Monday, October 20, 2014
In a little over two weeks, this nation will go to the polls to elect a new government for the next couple of years. One of the biggest issues this year is the voter's anger with Congress, and one of the biggest reasons they are angry is because Congress has refused to do anything about the unemployment problem. Far too many people are still out of work, and the unemployment rate is still a couple of points too high.
Unfortunately, it looks like a lot of voters will be going to the polls without the knowledge they need to vote their own best interests -- and that includes the important issue of unemployment. The folks at the YouGov Poll decided to find out what the public knew about unemployment in this nation right now, and the results were pretty depressing. The survey was done between October 4th and 6th of a random national sample of 1,000 adults, and has a margin of error of about 4 points.
What was depressing about the survey? Most Americans don't really have a clue as to what is happening with the unemployment situation in this country. Only 49% of Americans even know that the unemployment rate is lower now than it was when the president took office in January of 2009. The other 51% think unemployment either went up or remained the same, or don't have a clue as to what has happened with the unemployment rate.
And it gets worse from there. A paltry 28% (slightly more than one out of every four people) know that the current unemployment rate is below 6% (it is currently 5.9%). And only 30% (less than one out of three people) understand that there are now more jobs in our society than before the Bush recession. Most people are going to go to the polls and vote their unhappiness, without understanding what the situation is.
This make me wonder -- if they don't know what the current situation is with unemployment, do they know why that situation exists? Do they understand the unemployment rate is still too high because the Republicans has blocked every job creation bill that has been proposed (including a bill to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure that would create hundreds of thousands of new jobs)? How many of them have just accepted what they have been told by Fox News (the lie that it must be the president's fault)?
This is the first poll regarding presidential preferences of the parties in more than a month. I think it was done because of all the recent talk about a possible Mitt Romney candidacy. Romney would be leading the field of Republicans if he was a candidate -- but he would be far from running away with the nomination. He only gets 21% support right now -- less than a quarter of the Republicans.
Without Romney in the race, it looks like a three-way tie between Bush, Huckabee, and Paul -- with Ryan, Rubio, and Christie not far behind. The Republicans are still a long way from having a favorite for the nomination.
It's different for the Democrats. Clinton still is far in the lead with the support of 65% of Democrats. Biden and Warren trail far behind, with 13% and 11% respectively. There has recently been some talk of Bernie Sanders running as a Democrat, but right now he only gets the nod from 1% of Democrats.
These numbers are from the ABC News / Washington Post Poll that was done between October 9th and 12th of a random national sample of 1,006 adults.
Throughout the nation the issue of police brutality, including killings of unarmed people, is a common problem. It is part of a criminal enforcement system that has pitted police against people in ways that are very destructive to the fabric of the nation. DOJ is taking or has taken action involving three dozen law enforcement agencies during the Obama era.
To turn this moment of awareness and activism into an effective movement, we need an agenda to transform policing so police play a constructive role in the community. At the inspiring FergusonOctober actions, protesters put forward a list of demands that provide an agenda for a movement to fix policing in America, including:
1: Body cameras on all police.
2: Empowered civilian review boards.
3: Independent review of fatalities.
4: End of military surplus going to police.
2: Empowered civilian review boards.
3: Independent review of fatalities.
4: End of military surplus going to police.
Long-time Washington, DC community activist Kymone Freeman, a co-founder of We Act Radio, has been participating in organizing a series of powerful protests in Washington, DC around Michael Brown and police abuse. Freeman testified before the DC City Council on behalf of #DCFerguson and put forward an agenda consistent with the Ferguson one, adding one more: police should live in the communities where they serve. He also wants police who are involved in a shooting of an innocent civilian to be automatically prosecuted.
Police Know That Racist Militarized Policing Is Destructive
Many police officials recognize the destructive nature of the current militarized policing that is often racially unfair. Former Seattle police chief Norm Samper, writes in The Guardian:
It’s difficult to view citizens as partners when you’re looking at them through a Kevlar helmet and a riot shield – or when you have failed to build a culture of trust and then you add military equipment and tactics to a combustible mix of racial discrimination and little police accountability. This explosive combination makes policing significantly less effective, and dramatically less safe for everybody.
Samper should know because he was the chief during the 1999 ‘Battle of Seattle’ and admits he mishandled that protest in part because “the way we looked – and the way we behaved – provoked and exacerbated the violence.” Military-policing was just one of the problems; in addition rights to Freedom of Speech and Assembly were not respected. Often violent conflicts can be avoided if police respect constitutional rights as we saw recently with an antiwar protest in New York City, which for the first time in three years was not marred by the presence of threatening police.
The Post Michael Brown Proposals
Cameras: There is a lot of promise in requiring police to wear body cameras and on police vehicles. One California city, Rialto in San Bernadino County, saw an 88% drop in claims of police misconduct in one year with police wearing cameras along with a 59% drop in use of force incidents. Police should recognize the benefit as they will have videotape to prove their innocence. And, people will feel more confident in the police knowing that their encounter is being recorded.
However, there have been multiple incidents where the police have failed to have the camera on at critical moments. There is a need for written policies on the use of video cameras, currently one-third of police forces that use cameras have no written policy. The failure to turn on the camera during an encounter should raise doubt regarding the officer’s version of events. Written policies should also require the video be made available to a victim, if deceased to their family and attorney. And, they should require the video and any data associated with it be destroyed in a specific amount of time. Police cameras should not be an excuse to create a data base of citizens.
People should not wait for the police to be required to wear cameras, Cop Watch programs, where people are trained to videotape police encounters should be organized. People should be trained to use a video camera in a legal, credible and safe way, e.g. 7 rules for recording police. Police officers need to understand it is legal for someone to film them while they are performing their duty and there should be no retaliation against people who film police encounters.
Citizen Review Board: There are citizen review boards in many cities across the country but as Freeman testified, they are usually a “paper tiger.” There are three things that are essential to make review boards effective (1) The power to initiate investigations of police on their own; (2) The power to subpoena witnesses to testify under oath; (3) The power to indict police officers who have committed crimes or abused their power.
An empowered citizen review board will make it clear that police work for the people and are accountable to the people. A letter sent to President Obama this summer by civil rights, good government and democracy activists this summer said: “Police departments should not be solely responsible for investigating themselves. These departments are funded by the public and should be accountable to the public.”
Relying on the police to investigate themselves is insufficient. Relying on prosecutors who work closely with the police to indict police officers often results in no indictment for actions that are ‘on their face’ criminal. The grand jury process, conducted in secret by a prosecutor is too easy to manipulate in favor of the police (which is why I urged the Wilson family to file a civil lawsuit now). An indictment by a Citizens Review Board means there is probable cause, not guilt. Police officers will still have the right to defend themselves in court and it will remain difficult to convict police for a variety of reasons.
Beyond a citizen review board more citizen involvement is needed. Norm Samper urges local political leadership to “put together a large, representative, credible crisis team to work with the police, communicate systematically with the community and, most importantly, elicit grassroots suggestions for resolution of the conflict.” Further he urges “a group of citizens, officers, politicians and civic leaders to craft and quickly implement a statement of non-negotiable standards for the performance and conduct of each and every police officer: for example, any officer should be fired if found to be using racial or ethnic slurs or excessive force.”
While we urge people to push for these actions, people should organize now to develop standards for police conduct as well as crisis management. Too often we wait for government to solve these problems when we have the power to take action ourselves.
Independent Review of Fatalities: Whenever there is fatality as a result of a police shooting there should be an independent review outside of police and prosecutors. Civilian review boards can be equipped and directed to take on this responsibility or cities can create an independent investigator to do so.
In addition, guidelines should be enacted for routine response, i.e. removal of the officer from patrol, taking away weapons; depending on the circumstances, e.g. if the person killed was unarmed there should be immediate procedures to follow that would be different from cases where the person is armed. Kymone Freeman of #DCFerguson calls for automatic action against police who shoot at innocent civilians testifying including them being automatically fired and indicted.
These procedures should be developed by a cross section of the community including elected officials, police and members of the community.
Demilitarization: The militarization of US police is a new phenomena that is being routinely misused. In the early 1970s there were no paramilitary police units, now they are common in every police force, even in many small towns. They are used routinely to serve search warrants, respond to protests and even to patrol neighborhoods. Radley Balko, author of Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces, wrote in the ABA Journal in 2013that SWAT teams “smash into private homes more than 100 times per day.”
The militarization has been spurred by federal policy that makes military equipment available to local police, even school police. Colin Jenkins reports in Coming Home to Roost: American Militarism, War Culture, and Police Brutality, that military equipment has flowed to police across the country: “They possess everything from body armor to high-powered weaponry to tanks, armored vehicles, and even drones.” The ACLU reports $4.3 billion in equipment has been transferred to 17,000 law enforcement agencies from all states and territories.
It is time to demilitarize US police and create stringent standards that make the use of paramilitary units are rarity rather than the rule. A letter to President Obamaby more than 120 institutions says:
“Deterring crime and protecting communities should not involve military weaponry. Effective policing strategies and community relationships will not be advanced if police departments continue to act as an occupying force in neighborhoods. The Administration must suspend programs that transfer military equipment into the hands of local police departments and create guidelines that regulate and monitor the use of military equipment that has already been distributed.”
Samper urges police to immediately begin demilitarization and greatly limit the use of paramilitary units writing: “prohibit SWAT operations for anything other than school shootings, armed hostage situations and other immediate crises when negotiations fail and lives are at stake.”
The Obama administration should take three immediate steps to advance demilitarization of police (1) Stop providing military equipment to police by suspending the program; (2) Direct police who received military equipment to limit their use and provide guidelines for when to use paramilitary units; (3) Let local governments know they can return military equipment to the federal government.
Police Living Where they Work: The debate over police living in the communities where they serve is a long one. The issue has been raised anew because, as CityLab notes, Officer Darren Wilson did not live in Ferguson, but lived a half hour away in a community that was 96% white. When the governor sought to calm the unrest he brought in Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson who came in saying “This is my neighborhood,” as he grew up in Ferguson and lived nearby in the bordering city of Florissant.
It used to be common for police to live in the cities where they worked but Pew reports residency requirements are increasingly rare: “Philadelphia police several years ago negotiated a contract provision that allows them to live outside the city after five years on the job. Minnesota repealed the Minneapolis residency requirement in 1999, and Missouri lifted residency requirements for St. Louis police in 2005.”
CityLab reports “Detroit is one example of what can happen when cops are freed from these requirements. After the state of Michigan eliminated the city’s residency restrictions in 1999, many officers started moving out. By 2011, incoming mayor David Bing noted, more than half of the city’s police lived outside of Detroit.”
The benefits of police living in the community are obvious; police get to know the community and build relationships. A 2012 report by the Abell Foundation of Baltimore found “many residents like the idea of police officers living in their communities because they view them as a deterrent to crime and because they believe officers would have a better understanding of neighborhood problems if they had homes in the area.”
While it may not be possible to have all police live in the communities they patrol, because housing may not be available or affordable, or the communities may be fragmented into small towns as in the St. Louis area, there are steps that can be taken to increase police living within the city limits. The Abell Foundation suggests incentives like rental subsidies or assistance with home down payments. They report “Over a period of 14 months, a police housing incentive in Atlanta, for example, attracted 71 participants in the program, or about 6 percent of all the officers living outside the city.”
Abell argues that even a modest increase in the number of officers living in the city could improve public safety in their neighborhoods and foster better relations between the department and local residents.
Do Not Forget the Root Cause Issues
The proposals coming forward in the aftermath of the killing of Michael Brown would make a tremendous difference if implemented but there are underlying issues that must also be faced. These include the long history of racism, especially in policing, going back to enforcement of slavery through the era of Jim Crow and continuing today. But Racism in the United States continues despite Civil Rights laws and this has a big role in police abuse in Ferguson and the rest of the nation.
Another underlying issue is the wealth divide and unfair economy that has people protesting the wealthiest Americans and big business interests. Too often police take the side of protecting the wealthy against the people. Police need to make protecting the people and their exercise of constitutional rights a priority. Prosecutors across the country and at the Justice Department need to increase prosecutions of people who rip-off the economy, workers and undermine the environment for extreme profits. There has been a corporate crime wave without a response from law enforcement.
One of the comments on Popular Resistance about Ferguson connected the dots on the issues of police abuse and rebuilding communities, it is worth quoting in full:
“Part of rebuilding communities is having local control and local medical clinics and doctors, local teachers and school boards with power, and local police who live in communities and know the people. We also need better educated police and prison guards. Those who police or wield power over others need to be psychologically fit, and well educated, with ongoing programs of education. The laws protecting police put in place since the 80´s should be repealed, and they should be held more accountable for their lapses in judgment and actions, not less. Violations of law should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, along with counts of failure to follow procedure, abuse of public trust, and abuse of authority. We need to stop legal harassment for the crime of being poor, and start community based job creation via community banks. Legal charges and brutality up to and including murder for jaywalking or minor offenses are crazy. Police need to be more broadly educated on what constitutes justice, and be more willing to fulfill a social service role of warning or advising, referring people to services, and hey! maybe serve their communities in a non-threatening fashion.”
People need to unite around the resulting agenda from the killing of Michael Brown and so many others across the country. At the same time, people need to act on their own to create the world we want to see, e.g. instituting Cop Watch and forming citizen groups to define the police they envision. Finally, we need to recognize the connections between police abuse with the broader issues of an unfair economy, environmental destruction, racism and government corruption. Uniting to build a mass transformative movement is the only path to the changes that are needed.
Sunday, October 19, 2014
The 2014 election is entering its final stage, with less than 3 weeks now until election day -- and candidates are looking for that thing which will put them over the line. There is one issue that Democrats could use to win -- raising the minimum wage. It is an issue that a significant majority of Americans in every state agrees with, and an issue opposed by nearly every single Republican candidate.
The folks at Public Policy Polling looked at six states that have important senate races -- races that could determine which party controls the U.S. Senate. And they looked at what the people thought of raising the minimum wage in those states. Note that a majority of voters in all six states think the minimum wage should be raised to at least $10.10 an hour (and even bigger majorities don't think a family could be raised on the current minimum wage).
Perhaps even more important is how voters would consider candidates who oppose raising the minimum wage. That is illustrated in the chart below, and it's something that should worry Republican candidates. By opposing a higher minimum wage, they lose a lot more votes than they gain.
Smart Democratic candidates should campaign very hard on this issue in the coming couple of weeks. It could easily make the difference between winning and losing in a close race. And not just in these six states. Other PPP polls have shown that people in other states with close senate contests (like Colorado, Arkansas, and Georgia) also have significant majorities supporting a $10.10 an hour minimum wage.
Public Policy Polling interviewed 767 likely voters in Louisiana, 974 likely voters in North Carolina, 812 likely voters in Illinois, 659 likely voters in Iowa, 1,175 likely voters in Kentucky, and 841 likely voters in Wisconsin between October 10th and 12th. The margins of error for the surveys are +/-3.5% in Louisiana, +/-3.1% in North Carolina, +/- 3.4% in Illinois, +/-3.8% in Iowa, +/-2.9% in Kentucky, and +/-3.4% in Wisconsin.
There is a move among some atheist organizations right now to encourage people to refuse to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. I support this move, and I haven't said the pledge in many years now. Why? Does it mean I'm not patriotic? Of course not. Patriotism doesn't depend on reciting a few words.
I cannot bring myself to recite the pledge because of the phrase "one nation under god". For me, that would mean I pledge my support for the United States being a religious (and probably christian) nation -- and I cannot do that. This nation was founded as a secular nation and that's what it should remain -- because only a secular nation can guarantee religious freedom (which includes the freedom to not be religious).
The pledge has not always contained the offensive god phrase. It was written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy. Bellamy was both a Baptist minister and a socialist, but saw no need to include either politics or religion in the pledge. The pledge as he wrote it could be recited by any American -- regardless of their politics or religious views. It was not until 1954 (more than 60 years later) that the god phrase was inserted into the pledge -- turning it into something that millions of attests in America could no longer pledge.
The saddest thing about the current movement to not say the pledge is that many students are being punished by their teachers for refusing to stand and recite the pledge. That is ridiculous -- and it is unconstitutional. No student (or adult) in this country should be punished for exercising their right not to participate in what they consider a religious ritual -- especially in a public (government) school.
I know these teachers (and other christians) don't understand how offensive the word god can be to some people. But they need to ask themselves a question. Could they in good conscience recite the pledge if it contained the phrase "under allah" or "under satan"? I doubt it. I think they would find that far too offensive. They need to understand that the phrase "under god" is just as offensive to many atheists.
Why can't we just go back to the original pledge -- a pledge that anyone can recite without going against their conscience?
The chart above shows what the public has thought about whether it is good or bad for the White House to be in the same hands (or different hands) as Congress. There has really been remarkably small movement in the last decade -- with a pretty strong plurality (37%) believing it doesn't make any difference whether the two are controlled by the same political party or by different parties. About 30% believe it is better for both to be controlled by the same party -- and about 28% think it is better for them to be controlled by different parties.
I think it may not have been too bad in the past for the presidency and Congress to be controlled by different parties -- because both parties were willing to compromise for the good of the country, and the different controls just served to temper what one party could do. But things are different now.
The Republican Party has become an extremist organization -- a party that refuses to compromise on anything, and puts its own ideology over what is good for this country. Control of the House by these extremist Republicans has just resulted in a gridlocked government that can't accomplish anything.
These charts (made from a recent Gallup Poll done between September 4th and 7th of a random national sample of 1,017 adults, with a margin of error of 4 points) do point out an interesting, but unsurprising thing. When a party controls the White House, their base believes it is better for Congress to also be controlled by them -- but when the other party controls the White House, they think Congress should be controlled by a different party.
During the Bush administration about 45% of the Republicans thought both should be controlled by the same party. But when Obama became president, that dropped to only 26% (a difference of about 19 points). The same was true of Democrats. During the Bush administration only 28% said it was good for one party to control both -- but after Obama became president, that figure rose to 42% (a change of 14 points).
This chart (from vox.com) shows the radical change that has happened in this country in just the last few months. Currently it is legal for same-sex couples to get married in 31 states -- and will soon be in another 4 states (since a federal judge has overturned their bans, and their Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld that decision for other states).
That means the bans are still effective in only 15 states (those in gray on the map above) -- and they are just waiting for their own Circuit Court of Appeals to make a decision. It is unlikely those bans will be upheld, since the U.S. Supreme Court has already refused to overturn the unconstitutionality of the state bans.
There is still the possibility that a Circuit Court of Appeals could decide the bans are constitutional, but that would just force the Supreme Court to make a real decision -- and their recent refusal to hear a case on the matter shows there are probably at least five justices ready to vote the state bans unconstitutional. It has been a long fight to get equal rights for same-sex couples, but it looks like it may soon be over.
This is a good thing for the United States and all of its citizens -- because when equal rights are upheld for one individual or group, it is upheld for all Americans.
Saturday, October 18, 2014
For many months now, environmentalists have been fighting Big Oil over whether the Keystone XL Pipeline should be built in this country -- to transport oil from Canada to Texas. Republicans have been claiming the pipeline would create a huge number of new jobs and would help to lower our dependence on foreign oil (even though the oil comes from Canada). Those are lies. At best, the pipeline would create less than 200 permanent new jobs, and the oil was never meant for U.S. use -- but will be shipped overseas.
Those fighting the building of this pipeline noted that it cuts across the middle of this country, endangering much valuable farm and ranch land -- and was to be built over this nation's largest fresh-water aquifer (the Ogalalla Aquifer). Their argument was a valid one, and it never made much sense to put that much land and water in danger just to fill the pockets of some oil companies (with oil we were not even going to get to use).
I greatly admired those who were fighting against the building of the pipeline, but I have to admit that I thought they would probably lose in the end to the power of Big Oil and the federal government. It looks now like I was wrong about that. It seems that they have delayed the building of the pipeline long enough to kill it.
TransCanada, the company wanting the pipeline, has grown tired of waiting for the U.S. to make up its mind -- and they have requested an alternate route from the Canadian government. And the Canadian government, currently ruled by conservatives, has approved a pipeline route from Alberta ( the location of the tar sands oil) across eastern Canada to the Atlantic Ocean (see map above).
The question I have now is -- what is going to happen with the land stolen from landowners through the misuse of eminent domain (for the use of private corporations). Personally, I think that land should be immediately returned to the original owners.
The Democratic Party in Texas made an effort to get a lot of new voters registered this year -- and it looks like they may have at least partially succeeded. The Secretary of State for Texas has announced that current voter registration has topped 14 million for the first time (14,025,411) -- several hundred thousand more voters than were registered in 2012.
But it is too early to celebrate. The real question is how many voters will actually bother to vote in this election (including how many of those new registrants will vote). Texas traditionally has a very low turnout in off-year elections -- even though those are the elections in which we choose our statewide officials (including the governor). In the last off-year election (2010), only slightly more that 37% of registered voters actually voted -- and Texas has never had as many as 5 million people vote in an off-year election.
That has got to change if Democrats are to have a chance of winning.
NOTE -- The chart above was made with figures from the website of the Texas Secretary of State.
The article below is by Paul Buchheit and can be found at BUZZFLASH.com. He points to some of the things that have recently happened in our economy (and is still happening). And unless you are one of the super-rich, the article should make you very angry -- because it points out how you are getting screwed while the rich get much richer. Mr. Buchheit says:
It was recently reported that Americans greatly underestimate the degree of inequality in our country. If we were given proper media coverage of the endless takeaway of our country's wealth by the super-rich, we would be infuriated. And we would be taking it personally.
Each of nine individuals (Gates, Buffett, 2 Kochs, 4 Waltons, Zuckerberg) made, on average, so much from his/her investments since January, 2013 that a median American worker would need a quarter of a million years to catch up. For the most part it was passive income, new wealth derived from the continuing productivity of America's workers.
Why We Should Take It Personally
First, because our productivity is rewarding a relatively few people. In addition, many of the top money-makers are damaging other American lives. The top nine include four people (Waltons) who pay their employees so little that we taxpayers have to pay almost $6,000 a year to support each one of the employees. And it includes two people (Kochs) who have polluted our air and water to enrich themselves while quietly funding organizations that threaten to dismantle what's left of our democracy.
Another personal issue: While the Forbes 400 made almost enough in one year to fund the entire safety net, they don't even have to pay taxes on their half-trillion dollars of investment gain until they cash in, which may be never.
On Average, Most of Us Got ONE DOLLAR for Every BILLION DOLLARS of New Wealth
A look at the numbers compiled by Us Against Greed shows how personal it really is. Out of that $5,350,000,000,000 ($5.35 trillion) made since the start of 2013, the bottom 80 percent of America took an average of less than $5,000 each. The richest 6 to 20 percent fared better, taking an average of about $65,000.
Now it begins to heat up. From that $5.35 trillion, the richest 2 to 5 percent took an average of about $343,000. The one-percenters need to be split up into the rich, the super-rich, and the filthy-rich:
----The more common members of the one-percent (1,068,000 families) made over $1,000,000 each ($1,068 billion total)
----The .1 percent (108,000 families) made about $4 million each ($480 billion total)
----The .01 percent made about $40 million each ($480 billion total)
The unimaginably rich Forbes 400 each took, on average, almost $1,500,000,000 ($1.5 billion) since January, 2013.
That brings us to the Final 9 (Gates, Buffett, 2 Kochs, 4 Waltons, Zuckerberg). Each of them has accumulated, on average, over $13,000,000,000 ($13 billion) since January 2013.
Getting Billions for Working Less
A big reason to get angry: Our country's wealth grew from $64 trillion to $80 trillion (a 25 percent increase!) in two years, reflecting the unprecedented surge in America's productivity and wealth over the past few years. But there was little if any new innovation or job creation by these big takers over the past two years. The simple fact that they were already incomprehensibly rich allowed them to sit back and collect more and more and more.
Mainstream Media: Incompetent or In Bed with Business
And thus a final reason to be incensed about inequality: The fact that the regular media doesn't properly inform the public about all this. That should be their job, to report on issues that have a great impact on our lives, instead of hushing up the perversity of redistributed national wealth. But apparently it's good business for the super-rich media owners to keep their viewers harmlessly underestimating the truth.
Friday, October 17, 2014
When this $2 million is added to what was already raised, it comes to a total of $10.25 million raised so far. If any Democrat is considering a run against Hillary for the nomination (which I think would be a mistake), then they'd better get busy raising some money. They are already over $10 million behind (and the super-PAC's fund-raising is not going to slow).
The Republicans might want to start worrying about this also. I doubt Hillary is going to have to spend much to get the nomination (since an overwhelming majority of Democrats support her nomination), and that means a lot of this money can be saved for the general election in 2016.
(This caricature of Hillary Clinton is by DonkeyHotey.)
The Republicans have been successful in convincing a large part of the American population that the United States cannot afford to fulfill its obligations to our children, our unemployed, and our poor and disadvantaged citizens. They have used this to cut social programs to the bone, and they want even more cuts. They want to spend even less to fund education, feed the hungry, help the poor, or create new jobs.
This doesn't mean they actually want to spend less though. They just want to use the money to cut taxes for the rich, provide more subsidies for corporations (so even more of them could avoid paying taxes), and funnel more money into the corporations of the military-industrial complex -- and to build up our military presence in the world to force other nations to accept American policies (even though we already have over 800 military bases around the world).
The charts above, from Credit Suisse, show the Republicans are lying to us. The United States is still the richest nation on earth -- and we could easily afford to spend adequate money to solve our social problems, and still have enough to defend this nation. All we need to do is ask the rich to pay taxes on their income as earned income (rather than the much lower capital gains rate), ask the corporations to pay their fair share of taxes (like they used to do), and cut back some on our military spending (Do we need 800 foreign military bases?).
We have the wealth and income to fulfill our social obligations (and make a big dent in world poverty and hunger). We just lack the political will. We lack it because our population fell for the economic con game of "trickle-down" put in place by the Republicans. That policy caused a serious recession and killed millions of jobs in this country, and now the GOP is trying to convince us that we just need to keep that failed policy -- and cut programs that help people to do that. That is just not true. We have the resources, but just need to spend it in the right places (helping Americans instead of letting the rich and the corporations off the hook for taxes, and spending even more on an already bloated military budget).
But while we are still the richest nation on earth, that does not mean all Americans are well-off. We have one of the most unequal distributions of income in the world. The chart below is from the U.S. Census Bureau, and it shows just how out of whack our income distribution is in this country. Note that the bottom 20% of our population (about 65 million people) must survive on only about 3.2% of the nation's total income. But the top 20% get to divide up more than half of the nation's total income.
And it's continues to get more unequal. Note that in the last 10 years the top 20% of income earners increased their share of the nation's total income, while the bottom 80% all must now divide a smaller share of that total income. This is because the Republican "trickle-down" economic policy has tilted the economic playing field to favor the rich and corporations -- and hurt all other Americans.
How much longer will we put up with this growing inequality? How much longer will we fail to live up to our obligation to help the less advantaged in this country? We have a chance in next month's election to make a start in fixing this mess -- by voting the Republicans out of power. And it's time to do just that.
Many conservatives in this country consider the term "progressive" a dirty word, and likewise, many progressives think the same of the term "conservative". This brings up the question of what the general public in the United States thinks. Do they consider these terms to be either positive or negative? What about the term "moderate"?
The folks at the Rasmussen Poll decided to find out. They surveyed 1,000 likely voters on October 13th and 14th, and their survey had a margin of error of 3 points. They asked the respondents if the considered the terms "progressive", "conservative", and "moderate" to be positive or negative (or neither). I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised at the poll's results.
We have been told over and over in the last few years by the Republicans, and their cohorts in the media, that this is a conservative country -- and that most in the public look down on progressives (liberals). But that is not what this survey found. It turns out that 31% consider "conservative" to be a positive label (while 25% consider it to be negative) -- and 30% consider "progressive" to be positive (while 28% say it is negative). Those numbers are within the poll's margin of error -- which means the public consider those terms to be equally positive and negative.
This is good news for progressives. I seriously doubt these numbers would have been equal 10 years ago. I believe this shows that many in this country are turning away from the right-wing -- and if they are not moving to the left, they are at least moving back to the middle.