Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Union-Made


Sydney Peace Prize Goes To "Black Lives Matter" Group


The Sydney Peace Foundation has announced the winner of it's 2017 Peace Prize. The winner is the BLACK LIVES MATTER movement. The foundation citation said the movement won the award:

"For building a powerful movement for racial equality, courageously reigniting a global conversation around state violence and racism. And for harnessing the potential of new platforms and power of people to inspire a bold movement for change at a time when peace is threatened by growing inequality and injustice."


It marks the first time the award (a trophy and $50,000) has been given to a group instead of an individual since the award was founded and first given out in 1998.

I congratulate BLACK LIVES MATTER on winning the award. It is well-deserved. The wonderful group has brought to the public a matter that has been too long ignored in the United States -- institutional racism, especially in our policing and justice systems.


Trump Abandons Ship

Political Cartoon is by Jos Collignon at cagle.com.

Most People Believe Donald Trump And His Administration Make Claims Without Evidence To Back The Claims Up


Donald Trump, and his administration aides, are quick to disagree with stories reported by the media. But too many times, they make claims of their own that have no evidence to support them. I think Trump believes he can say whatever he wants and the public will accept it just because he's president, but that is just not the case.

It turns out that a huge majority of the public says that often the Trump administration makes statements that have no evidence to back them up -- in other words, they lie a lot.

The chart above uses information contained in a recent Quinnipiac University Poll -- done between May 17th and 23rd of a random national sample of 1,404 voters, with a margin of error of 3 points.

Separation

Political Cartoon is by Tom Janssen at cagle.com.

Two-Thirds Of Public Say Trump NOT Draining The Swamp


During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump said he would drain the swamp in Washington. Is he doing that? Well, 67% of Americans say he is not doing it (35% saying nothing has changed and 32% saying he has made the "swamp" worse). Only 24% believe he is keeping his promise.

This chart was made using information in a recent Monmouth University Poll -- done between May 13th and 17th of a random national sample of 1,002 adults, with a 3.1 point margin of error.

Screwball

Political cartoon is by Ed Wexler at cagle.com.

Trump's Proposed Budget Is "A Collection of Lies"

(This photo of Joseph Stiglitz, from Wikipedia, is by Peerapat Wimolrungkarat.)

I have posted about Donald Trump's proposed budget several times. I believe it would be disastrous for this country if enacted. I am not alone in that opinion.

The following is part of an interview Amy Goodman (at Democracy Now) had with Joseph Stiglitz (Nobel Prize-winning economist and Columbia University professor).

AMY GOODMAN: Can you respond to the budget that’s just been revealed?
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: It’s like everything else: It’s made up. You could say it’s a collection of lies put together. It doesn’t make any economic sense. I don’t think anybody who’s looked at it has—can fathom the economics. I mean, you mentioned one thing, the 3 percent growth rate, which is the largest deviation in estimate relative to the CBO on record. You know, when I was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, we wanted to be responsible, and we always were conservative and were very careful, getting the views of everybody, wanted to make sure that our numbers were reasonable. He’s made no pretense to be reasonable.
In fact, what’s striking is, while he assumes that there’s going to be more growth, if you look at the budget, it’s designed to reduce growth. He cuts out support for science, for R&D, which is the basis of productivity growth. He cuts out support for job retraining, so when people leave one job, they can be trained for the next job. He cuts out support for Pell grants, so those who have low income can get the education so they can live up to their potential. All these are things that actually lower economic growth. So I would say this is not a growth budget, this is a no-growth budget.
And then he has the numbers, you know, the gall to have things like—you know, just mind-bending. He says he’s going to—elsewhere, he said he’s going to eliminate the estate tax. And his budget says that he’s going to raise several hundred billion dollars’ more money from an estate tax that is zeroed out. Now, you can make a statement that if we lowered the estate tax a little bit, maybe people will be induced to die more, and maybe we’ll get more revenue. You could make that kind of statement. But one thing you don’t need a Ph.D. is, zero times any number is zero. So if you have a zero estate tax, no matter how many people are dying and how wealthy they are, you’re going to get zero revenue.
And remember, what he’s doing, he’s cutting out the estate tax that benefits 0.2 percent of the economy—of our society. You know, you have to have an estate of more than 10 million, if you’re a married couple, in order to pay anything on the estate tax. And meanwhile, he’s cutting benefits for ordinary Americans—education, health, as you mentioned, food, nutrition. It’s not just the system of social protection that we’ve created, but even the bottom safety net that is—catches people when they’re in trouble. . . .
AMY GOODMAN: So, he has said, when he was campaigning—actually, he was campaigning against other Republicans when he made the point, "I’m not going to cut Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security." I mean, we had endless choices of clips to choose from. Joe Stiglitz?
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: He lied. He is cutting Medicaid, the largest cut to Medicaid, even beyond what was in his repeal and replace, that didn’t get very far. These are even bigger Medicaid cuts. In terms of so Social Security, one important part of Social Security is disability payments.
AMY GOODMAN: SSDI.
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: And, you know, that’s really important. People do get to say, well, they have auto accidents, they get sick, they get cancer—you know, all kinds of things that make them unable to work.
AMY GOODMAN: They get hurt at work.
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: They can’t work. And he’s cutting that. It’s an important part of our Social Security, of security that people—we provide, as a society, as a basic system of social protection. He’s cutting back on those expenditures. So, all I can say is, you look at that clip, and what he’s doing today is just the opposite.
AMY GOODMAN: So you’re talking about cutting—I mean, already the proposed budget from the House was massive when it came to cuts, something like $880 billion in Medicaid cuts. He’s suggesting $616 more billion—$616 billion more, which would basically gut Medicaid.
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: That’s right. And remember, it’s not just for poor people. It’s a major problem for our elderly, who have to go into old age homes, hospice, you know, all—so, it is an extraordinarily important program. Another way of seeing the massiveness of these cuts is that, if you look at what we call a non-defense discretionary—that is to say, you take out Social Security, you take out Medicare, and you take out military—he’s proposing a 40 percent cut in all these programs. And remember, these programs have been cut year after year for the last 25 years, under both Democrats and Republicans, so it’s not like there’s a lot of fat on this. These are already fairly lean. And what he’s doing is just taking an ax to them, a 40 percent reduction. . . .
AMY GOODMAN: This would drastically shrink low-income student loan program.
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Oh, some of the programs would be wiped out. So, you know, the American dream, we’ve gradually understood, is really a myth, the fact that anybody can go from the bottom to the top. This is, what is remnant of that American dream, he’s saying, "I’m going to hit it with a sledgehammer.". . .
AMY GOODMAN: Under Trump’s budget, the Environmental Protection Agency faces a 31 percent cut, the steepest cut of any agency or department across the government. . . .
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, you know, of course, every government program has the worst thing. The financial sector and the private sector makes a mistake. Remember we had a crisis in 2008? That was a misallocation of trillions of dollars. So, I don’t want to pretend that every program is perfect. But if you get rid of environmental protection, we’re going to be suffering from dirty air, dirty water, toxic waste, that lower our health. And here’s the point. He wants faster economic growth. A less healthy America is not going to be as productive.
AMY GOODMAN: And the massive increase in military spending? I mean, you’ve written books about this, about the wars and what they cost us.
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: That’s right. And we’re fighting, we might say, a war on terrorism. But another aircraft carrier is not going to win—help us in the war on terrorism. You know, the Cold War, that fight with Russia, in the form that it was, ended a quarter-century ago, and yet we’re spending money as if it hasn’t ended. So we’ve been spending lots and lots of money on weapons that don’t work, against enemies that don’t exist. If he used that criteria that he said for shutting down a department, the Defense Department would have been shut down long ago. You know, the $1,000 toilet, the hammers that cost $100 or things like that—if we used the criteria of misspending, the Defense Department is illustration number one.

Nice Try

Political cartoon is by Marian Kamensky at cagle.com.

A Health Care Question For The GOP


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Flags


America's Longest War Continues With No End In Sight

(The cartoon image above is by Rob Rogers in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)

As we wrap up our Memorial Day weekend, this is a good time for a reminder that we are still at war in Afghanistan. That war was started in October of 2001. That means it has gone on for 15 years and 7 months now, making it the longest war in the history of the United States -- and there is still no end in sight. In fact, there doesn't seem to even be a path to victory in Afghanistan -- no matter how much longer we stay there.

The war has cost the lives of 2,396 U.S. soldiers, and wounded 17,674 more -- and still our goal (to create an American-style democracy in Afghanistan) has not been accomplished.

Isn't it time to end this insane war? How long will it take to convince us that we cannot dictate to another country what kind of government they must have through military power?

Trump Diplomacy

Political Cartoon is by Marian Kamensky at cagle.com.

Even The Fox News Poll Has Trump Approval Upside-Down


Donald Trump can't get any good poll numbers -- not even from polls that would like to show him some love. The chart above is from a recent Fox News Poll (done between May 21st and 23rd of a random national sample of 1,011 registered voters, with a 3 point margin of error). It shows that 53% of registered voters disapprove of the job Trump is doing, while only 40% approve -- a significant negative gap of 13 points.

The Thug Party

Political Cartoon is by Nick Anderson in the Houston Chronicle.

The Abortion Rate In The U.S. Is At An All-Time Low



These charts are from the Guttmacher Institute. They show that the abortion rate in the United States has been dropping for many years now -- and the current rate is lower than the rate before Roe vs. Wade.

Why is it dropping? Right-wing fundamentalists will be quick to tell you that it's because of the new abortion restrictions they have passed. But the second chart shows that is not true. The states without those restrictions actually outnumbered the states with them among states where the rate has fallen. And states with those restrictions outnumber the states without them in states where the rate actually increased.

A much more likely cause for the fall in the abortion rate is the increased reliability of contraception methods and better access to those methods.

In His Dreams

Political Cartoon is by Jim Morin in The Miami Herald.

In Defense Of Removing Confederate Statues

Recently, New Orleans just removed the statues of Confederate heroes. This angered many racists throughout the country. But the mayor of that beautiful city, Mitch Landrieu (picture by Derek Bridges), gave a passionate speech in defense of removing those statues. He said:

The soul of our beloved City is deeply rooted in a history that has evolved over thousands of years; rooted in a diverse people who have been here together every step of the way – for both good and for ill.
It is a history that holds in its heart the stories of Native Americans: the Choctaw, Houma Nation, the Chitimacha. Of Hernando de Soto, Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, the Acadians, the Islenos, the enslaved people from Senegambia, Free People of Color, the Haitians, the Germans, both the empires of Francexii and Spain. The Italians, the Irish, the Cubans, the south and central Americans, the Vietnamese and so many more.
You see: New Orleans is truly a city of many nations, a melting pot, a bubbling cauldron of many cultures.
There is no other place quite like it in the world that so eloquently exemplifies the uniquely American motto: e pluribus unum — out of many we are one.
But there are also other truths about our city that we must confront. New Orleans was America’s largest slave market: a port where hundreds of thousands of souls were brought, sold and shipped up the Mississippi River to lives of forced labor of misery of rape, of torture.
America was the place where nearly 4,000 of our fellow citizens were lynched, 540 alone in Louisiana; where the courts enshrined ‘separate but equal’; where Freedom riders coming to New Orleans were beaten to a bloody pulp.
So when people say to me that the monuments in question are history, well what I just described is real history as well, and it is the searing truth.
And it immediately begs the questions: why there are no slave ship monuments, no prominent markers on public land to remember the lynchings or the slave blocks; nothing to remember this long chapter of our lives; the pain, the sacrifice, the shame … all of it happening on the soil of New Orleans.
So for those self-appointed defenders of history and the monuments, they are eerily silent on what amounts to this historical malfeasance, a lie by omission.
There is a difference between remembrance of history and reverence of it. For America and New Orleans, it has been a long, winding road, marked by great tragedy and great triumph. But we cannot be afraid of our truth.
As President George W. Bush said at the dedication ceremony for the National Museum of African American History & Culture, “A great nation does not hide its history. It faces its flaws and corrects them.”
So today I want to speak about why we chose to remove these four monuments to the Lost Cause of the Confederacy, but also how and why this process can move us towards healing and understanding of each other.
So, let’s start with the facts.
The historic record is clear: the Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and P.G.T. Beauregard statues were not erected just to honor these men, but as part of the movement which became known as The Cult of the Lost Cause. This ‘cult’ had one goal — through monuments and through other means — to rewrite history to hide the truth, which is that the Confederacy was on the wrong side of humanity.
First erected over 166 years after the founding of our city and 19 years after the end of the Civil War, the monuments that we took down were meant to rebrand the history of our city and the ideals of a defeated Confederacy.
It is self-evident that these men did not fight for the United States of America, They fought against it. They may have been warriors, but in this cause they were not patriots.
These statues are not just stone and metal. They are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history. These monuments purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, and the terror that it actually stood for.
After the Civil War, these statues were a part of that terrorism as much as a burning cross on someone’s lawn; they were erected purposefully to send a strong message to all who walked in their shadows about who was still in charge in this city.
Should you have further doubt about the true goals of the Confederacy, in the very weeks before the war broke out, the Vice President of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens, made it clear that the Confederate cause was about maintaining slavery and white supremacy.
He said in his now famous ‘Cornerstone speech’ that the Confederacy’s “cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”
Now, with these shocking words still ringing in your ears, I want to try to gently peel from your hands the grip on a false narrative of our history that I think weakens us and make straight a wrong turn we made many years ago so we can more closely connect with integrity to the founding principles of our nation and forge a clearer and straighter path toward a better city and more perfect union.
Last year, President Barack Obama echoed these sentiments about the need to contextualize and remember all of our history. He recalled a piece of stone, a slave auction block engraved with a marker commemorating a single moment in 1830 when Andrew Jackson and Henry Clay stood and spoke from it.
President Obama said, “Consider what this artifact tells us about history … on a stone where day after day for years, men and women … bound and bought and sold and bid like cattle on a stone worn down by the tragedy of over a thousand bare feet. For a long time the only thing we considered important, the singular thing we once chose to commemorate as history with a plaque were the unmemorable speeches of two powerful men.”
A piece of stone – one stone. Both stories were history. One story told. One story forgotten or maybe even purposefully ignored.
As clear as it is for me today … for a long time, even though I grew up in one of New Orleans’ most diverse neighborhoods, even with my family’s long proud history of fighting for civil rights … I must have passed by those monuments a million times without giving them a second thought.
So I am not judging anybody, I am not judging people. We all take our own journey on race. I just hope people listen like I did when my dear friend Wynton Marsalis helped me see the truth. He asked me to think about all the people who have left New Orleans because of our exclusionary attitudes.
Another friend asked me to consider these four monuments from the perspective of an African American mother or father trying to explain to their fifth grade daughter who Robert E. Lee is and why he stands atop of our beautiful city. Can you do it?
Can you look into that young girl’s eyes and convince her that Robert E. Lee is there to encourage her? Do you think she will feel inspired and hopeful by that story? Do these monuments help her see a future with limitless potential? Have you ever thought that if her potential is limited, yours and mine are too?
We all know the answer to these very simple questions.
When you look into this child’s eyes is the moment when the searing truth comes into focus for us. This is the moment when we know what is right and what we must do. We can’t walk away from this truth.
And I knew that taking down the monuments was going to be tough, but you elected me to do the right thing, not the easy thing and this is what that looks like. So relocating these Confederate monuments is not about taking something away from someone else. This is not about politics, this is not about blame or retaliation. This is not a na├»ve quest to solve all our problems at once.
This is, however, about showing the whole world that we as a city and as a people are able to acknowledge, understand, reconcile and, most importantly, choose a better future for ourselves, making straight what has been crooked and making right what was wrong.
Otherwise, we will continue to pay a price with discord, with division, and yes, with violence.
To literally put the confederacy on a pedestal in our most prominent places of honor is an inaccurate recitation of our full past, it is an affront to our present, and it is a bad prescription for our future.
History cannot be changed. It cannot be moved like a statue. What is done is done. The Civil War is over, and the Confederacy lost and we are better for it. Surely we are far enough removed from this dark time to acknowledge that the cause of the Confederacy was wrong.
And in the second decade of the 21st century, asking African Americans — or anyone else — to drive by property that they own; occupied by reverential statues of men who fought to destroy the country and deny that person’s humanity seems perverse and absurd.
Centuries-old wounds are still raw because they never healed right in the first place.
Here is the essential truth: we are better together than we are apart. Indivisibility is our essence. Isn’t this the gift that the people of New Orleans have given to the world?
We radiate beauty and grace in our food, in our music, in our architecture, in our joy of life, in our celebration of death; in everything that we do. We gave the world this funky thing called jazz; the most uniquely American art form that is developed across the ages from different cultures.
Think about second lines, think about Mardi Gras, think about muffaletta, think about the Saints, gumbo, red beans and rice. By God, just think. All we hold dear is created by throwing everything in the pot; creating, producing something better; everything a product of our historic diversity.
We are proof that out of many we are one — and better for it! Out of many we are one — and we really do love it!
And yet, we still seem to find so many excuses for not doing the right thing. Again, remember President Bush’s words, “A great nation does not hide its history. It faces its flaws and corrects them.”
We forget, we deny how much we really depend on each other, how much we need each other. We justify our silence and inaction by manufacturing noble causes that marinate in historical denial. We still find a way to say “wait, not so fast.”
But like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “wait has almost always meant never.”
We can’t wait any longer. We need to change. And we need to change now. No more waiting. This is not just about statues, this is about our attitudes and behavior as well. If we take these statues down and don’t change to become a more open and inclusive society this would have all been in vain.
While some have driven by these monuments every day and either revered their beauty or failed to see them at all, many of our neighbors and fellow Americans see them very clearly. Many are painfully aware of the long shadows their presence casts, not only literally but figuratively. And they clearly receive the message that the Confederacy and the cult of the lost cause intended to deliver.
Earlier this week, as the cult of the lost cause statue of P.G.T Beauregard came down, world renowned musician Terence Blanchard stood watch, his wife Robin and their two beautiful daughters at their side.
Terence went to a high school on the edge of City Park named after one of America’s greatest heroes and patriots, John F. Kennedy. But to get there he had to pass by this monument to a man who fought to deny him his humanity.
He said, “I’ve never looked at them as a source of pride … it’s always made me feel as if they were put there by people who don’t respect us. This is something I never thought I’d see in my lifetime. It’s a sign that the world is changing.”
Yes, Terence, it is, and it is long overdue.
Now is the time to send a new message to the next generation of New Orleanians who can follow in Terence and Robin’s remarkable footsteps.
A message about the future, about the next 300 years and beyond; let us not miss this opportunity New Orleans and let us help the rest of the country do the same. Because now is the time for choosing. Now is the time to actually make this the City we always should have been, had we gotten it right in the first place.
We should stop for a moment and ask ourselves — at this point in our history, after Katrina, after Rita, after Ike, after Gustav, after the national recession, after the BP oil catastrophe and after the tornado — if presented with the opportunity to build monuments that told our story or to curate these particular spaces … would these monuments be what we want the world to see? Is this really our story?
We have not erased history; we are becoming part of the city’s history by righting the wrong image these monuments represent and crafting a better, more complete future for all our children and for future generations.
And unlike when these Confederate monuments were first erected as symbols of white supremacy, we now have a chance to create not only new symbols, but to do it together, as one people.
In our blessed land we all come to the table of democracy as equals.
We have to reaffirm our commitment to a future where each citizen is guaranteed the uniquely American gifts of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
That is what really makes America great and today it is more important than ever to hold fast to these values and together say a self-evident truth that out of many we are one. That is why today we reclaim these spaces for the United States of America.
Because we are one nation, not two; indivisible with liberty and justice for all, not some. We all are part of one nation, all pledging allegiance to one flag, the flag of the United States of America. And New Orleanians are in, all of the way.
It is in this union and in this truth that real patriotism is rooted and flourishes.
Instead of revering a 4-year brief historical aberration that was called the Confederacy we can celebrate all 300 years of our rich, diverse history as a place named New Orleans and set the tone for the next 300 years.
After decades of public debate, of anger, of anxiety, of anticipation, of humiliation and of frustration. After public hearings and approvals from three separate community led commissions. After two robust public hearings and a 6-1 vote by the duly elected New Orleans City Council. After review by 13 different federal and state judges. The full weight of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government has been brought to bear and the monuments in accordance with the law have been removed.
So now is the time to come together and heal and focus on our larger task. Not only building new symbols, but making this city a beautiful manifestation of what is possible and what we as a people can become.
Let us remember what the once exiled, imprisoned and now universally loved  Nelson Mandela and what he said after the fall of apartheid. “If the pain has often been unbearable and the revelations shocking to all of us, it  is because they indeed bring us the beginnings of a common understanding of what happened and a steady restoration of the nation’s humanity.”
So before we part let us again state the truth clearly.
The Confederacy was on the wrong side of history and humanity. It sought to tear apart our nation and subjugate our fellow Americans to slavery. This is the history we should never forget and one that we should never again put on a pedestal to be revered.
As a community, we must recognize the significance of removing New Orleans’ Confederate monuments. It is our acknowledgment that now is the time to take stock of, and then move past, a painful part of our history. Anything less would render generations of courageous struggle and soul-searching a truly lost cause.
Anything less would fall short of the immortal words of our greatest President Abraham Lincoln, who with an open heart and clarity of purpose calls on us today to unite as one people when he said:
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to do all which may achieve and cherish: a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
Thank you.

Documentary ?

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

The View From Australia


Monday, May 29, 2017

Workers


Trump Convinces Europe's Leaders He Can't Be Trusted

(Photo of Angela Merkel and Donald Trump, from Talking Points Memo, is by Evian Vucci of the AP.

Donald Trump's recent trip abroad was supposed to make him look presidential, and like a world leader. Unfortunately it had the opposite effect.

The trip went way downhill when he spoke to NATO. All the European members of NATO wanted to hear was that the United States would honor article 5 of the NATO treaty -- the article that says if any member is attacked, then all the other members would come to their defense. In the past, all American presidents have assured Europeans that America could be trusted to come to their defense.

But Trump didn't do that. He chewed most of them out, but never said the U.S. would honor article 5. He left the NATO members with the impression that the United States might not come to their aid when needed.

Then he went on to the G-7 conference. At that conference, six of the members wanted to discuss how to further their fight against global climate change. One didn't -- Donald Trump. In fact, Trump even refused to assure them that the United States would honor the Paris global climate change accord. He left them with the impression that the U.S. was getting ready to pull out of the Paris accord -- which would be disastrous for those wanting to curb global climate change (since the U.S. is the largest user of fossil fuels and the world's biggest polluter).

Republicans can try to tell themselves that Trump's trip was a success, but they are just deluding themselves when they do. The truth is that all Trump accomplished was to convince our best allies that he cannot be trusted -- either as an ally or a world leader.

The trip was an unmitigated disaster, and it left the world a more chaotic and more dangerous place.

Everybody Pays ?

Political Cartoon is by Tom Janssen at cagle.com.

Americans Are Nervous For The Future Of The Country


A majority of Americans (55% to 38%) say they are nervous about the future of the United States. Why? Because of the controversies that plague the current president. They look at the problems plaguing Donald Trump, and they are worried about how those growing problems will affect the nation.

This chart reflects the results of a Morning Consult / Politico Poll -- done between May 18th and 22nd of a random national sample of 1,938 registered voters, with a 2 point margin of error.

It's Not Just In The West

Political Cartoon is by Adam Zyglis in The Buffalo News.

The 1967 Loving Vs. Maryland Decision Changed The U.S.


There was a landmark civil rights decision by the Supreme Court in 1967. It was Loving vs. Virginia. The Loving's were an interracial couple who were fighting the state law (which was in many states at the time) that said people could not marry outside their race.

On June 12, 1967, the United States Supreme Court declared Virginia's law against interracial marriage to be unconstitutional (violating both the Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment). That decision meant that states could not tell a person who they could or could not marry (except for a person of the same sex, which was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2015).

As the chart above shows (from the Pew Research Center), the Loving decision changed the face of this country. Since 1967, those marrying outside their race/ethnicity have climbed form about 3% of all marriages to 17% of all marriages. This is a good thing, because those marriages recognize a simple fact -- regardless of race or color (or religion or any other factor), we are all the same. And in a country that claims to value equality, that is an important concept.

Below are some other charts from the Pew Research Center study.






Dressed For Work

Political Cartoon is by Dave Granlund at davegranlund.com.

Trump Budget Is NOT A Job-Creator - It's A Job-Killer


Donald Trump has released his proposed budget for this country. He claims it will spur the economy to more than 3% growth, and create a massive amount of new jobs. It won't.

His budget takes billions of dollars out of the economy through huge cuts to almost all domestic programs. When money is taken out of the economy, it means there is less money to be spent on goods and services (which drives our economy) and that reduces demand, which slows economic growth -- and if too much money is taken out of the economy, then the economy goes into negative growth (i.e., recession). Slower growth does not create new jobs, and negative growth actually kills millions of jobs.

Trump says he will counteract the effect from taking money out of the economy by then giving massive new tax cuts to the rich and the corporations. He wants us to believe this will increase demand and produce new jobs. It won't. The recipients of those tax cuts already have enough money to buy whatever they want, and giving them more money won't increase demand -- it will just fatten their bank accounts with having any effect on demand at all.

To be blunt, a belief in unicorns makes more sense than belief that the Trump budget will be a job-creator. It won't. It will be a job-killer.

This is how Josh Bivins and Hunter Blair of the Economic Policy Institute describe the effects of the Trump budget. It's worth reading.

Today, the Trump administration published their full budget request for fiscal year 2018. The budget is basically par-for-the-course with recent Republican budgets— doubling down on the austerity policies that have been harming American households for about a decade. But besides containing cruel cutsand deeply-dodgy economic assumptions, this proposal should also dispel any last remaining hope that fiscal policy under the Trump administration would boost, rather than drag, on growth and jobs. Were this proposal enacted, it would put a large and rapidly growing drag on economic growth going forward. All else equal, job-losses stemming from this budget’s spending cuts would total 177,000 in 2018, 357,000 in 2019, and 1.4 million in 2020. While it gets increasingly hard to estimate precise numbers further into the future, the fiscal drag just increases dramatically after 2020.
The economic intuition for why the Trump budget’s cuts would hinder growth is simply that they would reduce growth in economy-wide spending, or aggregate demand. It is always possible that the spending slowdown caused by the Trump budget could be neutralized by spending increases in other parts of the economy. Before the onset of the Great Recession, it was thought that this spending increase could be reliably engineered by the Federal Reserve lowering short-term interest rates. Since the Great Recession, however, the economy saw seven years of historically slow recovery even while the Fed held short-term rates at zero (and undertook other measures to boost growth). The reason for this slow growth despite expansionary monetary policy is clearly historically austere public spending.
This should make clear that while the Fed certainly has the ability to curtail growth by raising interest rates, their ability to offset a negative fiscal shock by lowering rates seems severely constrained. Given that a monetary policy response should not be relied on to neutralize the negative fiscal shock of the Trump budget and the AHCA, we think these estimated job-losses should certainly inform the debate. Further, the federal funds rate (the rate the Fed lowers to offset negative demand shocks) sits at just about 1 percent today, meaning the Fed simply doesn’t have much room to boost the economy in response to contractionary fiscal policy that begins next fiscal year and then ramps up. For reference, in the past five recessions, the peak-to-trough change in the federal funds rate as the Fed aimed to stop the contraction and spur recovery was over 3.5 percent.
To measure the fiscal drag that would result in the short-run from the Trump administration’s budget, we compare its spending to the CBO’s January baseline over fiscal years 2018 and 2019. While the Trump administration would boost discretionary defense spending by about $100 billion, this is more than offset by the combination of $73 billion in nondefense discretionary cuts and $78 billion in mandatory spending cuts over the period. Combined, this is a decrease of $51 billion in spending over fiscal years 2018 and 2019.
A full account of the effects on GDP and jobs from Trump fiscal policy overall would include the effects from revenue changes intended by the administration. However, the administration has chosen to assume that a tax cut which Tax Policy Center estimated would cost about $6 trillion will somehow be revenue-neutral and that economic growth will quickly ramp up to 3 percent. This renders their revenue numbers basically useless. Even budget direct Mick Mulvaney has admitted that these assumptions are more a sign of administration laziness in not wanting to include more materials with their budget release than of any intellectual inquiry.
So until more-reasonable numbers on revenue changes are provided, we will just focus on the fiscal drag provided by its spending cuts. All else equal, we estimate that these cuts would decrease GDP by 0.1 percent and slow job growth by 177,000 jobs in fiscal year 2018, decrease GDP by 0.2 percent and slow job growth by 357,000 in 2019, and decrease GDP by 1 percent and slow job-growth by 1.4 million in 2020. Even in these later years, the Fed would still be hard-pressed to provide monetary stimulus anywhere near large enough to offset the fiscal drag.
Beyond fiscal year 2020, forecasting the room available to the Fed to offset fiscal cuts becomes hugely uncertain. But at the same time, in terms of fiscal drag the years after 2019 are when the Trump budget is at its worst. To get a sense of the magnitude, consider the spending cuts in fiscal year 2027 (the last year estimated). The Trump budget proposal would cut nondefense discretionary by about $304 billion, cut mandatory spending by about $386 billion, and cut defense spending by about $19 billion. Altogether this is a cut of $709 billion, or about 2.5 percent of fiscal year 2027 GDP. We can’t estimate the effects this would have on GDP or jobs that far in the future, but this is clearly a mammoth fiscal drag, so we certainly better hope that other parts of the economy are firing well then.
And the policies in the budget make it clear that the fiscal drag would only get worse after 2027. Policymakers would need to think hard about how to mitigate the immense drag that would be created by the Trump budget proposal far into the future. Far from unleashing 3 percent growth, this budget is a disaster waiting to happen for growth.

Burning His Credibility

Political Cartoon is by Mike Stanfill at ragingpencils.com.

Fire


Sunday, May 28, 2017

We Are Just . . .


Jared Kushner Is In Deep Trouble (And So Is Trump)

Reuters is now reporting that Jared Kushner failed to report at least three contacts with Russian officials (two phone calls and one meeting in person). This means he lied to get his current top secret clearance.

But it gets even worse. It is now being reported that Kushner (along with Micheal Flynn) met with Russian officials right after the election (and before Trump was sworn in). In that meeting Kushner and Flynn proposed to the Russians that they wanted to create a secret channel of communication with Russia -- a channel that would use Russian secure facilities, and would bypass both the State Department and U.S. intelligence agencies.

One might wonder why Trump would need or want such a secret channel to communicate with Russia. Were they planning to discuss things the U.S. government and the American people would not like? Would it have been a way to discuss paying back the Russians for collusion with the Trump campaign during the 2016 election?

It goes without saying that setting up such a channel would have been illegal (since Trump was not yet president), and may even be illegal after he assumed office. Former acting head of the CIA, John McLaughlin called it espionage. Intelligence expert Malcom Nance said:

Had any individual other than these individuals who worked immediately for President Trump, performed these actions at any time in the SF-86 security clearance process, they would have immediately had their clearances pulled. They would have had their jobs terminated. Some of these contacts are so suspicious that they would have warranted their own counterintelligence investigation. This nation is in a counterintelligence investigation. They are in a spy hunt over at the FBI, and now we have this story—should it prove true—of an American citizen who is the senior adviser to the president of the United States, attempting to establish what we call in the intelligence community ‘covert communications’ with a hostile nation's potential intelligence agency or senior leadership. That brings you -- that crosses the line to the espionage act of 1917. This cannot be explained. Put aside the other 18 contacts with Moscow. This one incident requires Jared Kushner and all of his immediate staff to have their clearances pulled right now and to have the FBI descend on there and to determine whether this is hostile intelligence in the White House one step from the president.

This is a serious allegation. If it is true (and there's no reason to believe it isn't), then the Russian collusion has reached the highest levels of the Trump administration. Kushner is not only Trump's closest advisor, bur he is family. Would he act in such a way (contacting Russian officials) without the knowledge and permission of Donald Trump? That's extremely doubtful.

That means Trump is not only guilty of trying to obstruct justice by trying to convince FBI director Comes and two intelligence chiefs to stop the Russian scandal investigation, but is also guilty of collusion with Russian officials before the election and possible espionage after the election.

Jared Kushner is in deep trouble. At the very least, he should resign his position in the White House and give up his security clearance. And Kushner's trouble touch the president himself -- and make it even more likely that Trump could well face being impeached.

(NOTE -- The caricature above of Jared Kushner is by DonkeyHotey.)

Trump Budget Blueprint

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

Trump Compares Very Poorly With Other Modern Presidents


It seems that the American people don't think Donald Trump compares favorably with the other presidents since World War II. About 55% say he is less organized, 44% say he makes more mistakes,  42% don't think he works as hard, 45% don't think he's as intelligent, and 47% don't think he's as competent. Only a tiny percentage thinks he compares well (or better) than the other presidents.

That shouldn't be any surprise. As the charts below show, the public has a very low opinion of Donald Trump. Only 39% think he's doing a good job as president. And majorities rate him poorly on all the qualifications for being president. In addition, 49% say his administration has not been competent and effective, while only 30% say it has been.

These are terrible numbers, and as I have said before, I believe that paint the picture of a presidency in deep trouble.

These charts were made using information in a new Economist / YouGov Poll -- done between May 20th and 23rd of a random national sample of 1,500 adults (including 1,276 registered voters), with a 3 point margin of error.




Orb Of Autocracy

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

Belief In Creationism Is At An All-Time Low In U.S.



Creationism is the belief that humans did not evolve like other animals, but were created by a god in their present form (and that this probably happened less than 10,000 years ago). It is a strange belief that flies in the face of science, but it is a belief that has been strong in the United States.

Fortunately though, it looks like belief in creationism is declining. A recent Gallup Poll shows that belief in creationism has declined from 47% in the early 1990's to a current level of only 38% -- a record low since 1981, when Gallup began asking this question (and the first time since then that it has fallen below 40%).

An equal 38% now believe that humans evolved with the guidance of a god, while 19% believe humans evolved without the help of any god (a record high).

The Gallup Poll was done between May 3rd and 7th of a random national sample of 1,011 adults, and has a margin of error of 4 points.