Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Choosing Their Own Voters


Public Opposition To GOP Health Care Plan Is Growing



Trump, and his Republican cohorts in Congress, are still claiming they will repeal Obamacare -- and replace it with a plan of their own. They have been negotiating among themselves since their initial plan failed, and while they claim they are "close" to agreeing on a plan, there is no date set for a vote in Congress (or real evidence they have a plan that will work).

Rumor has it that, in an effort to please their "freedom caucus", they have made their original plan even worse. It now will not only reduce or eliminate subsidies (throwing millions off the health insurance rolls), but now will allow states to decide whether insurance companies can charge some people more (like those with pre-existing conditions), or whether insurance companies have to sell a plan with guaranteed benefits.

It's no surprise to me that Republicans can't agree to vote on a plan. They are probably reading the same polls that we all are -- polls that say the opposition to their "repeal and replace" plan is growing more unpopular each day.

The chart above shows this. Back in February, about 34% said they had little or no confidence in the Republican plan. That has now grown to 50% (half of the population). Most people now want Obamacare kept, and fixed.

This chart is from a new NBC News / Wall Street Journal Poll -- done between April 17th and 20th of a random national sample of 900 adults, with a margin of error of 3.3 points.

Humpty Trumpty

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

Trump Does Very Poorly Among Young People (18-29)


Donald Trump's job approval is upside-down among the general public -- with significantly more people disapproving of the job he's doing than approve of it. But the group he does the worst with are young people between the ages of 18 and 29.

Only 32% of young people approve of the job Trump is doing, while a whopping 66% disapprove. And when you break it down into how he's handling the individual issues, that disapproval is just as strong (see bottom chart).

These charts were made from information in a Harvard University Institute of Politics Poll -- done between March 10th and 24th of a random national sample of 2,654 young people (18-29), with a margin of error of 2.7 points.


Tax Reform

Political Cartoon is by Gary Varvel in the Indianapolis Star.

Trump Has Hurt Human Rights 100 Ways In 100 Days


Donald Trump has been in office now for about 100 days -- and Amnesty International believes he has harmed human rights (in both the United States and the world) by at least 100 ways. Here is the list they came up with:







Choice For France

Political Cartoon is by Paresh Nath at cagle.com.

Rather Asks Us To "Stay Focused On The Big Picture"

(Caricature of Trump is by DonkeyHotey.)

Dan Rather wants us to stop paying attention to Trump's attempts to obfuscate with his many Tweets. Rather writes:

Now President Trump is threatening a trade war with Canada. Canada!
What can one say?
Well, there is this: The new President’s policy statements, tweeted and otherwise, are clearly a problem. There are so many of them and they are so often contradictory that it is hard to keep up with them. It’s easy to feel inundated, overwhelmed and confused I think some believe that is his strategy, to obfuscate and distract. Others just say that is the way his mind and temperament work. 
In either case, I think it is all the more reason to try and stay focused on the big picture, the truly important narratives and questions of his young Presidency. I believe we can't repeat them enough:
1. What did Mr. Trump know and when did he know it about Russian efforts to influence the U.S. Presidential election? The President and those around him are engaged in a furious fight to prevent the American people from knowing. What are they hiding? If, as they say, there’s nothing to hide, why are they working so hard to conceal what they know?
Republican led House and Senate investigations are--purposely or not-- bogged down. While the FBI investigation (also led by a Republican) is said to be rigorous and far-reaching, who can say with certainty? We do know that the FBI was slow and unsteady at the start.
A truly independent, bi-partisan investigative special commission (with maybe a special prosecutor?) would seem to be a must, but so far there is no significant movement to establish one.
2. Given indications so far, the President appears to have plenty to hide in his tax returns. Again, if he has nothing to hide why is he fighting so hard to keep them secret? How much taxes he has paid (if any) is not the most important part of this. More important is finding out how much he owes--how much he is in debt to--other people, who they are and where they are (foreigners, foreign powers?) 
3. What is the President’s strategy to deal with war and peace challenges such as North Korea, Russia in Eastern Europe, Iran, Syria and Afghanistan. One-off missile attacks and mega-bomb droppings are tactical moves, in and of themselves. If they fit into a large strategy in any or all of the major threat areas, what is that strategy?
4. What is happening behind the shadows with our immigration policy? For all the talk of how the President has struggled in his legislative agenda, the reporting coming out of the Department of Justice under Attorney General Jeff Sessions and multiple local communities suggests that there has been an active change in how the nation is dealing with this issue. 
As a beginning for where to keep the focus in contemplating the Trump Presidency, the places mentioned above are worth considering.
What do you think, and what might you add to the list?

He's Gone

Political Cartoon is by Sean Delonas at seandelonas.com.

Masters Of War


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Freedom Of Speech


Most Believe The Government Should Be Doing More


This chart is from a new NBC News / Wall Street Journal Poll -- done between April 17th and 20th of a random national sample of 900 adults, with a 3.3 point margin of error.

The poll shows that 57% of Americans think the government should be doing more to help meet the needs of American citizens, while only 39% say the government is doing too much. That 57% is a new record high since 1995, when NBC/WSJ started asking this question. And it shows significant change just since 2015 -- when 50% said government should do more and 46% said it was doing too much.

This is bad news for Trump (who wants to drastically cut nearly all domestic programs) and the Republicans in Congress (who continue to preach cutting government spending). If they follow through on the cuts they want, they will be doing the opposite of what most Americans want.

This is nothing new though. The Republicans (and Trump) seem to be out-of-step with the wishes of the public on nearly every issue.

New Hire

Political Cartoon is by Jim Morin in The Miami Herald.

American Public Gives Grades To Both Parties In Congress


This chart was made from the latest Politico / Morning Consult Poll. That poll questioned 1,992 registered voters between April 13th and 15th (with a 2 point margin of error). The poll's respondents were asked to give the two congressional parties a letter grade from A (excellent) to F (failing).

Neither party fared too well. For both the good grades (A & B) and the poor grades (D & F), the numbers for the two parties were within the poll's margin of error. That means the public is not too enamored with either congressional party.

The Democrats got 12 points more giving them a D or F (38) than an A or B (26). The Republicans got 10 points more giving them a D or F (40) than an A or B (30).

What Could Go Wrong ?

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

Sanders Is Wrong - Abortion IS An Economic Justice Issue

(Caricature of Bernie Sanders is by DonkeyHotey.)

Bernie Sanders likes to present himself as the ultimate progressive politician, but he exposed himself a few days ago with his support of an anti-choice candidate. It seems that his progressivism is limited to a few narrowly defined economic issues, and he fails to realize that other issues (like abortion rights) are also economic justice issues for many (especially the poor).

Here is much of an article by Casey Quinlan at Think Progress on this:

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) took a firestorm of criticism over the weekend for campaigning for an Omaha mayoral candidate who supported abortion restrictions. In the slew of coverage following Sanders’ support of Democratic Nebraska lawmaker Heath Mello, media outlets and Sanders himself framed abortion access as separate from economic issues — when in reality, abortion restrictions hurt low-income people the most.
In 2009, his first year in Nebraska’s state legislature, Mello supported a bill mandating doctors offer an ultrasound before performing an abortion, which he said was a “positive first step to reducing the number of abortions in Nebraska.” Mello also sponsored the final version of a 20-week abortion ban and voted for a law banning insurance plans from covering abortion, Rewire reported. Mello’s campaign manager told The Huffington Post that he received a 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood, but Planned Parenthood Voters of Nebraska said the statements about a 100 percent rating were misleading.
Understandably, Sanders’ support for Mello was seen as running counter to progressive values. . . .
Last week, Sanders told NPR that in order for Democrats to get control of the House and Senate, they have to “appreciate where people come from.”
“But I think you just can’t exclude people who disagree with us on one issue,” Sanders said.
The low-income people most affected by abortion restrictions might disagree with Sanders and the media on the characterization that abortion is just “one issue” or a social or cultural issue, rather than an economic one.
Seventy-five percent of abortion patients were poor or low-income in 2014, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Due in part to barriers to contraceptive access, poor women and other people trying not to conceive are three times more likely to get pregnant than higher income people and five times more likely to give birth, according to a 2015 Brookings Institution paper. Abortion rates were also lower for the poor, because although middle-class women abort more of their pregnancies, they have less unintended pregnancies, and thus fewer abortions overall, Slate explained.
With lack of access to affordable abortion options — thanks to the Hyde Amendment, which officially prohibits federal taxpayer dollars from paying for abortions — many women have attempted to induce their own abortion. Only 17 states direct Medicaid to pay for all or most medically necessary abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, but the national average for an abortion in the first trimester is around $500 and as much as $2,000 for the second trimester.
The Hyde Amendment has restricted abortion access for many economically distressed groups, such as low-income Washington, D.C. residents, incarcerated people, military personnel, and Native Americans. . . .
States continued to pass restrictions on abortion last year. Fourteen states passed 30 laws to make it more challenging to get an abortion in 2016. Today, 31 states have at least one restriction on abortion, including waiting periods, requiring doctors to have admitting privileges, restricting health insurance coverage for abortion, and banning abortion after 20 weeks. And these requirements have very real consequences for low-income women and women of color.
A 2016 University of Buffalo study looked at 3,999 intakes from the George Tiller Memorial Fund, a National Network of Abortion Funds-affiliated nonprofit fund, and found that about half of the women who tried to get assistance from the fund were black, which squares with data on black women facing more health care barriers than white women. Thirty-seven percent of the women already had multiple children. The average distance they traveled to get an abortion doubled from 2010 to 2015.
Low-income people face difficult decisions when they don’t have the resources to get an abortion. Somewhere between 100,000 and 240,000 women of reproductive age living in the state of Texas alone have tried to induce their abortion without any medical assistance, according to a 2015 report from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP), a group of researchers at the University of Texas. Most of the women surveyed said they would have gone to a clinic if they had the option.
Sanders was not the only progressive who faced blowback for his support of Mello. Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez, who has been traveling the country with Sanders on what they’re calling a “Unity Tour” to address political differences between Sanders and DNC supporters, did not attend the event but has also supported Mello.
Sanders, Perez, and others who ignore the economic realities of abortion — or pit the two as separate issues — would do better to reconsider.

Science Marches

Political Cartoon is by Jack Ohman in the Sacramento Bee.

No Solution


Monday, April 24, 2017

War


Trump's Incredible Hypocrisy On Immigration

(This caricature of Donald Trump is by DonkeyHotey.)

Trump campaigned for months by demonizing undocumented immigrants, and he has continued his war on them since being elected. He wants to build a wall between the United States and Mexico (even though undocumented immigration is currently about a net zero -- with as many leaving as are entering), and he wants to deport those currently living and working in the United States.

He gives a couple of reasons for this. First, he claims they are criminals and boost crime in the United States. That's a ludicrous notion, since all studies have shown that undocumented immigrants have a significantly lower rate of committing crimes than citizens of this country.

Second, he claims those undocumented workers are taking good jobs that Americans would like to have. That's also a ludicrous claim. Most of the undocumented workers don't have the education or skills necessary to take good jobs away from American citizens. The jobs they are filling are back-creakingly difficult, dirty, sometimes dangerous, and very low-paying jobs that American citizens don't want. By taking these jobs, those undocumented workers are actually helping the American economy (and also help it by the money they spend and taxes they pay in this country). These people are a net positive in this country.

There is a group of immigrants that do take good-paying jobs in this country that citizens would love to have. They are the nearly half a million legal and documented immigrants brought to this country by corporations under the H-1B visa program. The offending corporations will tell you that they can't find enough Americans with the education and skills necessary for those jobs. They are lying. They bring in the foreign workers because they can pay them many thousands of dollars less than they would have to pay an American (up to 40% less).

Those foreign workers either don't mind working for less (because they have fewer opportunities in their home country) or they can't complain (because their visa would be revoked and they would be replaced by a different foreign worker). In short, these workers are being brought in because they can be abused easier than American workers.

What would Trump like to do about these H-1B workers who actually take good jobs away from American citizens? He wants to increase the number of them that can be brought in. This shows just how hypocritical Trump is about immigration. He complains about immigrants taking good American jobs, but demonizes the wrong group while encouraging the importation of foreign workers that actually do take the good jobs that Americans want.

Don't let Trump fool you on the immigration issue. He doesn't care about saving good American jobs. He's just playing politics with immigration, and feeding voter misconceptions to further his own ends.

Not An Immigrant

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

Two New Polls On Trump's (Low) Job Approval




The polls just keep coming on Trump's job approval -- which is really more disapproval than approval. The latest poll to verify that is the NBC News / Wall Street Journal Poll (whose results are shown in the charts above). The poll was done between April 17th and 20th of a random national sample of 900 adults, with a 3.3 point margin of error.

It shows that 64% of the public believes Trump is off to a fair/poor start in his presidency, while only 35% believe he has gotten off to a great/good start. And 54% of the public disapproves of the job he is doing, while only 40% approve of it -- a 14 point gap in approval. Those are some pretty terrible numbers, and they show Trump is still struggling to get the country behind him.

The chart below is from a new ABC News / Washington Post Poll -- done between April 17th and 20th of a random national sample of 1,004 adults, with a 3.5 point margin of error. It compares Trump's 100 day approval with that of President Obama. The numbers are not even close. The voters overwhelmingly approved of President Obama, while overwhelmingly disapproving of Donald Trump.


Having A Blast

Political Cartoon is by Stuart Carlson at carlsontoons.com.

In Honor Of National Poetry Month


I doubt that most Americans realize it, but April is National Poetry Month. And in honor of that, the YouGov Poll questioned 5,858 adults on April 20th to find out if they have actually read any poetry. The chart above shows the percentage of those polled who say they've read some of the more famous poets.

I was surprised that so many Americans said they have read some of this poetry -- although I suspect that most are simply relating the poetry they were required to read in high school (since the four most widely read are also the four most commonly taught in schools -- Poe, Shakespeare, Frost, and Dickinson).

The three charts below break down that readership by sex, age, and political affiliation.




Too Far

Political Cartoon is by Nick Anderson in the Houston Chronicle.

Terrorism Growth And Global Climate Change Are Connected


The images above (from the World Preservation Foundation) show the drought situation in the world, and how the global climate change will affect it for the rest of this century. The world's scientists have been warning us for years that the effects of global climate change will be serious, but our political leaders continue to ignore them.

While ignoring the worsening climate situation (which will negatively affect a growing number of people), our leaders do want to stem terrorism. Sadly though, they fail to see that the two issues are connected -- as the climate deteriorates, more people will be drawn to terrorism (seeing it as their only way to their families survival with dwindling water resources). A comprehensive program to stop terrorism must include reasonable measures to stop global climate change (and sufficient help to those already affected by that change).

The following is a thought-provoking article by Natasha Geiling at Think Progress on the connection between climate change and terrorism:

Climate change-fueled natural disasters and resource shortages will strengthen recruiting efforts of terror groups like ISIS and Boko Haram, according to a new report commissioned by the German government.
“As the climate is changing, so too are the conditions within which non-state armed groups such as Boko Haram and ISIS operate,” the report, issued by the think tank Adelphi, said in its executive summary. “Climate change contributes to creating a fragile environment in which these groups can thrive.”
Terror groups, according to the report, are increasingly using natural resources — like water — as a “weapon of war.” In 2015, for instance, ISIS closed the gates of a dam to more easily attack enemies downtstream. ISIS has also used water to flood areas to force people to leave their homes, making an area more susceptible to territorial control. Climate-fueled resource scarcity, the report argues, will likely only contribute to the power of non-state armed groups that control a particular resource.
The report also points to diminishing natural resources as fueling an environment ripe for terror recruitment. Africa’s Lake Chad, for instance, provides economic livelihood for nearly 80 percent of the population that lives in its basin. As the lake shrinks, economic opportunities for people in that area also decline, making the population susceptible to recruitment by Boko Haram.
“Livelihood insecurity and lacking economic opportunities seem to provide a fertile ground for non-state armed groups,” the report said. “While a direct causal link between unemployment and participation in violence is disputed among scholars, there is research showing that precarious situations with little socio-economic prospect, including situations of unsteady or underpaid employment, can drive people to join armed groups.”
The report also concludes that climate change contributes to an environment of fragility, by exacerbating conflicts around natural resources and food security. That environment, in turn, creates a kind of environment where terror groups can operate more easily. Sometimes, when a government appears slow to respond to a natural disaster, a terror group will capitalize on perceived state weakness, or corruption, and move to fill the void left by a state government.
In Syria, for instance, prolonged drought beginning in 2007 had a devastating impact on farmers and the state’s agricultural sector. Widespread food shortages caused mass migration from rural Syria into its cities, forcing an overcrowding that only served to further exacerbate existing resource shortages and grievances with the Syrian government.
“Amongst the chaos and instability brought about by fighting between the government, the Free Syrian Army and rebel groups, terrorist groups such as ISIS were able, later in 2014, to easily gain control over large parts of contested territory,” the report found. “Although ISIS had already been present in Iraq, it could only expand its influence to Syria when the country was pulled into a civil war.”
This report is hardly the first to note the connection between climate change and the creation of environments that fuel terrorism. Scholars from the Center for Climate and Security argued in 2012 that human-caused climate change made the drought in Syria more likely, contributing to the unrest that eventually sparked the Syrian Civil war. And for years, the U.S. Department of Defense has formally classified climate change as a “threat multiplier,” noting that it will only exacerbate conflict by creating resource scarcity.
President Donald Trump, however, does not accept the scientific consensus on climate change. His CIA Director, Mike Pompeo, refused to talk about the connection between climate change and national security during his confirmation hearing, arguing that his role would be “so different and unique from that.”
At least one member of Trump’s cabinet accepts the national security risks associated with climate change, however. In written testimony provided to the Senate Armed Services Committee after his confirmation hearing, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said that climate change “is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today,” and noted that it is important for military operations to take climate change into account in their planning.
In his March 28 executive order rolling back U.S. climate policies, however, Trump did away with an Obama-era executive order directing federal agencies to take climate change into account when crafting national security plans and military operations.

Ready To Rumble

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

Act Of Rebellion


Sunday, April 23, 2017

Gods


Which Party Is Trusted More On Issues Facing The U.S.



Which party is trusted more on the issues? It turns out that depends on which issue you are talking about. At least according to this survey done by the Pew Research Center between April 5th and 11th of a random national sample of 1,501 adults (with a 2.9 point margin of error).

The public trusts the Republicans more on terrorism (by 12 points), gun policy (5 points), economy (3 points), and trade (3 points).

They trust the Democrats more on government spending (8 points), immigration (11 points), foreign policy (13 points), education (16 points), health care (19 points), abortion (20 points), and environment (31 points).

The public is split on who they trust more on taxes (Republicans 44% to Democrats 43%). That one point difference is well within the survey's margin of error.

This split probably helps to explain why the public has such a poor view of Congress. They simply don't trust either party on all the issues.

Science March

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

Trump Continues To Have Significant Job Disapproval


Since being sworn in, Donald Trump has been unable to come close to job approval by a majority of Americans. His current job approval is 40% and disapproval is 56% -- a gap of 16 points. That's not good. I think Trump figured he would gain approval as he stayed in office, but that is just not happening.

Why do Americans disapprove of him. Is it his personal qualities, or his stance on the issues. The two charts below show it is a combination of both. Most people don't like his personal qualities, and they also oppose his stance on the issues. This is still a presidency in deep trouble.

All of these charts were made from information in a new Quinnipiac University Poll -- done between April 12th and 18th of a national sample of 1,062 voters, with a 3 point margin of error.



Campaign Worker

Political Cartoon is by Jaume (Kap) Capdevila at cagle.com.

The GOP Dilemma In Trying To Replace Obamacare

(Cartoon image is by Daryl Cagle at cagle.com.)

Evidently the first attempt to "repeal and replace" Obamacare was enough to convince Republicans that they have no workable plan. Trump, along with some GOP leaders are trying to resuscitate their terrible plan now.

They put themselves in a bad situation with years of attacking Obamacare -- and assuring the public they could pass a better plan (which would offer cheaper and better insurance to everyone). But they have been unable to come up with any plan that would even come close to doing that.

Here is Paul Krugman's take on the GOP's dilemma, in his New York Times column:

Imagine a man who for some reason is determined to stuff a balloon into a box — a box that, aside from being the wrong shape, just isn’t big enough. He starts working at one corner, pushing the balloon into position. But then he realizes that the air he’s squeezed out at one end has caused the balloon to expand elsewhere. So he tries at the opposite corner, but this undoes his original work.
If he’s stupid or obsessive enough, he can spend a long time at this exercise, trying it from various different angles, and maybe even briefly convince himself that he’s making progress. But he’s kidding himself: No matter what he does, the balloon isn’t going to fit in that box.
Now you understand what’s happening to G.O.P. efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
Republicans have spent many years denouncing Obamacare as a terrible, horrible, no good law and insisting that they can do much better. They successfully convinced many voters that they could preserve the good stuff — the dramatic expansion of coverage that has brought the percentage of Americans without health insurance to a record low — while reducing premiums, shrinking deductibles and, of course, doing away with the taxes on high incomes that pay for the program.
Imagine a man who for some reason is determined to stuff a balloon into a box — a box that, aside from being the wrong shape, just isn’t big enough. He starts working at one corner, pushing the balloon into position. But then he realizes that the air he’s squeezed out at one end has caused the balloon to expand elsewhere. So he tries at the opposite corner, but this undoes his original work.
If he’s stupid or obsessive enough, he can spend a long time at this exercise, trying it from various different angles, and maybe even briefly convince himself that he’s making progress. But he’s kidding himself: No matter what he does, the balloon isn’t going to fit in that box.
Now you understand what’s happening to G.O.P. efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
Republicans have spent many years denouncing Obamacare as a terrible, horrible, no good law and insisting that they can do much better. They successfully convinced many voters that they could preserve the good stuff — the dramatic expansion of coverage that has brought the percentage of Americans without health insurance to a record low — while reducing premiums, shrinking deductibles and, of course, doing away with the taxes on high incomes that pay for the program.
And each time the plan turns out to have a fatal flaw. Millions will lose coverage; or they’ll keep coverage, but it will become so threadbare it’s almost worthless; or premiums will skyrocket for the most needy unless vast sums — hundreds of billions of dollars — are devoted to those high-risk pools.
The important thing to remember is that these problems don’t keep popping up because the people devising the plans are careless, and keep forgetting crucial issues. They’re popping up because the G.O.P. is trying to stuff a big balloon into a small box, and every time you squeeze it somewhere it inflates someplace else.
And because the task Republicans have set for themselves is basically impossible, their ongoing debacle over health care isn’t about political tactics or leadership. Even if Donald Trump were the great deal maker he claims to be, or Paul Ryan the policy wonk he poses as, this thing just can’t work.
The only way Republicans might have been able to do what they promised would be if they had some way to make health care much cheaper. That would in effect let some air out of the balloon, and maybe make it possible to get it into the box after all. But they don’t.
The truth is that while Republicans have portrayed Obamacare as a crazy, inefficient scheme, it has in fact been much more successful at containing costs than even its proponents expected.
There are some things we could do that would probably make it even cheaper, but they would all involve moving left — say, introducing a public option, or going all the way to single-payer. The G.O.P., which is determined to move right instead, reducing the public sector’s role, has offered no reason for anyone to believe that it could do better.
All of this raises the obvious question: If Republicans never had a plausible alternative to Obamacare, if this debacle was so inevitable, what was the constant refrain of “repeal and replace” all about?
The answer, surely, is that it began as a cynical ploy; at first, the Republicans hoped to kill health reform before it really got started. And now they’ve trapped themselves: They can’t admit that they have no ideas without, in effect, admitting that they were lying all along.
And the result is that they just keep trying to stuff the balloon into that box.