Sunday, October 26, 2014

Leticia Is Coming To Amarillo

Creator ?

Poll On Alaska Senate Race

Alaska Public Opinion Research Survey

Sky Falling ?

Political Cartoon is by Lee Judge in the Kansas City Star.

The Number Of Christians Continues To Shrink In The U.S.

There have been several surveys showing that the percentage of Americans that are religious (particularly christian) has been shrinking with each generation -- and that currently about 20% of the general public in the United States say they are not religious (although some claim to be "spiritual"). Among the millennials, this is about 30% or slightly more.

That actually makes christianity look pretty good. There is less than 10% of the population belonging to religions other than christianity, so it makes it look like over 70% of the United States populace is made up of practicing christians. That is simply not true though, and this is pointed out in a new book called Churchless, written by David Kinsman and George Barna. These are not atheists attacking christianity, but christians worried about what is happening to the church in this country.

To come up with their figures, they studied about 20 polls done in the last few years by the Barna Group. Each survey contained a random sample of more than 1,000 adults, and has a margin of error of 3.1 points. Instead of asking people if they were religious, they divided the respondents into "churched" and "unchurched". The results they found are illustrated in the charts above. They first divided survey respondents into four groups:

Actively Churched (49%) -- This group regularly attends church (at least once a month).

Minimally Churched (8%) -- This group attends church infrequently and unpredictably. This would include those who go only on Easter and Christmas, and maybe a couple of more times in a year.

De-Churched (33%) -- These people used to attend church, but no longer belong to a church or attend one at all. Some of them may say they are christian if asked, but they don't act that way -- basically leading secular lives.

Purely Unchurched (10%) -- These people have never attended any church, and have no desire to attend one.

This means that active christians make up only 57% of the United States population, and many of them only attend church once a month or even less -- while 43% of the population don't attend church at all, and lead secular lives by choice (christians in name only, those claiming to be spiritual but not religious, agnostics, and atheists).

When you look at christianity in this way (churched and unchurched), it is easy to see that christianity is in trouble in this country. Kinsman and Barna go on to say that the numbers of new members claimed by some churches reflects basically only people moving from one christian church to another, and includes very few people who were unchurched and became churched -- because the number of unchurched Americans is growing. This unchurched group becomes larger with each generation.

That is illustrated in the bottom chart above -- which shows the Elder generation (born in 1945 or earlier) with 28% unchurched, the Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) with 35% unchurched, the Gen Xers (born between 1965 and 1983) with 40% unchurched, and the Millennials (born in 1984 or later) with a whopping 48% unchurched.

The truth is that on any given Sunday significantly less than half of all Americans will go to church. Christians, especially evangelicals, like to claim the United States is a christian nation -- but the fact is we are a secular nation, and we are becoming more secular all the time.

Not Like Reagan (Fortunately)

Political Cartoon is by Joel Pett in the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Will Marijuana Be Legalized In Alaska ?

The following chart was made from the recent Alaska Public Opinion Research Survey (done by Hellenthal & Associates). The survey was taken between October 15th and 21st of a random sample of 403 Alaska voters, and has a margin of error of 4.88 points.

I am a strong advocate of the legalization of marijuana for recreational (and medicinal) use by adults -- and it's taxation by government. So I'm interested in the vote that Alaska will soon be taking -- a vote that could legalize marijuana in that state (somewhat similar to what Colorado has done). I was somewhat buoyed by the results of this survey.

The survey shows legalization being preferred by 46.5%, and opposed by 42.2% of Alaskans -- a difference of about 4.3 points. That gives me hope that soon Alaska will join Colorado and Washington -- and that could help encourage other states to follow suit.

But it's not time to pop the champagne corks though. That 4.3 point lead is within the survey's 4.88 point margin of error -- which means the lead could be larger, or there could be no lead at all. I guess we'll just have to hold our breath and see what happens on election day.

Fence Needed

Political Cartoon is by Mike Thompson in the Detroit Free Press.


The following poem was written by Brian McLaughlin, and more of his work can be found at his website -- Beej's Poetry Corner.

The Breaking Down of the Wall

The wall had been built
strong and sturdy it was
it kept the state 
from dictating religion

It's purpose to insure
that all men, women too
could believe, or not
worship, or not
in short to have their own faith
and that all may be treated as equals

It was built 
to stop the witch burnings
to end the persecution of the baptists
to bestow upon all men, women too
the freedom to have their own faith

The differences were many
folks seemed to get stupid

“There's only one way
and that's mine”

“Laws should be made to
give me advantage”

“After all
can't you see God is mine”

They picked up the sledge
started hammering away at the wall
attempting to mold it, shape it, yes change it
and with all this pounding it started to fall

They were claiming the first
and yes they've that right
what they forgot
was the first was for all
they had picked the wrong fight

Then the fourteenth was born
to bolster the wall
build it back up
to insure to all
their rights be protected
but that wasn't enough
the hammering continued
and the state said


“All have these rights
and you've no right 
to deny them”

You claim you're non-profit
you've been given the freedom 
to worship and believe as you wish
and in your church build your kingdom

But if you're licensed as business
I know this sounds hollow
but you've really no choice 
it's the laws of the land you must follow

You've been given protection
and what did you do
started tearing it down
tell me

Who's encroached upon who?

Not Easy To Change Course

Political Cartoon is by Stuart Carlson at carlsontoons.com.

And A Religion Was Born

Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Shameful Statistic

Polls - New Hampshire, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas

NH 1 / New England College Poll

CNN / ORC Poll

American Research Group Poll

University of Massachusetts / 7 News Poll

Suffolk University Poll

Quinnipiac University Poll

Atlanta Journal-Constitution Poll

CNN / ORC Poll

Quinnipiac University Poll

Rasmussen Poll

On A Roll

Political cartoon is by Stuart Carlson at carlsontoons.com.

The Most Expensive Congressional Campaign On Record

The numbers above were compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics (and reported in the Wall Street Journal). They got the information from campaign spending reported to the Federal Election Commission (FEC). This doesn't represent total election spending, because the spending for presidential elections has been subtracted ($2.6 billion in 2012, $2.8 billion in 2008, $1.9 billion in 2004, and $1.4 billion in 2000). This represents only the projected amount spent by candidates, parties, and some outside groups on congressional campaigns.

It also doesn't include much of the dark money spent (mostly by outside conservative groups such as those funded by the Koch brothers). That's because money spent on so-called "issues" ads does not have to be reported to the FEC. This is money spent saying where a particular candidate stands on one or more issues -- without mentioning his/her opponent or the fact he/she is running for election. It's obviously meant to affect the election, but is a devious way to do it and avoid reporting the spending (or who donated the money).

As you can see, without even counting the dark money, the spending for this congressional election easily outpaces any past electoral spending for congressional races. It comes in at a whopping $4 billion dollars. Since there are 468 members of Congress running for election (33 senators and 435 representatives), that means an average of $8,547,009 was spent on each congressional race -- although I'm sure the bulk of that spending was on the 33 senate races.

This is a ridiculous amount of spending on our congressional elections -- and it shows just how easy it would be for the super-rich to buy an election. Any candidate that's not rich would have to get a massive amount of small donors or a few rich donors to fund his electoral attempt, and it's far easier to sell out and get those few rich donors.

We need to change the way we fund elections in this country, even if it means passing a constitutional amendment. Personally, I think it is time for the public funding of elections.

Zombie (Monica) Reappears

Political Cartoon is by Stuart Carlson at carlsontoons.com.

Blue State / Red State

It is just a fact of American politics that some states are blue and others are red -- that is that some states are pretty reliably Democratic and others lean heavily toward the Republicans.

The Hill did a study of each American state and placed them on a continuum from the bluest to the reddest state (using the voting trends and history of each individual state -- including votes in recent presidential elections, breakdown of congressional delegations, the parties of the last three governors, and control of state legislatures).

They found that the bluest state is Washington, and the reddest state is Alabama. Using their findings, I list below the 15 bluest and 15 reddest states in the United States.

1. Washington
2. Minnesota
3. Oregon
4. California
5. Rhode Island
6. New York
7. Massachusetts
8. Maryland
9. Michigan
10. Wisconsin
11. Maine
12. Illinois
13. Hawaii
15. Vermont

1. Alabama
2. Alaska
3. Idaho
4. Kansas
5. Mississippi
6. Nebraska
7. Oklahoma
8. Utah
9. Wyoming
10. South Carolina
11. Texas
12. North Dakota
13. South Dakota
14. Arizona
15. Georgia


Political Cartoon is by Ben Sargent in the Austin American-Statesman.

The Right-Wing War On Democracy In The U.S.

(This caricature of economist Paul Krugman is by DonkeyHotey.)

Republicans like to mouth concerns about our democracy, but that is just to hoodwink American voters. For a long time now they have been actively fighting against our representative democracy. They think political power should rest with a special class of people -- rich white people (preferably men). They believe the poor, the working class, minorities, and women are not capable of ruling, and they have instituted economic and electoral policies that favor the rich. In short, they want to replace our representative democracy with a plutocracy (rule by a wealthy class).

Here is how economist Paul Krugman puts it in his column for the New York Times:

. . . the political right has always been uncomfortable with democracy. No matter how well conservatives do in elections, no matter how thoroughly free-market ideology dominates discourse, there is always an undercurrent of fear that the great unwashed will vote in left-wingers who will tax the rich, hand out largess to the poor, and destroy the economy.

In fact, the very success of the conservative agenda only intensifies this fear. Many on the right — and I’m not just talking about people listening to Rush Limbaugh; I’m talking about members of the political elite — live, at least part of the time, in an alternative universe in which America has spent the past few decades marching rapidly down the road to serfdom. Never mind the new Gilded Age that tax cuts and financial deregulation have created; they’re reading books with titles like “A Nation of Takers: America’s Entitlement Epidemic,” asserting that the big problem we have is runaway redistribution.

This is a fantasy. Still, is there anything to fears that economic populism will lead to economic disaster? Not really. Lower-income voters are much more supportive than the wealthy toward policies that benefit people like them, and they generally support higher taxes at the top. But if you worry that low-income voters will run wild, that they’ll greedily grab everything and tax job creators into oblivion, history says that you’re wrong. All advanced nations have had substantial welfare states since the 1940s — welfare states that, inevitably, have stronger support among their poorer citizens. But you don’t, in fact, see countries descending into tax-and-spend death spirals — and no, that’s not what ails Europe.

Still, while the “kind of politics and policies” that responds to the bottom half of the income distribution won’t destroy the economy, it does tend to crimp the incomes and wealth of the 1 percent, at least a bit; the top 0.1 percent is paying quite a lot more in taxes right now than it would have if Mr. Romney had won. So what’s a plutocrat to do?

One answer is propaganda: tell voters, often and loudly, that taxing the rich and helping the poor will cause economic disaster, while cutting taxes on “job creators” will create prosperity for all. There’s a reason conservative faith in the magic of tax cuts persists no matter how many times such prophecies fail (as is happening right now in Kansas): There’s a lavishly funded industry of think tanks and media organizations dedicated to promoting and preserving that faith.

Another answer, with a long tradition in the United States, is to make the most of racial and ethnic divisions — government aid just goes to Those People, don’t you know. And besides, liberals are snooty elitists who hate America.

A third answer is to make sure government programs fail, or never come into existence, so that voters never learn that things could be different.

But these strategies for protecting plutocrats from the mob are indirect and imperfect. The obvious answer is . . . Don’t let the bottom half, or maybe even the bottom 90 percent, vote.

And now you understand why there’s so much furor on the right over the alleged but actually almost nonexistent problem of voter fraud, and so much support for voter ID laws that make it hard for the poor and even the working class to cast ballots. American politicians don’t dare say outright that only the wealthy should have political rights — at least not yet. But if you follow the currents of thought now prevalent on the political right to their logical conclusion, that’s where you end up.

The truth is that a lot of what’s going on in American politics is, at root, a fight between democracy and plutocracy. And it’s by no means clear which side will win.


Political Cartoon is by Jack Ohman in the Sacramento Bee.

Celebration of Ignorance

Friday, October 24, 2014

Is This The Representation You Want ?

Should Our Top Tax Rate Be About 85%-90% ?

If you are rich, or a right-wing worshipper of the rich (like most Republicans), you may have spewed your coffee all over your keyboard after reading my headline -- but it is a serious question. And there is a serious new economic paper, written by Dirk Krueger of the University of Pennsylvania and Fabian Kindermann of the University of Bonn, that says all citizens (including the rich) would be better off if the top tax rate was between 85% and 90%.

Now this doesn't mean the rich would pay that percentage on all of their income -- only on the portion of their income that exceeds a certain level. The current top tax rate is 39.6%, but that rate only applies to income earned above the level of $406,750 ($457,600 for a couple). The money under that level is taxed at the same rate as those who make less than that amount. In other words, the top tax rate, whether 90% or 39.6%, would only apply to less than 1% of the population.

Those on the right will say such a high tax rate would be disastrous for the economy, and discourage high earners from making money. Not true. Note on the chart above that there have been extended periods in our recent history when our top tax rate was much higher. From the mid-1930's until the early 1980's our top tax rate was between 90% and 70% -- and those were some of the most robust periods of growth this country has experienced.

It was not until the Reagan administration that the top tax rate was lowered, as a part of the GOP's "trickle-down" economic policies. It was supposed to spur economic growth and benefit all Americans, but it didn't. It It only helped the rich, and created the biggest wealth gap since before the Great Depression. And that wealth and income gap, in combination with other "trickle-down" policies, was the primary reason for the Bush recession (which most ordinary Americans are still struggling to recover from).

I know raising the top tax rate to 85% or 90% is politically impossible at this time. The "trickle-down" lies about taxation are still believed by too many economically-ignorant people. But I do think a couple of things could be done with taxation that would help this country a great deal. The first would be to raise the top tax rate to somewhere between 45% and 50%. The second would be to eliminate the lower capital gains tax rate, and have everyone pay the earned income tax rate (regardless of how they earned their money).

This would provide much-needed revenue for the federal government, and it would slow the growth of the wealth and income gap (and combined with a substantial raise in the minimum wage, could even stop the growth in that gap).

We need to stop pandering to the rich in this country, and institute some economic policies that would be beneficial to all Americans. And while we're at it, it certainly wouldn't hurt to eliminate the subsidies and tax breaks that keep corporations from paying any taxes (even though they make huge profits).

Early Halloween

Political Cartoon is by Jim Morin in The Miami Herald.

U.S. Still Aligned With Rogue Nations On Death Penalty

There's some good news and some bad news for those who oppose the death penalty -- and both are illustrated in the charts above. The good news is that support for the death penalty has dropped over the last 20 years (from 80% in 1994 to 63% in 2014). The bad news is that a significant majority of Americans (63%) still support the death penalty, and that support has leveled out over the last few years.

Why do Americans support the death penalty? According to the Gallup Poll, the primary reason is a religious one -- that the Bible calls for "an eye for an eye". This is a terrible reason. No secular nation (and the U.S. is a secular nation based on a secular Constitution, regardless of what many evangelicals want to think) should ever be in the business of killing people for a religious reason. But that's the reason quoted by 35% of those who support the death penalty.

The second most popular reason (quoted by 14%) is that the death penalty saves the state money. These people simply don't understand the economics involved. The truth is that when you consider all the court costs for a death penalty trial, and the continuing costs of many years of appeals, the death penalty is actually more expensive to the state than keeping a person in prison for the remainder of their life.

Another 14% say the death penalty is appropriate because "they deserve it". It's hard to argue with that, because many who receive that penalty do deserve the harshest penalty they can get for the horrendous crimes they committed. But if killing is wrong for an individual, can it be right for the state? Isn't the taking of a life a terrible crime whether done by an individual or the state.

Unfortunately, most people in the United States still like the death penalty -- in spite of the fact that we have undoubtably executed some innocent people (and will again in the future), or that we have an unfair justice system (that treats whites and the rich more fairly than minorities and the poor). We Americans are a bloodthirsty lot when it comes to punishment.

And it doesn't seem to bother us at all that in supporting the death penalty we are alienating ourselves from all the other developed nations, and aligning ourselves with rogue nations -- nations that we generally dislike and distrust. The nations using the death penalty the most (besides us) are China, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Afghanistan.

I wish I could say this country is on a path toward banning the death penalty, but that is just not true. It looks like it will still be quite a while before the U.S. finds that moral path.

The charts above were made from a recent Gallup Poll -- done between September 25th and 30th of 1,252 adults and between October 12th and 15th of 1,017 adults, and it has a margin of error of about 4 points.

Hands Up

Political Cartoon is by Rob Rogers in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Green Party's Alice Slater Discusses Nuclear Weapons

Recently, Green Party Shadow Cabinet member Alice Slater (pictured) was interviewed about the state of nuclear weapons in the world by Rossiya Segodnya of RIA NOVOSTI. The text of that interview is printed below. For me, the position of the Green Party on nuclear weapons is the only political party position that makes sense.

China's first nuclear test took place 50 years ago. How would you assess the current situation with the nuclear weapons in the country? Does it represent any potential danger?
Alice Slater: Every country’s nuclear bombs represent a danger to the world. It is estimated that there are 16,300 nuclear bombs on the planet with all but a thousand of them in the US and Russia. China is estimated to have about 250 of them. China is the only country among the NPT signers who has promised not to be the first to use them. But essentially, just the possession of a nuclear arsenal is a form of use. When a bank robber walks into a bank and points a gun at people, even if the gun is never shot, it is still being used by the robber to bully and intimidate. That is what the possession of nuclear weapons means, by any country possessing, them, even China with its modest arsenal. 
Is it true, in your view, that possessing nuclear weapons increases the country’s diplomatic credibility on the international arena? Do nuclear weapons provide important security benefits to China and generally to the countries possessing nuclear weapons?
Alice Slater: It is an illusion to think that there are any security benefits to possessing nuclear weapons. We are learning now of the  many near-accidents with airplane crashes carrying nuclear weapons, misplaced missiles flown unknown to distant bases carrying unaccounted nuclear weapons, missing and lost nuclear weapons in the US. Undoubtedly similar situations exist in Russia. Perhaps not in China since they never built the tens of thousands of nuclear weapons that the US and Russia competed with to show who was stronger, when it actually made us weaker and more vulnerable to accidents, hazardous waste issues, not to mention possible miscalculations. We were very lucky not to have experienced an accidental nuclear war.  While laboring under the illusion that nuclear weapons provide security, it isn’t so for the major nuclear powers. Of course the fact that Saddam Hussein wound up in a hole in the ground and Muammar Gaddaffi in a sewer pipe after they gave up or were forced to turn over their nuclear technology, may give cause to isolated nations like North Korea to cling to their nuclear “deterrent”.
Do you think it is important to continue the development of nuclear weapons or should the countries work on its elimination?
Alice Slater: With the planet facing catastrophic climate change, droughts, hurricanes, tsunamis, forest fires, from the excessive carbon emissions from the industrial age, we can little afford to spend our national treasures of money and intellectual power on nuclear technology - both for weapons and power. The nuclear waste lasts 250,000 years and we don’t know how to safely isolate it from the environment for that inordinate length of time.  It is now reported that the US is contemplating expenditures of one trillion dollars over 30 years on its nuclear arsenal, laboratories, and delivery systems, with $300 billion budget for the next ten years. Russia and China, as well as India and Pakistan, have also been announcing new expenditures on this destructive and useless technology. Perhaps Asia can lead the way towards nuclear disarmament. The West is now caught up in a new cold war, having failed to contain NATO as promised to Gorbachev when the wall came down in Berlin and having expanded the missile program into eastern Europe after the US walked out of its Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia.
Given the current political situation in the world, is there a risk that any of Nuclear-Weapon States will use the weapons against another country? What are your estimates in this regard? What country could it be?
Alice Slater: I don’t think any country would deliberately use nuclear weapons first, but we can’t be lucky forever on accidental launch or misjudgments. The world remembers Russia’s Colonel Petrov, in the Soviet bunker who disobeyed orders when a radar blip indicated a nuclear attack from the US and it was only a Norwegian weather satellite that had gone off course. We could have had a nuclear holocaust had he not done the right thing. We also came very close to miscalculating the presence of nuclear weapons during the Cuban missile crisis. We shouldn’t continue to push our luck! Some wise country, or group of countries should take the lead and start the talks for elimination under monitoring, verification and a tight timeline.
Do you think any nuclear threat from Iran exists and what is your personal view on Iran’s nuclear program? Is it peaceful?
Alice Slater: Iran is no more of a threat than other countries. Once you have the enrichment technology, you have the capacity to make the bomb, just as North Korea did. Every nuclear power plant is a bomb factory and the sooner we phase out nuclear power and rely on the abundant, clean, free energy of the sun, wind, water, geothermal we will all be safer, less poor, and may actually have some peace on earth. Over 400,000 people marched in NYC this month to make the links between poverty, war, and climate catastrophe. If Russia could put a man on the moon, surely it can work to end destructive technology and lead the way to a 21st century free of nuclear and fossil fuel. 
China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and the United States are  officially recognized as possessing nuclear weapons by the Non – Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Three states - India, Israel, and Pakistan - never joined the NPT and are known to possess nuclear weapons. What other countries could potentially possess nuclear weapons or facilities to create such weapons?
Alice Slater: Any country with a nuclear reactor has the capacity to develop a bomb.  Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, were on the way to making bombs and changed course. Japan has the capacity and every now and then its generals say it should use its tons to enriched plutonium to make bombs.   Brazil is enriching plutonium. We are planning to sell nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia but they won’t give us assurances that they won’t enrich uranium. 
How can you describe relations between China and the United States in the nuclear weapons development sphere?
Alice Slater: I don’t know if the US and China even discuss nuclear weapons. The two main players are the US and Russia. Right now there is a push from the military industrial complex and the unregulated corporations to make an enemy of Russia over Ukraine. We should be clearing up the events that occurred in the Ukraine as the corporate dominated media in the US doesn’t report events accurately and Russia is being blamed by our government and press without evidence. We still don’t know what happened. Some members of Civil Society called for an investigation, but nothing has happened. I think Russia should bring this up in the Security Council and in the First Committee of the UN that is meeting this week and next week.   Let’s get all the facts out on the table.   
Finally, Russia and China should come to the meeting in Vienna on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons this December.  India and Pakistan came to the last two in Mexico and Oslo which the p-5 boycotted. This is the time for China and Russia to join the Asian nuclear weapons states and call for a treaty to ban the bomb, just as we’ve banned chemical and biological weapons. It would give the Western states pause, and empower civil society to press more effectively for nuclear disarmament in the US, UK, and France, as well as in the five European states that are part of NATO’s nuclear sharing - Italy, Belgium, Turkey, Netherlands and Spain.  

Relatively Speaking

Political Cartoon is by Clay Bennett in the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

And The Rich Get Richer

Thursday, October 23, 2014

All War Is Evil

Senate Polls In Iowa And Georgia

Monmouth University Poll

WXIA / SurveyUSA Poll


Political Cartoon is by David Fitzsimmons in the Arizona Daily Star.

4 Out Of 10 Have No Confidence In U.S. Banking System

I have repeated often on this blog about how the Republican economic policies (Trickle-Down) tilted the economic playing field to favor the rich over all other Americans -- and resulted in the largest income and wealth gap since before the Great Depression (and that gap is still growing). These policies gave the rich huge tax breaks (and most of them now pay a lower rate than middle class earners), gave corporations huge subsidies (including tax breaks to help them off-shore U.S. jobs), and damaged the power of unions.

But those policies also did something else. They deregulated the financial industry -- and the giant banks were quick to take advantage of that by selling junk bonds and other worthless financial gimmicks. They made huge profits by taking advantage of consumers, and swapping the worthless stocks and bonds. But this financial bubble couldn't last indefinitely, and it burst in the latter part of 2007.

While the huge wealth and income gap set up the conditions for the Great Recession, it was this bursting of the banking bubble that triggered it. But instead of reaping the disaster from their ridiculous actions, most of the giant banks were bailed out by the taxpayers in the final year of the Bush administration. They survived, while the American people took the hit -- losing trillions of dollars and millions of jobs.

Did the giant banks learn from their mistakes? No. They have gone right back to playing the financial games that got them (and the country) into trouble in the first place -- and sadly, the government is letting them do it (with the congressional Republicans blocking all attempts at financial reform).

That's why I was not surprised to see the results of this Rasmussen Poll (done on October 16th and 17th of a random national sample of 1,000 U.S. adults, with a margin of error of 3 points). It shows that only 12% of the public has a great deal of confidence in the U.S. banking system, and another 41% have at least some confidence in that system -- while about 41% say they have no confidence (and another 6% don't know what to think).

Actually, I think the banks are lucky that 53% have at least some confidence, considering the fact that no real changes have been made that would prevent another financial disaster -- and they have returned to their same old financial tricks.


Political Cartoon is by Bob Engelhart in The Hartford Courant.

The Richest Members Of Congress

Roll Call publishes an report each year listing the richest members of Congress. The charts above show the 15 richest members of Congress in each party -- and as you can see, both parties have some very rich senators and representatives. This should not be surprising since it either takes a wealthy person to run for the Senate or House (or someone with access to some rich friends).

The richest member of Congress by far is Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California). He has three times the wealth of any other member of Congress.

It should come as no surprise that Congress made itself richer this last year -- no doubt to the laws they have passed that favor the rich over everyone else. In 2012, it took a wealth of $6.7 million to make the list of 50 richest members of Congress. But last year that figure rose to $7.4 million. Here are some interesting facts about the 50 richest members of Congress:

All of them are white.
82% of them are men.
18% of them are women.
30 of them are Republicans.
20 of them are Democrats
35 of them are in the House of Representatives.
15 of them are in the Senate.

Roll Call normally just publishes the richest 50 members of Congress -- but this year they published the wealth ranking of every member of Congress. You can go to the Roll Call website to see where your own representative and senators ranked.

NOTE: For my fellow Texans, here are your senators.
452. John Cornyn has a negative net worth of $0.13 million.
144. Ted Cruz has a positive net worth of $1.59 million.

And for my fellow residents of House District 13 in Texas.
466. Mac Thornberry has a negative net worth of $0.19 million.

Cornyn and Thornberry have negative net worths because their debts exceed their assets.