Thursday, October 31, 2013


(Image is from the website

I hope all of my wonderful readers have a very happy and safe Halloween. And that you follow the spirit of this wonderful holiday by just having fun with those people who make you happy.

The Chained-CPI Would Be A Cut In Benefits

In most years, those receiving Social Security (and Veterans) benefits get a small cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA). This small raise is determined by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) that is determined by the Labor Department.

The Republicans have proposed changing the way this raise is determined. They want to stop using the CPI (which represents the inflation rate in the U.S.) and go to a figure called the Chained-CPI (in which the government makes various adjustments to the inflation figures). They claim the Chained-CPI is a more accurate figure. That is debatable. But what is not debatable is that using the Chained-CPI instead of the CPI would result in a lower COLA raise for recipients of Social Security (and Veterans) benefits.

I made the chart above using Labor Department figures for the last 11 years. It shows the CPI and the Chained-CPI figures for each of those years. Note that in 10 out of those 11 years the CPI has been slightly higher than the Chained-CPI.

The Republicans say this difference is insignificant. I disagree. The average Social Security check is only slightly above $1000 a month -- and if you are living on that (or even less), then every single dollar counts. But it gets worse. Over a period of several years this difference between the CPI and the Chained-CPI will amount to quite a bit as it adds up year after year -- and will result in recipients of Social Security (and Veterans) benefits receiving significantly less in their checks than the current COLA would have given them. To be blunt, those Living on Social Security (and Veterans) benefits would no longer be able to keep up with the real rate of inflation -- and they would become a little poorer with each passing year.

The Republicans claim this would not be a benefit cut. That is a lie. That's exactly what it would be -- a benefit cut. And over an extended period of time, it would represent a huge cut in benefits.

Sadly, the president and some blue dog Democrats have indicated a willingness to consider moving from the CPI to the Chained-CPI. This is unthinkable, and we need to let them know we will not tolerate their cutting Social Security (and Veterans) benefits -- just to appease the Republicans (who want to keep the rich from having to pay their fair share of taxes).

Too Scary

Political Cartoon is by Bob Englehart in The Hartford Courant.

Seniors Putting GOP Districts In Play In 2014

These charts were made using information contained in a new Democracy Corps Poll, conducted between October 19th and 24th of 1,250 likely voters in the most competitive congressional districts (with the margin of error for the Republican districts being 3.58 points). The survey may actually be skewed slightly toward the conservatives, since the only voters surveyed were those who had voted in the 2006 and/or 2010 elections.

The top chart shows the current political preference in the 24 most competitive Republican-held districts. Note that the current political preference in those districts is a dead heat -- with the Republican incumbents at 46% and their Democratic opponents at 45% (well within the survey's margin of error). The Democrats don't need all of these districts. They could lose seven of them and still flip the House over to their control. While it is still very early, this now looks like a real possibility.

What has happened to make this a possibility? That's shown in the bottom chart. Note that 11% of moderates have shifted away from the incumbent Republican and toward the Democratic opponent. And among Independents and single women the shift has been even greater -- about 17%.

But the most worrying sign for the Republicans may be the shift among senior voters. More than 80% of seniors are registered to vote, and most of them vote in nearly every election. And these are voters that the Republicans depend on. When Republicans flipped the House in the 2010 election, these senior voters supported the GOP candidates by a significant margin (about 12 points). But there has now been an 11 point shift among senior voters in these Republican districts -- making the support for Republicans and Democrats about equal among seniors.

I have been puzzled by the support from seniors for Republican candidates -- especially since those congressional Republicans have shown they would like to abolish Medicare and privatize Social Security, or at least cut the benefits offered by both programs. Both of these programs are supported by most seniors, and voting for a Republican is counter-productive to the desires of most seniors.

It now looks like reality is starting to get through to senior voters -- and they are starting to realize that congressional Republicans don't have the best interests of senior in mind. They are finally beginning to understand that the Republicans represent the interests of the rich and the corporations -- not seniors (or any other Americans).

If the Republicans lose any more support from seniors (and Independents), these 24 districts (and maybe even a few more) will wind up in the Democratic column. And fortunately for Democrats, it doesn't look like the Republicans have any intention of moderating their views about Social Security and Medicare.

Bankenstein !

Political Cartoon is by R.J. Matson at

Bernie Answers Social Security Questions

(This picture shows President Roosevelt singing the bill to create Social Security.)

The post below is from the website of Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont). In it he lays out the truth about the Social Security program, which is far from the lies about it currently being spread by congressional Republicans.

The Koch brothers, Pete Peterson and other billionaires are spending huge amounts of money trying to cut Social Security and other vitally important federal programs. As part of this campaign, an enormous amount of misinformation is floating around. Let me try to set the record straight by answering a few of the questions that people are asking my office.
Is Social Security “going broke?” No! Social Security is not going broke. According to the Social Security Administration, the Social Security Trust Fund has a surplus today of $2.8 trillion. This sum, plus revenue that comes in every day, can pay out every benefit owed to every eligible American for the next 20 years. In 2033, unless Congress acts, Social Security will be able to pay out only 75 percent of benefits owed. Congress must act and make Social Security strong for the next 50 to 75 years.
Is the Social Security Trust Fund “real,” or is it just a pile of IOUs? The Social Security Trust Fund is very real. Social Security invests the surplus money it receives from workers and employers into U.S. government bonds, the same bonds that China, other foreign countries and wealthy investors have purchased. These bonds are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government. Here is what the Social Security Trust Fund government bond says: “This bond is incontestable in the hands of the Old Age and Survivors Insurance Tr u s t Fund. The bond is supported by the full faith and credit of the United States. And the United States is pledged to the payment of the bond with respect to both principal and interest.”
Is Social Security an “entitlement program?” Has it contributed to our deficit? Social Security is not an “entitlement program.” It is an earned income benefit. The revenue from Social Security comes from FICA payroll taxes, payments made by workers and their employers. Currently, workers contribute 6.2 percent of their income in FICA taxes — up to $113,700. Their employers match their payment. By law, Social Security cannot contribute to the federal deficit. Social Security has its own independent source of funding separate from the Treasury’s general fund.

Has the Social Security program been successful? Social Security has been the most successful and reliable federal program in modern American history. For 78 years, Social Security has succeeded in keeping millions of senior citizens, widows, and the disabled out of poverty. Throughout its history, in good economic times and bad, Social Security has never failed to provide 100 percent of the benefits owed to eligible Americans. Before Social Security, about half of our senior citizens lived in poverty. To d a y , while still too high, fewer than 10 percent of seniors live in poverty, and more than 57 million Americans receive Social
 Security benefits. What is the “chained CPI”? The “chained” consumer price index is a new approach to formulating cost-of-livingadjustments (COLAs) — the annual increases that Social Security beneficiaries are supposed to receive each year based on inflation. Believe it or not, the “chained CPI” is based on the theory that COLAs are “too generous” — despite the fact that, in recent years, COLAs have been negligible or even non-existent. A chained-CPI means that the average Social Security recipient who retires at age 65 would get $658 less a year at age 75 and would get over $1,100 less a year at age 85 than under current law. Further, not only would enacting a chained-CPI be harmful to senior citizens, it would also make substantial cuts to the VA benefits of more than 3.2 million veterans. Veterans who started receiving VA disability benefits at age 30 would have their benefits reduced by $1,425 at age 45, $2,341 at age 55 and $3,231 at age 65.

What is a fair and sensible long-term funding solution to Social Security? The fairest approach to making Social Security fully solvent for the next 50 years is to lift the cap on taxable income, now at $113,700, and apply the Social Security payroll tax on income above $250,000. Right now, someone who earns $113,700 a year pays the same amount in Social Security taxes as a billionaire. This makes no sense. Applying the Social Security payroll tax on income above $250,000 would only impact the wealthiest 1.3 percent of wage earners. In other words, 98.7 percent of wage earners in the United States would not see their taxes go up by one dime under this plan.

Why is there so much talk about cutting Social Security? Despite the fact that poll after poll shows that the American people — Democrats, Republicans and Independents — overwhelmingly do not want to cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, very powerful Big Money interests and campaign contributors are pushing Congress and the President to do just that. People like the Koch brothers, a family worth $71 billion, believe in a very different kind of America than we currently have. To a significant degree, they want Congress to end or drastically reduce government involvement in retirement programs (Social Security) and health care (Medicare and Medicaid) while, at the same time, giving more tax breaks to the rich and large corporations. The Koch brothers and other ultra-conservative individuals have contributed hundreds of millions into the political process.

As a member of a Senate and House committee that meets for the first time on Wednesday to begin work on a new long-term budget, my job is to represent the needs of ordinary Americans, not powerful special interests.

Disaster ?

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

This Just Makes Halloween Better

Halloween has always been my favorite holiday, even if it is just an unofficial one. That's because it has only one purpose -- for people, both young and old, to have fun. And the thought that Michele Bachmann, one of the dumbest public officials in America, doesn't like Halloween just makes it even better for me.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Good & Bad News On The Death Penalty

These charts were made with information contained in the latest Gallup Poll regarding the death penalty. Gallup has been surveying Americans on this issue since 1937 (when support for the death penalty was about 59%). The lowest support was in 1966, when only 42% of the general public was in favor of it. After that, the support for punishing those who kill by killing them began to climb. It reached a peak in 1994, with 80% support.

The good news is that since 1994 the support for punishing criminals by killing them has been dropping. And this year that support dropped to 60% -- the lowest level of support since 1972 (more than 40 years). In my opinion that's still far too high, but at least it's moving in the right direction (toward less support rather than more).

The bad news is, of course, that 60% (or six out of every ten Americans) still support the death penalty. But the bottom chart shows something even more troubling. Only 52% of the general public thinks the death penalty is administered fairly in our society, but 60% are in favor of giving and carrying out the death penalty. That leaves 8% (probably those who were not sure whether it was administered fairly to not) who are in favor of killing even though they are not sure it is done fairly.

I have to admit that I just can't understand such an attitude. How can anyone be in favor of taking a human life without being absolutely sure that it is done in a fair and just way?

The most unsurprising thing about the poll was in which political groups support the death penalty. Support is the least among Democrats, as less than half of them support it (47%). Independents support the death penalty at the same rate the general public does (60%). The most bloodthirsty group of all are the Republicans, with 81% (or four out of five) supporting the death penalty as a punishment.

Minority Outreach

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

Snapshot Of Virginia Governor's Race

As we draw within days of the gubernatorial race in Virginia, it looks like the Democratic candidate (Terry McAuliffe) is extending his lead over his Republican opponent (Ken Cuccinelli). This had started out a few months ago as a very close race, but McAuliffe is now leading among likely voters by 12 points -- the largest lead in the race so far.

The above chart shows the demographic breakdown of the race as it stands now. The only support for Cuccinelli that exceeds the margin of error is among Whites (who prefer him by about 5 points). Two other groups (those making between $50k & $100k and men) are virtually split on their preference, with both groups giving the Republican a 1 point edge. All other groups prefer McAuliffe by a significant margin.

But it looks like this race is going to be won in the gender demographic. While men are split between the two candidates, that is not true of women. They prefer McAuliffe by a whopping 24 point margin. It looks like the rabid anti-woman policies of the Republican Party is coming home to roost -- and it's going to cost them dearly in this Southern state.

It would seem to make sense for the Republicans to moderate those anti-woman views, but that probably still won't happen. The party is controlled in too many states (including Virginia) by the teabagger/fundamentalists, who still think women should be second-class citizens (and subject to the whims and desires of men). The more moderate business-oriented Republicans will have to wrest control of their party away from the extremists before those policies can be moderated at all -- and that is not going to be an easy task.

This same poll shows the Republican Party has damaged its image with voters in Virginia, just as it has in many other parts of the nation. Virginia voters have a 33 point bigger unfavorable view of the national Republican Party than a favorable view. Their view of the state Republican Party is not a whole lot better, where the unfavorable opinion is 16 points higher than the favorable opinion. The situation is much better for both state and national Democrats, where the favorable view of both entities is slightly better than the unfavorable views.

Both of these charts were made from the latest Washington Post / ABT-SRBI Poll that was taken between October 24th and 27th of 762 likely Virginia voters. The poll has a margin of error of 4.5 points.

Wishful Thinking

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

Bernie On The Right Way To Make A Budget

(The photo above of Bernie Sanders from is by David Garten.)

The bravest and smartest voice in the United States Senate, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), wrote an article for the Los Angeles Times on October 28th (Monday). In it, he discusses the right way to make a federal budget -- and as usual, what he says is well worth reading and considering. Here are his words:

budget panel composed of Democratic, Republican and independent members of the Senate and House is working on ways to avoid another government shutdown like the nightmare we all were just forced to endure.
As a member of that committee, I realize that our $17-trillion national debt and $700-billion deficit are serious problems that must be addressed. But I also realize that real unemployment remains close to 14%, that tens of millions of Americans with jobs are paid horrendously low wages, that more Americans are now living in poverty than ever before, that wealth and income inequality in the U.S. is greater than in any other major country and that the gap between the very rich and everyone else is growing wider.
We must look at how we got here to make informed choices about where we go next.
How did we go from healthy surpluses to terrible deficits? It's not that complicated. In 2001, President Clinton left office with a $236-billion surplus. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office foresaw a 10-year budget surplus of $5.6 trillion, enough to erase the national debt by 2011. It didn't work out that way.
Instead, under President George W. Bush, wars were launched in Afghanistan and Iraq without paying for them. The cost of those wars, estimated at up to $6 trillion, was tacked onto our national credit card. Then Congress passed and Bush signed an expensive prescription drug program. It also was not paid for. Then Bush and Congress handed out big tax breaks to the wealthy and large corporations. That drove down revenue. So did the recession in 2008, which was caused by a deregulated Wall Street. All that turned big surpluses into big deficits.
Interestingly, today's "deficit hawks" in Congress — Rep.Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and other conservative Republicans — voted for those measures that drove up deficits. Now that they're worried about deficits again, they want to dismantle virtually every social program designed to protect working families, the elderly, children, the sick and the poor.
In other words, it's OK to spend trillions on a war we should never have waged in Iraq and to provide huge tax breaks for billionaires and multinational corporations. But in the midst of very difficult economic times, we just can't afford to protect the most vulnerable people in our country. That's their view. I disagree.
So where do we go from here? How do we draft a federal budget that creates jobs, makes our country more productive, protects working families and lowers the deficit?
For a start, we cannot impose more austerity on people who are already suffering. When 95% of all new income between 2009 and 2012 went to the top 1%, and while tens of millions of working Americans saw a decline in their income, we cannot cut programs that working families depend on.
Instead of talking about cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, we must end the absurdity of corporations not paying a nickel in federal income taxes. A 2008 report from the Government Accountability Office found that was the case with 1 in 4 large U.S. corporations. At a time when multinational corporations and the wealthy are avoiding an estimated $100 billion a year in taxes by stashing money in tax havens like the Cayman Islands, we need to make them pay taxes just as middle-class Americans do.
While Congress in January finally ended Bush's tax breaks for the richest 1%, lower rates were left in place for the top 2%, those households earning between $250,000 and $450,000 a year. That must end.
At a time when we now spend almost as much as the rest of the world combined on defense, we can make judicious cuts in our armed forces without compromising our military capability.
And frankly, Congress must listen better. Some Republicans learned a hard lesson when the American people said it was wrong to shut down the government because some extreme right-wing members of Congress did not like the Affordable Care Act. Well, there's another lesson that I hope my Republican colleagues absorb. Poll after poll shows that Americans overwhelmingly do not want to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
In fact, according to a recent National Journal poll, 81% do not want to cut Medicare at all, 76% do not want to cut Social Security at all, and 60% do not want to cut Medicaid at all. Other polls make it clear that Americans believe that the wealthiest among us and large corporations must pay their fair share in taxes.
It is time to develop a federal budget that is moral and makes good economic sense. It is time to develop a budget that invests in our future by creating jobs, rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and expanding educational opportunities. It is time for those who have so much to help with deficit reduction. It is time that we listen to what the American people want.

Trick Or Treat

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

Krugman On GOP Economics

Krugman is right. The Republicans don't really care about the deficit (or the debt). If they did, they wouldn't have run both up so high during the Bush administration. They simply use the deficit (and the debt) as excuses to destroy programs they never liked, so they can give more away to their rich buddies.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Rich Should Pay A Bit More In Taxes

U.S. Has Split-Personality On Health Care

Those on the right-wing have accused the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) of being socialized medicine. It isn't even close to that. Obamacare leaves health insurance in the hands of private insurance companies -- something socialized medicine would never do. A socialized medical system would be more like what the English have (where doctors work for the government and hospitals are government owned), or the Canadian and French systems (where doctors and hospitals are private businesses that are paid through a government-run single-payer health insurance system).

Many years of right-wing propaganda have convinced many Americans that any kind of socialized medical system is bad, including systems like those in Canada and France. That is clearly shown by a recent YouGov Poll (conducted on October 21st and 22nd of 1,000 nationwide Americans). That survey shows that most Americans say they prefer that individuals and businesses foot the bill for medical insurance.

That opposition to a government-run single-payer health insurance system includes a plurality of the general public (44%) and Independents (46%), and a striking majority of Republicans (73%). It is only among Democrats that more would prefer a government single-payer system, by a slim majority (53%). And the same is true of the government mandating participation in the health insurance system.  A plurality of the general public (43%), and majorities of Independents (50%) and Republicans (67%) say they do not support a federal mandate to participate. Again, only Democrats (67%) see the need for a mandate.

That would seem to be pretty clear, wouldn't it? Americans just don't want a government-run single payer medical system (socialized medicine), and they don't want citizens to be mandated to participate in the system. Or do they?

Medicare is socialized medicine. It is a government-run single-payer health insurance system -- and all seniors are mandated to participate in it, not to mention that all workers are mandated to pay for it (through payroll and other taxes). Looking at the two charts above, one might think that Americans would be opposed to Medicare and want to eliminate it. But that isn't true at all.

While Americans may oppose socialized medicine in the abstract, they actually like it in reality -- once the program is in operation.

Note that 55% of the general public would be opposed to eliminating Medicare, while only 30% would support that. And the same is true across the political spectrum. Among Democrats, those who want to keep Medicare is 37 points higher than those who oppose it. For Independents, support for Medicare is 24 points higher than opposition. And among Republicans, support is 13 points higher than opposition.

It shows that Americans have sort of a split personality when it comes to the health care system. They say they oppose a government single-payer system, but support the one that is already operating in this country. I suspect they would also support extending Medicare to all American citizens -- but only after it was in operation (and not before).

Imitating Rubio

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

Judge Stops Texas GOP's Anti-Woman Law

Last summer, the Republicans in the Texas legislature was bound and determined to pass an anti-woman law that, if it went into effect, would close almost all clinics performing abortions in Texas -- thus denying Texas women the right to control over their own bodies. To accomplish this, a special session of the legislature was called.

But they failed to pass that odious law in that special session, primarily because State Senator Wendy Davis (pictured above on the left) filibustered the bill until the time allotted for that special session ran out. That didn't deter them though. A second special session was called, and some legislative rules were changed, and the bill was rammed through the legislature (and signed by the governor).

That's when Planned Parenthood, headed by Cecile Richards (pictured above on the right), stepped up to do their part for Texas women. They filed suit in federal court to stop two of the worst provisions of the law -- one that required doctors performing abortions to have privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic, and another that required doctor's to follow federal protocols for using abortion pills (even though they are no longer considered the best medical practice).

Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel issued an order overturning both provisions -- giving Planned Parenthood, and the women of Texas, an initial victory in this fight for women's rights. The judge concluded his decision by saying:

. . .the court will render a final judgement declaring that the admitting-privileges provision of House Bill 2 does not bear a rational relationship to the legitimate right of the state in preserving and promoting fetal life or a woman's health and, in any event, places a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus and is thus an undue burden to her. The court will enjoin enforcement of that provision. Although the medication-abortion provisions do not generally place an undue burden on a woman seeking an abortion, they do if they ban a medication abortion where a physician determines, in appropriate medical judgement, such a procedure is necessary for the preservation of the life or health of the mother. The court will so declare and enjoin enforcement of those provisions in such instance.

The decision will undoubtably be appealed to a higher court by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, if for no other reason, because the teabaggers and fundamentalists want it to be appealed. Abbott knows that those are the people who control the Republican Party in Texas, and he badly wants to be the GOP nominee for governor in 2014.                                                                                                                                                            

Texas Women

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

NYC Poised For A Democratic Landslide

As the mayoral race in New York City draws near, Democratic candidate Bill de Blasio is looking at a landslide win he currently leads his Republican opponent, Joe Lhota, by about 45 points. Mr. de Blasio leads in all the boroughs of the city -- having 76% support in Manhattan and Bronx, 66% in Brooklyn, and 64% in Queens. He also leads among both genders, all age groups and ethnicities/races, and all education and income levels. here are those numbers:

18 to 29...............77%
30 to 44...............68%
45 to 64...............72%
65 & over...............62%
College degree...............69%
No coll. degree...............67%
Under $50k...............75%
Over $100k...............63%

Mr. de Blasio is undoubtably a popular politician in the city, having a 62% favorability rating. But part of his huge lead could be due to the damage the Republican Party did to themselves in shutting down the government recently. About 47% of the NYC electorate said that had an effect on their decision, and the Republican Party is very unpopular in New York City right now.

All of the numbers used above are from the recent NY Times / Siena College Poll (conducted between October 21st and 26th of 701 likely New York City voters, and with a margin of error of 3.7 points).


Political Cartoon is by Bob Englehart in The Hartford Courant.

I Hope He's Serious

I do hope the president is serious when he says it is wrong to make seniors pay more for Medicare, while the rich pay less in taxes. Taxes for the rich are abnormally low in the United States, especially when compared to those of other developed nations. But the seniors, who get their Medicare payments taken out of their Social Security checks, are already hurting and can't afford to pay more (because those SS checks are already very low, averaging just over $1000 a month). It's just wrong to try and balance the budget on the backs of seniors (and children and the poor), while letting the rich go without bearing their part of the economic burden.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Biggest Tax-Evaders

SNAP Program Will Suffer Cuts On 1st

The two charts above (from Mother Jones) show some of the benefits of the SNAP Program (more commonly called the Food Stamp Program) that are not realized by many Americans. While it is common knowledge that food stamps help solve the growing food insecurity problem in this country, it also does more. Out of every $5 spent on food stamps, at least $9 is generated in economic activity (activity that helps sustain businesses and jobs). And the food stamp benefits keep around 4 million Americans out of poverty.

But those things will take a hit next Friday (November 1st). That's because the $5 billion in extra funds, provided to help the growing number of people who find themselves needing food stamps because of the recession, will end this week. The need for those funds has not ended (as most Americans are still mired in the effects of that recession), but Congress is not likely to extend any of those funds.

In fact, the congressional Republicans want to cut even more from the SNAP Program, and the House has passed a bill that would cut food stamps by about $4 billion a year for the next 10 years. The Republicans don't seem to care that their cuts would increase hunger in this country, put many more Americans into poverty, and remove money from an already fragile economy (hurting businesses and costing jobs).

The Republicans don't care because their constituency is the rich -- the people who don't need food stamps. As long as they can prevent those rich people from paying more in taxes, the GOP really doesn't care what happens to hurting Americans. And they wouldn't mind more economic hurt in this country, because they'll try to blame that on the Democrats and use it in next year's elections (in spite of the fact that they will be the cause of an even poorer economy).

It is doubtful that the $40 billion in cuts over the next 10 years will be able to pass in the Senate (where cooler and more reasonable heads prevail), but there is probably no way to stop the $5 billion cut due to happen this Friday (since the GOP controls the House), and that's a shame because it will cause pain throughout the economy. We need to remember this when the 2014 election rolls around, and vote the GOP out of power. That's the only way a more sane and reasonable economic policy can be initiated in this country -- a policy that will benefit everyone, and not just the rich.

Glitch Hunt

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

Tx Dems Now Have 5 Candidates For 2014

The Democratic ballot for 2014 is already starting to take shape. There is little doubt that State Senator Wendy Davis will be heading the ticket. After her courageous filibuster of the anti-woman GOP bill in the legislature, she has become a hero among Texas Democrats (who begged her to make a run for governor). She has declared her candidacy for that job now, and has already raised a couple of million dollars for her campaign. That's not enough, but she has time to become competitive financially. She also has an energized base of supporters.

Democrats were hoping that she would be heading a strong ticket, with some good candidates down ballot. So far, there have been four other candidates that have declared their statewide candidacy for office on the Democratic ticket -- and it's a bit of a mixed bag (with a couple having pretty good name recognition, and a couple being virtually unknown by voters).

 The picture above (from the Burnt Orange Report) is of Maria Luisa Alvarado. She is officially declaring her candidacy for the office of Lt. Governor today. She is well-known among Texas Democrats since she ran for this same office back in 2006 -- getting more than 1.6 million votes with very little campaign funding and a weak candidate for governor heading the party's ticket. Hopefully, by declaring her candidacy this early, she can raise enough money to run a decent campaign. If so, she could be a real help to Wendy Davis.

The other candidate with good name-recognition is Kinky Friedman (picture is from his website) -- comedian, author, and singer. Kinky ran for governor in 2006 as an Independent, and has now declared his candidacy for Agriculture Commissioner on the Democratic ticket. Some Democrats are still angry at Kinky, blaming him for their loss in 2006. But they need to get over that. Their 2006 candidate was weak, and could not have won even in a two-man race. If he survives the primary (and so far, he has no opponent), Kinky could help the ticket because he appeals to a lot of Independent voters (and voters who normally don't vote) -- and the Democratic ticket could use all the Independent votes they can get.

The first of the virtual unknowns is Mike Collier (picture above from his website). Collier has tossed his hat in the ring for State Comptroller. He is a businessman and a former partner at PriceWaterhouseCoopers auditing firm. He is most likely a blue dog -- but if you're going to vote for a Democratic blue dog, then the office of Comptroller is probably the best office to do that in (since the Comptroller keeps track of state funds, and notifies the legislature how much money they have to spend). His main problem is going to be getting his name before the voters, because he has never run for office before and most Texans have never heard of him. But with this early start, he might be able to remedy that (especially if he can pry loose some funding from the business community).

 The final declared candidate for Democrats is Maxey Scherr (image from She has declared her candidacy for the U.S. Senate. Her candidacy has to be considered the biggest long-shot of all. She is inexperienced (only out of Texas Tech Law School for five years), starts with little to no funding, and no Texas Democrat (or Independent or Republican) outside of El Paso has ever heard of her -- and she is running against a very well-funded GOP incumbent (Cornyn). She has a very tall political mountain to climb. But who knows, maybe she will surprise us and turn out to be more formidable than expected.

That's it for now. But there is still plenty of time (with months to go before the primary), and I expect others will be declaring for office soon -- since we have a good gubernatorial candidate, and the Republicans have recently damaged themselves by supporting the government shutdown. It won't be easy, but 2014 represents the Democrat's best chance to win statewide office in the last twenty years.

Texas GOP

Political Cartoon is by John Branch in the San Antonio Express-News.

Democrat Leading Kansas Governor's Race

I have to admit that the results of this poll surprised me a bit. The incumbent governor of Kansas (Sam Brownback) is currently trailing his Democratic opponent (Paul Davis) in his bid for re-election. While it is not unheard of for Kansas to elect a Democrat to that office, it is not commonplace either. Since becoming a state, Kansas has elected 32 Republicans and 11 Democrats (and 2 Populists) -- or about three times as many Republicans as Democrats.

And the most surprising part of the poll is that Brownback has lost support among Republicans (his own party). He is currently enjoying the support of only 59% of Kansas Republicans, while 24% say they support the Democratic candidate and another 12% say they will vote for a third party candidate. Meanwhile 87% of Democrats say they support their own party's candidate (while 8% support Brownback and 4% support a third party candidate).

This makes me wonder -- are voters trending away from Brownback because of his far-right-wing governing of the state, or is the anti-Republican feeling of Washington's congressional Republicans beginning to filter down to the individual states? It could be the latter, since Brownback was the state's U.S. Senator before running for governor and his far-right-wing positions are well-known to the people of Kansas.

These numbers are from a KWCH-TV / SurveyUSA Poll taken on October 23rd and 24th of 600 Kansas adults (with a 4.4 point margin of error).

Can Of Worms

Political Cartoon is by Kevin Siers in The Charlotte Observer.

The Most Unequal Nation

This chart is from the IMF, and was found at the website, The Big Picture. It shows the comparison between the richest 10% and the poorest 50% in terms of the wealth they own. The United States, on the far right in the chart, is clearly the most unequal nation of all -- with the top 10% owning a greater percentage of the country's wealth, and the bottom 50% owning a smaller percentage of the wealth.

You may think that is only among developed nations, and the U.S. would look better when nations like India and China are included -- nations that Americans tend to think of as very unequal. But that would be wrong. Both of those nations are on the chart, and neither is as unequal as the United States.

This must be fixed. As inequality increases, democracy decreases -- because the greater the portion of wealth held by the rich, the easier it is for them to buy what they want from government.