A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Friday, January 30, 2015

Voltaire


The U.S. Is Getting More Liberal With Each Generation


It seems to be the general consensus of many political pundits that the United States is a conservative country. I don't really believe that, and I posted the other day about how most people claim to be conservative but believe in progressive ideas. That's because the right-wing, with the help of the corporate media, has been able to demonize the word "liberal".

But the good news is that with each generation, Americans are not only accepting liberal ideas, but are more willing to accept the liberal label. The chart above is from the Gallup Poll. They do a yearly survey of how Americans refer to themselves politically (with the last being done throughout 2014 of a random sample of 16,479 adults. Each group in the survey has a margin of error of 2 points. The generational groups are:

Traditionalists (born 1900-1945)
Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964)
Gen Xers (born 1965-1979)
Millennials (born 1980-1996)

The numbers on the chart above represent the conservative to liberal ratio of each generation (arrived at by subtracting those claiming to be liberal from those claiming to be conservative). That means the higher the number, the more conservative the group -- and the lower the number, the more liberal.

While each group goes up and down slightly each year, it is remarkable just how stable they are. And the important thing to note from the chart is how each generation is less conservative (and therefore more liberal) than the last. That is good news for the future of this country.

Loosing The Beast

Political Cartoon is by Steve Sack in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Public Is Starting To Understand "Trickle-Down" Is Nonsense


Since the Reagan administration the Republicans have instituted and protected an economic theory they have long believed in -- a theory that led to the vast wealth and income inequality of the 1920's, and led directly to the Great Depression. That theory has once again led to a huge gap in wealth and income between the rich and the rest of America, and that gap is still growing.

That economic theory is commonly called the "Trickle-Down" theory. The idea is that what's good for the rich and the corporations is good for all Americans -- and that when the wealth and income increases for the rich, some of it will trickle down to the rest of America.

This theory dictates that labor unions should be weakened, that the minimum wage should be kept low (or abolished), that corporations should get big subsidies from government and be allowed to export jobs to low-wage countries, that Wall Street and the giant financial institutions should be deregulated, and that government social programs should be drastically cut (or eliminated). But the main thrust of this theory is to keep lowering taxes for the rich and the corporations.

If this economic theory really worked, then we should be in the midst of a booming economy -- an economy that is creating jobs and increasing the well-being of all Americans. After all, the theory has been in effect for at least three decades now. But instead of benefitting all Americans, it has had just the opposite effect.

Wages are stagnant (and have been for decades), the middle class is shrinking, the minimum wage has lost a third of its buying power, good jobs are being exported and replaced with low-wage jobs, millions of Americans remain jobless, poverty and hunger continue to grow, and a college education has been priced out of reach of many people. The theory in application has fattened the bank accounts of the rich and the profits of corporations, but nothing has trickled down to the bottom 80%-90% of Americans.

And the Republicans, after seizing control of both houses of Congress, want to double-down on their failed theory. They want to give even more tax cuts to the rich and the corporations, and pay for it with more cuts to government programs that help the poor, uneducated, unemployed, and other disadvantaged people.

Fortunately, the American people are starting to realize just how much they have been fooled by the GOP's unfair view of economics. As the top chart shows, only 29% still believe the "Trickle-Down" theory can work, while 45% no longer believe in it (a 16 point gap). And when the question is asked differently, focusing on the main tenet of the theory (cutting taxes for the rich), the gap grows to 24 points (with 25% saying it'll work and 49% saying it won't). That is illustrated by the chart below.

This gives me some hope that a change can be made, and we can institute economic policies that will be fair to all Americans. Unfortunately, the Republicans are still pandering to the rich, so that change will require voting them out of power -- and that cannot happen until at least 2016.

These charts were made from a new YouGov Poll that was done on January 21st and 22nd of a random national sample of 1,000 adults, with a margin of error of about 4 points.


Cuckoo

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

Republicans Are Pushing The Idea Of A Warren Candidacy

 (The caricature of Senator Elizabeth Warren above is by DonkeyHotey.)

“Elizabeth Warren says, ‘I’m not running; I don’t want to be president. Translation: ‘I can’t wait and I am running. But I’m just not going to admit it right now.’ ”

Those are the words of right-wing blowhard Rush Limbaugh. He knows the Republicans have little hope of beating Hillary Clinton, and he's dreaming of a scenario in which another Democrat runs against Clinton, and does the dirty work of the GOP by damaging Clinton in the primaries. And he's not the only Republican with that dream.

Several of them have been heard proclaiming what a great candidate Senator Warren would be. They don't really mean it. They hate everything Senator Warren believes in and stands for. They know she couldn't win the Democratic nomination. They are just hoping she'll go to war with Clinton in a vicious and prolonged campaign -- splitting the Democratic Party and weakening Clinton as she enters the general election. They know that is the only hope their own candidate would have against Clinton. Here is how the New York Times puts it:

They have called Senator Elizabeth Warren “an extremely attractive candidate” in the 2016 presidential campaign. They have said that she is the “hottest commodity” in the Democratic Party and that she has demonstrated the “passion and intensity” that Hillary Rodham Clinton lacks.

Those glowing compliments are not from the liberal activists who are trying to persuade Ms. Warren to challenge Mrs. Clinton, who is expected to be the party’s leading contender in 2016. They come from conservatives who are eager to drum up a contentious Democratic primary and who see Ms. Warren, a first-term senator from Massachusetts, as best positioned to weaken, and potentially defeat, Mrs. Clinton.

On cable television and in private strategy sessions, conservatives are steadily stoking the flames of a movement to recruit Ms. Warren, who has said she will not run but whose anti-Wall Street economic message resonates with the liberal base of the Democratic Party.

“Please give us Elizabeth Warren. Please, God, let us have Elizabeth Warren,” said Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, who is considering a presidential bid.

“I respect her because she has the courage to speak her convictions,” Mr. Huckabee said on Fox News.

Former Representative Michele Bachmann, a Tea Party Republican from Minnesota, told CNN that Ms. Warren would be “an extremely attractive candidate.” Mrs. Bachmann also said that if she were Mrs. Clinton, she would be “extremely concerned.”

The tactic says much about the 2016 landscape for Republicans. A crowded field of people who say they are considering running for president — including Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and the 2012 presidential nominee, Mitt Romney — has emerged. That means the party is expecting a bruising ideological battle for the nomination.

Mrs. Clinton, a former secretary of state and 2008 presidential candidate, could emerge from the primary season relatively unscathed. Other Democrats — including Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, former Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland and Senator Bernard Sanders, independent of Vermont — may also run, but at this early stage, none are expected to have the funding or political apparatus to pose a serious threat to Mrs. Clinton.

An easy path to the nomination could allow Mrs. Clinton to enter a general election with more funding than the Republican nominee, who would have had to spend heavily to beat a wide field of competitors. Ms. Warren represents Republicans’ best hope for an expensive, prolonged battle for the Democratic nomination, weakening Mrs. Clinton along the way, political operatives on both sides say.

But Senator Elizabeth Warren is no fool. She knows what they are trying to do, and she has no intention of doing their dirty work for them. She has repeatedly and emphatically stated that she has no intention of running for president in 2016 -- and in fact, supports the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.

A small cadre of progressives in the Democratic Party are still urging Senator Warren to change her mind and run (and the Republicans are fervently hoping they will succeed). But Warren has dashed those hopes at every opportunity.

And last Thursday, she took one more action to make it clear she has no intention of running for president in 2016. Acting on her instructions, Warren's attorney wrote a letter to the FEC making it clear that she has no connection with the PAC called "Ready for Warren", which has been trying to raise money for her to run. That letter is shown below.

It is time for progressives to stop playing into Republicans hopes and dreams. They need to accept Warren's decision, and support Hillary Clinton for the 2016 nomination. It is the best way of insuring an extremist Republican doesn't win the White House in 2016 (which would be disastrous for this country).


The New (Nutty) Face Of The GOP

Political Cartoon is by David Horsey in the Los Angeles Times.

Toward A Feudalism


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Capitalism - The Destroyer


Obamacare Is Growing And Most People Support Subsidies


The bad news just keeps growing for the Republican teabaggers that hate the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). As the chart above shows, the number of people that bought private insurance through the health exchanges authorized Obamacare topped 8 million people for 2014. Now the sign-ups are being done for 2015, and the number of purchasers has already topped 9.5 million (and will likely top 10 million, since the deadline is not until February 15th). With every passing day, there are more people who now have insurance -- and will be angered if the GOP repeals Obamacare and takes that insurance away from them.

Note that I included in the chart above the number of people who have bought their insurance through the federal health care exchange instead of a state exchange -- about 7.1 million (and that is also expected to grow before the deadline in February). I included that, because right-wingers have have case pending in the Supreme Court that would deny the subsidy to anyone getting insurance through the the federal exchange instead of a state exchange. If they win that case, most of that 7.1 million would lose their insurance -- because they got a subsidy to help them pay for it (and probably won't be able to afford insurance without the subsidy).

The congressional Republicans  support that right-wing effort, because it would do what they have not been able to do -- virtually destroy Obamacare. But they are playing with fire. As the chart below shows, a significant majority of the American public likes the subsidies -- and if the court rules against those subsidies, they want Congress to re-instate them quickly. That puts the GOP Congress between a rock (their teabagger base) and a hard place (the public). Their only hope of not losing support somewhere is for the Supreme Court to rule against them.


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There is also news that the House will once again vote to repeal Obamacare. They know that such a move will not be approved by the Senate, and could not survive a presidential veto. But they want to give the new members a chance to vote to repeal to keep their teabagger base in their home districts happy. It is a purely political move. That's good for them, because they would make a lot of people unhappy if they could actually repeal it (a move that would be supported by less than a third of the public).


Pre-Emptive Strike

Political Cartoon is by Keith Knight at kchronicles.com.

Congressional Job Approval Is Still Extremely Low


I have been posting recently about the rebounding job approval numbers for President Obama. Several polls show this, and most put his new numbers at around 50% approval. The Rasmussen Poll does a daily survey, and their approval numbers for the president have been bouncing between 48% and 51% for a few weeks now. It seems that many Americans like the strength the president has recently shown -- the fact that he refuses to be a weak "lame duck" president.

But the same cannot be said for Congress. After taking control of both houses of Congress in the last election, the Republicans are claiming they have a mandate to oppose the president and impose their own policies. Unfortunately for them, that is not the view of most Americans. As the chart above shows, the public job approval of Congress is still extremely low -- about 11% (37 to 40 points below presidential job approval). And that 11% is the highest congressional approval registered by Rasmussen since October of 2012.

My question now is -- Where is this public mandate for GOP policies? I submit that it is nonexistent -- a figment of the Republican's imagination.

This chart was made from a recent Rasmussen Poll -- done on January 25th and 26th of a random national sample of 800 likely voters, with a margin of error of 3.5 points.

Home Protection ?

Political Cartoon is by Pat Bagley in the Salt Lake Tribune.

25% Of Public Relies On The Network Telling The Most Lies


Politifact.com has updated their information regarding how truthful the pundits featured on the cable news networks were. Their latest figures are for the month of September of 2014. They examined the claims made by each networks pundits, and rated them as true, mostly true, half true, mostly false, false, and pants on fire (outrageously false). Their results are shown in the chart above.

It seems that nothing much has changed. Fox News is still the network featuring the pundits that tell the truth the least and tell falsehoods the most. CNN is the most reliable network when it comes to telling the truth and telling the fewest falsehoods -- and MSNBC falls between Fox and CNN. This explains why Fox viewers are the least informed viewers on the facts (as has been shown by several studies).

That would be bad enough, but a survey done last April by the Public Religion Research Institute of 1,538 adults in the U.S. shows an even more troubling fact. That survey shows that a shocking 25% of all Americans trust Fox News to give them accurate facts (the highest percentage of any news organization).

That's right. Fully one-quarter of the population trusts the network that lies the most to give them accurate information (see chart below).


Tips From Joni

Political Cartoon is by Jen Sorensen at jensorensen.com.

Green Party Says DOJ Is Complicit In Police-Murder Coverup


It now looks like the Department of Justice is not going to take any action in the police murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. I'm not really surprised, but I am very disappointed. This basically gives racist policemen (and there are many in this country) the green light to murder minorities with impunity.

Here is the Green Party's response to this discouraging development, written by Green Party Shadow Cabinet member Marsha Coleman Adebayo on January 23rd:

With the New York Times' reporting that the Department of Justice has decided not to bring charges against former Ferguson, Missouri police officer, Darren Wilson and asserting that now DOJ is only working on the language of the decision, the Obama administration has become complicit in the murder of Michael Brown.         
"We have waged a good fight since August 9th," said Hands Up Coalition Coordinator, Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo. "It was our  Coalition  staying here week in and week out, good weather and bad, with numbers growing every week that made them move so quickly. Still, at least we won't have to wait for over 2 yearslike Travon Martin's family continues to wait for findings in the investigation into Travon's killing by George Zimmerman in 2013. We smoked them out. Sadly, the DOJ decided in favor of killer cops. The families of John Crawford, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner and all the other victims around the country can let go of any illusions that DOJ is in their corner."         
"Hiding behind feeble argument that the government needs to show that Darren Wilson intentionally denied Michael Brown his civil rights is chicken shit," said Kevin Berends, Director of Communications, No FEAR Coalition. "They didn't even have to go there. The Fourth Amendment guarantees that citizens need not be afraid of the government using excessive force. Michael Brown was unarmed. He had already been hit by a volley of shots before Darren Wilson unleashed the final burst. Just how dangerous did Wilson think Mike was after taking upwards of 5 rounds before Wilson fired the final head shots?"         
The Times did not even mention the gross misuse of the Grand Jury system by St. Louis District Attorney Robert McCullough. "The DA had a conflict of interest. He stacked the jury, he manipulated witnessesin some cases with people he knew to be lying. He allowed no adversarial cross examination and then presented the findings as though they were arrived at justly," said Dr. Coleman-Adebayo. "And he stalled for three full months while decent people were getting beaten, shot, pepper sprayed, sound bombed and teargassedwhen he could have accomplished all he had to do in a single day's work by acknowledging that 16 people said Michael Brown's hands were up when he was murdered. It was not up to Bob McCullough to decide guilt or innocence in this case. It was up to him to let a jury decide. But that would have included Michael Brown's peers and McCullough couldn't risk exposing one of his goons to a fair trial."           
DOJ could have intervened for any one of those egregious acts, but did not. "The Obama administration has innocent American blood on its hands. The entire process is gangrenous. Despite their promises to Michael Brown's family, the Ferguson community and the country, neither the president nor the attorney general have the moral courage to do what is right," said Eugene Puryear of #DC Ferguson and ANSWER Coalition National Organizer.    
The Hands Up Coalition DC will now take the fight to Congress.  Holder had his chance to move the wheel of history toward justice, but was too timid, too polite, too weak. And the president was too intent on expressing his "Je Suis Charlie" to care about his own citizens dead and dying in the streets. What ever happened to "I am a man?" The president has to get Mr. Holder's replacement through confirmation hearings. That will be the next battleground.         
The members of that committee are going to get an earful from their constituents on these issues. Not one more rubber stamp Attorney General running DOJ. They have much explaining to do about police brutality domestically and torture internationally. If Mr. Obama wants another AG, he's going to have to promise to bring justice to the murderer of Michael Brown and all other murdered Africans and Americans. And he will have to bring justice to those who injured the very soul and fiber of America with systematic torture domestically and abroad.         

Impediment

Political Cartoon is by John Branch at branchtoon.com.

Capitalism


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Leibowitz Is Right


Rick Perry Is Right About Unemployment Numbers (& Wrong)

Rick Perry, who embarrassed himself and all Texans in his last run for president, is now trying to rehabilitate his image and make a second try for the Republican nomination. That's why he wound up at the Iowa Freedom Summit (a gathering of right-wing Republicans) in Iowa last weekend.

While he was there, he made a statement about the official unemployment numbers published each month by the Labor Department -- a statement that has been castigated by both Democrats and by political pundits.

Here is what Perry actually said at a breakfast meeting of the right-wingers:

"We've got the lowest participation rate since the late 1970s when Jimmy Carter was president. I'm talking about participation in the work force. That's of really great concern for me. I mean, who is it standing up for these people that I call the uncounted? They've lost hope that they can even get a job, so they're not even counted. When you look at the unemployment rate today, that's not the true unemployment rate, it's been massaged, it's been doctored."
I don't like Rick Perry very much. I am convinced that he was probably the worst governor the state of Texas has ever had -- much worse than George W. Bush. Perry was (and is) a right-wing opportunist, who did what he thought was good for his own career -- totally disregarding what was best for the citizens of Texas. And I think he would make a terrible president. That's why it pains me to say the following.
Rick Perry was right. The official unemployment rate is not the true unemployment rate, and the numbers have been "massaged" or "doctored" to make the unemployment rate look better to the public. The Labor Department leaves out millions of unemployed people from the official count each month because they have not looked for work in the last four weeks. They evidently assume these people no longer want a job, but the truth is that most of them would love to have a job if they just knew where to find one. They have just been turned down so often that they have given up hope.
The Labor Department calls these people "marginally attached" to the labor force, and no longer counts them as being unemployed. Last month the Labor Department estimated that there are around 2,260,000 of these "marginally attached" workers -- and that is undoubtably an undercount. And refusing to count these people as unemployed is definitely a "doctoring" of the unemployment statistics to make the government look better.
But Perry is also wrong. He inferred that this "doctoring" of the statistics is something done only by the Obama administration -- and something that no Republican president would do. And that inference is nothing less than an outrageous lie!
At least our last six presidential administrations have figured the unemployment statistics in exactly the same way (including the administrations of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush). They have all figured the official unemployment rate by excluding the "marginally attached" from those counted as unemployed, and they have all done it for the same reason -- to make their administration look better on unemployment than it actually was. 
President Obama is doing nothing that other presidents didn't also do, and Perry's inference that Obama is doing something different is just not true -- and it makes Perry look like a lying opportunistic creep (which he is).

(NOTE -- The caricature of Rick Perry above is by DonkeyHotey.)

Denying Science

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

Hillary Clinton Still Has The Nomination If She Wants It


Last week, the folks over at Rasmussen looked at the candidates running for the Republican presidential nomination. This week, the Rasmussen Poll did the same for the Democrats. Their poll was done on January 18th and 19th of a random national sample of 648 likely Democratic voters, and the survey has a margin of error of 4 points.

Like other surveys, this poll shows Hillary Clinton is the prohibitive favorite among Democrats, with 59% of Democrats saying they want her as the nominee. That's 47 points higher that second place finisher Elizabeth Warren (who had 12%). No other candidate finished in double digits.

There are still some of my brothers and sisters on the left who are trying to get Warren to run in the primaries -- even though she has repeatedly said she will not run (and has said she supports Clinton). But as this poll shows, even if Warren was to run, and got the votes of those supporting all other candidates (and the undecideds), she would still have only 41% support -- 18 points below Hillary Clinton.

The only way she could even come close to Clinton is to savagely attack her in the primaries to take some of her supporters away -- something I don't think Warren would be willing to do, even if she could be convinced to run (which I don't believe will happen). And all that would do is weaken the Democratic nominee for the general election, and make it possible for an extremist Republican to have a chance of winning the White House.

In fact, Rasmussen looked at what would happen if only Clinton and Warren were running for the Democratic nomination (see the chart below). Warren's percentage would rise (22%), but so would Clinton's (62%) -- which means if Warren got every single undecided vote, she would still wind up 28 points behind Clinton.

I urge my progressive sisters and brothers to give up this quixotic quest to draft Elizabeth Warren. Take her at her word that she doesn't want to run, and has no intention to do so. Hillary Clinton is our best chance to keep a right-wing extremist out of the White House -- and that is extremely important for the future of this country and its citizens. And Hillary is a liberal -- much more liberal than her husband. Give her a chance -- and once she is elected, we can join together and put pressure on her to uphold progressive values and put progressive policies in place.


Wilderness

Political Cartoon is by Nick Anderson in the Houston Chronicle.

Palin Tops Herself With Her Newest "Word Salad"


Sarah Palin is once again making noises like she wants to run for the Republican nomination for president, and to further that ambition, she spoke to the right-wing Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines last Saturday. But Palin, who is famous for her "word salads", topped even her previous efforts and left everyone confused as to just what the hell she was talking about.

I don't know if she was drunk, high, or just incredibly stupid, but I hope she does get in the race for the GOP nomination. Her inclusion in the Republican field of candidates would taint the whole group, and help expose them for the buffoons they really are. Here is an excerpt from her Iowa speech:

"Things must change for our government. Look at it. It isn’t too big to fail. It’s too big to succeed! It's too big to succeed, so we can afford no retreads or nothing will change with the same people and same policies that got us into the status quo. Another Latin word, status quo, and it stands for, ‘Man, the middle-class everyday Americans are really gettin’ taken for a ride.’ That's status quo, and GOP leaders, by the way, y'know the man can only ride ya when your back is bent. So strengthen it. Then the man can't ride ya, America won't be taken for a ride, because so much is at stake and we can't afford politicians playing games like nothing more is at stake than, oh, maybe just the next standing of theirs in the next election."

GOP Reaction To Any Good News

Political Cartoon is by David Horsey in the Los Angeles Times.

Bernie Says The U.S. Has Seven Deficits To Overcome

(This caricature of Senator Bernie Sanders is by DonkeyHotey.)

The Republicans like to talk about the budget deficit, so they can continue cutting programs that help hurting Americans keep their heads above water. Those Republicans aren't really serious about budget-cutting though, because they turn around and spend every dollar they take from hurting Americans to give the rich more tax breaks or to pad the bank accounts of the corporations in the military-industrial complex.

But the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), is serious about deficits. And in his recently released report on what he thinks the next budget must accomplish, he lists seven deficits that must be addressed. Here is how he describes those seven deficits:


1.The Jobs Deficit. While the economy is doing much better than six years ago, unemployment remains much too high. Real unemployment is not the widely-reported 5.6 percent. Counting those who are underemployed and those who have given up looking for work, real unemployment is 11.2 percent. Even more disturbingly, youth unemployment is close to 17 percent and African-American youth unemployment is over 30 percent.

Even if we were to average as many new jobs per month as we did in 2014 the best such figure since 1999 the labor market will not have recovered to 2007 levels until August 2017.

If we are truly serious about addressing the 40-year decline of the American middle class, we need a major federal jobs program. There are a number of approaches which can be taken, but the fastest way to create jobs is to rebuild our crumbling roads, bridges, airports, railways, and water systems and to substantially reduce the infrastructure deficit.

2. The Infrastructure Deficit. Our infrastructure is collapsing, and the American people know it. Every day, motorists across the United States drive over bridges that are in disrepair and on roads with unforgiving potholes. They take railroad and subway trains that arrive late and are overcrowded. They see airports bursting at the seams. They worry that a local levee could fail in a storm.

For many years we have underfunded the maintenance of our nation's physical infrastructure. That has to change. It is time to rebuild America. Investing $1 trillion over five years to modernize our country's physical infrastructure would create and maintain at least 13 million good-paying jobs that our economy desperately needs. We need to get this done.

For most of our history, the United States proudly led the world in building innovative infrastructure from a network of canals, to the transcontinental railroad, to the interstate highway system. We launched an ambitious rural electrification program, massive flood control projects, and more.


These innovations grew our economy, gave our businesses a competitive advantage, provided our workers a decent standard of living, and were the envy of the world. Sadly, that is no longer the case. The World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report for 2015 ranks our country’s overall infrastructure just 12th in the world.

Almost one-third of our roads are in poor or mediocre condition, and more than 40 percent of urban highways are congested. One of nine bridges is structurally deficient, and nearly a quarter are functionally obsolete. Transit systems face major unfunded repairs, while 45 percent of American households lack access to any transit at all.

Our nation’s rail network is largely antiquated, even though our energy-efficient railroads move more freight than ever and Amtrak’s ridership has never been higher. Our crowded airports still rely on 1960s radar technology.

More than 4,000 of our dams are “deficient” and nearly nine percent of our levees are likely to fail during a major flood. Many drinking water systems are nearing the end of their useful lives, and wastewater treatment plants often fail during heavy rains. We rank 16th in the world in terms of broadband Internet access, which has serious implications for commerce, education, telemedicine, and public safety. We even underfund the parks that preserve our nation's heritage and natural wonders for future generations.

The United States now spends just 2.4 percent of GDP on infrastructure, less than at any point in the last 20 years. Europe spends twice that amount, and China spends close to four times our rate. We are falling further and further behind, and the longer we wait, the more it will cost us later.

To get our infrastructure to a state of good repair by 2020, the American Society of Civil Engineers says we must invest $1.6 trillion more than what we now spend. Deteriorating infrastructure does not magically get better by ignoring it. It is time to rebuild America.

3. The Income Deficit. Millions of workers are working longer hours for lower wages. Since 1999, median family income has gone down by nearly $5,000, after adjusting for inflation. In fact, Americans in their prime working years, ages 25 through 50, are making less today than they did in the 1960s.

Most of the jobs that are being created today pay less than most of the jobs that were lost during the financial crisis. While those with limited educational attainment have faced the most serious loss in pay real median earnings for male high school graduates plummeted by almost 50 percent from 1969 through 2009 workers in every category of educational attainment have seen their real wages decrease since the recession.

There are two major policies that can be immediately taken to increase the income of American workers. First, we must raise the minimum wage to a livable wage. In the year 2015, no one in America who works full time should be living in poverty.

Raising the minimum wage wouldn’t just be good for low-wage workers and their families. It is good for our economy and for our budget. Raising the minimum wage to at least $10.10 would reduce government spending on Medicaid, public housing, nutrition assistance and other income-

support programs by more than $7 billion a year. The taxpayers of this country should not have to subsidize the low wages that some of the largest employers in this country pay.

Second, we have got to expand overtime protections for millions of workers. Overtime protections are vital to helping middle class workers and our economy. Too many Americans are working longer and harder without anything in their paychecks to show for their efforts. These long hours are straining middle class workers and their families.

Since the 1960s, median earnings for individuals in their prime working years have dropped even while salaried workers have increased the hours they spend on the job. Strengthening overtime protections will help millions of middle class families.

Current regulations fail to protect the majority of the workforce. Today, the salary threshold that determines who is automatically eligible for overtime coverage is so low that earning as little as $455 a week ($23,660 a year) could result in being exempted from overtime pay. Only 11 percent of salaried workers earn less than the current overtime threshold, a drastic departure from the past when most workers earned overtime pay.

In 1975, 65 percent of American salaried workers were under the income threshold.

Raising the income threshold to at least $56,680 a year for overtime will make approximately 24 million salaried workers eligible for overtime pay. These are middle-class workers who have been working longer hours but without additional compensation. More money in the hands of working people would mean that those workers could then go out and make purchases that would help create more jobs.

4. The Equality Deficit. The skyrocketing increase in income and wealth inequality is the great moral, economic, and political issue of our time. It must to be addressed by the Budget Committee.

The United States is the richest country on the face of the earth. Yet, there are almost as many Americans living in poverty today than at any time in our nation’s history, the middle class is disappearing and we have the most unequal distribution of wealth and income of any major country in the world.

Today, the top 0.1 percent own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, and one family owns more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of Americans. Since the Wall Street crash of 2008, 95 percent of all new income has gone to the top one percent.

Today, the richest 400 Americans own more than $2.3 trillion in wealth, more than the bottom 150 million Americans combined. Over the past decade, the net worth of the top 400 billionaires in this country has doubled increasing by an astronomical $1 trillion. Meanwhile, nearly half of Americans have less than $10,000 in savings and have no idea how they will ever be able to retire with dignity.


The Wall Street Journal reported on January 7, 2015 that more than three out of five Americans don’t have enough savings to cover a $500 emergency expense. In other words, one unforeseen car accident, one trip to the emergency room, one lost job could throw their lives into economic turmoil.

While the rapid rise in income and wealth inequality is morally repugnant, it also is causing tremendous damage to the economy. About 70 percent of the economy is dependent on Americans buying goods and services. Since 1999, however, the typical middle-class family has seen its income go down by nearly $5,000 after adjusting for inflation. That’s $5,000 less to spend in restaurants, grocery stores, clothing shops, theatres, pharmacies and other businesses each and every year. When the middle class has less money to spend, businesses hire fewer workers, cut wages, eliminate pensions, and ship more jobs overseas.

While the middle class is collapsing and poverty is increasing, the wealthiest people in this country are doing phenomenally well. In 2013, the top 25 hedge fund managers made more than $24 billion, enough to pay the salaries of more than 425,000 public school teachers. We have got to reverse this trend and expand the middle class.

Among other things, it is time to make sure that the wealthiest Americans and most profitable corporations pay their fair share in taxes. Each and every year, millionaires, billionaires and profitable corporations are avoiding $100 billion in taxes by stashing their cash in the Cayman Islands and other offshore tax havens. Some of the largest, most profitable corporations in this country are not paying any federal income taxes. We cannot allow that to continue. Further, because of tax loopholes, multi-millionaires on Wall Street often pay a lower effective tax rate than teachers or police officers. This is absurd.

5. The Retirement Deficit. There is a retirement crisis in America today that has got to be addressed. Today, only one out of five workers in America has a traditional defined benefit that guarantees income in retirement. Nearly half of all Americans have less than $10,000 in savings.

The percentage of senior citizens living in poverty is going up. In 2011, the official senior poverty rate was 8.7 percent. Last year, the official senior poverty rate was 9.5 percent.

In addition, according to the Census Bureau’s more comprehensive measure of poverty (which takes a closer look at the out-of-pocket medical costs of seniors), the poverty rate is even worse. According to this Supplemental Poverty Measure from the Census Bureau, the real senior poverty rate is closer to 14.6 percent. In other words, one out of seven seniors last year could not afford to meet their most basic needs.

At a time when the elderly poverty rate is going up and millions of Americans lack the necessary income to retire in dignity we must expand and strengthen Social Security. Social Security is the most successful social program in American history. It shouldn't be privatized, its benefits shouldn't be cut, and the retirement age shouldn't be raised.


Before Social Security was established 80 years ago, about half of our elderly population lived in poverty. Social Security also provides dignified support for millions of widows, widowers, orphans, and people with disabilities.

Since it was established, Social Security has paid every nickel it owed to every eligible American, in good times and bad. As corporations over the last 30 years destroyed the retirement dreams of millions of older workers by eliminating defined-benefit pension plans, Social Security was there paying full benefits. When Wall Street greed and recklessness caused working people to lose billions in retirement savings, Social Security was there paying full benefits. It is time to expand Social Security.

6. The Education Deficit. Today, too many Americans cannot go to college, not because they are unqualified, but because they cannot afford it. Millions of others who do graduate from college are drowning in debt. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the total amount of outstanding student loan debt in the United States has tripled in the last ten years, and has now reached $1.2 trillion.

More graduates than ever before are being forced to take out student loans, and the loans are getting larger and larger. Average student debt for a graduate of a four-year college is now roughly $33,000. This level of student debt is causing enormous financial strain on families across the United States, and is likewise undermining the ability of our economy to recover.

The situation has become so dire that the Federal Reserve and the Department of the Treasury have both issued warnings that these high levels of student loan debt are driving down consumer demand, and are having a significant, negative impact on economic growth.

We must act, not just to help today’s graduates who are suffering under high debt burdens, but for the millions of young people in this country who see a college degree as unattainable, for no reason other than the fact that their families cannot afford to pay.

7. Trade Deficit. Our trade deficit in fiscal year 2014 was $493 billion, which includes a $332 billion trade deficit with China. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cumulative trade deficit since the start of fiscal year 1995 is $8.7 trillion. That is a massive amount of wealth and demand transferred out of the United States. From less than 1.5 percent of GDP in 1996, the trade deficit had soared to 6.0 percent of GDP in 2006. Since then the trade deficit has declined, owing both to a weaker dollar and a declining demand for imports during the recession and recovery. At $493 billion in 2014 larger than the budget deficit the trade deficit still is a huge sum that is spent to generate demand abroad rather than here at home. In a weak labor force, a trade deficit that high represents millions of jobs lost.

Simply put, our trade policies have failed. Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China has led to the loss of more than 3.2 million American jobs. The North American Free Trade Agreement has led to the loss of nearly one million jobs. The Korea Free Trade Agreement has led to the loss of some 60,000 jobs. 

The GOP Reward For Service

Political Cartoon is by Jim Morin in The Miami Herald.

Gore Vidal


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

It Is Better. . .


Baby Boomers Are Starting To Retire & Collect Social Security



Immediately after the end of World War II, there was a huge increase in the number of babies being born in this country -- and that got that generation their nickname (Baby Boomers). The Baby Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964, a period of 19 years. Today, the oldest Baby Boomers are 68 years old and the youngest are 50 years old.

That means the Baby Boomers are now starting to reach retirement age -- with 61% of the 65 year olds, 66% of the 67 year olds, and 68% of the 68 year olds already out of the work force. Right-wing Republicans have been trying to scare Americans for several years now by talking about the size of the Baby Boomer generation (which admittedly is large), and claiming that this generation will "bankrupt" the Social Security system. Their hope is to create enough fear among younger Americans to let them damage Social Security by cutting benefits and raising the retirement age.

Don't believe them! They are lying -- and they are doing that to protect their real constituency, the rich, from having to pay as big a percentage of their income into FICA taxes as the working and middle classes currently pay. Currently, the rich pay a much smaller percentage than all other Americans pay, because the FICA tax is capped at a certain income (and that's just the way the Republicans like it).

Let me set a couple of things straight. The Baby Boomers have paid into the Social Security Trust Fund all of their working lives -- and they deserve to retire at the same age as previous retirees, and they deserve to be paid their full benefit. Anything less is a betrayal.

And the Baby Boomers are NOT going to bankrupt the Social Security system. The Social Security Trust Fund can continue to pay full benefits for about another 20 years, and after that, it can pay 80% of those benefits far into the future. It is in no danger of going bankrupt.

And the system can be easily fixed to allow the system to pay full benefits far into the future, without raising the retirement age or cutting retirement benefits. All Congress has to do is raise (or eliminate) the cap on the income subject to the FICA tax (commonly called the payroll tax). This would affect only the richest Americans -- and would not cost the working and middle classes a penny more in taxes.

The Republicans have never liked Social Security. They opposed it when it was created, and they have tried to abolish it since then. They know it is too popular right now to do away with it, so they are trying to chip away at it -- cutting benefits and raising the retirement age and damaging it a little bit at a time (until it is so bad that they can abolish it). Don't let them do it! Don't let them scare you into allowing them to destroy the federal system that has worked better than any other (and cut senior poverty from above 50% to below 10%).

NOTE -- The charts above were made from a new Gallup Poll done throughout 2014 of a random national sample of 134,168 adults, with only a 1 point margin of error.

Bread Bags ?

Political Cartoon is by Steve Sack in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Presidential Job Approval Is Still Rising


The Gallup Poll publishes daily a three-day average of the job approval for the president -- and the latest job approval number was 50%. That's the highest job approval percentage since June of 2013 (more than a year and a half ago). This latest survey was done between January 23rd and 25th of a random national sample of 1,527 adults, and has a margin of error of 3 points.

They also looked at the latest numbers for several groups, and compared them to the presidential job approval just one month ago -- in December 2014. As the chart above shows, the approval of the president has risen in almost every group (and the two groups showing a small drop in approval have a difference that is within the poll's margin of error).

The truth is that about half of all Americans approve of the job President Obama is doing. Meanwhile, the Republican-controlled Congress (which is acting like it has a mandate of support from the people) is still mired down at about 15.2% (the RealClearPolitics average of all the latest polls).

The Republicans had better be careful about butting heads with an increasingly popular president. They could find themselves back down into single digits (and go into the next election with most Americans hating them).

Passing The Torch ?

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

"Compassionate Conservatism" Rears Its Ugly Head Again

Evidently, some Republicans have been reading the writing on the wall, and they're starting to understand that a majority of Americans think the economy is unfair, and that it has created a huge and still growing wealth and income gap in the United States -- and they want the government to do something about it.

Presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush are now talking about fixing the problem of inequality in America. Are they serious, or is this just a replay of George W. Bush's "compassionate conservatism" -- which was just a meaningless phrase designed to get votes. The truth was that the Bush administration had no compassion for ordinary Americans. His administration helped the rich to get richer, and made all other Americans poorer.

Here is former Labor Secretary Robert Reich's take on this new "compassionate conservatism" (from his own blog):

Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney are zeroing in on inequality as America’s fundamental economic problem.
Bush’s new Political Action Committee, called “The Right to Rise,” declares “the income gap is real” but that “only conservative principles can solve it.”
Mitt Romney likewise promised last week that if he runs for president he’ll change the strategy that led to his 2012 loss to President Obama (remember the “makers” versus the “takers?”) and focus instead on income inequality, poverty, and “opportunity for all people.”
The Republican establishment’s leading presidential hopefuls know the current upbeat economy isn’t trickling down to most Americans.
But they’ve got a whopping credibility problem, starting with trickle-down economics.
Since Ronald Reagan moved into the White House, Republican policies have widened inequality.
Neither party deserves a medal for reversing the trend, but evidence shows that middle-class and poor Americans have faired better under Democratic presidents.
Personal disposable income has grown nearly 6 times more with Democrats in the White House than Republicans.
Under Bill Clinton, in whose administration I am proud to have served, even the wages of the poorest fifth rose.
According to research by economists Alan Blinder and Mark Watson, more jobs have been created under Democratic presidents as well.
These broad-based job and wage gains haven’t hampered economic growth. To the contrary, they’ve fueled it by putting more money into the pockets of people who spend it — thereby boosting business profits and hiring.
Which is why the economy has grown faster when Democrats have occupied the Oval Office.
I’m not saying Democrats have always had it right or done everything they should. The lion’s share of economic gains over the past thirty-five years has gone to the top regardless of whether Democrats or Republicans inhabit the White House.
The most recent recovery has been particularly lopsided, President Obama’s intentions notwithstanding.
Nor can presidents alone determine how the economy performs. At best they orchestrate a set of policies that nudge the economy in one direction or another.
But that’s exactly the point: Since Reagan, Republican policies have nudged it toward big gains at the top and stagnation for everyone else.
The last Republican president to deliver broad-based prosperity was Dwight D. Eisenhower, in the 1950s.
Then, the gains from growth were so widely shared that the incomes of the poorest fifth actually grew faster than the incomes of the top fifth. As a result, America became more equal than ever before or since.
Under Ike, the marginal tax rate on the richest Americans reached 91 percent.
Eisenhower also presided over the creation of the interstate highway system – the largest infrastructure project in American history — as well as the nation’s biggest expansion of public schools.
It’s no coincidence that when Eisenhower was president, over a third of all private sector workers were unionized. Ike can’t be credited for this but at least he didn’t try to stop it or legitimize firing striking workers, as did Ronald Reagan.
Under Reagan, Republican policy lurched in the opposite direction: Lower taxes on top incomes and big wealth, less public investment, and efforts to destroy labor unions.
Not surprisingly, that’s when America took its big U-turn toward inequality.
These Reaganomic principles are by now so deeply embedded in the modern Republican Party they’ve come to define it.
As a matter of fact, they’re just about all that unite the warring factions of the GOP – libertarians, tea partiers, and big corporations and Wall Street.
Yet because these very principles have contributed to the stagnation of American incomes and the widening gap between the rich and everyone else, Republican aspirants who says they want to reverse widening inequality are faced with an awkward dilemma.
How can they be credible on the issue while embracing these principles? Yet if they want to be nominated, how can they not embrace them?
When Jeb Bush admits that the income gap is real but that “only conservative principles can solve it,” one has to wonder what principles he’s talking about if not these.
And when Mitt Romney promises to run a different campaign than he did in 2012 and focus on “opportunity for all people,” the real question is whether he’ll run on different economic principles.
That the leading Republican hopefuls recognize the economy has to work for everyone and not just a few is progress.
But unless they disavow the legacy of Ronald Reagan and adopt the legacy of Dwight Eisenhower, their words are nothing more than soothing rhetoric — akin to George W. Bush’s meaningless “compassionate conservatism.”

Tarnished Legacy

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

The Rich Are Taking Their Share (And Yours)