Monday, December 05, 2016

A Close One

Only 74% of People Voted In 2016 Election

A democracy, any democracy, depends on the participation of its citizens. That means voting in the elections that are held. It looks like a substantial portion of our population doesn't care whether we live in a democracy or not.

The charts above are from a post-election survey done by the Public Religion Research Institute between November 9th and 20th of a random sample of 1,162 adults, with a margin of error of 3.6 points.

It turns out that 74% said they voted in the presidential election. Another 6% admitted they were not eligible to vote, and a whopping 20% simply did not bother to vote -- about one out of every five people eligible to vote. With our adult population being about 245.3 million, that means about 49 million people didn't think our democracy was important enough for them to bother with voting.

And the reasons those people gave for not voting were pathetic. About 11% said they didn't vote because the election was "rigged". That's just dumb. There is no reliable information of the election being rigged.

About 36% said they didn't vote because they didn't like the candidates. Also dumb. There's never been an election in which I thought a candidate was perfect. They all have warts (because they are human). But the candidates are never equally bad. You just choose the one that you think will do the best job for the country. And there were more than two candidates to choose from, with parties representing the spectrum of political opinion -- Green Party (far left), Democratic Party (moderate left), Republican Party (right-wing), Libertarian Party (far-right-wing), and various other parties on many state ballots.

About 23% said they didn't have the time to go vote. Bull! Most states, if not all, allow early voting, and in most, employers are required to give a person enough time off to vote. This excuse is just that -- an excuse, not a reality.

About 21% said they didn't vote because they weren't registered. That may be the most pathetic excuse of all. It is easy to register to vote and there is no excuse not to do so. It can be done in person or by mail nearly every day of the year, and in some states can even be done on election day.

Another 2% said their vote doesn't count anyway. Also dumb, and untrue. And about 7% refused to give a reason for not voting. They probably understood that they really have no good reason not to vote.

I will be honest with you. People who don't vote really irritate me. Citizens have an obligation to vote. It is their civic duty. It's the price we pay for living in a democracy (a small price that costs nothing).

I can only think that those who don't bother to vote really don't care if they live in a democracy or not, and that's just sad -- and stupid.

Guilty Of Hypocrisy

Political Cartoon is by Sean Delonas at

$15 Minimum Wage Would Boost Economy & Create Jobs

Our economy is still limping along. While the rich and the corporations have rebounded from the Bush recession (and are enjoying record-breaking incomes and profits), most Americans have not. Unemployment is still too high and wages are still stagnant (meaning with inflation, workers have less buying power than before the recession). This has resulted in weak demand for goods/services, resulting in both weak GDP and job growth.

Donald Trump has promised to produce massive job creation. Unfortunately, his solution is the same old failed "trickle-down" economics that has failed for many years now -- to give huge new tax breaks to corporations (and the rich). That will pad the bank accounts of the people who don't need help, but will not boost the economy or create enough new jobs. These groups are already sitting on trillions of dollars, but not creating jobs.

That's because tax breaks do not create jobs, regardless of what Trump or the Republicans say. There is only one thing that creates new jobs or boosts the economy -- an increase in the demand for goods and services. So, how can we increase that demand? Demand is increased when the masses have money to spend. And it is decreased when the buying power of the masses decreases (which is now the case).

The easiest and fastest way to increase demand substantially would be to raise the minimum wage to a livable wage -- say $15 an hour. This would increase the financial well-being of at least a third of the population, and put upward pressure on the wages of many more Americans. That bottom third would spend that new money they make (since they are barely subsisting now), and that new spending would increase the demand for goods/services -- which would create jobs to meet that new demand, and increase the profits of the business sector as they meet that demand.

Republicans like to say that increasing the minimum wage would cost jobs and make businesses uncompetitive. Neither is true, as many studies have shown. Substantially increasing the minimum wage would be good for workers, businesses, and the economy in general. And the side benefit is that it would be good for government also, taking many people off government assistance (and reducing the deficit).

Here's what Lawrence Michel at the Economic Policy Institute had to say on November 29th about raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour:

Today, working people across the country, from fast food workers to adjunct professors, are striking and demonstrating in favor of a $15 minimum wage—the largest demonstration in the history of the Fight for $15 movement, which has invigorated the debate over raising the minimum wage and helped make a $15 minimum wage and a union the standard for people who care about an economy that works for everyone. EPI applauds this effort and urges Congress to listen to the American people and raise the minimum wage.
For some employers, policymakers, and even economists, $15 an hour sounds high. But against the backdrop of rising productivity and an increasingly educated workforce, it’s clear that raising the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2025 is a bold target but something the economy can afford. For decades, workers’ wages have been stagnant even as productivity has risen steadily. And indeed if the minimum wage had risen alongside productivity, it would be well over $15 today. The fact that it has languished at $7.25 is a reflection of deliberate policy choices to keep wages low—not the laws of economics.
We should not ask today’s low-wage workers to pay for years of policy choices made on behalf of the rich and powerful by saying that $15 an hour is “too high,” when throughout most of the country, it is barely enough to get by. A bold proposal such as $15 is needed to lift the earnings of the bottom third of the workforce, generate robust wage growth overall, and fuel economic growth.

Ignoring The Bear

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

Standing Rock Demonstrators Are Victorious (For Now)

What a difference a day makes! Yesterday, I reported that Donald Trump was supporting the Dakota Access pipeline, and that North Dakota's governor was ordering all the demonstrators to disperse or be removed this week. Things looked dark for the thousands of Native Americans who had gathered at Standing Rock to protect their sacred ground and their water (and for the thousands of friends who had joined them, including 2,000 U.S. veterans). It was looking like a showdown was looming with the 76 law enforcement agencies at the site.

All of that has now changed. On Sunday, the Army Corps of Engineers notified the demonstrators that no easement would be granted to the Dakota Access pipeline to pass through or near the Standing Rock reservation. They said they would be studying other routes for that pipeline.

The demonstrators are celebrating, and they should. Without help from the media, the courts, or the government, they stood their ground for months against the greed of Big Oil -- and they won. It's not only a victory for Native American rights, but for the free speech rights of all Americans.

We can only hope that this victory is final. The Big Oil interests might go to court to overturn the Army Corps decision -- or they may just wait for Trump to be sworn in and let him overturn it. The CEO of the company building the pipeline has said he is "100 percent sure that the pipeline will be approved by a Trump administration" regardless of what the Army Corps decides. And that might be true (since Trump has a financial interest in Phillips 66, and that company would benefit from the pipeline completion).

A great victory has been achieved at Standing Rock, but I fear the fight is not yet over.

Requesting A Bribe

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

Tragic Cost Of Medicare Privatization For Seniors (& Others)

During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump promised to protect Medicare. It now looks like he may be getting ready to break that promise. Speaker Paul Ryan is already writing another of his bills to privatize Medicare -- putting seniors at the mercy of heartless insurance companies. Those companies don't really want to insure seniors, because that is a group generally more in need of medical care than any other -- and you can be sure that the premiums they will charge seniors will be sky-high (meaning many poor and working class seniors will be unable to buy insurance).

Medicare is a government program that has worked exceptionally well (like Social Security) -- and has insured that seniors do not have to do without life-saving medical care (especially preventative care). It would be a tragedy to abolish it, and force seniors to buy private insurance -- a tragedy that would also extend to the families of those seniors and hospitals (who would see the misuse of their emergency rooms skyrocket).

Here is what Josh Marshall, editor and publisher of Talking Points Memo, says about this:

We are hearing more about the Trump/Ryan plan to phase out Medicare and replace it with private insurance and vouchers. But we're still hearing much, much less than about Obamacare or a lot of other issues. Obamacare is super important. Don't get me wrong. But Medicare is a much, much bigger deal. Most DC journalists don't actually understand what's being proposed. You think it's hard getting good insurance when you're 30 or 50? Try getting good private insurance when you're 70 or 80.
Providing health insurance coverage to seniors will unquestionably cost more if run through private insurance. No one who has looked at the comparative data on the cost efficiency of Medicare and private carriers can question this. There's no money savings. Quite the opposite. The only difference is that seniors will pay vastly more out of pocket because the vouchers won't come close to the costs of a policy. The upshot of the Ryan plan is significantly increasing the cost of what society pays for the medical care of seniors and then making seniors pay dramatically more out of pocket. All with none of the bedrock gaurantees Medicare provides.
That's what phasing out Medicare means. Ironically, what Trump and Ryan are proposing is something like Obamacare: you buy your insurance on an exchange and you get some premium support from the government. Obviously, not everyone loves Obamacare. But building an exchange and subsidy adjunct for non-seniors onto an existing and fairly robust private health insurance system is one thing. Creating one from scratch for people who are all pretty much by definition bad risks is close to laughable. Laughable if you're not bankrupted or dying because you couldn't get care. 
Remember the other things Medicare significantly guard against. If parents have insupportable medical bills or have no way to pay for care, they go to children. In the absence of any other options, that's how it should be. But that money comes out of other things: buying homes, putting kids through college. The social insurance model of Medicare has positive effects well beyond direct beneficiaries. 
Ryan and Trump want to pass a bill to phase out Medicare in just six months.


Political Cartoon is by Nick Anderson in the Houston Chronicle.

Arrogant And Ignorant

Sunday, December 04, 2016

War On Christmas ?

An 11 Chart Post Election Analysis Of The 2016 Election

Between November 10th and 14th, the Pew Research Center conducted their quadrennial post-election survey. They questioned 1,254 voters who voted in the 2016 election, and their survey has a margin of error of 3.4 points. These 11 charts are from that survey (and there's much more in their 6 page report of the survey). These are just the charts I personally found to be most interesting.

Note, in the top chart, that Donald Trump received the lowest marks of any winning president-elect since Pew has been conducting this survey. Only 30% gave him an "A" or "B" for the way he conducted his campaign -- 13 points lower than the 43% that gave Clinton an "A" or "B", and a lower score than any losing presidential candidate since 1992 (when George H.W. Bush also scored 30%). That's not good for someone claiming to have a mandate for his policies.

Low grades were also given to both parties, the press, and the pollsters. And 92% said there was more mudslinging in this campaign than in the past (20 points higher than the previous election high for mudslinging -- 2004).

I also found it interesting that 74% of voters had made up their minds about who to vote for by the conventions or shortly after them, and another 15% during or immediately following the debates. Only 7% said they made up their minds in the last week before the election.

Sadly, most people don't expect race relations to improve under a Trump administration, and most don't think relations between the two parties will improve. And both parties seem to be moving toward more partisanship -- with most Republicans wanting their party to be more conservative, and most Democrats wanting their party to be more liberal.

GOP Attitudes

Political Cartoon is by Mike Stanfill at

Are Dems In As Much Trouble As Media Want You To Think ?

The Democratic Party is in a lot of trouble after losing both the presidency and the Congress to the Republicans. That's what the media would like you to believe. They have bad-mouthed the re-election of Nancy Pelosi to be the Minority Leader in the House, called for a new direction for the party (especially concerning the choice of a new DNC head), and lamented the lack of future candidates among the Democrats. They would have you think the Democratic Party is close to death (like in the image above).

That's nonsense. They completely overlook that the Democratic candidate for president got over 2.5 million more votes than the Republican candidate did, that the Democratic candidates for the Senate got more votes combined than the Republican candidates did, that when the votes are all counted it is likely that will also be the case with House Democratic candidates (as it was in 2012 and 2014). They also overlook the fact that the Democrats gained seats in both the House and the Senate.

Did the Democrats lose the White House and both houses of Congress in the 2016 election? Yes. But that does not mean the [arty is an archaic and dying institution -- far from it. What it means is the Democrats, especially on the national level, did not effectively communicate their policies to the voting public, and show them how those policies were better than those put forth by the Republicans. That was an unforgivable mistake by the national party, but it doesn't mean those policies were wrong -- only that they weren't effectively communicated (and the media must take part of the blame by normalizing the horrid Republican beliefs, especially those of Trump).

The biggest mistake made by Democrats was in thinking that Trump could not win, and making the election a referendum on Trump and Clinton -- instead of beating the drums loudly for their policies. Those policies are supported by most of the public -- raising the minimum wage, closing the wealth & income gap, protecting the environment, raising taxes on the wealthy, making corporations pay their fair share of taxes, protecting Social Security and Medicare, amending Obamacare to cover more people and control costs, regulation of Wall Street (to prevent abuse of consumers and another recession), protect the voting rights of all citizens, provide for a background check on all gun buyers, and insure equal rights and more opportunities for everyone.

Those are all Democratic policies, and they are supported by significant majorities of the voting public. They are also policies that are opposed by the Republicans.

And the Republicans are preparing to go against the public's wishes on most of those policies. They are preparing to kill Obamacare, privatize Medicare, cut Social Security benefits and raise the retirement age, cut taxes massively for the rich and the corporations, balloon the deficit and the national debt, remove regulations protecting the environment, remove Wall Street regulation that protect ordinary Americans, kill off efforts to raise the minimum wage, and keep the tax breaks that encourage corporations to continue to offshore good American jobs. If they succeed in doing most (or all) of that, they will be doing serious damage to this country.

That's why I think it's not the Democratic Party that's in trouble -- it's the Republican Party. They just haven't realized it yet -- and neither have too many other Americans. And they can'y change direction. That party has been coopted by racists and teabaggers -- both of which are too stupid to see what they have done to their party. They won't allow any change in the Republican Party because they truly think that taking this country backwards to what it was decades ago is a good thing. They're taking the Republican Party (and the nation) off a cliff (just like similar thinkers did in the 1920's).

Jonathan Chart recently finished an article in New York Magazine by saying:

The party that needs to search its soul about whether it has the capacity to govern competently is not the one out of power. And what should concern Democrats is not whether they’ll get back in power but what will be left of the country when they do.

I agree with him.

(NOTE -- The caricatures of the Democratic and Republican symbols above and below are by the inimitable DonkeyHotey.)


Political Cartoon is by Nick Anderson in the Houston Chronicle.

Trump Sides With Big Oil To Support Dakota Access Pipeline

For many weeks now, the Native Americans at Standing Rock (and many of their friends) have been trying to stop the building of the Dakota Access pipeline. That pipeline will disturb the graves of their ancestors, and put their water supply in serious jeopardy (the very reason it was changed from a route that did not go through their territory).

They have been opposed by the forces of Big Oil, who have marshaled at least 76 policing agencies from 10 states to stop the demonstrations. The peaceful demonstrators have been abused by those agencies, and the governor of North Dakota has ordered them to be removed from the private property they are camping on (claiming their living structures are not safe for the winter weather).

Now they have even worse news. The incoming president, Donald Trump, has made it clear that he is siding with the interests of Big Oil, and against the Standing Rock demonstrators. They will get no help from the federal government.

This is one more action showing that Trump is going to be a corporate-friendly and ate-free speech president. And he is going to act to improve his own financial situation, regardless of how that affects ordinary Americans.

While Trump has divested his interests in the company building the pipeline (worth between $500,000 and $1 million), he does have between $100,000 and $250,000 invested in Phillips 66, which will get 25% of the oil from the pipeline when it is finished.

Trump's corrupt policies have begun, and he hasn't even been sworn in yet.


Political Cartoon is by John Branch at

"The White Working Class Is About To Be Betrayed"

Millions of white working class voters opted for Donald Trump in the recent election, in the belief that the billionaire who thinks wages are too high will actually make things better for them. They are going to be sadly disappointed. Trump's cabinet picks have shown that he is casting his lot with the corporations -- and against American workers.

The following op-ed is from Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman  (pictured) in his New York Times column. Krugman writes:

Donald Trump won the Electoral College (though not the popular vote) on the strength of overwhelming support from working-class whites, who feel left behind by a changing economy and society. And they’re about to get their reward — the same reward that, throughout Mr. Trump’s career, has come to everyone who trusted his good intentions. Think Trump University.
Yes, the white working class is about to be betrayed.
The evidence of that coming betrayal is obvious in the choice of an array of pro-corporate, anti-labor figures for key positions. In particular, the most important story of the week — seriously, people, stop focusing on Trump Twitter — was the selection of Tom Price, an ardent opponent of Obamacare and advocate of Medicare privatization, as secretary of health and human services. This choice probably means that the Affordable Care Act is doomed — and Mr. Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters will be among the biggest losers.
The first thing you need to understand here is that Republican talk of “repeal and replace” has always been a fraud. The G.O.P. has spent six years claiming that it will come up with a replacement for Obamacare any day now; the reason it hasn’t delivered is that it can’t.
Obamacare looks the way it does because it has to: You can’t cover Americans with pre-existing conditions without requiring healthy people to sign up, and you can’t do that without subsidies to make insurance affordable.
Any replacement will either look a lot like Obamacare, or take insurance away from millions who desperately need it.
What the choice of Mr. Price suggests is that the Trump administration is, in fact, ready to see millions lose insurance. And many of those losers will be Trump supporters.
You can see why by looking at Census data from 2013 to 2015, which show the impact of the full implementation of Obamacare. Over that period, the number of uninsured Americans dropped by 13 million; whites without a college degree, who voted Trump by around two to one, accounted for about eight million of that decline. So we’re probably looking at more than five million Trump supporters, many of whom have chronic health problems and recently got health insurance for the first time, who just voted to make their lives nastier, more brutish, and shorter.
Why did they do it? They may not have realized that their coverage was at stake — over the course of the campaign, the news media barely covered policy at all. Or they may have believed Mr. Trump’s assurances that he would replace Obamacare with something great.
Either way, they’re about to receive a rude awakening, which will get even worse once Republicans push ahead with their plans to end Medicare as we know it, which seem to be on even though the president-elect had promised specifically that he would do no such thing.
And just in case you’re wondering, no, Mr. Trump can’t bring back the manufacturing jobs that have been lost over the past few decades. Those jobs were lost mainly to technological change, not imports, and they aren’t coming back.
There will be nothing to offset the harm workers suffer when Republicans rip up the safety net.
Will there be a political backlash, a surge of buyer’s remorse? Maybe. Certainly Democrats will be well advised to hammer Mr. Trump’s betrayal of the working class nonstop. But we do need to consider the tactics that he will use to obscure the scope of his betrayal.
One tactic, which we’ve already seen with this week’s ostentatious announcement of a deal to keep some Carrier jobs in America, will be to distract the nation with bright, shiny, trivial objects. True, this tactic will work only if news coverage is both gullible and innumerate.
No, Mr. Trump didn’t “stand up” to Carrier — he seems to have offered it a bribe. And we’re talking about a thousand jobs in a huge economy; at the rate of one Carrier-size deal a week, it would take Mr. Trump 30 years to save as many jobs as President Obama did with the auto bailout; it would take him a century to make up for the overall loss of manufacturing jobs just since 2000.
But judging from the coverage of the deal so far, assuming that the news media will be gullible and innumerate seems like a good bet.
And if and when the reality that workers are losing ground starts to sink in, I worry that the Trumpists will do what authoritarian governments often do to change the subject away from poor performance: go find an enemy.
Remember what I said about Trump Twitter. Even as he took a big step toward taking health insurance away from millions, Mr. Trump started ranting about taking citizenship away from flag-burners. This was not a coincidence.
The point is to keep your eye on what’s important. Millions of Americans have just been sucker-punched. They just don’t know it yet.


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

"War On Christmas"

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Unions Make America Great

U.S. Unemployment Rate Drops To 4.6% In November

The Labor Department has released its unemployment statistics for the month of November, and it shows the biggest drop in the unemployment rate in over a year -- about 0.3% to 4.6% official unemployment.

The economy produced 178,000 new jobs in November, a reasonable number, but that wasn't the main reason for the rather substantial drop in the unemployment rate. The biggest element was that 226,000 people dropped out of the civilian workforce, and are no longer counted as being unemployed (since they haven't looked for work in the last four weeks). It's no cause for celebration when the rate drops because thousands of people have given up hope of finding a job, and aren't counted anymore.

I expect the rate to remain in the high 4% level for the remainder of President Obama's term. The real question is what will be the rate a year from now -- after nearly a year of the Trump administration. I'm guessing that it will be above 5% again, because none of the things Trump says he will do to produce jobs will actually do that. He's counting on massive tax cuts for the rich and corporations to spur large-scale hiring. Unfortunately, the tax rate has absolutely nothing to do with job creation. Jobs are only created when demand for goods/services rises. But taking more money out of the economy (and out of the hands of the masses), so the tax cuts for the rich can be paid for, will not cause demand to rise. It will cause it to fall. But we shall see.

Here are the relevant labor statistics for the month of November.








Adult men...............4.3%
Adult women...............4.2%
Teens (16-19)...............15.2%
Less than HS grad...............7.9%
HS grad...............4.9%
Some college...............3.9%
Bachelor's degree or more...............2.3%



MORE REALISTIC UNEMPLOYMENT NUMBER (official + marginally-attached):





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

Trump's Claim Of Massive Illegal Voting Did Not Happen

Donald Trump showed his thin skin again recently by claiming he would have won the popular vote if not for millions of illegal votes -- especially in Virginia, New Hampshire, and California. He was upset because people were questioning the validity of his presidency, since he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by more than 2.5 million votes (which makes a joke of his claims of a landslide win and a mandate).

The nonpartisan Pulitzer Prize-winning organization PolitiFact checked on the accuracy of Trump's claims -- as they do with other politicians across the political spectrum. And they labeled his claims as "Pants on Fire" (meaning the statements are not accurate and make ridiculous claims).

That will come as no surprise to anyone except the trumpistas. Illegal voting (i.e., voter fraud) is not a problem in the United States (regardless of what the Republicans would like for you to believe). It is very difficult to vote illegally in this country, and the likelihood is that anyone who tries it will be caught (and punished).

But while there was no massive or widespread illegal voting, there were a very few people who tried to do it in this election. The Washington Post scoured the country to find all cases of illegal voting. They found only four documented cases of it (and a very few more that could have happened). Here is what they found:

Cases of voter fraud

A woman in Iowa who voted twice. Terri Lynn Rote had the enormous misfortune of bad timing. Right as the candidate she supported, Trump, was drawing attention to fraud cases, Rote decided to try to vote twice in Des Moines, and got caught. The case made national headlines simply by virtue of the fact that it happened when it did, and that she voted for Trump.
For what it's worth, she suggested that the fault lay with Trump. “The polls are rigged,” she said to a local radio station by way of explaining her multiple votes, echoing another of Trump's complaints.
A man in Texas who voted twice. Phillip Cook was arrested on Election Day after voting twice. He claimed to be an employee of Trump's campaign who was testing the security of the electoral system. He wasn't an employee of the campaign — and the polling location's security worked perfectly well, it seems.
A woman who cast a ballot on behalf of her dead husband. Audrey Cook is a Republican election judge in Illinois. She and her husband applied for absentee ballots because he was ill. He died before completing his, so she filled it out for him and sent it in. The ballot will not be counted.
A woman in Florida who marked absentee ballots. Gladys Coego was hired to open absentee ballots in Miami-Dade County. One of her co-workers noticed that she was going a step further, filling in the bubble for a mayoral candidate with a pen she had in her purse. She was caught in the act and arrested. There's no evidence that she changed any presidential votes.

Possible cases of voter fraud

Two possible cases of fraud in Washington state. Investigators are looking at two possible cases of fraud near the Idaho border. In the first, a man may have signed his deceased wife's name on an absentee ballot; in the second, someone may have voted in both states. Charges have not been filed in either case.
A possible case in South Carolina. A man in the Palmetto State is being investigated on suspicion of voting both by absentee ballot and in person.
Ballots are being challenged in North Carolina. Because of the close gubernatorial race in North Carolina, several dozen ballots were challenged by Republicans as having been cast by convicted felons in the state. An independent group found that at least 18 of the 43 alleged cases of fraud were not fraud at all, instead confusing valid voters with people who were ineligible given their status. There's not yet any verification that the other ballots were from ineligible voters, either.
To be blunt, Trump (and his GOP cohorts) are lying when they claim massive or widespread illegal voting or voting fraud. They are just using this giant lie to suppress the votes of groups they don't think will vote for them -- and we must continue to fight those suppression efforts.

Illegal Voters ?

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

Trump's Businesses Present An Ethical Quagmire (And Make Good Targets For Terrorists)

(Cartoon image is by Joe Heller at

I have stated before that I think Trump's refusal to disvest himself of his business interests (instead of just letting his children operate them) poses a great danger -- and would result in the Trump administration being the most corrupt presidential administration in this nation's history. I firmly believe that, and I'm not the only one. Pundits from both sides of the political spectrum are troubled by the ethical quagmire Trump's business interests pose.

The following post was written by Republican Richard W. Painter, the chief White House ethics lawyer for the George W. Bush administration from 2005 to 2007, for the New York Times:

President-elect Donald J. Trump said on Wednesday that he would separate himself from his businesses before he enters the White House. More details about the arrangement will be announced in mid-December, but it sounds as if he plans to step away from only the management of his business, which presumably will be turned over to his children, while retaining ownership.
This is not enough. There has been much discussion of Mr. Trump’s business dealings’ putting him in violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which prohibits government officials from accepting gifts and payments from foreign governments or corporations controlled by foreign governments. But there are other conflict-of-interest issues that have gotten less attention and could cause Mr. Trump — and America — much trouble as well. To prevent this, he must sell or give away his ownership interest in his global business empire as soon as possible.
One of Mr. Trump’s most lucrative initiatives has been the licensing of the Trump brand — and name. There are Trump-branded properties like towers and hotels in some 20 countries. .
This first presents an ethical problem: No president should allow his name to be put on commercial properties in return for payment. The presidency is not a branding opportunity. President Trump can’t do this unless he wants to create the impression that he is being paid off.
But it also presents a global security risk. A building branded with the name of an American president — any president, but perhaps especially Mr. Trump — would be a tempting target for terrorists and other enemies of the United States. Who is going to protect the buildings? Will the Trump organization hire a security firm to do the job, or will the American taxpayer be on the line for the bill? Will foreign governments offer to pay to secure the properties — a subsidy of the Trump organization that would probably violate the Emoluments Clause? If a terrorist attack, a botched security operation or some other tragedy happens on a Trump property, the United States could easily get drawn into a conflict abroad. And our adversaries know this. This is one of the most dangerous aspects of Mr. Trump’s conflict-of-interest problem.
Then there is the litigation risk. In Clinton v. Jones, the Supreme Court ruled that the president can be sued in his personal capacity and required to testify in depositions and at trial. Sexual misconduct is a litigation magnet; extensive business operations are another. If Mr. Trump owns his businesses while he is president, it will be a lot easier for plaintiffs’ lawyers to sue him on behalf of customers, counterparties, investors and others, and to require his testimony under oath.
The Trump University case settled for $25 million shortly after the election, and lawyers will be looking for other quick and profitable settlements from a president who does not want to be embarrassed by litigation. As plaintiffs’ lawyers pile on, they will be egged on, and perhaps subsidized by, the president’s political opponents, as happened in the Paula Jones case against Bill Clinton. How can Mr. Trump focus on defending the country if he has to waste time defending himself in court?
The fundamental problem, of course, is one the founders envisioned: They did not want our government officials being paid off by foreign sovereigns. This is why the Constitution has the Emoluments Clause. We also have criminal statutes barring any quid pro quo involving public officials (bribery, solicitation of a bribe or offering of a bribe).
The possibility of quid pro quo will emerge every time somebody working for either the government or the Trump organization talks about government business and Trump business in the same conversation or with the same people. Nobody in the American government, including the president, should ask a foreign diplomat about any aspect of Trump business, including such matters as, for example, unsightly windmills that are too close to Mr. Trump’s golf courses. Such conversations will inevitably suggest a link between official government action and benefits for the Trump businesses. In other words, a bribe.
Even absent a quid pro quo, the Emoluments Clause bans payments to an American public official from foreign governments. Yet they will arise whenever foreign diplomats stay in Trump hotels at their governments’ expense; whenever parties are organized by foreign governments in Trump hotels (Bahrain just announced such a party in a Trump hotel this week); whenever loans are made to the company by the Bank of China or any other foreign-government-owned bank; whenever rent is paid by companies controlled by foreign governments with offices in Trump buildings; and whenever there is any other arrangement whereby foreign government money goes into the president’s businesses.
This problem does not go away because someone else is managing the business. It is still his money, and if he is president, he can’t take it. The only remedy for a serious violation of the Emoluments Clause is impeachment.
Finally, there are the broader policy issues. How can we expect a Trump administration to rein in loose lending practices, particularly in the real estate sector, when the president himself owes hundreds of millions of dollars to banks? What will he do when a foreign dictator acts up in a country where there is a Trump hotel? The American people should not have to worry about those conflicts of interest — and neither should President Trump.
For the good of the country, he should divest from his business empire as soon as possible, put the cash proceeds into United States treasury securities, broadly diversified mutual funds or a blind trust managed by an independent trustee, and then focus on being a good president.

The Swamp Is Refilled

Political Cartoon is by Jim Morin in The Miami Herald.

The Problem Is Not Just Trump

Friday, December 02, 2016

They Are Lying To You

GOP Is Preparing A January Bill To Destroy Obamacare

 (All of the charts on this page are from the Kaiser Family Foundation.)

The Hill is reporting that congressional Republicans are already preparing a bill to do away with Obamacare. They want to have the bill, which will be passed in early January, ready for Trump's signature on Inauguration Day.

They know they can't outright repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). The Senate Democrats would filibuster that to death. So, their plan is to defund Obamacare through a Budget Reconciliation Act (which cannot be filibustered, and can be passed in the Senate on a simple majority vote). Without any money, Obamacare would be effectively dead.

Republicans are scared though. They know that doing away with Obamacare will take health insurance away from more than 20 million people, and that could be catastrophic at the next election. To take care of that, their bill will delay the defunding for 18 to 36 months -- in the vain hope that in that time someone on the GOP side will come up with a plan that will help that 20 million keep insurance.

There's no much real hope of that happening though. They have floated various ideas, and none of them would save insurance for those who got coverage under Obamacare (and none would cut the cost of insurance or medical care). They seem to be living in a fantasy world. You can't take health insurance away and save it at the same time -- not without coming up with either a plan very similar to Obamacare or creating a single-payer plan (both of which they say they will not do).

The Republicans seem to think that most Americans hate Obamacare, and want to see it go away. But while a plurality say they view Obamacare unfavorable -- about 45% compared to 43% who view it favorably (see top chart) -- that does not mean they want Obamacare to die.

When the Kaiser Family Foundation asked what should be done with Obamacare, they got the following results -- 19% said to move forward with the law as it is, 30% wanted to expand it, and 17% wanted to keep it and scale it back. Only a tiny 26% wanted it repealed (see the top chart below).

What is it that people don't like about Obamacare. That is answered in the bottom chart below. It seems that the general public, Democrats, and Independents like everything about Obamacare except the individual mandate (the requirement that everyone have insurance or pay a penalty). Republicans liked everything except the individual mandate and the employer mandate.

That's right, all four groups liked everything else about Obamacare -- including providing subsidies to help people buy health insurance and giving states the right to expand Medicaid. It is just the individual mandate that is disliked. Obviously the public has been misinformed. They don't understand that the mandate applies to only a tiny minority, and without everyone having insurance the premiums for insurance would go sky-high (because insurers cannot just insure sick people).

While Obamacare is a big improvement over what we had before it was passed, it is far from perfect. It needs to be amended to cover all citizens and to control health care and health insurance costs. But killing Obamacare off will not solve those problems, especially since the GOP has no plan to address those issues.

It now looks like the Republicans will quickly kill Obamacare now that they control the government, but I think they are making a huge mistake -- and that mistake is going to rebound and bite them on the ass.

The Kaiser Health Tracking Poll was done between November 15th and 21st of a random national sample of 1,202 adults, and has a margin of error of 3 points.

Press Secretary

Political Cartoon is by Randy Bush at