Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Richest Cabinet In History

President Obama Finishes Term With High Approval Ratings

While Donald Trump is struggling with the lowest approval ratings for any president-elect since the question has been polled, President Obama is finishing his tern on a high note. He is currently enjoying a job approval ratings that is approved of by a majority of the American people (an average approval rating of 55.3% to a disapproval rating of only 40.8% -- a positive difference of 14.5 points).

The numbers above are from RealClearPolitics.

The Wrong Way

Political Cartoon is by Tom Janssen at

Trump Just Knifed GOP In The Back On Obamacare Repeal

(Cartoon image is by Pat Bagley in the Salt Lake Tribune.)

Donald Trump is incapable of keeping his mouth shut. And his latest bout of bragging has placed a knife squarely in the back of congressional Republicans. It concerns the GOP's plan to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a "plan" of their own.

In an interview last weekend, Trump made the American people some promises. He said that the plan to replace Obamacare (which he claims is nearly ready) will "have insurance for everybody", will be "much less expensive", and will have "much lower deductibles". He also promised to allow Medicare and Medicaid to negotiate drug prices with the drug companies.

That has to be blowing the minds of congressional Republicans, because they weren't planning to deliver on any of those promises. All of the GOP plans floated, none of which has garnered majority support among Republicans, do not deliver on any of Trump's promises.

The GOP wants to offer "universal access", which is far different from universal coverage. Universal access simply means any American can buy health insurance (if they have the money to pay for it). But Trump promised insurance for everyone, which is universal coverage.

If everyone is covered, costs are lowered, and deductibles lowered, then the Trump plan would cost more than Obamacare. And that would mean the Republicans couldn't follow through on their promise to cut taxes massively for corporations and the rich without ballooning the national deficit and debt.

But a promise is a promise, and Trump has put the GOP on record now as promising universal coverage that will be cheaper and have lower deductibles. If they don't deliver that, the public is going to want to know why not -- and they are going to hold it against them in the next election (and you can be sure the Democrats won't let anyone forget).

It'll be interesting to see how the Republicans try to weasel their way out of Trump's promises.

Trump's Jokes

Political Cartoon is by Randall Enos at

Trump Set To Violate The Constitution On Day One

(Cartoon image is by Joel Pett in the Lexington Herald-Leader.)

From John Dean (Nixon administration White House counsel):

“I don’t think Richard Nixon even comes to close to the level of corruption we already know about Trump.”
The following article is by Richard W. Painter in the New York Times. Painter was the chief White House ethics lawyer from 2005 to 2007 (during the administration of Bush II).

On Wednesday, President-elect Donald J. Trump finally announced his plans to “separate” himself from his global business empire when he assumes the presidency next Friday. His plans were announced in the midst of worrisome news around the world, including renewed terrorist attacks in the Middle East, rising tensions in the South China Sea and Mr. Trump’s belated admission that the Russian government had conducted espionage activities inside the United States.
This was his moment to announce a plan to separate himself from ownership interest in his global business empire. It was his final chance to disclose the identity of, and unwind his relationships with, his business partners and creditors around the globe.
The plan Mr. Trump announced on Wednesday does none of these things. As expected, he continues to refuse to release his tax returns, even though many of his cabinet nominees will have to disclose theirs in order to get confirmed by senators skeptical of, among other things, foreign business entanglements. He also did not announce a divestment of ownership interest in his businesses, even though this is a step that his own cabinet appointees will have to take in order to comply with a federal conflict of interest law.
Instead, Mr. Trump will simply turn management of the businesses over to a trustee chosen by him, and to two of his sons, Donald Jr. and Eric. This is not a separation at all, and from a conflict of interest vantage point, it won’t work.
First, if Mr. Trump continues to own the businesses, he will continue to receive payments they earn from dealings with foreign governments. Most if not all of these payments will violate the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which expressly forbids anyone in public office from receiving any gifts, salary or profits of any kind from transactions with foreign governments without the consent of Congress. Apart from exceptions already set forth in the Foreign Gifts and Decorations Act, Congress, even though now controlled by Republicans, has shown no appetite for making further exceptions.
Absent such consent from Congress, President Trump will be in violation of the Constitution as of next Friday with respect to, among other things, loans from foreign-government-controlled banks, leases of Trump office space to foreign-government-controlled companies, foreign governments and diplomats renting rooms in Trump hotels and any investments that are made alongside foreign sovereign wealth funds. The plan announced on Wednesday does nothing to fix this problem because if President Trump still owns the businesses, or he is the beneficiary of a trust that owns the businesses, he receives the economic benefit — the “emolument” — from all of these transactions.
The only concession that Mr. Trump made on this issue in his news conference was a proposal to donate “profits” made by his hotels from foreign governments to the United States government. He failed to address the fact that foreign government money likely permeates his entire business empire, not just the hotels, and that he has no plan to stop receiving these payments that will become unconstitutional at noon next Friday.
Second, apart from a promise not to enter into any “new” deals outside the United States, Mr. Trump’s plan does nothing to fix the serious conflicts of interest and global security threats posed by his existing business relationships with politicians and politically connected businessmen around the world. He also does not address his ownership and licensing rights in properties — including the use of the Trump name. Shockingly, the president-elect did not even mention the grave risk posed to the people who live and work in these buildings, which are likely to be prime terrorist targets because they carry the name of the president of the United States. Taking his name off these buildings would greatly reduce this security risk, but that would cost Mr. Trump his licensing profits, so he won’t do it. Who will pay for increased security for these buildings — foreign governments, the United States government or the Trump organization — is an unanswered question.
Third, and perhaps most dangerous to our national security, our president could be beholden, and indebted, to undisclosed lenders and other investors around the world. These relationships are not revealed on Mr. Trump’s financial disclosure form, which lists only his personal liabilities, and he won’t release his tax returns, which would tell us a lot more. If Mr. Trump’s businesses were to be sold, these entanglements would go away, but Mr. Trump won’t sell.
Imagine where we would have been in December 1941 if President Franklin D. Roosevelt had owned office towers in Berlin and Frankfurt, licensing agreements in Munich and Tokyo and a hotel in the Philippines. The world today is still a dangerous place, and we are entitled to a president who can protect the interests of our country free of personal financial conflicts of interest. What we heard on Wednesday did nothing to reassure Americans in the face of clear evidence that Mr. Trump will take office on Jan. 20 with more conflicts of interest than any president in history.


Political Cartoon is by Mike Stanfill at

Compassionate ?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017


Swamp Creatures

Political Cartoon is by Monte Wolverton at

Trump Is Still The Most Unpopular Pre-Inauguration Prez

Just more evidence that Donald Trump has no mandate. A new Gallup Poll shows that he is, by far, the most unpopular president elected just before the inauguration. Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton were all viewed favorably by a significant majority of Americans preceding their inaugurations. Donald Trump is viewed unfavorably by a significant majority of the population. This gives him less authority to advance his policies than any of the last three presidents.

These charts are from the Gallup Poll -- done between January 4th and 8th of a random national sample of 1,032 adults, and has a margin of error of 4 points.

Killing Children

Political Cartoon is by Ranier Hachfeld at

Public Disagrees With Trump On Russia (And Putin)

Donald Trump seems to have a favorable opinion of Russia, and it strongman -- Vladimir Putin. But a majority of the American public disagrees with his assessment. About 54% of Americans view Russia as a major threat to the United States.

Surprisingly though, only 41% of Republicans see Russia as a major threat -- about 17% less than held that view just three years ago. Have they been seduced by Russia's help to elect their presidential nominee? Or are they just blindly accepting Trump's views?

Maybe they have just foolishly accepted the myth that the cold war is over. If so, they are wrong. While the Soviet Union no longer exists, its major member (Russia) does -- and it continues to oppose U.S. and Western interests around the world. Russia's leader is former KGB, and regardless of what he says publicly, still views the United States as an enemy.

Frankly, Trump's view of Russia and Putin worries me. The U.S. has opposed Russian aggression since World War II, and acted as a check on the expansion of Russia and its influence. Is that policy going to change now to one of appeasement? That's a distinct possibility, since Trump views the world more in economic terms (possibility of business profits) than political terms (protection of emerging and established democracies). A policy of appeasement may or may not be good for business interests, but it will definitely increase Russia's aggression throughout the world.

Trump's assessment of Putin is also not aired by the public (see chart below), and that even includes members of Trump's own party. While a larger share of Republicans view Putin favorably than either Democrats (11%) or the general public (19%), it is a small percentage (27%). Trump may trust Putin, but American's don't.

These charts are from a recent Pew Research Center survey -- done between January 4th and 9th of a random national sample of 1,502 adults, and has a 2.9 point margin of error.


Political Cartoon is by John Graham at

Wealth Inequality Grows Larger In The World (And U.S.)

(The cartoon image is from

The charity Oxfam has released its very disturbing 2017 report of poverty and inequality in the world.  A summary of the report is below, along with the causes for it and the myths that contribute to those causes. It's well worth reading.

It is four years since the World Economic Forum identified rising economic inequality as a major threat to social stability,1 and three years since the World Bank twinned its goal for ending poverty with the need for shared prosperity.2 Since then, and despite world leaders signing up to a global goal to reduce inequality, the gap between the rich and the rest has widened. This cannot continue. As President Obama told the UN General Assembly in his departing speech in September 2016: ‘A world where 1% of humanity controls as much wealth as the bottom 99% will never be stable.’

Yet the global inequality crisis continues unabated:
  • Since 2015, the richest 1% has owned more wealth than the rest of the planet.3
  • Eight men now own the same amount of wealth as the poorest half of the world.4
  • Over the next 20 years, 500 people will hand over $2.1 trillion to their heirs a sum larger than the GDP of India, a country of 1.3 billion people.5
  • The incomes of the poorest 10% of people increased by less than $3 a year between 1988 and 2011, while the incomes of the richest 1% increased 182 times as much.6
  • A FTSE-100 CEO earns as much in a year as 10,000 people in working in garment factories in Bangladesh.7
  • In the US, new research by economist Thomas Piketty shows that over the last 30 years the growth in the incomes of the bottom 50% has been zero, whereas incomes of the top 1% have grown 300%.8
  • In Vietnam, the country’s richest man earns more in a day than the poorest person earns in 10 years.9

    Left unchecked, growing inequality threatens to pull our societies apart. It increases crime and insecurity, and undermines the fight to end poverty.10 It leaves more people living in fear and fewer in hope.

    From Brexit to the success of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, a worrying rise in racism and the widespread disillusionment with mainstream politics, there are increasing signs that more and more people in rich countries are no longer willing to tolerate the status quo. Why would they, when experience suggests that what it delivers is wage stagnation, insecure jobs and a widening gap between the haves and the have-nots? The challenge is to build a positive alternative not one that increases divisions.

    The picture in poor countries is equally complex and no less concerning. Hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty in recent decades, an achievement of which the world should be proud. Yet one in nine people still go to bed hungry.11 Had growth been pro-poor between 1990 and 2010, 700 million more people, most of them women, would not be living in poverty today.12 Research finds that three-quarters of extreme poverty could in fact be eliminated now using existing resources, by increasing taxation and cutting down on military and other regressive spending.13 The World Bank is clear that without redoubling their efforts to tackle inequality, world leaders will miss their goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030.14 

There is no getting away from the fact that the biggest winners in our global economy are those at the top. Oxfam’s research has revealed that over the last 25 years, the top 1% have gained more income than the bottom 50% put together.15 Far from trickling down, income and wealth are being sucked upwards at an alarming rate. What is causing this? Corporations and super-rich individuals both play a key role.

Corporations, working for those at the top

Big businesses did well in 2015/16: profits are high and the world’s 10 biggest corporations together have revenue greater than the government revenue of 180 countries combined.16

Businesses are the lifeblood of a market economy, and when they work to the benefit of everyone they are vital to building fair and prosperous societies. But when corporations increasingly work for the rich, the benefits of economic growth are denied to those who need them most. In pursuit of delivering high returns to those at the top, corporations are driven to squeeze their workers and producers ever harder and to avoid paying taxes which would benefit everyone, and the poorest people in particular.

Squeezing workers and producers

While many chief executives, who are often paid in shares, have seen their incomes skyrocket, wages for ordinary workers and producers have barely increased, and in some cases have got worse. The CEO of India’s top information firm earns 416 times the salary of a typical employee in his company.17 In the 1980s, cocoa farmers received 18% of the value of a chocolate bar today they get just 6%.18 In extreme cases, forced labour or slavery can be used to keep corporate costs down. The International Labour Organization estimates that 21 million people are forced labourers, generating an estimated $150bn in profits each year.19 The world’s largest garment companies have all been linked to cotton- spinning mills in India, which routinely use the forced labour of girls.20 The lowest-paid workers in the most precarious conditions are predominantly women and girls.21 Across the world, corporations are relentlessly squeezing down the costs of labour and ensuring that workers and producers in their supply chains get less and less of the economic pie. This increases inequality and suppresses demand.

Dodging tax

Corporations maximize profit in part by paying as little tax as possible. They do this by using tax havens or by making countries compete to provide tax breaks, exemptions and lower rates. Corporate tax rates are falling all over the world, and this together with widespread tax dodging ensures that many corporations are paying minimal tax. Apple allegedly paid 0.005% of tax on its European profits in 2014.22 Developing countries lose $100bn every year to tax dodging.23 Countries lose billions more through providing tax holidays and exemptions. It is the poorest people who lose out the most, as they are most reliant on the public services that these forgone billions could have provided. Kenya is losing $1.1bn every year in tax exemptions for corporations, nearly twice its budget for health this in a country where women have a 1 in 40 chance of dying in childbirth.24 What is driving this behaviour by corporates? Two things: the focus on short-term returns to shareholders and the increase in ‘crony capitalism’.

Super-charged shareholder capitalism

In many parts of the world, corporations are increasingly driven by a single goal: to maximize returns to their shareholders. This means not only maximizing short-term profits, but paying out an ever-greater share of these profits to the people who own them. In the UK, 10% of profits were returned to shareholders in 1970; this figure is now 70%.26 In India, the figure is lower but is growing rapidly, and for many corporations it is now higher than 50%.27 This has been criticized by many, including Larry Fink, CEO of Blackrock (the world’s largest asset manager)28 and Andrew Haldane, Chief Economist at the Bank of England.29 The increased return to shareholders works for the rich, because the majority of shareholders are among the richest in society, increasing inequality. Institutional investors, like pension funds, own ever-smaller shares in corporations. Thirty years ago, pension funds owned 30% of shares in the UK; now they own only 3%.30 Every dollar of profit given to the shareholders of corporations is a dollar that could have been spent paying producers or workers more, paying more tax, or investing in infrastructure or innovation. 

Crony capitalism

As documented by Oxfam in An Economy for the 1%,31 corporations from many sectors finance, extractives, garment manufacturers, pharmaceuticals and others use their huge power and influence to ensure that regulations and national and international policies are shaped in ways that enable continued profitability. For example, oil corporations in Nigeria have managed to secure generous tax breaks.32

Even the technology sector, once seen as a sector that is relatively above board, is increasingly linked to charges of cronyism. Alphabet, the parent company of Google, has become one of the biggest lobbyists in Washington and is in constant negotiations in Europe over anti-trust rules and tax.33 Crony capitalism benefits the rich, the people who own and run these corporations, at the expense of the common good and of poverty reduction. It means that smaller businesses struggle to compete and ordinary people end up paying more for goods and services as they face cartels and monopoly power of corporations and those with close connections with government. The world’s third richest man, Carlos Slim, controls approximately 70% of all mobile phone services and 65% of fixed lines in Mexico, costing 2% of GDP.34 

The role of the super-rich in the inequality crisis

By any measure, we are living in the age of the super-rich, a second ‘gilded age’ in which a glittering surface masks social problems and corruption. Oxfam’s analysis of the super- rich includes all those individuals with a net worth of at least $1bn. The 1,810 dollar billionaires on the 2016 Forbes list, 89% of whom are men, own $6.5 trillion as much wealth as the bottom 70% of humanity.35 While some billionaires owe their fortunes predominantly to hard work and talent, Oxfam’s analysis of this group finds that one-third of the world’s billionaire wealth is derived from inherited wealth, while 43% can be linked to cronyism.36 

Once a fortune is accumulated or acquired it develops a momentum of its own. The super-rich have the money to spend on the best investment advice, and the wealth held by the super-rich since 2009 has increased by an average of 11% per year. This is a rate of accumulation far higher than ordinary savers are able to obtain. Whether via hedge funds or warehouses full of fine art and vintage cars,38 the highly secretive industry of wealth management has been hugely successful in increasing the prosperity of the super- rich. The fortune of Bill Gates has risen 50% or $25bn since he left Microsoft in 2006, despite his commendable efforts to give much of it away.39 If billionaires continue to secure these returns, we could see the world’s first trillionaire in 25 years. In such an environment, if you are already rich you have to try hard not to keep getting a lot richer.

The huge fortunes we see at the very top of the wealth and income spectrum are clear evidence of the inequality crisis and are hindering the fight to end extreme poverty. But the super-rich are not just benign recipients of the increasing concentration of wealth. They are actively perpetuating it.
One way this happens is through their investments. As some of the biggest shareholders (particularly in private equity and hedge funds), the wealthiest members of society are huge beneficiaries of the shareholder worship that is warping the behaviour of corporations.

Avoiding tax, buying politics

Paying as little tax as possible is a key strategy for many of the super-rich.41 To do this they make active use of the secretive global network of tax havens, as revealed by the Panama Papers and other exposés. Countries compete to attract the super-rich, selling their sovereignty. Super-rich tax exiles have a wide choice of destinations worldwide. For an investment of at least £2m, you can buy the right to live, work and buy property in the UK and benefit from generous tax breaks. In Malta, a major tax haven, you can buy full citizenship for $650,000. Gabriel Zucman has estimated that $7.6 trillion of wealth is hidden offshore.42 Africa alone loses $14bn in tax revenues due to the super-rich using tax havens Oxfam has calculated this would be enough to pay for the healthcare that could save the lives of four million children and to employ enough teachers to get every African child into school. Tax rates on wealth and on top incomes have continued to fall across the rich world. In the US, the top rate of income tax was 70% as recently as 1980; it is now 40%.43 In the developing world, taxation on the rich is lower still: Oxfam’s research shows that the average top rate is 30% on incomes, and the majority is never collected.44

Many of the super-rich also use their power, influence and connections to capture politics and ensure that the rules are written for them. Billionaires in Brazil lobby to reduce taxes,45 and in São Paulo would prefer to use helicopters to get to work, flying over the traffic jams and broken infrastructure below.46 Some of the super-rich also use their fortunes to help buy the political outcomes they want, seeking to influence elections and public policy. The Koch brothers, two of the richest men in the world, have had a huge influence over conservative politics in the US, supporting many influential think tanks and the Tea Party movement47 and contributing heavily to discrediting the case for action on climate change. This active political influencing by the super-rich and their representatives directly drives greater inequality by constructing ‘reinforcing feedback loops’ in which the winners of the game get yet more resources to win even bigger next time.48 


The current economy of the 1% is built on a set of false assumptions which lie behind many of the policies, investments and activities of governments, business and wealthy individuals, and which fail people living in poverty and society more broadly. Some of these assumptions are about economics itself. Some are more about the dominant view of economics described by its creators as ‘neoliberalism’, which wrongly assumes that wealth created at the top will ‘trickle down’ to everyone else. The IMF has identified neoliberalism as a key cause of growing inequality.50 Unless we tackle these false assumptions, we will be unable to turn the situation around.

  1. False assumption #1: The market is always right, and the role of governments should be minimized. In reality, the market has failed to prove itself the best way of organizing and valuing much of our common life or designing our common future. We have seen how corruption and cronyism distort markets at the expense of ordinary people and how the excessive growth of the financial sector exacerbates inequality. Privatization of public services such as health, education or water has been shown to exclude the poor, and especially women.
  2. False assumption #2: Corporations need to maximize profits and returns to shareholders at all costs. Maximizing profits disproportionately boosts the incomes of the already rich while putting unnecessary pressure on workers, farmers, consumers, suppliers, communities and the environment. Instead, there are many more constructive ways to organize businesses that contribute to greater prosperity for all, and plenty of existing examples of how to do this.
  3. False assumption #3: Extreme individual wealth is benign and a sign of success, and inequality is not relevant. Instead, the emergence of a new gilded age, with vast amounts of wealth concentrated in too few hands – the majority male – is economically inefficient, politically corrosive, and undermines our collective progress. A more equal distribution of wealth is necessary.
  4. False assumption #4: GDP growth should be the primary goal of policy making. Yet as Robert Kennedy said in 1968: ‘GDP measures everything except that which makes life worthwhile.’ GDP fails to count the huge amount of unpaid work done by women across the world. It fails to take into account inequality, meaning that a country like Zambia can have high GDP growth at a time when the number of poor people actually increased.
  5. False assumption #5: Our economic model is gender-neutral. In fact, cuts in public services, job security and labour rights hurt women most. Women are disproportionately in the least secure and lowest-paid jobs and they also do most of the unpaid care work – which is not counted in GDP, but without which our economies would not function.
  6. False assumption #6: Our planet’s resources are limitless. This is not only a false assumption, but one which could lead to catastrophic consequences for our planet. Our economic model is based on exploiting our environment and ignoring the limits of what our planet can bear. It is an economic system that is a major driver of runaway climate change.
These six assumptions need to be overturned, and fast. They are outdated, backward- looking, and have failed to deliver both shared prosperity and stability. They are driving us off a cliff. An alternative way of running our economy a human economy is needed urgently. 

Special Treatment ?

Political Cartoon is by Barry Deutsch at


Monday, January 16, 2017

Victim ?

It's 3 a.m.

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

Republicans Spend $1.4 Million To Lie To Americans

(Cartoon image is by Adam Zyglis in The Buffalo News.)

Congressional Republicans are getting nervous about their plan to dismantle Obamacare. Many of them are now afraid that their repeated lies about Obamacare will be exposed once the plan is repealed. They could just abandon their nefarious plan and fix Obamacare (which is what the public really wants), but that would make too much sense. Instead, they have chosen another option.

They have decided that the answer is more propaganda. A group affiliated with the GOP (American Action Network) is spending $1.4 million dollars on advertisements on television and digital media. They are advertising the Republican plan that will replace Obamacare. The ads claim that plan has "more choices", "better care", and "lower costs".

There is only one thing wrong with this approach -- it's advertising a plan that DOES NOT EXIST! The congressional Republicans have been trying to come up with a plan to replace Obamacare for years now, and have been unable to do that. And they are no closer to developing a plan now than in the past.

There is only one way to describe the new GOP advertising campaign -- it is a LIE!

Trophy Catch

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

Public Supports Insurance Subsidies (& A Public Option)

The Republicans in Congress are quickly acting to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), or at least defund it (which would effectively kill it). They have been lying about the program since it was passed, but what they still fail to realize is that most Americans don't want the program repealed. People understand that the program is not perfect, and most just want it fixed -- not repealed.

One aspect of Obamacare that Republican officials dislike the most is the providing of subsidies to help Americans buy health insurance. Once Obamacare is defunded, or repealed, this aspect would disappear -- and over 20 million Americans would lose the health insurance they have been able to get under Obamacare.

But the public does not want the subsidies to disappear. As the chart above shows, most Americans are in favor of providing government subsidies to help low income (and middle class) people buy the health insurance they need. Only a tiny minority opposes these subsidies.

And a majority of the public also supports something else that congressional Republicans oppose -- a public option for insurance to compete with private insurance (see chart below).

The Republicans are playing with fire in their efforts to repeal Obamacare, and they may find they will get burned.

These charts were made from information contained in a new Economist / YouGov Poll -- done between January 7th and 10th of a random national sample of 1,424 adults (including 1,237 registered voters), and has a margin of error of 3.1 points.

Germaphobe ?

Political Cartoon is by Nate Beeler in The Columbus Dispatch.

"Right To Work" - A Comparison Of Two States

For years now, the Republicans have been trying to claim that "right to work" laws are good for American workers. To put it mildly, that is a ridiculous lie. Those laws are good only for corporations (and other businesses that want to hurt labor unions, and actually hurt workers.

Ross Eisenbrey and Teresa Kroeger at the Economic Policy Institute have written an excellent article comparing two states -- Indiana (which has a "right to work" law) and New Hampshire (which does not). Here is what they had to say:

In 2011 and 2012 two states, New Hampshire and Indiana, debated the same bill: so-called “right-to-work” legislation, pushed by corporate lobbyists and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), designed to weaken unions financially and pave the way for greater corporate dominance of state politics. New Hampshire’s governor vetoed the bill in 2011. Indiana, by contrast, enacted it in 2012. It is instructive to compare the two states. By almost any measure, the economy of New Hampshire is stronger and its citizens are better off, on average, than the citizens of Indiana. Right-to-work did not improve the Indiana economy relative to New Hampshire’s, and no one should be fooled into thinking that passing right-to-work now will improve the New Hampshire economy.
So-called “right-to-work” laws prohibits unions and employers from agreeing to collective bargaining agreements that require employees covered by the agreement to pay their fair share of the costs of negotiating and enforcing it. The only right that “right-to-work” creates is the right for free riders to get the benefit of higher union wages and protections against unfair discipline without contributing any dues or fees for that privilege.
EPI published two reports critical of the New Hampshire legislation, one in 2011 and another in 2012, pointing out that the only real purpose and effects of these laws are lowering wages and weakening unions. As the figure above suggests, such laws do nothing to create jobs, and they don’t give anyone a right to work, but they are associated with lower wages—lower on average by more than 3 percent, or $1,500 per worker.
Now, New Hampshire’s legislature is once again debating a right-to-work bill. The bill’s sponsors make claims it will improve New Hampshire’s business climate and bring new jobs to the state, but there is no truth to this. Job growth in Indiana since it passed right-to-work has been no better than in New Hampshire.
At 2.7 percent, New Hampshire has the nation’s lowest unemployment rate. Indiana’s unemployment rate is 4.2 percent.
Wages are far higher in New Hampshire than Indiana. The median hourly wage was $16.50 in Indiana and $19.17 in New Hampshire over the first 11 months of 2016. The mean hourly wage was $21.27 in Indiana but $25.21 in New Hampshire.
New Hampshire has the lowest poverty rate in the country: 8.2 percent. Indiana’s poverty rate is 14.5 percent, and ranked 26th. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis, in 2015, Indiana had a per capita personal income (PCPI) of $41,940. This PCPI ranked 36th in the United States and was 87 percent of the national average, $48,112.  New Hampshire’s per capita income was 33 percent higher than Indiana’s: $55,905, ranked 9th in the nation, and 116 percent of the national average.
It is important to consider whether right-to-work is somehow an advantage to a state with regard to the economy of the future, which most economists agree will be a knowledge-driven economy. The Kauffman Foundation and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation have been ranking states in a New Economy Index for many years based on factors such as economic dynamism, employment in high-value-added manufacturing, educational attainment of the workforce, and technological innovation capacity. Measured before and after Indiana passed its right to work law, Indiana’s rank fell from 35th in the nation in 2010 to 38th in 2014. New Hampshire ranked number 11 in both 2010 and 2014. Only two of the top 15 states are right-to-work. . . .
Simply put, there’s no rationale for passing this legislation, except to weaken unions politically and decrease the ability of workers to bargain for higher wages and stronger workplace protections.

Not To Be Trusted

Political Cartoon is by Kevin Siers in the Charlotte Observer.

Pathological Liars

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Three Wishes


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

Public Opinion Of 115th Congress Is As Low As The 114th

The public didn't like the 114th Congress, giving them low ratings throughout the two-year term. If Republicans, who control both houses of Congress, were hoping the 115th Congress would be viewed differently, then they are in for a big disappointment. It seems that the American public has just as low an opinion of the new Congress as they did the old one.

This is verified by two new polls -- YouGov gives Congress an approval rating of 12%, while Gallup gives them an approval rating of 19%. And in both polls, that low approval stretches across all political groups.

The Economist / YouGov Poll was done between January 7th and 10th of a random national sample of 1,424 adults (including 1,237 registered voters), and has a margin of error of 3.1 points.

The Gallup Poll was done between January 4th and 8th of a random national sample of 1,032 adults, and has a margin of error of 4 points.


Political Cartoon is by Nick Anderson in the Houston Chronicle.

Obama Will Be Viewed In History As A Good President

How will President Obama go down in history -- as a good or bad president. A new poll shows that 47% think he will be remembered as an outstanding or above average president, and 18% think he will be viewed as average. Only 35% say he will be viewed as a below average or poor president.

That puts him about in the middle of the pack for modern presidents. Kennedy, Reagan, Eisenhower, and Clinton are rated higher. And Bush I, Johnson, Ford, Carter, Bush II, and Nixon are rated lower. Many of those presidents have the advantage of time having passed though, and it's very possible that after a few more years the opinion of President Obama will grow even higher.

The numbers are from a recent Gallup Poll -- done between January 4th and 8th of a random national sample of 1,032 adults, and has a 4 point margin of error.

From Justice To Just-Us

Political Cartoon is by Andy Marlette in the Pensacola News-Journal.

Chomsky Comments On Trump And "Post-Fact" World

(This illustration of Noam Chomsky is from

The following is part of an interview Noam Chomsky gave to Sam Fragoso in Pacific Standard a few days ago:

Earlier this year you said about Trump, “We don’t know what’s in his mind. I suspect he doesn’t know what’s in his mind. It’s, as far as we know, pretty vacuous.” Given your study of presidents and the people that elect them what about a vacuous person, someone whose politics are objectively nebulous, do you think appeals to voters?
He’s kind of a con man. He was able to say things to a sector of the population that, in a way, articulated their own concerns and feelings, and did it pretty effectively. To what extent that reflects his own views, to the extent that he has views, is very hard to say.
For example, compare his rhetoric with his cabinet appointments. His rhetoric [when] talking to working people was that he’s anti-establishment, he’s going to confront Wall Street, he’s going to be in favor of the little guy, and so on. But what are his cabinet appointments? A guy [Steven Mnuchin] — the main one, secretary of treasury — with many years of service with Goldman Sachs? He says he’s going to bring back jobs and coal and manufacturing. How’s he going to do that? By picking a secretary of labor[Andrew F. Puzder] who’s very anti-labor. That’s the way it’s going to work?
It’s not that he’s vacuous, that’s a mistake. He has some consistent commitments. One of them, and probably the most dangerous, is to end the efforts to try to deal with the most significant problem we face, how to confront the very urgent and serious problem of environmental catastrophe. We don’t have a long time to deal with that. That’s urgent, and he wants to retard it.
The U.S. now has, literally, thanks to him and the Republican Party, the worst position in the world on this issue. Just at the same time as the American election, there was a conference in Morocco of about 200 countries trying to implement in specific ways the general commitments that were made at the Paris negotiations. It came that the conference basically collapsed as soon as the elections took place. It turned into a pretty depressed discussion about whether the international project could even continue with the world’s most powerful state trying to undermine and destroy it.
If you look at his fiscal programs, they’ve pretty consistently called for sharp tax cuts for the very rich and for the corporate sector, with various comments on how he’d compensate for this. It looks like a typical Paul Ryan-style program of enriching the very wealthy and the powerful in the corporate sector, while the rest of the population just takes a hit. That’s hardly the way in which he appealed to his white, working-class voters.
For the voters that chose him, who believe in him — because there are people who sincerely believe in him — what state does this country have to get in for them to see that perhaps Trump doesn’t have their best interests at heart?
Well, that’s what we’ll soon see. In fact, let’s take a look back a few years. Many of the Trump voters voted for Obama in 2008. They were seduced by his rhetorical commitment to hope and change. As you recall, the slogan of the 2008 election was “Hope and Change,” and there were plenty of working-class people, middle-class people, in fact the majority of the population, who had been pretty badly hurt by 25 years, maybe 30 years of neo-liberal policies. They have every right to call for change and to call for hope, so they voted for Obama. They pretty soon found that there was no relevant change and not much hope. Now they’re voting for someone else who is calling for hope and change. “I’m going to make America great again. I’m going to change the things that are harming you.” How?
What’ll happen, to get to your question, is when they find, with him, that there’s little hope and not much change, there could be a number of possibilities, some of them pretty ugly. One of them would be a standard move that’s made by authoritarian figures and authoritarian structures when the promises to their constituency can’t be fulfilled, mainly scapegoating. “Let’s blame it on people who are even more vulnerable and who are suffering even more than you are. Let’s make it their fault.”
He’s already done plenty of this. “Make it the fault of immigrants, the fault of welfare cheats and Reagan’s trick, bad people, Muslims. Let’s make it their fault.” That can lead to pretty ugly consequences. We’ve seen that in the past over and over. Another possibility is that a constructive alternative could be developed by progressive forces, maybe the kind that mobilized for the Bernie Sanders campaign, and that could lead to real policies of hope and change. Real ones, not fake ones, which could bring in more of those people.
You’ve been part of the education system for over 65 years. Do you think this country is creating more curious and inquisitive people — students — now in 2016, than in the past?
No. I wish I could say yes. It’s a mixed story, of course, but the major thrust in educational policy has been to turn the educational system into something more controlled, more test-oriented, more directed away from free inquiry and understanding to regurgitation of what you’ve learned and following orders and passivity. Also, the public education system is very much underfunded and under attack under Trump’s choice for the secretary of education [Betsy DeVos], who is someone who actually opposes the public education system.
One of the major contributions, historically, of the U.S. to democracy is under attack, and in the Trump administration will probably be under more severe attack. I think there has not been a move in the direction that you indicate and that I think would be appropriate. In fact, if anything, I think perhaps the opposite.
You think the opposite is true?
The opposite would be training for passivity and obedience and regurgitation of facts that you’ve learned, but not encouraging free inquiry, creativity, efforts for children and students in general to develop their own capacities in ways that conform to their interests, their hopes, their possibilities for becoming free citizens in a really democratic society, as well as contributors to the cultural development of society and the world.
Facts are interesting, especially now, as we’ve been hearing this narrative about how we’re living in the post-truthpost-fact world. In thinking back on your book, Manufacturing Consentdo you think that’s true? And if it is true that we’re living in a post-fact world, is it possible that we’ve been inhabiting this post-fact world for quite a while now?
There are plenty of examples in history of post-truth, post-fact worlds, and some of them are not very attractive. For example, take perhaps the utter depths of human history, the Nazi regime, which was implanted and we should remember, the leading outpost of Western civilization. The peak of Western civilization in many ways was Germany in the 1920s in the arts, the sciences, and even as a model for democracy. Within 10 years, it had descended to the depths of barbarism in a post-fact society. The propaganda was extremely effective in creating a world of illusion in which the Aryan race was under attack by Jews and Bolsheviks, and only Nazi Germany could protect the white Aryan race from destruction.
Is that a post-fact world? Well, like a lot of propaganda, in fact almost all effective propaganda, there were little bits and pieces of truth scattered around, enough to base a post-fact world on. There were Jewish bankers, there were Jewish Bolsheviks. Bits and pieces of that fanatic and crazy story were, in fact, correct, and it was unfortunately convincing enough to take maybe the most civilized and educated part of the world down to the utter depths of barbarism. That’s post-fact with a vengeance.
Is Trump analogous to Adolf Hitler or other past ideologues, as some have suggested?
There are some loose similarities to other demagogic figures, and there are some loose similarities to the U.S. and the late stages of Germany. In fact, I’ve written about this 15 years ago, long before Trump, others have as well. But I think we’re in a historically specific situation. We have to consider it realistically, ask how we can act in an effective way to send off the worst dangers and use the opportunities that do exist to try to counter the worst and build a basis for something much better. I think there are real opportunities to address the legitimate concerns and fears of a substantial part of the Trump constituency and offer them something real, not something that’s a pure con.
Let’s take something concrete: One of the programs that he’s proposed, which on the surface makes sense, is the infrastructure program. The U.S. badly needs investment in the infrastructure all across the board, from fixing roads and bridges to building a successful educational system with enough teachers, decent schools, support for teachers, research and development, and so on. The few details that have come out from [Trump’s] advisors and from him indicate that the way they intend to do it is essentially by a taxpayer bribery of the corporate sector. They don’t use those terms, but what it means is the taxpayer credits to private business to build infrastructure that they will profit from.
An alternative would be an infrastructure program that develops things that we really need, like a high-speed rail, for example, or well-supported public-school systems with a decent teacher salary and respect for teachers. They’re not going to come out of the private sector by taxpayer bribery. These are going to require government investment, meaning popular commitment to use funds for the benefit of the general public. One constructive response to Trump would say, fine, let’s have an infrastructure program, but let’s do it the right way.