Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Bad Budget

The Art Of Complaining

Political Cartoon is by Gary Varvel in the Indianapolis Star.

Trump Is Not The Great "Uniter" He Said He Would Be

Donald Trump made many promises during the presidential campaign -- none of which have been kept so far. One of those promises was to be a uniter -- bringing Americans together for the good of the country. That's just another broken promise.

If anything, Trump has been just the opposite of a uniter -- he's been a divider. Only 11% of the population believes he has made the country more united, while 34% say it has stayed the same and 52% say he has further divided the country. And those feelings are generally the same across gender, age, and racial lines (with far more saying he's been a divider than say he's been a uniter).

These numbers are from a recent Monmouth University Poll -- done between March 2nd and 5th of a random national sample of 801 adults, with a margin of error of 3.5 points.

Laughter - The Best Medicine

Political Cartoon is by Jimmy Margulies at jimmymargulies.com.

Trump's Job Approval Hits A Record Low Of 36%

The Gallup Poll does daily tracking of a president's job approval -- questioning about 1,500 individuals. They then post an average of the last three days. The latest 3-day average for Donald Trump was 36% -- a record low for a president still in his first 90 days since Gallup has been doing this tracking.

And it's not just Trump himself that the public disapproves of. A recent Economist YouGov Poll (done between March 19th and 21st of a random national sample of 1,500 adults, with a 3.3 point margin of error) asked respondents if they had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of  six of Trump's closest advisors -- Bannon, Conway, Sessions, Tillerson, Kelly, and Kushner (see chart below). All of them were upside-down in their numbers (meaning they were viewed unfavorably more than favorably).

This is fast becoming not only the most unpopular president of modern times, but also the most unpopular administration of modern times.


Political Cartoon is by Nick Anderson in the Houston Chronicle.

Immigrant Population Is Very Important To U.S. Growth

From the Pew Research Center:

For most of the past half-century, adults in the U.S. Baby Boom generation – those born after World War II and before 1965 – have been the main driver of the nation’s expanding workforce. But as this large generation heads into retirement, the increase in the potential labor force will slow markedly, and immigrants will play the primary role in the future growth of the working-age population (though they will remain a minority of it).
The number of adults in the prime working ages of 25 to 64 – 173.2 million in 2015 – will rise to 183.2 million in 2035, according to Pew Research Center projections. That total growth of 10 million over two decades will be lower than the total in any singledecade since the Baby Boomers began pouring into the workforce in the 1960s. The growth rate of working-age adults will also be markedly reduced.
The largest segment of working-age adults – those born in the U.S. whose parents also were born in the U.S. – is projected to decline from 2015 to 2035, both in numbers and as a share of the working-age population. The Center’s projections show a reduction of 8.2 million of these adults, from 128.3 million in 2015 to 120.1 million in 2035.
That numerical loss will be partially offset by an increase in the number of working-age U.S.-born adults with immigrant parents, who are projected to number 24.6 million in 2035, up from 11.1 million in 2015.
But perhaps the most important component of the growth in the working-age population over the next two decades will be the arrival of future immigrants. The number of working-age immigrants is projected to increase from 33.9 million in 2015 to 38.5 million by 2035, with new immigrant arrivals accounting for all of that gain. (The number of current immigrants of working age is projected to decline as some will turn 65, while others are projected to leave the country or die.) Without these new arrivals, the number of immigrants of working age would decline by 17.6 million by 2035, as would the total projected U.S. working-age population, which would fall to 165.6 million.

Just A Scratch

Political Cartoon is by Joe Heller at hellertoon.com.

Trump/Ryan Did NOT Have A Mandate To Repeal The ACA

There have been many takes on why the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare failed. This is part of Nate Silver's explanation at fivethirtyeight.com:

While most reporting has focused on the House Freedom Caucus’s objections, the AHCA also faced significant dissent from moderate Republicans, perhaps enough to kill it.1 And considering that the bill would almost certainly have faced resistance from moderates in the Senate even if it had passed the House — and that no Democrats in either chamber had pledged to support it — the narrative that the Freedom Caucus was principally responsible for the bill’s demise is at least a little dubious.
The more fundamental, Politics 101 problem is that Ryan drafted a bill that was too far removed from what voters actually wanted. If the bill wasn’t killed by moderate Republicans, it was probably going to exact a significant electoral penalty on the GOP, like the one Democrats endured after passing Obamacare in 2010.
And then there’s Trump. His philosophy toward the size and scope of government has never been clear, exactly. But from the hints he’s given — such as in advocating for a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan — he tends more toward the center than either the Ryan or the Freedom Caucus wings of the GOP.
Trump was elected without much of a mandate, given his narrow margin in the Electoral College and his loss in the popular vote. But congressional Republicans didn’t have much of a mandate, either. Although people seemed to forget about it as they focused on Trump’s upset win at the top of the ticket, Republicans lost seats in both the House and the Senate in last year’s elections.
How many congressional seats a party gains or loses when it takes over the White House is a good measure of whether there was an overall mandate for the party’s agenda or instead the presidential result reflected a more incremental (and perhaps quirky or circumstantial) victory. Among the 11 times in the past century when the presidency changed parties, Warren G. Harding in 1920, Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932, Ronald Reagan in 1980 and Barack Obama in 2008 all came into office with major gains for their party in Congress and a lot of wherewithal to enact sweeping changes. Trump, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and John F. Kennedy did not, by contrast. Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon were somewhere in between.
Unsurprisingly, there’s a correlation between a party’s gains or losses in Congress and the margin of its presidential victory. But it isn’t a perfect one. Clinton won the Electoral College fairly definitively in 1992, but his Democrats lost nine seats in the House and only broke even in the Senate. Eisenhower’s congressional gains were modest given his landslide presidential victory, meanwhile. You could interpret that as meaning Eisenhower and Clinton were elected more on their personal qualities — Eisenhower’s résumé, Clinton’s personality — than on the basis of their party’s agendas. And that was reflected in the policies they pursued. Eisenhower was one of the most centrist presidents of all time, while Clinton ran — and mostly governed — as a “New Democrat,” somewhat against his party’s tax-and-spend reputation.
Trump isn’t in the Eisenhower or Clinton category because his own electoral performance was underwhelming, just as his party’s was in Congress. Instead, the better comparison is to George W. Bush, who like Trump lost the popular vote and also saw his party lose seats in Congress. But Bush also governed in a fairly bipartisan fashion early in his term2 before moving to the right after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Instead of offering a centrist or a populist solution, however, the AHCA gave voters a bill that nobody was asking for. Republicans have been running on repealing and replacing Obamacare for seven years, and they’ve won a lot of elections in that period. You can argue that they have a mandate on the issue, even if they don’t have one overall. But Ryan and Trump pretty much ignored where public opinion stands on health care. Medicaid, which the AHCA would have rolled back, is extremely popular, for instance. About two-thirds of voters support government funding for Planned Parenthood; the AHCA would have cut it. But the bill didn’t do much to address the problems voters were actually concerned about, such as rising premiums.
Furthermore, Ryan and Trump advanced this bill despite receiving a warning shot from the public: Obamacare had almost immediately become more popular after Trump won the election. I don’t recall a lot of other times when public opinion shifted so quickly on a bill in response to an election result.3 It was as though voters were throwing up a big yield sign to congressional Republicans — we didn’t expect Trump to win the election; instead, we elected you to serve as a check on Hillary Clinton, so proceed with caution. Ryan barreled right on through it.

Russian Chess Pieces

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

Why People Go Hungry

Monday, March 27, 2017

If Only . . .


Political Cartoon is by Stuart Carlson at carlsontoons.com.

Millions Of Guns Sold Last Year W/O A Background Check

(The image above is from CNN.com.)

It has been estimated that 40% of the guns sold each year in the United States was sold without a background check. That figure may be a little high. Politifact looked at it, and discovered that the percentage comes from a study done in 1994 -- a study that included guns given as gifts or gotten through an inheritance.

A January 2017 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, which excluded gifts or inherited guns, put the figure at about 22%. That's still an enormous amount of guns sold without a background check.

In 2016, there were about 27 million guns sold in the United States (using FBI figures for the number sold with a background check). If the figure for those without a background check was only 20%, that means there were 6.75 million guns sold without a background check!

That should scare the hell out of everyone. How many of those more than 6 million guns were purchased LEGALLY by criminals or terrorists?

I am not one of those who want to outlaw guns. I understand that the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right of Americans to buy and possess a firearm. But that does not extend to criminals and/or terrorists -- and restricting their right to buy or own a firearm is not a violation of the Second Amendment according to our Supreme Court.

I have no problem with law-abiding citizens buying or owning a gun. But I do have a problem with criminals and terrorists being able to legally buy a gun. And so does the vast majority of Americans. Poll after poll has shown that 85-90% of the public wants a background check done on ALL gun sales (and that includes a substantial majority of NRA members).

So, why won't Congress plug the holes in our background check law? The only answer is that too many members of Congress have been bought (by the NRA leadership and gun manufacturers). That's a sad commentary on our political system, but it is true.

We must put more pressure on Congress to respond to the wishes of the people -- and plug the holes in the background check law. It is sheer insanity to allow over 6 million guns a year to be sold without a background check.

Paying For The Wall

Political Cartoon is by Signe Wilkinson in the Philadelphia Daily News.

Is There Room For Compromise On Corporate Taxes ?

Donald Trump has said he wants to cut the amount of income tax that corporations must pay -- and that is also something that congressional Republicans have wanted to do for years. It is also something that Democrats generally oppose. Is there room for compromise?

As the chart above shows, many corporations don't pay any taxes at all right now (and a lot of them actually get money from the government while paying no taxes -- even though they had millions of dollars in profit). In fact, about 20% of all American corporations pay no taxes at all. That's because of all the tax loopholes and subsidies they have.

If taxes are cut for corporations, and those loopholes and subsidies are left in place, both the deficit and the national debt would balloon out of control -- because corporations already pay a smaller percentage of total income taxes than at any time since World War II, and that would just further shrink that percentage. It simply doesn't make sense.

But here's an idea. What if we cut corporate taxes AND eliminate the loopholes and subsidies that allow too many of them to pay no taxes at all? In other words, make sure that ALL corporations must pay the lower tax.

The "freedom caucus" (congressional teabaggers) would not go along. They like the idea of corporations paying no taxes, and they are not willing to compromise on anything (believing ideology is more important than compromising for the good of the country). But they don't make up a majority of congressional Republicans.

I believe there are enough Democrats who would go along with lower corporate taxes, if the loopholes & subsidies were eliminated -- and all corporations had to pay income taxes. The question is -- would the more moderate Republican right-wingers be willing to make that compromise? Or have they been thoroughly bought by the giant non-taxpaying corporations?

I doubt the GOP would agree to this idea -- but if they are serious about cutting taxes for corporations, and are willing to compromise to get it done, then this is a way to make it happen.


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

General Public Had A Very Poor View Of Trumpcare

The Republican health care plan (Trumpcare) to replace Obamacare has failed. It failed mainly because the Republicans in Congress could not agree on what kind of plan they wanted (although all of them wanted Obamacare eliminated).

This is a good thing in the eyes of the general public. That's because the public just didn't like the plan the GOP congressional leaders had proposed. People believed Trumpcare would cost them more personally than Obamacare (by a 7 point margin), would cover less people with insurance (by a 27 point margin), had less benefits (by a 13 point margin), would not reduce costs for middle class families (by a 7 point margin), and did not protect Medicare as well (by a 17 point margin).

The public did think Trumpcare would better allow them to choose their own doctor and would cost taxpayers less -- but only by a very slim 2 point margin (well within the poll's margin of error).

The public is not thrilled with Obamacare. They know it has flaws that need to be fixed -- insurance premiums & medical costs rising too fast, and too many people still left with no insurance coverage. But they also knew that the plan proposed by the Republicans did not fix those problems. It just made them worse.

The chart above was made using information in a recent Economist / YouGov Poll -- done between March 19th and 21st of a random national sample of 1,500 adults (including 1,296 registered voters), with a margin of error of 3.3 points.


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

The Lessons Learned From GOP's Health Plan Failure

(Cartoon image is by Michael Ramirez in the Weekly Standard.)

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich (pictured) believes there are some lessons to be learned from the failure of Republicans to replace Obamacare with their own plan. He says:

6 big lessons from the Republican’s failure to replace the Affordable Care Act:
1. Trump is a lousy dealmaker. He blundered into a political fiasco, apparently believing he could win over recalcitrant Republican members of Congress simply by popping over to Capitol Hill. 
2. Paul Ryan is an even worse rightwing ideologue than we knew. He came up with a truly awful bill that couldn’t be justified on any ground at all. It just shifted $600 billion from the poor and working class to the rich. 
3. Republicans don’t know how to govern. They’ve been out of power so long all they can do is oppose. They lack the mental and emotional capacities to craft and sell large-scale initiatives that advance the public good. 
4. When it comes to health-care policy, there is no workable conservative alternative to the Affordable Care Act. In fact, the only workable alternative at all is a single-payer healthcare plan, which present-day Republicans couldn’t possibly stomach. 
5. Americans need and want maternity coverage, mental-health benefits, prescription drugs, pediatric services, lab tests, and the other things included on the list of essential health benefits under the Act. When moderate Republicans in places like New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania heard that these services might be eliminated under the amended legislation, they abandoned it in significant numbers. It was their desertion that ultimately killed the bill. 
6. The larger lesson here is that conservatism failed and social democracy won. Most Americans fall into the latter camp, even though the people who run our government don't. 
What do you think?

The Pet

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


Sunday, March 26, 2017

Good Person ?

Well Earned Pie-In-The-Face

Political Cartoon is by Randy Bush in the Pittsburg Tribune-Review.

Religious Right Abandons Their Values To Support Trump

Poll after poll has shown the American people don't support the job Donald Trump is doing -- but that is different for those who claim to be religious. According to the Gallup Poll, 51% of the religious say Trump is doing a good job (although that figure is likely skewed by the large support for Trump by the fundamentalist right).

This amazes me. These are the people who claim to have a corner on moral values. And yet, they support a person who is a religious bigot, a racist, a misogynist, an admitted sex abuser, a serial adulterer, an admitted fraud (Trump U.), and an unadulterated liar. What happened to the values they claim to believe in? Haven't they abandoned the moral high ground by supporting Trump -- a man who represents the very antithesis of christian values?

All I can figure is that they like Trump's promise to put their own bigotry into law. These religious people, especially the fundamentalist right, seem to believe that their "right" to discriminate against their fellow citizens is more important than the values they claim to believe in. Do they even have any values -- other than bigotry and hate?


Political Cartoon is by R.J. Matson in Roll Call.

Public Overwhelmingly Says NO To Tax Cuts For The Rich

Trump and the GOP Congress failed in their effort to repeal Obamacare. That's good, because the latest poll showed only 17% of the public wanted their replacement plan to be approved. Now they are ready to move on to giving massive tax cuts to the rich (and corporations).

But they have a similar problem with cutting taxes for the rich. The public overwhelmingly opposes it. About three-quarters (74%) of the American public says taxes should NOT be cut for the rich, while only about 22% think they should be cut. Once again, Trump and the GOP will be trying to do something the American public doesn't want to be done.

The chart above was made using information in a new Quinnipiac University Poll -- done between March 16th and 21st of a random national sample of 1,056 voters, with a 3 point margin of error.

Branches Of Government

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

Government Not Doing Enough To Control Climate Change

Donald Trump does not believe in global climate change. He has said he thinks it's a Chinese "hoax". And his Republican cohorts in Congress agree with him -- denying that our misuse/overuse of fossil fuels is causing that climate change.

With his cabinet picks (Pruitt, Tillerson, etc.), Trump has made it clear that his administration wants to increase the use of fossil fuels -- not decrease them. And he wants to reduce EPA clean air requirements. That's fine with his Republican congressional cohorts, who have been blocking measures to control climate change for years now.

But the public disagrees. They realize that global climate change is a travesty that we have brought on ourselves, and they want the federal government to do more to control (or at least minimize) the results of the climate change that is happening. That's what two new polls show.

The Rasmussen Poll shows that 53% of the population would like to see the government do more, and the Quinnipiac University Poll puts that figure at 59%. These polls show that Trump and the GOP-controlled Congress are once again working against the wishes of the American people.

The Rasmussen Poll was done on March 20th and 21st of a random national sample of 1,000 likely voters, and has a margin of error of 3 points.

The Quinnipiac University Poll was done between March 16th and 21st of a random national sample of 1,056 voters, and has a margin of error of 3 points.

Trump Budget

Political Cartoon is by Andy Marlette in the Pensacola News-Journal.

Trump Considering An Order To Legalize Discrimination

(This caricature of Donald Trump is by DonkeyHotey.)

The following is part of an excellent article in The Nation by Sarah Posner:

A leaked copy of a draft executive order titled “Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom,” obtained by The Investigative Fund and The Nation, reveals sweeping plans by the Trump administration to legalize discrimination. . . .

The draft order seeks to create wholesale exemptions for people and organizations who claim religious or moral objections to same-sex marriage, premarital sex, abortion, and trans identity, and it seeks to curtail women’s access to contraception and abortion through the Affordable Care Act. . . .
Language in the draft document specifically protects the tax-exempt status of any organization that “believes, speaks, or acts (or declines to act) in accordance with the belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, sexual relations are properly reserved for such a marriage, male and female and their equivalents refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy, physiology, or genetics at or before birth, and that human life begins at conception and merits protection at all stages of life.”
The breadth of the draft order, which legal experts described as “sweeping” and “staggering,” may exceed the authority of the executive branch if enacted. It also, by extending some of its protections to one particular set of religious beliefs, would risk violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution.
“This executive order would appear to require agencies to provide extensive exemptions from a staggering number of federal laws—without regard to whether such laws substantially burden religious exercise,” said Marty Lederman, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center and an expert on church-state separation and religious freedom.
The exemptions, Lederman said, could themselves violate federal law or license individuals and private parties to violate federal law. “Moreover,” he added, “the exemptions would raise serious First Amendment questions, as well, because they would go far beyond what the Supreme Court has identified as the limits of permissive religious accommodations.” It would be “astonishing,” he said, “if the Office of Legal Counsel certifies the legality of this blunderbuss order.”
The leaked draft maintains that, as a matter of policy, “Americans and their religious organizations will not be coerced by the Federal Government into participating in activities that violate their conscience.”
It sets forth an exceptionally expansive definition of “religious exercise” that extends to “any act or refusal to act that is motivated by a sincerely held religious belief, whether or not the act is required or compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief.” “It’s very sweeping,” said Ira Lupu, a professor emeritus at the George Washington University Law School and an expert on the Constitution’s religion clauses and on the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). “It raises a big question about whether the Constitution or the RFRA authorizes the president to grant religious freedom in such a broad way.”
In particular, said Lupu, the draft order “privileges” a certain set of beliefs about sexual orientation and gender identity—beliefs identified most closely with conservative Catholics and evangelical Christians—over others. That, he said, goes beyond “what RFRA might authorize” and may violate the Establishment Clause.
Lupu added that the language of the draft “might invite federal employees,” for example, at the Social Security Administration or Veterans Administration, “to refuse on religious grounds to process applications or respond to questions from those whose benefits depend on same sex marriages.” If other employees do not “fill the gap,” he said, it could “lead to a situation where marriage equality was being de facto undermined by federal employees, especially in religiously conservative communities,” contrary to Supreme Court rulings.

Pushing At The Pillars

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

Most Dangerous Creation

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Fatuous Nincompoop

The Solution

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

Ryan/Trump Withdraw Plan -- Obamacare Safe (For Now)

(This AP photo is by Alex Brandon and was found at Think Progress.)

After years of Republicans saying they would "repeal and replace" Obamacare, and Trump promising to make it the first big accomplishment of his administration, the GOP plan has been abandoned. After conferring with each other, Trump and Ryan chose the coward's way out of the mess they created. Instead of bringing their terrible plan to the House for a vote (where it would have gone down in ignominious defeat), they just withdrew it.

Both Trump and Ryan are trying to pass the blame for their failure to Democrats. As a Democrat, I wish that was true. I would love for the Democratic Party to be able to claim they defeated this bad plan, but it just isn't true. The Republicans have a substantial majority in the House of Representatives, and the only reason the plan could not be passed is because (after seven years of trying) the Republicans are still incapable of agreeing on any health care plan.

The reason, of course, is because the Republicans don't think American citizens have a right to decent health care. For them, health care is just a product which is available to those who can afford it. And those who can't afford it don't deserve to have it. The right to life is not a right that Republicans believe in -- or at least it's a right they believe should be reserved for the rich.

That means Obamacare is safe -- at least for now. Obamacare will continue without any changes made by the Republicans. That is both a good and a bad thing. It is good because it's much better than the broken system it replaced. It's bad because Obamacare has a couple of big flaws.

First, while it reduced the amount of Americans without health insurance, it doesn't cover all American citizens. The United States remains the only developed nation that doesn't cover all its citizens with health insurance or a guarantee for decent medical care.

Second, it doesn't do anything to control the rising costs of health care. The United States spends substantially more per capita on health care than any other developed nation, and that spending continues to rise unabated.

These flaws could be fixed, but they won't be as long as the Republicans control both houses of Congress. They aren't interested in fixing the flaws in Obamacare -- only in destroying the program. They have made that very clear.

Then And Now

Political Cartoon is by Nate Beeler in The Columbus Dispatch.

The Public Doesn't Like Trump's Budget Proposal

The charts above are from the University of Maryland's Program for Public Consultation survey. That survey was done between March 8th and 16th of a random national sample of 1,817 registered voters, with a margin of error of 2.3 points.

It shows the public disagrees with the budget proposed by Donald Trump. Trump wants a massive increase in defense spending, while the majority of voters would prefer the defense budget be cut substantially. Trump wants a big cut in funding for education, while most voters would keep that funding at current levels. Trump wants to slash funding for public housing, while the public would not cut that funding. Trump want to increase spending for Homeland Security (mostly to pay for his silly wall), while the public would prefer a small decrease in that department's spending. Trump also wants to cut funding for medical research and pollution control, while the public would rather keep the funding for both at current levels.

Trump's proposed budget is ridiculous -- and the public knows it.

Had Enough Yet ?

Political Cartoon is by Milt Priggee at miltpriggee.com.