Thursday, April 18, 2019

Built On Exploitation And Suffering


A Part Of The Mueller Report Will Be Released Today

(Cartoon image is by Ed Wexler at cagle.com.)

Attorney General Barr will hold a press conference today to release what he calls the Mueller Report. But make no mistake, this is not the Mueller Report. It is only the part that "Whitewash Willie" Barr and Donald Trump want you and Congress to see.

You can bet that the report will be heavily redacted, and only the portions that make Trump look less guilty will be readable. This is nothing more than a cover-up -- perpetrated by Donald Trump and his hired whitewasher.

We can expect the House Democrats to issue a subpoena for the full report -- maybe as early as Friday. That's a good thing, and it's what a majority of registered voters wants to happen. Note in the chart below that 52% of registered voters think Congress should have the full unredacted report.


This chart shows the results of the latest Economist / YouGov Poll -- done between April 13th and 16th of a national sample of 1,186 registered voters, with a 2.9 point margin of error.

The Greed New Deal

Political Cartoon is by Joel Pett in the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Democrats Currently Hold An Edge Among Registered Voters



These charts reflect the results of the latest Economist / YouGov Poll -- done between April 13th and 16th of a national sample of 1,186 registered voters, with a margin of error of 2.9 points.

It shows the Democratic Party currently holds an edge among registered voters. They are viewed favorably by 10 points more than the Republican Party -- and the Republicans are viewed unfavorably by 9 points more than the Democrats.

Democrats also have an edge among registered voters in the percentage who will vote in their primary. About 46% say they will vote in the Democratic primary, while only 33% say they will vote in the Republican primary -- a 13 point edge.

Recycling

Political Cartoon is by Mike Stanfill at ragingpencils.com.

The Candidates Democrats & Leaners Are Considering


This chart reflects the results of the latest Economist / YouGov Poll -- done between April 13th and 16th of a national sample of 1,500 adults, with a margin of error of 2.7 points. This chart shows only the view of 640 Democrats and Independents who said they would vote in a Democratic primary. Respondents were allowed to pick more than one candidate that they are considering voting for next year.

A Win For Greed

Political Cartoon is by Ed Hall at artizans.com.

An Astonishing Thing


Wednesday, April 17, 2019

By Design


The Public's View On Discrimination In The United States


This chart reflects the results of a recent Pew Research Center survey -- done between March 20th and 25th of a national sample of 1,503 adults, with a margin of error of 3 points. The margin of error for Democrats is 4.4 points, and for Republicans is 4.5 points.

It shows the perception of adults (and of Democrats and Republicans) on which groups suffer the most discrimination in this country. Large majorities of adults and Democrats recognize the discrimination against Muslims, Blacks, Hispanics, Gays/Lesbians, women, and Jews.

Republicans are different. They believe the most discriminated group in the country are evangelicals (70%). They also believe whites (58%) and men (48%) are discriminated against. This is ridiculous. None of these three groups are discriminated against in the U.S. -- a majority white, majority christian, patriarchy.

I don't mean to say that evangelicals, whites or men can't have a hard life. They can -- either due to bad choices they made or due to things beyond their control (poverty, disabilities, etc.). But it is NOT due to discrimination.

Claiming victimhood for whites, evangelicals, and men (especially white men) just cheapens the real discrimination that exists for other groups.

Different

Political Cartoon is by Jack Ohman in The Sacramento Bee.

Exploding The GOP Myths About Taxing The Rich More

The inequality of wealth and income between the rich and the rest of America is vast. It is as big as it was in the 1920's, and it continues to grow.

The reason for this is the economic policy (trickle-down economics) imposed by the Republicans for the last few decades. That policy favors the rich while working against the working and middle classes.

The recent tax cut by Trump and the congressional Republicans just made things worse -- by giving huge new tax cuts to the rich and next to nothing for working Americans. It also radically ballooned the deficit and national debt. Now Republicans want to cut programs that help needy Americans -- a move that will again exacerbate to growing inequality.

Most Americans agree that the rich no longer pay their fair share of taxes, and believe their taxes should be raised. The Republicans have offered 12 reasons why that should not happen. Those are just myths.

Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary, lists these 12 GOP myths, and explodes each of them with the truth. Here is what he says:

Myth 1: A top marginal tax rate applies to all of a rich person’s total income or wealth. 
Myth 2 : Raising taxes on the rich is a far-left idea.
Baloney. 70 percent of Americans – including 54 percent of Republicans – support raising taxes on families making more than 10 million dollars a year.  And expecting the rich to pay their fair share is a traditional American idea. From 1930 to 1980, the average top marginal income tax rate was  78 percent. From 1951 to 1963 it exceeded 90 percent – again, only on dollars in excess of a very high threshold. Even considering all deductions and tax credits, the very rich paid over half of their top incomes in taxes.  
Myth 3: A wealth tax is unconstitutional.
Rubbish. Most locales already impose an annual wealth tax on the value of peoples’ homes – the main source of household wealth for most people. It’s called the property tax. The rich hold most of their wealth in stocks and bonds, so why should these forms of wealth escape taxation?  Article I Section 8 of the Constitution gives “Congress [the] power to lay and collect taxes.” 
Myth 4: When taxes on the rich are cut, they invest more and everyone benefits, when taxes on the rich are increased, economic growth slows.
Utter baloney. Trickle-down economics is a cruel joke. Donald Trump, George W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan all cut taxes on the rich, and nothing trickled down. There’s no evidence that higher taxes on the rich slows economic growth. To the contrary, when the top marginal tax rate has been high – between 71 to 92 percent – growth has averaged 4 percent a year. But when top rate has been low – between 28 and 39 percent – growth has averaged only 2.1 percent. 
Myth 5: When you cut taxes on corporations, they invest more, and create more jobs. 
Wrong again. After Trump and the Republicans lowered the corporate tax rate in 2018America’s largest corporations cut more jobs than they created. They used their tax savings largely to increase their stock prices by buying back their own shares of stock – enriching executives and wealthy investors but providing no real benefit to the economy.  
Myth 6: The rich already pay more than their fair share in taxes. 
This is misleading, because it focuses only on income taxes – leaving out the large and growing tax burden on lower-income Americans; payroll taxes, state and local sales taxes, and property taxes take bigger bites out of the pay of lower-income families than higher-income.
Myth 7: The rich shouldn’t be taxed more because they already pay capital gains taxes. 
Misleading. Rich families avoid paying capital gains taxes by passing their wealth on to their heirs. In fact, the largest share of big estates transferred from generation to generation are unrealized capital gains that have never been taxed.
Myth 8: The estate tax is a death tax that hits millions of Americans.
Baloney. The current estate tax, which only applies to assets in excess of 11 million dollars, or 22 million dollars for couples, affects fewer than 2,000 families
Myth 9: If taxes are raised on the wealthy, they’ll find ways to evade them. So very little money is going to be raised.
More rubbish. For example, a 2 percent wealth tax, as proposed by Senator Elizabeth Warren, would raise around 2.75 trillion dollars over the next decade with very little tax evasion, according to research. A 70 percent tax on incomes over 10 million would raise close to 720 billion dollars over 10 years
Myth 10: The only reason to raise taxes on the wealthy is to collect revenue.
No. Although these proposals would generate lots of revenue – and help us reduce the national debt while investing in schools, roads, and all the things we need – another major purpose is to reduce inequality, and thereby safeguard democracy against oligarchy.
Myth 11: It’s unfair to raise taxes on the wealthy.
Actually, it’s unfair not to raise taxes on the rich.  For the last 40 years, most Americans have seen no growth in their incomes at all, while the incomes of a minority at the top have skyrocketed. We’re rapidly heading toward a society dominated by a handful of super-rich, many of whom have never worked a day in their lives. More than 60 percent of wealth in America is now inherited
Myth 12: They earned it. It’s their money.
Hogwash. It’s their country, too. They couldn’t maintain their fortunes without what America provides – national defense, police, laws, courts, political stability, and the Constitution. They couldn’t have got where they are without other things America provides – education, infrastructure, and a nation that respects private property. And to argue it’s “their money” also ignores a lot of other ways America has bestowed advantages on the rich – everything from bailing out Wall Street bankers when they get into trouble, to subsidizing the research of Big Pharma.
So the next time you hear one of these myths, know the truth.

The "Expert"

Political Cartoon is by Clay Jones at claytoonz.com.

The Morons Bowed


Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Be Ashamed


Democratic Candidate First Quarter Fundraising Totals


As I write this post, only 15 of the 19 presidential candidates for the Democratic nomination in 2020 have posted their first quarter fundraising totals. Three of the four who have not (Swalwell, Ryan, and Bennet) have only been in the race a few days, and are unlikely to have raised much. The fourth is Tulsi Gabbard. She has been running for almost the full quarter, so her reticence in reporting is probably due to an embarrassingly low number.

John Delaney has actually raised $12.1 million, but he gave himself $11.7 million of that. On the chart, I only included the donations he received from other people.

These numbers are reported by CNN.com.

Caged

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

Buttigieg's Speech Announcing His Presidential Candidacy

Mayor Pete Buttigieg officially announced his candidacy for the Democratic Party presidential nomination in 2020. He made the announcement in a speech from his hometown of South Bend, Indiana. He said:

My father immigrated to this country because he knew it was the best place in the world to get an advanced education. He became an American citizen and he met my mother, a young professor who was the daughter of an Army colonel and a piano teacher. They moved here for work, settled into a house on the West Side, and pretty soon after that, I came on the scene.
The South Bend I grew up in was still recovering from economic disasters that played out before I was even born.
Once in this city, we housed companies that helped power America into the twentieth century.
Think of the forces that built the building we’re standing in now, and countless others like it now long gone. Think of the wealth created here. Think of the thousands of workers who came here every day, and the thousands of families they provided for.
And think of what it must have been like in 1963 when the great Studebaker auto company collapsed and the shock brought this city to its knees.
Buildings like this one fell quiet, and acres of land around us slowly became a rust-scape of industrial decline, collapsing factories everywhere.
Houses, once full with life and love and hope, stood crumbling and vacant.
For the next half-century it took heroic efforts just to keep our city running, while our population shrank, and young people like me grew up believing the only way to a good life was to get out.
Many of us did. But then some of us came back. We wanted things to change around here. And when the national press called us a dying city at the beginning of this decade, we took it as a call to arms.
I ran for mayor in 2011 knowing that nothing like Studebaker would ever come back—but believing that we would, our city would, if we had the courage to reimagine our future.
And now, I can confidently say that South Bend is back.
More people are moving into South Bend than we’ve seen in a generation. Thousands of new jobs have been added in our area, and billions in investment.
There’s a long way for us to go. Life here is far from perfect. But we’ve changed our trajectory, and shown a path forward for communities like ours.
And that’s why I’m here today. To tell a different story than “Make America Great Again.”
Because there is a myth being sold to industrial and rural communities: the myth that we can stop the clock and turn it back.
It comes from people who think the only way to reach communities like ours is through resentment and nostalgia, selling an impossible promise of returning to a bygone era that was never as great as advertised to begin with.
The problem is, they’re telling us to look for greatness in all the wrong places.
Because if there is one thing the city of South Bend has shown, it’s that there is no such thing as an honest politics that revolves around the word “again.”
It’s time to walk away from the politics of the past, and toward something totally different.
So that’s why I’m here today, joining you to make a little news:
My name is Pete Buttigieg. They call me Mayor Pete. I am a proud son of South Bend, Indiana. And I am running for President of the United States.
I recognize the audacity of doing this as a Midwestern millennial mayor. More than a little bold—at age 37—to seek the highest office in the land.
Up until recently, this was not exactly what I had in mind either, for how to spend my eighth year as mayor and my thirty-eighth year in this world. But the moment we live in compels us to act.
The forces of change in our country today are tectonic. Forces that help to explain what made this current presidency even possible. That’s why, this time, it’s not just about winning an election—it’s about winning an era.
Not just about the next four years—it’s about preparing our country for a better life in 2030, in 2040, and in the year 2054, when, God willing, I will come to be the same age as our current President.
I take the long view because I have to. I come from the generation that grew up with school shootings as the norm, the generation that produced the bulk of the troops in the post-9/11 conflicts, the generation that is going to be on the business end of climate change for as long as we live.
A generation that stands to be the first ever in America to come out worse off economically than our parents if we don't do something truly different.
This is one of those rare moments between whole eras in the life of our nation.
I was born in another such moment, in the early 1980s, when a half-century of New Deal liberalism gave way to forty years of Reagan supply-side conservatism that created the terms for how Democrats as well as Republicans made policy. And that era, too, is now over.
If America today feels like a confusing place to be, it’s because we’re on one of those blank pages in between chapters.
Change is coming, ready or not. The question of our time is whether families and workers will be defeated by the changes beneath us or whether we will master them and make them work toward a better everyday life for us all.
Such a moment calls for hopeful and audacious voices from communities like ours. And yes, it calls for a new generation of leadership.
Freedom/Democracy/Security
The principles that will guide my campaign are simple enough to fit on a bumper sticker: freedom, security, and democracy.
First comes freedom: something that our conservative friends have come to think of as their own… let me tell you freedom doesn't belong to one political party.
Freedom has been Democratic bedrock ever since the New Deal. Freedom from want, freedom from fear.
Our conservative friends care about freedom, but only make it part of the journey. They only see “freedom from.”
Freedom from taxes, freedom from regulation…as though government were the only thing that can make you unfree.
But that’s not true. Your neighbor can make you unfree. Your cable company can make you unfree. There’s a lot more to your freedom than the size of your government.
Health care is freedom, because you’re not free if you can’t start a small business because leaving your job would mean losing your health care.
Consumer protection is freedom, because you’re not free if you can’t sue your credit card company even after they get caught ripping you off.
Racial justice is freedom, because you’re not free if there is a veil of mistrust between a person of color and the officers who are sworn to keep us safe.
Empowering teachers means freedom, because you’re not free in your own classroom if your ability to do your job is reduced to a test score.
Women’s equality is freedom, because you’re not free if your reproductive health choices are dictated by male politicians or bosses.
Organized labor sows freedom, because you’re not free if you can’t organize for a fair day’s pay for a good day’s work.
And take it from Chasten and me, you are certainly not free if a county clerk gets to tell you who you ought to marry based on their political beliefs.
The chance to live a life of your choosing, in keeping with your values: that is freedom in its richest sense.
And we know that good government can secure such freedom just as much as bad government can deny it.
Now let's talk about security. The idea that security and patriotism belong to one political party needs to end now.
We are here to say there's a lot more to security than putting up a wall from sea to shining sea.
And to those in charge of our border policy, I want to make this clear: the greatest nation in the world should have nothing to fear from children fleeing violence.
More importantly, children fleeing violence ought to have nothing to fear from the greatest country in the world.
Security means cyber security. It means election security. It means keeping us safe in the face of violent white nationalism rearing its ugly head around our country and the world.
And let's pick our heads up to face what might be the great security issue of our time, climate change and disruption.
No region of this country is immune to that threat.
We’ve seen it in the floods in Nebraska, the tornadoes in Alabama, the Hurricane in Puerto Rico and the fires in California.
We’ve seen it right here in this city, where as mayor, I had to fire up the emergency operations center of our city twice in two years.
First came a 1,000 year rainfall and then came a 500 year river flood. Eighteen months apart. By my math, the chances of that happening is 125,000 to one.
So either we should all be going down to Four Winds Casino tonight and try to recreate those odds on the slots to see if the rules of arithmetic have changed, or something else is changing around us.
And we're not even having a contest over whose climate plan is better, because only one side has brought forth any plans at all. You don’t like our plan? Fine. Show us yours!
Our economy is on the line. Our future is on the line. Lives are on the line. So let's call this what it is, climate security, a life and death issue for our generation.
Freedom. Security. And now let’s talk about democracy. Because no issue we care about, from gun safety to immigration, from climate to education to paid family leave, will be handled well unless our democracy is in better shape.
Our democratic republic is an elegant system but lately it hasn't been quite democratic enough.
It's not democratic enough if legitimate voters are denied the opportunity to exercise their rights because one side thinks as a matter of political strategy that they're better off if fewer citizens are able to vote.
It’s hardly a democracy if “Citizens United” means dollars can drown out the will of the people.
It’s not much of a republic if our districts our drawn so that politicians choose their voters rather than the other way around.
It’s nowhere near the democracy I swore to protect, when U.S. citizens from Washington, D.C. to Puerto Rico don’t even have the same political representation as the rest of us.
And we can’t say it’s much of a democracy when twice in my lifetime, the Electoral College has overruled the American people.
Why should our vote in Indiana count just once or twice a century? Or your vote in Wyoming or New York?
So let’s make it easier to register and to vote; let’s make our districts fairer, our courts less political, our structures more inclusive; and yes let’s pick our president by counting up all the ballots and giving it to the woman or man who got the most votes!
I like talking about systems and structures. But nothing about politics is theoretical to me. Someone said all politics is local—I’d say all politics is personal.
Time and time again, moments in my life have forced me to realize what politics really means. I learned it when I went overseas on the orders of a commander-in-chief. When you write a letter and put it in an envelope marked “Just in case,” and set it where your folks can find it, you never again lose sight of the stakes.
By the way, when I was overseas, each one of the 119 trips I took outside the wire driving or guarding a vehicle, we learned what it is to trust one another with our lives.  
The men and women who got in my vehicle, they didn’t care if I was a Democrat or a Republican.
They cared about whether I had selected the route with the fewest IED threats, not whether my father was documented or undocumented when he immigrated here.
They cared about whether my M-4 was locked and loaded, not whether I was going home to a girlfriend or a boyfriend.
They just wanted to get home safe, like I did. They wanted what we all want—to do a good job and to live well. Making sure that happens is what politics is for. Politics matters because it hits home.
It hits home at our most vulnerable moments, like the day last fall when I left my mother’s hospital bedside to go find my Dad across town in the middle of his chemotherapy treatment to let him know she was going to need immediate heart surgery. Not the kind of thing you put in a text message. So I had to go find him.
By the way, mom is fine. She’s right over there!
I had a few things going for me even at that incredibly difficult moment in my life.
I had Father Brian, who gave the invocation today, who lifted us up by faith and companionship.
And I had my husband, Chasten. He was right there at the hospital. Where he belonged. Because in the eyes of the hospital, and the state, and the law, not just in my heart, he was a member of this family, my lawfully married spouse.
Our marriage exists by the grace of a single vote on the U.S. Supreme Court. Nine men and women sat down in a room and took a vote and they brought me the most important freedom in my life.
Mom started getting better right away. Dad started getting worse. We lost him earlier this year. And as I watched things go from him caring for her to her caring for him, with us trying to care for both of them, once again we found our lives shaped by the decisions of those with power over us. Decisions that made us better off. Because some people in Washington made the decision to bring us something called Medicare.
It meant that, as we navigated the toughest of family decisions, all we had to think about was what was medically right for Mom and Dad both. Not whether our family would go bankrupt.
That’s how government touches our lives. It’s how policies bring us freedom. And when it comes to health care, I want every American to have that same benefit.
This is why Washington matters. Not the political ups and downs, the daily drama of who looked good in a committee meeting. But the way a chain of events that begins in one of those stately white buildings reaches into our lives, into our homes. Our paychecks. Our doctors’ offices. Our marriages.
That is why this country was invented in the first place, and that is what’s at stake today.
The horror show in Washington is mesmerizing, all-consuming. But starting today, we are going to change the channel.
Sometimes a dark moment brings out the best in us. What is good in us. Dare I say, what is great in us.
I believe in American greatness. I believe in American values. And I believe that we can guide this country and one another to a better place.
After all, running for office is an act of hope. You don’t do it unless you think the pulleys and levers of our government can be used and if necessary redesigned to make the life of this nation better for us all.
You don’t do it unless you believe in the power of a law, a decision, sometimes even a speech, to make the right kind of difference, to change our lives for the better, to call us to our highest values.
Things get better if we make them better.
After all, you and I stand now in a building that used to be a symbol of our city’s decline, where new jobs are now being created in industries that didn’t even exist when they poured this concrete and laid this brick.
You and I now stand in a city that formally incorporated in 1865, the last year of a war that nearly destroyed this whole country. What an act of hope that must have been.
We stand on the shoulders of optimistic women and men. Women and men who knew that optimism is not a lack of knowledge, but a source of courage.
It takes courage to move on from the past.
If I could go back into the past, it wouldn’t be out of a desire to live there. No, if I went into the past, it would be just twenty years back, to find a teenage boy in the basement of his parents’ brick house, thinking long thoughts as he played the same guitar lick over and over again, wondering how he could belong in this world.
Wondering if his intellectual curiosity means he’ll never fit in. Wondering if his last name will be a stumbling block for the rest of his life. Wondering what it means when he sometimes feels a certain way about young men he sees in the hall at school—if it means he’ll never wear the uniform, never be accepted, never know love.
If I found him, and told him what was ahead, would he believe me? If could tell him that he would see the world and serve his country. That he would not only find belonging in his hometown but be entrusted by its citizens with the duty of leading it and shaping it. That he would have a hand in fixing the neighborhoods he knew as a boy, and that he would help lights come back on in that giant factory whose broken windows loomed like the face of a ghost over the ballpark he used to go to with his dad, wondering if this city was his own.
To tell him he’ll be all right. More than all right. To tell him that one rainy April day, before he even turns forty, he’ll wake up to headlines about whether he’s rising too quickly as he becomes a top-tier contender for the American presidency. And to tell him that on that day he announces his campaign for president, he’ll do it with his husband looking on.
How can you live that story and not believe that America deserves our optimism, deserves our courage, deserves our hope.
After all, running for office, itself, is an act of hope.
This afternoon, are you not hopeful?
Don’t we live in a country that can overcome the bleakness of this moment?
Are you ready to turn the page and write a new chapter in the American story?
If you and I rise together to meet this moment, one day they will write histories, not just about one campaign or one presidency but about the era that began here today in this building where past, present, and future meet, right here this chilly day in South Bend.
It’s cold out, but we’ve had it with winter. You and I have the chance to usher in a new American spring.
So with hope in our hearts and fire in our bellies, let’s get to work and let’s make history!"

Spots

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

Burning Of Notre Dame Is A French (And World) Tragedy




(These pictures of the Notre Dame fire are from CNN.com.)

The burning of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is not just a tragedy for catholics. It is a tragedy for the people of France, and for people all around the world.

The cathedral was nearly 1,000 years old -- having been started in 1160 and completed about 1260. It was beautiful, but even more important, it was a part of the world's history. No one has to be catholic, or even religious, to be affected by this tragedy.

It seems that part of the cathedral has been saved (the towers at the front), and President Macron has said the cathedral will be rebuilt. I hope so. But the loss from this fire is immense.

For France

Political Cartoon is by Ed Hall at artizans.com.

All Citizens Should Have The Right To Vote (Even Prisoners)

The meme at the right is true in most of this country. When someone in the United States is convicted of a crime, and either imprisoned or placed on probation, they lose their right to vote -- and in some states they can never get that right back. In many others, they can vote again only after finishing their sentence (including any term of probation and parole).

I don't believe this is right. Convicted people don't lose all their rights as a citizen, so why should they lose the right to vote -- one of the most important rights of a citizen in a democracy. These people still live in this country (even while incarcerated) and are subject to its government. They should have the same right to vote as all other citizens.

Here are some thoughts about this from Jamelle Bouie in The New York Times:

Why disenfranchise felons at all? Why not let prisoners vote — and give the franchise to the roughly 1.5 million people sitting in federal and state prisons? Why must supposedly universal adult suffrage exclude people convicted of crimes?
There is precedent for this idea. California allows voting for those in county jails (with limited exceptions). Colorado does too. New York recently allowed those on parole or probation to vote. And two states, Maine and Vermont, already let prisoners vote. In fact, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont affirmed his support for voting rights in prison the same week Warren backed automatic enfranchisement for former felons.
“In my state, what we do is separate. You’re paying a price, you committed a crime, you’re in jail. That’s bad,” Sanders said, responding to a question at a town hall. “But you’re still living in American society and you have a right to vote. I believe in that, yes, I do.”
Warren was also asked to weigh on this question, but deferred it, saying only that it’s “something we can have more conversation about.”
We ought to have that conversation now. Americans may see it as common sense that you lose your right to vote when you’re imprisoned, but in many democracies prisoners retain the right to vote. When that right is revoked, it’s only for particular crimes (in Germany, it’s for “targeting” the “democratic order”), and often there is a good deal of judicial discretion. Mandatory disenfranchisement is unusual, and permanent disenfranchisement is even rarer.

Mandatory disenfranchisement is constitutional — the 14th Amendment allows the government to restrict the right to vote because of “participation in rebellion, or other crime” — but there are few good reasons for the practice. The best argument, outside of the case from custom and tradition, is that committing a serious crime voids your right to have a say in the political process. You lose your liberty — your place in civil society — and the freedoms that come with it. 
But doing it that way — subjecting prisoners to a kind of social death — is in conflict with the idea of “inalienable” rights that cannot be curtailed.
As it stands, incarcerated people retain a variety of rights, some of which touch on the political rights and responsibilities of citizenship. Prisoners have freedom of worship. They can protest mistreatment and poor conditions. They can exercise some free speech rights, like writing for newspapers, magazines and other publications. To that point, there is a rich literature of work by incarcerated people tackling complex social and political issues. Voting would be a natural extension of these activities.
An obvious objection is that criminal transgressions render prisoners unfit for participation in democratic society. But there’s nothing about committing a crime, even a serious one, that renders someone incapable of making a considered political choice. Losing your liberty doesn’t mean you’ve lost your capacity to reason. Prisoners are neither more nor less rational than anyone else who is allowed to vote.
If anything, the political system needs the perspectives of prisoners, with their intimate experience of this otherwise opaque part of the state. Their votes might force lawmakers to take a closer look at what happens in these institutions before they spiral into unaccountable violence and abuse.
There are practical benefits as well. Racial disparities in criminal enforcement and sentencing means disenfranchisement falls heaviest on black communities. This is not just a direct blow to prisoners’ electoral power; it also ripples outward, depressing political participation among their friends, families and acquaintances. On the other end, suffrage in prison may help incarcerated people maintain valuable links to their communities, which might smooth the transition process once they’re released.
“Citizenship is not a right that expires upon misbehavior,” Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote for the majority in Trop v. Dulles, a 1958 case dealing with the rights of a military deserter. And, he continued, “citizenship is not lost every time a duty of citizenship is shirked.” Yes, prisoners have committed crimes, and yes, some of those are egregious. But depriving any citizen of the right to vote should be the grave exception, not a routine part of national life. Universal suffrage means universal suffrage.

Out Of Work

Political Cartoon is by Randall Enos at cagle.com.

Corporate Takeover


Monday, April 15, 2019

An Impeachable Offense


Most People Did Not Get A Tax Decrease This Year


It's tax return day -- the day when citizens are required to have their income tax paid for last year. How successful was the Trump/GOP tax cut? They had claimed it was a middle class tax cut, and that most Americans would see their income taxes cut when filing this year.

But it didn't work out that way. The super-rich got a huge tax cut, but most working and middle class Americans didn't.

The chart above is from the latest Economist / YouGov Poll -- done between April 6th and 9th of a national sample of 910 adults who have already filed their tax returns.

Note that 60% of adults (and 61% of registered voters) said they paid more or the same in taxes this year. Only 22% of adults (and 26% of registered voters) said they paid less in taxes this year. And the same is true of every age, income group, and political affiliation (even Republicans). Every group had a majority saying they paid more or the same, and a tiny minority saying they paid less.

This is not going to go over well in next years election -- especially after the point is driven home again on April 15, 2020. The Republicans made a big mistake with their tax cuts for the rich (and almost no one else) -- and Democrats should not let people forget that in the days leading to the 2020 election.

Tax Forms

Political Cartoon is by Clay Jones at claytoonz.com.

Why Not Make EVERYONE'S Income Taxes Public?


There's been a lot of discussion lately about whether Donald Trump should make his income tax returns public (or at least let Congress see several years worth of them). Personally, I think anyone running for public office should release at least five years worth of income tax returns -- and ten years worth would be even better. Unfortunately, it looks like it's going to take a court order to make Trump turn over his tax returns (and that court order will probably have to come from the Supreme Court).

There is a simple solution to all this -- make everyone's tax returns a matter of public record (which could be accessed by anyone). That may strike you as extreme, and I'm sure the rich will be aghast at that prospect. But it's done in other countries, and has been done in the United States in the past (before the rich convinced Congress to outlaw it).

It's not a crazy idea, and a good case can be made for doing it. Here's the case made by Benyamin Appelbaum in The New York Times:

In October 1924, the federal government threw open for public inspection the files that recorded the incomes of American taxpayers, and the amounts they had paid in taxes.
Americans were gripped by a fever of interest in the finances of their neighbors. This newspaper devoted a large chunk of the front page to a list of the top taxpayers in Manhattan under a banner headline that read “J.D. Rockefeller Jr. Paid $7,435,169.” One story reported that a number of wives and ex-wives had lined up at a government office in New York to seek information about their present or former husbands. Journalists soon began to note the curious absence of some conspicuously wealthy people from the lists of top taxpayers.
Congress had ordered the disclosure as a weapon against tax fraud. “Secrecy is of the greatest aid to corruption,” said Senator Robert Howell of Nebraska. “The price of liberty is not only eternal vigilance, but also publicity.” 
There is every reason to think that sunlight served the desired purpose. One important piece of evidence is that wealthy Americans absolutely hated the disclosure law, and soon persuaded Congress to execute a U-turn.

Almost a century later, it’s time to revisit the merits of universal public disclosure. Democrats in Congress are fighting to obtain President Trump’s tax returns under a separate 1924 law, written in response to related concerns about public corruption. That issue could be resolved, at least in part, if Congress embraced the broader case for publishing everyone’s tax bill.
Now as then, disclosure could help to ensure that people pay a fair share of taxes. Americans underpay their taxes by more than $450billion each year, more than 10 percent of total federal revenue. Publishing a list of millionaires who paid little or no taxes this year could significantly reduce the number of millionaires who pay little or no taxes next year.
In Norway, where tax records have been public since the founding of the modern state in 1814, a newspaper put the records online in 2001. One study estimated that the records’ greater availability caused a 3.1 percent increase in the reported incomes of self-employed Norwegians over the next three years, perhaps because they feared exposure.
Disclosure also could help to reduce disparities in income, as well as disparities in tax payments. Inequality is easier to ignore in the absence of evidence. In Finland, where tax data is published each year on Nov. 1 — jovially known as National Jealousy Day — people treat the information as a barometer of whether inequality is yawning too wide.
Consider that public corporations are required to report the compensation of top executives — who check disclosures of rival companies to ensure they are not underpaid.

Another benefit would be identifying patterns of illegal discrimination against women or minorities. Lilly Ledbetter, for whom the 2009 fair pay law is named, would have learned a lot sooner that she was making less than her male colleagues at a Goodyear plant in Alabama if she could have looked up their annual incomes on a government website.
Transparency could even help to increase economic growth. People who know how much their co-workers are paid — and how much people are paid at other companies, and in other industries — can make better career decisions.
Tax data also is a rich source of information about American life. The I.R.S. tightly limits access, but one of the few researchers allowed to work with that data, the Harvard economist Raj Chetty, has produced a series of important studies illuminating the mechanics of economic inequality. He and his collaborators have shown that Americans have a dwindling chance of making more money than their parents, and that living in a good neighborhood as a child has a lifelong impact on earnings. One can only imagine what others might learn from the data.
Calling for more disclosure may seem discordant at a time of growing concern about privacy. But income taxation is an act of government, not an aspect of private life. Property tax records provide a reasonable model. Local governments disclose the name of the property owner, the value of the property and the amount of taxes owed and paid. The same information should be available for income taxes — nothing more is necessary.