Wednesday, May 31, 2023

It's A Mistake To Underestimate President Joe Biden


Most Republicans Think Trump Is Their Strongest Candidate

These charts are fro a Monmouth University Poll -- done between May 18th and 24th of a nationwide sample of 655 Republican voters, with a 5.5 point margin of error. 

Unhappy With Kevin

 Political Cartoon is by Ed Wexler at

GOP's Fake Crises Divert Attention From The Real Problem

 From former Labor Secretary Robert Reich:

Republican leaders have mastered the art of manufacturing crises to divert the public’s attention from the real crisis of our era — the siphoning off of income, wealth, and power by a small group at the top.

Consider the fake fears they’ve been whipping up:

1. “Woke.” Florida’s governor (and now Republican presidential candidate) Ron DeSantis has declared “war on woke.” Immediately after the mangled launch to his campaign on Wednesday, he claimed on Fox News that “the woke mind virus is basically a form of cultural Marxism.” But what is woke? Can anyone define it? It seems like an all-encompassing term for what we used to consider tolerance — an attribute that in a different age was considered positive.

2. “Trans people.” Former president Donald Trump says that one of his top priorities if he’s reelected in 2024 will be a “sweeping federal rollback of transgender rights.” But why have he and so many Republican lawmakers targeted transgender people as dangers to the public? There’s not a shred of evidence that trans people are threats to anyone. But they’re easy scapegoats. 

3. “Critical race theory.” Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin’s “day one” executive order banned the teaching of critical race theory. DeSantis and Texas Governor Greg Abbott have also banned it from the schools. Here again, though, there’s no evidence of a public threat. CRT simply teaches America’s history of racism, which students need to understand to be informed citizens. Banning it is a scare tactic to appeal to a largely white, culturally conservative voter base. 

4. “Couch potatoes.” Ronald Reagan railed against so-called “welfare queens” who allegedly collected benefits without working. Today’s Republicans rage about “couch potatoes.” Both characterizations are cruel pretexts — and racial dog whistles — for imposing additional work requirements on public assistance for those in need, when the needy often have difficulty finding work that pays enough to live on. 

5. “Out of control government spending.” Rubbish. In fact, discretionary spending has fallen more than 40 percent in the past 50 years as a percentage of the nation’s gross domestic product (from 11 percent to 6.3 percent). Lately, rising deficits have been driven by Social Security and Medicare (to be expected, as boomers retire), and by defense spending and George W. Bush’s and Donald Trump’s huge tax cuts that mostly benefited the wealthy and big corporations — and that will have added $8 trillion and $1.7 trillion, respectively, to the debt by the end of the 2023 fiscal year.

All five of these so-called crises have been manufactured by the GOP. They’re entirely made up.

Why? To deflect attention from the near record share of the nation’s income and wealth now going to the richest Americans.

As the super-wealthy and big corporations pour money into politics — especially into the GOP — they don’t want the rest of America to notice they’re rigging the economy for their own benefit, their unrestrained greed is worsening the climate crisis, and they’re also undermining democracy. 

So the game of the Republican Party and their major donors is to deflect and distract — to use scapegoating, racism, and outright lies to disguise what’s really going on. 

Friends, don’t let them get away with it.

Medicare Advantage

Political Cartoon is by Randall Enos at

How To Lessen Crime


Tuesday, May 30, 2023

259 Mass Shootings And 17,394 Gun Deaths This Year


It's Not Inflation That's Causing Grocery Prices To Rise

Republicans would like to blame rising food prices on President Biden, claiming it is due to inflation. But that is wrong. Inflation is not the cause. It's just the cover used by conglomerates to justify the raises that are giving them massive profits. Stacy Mitchell explains this in her New York Times post. Here is a part of that post:

Food Fresh is the only grocery store in a rural stretch of southeastern Georgia. It has many five-star Google reviews touting its freshly butchered meats, tomato bar and friendly service. Yet it faces a threat to its survival that no amount of management skill can overcome. Big retailers like Walmart and Kroger “have a handle on suppliers that I can’t touch,” said Food Fresh’s owner, Michael Gay. The chains wrest deep discounts from suppliers, making it impossible for the store to come close to matching their prices.

To understand why grocery prices are way up, we need to look past the headlines about inflation and reconsider long-held ideas about the benefits of corporate bigness.

Like other independent grocers, Food Fresh buys through large national wholesalers that purchase goods by the truckload, achieving the same volume efficiencies the big chains do. What accounts for the difference in price is not efficiency but raw market power. Major grocery suppliers, including Kraft Heinz, General Mills and Clorox, rely on Walmart for more than 20 percent of their sales. So when Walmart demands special deals, suppliers can’t say no. And as suppliers cut special deals for Walmart and other large chains, they make up for the lost revenue by charging smaller retailers even more, something economists refer to as the water bed effect.

This isn’t competition. It’s big retailers exploiting their financial control over suppliers to hobble smaller competitors. Our failure to put a stop to it has warped our entire food system. It has driven independent grocers out of business and created food deserts. It has spurred consolidation among food processors, which has slashed the share of food dollars going to farmers and created dangerous bottlenecks in the production of meat and other essentials. And in a perverse twist, it has raised food prices for everyone, no matter where you shop.

A level playing field was long a tenet of U.S. antitrust policy. In the 19th century, Congress barred railroads from favoring some shippers over others. It applied this principle to retailing in 1936 with the Robinson-Patman Act, which mandates that suppliers offer the same terms to all retailers. The act allows large retailers to claim discounts based on actual volume efficiencies but blocks them from extracting deals that aren’t also made available to their competitors. For roughly four decades, the Federal Trade Commission vigorously enforced the act. From 1954 to 1965, the agency issued 81 cease-and-desist orders to stop suppliers of milk, tea, oatmeal, candy and other foods from giving preferential prices to the largest grocery chains.

As a result, the grocery retailing sector was enviable by today’s standards. Independent grocery stores flourished, accounting for more than half of food sales in 1958. Supermarket chains like Safeway and Kroger also thrived. This dynamism fed a broad prosperity. Even the smallest towns and poorest neighborhoods could generally count on having a grocery store. And the industry’s diffuse structure ensured that its fruits were widely distributed. Of the nearly nine million people working in retailing overall in the mid-1950s, nearly two million owned or co-owned the store where they worked. There were more Black-owned grocery stores in 1969 than there are today.

Then, amid the economic chaos and inflation of the late 1970s, the law fell into disfavor with regulators, who had come to believe that allowing large retailers to flex more muscle over suppliers would lower consumer prices. For the most part, the law hasn’t been enforced since. As a top Reagan administration official explained in 1981, antitrust was no longer “concerned with fairness to smaller competitors.”

This was a serious miscalculation. Walmart, which seized the opening and soon became notorious for strong-arming suppliersand undercutting local businesses, now captures one in four dollars Americans spend on groceries. Its rise spurred a cascade of supermarket mergers, as other chains sought to match its leverage over suppliers. If the latest of these mergers — Kroger’s bid to buy Albertsons — goes through, just five retailers will control about 55 percent of grocery sales. Food processors in turn sought to counterbalance the retailers by merging. Supermarket aisles may seem to brim with variety, but most of the brands you see are made by just a few conglomerates.

These food giants are now the dominant buyers of crops and livestock. The lack of competition has contributed to the decline in farmers’ share of the consumer grocery dollar, which has fallen by more than half since the 1980s. In the absence of rivals, food conglomerates have over time increasingly been able to raise prices and as a result have reported soaring profits over the past two years. Inflation gives them a cover story, but it’s the lack of competition that allows them to get away with it. Meat prices surged last year among the four companies that control most pork, beef and poultry processing. Companies like PepsiCo and General Mills have also jacked up prices without seeing any loss of sales — a sure sign of uncontested market power.

This has resulted in an ever-worsening cycle: As a system dominated by a few retailers lifts prices across the board — even at Walmart — consumers head to those retailers because of their ability to wrest relatively lower prices or simply because they’re the only options left. Walmart’s share of grocery sales swelled last year as more people flocked to its stores.

Meanwhile, the decline of independent grocers, which disproportionately serve rural small towns and Black and Latinoneighborhoods, has left debilitating gaps in our food system. If Food Fresh were to close, residents of Evans County, where the store is, would have to subsist on the limited range of packaged foods sold at a local dollar store or drive about 25 minutes to reach a Walmart. (Nearly a quarter of Evans County residents live in poverty.) Living without a grocery store nearby imposes a daily hardship on people and could lead to an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and other diet-related illnesses. . . .

We need to stop big retailers from using their enormous financial leverage over suppliers to tilt the playing field. By resurrecting the Robinson-Patman Act, we could begin to put an end to decades of misguided antitrust policy in which regulators abandoned fair competition in favor of ever-greater corporate scale.


 Political Cartoon is by Jen Sorensen at

The Justice System Is Not Good Enough For Death Penalty


Monday, May 29, 2023

We Have To Pay The Ransom That's Been Negotiated


A Deal Was Reached - Now End The Debt Limit For Good!

The useless and stupid debt limit needs to be ended for good. Here is how the editorial board of The Washington Post puts it:

Finally, President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) have reached a deal to avert an embarrassing — and potentially disastrous — U.S. default. It’s hard to view this as a celebratory moment given how close the nation came to being unable to pay its obligations to investors, the military, hospitals and more. But there’s relief that the worst-case scenario has been avoided and that there is still some possibility for bipartisanship in U.S. politics. That is a low bar, but Mr. Biden and Mr. McCarthy cleared it.

The agreement “in principle” still has to pass Congress this week, which is not a given, especially in the House where far-right members are already bashing it. The June 5 deadline for default leaves little room for antics.

 If this passes, the nation won’t face another debt limit crisis until 2025. The basics of the deal appear sensible, and most Americans will probably approve of them.

It imposes spending caps, but they are not onerous, as the cuts in the initial House Republican bill were. After several years of discretionary budget increases, this will force what is essentially a two-year pause at most federal agencies. Unspent coronavirus funds will also be clawed back — a reasonable compromise that this Editorial Board had advocated in recent weeks. The deal avoids the mistake the Obama-Biden White House made in 2011 when it agreed to caps for a decade that slowed the recovery and hampered its ability to do much in its second term.

If any sort of political center still exists in Washington, the tentative deal is about as close as it comes to finding it. Both sides got some of what they wanted: Republicans achieved some cuts, including to Internal Revenue Service funding, and Democrats preserved spending on important domestic programs from the environment to education at about current levels. Even on contentious issues such as tying work requirements to government assistance, Mr. Biden and Mr. McCarthy appear to have taken the least controversial route, which is increasing them for older Americans with no children who receive food stamps.

What should not happen now is for Americans to breathe a sigh of relief and move on. Yes, a last-minute compromise occurred, but a dangerous precedent has been set. House Republicans have now used the debt limit twice to create a hostage-like situation that brings the nation close to an unthinkable default. Expect that a future Republican Congress would be willing to go over the cliff to extract more.

The debt limit itself needs to be scrapped. Enacted in World War I, it was created so Congress would not have to keep approving debt issuances. A century ago, the limit was set high to avoid hitting it. Over time, the debt ceiling took on a different role as a useful check on bipartisan spending largesse. It played a role in the 1990s in pushing lawmakers to reduce the national deficit and enact a balanced budget at the turn of the century. In recent years, as the normal budget process in Congress has broken down, the debt ceiling functioned as one of the few moments of reckoning on the increasingly alarming fiscal outlook.

But this latest deal has shown that this isn’t a substitute for coming up with an actual, forward-looking fiscal strategy. Republicans employ the debt limit to force cuts to nondefense discretionary spending, which is only about 16 percent of total government expenditures. But this slice is not a key driver of the nation’s debt problems. The refusal of either party to tackle rapidly rising Social Security, Medicare and health-care costs — along with Republican’s opposition to any tax increases — means the debt limit isn’t forcing the tough choices that are needed.

Almost no other nation has anything like a debt ceiling because it no longer makes any sense. Congress has already approved the spending that forced the debt to rise; there should be no question, much less the possibility of an economic cataclysm, when the bills come due. Members of both parties have called for an end to the debt limit because it risks too much for the United States — and the entire global financial system, as well as the livelihoods of federal workers, veterans and businesses who need to be paid.

This crisis may pass, but 2025 is coming soon.

Lest We Forget

Political Cartoon is by Christopher Weyant in The Boston Globe.

Why Do The Poor Shun Free Healthcare And Education?


Saturday, May 27, 2023

Republicans Manufactured The Debt Ceiling Crisis


Minimum Wage Is Not Even Close To What's Needed

The charts are from a Gallup Poll -- done between April 3rd and 25th of a nationwide sample of 1,013 adults, with a 4 point margin of error.


Political Cartoon is by Michael deAdder in The Washington Post.

Don't Spend More On Defense - Just Spend Smarter


The following post about defense spending is by the editorial board of The Washington Post. They Are right!

War and peace have one unlikely thing in common: It isn’t hard to write a defense budget for either. Governments at war turn the spigots on; those at peace tend to shut them off. More challenging is drafting a military blueprint in a grayer zone, when U.S. troops are not in combat but requests for military aid from allies are on the rise and threats of an even bigger crisis loom. Washington has provided more than $45 billion in military aid to Ukraine since just before Russia’s invasion; there is little sign of that conflict abating. China, meanwhile, continues to creep toward Taiwan.

But that does not mean the $842 billion President Biden suggested spending on defense next year — up more than one-third from $630 billion in 2015 — should march into law unquestioned. At a time when dollars for all needs are in short supply and the nation’s debt is rising unsustainably, the question cannot be by what percentage the Defense Department’s budget should automatically grow this year. It should be:How do we ensure our military is best prepared for whatever comes?

One obvious answer: by spending smarter.

However the current debt ceiling negotiations conclude, Congress should press the civilians who oversee our military to move more quickly from crewed to uncrewed systems, to speed the shift from surface to subsurface vessels and mine warfare; to hurry investment in cyberdefenses and secure communications; and direct the services to prioritize maintenance and spares over procurement of new systems, which often arrive without the funds for ordnance, upkeep and parts that make them reliably lethal. Significant savings could be realized over the next decade while making the military more nimble and more powerful.

Congress would help matters if it stopped piling on funds for weapons and programs the Pentagon doesn’t want. Each year, lawmakers add somewhere between $15 billion and $60 billion to military budgets the Pentagon did not ask for. The Space Force, for example, received $1.7 billion more in December’s continuing resolution than the Pentagon requested. Featherbedding is so fully entrenched in the annual budget games that 19 Pentagon agencies are required by statute to report to Congress on any “unfunded priorities” they could not get past the Office of Management and Budget on their way to Capitol Hill. Those reports are an invitation for lawmakers to fund them anyway. Over a decade, that unrequested spending could, by itself, top a quarter of a trillion dollars.

Submarines, both conventional and nuclear-armed, are among the country’s greatest technological advantages. The Navy is a generation ahead of other nations below the surface and needs to stay ahead. That means building the Columbia class of nuclear missile subs and doing so in such a way that a related sub deal with Australia can also move forward. But surface shipbuilding priorities, oddly, too often resemble putting cart before horse. The Navy, dreaming of a 355-ship fleet, remains focused on building new vessels instead of maintaining those it already has. The Pentagon is far behind on ship maintenance, in both private and public shipyards; it needs to boost the ability of those facilities to repair more ships and find (or train) workers with the skills to do so. Otherwise, the Navy will continue to cannibalize parts from one ship to keep others afloat, retire vessels before the end of their useful life spans and struggle to support missions overseas because of an inability to keep the ships it already has ready for action.

Nor does it seem wise, in the era of cheap drones and relatively inexpensive missiles, to keep building large surface ships that require crews of thousands of men and women. Instead of buying a fifth Ford-class nuclear-powered carrier, it would be wiser to redirect some of those funds into renovating the undercapitalized shipyards that can keep the 293 ships that Congress has already bought combat-ready. Meanwhile, the service is woefully underinvested in both minesweeping and mine warfare at a time when these uncrewed devices can move, detect, identify and increasingly attack enemy ships on their own — with far less risk to sailors.

The Editorial Board supports an Air Force proposal, made in the interest of speeding weapons into warfighters’ hands, that would allow the Pentagon to reprogram up to $300 million per year without congressional approval. Given that Congress can take a year to approve a Pentagon budget, military planners need the flexibility to buy many items — particularly software — more quickly. But the Air Force has fairly come under questioning (even from some Senate Republicans) for spending so much on short-range fighters at the expense of longer-range strike, tanker and cargo programs. The F-35 Lightning might someday prove that it is worth the $412 billion taxpayers will spend just to build it, but it is not clear what sustaining role the fighter can play over the Taiwan Strait if pilots lack “depth of magazine” — i.e., ample munitions — they’ll need to fight. As one former Pentagon planner put it: We can send 500 fighters to Asia in a few days, but they will run out of ordnance a few days later. The Air Force needs to shift dollars out of expensive airframes and engines and into missiles — and the industrial base that can produce them.

As for the Army, it is enjoying something of a renaissance, as a number of its legacy weapons systems — from armor to artillery to a host of smart and dumb munitions — have taken center stage in Ukraine’s war with Russia. The Reagan-era Patriot missile defense system, for example, has outperformed in the theater, but the battle for control of the skies in Ukraine is a reminder that a more concerted effort by Army planners around air defense — a somewhat neglected mission inside the service — would help our allies in both Europe and Asia. At the same time, command focus on recruiting — and making the work of recruiting an important career move — would bolster the case for having more than 450,000 troops on active duty when a hefty portion of service personnel will never deploy. In general, the services all have too many people in uniform doing jobs that civilians could do. Fixing that mismatch could save nearly $20 billion over 10 years, the Congressional Budget Office estimates.

The Pentagon is launching an overhaul of the nuclear triad — expected to cost a half-trillion dollars or more — that should not be undertaken without fuller consideration of alternative approaches. The Air Force hopes to buy 100 B21 Raider bombers to replace the B2 and B1s; the service should revive plans to pilot some of the new bombers remotely. The Air Force also wants to modernize the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile system, spread in silos across North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. That upgrade could be delayed for a decade with little threat to the nation’s ability to deter or win a nuclear conflict. Some have argued that it would be more pragmatic to convert sub-based Trident missiles for land-based silos than replace the Minuteman with a new generation of Sentinel ICBMs.

Other needs get lost in the push for big-ticket platforms. There is a shortage of predictive analytics that would help commanders anticipate attacks before they occur. The services should prioritize artificial-intelligence-driven systems to create false targets that can confuse enemies into seeing 100 planes, ships or tanks where perhaps only a dozen exist. Soldiers and sailors need more in the way of redundant communication networks and self-healing cyberdefenses to stop the enemy from disrupting command and control. And then there’s the easy stuff: Lawmakers, widely outspoken in their worry about China, have yet to fully fund the Philippine base-sharing arrangement that the Biden administration negotiated with the government of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. Such a move would send a strong signal of joint resolve to Beijing, especially after years of harsh words between Manila and Washington.

For much of the past eight years, Congress has not asked the Pentagon to spend more smartly. It has mostly just asked the Pentagon to spend more. It is time for a more hardheaded approach.