Monday, December 31, 2018

A Second Gilded Age

Trump Likes Authoritarians - But U.S. Public Does Not

Trump has shown a frightening affinity for some tyrants. He has bragged about how he is friends with them and how that is good for this country -- especially Vladimir Putin of Russia, Mohammed Bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, Kim Jong-Un of North Korea, and Recep Erdogan of Turkey. I think he admires how they can do whatever they want without having to worry about a legislature, courts, or voters.

But Americans are not as appreciative of those bloody tyrants as Trump seems to be. This new poll shows the U.S. public has an overwhelming unfavorable opinion of all four of them -- Putin by 51 points, Bin Salman by 43 points, Kim Jong-Un by 70 points, and Erdogan by29 points.

The chart shows the results of a new Economist / YouGov Poll -- done between December 23rd and 25th of a national sample of 1,500 adults, with a 3.1 point margin of error.

New Year's Welcome

Political Cartoon is by Lalo Alcaraz.

Majority Says NO To Trump Run For Re-Election In 2020

The top chart is from the latest Economist / YouGov Poll -- done between December 23rd and 25th of a national sample of 1,500 adults (including 1,298 registered voters). The margin of error for adults is 3.1 points, and for registered voters is 2.8 points.

It shows a majority (52%) of adults don't want Donald Trump to run for re-election in 2020. Among registered voters it is 53%. Only 34% of adults and 37% of registered voters want him to run.

Those are some pretty terrible numbers. But the second chart shows it's worse. The latest poll is not an aberration. The numbers wanting him not to run have been remarkably stable for the last year.

There's still plenty of time before the 2020 election for Trump to improve those numbers, but he seems uninterested in doing that. Everything he does is just geared toward pleasing his base -- not toward increasing that base.

I expect the numbers will look very similar a year from now.

Tweet Crap

Political Cartoon is by Daryl Cagle at

The GOP Prefers Charlatans When It Comes To Economics

In his column in The New York Times, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman gives us an interesting and thought-provoking op-ed on economists -- liberal and conservative.

Here is some of what he had to say:

Do economists’ political preferences shape their research? They surely affect the choice of subject: Liberals are more likely to be interested in rising inequality or the economics of climate change than conservatives. And human nature being what it is, some of them — O.K., of us — occasionally engage in motivated reasoning, reaching conclusions that cater to their politics.
I used to believe, however, that such lapses were the exception, not the rule, and the liberal economists I know try hard to avoid falling into that trap, and apologize when they do.
But do conservative economists do the same? Increasingly, the answer seems to be no, at least for those who play a prominent role in public discourse.

Even during the Obama years, it was striking how many well-known Republican-leaning economists followed the party line on economic policy, even when that party line was in conflict with the nonpolitical professional consensus.
Thus, when a Democrat was in the White House, G.O.P. politicians opposed anything that might mitigate the costs of the 2008 financial crisis and its aftermath; so did many economists. Most famously, in 2010 a who’s who of Republican economists denounced the efforts of the Federal Reserve to fight unemployment, warning that they risked “currency debasement and inflation.”
Were these economists arguing in good faith? Even at the time, there were good reasons to suspect otherwise. For one thing, those terrible, irresponsible Fed actions were pretty much exactly what Milton Friedmanprescribed for depressed economies. For another, some of those Fed critics engaged in Donald Trump-like conspiracy theorizing, accusing the Fed of printing money, not to help the economy, but to “bail out fiscal policy,” i.e., to help Barack Obama.
It was also telling that none of the economists who warned, wrongly, about looming inflation were willing to admit their error after the fact.
But the real test came after 2016. A complete cynic might have expected economists who denounced budget deficits and easy money under a Democrat to suddenly reverse position under a Republican president.
And that total cynic would have been exactly right. After years of hysteria about the evils of debt, establishment Republican economists enthusiastically endorsed a budget-busting tax cut. After denouncing easy-money policies when unemployment was sky-high, some echoed Trump’s demands for low interest rates with unemployment under 4 percent — and the rest remained conspicuously silent.
What explains this epidemic of bad faith? Some of it is clearly ambition on the part of conservative economists still hoping for high-profile appointments. Some of it, I suspect, may be just the desire to stay on the inside with powerful people.


Political Cartoon is by Gary Huck at

Why They Hate Us

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Unarmed Truth And Unconditional Love

Public Says U.S. Lost More Respect In World In 2018

In his first year in office, Donald Trump trashed the reputation of the United States in the world by coddling enemies and arrogantly disparaging allies. Did he do any better in 2018? The American public doesn't think so. By a 28 point margin, both adults (23% to 51%) and registered voters (26% to 54%) think the U.S. lost even more respect in 2018. And every demographic groups but one (Republicans) agreed with that.

The chart reflects the results of the newest Economist / YouGov Poll -- done between December 23rd and 25th of a national sample of 1,500 adults (including 1,298 registered voters). The margin of error for adults is 3.1 points, and for registered voters is 2.8 points.

Changing His Tune

Political Cartoon is by Mike Peters at

Most Of The Detained Immigrant Children Are In Texas

Nationwide, there are at least 14,300 immigrant children being held in detention centers by the Trump administration. About 59.8% of them (8,549 children as of December 19th) are being held in the state of Texas.

These charts are from The Texas Tribune.

No Longer A Refuge

Political Cartoon is by Mike Smith in the Las Vegas Sun.

Dems The GOP Would Most And Least Like To Face In 2020

 (These caricatures of the Democratic donkey and Republican elephant are by DonkeyHotey.)

There's been a lot of talk on cable news about who the Democrats might like to nominate in 2020, and several polls of Democrats to see where the possible candidates stand right now.

It's a valid question, since we will probably see some Democrats declaring their candidacy in January of 2019.

David M. Drucker, in Vanity Fair, looks at the situation a bit differently. Instead of asking Democrats who they would like, he asks some Republican insiders who they they most and least like to face in the 2020 presidential election. Here is what he found:

For as much as some Republicans would like to see the president return to Trump Tower, they’re not willing to give up the presidency. And so, as the 2020 primary season begins, they are beginning to make a list of Democratic candidates that they think Trump can credibly beat.

Without naming names, I asked several senior Republican insiders which Democrat, or Democrats, at the top of the opposition ticket would most reassure them about 2020. Without exception, Elizabeth Warren, the 69-year-old progressive senator from Massachusetts, topped every wish list. “There’s a lot of Hillary Clinton in her,” said a veteran Republican operative in D.C. who hails from the Midwest and keeps a close eye on the heartland. “She’s elitist and doesn’t appear very nimble. It would be hard for her to expand her base or reach directly into Trump’s base.” Close behind were Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who, technically, is not a member of the Democratic Party. . . .

 “A Democrat is not going to defeat Trump by being more brash, blustering, and strident. They will win over voters they need to retake the ‘blue wall’ states by connecting with those voters on substance but presenting an alternative to his leadership style,” a Republican consultant told me in an e-mail.

Indeed, if there’s a key aspect to the fear Beto O’Rourke inspires in some Republicans, it’s the outgoing Texas congressman’s combination of sunny disposition and 21st-century social media agility. Sure, he’s unabashedly progressive, but to borrow a phrase from Vice President Mike Pence: He’s not angry about it. Nor, as it happens, does O’Rourke look down upon so-called heretics, or, if you prefer, “deplorables.”

Ignore the Beto mockery prevalent in Republican circles during O’Rourke’s near upset of Senator Ted Cruz this past November. Party insiders were taking notes, and taking the 46-year-old from El Paso far more seriously than suggested by the apparent delight they took in lampooning everything about a figure who has drawn comparisons to a onetime up-and-coming Democrat named of Barack Obama. “A Democrat who can carry Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, or North Carolina is problematic,” a Republican insider from a critical swing state said. “Someone like Beto, who can campaign on the fly, raise money, and excite young voters, could put those and other states in play.”. . .

As often as Warren and her like-styled cohorts were mentioned as easy Trump foils, former Vice President Joe Biden was cited as among the few Democrats who many Republicans believe might dispatch the incumbent with relative ease. Is Biden progressive? Absolutely. Gaffe-prone? Duh. But he is the antithesis of Trump, with the added benefit that he’s been vetted before, and passed muster. “He wreaks calmness and normalcy, which I feel like people crave over the chaos of the Trump administration,” a Republican strategist headquartered in the Southwest said. Another Democrat who fits that bill, more than one Republican volunteered to me, unprompted: John Hickenlooper, the 66-year-old outgoing two-term governor of Colorado, former Denver mayor, and small-business owner. “One of the main disasters to avoid is to think 2016 is like 2020,” the Republican strategist based in the Southwest explained. “Trump got lucky and people held their nose against Clinton. That’s not likely to happen this time.”. . .

Of course, countless other Democrats are expected to run for president. Republicans continue to assess the developing field of candidates, many of who either remain an enigma or who engender differences of opinion as to how they would measure up against Trump. For instance, some dismiss Senator Kamala Harris of California as another radical progressive who isn’t ready for Prime Time, even if she’s right out of central casting for Democratic presidential contenders. Others see in her a shrewd operator who could realistically win the nomination and put Trump on defense the same way House Democrats put House Republicans in a bind in the midterm elections.

It’s much the same for Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire media mogul and former mayor of New York City. Here’s a politician with a large enough personal fortune to outspend Trump and the Republican National Committee put together, and the wiliness to overcome his shortcomings. But some Republicans are unimpressed, saying there are few Democrats as polarizing and sure to keep the G.O.P. coalition together the way Clinton did two years ago as would the crusading anti-soda, anti-gun Bloomberg.

Not Subtle

Political Cartoon is by Matt Wuerker at

Believe In People

Saturday, December 29, 2018

The Problem

Trump Goes Full Insane - Threatens To Close Mexican Border

The government shutdown is entering its second week, and it looks like Trump is starting to realize what a weak position he is in. The public is blaming him for the shutdown and a majority of them don't want his wall, and the Democrats are showing no signs of giving in on supplying more border wall money. Next week, he gets even weaker as the Democrat seize control of the House of Representatives.

So what does Trump do? He threatens to completely close down the border with Mexico if the Democrats don't give him the money he wants. Could he be serious? Does he not realize that its not just cars and foot traffic that cross the border each day (and even if it was, that would seriously hurt border states like Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California -- who make a lot of money off cross-border traffic).

But it's more serious than that. Here's how New York Magazine puts it:

His latest tweets confirm that he has, in fact, been threatening to end (virtually) all commerce between the U.S. and Mexico, our nation’s third-largest trading partner. Upward of $30 billion worth of goods are shipped across the U.S. southern border on a monthly basis; interrupting that flow of goods for any significant period of time would paralyze major corporate supply chains, drive countless small businesses into insolvency, and terrorize global markets with the specter of American autarky.

This is supposed to put pressure on congressional Democrats, but it won't. First, they will probably view this as another empty Trump threat. Even if he is stupid enough to do it, surely someone in the White House will talk him out of it. Second, if Trump does shut down the border it will seriously disrupt the U.S. economy (and combined with the Trump tariffs could hasten a recession). The Democrats won't be blamed for that -- Trump will.

Trump has come up with a lot of crazy ideas since being sworn in, but this may be the craziest of them all.

A Trump Welcome

Political Cartoon is by Clay Jones at

Public Is Not Happy With Trump As Commander-In-Chief

Donald Trump surprised his generals (and everyone else) by abruptly announcing he would be withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria immediately. And the war in Afghanistan just keeps going with no end in sight, even though Trump also announced he would be withdrawing some troops from that country -- again at the displeasure of our military leaders and without asking them.

Is Trump doing the right thing in Syria? Does he have a clear and coherent plan for the Afghan War? And perhaps most important, does he have the confidence of the American people to perform as this nation's commander-in-chief?

The Economist / YouGov Poll posed those questions to a national sample of 1,298 registered voters between December 23rd and 25th. The poll has a margin of error of 2.8 points.

The results were not something Trump could be proud of. By a 12 point margin (56% to 44%), the voters said they did NOT have confidence in Trump's ability to act as commander-in-chief. By a 6 point margin (44% to 38%), they opposed Trump's action in Syria. And by a whopping 32 point margin (55% to 23%), they said Trump has no clear plan for the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan.

Trump On Credit And Blame

Political Cartoon is by Milt Priggee at

WaPo Offers Its Solution For Government Shutdown

The government shutdown is entering its second week, and so far, their doesn't seem to be any solution in sight. Trump insists he wants money for his wall -- more than the $1.3 billion Congress offered him. And the Democrats refuse to give him more -- saying there will be no wall.

After first saying he would take the blame for the shutdown, Trump is now trying to pass the blame to Democrats. The public is not buying that. Two new polls show the public is blaming Trump and the Republicans --52% in the Economist/YouGov Poll and 54% in the Reuters/Ipsos Poll.

Trump may think he can get the public on his side by holding out and lying, but that is unlikely -- especially if the new Democratic House sends a bill to the Senate. If the GOP Senate or Donald Trump reject that, it will just further convince the public that they are to blame.

Is there a middle ground that could, or at least should, be acceptable to both sides? The editorial board of The Washington Post believes there is. Here is the solution they offer:

This shutdown is perhaps even more senseless and frustrating than previous ones because the way out is, and has been, perfectly obvious for weeks.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Mr. Trump wants money for his pet border-wall project so badly that he’s willing to stage a partial government shutdown. Democrats should let him have funding for the wall in return for a permanent fix to the immigration status of the “dreamers,” people brought to this country as children without authorization but who have been living otherwise lawful and productive American lives since then.
This would be a grand bargain that would give both sides something to brag about and, in fact, simply calls on them to do a version of a deal that both Democrats and Republicans have at least tentatively embraced in the past. Mr. Trump says he wants to resolve the dreamers’ plight; Democrats have, in the past, voted for enhanced “border security,” including physical barriers.
In that sense, there’s no real issue of principle preventing a bipartisan deal, just the politics of base-pleasing polarization. Congress seriously entertained immigration grand bargains with wall-for-dreamers deals at their core in February and March , but the White House undid them by demanding additional restrictions on legal immigration designed to please the Republican base. That dynamic still informs Mr. Trump’s approach to the current shutdown; his position hardened after he came under attack from right-wing personalities such as Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, who accused him of contemplating a sellout. Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, likely next House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), newly beholden to left-wing members of her soon-to-be majority House caucus, has branded a wall “immoral” and sworn that she won’t approve a dollar for it under any circumstances.
Neither side may have as much leverage in this battle as they think. The risks for the GOP are defined by the fact that the border wall remains broadly unpopular outside of Mr. Trump’s base. As for the Democrats, they feel less pressure to deal because of a federal court ruling that has protected the dreamers from deportation. That ruling is by no means permanent, however, especially now that conservatives enjoy a solid 5-4 majority on the Supreme Court. A prolonged battle with Mr. Trump over simply funding the government threatens to detract from the new House majority’s legislative agenda for 2019 before Democrats even have a chance to unveil it.
Both parties are still acting as though prolonging a shutdown, and avoiding the wall-for-dreamers deal, is in their political interest, when in fact it’s the deal that would really benefit them in the long run. It would also be the right thing to do.

Mexico Will Do it

Political Cartoon is by Doug Dearth at

Wisdom From George Carlin

Friday, December 28, 2018

Trump Lied To Our Soldiers

Most Admired Of 2018 Are Barack And Michelle Obama

Gallup has released its annual poll on the most admired man and woman of the year. For 2018, Barack Obama remains the most admired man, and Michelle Obama is the most admired woman (replacing Hillary Clinton).

Normally, the most admired man is the president, but that is no longer true. Donald Trump finished 6 points behind Barack Obama (19% to 13%).

Michelle Obama easily outpaced others, finishing 10 points ahead of Oprah Winfrey (15% to 5%).

This Gallup Poll was done between December 3rd and 12th of a national sample of 1,025 adults, with a 4 point margin of error.

(Photo of Barack and Michelle Obama, from Essence, is by Chris Jackson / Getty images.)

Border Policy

Political Cartoon is by Darrin Bell at

Which Candidates Excite Democrats (& Independents)?

It's more than a year away from the first primaries/caucuses to pick a Democrat to oppose Trump in the 2020 election. What will determine who the Democrats choose? I don't think it's going to be policies they support or oppose. The main thing Democrats want is a candidate that can beat Trump.

The USA Today / Suffolk University Poll questioned a national sample of 689 Democrats and Independents between December 11th and 16th. The survey's margin of error was 3.7 points.

They asked the poll respondents how they would feel about certain candidates running. The chart above shows the percentage that said they would be excited about individual candidates running.

At this time, the candidate generating the most excitement is Joe Biden. About 53% said they would be excited about Biden entering the race. I think this is because, at least right now, most Democrats are comfortable that Biden could beat Trump.

They're not as sure about other candidates. But it is very early, and 59% said they would be excited about someone new. That means that they are willing to consider someone besides Biden -- if that candidate can convince them that he or she can beat Trump.

Welcome To America

Political Cartoon is by Clay Jones at

Trump Approval Drops As He Is Blamed For Shutdown

If Trump was hoping that he could increase his approval by shutting down the government (and trying to blame Democrats), then he was spectacularly wrong. Since he shut down the government, his job approval gas dropped by 4 points (from 43% to 39%) and his disapproval has risen by 6 points (from 50% to 56%).

That's be cause about 50% blame Trump (43%) and the Republicans (7%) for the shutdown. Only 31% (about the size of Trump's base) blame the Democrats.

These charts are from a new Morning Consult Poll -- done between December 21st and 23rd of a national sample of 1,992 registered voters, with a 2 point margin of error.

The Reports Are Greatly Exaggerated

Political Cartoon is by Dave Granlund at

Trump/GOP Obamacare Sabotage Has Raised Premiums

Trump promised less expensive health insurance that would cover all Americans during his campaign. Instead, he and the GOP sabotaged Obamacare without improving anything, and their sabotage is causing Americans across the country to have to pay significantly higher premiums for their health insurance.

Here is how Charles Gaba describes it in an op-ed for The New York Times:

The Affordable Care Act is still in effect, and the 2019 open enrollment period just ended for most Americans. The recent ruling by a Texas judge declaring the act invalid doesn’t change that.

But the Trump administration and Republicans are still undermining the health law.

People who earn too much to qualify for financial assistance for policies purchased through the A.C.A.’s health insurance exchanges or directly from insurers — five million now enrolled, including three to four million enrolled off-exchange — will pay for that sabotage in higher premiums. (Another nearly five million are uninsured and priced out of the market.) In the graphic below, I estimate how much more these unsubsidized enrollees will have to lay out in 2019 than they would have if not for the Trump administration’s actions.

Its sabotage efforts in 2018 included cutting off subsidy reimbursement payments for low-income enrollees (the cost of which insurers pass along to unsubsidized consumers), slashing the marketing budget by 90 percent and gouging the outreach-assistance budget by 40 percent. Next year will have those plus the repeal of the individual mandate and the expansion of non-Obamacare-compliant policies that don’t include the law’s patient protections.

These moves siphon off healthy enrollees, damaging the A.C.A. “risk pool,” so that its customers tend to be sicker and more expensive to carriers. In setting their premiums, many insurers specifically point to these actions as reasons for rate increases.

The estimates above are based in part on 2019 rate filings by insurance carriers in each state and modeled in part on estimates by the Urban Institute. Nationally, I estimate an average impact of $49 per month — or nearly $580 per year — for each unsubsidized enrollee.

A New Trump Year Same As The Old One

Political Cartoon is by Daryl Cagle at

Funny (And True)

Thursday, December 27, 2018


Job Approval Of Post-WWII Presidents After 705 Days

The chart above is from It shows the average job approval of each president since World War II. Trump approval is only 41.9%. That is lower than every president but one after 705 days in office -- Ronald Reagan. Reagan was able to improve his approval. Can Trump do the same. I doubt it. He has been upside-down since taking office, and every action he takes is to please his base -- not the majority of Americans.


Political Cartoon is by Lalo Alcaraz.

From EPI: 12 Important Charts On U.S. Economy In 2018

These charts are from the Economic Policy Institute: