Friday, October 31, 2014


(This image found at the website With Love by Bea.)

Today marks the arrival of my favorite holiday of the year. It is Halloween, a holiday dedicated to only one purpose -- having fun (both for children and adults). I hope all of my readers have a fun and safe holiday. And remember to bribe the witches, ghosts, goblins, and other tiny monsters that darken your door tonight with lots of candy!

Pumpkin Carving

Senate Polls - New Hampshire, Arkansas, Colorado

American Research Group Poll

University of Arkansas Poll

Quinnipiac University Poll

Horseless Headsman

Political Cartoon is by Milt Priggee at

Education Standards Are Now Just A Political Mess

While Republicans and Democrats have long argued over just how much money should be put toward educating students, they used to agree that students should be held to a high standard -- and that served this country well, making American students among the best educated in the world. But things have changed, and now some other countries have caught and passed us in the quality of education offered (and the achievement of their students).

A few years ago, in an effort to strengthen education in this country, the government had a group of educators develop standards they hoped all schools would adopt. They called these "common core standards" (CCS), and offered a significant bump in education funding to states that accepted the new (and higher) standards. Some states have accepted the CCS and implemented them. Others have accepted them and are in the process of implementing them (or soon will be). And a group of states (red states) have refused to accept them.

Why are some states refusing to accept the new higher education standards? Do they really want the students in their state to be dumber than the students in other states (and countries)? Not really. They are doing it because right-wing politicians have made the CCS a political football, and because evangelicals are unhappy that the new standards don't allow the teaching of religion as science or conservative propaganda as history.

Right-wingers claim the new standards represent a federal government takeover of schools. Of course that's ludicrous. The establishment of higher standards for all students has nothing to do with school control. The right-wing has turned this into a political issue because they hate the president (either for racial or ideological reasons), and won't support anything the president approves of.

The sad part of all this is that both parents and teachers have been sucked into these political games. Note in the charts above that both parents and teachers are split over the new higher standards -- with Republicans opposing them and Democrats accepting them. What should be an education debate has been turned into a political (and religious) debate. And the people being hurt by this playing of political games with education are the students (especially in the red states, which seem to be happy with lower standards).

I'm not a teacher, but the idea of higher education standards seems like a good one to me. Maybe there are some things that need to be changed with the implementation of the CCS, but shouldn't that be a discussion among education professional -- not politicians?

These charts were made from Gallup Poll surveys of parents and teachers.

Dark Money Ads

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

Governor Races - Some Are Close And Some Are Not

I haven't discussed the 36 governor's races around the country very much on this blog, so I thought I'd bring you the latest NY Times / CBS News / YouGov Poll on all of those races. They have the Republicans leading in 20 races, the Democrats leading in 15, and one tied (Connecticut).

Now I don't think all of these races will end as this poll predicts. While some show a large lead, others are very close (even within the poll's margin of error). While leading, the Republicans could easily lose in Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, and Wisconsin. And the Democrats could lose in Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, and Michigan.

No matter which state you happen to live in, please get out and vote. Don't let other people make your decision and dictate how your state will be run for the next few years. And don't accept any poll as gospel. Polls don't pick governors -- voters do.

Which Director ?

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

Wealth Inequality Continues To Grow

(The image above was found at the website Just Harvest.)

Credit Suisse has released its 2014 Global Wealth Report. It shows the rich are getting richer (much richer) while everyone else struggles with an ever-widening wealth gap. Here is an excellent post from Paul Buchheit at Common Dreams concerning this growing tragedy (and yes, I do believe it is a tragedy):

Global inequality, like global warming, is a disease that may be too far along to ever be cured. 

We seem helpless, both in the U.S. and around the world, to stop the incessant flow of wealth to an elitist group of people who are simply building on their existing riches. The increasing rate of their takeaway is the message derived from theCredit Suisse Global Wealth Databook (GWD). 

It's already been made clear that the richest Americans have taken almost all the gains in U.S. wealth since the recession. But the unrelenting money grab is a global phenomenon. The GWD confirms just how bad it's getting for the great majority of us. 

1. U.S.: Even the Upper Middle Class Is Losing 

In just three years, from 2011 to 2014, the bottom half of Americans lost almost half of their share of the nation's wealth, dropping from a 2.5% share to a 1.3% share (detail is here). 

Most of the top half lost ground, too. The 36 million upper middle class households just above the median (6th, 7th, and 8th deciles) dropped from a 13.4% share to an 11.9% share. Much of their portion went to the richest one percent. 

This is big money. With total U.S. wealth of $84 trillion, the three-year change represents a transfer of wealth of over a trillion dollars from the bottom half of America to the richest 1%, and another trillion dollars from the upper middle class to the 1%. 

2. U.S.: In 3 Years, an Average of $5 Million Went To Every Household in the 1% 

A closer look at the numbers shows the frightening extremes. The bottom half of America, according to GWD, owned $1.5 trillion in 2011. Now their wealth is down to $1.1 trillion. Much of their wealth is in housing equity, which was depleted by the recession. 

The richest Americans, on the other hand, took incomprehensible amounts of wealth from the rest of us, largely by being already rich, and by being heavily invested in the stock market. The following summary is based on GWD figures and reliable estimates of the makeup of the richest one percent, and on the fact that almost all the nation's wealth is in the form of private households and business assets: 
  • In 3 years the average household in the top 1% (just over a million households) increased its net worth by about $4.5 million. 
  • In 3 years the average household in the top .1% (just over 100,000 households) increased its net worth by about $18 million. 
  • In 3 years the average household in the top .01% (12,000 households) increased its net worth by about $180 million. 
  • In 3 years the average member of the Forbes 400 increased his/her net worth by about $2 billion. 
3. World: 1% Wealth Grew from $100 Trillion to $127 Trillion in 3 Years 

A stunning 95 percent of the world's population lost a share of its wealth over the past three years. Almost all of the gain went to the world's richest 1%. 

Again, the gains seem almost incomprehensible. The world's wealth grew from $224 trillion to $263 trillion in three years. The world's richest 1%, who owned a little under $100 trillion in 2011, now own almost $127 trillion. For every dollar they possessed just three years ago, they now have a dollar and a quarter. 

From New York and LA and San Francisco to London and Kenya and Indonesia, the rich are pushing suffering populations out of the way to acquire land and build luxury homes. The "winner-take-all" attitude is breaking down society in the U.S. and around the world. 

More Madness 

There's a lot more in the GWD, and it doesn't get any prettier. It tells us what unregulated capitalism does to a society. 

Haunted House

Political Cartoon is by Tom Toles in the Washington Post.

Minimum Wage

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Why Aren't U.S. Workers Guaranteed A Paid Vacation ?

Senate Polls In Iowa, Georgia And Kansas

Loras College Poll

Monmouth University Poll

KSN 3 News Poll

Forced Quarantine

Political Cartoon is by Chris Britt at

Why The GOP Isn't Campaigning On Opposing Obamacare

You may have noticed that after trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) about 50 times, and telling every lie they can think of about it for several years now, they have become strangely silent on the subject in this election campaign. There is a good reason for that. They can see the statistics as well as anyone (even if they won't admit it), and they realize that campaigning against Obamacare could well cost more votes than it gets.

It turns out that there are 10 million Americans that now have medical insurance, thanks to Obamacare. And the number of uninsured Americans has dropped significantly among all genders, races, ages, and locations (according to information from Enroll America and Civis Analytics). This drop is illustrated in the chart above.

The Republicans have been able to keep some Americans from getting insurance though (a fact they probably don't want to have to explain on the campaign stump). While all states and counties have shown a drop in the number of uninsured, the Republican-controlled counties and states have experienced a smaller drop (and still have many more uninsured people). That is illustrated in the chart below.

Obamacare is not perfect, and even though it will undoubtably cover more people in the  future, but the Republicans are responsible for keeping many Americans from getting health insurance coverage.


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

GOP Has An "Empathy Deficit Disorder"

(The cartoon image above is by Chris Britt at

The Republicans have fought hard for the rich, but to give more to them they have taken from all other Americans (and would like to take even more).

They have voted to take health insurance away from millions of Americans, tried to abolish Medicare and privatize Social Security (or cut benefits), opposed raising the minimum wage, cut education funding, cut food stamps for the hungry, opposed unemployment insurance, protected tax breaks for corporations that export American jobs, voted against increasing veterans benefits, created a special lower tax rate for the rich (capital gains tax), and obstructed all efforts to pass a job creation bill -- among numerous other things.

I think it would be an understatement to call them mean-spirited. Former Labor Secretary and noted progressive Robert Reich has a different term for them. He says they have an Empathy Deficit Disorder (an inability to feel the pain of ordinary Americans). Here is what he had to say in a recent post on his own blog:

Commenting on a recent student suicide at an Alaska high school, Alaska’s Republican Congressman Don Young saidsuicide didn’t exist in Alaska before “government largesse” gave residents an entitlement mentality.
“When people had to work and had to provide and had to keep warm by putting participation in cutting wood and catching the fish and killing the animals, we didn’t have the suicide problem,” he said. Government handouts tell people “you are not worth anything but you are going to get something for nothing.”
Alaska has the highest rate of suicide per capita in America – almost twice the national average, and a leading cause of death in Alaska for young people ages 15 to 24 — but I doubt it’s because Alaskans lead excessively easy lives.
Every time I visit Alaska I’m struck by how hard people there have to work to make ends meet. The state is the last American frontier, where people seem more self-reliant than anywhere in the lower forty eight.  
It’s true that every Alaskan receives an annual dividend from a portion of state oil revenues (this year it will be almost $2,000 per person), but research shows no correlation between the amount of the dividend from year to year and the suicide rate.
Suicide is a terrible tragedy for those driven to it and for their loved ones. What possessed Congressman Young to turn it into a political football?
Young has since apologized for his remark. Or, more accurately, his office has apologized. “Congressman Young did not mean to upset anyone with his well-intentioned message,” says a news release from his congressional office, “and in light of the tragic events affecting the Wasilla High School community, he should have taken a much more sensitive approach.”
Well-intentioned? More sensitive approach?
Young’s comment would be offensive regardless of who uttered it. That he’s a member of the United States Congress — Alaska’s sole representative in the House – makes it downright alarming.
You might expect someone who’s in the business of representing others to have a bit more empathy. In fact, you’d think empathy would be the minimum qualification to hold public office in a democracy.
Sadly, Young is hardly alone. A remarkable number of people who are supposed to be devoting their lives to representing others seem clueless about how their constituents actually live and what they need.
Last week New Jersey Governor Chris Christie groused to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, “I’m tired of hearing about the minimum wage.”  
No doubt some in the audience shared Christie’s view. It was the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, after all.
But many of the Governor’s constituents are not tired of hearing about the minimum wage. They depend on it.
New Jersey has among the largest number of working poor in America. Some 50,000 people work for the state’s minimum wage of $8.25 an hour.
This isn’t nearly enough to lift them out of poverty. The state’s cost of living is one of the five highest of all states.  
In any event, doesn’t hearing from constituents about what they need go with the job of representing them?
Christie went on to tell his audience “I don’t think there’s a mother or a father sitting around the kitchen table tonight in America saying, ‘You know, honey, if our son or daughter could just make a higher minimum wage, my God, all of our dreams would be realized.’ Is that what parents aspire to?”
A minimum-wage job is no one’s version of the American dream. But Christie is wrong to suppose most minimum-wage workers are teenagers. Most are adults who are major breadwinners for their families.
Christie seems to suffer the same ailment that afflicts Alaska’s Don Young.
Call it Empathy Deficit Disorder. Some Democrats have it, but the disorder seems especially widespread among Republicans.
These politicians have no idea what people who are hard up in America are going through.
Most Americans aren’t suicidal, and most don’t work at the minimum wage. But many are deeply anxious about their jobs and panicked about how they’re going to pay next month’s bills.
Almost two-thirds of working Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.
And they’re worried sick about whether their kids will ever make it.
They need leaders who understand their plight instead of denying it.  
They deserve politicians who want to fix it rather than blame it on those who have to depend on public assistance, or who need a higher minimum wage, in order to get by.
At the very least, they need leaders who empathize with what they’re going through, not those with Empathy Deficit Disorder. 

Trust ?

Political cartoon is by Jen Sorensen at

Texas Party Platforms Are Very Different

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Senate Race Polls In Georgia And Colorado

Public Policy Polling

Rasmussen Poll

War On Halloween

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

Teabaggers Are Very Strong In Texas Politics

The charts in this post are from the latest University of Texas / Texas Tribune Poll -- done between October 10th and 19th of a random sample of 866 likely Texas voters, and has a margin of error of about 3.33 points.

As the chart above shows, only about 32% of Texans think the teabaggers have too much influence over the Texas Republican Party, while about 48% think the influence is about right or too little -- with 20% saying the influence is about right and 28% saying the influence is too little (which is amazing since the teabaggers have been in complete control of the state party for years now).

The two charts below also demonstrate this influence. As the top chart shows, about 53% of Texans say they would prefer to vote for a Republican in their congressional district. But as the bottom chart shows, if the teabaggers had a party of their own about 25% would vote for it while only 22% would vote Republican (and the other 6% would have a hard time choosing between the two). The support for Democrats would remain the same (with only an insignificant 1% going into the unsure column).

It is easy to see from these numbers why all the Republican candidates in Texas pander to extremist elements. They know their party is controlled by the teabagger extremists -- and they also know that enough Texas Independents have been conned into believing teabagger politics is sensible and patriotic to give GOP extremists a natural advantage at the polls. Being a right-wing extremist might hurt a political candidate in many states -- but in Texas it is an advantage.

Democrats don't just need to increase their numbers in Texas -- but also need to do a much better job of showing Independents how the extremist positions of teabaggers are hurting the state and the nation.


This dominating strength of teabaggers in the Texas Republican Party also helps to explain the favorite 2016 presidential candidate choices of Texas Republicans. The chart below shows that (and was determined by the same poll's query of 560 Texas Republicans, with a margin of error of 4.14 points). Note that the most extremist candidates do the best among Texas Republicans.


Political Cartoon is by Bill Day at

Political Ads Are Getting Nastier (Thanks To Dark Money)

Do you think it's just your imagination that campaigns seem to be getting nastier these days? Well, you would be wrong. Although their have always been a certain amount of negative political ads in American elections, there are more of them now than in the past.

That's what the Wesleyan Media Project found when they did a survey of political ads. They surveyed all the political ads (for governor, U.S. House, and U.S. Senate) in the same time frame in 2010, 2012, and 2014. They found a significantly higher number of negative ads in 2014 for all three kinds of races, and in the senate races the negative ads actually made up a majority of all the political ads.

Why are their more negative ads this year? A major reason is the influx of "dark money" into our campaigns. Ever since the Supreme Court's Citizen United decision, corporations and rich donors have been donating to super-PACS. These super-PACs don't have to report who their donors are and there's no limit to the amount of money they can spend (as long as they don't openly coordinate their ad spending with a candidate's campaign). Since this is "dark money" (secret donations) that doesn't have to be reported to the FEC, these organizations can get as nasty with their ads as they want -- and there will be no repercussions, since the public cannot know who is paying for the nasty ads.

This is having some bad effects on American campaigns. It is allowing corporations and the rich to secretly buy the candidates of their choice, and it is lowering the tone of our campaigns -- and it is turning our representative democracy into a plutocracy (rule by the wealthy class).

Here is how Texas progressive Jim Hightower describes it on his own blog:

When five Supreme Court justices decreed that corporations are entitled to full free speech rights in our elections and that corporate money is a form of speech that cannot be restricted, they produced a nightmare tsunami of corporate cash that is now drowning our People's democratic rights. After all, if money is speech, then speech is no longer free – it's for sale.

This year, we're seeing what the Court's absurd edict is costing us. First, the corporate purchase of political speech has in fact reached tsunamic force in the current Congressional races. Spending on TV ads will likely top $2 billion, 70 percent higher than four years ago, when the Court issued its Citizens United money ruling.

Second, the bulk of this speech is not being bought by candidates or parties, but by secretive outside front groups that hide the corporate interests funding the ads. In Senate races alone, these shadow groups have already run some 150,000 TV spots. The Koch brothers' main front group, Americans for Prosperity, is by far the biggest buyer of speech, having laid out $44 million on Congressional races in just the first six months of this election year. 

Third, and most pernicious, the court-created "right" of moneyed front groups to flood the airwaves has handed them the power to dictate any campaign's message. The ads of those secret fronts now define the issues and even the candidates themselves before the race really gets going. Worse, because the outside groups are anonymous, their "speech" consists almost entirely of the nastiest, most vituperative attacks on candidates they oppose, turning our election-year discourse into toxic slimefests that turn off voters and shrivel turnout.

To help stop the corporate purchase of the People's political speech rights, connect with

Non-Voter ID

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


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Democracy Or Oligarchy

Senate Polls - North Carolina And South Dakota

SurveyUSA Poll

Monmouth University Poll

Argus Leader / KELO-TV / Mason-Dixon Poll

Koch Brothers Halloween

Political Cartoon is by John Darkow in the Columbia Daily Tribune.

Texas Early Voting Totals For First Seven Days

These are the early voting totals for Texas after the first seven days of voting (with totals from 2006, 2010, and 2014 -- the off-year elections). The totals are not statewide but for the 15 largest counties in Texas, but a huge percentage of the Texas population lives in those counties.

I have to admit I'm a little disappointed. While the numbers are up, they are not up much over 2010 (and the percentage of voters is slightly down from 2010). I think Democrats need to have a massive turnout to have a chance -- and so far, that doesn't seem to be happening.

Horton Hears . . .

Political Cartoon is by Bob Engelhard in the Hartford Courant.