Wednesday, April 30, 2014

We Understand

Jobs Lost In Recession Being Replaced By Low-Wage Jobs

The figures below are from the National Employment Law Project (NELP) -- and they show that the recession recovery that has been experienced by Wall Street and the giant corporations has still not filtered down effectively to the vast majority of Americans. It's bad enough that the unemployment rate remains high and millions of Americans remain unemployed, but the recovery for workers has been very unequal -- and many of those who have been able to find jobs are making significantly less than before the recession.

Note that the bulk of the jobs lost because of the recession were high-wage and mid-wage jobs (about 77.6%), while the low-wage percentage lost was about 22.4%. But the job gains since the recession have been very different -- with only 56.1% being high-wage or mid-wage jobs, and a huge 43.9% being low-wage jobs. To put it another way, there are now 1.93 million less high-wage and mid-wage jobs, and there are 1.85 million more low-wage jobs.

So Main Street has seen nearly 2 million high-wage and mid-wage jobs turn into low-wage jobs. That may be good for Wall Street and the mega-corporations, but it is disastrous for workers. Workers had already seen a couple of decades where their wages were stagnant and had little growth. Now they are seeing the median wage fall as good jobs are being replaced with low-paying (and many times no benefit) jobs.

NELP says it is just that the high and mid-range jobs are lagging behind, while it is easier for low range jobs to recover. They are more optimistic than I am. Personally, I think Wall Street and corporate America loves the situation we are in, where they can easily replace the good jobs they lost with poor pay and benefit jobs -- and they have no intention to change that. They haven't been sharing productivity with workers for quite a while, and now they can compound that travesty by paying less than before the recession.

It has been estimated that by 2020 about one quarter of the American workforce (about 1 out of every 4 workers) will be working in low-wage jobs -- and if the minimum wage is not raised, many of those workers will be working for even less than the NELP definition of a low-wage job ($9.48 to $13.33). This is not a recovery -- it's a disaster.

No More Hibernating

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

Jason Carter Is Still Close In The Georgia Governor's Race

This chart was made using information in a new SurveyUSA Poll, which was done between April 24th and 27th. They surveyed 1,567 likely Georgia voters, and the poll has a margin of error of 2.5 points.

The state of Georgia has started it's early voting for the primaries, and that will continue for a couple of weeks (until Primary Day on May 20th). But we already know who the nominees are going to be, since Republican incumbent Nathan Deal and Democrat Jason Carter have large poll leads and will be nominated -- joining Libertarian Andrew Hunt in the November general election.

Georgia is a red state, and normally the Republican candidate (especially an incumbent) would have a pretty easy time winning. But that is not what's happening, at least right now. Previous polls have shown that Carter is within striking distance of Deal, and this SurveyUSA Poll verifies that. Currently Deal has 41% support, to 37% for Carter and 9% for Hunt (with a significant 13% still undecided).

It looks like Deal's unpopularity has driven some Republicans to support Hunt, who is polling more than twice the support the Libertarian candidate got in the last gubernatorial election. It's also allowing Carter to remain close.

Deal is still the favorite, but it looks like Carter may give him a run for it this time. It won't be easy (and will require a lot of work and a large turnout), but Jason Carter could win this race.


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

Thoughts On Los Angeles Clippers & Their Racist Owner

Unless you've been living in a cave deep in the Amazon jungle, I'm sure you've heard of the controversy involving the Los Angeles Clippers and their owner, Donald Sterling. Sterling let his mouth overload his ass, and was caught on tape spewing his racist views to his girlfriend.

He has since said that what he was caught saying doesn't represent his true views -- but his remarks were obviously racist, and I would tend to believe what he said when he thought he was talking in private over his public statement (which was aimed to try and salvage his reputation and investment).

The real question now is what to do about a racist owner of a team in a league made up predominately by Black players. The NBA seems to have made their decision. CNN reports:

Basketball Commissioner Adam Silver slapped Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling with a lifetime ban from the sport and a $2.5 million fine Tuesday over racist remarks attributed to Sterling.

Silver said the National Basketball Association "will begin immediately" the process to force Sterling to sell the team, which he has owned since the 1980s. . .

Under the ban, Sterling can't go to games, attend practices, make decisions regarding the team or attend NBA meetings. And Silver said NBA owners are expected to provide the three-quarters vote needed to force Sterling to sell the team.

I don't have any problem with the huge fine (the largest fine that the NBA can levy), or the lifetime ban. Sterling's racist comments cast a pall,not just over the Clippers, but over the league in general -- and the NBA needed to take decisive action. But I'm not sure that "forcing" Sterling to sell the team is appropriate. We are not talking about a public entity. The Clippers, like all NBA teams, are a private business, and forcing any citizen (however reprehensible) to sell a business he/she has bought and privately owns sets a bad precedent.

In a free country (which we still claim to be), each citizen is entitled to his own views -- however sick and reprehensible those views may be. Citizens may refuse to give that entity their business, and boycott them for those views -- but that is far different from forcing that owner to sell his/her business. What is next -- forcing owners to sell a business because of religious or political views that we don't like?

Having said that, I do think it would be smart for Sterling to make the decision to sell his team (and like it or not, it is his team). If he doesn't, it will destroy the team. No African-American (and probably most White) players will want to play for a team owned by an obvious die-hard racist. The best players will leave the team in free agency as soon as they contractually can do so -- and the team will be left with only players who cannot get contracts elsewhere (and draft choices, who will also leave as soon as possible). The team will sink to the bottom of the league, and stay there as long as Sterling owns it.

It will be best for Sterling, the team, and the area the team represents, for Sterling to sell the team. And I hope he does that -- but I still think it should be his decision. Sterling bought the team for $12 million back in 1981, and it is now worth around $575 million -- but if he keeps the team that value will go down sharply. He has painted himself into a corner with his racism, and his only reasonable option is to sell.

PR For Racists

Political Cartoon is by Jen Sorensen at

A Very Good Question

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Bernie On Vets

Wind-Generated Electricity Is Slowly Growing In The U.S.

(The photo above is by John Womack, and was found at Wikipedia.)

The amount of electricity generated in the United States continues to grow. In 2012, wind power supplied about 3.5% of total electrical generation. Last year, wind power grew to 4.1% of the nation's total electrical power. That was 167 million megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity, and a whopping 80.2% of that electricity from wind power (134 million MWh) came from just 12 states. The state producing the most wind power was Texas (with about 36 million MWh), followed by Iowa (with about 15 million MWh).

Those figures are from the U.S. Energy Information Administration's Electric Power Monthly report. The two charts below show the energy output for wind power from the 12 states producing the most wind energy for one month (February of 2014, the last month for which totals are available). The top chart gives each states output in thousands of MWh, and the bottom chart shows how much each state provided as a total of the February national output of wind energy (which was 14,001,000 MWh).

This is a good start, but that's all it is. There is still plenty of room for growth in the wind power industry.

Rising Tide

Political Cartoon is by Tim Eagan at

The GOP Would Deny Income To Retirees By Raising The Age To Qualify For Social Security Benefits

These charts were made from information provided by the Gallup Poll between 2002 and 2014. The latest survey being done between April 3rd and 6th of 1,026 randomly chosen nationwide adults (and has a margin of error of 4 points). Previous years would be similar.

I found it interesting that the difference between expected retirement and actual retirement was significantly different. As a young or even middle aged person, we all expect to have a long work life & don't particularly expect or want to retire early. But life intervenes, and changes those expectations to realities.

Why do people retire earlier than they expect to? A few just meet their goals, and retire to enjoy the money they have made -- but they are a tiny minority. Others are forced into retirement because their employer just wants to replace them with a younger and cheaper employee. But the majority of early retirees must do so because of either illness or their bodies are just not capable of performing physical labor any more.

The Republicans in Congress have said for years now that the retirement age for receiving Social Security benefits should be raised to age 70. And a roundtable of corporate executives recently agreed with them. But they are not considering what happens to workers in the real world. Workers who spend their lives without doing any physical labor (politicians, bankers, corporate executives, hedge fund managers, Wall Street brokers, etc.) could probably work until age 70, because they have not had to put daily physical demands on their bodies.

But there are millions of Americans workers (miners, oil field workers, construction workers, farm workers, etc.) who must do hard physical labor every day of their working lives, and it is just not right to expect them to continue doing that kind of work until age 70. While most would love to continue working, their bodies will just not let them do that. Whether we want to admit it or not, a 55 or 60 year old just cannot do the same physical labor they could do at 25 or 30 years old. People who spend their lives doing hard physical labor will have to retire earlier than a person who has not.

And that is the main thing that's wrong with the GOP's desire to raise the retirement age. It would force many physical laborers who have to retire to go years without any income before they could apply for Social Security -- making them have to rely on family members for support, or forcing them into a homeless and penniless situation. And that's a terrible thing to happen to a person that worked hard for their entire lives (until their bodies could no longer do it).

It is just these type of people who the Social Security program was created for -- hard workers who, through no fault of their own, can no longer work. Raising the retirement age would throw these people into poverty (which Social Security was designed to prevent) -- and it's a heartless solution designed to keep the rich from having to pay the same percentage in FICA taxes that these workers pay all of their working lives.

There is no legitimate reason to raise the retirement age, or to cut any Social Security benefits. Any problems the Social Security system has (which will not show up for another 20 years) can easily be fixed by raising or eliminating the cap on income subject to FICA taxes. And personally, I don't see why the rich shouldn't be paying the same FICA tax percentage as middle class and poor workers have to pay.

Fox And Friend

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

Warren On Economic Justice

(This caricature of Senator Elizabeth Warren is by DonkeyHotey.)

Americans are lucky to have Elizabeth Warren in the United States Senate. With the possible exception of Senator Bernie Sanders, Warren understands how this nation's economic system works better than any other senator -- and how it has been manipulated to favor the rich (by shifting income and wealth from the 99% to the 1%).

It may surprise some progressives, but Warren was a Republican at one time in her life. But she felt compelled to leave that party when they moved to the far right -- because she could not stomach the economic injustice they were supporting. Here are a few quote from her recent interview with George Stephanopoulos:

I was an independent. I was with the GOP for a while because I really thought that it was a party that was principled in its conservative approach to economics and to markets. And I feel like the GOP party just left that. They moved to a party that said, “No, it’s not about a level playing field. It’s now about a field that’s gotten tilted.” And they really stood up for the big financial institutions when the big financial institutions are just hammering middle class American families. I just feel like that’s a party that moved way, way away.

Starting in the 80s, the cops were taken off the beat in financial services. These guys [the big financial institutions] were allowed to just paint a bullseye on the backs of american families. They loaded up on risk, the crashed the economy, they got bailed out. And what bothers me now is they still strut around Washington, they block regulations that they don’t want, they roll over agencies whenever they can, and they break the law. And they still don’t end up being held accountable for it and going to jail.

I make no secret of my differences with the administration in how they’ve treated the large financial institutions.

What’s happening is we’ve got a washington for those who can hire armies of lobbyists and lawyers. Their voices get heard in Washington and rules get tilted in their favor.

Working families, not so much.


Political Cartoon is by Bill Day at

Repealing Obamacare Is Not Going To Be The Great Campaign Issue That Republicans Hoped It Would Be

The Republicans are still beating the drum to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Many of them still think that will be a winning campaign issue in the November election. But there is growing evidence that may not be true at all. Several polls have shown that while people still say they don't like Obamacare, they don't want it repealed. They want it improved instead.

Why do a small majority still say they oppose the law? I think it is because the law didn't effect most people in this country. Those on Medicare and those receiving their insurance through an employer, the two groups that make up a huge majority of American families, have mostly seen no change in their insurance (except for women now getting free birth control). But they have been told by the Republicans that the new law will negatively affect them, and they are still unsure whether that is true or not -- so they say they oppose the law.

The truth is that while many people don't really know what the new law entails (and therefore fear it thanks to the GOP lies), they are not ready to repeal the law. They actually like many of the changes made. And that even goes for the red states. The charts above are from a recent New York Times / Kaiser Family Foundation Poll (taken between April 8th and 15th). The poll was taken in four very red states -- surveying registered voters in Arkansas (857), Kentucky (891), Louisiana (946), and North Carolina (900).

As you can see, the majority in North Carolina, Kentucky, and Louisiana (and a plurality in Arkansas) do not want Obamacare to be repealed. They want it to be kept and improved -- and these are states the Republicans expected to do very well in. And things don't get any better for the Republicans from there. More voters in North Carolina, Kentucky, and Arkansas say Obamacare has reduced the number of uninsured people in their state, and Louisiana splits on the question.

Significant majorities also like that Obamacare provides free birth control to women, and majorities in North Carolina, Louisiana, and Arkansas say their state should expand Medicaid to insure the poor (Kentucky is not on that chart because they are already expanding Medicaid).

The upshot of all this is that the Republicans can't even sell their "repeal Obamacare" message in their own red states. How can they expect it to be a good campaign issue nationwide? They can't, especially when you consider the many millions who now have health insurance coverage thanks to Obamacare. Those people sure won't be voting to lose the insurance they have wanted for so long.

Repealing Obamacare might have been an issue the GOP could sell the voters a year or two ago, but that door is now closed. The voters, even in the red states, know Obamacare is here to stay, and they just wants it made as good as is possible.

Saintly ?

Political Cartoon is by Daryl Cagle at

The Wrong Policy

Monday, April 28, 2014


Respected Jurist Says Marijuana Should Be Legalized

Views are changing fast on marijuana in the United States. The public no longer believes the government's lies that marijuana is a dangerous drug that should be prohibited by law. A recent Pew Research Center survey showed that 54% of Americans now think marijuana should be legal for recreational use -- and much larger percentages believe it is much safer than alcohol (both for an individual and for society).

Now a respected jurist has jumped on the legal marijuana bandwagon -- former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court John Paul Stevens (who was appointed by President Ford, and served from December of 1975 to June of 2010). In an interview with National Public Radio (NPR) last Thursday, Stevens was asked if he thought the federal government should legalize marijuana. He said:

"Yes. I really think that that's another instance of public opinion [that's] changed. And recognize that the distinction between marijuana and alcoholic beverages is really not much of a distinction. Alcohol, the prohibition against selling and dispensing alcoholic beverages has I think been generally, there's a general consensus that it was not worth the cost. And I think really in time that will be the general consensus with respect to this particular drug."

Justice Stevens is far from the only celebrity to champion the cause of marijuana legalization. But it is nice to see someone who has served on the nation's highest court express that opinion. Having dedicated his life to the law, his opinion carries a lot of weight.

Here are a couple more celebrity opinions on marijuana.

Internet Airlines

Political Cartoon is by Kevin Siers in The Charlotte Observer.

Public Wants Candidates Punished For False Campaign Ads

Campaigns in this country have always been played by a different set of rules than that followed by most honest and decent people -- and many times in our history, candidates have made silly claims and half-truths to get an edge over their opponents. One famous story tells of a candidate who accused his opponent of being a "thespian". That just means he had done some acting in the theater, and it was true. But the candidate knew most of the voters at that time didn't know what the word meant, and would assume it was something derogatory, and it worked.

But it seems like campaigns have gotten worse these days, and candidates aren't content with just skirting the truth or trying to smear their opponents. Now some don't hesitate to tell bald-faced lies -- counting on the fact that many voters are too ignorant to know they are telling a lie (or will just accept the lie because it is what they want to believe). This is especially true of far-right-wing candidates, who will say anything and make any accusation they think will get them a few more votes.

But most Americans don't like that. Whether they agree with a candidate (or party) or not, they want to be told the truth. And it turns out that a significant majority of voters (about 55%) would like to have some government oversight over the truthfulness of campaign ads -- and they would like to see candidates be punished if they lie in their campaign ads. Only 31% of voters don't like that idea.

This information comes from a recent Rasmussen Poll (taken on April 23rd and 24th of a nationwide sample of 1,000 likely voters, with a margin of error of about 3 points).


Political Cartoon is by Nick Anderson in the Houston Chronicle.

Teabagger PAC's - Just Another Way To Con The Ignorant ?

(The image above is from

The teabaggers are supposed to be a grassroots movement. That has never been true. The first teabagger groups were started with funding from rich right-wingers. But since then the numerous teabagger organizations have received many millions from those who believe they are supporting a grassroots organization -- an organization that exists just to fund the campaigns of far-right-wing candidates. And they believe that most of the money that they send to these organizations actually goes to help fund the campaigns of those right-wing candidates.

However, that is not true. While these groups might have originally served that purpose, it seems they have now morphed into professional money-raising organizations -- organizations that spend most of their money to raise more money, and to support the lifestyles of the heads of those organizations (and their families). Very little of the money actually makes it to any candidates these days.

Here is what the Washington Post found when they took a look at the teabagger PAC's:

A Washington Post analysis found that some of the top national tea party groups engaged in this year’s midterm elections have put just a tiny fraction of their money directly into boosting the candidates they’ve endorsed.

The practice is not unusual in the freewheeling world of big-money political groups, but it runs counter to the ethos of the tea party movement, which sprouted five years ago amid anger on the right over wasteful government spending. And it contrasts with the urgent appeals tea party groups have made to their base of small donors, many of whom repeatedly contribute after being promised that their money will help elect conservative politicians.

Out of the $37.5 million spent so far by the PACs of six major tea party organizations, less than $7 million has been devoted to directly helping candidates, according to the analysis, which was based on campaign finance data provided by the Sunlight Foundation.

The dearth of election spending has left many favored tea party candidates exposed before a series of pivotal GOP primaries next month in North Carolina, Nebraska, Idaho and Kentucky.

Roughly half of the money — nearly $18 million — has gone to pay for fundraising and direct mail, largely provided by Washington-area firms. Meanwhile, tea party leaders and their family members have been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting fees, while their groups have doled out large sums for airfare, a retirement plan and even interior decorating.

The lavish spending underscores how the protest movement has gone professional, with national groups transforming themselves into multimillion-dollar organizations run by activists collecting six-figure salaries.

Three well-known groups — the Tea Party Patriots, the Tea Party Express and the Madison Project — have spent 5 percent or less of their money directly on election-related activity during this election cycle. Two other prominent tea party groups, the Senate Conservatives Fund and FreedomWorks, have devoted about 40 percent of their money to direct candidate support such as ads and yard signs.

The Stench

Political Cartoon is by Kevin Siers in The Charlotte Observer.

A National Look At The 2016 Presidential Hopefuls

The percentages shown are averages from RealClearPolitics. The Republican percentage is an average of 6 polls -- Public Policy Polling (3/6-3/9), CNN/ORC (3/7-3/9), WPA Research (3/18-3/20), Reason-Rupe (3/26-3/30), McClatchy/Marist (4/7-4/10), and Fox News (4/13-4/15).

About all that can be gleaned from this is that there is still no favorite among the Republicans -- with no candidate being able to register even 15%. It is early, of course, but no candidate has been able to capture the passion of the Republican base. This could well encourage other Republicans to consider entering the race.

The Democratic percentage is an average of 4 polls -- Public Policy Polling (3/6-3/9), CNN/ORC (3/7-3/9), Reason-Rupe (3/26-3/30), and Fox News (4/13-4/15). That is because some polls aren't bothering to query about the Democratic race, since Hillary Clinton has shown she is a prohibitive favorite in every poll so far (and does so again in these polls). There is still every indication that all Hillary has to do to get the Democratic nomination is ask for it.

Level ?

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

Bringing Democracy ?

Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Great Ticket

A Saint For Pedophiles ?

Today the Catholic Church performed an action that should be viewed as an abomination. They officially declared Pope John Paul II to be a saint of the Catholic Church.

You probably remember this pope. He 's the one that was in power when the pedophilia scandal among the priesthood was discovered. He's also the one that refused to take action for many years, and protected those priests by refusing to defrock them (and just moved them from parish to parish, so they could have new victims).

And when the scandal became so widely known that the church could no longer try to hide it, he instructed that homosexuals be discriminated against and not allowed to become priests (even though homosexuality and pedophilia have no connection). And even after the scandal was widely known, this pope continued to protect his pedophile friend, Marcial Maciel (one of the worst of the churches pedophiles, because of his high ranking in the church), ignoring the many accusations against him (which were proven to be true).

This man knew about pedophile priests for most of his papal reign, and did nothing about it. If there were a god, I can't believe he would want this man honored as a saint. His sin is too great. Frankly, I am shocked to see such a failure as a decent person honored in any way by people who call themselves christians.

Bundy Fans

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

A New IRS Scandal (And This Time It's Real)

(The cartoon image above is by Rick McKee in The Augusta Chronicle.)

The Republican Party absolutely hates the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), because the IRS tries to make the GOP's rich buddies on Wall Street and in the corporations pay at least a little bit in taxes -- and making the rich pay taxes is never OK with the Republicans.

So when the media reported (mistakenly) a few months ago that the IRS was targeting right-wing political groups, the Republicans went wild -- thinking they finally had something to attack the IRS with. Of course, it turned out to not be true. The IRS was just doing their job, and making sure the political groups were abiding by the tax laws -- and they weren't targeting right-wing groups, but investigating groups across the political spectrum. In fact, more left-wing groups were investigated than right-wing groups.

But the Republicans are still trying to make something out of that non-story. They've never minded spreading a few lies, or beating a dead horse. And the crazy part is that they don't need to do this. The IRS has a new scandal brewing, and it looks like this one is real.

Over the last couple of years, the IRS has paid out about $2.8 million in bonuses (and provided thousands of hours in paid leave. The problem is that is the amount that has gone to agency employees who have documented disciplinary problems. And perhaps worst of all, at least $1 million went to employees who avoided paying their own taxes. Calling this outrageous is an understatement.

These employees are being rewarded for making ordinary Americans pay the taxes they owe, when they have intentionally tried to avoid paying the taxes they owe (and were caught and disciplined by the IRS). This cuts to the heart of the IRS mission. How can they be trusted to be fair with the public, when they are rewarding those in their own ranks who have avoided paying their own taxes?

I wouldn't blame the right-wingers for attacking the IRS over this issue. In fact, I think this is an issue that those on both the right and left can agree is wrong. It should be a minimum requirement for all IRS employees to fully and honestly pay their own taxes (just like we expect policemen to not steal and firemen to not start unnecessary fires). Bonuses should be saved to be given only to employees who don't violate the very mission of the agency they work for.

Unhappy Planet

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

Wisconsin Trends Progressive On Issues & Favors Hillary

Public Policy Polling recently surveyed 1,144 registered voters in Wisconsin to gauge their views on the major issues facing the United States right now. The poll was done between April 17th and 20th, and has a margin of error of about 2.9 points.

Progressives should be happy about these results, because it shows the people of Wisconsin join citizens in many other states in supporting progressive issues (and opposing the Republican stands on these issues). Note that there is significant support for both raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour, and the Paycheck Fairness Act -- although it seems that many aren't sure what the Paycheck Fairness Act is about (because support shoots much higher when respondents were asked if they supported equal pay for equal work -- which is what the Paycheck Fairness Act is seeking to establish).

And while most Wisconsin voters would like for same-sex couples to have the same rights as opposite-sex couples, they seem to be hung up on the word "marriage" (like voters in many other states). Only a plurality of 47% would like to see same-sex couples be able to marry, but 71% would be willing to grant those same rights if you call those same-sex relationships a "civil union" instead of a "marriage".

And finally, Wisconsin voters are starting to accept the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) -- with 43% saying they approve it and 42% saying they oppose it. But whatever they think of Obamacare in general, a solid 61% think Wisconsin should accept federal funds and expand the Medicaid program. They don't believe a person should be without health insurance just because they are poor.

Frankly, I would Hate to be a Republican running against these issues in Wisconsin.

And Wisconsin voters also like Hillary Clinton, and show that she could fairly easily win that state right now. The chart below shows how she stands against the current major GOP candidates.