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.

And The Whining Begins

Political Cartoon is by David Fitzsimmons in the Arizona Daily Star.

A Couple More Small Steps Toward Equality In The U.S.

Two more states have joined the ranks of those where it is legal for same-sex couples to marry. The first was South Carolina, where a federal judge ruled on November 12th the state's ban on same-sex marriages was unconstitutional. That decision was stayed until November 20th to give the state time to ask for a stay from higher courts. The state went to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals (but they had already ruled that state bans were unconstitutional) and refused to issue a stay.

South Carolina then asked the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay. But this week the state got news that the Supreme Court had denied their application for a stay (just as they did last week for Kansas).

The second state was Montana. On Wednesday, a federal judge ruled Montana's ban on same-sex marriage (a part of their state constitution) violated the United States Constitution's Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause. And this judge refused to issue a stay of his decision, quoting the fact that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had already ruled those bans were unconstitutional.

The Attorney General of Montana (a Republican) has said he will appeal the decision, but with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals already having ruled on the issue, his only hope is with the U.S. Supreme Court. And that hope seems to be growing dimmer each day, considering the refusal to stay the decisions in Kansas and South Carolina. These refusals tend to show the Supreme Court is tending to favor the marriage rights of same-sex couples.

What all this means is that same-sex marriage is now legal in Montana and South Carolina -- and is likely to stay that way. And within the next year, it could be legal in all 50 states.

Not In A Million Years . . .

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

GOP Candidates Popular With Base - But Not The Public

I thought these poll numbers were interesting. They come from a YouGov Poll taken between November 8th and 10th of a random national sample of 1,000 adults (with a margin of error of around 4 points).

All of the eight leading Republican candidates are viewed favorably by the GOP's base voters. But those voters prefer one of the extremist candidates to the more "moderate" candidates like Bush or Christie. Although Bush and Christie have significant favorable ratings, they also have a higher unfavorable rating than any of the other, more extreme candidates -- with Bush being viewed unfavorably by 23% and Christie by 29%.

But the numbers for all eight of these candidates fall dramatically when judged by the general public. Only three of them have a higher favorable rating than unfavorable -- Huckabee (+6), Ryan (+5), and Paul (+1) -- and none of them tops 40% in favorability. All five of the other candidates (including Bush and Christie) are upside down in their favorability rating -- Romney (-6), Perry (-7), Bush (-9), Cruz (-5), and Christie (-7).

It looks like all of the GOP's leading candidates have a long way to go to win over the public at large.

A Strong "Lame Duck"

Political Cartoon is by Cameron (Cam) Cardow in The Ottawa Citizen.

Conservative "Logic"

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Unfair Economy

Economic Fairness And Growth Must Coexist In A Capitalism

The two charts above were made from a Rasmussen Poll conducted on November 16th and 17th of a random national sample of 1,000 likely voters. It shows that huge majorities of the population think both fairness (83%) and growth (94%) are important in our economic system.

This brings up an important question. If such large majorities believe both are important, then why is our economy so unfair? Why do the super-rich pay a much lower tax rate (the capital gains tax rate) than workers pay (the earned income tax rate)? Why do the rich get to hog most of the rise in income (about 95% of that rise)? Why isn't the minimum wage a livable wage, and why is the middle class shrinking due to job losses, stagnant incomes, and inflation?

Why are corporations given tax breaks to ship good jobs to other countries? Why are corporations given tax breaks and subsidies that allow them to pay no taxes (even though they make millions or billions in profits)? And why is the wealth & income gap between the rich and the rest of America larger than before the Great Depression (and still growing)?

The answer, of course, is that Republican officials don't believe economic fairness is important. And because of that, they have been able to institute policies that favor the rich and the corporations, and hurt most other Americans. And they have been able to do that because they have convinced a large part of our population that you cannot have both fairness and growth.

They have convinced too many people that raising the minimum wage, making the rich and corporations pay their fair share of taxes, sharing rising productivity with workers, and stopping the outsourcing of jobs -- while creating a fairer economy -- would stunt economic growth (and job creation). They have convinced people that whatever is good for the rich is good for everyone.

Sadly that is not true. While letting the rich hog most income and wealth will benefit them in the short-run, even the rich will be hurt by these policies in the long-run. What's going to happen when the population cannot afford to buy the goods produced by the rich and their corporations?

The truth is just the opposite of what the Republicans preach. In a capitalist system, fairness and growth must coexist. You cannot have one without the other. Fairness depends on rising income and wealth that can be shared, and growth depends on all segments of the populations having money to spend on the goods/services offered by businesses.

Our economy continues to stumble because of the wrong-minded Republican policies -- and can only be fixed by making our economic system fairer for everybody (from the poor to the working class to the middle class to the rich). Whether the right-wing likes it or not, we are all in this economy together. There is no other way for a capitalism to grow, or even to survive.

But the Republicans are not likely to realize this until it is too late -- until they have destroyed our economy and our democracy. They are being controlled by right-wing extremists, who value their seriously-flawed ideology above everything else.

Hopefully, the president (and congressional Democrats) can block the worst of the GOP agenda in the next two years -- and the voters can, in 2016, undo the damage they did in 2010 and 2014 by voting the Republicans out of power. It's the only chance we have to return our country to a fairer economy with robust growth.

The Billionaire Bubble

Political Cartoon is by Jen Sorensen at jensorensen.com.

Obama Ready To Take Unilateral Action On Immigration

The continuing GOP narrative on President Obama is that he is soft on undocumented immigrants. For years now they have been telling us that the president, unlike previous presidents, encourages undocumented immigrants to come to this country. Of course this is just another Republican lie, told to try and smear the president.

The truth is, as the chart above shows (from vox.com), that the Obama administration has been very vigilant in upholding current immigration law -- and has deported more undocumented immigrants in each year of the Obama presidency than any other president has done (including any Republican president).

But the president knows, just as millions of Americans know, that our immigration system is badly broken -- and for year's now, he has been asking Congress to pass an immigration reform law. Unfortunately, Congress has done nothing (even after a bipartisan senate committee came up with a plan) -- and with the Congress now completely under Republican control, there is no likelihood that immigration reform can be done anytime soon.

The president knows this, and he is tired of waiting. Something needs to be done now, even if it is only a partial fix to the broken system. And tonight, President Obama is going to announce he is taking unilateral action (through executive action) to make the system a bit more fair for immigrant families. I'm sure the right-wingers will accuse the president of opening our borders to undocumented immigrants, but that is the reaction to be expected from them. What he is actually doing is injecting some common decency into the system.

What is he likely to do? Something very simple. He is going to order that government officials stop splitting up families to satisfy the current broken system. He has already stopped the deportation of some 1.3 million youngsters who have spent most of their lives in this country through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). Tonight, he is likely to extend that program to include another 700,000 young people.

But the biggest change will probably be in stopping the deportation of the parents of children born in this country or allowed to stay here through DACA. This would amount to about 3.4 million people -- far short of the total number of undocumented immigrants in this country (near 11 million people).

Right-wingers will try to tell you that these people are a drain on our economy (and need to be deported). That is an outrageous lie (even worse than the lie that Obama is "soft" on immigration). These people are actually a boon to our economy -- and our struggling economy would be in much worse shape if they were not here. They help our economy by working hard and by purchasing millions of dollars of goods/services from American business -- and they help sustain all levels of government by paying taxes (sales taxes, property taxes, income taxes, etc.).

The president's executive action will not completely fix our badly broken immigration system -- but it will make it fairer by stopping the splitting up of immigrant families (which no decent person could justify). I applaud the political courage shown by President Obama in taking this action. I just wish Congress could be equally courageous and pass some real immigration reform.

Spiking The Ball

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

Screwed-Up State Policies On Marriage

If you're on any social media sites, then you'll probably recognize the photo above (from CNN). It is of 80 year old multiple murderer Charles Manson and the sick young 26 year old who wants to marry him. The state of California has already issued the pair a marriage license, and when prison officials get the paperwork done, they be married some time this month. Now I couldn't care less whether these idiots get married (as long as Manson never gets released). That is a California problem. But it did get me to thinking about the screwed-up marriage laws in some states.

Like, for instance, in my own home state -- Texas. Texas also allows convicted and incarcerated criminals to get married -- even murderers living on Death Row. A perfect example is Karla Faye Tucker. Tucker was convicted in 1983 of using a pickaxe to murder a woman (leaving the pickaxe protruding from her chest) and later bragging about getting sexual gratification from that vicious murder. She was given the death penalty. So what happens in 1995? The state of Texas issues her a marriage license and allows her to marry a prison minister.

Now the same state (Texas) that sees nothing wrong with allowing this vicious murderess to get married while awaiting execution on Death Row, has laws that prevent decent, law-abiding gays and lesbians in a loving relationship from marrying the person they love. I ask you -- does that make any sense at all? Shouldn't law-abiding citizens have at least the same marriage rights as convicted murderers? I say yes. It is sheer insanity to give more rights to a convicted murderer than a law-abiding citizen.

Now some fundamentalists will quote the bible at this point, especially some old testament verse. There are two reasons why that stinks as badly as what comes out of the south end of a north-bound bull. First, the laws of this country aren't based on your bible, but on our secular Constitution (which guarantees equal rights under the law to ALL citizens). And second, if your religion approves of granting convicted killers more rights than law-abiding gays/lesbians, then you believe in a sick and perverted religion -- and you need to do some serious reconsideration of your religious views.

That's what I think. What do you think?


Political Cartoon is by Nate Beeler in The Columbus Dispatch.

The Super-Rich Are Destroying Our Economy (& Democracy)

The Republicans have already tilted the economic playing field to favor the rich, and that has resulted in almost all new income flowing into the pockets of the rich -- especially the super-rich. But that isn't enough for the super-rich. In the last election, they spent a lot of "dark money" to elect even more Republicans -- and they expect to be rewarded for that with policies that will favor them even more.

Those Republican "trickle-down" policies have already had a negative effect on our economy (causing a serious recession and the inability of most Americans to recover from that recession) and on our democracy. And with the GOP in control of Congress, things are not going to improve in the next couple of years.

In the following post by former Labor Secretary Robert Reich (posted on his own blog), Reich explains how these policies are hurting this country. He says:

The richest Americans hold more of the nation’s wealth than they have in almost a century. What do they spend it on? As you might expect, personal jets, giant yachts, works of art, and luxury penthouses.
And also on politics. In fact, their political spending has been growing faster than their spending on anything else. It’s been growing even faster than their wealth.  
According to new research by Emmanuel Saez of the University of California at Berkeley and Gabriel Zucman of the London School of Economics, the richest one-hundredth of one percent of Americans now hold over 11 percent of the nation’s total wealth. That’s a higher share than the top .01 percent held in 1929, before the Great Crash.
We’re talking about 16,000 people, each worth at least $110 million.
One way to get your mind around this is to compare their wealth to that of the average family. In 1978, the typical wealth holder in the top .01 percent was 220 times richer than the average American. By 2012, he or she was 1,120 times richer.
It’s hard to spend this kind of money.
The uber rich are lining up for the new Aerion AS2 private jet, priced at $100 million, that seats eleven and includes a deluxe dining room and shower facilities, and will be able to cross the Atlantic in just four hours.
And for duplexes high in the air. The one atop Manhattan’s newest “needle” tower, the 90-story One57, just went for $90 million.
Why should we care?
Because this explosion of wealth at the top has been accompanied by an erosion of the wealth of the middle class and the poor. In the mid-1980s, the bottom 90 percent of Americans together held 36 percent of the nation’s wealth. Now, they hold less than 23 percent.
Despite larger pensions and homes, the debts of the bottom 90 percent – mortgage, consumer credit, and student loan – have grown even faster.
Some might think the bottom 90 percent should pull in their belts and stop living beyond their means. After all, capitalism is a tough sport. If those at the top are winning big while the bottom 90 percent is losing, too bad. That’s the way the game is played.
But the top .01 percent have also been investing their money in politics. And these investments have been changing the game.
In the 2012 election cycle (the last for which we have good data) donations from the top .01 accounted for over 40 percent of all campaign contributions, according to a study by Professors Adam Bonica, Nolan McCarty, Keith Poole, and Howard Rosenthal.
This is a huge increase from 1980, when the top .01 accounted for ten percent of total campaign contributions.
In 2012, as you may recall, two largest donors were Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, who gave $56.8 million and $46.6 million, respectively.
But the Adelsons were only the tip of an iceberg of contributions from the uber wealthy. Of the other members of the Forbes list of 400 richest Americans, fully 388 made political contributions. They accounted for forty of the 155 contributions of $1 million or more.
Of the 4,493 board members and CEOs of Fortune 500 corporations, more than four out of five contributed (many of the non-contributors were foreign nationals who were prohibited from giving).
All this money has flowed to Democrats as well as Republicans.
In fact, Democrats have increasingly relied on it. In the 2012 election cycle, the top .01 percent’s donations to Democrats were more than four times larger than all labor union donations to Democrats put together.
The richest .01 percent haven’t been donating out of the goodness of their hearts. They’ve donated out of goodness to their wallets.
Their political investments have paid off in the form of lower taxes on themselves and their businesses, subsidies for their corporations, government bailouts, federal prosecutions that end in settlements where companies don’t affirm or deny the facts and where executives don’t go to jail, watered-down regulations, and non-enforcement of antitrust laws.
Since the top .01 began investing big time in politics, corporate profits and the stock market have risen to record levels. That’s enlarged the wealth of the richest .01 percent by an average of 7.8 percent a year since the mid-1980s.
But the bottom 90 percent don’t own many shares of stock. They rely on wages, which have been trending downward. And for some reason, politicians don’t seem particularly intent on reversing this trend.
If you want to know what’s happened to the American economy, follow the money. That will lead you to the richest .01 percent.
And if you want to know what’s happened to our democracy, follow the richest .01 percent. They’ll lead you to the politicians who have been selling our democracy.  


Political Cartoon is by Daryl Cagle at cagle.com.

The Greedy 1%

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Senate Kills The Keystone XL Pipeline (For Now)

Republicans (and a few Big Oil lovers among the Democrats) tried to get the Keystone XL pipeline approved yesterday -- but they fell short by one vote. Since they brought it to the floor under a special procedure (which didn't permit any amendments), they needed 60 votes to get it passed. It failed by a vote of 59 to 41. All 45 Republicans voted for the pipeline -- and they were joined by 14 Democrats, led by the soon-to-be-defeated Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. There were 39 Democrats voting against the pipeline, and they were joined by both Independent senators.

Here are the 14 Democrats who voted against common sense, the environment, reasonable energy policy, and their own party:

Mary Landrieu (Louisiana)
Mark Begich (Alaska)
Michael Bennett (Colorado)
Tom Carper (Delaware)
Bob Casey (Pennsylvania)
Joe Donnelly (Indiana)
Kay Hagan (North Carolina)
Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota)
Joe Manchin (West Virginia)
Claire McCaskill (Missouri)
Mark Pryor (Arkansas)
Jon Tester (Montana)
John Walsh (Montana)
Mark Warner (Virginia)

Immediately after the bill failed, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky took the floor and said there would be another vote early next year -- after the Republicans become the majority in the Senate. He thinks he can get it passed then, and he might be right. It all depends on how much Democratic help he can muster (and at least four of the Democrats above will no longer be available for him -- Landrieu, Pryor, Begich, and Hagan). Hopefully, with the addition of some new Democrats (and the filibuster), the Democrats can still muster 41 votes then.


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

There Are 20.6 Million Low-Wage Workers (& Getting Worse)

There has been a lot of talk lately about raising the minimum wage to a "livable" level -- recognizing that even a single person can't live on the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour anywhere in this country. The most common figure being quoted for that "livable" wage by the politicians trying to raise the minimum wage is $10.10 an hour. Personally, I think $10.10 an hour would just be a barely adequate minimum wage, and would quickly become inadequate unless it was tied to the rate of inflation.

Unfortunately, the Republicans took control of the Congress (both houses) in the last election, and that probably kills  any chance of the minimum wage being raised until at least 2017 (assuming the 2016 election goes better). That's because the Republicans oppose raising the minimum wage, and many of them would like to eliminate the minimum wage altogether. The only good thing at this point is that President Obama would veto any effort like that.

So, how many people are going to be out of luck for the next couple of years? How many people are still going to have to work for a poverty wage -- a wage that will grow even harder to live on as inflation eats away at it? According to the Pew Research Center, using the  Census Bureau's 2013 Current Population Survey, that would be about 20.6 million American workers -- and when you add in their families, you come up with a significant portion of this country's population.

I would love to tell you this problem will get better at people get back to work, but the truth is that most of the new jobs are low-wage (and low-benefit) jobs, which pay far less than the good jobs lost in the Bush recession. It is estimated that by 2020, just a few years away, around a quarter of the American work force will be toiling away in low-wage jobs (jobs that pay less than the afore-mentioned $10.10 an hour).

It's going to be a tough couple of years for working class Americans.

Lame Duck

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

Is It Time To Consider Changing Or Even Banning Football ?

(This image of football violence is from the website SHED Avenue.)

“Football is a moral abomination. We’re not just talking about people limping at the age of 50. We’re talking about brain injuries that are causing horrible, protracted, premature death. This…is appalling. Can you point to another industry in America which, in the course of doing business, maims a third of its employees?”

Malcolm Gladwell (writer for the New Yorker)

I want to start by saying I am a huge football fan at all levels, and have been nearly all of my life. Since they started in 1960, I have missed only one Dallas Cowboys game (either in person, on TV, or on the radio if blacked out) -- and that was when I was in the operating room (Sept. 2005) after having been shot in the stomach by a carjacker. Even then, after waking up, my first question was "Did the Cowboys win?".

The idea of having no football is not one that I like. But after seeing recent data, not only on the growing number of football injuries, but also on the brain damage that playing football can cause players (possibly shortening the lives of many), I reluctantly believe it is time for this nation to have a discussion about the violence in the game. Can the game be changed to better protect players? Or must it be banned? These are valid questions, whether we fans like them or not.

My friend Jack Cluth, who writes the excellent blog What Would Jack Do?, has written a very good post on this question -- and I reprint most of it here in the hope of giving it a bit wider readership. Mr. Cluth says:

Football has always been a tough game, and the professional version has become significantly more dangerous as players have become faster and stronger with the passage of time. A friend who spent time in the NFL once described it to me as enduring an automobile accident on every single play. For those of us who’ve experience an auto accident…and have no desire to repeat it…that’s a pretty powerful image. The human body was not designed to absorb repeated high speed impacts of the sort a football player experiences during a game. Multiply that by 16 games (not including preseason and playoff games) and over an average 3-4 year professional career (or longer)…and by the time a player is 25 or 26 there’s a very good chance they’ll be damaged goods. Concussions, memory issues, joint damage…the list is lengthy and the damage can last a lifetime. Repeated head trauma can lead to significant brain trauma and long-term impairment. There’s also research showing that playing in the NFL can adversely effect a player’s life expectancy
What of Gladwell’s assertion that football is “a moral abomination?” No one forces players to take the field, and those who play the game understand the risks they take. They know that every time they step on the field could be their last. A catastrophic, career-ending injury is never far away, and there’s no way for an athlete to know when their time is up. What they may not understand so well (or not be willing to admit or recognize) are the long-term effects of playing football that may be with them for the rest of their lives. As one whose years of contact sports is exacting a toll on, I’m here to tell that denial is a powerful thing. There’s something to be said for the perception of the invicibility of youth.
As much as I want to reject Gladwell’s premise, I recognize that my reasons for wanting to do so are purely emotional. When I look at his argument rationally, it’s difficult to refute. He’s right; what other industry maims fully 1/3 of its employees? If any other industry were to do that, the hue and cry demanding reform would be loud and long…and completely justified. Yet we allow football to continue its carnage because we love the gladiatorial nature of the game. We love the primal, physical nature of football; it’s as close to combat as the civilian world comes. Football is what George Will once called “violence punctuated by committee meetings.” It’s the violence, and the toll it exacts on players that’s becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.
The concern has reached the point where many professional athletes- LeBron James(who played in high school) chief among them- won’t allow their children to play football.
Because of the heightened concerns- particularly surrounding head injuries- participation in youth league and high school has dropped. This doesn’t bode well for the future of the game; unless something is done to reduce the carnage, there may not be a long term future for football. For the NFL, a multi-BILLION dollar enterprise, this is no small concern.
Theodore Roosevelt once saved football when it turned deadly at the beginning of the 20th century. The college and high school game was even more brutal than it is today, killing dozens and placing the future of the game in peril. Roosevelt urged a number of reforms that ultimately gave birth to the game we know it today…but it appears that history is repeating itself. Without significant reforms, football may well die. Without change, the degree and severity of physical damage to players simply isn’t sustainable.
Then again, there’s no arguing it’s better for the game to die than its participants. Should football be banned? That’s a debate this country may well need to have- and soon- but I can’t help but wonder how many more young men will have to be maimed or die before we take that question seriously.

Republican Math

Ignoring The Reality

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Our Greatest Moral Issue

Social Security COLA Raise Will Be 1.7% In January

There is both good news and bad news for Social Security recipients this year. The good news is that there will be a cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) in January of 2015 (unlike 2009 and 2010, when there was no COLA raise at all). The bad news is that it is only a tiny 1.7% increase -- one of the smallest increases in the last 15 years.

That means that a person receiving a check for $1000 a month right now will start getting $1017 a month in January. The average benefit is $1306 a month, which would result in a $22 raise per month.

But don't think most people get that average benefit. The median benefit (the amount where half of all recipients get less and half get more) is about $1192 a month. That means more than half of all recipients get less than the average benefit. Adding the 1.7% raise to the median benefit will put it at $1212 for 2015.

There is another small bit of good news. The Part B Medicare deduction will stay the same as it was in 2014 ($104.90 a month). That means Social Security recipients will get to keep all of the tiny raise they get in January.


And while I'm discussing Social Security, let me remind you that the Republicans are telling two big lies about that program.

They say Social Security is going bankrupt. It is not! Social Security can continue to pay full benefits for another 22 years (until 2036). And after that, even if nothing is done, the program can continue to pay 80% of benefits far into the future. The program needs to be adjusted to make that 80% a full 100% -- but the program is not going broke, and it will be around when today's young people need it years from now.

They say that to save Social Security, benefits must be cut and the retirement age must be raised to 70 years of age. These are not only unnecessary, but hard-hearted. Many people in tough physical labor jobs cannot delay retirement until age 70 -- and with the median benefit being only around $1200 a month, cutting benefits would sink millions of recipients into poverty.

The Social Security program can easily be fixed without either cutting benefits or raising the retirement age. All that needs to be done is to raise the cap on FICA payroll tax to $250,000 (or eliminate it altogether). Raising the cap would extend the full benefit pay-out at least another 47 years (and eliminating the cap would push that far into the future) -- and it would do it without requiring a single penny more from those who can't afford it (those making less than $160,000 a year). It would just require the rich to pay the same percentage as working-class and middle-class earners already pay.

Kansas - A GOP Disaster

Political Cartoon is by John Darkow in the Columbia Daily Tribune.

U.S. Leads All Developed Nations (In Homeless Children)

(Cartoon image is by Bill Day at cagle.com.)

I have discussed before on this blog about the huge number of children living in poverty in the United States -- slightly over 20% of the nation's children (about 1 out of every 5). That fact alone shows that our Washington politicians don't care much about the poor, adults or children -- especially the Republicans, who keep insisting of cutting funding to help the poor (while wanting to give more to the rich and the military -- neither of which needs more of anything).

But now we learn of another horrific statistic -- that 3.3% of all the children in this country are homeless (about 1 out of every 30 children). After doing a state-by-state survey, the National Center on Family Homelessness has discovered that around 2.5 million children in America are homeless (1.3 million school-age children and 1.2 million pre-school children).

If any other developed nation had this large a percentage or number of homeless children, they would be shamed into acting to do something about it. But our politicians seem to have no shame. The Republicans in the 113th Congress insisted on cutting all social programs that help the poor, and the Democrats gave in and went along with it. And with the Republicans firmly in control of the 114th Congress, we can expect further cuts -- making this problem even worse.

Hopeless Task

Political Cartoon is by Bob Engelhard in the Hartford Courant.


Found at tickld.com.

Hogging The Wealth

The TPP - A Very Bad Idea