if you have given any thought to this particular use of the deduction as part of the reform and? we don't eliminate it altogether in the near future. >> u2 reformers, if you'd like -- you probably would like to just keep it simple. >> the race and ethnicity aspect of the distributional, distribution of the mortgage interest deduction, we spoke in terms of income but the white income is distributed, there's going to be an unequal distribution of tax benefits by race, just simply follows the distribution of income. i haven't thought about that specific proposal, and i think i would be skeptical just if using the attacks -- the tax code solution to those problems. i think housing discrimination is a big issue that we should be
3:09 pm
discussing, i mean, one problem that's true of tax provisions and tax expenditures in general is, and it's a real problem is that the agency tasks with administering them is the irs. the irs knows about measuring income and it knows about revenue collection, but it doesn't necessarily know about issues like housing discrimination. is a ton more. i would be skeptical of that type of approach. >> i don't want to sound like a broken record but i believe that using the tax code to achieve social goals is a bad idea. >> yes, ma'am. >> hi. sheila crowley with the law and income housing coalition. i don't want to debate lawrence. we've talked about this many times but i do want to raise this issue about the argument for reform, which is the lowering of property values.
3:10 pm
which is pretty consistent message that comes from the home building in the real estate and industry. and arguing against reform and the national income has a proposal for form and legislation that is being developed into new reform. but here's my question. first of all, it seems to me that if you say that the value of housing will go down by 10 to 15%, if there's a wholesale reform, you are first of all admitting that the mortgage interest deduction causes housing to be inflated by 10 to 15%. okay? so there is, you're acknowledging that it is a factor that has been capitalized in housing, has made it more expensive. and, therefore, make it less accessible to low and moderate income people. so that's, i mean, you help us
3:11 pm
in our argument by making that. but the bigger argument is, so what if my house goes down 10 to 15% in value, if everybody else's house goes down 10 to 15% in value. you know, in 1999 my house was worth $175,000. today it's worth $400,000. two years ago it was worth $450,000. those are meaningless numbers. i haven't done anything to make a house worth more than $175,000. so if everybody loses at the same rate, all we've done is we've made it -- nobody else is worse off and we've made housing, access of the housing market more accessible for low and moderate income people, right? >> well first, i don't dispute you on the capitalization impact. that's what i've been saying.
3:12 pm
the question about, well, maybe you don't care. maybe if your home by go down, everyone else home value go down. and i think this is where one can say that, you know, democracy has many, many beneficial parts. and also many things that is frustrating. well, through the democratic process majority of americans probably disagree with you, and that's how they are voting. and this is the reason why despite even though there may be a huge consensus among economists, consensus among think tanks on m.i.d., that the actual elected officials that go to talk to their constituents, and they don't want to touch the m.i.d. because they don't want to hurt their constituents. so you may not care, but a town that many people the country do. >> we are coming up on 1:30. i'm going to open for one last
3:13 pm
question, and then left us -- so, yes, back of the room. >> thank you. hello, mr. lawrence. m.i.d., i think you convinced me, not going to give it a whole lot of homeowners either. the founding father of congress make the rules and the law. calvin, potomac pacific association, washington, d.c.. when they made will, they made rules to protect himself. they have businesses and corporations so they had rental space, they can write of their airline tickets. they can write off retreats to las vegas and what have you. we, the working folks, our only game that we have is the m.i.d. so that means that the very good
3:14 pm
aspect of m.i.d. is that during the first six years, that you pay your mortgage, 100% of that is interest. not principle, goes to the interest. so at least three years after that six you live in your house free, or you get your mortgage payments back. >> it's a long way from being free, okay? >> i'm just saying, i'm just saying. from an elementary street situation here. you are first six years, 100% of that particular monthly years interest, and interest is refunded back through m.i.d. now -- >> it's deductible. that's not the same thing as getting, having the government pay your mortgage. >> it reduces your obligation, your tax obligation. okay? and in a sense that someone in your pocket that you safe. all right? and a lot of folks, homeowners are not reading the m.i.d. just
3:15 pm
because wealthy folks are benefiting from it and they don't need it. so arguments are that wealthy folks are benefiting from something that they really don't need doesn't really, doesn't really jibe with people who work. because we are not trying to hurt the wealthy, they are going to be all right. but that's the right of. that's the only game in town that we have right now, the right to lower our obligations. i think the young man made an example, of $19,000, i think he said was exemptions or fried us, okay? when you do -- or write offs. okay? he was saying 10 was right off, another nine was m.i.d. if you were to get $11,000, then would you be satisfied? i would rather have that 19,000 right off than just $11, 1100 or $11,000 of writing on the short
3:16 pm
form. so 19 is a lot better than 11. >> great. listen, i want to thank everybody for attending. i want to thank our panelists. it's been an enlightening discussion. there are many things that we couldn't even touch on, but we will just have, we're going, now, and i just want to thank you all for coming, and thank you for having me as moderator. i learned a lot, too. [applause] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] >> here's what's coming up on c-span2.
3:17 pm
3:18 pm
>> the senate judiciary committee recently met to consider legislation that would repeal the defense of marriage act. and 1996 law signed by president clinton that bars federal recognition of same-sex
3:19 pm
marriages. witnesses include advocates for and against gay marriage. currently six days and the district of columbia recognize gay marriages. vermont democrat democrat pat leahy chairs this two-and-a-half our hearing. >> thank you all for coming. and as you know, senator grassley had -- he will be a few minutes -- originally this was scheduled to begin at 10:00, and to schedule is set accordingly. that we moved it up 15 minutes to accommodate the statements from three house members who are here.
3:20 pm
i want to welcome everyone to the first ever congressional hearing, examining a bill to repeal the defense of marriage act, doma. i called this hearing to assess the impact of doma and american families. i've heard many vermont families concerned about this important civil rights issue. and earlier this year i was proud to join senator feinstein and others introduced, for the respect of marriage act, the bill that would repeal toma. and restore the rights of all lawfully married couples. these american families deserve the same clarity and fairness, security to other families in this great nation enjoy. as chairman of this committee i've made some rights the focal point of our agenda. outside of the hearing room, a lot of the spoke with those who think the issue of civil rights is merely one for the history
3:21 pm
books. that's not so. there is to work to be done. it must continue. in the 15 years since doma was enacted, five states including my home state of vermont plus the district of columbia provide the protection of marriage. in just a few days, the state of new york will become the 60 to recognize and protect same-sex marriage. but, unfortunately, the protection of the states provide to married couples are overridden by the operation of doma. i'm concerned that doma serve to create a second tier class families in states like vermont. this runs counter the values upon which america was founded, to the proud tradition went in this country moving toward a more inclusive society. next month we will celebrate our 49th wedding anniversary.
3:22 pm
our marriage is so fundamental to our lives, it's difficult for me to imagine how every field of the government refused to acknowledge it. but sadly the effect of doma goes well beyond the harm to a families dignity. the commitment of marriage leads all of us to want to protect and provide for our families. as we'll hear today doma has caused significant economic harm to some american families. no laws made it more difficult for fans to stay together. it has made more difficult for some family members to take care of one another during that health, and doma is made more difficult some americans to protect their families after they have died. i believe it's important we encourage and sanction committed relationships. i also believe we need to keep our nation moving toward equality in our continuing efforts to form a more perfect union. i'm proud to say that vermont has led the nation in this regard. in 2000, vermont took a crucial
3:23 pm
step and begin the first day in the nation to allow civil unions for same-sex couples. nine years later for mod would went further to help sustain relationships to fulfill our lives by becoming the first state to adopt same-sex marriage through the legislative process. i've been inspired by the inclusive examples set by vermont. i've also been moved by the words of representative john lewis, my dear friend from the other body. like others in my position has evolved as states have active to recognize same-sex marriage, and i applaud the president's decision to endorse the respect for marriage act as senator feinstein and the others, the rest of us have introduced. and the president understands this civil rights issue affects thousands of american families. i want to support the repeal of doma because they do not want vermont's spouses, to experience a continuing hardship a result
3:24 pm
of doma's operations. they live in north heartland, vermont. they been together in a committed relationship for over three decades. they both serve the country they love in the navy. both worked for the postal service. they moved to lend his parents home in montpelier, where i was bored, to care for her mother was living with alzheimer's disease. sadly, brickell's degenerative arthritis forced her into retirement. now she's regular and painful treatment. linda was denied family medical leave to care for herself because doma does not recognize her vermont marriage which is a lawful vermont marriage. just one example of american families unfair treatment because of doma. many other vermont families reached out to share their experience, where small business owners pay more in federal taxes because they are not allowed to file like other married couples do. young couples are attacks when their employer provides health insurance to their spouse.
3:25 pm
there are working parents of teenaged children's, retirees with reason of life care. these are powerful stories. and there are stories, all of them will be part of the hearing record. the respect of marriage act would allow all couples were married under state law to be eligible for the same federal protections afforded every other lawfully married couple. nothing in this bill would obligate any person, religious organizations, state and locality, to perform a marriage between two persons of the same-sex. those prerogatives would remain. what would change and must change is the federal government treatment of state sanctioned marriages. time has come for the federal government to recognize these married couples deserve the same legal protections afforded to opposite sex couples. so i thank the witnesses who will be here today. i note those are able to travel, represents a small fraction of
3:26 pm
americans impacted by doma, but i'm glad the committee will webcast this. they can here. senator hatch, did you wish to say anything? >> mr. chairman, i want to welcome all of our colleagues here. all three of them. and i will put my statement in the record. >> senator feinstein, you are the chief sponsor of this bill. would you like to say something? >> thank you very much. very briefly, mr. chairman let me thank you for your leadership because you have made this a historic day in holding the first hearing ever on this subject. so it is very special, and very historic. doma was wrong in 1996 and it is wrong today. 27 of my colleagues and myself have introduced the respect of marriage act. our bill is simple. it strikes doma from federal law. i'd like to make just a few quick points. family law has traditionally
3:27 pm
been the preserve of state law. it therefore varies from state to state. marriage is the preserve of state law. divorce is the preserve of state law. adoption is the preserve of state law. and inheritance rights are the preserve of state law. the single exception is doma. chief justice rehnquist once wrote that family law quote, has been left to the states from time immemorial, and not without good reason, end quote. and he was right. my second point is that same-sex couples live their lives like all married couples. they share financial expenses, they raise children together, they care for each other in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, and tell -- until death do they part. but doma denies these couples the rights and benefits to file joint federal income taxes, to
3:28 pm
claim certain deductions, to receive spousal benefits under social security, to take unpaid leave under the family and medical leave act, to obtain the protections of the estate tax when the spouse passes and wants to leave his or her possessions to another. i'd like to thank ron wallen from indio, california, as well as the other witnesses today for coming before the committee. and i also want to thank the 16 californians who submitted statements for the record, which, mr. chairman, i would ask to enter into the record. >> without objection. >> there are between 50 and 80,000 married same-sex couples in this country, and 18,000 in my state of california. many californians impacted by doma could not come here today to testify. let me give you one example. jill johnson-young from riverside, california, could not fulfill one of her wife linda's
3:29 pm
last wishes, that they be buried together at a veterans cemetery. this is not right. dr. kevin mack was tragically killed this past thursday on his way to san francisco general hospital. he leaves behind his husband and two children, who now, because of doma, essentially lose rights that would have gone to a heterosexual family. for some reason, the congress of the united states, when it passed doma in 1996, sought essentially to deny rights and benefits provided by the federal government to legally married same-sex couples. this must change. that's what this is all about. however, long it takes, we will achieve it. thank you very much, mr. chairman,. >> thank you very much. our first witness is congressman john lewis. a civil rights legend. a close personal friend.
3:30 pm
is often referred to as the conscience of the congress. today, congressman lewis continues to be as he has throughout his life, a powerful advocate of matters of equality. please go ahead. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. chairman leahy and other members of the senate, i thank you for inviting me to testify before this committee today. it is an honor to be your. i'm very happy to see the judiciary committee hold hearings to address the issue of marriage equality. but at the same time, mr. chairman, i must admit i find unbelievable that in the year 2011, there is still a need to hold hearings and debate whether or not a human being should be able to marry the one they love. now, i grew up in southern alabama.
3:31 pm
outside a little town called troy. but my entire childhood are full of signs that said white restroom, colored restroom, white water fountain, colored water fountain, colored ladies, white ladies, white men, colored men. as a child i tasted the bitter foods of racism and discrimination. and i did not like it. and in 1996 when congress passed the defense of marriage act, the taste of that old bitter truth filled my mouth once again. the defense of marriage act is a stain on our democracy. we must do away with this unjust discriminatory ball once and for all. it reminds me of another dark time in our nation's history. in many years when states passed laws banning blacks and whites from marriage. we look back on that time now with disbelief, and one day we
3:32 pm
will look back on this period with that same sense of disbelief. when people used to ask dr. martin luther king jr. about interracial marriage, he would say, racist do not fall in love and get married. individuals fall in love and get married. marriage is a basic human right. no government federal or state, should tell people they cannot be married. we should encourage people to love and not hate. human rights, civil rights, these are issues of dignity. every human being walking this earth, man or woman, gay or straight, is entitled to the same rights. it is in keeping with the american promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. these words mean as much now as they did at the signing of the declaration of independence. that is why congress must always
3:33 pm
repeal the defense of marriage act, the work to ensure for marriage equality for all citizens, together with the privilege and benefits marriage provides. all across this nation, same-sex couple are denied the very right you and i enjoy. they are denied hospital visitation rights. they are denied equal rights and benefits in health insurance and pension. simply because the person they love happens to be the same-sex. even in states where they haven't achieved marriage equality, these unjust barriers remain, all because of the defense of marriage act. unfortunately too many of us are comfortable sitting on the sideline, while the federal government and state governments trample on the rights of our gay brothers and sisters. as elected official we are called to lead. we are called to be headlights
3:34 pm
and not a taillight. so i applaud the work of congressman nadler and senator feinstein, and applaud the judiciary committee for holding this hearing. i urge this committee, the senate as a body, and the united states house of representatives as a whole to pass the respect of marriage act as soon as possible. justice delayed is justice denied. if passing this bill is simple, the right thing to do. more than just our constituents, these are our brothers and sisters. we cannot turn our backs on them. we must join hands and work together to create a more perfect union. when the final analysis, we are one people, one family, the american family. and we all lived together in this one house. the american house.
3:35 pm
mr. chairman, i thank you again for inviting me to testify. >> thank you very much, congressman lewis. and you've been joined by senator grassley and we have a congressman from his own state of iowa, congressman stephen king. a represents -- represents iowa's fifth congressional district. eesa member of the house agriculture, small business, and the judiciary committee of the house, the other judiciary committee and congressman king, thank you for being here. please go ahead. >> thank you, mr. chairman. and i want to thank senator grassley also for inviting me to testify here. it's an honor and approach to testify before the senate judiciary committee. and i testified course in opposition to s. 598 and other efforts to repeal the defensive urge act. the defense of marriage act passed in 1996 by overwhelming bipartisan majorities and was signed into law by president
3:36 pm
clinton. this law defined marriage as and i quote a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word sponsors only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife. closed quote. this law also clarify that states did not have to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. traditional marriage is the sacred institution and serves as the cornerstone of our society. we cannot afford to devalue it with legislation like s. 598 and we must oppose any efforts that would diminish the definition of marriage. all of human experience points to one committed relationship between a man and woman, as the core building block to society. it takes a man and a woman to have children, and children are necessary for the next generation. and we need to provide to them, passed through to them the facts of our civilization in the family. the u.s. supreme court affirmed this in -- in 1888 when it
3:37 pm
stated, and i quote, marriage is the foundation of the family and of society, without which there would be neither civilization nor progress, closed quote. in 1942 the supreme court said marriage and procreation are fundamental to the very existence and survival of the race, closed quote. doma was passed in 96 because congress and president clinton understood that civil society has an interest in maintaining and protecting the institution of heterosexual marriage because it has a deep and abiding interest in and encouraging responsible procreation and child-rearing. now with today's proposed legislation, it suggested the government doesn't have the same interest to protect a marriage today as it did in 1996. the other side argues that you can't choose who you love. and a union between two men or two women is equal to that of one man and one woman. but these are the same arguments that could be used to promote marriage between fathers and out
3:38 pm
of the mothers and sons, or even polygamist relationships. in 1998, i helped draft i was defense of marriage act that states only a marriage between a male and female is valid. in 2090 i was supreme court issued a lawless decision in basra and the bring them, seven i, seven iowa supreme court justices decided to legislate from the bench if they strike down iowa's doma law, and to read their opinion, brings one to the conclusion that these justices believe they have the authority to find the constitution itself unconstitutional. they even with so far as to say that rights to same-sex marriage quote were at one time unimagined, closed quote. when i was with the polls on november 2, 2010, they send a message to the supreme court of iowa. they rejected the decision and historically ousted all three justices who were up for retention, and included chief justice marshall turners.
3:39 pm
never in history of iowa have the voters ousted a single supreme court justice let alone the three that were up for retention votes last november. in fact, every single time the american people have had the opportunity to vote on the definition of marriage 31 out of 31 times they have affirmed that marriage is and should remain the union of a husband and a wife. 30 states could have constitutional amendments to define marriage between one man and one woman. and maine passed an initiative to overturn a same-sex marriage bill. despite the clear will of the people we have legislation like s. 598 before us today. we also have the president saying doma is unconstitutional, despite no court ever reaching that conclusion. president obama has directed the justice department to stop defending the constitutionality of this law. it's not the role of executive branch to determine what is or is not constitutional. it is the role of executive branch to execute and uphold the laws that congress pass. i understand the history
3:40 pm
president obama announced he would support the repeal of doma. it is his domain to make such a position. but contrary to that position i think it is clear that the will of the american people to maintain, protect and uphold the definition of a marriage between one man and one woman is there. this is good for families, good for society and good for government. i would quickly add, mr. chairman, that a couple of points about civil rights. title vii of the civil rights act says protection for race, color, religion, sex, national origin. those except for the constitutional protection of religion or characteristics. those characteristics that are immutable should be injected into discussion and a marriage license is offered because that's a permit to do that which is otherwise illegal. it's not a right to get married. that's why states regulate it by licensing. they want to encourage marriage. thank you. i appreciate your attention and i yield back. >> thank you very much, congressman king. congressman nadler, the author of respect for marriage act, and lead sponsor of the companion
3:41 pm
bill of the house. also the lead house sponsor of the uniting families and america act which we'll talk with in this committee. thank you for coming, and across the divide, and joining us here, please go ahead. >> thank you, mr. chairman, for holding this hearing and for your leadership on this issue. i also want to thank our colleagues at the senior center from california, senator feinstein for her leadership in introducing the respect for marriage act in the senate earlier this year, along with the chairman and with our outstanding jewish center from new york, center children. until the beer today which now enjoys 119 cosponsors in the house. just yesterday president obama announced his support for the bill, and ipod his leadership on issue as well. when congress passed doma in 1996 it is not yet possible for gay or lesbian couple to marry anywhere in the world. 15 years later much has changed. six days and the district of
3:42 pm
columbia now include gay and lesbian couples in the state marriage laws. there are an estimated 80,000 gay and lesbian couples married legally in this country. as the result, stereotypes about lesbians and gay men have fallen away, public understand an opinion on this issue has shifted dramatically. while 75% of the public oppose allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry when congress enacted doma, a majority of americans now support marriage equality. once viewed as a fiercely partisan issue, most individuals under age 45 who identify as republicans now support equal responsibilities and rights for gay and lesbian couples. recently my host a republican to democratic lawmakers joined forces and voted to include gay and lesbian new yorkers in our state marriage laws and they will start giving married legally in new york on sunday. this shift now makes clear what should've been a parent in 1996. the refusal to recognize the legal marriages of a category of our citizens based on their
3:43 pm
sexual orientation is unjustifiable. time and experience the road the legal and factual foundation choose to support doma's passage and meaningful congressional examination of this law is long overdue. some of congress' reasons for doma have not been disavowed. most notably the claim that congress can or should use the force of law to express moral disapproval of gay and lesbian americans. it is no longer credible to claim that most americans hold this view and wants believe a legitimate reason for the law, it is no sense of lawrence v. texas reason enough to declare it an valid. doma support is to claim that the law should survive and argue primary that doma should legitimate interest in protecting the welfare of children by promoting a so-called optimal family structure. one that consists of a married opposite sex couples raising their biological children. that there is no credible support for the notion that children are better off with opposite sex parents or that
3:44 pm
marriage gay and lesbian parents do not provide an equally loving supportive and wholesome environment. in a legitimate interest in children demands the children of married lesbian and gay couples also receive event is that flow from equal federal recognition of their parents same marriages. no legitimate federal interest in the welfare of children is ever a chance advanced by withholding protection from some children based on a desire to express moral disapproval of their parents. and it defies common sense to claim them as necessary to harm or exclude the children of married same-sex couples in order to somehow to protect the children of opposite sex couples. nor is it accurate to claim that congress only interested in marriage is in its children. congress routinely allocates federal obligations and benefits based on marital status but often does so to support the security of these adults. these interests are not possibly served by doma. but no legitimate federal interest is served by this law,
3:45 pm
doma causes harm as we'll hear today from the marriage gay and lesbian couples who have joined us today. these couples pay taxes, serve their communities, struggle to balance work and family, raise children and care for aging parents. they have undertaken a safe public and legal pledge to care for and support each other and their families in civil marriage and district they deserve equal treatment from the federal government. in fact, the constitution demands it and respect for marriage act would provide it. respect of marriage act honors degrees traditions of this nation to the bill does not define marriage but instead resource or practice of respecting all state sanctioned marriages for purposes of federal law while allowing each state to determine its own marriage laws. unlike doma, the respect of marriage act protect states rights. each state now sits at a marriage law, doma prevents the federal government from treating all state's marriages equally. the respect for marriage act would restore equal respect to the marriages of every state. the respect of marriage act also
3:46 pm
earns america's highest -- some religions of posing and others solemnizing marriages to lesbian and gay couples to the respect of marriage act allows the diversity to flourish leaving every religion free to married couples it chooses without government interference. and often does the i worked closely with ammo experts to ensure that the federal government once again were as cooperative with the state. am confident the bill strikes the right balance and look forward to working with all of you to assure its passage and i can thank you for holding this hearing. >> thank you, congressman nadler. i know that the house is both debates and votes scheduled, for my intent, there are no questions, allawi three house members to go back -- allow our three house must go back and and i will yield to senator grassley who did not have a chance to make his opening statement because we change the schedule. you can do that. but i think all three of you for
3:47 pm
being here. i know how, especially this week, how hectic a schedule it is on both sides but i appreciate you taking the time to come here. >> thank you thank you for respecting my lateness of a rival, and this courtesy. the bill before us today is entitled the respect for marriage act. george orwell would have marveled at the name. a bill to restore marriage would restore marriage as has been known. is between one man, one woman. that is the view of marriage that i support. this bill would undermine, not restore marriage, by repealing the defense of marriage act. the defense of marriage act was enacted in 1996, and just think of the whole of which it passed deny state senate, 85-14. we don't often get votes of 85-14 indian a state senate on
3:48 pm
controversial pieces of legislation. unlike a bill in which one member of a party supports a partisan bill, of the other party, which sometimes passes for bipartisanship around here, this is truly a bipartisan bill as evidenced by the 85-14 vote. president clinton signed it into law. even president obama ran on election, for election on a platform of support for traditional marriage. until yesterday he was a supporter of doma as well. one of the witnesses before us today says that doma was passed for only one reason, quote, to express disapproval of gay and lesbian people, in the quote. i know this to be false. senators at the time such as wyden, oregon, or even you, mr. chairman, and representatives at the time like representative schumer and urban as they were members of the house at that time did not support doma to express disapproval of gay and lesbian people.
3:49 pm
and neither did i. marriage is an institution that serves the same public purpose all over the world. to foster unions that can result in procreation. creates incentives for husbands and wives that support each other and their children. it exists more to benefit children than adults. although many marriages do not involve children. societies all over the world recognized by numerous reasons to extend special recognition to traditional marriage. i never thought that i would have to cover defend traditional marriage. it's been the foundation of societies for 6000 years. not only here, but around the world. and it is what civilizations have been built on. support for traditional marriage cannot be viewed in a vacuum. over the last 50 years, marriage has changed very dramatically. perhaps the divorce laws,
3:50 pm
inheritance laws, criminal laws of the kind needed reform. like many members of congress, i believe in federalism. i do not support the rights of the state -- i do support the rights of states to make changes in marriage if they choose. but i also believe that a state the changes its definition of marriage should not be able to impose that change necessitates for the federal government. section two of doma adds a statutory enhancement to state authority under the full faith and credit laws of article iv, section one of the constitution that maintain their own definitions of marriage. in addition to same-sex couples are not the only couples who phase issues that we're going to hear about today from our witnesses. unmarried heterosexual couples, siblings and friends who live together all can face the same problem. some of which can be addressed
3:51 pm
through other means than this particular legislation. and legitimately so. i'd like to know that one of our witness describes a series threats that were made against ordinary citizens who exercise their first amendment rights to petition the government for redress of grievances when california judges force that state to adopt same-sex marriages. a minority very much hope to call a witness today at this hearing to testify in support of doma. i'm sure she would have done an excellent job. she declined citing as one reason the threats and intimidation sped up and leveled against only her what her family as result of her public support of doma. she will continue to write on this subject but will no longer speak publicly. this chilling of a first amendment rights is unacceptable. there are good people of good faith on both sides of this question. they should seek to persuade each other through logic and factual evidence.
3:52 pm
they should not resort to threats of violence or seek silence their opponents. and i say the same thing for people that want to take that action against people that are gay and lesbians. doma as a constitutional law. but it is subject to constitutional attack. as one of today's witnesses show, the department of justice has not perform its constitutional duties to take your that laws be faithfully executed during the course of litigation involving doma. the department recently argued in another case that the court should rely on an passed bills in in deciding the legality of government inaction. this is a ridiculous argument. one which courts have never accepted. the rule of law requires ruling based on actual laws, not on policy preferences. the obama administration lost that argument in the other case called the leal? case, although regrettably for activist judges
3:53 pm
agreed that somehow they ought to make a decision on the fact that congress might pass a law as opposed to what the law actually is. knew the administration nor any judge should rely on past bill s. 598 arguing or deciding the constitutional -- constitutionality of doma. nor should the administration or any judge accept the argument that justice department made in the leal case that there is any legal significance to the mere introduction of a bill, even if it is strongly supported by the administration. nor should the administration or any judge be of the erroneous opinion that this congress will pass is 598. thank you very much. >> thank you. the other case are referring to we do have treaty obligations. and anytime we enter a treaty, it becomes the law of the land.
3:54 pm
>> that's a supremacy of the law clause that i take most to uphold so i agree with you on that. >> as each one of us have had at one time or another, we've had citizen from our state as being held by authorities in other countries, we've argued they should have the right to have somebody from our embassy speak to them and advise them of the right. and, of course, in that case the argument was we wanted, we asked other countries to do that for our citizens, they have to have the same rights in our spirit but in any event, that is -- change names on here and we will call up, call the next panel. call up ron wallen, tom minnery, andrew sorbo and susan murray. and before we start we'll hear
3:55 pm
the testing from each of them and then we will open, we will open it up to questions. i should also note, in the audience we are pleased to have senator gillibrand who was in the audience. a couple of the witnesses have already noted, she's a strong supporter of this legislation, and has worked with us and worked very hard for its passage. so i'm glad to have you here, senator. the first witness will hear from is ron wallen. is a resident of indio, california. he married tom carola come his partner of 55 years in june of 2008. mr. wolin, please go ahead. and incidentally i should know for all witnesses, your whole
3:56 pm
statement will be placed in the record, and once when the transcript, you'll get a copy of the transcript. if you find -- i should've added this line of that line, you have a chance, a chance to do that. we want as complete a record as we have, but please go ahead, mr. wolin. >> thank you, chairman leahy, ends members of the committee for inviting me to testify at this important hearing today. i want to thank my senator, senator feinstein for introducing the respect for marriage act. and i am honored and appreciate the opportunity to tell my story. my name is ron wallen, i'm 77 years old and i live in indio, california. four months ago tom, my husband and partner of 58 years, died of leukemia. tom and i first met back in 1953
3:57 pm
when tom was 23 and i was 19. and from the first day we enjoyed a sense of togetherness which never weakened in both good times and bad. tom suffered a massive heart attack in 1978. on doctors orders we change our lives which also result in diminished income force both. and for the next 33 years our very ordinary life was happily spent together surrounded by friends and family until tom's last illness. on june 24, 2008, we were among the lucky couples in california to stand for family and friends and legally marry the one person we loved above all others. it was a wonderful day, i day of pure joy. and as in great as her love for each other was, we were still surprised by the amount of emotion that came to us when the words i now pronounce you married for life was spoken. imagine, after 55 years together, the two of us were blubbering on our wedding day.
3:58 pm
but even on the day we found in sickness and in health and we're already facing the worst. because tom had been diagnosed with lymphoma which later morphed into the kenya. tom's illness was four years of pure hell with more hospitalizations than i could catch using both hands and feet. not a month went by i was not rushing into the emergency room. but we were in it together. tom didn't have the kenya. we had the kenya. and as rotten as those for years were, they were made easier because we had each other from comfort and love, and because we were married. since tom died on march 8 i miss him terribly. and the of the antennas caused by the loss of them and i spent my entire adult life with, my life has been thrown into financial turmoil because of doma. like a lot of retirees we took a big financial hit in the stock market is past couple years. but between tom's social
3:59 pm
security benefits of 1850, a small private pension of $300, and my social security check which is $900, we have a combined steady monthly income of $3050 which kept a roof over our heads. the rest living expenses recover from our diminished investments. not a sumptuous but enough. social security allows a widow or widower to either claim their own benefit or the benefit amount of their deceased spouse, whichever is highest. that survivors benefit is often what allows the widow or widower to stay in their home at a very difficult time. but doma says that gay and lesbian married couples cannot get that same treatment. ..
4:00 pm
>> simply because of doma. this is unfair, this is unjust. many widows and widowers downsize and make adjustments after the loss of their spouse. downsizing is one thing, but panic sale of a home which is on the water is quite another. after a lifetime of being a productive citizen, i am now facing financial chaos. tom and i played by the rules as we pursued our own version of the american dream. we volunteered, we paid our taxes, maintained our home, we got married as soon as we were legally able to do so, and yet as i face a future without my spouse, it is hard to accept that it is the federal government that is throwing me out of my own home. you can fix this problem.
4:01 pm
by repealing doma. it's a discriminatory law against gay and lesbian couples who have assumed the responsibilities of marriage. all we ask is to be treated fairly like other committed couples. i beg you to repeal this law and allow all married couples the same protections. again, thank you for inviting me to testify today, and i'll be happy to answer any questions you may have. >> thank you very much, mr. wallen. our next witness is thomas minnery, senior vice president of focus and the family, and mr. minnery, remind me that years and years and years and years ago and years ago we were both younger, he actually covered me for one of the newspapers in vermont. go ahead, mr. minnery. >> [inaudible] >> is your microphone on? is your microphone -- there's a little red light. >> it is now, thank you. and, mr. wallen, my heart goes
4:02 pm
out to you. my organization is very large. we do a lot of counseling to families to help them thrive in a difficult and complex society. we have resources for couples to build healthy marriages that reflect god's design and for parents to raise their children according to morals and values grounded in biblical principles. we have 13 international offices, radio programs are broadcast in 26 languages to more than 230 million people around the world each day, and, mr. wallen, we have resources that i believe can help you even in your situation. and if you would permit us, we'd love to try and be helpful to you. mr. chairman and members of the committee, i believe i represent two groups of people who have not been invited here today to testify. the first group of people are those many voters who have unapologetically endorsed marriage and state ballot initiatives or referenda.
4:03 pm
typically, these votes pass with overwhelming majorities, an average of 67% majority in each of the 31 states where voters have had a chance to register their opinions about it. and additionally,15 more states have passed some statute bringing the total to 44 states that have decided in one form or another, usually by large majorities, that marriage is between one man and one woman. one of the bill's most serious impacts, the bill we are discussing today, has been largely ignored. it's the repeal of section two of doma. that is the section that protects states from being forced to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages. the bill's revocation of section two is an attempt to undermine the public policies, laws and constitutions of the vast majority of states for whom traditional marriage is a settled issue.
4:04 pm
the only possible reason for doing so is to place the issue of marriage once again into the hands of judges and to take the issue of marriage out of the hands of people who have already spoken so clearly in so many states. should doma be repealed, parents in those states which have registered their approval of traditional marriages will be faced with the problems of coping with marriages of which they overwhelmingly disapprove. we need look no further than massachusetts, the first state to legalize same-sex marriage to understand what i'm talking about. it's this forced political correctness that brooks no diversity of opinion. that is the problem here. national public radio featured an interview with a massachusetts eighth grade teacher, deb allen, who was exuberant about her newfound freedom to explicitly discuss homosexual behavior with kids after the law passed in massachusetts. in my mind i know, okay, this is
4:05 pm
legal now, she said. if somebody wants to challenge me, i'll say, give me a break, it's legal now. that's what she said to npr. the npr reporter went on to explain that the teacher now discusses gay sex with students thoroughly and explicitly with a chart in the eighth grade. i feel like i'm also representing parents who have not been invited here to speak who have a sincerely-held religious view that marriage is between one man and one woman, and they want to protect their young children against other views. rob and robin in 2006 had their 7-year-old son joey come home to tell them about a book his teacher had read to the class expounding on same-sex relationships. at first they thought that he was mistaken. they requested that the school inform them about such presentations, and can they were turned down. another couple, david and tonya parker, had an even worse result when they questioned the teaching of explicit same-sex
4:06 pm
issues to their young son. mr. parker found himself in jail. i'm just trying to be a good dad, parker said after his arraignment. the family acknowledged they were christians attempting to follow their faith. we're not intolerant, said his wife. we love all people. that is part of our faith. but, see, the judge who ruled in their case, the case of the parkers and the worthlands, had this to say: the sooner children are exposed to those topics of same-sex relationships, the better it is. it is difficult to change attitudes and stereotypes after they have developed. excuse me? attitudes and stereotypes? these are sincerely-held religious views of their parents, and the judge takes it upon himself to believe these views, sincerely held, should be e raced -- erased from the minds of the children. mr. chairman, that's my opening
4:07 pm
statement. i'd be pleased to take questions. >> well, thank you very much, mr. minnery, and it's good to see you again. our next witness is andrew sorbo, he's a resident of berlin -- how do can you pronounce it in connecticut? >> berlin. >> berlinment same way we do in vermont. [laughter] we have a berlin, vermont, for those who were wondering. andrew and his late spouse shared a life for nearly 30 years. they were joined in a civil union in vermont in 2004, that's back when vermont had civil unions before they had same-sex marriage, and legally married in connecticut in 2009. please, go ahead, sir. >> thank you, senator leahy, senator feinstein and senator blumenthal, for inviting me to testify before this committee. my name is andrew sorbo. i am 64 years old and a resident
4:08 pm
of berlin, connecticut. i spent 35 years as a teacher and principal in the catholic and public schools of rhode island and connecticut before retiring in 2005. i'm here today to talk about how i have been hurt by the defense of marriage act after i lost my partner of nearly 30 years, the love of my life and my legal spouse, dr. colin atterbury, a professor of medicine at yale university and the chief of staff of the west haven, connecticut, veterans administration medical center. as a young man of 23, i had mistakenly married, separated and divorced and expected to spend the rest of my life alone and my nights in quiet desperation. but then to my everlasting surprise, on july 29, 1979, on a visit to new york city i met colin. from our first conversation, we knew that we had found our soul mates and our partners for life.
4:09 pm
although we never expected it to happen in our lifetime, we had the opportunity to legalize our relationship with a civil and holy union in vermont on the occasion of our 25th anniversary. a year later i retired, and shortly afterward colin was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. for over three years, he battled the cancer with stoicism and courage. in january 2009 we were married by two minister friends in a subdued ceremony in the living room of our home in cheshire, connecticut. colin died four months later, just shy of our 30th anniversary. even though we had done everything we could to legalize our relationship and protect ourselves financially, doma hung over us like a dark and ominous cloud. the financial impact due to doma came swiftly after colin's death. his federal pension checks stopped, so our household income declined by 80%.
4:10 pm
doma did not allow colin the same legal right which my own brother-in-law possessed when he retired, that is the opportunity to accept a smaller monthly pension to allot his spouse, my sister, to inherit his pension and maintain her financial security in the event of his death. this year i had to sell our house in cher she and downsize to a condominium. leaving our home of 18 years is a moment i will never forget. colin was also denied the right to include me in his medical insurance plan. when i retired as a teacher in 2005, i had no alternative except to pay for my insurance coverage in full at a much higher rate than as a spouse. last year my insurance payments consumed almost one-third of my $24,000 teacher pension. in addition, doma forced my financial planner to create a retirement plan much less advantageous for me than if i had been colin's female spouse. another consequence of doma is that unlike my mother when my
4:11 pm
stepfather died, i was unable to inherit my spouse's social security benefits. doma also interfered with our ability to file joint state income tax returns, even though we were legally married in connecticut. that process is prohibitively complex for same-sex spouses. even after our civil union in 2004, colin and i were not allowed to file joint federal income tax returns, a situation that my sister and her husband never faced. after colin died i was forced to file a separate federal return for him and separating our finances at that point was exceedingly difficult. the damage that doma inflicts every day on the lives of decent americans is not only financial, but also psychological as well . the toll on our belief in the justice and fairness of our society is incalculable. were colin sitting by my side today, colin would implore you
4:12 pm
to remove this insult to our dignity, to respect us as much as you do our heterosexual countrymen and to rescind doma. colin would ask that you restore the economic justice that doma denies us. he would remind you that we are your brothers and your sisters, your aunts and your uncles, your cousins and your friends, your work mates and your neighbors, your sons and your daughters and, yes, even sometimes your moms and your dads. and then colin, the doctor who was a philosopher, would stop to ruminate because he was a thoughtful man. he would lower his voice solemnly, he would look every one of you in the eye before saying, everybody deserves equal treatment. thank you, senators, for allowing me to testify today. >> thank you very much, mr. sorbo. the last one on this panel is susan murray.
4:13 pm
ms. murray lives with her wife karen in parisburg, vermont. she's a partner in the law firm of -- [inaudible] in burlington, vermont, that is one of the leading law firms of our state. she specializes in family law appeals, estate planning and civil rights. she was co-counsel in baker v. state of vermont which established civil unions in the vermont. ms. murray, please, go ahead. >> thank you, chairman leahy, fellow vermonter, and thank you, senator grassley, and the other members of the committee, for allowing me to testify here today. i'm the oldest of seven children, came from a good catholic family, and i had a great childhood. my mom and dad were completely devoted to us kids. but they're also devoted to each other. they were happily married for 51 years before my dad died six years ago. sorry.
4:14 pm
so that was my model of a successful marriage. that's what i wanted for myself. when i realized as a young adult that i was gay, i didn't think that i would ever have the opportunity to have that same kind of a life that my parents had. and then i met karen hibbard, and i consider myself blessed to have found the person that i wanted to be with for the rest of my life. we've been together for more than 25 years now, and is as soon as the state of vermont, the vermont legislature said we could, we got married. we promised to continue to love one another and to be with each other through thick and thin for the rest of our lives. by now our lives are completely intertwined both financially and otherwise. but we still can't file joint federal tax returns. and that means we have to pay more in taxes. there was a time a few years ago when i was very sick, and i was
4:15 pm
in the hospital for four days. karen stayed with me every day and every night until i got better. luckily, i had health insurance through karen's work, so that helped pay the medical bills. but unlike other married co-workers that she works with, karen has to pay tax on the value of that health insurance coverage for me. that's about $6200 a year. you know, senators, when we met, karen had blond hair, and i had black hair, and now we both have gray hair. and as we get older, we're starting to worry about the financial difficulties that we may face because the social security laws don't provide us full benefits of other couples. now, all of these things large and small, they add up over time, and it's like waves hitting sand on a beach over and over. they have the effect of eroding
4:16 pm
our financial security. it's something that, you know, trying to erode things that we've built up, we've worked so hard to build up over time. as senator leahy pointed out, i'm a lawyer by profession. i do a lot of family law work and a lot of estate planning work, and in that role i've seen firsthand the ways in which the lack of federal protections hurt same-sex families and the children they're raising. so i'd just like to give you just two examples here today. i once represented a woman named carrie. she was a blue collar worker, she worked in a big box store. she and her partner, erin, really struggled to support themselves, and erin's two children that erin had there a prior marriage. at one point carrie went to her employer and tried to get health insurance for erin and for erin's two children, and the company said, no. they specifically told her that the federal government did not require them to insure their
4:17 pm
employees' same-sex partners or spouses, or those spouse's children. so they weren't going to do it. so for this family the lack of health insurance really was very scary for them. they were, essentially, one illness away from financial ruin. and the last case i'll tell you about is really a tragedy. my client, cheryl, and her partner jane, they were the new participants of an 8-year-old boy -- parents of an 8-year-old boy. they were totally in love with that little baby. they had so many hopes and dreams for raising that child. they agreed cheryl was going to be a full-time stay-at-home mom and jane would go to work to earn money for the family. she had a very modest job, but they had a little house, and they were making ends meet. and then one morning on her way to work jane was killed in a car accident. and instantly all of that family's income was gone.
4:18 pm
cheryl didn't even get the basic parent social security benefits that jane had paid for through her contribution to the social security taxes. that basic federal safety net wasn't there for cheryl and their little baby. so for me as a lawyer it was heartbreaking to deal with that, see that little baby and to try to help cheryl deal with her grief and with this financial devastation. she ended up losing the house. she just, we couldn't, we couldn't keep it for her. so these are just two examples of the harms that same-sex couples have faced and will face if doma's allowed to remain the law of the land. i really hope you'll get rid of this unfair law. thank you. >> thank you very much. and, um, we'll go to our questions. you know, as a member of the vermont bar and member of the legal community, i've been very
4:19 pm
familiar with your advocacy, ms. murray, for the fight for equality, but this is the first time i've heard your personal story and what you said about your parents and how their marriage was an example to you. and i, i can certainly relate to that in my own parents. but you also were in vermont when we had, first, civil unions the legislature passed. that was a major debate in our state. then subsequently, a few years later when the vermont legislature the elected members voted, debated and passed same-sex marriage which,
4:20 pm
actually, was far less of a -- didn't bring about an awful lot of controversy from the right to the left. in our state. but why was it important to you to get married rather than just have a civil union? >> that's a great question, senator. you know, civil unions was created whole cloth by the state of vermont, and no other states have borrowed that phrase now. but it was brand new back then, and it's different. and people didn't know what it was. um, when we had a civil union ceremony, we had a big party, and, um, some of the people we invited didn't know what we were inviting them to. they didn't understand it. but marriage is universal. everybody understands it. everybody in this country and everybody in this world. everybody knows what the marriage vows are, that you take someone for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do you part. everybody knows that.
4:21 pm
and the child had that i had and the model that i had from my parents caused me, i believe in marriage, and i believe in its power to bind people and its power to, its importance to society, and i wanted to declare that publicly. we both wanted to declare that publicly for our friends, our family so that they would be there to support us and so that they understood that we were part of that world. >> let me ask you, we've, we will have a number of witnesses, already have had and will have more who oppose the respect for marriage act. some say they want to fight poverty by keeping american families intact. they talk about the problems of single-parent households. now, states have long determined issues of marriage. it's rare the federal court, supreme court steps in. they did, of course, 40 years
4:22 pm
ago in this loving v. virginia when they unanimously struck down the missong nation laws. but i think we can say our federal government has had an interest in protecting children. we can agree that marriage provides more stable and financially secure homes and families for children. do you see as well as practicing family law, do you see the way doma is operating keeps families more intact and protected or the other way around? is. >> it's just the opposite, senator. let me give you an example. karen and i have friends who live in new york outside of albany, a gay married couple. they've adopted three special needs kids including one who got aids because his mother was an intravenous drug user. they've had so many difficulties raising the children, really trying times, but they've done a fabulous job raising these kids.
4:23 pm
and to the extent doma undermines their ability to take care of these children and to provide these children with the care and support that they need. to the extent they can't file joint tax returns, and that increases their tax burden, that's money that these parents can't buy, can't use to buy books for those kids, they can't spend it on tutors, they can't spend it on summer camps, they can't even put money away for the kids' college educations. so i think we can all agree in this room that children are this country's most precious resource. they're our future. and the kids of same-sex couples deserve exactly the same protections and benefits and that sense of security that every other child in this country deserves. and they're not getting it with doma. >> thank you. and, mr. minnery, earlier this year the conservative political action conference in d.c. you made this statement, i believe i'm quoting you correctly: we
4:24 pm
believe we fight poverty every day the most effective way poverty can be fought in this country, and that is by keeping families intact. and your report, the value of marriage for fighting poverty attributes poverty in the large part to single-parent households in our nation. is it just marriage that lifts those children out of poverty? i think we all agree that marriage provides more stable and financially secure homes and families for children, but does that come through if we're denying some parents rights and benefits that make their families healthier and more secure? >> well, thank you for the question, mr. chairman. we all, we, the people, care
4:25 pm
about marriage, care about what it is because it is the nurturing environment for children. and a mountain of social science data has concluded overwhelmingly that the best environment for raising those children, if possible, is an intact home headed by a married father and mother. in fact, i've put in my prepared statement -- >> but my specific, i know, my specific question, though, if you do have parents legally married if they are same sex and there are children, are those children benefited by saying that in that family they will not have the same financial benefits that another family, married parents of opposite sex would have? are those children, are those
4:26 pm
children not put at a disadvantage by denying those same benefits to them? and i'm talking about, now, a legal marriage under the state laws of the state they live in. >> no, without question, those children are certainly better off than had they no parents. but same-sex -- >> wait, i don't want understand that, they'd be better off -- >> no, they're better off than if they had no home headed by parents. but same-sex marriage says a whole lot more than that, senator. >> the i know, but i'm trying to go specifically to the financial, are they not disadvantaged by not having the same financial benefits a opposite-sex family would have? >> well, as i say, not knowing the details of which families you're speaking of, certainly
4:27 pm
those families are better off -- children are better off with parents in the home. but what i'm saying -- >> but i'm talking about just -- yes or no. this is not a trick question, i'm just asking. [laughter] if you -- please. if you have parents legally married under the laws of the state, one set of parents are entitled to certain financial benefits for their children, the other set of parents are denied those same financial benefits for their children. are not those children at least in that aspect of finances, are not those children of the second family, are they not at a disadvantage? yes or no? >> it would be yes as you asked the questionnaire rowly, senator -- question narrowly, senator. >> thank you.
4:28 pm
that's -- i used to have a career where i had to ask questions all the time. [laughter] so, senator grassley. >> yeah. mr. minnery, the testimony we've heard appears, to me, to turn on the operation of section three of doma which defines marriage for the purpose of federal law. doma also contains section two which, as you mentioned, preserves federalism by allowing each state to define marriage for itself without imposing its definition on other states. the bill before us would repeal section two of doma as well as section three. does section two of doma have anything to do with the loss of benefits that the witnesses have discussed? >> doma was in place well before the couples at the table were married.
4:29 pm
so their situation, senator, has not changed with doma. it is the same. and that's why i question the advice that mr. wallen spoke about when he talked about legal advice given to him about how to survive. it seems as though the legal advice he was talking about assumed that doma would be repealed. but it seems to me that the legal advice of a competent adviser ought to understand the situation that exists. nothing has changed since doma passed for these couples. >> since section two of doma has nothing to do with anybody's benefit, what would be the effect of repealing section two, and what justification do proponents of repealing doma offer for repealing section two? >> well, section two is that
4:30 pm
section of doma which excuses states from being required to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. these are the states that have overwhelmingly determined what marriage is for the citizens of that state, overwhelmingly they have voted for that. and if doma were to be repealed, presumably same-sex marriages performed elsewhere would have to be recognized in those states, those many states that have determined that marriage is what it has always been in their states. and with that comes a very forced political correctness which can get downright nasty. in my prepared comments, i speak about a case in washington state
4:31 pm
in which voters had gone to the polls to try and repeal a civil unions measure. now, they had put that on the ballot by the initiative process. many of the names of those petition signers were released, and the threats and the intimidation against them were horrendous, and those threats and intimidations found their way into a brief filed in federal court on behalf of those parents. most of those comments against the petition signers i cannot report here, they're too vile. >> can i go on to another question, please? >> >> please. >> mr. minnery, we hear testimony today that social science research shows that the well being of children are raised in the same-sex marriages is the same as children who are raised in traditional marriages. is that your understanding of
4:32 pm
the research? is there anything questionable about the studies that show that children are just as healthy and well adjusted when raised by same-sex parents? >> yes. and my written statement goes into that in some detail, senator. i appreciate the question. as i started to say before, an overwhelming mountain of evidence shows that children do best when they have a mom and a dad. and the studies that have analyzed same-sex households are very recent. the conclusions tend to be ambiguous. the sample sizes tend to be small, and they tend to be what social scientists call snowball samples. that is to say they are not random samples for inclusion in the study, they are people who have been recruited to be in the study by, for example, answering ads in the same-sex
4:33 pm
publications, bookstores, places where same-sex couples frequent. that is the way most of them have been included in the studies, and that is not as legitimate as a scientifically-random sample, and those samples are much better in those studies which are longitudinal and which show a mother and a father provide the best environment for those children. >> thank you, mr. minnery. >> thank you. i yield to senator feinstein. i have to step out for about four or five minutes, so i'm going to give her the gavel, too, during that time. >> thank you. >> and then senator whitehouse will be recognized after unless another member on the republican side comes. >> i'm going to step out for a minute, too, but i'll be right back. >> thank you. senator feinstein. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. i just want to establish some
4:34 pm
things for the record. in the 1997 in a case called boggs v. boggs, parent and child belongs to the laws of the state and not to the laws of the united states. end quote. um, nothing in this bill would obligate any state, religious organization or locality to perform a marriage between two people of the same sex. nor would anything in this bill require a state to recognize a same-sex marriage from another state. doma has never been necessary to preserve states' rights because the state does not have to recognize a marriage that violates its public policy. so, um, i think that's pretty clear.
4:35 pm
i think one of the big discrepancies here is in the area of health coverage. many americans get health coverage through their employers, and they use those plans to cover families including their spouses. these plans are usually free from tax, so if a business pays $2,000 in health premiums for an employee and a spouse, the employee does not have to pay income taxes on that benefit. doma removes this tax protection for same-sex couples. under doma the employee will have to pay taxes on premiums paid to his or her spouse's health coverage. plus the employee has to pay any employee contribution after taxes rather than before taxes like any other married couple. this is how doma discriminates. so that means that same-sex
4:36 pm
couples are subject to thousands of dollars in additional taxes because of doma. susan, you're an attorney. would you like to comment on that? >> [inaudible] >> sorry -- there you go. >> you're absolutely right. i've experienced that in my own life, and i have seen it in, with many of my friends and with some of my clients to the extent people can actually get health insurance benefits -- some of them can't because the companies think that the federal government allows them to discriminate and, therefore, they're able to do that. so if they can get access to health insurance, they still have to pay more money on it. >> in the area of gift tax, estate tax and divorce, and let me talk about the gift tax for a moment. you know, many americans are generous with their spouses. they give them a piece of jewelry, expensive electronic
4:37 pm
item. they buy a vacation for a spouse , um, under federal law these gifts are not taxed for married couples except for same-sex couples because of doma. i have a constituent from piedmont, california, by the name of max calen. rerecently suffered from this aspect when his husband, phillip, passed away from an aggressive form of cancer. phillip's estate was taxed to the tune of $2 million because of doma. could you comment on this issue of the gift and inheritance tax? >> i would be happy to, senator. i see this all the time in my practice. um, i can tell you the story of a young couple named jessica and eileen who came to see me recently. jessica was lucky enough to have inherited some money, a significant amount of money from her participants, and -- but her partner, eileen, her spouse, her
4:38 pm
wife, eileen, had no money at all. they had two goals. one was to provide some financial protections to, um, to eileen to give her some assets to protect her in the event jessica passed away, and to prepare for all the ups and downs of life as they moved forward and got older. and the other was to try to minimize their federal estate tax just like any other married couple that comes into my office. now, if they were a married couple that was recognized by the federal government, that would have been a very easy, straightforward estate plan for me to draft. but because of doma there are no -- i can't just simply have jessica transfer assets into eileen's name because anything over, right now, $13,000 a year triggers gift tax. >> thank you. obviously, i'm trying to build a record here. let me speak about veterans' benefits. don't ask, don't tell has been repealed, so gay servicemen will soon be able to put their lives on the line in service to our
4:39 pm
country in the military. and they receive a number of benefits on account of their service to our nation. for example, if a veteran dies in service, the surviving spouse will receive death benefits. if a veteran dies from a disability related to a service, the surviving spouse can receive benefits. a veteran's spouse can also be buried with their deceased spouse at a military cemetery. under doma the spouses of gay service members would be excluded from these benefits, even though those service members performed exactly the same service to our country. and put their lives on the line for the united states. my question is for any witness that would care to answer. can you, please, comment on the extent that you know on the likely impact of doma on gay service members and their spouses? >> senator, i can tell you,
4:40 pm
briefly, from a non-gay case that i just had, i do divorce work, and i just represented a woman who is divorcing her husband who's active in the military. and she is entitled to half, i think it's 55% of his pension. he's about ready to retire after 20 years in the military. she's divorcing him, and she's getting 55% of his military pension. any same-sex couple, they're not going to have access to that same pension benefit. that's just not available to them. >> thank you very much. and thank all of you for being here today. it's very important and we're very grateful. senator whitehouse? >> thank you, madam chair. thank you for your leadership on this issue. i will gladly yield -- okay. um, this discussion that we're having is so often a clash between ideology and just human stories that what i'd like to do is take my time and echo the testimony of ron and andrew and
4:41 pm
susan with some stories from rhode island. david and rock wrote to me from providence, we now both have active and busy careers, a teenager thinking about college and the financial challenges of college tuition and shrinking retirement assets. we're involved in the community and in our church. we have the concerns of most families. in fact, if we were a heterosexual couple, ours would be the story of a conservative american family; the importance of education, the importance of faith, delaying marriage until financially stable, marriage followed by a shared household followed by child rearing. and then there is doma. we carry our marriage documents, adoption documents and medical care proxy documents when we travel. i'm ineligible for inclusion in military family benefits. we're not eligible to file joint income tax. we're ineligible for spousal social security benefits in the
4:42 pm
event of the death of one of us. it is time to end this discriminatory policy. carol and ann write, we've been together since 1987 and have had 20 foster children. for 30 years i've worked at the same company and paid taxes and been a model citizen. for 23 years ann has taken care of children in need. at one high school we were known as the ladies. and educators heaved a sigh of relief when they knew a tough child had us as their foster parents. with kindness and patience and compassion, our efforts have made great changes in 20 young lives. we're doing our best to make this a better world. please pass the respect for marriage act and reverse doma. we want to be able to tell our foster children we are married 100%. bill and ernie write, we live in cumberland, rhode island, and we've been a couple for over 20 years. we live quietly and go about our business without bothering anyone. i was born 59 years ago, and
4:43 pm
ernie was born 55 years ago. we've been citizens of the united states all our lives, but since the passage of, of doma, r government has seen fit to take rights away from us. why is this? we have not hurt anyone. ernie's and my union will not cause harm to anyone. it makes no sense to set us outside the protections of federal law to make us less than full citizens of the united states. please ask your colleagues in the senate to support the return of our civil rights, it is the only civil thing to do. and finally, from a story in the providence journal about pat baker and deborah tavall, pat has been in public service for a long time. she's a 51-year-old correctional officer. it says here she was never a gay rights activist, but after doctors diagnosed her with incurable lung cancer in december, she got an added jolt. the federal defense of marriage act precludes her from collecting the social security benefits baker earned for a
4:44 pm
surviving spouse. the story continues, the discovery stunned baker, leading her to embark on what may well be her first and last act of bravery in the name of marriage equality. the story concludes, they are not entitled to the full scope of protections with regard to end-of-life issues, disposition of remains, who is considered next of kin, who gets to make decisions on medical care, organ donations and more. noting that the couple have spent thousands of extra dollars trying to put in place such protections, it was said i hope it is a reminder to the legislators that this is not abstract. this is a really tragic illustration of how these vulnerable situations are made so much more difficult because these same-sex couples are not treated like everybody else. i could not improve on those comments from rhode island couples, and i thank everyone for their attention, look forward to working, particularly, with senator
4:45 pm
feinstein onage -- on passage of her bill. i want to recognize her leadership and the leadership of our chairman. there have been many occasions when this hearing room has been made the fulcrum of progress for this country, and as a result of his leadership, this is another such occasion. and i want to recognize him for that. >> thank you very much, senator whitehouse, and i think we've all been fortunate with the leadership you've shown, senator feinstein, and others have shown here. senator franken, you're next, please. go ahead, sir. >> because i begrudgingly yield to senator -- [laughter] thank you, mr. chairman. i want to especially thank the witnesses who shared their personal stories with us and what you're doing here is very important not just for the millions of americans directly affected by the so-called
4:46 pm
defense of marriage act, but for our entire nation. doma is an injustice, it is an immoral and discriminatory law. our nation was founded on the premise that all people are created equal. and that all persons should receive equal treatment under the law. our society may be different than it was then, but these principles remain the same, that's why i'm an original co-sponsor of the respect for marriage act, and that's why i think the day we repeal doma will be a great day in this nation akin to the ratification of the 19th amendment and the passage of the civil rights act. and i think that congressman lewis' presence here spoke to that in a very powerful way. mr. chairman, i'd like to enter the rest of my statement, opening statement into the record. >> without objection, so ordered. >> mr. minnery, on page 8 of your written testimony you write, quote: children live
4:47 pm
anything their own married, biological or adoptive mothers -- with their own married, biological or adoptive mothers and fathers were generally healthier and happier, had better access to health care, less likely to suffer mild or severe emotional problems, did better in school, were protected from physical, emotional and sexual abuse and almost never live in poverty compared with children in any other family form. you cite a, um, a department of health & human services study that i have right here from december 2010 to support this conclusion. i checked the study out. [laughter] and i would like to enter it into the record, if i may. >> without objection, so ordered. >> and it, actually, doesn't say what you said it says.
4:48 pm
it says that nuclear families -- not opposite-sex, married families -- are associated with those positive outcomes. isn't it true, mr. minnery, that a married same-sex couple that has had or adopted kids would fall under the definition of a nuclear family in the study that you cite? >> i would think that the study when it cites nuclear families would mean a tamly headed by a -- family headed by a husband and wife. >> it doesn't. [laughter] the study defines a nuclear family as one or more children living with two parents who are married to one another and are even biological or adoptive parents to all the children in the family.
4:49 pm
and i, frankly, don't really know how we can trust the rest of your testimony if the you are reading studies these ways. ms. murray, i recently read about a minnesota same-sex couple with two daughters. the working partner and their daughters could get health insurance through that partner's employer, but they couldn't afford to cover the non-working partner who was named shannon because every contribution they or their employer made to shannon's coverage would be fully taxable under federal law. now, shannon and her partner can't get married in minnesota, but even if they could, doma would mean that their situation would remain the same. according to one estimate, because of doma same-sex couples pay $1,069 more
4:50 pm
4:51 pm
>> thank you very much, and thank you to all the witnesses, mr. chairman. >> thank you very much, and using our usual early bird rule, senator -- >> well, almost all of them. sorry. >> senator coons, senator coons is next. senator coons. >> thank you, chairman leahy. thank you to you and to senator feinstein for your long and determined work on repealing doma. thank you to the members of our panel today who have shared with us sering personal stories of their experiences as veterans, teachers, attorneys. they represent, i know, thousands of our constituents, our colleagues, our classmates, our friends who have gone through similar suffering, loss, mistreatment through doma. the purpose of today's hearing is to look at senate bill 598 and to consider the impact doma has had on legal hi-married -- legally-married couples who have been denied access to all sorts of federal programs, benefits, rights and privileges. and as ms. murray mentioned,
4:52 pm
they are like waves on a beach that just drive away, um, the possibility of equality, even to those legally recognized couples. to me, this hearing is fundamentally about equality and whether or not we, as a nation, think it's okay to deny some american citizens the same rights and privileges afforded to other citizens. do we really think it is okay for our federal government to say we simply don't like who you love? and my question here is how we can have an answer that is anything other than that emphatically, no, equality for all is supposed to mean, in my view, equality for all. and i don't see what business it is of our federal government to reach into americans' hearts and judge them for whom they love, particularly when their states have empowered them to marry. i am tired of it being the law of this land that it's okay for the government to discriminate against americans solely based on their gender, identity or sexual orientation. i'm tired of seeing kids grow up in a country where their government tells them discrimination is okay, and i
4:53 pm
think it is no wonder that we continue to see kids being bullied in school and see so many lgbt children take their own lives because they've given up hope because, in my view, this law encourages discrimination. we have bigger problems in this country than going out of our way to continue to deny rights to americans. and we've heard today some of these witnesses have, i think, movingly testified about how same-sex marriage, um, is at real harm from doma. in my view, others have testified here and elsewhere about how somehow same-sex marriage threatens or hurts heterosexual marriage, and i don't know about my colleagues, but my wedding ring and my marriage did not magically dissolve or disappear just because new york passed a same-sex marriage bill last month. in my view, s. 598 is about restoring rights. it's not about taking them away, it is about righting these wrongs and moving on. i am a person of faith. my family and i worship
4:54 pm
regularly, and i am raising children in what might be considered a traditional marriage. but i don't think that my faith which informs my politics empowers me to have a monopoly on the interpretation of the will of god. and in my view, it is expressly not appropriate for the federal government to discriminate against couples based on who they love. so in my view, the defense of marriage act is just wrong. it's wrong and needs to be repealed. and i'm grateful to the chairman and to the witnesses before us for having laid out in clear, compelling ways how doma has harmed them directly. i would be grateful if i could take a moment to ask some of the witnesses about the symbolic harm that doma has also imposed on you because you've spoken in compelling ways about financial loss, loss of a home, loss of survivors' benefits, loss of health benefits, loss of respect. but i'd be interested in
4:55 pm
hearing, if i could, further about the symbolic power of doma in your lives to any of the three witnesses, ron, andrew or susan, who testified. mr. sorbo. >> senator, i'm glad to be able to respond to that. i was a teacher and principal, as i told you, for 35 years. every day of my career i led my students in the pledge of allegiance. of and that pledge of allegiance ends, "with liberty and justice for all." for 35 years every day when it came to those words, i stood in front of my students with a blank face. but inside i knew it was not true. i knew as a history teacher that it had not been true for blacks, it had not been true for women,
4:56 pm
it had not been true for mixed-race couples, and i knew that it was not true then for same-gender couples. and i had to stand before them and say that. and i, i also had every day of my career until the very end when i finally got the courage to admit who i was to always use the pronoun, "i" to my students when they would ask me questions that probed into my personal life. i was going on vacation. i did this. i could not say we because the next question was, well, who is the other person? and i knew that would lead to lots of problems. so it's a good question, senator, because the financial aspect of this is only one aspect of the harm that doma does and the discrimination
4:57 pm
against gay people. it's an insult to our dignity and our sense of, as i said in my testimony, our sense of equality. i, i grew up in a normal household, my father died when i was a year old, i grew up -- but normal in that my mother, my sister and i had a loving home. and my mother brought me up to be as ethical as possible. i knew from be her example -- from be her example the difference between right and wrong, that it was wrong to discriminate against the black people who lived in the housing project that i lived in providence, rhode island. and i believed as a person who studied history and loved history from the time i was a child that this country that's supposed to be the shining beacon on the hill, according to the people who settled the massachusetts baycolny, this
4:58 pm
country was formed on ideals of equality and justice. and we have had to struggle, to fight, every generation, to extend that idea of freedom and justice to more and more groups. and my group, my community is the latest to have to fight for that. and i'm, i'm appalled, and i'm baffled at how representatives of our country in the senate and the house cannot see the historical perspective on this. that some of our own representatives and senator who are there to protect the minority are allowing us to become the victims of the majority which, to me, is unconstitutional. and i'm sorry to say that i can't understand how they do not see that they are the
4:59 pm
philosophical descendants of those who defended slavery, who defended, um, laws against mixed-race couples and who defended the laws that allowed the separate but equal status that representative lewis so eloquently spoke of in his testimony. thank you. >> thank you very much, mr. sorbo. sometimes it takes a history teacher to help us see our way clearly to the future. i, too, found congressman lewis' testimony very moving and yours equally so. thank you very much, mr. chairman. >> thank you very much. our next witness is senator blumenthal -- next witness. next one to question -- >> i hope not a witness, mr. chairman. [laughter] >> no -- >> i would yield to senator durbin if -- i would be delighted to yield, not grudgingly yield. [laughter]


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on