Thursday, April 15, 2021
There is one thing that must be said about President Biden -- he's not afraid to take bold action!. He demonstrated that with his COVID aid package, with his all-out vaccination program, and again with his $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan. Now he has announced that he is withdrawing all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by September.
Since his intentions were known, many in the media and in Congress have come out opposes the withdrawal. They are wrong -- the president is right! I support President Biden's decision to withdraw the troops. Here is why:
We should never have been conducting war in that country for nearly the last 20 years. President Bush started the war to get Osama bin-Laden. Afghanistan had offered to turn bin-Laden over to the International Court, but that wasn't good enough for Bush.
After it proved difficult to find bin-Laden, Bush changed the purpose of the war. It was then an effort to establish a western-style democracy in Afghanistan. That was ridiculous! You can't impose a democracy on another country at the point of a gun. The people of a country get the government they want. If they do not want a western-style democracy, or are not ready for it, it will fail.
President Obama completed Bush's original plan by sending Seal Team 6 to get bin-Laden in Pakistan, resulting in his death. Sadly though, Obama then continued the war -- supposedly to protect the fragile and corrupt democracy in Afghanistan and "fight terrorism".
The truth is that since the death of bin-Laden, nothing has really been accomplished in Afghanistan. The Taliban still exists and the war continues at a low level. But there is no assurance of any kind that things there will get better if we stay another year, or five years, or twenty years. The war has gone on longer than any war the U.S. has ever engaged in, and there is absolutely no prospect of "winning" it (whatever that means).
Opponents say if we leave the Taliban will take over again. I think that will probably happen. But it is not our task to impose a government on another nation. The people of Afghanistan must decide that for themselves. If they don't want the Taliban, or tire of them in the future, they will kick them out of power -- and they'll do it without anyone's help!
As Boris Yeltsin once said -- You can build a throne out of bayonets, but you can't sit on it for long. We must allow the Afghans to determine their own future -- and they can't do that until we are gone.
President Biden is doing the right thing!
Wednesday, April 14, 2021
President Biden has proposed a $2.3 trillion infrastructure bill for the country. What does that bill include? The two pages shown above show what is proposed for the state of Texas. There are similar pages for each state in the Union. If you would like to see what is proposed for other states, you can access that here (where each state's pages are listed in alphabetical order).
Marijuana should never have been illegal in the United States. It is the least dangerous of all the drugs -- far less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco, and even safer than aspirin. It was illegal because of government misinformation, and the government's desire for social control -- originally over minority citizens, and then later over young people.
All of that is changing. About 17 states have already legalized the gentle herb, and poll after poll has shown that at least 60% of Americans favor legalizing marijuana in the whole country. That is going to happen -- it's just a matter of time now. If the federal government acts, it could be done very quickly -- if it is a matter of each state acting on its own, then it will take longer. Either way, IT WILL HAPPEN!
The following is part of an article on this subject by German Lopez at Vox.com:
The US is nearing a tipping point of sorts on marijuana legalization: Almost half the country — about 43 percent of the population — now lives in a state where marijuana is legal to consume just for fun.
It’s a massive shift that took place over just a few years. A decade ago, no states allowed marijuana for recreational use; the first states to legalize cannabis in 2012, Colorado and Washington, did so through voter-driven initiatives. Now, 17 states and Washington, DC, have legalized marijuana (although DC doesn’t yet allow sales), with five enacting their laws through legislatures, showing even typically cautious politicians are embracing the issue.
At this point, the question of nationwide marijuana legalization is more a matter of when, not if. At least two-thirds of the American public support the change, based on various public opinion surveys in recent years. Of the 15 states where marijuana legalization has been on the ballot since 2012, it was approved in 13 — including Republican-dominated Alaska, Montana, and South Dakota (although South Dakota’s measure is currently held up in the courts). In the 2020 election, the legalization initiative in swing state Arizona got nearly 300,000 more votes than either Joe Biden or Donald Trump.
Legalization has also created a big new industry in very populous states, including California and (soon) New York, and that industry is going to push to continue expanding. One of the US’s neighbors, Canada, has already legalized pot, and the other, Mexico, is likely to legalize it soon, creating an international market that would love to tap into US consumers.
The walls are closing in on this issue for legalization opponents — and quickly. . . .
Maybe it’ll be a slow, state-by-state battle before the federal government ends its own prohibition on cannabis, or maybe federal action will lead to a flurry of states legalizing. What has become clear is that legalization will eventually win, and the vast majority of states, if not all, will soon join the ranks of the legalizers. . . .
There are, of course, still major barriers to full legalization nationwide. Marijuana remains totally illegal under federal law, including in states that have legalized it under their own statutes. International treaties prohibit countries from legalizing marijuana for recreational uses (although with Canada, Mexico, and Uruguay moving to legalize, it doesn’t seem like anyone really cares). Most of the US population still lives in a state that hasn’t legalized, and it will take a lot of time and effort in legislatures and ballot boxes to change that.
But it’s now very clear where the trends are heading. It might take several more years to become national reality, but marijuana legalization is here to stay.
Tuesday, April 13, 2021
The charts above are from the most recent Economist / YouGov Poll -- done between April 3rd and 6th of 1,500 adults nationwide, with a 2.8 point margin of error. It shows that vaccine skeptics (those who won't take the vaccine) don't trust Dr. Fauci, the CDC, or President Biden nearly as much as the trust Donald Trump. Trump's lies have put many people in danger.
Joe Biden also became president in a time of trouble for the country. The nation needs bold leadership and action to conquer the coronavirus and rescue the economy.
Biden got a massive rescue/stimulus bill through Congress, and is now working on a massive infrastructure bill. That infrastructure bill would bring the type of change and reform the country hasn't seen in decades.
The truth is that no president since the end of World War II has been in a position of being able to make huge (and badly needed) changes to the country and its economy. Biden is in such a position.
The following is part of a thought-provoking op-ed by Jonathan Alter in The New York Times. He compares the experiences and opportunities that Roosevelt and Biden share.
“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it sometimes rhymes,” Mark Twain (supposedly) said. If so, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. could be a couplet. With a few breaks and the skillful execution of what seems to be a smart legislative strategy, President Biden is poised to match F.D.R.’s stunning debut in office.
That doesn’t require Mr. Biden to transform the country before May 1, the end of his first 100 days, the handy if arbitrary marker that Mr. Roosevelt (to the irritation of his successors) laid down in 1933. But for America to “own the future,” as the president promised last month, he needs to do amid the pandemic what Mr. Roosevelt did amid the Depression: restore faith that the long-distrusted federal government can deliver rapid, tangible achievements.
With one of the biggest and fastest vaccination campaigns in the world and the signing of a $1.9 trillion dollar Covid relief package, the president has made a good start at that. His larger aim is to change the country by changing the terms of the debate.
Just as Mr. Roosevelt understood that the laissez-faire philosophy of the 1920s wasn’t working anymore to build the nation, Mr. Biden sees that Reagan-era market capitalism cannot alone rebuild it. . . .
Mr. Roosevelt had it easier on Capitol Hill, with big Democratic majorities in both houses. But it’s a myth that Congress, even in Mr. Roosevelt’s first 100 days, gave him a rubber stamp. Southern Democrats were the Mitch McConnells of their day, forcing Mr. Roosevelt to take half a loaf or less on many bills. . . .
A few days after taking office, Mr. Roosevelt attended retired Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’s 92nd birthday party. After the new president left, Mr. Holmes remarked: “Second-class intellect, first-class temperament.”
The same can be said of Mr. Biden. At 78 (Mr. Roosevelt was 51 when he took office), his persona more snugly resembles grandfatherly Dwight Eisenhower or Ronald Reagan, whose minor verbal slips were also indulged. He is less devious and manipulative than Mr. Roosevelt, and hardly to the manner born. Otherwise they share many traits.
Both men were ennobled by suffering (Mr. Roosevelt’s polio forced him into a wheelchair; Mr. Biden lost his first wife and, over time, two children), which deepened their empathy and connection to people. Before the presidency, both were repeatedly derided as long-winded lightweights destined to sell out liberal principles for votes. Both were seen as too infirm to be nominated by the Democrats, and won in large part because of disgust with their Republican predecessors — Herbert Hoover and Donald Trump, respectively — who mismanaged the crisis of the day.
Both came to office when democracy was at grave risk (many Americans wanted a dictator in 1933) and saw themselves as called to bolster it. As canny politicians with good relationships on Capitol Hill, both learned to surround themselves with smarter people dedicated to making them look good. Up close, both proved hard to dislike. Meeting Mr. Roosevelt was like, as Winston Churchill said, “opening your first bottle of champagne”; meeting Mr. Biden is like one’s first encounter with a tail-wagging therapy dog.
Mr. Roosevelt essentially invented intimacy in mass communications. When he described those listening on the radio as “my friends” and adopted a conversational (as opposed to the usual stentorian) tone, he did for public speaking what Bing Crosby and other crooners did for singing. . . .
Mr. Biden is no great communicator, but his national bedside manner resembles that of “Old Doc Roosevelt.” In his first prime-time address on March 11, he leaned forward as if comforting a patient, shattering any ice of indifference. . . .
Whatever the future holds, Mr. Biden and Mr. Roosevelt are now fused in history by the size and breadth of their progressive ambitions. Jimmy Carter took office when liberalism was fatigued; Bill Clinton said “the era of Big Government is over”; Barack Obama was forced to conform to the mantra of deficit hawks. Mr. Biden was lucky enough to have been elected when what the historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. called “the cycles of American history” are spinning left. He is the first president since Lyndon Johnson who can rightly be called F.D.R.’s heir. Soon we’ll know if he squanders that legacy — or builds on it.
Monday, April 12, 2021
There is a huge gap between the wealth of White families and Black families. One fairly simple solution offered was to just admit more Blacks to colleges. But like with most simple solutions, it turns out the problem is more complicated.
Dorothy A. Brown explains those complications in an excellent article in The Washington Post. I urge you to read the whole article, but here is a part of it:
Higher education is supposedly the ticket to a better future, and it usually translates to a larger salary regardless of race, according to a 2011 study from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. But college does not pay off for Black students the way it does for White students. At virtually every step — from taking out loans to facing a racist job market to dealing with repayment plans — Black students and their families have disadvantages. As a result, the Black-White wealth gap widens.
Black college graduates have higher debt loads, on average, than White college graduates. Black debt rises over time, White debt diminishes. Upon graduation, the average Black graduate owes $23,400 vs. the White graduate’s $16,000, according to the Brookings Institution. Four years later, the gap triples. Even at the top end of the income spectrum, Black students have higher student loans ($4,643, on average) than White students ($3,835), and Black parents take out larger loans to help pay for college ($3,303 vs. $1,903).
What accounts for that difference? First, it’s the schools students attend. Wealthier colleges, which can afford to award financial aid and scholarships, disproportionately admit White students: White students are almost five timesas likely to go to a selective university than Black students, even when controlling for income. Meanwhile, a higher share (12 percent) of Black students attend for-profit colleges than very selective universities (9 percent), because online and part-time features allow them to work while getting their degrees. These schools usually do not award any financial aid and are in effect extremely expensive, given their low graduation rates.
Another factor is the wealth disparity between Black and White families. Black college students are less likely than their White peers to receive tax-free gifts from their parents and grandparents. A study examining financial transfers of at least $10,000 in Black and White families between 1989 and 2013 found that only 9 percent of Black households received such a gift, compared with 32 percent of White ones. And the scale of the gifts was remarkably modest: “White college-educated families received $55,419 at the median and $235,353 at the mean, while their Black counterparts received $36,260 and $65,755, respectively.”
But even parental wealth cannot fully protect Black students from higher debt loads. Black parents hold their assets differently than White parents: They are tied more heavily to homeownership than to the stock market, which makes them illiquid. Research that compared Black and White parents in the highest wealth quintile showed that White parents had $81,827 in financial assets such as stock, but Black parents had just $46,579. White parents had $154,627 in home equity, but Black ones had just $92,555. As a result, even Black students whose families are well-off on paper usually do not have resources readily available to support them. . . .
When a Black student, through herculean efforts, actually obtains a college degree, he or she faces a racist labor market that makes it harder to pay down debt and build wealth. A 2014 study showed that a Black Harvard graduate had to send out eight résumés before getting an interview offer, while a White one had to send out only six. As the selectivity decreased, the disparity increased: For example, with a University of Massachusetts at Amherst degree, White graduates submitted nine résumés before getting an interview offer, while Black graduates had to send out 15. This suggests that, while the credential makes a huge difference for a Black applicant, White students can afford to go to less-prestigious (and generally less-expensive) institutions and receive roughly similar rewards from the labor market. Worse, that same study showed that Black applicants — but not the White ones — were asked to interview for lower-paying jobs than those they applied to. . . .
Layered on top of all of these inequities is our tax code. Within four years of graduation, average Black debt is $53,000 and White debt is $28,000. The tax implications help White graduates and harm Black ones. The deduction for student loan interest, capped at only $2,500 a year, does little to help the average Black borrower, who has higher debt and more interest; the average White borrower, meanwhile, can deduct all of their student loan interest in their first year. (God forbid two Black college graduates get married, since their maximum deduction, combined, remains $2,500.) Meanwhile, when (mostly White) families help pay for children and grandchildren’s educations, those gifts are tax-free.
All of this student debt widens the overall Black-White wealth gap. In 1989, college-educated White households had roughly five times greater wealth than their Black peers. By 2013, that gap had tripled. Student debt represents roughly 10 percent of the racial wealth gap when a college graduate is 25 years old, according to professors Fenaba R. Addo and Jason Houle. By age 30-35, it explains about 25 percent of the gap.
Saturday, April 10, 2021
The charts above reflect the results of the new Economist / YouGov Poll -- done between April 3rd and 6th of a national sample of 1,500 adults (including 1,243 registered voters). The margin of error for adults is 2.8 points, and for registered voters is 3 points.
A significant majority of Americans (57% of adults and 58% of registered voters) believe Derek Chauvin should be convicted of the murder of George Floyd.
However, being aware of other trials of policeman, less than a majority believe that will happen --only 40% of adults and 42% of registered voters.
When Republicans passed the 2017 tax cut, which lowered the corporate tax rate to 21%, they promised that it would bring corporations back to America (which would create new jobs and raise worker wages). None of that happened.
Nobel Prize economist Paul Krugman explains why in his New York Times column:
Friday, April 09, 2021
The Labor Department released their weekly unemployment statistics on Thursday. It showed that another 744,000 workers applied for unemployment benefits in the week ending on April 3rd. That shows the recession is still raging, as three times the numbers of workers are filing than in a normal economy. Hopefully, the virus will be brought under control soon, as more people are vaccinated. The economy cannot recover until that happens.
Here is the official Labor Department statement:
In the week ending April 3, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 744,000, an increase of 16,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 9,000 from 719,000 to 728,000. The 4-week moving average was 723,750, an increase of 2,500 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 2,250 from 719,000 to 721,250.
The epidemic of gun violence in the United States continues unabated -- with the nation averaging more than one mass shooting every day, and on track to have more than 40,000 gun deaths for the second year in a row.
There is a lot that could be done without violating the Constitution's Second Amendment, but Congress is still refusing to act. At least the Republicans in Congress refuse to act. The house has passed a bill that would plug the holes in the background check law -- requiring all gun buyers, including those buying at gun shows or from a private seller, to first have a background check. Unfortunately, it looks like it will be killed by a Republican filibuster in the Senate. It seems likely that Congress will accomplish nothing to curb the epidemic of gun violence.
That's not good enough for President Biden. On Thursday, he issued some executive orders. They won't solve the problem completely (or even largely), but at least he is trying to do something. And he urged Congress to try and do something also.
Here, from Mother Jones, is what President Biden did:
Less than a month after mass shootings in Atlanta, Georgia, and Boulder, Colorado, left 18 people dead, President Biden called gun violence an “international embarrassment,” called for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and announced a series of executive actions aimed at restricting access to firearms.
“Enough prayers,” he said in the Rose Garden Thursday. “Time for some action.”
Biden insisted that none of his executive actions violate the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms, noting that even the First Amendment has its limitations. He called on Congress to pass a national extreme risk protection order law, or “red flag” law, and announced an executive action directing the Justice Department to draft model legislation that would make it easier for states to pass such laws, meant to bar people from accessing firearms if they pose a threat to themselves or others.
Other aspects of Biden’s order are aimed at stopping the proliferation of homemade “ghost guns” that lack serial numbers, investing in community-based violence mitigation, and ensuring that the Justice Department publishes an annual report on firearms trafficking.