A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Atheism

There are those fundamentalist christians that like to claim atheism is a kind of religion. As the picture above (from The Immoral Minority) shows, that is ridiculous. Atheism is simply the lack of a belief in any god -- nothing more.

My Suggestion On Voter ID Issue

The card above is basically what a Texas Voter Registration Card looks like these days. For many years now this is the only thing you needed to have to vote in any election. I'm sure your state has something similar. This system has worked pretty well, and there is really no need to change it, but the Republicans in Texas want to change it anyway.

They claim that they need to prevent voter fraud, even though they have absolutely no evidence of any kind of widespread (or even small-scale) voter fraud in the state. But facts and evidence don't have a lot of meaning for Republicans. The charge of fraud has been made, so for them it must be true. And they have passed a new law to deal with this non-existent fraud. They now demand that a voter not only have a Voter Registration Card, but also produce some form of ID with a picture on it (like a driver's license or state ID card).

There is some question whether this new law is constitutional or not, and the matter is currently being taken to court. That's because many Democrats believe that the Republicans aren't really trying to prevent fraud as much as they are trying to suppress votes, and the Democrats are probably right about that.

I have a suggestion. I'm sure a lot of you may think it's weird, but hear me out -- I think it'll work in this computer age. And it would have two advantages. It would vastly increase the voter pool (something Democrats would like) and it would prevent fraud (something Republicans say they want).

My suggestion is to do away with Voter Registration Cards. Let anyone with a driver's license or state ID card (or Military ID card) vote. Both of those cards already have the person's age on it, so no one under the age of 18 could use it to vote. And it would be easy for the state to add a box for citizenship -- it would just have to be a small box where either a Y (for yes) or a N (for no) is entered for citizenship status. The legislature could easily require this.

To avoid the constitutional requirement that no "poll tax" be required to vote, the state should simply issue state IDs free of charge. Only a small fee is now required, and the state budget would not be hurt by waiving it. The larger fee for getting a driver's license could still be collected, since anyone just needing to vote (and not drive) could get a free state ID.

Now this would require the counties to invest in a computer system that would flag a person who has already voted (using the license or ID number) to prevent anyone voting more than once. The system would also need to recognize addresses and place them in the right precinct. This computer system could be paid for with the money that would be saved by no longer needing to print and mail Voter Registration Cards or compiling books of registered voters (since ALL citizens would automatically be qualified to vote simply by getting a license or ID card).

This would also simply the procedure for voting at the polls. A worker would simply enter the license or ID number in their computer, and after verifying they are in the correct precinct, enter them in the computer as having voted. If wanted to verify the correct number of votes have been counted, a simple sign in sheet could be used. But there would no longer be the involved process of checking Voter Registration Cards against the massive voter registration rolls.

The only drawback I see with my proposal is getting people to the right precinct, but I don't think that would be a huge problem. Most people would be in the right precinct by simply going to the voting precinct nearest to their home. Precinct maps could also be printed in the local paper, and also be able to be accessed on the website of the county clerk (where you just type in your address and if gives you the location of your voting precinct). The few people who would slip through the cracks and show up at the wrong precinct (something that currently happens also) could be directed to their proper precinct by poll workers.

As I said before, this system would prevent fraud because a picture ID or license would be used. But it would very probably also increase the number of people who actually vote. You would no longer have to be registered 30 days before an election, and anyone could decide at the last minute they want to vote (and be able to do so). It would be sort of like same-day registration -- only easier.

I'm sure there are probably some problems I haven't thought of, but with a little creative thinking I think they could probably be overcome. What do you think?

The Trickle-Down Problem

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

It's Primary Day In Florida

Today is primary day in Florida, and that state will give all of their delegates to the person who finishes in first place tonight. That would be 50 delegates. Florida normally would have 99 delegates, but their number of delegates was cut in half because they retained their winner-take-all format (while the Republican Party says any state voting before April must have proportional delegates apportioning). Right now it looks like the person who will get those 50 delegates is Willard Mitt Romney (aka Wall Street Willie).

Wall Street Willie has done better in the last couple of debates, and that certainly helped him. But probably the biggest factor in his Florida rebound is his massive amount of money spent. In Florida, there has been $15.9 million spent on ads for Romney ($7 million by the Romney campaign and another $8.9 million by the Romney super-PAC), while only about $4 million was spent on ads for Gingrich ($1.2 million by the Gingrich campaign and another $2.8 by his super-PAC). That's a huge advantage for old Wall Street Willie.

Yesterday I posted five recent Florida polls, and all of them had Romney with a significant lead in that state. Now the Rasmussen Poll has released it's latest figures, and they verify what the other polls have been saying. Here are those numbers:

RASMUSSEN POLL
Mitt Romney...............44%
Newt Gingrich...............28%
Rick Santorum...............12%
Ron Paul...............10%
Other/Undecided...............6%

That takes care of the voting for January, and for Gingrich's best early voting chances. His next chances to make inroads into Romney's delegate count won't come until the end of February and the first week of March. Arizona and Michigan will hold their primaries on February 28th, and 10 more states will vote on March 6th (Super Tuesday). The question now is can Gingrich hold on until the end of February.

There are four caucuses in the first half of February -- in Nevada, Maine, Colorado, and Minnesota. There is also a primary in Missouri, but it is just a beauty contest and doesn't award any delegates. It is doubtful that Gingrich will do too well in those caucuses, since he just doesn't have the organization in place. Romney is organized in those states, but so is Ron Paul. And Ron Paul has shown an extraordinary ability to turn out his supporters for caucuses. If Paul is going to do much of anything this year, the next couple of weeks are his big chance to shine.

Here is the schedule through Super Tuesday:


February 4, 2012Nevada (caucus)
February 4–11, 2012Maine (caucus)
February 7, 2012Colorado (caucus)
Minnesota (caucus)
Missouri (primary) – No delegates awarded
February 28, 2012Arizona (primary)
Michigan (primary)
March 3, 2012Washington (caucus)
March 6, 2012
(Super Tuesday)
Alaska (caucus)
Georgia (primary)
Idaho (caucus)
Massachusetts (primary)
North Dakota (caucus)
Ohio (primary)
Oklahoma (primary)
Tennessee (primary)
Vermont (primary)
Virginia (primary)

Mitt's Money

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

U.S. Violates Iraqi Airspace With Drones

It seems like the United States still thinks it can do anything it wants in Iraq -- in spite of the fact that troops have been withdrawn and the occupation of that country has ended. Now the U.S. is flying surveillance drones over Iraq. Instead of the military or the CIA, the normal drone operators, these new drones over Iraq are being operated by the U.S. State Department.

The drones are supposedly being used "as a protective measure", but they are clearly a violation of Iraqi airspace and is being done without permission from Iraqi officials. The State Department says it is in the process of negotiating an agreement with Iraq to allow the flights, but Iraqi officials deny this. They say they have not been contacted at all about the drones being flown over their territory, and they don't like it at all. Adnan al-Asadi, the minister of the interior, says, "Our sky is our sky, not the U.S.A.'s sky."

Of course, that official is absolutely right. The United States should not be flying drones (or any other aircraft) over another country without permission from that country. Does anyone think the United States would allow another country to fly surveillance drones over the U.S.? Of course not!. The FBI would put a stop to it in a heartbeat, and the violators would either go to jail or be deported -- and might even be sent to Guantanamo as terrorists. And whatever we wouldn't allow a country to do over here, we should not be doing in another country.

The U.S. likes to brag about treating other countries with respect, but all too often our government acts like there are two sets of rules -- one for us and another for everyone else. It is this kind of lack of regard for the rights of others that makes us look like "ugly Americans" to the rest of the world. We need to stop this kind of behavior, and cease the drone flights immediately. We should exhibit the same kind of behavior we expect from other countries.

(Upper) Class Warfare

Political Cartoon is by Nick Anderson in The Houston Chronicle.

Monday, January 30, 2012

A Tax Comparison - Romney vs. 99%

If this chart from Think Progress doesn't make you mad, then you're either rich or brain-dead (or both).

Big Florida Lead For "Wall Street Willie"

This is still a very volatile Republican presidential nomination campaign, and it seems to change almost on a daily basis. Willard Mitt Romney (aka Wall Street Willie) has been in and out of first place in the polls so many times he has to be feeling like he's on a trampoline. And it looks like his latest attack campaign against opponent Newt Gingrich is now having some effect. Newt still leads nationally in the latest Gallup Tracking Poll, but he has lost points in the last couple of days and now only leads by two points (28% to 26%) -- within the margin of error.

And since most of those attacks have been within the state of Florida, that's where the biggest effect is being seen. All of the latest polls are now showing Wall Street Willie with a big lead in Florida. Here are several of the latest polls:

NBC/MARIST POLL
Mitt Romney...............42%
Newt Gingrich...............27%
Rick Santorum...............16%
Ron Paul...............11%
Undecided...............4%

AMERICAN RESEARCH GROUP POLL
Mitt Romney...............43%
Newt Gingrich...............32%
Rick Santorum...............11%
Ron Paul...............8%
Other/Undecided...............6%

MASON DIXON POLL
Mitt Romney...............42%
Newt Gingrich...............31%
Rick Santorum...............14%
Ron Paul...............6%

WAR ROOM LOGISTICS POLL
Mitt Romney...............40%
Newt Gingrich...............30%
Rick Santorum...............15%
Ron Paul...............6%
Undecided...............8%

PUBLIC POLICY POLLING
Mitt Romney...............40%
Newt Gingrich...............32%
Rick Santorum...............15%
Ron Paul...............9%

It looks like Wall Street Willie has Florida in the bag now. But there are still a lot of Southern States to go where Gingrich could score well (since most of them are ruled by the teabagger/evangelical vote), so I'm not willing to hand the nomination to Romney yet. It's still an interesting and volatile race, and anything could happen.

Attack Ads

Political Cartoon is by Jeff Parker in Florida Today.

Texas Dems Have 3 Senate Candidates

A few months ago it looked like the Democratic Party in Texas would be running retired General Rick Sanchez for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison. Some senators from outside the state had come down and talked him into running, thinking that his high-profile military service in Iraq would be attractive to Texas voters. But several factors combined to prevent that -- namely the Abu Ghraib scandal, his boring campaign style, and only a half-hearted desire to be the candidate. Fortunately, he dropped out before the campaign really started.

But that left Democrats wondering who they had that could be a viable candidate. Frankly, there is no one in the party who really has statewide name recognition -- mainly due to the fact that Democrats haven't had an elected official holding statewide office in a long time. That means that any Democrat who runs will have a big job to do to get his name known in all portions of this very big state -- both in the primary and in the general election.

But while they may all be virtual unknowns to most Texans, there are three candidates running for the Democratic nomination for the senate seat. Here they are:

The Progressive Candidate

Sean Hubbard is the youngest candidate, and that may be his biggest problem (since he looks even younger than his actual age of 31 years old). But he is also unashamed of his progressive views.

Hubbard worked in the Obama campaign here in Texas in the last election. And he is a person who can be counted on to vote with the Democrats to support the president's initiatives.

He lists his top issues as the economy (especially in the area of job creation), education, and clean energy. He says, "What we have to do is get back to reminding folks what being a progressive means, and what being a Democrat is. We're the party of Social Security and Medicare; we're the party that fights for civil rights."

You can check out his background and issues at his website, which is the most complete website of all of the three candidates.

The Blue Dog Candidate ?

Paul Sadler is the only candidate with any elective experience. He served in the Texas House from 1991 to 2003, representing the East Texas counties of Rusk, Harrison, and Panola. He has worked as a lobbyist in Austin since losing his bid for a seat in the Texas Senate.

He had a stellar record in education when he was in the Texas House, and received numerous awards for his work in the area of education. But his website doesn't have (at least not yet) an issues page, so it is hard to know where he stands on issues important to Democrats nationwide.

This, in addition to his East Texas roots and the following quote from his website, tends to make me think he is a "conservative" Democrat (a blue dog). He says, "Today, it seems we spend a lot of our time calling each other conservative or liberal, moderate or progressive. I want us to be problem solvers committed to the principles of this great country. Those principles are larger than a label - they live inside each of us." In Texas, when a politician refuses a label and calls himself a "problem solver" that usually means he is a "blue dog" who will vote with national Republicans far too much.

Maybe I'm wrong. I hope I am. But until I see where he stands on some issues important to national Democrats, he looks like a blue dog to me. Here is his website.

The Mystery Candidate

I call Jason Gibson the "mystery candidate" because very little is known about him or his stand on the issues. We know he is a very successful trial lawyer, who has never held political office -- but that is about all we know. And his website doesn't help much at all. There is neither a bio nor an issues page on that site.

Here is the total content on his webpage (and it is just one page -- at least so far):


"I built my career fighting for everyday Texans. And like you, I’m frustrated with the half-hearted opposition to Republican gridlock in Washington.
For Democrats to win in Texas, we need New Leadership and a New Direction — that’s why I’m running for U.S. Senate."

Those are the three choices that Texas Democrats have right now. I haven't made a decision yet, since I would really like more information on all three of them. But right now, I'm leaning toward Sean Hubbard.

Bloodbath

Political Cartoon is by Rick McKee in The Augusta Chronicle.

Republican Lies About Income Inequality

(Cartoon above is by David Baldinger at dbaldinger.com.)

The gap between the richest Americans and the rest of America is bigger now than it has been since before the Great Depression, and it continues to grow larger every day -- both in terms of total wealth and in income. It is this huge economic equality gap that is the root cause of our current Great Recession (just like a similar gap set up the Great Depression). The criminal and greedy actions of Wall Street were just the trigger for the recession, but the cause was the growing wealth and income gap.

Republicans don't want to admit this -- because they are the ones that caused the economic gap and they still want even more of America's income and wealth to go to the richest Americans. Republican leaders want this because: a) most of them are rich themselves, b) it is from the rich that they get most of their campaign funds, and c) they don't want to admit their policies for the last 30 years have been wrong and have damaged the country.

So they have concocted a few bald-faced lies to try and fool the American people into believing there is no inequality problem in America -- or that the inequality doesn't matter to the American economy. David Morris over at AlterNet enumerates five of these Republican lies and exposes their falsity. Here are those lies (and the truth):

1. Income is not all that unequal.

Actually it is. Since 1980 the top 1 percent has increased its share of the national income by an astounding $1.1 trillion. Today 300,000 very rich Americans enjoy almost as much income as 150 million.
Since 1980, the income of the bottom 90 percent of Americans has increased a meager $303 or 1 percent. The top 1 percent’s income has more than doubled, increasing by about $500,000. And the really, really rich, the top 10th of 1 percent, made out, dare I say, like bandits, quadrupling their income to $22 million.
Meanwhile a full-time worker’s wage was 11 percent lower in 2004 than in 1973, adjusting for inflation even though their productivity increased by 78 percent. Productivity gains swelled corporate profits, which reached an all time high in 2010. And that in turn fueled an unprecedented inequality within the workplace itself. In 2010, according to the Institute for Policy Studies, the average CEO in large companies earned 325 times more than the average worker.


2. Inequality doesn’t matter because in America ambition and hard work can make a pauper a millionaire.


This is folklore. A worker’s initial position in the income distribution is highly predictive of how much he or she earns later in the career. And as the Brookings Institution reports “there is growing evidence of less intergenerational economic mobility in the United States than in many other rich industrialized countries.”
The bitter fact is that it is harder for a poor person in America to become rich than in virtually any other industrialized country.


3. Income inequality is not a result of tax policy.


Nonsense. A painstaking analysis by economists Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Stefanie Stantcheva found “a strong correlation between the reductions in top tax rates and the increases in top 1% pre-tax income shares from 1975–79 to 2004–08”. For example, the U.S. slashed the top income tax rate by 35 percent and witnessed a large ten percent increase in its top 1% pre-tax income share. “By contrast, France or Germany saw very little change in their top tax rates and their top 1% income shares during the same period.”


4. Taxing the rich will slow economic growth.


An examination of 18 OECD countries found “little empirical support for the claim that reducing the progressivity of the tax code has spurred economic growth, business formation or job growth.”
Indeed, Piketty, Saez and Stantcheva’s rigorous analysis came to the opposite conclusion. Our economy may be growing more slowly because we are taxing the rich too little, not too much. Economists Peter Diamond and Saezestimated the optimal top tax rate, that is the tax rate that would maximize revenue without slowing economic growth, could be as high as 83 percent.
Redistributing income stimulates economies in part because when 1% make more they save whereas when the 99% make more they spend. As a result, according to Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s, a dollar in tax cuts on capital gains adds .38 cents of economic growth while a dollar in unemployment benefits gives the economy a boost of $1.63 and a dollar of food stamps adds $1.73.


5. Taxing the rich would not raise much money.


Of course it would. If only the richest 400 families, whose average income in 2008 was an astounding $270 million actually paid the statutory rate of 39 percent (revived as of next January 1st) an additional $500 billion would be raised over 10 years, putting a substantial dent in the projected deficit.
In 2010 hedge fund manager John Paulson made $5 billion. That year, according to Pulitzer Prize winner David Cay Johnston, Paulson paid no income taxes. Am I envious Mr. Romney? You bet I am. But I’m also angry at the stark injustice of it all. And terrified of the power such wealth can wield in a country that allows billionaires to spend unlimited sums influencing legislation and elections.

R-Money

Political Cartoon is by Adam Zyglis in The Buffalo News.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Evolution

A thought-provoking image from the website imgur.

This GOP Lie Still Won't Fly















Ever since President Obama took office in January of 2009, the Republicans in Congress have tried to hang the faltering economy (recession) around his neck like an albatross. And since that time the congressional Republicans have obstructed every effort of the president and Democrats to create jobs and get the economy moving again. It is their hope that if they can keep the economy from moving again for long enough, then voters will forget who threw this nation in to recession (Bush and Republicans) and blame President Obama.

The chart above (from The Maddow Blog) shows the truth. A healthy economy will produce a gross domestic product (GDP) of about 3% or better. The chart shows that for the last five economic quarters in the Bush presidency the economy was in very poor shape, unable to reach even a meager 2% growth. And in the final two quarters of the Bush presidency, the bottom fell out of the nation's economy -- with the third quarter of 2008 showing negative growth of nearly 4% and the fourth quarter showing negative growth of over 8%.

The truth is that in spite of the continuous Republican obstructionism, the economy began to improve almost immediately after President Obama took office. No quarter in his three year term has shown a GDP as bad as the final quarter of the Bush term, and it only took him three quarters (less than a year) to get the nation's GDP back to showing positive growth.

The nation has not dipped back down into negative growth since that time, although GDP did fall after the Republicans took control of the House in the fourth quarter of 2010 and were able to more effectively obstruct Democratic efforts to rehabilitate the economy. The truth is that it was the Republican "trickle-down" economic policy that caused the recession and it is Republican obstructionism that has been a drag on the economy since President Obama took office.

Putting A Head On The Monster

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

"Wall Street Willie" Is Losing Ground In Michigan

When the Republican presidential campaign got underway, there were some states where the winner was a foregone conclusion. An example would be the state of Michigan, which was expected to be easily won by Willard Mitt Romney (Wall Street Willie) -- after all, Romney's father was the governor of that state and the younger Romney grew up there. But there are now some creeping doubts as to whether Romney can win in Michigan now.

After Romney's thrashing in South Carolina, things seem to have changed a bit. Romney has lost the feeling among voters that he is the "inevitable" winner of the Republican nomination. The Florida primary is still very volatile and Romney now trails Gingrich in all the national polls. Those things seem to be having an effect in Michigan and that effect is eroding support for Romney and gaining support for Gingrich in that state. And some now believe that the outcome in Michigan could actually be in doubt when it holds its primary on February 28th.

A Detroit Free Press/WXYZ-TV Poll shows that Romney has gone from a 17 point lead in the state poll last week over Gingrich to only a 5 point lead this week. Last week the poll showed Romney with 34% support while Gingrich had only 17% support. This week, Romney's support has dropped to 31% while Gingrich's support has risen to 26%. And that's without any large-scale campaign effort by Gingrich in that state.

Even if Gingrich doesn't win Michigan outright, he could now come out of that state with more delegates than anyone had previously thought possible -- and that would be a big embarrassment for Wall Street Willie, the home-state boy. And that could affect the outcome in later-voting states.

Even better news for Democrats is that it also looks like Romney is also losing general election support in Michigan. Two months ago, Romney led President Obama 46% to 41% in Michigan. That is no longer true. Now President Obama has the lead over Romney 48% to 40%. And the people of Michigan prefer President Obama over Gingrich 51% to 38%. It looks like the dirty Republican primary campaign (along with a slightly improving economic outlook) is having a positive effect for Democrats.

Can't Stop Laughing

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

A Broken Clock Is Right Twice A Day

They say that even a broken clock is right twice a day, and that is sort of how I feel about Ron Paul. Don't get me wrong. I think he's a racist nut-job, and he would be an absolute disaster as president (and it makes me very happy that he has no chance of ever gaining that office). But even a racist nut-job can be right about something once in a great while. And I have found something that Paul is right about.

He is right about our policy towards Cuba. For the last 50 years we have tried to intimidate and embargo Cuba into submission. We have tried to do this because we don't approve of their communist government -- ignoring the fact that although the Cuban people may not have the kind of government we prefer, the people are much better off than they were before Castro came to power. They have the highest literacy rate in the hemisphere, free and excellent medical coverage for all their citizens, and even the poor are assured of decent food and housing.

Our policy toward Cuba has been an abject failure and I am amazed that we still cling to it as though someday it still might work. Cuba is not now, and never has been, a danger to the United States. We need to realize that it is none of our business how the Cubans govern themselves, and we should normalize our relationship with that country -- just like we have done with other countries whose governments we disapprove of (like Russia, Vietnam, China, etc.). If we can talk to and trade with those countries, there is no real reason why we can't do the same with Cuba.

And that is where I find I agree with Ron Paul. Here is what he says about our failed Cuban policy:

"I think it's time ... to quit this isolation business of not talking to people. We talked to the Soviets. We talk to the Chinese. And we opened up trade, and we're not killing each other now. We fought with the Vietnamese for a long time. We finally gave up, started talking to them, now we trade with them. I don't know why — why the Cuban people should be so intimidating."


"I think we're living in the dark ages when we can't even talk to the Cuban people. I think it's not 1962 anymore. And we don't have to use force and intimidation and overthrow of a — in governments. I just don't think that's going to work."

A Dark Cloud

Political Cartoon is by Daryl Cagle at msnbc.com.

Thank You !

According to Site Meter, this humble blog has just passed the 1,000,000 mark in page views. I know that doesn't put me among the "big boys" in blogging, but it's a pretty nice benchmark for a small one-person Texas blog. I'm kind of proud of it. And I know it's due to the wonderful readers of this blog, especially those who come back repeatedly to read my scribblings -- and I want to thank each and every one of you.

Since the readership is much higher than it used to be, I expect the second million will come a lot faster -- and I look forward to that. Again, thank you all!

  PAGE VIEWS
  
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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Racial Sisyphus

The truth of this cartoon from the website Ampersand is obvious. Too many white Americans think if racial problems are hidden or ignored then everything will be all right. It won't! The race problems still endemic in America will not be solved until we make an effort to help roll that rock up the hill (eliminate racism).

Romney Leading Florida - Losing Nationally

It looks like Republican voters, at least in South Carolina and Florida, love "attack-dog" politics. In the waning days of the GOP campaign in South Carolina, Newt Gingrich unleashed his inner attack-dog and snatched the primary away from Mitt Romney (who was leading there immediately after New Hampshire). Now the tables have been turned.

After winning the South Carolina primary, Gingrich jumped out to a substantial lead in Florida. But while Gingrich turned the heat down in the last two Florida debates (probably thinking he was protecting a lead), Romney did the opposite -- releasing his own inner attack-dog and going after Gingrich in the debates. And it looks like it is working. The last few days have seen polls showing Romney is regaining the lead in Florida.

Now two new Florida polls have been released that show Romney is firmly back in the lead. Here are the results from those two polls:

QUINNIPIAC UNIVERSITY POLL
Mitt Romney...............38%
Newt Romney...............29%
Ron Paul...............14%
Rick Santorum...............12%
Other/Undecided...............7%

SUNSHINE STATE NEWS POLL
Mitt Romney...............40%
Newt Gingrich...............31%
Rick Santorum...............12%
Ron Paul...............9%
Other/Undecided...............7%

But even if Romney does win in Florida, it probably won't give him the substantial leg-up in the race he was originally hoping for. That's because the GOP has declared that any state holding a primary (or caucus) before April must assign delegates proportionally or lose half of their delegates. Since the Florida GOP has decided to maintain their winner-take-all status, that means they will only have 50 delegates to award the winner instead of their full 99.

Winning 50 delegates would put Romney back in the lead in the delegate count, but it would not be an insurmountable lead. And Gingrich is maintaining a nationwide lead over Romney -- a lead larger than the margin of error in the polls. Here are the two latest national polls for the GOP race:

GALLUP POLL
Newt Gingrich...............32%
Mitt Romney...............24%
Ron Paul...............14%
Rick Santorum...............13%

NBC NEWS/WALL STREET JOURNAL POLL
Newt Gingrich...............37%
Mitt Romney...............28%
Rick Santorum...............18%
Ron Paul...............12%

There is still a good possibility that this race could be decided at a brokered Republican convention. It is likely that Paul will do well in the caucus states, and could even top his expected percentage. His supporters are true believers and he has a good track record of getting them out to attend caucuses. Add that to Gingrich's current popularity among teabaggers and evangelicals (strong in the South and Midwest), and it is possible that Romney won't be able to get more than half the delegates.

Dividing America

Political Cartoon is by Jim Morin in The Miami Herald.

Republicans Are Wrong About Taxes

When Mitt Romney released his 2010 tax return last Tuesday most people were shocked to find that although he made millions of dollars, he only paid a tax rate of 13.9% -- far below what most middle class families would pay. Mitt and his Republican cohorts have been scrambling to justify his tiny tax rate. They say it's just free enterprise and is legal. They are right about the legality, but what they failed to say is that they are the ones who made it legal. It was a part of the Bush tax cuts that lowered the capital gains rate so low (while keeping the rates on earned income much higher), thus giving the super-rich a break that working people don't get.

About a third of Romney's income (about $7.4 million) was from something called carried interest, which is currently taxed as a capital gain with a 15% tax rate. But most top investors, both here and in other countries, don't think that is fair. They think carried interest should be taxed at a higher rate. That was the majority opinion in a poll of 1,209 investors by Bloomberg News on January 23rd and 24th. Here are the results:

Worldwide Investors
15% rate is justified...............21%
15% rate not justified...............66%

United States investors
15% rate is justified...............27%
15% rate not justified...............67%

As we can see, even a representative sample of Mitt's fellow investors think he should be paying more in taxes. This shouldn't really surprise us, since multi-billionaires Warren Buffett and Bill Gates have both been calling for higher taxes for the rich. In addition, a group of millionaires have joined them in asking for higher taxes. It looks like there are some of the rich that appreciate what this country has allowed them to do and want to pay their fair share of taxes to help those who haven't been as fortunate.

But those people aren't alone in calling for higher taxes for the rich. In his State of the Union speech President Obama called for the rich to pay a minimum tax rate of 30%. And a majority of Americans agree with the president. In a new Rasmussen Poll (a poll known to lean toward Republicans), it was shown that 55% of the population agrees with the president, while only 32% disagree. Other polls have shown an even larger percentage calling for higher taxes on the rich.

I'm sure most Republicans in Congress are in that 32%, because their solution to every problem facing this country is to cut taxes for the richest Americans. But they are swimming against the current on this issue, and if they don't temper their tax-cutting efforts for the rich they could find themselves at a serious disadvantage in the coming elections.

The Democrats are in the power position on this issue, and the weird part is that they could significantly raise taxes on the rich by simply doing nothing (except blocking Republican efforts to cut those taxes). The Bush tax cuts, which mainly benefitted the rich, not only lowered the top tax rate for earned income but also lowered the tax rate for capital gains. All the Democrats have to do is let those cuts expire at the end of this year.

As the chart above (from Under The Mountain Bunker) shows, letting the Bush tax cuts expire combined with a raise in the capital gains rate already approved in the Affordable Care Act and another provision that limits deductions for the rich would effectively raise the capital gains tax to about 25% in January of 2013. It wouldn't be quite up to the 30% President Obama wants, but it would be a good start (and if the Democrats hold their ground it couldn't be stopped by the Republicans).

The Democrats have the public on their side in this issue, and if they're smart they beat the drums on this all the way to election day. If they can get some more Democrats elected in November, maybe they can up the minimum tax rate for the rich to at least 30%. If not, at least they can make sure the minimum rate goes to about 25%.

No Punishment

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

Friday, January 27, 2012

Changes

The first three changes to the Pledge of Allegiance were rather innocuous and appropriate for the secular government established by the Founding Fathers. The fourth however, was divisive and added a theocratic element to the pledge -- making it no longer applicable to a significant portion of the population. How can such an exclusionary change be a good thing?

Florida Primary Could Be A Toss-Up

There are those who thought the Republican race could be pretty much over by the time it got to Florida (only the fourth state to vote). These people thought Romney would be well on his way to winning the nomination by now. But they underestimated one thing -- the depth of the teabagger/evangelicals' dislike for Mitt Romney. These "anti-Romney" forces have bent over backward and gone through a long list of hopefuls in the hopes of finding another candidate -- any other candidate to avoid voting for Romney.

The teabagger/evangelicals finally coalesced around a candidate and gave Newt Gingrich a big win in that state. Gingrich is a seriously flawed candidate, but he had one advantage -- he was not Mitt Romney. Now, in another three days the people of Florida get their say in the primary race.

Florida is turning out to be the most interesting primary yet. Mitt Romney started out with a large lead in Florida. Then after South Carolina, Newt Gingrich jumped into a large lead. Now Romney seems to be mounting something of a comeback. The latest polls show Romney is either tied with Gingrich or has regained the lead. Even respected poll analyst Nate Silver says the race in Florida could go either way (although he now has Romney with a slight advantage, but one within the margin of error). It could all turn on what Florida voters think about last night's debate. Here are the latest two polls:

CNN/TIME/ORC POLL
Mitt Romney...............36%
Newt Gingrich...............34%
Rick Santorum...............11%
Ron Paul...............9%
None/No opinion...............11%

RASMUSSEN POLL
Mitt Romney...............39%
Newt Gingrich...............31%
Rick Santorum...............12%
Ron Paul...............9%
Other/Undecided...............11%

The South Carolina and now Florida primaries have exposed that there is a clear divide in the Republican Party. I'll call them the "Romneys" (establishment and moderate Republicans) and the "anti-Romneys" (the teabaggers and evangelicals). The "Romneys" want as mainstream a candidate as possible. They don't want a candidate that could hurt them down-ballot. On the other hand, the "anti-Romneys" want to move the party far to the right by choosing an ultra-right-wing candidate. Ideology is more important to them than electoral possibilities.

Next Tuesday one of these groups will come out on the short end, and whichever it is, their candidate will have a much more difficult path to the nomination. That has both camps worried. If Gingrich wins then the campaign is likely to be an extended one and could even go to a brokered convention. Amazingly, there is still talk of a new candidate -- if not now, then at the convention. The "Romneys" will want someone like Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie, or Jeb Bush.

And the "anti-Romneys" may still be open for a new candidate too -- especially if Mitt Romney wins in Florida. My fellow Texas blogger over at Half Empty recently got polled by some Republican-leaning organization (they thought he was a right-winger I guess) that wanted to know what he would think of Sen. Jim DeMint as a presidential candidate.

I could never vote for a Republican (thanks to the DNA I got from my father and both grandfathers who also never voted GOP), but I have to admit this Republican race has gotten more interesting with each passing day. It's kind of like passing a wreck on the freeway -- you don't want to slow down and look, but you just can't help doing it.

Perhaps the most incisive comment on the Republican presidential race was made by Fidel Castro. He said:

I must point out that the campaign to select a Republican candidate as the possible future president of this globalized and far-reaching empire has become —I say this in all seriousness— the greatest competition of idiocy and ignorance that has ever been heard.

I think he's right.

Who represents The Poor ?

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

Is Bachmann Done ?

I don't think many people on either side of the political spectrum gave Michele Bachmann much of a chance of getting the Republican nomination for the presidency, let alone unseating President Obama, when she tossed her tin-foil hat in the ring last year. And she lived down to those expectations, running a disastrous mistake-prone campaign. After a brief flirtation with her in the Iowa straw poll, even the teabaggers realized her campaign was a joke and they abandoned her. After competing in only one state (Iowa), she realized the impossibility of her situation and dropped out of the race.

But Bachmann and her few supporters were not ready for her to fade into history. She liked her brief time in the spotlight and wanted more of it. For a brief time, there was some hope she would enter the senate race against Amy Klobuchar. But poll results quickly ended that dream. For example, the Public Policy Polling survey in Minnesota showed Bachmann trailing Klobuchar by 58% to 35% -- a whopping 23 point deficit.

In fact, it seems that her pitiful presidential run has ruined any hope she might have had at a statewide office. Only 34% of Minnesotans view her favorably now, while 57% view her negatively. And most Minnesota voters don't even want her to run for her old House seat again either -- with 57% saying she shouldn't run and only 37% saying she should run.

Bachmann has decided to defy the statewide verdict on her candidacy, and she has announced she will be running for re-election to the House of Representatives. Could she be re-elected to Congress? Has her disastrous and embarrassing run for the presidential nomination hurt her in the district she would represent? Nobody knows, because the Minnesota congressional redistricting has not been completed. No one else has announced a run for her House seat yet, but that is probably because no one knows just where the district lines will be yet.

I suspect she has suffered some damage from her presidential run, but we won't know how serious that damage is until the district lines are finalized and we see who will be running against her. Let's hope the Democrats are able to find and finance a strong candidate in her district.

Vulture Piracy

Political Cartoon is by Keith Tucker at whatnowtoons.com.

About Capitalism

It will come as no surprise to readers of this blog that I am a left-winger when it comes to economics and politics. I would not be adverse to even being described as a socialist. But that does not mean that I am opposed to all capitalism, or don't believe people should be allowed to better themselves by making money -- even a lot of money.

But I am opposed to an unregulated capitalism, where the rich (the holders of the capital) are allowed to pervert the system and hog all of the profits of the system, leaving workers with barely enough to survive. To me, that is simply economic slavery. A regulated capitalist system is much better because it not only allows the rich to make lots of money, but it also allows the workers to share in the benefits of their own labor.

The blog worldwide hippies has just posted an excellent article on regulated or managed capitalism (and why it must be regulated). I urge you to go read the whole thing. To whet your appetite, I am posting part of their article below:

. . .Modern capitalism functions as a productivity funnel, taking the 2% annual productivity gains of the economy as a whole and concentrating it, so that labor gets none of it, with capital multiplying that 2% by factors of 5, or 10 or more to generate 10%, 20% or even greater returns to the owners. The added-value of economic activity is created by all the factors working together, including labor, but capital has rigged the rules of the game so as to claim it all for itself. Labor is treated as nothing more than another commodity, like bushels of wheat or barrels of oil. Capital flies around the globe at the speed of light, searching out the cheapest labor markets, and exiting just as quickly, while labor, real human beings, are pretty much tethered to their physical homes, bodies, skills and education. Union bashing and busting is all about making certain that your labor is never treated as anything more than a line item on an income statement that can be bought, sold and traded at will on the open market. In the modern capitalist economy, labor can never be permitted to be seen as “human” in any way. As has been pointed out by others, capitalists actually like the idea of an economy based on the game “Monopoly”, where it’s winner-take-all for the hotel property/capital owners. Except of course that, for real humans, it’s not a game.


The typical approach by the Left in addressing this demand side of the equation has been redistribution, primarily through tax policy –progressive income, wealth and inheritance taxes, to be redeployed into the economy either as social infrastructure (roads, schools, hospitals) or safety net spending (Social Security, unemployment insurance, and Medicare). All-in-all, this is not a bad strategy. When the top 20% controls 65% of the income and 85% of the wealth, there are not a lot of other options. In fact, I would argue that under current conditions, it remains the best strategy, as most every supply-oriented approach tends to kill the golden goose through unintended consequences that strangle capital formation and deployment. Capital, of course, recognizes both its natural advantage as the scarcest of the production factors, and the limited arsenal that the public can employ, and so has been reflexively trained to yell “Class War” whenever the subject is broached, hiding behind the hypocrisy that it was they themselves who first declared war by rigging the rules and denying anyone but capital shareholders from having a say in the distribution of the value created by the WHOLE business enterprise (which, to remind them once again, includes labor). . .


Short of throwing capitalism out the window completely, the prescription would seem to be to get out of the way of capital formation (health, environmental and safety regulations excepted), use progressive taxation liberally on the demand side, along with giving labor a seat at the management table, to even the playing field, and promote stability by holding growth in check with restrictive monetary policy and social safety nets – democratically managed capitalism. For the record, capital gains taxes are NOT part of the supply side, capital gains are the RESULT of productive capital – there is no need for unearned income to be taxed at half the rate of labor. The Capital Class will of course scream bloody murder and threaten to take their capital elsewhere, and that is part of the trade-off to be considered. However, look at what’s happening today – the lowest tax rates in generations and the jobs are still going to low-wage countries – so what more have we got to lose? Capital cares first and foremost about its protection, and nowhere else on the planet is capital better protected than in the U.S. Getting taxed at 35% or 50% on your billionth dollar is a good problem to have – at least you made a dollar and you still have your initial capital intact. And if those tax dollars are being reinvested in the economy as public infrastructure and education available for later productive use by capital, the U.S. will always remain a good, if not the best, option.

What Was Said

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

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Committee To Re-Elect

Found at the blog of Yellowdog Granny.

Can Hispanics Save Romney In Florida ?

It's no secret that since his win in South Carolina, Newt Gingrich has experienced a surge of support -- both in Florida, the next state to vote, and nationwide. All of the polls done since the South Carolina primary show Gingrich is either now leading in Florida or has significantly closed the gap between himself and Romney. A good example of this is the Florida Chamber of Commerce poll that shows Romney and Gingrich dead even at 33% each (with Santorum at 10% and Paul at 6%).

The question of the hour is whether Romney can can on and win the very important Florida primary -- especially in light of the renewed vigor of the anti-Romney forces (teabaggers and evangelicals)? The answer is maybe. There are two things that probably work in Romney's favor. First is the large numbers of early voters in the state. Estimates are that as much as 30% of the Florida primary vote will be made up of early voters -- and most of those voted before the Romney fall in the polls began (when he was still viewed as the "inevitable" winner).

The other factor favoring Romney is the Hispanic vote. In most other states the Hispanic vote in a Republican primary would be negligible, but Florida is different -- mainly because of the large number of Cubans living there (many of whom vote Republican). It is estimated that 10% of the Republican primary voters will be Hispanic. And a UNIVISION/ABC NEWS POLL shows that while Gingrich may be surging among non-Hispanic whites, he is not making significant inroads among Hispanics in Florida.

Florida is a closed primary, which means that only those who are registered Republicans will be able to vote in the Republican primary. Among registered Hispanic Republicans, Mitt Romney maintains a large lead over Newt Gingrich -- a lead of about 26 points. Currently Romney has the support of 49% of Hispanic Republicans, while Gingrich has the support of only 23%. The rest are undecided. If the undecideds all decided to vote for Gingrich, then that would negate the Hispanic vote overall, but that is unlikely to happen. It is far more likely that Romney will wind up with the lion's share of Florida's Hispanic vote.

If Romney wins in Florida on January 31st, it will largely be due to him getting large margins in both the early voting and the Hispanic community. And he will definitely need both to offset the large margins Gingrich will probably get upstate among the teabaggers and evangelicals.

But while Romney can count on Hispanics to help him in the Republican primary, the general election is a different matter. The same poll shows that among all of the state's Hispanic voters, the clear winner is President Obama (although the Cuban community will keep Romney closer than in other states). Here is the breakdown of how the general election numbers look in Florida:

Obama...............52%
Gingrich...............38%

Obama...............50%
Romney...............40%

VOTE BY HISPANIC GROUPS

Cuban
Romney...............54%
Obama...............34%

Puerto Rican
Obama...............67%
Romney...............23%

Other Hispanics
Obama...............52%
Romney...............36%

Race-Baiting

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

President's Speech Gets Positive Response


MeasuresPre-SpeechPost-SpeechShift (Post – Pre-Speech)
Obama Job Approval: Total Approve5058+8
Obama Thermometer Rating: Total Warm5066+16
Has Good Plans for the Economy: Total Describes Well3654+18
Creating New Jobs:  Total Confident3452+18
For the Middle Class:  Total Describes Well4266+24
Energy: Total Confident4668+22
Bridging the Partisan Divide and Bringing Americans Together: Total Confident3656+20
Seems to Understand the Issues That are Important to My Life: Total Describes Well4262+20
Makes Me Hopeful When I Hear Him Speak: Total Describes Well3866+28
The graphic above is from Democracy Corps, who did some dial testing during the president's State of the Union speech and conducted interviews both before and after the speech. The people interviewed were a bipartisan group of voters from Denver, Colorado. This group obviously had a strong reaction -- a very positive reaction -- to the president's speech.

And that's not the only company that found a positive response to the speech. Knowledge Networks conducted a poll immediately after the president's speech for CBS News. They found that 91% of the people who heard the speech approved of it, while only 9% disapproved. That's an even higher approval than they found after last year's State of the Union speech.

Before the speech, 53% of respondents said they approved of the president's plans for the economy, but after the speech that rose to 82%. The poll interviewed 500 people and has a 4 point margin of error. Here are some of the other results:

Approved of Obama's Plan for the Deficit
before speech...............45%
after speech...............80%

Approved of Obama's Plan for Afghanistan
before speech...............57%
after speech...............83%

Thought Obama's Plan Would Create Jobs
before speech...............55%
after speech...............75%

Thought Obama Would Make U.S. More Competitive in World
before speech...............55%
after speech...............75%

Approved of Obama's Health Care Law
before speech...............56%
after speech...............65%

The president gave a pretty good speech Tuesday night. I liked most of it personally -- the economic parts, not the war parts. But whatever any of us thinks, it looks like the president did himself some good with the speech. And when you compare the president's speech to the insanity being put forward by the Republican candidates wanting his job, it looks even better. The president is not perfect, but I simply don't understand how anyone could think any of the Republican candidates would be even half as good.