Sunday Cartoon Blogging – November 14, 2021

The weekend got off to a good start with Bannon indicted and Britany freed. But the final outcome at COP26 is the big news. The final agreement was announced on Saturday. It calls for reductions in coal and fossil fuel use and a transition to renewables. Those are all firsts in the more than 25-year history of UN climate talks.

Still, countries like Saudi Arabia or China were resistant; so the wording had to be significantly watered down. Wednesday’s draft mentioned phasing out coal, but Saturday’s speaks only of accelerating “efforts towards the phase-out of unabated coal power”.

What seems to have happened is a lot of speechifying, including Boris Johnson sounding a lot like Greta Thunberg. But not much happened in terms of concrete political action.

There is some good news: a net-zero pledge from India, a commitment from the US and China to work together, and a toothless but significant global agreement to reduce methane emissions.

One thing that is easy to overlook is that there were no climate deniers among the countries represented at COP26, a first. But a preliminary analysis of the agreement published by Carbon Brief suggests that, all told, the agreements coming out of COP26 may shave only 0.1 degree Celsius off of future warming.

The disconnect between rhetoric and reality has several possible explanations, but Occam’s Razor suggests it can be explained best in three words: Talk is cheap.

As Wrongo has said, not all the climate change news is bad: the probabilities of the worst-case scenarios seem to be falling a bit. The flip side of this is that, at present, the probability of the best-case scenario (holding global warming to 1.5 degrees C. above the pre-industrial baseline) also seems to be fading, and all of the medium-range outcomes look pretty terrible. On to cartoons.

Climate warriors won’t fight:

Infrastructure Week finally arrives:

Not everyone is enthusiastic about Infrastructure week:

GOP is unfriending the infrastructure-positive Republicans:

Ted Cruz is one of the smarmiest politicians ever, so it isn’t a surprise that he tried to score political points by going after Sesame Street’s Big Bird, who tweeted that he had gotten his COVID-19 vaccine. “My wing is feeling a little sore,” he said, “but it’ll give my body an extra protective boost that keeps me and others healthy.” It was a nice thing to tell children now that they can get the vaccine. Cruz didn’t see it as nice, nor did the Right-wing blowhards on Fox News and Newsmax. They were livid about Big Bird’s message:

Republicans turn back the clock:

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Saturday Soother – November 13, 2021

The Daily Escape:

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, UT – November 2021 photo by Byron Jones

This week’s Veteran’s Day apparently isn’t finished with Wrongo just yet. It’s important to remember that when the US war in Afghanistan ended in August after nearly 20 years, there were both hard and soft costs that had been paid, and much that remains to be paid.

The Pentagon reports the hard costs of our Afghanistan adventure to be $825 billion. However, the “Costs of War” project at Brown University estimates those costs at $2.313 trillion. But it gets worse: They estimate the costs of all US post-9/11 war spending at $8 trillion, including future obligations for veterans’ care and the cost of borrowing on the associated federal debt for roughly 30 years. They also estimate the human costs of the “global war on terror” at 900,000 deaths.

Those are all truly staggering numbers.

And Congress is now considering next fiscal year’s military budget. Defense One is covering this so you don’t have to. They’re saying that the proposed 2022 defense budget will be another bipartisan effort by the old-timers in the House and Senate to add more money than was asked for into the pot. And it’s part of a long history of hiding flimsy arguments behind dramatic rhetoric: (parenthesis by Wrongo)

“This year, both the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) and House Armed Services Committee (HASC) have displayed a similar unwillingness to distinguish between needs and wants in their versions of the National Defense Authorization Act, which recommend adding $25 billion and $24 billion, respectively, to President Biden’s recommended $715 billion Pentagon budget.”

More:

“It is difficult to imagine how either the SASC or HASC could convincingly demonstrate the necessity of such military spending increases when none of the most urgent crises facing the United States today have military solutions. Furthermore, the credibility of both the Pentagon and Congress on this subject is, to put it mildly, underwhelming: one has an extensive history of budgetary boondoggles, and the other is openly cozy with the U.S. arms industry.”

Defense One says that the most frustrating aspect isn’t the exorbitant amounts, but the lack of any substantive strategic justification for the increased spending by either Chamber. In specific, Defense One argues that  there’s been no effort to demonstrate that the Senate’s billions are funding needs instead of simply political wants.

Remember this is from Defense One, a stalwart defender of America’s military.

We shouldn’t assume legislators think carefully about the public’s interest when crafting the defense budget. Over the years, the defense budget process is driven partly by what the administration and the Pentagon ask for, and by what the defense industry wants for its bottom line. (Full disclosure, Wrongo holds a significant number of shares in a large defense contracting firm.)

US military spending in 2020 was $778 billion. The next closest nation was China, at $252 billion. In third place was India at $72.9 billion. Another perspective is to compare what we spent to fight in Vietnam to the costs of our Apollo moon landing. Apollo 11 got to the moon in July of 1969. That feat cost the US about $25.8 billion.

During the same era, it’s estimated that the Vietnam War cost the US $141 billion over 14 years. That means that we spent about as much in two years in Vietnam as we spent on the entire space race!

When we think about accountability for the costs of the Pentagon, we should remember that the Pentagon has never passed an outside expense audit. Waste is endemic; and the Pentagon simply fabricates numbers, but receives nearly zero pushback from Congress.

There’s so much corruption in the halls of Congress that we will never know how little we could spend on defense. Maybe we should just make some deep cuts to the defense budget and force real strategic decision-making down their throats.

Enough! It’s Saturday, and we need to take a break from trying to figure out whether Steve Bannon or Kyle Rittenhouse will ever go to jail. It’s time for our Saturday Soother.

With a soaking rain in Connecticut today, we’re limited to indoor sports. Most of our fall clean-up is still ahead, but today, let’s grab a seat by the window and listen to pianist Max Richter’s “Mercy” with Richter on piano and Mari Samuelsen on violin. Richter originally wrote the piece 10 years ago for violinist Hillary Hahn. For Richter, “Mercy” places the need for mercy and compassion firmly within our view:

 

 

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Veterans Day, 2021

The Daily Escape:

Sands of Remembrance” sand sculpture, Normandy, FR – made for D-Day, 2004 via

Wrongo’s service occurred during the Vietnam War. His father was a WWII veteran. His grandfather, a WWI vet. Wrongo salutes all who have served!

Although we’re out of Afghanistan, there are still too many remote places around the world where America’s military are serving. While few Americans (less than 1%) have served, we all carry scars from our two decades-long mistaken adventure in the Middle East. For some, it is poorer roads, bridges, and airports. For others, it’s a huge budget deficit that won’t be paid off, even by our grandchildren’s children.

On this day, Wrongo urges you to watch “American Veteran”, a PBS series in four parts. It traces the veteran experience across our history. It also explores today’s divide between civilian and veteran communities. From the viewpoint of this veteran, it rings true. It’s a deeply moving story, one that draws civilian viewers into an unfamiliar culture. You can stream the first episode here.

We shouldn’t forget that America is home to nearly 18 million military veterans, from the “Greatest Generation” to those who participated in our end game in Afghanistan. Despite Wrongo’s antipathy towards our wars in the Middle East, he celebrates that America’s military is part of our country’s founding story. And military service is a transformative experience for all who have served.

One veteran, Max Cleland, lost both legs and an arm to a grenade outside of Khe Sanh during the Vietnam War. He went on to be a US Senator from Georgia. Cleland died on Tuesday at his home in Atlanta. Cleland was treated badly by Republicans when he ran for a second term in 2012. He was the target of an awful 30-second television spot that showed images of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein while implying that Cleland was soft on terror.

Cleland’s opponent, Saxby Chambliss, who was then a Republican House member, had avoided any military service. When Cleland lost the election to Chambliss, it helped the Republicans retake control of the Senate. The ad was perceived as having made a difference.

Max Cleland in 2009, in an interview with ABC News quoted a line from the poem, “The Young Dead Soldiers Do Not Speak,” by Archibald MacLeish, in which the dead address the living:

“We leave you our deaths: give them their meaning.”

Said Cleland, the former Secretary of Veterans Affairs:

“It is really up to us, the living…to provide that meaning for those who have given their all for this country.”

And we still shirk these responsibilities today. It’s always been the Democrats who have made the most effort to support the VA both in policy and funding. That doesn’t mean that most veterans are Democrats. It is probable that the majority of enlisted and commissioned armed forces veterans remain Republicans.

It’s a paradox: when the Republican Party is in control, it makes a poor effort to support veterans, but they’re typically the ones sending our troops off to war.

Here’s a moving song in honor of veterans everywhere, regardless of Party. Watch “Bring Him Home” from the play, Les Misérables. While not strictly about veterans, the song packs a wallop. Here, its performed to stunning effect by Alfie Boe and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir:

Sample Lyric:

He is young
He’s afraid
Let him rest
Heaven blessed.
Bring him home
Bring him home
Bring him home

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Expanding The Dem’s Voter Base

The Daily Escape:

Artist’s Point, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, AZ-UT – October photo by Alan Seltzer

Ruy Teixeira explains the political (and messaging) dilemma facing Democrats in 2021:

“A recent Gallup release confirmed that Democrats now have about as many liberals in the party as moderates or conservatives. That liberalism has been mostly driven by increasing liberalism among white Democrats which has spiked upward 20 points since the early 2000s. White Democrats are now a solidly liberal constituency. Not so black and Hispanic Democrats who are overwhelmingly moderate or conservative.”

The contrast is particularly striking among Whites who are college graduates and working class (non-college) nonwhites. The Gallup data show that two-thirds of White college grads are liberal while 70% of Black working class and two-thirds of Hispanic working class Democrats are moderate or conservative.

This takes on additional relevance because in 2020, 63% of voters did not have college degrees, and 74% of voters came from households making less than $100,000 a year. This should make it painfully obvious that, if issues and rhetoric that appeal mostly to college-educated White liberals are promoted, Democrats could see serious attrition among Democrat working class nonwhites who dislike those issues and rhetoric.

It’s hard to build a majority if you’re focused on a minority of the electorate. The internal conflict between Democrats, displayed by the Gallup poll mentioned above by Teixeira, pits the Party’s progressives against its moderates, its college-educated against its working class.

Like the modern Democrats, the Whigs cobbled together their party in the late 1830s out of an assortment of constituencies, many of whom had little in common. The Whig Party was formed to counter President Andrew Jackson and the Jacksonian Democrats. They were one of the two major political parties in the US from the late 1830s through the early 1850s and managed to elect two presidents: William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor.

By the mid-1850s, the Whigs were divided by the issue of slavery, particularly as the country had to decide whether new states would be admitted as slave or non-slave states. The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 overturned the Missouri Compromise and allowed each territory to decide for itself whether it would be a slave or free state. Anti-slavery Whigs then spun off to found the Republican Party in 1854.

Is the modern Democratic Party on the precipice of becoming the new Whigs? The Whigs were a coalition of bankers, lawyers, and the Eastern mercantile class. In the South, Whigs worked to put a moral face on slavery. This allowed the Whigs to cultivate political distance from what was becoming a party of southern Democrats happy to extend slavery in new states, and a northern base of what we call “blue collar” (white) workers.

The Whigs couldn’t continue bridging the ideological distance between the Northern industrial states section of the party and the Southern agribusiness/slavery Whigs. Faced with this dilemma, the party broke apart.

If the Democrats are to remain one Party, a new poll by Jacobin, YouGov, and the Center for Working-Class Politics offers a perspective on how to win among working-class voters. They found that:

  • Candidates who prioritized bread-and-butter issues (jobs, health care, the economy), and presented them in plainspoken, universalist rhetoric, performed significantly better than those who had other priorities or used other language. That preference was even more pronounced in rural and small-town areas, where Democrats have struggled in recent years.
  • Candidates who named elites as a major cause of America’s problems, invoked anger at the status quo, and celebrated the working class were well received among working-class voters.
  • Potential Democratic working-class voters did not shy away from candidates who strongly opposed racism. But candidates who framed that opposition in identity-focused language fared significantly worse than candidates who embraced either populist or mainstream language.

The survey proposed multiple sound bites spoken by potential candidates to survey respondents to rank. The most popular sound bite was the “progressive populist” one:

“This country belongs to all of us, not just the super-rich. But for years, politicians in Washington have turned their backs on people who work for a living. We need tough leaders who won’t give in to the millionaires and the lobbyists, but will fight for good jobs, good wages, and guaranteed health care for every single American.”

This has implications for the 2022 mid-terms. Keep Trump off the table unless, by some miracle, the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attempted coup refers charges to the DOJ and the DOJ acts on it. Another key finding was that those surveyed felt Democrats run too far left on certain priorities:

This is also key for building Democrats’ messaging in 2022. You can read the full report here.

Democrats need to think about what it will take to do two things simultaneously: How to stay together as a Party, and how to retain majorities in the House and Senate.

It won’t be simple, but everything depends on it.

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Dems Must Persuade the Persuadable

The Daily Escape:

Sunrise, Jensen Beach, FL – November 2021 photo by Patrice Ostradick

More about the Dem’s messaging problem. The latest jobs report showed that we added more than 530,000 new jobs in October. And the DOL also revised its estimates for September and August, confirming an additional 235,000 positions were created.

That’s 766,000 jobs we didn’t know about until last Friday.

The news sent the Dow Jones upward (again). It ended at another all-time high, 36,327. Since Biden was elected last year, the market is up 40%. That’s $14 trillion in new wealth that has landed in quite a few pockets. But the media still covered a Biden administration in disarray. From Eric Boehlert:

“…on Friday, news consumers visiting WashingtonPost.com had to scroll down past 75 different stories and links before they found the first mention of the blockbuster jobs report…..at the top of the Post site Friday afternoon was a column about how the White House is having trouble spreading good news about the economy.”

Again, the media going all “gotcha” on Biden. And it’s having an impact on his poll numbers, which took another dive in a USA Today poll over the weekend that shows Republicans holding a lead on the 2022 Congressional ballot. It found that Biden lost support among the Independent voters who delivered his margin of victory over Trump one year ago:

  • 46% said Biden has done a worse job as president than they expected, including 16% of those who voted for him. Independents, by 7-1 (44%-6%), say he’s done worse, not better, than they expected.
  • 64% said they didn’t want Biden to run for a second term in 2024. That includes 28% of Democrats.

Democrats need to understand their peril. The NYT’s front-page story, “Americans Are Flush With Cash and Jobs. They Also Think the Economy Is Awful” shows their dilemma. The economy is by all accounts on fire, but consumers and voters think it’s floundering. You might question just who is flush with cash, but the negative views of the economy seem to be tied to the effects that rising prices and shortages have on families. Regardless of the exact causes, after decades where the lack of jobs drove economic sentiment, inflation now appears to be a force driving opinion about the economy.

Prices for many consumer goods are rising, and as we said yesterday, it’s impossible to win elections by telling voters that their concerns are imaginary. From Bloomberg (paywalled):

“It’s not all negativity: A record-high 74% of respondents told Gallup in October that this is a good time to find a quality job, and 65% told AP-NORC pollsters that their personal financial situation was good. The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index rose in October and, while lower than before the pandemic, is higher than at any time between 2001 and 2017.”

The reality is that consumer prices have risen faster over the past six months than at any time since the early 1980s. And there’s increasing evidence of a partisan bias in consumer sentiment, with most people judging the economy more favorably when the person they voted for is president.

Remember that the USA Today poll says 64% think Biden shouldn’t run in 2024. Maybe some of today’s economic pessimism has to do with people downgrading their view of Biden’s competence after the surge in the Delta variant that killed so many, while our messy withdrawal from Afghanistan was seen by many as humiliating.

The Democrats’ conundrum is how to respond both to the economic concerns and the cultural attacks. They can’t win by simply pointing to their actual policies on specific issues. They must respond to the attacks on “wrong way for the country” by honing a message that works for the persuadable Independents. We live in a 40-40-20 country in which 40% percent are hard-wired for either Party, and 20% are swing voters, who are primarily located in the suburbs. They largely control the outcome of elections.

Democrats need to study the art of persuasion. The Right is driven by nostalgia: they want to go back to a “simpler time”. The Left is motivated by change, to ensure rights for all, whether that’s healthcare or fair wages. if Democrats want to win against the highly organized right-wing media ecosystem, they must find a series of messages to persuade Independents.

We need a tune for Tuesday. Here’s Willy Nile with something brand new, “The Justice Bell” a tribute to John Lewis, from his August 2021 album, “The Day The Earth Stood Still”:

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Monday Wake Up Call – Messaging Edition, November 8, 2021

The Daily Escape:

Catskill Mountains and Hudson River from Rhinebeck, NY – October photo by hikingfordonuts

Wrongo on Sunday pointed out that polling shows that only 30% of Americans think the US is on the right track, despite tons of good economic news. The poll was by NBC just before the November elections. It showed that 70% thought the US is moving in the wrong direction. It also showed Biden’s job performance approval rating at 42%, a sharp drop from 49% in August and 53 % in April.

In addition to the great jobs report, the record stock market, and a booming economy, in less than a year, Biden has withdrawn forces from Afghanistan and passed a substantial Infrastructure Bill. These are two Trump priorities that he couldn’t accomplish during his four-year administration.

The Infrastructure Bill is an unambiguous case in which Biden succeeded where Trump failed. You may think that the Afghanistan exit was messy, but both Biden and Trump were on that same page, and now, we’re out with minimal casualties.

So, what’s the disconnect between Biden’s performance and perception of his performance? It’s that Democrats have a huge messaging problem. Don Draper suggested that when you don’t like what’s being said, you should change the conversation.

From Diane Feldman: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“Most people want to feel safe in their communities, have health care when they need it, and have the opportunity for economic advancement for themselves and their children. Wanting those things is not very divisive along political lines nor by race, class, or gender….Voters are more likely to trust someone who articulates the goals and connects the policies to them than someone who argues the details of a particular policy or spending level. While there are differences between Democratic progressives and moderates on policy, most voters really don’t engage with those.”

It’s questionable if the Democrats could have pushed an upbeat, optimistic message in the election while they were also insisting that America urgently needed funding for social policies. That contradiction may be worth them exploring in more depth.

Virginia’s governor-elect Youngkin demonstrated that Republicans who use identity politics without embracing Trump’s extremist rhetoric can be highly competitive, including in solidly Blue states like New Jersey. And it’s worrying that Dems seem to believe that Youngkin was an extremist posing as a suburban dad (he is), who MSNBC’s Joy Reid said incited “white backlash” by exploiting “fake” and “imaginary” fears about the teaching of “critical race theory” (CRT) in public schools.

But that doesn’t explain the inroads Youngkin made in Blue suburbs. Voters usually consider education to be an important issue. They tend to trust Democrats to handle it better than Republicans. But, according to one Virginia poll the week before the election, Youngkin led McAuliffe by 3% among likely voters, but by 15% among K–12 parents.

So, like it or not, parental views about CRT and local control of public education were a real thing to Virginia voters.

Democrats must develop a plan for how they can avoid further political losses when Republicans across the country emulate Youngkin’s strategy. Here’s The Atlantic’s Yascha Mounk: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“For anybody who cares about making sure that Donald Trump does not become the 47th president of the United States, it is crucial that Democrats avoid repeating the mistakes that just put a Republican in Virginia’s governor’s mansion. It is impossible to win elections by telling voters that their concerns are imaginary. If Democrats keep doing so, they will keep losing.”

Democrats are led by a group of geriatrics who no longer are able to communicate. They have no real social media skills or traditional cable media machine (MSNBC isn’t the answer) to create messaging that resonates. Sadly, the traditional media is biased against them. If you doubt that, read the sub-headlines on Saturday’s front page of the NYT:

For the NYT, a Democrat win isn’t really a win. Democrats need to be crafting winning narratives. The only way that will happen is through ongoing, targeted, year-round campaigns. Not simply more speeches by geriatrics from behind podiums.

There are Democrats and Democrat-leaning voters out there. But in Red areas, they are demoralized and are sometimes hiding in plain sight. They think they are alone. Democrats have to show these demoralized Americans they are not alone, assuming the Party expects them to turn out and challenge the looming conservative majority.

Time for Democrats to wake up! Unless the messaging changes, the endgame is that Democratic voters will continue to sort into the most populated states, and Republicans will gain a permanent supermajority in the Senate. If current trends continue, in 2040 half of the US population will live in eight states.

To help them wake up, listen to Gil Scott-Heron’s “Pieces of a Man” from his 1974 album “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”:

Sample Lyric:

I saw my daddy greet the mailman
And I heard the mailman say
“Now don’t you take this letter to heart now, Jimmy
‘Cause they’ve laid off nine others today”
But he didn’t know what he was saying
He could hardly understand
That he was only talking to Pieces of a man

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – November 7, 2021

A few start-of-the-week thoughts. First, compare and contrast: The result of New Jersey’s election for governor must be “legal and fair” no matter the outcome, Republican candidate Jack Ciattarelli said in his first comments after the AP declared incumbent Democrat Phil Murphy the election’s winner. BTW, Ciattarelli hasn’t conceded the election. Republicans say NJ’s Murphy won in a squeaker, an almost illegitimate (and certainly embarrassing) margin of 77,000 votes.

OTOH in Virginia, Republican Glenn Youngkin won a landslide victory by 79,000 votes. Terry McAuliffe the Democrat in the Virginia race, conceded. And Youngkin’s 17 year-old son was reported to have tried to vote twice for his dad. That’s a problem since he’s underage. And attempting to break the law twice, well, that’s just youthful exuberance.

Republicans are all about election integrity. It must be nice to not care about hypocrisy or inconsistency. Maybe that’s what Republicans mean when they say they are defending freedom — it’s the freedom to have no principles.

Second, the economy: The Dow is over 36,000, unemployment has dropped from 6.3% in Jan. to 4.8% today. Over 5.6 million jobs have been added, that’s more jobs added under Biden in 9 months than in the 16 years of the last three GOP administrations combined. We’ve managed to give 220 million shots of Covid vaccine in 10 months. But only 30% of Americans think the US is on the right track. Democrats have a huge messaging problem. On to cartoons.

NOW they don’t see a problem:

Will Dems get the message?

The message didn’t work for those nice Aryan people:

Kids ask questions. Answers are simple:

The GOP hits keep coming…

2006: Gay people will force you to gay marry
2010: Muslims will make you conform to Sharia law
2016: Bad brown people are coming in caravans to kill you
2020: Socialism is coming. It will give everyone healthcare, not just the elderly
2021: Teachers will teach white kids to hate themselves if they learn about Emmitt Till

Biden deals with two climate crises:

Republican wet dream:

 

 

 

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Saturday Soother – November 6, 2021

The Daily Escape:

Bear Canyon, Tucson AZ – October photo by Carla Mitchell

Way back in 2020 (remember 2020?), Democrats campaigned on raising taxes on the rich. It’s still something that polls show a majority of Americans want. But House Dems are now proposing to raise the state and local tax (SALT) deduction, rather than eliminate it. The SALT tax limitation was one of the few responsible measures in the GOP’s 2017 tax-cut bill since it raised revenue mostly from wealthy people.

Wrongo lives in a state where the federal limitation of $10k on SALT taxes leaves him paying additional federal taxes. But most Americans are not impacted by the current limit on SALT deductions. Increasing it would primarily benefit America’s high income earners plus some middle class urban and suburban homeowners.

The WaPo was unhappy with the Dems new proposal:

“House Democrats released Wednesday a new draft of their big social spending and climate bill — tucked inside of which was a massive new payoff to wealthy people. The Democrats’ bill is supposed to make the nation fairer and more competitive. This cynical, wasteful policy should have no place in it.”

A handful of Democrats from Blue states say they will oppose Biden’s major social spending bill if it fails to include SALT cap “relief.” Once again, the fault lines within the Democratic Party are visible. Pelosi is in a bind. Refuse the demands for repeal of the SALT cap, and Dems won’t have the votes to pass either Biden’s big bill or the infrastructure bill. And since they already have a problem finding new revenue to offset the costs of their programs, so this will make that job a little harder. More from WaPo:

“Under the House plan, the amount of state and local taxes people can deduct would rise from $10,000 to $72,500. This gives high-income people a $23,000 tax break. The Tax Foundation, a think tank, estimates that 70% of the tax change would flow to the people making $250,000 or more. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget reckons that the plan would cost $300 billion, which would make it the third-most costly item in the bill — far more than it would devote to major anti-poverty programs.”

No one who owes $72,500 in state and local taxes is middle-income, but the SALT deduction does help many in the middle class, at least in the Blue states. Since most Blue states are also high tax states, not having a limitation literally saves $ thousands in taxes for some in the middle class. It had been that way for decades until the GOP capped it in 2017 and gave that money to the rich by lowering their taxes.

Finally capping the SALT hurts the resale possibilities for some otherwise modest homes in high tax areas. They’re not going to appeal to a purchaser when the mortgage payment is about the same as the tax payment every month. When a new buyer can’t completely deduct all of their property tax and local income taxes, it can make even a modest home look like a bad financial decision.

Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) unveiled an alternative plan that would keep the SALT cap, but exempt people who make less than $400,000 per year. That seems like a good idea. The House can repeal the SALT cap for those earning under $400,000 bringing it in line with the rest of Biden’s tax plan. This would help some in the middle class, although passing the Biden tax reform is still necessary.

It’s Saturday, and therefore, time for us to put away our concerns about what happened in Virginia or whether Manchin is simply a time-waster. And let’s calm ourselves as we kick off the weekend. It’s time for our Saturday Soother.

Here in CT, it was 29° Friday morning, making it three mornings of frost in a row. Our snowblower is coming back from the repair shop, and most plants are beginning their winter dormancy. At the Mansion of Wrong, we’ve finished repairs to our bluestone walkway.

With a cold, clear weekend on tap, we all should bundle up and sit in a comfy chair by a window. Today, let’s start with a hot steaming cup of Toasted Coconut coffee ($18.99/12oz) from BD Provisions in New Milford CT.

And after another tough week, let’s watch and listen to Sting perform “If It’s Love” from his 2021 album “The Bridge.” This song will put you in a good mood. And the dancers are wonderful. Watch it!

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Democrats Fail

The Daily Escape:

Black Oak trees in Shastice Park, CA with Mount Shasta in background – October 2021 photo via Northern California Hiking Trails

Every political writer thinks that Tuesday’s elections reinforced their preconceived view of what the Democratic Party needs. The Dems spilled gallons of metaphorical blood by blindly walking into a political propeller on Election Day.

Wrongo wants to add his two cents to the story, so he turns to a Republican for perspective. Charlie Sykes says:

“The Republican Party — populated with cranks, crooks, clowns, bigots and deranged conspiracy theorists — has spent five years alienating women, minorities and young voters….So, now, Democrats need to ask themselves this rather urgent question: Why can’t we beat these guys?

A few words about the Virginia gubernatorial election, won by Republican Glenn Youngkin. All the talk about white suburban women being the new Democratic Party base isn’t true in Virginia. A year ago, Joe Biden won Virginia by 10 points. Four years ago, Democrat Ralph Northan won the governorship by nine. Last night, Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic former governor, lost it by two points.

Youngkin won because he convinced enough Joe Biden voters to switch sides. The Virginia suburbs have a large college-educated population. These voters moved strongly to the Democrats both times Trump ran. This time, Youngkin won enough of them without sacrificing votes from Trump’s base.

Terry McAuliffe is a terrible candidate. He walks into the room dragging the whiff of campaigns by both Clintons, but without any of Bill Clinton’s charm or political skill. McAuliffe tried to nationalize a local campaign, trying to run against Trump instead of Youngkin. Youngkin, by contrast, made a point of sticking strictly to in-state issues. Youngkin also came across as the nicer guy.

Youngkin had been the co-CEO of the Carlyle Group, a huge private equity firm with deep DC political ties. If this had been a real campaign, McAuliffe would have attacked Youngkin as a capitalist who wouldn’t do a thing for the middle class. But since McAuliffe is an investor in a Carlyle fund, he didn’t.

Welcome to today’s Democrats!

The Democratic Party’s basic issue is that it’s out of touch with average people. As an example, we’re in a time of growing pro-labor sentiment, but the leadership of the Democratic Party says little to the working class. The switch has been flipped. Now many Democrats are rich, and blue collar workers are Republicans. Getting them back will take years, if ever.

Also, each time the Democrats have a victory based in political change, they move back to the center, alienating those to whom they gave hope. So why should that part of their base continue to show up and vote?

American politics is polarized by cultural issues. Outside of marginal economic questions, Democrats have taken the big economic issues off the table. They’re at a disadvantage, because Republican cultural issues have broader appeal, while the Democrat cultural issues appeal to mostly the college-educated, who are a minority of voters. That means whenever Dems get in power, they can’t really change the policies that the monied and corporate classes want.

Wrongo thinks that it was good that the Dems lost in Virginia. Virginia, now led by Republicans, will also try to pass the same social warrior cultural programs as other Red states. The meanness and tone-deafness of those programs will horrify suburban Virginians. And they will swing back in 2024.

Still, senior national Democratic leadership needs an overhaul. They’re old and incompetent. How difficult is it to establish whether bringing in the big guns for a local election is going to be positive or negative for a campaign? The power of money in elections means that the first priority for any race is a candidate with the ability to raise money. This is why we see McAuliffe a second time, and not someone better.

That’s corruption, as Elizabeth Warren defined it in 2020.  Add the callous way Democrats react:

  • They speak of the opposition as stupid, or brain-dead. As deplorables, or as clinging to their guns and religion.
  • Their radicalization of wedge issues like “Defund the Police”, or Supreme Court Packing reveal them to be intellectually lazy.

McAuliffe said about angry parents attending school board meetings:  “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” That lost him the election because Dems never came up with a counter message.

The Republican’s success with defining control of education as a wedge issue could turn out to be a winning message in 2022.

When a Party won’t pick charismatic candidates and can’t focus on the issues that people are crying out for them to answer, voters react to both the poor messaging and leadership by going back to slogans, grievances, sports-like dynamics, and elevating trivial issues.

In other words, the Virginia campaign.

Democrats must shake up their leadership if they are to re-take the now-lost inroads they made in suburban (and female) Republican voters in 2020. They’ll need to talk in simple terms.

They’re not telling the story of how white working parents need food stamps to supplement their income. They’re not telling the story of how a family in rural America sends their kids to a school that can’t teach them how to use a computer.

There’s work to be done.

Schumer and Pelosi should report to HR for their new assignments.

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Can Our Democracy Survive Trumpism?

The Daily Escape:

Bishop Creek, Eastern Sierras, CA – October 2021 photo by Scott McReynolds

CNN’s Brian Stelter asked on Sunday:

“We know what Trump will do….So what will the rest of us do?”

He’s talking about the continuing slow rolling coup inspired by the Big Lie, that’s rolling across America. Stelter presented a scenario about how Trumpism might dim our democracy between now and 2024. His perspective as a media reporter informs his view about how FOX news is reacting to the competition from OAN (One America News). He says that FOX is now simply feeding red meat to its viewers rather than reporting the news.

The result? Paranoia deepens, and Trump’s Big Lie becomes gospel to Republicans. External reality retreats into the background for the Red Hats. More from Stelter:

“There’s a clear difference between the people who pay for news…and want to know what is true, versus people who pay for views….of what they want to be true…”

Wrongo has been banging on about the state of journalism for the last few days, and not sorry, we’re doing it again.

After the attempted coup on Jan. 6, the prospect of political violence threatening a peaceful transfer of power has become a reality that America must face before it’s too late. Trumpists are dreaming publicly of violence, while a new poll by PRRI (margin of error of 2.1%), shows some scary data:

  • 67% of all Americans disagree that the election was stolen.
  • But 68% of Republicans overall, and 82% of respondents who trust Fox News more than any other news outlet, say they believe the 2020 election was stolen from Trump.
  • That figure climbs to 97% for those who trust OAN and Newsmax more than any other news outlet.
  • 18% of all Americans think resorting to violence may be necessary to save the nation. PRRI’s question was: “Because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.”
  • The scary part is that 30% of Republicans agreed, while just 11% of Democrats agreed.

Stelter’s apocalypse scenario is that by 2024:

“Neighbors turn on neighbors….Normally easygoing local elections turn into existential battles….Threats of violence become real violence….while MAGA-media apps, broadcasters, and commentators justify stomping all over the Constitution as an attempt to save it.”

Let’s emphasize that this is a worst-case scenario. Stelter says “We know it could happen because it has all happened before. Almost everything I have described has already happened in one form or another.”

More from the PRRI survey:

  • 80% of Republicans said America is in danger of losing its culture and identity. Of the far-right television viewers, 98% agreed with this sentiment.
  • 56% of Republicans said things have changed so much in America that they often feel like a stranger in their own country.  61% of Fox News viewers and 78% of Newsmax types agreed with this statement.

When you’ve been around as long as Wrongo you remember the 1980s, when Reagan Republicans aspired to be the Party of hope and opportunity.  They’re now the Party of blood and soil.

Much of this is made clear in the reporting by the WaPo and by others about the planning that led up to Jan. 6, and the efforts to spread the Big Lie after the attempted coup. The WaPo calls what happened in the aftermath a period of “Contagion” as Republican efforts to undermine the 2020 election began immediately after the Capitol attack. Since then:

  • Nearly a third of the 390 GOP candidates around the country who have expressed interest in running for statewide office this cycle have publicly supported a partisan audit of the 2020 vote, downplayed the Jan. 6 attack, or directly questioned Biden’s victory.
  • Election officials in at least 17 states have collectively received hundreds of threats to their personal safety or their lives since Jan. 6, with a concentration in the six states where Trump has focused his attacks on the election results.

The full PRRI survey shows that for many Republicans the culture war is front and center, and for a significant minority, it’s close to being a literal war, not just a metaphorical one. They share a vision that Democrats won’t rest until there’s a taco truck on every corner, and a drag queen story hour in every library, and so they’re ready to fight.

The Trumpist Republicans have no interest in staving off political apocalypse. They’re interested in making it happen. We’ll see over the next few years whether the will of those who cherish democracy will prevail over those who reject facts and the rule of law.

We’re going to find out soon which group’s will to survive is stronger.

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