Democratic Presidents have the Advantage over Republicans when it comes to Economic Growth

You can read about it here or here, but the graphs (via Vox.com) tell you all you really need to know .

Start with this one on GDP since the second Truman Administration.

Democratic GDP Dominance

Democratic Presidents following Republican Presidents presided over stronger growth in every instance except Reagan’s second term compared to Carter’s term. But if you average Reagan’s two terms and compare it to Carter’s one, it’s close to a tie. Obama’s first term was far superior to Bush’s second and, by all current indicators, his second term will be much better than Bush’s first term in spite of Republican obstructionism.

What’s really interesting is this graph (via The Atlantic).

Democratic Economic Indicator Dominance

Democrats have led in every category for the past 70 years. Coincidence? I don’t think so. And just think how much better our economy would be doing now if Republicans hadn’t been kneecapping Obama and the Democrats every step of the way for the past six years.

Based on what the Republican’s and their phony policy wonk Paul Ryan have been peddling as their economic solution for the past six years, if a Republican were somehow to be elected in 2016, the economy would surely suffer if they were able to implement their plans to cut taxes for the rich and corporations and to drastically cut entitlement programs and repeal Obamacare.

So come this November and then again in November 2016, do the right thing: Vote for Democrats. It’s good for the economy and it’s good for you.

Rep Paul Ryan’s plan for poor Americans deserves a raspberry.

Over at Vox.com, Ezra Klein has written a trenchant analysis of GOP Rep. Paul Ryan’s “plan” to address poverty in America. While giving Ryan credit for some good ideas such as expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit and sentencing reform, Klein, not unexpectedly, identifies several serious problems.

Let’s start with the inconvenient fact that Ryan’s own budget plans don’t fit with his poverty proposals

Ryan’s budgets and his poverty plan aren’t merely different. They’re flatly contradictory. They cannot be implemented in the same universe at the same time. His budget, for instance, cuts deep into the funding stream that powers the Earned Income Tax Credit. His poverty plan sharply increases spending on the Earned Income Tax Credit. His budget cuts deep into food stamps and other income-support programs. His poverty plan holds their spending constant.

So what’s going on? As Klein states, the centerpiece is to combine 11 poverty programs, including food aid, into a block grant to the states, the “Opportunity Grant”. However as he and Bob Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, whom he quotes, explain

One of the 11 programs included in the Opportunity Grant is not like the others: food stamps, which is structured as an entitlement program, and so responds to rises in need automatically.

“It’s really important right now that if there’s a recession and you lose your job and need food stamps you can get them,” says Greenstein. “You are immediately eligible. You’re not on a waiting list.” Ryan’s Opportunity Grant would end the role food stamps play as an automatic stabilizer during recessions.

Ryan is working off of the welfare reform model here: this is more or less what the federal government did to the welfare program (or TANF) in 1996. But that just goes to prove the point: welfare’s role as an automatic stabilizer has been gutted by the reforms. The welfare reforms were successful at cutting welfare rolls — not at making welfare better at helping the poor, particularly during recessions.

This graph from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities tells the tale. When welfare reform passed, during a boom economy, the program was helping 68 out of every 100 families with children in poverty. Thirteen years later, during the deepest recession since the Great Depression, it was helping fewer than 30 of every 100 families with children in poverty.

And of course, if food aid loses its entitlement status it can be more easily cut

Ryan’s poverty plan can be seen either as an effort to move the Republican Party forward on poverty or as a Trojan Horse-like effort to achieve his budget’s goals by other means. “The food stamp block grant proposal in his last budget had $135 billion in cuts,” says Greenstein “It was dead on arrival. If the strategy in this plan is to remove the program’s entitlement status, convert it to block grants and, over the decades, let the funding erode — well, that is a much cleverer and more sophisticated strategy to get to the same goal.”

And there is little doubt that less money overall will be spent on the poor

“When you make a block grant this broad and sweeping to states it is virtually inevitable some of the block grant dollars will replace current state dollars,” says Greenstein, “and so the total amount of money going to poor people goes down. It’s not that you’re directly using the federal dollars for a highway or a tax cut. You use the federal dollars for services to poor people. But maybe for every $3 states take from food stamps and put into services, they reduce state funding for those services by $1 and take that dollar and use it somewhere else in the budget.

“This is not hypothetical. It happened on a large scale in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grant. And it’s well known that it’s almost impossible to stop this from happening. People thought about it in the TANF block grant. They wrote into the law maintenance-of-effort clauses to try to prevent it. And they weren’t effective. It’s just almost impossible to stop.”

Furthermore, Ryan’s faith in states to do better by the poor is hardly validated by experience, as we see from the refusal of 24 primarily GOP-led states to accept the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

The heart of Ryan’s plan is essentially to wash the federal government’s hands of America’s poor and leave it to states, whose own records of effective management of poverty programs are uneven at best. In so doing, he opens the door to future pernicious cuts in programs to help the poorest Americans.

Ryan’s poverty plan, like his budget, deserves a big, fat raspberry.

Has Richard Sherman Statuized Michael Crabtree?

Most sports fans know of the term “posterized”. Michael Jordan made the word common language by posing as the oppressor in memorable shots of his tenacious dunks over other star NBA players.

Jordan posterizes EwingOther players in other sports have posterized their opponents in great shots of dominating play. Richard Sherman did it to Michael Crabtree in last season’s NFC Championship Game in Seattle.

Sherman NFC Championship Tip sm

Great poster! Ah… but now there is a group of Seahawk fans who want to immortalize the image in the form of a statue at Century Link Field.

A group of fans is putting together an online project, promising ‘the biggest fan driven project in Seahawks history.’

According to supporters, the goal of the secret project is to build a statue outside Century Link Field.

The website, buildthetip.com, suggests a bronze statue will immortalize the moment when Richard Sherman tipped a pass in the NFC Championship game, intended for 49ers WR Michael Crabtree. The tip and ensuing interception by Malcolm Smith sealed the Hawks’ chances for Super Bowl XLVIII.

Organizers are holding off on confirming plans for a statue and funding details until Monday.

I’ve heard that their announcement will provide more details about the statue and requests for donations to fund its creation. That’s great, but I think the fans give enough already (Zippy and I have anyway – tickets, expensive beer, parking, food, expensive beer, swag, did I mention expensive beer?). The first person they should contact about funding for the Sherman statue is Seahawk owner Paul Allen. I know he can afford it, and it won’t cut into is beer budget at all.

I hope Richard Sherman’s “statuization” of mediocre Michael Crabtree happens either way though.

Let your kids eat some dirt today. It’s good for their immune system.

Too many people are too concerned about ultimate sanitization. They carry around anti-bacterial soaps, hand-sanitizer lotions, and towelettes. They are over-sensitive about getting anything dirty on their fingers… Sure there are some things everybody should be careful about like raw meats known to carry diseases like salmonella, but a little dirt here and there? A gnat landing on your sliced cantaloupe or sandwich or in your beer? You’ll be okay.

Eat some dirt. It’s more likely to make you healthier than make you sick.

In studies of what is called the hygiene hypothesis, researchers are concluding that organisms like the millions of bacteria, viruses and especially worms that enter the body along with “dirt” spur the development of a healthy immune system. Several continuing studies suggest that worms may help to redirect an immune system that has gone awry and resulted in autoimmune disorders, allergies and asthma.

“What a child is doing when he puts things in his mouth is allowing his immune response to explore his environment,” Mary Ruebush, a microbiology and immunology instructor, wrote in her new book, “Why Dirt Is Good” (Kaplan). “Not only does this allow for ‘practice’ of immune responses, which will be necessary for protection, but it also plays a critical role in teaching the immature immune response what is best ignored.”

Dr. Ruebush the “Why Dirt Is Good” author, deplores the current fetish for the hundreds of antibacterial products that convey a false sense of security and may actually foster the development of antibiotic-resistant, disease-causing bacteria. Plain soap and water are all that are needed to become clean, she noted.

Worms? Big ick factor there. You don’t have to seek out worms to eat, but if you accidentally ingest some larvae, it’s most likely the harmless kind.

And you kids? Don’t freak out if they eat something with dirty hands. They’re gonna be okay – maybe even help prevent them from getting allergies.

It’s possible you’ve heard of the “hygiene hypothesis,” which is the speculation that the reason Americans have so many allergies is because we are, quite simply, too clean. Kids are kept in such sterile environments that they never build immunities to common allergens.

A significant amount of research has shown that kids who grow up living on farms with livestock, or with a pet are less likely to develop asthma or allergies. Prior research has also suggested that it’s not necessarily dust that provides a protective benefit, but the microbes that are in our guts that influence our immune system and ability to fight off infections.

So go to the beach or the park, grill some food, don’t freak out if whatever your grilling accidentally gets a little dirt on it, and don’t yell at kids that grab some chips with dirty hands.

You’ll all survive and you all might be a little stronger because of it.

What’s the Matter with Kansas? It has a Brownback

As in Republican Governor Sam Brownback.

From The Washington Post:

In many ways, Brownback’s term has been a perfect experiment in Republican governance. Take a crusading conservative governor, give him a legislature with Republican super-majorities so he can do pretty much whatever he wants, and let him implement the right’s wish list. The result was supposed to be a nirvana of economic growth and budgetary stability. But the opposite happened.

The disastrous results of Brownback’s economic and fiscal policies demonstrate that it’s one thing for your average Republican to go around saying things like “cutting taxes raises revenue!” even if nearly every economist agrees that the idea is absurd (Greg Mankiw, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under George W. Bush, famously called the purveyors of this idea “charlatans and cranks”).

In 2012 and 2013, Brownback and Republicans in the legislature cut income taxes twice, eliminated taxes on corporate profits that are “passed through” to individuals (making it the only state that does this), and since they’re Republicans, made changes to the tax code that had the effect of raising taxes on the poor (the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has a good explanation of the tax changes and their effects). The governor has said his goal is to eventually eliminate the income tax completely.

And what happened? At a time when most states are seeing higher revenues as the country recovers economically, Kansas’ revenues have plummeted. The result has been cuts to schools, cuts to higher education, cuts to libraries, and cuts to local health centers. Kansas’ job growth and income growth are lagging the nation’s.

Here’s a graph prepared by mn progressive project based on data from the Kansas Legislative Research Department:

Conservative Economic Failure

This experiment in conservative economic policy proves that their phony doubletalk about how tax cuts for the rich generate more tax revenue and makes everyone richer has always been a ruse to funnel money from the masses into the offshore accounts of the super rich. We already knew that, but now “moderate” Republicans who drank the Kool-Aid aren’t drinking it anymore. They are supporting the Democratic candidate for governor.

A moderate GOP uprising is in full swing against Gov. Sam Brownback, the fierce fiscal and social conservative whose policies led to a purge of middle-of-the-road Republicans from the Legislature early in his tenure.

In a rare and surprising act of political defiance on Tuesday, more than 100 Republicans, including current and former officeholders, endorsed Brownback’s opponent, statehouse Democratic leader Paul Davis. Polls show the challenger with a surprisingly strong shot at taking out Brownback in November.

Let’s hope Kansans have learned their lesson and vote for their interests instead of the interests of the 1%.

Greetings from Ballard SeafoodFest

Where you can buy ceramic coffee mugs.

Ballard SeafoodFest coffee mugs

And play bocce ball on Astro Turf laid down over gravel in an empty lot across the street from Bastille Café and Bar.

bocce ball lot at SeafoodFest

And fill up on fried oysters.

seafoodfest fried oysters

Before heading to the beer garden, which is really what SeafoodFest is all about now. Ballard has ten local brewpubs within about a one-mile radius. They were all featured in the lineup of around 50 beers on tap and, if you were lucky to be in the right line, you were served by a Sonic-jersey-wearing, sunburned Viking.

seafoodfest viking bartender

And listen to the local music of The Flavr Blue.

Flavr Blue at SeafoodFest

Greetings from Lincoln Park in West Seattle

Where geese incubate eggs.

Lincoln Park Geese

Where today the tide was very low.

Lincoln Park Low Tide

Where today Colman Pool hosted a swim meet.

Colman Pool

And a from where a few miles north and around a corner to the east you will find Alki Beach.

Alki Beach Low Tide

Excellent day for a long bike ride in Seattle. 30 miles from Ballard to West Seattle and back.

All photos taken with a Sony NEX-5. They are 50% resolution so I could get them down to a size I can upload to this site. Click on the photos to embiggen.

Child Support in Washington State when Custody is Split Evenly

Trying to look up the reasoning behind Washington State’s child support laws is really frustrating. For one thing, 90% of the information out there is for women looking for enforcement of a support order. Another thing is that 50% of the information directed toward men is vitriolic, sometimes misogynistic, bullshit from angry men spouting off about “the oppression of men” or it’s greedy lawyers eager to take those guys’ money from them.

But the biggest problem is the lack of definitions of terms used throughout the law. Custodial parent, for example. When custody is shared, there is no custodial parent. Obligor and obligee, terms used to define which parent owes and which parent receives, are left undefined, as though it’s supposed to be obvious. And, most frustratingly, the supplied definitions seem to be circular. The obligee is the custodial parent. The custodial parent is the one who receives support. The parent who receives child support is the obligee.

Washington state has what is referred to as the “standard calculation” for calculating support. But there’s no accounting for neither parent having majority custody. So if my children’s mother and I divorced and she only had every other weekend with the kids but we had equal income, the law weirdly offers no guidance on who should pay child support or how much.

The “basic obligation” for how much it costs to support the kids is based on combined income. Then that’s split based on the ratio of one parent’s income to the other’s. Each parent is responsible for their share of that basic obligation. Seems logical.

But here’s where it gets weird. The parent with higher income is vaguely assumed to be the “non-custodial” parent, meaning the lower income parent is assumed to be paying 100% of the basic obligation as part of their day-to-day care for the kids. The parent who earns less is assumed to be the “custodial” parent. I can only guess the logic is that traditionally women take the kids, women earn less, and the state needs to ensure that men are held responsible for their kids’ welfare even after divorce when the man is no longer involved.

So if you fill out the calculator on the state child support website with the mother having full custody of the kids, full responsibility for their day-to-day care, but she makes more money than the dad, the differential between each parent’s support obligation makes it look as though she has to pay him. Granted it’s discretionary, so the judge gets to hear arguments and can deviate from the standard calculation at her discretion.

But in a case where one parent makes 49% of the combined income of both parents, the standard calculation assumes the lower wage earner is the custodial parent and is 100% responsible for basic support as calculated by the state. So then that amount is spilt, assuming the “custodial parent,” as defined in the previous sentence, is already paying their part and the higher wage earner must reimburse the other for their own share. Even when custody is 50/50.

This is insane. There is simply no guidance from law or legal precedence that would allow an amicable divorce settlement to proceed with a legally defined child support payment. When you are eager to support your kids and you have full joint custody, the child support laws look at you as though you just beamed down from the Enterprise. Intent: let’s keep irresponsible people responsible. Practice: let’s keep responsible people from working things out between themselves.

Now that I understand what happens in court and the consequences of how we handled it, my ability to find this information is improved. I know what I should have done now, but without hiring a lawyer for what was supposed to be a simple, uncontested divorce with no custody, property, debt, or abuse issues, I can’t imagine how I should have known how to complete the child support stuff. It’s seriously difficult! There are no legal guidelines for split custody. It’s all left to the judge’s discretion. 

How are you supposed to prepare for divorce when some aspects, especially something as possibly contentious as child support, is totally up to the inner workings of the mind of the person who signs your divorce decree?

So that was two months ago. The paperwork is filed, the support order is official, and I’m paying $800 more than I should be. We met with a lawyer today. Turns out we should be splitting the “basic obligation” as laid out in the “standard calculation” more evenly. My portion is about $800 less than our original support order. She’s agreed to submit an amended support order that takes our split custody agreement into account. What a relief! 

Finding out what your child support obligation is shouldn’t be so difficult! And the assumption shouldn’t be that the dad is the “obligor” while the mother is the “obligee.” The damned form asks you about your custody arrangement, but doesn’t take it into account at all. 

It’s like they took assumptions from the 50s and applied them to a digital form with no further changes or even guidance. What a frustrating system.

Anyway, here is the final calculation I discovered after all of this. I hope it can help someone else trying to walk themselves through a divorce without letting it turn into a horrific mess.

This parent That parent Totals
Net monthly income

$4,000.00

$6,000.00

$10,000.00

This + that.
Proportion

40%

60%

This divided by this plus that. That divided by this plus that.
Obligation using standard calculation 

$800.00

$1,320.00

$2,200.00

The parent with majority residential time receives the full amount of the other’s obligation. Assumes one parent has a at least 65% residential custody.
Current Transfer

$1,200.00

$(1200.00)

Current net

$5,200.00

$4,800.00

Net proportion after transfer

52%

48%

Obligation considering split residential custody

$800.00

$1,200.00

$2,000.00

Each parent is responsible for their proportionate amount of the support obligation. Considers that residential custody is split equally.
Adjusted transfer

$200.00

$(200.00)

$0.00

Equitable split of basic support obligation. Half of the total obligation minus the proportional obligation
Adjusted net

$4,200.00

$5,800.00

Net proportion after adjusted transfer

42%

58%

The Coathangers Tour – coming to Seattle

The Coathangers (my most recent favorite band ever are touring. 

Here’s their schedule, from their Facebook post at https://www.facebook.com/TheCoathangersATL?fref=photo:

TOUR STARTS AGAIN IN 2 WEEKS
THE COATHANGERS
THU JUL 24 – New Orleans LA, Siberia
FRI JUL 25 – Houston TX, Fitzgerald’s
SAT JUL 26 – Austin TX, Red 7
SUN JUL 27 – Dallas TX, Club Dada
MON JUL 28 – San Antonio TX, Ten Eleven
WED JUL 30 – Albuquerque NM, Sisters
THU JUL 31 – Tucson AZ, 191 Warehouse w/ Ceremony and Nothing
FRI AUG 1 – San Diego CA, Soda Bar
SAT AUG 2 – Santa Ana CA, Burger a-Go-Go @ The Observatory
WED AUG 6 – Los Angeles CA, The Echo
SUN AUG 10 – Santa Rosa CA, House show
MON AUG 11 – Santa Cruz CA, Don Quixote’s
TUE AUG 12 – San Francisco CA, Rickshaw Stop
WED AUG 13 – Reno NV, Holland Project
THU AUG 14 – Portland OR, Doug Fir
FRI AUG 15 – Vancouver BC, Cobalt
SAT AUG 16 – Seattle WA, Pizza Fest @ The Highline
MON AUG 18 – Salt Lake City UT, Urban Lounge
TUE AUG 19 – Denver CO, Larimer Lounge
WED AUG 20 – Kansas City MO, Czar Bar
THU AUG 21 – St. Louis MO, Firebird
SAT AUG 23 – Chattanooga TN, JJ’s Bohemia
FRI SEP 5 – Lafayette GA, Meltasia Music Festival

So Seattle on the 16th of August. I can probably arrange that.

Here’s some information on tickets:
http://www.ticketfly.com/purchase/event/607371/tfly?utm_medium=api&utm_medium=291182

I guess tmblr is their official website:

http://suicidesqueezerecords.tumblr.com/artists/thecoathangers

July 4th Independence Day for congressmen is different than what it is for The People

Hey Baby, it’s the 4th of July!

Hope all you 99-percenters are having a great holiday drinking beer and eating BBQ in the hot sun on this fine summer day.

Just so you know, We The People celebrate our nation’s independence from monarchic rule – which is a very good thing, because you know… to form a more perfect union with rule of the people, by the people, for the people – very different than our “elected” congress. They celebrate their independence from the people. They serve only the elite.

You see, things have changed over the past 238 years. We The People aren’t very well represented in the halls of congress. Timothy Egan explains:

People are leaving the Republican Party, and to a lesser extent the Democrats, to jump in the nonpartisan lane. The independents are more likely to want something done about climate change, and immigration reform. They’re not afraid of gay marriage or contraception or sensible gun laws. They think government can be a force for good.

And none of those sentiments are represented by the current majority in the people’s House. The Senate, at least, has two independents, both of whom caucus with the Democrats. In the House? Zero. Remember that the next time Speaker John Boehner says that his members are doing the work of the American people. They’re doing Fox’s work, which is why they’ve had endless hearings on Benghazi, and voted more than 50 times to take away people’s health care, but won’t allow a vote on the minimum wage or immigration reform.

If you thought that the last election — in which 1.2 million more votes were cast for a Democratic member of the House, but the Republicans kept control by a healthy margin — was unrepresentative, the coming contest will set a new standard for mismatch between the voters’ will and the people who represent them.

Only 12 percent of the general public is defined as “steadfast conservative,” in the latest breakdown of seven political niches done by Pew. But that rises to 19 percent for the “politically engaged.” Thus the Tea Party, though disliked by most Americans, can win elections in red states, and send people to Washington who will govern only for the narrow, passionate base that elected them.

What to do? First, recognize the imbalance. Any democracy is broken when a plurality is not represented in the halls of power.

And who are our elected Republican members of congress representing? Not me. Not you. They represent the richest of the rich. They write laws to funnel more and more money to the top 1% of the 1%. It’s really the only reason the Republican party exists anymore. Derek Thompson writing for The Atlantic tells just how wide the gap is between the super rich and you and me and my neighbors:

In the past half century, income growth among the top 1 percent of Americans has greatly outpaced that of those on the lower rungs. But it’s the top 1 percent of the top 1 percent who have truly left everyone else in the dust.

In the past half century, income growth among the top 1 percent of Americans has greatly outpaced that of those on the lower rungs. But it’s the top 1 percent of the top 1 percent who have truly left everyone else in the dust.

Be sure to click on the link to see the graphs. They tell the story quite clearly.

So, when you are lighting off your bottle rockets and mortar rounds tonight, in your mind, you should be aiming them at congress and the plutocrats they serve.