Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Unequal Pay Is Discrimination

It's Still Legal For Police To Murder Unarmed Black Men

(This photo of victim Michael Brown is from BBC.com.)

The Grand Jury, composed mostly of whites, did not find a true bill in the case of Ferguson Police Officer Wilson shooting and killing the unarmed young black man, Michael Brown. This comes as no surprise. I expected as much when the prosecutor delayed announcing the Grand Jury findings for several hours -- a very unusual occurrence,  as most Grand Jury findings are announced as soon as known. Evidently, the white power structure in St. Louis County wanted time to get their militarized police in position to control any justifiable response to the decision.

It is clear this prosecutor didn't want charges, and made sure the Grand Jury had enough information to obfuscate what happened (so they could return a no-bill decision). He obviously doesn't think police shooting an unarmed person, with their arms up and trying to surrender, should be against the law -- and thanks in part to this decision, it isn't.

This was a horrendous decision, but it is not an unusual decision. Police are seldom held responsible for shooting unarmed citizens in the United States, especially if the victim is a black male. And Missouri is no exception to any rule. That is true across this country.

I have said before that I think this would have been very different if the officer had been black and the victim (and witnesses) had been white. I still believe that. The prosecutor (and his right-wing friends) will try to deny this case had anything to do with race, but that is a load of crap. It was definitely about race -- from the killing to the Grand Jury decision. I think I would be very worried if I was a black male -- because this case just illustrates that they can easily be victimized (and even killed) at the whim of a white officer, and nothing will be done.

This shooting, and this decision, are both inexcusable.


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

Romney Holds Small Lead Among New Hampshire GOP

The first presidential preference poll since the conclusion of the 2014 election has been released. It is the Bloomberg Politics / Saint Anselm Poll (done by Purple Insights between November 12th and 18th). Only New Hampshire voters were surveyed -- one of the first states that will make their choices known in 2016. The poll queried 407 Republican voters and 404 Democratic voters, and the margin of error for both groups was 4.9 points.

There is no real favorite among New Hampshire Republican, since no candidate comes anywhere close to the 50% mark. But many of those Republicans (30%) do prefer Mitt Romney, who was the governor of neighboring Massachusetts. When Romney is taken out of the mix (and he has not indicated he is interested in running again), three candidates lead but don't come close to that 30% of Romney. They are Rand Paul (16%), Chris Christie (16%), and Jeb Bush (14%). Everyone else is in single-digits.

It's a different matter for the Democrats. Hillary Clinton has 62% support and a huge lead over anyone else. Elizabeth Warren finishes in second with 13% -- a whopping 49 points behind Clinton (in spite of the fact she is also from neighboring Massachusetts). Any other possible candidates are in single-digits (including Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders).

Some on the left are still trying to get Warren or Sanders to enter the race against Clinton, but I fail to see what could be gained by that happening.

Empty Suits

Political Cartoon is by Jimmy Margulies at cagle.com.

Public Wants Congress To Get Random Drug Testing

Many employers, including state and federal governments, require a drug test before an employee can be hired -- and some even require random drug testing after a person is hired and goes to work. And some states have even required those receiving help from government social service organizations to be drug-tested. In fact, I would submit that most Americans have been required to take a drug test for one reason or another.

But there is one group that has always been exempt from drug-testing -- the members of the United States Congress. But the American public thinks that should change. A whopping 78% of Americans (nearly 4 out of every 5 people) think members of Congress should have to submit to random drug testing. And that view holds regardless of gender, race, age, income level, or political persuasion.

Personally, I don't think anyone should be drug-tested -- unless they hold a position where drug use could put others in danger, or their is evidence that drug use may be affecting their job performance. Drug use, especially marijuana use, that is done off-duty and at home should not be either an employer or the government's concern.

However, as long as the federal government requires drug-testing of anyone (employee, prospective employee, or social service recipient), then it should also be required of our elected officials. It makes no sense for them to be exempt of things they require of others.

The chart above was made from a Huffington Post / YouGov Poll -- done between November 25th and 27th of last year of a random national sample of 1,000 adults (with a 5.2 point margin of error).


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

The "Spoils" Of Lobbying The Federal Government

The image at left (from sodahead.com) is pretty representative of what is happening on the federal government level. Corporations spend millions of dollars to lobby Congress, and in return they get billions of dollars back from the government (in contracts, subsidies, and tax breaks).

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship have written an excellent article on this called "Dividing the Spoils". Here is some of what they had to say:

Consider the new report from the watchdog Sunlight Foundation: From 2007 to 2012, the two hundred most politically active corporations in the United States spent almost $6 billion for lobbying and campaign contributions. And they received more than $4 trillion in US government contracts and other forms of assistance. That’s $760 for every dollar spent on influence, a stunning return on investment.

Peter Overby at National Public Radio reported that “Military contractors lead the list of contract recipients, and they hover in the upper ranks of companies with the biggest campaign contributions.” Raytheon, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin – all of them made hefty political donations to Republican campaigns. Not coincidentally, this year the Pentagon is due to spend $163 billion on research, development and procurement.

Then look at who’s expected to be the new Republican chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee – Thad Cochran of Mississippi. Breathlessly, The Washington Post writes, “This could mean additional funding for the Navy to modernize its fleet and potentially benefit contractors such as shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls.” Guess what company describes itself as “the largest manufacturing employer in Mississippi and a major contributor to the economic growth of the state,” not to mention a major contributor this year to Thad Cochran’s re-election campaign? Why, shiver our timbers, it’s Huntington Ingalls.

“The other dominant corporate sector is finance,” Overby said. “Some of the country’s biggest financial institutions — Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and others — are the top recipients of federal aid. That’s because it cost so much to rescue the financial sector after the 2008 market crash.”

Throw in the health insurers, media and telecommunications, retailers, Big Pharma – no wonder Washington’s K Street is lobbying’s road to Paradise. But it runs in both directions. NPR’s Overby talked with political scientist David Primo, who thinks Congress may be spending more time studying The Godfather than Robert’s Rules of Order. Primo told him, “The conventional wisdom out there is that businesses are going to Washington, writing checks and expecting big returns. But the other side of the story is that members of Congress may implicitly threaten businesses that if they don’t change their policy, or if they are not heavily involved in the political process, that bad things might happen to them.”

It’s not personal, Sonny, it’s strictly business. Our government has become a clearing house for corporations and plutocrats whose dollars grease the wheels for lucrative contracts and easy regulation. It’s all pay for play, and look the other way. Partisans of the system say, hey, it’s just business as usual, but that, of course, is the problem. We were struck by this headline in The Washington Post after the November elections: “Parties head back to Capitol to begin carving up spoils, remains from midterms.” Right: Not only leadership posts and committee chairmanships, but carving, dividing up the spoils also means divvying up the loot. And those contributions were not made for the sake of charity.

Once upon a time the GOP stood for Grand Old Party — now it stands for Guardians of Privilege, and this is payback time for everything from fracking to getting the big banks off the hook; from doing away with the minimum wage and coddling off-shore corporate tax avoiders to privatizing Medicare and Social Security; to gutting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Environmental Protection Agency, even the US Postal Service.

And that’s just for starters. House Speaker John Boehner, his majority now greater than ever, will govern as you might expect from the man who once handed out checks from the tobacco industry to members on the floor. And Mitch McConnell, finally in his ascendancy as Senate Majority Leader, will manipulate more powerfully than ever the Capitol Hill and K Street mechanisms that he has mastered – helped along by the clever placement of loyal former staff members in positions of influence. They assist him in the dispensation of favors to donors from on high. “We’re very excited,” one Republican lobbyist told the Post, the understatement of the century.

Democrats, meanwhile, are so compromised by their own addiction to Big Money they have forgotten their history as champion of the working stiff, the little folks down there at the bottom. The great problems facing everyday people in America – inequality, stagnant wages, children in poverty, our degraded infrastructure and stressed environment — are not being seriously addressed because the political class is afraid to offend the people who write the checks — the corporations and the rich. Everyone else can be safely ignored.

GOP Hypocrisy

Political Cartoon is by Mike Keefe at intoon.com.

On Higher Education

Monday, November 24, 2014

Protect Net Neutrality

Southern Republicans Want More Say In Picking A Nominee

Southern Republicans have not always been too happy with the candidates chosen by their party. Mitt Romney is a prime example. Romney was too "moderate" for Southern tastes, but by the time a lot of Southern States held their primary he already had a significant lead over more extremist candidates. Now some Southern Republicans are trying to change that.

They want to give the South a bigger voice in choosing the party's nominee in 2016. They can't move their state's primary up to challenge the caucus in Iowa or the primary in New Hampshire, because they would be punished severely by the national party if they tried that -- so they've come up with a different plan. They want to Southern States to band together and hold an early primary, giving the South a lot more clout early in the nominating process.

The two most populous states in the South, Texas and Florida, have already put their 2016 primaries on March 1st (the earliest date allowed by the national party). Now five other Southern States (Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas) are trying to move their primaries to that same date. The combination of these seven states would have significant clout, and would give teabaggers more say in who the nominee should be.

This would give more of an advantage to extremist right-wingers early in the process (Cruz, Paul, Huckabee, Santorum, Carson, etc.), and would tend to work against more moderate right-wingers (Portman, Bush, Christie, Walker, etc.). And it would increase the liklihood that the Republican Party would nominate an extremist candidate -- a candidate that would scare the hell out of most Americans.

I hope they get it done, because it would just intensify the internal war going on in the Republican Party -- and could seriously damage what little hope they have of retaking the White House in 2016.

NOTE -- This would also mean the Democrats in those states would be voting on March 1st, but that wouldn't matter much. Southern Democrats are much more in tune with their national party (and Democrats in other states).

It's An Old Story

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

Did The White Officer In Ferguson Commit Murder ?

We are still waiting to see what the Grand Jury in St. Louis County (Missouri) will decide in the case of white Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson. Last summer, Wilson shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown -- and numerous witnesses have said the teenager was shot while his arms were raised and trying to surrender. What will be the Grand Jury's verdict?

Well, it would not surprise me at all if Officer Wilson is allowed to go scot-free, with no charges at all. And that seems to be what the prosecution in St. Louis County wants. Instead of just presenting enough evidence to establish there is probable cause to believe a crime was committed (as is the usual case), the prosecutors have presented everything to the Grand Jury (including defense information, which is normally not presented until a trial. It's as though the prosecutors want the Grand Jury to let them off the hook (so they don't have to take this case to a trial), and have done their best to provide the Grand Jury with an excuse not to indict.

And that would probably be fine with most in America, especially whites. A recent Rasmussen Poll (done on November 19th and 20th of a random sample of 1,000 adults, with a 3 point margin of error) shows that only 23% of Americans believe the witnesses and think Officer Wilson committed murder. Meanwhile, 39% say the officer acted in self-defense (and another 38% don't know what to think). That's pretty sad. Why don't the people believe the witnesses? Is it because they are black?

What do you think this poll would show if the officer was black, and the victim and witnesses were white? I'm betting those numbers would be far different, with a clear majority thinking murder had been committed. In fact, if the officer had been black, I'll bet he would have already been fired and indicted for murder.

The sad fact is that whites will believe other whites far quicker than they will believe black witnesses, especially when it comes to a police officer (very few of which are ever prosecuted for killing an unarmed black person of any age). And it would not surprise me at all if Officer Wilson was no-billed by the Grand Jury, or just slapped on the wrist with a very minor charge.

There are those who claim this country is in a "post-racial" period. This case, and this poll, illustrate that is simply not true. The racial problems in this country run deep, and we are still very far from solving them.

Precedent Set

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

Krugman Says President Was Right To Act On Immigration

Noted economist Paul Krugman thinks the president acted appropriately in issuing his executive order on immigration. This is what he wrote in his New York Times column on November 20th:

The Tenement Museum, on the Lower East Side, is one of my favorite places in New York City. It’s a Civil War-vintage building that housed successive waves of immigrants, and a number of apartments have been restored to look exactly as they did in various eras, from the 1860s to the 1930s (when the building was declared unfit for occupancy). When you tour the museum, you come away with a powerful sense of immigration as a human experience, which — despite plenty of bad times, despite a cultural climate in which Jews, Italians, and others were often portrayed as racially inferior — was overwhelmingly positive.

I get especially choked up about the Baldizzi apartment from 1934. When I described its layout to my parents, both declared, “I grew up in that apartment!” And today’s immigrants are the same, in aspiration and behavior, as my grandparents were — people seeking a better life, and by and large finding it.

That’s why I enthusiastically support President Obama’s new immigration initiative. It’s a simple matter of human decency.

That’s not to say that I, or most progressives, support open borders. You can see one important reason right there in the Baldizzi apartment: the photo of F.D.R. on the wall. The New Deal made America a vastly better place, yet it probably wouldn’t have been possible without the immigration restrictions that went into effect after World War I. For one thing, absent those restrictions, there would have been many claims, justified or not, about people flocking to America to take advantage of welfare programs.

Furthermore, open immigration meant that many of America’s worst-paid workers weren’t citizens and couldn’t vote. Once immigration restrictions were in place, and immigrants already here gained citizenship, this disenfranchised class at the bottom shrank rapidly, helping to create the political conditions for a stronger social safety net. And, yes, low-skill immigration probably has some depressing effect on wages, although the available evidence suggests that the effect is quite small.

So there are some difficult issues in immigration policy. I like to say that if you don’t feel conflicted about these issues, there’s something wrong with you. But one thing you shouldn’t feel conflicted about is the proposition that we should offer decent treatment to children who are already here — and are already Americans in every sense that matters. And that’s what Mr. Obama’s initiative is about.

Who are we talking about? First, there are more than a million young people in this country who came — yes, illegally — as children and have lived here ever since. Second, there are large numbers of children who were born here — which makes them U.S. citizens, with all the same rights you and I have — but whose parents came illegally, and are legally subject to being deported.

What should we do about these people and their families? There are some forces in our political life who want us to bring out the iron fist — to seek out and deport young residents who weren’t born here but have never known another home, to seek out and deport the undocumented parents of American children and force those children either to go into exile or to fend for themselves.

But that isn’t going to happen, partly because, as a nation, we aren’t really that cruel; partly because that kind of crackdown would require something approaching police-state rule; and, largely, I’m sorry to say, because Congress doesn’t want to spend the money that such a plan would require. In practice, undocumented children and the undocumented parents of legal children aren’t going anywhere.

The real question, then, is how we’re going to treat them. Will we continue our current regime of malign neglect, denying them ordinary rights and leaving them under the constant threat of deportation? Or will we treat them as the fellow Americans they already are?

The truth is that sheer self-interest says that we should do the humane thing. Today’s immigrant children are tomorrow’s workers, taxpayers and neighbors. Condemning them to life in the shadows means that they will have less stable home lives than they should, be denied the opportunity to acquire skills and education, contribute less to the economy, and play a less positive role in society. Failure to act is just self-destructive.

But speaking for myself, I don’t care that much about the money, or even the social aspects. What really matters, or should matter, is the humanity. My parents were able to have the lives they did because America, despite all the prejudices of the time, was willing to treat them as people. Offering the same kind of treatment to today’s immigrant children is the practical course of action, but it’s also, crucially, the right thing to do. So let’s applaud the president for doing it.

(This caricature of Paul Krugman is by DonkeyHotey.)


Political Cartoon is by Nick Anderson in the Houston Chronicle.

A Stranger In My Own Country

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Legit ?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Executive Order

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

Most People Think Stores Start X-Mas Season Too Early

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

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

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

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

Playing With Fire

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


(Image is from theatlantic.com.)

by Brian McLaughlin

Our country 
bent on destruction

So few 
about its direction

The government
there's been no inspection

The people
without proper protection

the rich man's insurrection

They've stolen
from folks
reasons for their elation

do they
expect an ovation

While leaving 
with no motivation

a sad situation

This economy 
in need 
of real regeneration

Will not come about 
wealth segregation  

Mandate ?

Political Cartoon is by Jim Morin in The Miami Herald.


Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Canadian View Of Our President

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Is Not Always Better

Political Cartoon is by Jim Morin in The Miami Herald.

Republicans Whine, Moan, And Make Empty Threats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Only Permissible By Republicans

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

President Obama Had To Act Because Congress Wouldn't Act

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tonight, I am announcing those actions.

Too Soon

Political Cartoon is by Dan Piraro at bizarro.com.

Wall Street Now Owns Congress

Friday, November 21, 2014

We Ain't Doing It Right

Public's Opinion Of Federal Government Agencies

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

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

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

Immigrant Flood ?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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