Nel's New Day

May 8, 2014

Is Rick Perry Smarter Wearing Glasses?

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is worried about me. I found that out when he talked on Sunday’s Meet the Press about his “family … the “90 million people that are out of work.” What he doesn’t know, however, is that in April the United States had 9.8 million unemployed people—a horrifying statistic but 80.2 fewer people than Perry cited.

Rick Perry

The Bureau of Labor Services did show 92.6 million people in the U.S. over the age of 15 who were “not in the labor force.” I’m one of those because I retired several years ago. And I don’t plan to look for a job. Perry doesn’t need to worry about me.

I’m in good company: 36 million other people are 65 or older. Another 11 million teenagers, age 16 to 19, are unemployed—not looking for jobs. In the 20- to 24-year-old catgory, 6.8 million people, many of them still in college, aren’t looking for jobs. The rest are stay-at-home parents and/or spouses, early retirees, people who may have inherited money, and anyone else who doesn’t need or want to work.

To be officially “unemployed,” someone without a job had to make an effort to get one within the four weeks before the BLS survey. Right now the unemployment rate is 6.6 percent, evenly divided among those who haven’t looked for employment in the past year and those who have searched for work in the past year but not in the past four weeks.

Of those 9.8 million people, 6 million are actively searching for jobs, and 2.2 million are “marginally attached” to the labor force, those who looked for work within the past year and not the past four weeks. Others are “discouraged workers” who quit looking for jobs because they think there’s nothing available.

Perry leftPerry is also worried because “there are more women out of the workforce now than at any time in our history, that’s just not right.” He’s correct: it’s not right. It’s the lowest rate since 1988, but the women’s labor force participation is almost twice as much as it was in 1948. Just like the overall labor force participation rate, the percentage of working women peaked in early 2000 and declined after that because the country’s population is aging. The decline is expected to continue because of that reason.

If Perry wants to worry, he should consider employment in his home state of Texas. Although he boasted about 95 percent of Texas workers earning above the minimum wage, the state was tied for first with Mississippi in 2010 for the percentage of hourly workers earning at or below the minimum wage. At that time, 9.5 percent of people in Texas earned at or below minimum wage. By 2013, Texas got better, moving to fifth worst among 50 states with the percentage dropping to 6.4. States with higher percentages are Tennessee (7.4 percent), Idaho, Arkansas, and Alabama.

Perry, however, is worried only about the “maximum wage,” not the minimum wage.

The appearance on Meet the Press—and the new glasses—are just part of the governor’s attempt to reinvent himself for the 2016 election after the gaffes of 2012. He’s been on Jimmy Kimmel, traveled out of the country, and appealed to the Conservative Political Action Conference. He even spent some time at MSNBC with Joe Scarborough.

The “oops” times of cuddling a bottle of maple syrup in Vermont and the inability to remember three items—a traditional check for Alzheimers—might disappear if he had figured out how many people in the country are unemployed. That’s not likely to happen with comedians like Jon Stewart tracking such moments like the ones on last night’s The Daily Show. About Perry’s transition to a wiser man, Rob Stutzman, a California-based Republican consultant, said, “The margin for error is small. He needs to outperform those perceptions immediately and dramatically or he looks like the same guy in ’12.”  Last night he did.

His current problems may not be as serious as those for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who closed an important bridge and failed to spend a large percentage of funds for Superstorm Sandy after over a year, but he’s still being investigated by a grand jury. He wanted to unseat Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg and thought that he could succeed after her arrest for drunk driving. She refused to quit, and, as punishment, he vetoed $7.5 million in state funding for the public-integrity unit that traces fraud and corruption.

The Texas GOP has put the dismantling of the Public Integrity Unit into its platform for over three decades. One of its cases was the criminal case against former Rep. Tom DeLay for money laundering to hide corporate donations to state GOP candidates. Getting rid of Lehmberg would also mean that Perry could have named her replacement.

Lehmberg’s office was investigating the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute, a pet project of Perry’s, when he decided that she had to go. Eighteen scientists, including the Nobel laureate director, had resigned in protest from the multibillion-dollar agency, claiming that investment decisions were made without scientific review with tens of millions of dollars going to Perry supporters and donors for their business ventures. A pending case concerns the indictment of an agency executive for an improperly awarded $11 million grant.

Prosecutors only need to show that Perry offered considerations in return for actions by District Attorney Lehmberg for him to be determined guilty of breaking a state law. A Travis County judge said that Lehmberg was told that funding would be restored, even after the veto, if she resigned. Grand jurors could easily see this behavior as bribery or coercion. Last year Texans for Public Justice filed a complaint for alleged abuse of power. That grand jury’s term expired, and a new one has been seated.

Technically, a guilty charge would put Perry in a worse position than Christie because obstructing justice is determined worse than blocking a thoroughfare. Unless, of course, the federal government discovers that Christie offered favors in exchange for Superstorm Sandy funds.

perry 1

Perry’s latest move is to pay Toyota $40 million to move from California to Texas. That’s $10,000 for each job, the highest rate of corporate welfare in a decade. The last time Texas was in fiscal trouble, Perry used billions of dollars in federal money for a bailout. His refusal to take Medicaid, however, stops him from using that solution again.

Humorist Andy Borowitz wrote, “With an eye toward a Presidential run in 2016, Rick Perry, the Texas governor, is hoping that a two-pronged strategy of wearing glasses and not speaking will make him appear smarter to voters.” Perry forgot the second suggestion.

Decisions for both Christie and Perry may decide the fate of Jeb Bush. With them out of the way, the GOP might be forced to consider a third Bush for a presidential candidate.  But then Rick Perry can stop worry about me.

August 28, 2013

Where Is the ‘Dream’?

Fifty years ago today, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I have a dream” speech at the March on Washington. Congress passed the Civil Rights Act passed the year after King’s speech and followed that with the Voting Rights Act. The United States, however, has failed to address the March’s goals for economic opportunity and equality, ten demands in civil rights legislation, public school desegregation, voting rights, job training, and an increased minimum wage.

  • Congressional comprehensive and effective civil rights legislation without compromise or filibuster-to guarantee all Americans access to all public accommodations, decent housing, adequate and integrated education, and the right to vote.
  • Withholding of federal funds from all programs in which discrimination exists.
  • Desegregation of all school districts in 1963.
  • Enforcement of the fourteenth Amendment, reducing Congressional representation of states where citizens are disfranchised.
  • A new Executive Order banning discrimination in all housing supported by federal funds.
  • Authority for the Attorney General to institute injunctive suits when any constitutional right is violated.
  • A massive federal program to train and place all unemployed workers–Negro and white–on meaningful and dignified jobs at decent wages.
  • A national minimum wage act that· will give all Americans a decent standard of living.
  • A broadened Fair Labor Standards Act to include all areas of employment which are presently excluded.
  • A federal Fair Employment Practices Act barring discrimination by federal, state, and municipal governments, and by employers, contractors, employment agencies, and trade unions.

During the 15 years after the 1963 March on Washington, conditions for blacks in the United States vastly improved, and legislation benefitted other groups—women, poor whites, other communities of color, people with disabilities, and senior citizens. Poverty rates dropped along with improvement in education, employment, and democratic participation. Congress and the president worked together to solve national problems.

Yet in two cases during the 1970s, the Supreme Court limited mandatory school-desegregation plans and declared that education is not a fundamental right. After that SCOTUS put limits on the ability of school districts to voluntarily create integration plans. Other decisions have put barriers in the way of people to take violations of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to court.

Ronald Reagan’s election as president in 1980 saw the growth of the Heritage Foundation, created after Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) lost the 1964 election to Lyndon B. Johnson, and Reagan moved Goldwater’s supporters into federal agencies and onto federal benches. The Federalist Society grew, creating a network of conservative lawyers who provided legal arguments to defeat social justice. Conservative media outlets like Fox News began to use their falsehoods to influence less knowledgeable people.

Fox contributor Laura Ingraham displayed a prime example of conservative media when she culminated her hateful responses to the anniversary of the March on Washington with a clip of the speech given 50 years ago by civil rights pioneer Rep. John Lewis (R-GA) and interrupted the speech with the sound of a gunshot and then long silence.  Following a commercial break, conservative columnist Pat Buchanan claimed that Lewis, Rev. Al Sharpton and other speakers at Saturday’s event were “part of a great racket.” He said, “What will these folks do, quite frankly, if they had to get up and admit we’ve got more opportunities than any large group of black folks anywhere on Earth today and our community is not making the most of it?”

Fifty years later, partisan divides gridlock the federal government, the GOP is setting back efforts to help the poor, unemployment and the need for jobs are elevated, and union-busting has caused loss of income for everyone except the U.S. elite.

Fifty years later people still carry signs asking for “Voting Rights,” “Jobs for All,” and “Decent Housing.” People still protest the vigilante killing of an unarmed black teenager in the South and his killer’s acquittal. People still denounce racial profiling in the country’s largest city.

Voting: Seven Southern states passed or implemented voter suppression laws in the two months since the Supreme Court gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act. This decision followed a general election in which blacks waited twice as long to vote, on average, as whites. One in 13 blacks (2.2 million people) cannot vote because of felon disenfranchisement laws—four times higher than the rest of the population.

Jobs: Although the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission began functioning two years after the March, employers still prefer white workers, according to Algernon Austin, director of the Economic Policy Institute’s Program on Race, Ethnicity and the Economy. The unemployment rate for blacks (12.6 percent) is almost twice as that for whites (6.6 percent), about the same ratio as in 1963. The average household income for blacks ($32,068) is far below that of white families ($54,620) and declined by 15 percent from 2000 to 2010.

Job Training: The $38.6 billion in 2013 dollars budgeted in 1978 shrank to $8 billion in 2013 dollars by 2007. Congress consistently fails to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, the nation’s largest job-training program, for the past 15 years. Legislation also excludes important methods to improve services such as developing skilled workers through education and training.

School Desegregation:  Because of housing patterns, schools are segregated at the same rates as the late 1960s, according to Andrew Rotherham, co-founder of the education think tank Bellwether Education Partners. Three-fourths of all black students attend schools that are majority nonwhite.

Minimum Wage:  The value of the current minimum wage is below that in 1964, yet conservatives ridicule fast-food workers who have joined to fight for decent wages. At the time of the 1963 March, the minimum wage of $1.25 was equivalent to $9.25 today–$2 higher than the current minimum of $7.25. March organizers demanded $2 per hour, in today’s dollars more than $14.80, but by the time the minimum was raised to that level 11 years after the March, inflation had eaten up any advantage. ALEC, the corporate-controlled organization that hands out bills to GOP legislators, opposes any increase in minimum wages, calls for a full repeal of minimum wages, and works to prevent local efforts to enact living wage requirements. Meanwhile, fast-food and other low-wage workers are striking against low pay in Chicago, New York City, Detroit, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Kansas City, Seattle, Los Angeles, Raleigh, Atlanta, Houston, and Oakland.

Justice: While conservatives fight to load the bench with judges opposed to equal rights, the number of judicial vacancies has grown to emergency levels. There are not enough judges to hear cases on the country’s dockets.

Racism: Although all restaurants must now serve blacks, a group of 25 blacks were told to leave the Wild Wing Café in South Carolina after peacefully waiting for two hours to be seated. One white patron felt “threatened. This is just one of millions of racist acts in the U.S.

At last weekend’s rally at the Lincoln Memorial, the main themes were the same as 50 years ago—voter suppression, “stand your ground” laws, stop-and-frisk, and the question of jobs and union-busting. Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of the slain civil rights activist Medgar Evers, talked about the “stand your ground” laws. She said, “We can think of ‘standing your ground’ in the negative. But I ask you today to flip that coin. Stand your ground in terms of fighting for justice and equality!”  One poster showed a picture of Rosa Parks who stood her ground by refusing to give up her seat on a bus.

Before he was killed in on April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr., had these comments about the Republican party. The GOP hasn’t changed since that time.

The 1964 Republican National Convention: “The Republican Party geared its appeal and program to racism, reaction, and extremism.”

Sen. Barry Goldwater (GOP 1964 presidential candidate):  “While not himself a racist, Mr. Goldwater articulated a philosophy which gave aid and comfort to the racist. His candidacy and philosophy would serve as an umbrella under which extremists of all stripes would stand.”

Ronald Reagan: “When a Hollywood performer, lacking distinction even as an actor can become a leading war hawk candidate for the Presidency, only the irrationalities induced by a war psychosis can explain such a melancholy turn of events.”

The March on Washington was about jobs and freedom, and Congress is avoiding any discussion about both. The country needs to fight back against those who refuse to recognize the importance of economic equality and who define freedom as “freedom to oppress others.”

August 7, 2013

Liberal Media Would Publish This News

Conservatives moan about the liberal media and praise the lying Fox Network for giving them the facts. Daily Kos has published 15 items that a truly liberal media would publish, news that is not made public in mainstream media.

Off shoring, sometimes called outsourcing is the reason for unemployment instead of the conservative claim of laziness. U.S. multinational corporations have increased employment overseas by 2.4 million while cutting 2.9 million jobs in the United States, and they account for only about 20 percent of the labor force.

In 2010, 20% of the people held approximately 88% of the net worth in the U.S., and the bottom 80 percent of the people held only 12 percent of net worth. The top 1% alone held 35% of all net worth. The bottom 80 percent has lost one-third of its net worth since 1983. The following chart illustrates the great discrepancy in net worth within the country.

if land mass were divided

One group controlled by corporate organizations drafts conservative laws and then distributes them to legislatures. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is responsible for the nation’s laws of stand your ground, voter ID, right to work without rights, school privatizing, health savings account bills to benefit health care companies, tobacco industry legislation, and more. ALEC is meeting in Chicago this weekend to hand legislation to lawmakers before they go back into session.

The U. S. has the most people in prison of any country in the world. This nation has 5 percent of the world’s population but incarcerates 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. 2.3 criminals. China has four times the number of people with 1.6 million people in prison.  Crime rate declined by 25 percent in the U.S. between 1988 to 2008 while the number of prisoners rose from 350,000 in 1972 to 2.3 prisoners.

incarcerated_americans_zpsb7c891bd

In 2009, non-Hispanic blacks, while only 13.6% of the population, accounted for 39.4% of the total prison and jail population. In 2011, according to FBI statistics, whites accounted for 69.2% of arrests. This is in a supposedly “post-racial” time.

U.S. health care costs are the highest in the world at $8,233. Norway is second with $5,388. The U.S. total amount of GDP spent on health care is also the highest of any country in the world at 17.6 percent. The next closest country is the Netherlands at 12%. Conservatives claim that a competitive market will bring prices down, but obviously it doesn’t.

The Glass-Steagall Act separated risky financial investments from government backed deposits for 66 years after the crash of the market in 1929 . Banks could not take your federally insured savings to make risky investments. The law’s repeal in 1999  allowed commercial banks, investment banks, securities firms, and insurance companies to consolidate with no conflict of interest from anyone. The loss of Glass-Steagall led to the recession in 2008 and continues to cause financial problems for everyone except corporations and the wealthiest people. And it’s only getting worse.

Since the 1980s, the bank deregulation has grown into a legal scam as they purchase commodities such as aluminum, oil, wheat, cotton and coffee as well as oil pipelines, ports, and energy distributors and drive up prices. For example, oil speculation may account for one-third of the price of a barrel of oil, costing $10 for each fill-up at the pump.

With the overwhelming conservative takeover of many states in the 2010 election, Republicans were able to redraw national congressional districts to rig the election of a majority of GOP members of the House. In the districts across the nation, Democrats gained more than 1.4 million votes than Republicans, yet the GOP has control of the House with a majority of 234 to 201 seats. Redistricting won’t happen again until 2020 after the census, leaving the GOP to probably control the House until the people they represent understand that they are not benefited by their Republican representatives. [photo]

gerrymandering

The filibuster has been used a record number of time since Obama was elected President. From 2008-2012, 375 bills weren’t even allowed to come to a vote in the Senate because Republicans threatened the filibuster. Far more were probably not even introduced because of the filibuster threat. In the first six months of 2013, Congress has passed only 15 bills that were signed into law, eight fewer than in the first 6 months of 2012 and 19 fewer than 2011. Until the Democrats in the Senate threatened to reform the filibuster, the GOP held up 79 of President Obama’s nominees for the U.S. Circuit Court and Courts of Appeal regardless of qualifications.

Corporations now have excessive control over elections because of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United. In a 2011 poll, only 22 percent of people had heard of this ruling until they took the survey. Although 77 percent of the people think that corporations have more control over the political process than people, they don’t know why.

The Southern Strategy, exploiting ethnic prejudice, gained its popularity and name from President Richard Nixon’s campaign strategist, Kevin Philips. His position was to get blacks to register as Democrats in the South so that the whites would move to the Republican party. By 1908, the percentage of minorities was so high, however, that Republicans had to create punitive voting laws. In addition, the GOP attacked Medicaid, Social Security, labor unions, and Obamacare–programs which, though they benefit more white seniors, retirees, women, and children, have been sold to many Americans as handouts to lazy, undeserving blacks and minorities. As H.R. Haldeman’s diary quoted Nixon:

“P [President] emphasized that you have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to.”

U.S. tax cuts primarily benefit the wealthy. A progressive tax program is designed to tax people very little as they are starting out and progressively increase their rates as they do better. Republican plans shift the tax burden from the wealthy onto working people. For example, the Ohio GOP repealed the estate tax for the portion of estates over $338,000. Other states such as North Carolina want to transfer from income taxes to consumption taxes that increase the percentage of taxes paid by the poorest people. Capital gain taxes are only 20 percent instead of the rate of other income which is closer to 35 percent.

Colony collapse disorder caused the loss of 40-50 percent of commercial U.S. bee hives. Although most people care little about this loss, one-fourth of our food depends on honeybee pollination. In Texas, though, the media address bees in this fashion: “Thousands of Bees Attack Texas Couple, Kill Horses.”

The number of temporary workers has grown by more than 50 percent since the recession ended to nearly 2.7 million. Temporary workers comprise 12 percent of the workforce, 17 million workers. About one-third of these are in manufacturing. Because they get lower pay, fewer benefits, and extremely limited job security, they spend less freely and fail to boost the economy. Economists think that this is a long-term trend.

Six corporations–Time Warner, Disney, News Corporation, Viacom, Comcast, and CBS–control roughly 90% of the media in the U.S. Watch for the stories following the hook of “if it bleeds, it leads”—such as the man who used a SUV to run over people at the Venice beach in California. Or the attention to the Fort Hood trial as the shooter acts as his own lawyer and questions witnesses. Also the way that the media reports what politicians say but don’t bother to fact-check the statements.

One that is missing from the above list is the GOP’s refusal to increase the minimum wage, not even to match what it was over 40 years ago. The following map shows how many hours of minimum wage work are required to just rent an apartment.

hours needed apartment

What’s missing is reporting about population growth, political lobbying, government’s role, military expenditures, rape on campuses, privatization of prisons and schools, gun violence, nuclear energy—the list goes on and on.

October 13, 2012

Good News for President Obama

While Mitt Romney and other Republicans find it vital to point out the fallacies of President Obama’s policies and actions, the conservatives determinedly ignore the way that the current administration is bringing the country out of the disasters that George W. Bush and the other neocons brought onto the United States. Here’s a sampling:

U.S. consumer sentiment rose up from 78.3 to 83.1 this month, its highest in five years, shortly after the U.S. unemployment rate tumbled to its lowest in nearly four years.

During George W. Bush’s rule, the stock market crashed, and trillions of dollars of private wealth were erased with the market bottoming out at 6,547 in early 2009. Now the stocks have rebounded to almost twice that, closing out last week at 13,329.

A boom in oil production within the United States has the country on a course to cut its reliance on imported crude oil to about 42 percent this year, the lowest level in two decades. Republicans claim that the president’s energy policies drive up the prices because of shortages and regulations, but the reason behind inflated prices is speculation. The CEO of Exxon-Mobil, Rex Tillerson, told a Senate hearing last year that this speculation was driving up the price of a barrel of oil by as much as 40%.

For a while Mitt Romney was using the “are you better off than you were four years ago” question to put down what President Obama has accomplished during his term. Here are some differences

When the economy was in a tail spin in early 2009, the auto industry was on pace to sell 9.3 vehicles that year. Now, GM is coming back, Chrysler is solid, and Ford Motors is on a roll; September car sales in the U.S. reached a 14.88-million annual pace.

By the end of the first quarter of 2009, $16 trillion in home equity had been erased through bad bank methods. Now, home prices are heading up, and home equity has rebounded more than $11.5 trillion.

By February 2008, ten days after the current president took his oath of office, the unemployment had shot up from 5 percent the year before to 8.3 percent. In less than nine months, the unemployment rate topped out at 10 percent. Now the unemployment rate is 7.8 percent, still high but consistently declining.

Compare the current unemployment situation to that of President Reagan, patron saint of the conservatives. Ten days before he took office, the unemployment rate was 7.4 percent; nineteen months later it peaked at 10.8 percent in November 1982. By the time, Reagan started his second term, it had fallen to 7.3 percent, just 0.1 percent of recovery in four years. That’s only 20 percent of what the current president has managed in less time.

Obama inherited a deficit of nearly $1.3 trillion from Bush/Cheney the moment he took the oath of office, a deficit that he has dropped $200 billion this year, the smallest deficit in four years, despite the Republican policies that drive the deficit.

Although the conservatives refuse to admit that the 2009 stimulus benefited the country, “facts matter,” to quote VP Joe Biden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although the Romney campaign constantly likes about how much the government has spent during the past four years, it is actually the Republican presidents that spend far more. As the chart shows, only Bill Clinton spent less during the last half century.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The above chart also shows how unemployment claims grew during the last part of George W. Bush’s rule, only to start shrinking after President Obama’s inauguration.

When Bill Clinton left office in 2001, the nation had a large surplus and was on track to pay off the entirety of its debt, roughly $5 trillion at the time, by the end of the decade. After their election, Bush/Cheney went on a binge, charging the costs of two wars, two tax cuts, Medicare expansion, and a Wall Street bailout with no idea of how to pay for them except to accuse the next Democratic president of having an enormous deficit. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) described the Bush/Cheney era as a time when the GOP decided “it was standard practice not to pay for things.”

It’s against this backdrop that the Romney-Ryan ticket intends to pass trillions in additional tax cuts, increase defense spending, increase entitlement spending, and destroy health care reform, a move that would add hundreds of billions of dollars to the debt. Once again the Republicans want to further bankrupt the United States.

In fact, Ryan has already contributed a grand total of $6.8 trillion to the federal debt during his time in Congress, voting for at least 65 bills that either reduced revenue or increased spending. It’s horrifying to imagine what he would do if he were give more control than he has had as one person out of 435 representatives in the House.

Aside: William Koch is facing a federal lawsuit for allegedly and illegally imprisoning and interrogating an employee. Kirby Martenson, a former executive for a number of Koch subsidiary companies, claims that he was fired, imprisoned, and interrogated for an excessive amount of time at the Old West ghost town replica that Koch built recently. Check out the entire story here.

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