Monday, September 30, 2013

Another Year Has Passed

I have tried and tried to convince my children that I no longer have birthdays -- that I have chosen to remain young (at least in my mind). But they simply do not listen. Now they tell me that I've got to celebrate another one of those nasty personal holidays today. This may be my punishment for teaching them to think for themselves. 

(The image above is from the website

Public Still Misunderstands Obamacare

There is little doubt that health care reform is needed in the United States. Just look at the top chart -- made with information from the latest Kaiser Foundation Survey (conducted between September 12th and 18th of 1,503 nationwide adults, with a 3 point margin of error), and you will see that a majority of Americans delayed or skipped getting some kind of health care in the last year because of the cost. And that cut across demographic lines, with only one group (those making over $90,000 a year) showing fewer than half of the group with that problem.

That's an incredible fact, and it shows that our health care system is badly broken. It is also a fact that this is not true of any other developed nation. It is only in the United States that people must pass up getting health care because they can't afford to pay for it -- a fact that should shame all Americans.

The Affordable Care Act (commonly called Obamacare) does not fix all of the problems in our health care system -- but it does fix some of them, and once instituted, will result in a lot more Americans (millions of them) having health insurance and being able to afford to get the health care they need. That being true (and it is), then why does the second chart show so few Americans with a favorable opinion of Obamacare?

The Kaiser survey showed that only 39% of Americans have a favorable opinion of Obamacare, while 43% have an unfavorable opinion and 17% don't know what to think about the program. And the poll gives us some very good clues as to why this is true. Obamacare has not been properly explained to the public, and this has allowed a lot of Republican lies and half-truths about the program to take hold among the general population. Consider the following facts revealed in the survey:

15% of the general population (and only 12% of uninsured people 18-64) are aware that the state health care exchanges (offering lower insurance rates) will begin operating on October 1st.

52% incorrectly believe that Obamacare created a new government-run health insurance program that will compete with private insurance companies.

43% incorrectly believe that Obamacare will provide government subsidies to undocumented immigrants to help them buy insurance.

42% incorrectly believe that Obamacare created a government "death panel" to make end-of-life decisions for those people on Medicare.

42% incorrectly believe that Obamacare cuts benefits for people on traditional Medicare.

When so many people believe these falsehoods (spread by Republicans), it is not hard to see why so many people don't have a favorable opinion of the program. It those things were true, then people should fear Obamacare. But they are not true, and the government needs to clear up those misapprehensions.

The Republicans believe their lies have created support for their continued efforts to either repeal or defund Obamacare. But this survey shows that is just not true. While more people have an unfavorable view of the program than have a favorable view, that does not translate into support for the continuing efforts to kill Obamacare. Note in the chart below, only 35% of the public supports those Republicans efforts to kill Obamacare, while 46% think they should just accept Obamacare as law and move on to other issues facing the country. The GOP is not winning any new friends with their single-minded obsession over Obamacare.

The Poll

Political Cartoon is by Jim Morin in The Miami Herald.

About 1/5 Of Public Is Stupid Enough To Break Up Either States Or The Country

Some people may think this Rasmussen Poll (conducted on September 23rd and 24th of 1,000 nationwide adults, with a 3 point margin of error) is not a serious survey -- since the overwhelming majority of Americans neither want nor believe it is legal for states to break up or states to secede from the Union (an issue that was settled by the Civil War). I disagree.

I think the fact that approximately 1 out of every 5 Americans thinks they have the right to either form a new state or form a new country makes a rather sad commentary on the state of politics in this country. These people remind me of a child, who when not allowed to be the quarterback in a neighborhood game, will take his/her ball and go home. They are bad sports, who care far more about themselves than they do for our country.

Whatever happened to debate and compromise? Democracy is a messy form of government, and sometimes we must accept that we don't get all (or maybe even any) of what we want. But it is just wrong to tear a state, or the country, apart just because you lost a political fight. The proper thing to do in a democracy is to work harder to get more elected officials who agree with your views -- and if that is not possible, maybe you should reconsider those views and consider why most voters oppose them.


Political Cartoon is by Lee Judge in the Kansas City Star.

Poverty Is High In U.S. Because We Don't Have The Political Will To Eliminate It

There is a belief by many in this country that poverty cannot be eliminated -- that it is just somehow a natural state and there will always be poor people regardless of our efforts. I have never believed that, and I do not believe it now. Poverty exists because of human greed, and the fact that we have chosen an economic system that rewards greed (and results in an unequal distribution of this country's resources).

But even though we have chosen such a system, this is a wealthy country -- the richest country in the world. And we have enough wealth to eliminate poverty if we really wanted to do that. The problem is not that we cannot afford to eliminate poverty, but that we just don't care about the poor/underprivileged and therefore do not have the political will to eliminate it. And the really crazy part is that the lack of political will is the strongest among those who most loudly proclaim to be "christian".

The chart above is from Mother Jones magazine. It shows the U.S. poverty rate compared to that of some Scandinavian countries (who have chosen to do more to attack the problem of poverty in their countries). Here is some of what Kevin Drum had to say in the post accompanying the chart:

Several Nordic countries have made great strides in ending poverty, but it's not because they have some kind of magic bullet. It's because they give poor people more money and more services.

The chart shows raw poverty levels in blue. The Nordic countries are basically about the same as the United States. There's no Scandinavian miracle that provides high-paying jobs for everyone. However, once you account for government benefits, the poverty rate in the Nordic countries is about half the rate in America. Universal health care accounts for some of this, and other benefits account for the rest. Some are means-tested, others are universal. There's no single answer. The only thing these countries have in common is a simple commitment to taking poverty seriously and doing something about it. . .

This situation is only going to get worse as automation improves. Still, we're plenty rich enough to address it if we want to. There's nothing stopping us except our own will to do it.

The Heedless Horseman

Political Cartoon is by Nick Anderson in the Houston Chronicle.

Then And Now

The Republican Party hasn't always been the mean-spirited anti-woman party it is today. There was a time when they wanted what was best for this country's citizens, and were willing to compromise for the good of the country. But they thought a few years ago that they could appeal to the ultra-right-wingers, the fundamentalists, and the racists -- and assure themselves of re-election for years to come. But those elements have now taken control of that once-respected political party. Now it is nothing more than a mean-spirited, racist, misogynistic, corporate-owned joke -- and that should worry everyone who believes in a multi-party democracy.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Coincidence ?

Teabaggers Win - Shut Down Government

(The cartoon above is by Martin Kozlowski at

I was wrong. I thought the Republicans would give in on the continuing resolution to fund the government, and take their effort to kill Obamacare to the coming fight over raising the debt ceiling. But I underestimated just how little the teabaggers in the House of Representatives cared about this country and its people -- and how invested in their own ultra-extremist ideology they are.

Last night, they had a chance to avoid a government shutdown, but they didn't even consider doing that. After the Senate had taken the teabagger effort to defund Obamacare out of the resolution to fund the government for a little while longer, and sent it back to the House, the House GOP again tacked an anti-Obamacare amendment to the bill -- knowing it would be rejected by the Senate (or vetoed by the president). This time they voted (231 to 192 on a party line vote) to delay the implementation of Obamacare for a year.

They called this a "compromise", but that's just a joke. It's their latest effort to kill Obamacare (and you can bet they would again vote to do this next year, if they got it this time). The Republicans don't believe health care is a right, but a product that should only go to those who can afford to buy it (without any government help). For them, insurance company profits are far more important than citizen lives.

The Senate will take up this odious bill on Monday, but they are sure to reject it. Majority Leader Reid (and the president) have already warned they would not approve any bill that harms Obamacare. That means the government will shut down -- at least for a while. The only real question now is how long it will take before enough Republicans come to their senses to and fund the government with help from House Democrats. The teabaggers won't give in, because they just don't care, so it will have to be from the few remaining sensible conservatives remaining in the party.

Folks, this is why the Republicans (especially the teabaggers) must be voted out of power in 2014.

Teabagger Sacrifice

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

Ted Cruz - De Facto Leader Of The GOP ?

(The cartoon image above is by John Branch in the San Antonio Express-News.)

Yesterday I did a post about how the teabagger movement is losing support among Americans -- having dropped 10 points in the last three years, from 32% in 2010 to 22% in 2013. I said the teabaggers may be becoming irrelevant on the national level. I believe that is true, but don't take that to mean they no longer have any power. While they are losing support nationwide, they still have a strangle-hold on the Republican Party in many states -- so much so that they can dictate what they want the party to do (and many in Congress will follow their lead).

The new darling of the teabagger right is Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas). While he has irritated his fellow senators and been painted as a joke by many in the media, he is something of a hero to the radical right for his championing of their outlandish policies and theories. And a case can be made that he is now the de facto leader of the Republican Party -- since he is the current teabagger hero, and those teabaggers control the Republican Party.

Public Policy Polling has done a new survey (conducted on September 25th and 26th of 743 Republican primary voters nationwide, with a 3.6 point margin of error). That survey shows that Cruz has vaulted into a small lead as the most popular choice of Republicans for the 2016 presidential nomination.

In addition, he is much more popular with the Republican base voters than other Republican leaders -- like Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, and John McCain. And if he is that much more popular than the supposed leaders of the party, that means he has more influence with the party's base. That makes him a party leader, perhaps the party leader (whether the other national party figures like it or not).

Note that charts below (made from information in the PPP survey). They show that Cruz's influence in the party has grown substantially. That should worry other Republican leaders, because Cruz is on the far right-wing fringe and will lead the party even further to the right (and away from mainstream America). And if he does that, it will tend to alienate most voters on the national level, and cause the GOP to do even worse on the national level than they did in 2008 and 2012.

As a progressive, I personally despise the politics of Ted Cruz. But I welcome him taking leadership reins in the Republican Party, because I believe that Cruz (and his nutty policies) will scare the hell out of most voters. And the best thing that could happen for Democrats is for Cruz to be the 2016 nominee of the GOP.

Kindred Souls

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

N.J. Judge Says Banning Same-Sex Marriage Violates The State Constitution

(The image above is from the website of the New Jersey Star-Ledger.)

It looks like another state may soon be joining the ranks of those that allow same-sex couples to legally marry. On Friday, State Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson ruled in favor of six same-sex couples, and granted them an emergency order directing the state of New Jersey to begin allowing same-sex marriages no later than October 21st. She wrote in her opinion:

"Same-sex couples must be allowed to marry in order to obtain equal protection of the law under the New Jersey constitution." 

Of course, Republican Governor Chris Christie disagreed with the ruling. He said the state would appeal the judge's ruling -- all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary. But like other Republicans, Christie is trying to fight an idea whose time has come. That was verified by another poll just this last week (by a conservative business-oriented news service).

The survey was done by the Bloomberg News, and was conducted between September 20th and 23rd of 1,000 nationwide adults, with a 3.1 point margin of area. The chart below shows the results -- that a clear majority of Americans now support allowing legal same-sex marriages.

Unpopular Religious Truth

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

Violent Religion

(Image found on the blog of Yellowdog Granny.)

Three major religions sprang from the descendants of Abraham -- judaism, christianity, and islam. And even though they all claim to believe in a loving god, they are the bloodiest religions in the modern world. They all have a history of condoning violence, especially against the other Abrahamic religions, and that violent hatred persists today. Frankly, I don't understand it. How does a loving god spawn such violent religions? Do the adherents of these religions really think hatred and violence spring from love?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

G. O. P.

Are Teabaggers Becoming Irrelevant ?

The charts above were made from information in a recent Gallup Poll (taken between September 5th and 8th of 1,510 adults across the nation, with a 3 point margin of error), and compared to a similar poll taken in 2010 by Gallup. The purpose of the survey was to gauge support for the teabaggers, and see if that support has gone up or down.

The results are pretty clear. There is currently less support for the teabagger movement than there was in 2010. In 2010, about 32% of the general public supported the teabaggers, but that support has now dropped 10 points to 22%. That's a sizable drop in support -- about 31%. And that drop is evident across the political spectrum. It is especially large among Republicans, where the support has dropped from 65% to 38% (a drop of 27 points, or about 42%).

The drop is evident also among Independents (about 5 points, or nearly 17%). The smallest drop in support was among Democrats, but that is because the support among Democrats was extremely small to begin with. But the 2 point drop among Democrats did represent a 25% drop in support.

But while the top chart shows there is a clear decline in the support for teabaggers, the bottom chart is even more interesting. It shows where the movement has been -- toward having no opinion on the teabaggers at all. Support has dropped, but opposition has not climbed. It seems that most people now don't consider the teabagger movement to be very important anymore (either positively or negatively).

This has to be a slap in the face for the teabaggers, who consider themselves to be an important movement -- the "saviors" of America. They didn't mind the opposition so much, because that lent them a certain credibility. But simply becoming irrelevant (as seems to be happening) means their credibility is also disappearing.

First Responders

Political Cartoon is by Dave Granlund at

Government Shutdown Now Up To House

(This image of the U.S. Senate as the vote was announced in from C-SPAN.)

The game of political "hot potato" continues in Washington, while the nation waits to see if the Republicans will keep their promise to shut down the government. That was the threat Republicans made if they didn't get a complete defunding of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). They included that defunding in the continuing resolution (H.J. Res. 59) to fund the government past September 30th (when the current budget runs out).

But as expected, the Senate didn't accept that. They first voted to cut the Obamacare defunding out of the bill, and then voted to pass the bill -- both on party line votes of 54 to 44 (with both Senate Independents voting with the Democrats). Now the bill must go back to the House for approval (since it was amended in the Senate). The House has three options -- approve the bill as amended by the Senate, kill or table the bill, or amend it again (which would mean it would have to go back to the Senate).

If the bill is defeated or amended, there will be at least a short government shutdown (because there is not enough time for the bill to go back to the Senate before the budget deadline). The length of a shutdown will depend on just how stubborn the House GOP members want to be. If they refuse to pass the continuing resolution without including the defunding of Obamacare, them the shutdown could be lengthy -- because there is no way the Democrats or the president could agree to that.

I think they will just kick the political can down the road a bit. The fight over raising the debt ceiling is coming up soon, since the ceiling limit will be reached in two or three weeks. I think the GOP will agree to fund the government for a while and avoid a shutdown -- then try to demand a defunding of Obamacare as a condition of raising the debt ceiling. This will keep their right-wing base happy, while giving them some time to try and get more public support for their threat (support which they do not currently have).

We'll know this weekend which path the GOP House members will choose. But whether they shut the government down now, or wait a couple of weeks, really doesn't make much difference. Either option will seriously damage our fragile economy, and could easily cause the country to slip back into recession -- making life even more difficult for the millions who have yet to recover from the last recession.

In effect, the Republicans are trying to hold the American economy hostage so they can get what they want -- what they could not achieve legislatively or electorally. This is why they must be voted out of power next year. It is the only way to stop the continual brinkmanship and return the U.S. to a sane economic policy.

Second Opinion

Political Cartoon is by Mike Keefe at

Americans Getting Tired Of Obamacare Fight

It has recently been shown that a majority in this country say they are opposed to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) -- probably because an even larger percentage still don't understand the new health care law (and how it will affect them personally). Because of this, one might suspect that most people would be in favor of the repeated Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare (or defund it). But that is not necessarily so.

Part of the reason is that not everyone who doesn't like Obamacare wants to repeal it. Some want to improve it (or replace it with a system like Medicare). Others are just getting tired of the battle over Obamacare, and want the government to move on to other problems -- like creating jobs and improving the economy. This is shown in a recent poll.

The Poll was done by Bloomberg News (certainly no bastion of liberal thought), and it shows that at least half of all Americans would like for Congress to just accept Obamacare as the law and move on to other matters. The Bloomberg News Poll was done between September 20th and 23rd of 1,000 adults across the country, and has a margin of error of 3.1 points.

Suicide (Political)

Political Cartoon is by Daryl Cagle at

False Argument

One of the stupidest arguments against regulating guns is the one by right-wingers that says cars kill more people than guns, and no one is wanting to outlaw cars. Well, most people (on the left or right) don't want to outlaw guns either. They just want to regulate their purchase and use in a reasonable way -- just like the way we regulate the purchase and use of cars. Both are too dangerous to be without regulation, even though both should be available to reasonable and law-abiding citizens.

Friday, September 27, 2013


Deficit Falling - But People Don't Know It

The budget deficit has gone down in every year of Barack Obama's presidency -- and in no year of his presidency has the deficit been as large as it was in the last year of the Bush administration. This is true whether you view the deficit in terms of dollars (top chart), or view it as a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

And that is not all. The bipartisan Congressional Budget Office is projecting that even if there are no more cuts in government spending, the deficit will continue to be reduced (both in dollars and as a percentage of GDP (bottom chart above) until 2015, when it will level off.

But if you listened to the Republicans, you would never know that. They are still trying to lie to the American people -- telling them that President Obama (and the Democrats) are spending too much and ballooning the budget deficit. And this is one bit of the massive GOP propaganda effort that seems to have been accepted by most Americans.

Note the chart below -- made from information in a recent Bloomberg News Poll (done between September 20th and 23rd of 1,000 nationwide adults, with a margin of error of 3.1 points). Only 10% (or 1 out of every 10 Americans) know that the budget deficit is going down. Meanwhile, a whopping 59% of the public believes the deficit is growing larger, and 26% think it is staying about the same (while 5% admit they don't know whether it's going up or down).

That's a shocking number of people who are not aware of the truth. And most of the blame should be laid at the feet of the mainstream media -- who are more interested in what the politicians say than what is actually happening in our economy (or with the budget deficit). And since the media will not report the truth, it is up to the Democrats to make sure the public gets the truth about our shrinking deficit.

Democrats need to beat this drum loud and often, especially as the next election grows nearer. They need to do this because the idea of a growing deficit scares a lot of people, making them more susceptible to Republican arguments to cut even more -- even though those cuts are not needed, and will damage the still struggling economy.

Ted Cruz - Self-Image Vs. Reality

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

Public Upset Over Possibility Of Shutdown

The two political parties in Congress are still playing a political game of chicken over the threat of a government shutdown. At the end of this month the budget resolution will end, and in the middle of October (just a couple of weeks away) the debt ceiling will need to be raised. Congressional Republicans are saying they won't agree to either pass a new budget resolution or raise the debt ceiling (or both) unless the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is completely defunded. President Obama and congressional Democrats are refusing to defund Obamacare, and say that is not negotiable.

Several polls have shown the American public is not happy with the threat of a government shutdown -- and now three new polls have been released that verify that. The polls are a YouGov Poll (done on September 18th and 19th of 1,000 nationwide adults), a CBS News/NY Times Poll (done between September 19th and 23rd of 1,014 nationwide adults), and a Global Strategy Group Poll (done between September 17th and 19th of 1,003 nationwide adults).

The YouGov Poll shows that Americans understand that the politicians are playing a dangerous game with the economy. At least 60% of respondents said a shutdown would seriously harm the economy, and don't understand why politicians would even consider doing something like that when the economy is already struggling.

The CBS News/NY Times Poll clearly shows the public disgust over the threat to shutdown the government. About 80% (or 4 out of 5 Americans) just don't think it is acceptable for politicians to threaten to shut down the government to achieve some political goal. This poll also shows that the public understands who is causing the problem. While 44% think President Obama is not trying to cooperate with the Republicans to find a solution, a whopping 70% think the Republicans are not trying to cooperate with the president.

But it is the final poll, the Global Strategy Group Poll, that has the most interesting result -- a result that shows the politicians in Washington aren't fooling anyone with their silly games. About 88% of the public (or nearly 9 out of 10 Americans) believe no budget solution has been reached because the politicians are just playing politics, while only 8% believes it is because they are looking for the best solution.

The American people don't like the ridiculous political brinkmanship being displayed in Washington. They want the politicians of both parties to get together and work out a compromise to keep the government going and heal the economy. And they are right.

GOP Lunacy

Political Cartoon is by Daryl Cagle at