A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Legit ?


CNN Fooled By A DFA Fund-Raiser Disguised As A Poll ?


Washington (CNN) -- Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren -- not Hillary Clinton -- is the top progressive choice for president in 2016, according to a new poll.

In fact, Clinton doesn't even make second place. Forty two percent of respondents favor Warren, and Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders also edges out Clinton with 24% compared to her 23%, according to results from the 2016 Presidential Pulse Poll commissioned by progressive grassroots organization Democracy for America.

Those are the first two paragraphs of a CNN article on November 20th. I try to give CNN the benefit of the doubt most times, but I am very disappointed that they thought this was a real story, and reported this as a real poll. They were either totally duped, or they are trying to cause a rift in the Democratic Party. Either way, their behavior is inexcusable.

What they are referring to is a fund-raising e-mail sent to many progressives by Democracy for America (a progressive super-PAC). I received several of these e-mails myself. It asked DFA members to choose their "favorite" three candidates for the Democratic nomination in 2016, and once they had chosen, it asked for a monetary donation (the real reason for the e-mail). They knew that many who responded would be guilted into making a donation.

Out of around 1,000,000 members of DFA, only about 16% responded (so it cannot really be represented as the wishes of DFA members, but only some die-hards who cannot accept the fact that Warren has chosen NOT to run). The poll was not done in a scientific way, and undoubtably was designed to show support for Warren. The truth is that most of us progressives understand that Warren is not running, recognized this "poll" for what it was (a fund-raiser), and know that the Democratic Party's best chance to elect a president in 2016 lies with nominating Hillary Clinton.

There is no doubt in my mind that a real poll, done scientifically, would produce a different result -- both among progressives and among Democrats in general. The candidate pictured below would be the clear favorite -- as she has been in every real poll taken so far.

NOTE -- This post should not be taken as a slam against either Senator Warren or Senator Sanders. I believe they are the two best senators in Washington -- by far. I just believe it is extremely important to keep a Republican extremist from living in the White House from 2017 thru 2020. And I believe Clinton is our best chance to avoid that.

(The caricatures of Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton are by DonkeyHotey.)

Executive Order

Political Cartoon is by Mike Luckovich in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Most People Think Stores Start X-Mas Season Too Early


When I was a child, Halloween and Thanksgiving and Christmas were all separate holidays. Each had their own "season", and the next didn't start until the last was over. It's not that way anymore. This year, I noticed some stores starting to put out their Christmas decorations and merchandise on the day after Halloween -- and a couple of weeks later all the stores were doing it.

It didn't seem to matter that Thanksgiving had not arrived. Thanksgiving seems to be only a very minor holiday now -- important only because of Black Friday, which kicks off the christmas buying season for many people. I understand why the stores are doing this. Christmas is the big money-maker for most stores (and can even make the difference between making a profit for the year or losing money). Extending the christmas shopping season to include a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving is just a way to increase sales for the season.

But while I understand the motive for combining Thanksgiving and Christmas into one holiday season, I don't like it. Personally, I don't want to even think about Christmas until Thanksgiving is over. And it looks like most Americans agree with me. This Rasmussen Poll (done on November 17th and 18th of 1,000 adults, with a margin of error of 3 points) verifies that 72% (nearly 3 out of 4) Americans think the stores are trying to start the Christmas season too early. Only 19% disagree.

Polls like this won't change anything though. That 19% is a pretty sizable chunk of people, and if retailers can get them to buy early, they will continue to do it. It makes me wonder though -- how long will it be before the Christmas season starts the day after Labor Day (perhaps with a "Black Tuesday")?

Playing With Fire

Political Cartoon is by John Cole in the Scranton Times-Tribune.

Poem

(Image is from theatlantic.com.)


HELL BENT ON DESTRUCTION
by Brian McLaughlin

Our country 
hell 
bent on destruction

So few 
caring 
about its direction

The government
owned
there's been no inspection

The people
left
without proper protection

Democracy
gone
the rich man's insurrection

They've stolen
from folks
reasons for their elation

Why
do they
expect an ovation

While leaving 
folks
with no motivation

Homelessness
growing
a sad situation

This economy 
in need 
of real regeneration

Will not come about 
through 
wealth segregation  

Mandate ?

Political Cartoon is by Jim Morin in The Miami Herald.

Monotheism


Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Canadian View Of Our President

Image is from the Twitter of Rick Strandlof, and was found at Addicting Info.

57% In U.S. Willing To Give Up Freedoms For Safety


I found this poll to be more than a little depressing. As you probably know, the congressional reaction to the 9/11 tragedy was to pass the Patriot Act -- a law that gave police and intelligence agencies broad new powers to spy on individuals, including American citizens. What once would have required a search warrant issued only with probable cause, can now be done with only a secret letter placed in a secret file by the government.

As expected by many of us who value our freedoms, the government abused the new law and conducted a massive spying campaign against American citizens (which is still going on). The excuse they give is that it is necessary to protect this country from terrorism. The problem with that excuse is that terrorism is not new, and the government has been able to effectively deal with it in the past (without any need for a Patriot Act or the need to abuse the rights and freedoms of American citizens).

The Senate tried the other day to rein in those massive spying powers of the federal government just a little bit, and that effort failed. It seems that too many of our senators don't have a problem with the government's massive spying on its own citizens. One of them even had the audacity to say if the Patriot Act had been in effect before 9/11, then that tragedy could have been prevented -- completely ignoring the fact that our government was warned about those Saudi terrorists, and chose to ignore it.

The sad thing is that a majority of Americans seem to be as stupid as those senators who approve of government spying on Americans. The chart above is from a Rasmussen Poll (done on November 18th and 19th of a random sample of 1,000 likely voters, with a margin of error of 3 points). It shows that 57% of the public is willing to give up their privacy rights (i.e., their freedoms) to protect this country from a terrorist attack. Only a this of the public (33%) understand that once rights are given away, they can usually never be retrieved.

Do these misguided people think that once terrorists are "defeated" the government will abandon their spying on citizens? If so, then they are fools! Governments (of any kind) never willingly give up a power once they have it. Even if terrorism could be eliminated, you can bet the government will come up with some other evil that we must be protected from (to avoid giving up their power to spy on any/all citizens).

Those who wrote our Constitution knew this -- and that's why they included the Bill of Rights to protect American citizens. I think they would be horrified to see how easily modern Americans can be scared into giving up those freedoms.

More Is Not Always Better

Political Cartoon is by Jim Morin in The Miami Herald.

Republicans Whine, Moan, And Make Empty Threats



Since the president announced he will be trying to fix some of our badly broken immigration system by issuing an executive order, the congressional Republicans have gone ballistic -- elevating their whining and crying to record levels. They do this in spite of the fact that presidents of their own party have done the same thing, and that it is their own intransigence that has forced the president to do this.

Now they have issued a "threat". They say if the president doesn't immediately surrender and withdraw this executive order, they will not compromise with him when the new 114th Congress convenes in January. That's a lot like a rattlesnake promising not to bite you if you'll just extend your hand to pet him. That snake's going to try to bite you no matter what -- and the congressional Republicans won't make any effort to compromise no matter what the president does or doesn't do.

Anybody with even a tiny portion of a brain knows the Republicans never intended to compromise on anything. They were preparing to try to force the president to submit to their own ideological and economic desires, and many were already threatening to shut down the government if they don't get their way. Their gaining control of both houses of Congress has changed nothing. They are still the party of "NO".

In my opinion, one of the best (and funniest) things written about this latest GOP temper tantrum is by satirist Andy Borowitz. He writes:

In a sharp Republican rebuke to President Obama's proposed actions on immigration, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell accused the President, on Thursday night, of "flagrantly treating immigrants like human beings, in clear defiance of the wishes of Congress."

McConnell was brutal in his assessment of the President's speech on immigration, blasting him for "eliminating the fear of deportation, which is the great engine of the American economy."

"Fear is what keeps immigrants working so hard and so fast and so cheap," McConnell said. "Remove the fear of deportation, and what will immigrants become? Lazy Americans."

In a dire warning to the President, McConnell said, "If Mr. Obama thinks that, with the stroke of a pen, he can destroy the work ethic of millions of terrified immigrants, he's in for the fight of his life."

He added that Obama's comments about deporting felons were "deeply offensive" to political donors.



Only Permissible By Republicans

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

President Obama Had To Act Because Congress Wouldn't Act

This week President Obama took unilateral action to do what he could to fix our badly broken immigration system. He didn't fix all the problems in that system, but he did correct some of the most egregious and hard-hearted elements.

The president has been waiting for several years now for Congress to do its job and fix immigration, but the Republicans in Congress have obstructed all attempts (even by a few in they own party) to do that. And after the recent election, which put those same Republicans in control of both houses of Congress, it became obvious to everyone that nothing would be done on immigration in the coming 114th Congress.

This left the president no choice but to act through executive order to fix what he could on immigration. This week, he spoke to the nation and told them what he would do (and why it must be done). Here is the text of that speech:

For more than 200 years, our tradition of welcoming immigrants from around the world has given us a tremendous advantage over other nations. It's kept us youthful, dynamic, and entrepreneurial. It has shaped our character as a people with limitless possibilities -- people not trapped by our past, but able to remake ourselves as we choose.

But today, our immigration system is broken, and everybody knows it.

Families who enter our country the right way and play by the rules watch others flout the rules. Business owners who offer their workers good wages and benefits see the competition exploit undocumented immigrants by paying them far less. All of us take offense to anyone who reaps the rewards of living in America without taking on the responsibilities of living in America. And undocumented immigrants who desperately want to embrace those responsibilities see little option but to remain in the shadows, or risk their families being torn apart.

It's been this way for decades. And for decades, we haven't done much about it.

When I took office, I committed to fixing this broken immigration system. And I began by doing what I could to secure our borders. Today, we have more agents and technology deployed to secure our southern border than at any time in our history. And over the past six years, illegal border crossings have been cut by more than half. Although this summer, there was a brief spike in unaccompanied children being apprehended at our border, the number of such children is now actually lower than it's been in nearly two years. Overall, the number of people trying to cross our border illegally is at its lowest level since the 1970s. Those are the facts.

Meanwhile, I worked with Congress on a comprehensive fix, and last year, 68 Democrats, Republicans, and Independents came together to pass a bipartisan bill in the Senate. It wasn't perfect. It was a compromise, but it reflected common sense. It would have doubled the number of border patrol agents, while giving undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship if they paid a fine, started paying their taxes, and went to the back of the line. And independent experts said that it would help grow our economy and shrink our deficits.

Had the House of Representatives allowed that kind of a bill a simple yes-or-no vote, it would have passed with support from both parties, and today it would be the law. But for a year and a half now, Republican leaders in the House have refused to allow that simple vote.

Now, I continue to believe that the best way to solve this problem is by working together to pass that kind of common sense law. But until that happens, there are actions I have the legal authority to take as President -- the same kinds of actions taken by Democratic and Republican Presidents before me -- that will help make our immigration system more fair and more just.

Tonight, I am announcing those actions.


Too Soon

Political Cartoon is by Dan Piraro at bizarro.com.

Wall Street Now Owns Congress


Friday, November 21, 2014

We Ain't Doing It Right


Public's Opinion Of Federal Government Agencies


These charts were made from a new Gallup Poll (done on November 11th and 12th of a random national sample of 1,020 adults, with a margin of error of 4 points). They show what the public thinks about the performance of some of the major federal government agencies.

There are a couple that stand out -- the Veterans Administration (VA) for doing a poor job, and the Post Office (USPS) for doing a great job. About 72% of Americans think the USPS does either an excellent or good job (nearly three out of four people). No other agency comes close. Meanwhile, all the bad publicity the VA got for mistreating veterans has left the public with a very low opinion of it (64%, or over six out of 10 people who think they do a fair/poor job).

The bottom chart is interesting, because it shows the agencies that have gained or lost approval in the last year. Thanks to the Ebola scare, the CDC is the only federal agency that has dropped in approval since 2013, losing a full 10 points. Perhaps most surprising is the agency that has gained the most in job approval -- the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which has gained a full 14 points since 2013.


Immigrant Flood ?

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

2014 Was A Non-Voting Election - Not A Wave Election







I am still hearing some pundits calling the recent election a "wave" election -- inferring that the voters gave Republicans a mandate to institute their policies. I'm still not buying that. The Republicans did well in the election, and now control both houses of the 114th Congress -- but they did not get a mandate from the voters. What happened was that only a small percentage of registered voters bothered to go to the polls, and a majority of that tiny minority were Republicans (who are still upset that a Black man inhabits the White House), while too many Democrats and Independents did not vote.

If it had truly been a wave election, then we should expect to see significant majorities of the population preferring Republicans and Republican policies, but a new poll shows that is just not true. It is the NBC News / Wall Street Journal Poll, done between November 14th and 17th of a random national sample of 1,000 adults (with a margin of error of 3.1 points). I have charted some of that poll's results above.

Note that the Democratic Party is still more popular than the Republican Party (by 6 points), although both parties are rated more negatively than positively -- and the voters are split on whether they like or dislike the Republicans being in control of Congress. In addition, a majority thinks the government should do more to help hurting Americans (which is certainly not what congressional Republicans want).

And the public doesn't expect the outcome of this election to fix much in Washington. About 72% (nearly 3 out of 4) don't expect any improvement among cooperation in Washington -- with 32% saying things will get worse and 40% saying it will make no difference. About 53% think the president will try to work with GOP leaders, but only 44% expect GOP leaders to make an attempt to work with the president.

In short, the public doesn't think this election fixed anything. We are looking at another two years of political infighting and gridlock, with nothing of any importance getting done. And sadly, that's just what a majority of voters deserve -- because they didn't bother to vote.

And The Whining Begins

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

A Couple More Small Steps Toward Equality In The U.S.


Two more states have joined the ranks of those where it is legal for same-sex couples to marry. The first was South Carolina, where a federal judge ruled on November 12th the state's ban on same-sex marriages was unconstitutional. That decision was stayed until November 20th to give the state time to ask for a stay from higher courts. The state went to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals (but they had already ruled that state bans were unconstitutional) and refused to issue a stay.

South Carolina then asked the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay. But this week the state got news that the Supreme Court had denied their application for a stay (just as they did last week for Kansas).

The second state was Montana. On Wednesday, a federal judge ruled Montana's ban on same-sex marriage (a part of their state constitution) violated the United States Constitution's Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause. And this judge refused to issue a stay of his decision, quoting the fact that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had already ruled those bans were unconstitutional.

The Attorney General of Montana (a Republican) has said he will appeal the decision, but with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals already having ruled on the issue, his only hope is with the U.S. Supreme Court. And that hope seems to be growing dimmer each day, considering the refusal to stay the decisions in Kansas and South Carolina. These refusals tend to show the Supreme Court is tending to favor the marriage rights of same-sex couples.

What all this means is that same-sex marriage is now legal in Montana and South Carolina -- and is likely to stay that way. And within the next year, it could be legal in all 50 states.


Not In A Million Years . . .

Political Cartoon is by Joe Heller in the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

GOP Candidates Popular With Base - But Not The Public


I thought these poll numbers were interesting. They come from a YouGov Poll taken between November 8th and 10th of a random national sample of 1,000 adults (with a margin of error of around 4 points).

All of the eight leading Republican candidates are viewed favorably by the GOP's base voters. But those voters prefer one of the extremist candidates to the more "moderate" candidates like Bush or Christie. Although Bush and Christie have significant favorable ratings, they also have a higher unfavorable rating than any of the other, more extreme candidates -- with Bush being viewed unfavorably by 23% and Christie by 29%.

But the numbers for all eight of these candidates fall dramatically when judged by the general public. Only three of them have a higher favorable rating than unfavorable -- Huckabee (+6), Ryan (+5), and Paul (+1) -- and none of them tops 40% in favorability. All five of the other candidates (including Bush and Christie) are upside down in their favorability rating -- Romney (-6), Perry (-7), Bush (-9), Cruz (-5), and Christie (-7).

It looks like all of the GOP's leading candidates have a long way to go to win over the public at large.


A Strong "Lame Duck"

Political Cartoon is by Cameron (Cam) Cardow in The Ottawa Citizen.

Conservative "Logic"


Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Unfair Economy


Economic Fairness And Growth Must Coexist In A Capitalism



The two charts above were made from a Rasmussen Poll conducted on November 16th and 17th of a random national sample of 1,000 likely voters. It shows that huge majorities of the population think both fairness (83%) and growth (94%) are important in our economic system.

This brings up an important question. If such large majorities believe both are important, then why is our economy so unfair? Why do the super-rich pay a much lower tax rate (the capital gains tax rate) than workers pay (the earned income tax rate)? Why do the rich get to hog most of the rise in income (about 95% of that rise)? Why isn't the minimum wage a livable wage, and why is the middle class shrinking due to job losses, stagnant incomes, and inflation?

Why are corporations given tax breaks to ship good jobs to other countries? Why are corporations given tax breaks and subsidies that allow them to pay no taxes (even though they make millions or billions in profits)? And why is the wealth & income gap between the rich and the rest of America larger than before the Great Depression (and still growing)?

The answer, of course, is that Republican officials don't believe economic fairness is important. And because of that, they have been able to institute policies that favor the rich and the corporations, and hurt most other Americans. And they have been able to do that because they have convinced a large part of our population that you cannot have both fairness and growth.

They have convinced too many people that raising the minimum wage, making the rich and corporations pay their fair share of taxes, sharing rising productivity with workers, and stopping the outsourcing of jobs -- while creating a fairer economy -- would stunt economic growth (and job creation). They have convinced people that whatever is good for the rich is good for everyone.

Sadly that is not true. While letting the rich hog most income and wealth will benefit them in the short-run, even the rich will be hurt by these policies in the long-run. What's going to happen when the population cannot afford to buy the goods produced by the rich and their corporations?

The truth is just the opposite of what the Republicans preach. In a capitalist system, fairness and growth must coexist. You cannot have one without the other. Fairness depends on rising income and wealth that can be shared, and growth depends on all segments of the populations having money to spend on the goods/services offered by businesses.

Our economy continues to stumble because of the wrong-minded Republican policies -- and can only be fixed by making our economic system fairer for everybody (from the poor to the working class to the middle class to the rich). Whether the right-wing likes it or not, we are all in this economy together. There is no other way for a capitalism to grow, or even to survive.

But the Republicans are not likely to realize this until it is too late -- until they have destroyed our economy and our democracy. They are being controlled by right-wing extremists, who value their seriously-flawed ideology above everything else.

Hopefully, the president (and congressional Democrats) can block the worst of the GOP agenda in the next two years -- and the voters can, in 2016, undo the damage they did in 2010 and 2014 by voting the Republicans out of power. It's the only chance we have to return our country to a fairer economy with robust growth.

The Billionaire Bubble

Political Cartoon is by Jen Sorensen at jensorensen.com.

Obama Ready To Take Unilateral Action On Immigration


The continuing GOP narrative on President Obama is that he is soft on undocumented immigrants. For years now they have been telling us that the president, unlike previous presidents, encourages undocumented immigrants to come to this country. Of course this is just another Republican lie, told to try and smear the president.

The truth is, as the chart above shows (from vox.com), that the Obama administration has been very vigilant in upholding current immigration law -- and has deported more undocumented immigrants in each year of the Obama presidency than any other president has done (including any Republican president).

But the president knows, just as millions of Americans know, that our immigration system is badly broken -- and for year's now, he has been asking Congress to pass an immigration reform law. Unfortunately, Congress has done nothing (even after a bipartisan senate committee came up with a plan) -- and with the Congress now completely under Republican control, there is no likelihood that immigration reform can be done anytime soon.

The president knows this, and he is tired of waiting. Something needs to be done now, even if it is only a partial fix to the broken system. And tonight, President Obama is going to announce he is taking unilateral action (through executive action) to make the system a bit more fair for immigrant families. I'm sure the right-wingers will accuse the president of opening our borders to undocumented immigrants, but that is the reaction to be expected from them. What he is actually doing is injecting some common decency into the system.

What is he likely to do? Something very simple. He is going to order that government officials stop splitting up families to satisfy the current broken system. He has already stopped the deportation of some 1.3 million youngsters who have spent most of their lives in this country through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). Tonight, he is likely to extend that program to include another 700,000 young people.

But the biggest change will probably be in stopping the deportation of the parents of children born in this country or allowed to stay here through DACA. This would amount to about 3.4 million people -- far short of the total number of undocumented immigrants in this country (near 11 million people).

Right-wingers will try to tell you that these people are a drain on our economy (and need to be deported). That is an outrageous lie (even worse than the lie that Obama is "soft" on immigration). These people are actually a boon to our economy -- and our struggling economy would be in much worse shape if they were not here. They help our economy by working hard and by purchasing millions of dollars of goods/services from American business -- and they help sustain all levels of government by paying taxes (sales taxes, property taxes, income taxes, etc.).

The president's executive action will not completely fix our badly broken immigration system -- but it will make it fairer by stopping the splitting up of immigrant families (which no decent person could justify). I applaud the political courage shown by President Obama in taking this action. I just wish Congress could be equally courageous and pass some real immigration reform.

Spiking The Ball

Political Cartoon is by R.J. Mason in Roll Call.

Screwed-Up State Policies On Marriage


If you're on any social media sites, then you'll probably recognize the photo above (from CNN). It is of 80 year old multiple murderer Charles Manson and the sick young 26 year old who wants to marry him. The state of California has already issued the pair a marriage license, and when prison officials get the paperwork done, they be married some time this month. Now I couldn't care less whether these idiots get married (as long as Manson never gets released). That is a California problem. But it did get me to thinking about the screwed-up marriage laws in some states.

Like, for instance, in my own home state -- Texas. Texas also allows convicted and incarcerated criminals to get married -- even murderers living on Death Row. A perfect example is Karla Faye Tucker. Tucker was convicted in 1983 of using a pickaxe to murder a woman (leaving the pickaxe protruding from her chest) and later bragging about getting sexual gratification from that vicious murder. She was given the death penalty. So what happens in 1995? The state of Texas issues her a marriage license and allows her to marry a prison minister.

Now the same state (Texas) that sees nothing wrong with allowing this vicious murderess to get married while awaiting execution on Death Row, has laws that prevent decent, law-abiding gays and lesbians in a loving relationship from marrying the person they love. I ask you -- does that make any sense at all? Shouldn't law-abiding citizens have at least the same marriage rights as convicted murderers? I say yes. It is sheer insanity to give more rights to a convicted murderer than a law-abiding citizen.

Now some fundamentalists will quote the bible at this point, especially some old testament verse. There are two reasons why that stinks as badly as what comes out of the south end of a north-bound bull. First, the laws of this country aren't based on your bible, but on our secular Constitution (which guarantees equal rights under the law to ALL citizens). And second, if your religion approves of granting convicted killers more rights than law-abiding gays/lesbians, then you believe in a sick and perverted religion -- and you need to do some serious reconsideration of your religious views.

That's what I think. What do you think?

Marriage

Political Cartoon is by Nate Beeler in The Columbus Dispatch.

The Super-Rich Are Destroying Our Economy (& Democracy)


The Republicans have already tilted the economic playing field to favor the rich, and that has resulted in almost all new income flowing into the pockets of the rich -- especially the super-rich. But that isn't enough for the super-rich. In the last election, they spent a lot of "dark money" to elect even more Republicans -- and they expect to be rewarded for that with policies that will favor them even more.

Those Republican "trickle-down" policies have already had a negative effect on our economy (causing a serious recession and the inability of most Americans to recover from that recession) and on our democracy. And with the GOP in control of Congress, things are not going to improve in the next couple of years.

In the following post by former Labor Secretary Robert Reich (posted on his own blog), Reich explains how these policies are hurting this country. He says:

The richest Americans hold more of the nation’s wealth than they have in almost a century. What do they spend it on? As you might expect, personal jets, giant yachts, works of art, and luxury penthouses.
And also on politics. In fact, their political spending has been growing faster than their spending on anything else. It’s been growing even faster than their wealth.  
According to new research by Emmanuel Saez of the University of California at Berkeley and Gabriel Zucman of the London School of Economics, the richest one-hundredth of one percent of Americans now hold over 11 percent of the nation’s total wealth. That’s a higher share than the top .01 percent held in 1929, before the Great Crash.
We’re talking about 16,000 people, each worth at least $110 million.
One way to get your mind around this is to compare their wealth to that of the average family. In 1978, the typical wealth holder in the top .01 percent was 220 times richer than the average American. By 2012, he or she was 1,120 times richer.
It’s hard to spend this kind of money.
The uber rich are lining up for the new Aerion AS2 private jet, priced at $100 million, that seats eleven and includes a deluxe dining room and shower facilities, and will be able to cross the Atlantic in just four hours.
And for duplexes high in the air. The one atop Manhattan’s newest “needle” tower, the 90-story One57, just went for $90 million.
Why should we care?
Because this explosion of wealth at the top has been accompanied by an erosion of the wealth of the middle class and the poor. In the mid-1980s, the bottom 90 percent of Americans together held 36 percent of the nation’s wealth. Now, they hold less than 23 percent.
Despite larger pensions and homes, the debts of the bottom 90 percent – mortgage, consumer credit, and student loan – have grown even faster.
Some might think the bottom 90 percent should pull in their belts and stop living beyond their means. After all, capitalism is a tough sport. If those at the top are winning big while the bottom 90 percent is losing, too bad. That’s the way the game is played.
But the top .01 percent have also been investing their money in politics. And these investments have been changing the game.
In the 2012 election cycle (the last for which we have good data) donations from the top .01 accounted for over 40 percent of all campaign contributions, according to a study by Professors Adam Bonica, Nolan McCarty, Keith Poole, and Howard Rosenthal.
This is a huge increase from 1980, when the top .01 accounted for ten percent of total campaign contributions.
In 2012, as you may recall, two largest donors were Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, who gave $56.8 million and $46.6 million, respectively.
But the Adelsons were only the tip of an iceberg of contributions from the uber wealthy. Of the other members of the Forbes list of 400 richest Americans, fully 388 made political contributions. They accounted for forty of the 155 contributions of $1 million or more.
Of the 4,493 board members and CEOs of Fortune 500 corporations, more than four out of five contributed (many of the non-contributors were foreign nationals who were prohibited from giving).
All this money has flowed to Democrats as well as Republicans.
In fact, Democrats have increasingly relied on it. In the 2012 election cycle, the top .01 percent’s donations to Democrats were more than four times larger than all labor union donations to Democrats put together.
The richest .01 percent haven’t been donating out of the goodness of their hearts. They’ve donated out of goodness to their wallets.
Their political investments have paid off in the form of lower taxes on themselves and their businesses, subsidies for their corporations, government bailouts, federal prosecutions that end in settlements where companies don’t affirm or deny the facts and where executives don’t go to jail, watered-down regulations, and non-enforcement of antitrust laws.
Since the top .01 began investing big time in politics, corporate profits and the stock market have risen to record levels. That’s enlarged the wealth of the richest .01 percent by an average of 7.8 percent a year since the mid-1980s.
But the bottom 90 percent don’t own many shares of stock. They rely on wages, which have been trending downward. And for some reason, politicians don’t seem particularly intent on reversing this trend.
If you want to know what’s happened to the American economy, follow the money. That will lead you to the richest .01 percent.
And if you want to know what’s happened to our democracy, follow the richest .01 percent. They’ll lead you to the politicians who have been selling our democracy.  

Worms

Political Cartoon is by Daryl Cagle at cagle.com.

The Greedy 1%


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Handout


Senate Kills The Keystone XL Pipeline (For Now)


Republicans (and a few Big Oil lovers among the Democrats) tried to get the Keystone XL pipeline approved yesterday -- but they fell short by one vote. Since they brought it to the floor under a special procedure (which didn't permit any amendments), they needed 60 votes to get it passed. It failed by a vote of 59 to 41. All 45 Republicans voted for the pipeline -- and they were joined by 14 Democrats, led by the soon-to-be-defeated Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. There were 39 Democrats voting against the pipeline, and they were joined by both Independent senators.

Here are the 14 Democrats who voted against common sense, the environment, reasonable energy policy, and their own party:

Mary Landrieu (Louisiana)
Mark Begich (Alaska)
Michael Bennett (Colorado)
Tom Carper (Delaware)
Bob Casey (Pennsylvania)
Joe Donnelly (Indiana)
Kay Hagan (North Carolina)
Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota)
Joe Manchin (West Virginia)
Claire McCaskill (Missouri)
Mark Pryor (Arkansas)
Jon Tester (Montana)
John Walsh (Montana)
Mark Warner (Virginia)

Immediately after the bill failed, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky took the floor and said there would be another vote early next year -- after the Republicans become the majority in the Senate. He thinks he can get it passed then, and he might be right. It all depends on how much Democratic help he can muster (and at least four of the Democrats above will no longer be available for him -- Landrieu, Pryor, Begich, and Hagan). Hopefully, with the addition of some new Democrats (and the filibuster), the Democrats can still muster 41 votes then.