Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Message

Killing Off The Poor For Votes And Profit

The map above shows the sad plight of poor people in America -- people who have no health insurance and cannot afford to get the preventive care that would save (and lengthen) their lives. The colors on the map show the percentage of the population in that county who delay getting medical treatment because they simply cannot afford it. When they are finally so sick they cannot put medical care off any longer, they wind up in emergency rooms. Unfortunately, for many of them, by that time it is too late for effective treatment -- treatment that could have saved their lives if received earlier.

The yellow counties have between 6.5% and 13.4% of their population delaying medical treatment. For the light orange and orange counties, the percentage is between 13.5% and 17.1%. The red counties have between 17.2% and 19.7% delaying medical care. And the darkest red counties have between 19.8% and 40.6%. In those counties, between 2 and 4 out of every 10 people must risk their lives by delaying medical care. This is inexcusable in the richest nation in the world, especially since all other developed nations provide health insurance for all their citizens. (Note -- the gray counties are those where no data is available to determine the percentage who delay care.)

One of the objectives of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was to fix this problem. It asked the states to expand the Medicaid program (with the federal government paying all of the costs for the first 10 years, and then 90% after that). That expansion would have created uniform rules for qualifying for Medicaid in all 50 states, with anyone making less than 133% of the poverty level qualifying. Currently, each state makes its own rules about who qualifies for Medicaid -- and in many states, like Texas, most of the poor don't qualify for it (because the rules for qualifying are exceptionally stringent).

Note that many of the states where the highest percentage of people have to delay treatment for financial reasons are in the South (where Republicans control the state governments). In Texas alone, more than 28% of the population does not have health insurance -- and it is estimated that expanding Medicaid (as dictated by Obamacare) would provide coverage for more than 1.5 million people. Refusing to expand Medicaid, as Republican Governor Rick Perry has done, assures that hundreds (if not thousands) of that 1.5 million will die each year because they could not get preventive care.

To be blunt, the states (like Texas) that refuse to expand Medicaid are unnecessarily killing off the poor -- and they are doing it to get votes by satisfying the mean-spirited ideology of their base voters (who think health insurance and health care should be reserved only for those who can pay for it). They don't believe health care is a fundamental human right, and simply don't care that their policies are killing many Americans every year -- mostly among the poor.

They will tell you that government just can't afford to cover health care for everyone. That is a lie. If every other developed nation can afford it, then so can the United States (the richest nation of all). These same Republicans have no problem finding money for giveaways to the rich and the corporations. They have no problem finding the money to fight unnecessary wars. But they can't seem to find a nickel to help this nation's poor and disadvantaged.

Republicans are in the business of helping the rich and the corporations, and they are willing to kill off the poor to do that. That may sound harsh, but it is the truth.

Number One

Political Cartoon is by Nick Anderson in the Houston Chronicle.

Remembering A Hero

Today marks the birthday of a true American hero -- Cesar Chavez. Mr. Chavez was born on March 31, 1927. No one fought harder for the poor, the downtrodden, and the oppressed people than he did. His memory now serves as a guiding light to show us the way to economic and social justice.


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

Most & Least Religious Metropolitan Areas

As christians gather to celebrate the Easter Bunny (and look for the eggs he/she has hidden), the good folks at the Gallup Poll have released their latest information on the religiosity of the 189 major metropolitan areas in this country. They got their information from their Healthways Well Being Index surveys conducted between January 2nd and December 29th of 2012 of 244,917 adults nationwide. The margin of error ranges from less than 1 point for the largest metro areas to 6.5 points for the smallest areas.

They divided their poll respondents into three groups -- very religious, moderately religious, and not religious. Here is how they defined each group:

Very Religious -- based on saying religion is an important part of their daily life and that they attend religious services every week or almost every week.
Moderately Religious -- saying religion is important in their lives but that they do not attend services regularly, or that religion is not important but that they still attend services.
Not Religious -- saying religion is not an important part of their daily life and that they seldom or never attend religious services. 

The numbers shown above are the percentage that were defined as very religious. Nationwide, 40% of the people were classified as very religious, while 29% were moderately religious and 31% were not religious. My own city of Amarillo was evidently not big enough to be one of the 189 metro areas (but I would guess it would rank between Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington and El Paso in religiosity). If your metro area is in that number and you would like to see their religious statistics, you can go to page two of the Gallup Poll.

There were nine Texas metro areas large enough to be included in the poll. I have listed them below, from most religious to least religious. The number before their name is where they ranked in the poll on religiosity, and the first percentage given being the very religious (with the not religious percentage being in parentheses):

14. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission..... 53.0% (12.5%)
26. Beaumont-Port Arthur.....50.0% (16.7%)
28. El Paso.....49.8% (21.5%)
35. Corpus Christie.....47.5% (23.1%)
41. Dallas-Ft. Worth-Arlington.....46.8% (23.6%)
48. Houston-Sugar Land- Baytown.....45.6% (22.3%)
73. San Antonio.....41.3% (26.5%)
107. Killeen-Temple-Ft. Hood.....36.8% (34.5%)
124. Austin-Round Rock.....35.8% (36.6%)


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

Happy Easter

From the hilarious pages of The Atheist Pig.

Saturday, March 30, 2013


GOP - Hurt Poor & Elderly To Help Rich

The Republicans would have us believe that this country is in serious financial trouble with the current budget deficit (which they caused after inheriting a budget surplus from President Clinton), and that the only way to fix it is to cut services and benefits for the needy and the elderly (and children) -- and then give the rich and the corporations more tax cuts. That's ridiculous. It's the same failed economic policy the GOP has been following for a while now (and the same policy that caused the Great Recession).

The truth is that there are a lot of things that could be done without hurting those who need government help the most -- and many of them are listed in the graphic above. In addition to those, the best thing the government could do is to put more money into the economy to increase demand and create jobs -- good jobs that will be subject to taxation. The easiest way to do this is to rebuild our infrastructure and raise the minimum wage (to at least $10 an hour).

The poor, the elderly, and the nation's children need government help. The rich and the corporations do not need any help -- since they are doing better right now than ever before. It simply makes no sense to cut funds for those needing help and give more to those who don't need help. But then the Republicans don't really care about what's good for the country -- only what's good for them and their Wall Street buddies. They don't like it when people call them the party for the rich, but that's exactly what they are.

Against The Tide

Political Cartoon is by Daryl Cagle at

Public Opposed To Deporting Immigrants

The following charts are from the recent survey on immigration reform by the Pew Research Center (taken between March 13th and 17th of 1,501 nationwide adults -- with a margin of error of 2.9 points). Note that 71% of the public wants a way for the undocumented immigrants to stay in this country legally, while only 27% say they should not be allowed to stay. And this majority who want a legal way for them to stay cuts across all demographic lines (including a significant majority of Republicans). The percentage wanting a path to citizenship is smaller (43%), but is still larger than those wanting only permanent residency (24%). Here are some of the charts from the Pew survey:

American Cross

Political Cartoon is by Bob Englehart in The Hartford Courant.

Gun Deaths Are An Epidemic In The U.S.

Guns death top 30,000 each year in the United States (31,076 in 2010). About 35% of those deaths are homicides, while about 62% are suicides and the remaining 3% are accidents. That's a lot of unnecessary deaths, and if it was from any other cause our nation would be taking steps to stop (or at least reduce it). A perfect example (which gun enthusiasts love to quote) are automobile deaths. While it is true that currently automobile deaths outnumber gun deaths, it is also true that the government has taken action to reduce automobile deaths -- and by 2015, they will be less than the number of gun deaths nationwide.

Another canard used by gun nuts is that laws won't reduce the number of gun deaths. That is false. Studies have shown that the states with the most restrictive gun laws also have the lowest number of gun deaths per capita. The truth is that while gun deaths probably could not be completely eliminated, they could certainly be reduced by some reasonable and constitutional laws. And most people in this country know that.

Currently, about 40% of the gun sales in this country do not require (or receive) any background check at all. There is no excuse for that (especially considering that over 60% of the mass killers in this country bought their guns legally). This is something that could (and should) be fixed. About 90% of all Americans (including 85% of gun owners) want to see the loopholes in the current background check law closed -- so that no gun is sold without a background check. This would make it much harder for criminal felons, dangerous psychotics, and domestic abusers to get their hands on a gun (and that would be a very good thing).

The map above shows the number of gun deaths in this country in the first three months since the Newtown massacre (2,244 deaths). That is pathetic and unnecessary. But it's starting to look like the members of Congress, especially the Republicans, just don't care (as long as they get their NRA money and support for their re-election campaigns). It looks like the Republican-controlled House will kill any gun bill proposed, and the Senate GOP has promised to filibuster to prevent the Senate bill from reaching the floor for a vote.

As we watch the gun death toll mount up on the nightly news, we need to remember this betrayal by Republicans -- and punish them in the 2014 elections.

Double Duty

Political Cartoon is by Nate Beeler in The Columbus Dispatch.

Tradition ?

Unfortunately, this is true all over the world -- including the United States. Far too many people think the oppression of women is just the way things are supposed to be. Hell, it is even written into the dogma of the major religions. It is time for this nonsense to stop! Equality means just that -- equality for everyone, including women.

Friday, March 29, 2013

More Carlin Truth

Rubio Shoots Himself In The Foot

There is no doubt anymore that the vast majority of Americans (around 9 out of 10) want to see a background check done on all people trying to buy a gun -- even those buying from a private person. This has been shown by poll after poll. Why then would a presidential hopeful come out against such a popular idea?

That is exactly what has happened. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) has joined Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul in saying he will filibuster any gun bill that Majority Leader Reid (D-Nevada) tries to bring to the floor. In other words, he won't even allow a vote on the bill. And the only bill passed out of the Judiciary Committee is one that would close the loopholes on background checks and raise the penalties for gun trafficking (also supported by most of the public).

This might help Rubio with base Republican right-wingers, but it will hurt him in a general election (if he was somehow able to get the GOP nomination). He may think it will all be forgotten by 2016, but he is wrong. As Romney learned, the days of etch-a-sketch politics is over. And if the voters need to be reminded of this position he has taken (to not even allow a vote), then  the Democrats will be more than happy to remind them.

I think Rubio just damaged any small chance he ever had of being president. It probably won't matter though, because a new Public Policy Polling survey shows that Hillary Clinton has extended her lead over him in his home state of Florida (and over Jeb Bush and Paul Ryan). And if you can't win your home state, you don't have much of a chance of carrying the nation. Here are those PPP Florida numbers:




Bumper Stickers

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

Et Tu, O'Reilly ?

Nobody knows how the Supreme Court is going to decide the two cases it just heard on same-sex marriage, but poll after poll has made it obvious that most Americans are changing their minds -- and those minds are being changed quickly in favor of granting equal rights to the LGBT community (including equal marriage rights). Note this quote from a well-known personality:

The compelling argument is on the side of homosexuals. That is where the compelling argument is. We're Americans, we just want to be treated like everybody else. That's a compelling argument, and to deny that you've got to have a very strong argument on the other side. And the other side hasn't been able to do anything but thump the Bible. 

It may surprise you, but those are the words of Fox News most popular talking head -- Bill O'Reilly. He went on to say that he wanted all Americans to be happy, and although he doesn't feel strongly either way, he is fine with New York's legalization of same-sex marriage.

This has to be devastating for the fundamentalist right-wing. There are other Republicans who have come out in favor of same-sex marriage (Dick Cheney, Rob Portman, Ken Mehlman, etc.), but these fundamentalists have counted on Fox News always backing their position. Losing O'Reilly is big (since he has always been a big supporter of other fundie causes like the War on Christmas, War on Easter, etc.). The tide of equal rights is growing, and it will soon sweep over them!

If Corporations Did It. . .

Political Cartoon is by Bob Englehart in The Hartford Courant.

Willie And Rick (Texas View On LGBT)

A couple of Texas' more famous (or infamous) personalities recently spoke out about the LGBT community and same-sex marriage. They are Willie Nelson and Rick Perry. Needless to say, their views were on opposite ends of the spectrum. Since I was born and raised in Texas, and have lived in the Lone Star State almost all if my life, I thought I'd throw my two cents worth in.

It will not surprise regular readers of this blog that my views are identical to those of Willie. He spoke out in Texas Monthly magazine recently, and said the following:

I've known straight and gay people all my life. I can't tell the difference. People are people where I came from.
I never thought of  marriage as something only for men and women. But I'd never marry a guy I didn't like.
It's about human rights. As humanity, we've come through so many problems from the beginning to here.  I guess it finally had to come around to this. This is just another situation, another problem. We'll work it out and move on.
We'll look back and say it was crazy that we ever even argued about this. 

I agree with him, but I found another statement he made very interesting. Interesting because it might surprise a lot of people -- since Texas currently has a reputation as a bigoted and homophobic state. When the TM reporter asked Willie if he came up with the idea of equality for gays/lesbians rather early in his life (while growing up in Abbott, Texas), he replied:

People are people where I came from. . . It never came up. Gay or straight? Married, not married?  It was never a question. And now there's fussin', fightin', and arguin' over it? Let's get off that and talk about guns.

If that tends to surprise some of you, let me say that it is true. Growing up in Texas, I had much the same experience as Willie. It was just not something that most people even talked about (and certainly didn't make a big deal about it. I think there are some reasons for that.

* Back then most gays/lesbians were still in the closet, and people found it easier to ignore their existence.
* Much of Texas looks to more of an independent Western heritage -- which holds that if a person was honest, worked hard, and helped his/her neighbors, then most people didn't think personal details about about a person's life were any of their business.
* It was not discussed in the churches at that time.

It was not until much later that the LGBT community decided that they were Americans, and worthy of the same rights given to all other Americans. That caused a vehement backlash in the fundamentalist churches (which compose a major part of the state's religious make-up). All of a sudden preachers were telling people that they could not be good christians unless they were bigoted and homophobic -- and far too many Texans accepted that argument (since Texas is a prominent state in the fundamentalist Bible Belt). The churches forced the issue, and since many people wanted to be considered good "christians", they went along with bigotry (that was covered with a thin veneer of religion).

And one of the people that went along with this Bible-slanted bigotry was Rick Perry (who wears his religion on his sleeves, in the hope that will get him votes). Perry recently played to his Bible-thumping base by telling the Dallas Morning News:

"In Texas, it is fairly clear about where this state stands on that issue. As recently as a constitutional amendment that passed—I believe, with 76 percent of the vote. The people of the state of Texas, myself included, believe marriage is between one man and one woman."

I think he's wrong. That constitutional amendment was voted on in 2005 -- eight years ago. And as all polls have shown, this country has changed a lot in the last decade regarding their views of same-sex marriage. And while Texas teabaggers may not want to admit it, Texas has not been immune to those changes. Views have changed in the Lone Star State as well.

There is not yet a majority wishing to legalize same-sex marriage in Texas (slightly less than 40% according to James Henson and Joshua Blank of the Texas Politics Project), but there is another significant group of Texans who think the LGBT community deserves the same rights as married heterosexuals through civil unions. The upshot of the trend in Texas means that now 6 out of 10 Texans now believe gays/lesbians should have the same rights that heterosexuals get through marriage. Less than 30% of Texans don't think those rights should be extended to the LGBT community through either marriage or civil unions (and the rest say they don't know).

Perry is clinging to a past that no longer exists in Texas. It will take Texas a bit longer to legalize same-sex marriage than a lot of other states, but it is changing and that day will come.


Political Cartoon is by Lalo Alcaraz.


This may be humorous, but it also contains a lot of truth. When President Obama was elected by a large margin, the GOP was terrified that he might improve the economy and gives Democrats an advantage for years to come. So, what did they do? They have spent years trying to make sure there is no economic recovery, hoping they could blame it on the president and hoodwink the people into returning the GOP to power. It didn't work, but they are still trying to block any real recovery (except for their buddies on Wall Street). They should be ashamed of the damage they have done to this country -- both before and after this president was elected. But frankly, I don't think they're capable of feeling shame.

Thursday, March 28, 2013


GOP's Growing "Marriage Equality" Problem

The ultra-right-wing Republicans that make up a majority in the modern Republican Party like to say quite often that we should not change the laws in this country, because that would violate the "original intent" of this country's Founding Fathers. That's pure hogwash. It's also a modern idea that they have come up with -- and not the thinking of those Founding Fathers. Those men who created this country did not believe they had all the answers, and they knew they could not predict the future. The words above (on the Jefferson Memorial) attest to that.

Those same right-wingers would feel us that America must not allow same-sex marriage (i.e., equal rights) because the Founding Fathers did not do that. The fact that those Founding Fathers lived in a much different world does not seem to matter to them -- or the fact that the opinions of most Americans have changed. In fact, several of the leading fundamentalist right-wingers (Mike Huckabee, Gary Bauer) have even threatened to leave the Republican Party (and start a third party) if the Republican Party changes its stance opposing same-sex marriage.

But those Republicans who want to live in the past have a growing problem. The majority of Americans have changed their minds and now support legalizing same-sex marriage -- and that change is occurring at an ever-faster rate, with remarkable change being recorded in just the last decade. It is as though a dam has burst, and the flood of public opinion in favor of granting equal rights (including marriage rights) to the LGBT community can no longer be held back.

Several recent polls have shown that a clear majority of Americans now want to legalize same-sex marriage. A recent CBS News Poll puts the figure at 53% in favor and only 39% still opposed. An ABC News Poll puts the figure even higher -- at 58% in favor of legalization and only 36% opposed. But the problem for the fundamentalists goes deeper than that. Not only is a majority of the general public now taking a position in opposition to them, but so is a growing number of the people in their own party.

The ABC News Poll shows that since 2004 the number of Republicans approving of same-sex marriage has grown from 24% to 34% -- a jump of 10 points. The CBS News Poll has the change even larger -- from 13% in early 2012 to 37% in their latest poll (March 2013). That's a 24 point jump.

And that disagreement is most sharp among young Republicans. The CBS News Poll shows that among Republicans under 50 years old, 49% favor legalizing same-sex marriage while 46% oppose. And the difference is even bigger in the ABC News Poll, which shows 52% of Republicans under 50 support same-sex marriage while only 43% oppose it now. This means the Republican Party is only one generation (or less) from having majority support for same-sex marriage.

The Republican leadership has already admitted that they must find a way to reach out to younger voters, and that many young people view the same-sex marriage issue as something they consider important in picking a party. With about three out of four young Americans (73%) supporting same-sex marriage, that does not bode well for the party in attracting more young people.

The Republican Party has a difficult decision to make. If they continue their rabid opposition to same-sex marriage, they face a dwindling party membership as the older generation dies off and young people choose to be Democrats. If they change and support same-sex marriage, they could face a party split as the fundamentalists bolt to form a third party. Neither choice holds much promise for Republicans, and that is their current dilemma.

Party Split

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

GOP Will Filibuster Senate Gun Bill

There is no doubt that a huge majority of Americans support closing the loopholes on background checks for gun buyers. Poll after poll has shown that between 88% and 90% of Americans want background checks done on buyers in all gun sales -- even those guns sold by private citizens. Hell, those polls show that even gun owners support background checks by about 85%. So it would seem to be sheer insanity for the U.S. Senate not to pass the current gun bill pending in that legislative body -- a bill that only closes the background check loopholes and increases the penalty for gun trafficking (also supported by most Americans).

But it looks like that is exactly what is going to happen. In fact, the bill probably won't even reach the floor of the Senate so a vote can be taken on it. Why can't it at least get an up or down vote? Because at least three Republicans (pictured above) have informed Majority Leader Reed that they intend to filibuster any attempt to call the bill to the floor. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), and Mike Lee (R-Utah) are the senators who will launch that filibuster.

These three senators are making it clear that they will block any new restrictions on guns -- regardless of how reasonable or constitutional they may be, or how much the people of America want them. They understand that 40% of all gun sales in America are currently made without doing a background check -- giving criminals, dangerous psychotics, and domestic abusers easy access to any kind of weapon they want (including assault weapons). They just don't care. For them NRA support and campaign money is more important than trying to lower the number of gun deaths in this country -- including the growing number of mass killings like the Newport killings of 6 and 7 year olds.

Some of the other Senate Republicans could join Democrats and cut off the filibuster, but that is not likely to happen. During the budget debate last week, Mike Lee proposed an amendment opposing any new gun restrictions. It didn't pass, but it got plenty enough votes to sustain a filibuster. It now seems unlikely that any kind of gun bill will pass in either the Senate or the House (which is controlled by Republicans who jump when the NRA says "froggie").

Last week, the Republicans said they want to reach out to more Americans to increase party membership and votes. Why then would they oppose a bill supported by 9 out of 10 Americans? Once again, they are on the wrong side of history -- and they need to be punished for it in the 2014 elections.

Sport ?

Political Cartoon is by Nick Anderson in the Houston Chronicle.

Marriage Is A Civil Right

The right-wing, especially the fundamentalists, want to separate some rights from others. For them, the right to own a firearm is a right that should be extended to all Americans, but they don't believe the same for the right to get married to the person you love. That is a right which they enjoy, but that they would deny to others.

Fifty years ago, they denied the right to marry to people of different races or colors. In the 1967 Loving vs. Virginia decision, the Supreme Court declared that "marriage is a basic civil right", and therefore no state could deny the right to marry to citizens wishing to marry someone they love just because that person might be of a different race or color -- because denying that right to marry was a violation of the United States Constitution.

That was a good decision, and it advanced the cause of equal rights in this country. It does make me wonder though just why it is now such a hard decision for the Supreme Court to uphold their own decision, and extend that same right to marry the person they love to same-sex couples. If the Constitution guarantees all citizens equal rights (which it does), and the court has declared marriage to be a civil right (which it has), then it should be a no-brainer to declare that states cannot deny the right to marry to same-sex couples (because doing so would violate the Constitution).

Julian Bond is right. Gay rights are civil rights. The only way the Supreme Court can deny that is to put their religion or political ideology above the Constitution -- which would be a betrayal of the reason the Supreme Court exists (which is to make sure all laws passed in this country do not violate the Constitution).

All Americans, including those in the LGBT community, should have the same civil rights -- and all should be allowed to marry the person they love.


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

Economic Injustice

This is for those who think that our economic system has remained the same, and the "trickle-down" Republicans didn't change anything -- the rich just worked harder. That's a laugh, and this chart shows the truth. Between 1947 and 1979, increases in productivity were shared throughout all income brackets -- and even benefitted by getting a better standard of living. But beginning about 1980, the Republicans altered the economic rules and tilted the economic playing field to benefit only the rich. After that, the lions share of the productivity gains went to the top 20% (and especially the top 1%). The bottom 80% just got the leftover scraps.

It is time to alter those rules again. Only this time they should be altered to make sure everyone benefits. This is not punishing the rich or class warfare. It is simple economic justice -- that rewards hard work and provides economic opportunity to everyone.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

More From The Mind Of George Carlin

Shocking Truth About Income Growth

This rather shocking chart (from an article by David Cay Johnston, an expert on tax law at the Syracuse University School of Law, at tax reveals the truth about income growth in the United States. Measured in 2011 dollars, the vast majority of Americans (the bottom 90%) have gotten an average growth in income of only $59 dollars.

I that growth of $59 was equaled 1 inch on the chart, then the growth of the top 10% ($116,071) would equal 163 feet, the growth in income of the top 1% ($628,817) would equal 884 feet, and the income growth of the top 0.01% ($18,362,740) would equal a chart length of 4.9 miles. Put another way, the income growth of the top 10% grew 1,967 times as much as the income growth of the bottom 90% -- while income growth for the top 1% was 10,658 times as much, and the growth for the top 0.01% was 311,233 times as much.

Seeing this graphic representation of the income growth of the bottom 90% compared to the income growth of the richest Americans (especially the top 1% and above), it should be easy to see how the vast gap in income and wealth in America has become a reality -- making income and wealth inequality in the United States even worse that that of many third world countries. And it is still getting worse -- not better. It is not improving because the conditions that caused it have yet to be corrected.

What are those causal conditions? Here are some of the most egregious:
* The minimum wage has been allowed to drop significantly in buying power. In today's dollars, the minimum wage had the buying power in 1968 of about $10.50 an hour. To day it is only $7.25 an hour.
* Companies no longer share the gains in productivity with workers, but keep all of the gains for themselves. Worker wages have been stagnant, while the income of owners (and top management) have increased by more than 270%.
* Tax policies (instituted by Republicans -- mainly Reagan and Bush II) have favored the rich, and results in the richest Americans paying less in tax percentage than most middle class Americans. One of the main causes of this tax inequality is the special tax rate for investment income (lowered to 15% by Bush & raised to 20% by Obama last December) -- much lower than the approximately 39% rate that would be paid if all income was taxed as earned income (which is the income type that most Americans must declare as their taxable income).

There are easy fixes for all these problems, but our elected representatives either act to protect their own wealth (and that of their Wall Street buddies) or don't have the political courage to oppose the dictates of Wall Street and the giant corporations. If our elected representatives represented the people rather than the rich, they would:

1. Restore the buying power of the minimum wage by raising it to at least $10 an hour, and make sure it doesn't continue to lose buying power in the future by tying it to the rate of inflation.
2. Strengthen unions and makes it easier for employees to form new unions. This would give workers the power to bargain for an increase in wages as a part of the increase in productivity, thus ending wage stagnation.
3. Abolish taxing investment income at a lower rate than earned income. Tax all income at the earned income rate.
4. Do away with government subsidies for giant corporations, and make sure the corporations pay their appropriate share of taxes. Stop corporate tax breaks for outsourcing American jobs to other countries. And make American corporations pay taxes on the profits they are hiding off-shore.

Do we really want to live in a giant third world country, with a disappearing middle class -- and a wealth inequality worse than that of much poorer countries? We are still the richest nation on Earth, but most of that wealth is not being shared -- but hogged by the richest 1%. That must be stopped, because it is killing the American dream for most Americans. Here are a couple more facts showing that to be true:

* Between 1966 and 2011, the bottom 90% of Americans saw their share of national income shrink from 66.3% to 51.8% (from about two-thirds to about half).
* Between 1980 and 2005, more than 80% of the national increase in income went to the top 1%.

That is just so wrong. Call it class warfare or income redistribution if you want, but it's time to restore some economic justice to our economy!


Political Cartoon is by Christopher Weyant in The Hill.

Politicians Supporting Marriage Equality

This week the Supreme Court is hearing two very important cases. I call them important because they will decide (at least for a while) whether the U.S. Constitution means what it says in guaranteeing equal rights to all people in the United States. The first case is to decide whether Proposition 8 (which denied same-sex marriage rights in California) is legal or not. The second case is to determine the legality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which denies federal benefits to same-sex couples who have married.

I have made no secret of my view. I believe ALL Americans should have the same rights as all other Americans. If heterosexuals have a right to marry, with all the benefits guaranteed by state and federal governments to married couples, then those in the LGBT community should also have that same right -- and the sex of the two people getting married should not matter in the least. After all, the Constitution makes no exception in its guarantee of equality under the law.

Having said that, I have absolutely no idea what the court will decide. I hope they strike down both Prop 8 and DOMA as being unconstitutional. But the Supreme Court in its long history has not always been a supporter of equal rights (check out the Dred Scott decision in your history books). Sometimes the court opts to protect political ideology instead of the Constitution, and leaves it to a future court to correct their grievous mistake -- and there are some justices on the current court who may be prone to opt for ideology. The question is how many. Unfortunately, we will have to wait another three months (sometime in June) to find out.

But while we're waiting to find out how the justices of the Supreme Court fell about equal rights, there are some politicians who have had the political courage to take a stand on the issue. The good folks over at Mother Jones magazine have compiled a list of some of the more well-known of those people (and when they made their decision to support same-sex marriage). Here is their list:

Barack Obama (President)

Eliot Spitzer (former Gov. of New York)

Gavin Newsom (Lt. Gov. of California)
Lincoln Chafee (Gov. of Rhode Island)
Nancy Pelosi (U.S. Rep. from California)
Dick Cheney (former Vice-President)

Deval Patrick (Gov. of Massachusetts)

Andrew Cuomo (Gov. of New York)

Al Gore (former Vice-President)
Hilda Solis (former Sec. of Labor)
Arnold Schwarzenegger (former Gov. of California)

Kirsten Gillibrand (U.S. Senator from New York)
Chuck Schumer (U.S. Senator from New York)
Steve Schmidt (former McCain political advisor)
Howard Dean (former Gov. of Vermont & DNC chairman)
Patrick Leahy (U.S. Senator from Vermont)

Cindy McCain (wife of Senator John McCain from Arizona)
Laura Bush (wife of former President George W. Bush)
Ken Mehlman (former RNC chairman)

Eric Holder (Attorney General)
Patty Murray (U.S. Senator from Washington)
John Kerry (Sec. of State)
Bill Clinton (former President)
Martin O'Malley (Gov. of Maryland)
Shaun Donovan (Sec. of Housing and Urban Development)
Tom Vilsack (Sec. of Agriculture)

Jimmy Carter (former President)
Joe Biden (Vice-President)
Arne Duncan (Sec. of Education)
Harry Reid (U.S. Senator from Nevada)
Steny Hoyer (U.S. Rep. from Maryland)
James Clyburn (U.S. Rep. from South Carolina)
Colin Powell (former Sec. of State)
John Bryson (former Sec. of Commerce)
Tim Geithner (former Sec. of Treasury)
Kathleen Sebelius (Sec. of Health and Human Services)
Max Baucus (U.S. Senator from Montana)
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (U.S. Rep. from Florida)
Richard Hanna U.S. Rep. from New York)

Chuck Hagel (Sec. of Defense)
Jon Huntsman (former Ambassador to China)
Tom Ridge (former Sec. of Homeland Security)
Mary Bono Mack (former U.S. Rep. from California)
Charlie Bass (U.S. Rep. from New Hampshire)
Beth Myers (former Romney advisor)
Rob Portman (U.S. Senator from Ohio)
Hillary Clinton (former Sec. of State)
Claire McCaskill (U.S. Senator from Missouri)
Mark Warner (U.S. Senator from Virginia)
Mark Begich (U.S. Senator from Alaska)
Jon Tester (U.S. Senator from Montana)

Regardless of political party (or other political ideology), all of these people should be congratulated for supporting marriage equality.

Wedding March

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

Cutting Taxes Still Doesn't Create Jobs

It isn't just the Republicans in the U.S. Congress that are trying to convince Americans that the way to prosperity and new jobs is to cut taxes for the rich. Republican governors and state legislatures are spreading the same lies. Several Republican governors are trying to cut taxes for the rich, saying the rich will then use that extra money to create jobs (instead of just tucking it away in their already bulging bank accounts).

The problem with that argument is that taxes and job creation are not connected at all. Many jobs have been created in times with high taxes and many jobs have been lost in times with low taxes. That's because there is only one thing that spurs new job creation -- a rise in the demand for goods/services. When demand rises for their goods or services, businesses will hire additional workers to make sure they are able to meet that demand. But hiring more workers without a rise in demand just cuts profits (something no business wants to do).

This is eloquently illustrated in the chart above. It shows the growth in employment of the five states that cut taxes the most between 2000 and 2007. Note that those states actually created fewer jobs than the average of all other states -- something that could not have happened if what the Republicans are saying was true.

Someone looking at the chart could think that just the opposite case could be made -- that cutting taxes costs jobs. But that is not true either. Jobs can be created or lost whether taxes go up or down. It simply doesn't matter, because cutting taxes doesn't create jobs and raising taxes doesn't reduce jobs. Rising demand creates jobs and falling demand creates layoffs. That's just an economic reality.

NOTE -- Austerity (sharp cuts in government spending) will cause a reduction in jobs, because it takes money out of the economy and reduces demand. But once again, it's all about the demand.


Political Cartoon is by Lalo Alcaraz.