A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Election Cycle

(Click on the graphic to make it larger and easier to read.)

Socialized Medicine? - Not Even Close To It

Ever since President signed the health care reform bill into law (commonly referred to as "Obamacare"), the right-wing Republicans have been throwing a screaming fit about it. And the most popular epithet they use is to call it "socialized medicine". They know that the American public has been deluded into thinking that the word "socialized" (along with the words "socialist" and "socialism") could only refer to something bad. But is Obamacare really socialized medicine?

To understand whether Obamacare is really socialized medicine, we must understand what socialized medicine is. Here are two good definitions I found after googling the term:

The provision of medical and hospital care for all by means of public funds.


A government-regulated system for providing health care for all by means of subsidies derived from taxation.

The United States does have some programs that would qualify as socialized medicine, but they were around long before Obamacare was even being considered. They are Medicare, Medicaid and Veterans Hospitals -- popular programs that work well (when adequately funded) and which are supported by a large majority of Americans. Neither of these programs was changed by Obamacare, except to make them a little more fiscally sound (and to qualify more really poor Americans for Medicaid).

But those programs only affect those over the age of 65 and those who are destitute. The vast majority of Americans were not put on a government medical system by Obamacare. Most Americans will keep the private insurance plans they already have (whether employer-provided or privately purchased). The only real change (other than laying down some rules which private insurance companies must follow) is to make those who are trying to skate by without health insurance take responsibility by purchasing their own private health insurance.

That's a good thing because when those without health insurance pile up large medical bills and can't pay for them, then their care must be paid for by the rest of us (either through higher hospital and doctor charges or through increased private insurance premiums -- usually both). And to prevent this from being an onerous burden on those who can't afford the full cost of private insurance, the government will provide some people with subsidies to help them purchase private health insurance (and allow each state to provide insurance market groups to lower private insurance costs).

This is far from socialized medicine. Doctors and hospitals will still be private businesses. And while some more Americans (the very poor) will be added to Medicaid, the main effect of Obamacare will be to cover many more Americans with insurance provided by private insurance companies.

In fact, a good case can be made the the system of medical care in effect before Obamacare is much closer to socialized medicine than Obamacare is. Here is what Thomas L. Friedman says in his New York Times column:

 . . .socialized medicine is what we have now! People without insurance can go to an emergency ward or throw themselves on the mercy of a doctor, and the cost of all this uncompensated care is shared by all those who have insurance, raising your rates and mine. That is socialized medicine and that is what Obamacare ends.

Personally, I am in favor of socialized medicine. I believe the United States would save money and provide excellent care for all Americans by going to a single-payer government run health insurance system (similar to those of Canada or France). But Obamacare does not even approach that. The biggest effect of Obamacare is to increase the number of people covered by private insurance companies.

Obamacare is NOT socialized medicine. It is not even close. And the craziest thing about this whole argument is that the same party now calling it "socialized medicine" is the party that originally came up with the plan -- the Republican Party. Obamacare is virtually identical to the plan proposed by Republicans as an alternative to the health care plan proposed by the Clinton administration (which was much closer to socialized medicine).

Waiting

Political Cartoon is by Randy Bish in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Did Palin's Endorsement Help Ted Cruz ?

Going into last Tuesday's Republican primary in Texas there were three major candidates in the race for the senate nomination (and several others, including Craig James, who had no hope at all of being competitive). The major candidates included two right-wing candidates (David Dewhurst and Tom Leppert) and one completely crazy, ultra-right-wing, teabagger (Ted Cruz). Dewhurst, the current Lt. Governor, has been the favorite in the race since he officially declared his candidacy last year.

The only real question for a couple of months now was whether Dewhurst would win the primary outright, or whether he would be forced into a run-off with one of his opponents (probably Cruz). Their was some initial excitement about Cruz's candidacy, but since February his candidacy has had trouble building on that early support. So, in an effort to inject some excitement in his campaign, Cruz asked for and received the endorsement of Alaska's Sarah Palin. Palin gave that endorsement in early May, and even recorded a robo-call for Cruz to use (although it seems a bunch of those calls went to Kansas instead of Texas).

So, did Palin's endorsement help the Cruz campaign? It certainly wasn't good enough to put him over the top last Tuesday night. Dewhurst cruised to an easy first place finish with 44.6% of the Republican vote. Cruz got 34.2% of the vote, and Leppert got 13.3%. None of the other candidates could even get 2% of the vote, except James who got about 3.6%.

That means there will now be a run-off between Dewhurst and Cruz. Palin supporters, and some in the Cruz campaign, may credit Palin with injecting excitement into the campaign, but there is little to support that idea. The reason this campaign went to a run-off is because Leppert was in the race and siphoned off over 13% of the vote (most of it probably from Dewhurst).

Look at the chart above (compiled from polling done by the Texas Tribune). Note that since the Palin endorsement in early May there has been very little upward movement for Cruz. But Dewhurst showed significant upward movement. At best, the Palin endorsement did Cruz no good at all, and at the worst, it may have actually helped his opponent. The 15 minutes of fame for Palin is truly over.

Romney's Albatross

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

Minimum Wage Is Too Small To Live On

The chart above (which you can click on to get a larger and easier to read version) shows the complete inadequacy of the minimum wage ($7.25 an hour, or about $15,080 a year) in this country. It shows the number of hours that a minimum wage worker would have to work to pay for a two bedroom apartment (at the fair market rate in each state).

The awful truth is that a person who works 40 hours a week (a full-time job) for the minimum wage would not be able to pay for a two bedroom apartment in any state. And in more than half of the states, it would take working 71 hours or more at the minimum wage to pay for that apartment. This fact alone should make it clear that no one can support a family (which would require at least a two bedroom apartment) on a minimum wage salary -- and we haven't even considered items such as food, clothing, transportation, and assorted other expenses that it takes to raise a family.

Some might respond that the minimum wage was never meant to support a family, but was intended to be paid to single people (primarily young people entering the work force). But that argument just doesn't hold water. Wages are not paid according to a worker's age, but according to the job he/she is doing. And millions of people of all ages are working for minimum wage in America.

In fact, the minimum wage is not even adequate for single people of any age. After you include the cost of food, transportation and clothing, it would be extremely difficult (if not impossible in most states) for a person to even be able to afford an efficiency apartment.

The truth is that the minimum wage would need to be about $3.00 an hour higher than it is now to provide even a minimal decent level of living. At $10 an hour, the yearly wage would only be about $20,800. Could you maintain a decent level of living on less than that? Of course not.

And while most congressional Democrats don't have the political courage to support a truly decent minimum wage, the Republicans are far worse. Many, if not most, Republicans would like to eliminate the minimum wage altogether, and let businesses pay workers even less than $7.25 an hour (while supporting tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires). Doesn't that prove that they care only for the rich?

These same Republicans point to Texas as the example of how well their economic policies work, calling it an economic "miracle". But here in Texas, we have both the largest number of people and the largest percentage of the workforce that are working for minimum wage (or less). We also have the largest number and percentage of workers with no benefits, including health insurance. That's not an economic miracle -- it's an economic disaster.

The minimum wage needs to be raised significantly. It would not only be the decent thing to do, but also the moral thing. If we want people to work their way out of poverty, we must give them the tools with which to do it -- and the two best tools we have are a decent minimum wage and an opportunity for a decent education.

College Education (The New Reality)

Political Cartoon is by Christopher Weyant in The Hill.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Choose The Children

Finally, a bit of common sense. (Found at the blog What Would Jack Do?)

Texas Results (Amarillo And Statewide)

It took a court fight and a delay of nearly three months, but the Democrats and Republicans in the state of Texas finally got to vote in their primary. As expected, the turnout was light here in the Panhandle. Here are the results for Potter and Randall Counties (each of which contains a part of the city of Amarillo):

RANDALL COUNTY (100% reporting)

President (Democrat)
Barack Obama...............532  (85.81%)
Others...............88  (14.19%)
TOTAL VOTES...............620

President (Republican)
Mitt Romney...............8,814 (72.07%)
Rick Santorum...............1,203 (9.83%)
Ron Paul...............1,026  (8.38%)
Newt Gingrich...............540  (4.41%)
Others...............179  (1.46%)
Uncommitted...............467  (3.81%)
TOTAL VOTES...............12,229

Senate (Democrat)
Paul Sadler...............191  (33.15%)
Grady Yarbrough...............183  (31.77%)
Addie Dainell Allen...............121  (21.00%)
Sean Hubbard...............81  (14.06%)
TOTAL VOTES...............576

Senate (Republican)
David Dewhurst...............5,945  (49.50%)
Ted Cruz...............4,108  (34.21%)
Tom Leppert...............1,192  (9.92%)
Craig James...............238  (1.98%)
Others...............525  (4.37%)
TOTAL VOTES...............12.008

POTTER COUNTY (100% reporting)

President (Democrat)
Barack Obama...............761  (82.90%)
Others...............157  (17.10%)
TOTAL VOTES...............918

President (Republican)
Mitt Romney...............4,049  (74.87%)
Rick Santorum...............428  (7.91%)
Ron Paul...............460  (8.51%)
Newt Gingrich...............175  (3.24%)
Others...............119  (2.20%)
Uncommitted...............177  (3.27%)
TOTAL VOTES...............5,408

Senate (Democrat)
Paul Sadler...............236  (28.61%)
Grady Yarbrough...............243  (29.45%)
Addie Dainell Allen...............225  (27.27%)
Sean Hubbard...............121  (14.67%)
TOTAL VOTES...............825

Senate (Republican)
David Dewhurst...............2,550  (48.02%)
Ted Cruz...............1,838  (34.78%)
Tom Leppert...............555  (10.41%)
Craig James...............89  (1.70%)
Others...............275  (5.18%)
TOTAL VOTES...............5,307

STATEWIDE RESULTS
Democrats 99% reporting
Republicans 94% reporting

President (Democrat)
Barack Obama...............512,115  (88.29%)
Others...............66,916  (11.71%)
TOTAL VOTES...............580,031

President (Republican)
Mitt Romney...............951,066  (69.06%)
Rick Santorum...............109,834  (7.97%)
Ron Paul...............162,538  (11.80%)
Newt Gingrich...............64,669  (4.69%)
Others...............29,981  (2.18%)
Uncommitted...............58,973  (4.28%)
TOTAL VOTES...............1,377,061

Senate (Democrat)
Paul Sadler...............172,078  (35.16%)
Grady Yarbrough...............126,107  (25.77%)
Addie Dainell Allen...............112,367  (22.96%)
Sean Hubbard...............78,748  (16.09%)
TOTAL VOTES...............489,300

Senate (Republican)
David Dewhurst...............596,417  (44.77%)
Ted Cruz...............448,287  (33.65%)
Tom Leppert...............181,155  (13.59%)
Craig James...............48,811  (3.66%)
Others...............57,374  (4.31%)
TOTAL VOTES...............1,332,044

About all that last night's results tell us is that Mitt Romney has enough delegates now to claim the Republican nomination, and he will face off against President Obama in November. Neither the Democratic or Republican senate races were decided, as both will go to a run-off election.

I thought that many people would vote for Grady Yarbrough, thinking he was related to the great Sen. Ralph Yarborough (he's not), and that did happen -- but he did a lot better than I expected. It looks like he'll be in the run-off against Paul Sadler. But the biggest surprise was Sean Hubbard finishing a poor fourth in the senate race. I had expected him to be in a run-off against Sadler (and that would have been a fun match-up for Texas Democrats). Did Hubbard just look too young for voters to take him seriously?

NOTE -- Less than 15% of the state's registered voters voted in yesterday's primaries (3.74% in the Democratic primary and 10.56% in the Republican primary). That's a pitiful turnout for both parties.

The Changing "Vacation"

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

The Shame Of The U.S. - Child Poverty

The United States is the richest country in the world -- and it has been for quite a while. How then, can we explain the chart above? It seems that out of the 35 richest (most developed) nations, all of them but one (Romania) has less child poverty than the United States -- significantly less for most of them.

The Research Office of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has released its new report on child poverty. They define a child as living in poverty if he/she is in a family that must exist on 50% less than the average disposable income in the country in question. In the United States, that would be a family living on the minimum wage, or less. And any family living on the minimum wage or less in the United States is truly in dire financial difficulty.

Out of the 35 developed nations, only two of them had a rate of child poverty that exceeded 20% -- the United States at 23.1% and Romania at 25.5%. The number 33 nation, Latvia, beat the United States by 4.3% having a child poverty rate of 18.8%. Fifteen of the nations had a child poverty rate of less than 9%. They are:

1. Iceland...............4.7%
2. Finland...............5.3%
3. Cyprus...............6.1%
4. Netherlands...............6.1%
5. Norway...............6.1%
6. Slovenia...............6.3%
7. Denmark...............6.5%
8. Sweden...............7.3%
9. Austria...............7.3%
10. Czech Republic...............7.4%
11. Switzerland...............8.1%
12. Ireland...............8.4%
13. Germany...............8.5%
14. France...............8.8%
15. Malta...............8.9%

These nations have all made a concerted and humanitarian effort to keep their children from having to grow up in poverty -- and they are succeeding (although some work still needs to be done). But with 23.1% of all children in the United States currently living in poverty, one would have to question just how hard the U.S. government is trying to eliminate child poverty. It would seem obvious that the United States is not trying hard enough, since the richest nation in the world should be leading the world in eliminating child poverty (at least in the top ten).

Do the American people care that nearly a quarter of all children in this country lives in poverty? If they vote to return the Republicans to power in November, the answer would be no, they don't care. That's because the Republican, instead of trying to lift children out of poverty, want to drastically cut social programs (that clothe, feed, and house those children) and education (which provides the only route out of poverty for those children).

Could they be more hard-hearted or morally reprehensible? Aren't we our brother's keeper -- especially when it comes to children? Why should anyone look to the U.S. for leadership when it won't even take care of its children?

Syrian Victories

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

13 Receive The Medal Of Freedom

Yesterday, President Obama presented the Medal of Freedom to 13 individuals, saying they had changed the world for the better. The president said the medal was "one more accolade for a life well lived", and told the audience gathered for the ceremony, "Everybody on this stage has marked my life in profound ways". I can't argue with those words, and I believe all 13 of these people were deserving of this great honor.

The Medal of Freedom was established in 1963 by President John Kennedy. It is awarded to people who make substantial contributions to world peace, national interest and/or security, or cultural endeavors. Here is a list of the 2012 honorees (and their accomplishments as written by CNN):

Madeleine Albright
From 1997 to 2001, under President Bill Clinton, Albright served as the 64th United States secretary of state, the first woman to hold that position. During her tenure, she worked to enlarge NATO and helped lead the alliance's campaign against terror and ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, pursued peace in the Middle East and Africa, sought to reduce the dangerous spread of nuclear weapons and was a champion of democracy, human rights and good governance across the globe.


John Doar
Doar was a legendary public servant and leader of federal efforts to protect and enforce civil rights during the 1960s. He served as assistant attorney general in charge of the civil rights division of the Department of Justice. In that capacity, he was instrumental during many major civil rights crises, including singlehandedly preventing a riot in Jackson, Mississippi, after the funeral of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers in 1963.


Bob Dylan
One of the most influential American musicians of the 20th century, Dylan released his first album in 1962. Known for his rich and poetic lyrics, his work had considerable influence on the civil rights movement of the 1960s and has had significant impact on American culture over the past five decades.


William Foege
A physician and epidemiologist, Foege helped lead the successful campaign to eradicate smallpox in the 1970s. He was appointed director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1977 and, with colleagues, founded the Task Force for Child Survival in 1984. Foege became executive director of The Carter Center in 1986 and continues to serve the organization as a senior fellow.


John Glenn
Glenn is a former United States Marine Corps pilot, astronaut, and United States senator. In 1962, he was the third American in space and the first American to orbit the Earth. After retiring from the Marine Corps, Glenn was elected to the U.S. Senate in Ohio in 1974. He was an architect and sponsor of the 1978 Nonproliferation Act and served as chairman of the Senate Government Affairs committee from 1978 until 1995.


Gordon Hirabayashi
Hirabayashi openly defied the forced relocation and internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. As an undergraduate at the University of Washington, he refused the order to report for evacuation to an internment camp, instead turning himself in to the FBI to assert his belief that these practices were racially discriminatory. Consequently, he was convicted by a U.S. Federal District Court in Seattle of defying the exclusion order and violating curfew. Hirabayashi appealed his conviction all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled against him in 1943. After World War II and his time in prison, Hirabayashi obtained his doctoral degree in sociology and became a professor. In 1987, his conviction was overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Hirabayashi died on January 2, 2012.


Dolores Huerta
Huerta is a civil rights, workers and women's advocate. With Cesar Chavez, she co-founded the National Farmworkers Association in 1962, which later became the United Farm Workers of America. Huerta has served as a community activist and a political organizer, and was influential in securing the passage of California's Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975, and disability insurance for farm workers in California.


Jan Karski
Karski served as an officer in the Polish Underground during World War II and carried among the first eyewitness accounts of the Holocaust to the world. He worked as a courier, entering the Warsaw ghetto and the Nazi Izbica transit camp, where he saw firsthand the atrocities occurring under Nazi occupation.


Juliette Gordon Low
Born in 1860, Low founded the Girl Scouts in 1912. The organization strives to teach girls self-reliance and resourcefulness. It also encourages girls to seek fulfillment in the professional world and to become active citizens in their communities.


Toni Morrison
One of our nation's most celebrated novelists, Morrison is renowned for works such as "Song of Solomon," "Jazz" and "Beloved", for which she won a Pulitzer Prize in 1988. When she became the first African-American woman to win a Nobel Prize in 1993, Morrison's citation captured her as an author "who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality."


Shimon Peres
An ardent advocate for Israel's security and for peace, Shimon Peres was elected the ninth president of Israel in 2007. First elected to the Knesset in 1959, he has served in a variety of positions throughout the Israeli government, including in 12 Cabinets as foreign minister, minister of defense, and minister of transport and communications. Peres served as prime minister from 1984-1986 and 1995-1996.


John Paul Stevens
Stevens served as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1975 to 2010, when he retired as the third longest-serving justice in the court's history. Known for his independent, pragmatic and rigorous approach to judging, Stevens and his work have left a lasting imprint on the law in areas such as civil rights, the First Amendment, the death penalty, administrative law and the separation of powers.


Pat Summitt
In addition to accomplishing an outstanding career as the all-time winningest leader among all NCAA basketball coaches, Summitt has taken the University of Tennessee to more Final Four appearances than any other coach and has the second best record of NCAA championships in basketball.

Commencement Trebuchet

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

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Poverty


CEO Pay - It's Beyond Outrageous

American CEO's these days make the Monopoly Man (pictured above) look like a small fry. While he's generally regarded by game-players as a multi-millionaire, today's CEO's make multiple millions of dollars every single year (and then think they should make even more the next year). There is truly no limit to their greed, and they can get away with it because the boards that pay them are made up of men just like them.

I don't begrudge these people for getting rich, but I am more than a bit upset at how they do it and the fact that they don't seem to think they owe any taxes to the country that made it possible. I have posted several times on this blog about how the income of the super-rich has risen by about 270% in the last 30 years or so, while the income of the average American worker has remained virtually flat (and if inflation is figured in, workers have actually lost significant buying power).

The rich, including the CEO's, have stolen the portion of gains in productivity that should have gone to workers. They are also paying less in taxes, with the top rate on their earned income being less than it has been since before World War II. But most of them don't pay that top rate. Most CEOs take a big hunk of their pay in stock, which when they sell is taxed at only a measly 15% (less than many in the middle class must pay -- for money they earned by working).

How totally outrageous has CEO compensation gotten? Last year Simon Property's CEO, David Simon, was given a pay package worth $137 million a year ($132 million of it in stock so he can avoid paying an earned income tax rate). Here are some things to put that in perspective:

* It would take a minimum wage worker ($7.25 hr.) at least 9,096 years to make what Simon made in just one year.
* It would take a worker making the national median salary ($39,312) at least 3,489 years to make what Simon made in a single year.
* Assuming a 60-hour work week, Simon's pay was a staggering $43,963.64 an hour (or $732.73 a minute).
* The average worker makes less in one whole year than Simon makes in just one hour (and a minimum wage worker would have to work for nearly 3 years to make Simon's hourly wage).
* Simon makes more than the salaries of the top 600 government leaders in this country combined (President, Vice-President, the Cabinet members, Supreme Court justices, members of the Senate, members of the House of Representatives, and all 50 state governors).

But Simon's compensation is much more than most CEO's make. The average compensation for an American CEO is about $9.6 million a year. But before you start feeling sorry for these guys, consider this:

* A minimum wage worker would have to work for at least 636 years to equal the average CEO pay for a single year.
* A worker making the national median income would have to work for at least 244 years to equal the average CEO salary for one year.
* The average CEO makes $3,072.84 an hour (or $51.21 for each minute).
* A minimum wage worker would have to work about 10 weeks to make what the average CEO makes in an hour (and the average American worker would have to work nearly a month).

Is it any wonder that the gap in wealth and income between the 1% and the 99% is now larger than it has been since before the Great Depression. Do you think this is healthy for our economy? Do you think it is right for the richest 1% to steal ALL of the increase in worker productivity and leave nothing for the workers? Do you think it is right for millions of American workers to be unemployed and millions more to be working for minimum wage (a wage that won't even support a single person, let alone a family)?

I don't think this is right. There are Latin American countries (commonly referred to as "banana republics") that have a fairer distribution of wealth and income than the United States does. We need to make some changes in this country if we want the economy and the country to survive and remain a world power. If we don't, our middle class will simply continue to disappear until we have nothing but the haves and have-nots (and no way for the have-nots to ever better themselves).

We can start by voting Republicans out of office this November, but that won't be enough. We must then demand that the Democrats actually get to work and do something for the 99%.

Fox Viewer (Clueless)

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

Polluting Our National Parks

In this country, we refuse to make the corporations stop their polluting. The bottom line has become more important than the environment or the health of our citizens, so we continue to allow them to pollute our soil, our water, and our air. And now the Republicans want to defund the Environmental Protection Agency to further inhibit it from making these corporations (especially energy, gas, and oil companies) follow the law and clean up their act.

This has been a problem in too many of our cities for quite a while, but now it is even starting to affect areas that we consider to be pristine -- like out national parks. There are at least seven of our treasured national parks that had smog and/or ozone levels that were considered by the EPA to be dangerous last year. Here are the seven parks where the pollution was the worst (ranked from worst to less bad):

1. Sequoia National Park
2. Joshua Tree National Park
3. Great Smokey Mountains National Park
4. Yosemite National Park
5. Rocky Mountain National Park
6. Big Bend National Park
7. Mojave National Preserve

NOTE -- A lot of the park pollution is due to automobiles (which goes back to the oil companies and their lobbying for carbon-based fuels).

GOP's Stand On Higher Education

Political Cartoon is by Monte Wolverton at caglecartoons.com.

What Texans Think About The Issues

The state of Texas is a very red state right now. No Democrat has held a statewide elected office for at least 18 years, and both houses of the legislature are dominated by Republicans. And the chances are that may continue for a while -- at least until the growing minority demographic changes things in the coming years (with Hispanics being the fastest growing portion of the population by far).

But that doesn't mean everyone in the state is a teabagger Republican. There are some people in this state trying to bring back a little sanity. The Texas Tribune and the University of Texas just completed a poll. It was taken to see what politicians were leading in their races, but the poll also asked some other questions. And the answers to those questions painted a pretty good picture of where the state stands at the current time. Here are those results:

WHICH BRANCH OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT DO YOU TRUST THE MOST?
Judiciary...............39%
Executive...............23%
legislative...............9%
Don't know...............29%

HOW SHOULD THE SUPREME COURT RULE ON THE HEALTH CARE LAW?
Overturn it...............45%
Uphold it...............26%
Cut mandate only...............10%
Don't know...............19%

ARE PUBLIC SCHOOLS BETTER OR WORSE THAN THEY WERE A YEAR AGO?
Better...............9%
About the same...............39%
Worse...............39%
Don't know...............13%

DOES TEXAS SPEND THE RIGHT AMOUNT ON PUBLIC SCHOOLS?
Not enough...............51%
About right...............23%
Too much...............14%
Don't know...............13%

SHOULD CANDIDATES MAKE ANTI-TAX PLEDGES BEFORE ELECTIONS?
No...............47%
Yes...............36%
Don't know...............18%

IS THE COUNTRY ON THE RIGHT OR WRONG TRACK?
Wrong track...............61%
Right track...............25%
Don't know...............14%

IS THE STATE ON THE RIGHT OR WRONG TRACK?
Wrong track...............42%
Right track...............38%
Don't know...............21%

HOW IS THE ECONOMY COMPARED TO LAST YEAR?
Better...............28%
The same...............29%
Worse...............39%
Don't know...............4%

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PROBLEM FACING THE COUNTRY?
The economy...............26%
Spending/debt...............18%
Unemployment...............14%
Political leadership...............10%
Health care...............5%

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PROBLEM FACING THE STATE?
Immigration...............12%
The economy...............12%
Unemployment...............11%
Border security...............11%
Education...............11%
Political leadership...............10%

WHAT IS YOUR OPINION OF THE DEATH PENALTY?
Support it...............73%
Oppose it...............21%
Don't know...............5%

IS THE DEATH PENALTY FAIRLY APPLIED IN TEXAS?
Yes...............51%
No...............28%
Don't know...............21%

WHAT IS YOUR VIEW OF PLANNED PARENTHOOD?
Favorable...............46%
Unfavorable...............35%
Neither...............16%
Don't know...............4%

SHOULD INSURERS BE REQUIRED TO COVER BIRTH CONTROL FOR WOMEN?
Yes...............49%
No...............43%
Don't know...............8%

The poll had a margin of error of 3.46 points and was conducted May 7th through 13th.

Facebook Faces

Political Cartoon is by Dave Granlund at davegranlund.com.

This Republican Is Talking Sense

I haven't always been impressed by ex-Senator Alan Simpson. He goes a little to far down the cutting of the budget road for me (and I especially don't care for his ideas about cutting Social Security benefits -- which is just not needed). But Simpson's not a teabagger. He's an old-style Republican, who knows that neither party can govern without both parties compromising. He appeared on television last Sunday, and he had some harsh words for the party of "no" -- the teabaggers in Congress who think compromise is surrender. Here is what he said:

“For heaven’s sake, you have Grover Norquist wandering the earth in his white robes saying that if you raise taxes one penny, he’ll defeat you. He can’t murder you. He can’t burn your house. The only thing he can do to you, as an elected official, is defeat you for reelection. And if that means more to you than your country when we need patriots to come out in a situation when we’re in extremity, you shouldn’t even be in Congress.”


“You can’t cut spending your way out of this hole. You can’t grow your way out of this hole. And you can’t tax your way out of this hole. So put that in your pipe and smoke it, we tell these people. This is madness. If you want to be a purist, go somewhere on a mountaintop and praise the East or something. But if you want to be in politics, you learn to compromise. And you learn to compromise on the issue without compromising yourself. Show me a guy who won’t compromise and I’ll show you a guy with rock for brains.”

Monday, May 28, 2012

A Day To Remember And Hope

Today is Memorial Day -- the day when we remember those who have given their lives for this country. It's also a day for us to hope that the sacrifice of lives can someday come to an end, and all of the world's people can live together in peace and freedom. We can start by eliminating our hatred -- for people in other countries, and for people in our own country who may in some way be different than us.

Austerity Won't Fix Economy Or Create Jobs

In the last few days, I've posted a couple of times about how the Republicans are much bigger spenders than Democrats and that President Obama has grown government spending less than any other modern president (see here and here). There is no doubt that is true, but I feel that I may have given the impression that I think austerity (less government spending) is what is needed in the United States right now. I don't.

I wrote those posts to expose the huge Republican lie that Democrats (and especially President Obama) were big spenders who were needlessly running up the deficit and national debt. The truth is that Republicans have been the bigger spenders -- increasing government spending by a larger percentage than any Democrats (especially the two who claimed to be most fiscally responsible -- Reagan and Bush II).

But while reducing government spending to control the deficit and national debt is a good thing in normal times with a healthy economy, it is exactly the wrong thing to do in a recession (and in spite of the growth in corporate profits and the bank accounts of the rich, this nation is still in a recession -- a recession that won't end without massive job creation). The question now is how do we create a massive number of jobs and put our economy back on the road to recovery.

The Republicans tell us the way to create jobs and a healthy economy is to cut taxes and severely cut government spending. This is commonly referred to as "austerity". But all we have to do is look at the European Union to know that austerity is the road to disaster, not recovery. The nation's there that have gone down the austerity path (like Great Britain, Spain, and Italy) or had austerity forced on them (like Greece and Portugal) have had their economies go into an even deeper recession.

The way out of a recession is through spending (like we did to emerge from the Great Depression). But it must be a purposeful and targeted spending. The kind of unrestrained spending done by Republicans (where most of the increased spending went for weapons, wars, and more tax cuts for the rich and subsidies for corporations) will do nothing but increase the deficit and national debt.

The new spending must do a couple of things -- put more money in the hands of the poor and the working class, and create more jobs. Increasing spending on social programs will put more money in the hands of people who are barely scraping by -- money they will spend because they need to spend it to live. This new spending will circulate through the economy, helping businesses and encouraging them to hire workers (because demand for goods and services is increased).

Job creation could be done by spending money to upgrade and repair our crumbling infrastructure, and if necessary, to create government work programs (like the WPA or CCC). These new workers will spend the money they earn since they are now working, and that money will also help businesses and encourage them to hire even more workers in the private sector (again, because demand is increased). As new jobs are created and money spent, this will spiral into improving the economy in general.

But won't this new spending increase the deficit and debt? Yes, but only in the short term. In the long term, as the new workers pay taxes (and businesses pay more taxes because of increased profits), the deficit and the debt will start to be paid down (and a small tax increase on the wealthiest Americans and corporations will also help to pay them down). This is fiscal responsibility -- a policy that will both create jobs and grow the economy. And it is the only way out of our jobless recession.

GOP "trickle-down" economics created this economic mess, and a new program of austerity will not make it better -- just worse. We must pump money into the economy at the lowest level and spur job creation (both government and private sector jobs) -- both of which will stimulate the economy and increase demand. It's the only real way to a healthy economy.

Remember

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

GOP Senator Admonished By Ethics Comm.

The Senate Ethics Committee has publicly admonished ultra-right-wing Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma). It seems that Coburn didn't think the senate rules applied to him. Three years ago, the Senate banned the aide of former-Senator Ensign (Doug Hampton) from doing any lobbying. In spite of the ban, Ensign held a meeting and discussed business with Hampton.

The Oklahoman's website said Coburn's action was not a violation of federal law or of senate rules. But while it probably isn't a violation of law, I have to think it was a violation of senate rules. After all, if it's not a violation of senate rules to meet with a banned lobbyist and discuss business, then what's the point of banning lobbyists in the first place.

The Ethics Committee considered it a violation of something, saying the meeting was "improper conduct" and didn't meet the "higher standards expected of a U.S. senator". The public admonishment was the least serious penalty the committee could have leveled against Coburn.

Personally, I think Coburn got off light. He knew the Senate had banned Hampton from doing any lobbying, and showed a disregard for the Senate action by openly violating the ban. He knew better and just didn't care.

Gender Gap

Political Cartoon is by Milt Priggee at caglecartoons.com.

Pakistan Is Not Our Friend

The thinking of many pundits on both the right and the left is that Pakistan is our friend and we need them to further American policies in that part of the world. I think that is just wishful thinking. Shouldn't a friend act like a friend? Pakistan has certainly not been acting like a friend, and I'm not just talking about anti-American demonstrations like the one pictured above -- the government of Pakistan has not been acting like a friend.

Consider these actions taken by Pakistan:
* They have allowed the Taliban (and their cohorts) to hide out in their country when things get too hot for them in Afghanistan. And they allow them to freely make cross-border excursions.
* That government has failed to rein in the elements of Pakistani Intelligence and Pakistani Military that assist the Taliban and al-Queda.
* They allowed Osama bin Laden to hide out in their country for years (within blocks of one of their military compounds). They knew bin Laden was a mass murderer and they knew he was in their country. They just didn't care.
* They have closed their border with Afghanistan to the American military (who needs to resupply American forces from Pakistan). They were charging the American government $250 per vehicle to conduct that resupply mission, but since the killing of bin Laden they are not allowing any American vehicles through. They say they now want $5,000 per vehicle.
* They convicted a doctor of treason for helping the Americans to find Osama bin Laden, and sentenced him to 33 years in prison.

That just doesn't sound like the way a friend should act to me. It is their country, and they have the right to do all of those things in their own country -- but those are not the actions of a friend -- especially one that receives huge amounts of financial help from the United States.

A senate committee has voted to cut off $33 million in aid to Pakistan -- a million dollars for each year the doctor who helped find bin Laden was sentenced to. And they have threatened to further cut aid to Pakistan if they don't open their border to U.S. trucks trying to resupply out soldiers in Afghanistan.

That may sound like a significant action, but it's not really. It would still leave over $1 billion in financial aid untouched -- $184 million for State Department operations, $50 million in counterinsurgency money, and $800 million in foreign aid. Why don't we cut the $800 million in foreign aid to nothing and refuse to give them counterinsurgency money (since that seems to be money thrown down a rat hole). Until they are ready to start acting like a friend, why should we give them any money at all?

Some of you may think this sounds rather strange coming from me, since I am vehemently opposed to the Afghan War. But while it is true that I am opposed to the war, and think we should immediately withdraw all our troops from Afghanistan -- I do not like Pakistan putting our soldiers in danger while they are in Afghanistan, and that's exactly what they are doing.

Pakistan is not our friend, and we should stop trying to act like they are.

Party Of Lincoln ?

Political Cartoon is by Bill Day at caglecartoons.com.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Religion & Love Are Not Synonymous


Early Voting Down In Amarillo & Statewide

Texas was originally supposed to be one of the states that held its primary on Super Tuesday (back in March of this year). But that was before the Republican-dominated legislature tried to steal all of the four new congressional districts for white Republicans. The new districts were granted because of population growth in the state, but the Republican gerrymandering ignored the fact that most of the population growth was from Hispanics (meaning they should have had at least two, and probably three of the new seats).

This caused a court fight, the redrawing of district lines by a court (at least for this election), and the delay of the primary by nearly three months. Officials of both political parties were afraid that the delay in holding the primary would cause less people to vote in the primary -- and it looks their fears are coming true. The presidential nominees are set for both parties, and although there are contests in both parties for the open senate seat, it doesn't look like those contests have excited many voters.

The early voting totals here in Amarillo (Potter and Randall counties) are down significantly. Only 5,136 people voted early in Randall County (about 6.74% of the 76,200 registered voters). In Potter County, only 2,006 people voted early (about 3.96% of the 50,605 registered voters). Those totals are significantly lower than early voting for the last presidential primary year of 2008. And they are even lower than the early voting totals for the off-year election primaries in 2010.

But it is not just the Panhandle where early voting totals are low. The same thing happened statewide this year. According to the Texas Secretary of State's office, 222,041 people voted early in the Democratic primary and 343,497 people voted early in the Republican primary -- for a total of 565,538 early voters (about 6.87% of Texas' 8,234,828 registered voters).

To show you how pitiful that statewide turnout is, there were 1,193,526 early voters in 2008 (about 15.27% of all registered voters). The statewide totals are only slightly ahead of the 491,116 early voters in the off-year election primary of 2010 (about 6.01% of registered voters). It looks like the lack of a presidential contest in either political party (and the lack of voter interest in the senate contests) are resulting in a primary where only the die-hard adherents of both parties are voting.

There is always the possibility that the vote will pick up on primary day (May 29th), but I wouldn't bet any money on it. The long delay in holding the primary has put a real kink in voter turnout.

Voting

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

Obama - Big Spender Or Not ?


There is a big argument going on between the left and the right in this country. The left says that President Obama is not a "big spender", and the right says he is. To back up their argument, the right points to the increase in the national debt since President Obama has been in office. That debt has increased from about $10 trillion when President Bush left office to a current debt of about $15 trillion. They say this means Obama has to be a big spender.

To back up their argument, the left points to charts like the two above. These charts show that the increase in federal spending, both in increased spending over the first term of recent presidents (top chart) and the annualized increase in spending for recent presidents (bottom chart), has been less for both Clinton and Obama than for any of the Republican presidents (Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II). They say this shows Obama is not a big spender.

So who is right? First, let me say that the facts used by both sides are generally correct -- the national debt under Obama has ballooned by about 50%, and the increase in government spending has been less under President Obama than under any president since President Eisenhower. How can both of these facts be true?

It's because the increase in the national debt has not been due to a large increase in government spending. It is mainly due to a large drop in revenues received by the government. Corporations are paying a much smaller share of total government revenues (compared to national GDP) than they have paid since World War II (due to increased subsidies, tax loopholes, and the hiding of corporate profits in overseas accounts).

And it is not just the corporations paying less in taxes. The rich are also paying less. Due to the Bush tax cuts (which mainly helped the rich), the top tax rate is lower than it has been since World War II. In addition, most of the super-rich (the investor class) don't have to pay that top rate. They pay only a 15% tax on capital gains (return on investment) which makes up the bulk of their income -- allowing them to pay a smaller tax rate than most middle class taxpayers do. The rich also hide money overseas to avoid paying taxes on it.

So as it turns out, it is not Obama that is the big spender -- it is the Republicans. Thanks to their tax policies, they are the ones responsible for ballooning the national debt. And the only way to bring that national debt back down to a reasonable level is to change tax policy. Some of the things that can be done are:

* Eliminate the Bush tax cuts -- at least for those making over $250,000 a year. This would still make the top tax rate only equal to what it was in the Clinton administration (and it would still be lower than under any president between Clinton and Roosevelt).

* Eliminate the special 15% tax rate for investments. It is simply unfair for those who make millions gambling in the stock market to pay a smaller tax rate than those who actually have to work hard to earn their income. All income should be taxed as earned income at a progressive tax rate (where those who make the most pay the highest tax rate).

* Eliminate the unneeded tax loopholes and corporate subsidies that allow many corporations to avoid paying taxes while making record profits. And penalize companies that export American jobs with a higher tax rate.

There are other things that could be done (like cutting our extremely bloated military budget), but these things I listed would be a very good start, and would bring the national debt back under control in just a few years.

The Anti-Taxers

Political Cartoon is by Jim Morin in The Miami Herald.

Wikipedia And The Right-Wing

Fellow blogger Marc McDonald over at BeggarsCanBeChoosers has written an excellent post about Wikipedia and how the right-wingers are abusing their privilege of editing the site -- by sanitizing the entries on their heroes and demonizing those they don't like. I urge you to go over and read the whole post. Here is some of it:

Wikipedia is one of the most useful sites on the Web. It's a fantastic reference source that provides an incredible wealth of data on an endless variety of topics.

A big strength of Wikipedia is that anyone can edit any article. If, for example, an expert on quantum mechanics happens to notice a small factual error in the Wikipedia article on that topic, he or she can easily fix it on the spot. By harnessing the power of the knowledge of millions of people, Wikipedia has grown into the world's biggest reference resource.

However, Wikipedia's strength is also its biggest flaw. The very fact that anyone can edit an article means that errors, spin and bias can easily creep into the Wikipedia database. . .



Normally, the open nature of Wikipedia prevents such mischief. Typically, if someone introduces biased, or incorrect information into an article, it is quickly corrected by other visitors.

But this process has clearly failed on Wikipedia when it comes to thousands of articles on current political topics.

The reason is obvious: the right-wing "contributors" are ferociously tenacious. They will go in and sanitize and slant an article over and over until it reads the way they want it to. These people are well-organized, ruthless and determined and they usually eventually get their way, via sheer blunt force. In this respect, they're much like Fox "News" and right-wing talk radio in that they believe if they simply repeat something over and over, it becomes "fact.". . .



I first started noticing Wikipedia's right-wing spin in 2008 when I accessed the main article on George W. Bush. I was looking for some quick info about Valerie Plame. I was surprised to find zero mentions of Plame in the Bush article.

I then tried to raise this issue on the article's "Discussions" page and I found that merely typing in the word "Plame" triggered a text robot that blocked any posts from mentioning Plame on that article. Clearly, a Bush-friendly editor was very determined to sanitize the article of any and all mentions about Plame.

I found this truly astonishing. Whatever one thinks of the Plame affair, it's incredible that Wikipedia main article about Bush would contain zero mentions about this case. It were as though Karl Rove himself had edited the article and had carefully airbrushed out anything that could possibly have a hint of negativity about his boss.

By contrast, the Wikipedia articles on various Democrats could have been written by Rush Limbaugh himself. . .



One of the very few exceptions is the Wikipedia article on global warming. After a long, ferocious back-and-forth struggle over the years, Wikipedia's editors finally locked down that article to prevent tampering from the wingnut climate change deniers.

On that article, one currently finds a detailed FAQ on the discussions page that answers all the questions that weary Wikipedia editors have had to answer, over and over, in disputing the Rush Limbaugh crowd. As a result of this policy, the "global warming" article is one of the few major Wikipedia articles that hasn't been subjected to right-wing spin.

The problem is, thousands of other Wikipedia articles are open to editing by anyone---and as a result, virtually every article on a right-wing figure has been carefully sanitized. At the same time, most Wikipedia articles on Democratic figures tend to read like they were edited by Fox News. . .



The right-wingers may not have the facts on their side. But they do have the determination and will to get what they want by brute force. And as a result, Wikipedia, the world's largest and most popular reference site, now has a right-wing slant on thousands of its articles.

Homophobic Bully

Political Cartoon is by Lee Judge in the Kansas City Star.

Sacrifice ?

Like it or not, The Atheist Pig has a valid point here.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Fight The GOP's "War On Women"


These images remind us that the GOP is still waging a "war on women" -- and they will not stop it until they are booted out of office. Images were found at the blog of Yellowdog Granny.

Romney - The Anti-Education Candidate

(The graphic above is from the blog Under The Mountain Bunker.)

Willard Mitt Romney (aka Wall Street Willie) spoke to a Hispanic group the other day, and the gist of his speech was about the importance of education. He even went as far as to label the poor state of education in this country as a "civil rights issue". I guess this new education message is part of his faux move toward the center for the general election (since he now pretty much has the GOP nomination in the bag).

I say "faux" because Romney doesn't have a record of strong support for education, especially public education (at all levels). In fact, his record as governor of Massachusetts shows that he is no friend of public education at all. He eliminated class-size reduction grants in that state causing most schools to increase class sizes. In spite of indisputable evidence that reduced class size gives teachers more time with each student and increases student performance, Romney is on record as saying reduced class sizes "may actually hurt education more than it helps".

In addition, Romney also cut funds for public schools, causing many teachers to be laid off. And he cut funding for public colleges and universities, causing them to have to raise tuition and other prices (making those schools among the most expensive in the United States by the end of his term). Romney's current championing of education rings more than a little hollow considering his abysmal education record as governor (and the fact that neither he nor his children ever attended, or needed to attend, public schools -- the same schools most Americans count on to better themselves and their families).

Perhaps you think Romney has finally seen the light, and now supports the adequate funding and support of public schools. Don't believe it. Romney was recently overheard telling a group of his biggest donors that if elected president, he would slash education funds. He hasn't changed at all. He's just telling another lie, in the hopes it will get him a few more votes.

If Romney supports any education, it is the expensive private schools that he and his rich compatriots need to educate their own children and grandchildren. Electing him president would be a disaster for the nation's public school system.

NOTE -- And we should not forget that Romney believes the serious bullying of school children are just "harmless pranks".

Vulture Capitalism

Political Cartoon is by Steve Benson in The Arizona Republic.

Fox News - A Chicken Or Egg Conundrum


There have been studies before showing Fox News viewers are the least informed viewers of any news network. Consider this bit from a post in The Nation:


As of November 22, 2011, Think Progress had found seven studies showing Fox News’s viewers to be the worst informed of all news consumers. In a post about a report that had just come out in the International Journal of Press/Politics, by communication scholar Lauren Feldman of American University and colleagues which found that “Fox News viewing manifests a significant, negative association with global warming acceptance,” Chris Mooney cited six previous studies with similar findings.
I identified 6 separate studies showing Fox News viewers to be the most misinformed, and in a right wing direction—studies on global warminghealth carehealth care a second time, the Ground Zero mosque, the Iraq war, and the 2010 election.
I also asked if anyone was aware of any counterevidence, and none was forthcoming. There might very well be a survey out there showing that Fox viewers aren’t [emphasis in original] the most misinformed cable news consumers on some topic (presumably it would be a topic where Democrats have some sort of ideological blind spot), but I haven’t seen it. And I have looked.

Now there is another study about this. Researchers at Fairleigh Dickinson University's Public Mind Poll conducted a very interesting survey. They asked the viewers of certain news sources (Fox, MSNBC, CNN, Sunday Show, talk radio, Daily Show, and NPR) a short series of questions, divided into domestic and international issues. They also had a control group who did not watch (or listen to) any news source. The results (as an average score) is shown in the two charts above.

And the results don't look good for Fox News. Viewers who got most of their news from Fox did much worse than any other group -- scoring 1.04 on the domestic test and 1.08 on the international test. That is significantly lower than the group that watched no news shows. The "no news" group scored 1.22 on the domestic test and 1.28 on the international test. All of the people who watched (or listened to) the other news sources scored higher than the "no news" group (except for MSNBC, which scored slightly lower on the international test -- but still significantly higher than the Fox News group).

Of course, this brings up a sort of "chicken or egg" question. Do the dumbest people in America watch Fox News, or does Fox News make the people that watch them dumber? I suspect it may be a combination of both. Anyone who thinks they will get real news from watching Fox can't be too bright, and Fox is much more interested in spreading right-wing propaganda than reporting real news.

The news source whose listeners scored the highest on both tests was no surprise. It was NPR (National Public Radio), perhaps the most accurate and highly regarded news source in the nation. MSNBC, CNN, and talk radio should all be ashamed of themselves (even though they did finish much better than Fox News). All of them were beaten by the viewers of The Daily Show (a comedy show) on both tests.

Dogs

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

Tx GOP Senate Primary - Bringing The Crazy



















The two men pictured above are the leading candidates in the Republican primary to run for the senate seat being vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison. Both are rabid right-wingers, and they lead a field of rabid right-wingers. If you thought Hutchison was a bad senator (and she definitely was), just wait until you see these guys. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (on the left) is currently leading ex-Solicitor General Ted Cruz (on the right).

Cruz is so far to the right that he thinks the United Nations is conspiring to ban golf courses in the United States. I wish I could say that was a joke, but he really said that while campaigning (and of course, he's pledged to foil the nefarious U.N. plot).

Dewhurst is no better, having backed plans to rape Texas women with a sonogram wand if they want an abortion, suppress voting in the state, and gerrymander Texas' new districts to make sure they go to white Republicans (even though Hispanics made up the vast majority of population growth in Texas).

The race has gotten so crazy that Cruz is now running TV ads accusing Dewhurst of being a "moderate". That may not sound bad to reasonable people, but to teabaggers like most Texas Republicans, it is the kiss of death to be labeled as a moderate. Dewhurst has fought back by getting the endorsement of Gov. Rick Perry and running ads featuring Mike Huckabee (neither of whom could be considered moderate in any way).

The fact is that there is no moderate running for the Republican nomination (and probably none left in the Texas Republican Party at all). If Texas elects and sends to Washington either of these two men (or any of the other Republicans in the contest), then the people of this state will owe an apology to the rest of the nation. And sadly, as red as Texas is, that is very likely to happen.

So far, neither of these candidates has reached the magic 50% mark in the polls, and there is probably going to be a run-off for the nomination. But a new Public Policy Polling survey shows that Dewhurst has carved out a nice lead for himself. Here are the latest numbers:

David Dewhurst...............46%
Ted Cruz...............29%
Tom Leppert...............15%
Craig James...............3%
Others...............2%
Undecided...............5%