Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Party Of Corruption

Our Economy Favors The Rich - To The Detriment Of Others

The top chart here (from the Bureau of Labor Statistics) shows that since the recession, productivity in the United States has risen (by about 9.3% through 2013, and is still rising). In the past, that productivity would have been shared by owners, management, and workers -- and all quintiles of income (except maybe the poor, the bottom quintile) would have seen a rise in income. But that didn't happen.

The second chart (made from U.S. Census data) shows what actually happened. The top 20% of Americans have seen some nice income growth due to that productivity, and the top 5% has seen even more significant income growth. Meanwhile, the incomes of the bottom 80% of Americans has remained flat -- it has been stagnant, showing no growth since the recession.

How has this happened? It started about 1980, when the Republicans began to impose their "trickle-down" economic theory on our economy -- by weakening unions, deregulating Wall Street and the financial sector, giving huge subsidies and tax loopholes to corporations, cutting taxes for the rich, creating a special lower Capital gains tax for investors, and helping corporations to ship jobs to low-wage countries (even to the point of giving corporations a tax break to help in off-shoring those jobs).

This has created the largest gap in income and wealth between the rich and the rest of America since before the Great Depression -- and that gap continues to grow. Taking advantage of the GOP policies, the rich have hogged about 95% of all new income created by increased productivity since the recession (and most of the other 5% has stayed in the top 20%) -- leaving virtually nothing for the bottom 80% of Americans.

But it gets even worse. The bottom 80% didn't just suffer stagnant wage growth, they have actually seen their income drop when inflation is considered. As the bottom chart shows, inflation has climbed by about 11.8% from the end of the recession through 2013 (and will rise again in 2014 by a small amount). This means the bottom 80% of Americans have lost more than 11.8% of their buying power since the recession (meaning their salaries will only buy about 88% of what they could buy pre-recession).

In the last 40 years, the Republicans have been able to tilt the economic advantage in this country toward the rich -- and to the detriment of all other Americans. And they are not through yet. Now that they have taken control of both houses of Congress, they are talking about more tax cuts and breaks for the rich and corporations -- and they want to do it on the backs of hurting Americans (by cutting food stamps and other government programs, by cutting Social Security benefits and eliminating Medicare, by refusing to raise the minimum wage or even abolishing it, by cutting education funding, etc.).

If they are allowed to continue their ridiculous (and already failed) economic policies, this country's economy will not just continue to falter but could easily slide into another (and deeper) recession. Unfortunately, there is little that can be done to stop this. The best we can hope for is that Senate Democrats (through the filibuster) and President Obama (through the veto) can stop the worst of the Republican plans. But there's just no way around one fact -- it's going to be a very tough couple of years for most Americans.

Political New Year (Same As Last Year)

Political Cartoon is by Daryl Cagle at

Congress Escapes "Least Productive" Label - Just Barely

The chart above is made from information gathered by the Pew Research Center. It shows the number of laws passed by each of the last eight Congresses (the 106th Congress through the 113th Congress).

The top line represents the total number of laws passed (both ceremonial and substantive). The bottom line represents the number of ceremonial laws (such as the naming of a building, or the recognition of an individual or group). The middle line is the most important, because it represents the number of substantive laws passed by Congress (laws that could affect the lives of many, if not all Americans).

As you can see, the 113th Congress barely missed the label of least productive Congress ever. They just eclipsed the abysmal record of the 112th Congress by passing a few laws in the closing days of the session. But that is nothing to be proud of. The 112th and 113th Congresses were very much the same -- with the Republicans controlling the House, and the Senate Republicans abusing the filibuster to obstruct almost everything.

The American people have been angry with the failure of both the 112th and 113th Congresses to get anything done -- especially to compromise to get the economy moving again and to create enough new jobs. And they have shown that by giving those two Congresses a terrible approval rating (in the very low single and double-digits). And judging by the numbers above (and the current economy), those low approval ratings are justified.

Some think the 114th Congress will be able to do better, and I don't doubt that with Republicans controlling both Houses the GOP will try to pass a lot of new laws. Unfortunately, most of them will be bad for both the country and the economy -- and hopefully, Democratic Senate filibusters and presidential vetoes will kill a lot of them.

I expect the next Congress to be just as unproductive as the last two, because too many politicians are still more interested in playing political games instead of compromising for the good of the country.

Lesson Not Learned

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

2014 Was A Very Good Year For Obamacare

(The graphic image above is from the website of the Russell Sage Foundation.)

I don't think the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) solved all of the problems with the health care system in the United States, and I still think we would be better off with a government-run, single-payer health insurance system. But I can't deny that Obamacare is a big improvement over the broken system it replaced. It has covered millions more people with health insurance, saved money in health care spending, and is working to keep down the rise in the cost of insurance premiums.

In short, it is working just as it was designed to work. And in the first full year of its implementation, any reasonable person would have to admit it has been a success. Joan McCarter, in a post written for Daily Kos, calls it an unqualified success in 2014. Here is her description of Obamacare's successful year in 2014:

In January, the first Obamacare policies kicked in and even this stalwart opponent ended up calling it a "godsend." Sen. and rump House Speaker Ted Cruz tried again to shut down the government over funding the law, and failed, while House Republicans flailed around some more trying to figure out a replacement plan. Meanwhile, enrollments continued at a brisk pacewhile the Kochs continued to spend big to make people hate it.
Gallup issued a new survey in February showing that the number of uninsured people in the country dropped to a five year low. The "horror stories" from Republicans and opponents of the law continued to unravel, keeping fact-checkers fully employed.
House Republicans still bumbled along with trying to craft a replacement plan in March, a recurring theme for 2014. While they were fiddling, millions were signing up for insurance to beat the deadline. As a harbinger of things to come, the possibility of the U.S. Supreme Court considering a bogus challenge to federal subsidies in 36 states reared its head. That would be the challenge to subsidies being provided to people who purchase insurance on the federal exchange that 36 states use, because of some sloppy writing in the law.
In April health insurers crowed that they were providing insurance to millions more people, bursting a Republican hope balloon. The Koch ads, however, continued, as did the debunking. Gallup released a key report showing that the law was working really, really well, but mostly in the states that made an effort to make it work.
Of course, in May Republicans were still messing around with that whole "replace" thing and of course there were more debunked horror stories from the Kochs. At the same time, the slow down in health care spending became more pronounced, showing that the law was working beyond just getting more people insured. Speaking of which, final enrollment numbers from the government showed 8 million enrollments. Those numbers fluctuated through the year, because individual life changes mean insurance changes, but there could be no denying that the law did what it was supposed to do.
Gallup proved that in June, releasing another survey showing just how many people were no longer uninsured—the lowest rate in six years. Oh, and by the way, the law created jobs, as June's job report demonstrated. And that replacement plan? Yeah, right.
The big news in July was how much Medicare was saving, in large part thanks to the law. Well, that and the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision that actually came down the last day of June. In that ruling, the court ruled that employers get to dictate the health care choices of their female employees. Because freedom. Meanwhile, two of the biggest stakeholders in the law—insurance companies and hospitals—reported good profits from the law. Oh, and that ridiculous law suit by House Republicans against President Obama for doing that thing they tried to make happen was launched.
That good Medicare news kept on churning out in August, with the CBO having to revise their estimates—again—on Medicare spending. Medicaid enrollments topped 7 million, and leading the nation in reducing the rate of uninsured were two surprising states—Arkansas and Kentucky. That was thanks to Medicaid expansion.
September was a very, very good month. Three studies converged to show the lowest rate of uninsurance in years. A comprehensive study of premiums under Obamacare showed that they were affordable across the nation, and the first information on premiums for 2015 showed that rate hikes would continue to be very modest, and in some areas, premiums would in fact go down. Oh, and many more insurers were signing up to sell policies on the exchanges, increasing competition and helping to hold down premiums. And yet again, health care spending continued to slow.
In October it was definite: premiums were not going to skyrocket in 2015. Those affordable premiums are made even more so by the subsidies about 80 percent of people get to purchase insurance. That could change in 2015, though, thanks to the Supreme Court's October decision to hear that bogus challenge against the exchanges.
That bogus law suit House Republicans voted for back in July? They finally filed it at the end of November. Republicans, of course, swept the House and Senate, leaving Mitch McConnell holding the repeal bag, and no, they still don't have a replacement plan. They'll have to vote to repeal it in the face of the fact that people how have Obamacare overwhelmingly approveof the quality and the affordability of their new insurance. But McConnell has a plan, as he admitted in December: make the Supreme Court do it.
The end of the year finds the uninsured rate 30 percent lower this year than in 2013. And healthcare spending grew slower in 2013 than it had in the past 53 years. Oh, and the law helped save 50,000 lives because it's made hospitals safer. Enrollments have outpaced expectations, and it looks like the uninsured rate could reach historic lows by the end of this enrollment period.
Twelve months of Obamacare show that, despite all the politics, the policy continues to work and work very, very well. But you won't hear that from the traditional media, because the political story is the only one they seem capable of reporting any more.


Political Cartoon is by Matt Wuerker at


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Overseeing Science

GOP Still Can't Get A Majority To Oppose Obamacare

The Kaiser Family Foundation has released its latest survey on health care and the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). The survey was done between December 2nd and 9th of a random national sample of 1,505 adults, and has a margin of error of 3 points. This included 467 Democrats (5 point MOE), 378 Republicans (6 point MOE), and 464 Independents (5 point MOE).

Many of the congressional Republicans want to think that their success in the last election (taking control of both houses of Congress) means the public is now behind their efforts to repeal Obamacare. That is not true. While the Democrats strongly support Obamacare, and the Republicans strongly oppose it, the general public (and Independents) are split on the issue -- with both groups showing a slight favorability for keeping Obamacare intact. And in fact, most people like nearly all of the aspects of the new law.

As in the past, the only aspect of Obamacare that is really disliked by most is the individual mandate -- the requirement to have insurance or pay a penalty. It seems that many people still have not realized that everyone must be on board with the national health insurance program to keep private insurance companies from raising their rates exorbitantly.

I believe most people don't understand that the individual mandate will not affect most Americans at all. Too many have accepted the Republican lies that say this mandate will affect a large number of Americans. That is just not true. If you get your insurance through an employer (as a significant majority of Americans do), or if you are on Medicare or Medicaid, or you already have insurance -- then the individual mandate will  not affect you at all. It is estimated that those affected will be in the low single-digits.

As the charts below show about 64% of Americans are against the individual mandate, only 3% could correctly answer as to exactly what the individual mandate's penalty for 2015. About 72% admitted they had no idea what it was, and another 25% gave an incorrect answer. In other words, most people opposing the individual mandate don't know what the penalty is, and haven't yet realized that it doesn't even apply to them (or to most Americans). The government (and the media) needs to do a much better job of explaining the individual mandate, and to whom it will apply.

In addition to the lies the Republicans have told about the individual mandate, they have also told lies about two other things. They have told Americans that undocumented immigrants can get a government subsidy to buy insurance -- and they have told them that Obamacare created end-of-life death panels to decide who among the elderly should live or die.

Neither of those two things is even remotely true. But as the charts below show, far too many Americans still believe them. About 43% think undocumented immigrants can get a government subsidy, and about 41% think Obamacare created death panels. It is outrageous that congressional Republicans (and other teabaggers) are still telling these lies. And sad that four out of ten Americans are ignorant enough to believe them.


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

Most Admired Woman/Man (Are Still NOT Right-Wingers)

The Gallup Poll has once again released its annual survey of the most admired woman and man in the world (by Americans). This year's survey was done between December 8th and 11th of a random national sample of 805 adults, and has a 4 point margin of error.

I like this survey because they don't provide the respondents with any kind of vetted list to choose from. Instead, they just ask an open-ended question -- What (woman/man) that you have heard or read about, living today in any part of the world, do you admire most? The results of this survey for 2014 are shown in the charts above.

Hillary Clinton finished first, getting 12% of the votes (4 points better than Oprah Winfrey, who finished second). That's the 19th time Hillary has been named the most admired woman, and the 13th time in a row. She has been named most admired more than any other woman since the survey has been taken (with Eleanor Roosevelt being the woman named most popular the second most times (6 times less than Hillary Clinton).

For the men, Barack Obama was the most admired. He easily outpaced all others, finishing with 19% (13 points ahead of Pope Francis, who was second). That marks the 7th year in a row that President Obama has been named the most admired man.

There is a difference is how Republicans and Democrats answered the question, but it may surprise you to see that Hillary Clinton finished 3rd and Barack Obama tied for 1st in the Republican top five. No Republicans made the Democrat's top five. Here are the 5 most admired women and men named by Republicans and Democrats:


Condoleezza Rice...............9%
Oprah Winfrey...............6%
Hillary Clinton...............5%
Sarah Palin...............4%
Angelina Jolie...............3%

Hillary Clinton...............20%
Oprah Winfrey...............10%
Malala Yousafzai...............7%
Michelle Obama...............6%
Elizabeth Warren...............3%


Barack Obama...............8%
Pope Francis...............8%
Billy Graham...............4%
George W. Bush...............3%
Ben Carson...............3%

Barack Obama...............33%
Pope Francis...............5%
Bill Clinton...............4%
Stephen Hawking...............2%
Bill Gates...............2%

Buying Democracy

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

Notable Deaths In 2014

(The image above is from ZME Science.)

Here are just a handful of the notable people who died this year.

28 - Frankie Randall -- singer and actor
26 - Dick Dale -- musician and singer
26 - Joe Macko -- baseball player and manager
23 - Alphonse J. Jackson -- educator, politician, civil rights activist
22 - Joe Cocker -- singer
22 - Joseph Sargent -- film director
18 - Virna Lisi -- actress
17 - Lowell Steward -- member of Tuskegee Airmen
9 - Mary Ann Mobley -- actress and Miss America

27 - P.D. James -- crime novelist
23 - Marion Barry -- politician
21 - Richard Eder -- journalist
9 - Orlando Thomas -- football player
6 - Maggie Boyle -- singer and musician

28 - Galway Kinnell - Pulitzer Prize-winning poet
24 - Marcia Strassman -- actress
21 - Ben Bradlee -- journalist and newspaper editor
14 - Elizabeth Pena -- actress
5 - Misty Upham -- actress
4 - Paul Revere -- musician

30 - Jerrie Mock -- first woman to fly solo around the world
21 - Caldwell Jones -- basketball player
20 - Polly Bergen -- actress
17 - George Hamilton IV -- singer
14 - Tony Auth -- Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist
4 - Joan Rivers -- comedienne

30 - Andrew V. McLaglen -- film and television director
28 - Gelnn Cornick -- musician (bassist for Jethro Tull)
24 - Richard Attenborough -- actor
23 - Philippine de Rothschild -- winemaker
19 - James Foley -- photojournalist
18 - Jim Jeffords -- politician
18 - Don Pardo -- radio and television announcer
12 - Lauren Bacall -- actress
11 - Robin Williams -- comedian
9 - Ed Nelson -- actor

28 - Margot Adler -- journalist
23 - Helen Johns -- Olympic champion swimmer
22 - Robert Newhouse -- football player
19 - James Garner -- actor
17 - Elaine Stritch -- actress
16 - Johnny Winter -- musician
15 - Alice Coachman -- athlete, first black woman to be an Olympic champion
13 - Thomas Berger -- novelist
11 - Tommy Ramone -- musician and record producer
9 - Eileen Ford -- model agency executive
2 - Louis Zamperini -- long-distance runner and WWII POW

30 - Paul Mazursky -- film director and screenwriter
28 - Seymour Barab -- composer and cellist
28 - Meshach Taylor -- actor
27 - Bobby Womack -- singer
26 - Howard Baker -- politician
25 - Etta Hulme -- editorial cartoonist
24 - Eli Wallach -- actor
22 - Steve Rossi -- comedian
17 - Stanley Marsh -- philanthropist (and creator of Cadillac Ranch)
16 - Tony Gwynn -- baseball player
15 - Casey Kasem -- radio DJ
14 - Rodney Thomas -- football player
13 - Chuck Noll -- football coach
11 - Ruby Dee -- actress
9 - Bob Welch -- baseball player
4 - Don Zimmer -- baseball player and manager
1 - Ann B. Davis -- actress

31 - Martha Hyer -- actress
28 - Maya Angelou -- poet, civil rights activist
9 - Mel Patton -- sprinter and Olympic champion
8 - Bill Coughlin -- journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist
6 - Jimmy Ellis -- champion boxer
3 - Gary Becker -- Nobel Prize winner in economics
2 - Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. -- actor

29 - Bob Hoskins -- actor
28 - Jack Ramsay -- basketball coach
20 - Alistair MacLeod -- author
17 - Gabriel Garcia Marquez -- Nobel Prize-winning author
6 - Mickey Rooney -- actor
4 - Anja Niedringhaus -- Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist

24 - Doria Palmieri -- psychologist and wife of Ron Reagan
21 - James Rebhorn -- actor
19 - Fred Phelps -- bigot
15 - David Brenner -- comedian
10 - Joe McGinniss -- author and political journalist

27 - Aaron Allston -- game designer
24 - Harold Ramis -- writer, director, actor
20 - Garrick Utley -- television journalist
19 - Dale Gardner -- astronaut
13 - Ralph Waite -- actor
12 - Sid Ceasar -- comedian
10 - Shirley Temple -- actress and diplomat
6 - Ralph Kiner -- baseball player
3 - Richard Bull -- actor
2 - Philip Seymour Hoffman -- actor

31 - Christopher Jones -- actor
28 - Stevie Woods -- singer
27 - Pete Seeger -- singer, songwriter, activist
19 - Steven Fromholz -- singer and songwriter
9 - Amiri Baraka -- poet
9 - Franklin McCain -- civil rights leader


Political Cartoon is by Mike Thompson in the Detroit Free Press.


Monday, December 29, 2014

Acceptance Is Not An Option

Support For Legal Recreational Marijuana Is Growing

I have brought you several surveys in the past that showed a small majority of Americans are ready for the legalization of the recreational use of marijuana. But the Rasmussen Poll was not one of them. In fact, the Rasmussen Poll showed only 41% support last January, and 43% support in August -- neither being a plurality in favor of legalization.

But that has changed now. For the first time in its polling, the Rasmussen Poll (in a survey done on December 23rd of a random sample of 1,000 Americans, with a 3 point margin of error) shows more people favoring legalization than those wanting to keep it illegal -- a plurality of 48% supporting legalization, and only 43% opposing that (a 5 point difference).

Public opinion is changing, and that change is picking up speed.

1961 ?

Political Cartoon is by Steve Greenberg at

This Is Bad News For Americans

(The photo above is from the New York Times.)

As if the Republicans taking over control of both houses in Congress wasn't bad enough, here's a little more bad news. We now learn that six of the most powerful eleven committees in the House of Representatives will be chaired by Texas Republicans -- all of them extremist teabaggers and corporate sycophants. These are all men who don't care what kind of damage they do to the country or its people, as long as they can try to blame it on President Obama.

The six are pictured above. On the top row (from left to right) are Michael Conway (who hates the Food Stamp program) who will chair the Agriculture Committee, Pete Sessions (a hyper-partisan incompetent) who will chair the Rules Committee, and Mac Thornberry (a corporate sellout) who will chair the Armed Services Committee. On the bottom row is Jeb Hensarling (who never met a giant bank he didn't love) who will chair the Financial Services Committee, Lamar Smith (an anti-science climate change denier) who will chair the Science, Space, and Technology Committee, and Michael McCaul (an anti-immigrant bigot) who will chair the Homeland Security Committee.

With these extremists in positions of power in the House, you can be sure no legislation will be brought forward to help hurting Americans. The only people they care about are rich Wall Street investors and bankers, and equally wealthy corporate executives. It's going to be a tough two years for most Americans.

Thin Ice

Political Cartoon is by Dave Granlund at

Americans Are Ready For Normal Relations With Cuba

(The cartoon image above is by David Horsey in the Los Angeles Times.)

A few days ago, President Obama announced he would be normalizing diplomatic relations with Cuba, and easing travel restrictions a bit (although most Americans would still be forbidden to travel their). He also asked Congress to consider lifting the trade embargo that has been in effect for over 50 year (and accomplished nothing).

In Congress, Democrats applauded the president's decision and Republicans opposed it. But the real question was -- what do the American people think? Last week I showed you the results of three recent polls -- polls that showed most Americans want normal relations with Cuba (and want the embargo lifted). They were the CBS News Poll, the Rasmussen Poll, and the CNN/ORC Poll.

Now there is a fourth survey (see charts below) that verifies what the other three polls have shown. It is the YouGov Poll done between December 20th and 22nd of a random national sample of 1,000 adults, with about a 4 point margin of error. It shows that half of Americans (49%) want to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba, while on 24% do not. And 55% majorities want to end the trade embargo and let all Americans travel to Cuba, while only 25% and 26% respectively do not.

And this stretches across all gender, racial, and age demographics. They all show either a majority or strong plurality in favor of the president's position (and opposed to the position taken by congressional Republicans). There is only one group that differs -- Republicans (which may be why the congressional Republicans have taken a position not supported by most Americans).

Our policy toward Cuba has long needed changing (as the rest of the world has already done). Finally, that change has been started. If Congress was smart, they would now finish the job. They won't though. They are too afraid their teabagger base would think they agree with the president on something.

Breathing Fire

Political Cartoon is by Bob Engelhard in the Hartford Courant.

Robert Redford On "American Democracy And Torture"

Robert Redford is one of America's best actors and directors, but those of us who live and breath politics know he is much more than that. He is a proud liberal, who has fought long and hard for equality and justice for all Americans. He wrote the following post (on after the Senate Intelligence Committee released its report on the use of torture by the United States. I thought it was excellent.

 am conscious of my good fortune to have been born into a democratic society. As messy as it can get -- and messy it is these days -- there is nothing more precious than a healthy democracy. As this tumultuous year closes we would all be served well to stop for a minute and reflect on how much we need to cherish it, exercise the rights inherent in it and for heaven's sake, not take it for granted.
When U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein recently released the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the U.S. use of torture, like many, I was both moved by her tenacity and shocked by the picture it painted of American democracy. America tortured people after 9/11 and here was the proof. You can debate whether or not it "worked" but it appears in most cases we never tried anything else so we'll never know. You can't debate what a hit this is on the moral imperative inherent in American democracy.
It's no secret that former Vice President Dick Cheney has never been one of my favorites. And I will admit that when I saw him rise again on the Sunday morning shows and other television outlets around this torture report a few weeks back, my first reaction was "Why are they talking to him? Shouldn't he be on trial for violating international law?" So, of course he should have been there. We live in a democracy! And, as he sits square in the middle of this whole controversy I had to admit I was curious as to his reaction.
There he was in all his glory, in all his arrogance, defending torture, or rather enhanced interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding and rectal feeding -- which he said he believed was done for medical reasons. Really? He defended it all. I couldn't help but think that maybe it's time Vice President Cheney move from defending his actions on Fox News and Meet the Press, and be asked to defend it in a court of law.
Let's face it, turning this kind of microscope on our own actions brings with it a lot of controversy, calls that we are endangering or damaging the CIA, or opening a can of worms that is best left closed. The dilemmas of a free society are many, and this is one of them. And the dilemmas of a free society are messy. But we should never walk away from them because of that.


Political Cartoon is by John Cole in the Scranton Times-Tribune.

Give All Workers A Livable Wage

Sunday, December 28, 2014


Public Likes Time Magazine Choice For "Person Of The Year"

Each year at this time, Time Magazine chooses a "Person of the Year". Time says it criterion for choosing is "the person or persons who most affected the news and our lives, for good or ill, and embodied what was important about the year". In some years, the public has not liked Time's choice, because an unpopular person or group was chosen. That is not the case with this year's choice -- the Ebola caregivers.

As the chart above shows, a significant majority of Americans (65%) think that was a good choice. I agree with them. These Ebola caregivers put their own safety in jeopardy (and some actually contracted the virus themselves) to take care of the ill, to curb the epidemic, and to show the world that the virus could be successfully fought. And they have been remarkably successful.

The president also agreed with the choice, and White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said:

“Health care workers on the front lines of the Ebola fight certainly aren’t in it for the recognition, but today their heroism and selflessness was on display because of TIME magazine’s decision to name them its person of the year. The Administration, including the President, could not be prouder of the brave men and women who’ve committed themselves to this effort in a foreign land.”

The above chart was made from a YouGov Poll done between December 10th and 12th of a random national sample of 1,000 adults, and has a margin of error of about 4 points.

Another Oops Moment For The GOP

Political Cartoon is by Jim Morin in The Miami Herald.

End Of Year Approval - President Obama Vs. Congress

Republicans and the media have bragged for months now about how "low" the approval ratings are for President Obama. But while the president's approval rating could be better, it looks great when compared to that of Congress. And that is still true when the December ratings are viewed.

The charts above were made from numbers provided at RealClearPolitics. They show the approval ratings of both President Obama and Congress during December -- with the oldest polls on the left to the newest on the right. The number on the far right is the RCP average of all December polls. There were fewer December polls on Congress, so I was able to include their disapproval numbers on that chart.

As it has been all year long, the approval of Congress is extremely low while the president's numbers show he is much more popular. The congressional Republicans may denigrate the president's numbers, but I'll bet they would love to have his numbers themselves.

I think some Republicans are thinking the approval of Congress will improve once they take over both houses in January, but if so, then they are living in a dream world. A big reason why the numbers are so low for Congress is because of the ridiculous behavior of the House of Representatives (which the GOP has controlled since 2011), and recent polling has shown the public doesn't expect Congress to improve in the new year.

I think the numbers for Congress will still be in the toilet this time next year.

Tough Fourth Quarter

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

Bernie Sanders' Year-End Message To America

America's smartest politician, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) sent this letter out to all of his supporters. As usual, he is right on target. I repost it here because I think it should be read by as many people as possible.

As this year comes to a close, let me take this opportunity to wish you and yours a wonderful holiday season and a healthy and happy new year. I also want to thank you for the ongoing help that you have given me, and for your efforts in the many struggles that we have waged together. Today, I ask for your continued support.

I am more than aware that, in the current political climate, many people feel disillusioned about the future. That is completely understandable. We have just had a midterm election in which 63 percent of the people didn’t vote, some very reactionary candidates won election and Republicans are taking control of the U.S. Senate. But, as I have said many times, despair is not an option - not if you have kids or grandchildren and want a decent future for them, not if you love this country and understand its potential to lead the world in so many ways.  

The struggle for economic and social justice, for environmental sanity and world peace must not be considered an option for us, it is a necessity that must be carried forward. It's what we must do. The future of this country and, in fact, the future of our planet depend upon that.

Please don't forget. Real change does not occur without struggle, and real change does not happen overnight. As Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us; "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." Incredibly brave people, for centuries, have put their lives on the line, died and suffered, for a more just economic and political system - and their efforts resulted, over time, in huge and almost unthinkable victories.

Fifty years ago, given the history of this country, very few people would have believed that in 2008 an African American could have been elected President of the United States, and then re-elected in 2012. But it happened.

Forty years ago, when only a handful of women held important political positions and most girls never considered the possibility of doing "man's work," very few people would have believed that there would be states in this country where all the major elected officials would be women, and that millions of women would now be working at jobs that women never held before. But it happened.

Thirty years ago, when children born with disabilities were hidden by their parents or institutionalized, very few people would have believed that kids with disabilities would be mainstreamed into public school classrooms all across this country, and that there would be strong laws prohibiting discrimination against disabled Americans. But it happened.

Twenty years ago, when right-wing candidates won elections by attacking gay rights, very few people would have believed that by 2014 gay marriage would be legal in conservative states, and that there would be openly gay elected officials in almost every area of public life. But it happened.

My point is simple. Change happens. It happens in ways that we don’t fully understand, and it happens in a timeline that few can predict. But one thing we do understand is that when millions of people stand together and demand it, positive and progressive change can and does happen. We must never give up.

As I reflect upon this coming year, a number of thoughts come to mind:

First and foremost, against an enormous amount of corporate media noise and distraction, it is imperative that we be loud and clear in continuing the fight for our progressive vision. We have got to stay focused on the most important issues facing the American people. 

Yes. We make no apologies in stating that the great moral, economic and political issue of our time is the growing level of income and wealth inequality in our country. It is a disgrace to everything this country is supposed to stand for when the top one-tenth of one percent own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, and when one family (the Waltons) owns more wealth than the bottom 40 percent. No. The economy is not sustainable when the middle class continues to disappear and when 95 percent of all new income generated since the Wall Street crash goes to the top one percent. 

Yes. We will continue the fight to have the United States join the rest of the industrialized world in understanding that health care is a human right of all people, and not a privilege. We will end the current dysfunctional system in which 40 million Americans remain uninsured, and tens of millions more are under-insured. No. Private insurance companies and drug companies should not be making huge profits when we spend almost twice as much per capita on health care as the people of any other nation. 

Yes. We will fight for a budget that ends corporate tax loopholes and demands that the wealthy and special interests begin paying their fair share of taxes. No. At a time when the middle class is disappearing and when millions of families are struggling economically, we will not support more austerity against the elderly, the children and working families. We will not accept cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, nutrition or affordable housing. 

Yes. We believe, in a highly competitive global economy, that quality education should be available to all Americans who have the ability and the desire, from birth through graduate school, regardless of their incomes. We believe that we should be hiring more teachers and qualified pre-school educators, not firing them. No. We do not believe that it makes any sense that young people leave college and graduate school with a very heavy debt burden which many of them carry for decades. 

Yes. We believe that the scientific community is right. Climate change is real, is caused by human activity and is already creating devastating problems in the United States and throughout the world. We believe that the United States can and must lead the world in transforming our energy system away from fossil fuels and into energy efficiency and sustainable energy. No. We do not believe that it makes sense to build the Keystone pipeline or other projects which make us more dependent on oil and other fossil fuels. 

Let me conclude by telling you what you already know. This is a very tough moment in American history, and the Big Money interests and their lobbyists in Washington have an unprecedented amount of power. 

There is no question but that in the coming year and into the future we will face some extremely difficult battles against them. I have no doubt, however, that if we stand together as brothers and sisters, and are effective in educating and organizing the American people, we will win. 

Once again, thank you for your support. I wish you a happy and healthy new year. 


Bernie Sanders
United States Senator for Vermont

Anyone wishing to donate to this extraordinary politician can go to Act Blue.

Fox (Altering The) News

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