Saturday, December 30, 2017

The "Christian" Baker vs. the Gay Couple

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A few years ago a gay couple asked a bakery in the USA to create a cake for their wedding. The owners of the bakery were a conservative Christian couple and they refused to do this.

{{{If someone is 'conservative' they tend to not like it when things change. They have 'old-fashioned' values. Liberals tend to be more 'open-minded' about change.}}}

The bakery owners felt that it was their right to refuse to provide service to a gay couple because of their religious beliefs. Many conservative Christians believe it is wrong for gay folks to get married.

However, in the USA there are very strong anti-discrimination laws. 

{{{Discrimination is when action is taken to deny someone some type of service because of who or what the person is. Prejudice is an attitude, discrimination is a type of action.}}} 

So the gay couple argued that the bakery owners discriminated against them because of their sexual preference. A government organization agreed with the gay couple and fined the bakery owners $135,000. This is, of course, a huge amount of money.

How do you feel about this issue? Even if you agree with the gay couple, how do you feel about the fine? Do you think the fine was fair? Why do you think the government fined them so severely?

An article about this issue:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

legally-binding - this means the decision is a legal decision which must be obeyed. To bind is to tie something up. 

The Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) - any 'bureau' is going to be a government office. This is an office in Oregon which monitors businesses to make sure they follow all the laws in the USA.

to net (that netted) - to net something is to collect or get something, like catching fish in a net

discrimination - remember that discrimination is an action, prejudice is an attitude

a state exemption - if you are exempt from some type of law, it means the law does not apply to you. So the owners of this store believed that because they have an anti-gay religious belief, this protected them (made them exempt) from anti-discrimination laws. They were wrong.

being appealed - the owners are taking this matter to a higher court to get the decision overturned, if possible 

to be a beneficiary of someone/something - to get a benefit, to get something good or a reward

an evangelical Christian - these are 'super' Christians. Very, very, very conservative. To be an evangelical Christian means you believe so strongly in the Christian religion that you feel you have to encourage everyone to become a Christian.

Friday, December 22, 2017

America's new tax law explained for English learners

Many of my students ask me what the basic difference is between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party in the USA.  I usually joke and say that the Republicans are evil while the Democrats are corrupt. I then say that Americans, themselves, generally fall within two categories: the evil and the corrupt. So when an American goes to vote, he/she just asks, " I evil or corrupt?" If evil ---> Republican; if corrupt ---> Democratic.

Why are Republicans evil? The core (basic) principle of this party is that everyone should take care of him/herself and that whatever is good for business is good for America. During the Great Depression a Republican President (Herbert Hoover) actually said on the radio that he was not going to help Americans who were hungry or out of work because government help makes 'the people' weak.  

Why are Democrats corrupt? Well, lots of Democratic politicians get arrested every year for corruption because they seem to feel that as long as they are providing services to poor people who need them, they can fill their own pockets with cash as well. Indeed, the Democrats are good at providing lots of free stuff and free services, but they never seem to ever solve any social problems. So they believe that businesses exist to pay high taxes so that they can provide people with free things and free services (and stick some money in their own pockets while they are at it).

So, basically, both parties suck and neither has any solution to the real problems the USA faces.

The Republicans are now in control of the government, and so it is their turn to harm the country and its people by being evil.

So you've probably heard of the new tax law that Trump has signed. Basically it's a law that reduces taxes for businesses and wealthy folks, while not doing anything for folks in the middle class and among the poor. Supposedly, if wealthy people and businesses make more money then everybody will make more money because businesses will create new jobs. They tried this before in the 1980s and it was a disaster that lead to a homeless crisis in America (which still exists). 

The tax law also adds to the amount of debt the USA is carrying, so, China, if you are reading this, you might want to ask Trump and the Republicans when they intend to start paying back some of the money they owe you. You've been too nice China!!! Tell the US Government to stop taxing poor people and to pay its debts!!! Please!!!! (I'm joking, kind of). China, you might want to ask the US government when it intends to start paying you back. They don't seem to be thinking too much about that. Can you please remind them, for the sake of all Americans who are neither evil nor corrupt?

Here is an article about the crazy new law our crazy new president recently signed:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article: 

to be corrupt - to be dishonest, to do wrong things in order to benefit, to cover-up things that are wrong

the GOP - the Grand Old Party ...the Republican Party

to be disgusted - to feel sick because you see something that is wrong

to be immoral - not to be ethical, to be evil, not to do right or good things

abundance - wealth, having more than you need

grossly failed - failed in a huge way, failed in a really big way; if an adjective is 'grossly' something, it is a really big something. His lie was grossly inaccurate. His sexist behavior was grossly inappropriate. His statement was grossly insulting.

to balloon the deficit - the make the debts of the USA grow too large...the deficit is the debt the USA owes

to repeal the Obamacare mandate - to repeal means to 'take back' or 'eliminate'. A mandate is a law that you have to do something. So under the Obamacare healthcare plan, everyone had to have health insurance or they had to pay a fine (an amount of money as a punishment). The Republicans got rid of this mandate. Cosmopolitan feels that the Obamacare system cannot survive without this mandate because now only very sick people who need insurance will apply and young, healthy people will not buy into the system.

a reverse Robin Hood - in folktales Robin Hood stole from the rich and gave to the poor. Republicans are reversing this process and stealing from the poor to give to the rich.

deductions and loopholes - these are terms that apply to saving money on one's taxes. A deduction is an expense (money you have spent) that will allow you to reduce your taxes. A loophole is an exception to a law that allows one to avoid paying a high rate of taxes.

to go back on a promise - to make a promise and then to change one's mind about it

a blatant lie - a very, very obvious lie; a lie that is so apparent that it can't even be covered up

to their heirs - to people they want to give their money to after they die. So now Trump's children can inherit his property without paying much in taxes.

dubious - doubtful, not believable; so the article is saying that corporations are already making huge profits in America but they are not using this money to create new jobs. Therefore a tax cut that helps them save more money will not help the country to get more jobs. The tax cuts are only meant to help people who have supported the Republican Party financially.

the uber-rich - uber is a German word meaning 'over' - so uber-rich means overly rich or too rich.

non-partisan - to be partisan means to only support one political party. If a group is non-partisan, it means this is a group made up of Democrats and Republicans, not just one of the parties 

to expire - to end

a repeal- an elimination 

the wide consensus - a consensus is when everyone agrees on something, a wide consensus means that everybody easily agrees on something (the opposite would be a narrow consensus)

to force premiums to soar - a premium is the amount per month a person would pay for health insurance. premiums will soar because healthy young people won't buy insurance and the fewer healthier people there are in the system the more money insurance companies will have to pay for treatment for the excess number of ill people in the system. To soar means to rise rapidly.

to rack up - to increase; this is a common phrasal verb. That basketball player is so great today - he is racking up points!  Hey, don't order too many drinks, you are racking up our bill! 

entitlement reform - entitlement is the Republican term for a service people get for free. It has a negative meaning. Social Security is a system that makes sure our elderly have money after they retire. If Social Security didn't exist, children would have to take their elderly parents into their homes or let them die in the streets. Republicans seem to think it's OK to let Americans die in the streets. Yes, these are EVIL people. Reform means a positive change. But taking away an elderly person's money is not 'reform' it is THEFT.

devastating - horrible, an effect which is truly terrible

to be saddled on the backs of - a horse wears a saddle so that it can be ridden, so the author of the article is saying that debt will be like a saddle our young people will carry for the rest of their lives

millennials - the current young generation of Americans

hypocrisy - when a person says one thing but acts the opposite way; a hypocrite is a person who says something but acts differently from what he says

stunning - shocking

morality - being good, acting in a good, ethical way; morals are principles or ideas on how to be good in society, to be moral is to be able to act ethically or to do good things in society