Friday, January 30, 2015

Is Illinois losing people?

That's what the Illinois Policy Institute says in a piece titled, "Illinois had record mass exodus in 2014" (my emphasis):

Illinois logged a record exodus in 2014, sustaining a net loss of 95,000 people to other states, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

95,000 people? That sounds like a lot! Why, it would be like losing the equivalent of the whole city of Waukegan. Boom! Gone. Out the door!

Illinois’ net loss of 95,000 residents is so large that it defies belief, and speaks to the fact that Illinois has the worst job-creation rate in the Midwest in 2014, with food-stamp enrollment also hitting new record highs. Although Illinois has been a net loser of residents as far back as such data are recorded, never has the state lost so many people in one year.

Wow! Hang on a sec; I have to do a little math here. Let me take out my calculator and divide 95,000 by  12,880,580. Let's see: .0073754. Wait a minute; is that less than one percent? Is .007 a . . . rounding error? If so, couldn't the exact opposite happen just as easily? And, more important, would it even matter?

Hmmm. Where do you suppose all those people went?

...states such as Texas, Florida, Arizona, Colorado and the Carolinas happily herded more of the nation’s talent pool across their borders.

Low cost states with nice weather? Gee, who would go there? Retirees? (My sister and her husband, faithful Fox "News" watchers, are always talking about moving to low-tax Indiana. They recently bought a new house in Naperville; I guess they like it here.)

The stunning data underscore an important point as power shifts to Governor-elect Bruce Rauner: Illinois cannot raise taxes on a population that is shrinking due to massive numbers of people leaving.* We know the number one reason Illinoisans leave is for better job and business opportunities, according to Gallup.

* You mean that rounding error?

I saw Gov. Rauner on TV the other day talking about how everyone is going to have to sacrifice in order to right the ship here in Illinois. He then went on to list those who will actually be doing the sacrificing -- it's mostly the poor and middle class. (Hint: when politicians talk about "sacrifice," it's usually someone else who will be doing the sacrificing. And, as in this case, mostly the supporters of Rauner's opponent. Funny how that works, isn't it?)

So who is this Illinois Policy Institute, anyway? According to Progress Illinois:

But the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) and ProgressNow's new study, which includes a local report for Illinois, maintains that SPN and its affiliates in every state are big pushers of public policy backed by the pro-corporate American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and other right-wing funders, including organizations with ties to the billionaire Koch brothers.

Now that's a surprise.

Rod McKuen, poet, lyricist...

... and songwriter, died at age 81.

If you weren't around in the 1960s, it would be hard to describe the ubiquitous, gravelly-voiced, low-black Converse All Star-wearing beatnik. But, in today's parlance, McKuen was a bit of "a thing" back then.

Now that the economy...

...is recovering, many Republicans have turned to criticizing President Obama over foreign policy. (Except when they are suddenly -- and comically -- talking about income inequality. What do they propose to do about it, cut taxes on the rich?)

So the world we are told -- particularly Ukraine and the Middle East -- is in turmoil! And whose fault is it? (Hint, hint: the black guy in the White House.)

But set aside Ukraine for a minute. (Ask yourself, would you be willing to see your son die there? I didn't think so.)

Let's focus on the Middle East instead. It's a complicated place, to say the least. And it's unstable (and always will be). But, to the United States, our interests can be boiled down to two essential things: Israel's security and the price of oil. The rest of it is just a sideshow.

Do we like this guy? Or that guy? Who cares? What does it mean for the security of Israel and/or the free flow of oil to the West? That's all that really matters. Those two objectives are what we've been trying to balance since the end of World War II. Everything we've done in the region has ultimately been in support of those two goals.

Now, as I said, it's complicated, but what if there was one objective measurement of stability in the region? Wouldn't that be convenient? While it's hard to quantify Israel's security (although they're still there, right?), the price of oil is obvious to anyone who drives a car. And, in case you're one of the few who take public transportation or actually walk on two legs, the price of gasoline at the pump has plummeted in the last six months or so. Why? A lot of reasons. Will it stay down? Probably not. But for now, the most objective measurement of stability in the Middle East is telling us we're not doing so badly over there after all.

P. S. By the way, how do you think three of our biggest adversaries in the world -- Russia, ISIS and Iran -- feel about cheap oil?

I'll be in Bronzeville...

...tonight for another classic Catholic League matchup (this time South Division): St. Rita at Hales Franciscan.

The Mustangs (15-2, 7-0 conference), are ranked No. 2 in the Sun-Times and MaxPreps and No. 3 in the Tribune. Ray Manzarek's alma mater is led by Kentucky-bound Charles Matthews, whom Michael O'Brien of the Times is touting for Player of the Year.

As best as I can tell, St. Rita beat Curie, Simeon, Homewood-Flossmoor, Rockford Auburn, Kenwood, De La Salle, Indianapolis Arsenal Technical (IN) and Chaminade (MO). That's an impressive list! That last team, the Red Devils, is ranked No. 2 in the state of Missouri by MaxPreps. The Mustangs also split with St. Joseph and lost to Christ the King (NY), which is ranked No. 5 in the state of New York by MaxPreps.

Hales (17-2, 6-1), meanwhile, is ranked No. 4 in the Times, No. 6 in the Trib and No. 11 in MaxPreps. The Spartans beat Hillcrest, Thornwood, Fenwick, Marquette (MI), Bolingbrook, Rich South and De La Salle, while losing to St. Joseph by four points and St. Francis Borgia (MO) by only a point.

The big question -- besides where in Hyde Park will I have dinner before the game -- is can Hales knock off mighty St. Rita at home?

P. S. I'll be live-tweeting the contest @BoringOldWhtGuy. See you there!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Can you imagine...

...having to introduce yourself as Jerry Sandusky?

And the Tom Toles...

...cartoon of the day.

Karl Rove is always...

...a great window into the collective mind of the Republican establishment. I don't think anything he says or writes is off the cuff or by accident; rather it's all very purposeful.

With that in mind, it's interesting to see who Rove favors, doesn't favor and who he thinks Republicans shouldn't even be talking about for the 2016 nomination. Rove's piece in The Wall Street Journal yesterday, "What to Watch in the GOP Jockeying for 2016," makes for good tea-leaf reading.

First are the candidates Rove would like to see run and get early support: Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee and Dr. Ben Carson. Why those six? My guess is that the first four would be acceptable to Rove as the eventual GOP standard-bearer. Huckabee, meanwhile, would be the requisite evangelical Christian candidate who runs out of money soon after Iowa, and Carson would be the token nut job (there's always one; remember Michele Bachmann?) who would ultimately flame out without taking anyone (or the party) down with him.

In Rove's next category are Sarah Palin, Rand Paul and Chris Christie. We already know how Rove feels about Palin: I once heard a political analyst on TV say he "despises" her. So what does that mean for Paul and Christie? Well, Paul's problems are obvious: the establishment sees him as too much of a wild card. They hated his father and fear that his son could somehow win the nomination and pull a Barry Goldwater (taking down other Republican candidates for the House and Senate with him). As for Christie, well, Rove must know something about him that we don't. I read that Romney's vice presidential vetting team reported back to their boss something to the effect, "Don't touch him; he's got too much baggage." So, for whatever reason, the New Jersey governor is also unacceptable to Rove.

The third category is the group Republicans shouldn't even consider: Rick Perry, Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum and Bobby Jindal. The first two are obvious Bush family rivals from Texas. Santorum could be someone Rove likes personally but just doesn't take seriously as a candidate. And Jindal may be like Christie: someone whose qualifications/electability are lacking and we should just take Rove's word for it.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Sean Trende has a fascinating...

...piece today on the chances of a brokered 2016 Republican convention, "What If No One Wins the GOP Presidential Nomination?"

It's worth reading in its entirety but what really caught my attention was this fact of which I was unaware: Bill Clinton, who won the Democratic nomination in 1992 (and the first of two terms as president), won only one of the first 11 primaries that year.

(Lots of inauguration pictures today.)

What does Hillary Clinton...

...have in common with George H. W. Bush?

They both ran for their predecessor's "third term"; they both had difficulty articulating a rationale for running; they both won (am I getting ahead of myself?); and they were both turned out of office after four years due to a recession (come on, trees don't grow to the sky, you know).

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

What Republican ticket...

...would combine two young, fresh faces (to go up against Hillary); one the governor of a purple Midwestern swing state and the other the Senator from a large southern swing state; both evangelical Christians; one Latino (sort of); and both who would appeal to the party's establishment, tea party, cultural conservative, libertarian and neocon wings? How about Scott Walker/Marco Rubio?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Prediction: Marco Rubio...

...won't run for president in 2016.

Why not? The field is just too large; his mentor, Jeb Bush, is in it; the GOP candidate will probably lose anyway (although I'm sure no Republican thinks so); he's still young; and he'll probably just opt for the safer choice, reelection to the Senate. (He's a career politician, remember?)

Now that's not to say that Rubio won't tease everyone for a while (gotta sell some books) or that he wouldn't be open to a vice presidential nomination.

Although with whom would he run? I don't think the Constitution allows two from the same state -- seriously -- so he couldn't be Jeb's running mate. Mitt Romney? Perhaps. If Mitt got beat again Rubio would be the instant frontrunner for 2020. (And if there's a recession in Hillary's first term, well...)

But I couldn't see Rubio running with any of the second-tier candidates like Chris Christie, Rand Paul or Scott Walker, for example -- he'd want to be at the top of the ticket, wouldn't he? (Although Al Gore swallowed his pride and ran with Bill Clinton. So did LBJ with JFK.)

But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Bottom line: I'll bet Rubio doesn't make the run.

Let's forget the Republican...

...nomination for a second. What about the general election? I know it's early, but PredictWise has Hillary Clinton leading with a 45.6 percent chance of winning. Her closest competitor is Jeb Bush with only a 13.3 percent chance. Now, this may be telling us more about the current state of the economic recovery, but if things continue in this vein, the GOP nomination may not be all that worth having.

P. S. And if it isn't, and that becomes clearer as we go along, why not nominate a true believer?

Monday, January 26, 2015

Remember how different...

...John F. Kennedy was from his predecessor, Dwight Eisenhower? While JFK was young, glamorous and Harvard-educated, Ike was an old fuddy-duddy who was born in the nineteenth century, played golf and suffered heart attacks. 

Too young for that? Well how about Jimmy Carter? Compared to Richard Nixon, who resigned in disgrace in 1974, the peanut farmer from Plains, Georgia, was a true outsider who promised he'd "never lie to you." 

Following Carter came Ronald Reagan, a handsome deep-voiced Hollywood actor who practically rode into Washington on horseback. 

And after the reckless frat-boy, George W. Bush, made a colossal mess of things, the nation turned to a skinny black guy with a funny name who was president of the Harvard Law review and worked as a troublemaker community organizer in Chicago.

Beginning to see a pattern here? It's not uncommon for a president of the United States to be followed by someone who is almost his exact opposite.

Where am I going with this? Earlier, I admitted to underestimating Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin. Now I'm wondering if I've been guilty of the same thing with a certain governor from New Jersey.

Over the weekend, Byron York ran down the GOP hopefuls and had this to say about the big guy who speaks with a lisp and picks fights with everyone (all emphasis mine):

Chris Christie is in better shape than you think. There was a widely-held assumption that Christie's Jersey Guy persona wouldn't play well in Iowa — that he is just too hot and too confrontational to get along with a bunch of nice Midwesterners. But it turns out a lot of Iowa Republicans actually like Christie, even if they're not quite ready to support him. Christie connects with audiences in Iowa just like elsewhere in the country, and more importantly, Iowa Republicans really want someone to fight for them in the next campaign. Most felt Romney just wouldn't take it to President Obama in 2012, so now Christie is OK with them as long as they believe he will give Democrats hell.

This morning, a front-page story in the Times described Christie as:

...over-sharing, thin-skinned, openhearted and needy. It is the quality, repellent or endearing, that his supporters say is missing from the buttoned-up rivals now crowding the Republican presidential field, whose demeanor they quietly dismiss as too stilted (Mitt Romney) or too cerebral (Jeb Bush).

And the opposite of the current occupant of the White House.

Finally, in a focus group of one, a friend of mine on Facebook concluded a rant about Obama with these words:

We need a fat president! I like Chris Christie!

And I think he's only half-kidding. But if the country is looking for something completely different, Chris Christie may be just the ticket.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

“A little lower.”

"That's how you're gonna...

...beat 'em, Butch. They keep underestimating you."

So said Butch Coolidge, Bruce Willis's character in Pulp Fiction, one of the best movies I've ever seen.

Why do I bring this up? Because for years, I've been underestimating Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin. Ever since I drove up to Madison in support of the protesters in the winter of 2011, through his 2012 recall campaign and his reelection to a second term last fall, I've been waiting for this guy -- whom I had just assumed was little more than a useful idiot for the Koch brothers -- to fail. And so far I've been wrong, wrong and wrong.

Now I read that the potential Republican candidate for president wowed the faithful at the Iowa Freedom Summit over the weekend (my emphasis):

The Wisconsin Republican governor delivered a pitch-perfect speech to a room packed with influential Hawkeye State conservatives on Saturday, walking them through his robust resume and ideology with a passion that surprised many. 

Activists say Walker came out on top after 10 hours of candidate speeches.

“It was a clear Walker victory. He had expectations coming in here, he was on everyone's shortlist and he had to meet those expectations and I thought he far exceeded them,” said former Iowa Republican Party political director Craig Robinson. “I thought his speech was just perfect, and I thought his delivery was perfect. The delivery really surprised me.”

Could Scott Walker be the next Republican nominee for president? Maybe. The fresh-faced tea party governor of a purple Midwestern swing state could appeal to the establishment, evangelical Christian and libertarian wings of the party. I'm not sure I can think of anyone else who could do that. (Maybe Marco Rubio and/or Bobby Jindal.)

But I'm beginning to wonder if I've been seriously underestimating this guy (again). I sure hope Hillary & Co. aren't.

Remember how Republicans...

...liked all the components of the Affordable Care Act but hated "Obamacare"? Well, from a piece in Bloomberg about the Iowa Freedom Summit:

[Republican messaging guru Frank] Luntz ... explained just what the Common Core obsession meant for the right. When he asked voters generically about the idea of national education standards, they backed them by a 3-1 ratio. When he asked about “Common Core,” only 30 percent of them backed it.

To be fair, many liberals are against the Common Core State Standards Initiative too. Personally, I don't know enough about it to have an opinion.

P. S. No word of any "Sister Souljah Moments" this weekend. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Dallas Taylor, drummer for...

...the supergroups "Crosby, Stills & Nash" and "Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young," died at age 66.

In the above video -- not necessarily my favorite CSNY song -- Mr. Taylor gets a shout-out from the host (is that David Steinberg?) and can be seen in a close-up at about 2:16.

According to his obit in the Times (my emphasis):

Mr. Taylor was married six times. Four of his marriages ended in divorce and one in an annulment, according to his wife, whom he met through friends in Alcoholics Anonymous and married in 2000. 

Six times? Wouldn't you -- after, say, your third divorce -- cool it a little and just live with your girlfriend? Three divorces is probably a sign that you might not be very good at this "marriage" stuff.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Fenwick beat Loyola...

...in Oak Park last night, 40-39, in overtime. It was a great game!*

Kevin Owens led the Friars with 19 points; Brandon Danowski had 18 for the Ramblers. But the best name of the night, on either team, was Nick Rock, a six-foot junior from Sacred Heart in Chicago.

* And the ribs at Russell's weren't bad, either.

Ernie Banks, who was...

...a personal hero of mine when growing up in suburban Chicago in the late 1960s, died at age 83. (And that's how I'll always remember him: in that unique batting stance with his right elbow extended outward. We all tried to copy it.)

Banks's obit in the Times summed it up well in one sentence (my emphasis):

“It’s a beautiful day, let’s play two” became the mantra of the man known as Mr. Cub, a fixture in what he called the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. 

And every time I walk out of those dark ramps at Clark and Addison and get my first glimpse of that gleaming field I think the exact same thing as Ernie:

“There’s an unbelievable, indescribable love for baseball in Wrigley Field.”

It's true: there's no place like Wrigley and there was no Cub like Banks.

Friday, January 23, 2015

I'll be in Oak Park...

...tonight for my first basketball game of the season. (Can you believe it?) Loyola will travel to Fenwick in a classic Catholic League North matchup. Both teams enter the contest at 12-5, but while the Ramblers are undefeated (4-0) in conference play, the Friars are only 1-2. So does that mean Loyola will have the upper hand? I don't know; MaxPreps ranks the Wilmette squad at only No. 43 in the state while Fenwick comes in at No. 21. The Friars are also No. 21 in the Sun-Times and No. 18 in the Tribune.

The Ramblers are coming off a 44-21 drubbing at the hands of St. Viator (11-4) while the Rick Malnati-coached team defeated Proviso East last Saturday, 83-58. (What? Fenwick beat the perennial Maywood powerhouse by 25 points? Things have really changed in Illinois basketball since I was away!) Fenwick also lost to St. Joseph by only two points, 64-62, the night before. The Westchester school, still coached by Gene Pingatore (can you believe that?), is ranked No. 4 in the Times and No. 6 in the Trib and MaxPreps.

Are the Friars for real? Or will Loyola pull off an upset and remain perfect in conference play? I guess I'll find out tonight.

P. S. Oh, and don't be too surprised if I stop off at Russell's Barbecue in Elmwood Park on the way.

P. P. S. I'll be live-tweeting the game @BoringOldWhtGuy. See you there!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

I've said it before...

...and I'll say it again, Why not Mitt Romney for the 2016 GOP nomination? Who else do the Republicans have?

In a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, the 2012 GOP standard-bearer does no better or worse against Hillary Clinton than Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Chris Christie or Mike Huckabee. (She has a double-digit lead on all of them.)

I know it's early, and a lot can happen between now and November, 2016. (Actually, tell me where the economy is in June, 2016, and I'll tell you who wins.)

But, again, why not Mitt? Who else is going to come to the rescue of the party, Scott Walker? Ted Cruz? Ben Carson?

Let's talk about...

...money some more.

Yesterday I wrote a post on the President's State of the Union address and touched on the redistributive aspects of his proposals (which will never go anywhere anyway). What I should have mentioned is that while many "rich" people think they'll be taxed to pay for Obama's middle class programs (free community college, etc.), it's important to define the difference between the truly rich -- the top one percent -- and the "merely" rich.

I knew I had read about this before but wasn't able to get to it yesterday. Here's some useful information from Vox.com (all emphasis mine). In regards to wealth:

Ever wonder how much money (and stock, assets, etc.) you needed to make the cutoff for the wealthiest 1 percent? Or even for the wealthiest 20 percent?
 
A report from the Pew Research Center, working off of data from the Census Bureau, lays it out. In 2011, America's wealthiest 1 percent had at least $2,385,306 to their names. 

And in regards to income:

In 2011, you needed to bring home $388,905 in adjusted gross income to qualify for the top 1 percent.

(You would need to make over $400,000 to be in the top one percent in Minnesota or Illinois, however.)

So, do you feel rich? Do you make that kind of money, and have you accumulated that kind of wealth? If so, congratulations! You're a member of a very exclusive club.

But wait; it's actually more complicated than that. According to a piece in Demos, you miss a lot of the story if you focus only on the top one percent:

16,000 Americans make over ten million dollars a year. And their dominance is strengthening: the share of income controlled by that tiny group of people jumped over a percentage point from 3.7 percent in 2011 to 4.8 percent in 2012. This is the donor class, the same group of people that donate to political campaigns and determine the structure of the market they have so clearly mastered.
 
Not only is that five percent a historical high, it’s much higher than it was during the 1920s, when that same top .01% made a peak of two million dollars and 3.7 percent of the national income. They make 30 percent more today.

That group of 16,000 Americans, the top .01 percent of income earners, is where the most power lies and who have seen the most remarkable rise. They make an increasing share of the national income and control an increasing amount of political power.

And here's where I'd like to make a couple of points:

1. Many middle- and upper-middle class Americans think they're being taxed heavily (and unfairly) to support lazy blacks the poor. And, the truth is, they're right, sort of: the middle class is taxed much more than the top 1 or .01 percent. (Just look again at Mitt Romney's tax bill.) You're making up the difference.

2. Forget for a minute whether or not the tax code is "fair" or even economically "efficient." Think about this instead: the system we have -- and any system, for that matter -- doesn't exist because of laws or the Constitution, even though we may tell ourselves that. As my son would say, "It's all made up." And it survives only so long as the majority says it does. In other words, this economic/political system of ours is here until the majority decides to overthrow it. This idea of private ownership and the laws to protect it only exist as long as those on the "outs" say so. And if the bottom 99 percent gets larger and larger in absolute numbers and fails to participate in the benefits that the economy provides, how long will they go along with the system?

I hate to be an alarmist, I really do. And I've tried to avoid hyperbole in this blog as much as possible (it damages your credibility). While I certainly don't see a French- or Russian-style Revolution in our future, it's worth noting that the system only exists so long as it works. Let's not kid ourselves about that. And the day it ceases to work for the majority is the day it gets overthrown.

Am I overstating all this? Perhaps. But just look at dramatically unequal societies, like those of Latin America in the 1970s, for instance. The richest lived behind walls with bodyguards in fear of being kidnapped. You wouldn't want to live like that. Or look back at America in the 1930s, after the last spike in inequality. Many Americans -- more than most people realize, I think -- were driven to the far left or the far right. (And there was quite a bit more violence than most people think, too.) I really don't think it's too much of an exaggeration to say that FDR saved capitalism and democracy in this country. (I'm hardly the first person to suggest that.) You'd be foolish to think it couldn't happen again. Don't believe me? Just look at the excesses of the tea party. And then multiply it.

The "This Guy Must Have Been...

...Teased Unmercifully in Grade School" Name of the Day belongs to Andrew Bosomworth, Pacific Investment Management Co.’s head of portfolio management in Munich. (He looks like he still hasn't gotten over it.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

“Can you juggle a household, three kids, and a career?”

The early returns are in...

...on President Obama's SOTU address. Like the picture above, they're mixed.

From my inbox last night at 9:40:

7 days of sick leave. 2 years free community college. Cure cancer and diabetes. Hope he doesn't raise my taxes!

And my initial response was: I hope he doesn't raise mine, either! Who does? (I pay an accounting firm good money to get me the lowest rate possible.)

Now the email above is coming from someone who probably pays a lot in taxes already. He's worked hard all his life and earns a lot of money.

While I don't know how much he makes or what his tax bracket is, I do know that Mitt Romney, when he was running for president in 2012, revealed that in 2011 he paid 14.1 percent on about $13.7 million in income. (That was up slightly from the 13.9 percent he paid in 2010.)

From an article in CNN Money (all emphasis mine):

The majority of the candidate's income last year came from his investments: capital gains ($6.8 million), taxable interest ($3 million) and dividends ($3.7 million).

This guy is retired, remember? It's not like he's out there working eight, ten or twelve-hour days like you. 

But contrary to popular perception, Romney's effective federal income tax rate is still higher than that of most Americans -- 80% of whom have an effective rate below 15%. That number, however, does not include other federal taxes such as the payroll tax.

So, while Romney pays more than most Americans, how does his rate compare with that of, say, a high-earning doctor or lawyer? Well, I think about 300 grand would be a pretty good benchmark, wouldn't you? I mean, that's still a lot of money.

Romney's running mate, Paul Ryan, released his final 2011 tax return this summer. He paid $65,000 on $323,416 in income, giving him an effective tax rate of 20%. 

So Ryan, who only made a fraction of what Romney did in 2011, paid a higher tax rate. Does that sound fair? 

The reason Romney's rate is so low -- despite having one of the highest incomes in the country -- is because his income was derived almost entirely from capital gains and dividends from his extensive portfolio of investments. And that form of investment income is typically taxed at just 15%, well below the 35% top tax rate for high earners.

Republicans usually point out that capital gains and dividends are taxed twice as if this is some obscure fact that the rest of us don't know. But so what? Romney paid about 14 percent in taxes on about $14 million while Ryan paid about 20 percent on about $300,000. Does that sound right to you? Or what about Warren Buffett, the second-richest man in America? He famously admitted to paying taxes at a lower rate than his secretary!

If President Obama has his way (which he won't), capital gains taxes would be raised from 23.8 percent to 28 percent, back to the "confiscatory" levels of the (Saint) Reagan era. And those were the good ol' days!

But, forgetting for a minute whether higher taxes on the rich would be "fair" or not, wouldn't it make sense to put a few more bucks in the pockets of the struggling middle class? Isn't it inadequate demand that's holding back the recovery? How can we hope to have a thriving economy with a shrinking middle class? Who's supposed to buy all those goods and services the economy produces every year? The stock market can't go up forever on just exports. It's in all of our interests -- even the rich -- to see the middle class prosper.

Truth be told, even I would take a bit of a hit under the president's plan. Much of my current income is derived from capital gains and dividends. (This ain't the '90s.) But I think the Roosevelts had it right: We all do well when we all do well.

I could name at least ten...

...credible candidates for the 2016 Republican nomination off the top of my head. (More, if you let me include some not-so-credible candidates who may run anyway.) I know it's early (the Iowa caucuses are about a year off), but let's try to make some sense of the race as it stands today.

First, the betting markets. According to Paddy Power, the top five candidates are (with odds):

1. Jeb Bush (9/4)
2. Marco Rubio (11/2)
3. Rand Paul (6/1)
4. Chris Christie (13/2)
5. Mitt Romney (8/1)

(The next candidate, Paul Ryan, has already said he's not running.)

PredictWise is another betting website which I just discovered from FiveThirtyEight. (My buddy in London, Jamie, referred me to still another one, but it's way too complicated.) I figure, due to arbitrage (the simultaneous buying and selling), most betting websites should predict about the same thing anyway. But since it's early, let's have a look at PredictWise. It lists the candidates with their chance to win in percentage terms, rather than odds. PredictWise lists ten candidates before it gets to Mr. Ryan:

1. Jeb Bush (26.2%)
2. Mitt Romney (13.3%)
3. Marco Rubio (12.5%)
4. Rand Paul (11.6%)
5. Scott Walker (8.7%)
6. Chris Christie (6.7%)
7. Ted Cruz (4.9%)
8. Rick Perry (4.3%)
9. Mike Huckabee (3.3%)
10. Bobby Jindal (2.0%)

So it's all settled then, right? Jeb Bush is clearly the frontrunner for the 2016 GOP nomination. Let's move on to the Super Bowl, shall we?

But wait; not so fast. In a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, "Republicans Like Romney More Than Jeb Bush":

More than half (52%) of all Republicans still maintain a positive view of the party’s 2012 nominee, compared to just 37% who said the same about Mr. Bush, the former Florida governor. Mr. Romney does more than 20 percentage points better among self-identified tea party supporters and core Republican voters than does Mr. Bush, who last ran for office in 2002.

(The piece is accompanied by a chart, which I couldn't copy for some reason, which shows Romney leading Bush, 27% to 19%.) 

Huh? 

In Real Clear Politics, Mr. Bush again leads all comers by an average of 5.8 percent. But when you look at the early primary states, Mike Huckabee leads the field in Iowa with an average of 6.2 percent and Mr. Bush leads in New Hampshire by only a paper-thin margin:

1. Bush, 14%
2. Christie, 13%
3. Paul, 11.5%

So let me see if I have this straight: if a Christian conservative like Mr. Huckabee (who won Iowa in 2008) or Rick Santorum (who won in 2012) takes the first state and someone like Christie or Paul vaults up into the mid- or high teens in New Hampshire, Bush could find himself 0 for 2 in the early going.

Might that give Reince Priebus a little agita

Just the other day, the RNC chairman said that he was practically thrilled to have so many good candidates running in 2016 (all emphasis mine):

The good news is we have great potential candidates for president. Our voters are going to have a real choice. Leaders with diverse backgrounds and diverse experiences. We should be excited because this means real debates and real conversations.

I’d much rather have that than what the Democrats have.
They’ve got one candidate ready to coronate herself and a sitting VP who’s been running for president since before I could vote.


But two days ago, Priebus indicated that maybe -- just maybe -- the GOP had an embarrassment of riches:

Reince Priebus, Republican National Committee chairman, says that potential presidential contenders will have to poll above certain levels to earn a spot in the GOP debates.

In a radio interview on the "Hugh Hewitt Show" Monday, the conservative host asked Priebus how the debates would work if there were 20 candidates vying to be heard.

“You can’t,” Priebus said. “You can’t do 20 people. … You have to have certain thresholds in place, so you have to be at 1 percent of the vote in Iowa, and that threshold can move like a slide rule based on the proximity to the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primaries, just like it did before.”

Priebus said the thresholds would be determined in coordination between the RNC and the media outlet conducting the debate and that none of the minimum requirements had yet been set.

As Karl Rove wrote in a Wall Street Journal piece last week, "Handicapping the 2016 GOP Primaries":

This is likely to be the most volatile, unpredictable Republican contest most Americans have ever seen. Get your scorecards and popcorn: The race has begun.

I like Mr. Rove's enthusiasm. But I think it will be the Democrats who will be munching on popcorn while Republicans are biting their fingernails.

Don't be too surprised if the GOP race ends up a little like the barroom brawl scene in the above clip from Dodge City, with Mr. Priebus in the role of the chorus girl at about 4:35:

"Stop it you fools! Stop it I say! Stop it!"

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Looks like Waffle House...

...beat me to it. From the Golf Channel:

LPGA player Brooke Pancake announced Tuesday a new sponsorship deal with Waffle House. As part of the arrangement, the 24-year-old will visit Waffle House restaurants around the country and, among other things, post stories on social media.

The Unfortunate Name...

...of the Day and the Bad Beard of the Week both belong to Hans-Werner Sinn, a German economist and President of the Ifo Institute for Economic Research.

Kim Fowley, rock ’n’ roll...

...record producer, songwriter, publisher, promoter and singer, died at age 75.

Among others, Mr. Fowley produced “Popsicles and Icicles” by the Murmaids, above. The song, written by David Gates, the future founder and front man of Bread, reached No. 3 on the pop charts in January 1964. (It's bubblegum, I know; sue me.)

The Murmaids were a one-hit wonder all-female vocal trio composed of sisters Carol and Terry Fischer; and Sally Gordon from Los Angeles, California. In 1963 the Fischer sisters were 15 and 17 years old; Sally Gordon, also 17, was a friend and neighbor.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

For anyone who's ever...

...read this blog, it should be clear by now that President Obama doesn't have a bigger fan in the world than yours truly. (Sometimes I think it's genetic; my mom thought Richard Nixon could do no wrong.*) In fact, before Google changed everything on this website, there used to be a blurb explaining the origin of its title, "Boring Old White Guy." I can't find it anymore, but here's what I wrote last year in the Oak Leaves:

You know, when Obama was making his run for the White House back in 2008 a lot of my boring old white contemporaries were literally freaking out about the black guy with the funny name who “palled around with terrorists” and looked to be our next president. (I don’t dare tell you what my late father had to say about him.) And I just wanted to say to all of them: Don’t worry; it’ll be okay. (I even thought about creating a sign that said: BORING OLD WHITE GUYS FOR OBAMA.)

And now I remember: the father of one of my son's friends asked me to work on behalf of candidate Obama in Wisconsin in the months leading up to the 2008 election. I couldn't back then; my kids were young and I was buried. (I did, however, knock on doors in Davenport, Iowa in 2012. It was a great experience; you can read about it here.) But that's when I got the idea for the sign.

So, having said all that, on the subject of the Barack Obama Presidential Library, I'd love to see it located in Chicago, but not at any cost.

From a piece in the Times this morning, "Chicago No Longer Seems a Lock to Host Obama’s Library, and Many Are Alarmed" (all emphasis mine): 

But as the Obamas and their foundation near a decision on the location of the library — after narrowing the options down to Hawaii, Chicago and New York City — someone in their camp recently let it slip that they are not so pleased with Chicago’s bids.

A person close to the Barack Obama Foundation, which is overseeing plans for the library, anonymously told local reporters last month that foundation officials had “major concerns” with proposals from the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago. Foundation officials were said to be alarmed that the University of Chicago does not yet control the land where the university wants to build the library.

The UIC location would be less than a mile from my new house; the article doesn't say what the drawbacks of that bid would be. But the U. of C. plan's flaws are obvious:

The University of Chicago has suggested two possible locations: in Washington Park, a 380-acre space designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, where surrounding neighborhoods could use the economic boost a sparkling new library would bring. The second location, Jackson Park, on the South Side lakefront, has considerable support. The University of Illinois at Chicago, on the near West Side, has offered a separate space.

What the piece doesn't say is that the U. of C. locations would be carved out of existing park land. Ignoring for a minute that this is probably illegal (and a challenge from the Friends of the Parks is already in the works), it's also completely unnecessary: there's tons of vacant land on the South Side of the city. Couldn't the library be built on one of those sites? And, really, isn't it typical of the University of Chicago to want to build the library on land owned by the parks rather than use some of its own vast real estate holdings? The arrogance!

Chicago takes a lot of (justifiable) pride in its vast park system. Let's not start cutting it up for private use -- even for someone as great as Barack Obama. Where would it end? Next thing you know some Hollywood big shot would want to build some ugly monument to himself along the lakefront

If this is the price we have to pay for having the president's library in Chicago, I say: go ahead, put it in New York or Hawaii. 

* Actually, I do have one beef with the Obamas: they didn't send their children to public schools. I have a problem with public officials (like Rahm Emanuel, the product of public schools) who seem to think that public schools are good enough for everyone else but not for their kids. (I like the fact that Michael Bloomberg took the subway when he was mayor of New York.) Can you imagine, for example, if the mayor of Chicago (or any other big city) had his own private water supply? What would that say about the water the rest of us use? Aren't public schools similar? Private schools may be okay for private citizens (and I could argue otherwise), but not for public officials.

P. S. Of all the pictures I could have stolen posted from the Web, I chose one from the President's speech in Cairo way back in 2009. I remember listening to it in real time and thought it was the best speech I had ever heard in my life. (And I choose my words carefully.) The address was a breath of fresh air after the disastrous Bush years and is an example of why we elected this man president. You can read the speech here or watch it here. It's as relevant today as it was then.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Friday, January 16, 2015

James Pethokoukis, a conservative...

...columnist and blogger at the American Enterprise Institute, has some sage advice for his fellow Republicans:

“Rule No. 1: Acknowledge reality.”

I thought of this when I was scrolling through Real Clear Politics this morning and came across, "Why Hillary Clinton won’t run for president," by Wesley Pruden, the editor emeritus of The Washington Times. 

(In case you're not familiar with the Times, it was founded in 1982 by the founder of the Unification Church, Sun Myung Moon "to combat communism and be a conservative alternative to what he perceived as the liberal bias of The Washington Post." So consider the source.)

But I had to chuckle a little because I'm so used to hearing my own mother say how much she hopes Hillary won't run in 2016. (My mom is a great indicator of what Fox News is talking about on any given day. Aren't all seniors?)

Pruden's piece is full of the usual bile one would expect from the right wing (all emphasis mine):

Most men despise her. She reminds them of their ex-wives.

She’s stiff and wooden as a public speaker, as if trying to prove Dr. Johnson’s famous aphorism that a woman preaching is like a dog trying to walk on its hind legs. Hillary is tone-deaf besides. She’s always starting on her “back foot,” as the English say, and she’s a mediocre campaigner, too. Bubba would never have said the family, with millions in the bank, was “dead broke.Not because it was a lie but because everybody in America knew it was a lie. A skilled politician would never have asked, after the Benghazi debacle, “What difference, at this point, does it make?” Whatever gift for politics she has, she got from imitating Bubba. Voters won’t be satisfied with a pale imitation, and nobody listens to two-time losers.

Sheesh. But then there's this:

At 67, does she really want to spend her golden years working 16 hours a day, eating bad food, sleeping in a strange and uncomfortable bed every night, shaking the hands of strangers in a drafty gym in Iowa, and rubbing elbows with indifferent diners in New Hampshire? She could live the luxurious life at her own pace, delivering the same canned speech written for her, enjoying a new granddaughter, making speeches for $200,000 a pop and watching the millions accumulate at the Clinton Global Foundation.

And the kicker:

Hillary can’t win, and that’s why she won’t run.

This is where Republicans need to get a grip on reality. In the Real Clear Politics average of polls, Mrs. Clinton is leading her closest competitor, Elizabeth Warren (who said -- again -- this week that she's not running for president), by 49 and a half points! Also, according to Paddy Power, Mrs. Clinton is a 2/5 favorite to win the Democratic nomination and a 5/4 favorite to win the general election.

Want more? Long-time Clinton supporter John Podesta announced this week that:

...he will leave the White House next month, according to a senior administration official, and will help Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential bid if she launches one.

Podesta has told Clinton "that if she decides to run" he "will do whatever" he can to help her, according to an official who asked for anonymity in order to discuss internal personnel matters.

Clinton is likely to announce her intention to seek the Oval Office this spring, according to her advisers and Democratic strategists.

While no one can guarantee, of course, that Mrs. Clinton will indeed run for president in 2016, I sure don't see much evidence for Mr. Pruden to think otherwise.

And this "difficulty" in dealing with reality reminds me of all the pieces I read this week about how Mitt Romney (and many other Republicans) were "shellshocked" when the GOP lost in 2012. (The polls must be skewed!)

My brother-in-law, whose business partner in 2012 was very well connected in Wisconsin Republican circles, told me his partner was certain the Romney/Ryan ticket would prevail, to which he confided to me that, "I think they're drinking their own bathwater!"

(And that's just one of the many weaknesses Republicans have: they only talk to each other.)

I could go on and on (global warming, anyone?), but the point is that acknowledging reality is a big problem for Republicans. I hope for their sake -- and ours -- that they start heeding Mr. Pethokoukis's advice.