#ThanksObama: New Census Report Shows How Successful The Obama Presidency Was

#ThanksObama: New Census Report Shows How Successful The Obama Presidency Was

Economic data released in a new report from the Census Bureau – titled “Income and Poverty in the United States” – shows just how successful Barack Obama’s presidency was, particularly for middle and lower class workers.

According to the new report, which analyzed data in 2016 – Obama’s final year in the White House – incomes went up, poverty went down, and millions of more full-time workers gained employment.

Some of the report’s key findings:

  • Real median household income increased 3.2 percent between 2015 and 2016.2 This is the second consecutive annual increase in median household income.
  • The number of full-time, year-round workers increased by 2.2 million in 2016.
  • The 2016 female-to-male earnings ratio was 0.805, a 1.1 percent increase from the 2015 ratio. This is the first time the female-to-male earnings ratio has experienced an annual increase since 2007.
  • The official poverty rate decreased by 0.8 percentage points between 2015 and 2016. At 12.7 percent, the 2016 poverty rate is not statistically different from 2007 (12.5 percent), the year before the most recent recession.
  • The number of people in poverty fell by 2.5 million between 2015 and 2016.

The data is great news for the American economy, but it’s also quite stunning given the dire economic situation the former president inherited.

When President Obama took office in 2009, the U.S. economy was shedding more than 800,000 jobs per month, the stock market was in the tank, the American auto industry was on its deathbed, and there were very real concerns that the economy would fall into another Great Depression.

But after eight years of Obama economic policies – some of which were risky and unpopular – not only was a complete economic collapse averted, but Obama managed to do something remarkable: preside over two consecutive years of solid income growth for middle-class Americans.

If you’re wondering if the numbers are just a fluke, take a look at last year’s report.

In 2015, median household income spiked 5.2 percent – the largest increase since the Census Bureau began tracking the data decades in 1967. The poverty rate that year also fell by 1.2 percentage points, the biggest drop since 1968.

This year’s report is the second in a row proving that Obama’s economic policies didn’t just benefit those at the top, as some Republicans and frustrated progressives often suggest, but it lifted all boats to some degree.

We still have a long way to go in order to ensure increased productivity among middle and lower class workers translates to measurable wage increases, but as Robert Samuelson wrote in today’s Washington Post, “The middle class is back.”

For that, we can all say, “Thanks, Obama.”

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Jeff Sessions Lied Under Oath. Why Is He Still The Attorney General?

Jeff Sessions Lied Under Oath. Why Is He Still The Attorney General?

The big news of the day is that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, facing an avalanche of bipartisan criticism for lying about his contacts with Russia, has recused himself from any investigation related to Russia’s attack on our electoral process or its connections to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

The scandal-plagued Trump administration is hoping that Sessions’ recusal is enough to brush this story under the rug and move on.

It’s not.

Certainly, Sessions should not be involved in any inquiry related to Russia’s contact with Trump’s presidential campaign. That was always a given, even before this particular controversy came up.

But lying under oath during his Senate confirmation hearing goes beyond any single investigation. I’m not an expert in this field, but I’ll go out on a limb and say that the nation’s top law enforcement officer – and the leader of the Justice Department and FBI – should have a spotless record when it comes to truth telling.

Here’s a reminder of what Sessions said when he was asked by Sen. Al Franken about any communications between the Trump campaign and Russia:

Sessions said, “I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”

Despite the fact that Sessions’ response was flatly untrue, the Trump team is hoping to convince us that Sessions simply forgot that he met with the Russian ambassador – but that’s a ridiculous claim given how large a role Russia has played in our politics over the past year.

This is not an ambassador to some obscure South American state we’re talking about. It’s Russia – the country behind a massive cyber attack on our electoral process.

In fact, the day before Sessions met with the Russian ambassador – Sept. 7, 2016 – the U.S. intelligence director suggested, for the very first time, that Moscow was behind the DNC hacking. The idea that Sessions would conveniently forget meeting with him at the very moment the controversy began consuming the campaign is a stretch, to put it mildly.

So Americans should not be distracted by a move that the Trump administration is hoping will quiet this scandal. Recusal was always necessary, but being dishonest about his communications with a foreign government after swearing to uphold the truth is an immediate disqualifier for anyone – Republican or Democrat – seeking to be the U.S. Attorney General.

If Jeff Sessions can lie under oath and face no meaningful consequences, then what in the world is the point of taking an oath?

Don’t worry, Donald Trump will consult himself on foreign policy

Don’t worry, Donald Trump will consult himself on foreign policy

In order to explain away Donald Trump’s poor temperament and total lack of knowledge on issues, Trump voters repeatedly say that he won’t really be making the decisions if he’s elected.

They basically admit that he is dangerous and unfit to be president, but we shouldn’t care because he will consult much smarter people who will do the real adulting during his presidency.

What’s important to his supporters aren’t the minor details of judgment and thoughtful decision-making. Who needs those silly things? No, according to his loyalists, we simply need a man who will courageously shove a middle finger at the so-called establishment. As far as doing the actual work of keeping the country’s lights on, well, just leave that to the intelligent people he’ll appoint.

To the much broader group of non-insane Americans, it’s stunning and frightening that a substantial percentage of the country would knowingly elect a man who lacks the traits to be commander-in-chief, all because: A. They want to see someone “shake things up,” whatever the hell that simplistic garbage means; and B. Smart people around Trump – AKA the establishment figures that Trump supporters supposedly hate – will be advising him.

So, the question becomes not whether Trump is fit to be president; supporters and critics alike have already come to the conclusion that he probably isn’t. Instead, the question is who Trump will surround himself with so that we don’t end up bombing a country based on a tweet that the billionaire crybaby doesn’t like.

Well, after months of dodging, Trump has finally revealed the identity of one man he will consult: himself.

In a phone interview on ‘Morning Joe’, Trump was asked who he talks to about the “dire foreign policy issues” that face the country, and the GOP front-runner said, “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.”

He added that he talks “to a lot of people,” but that that his main consultant is himself, citing his “good instinct for this stuff.” Trump’s response comes after he has repeatedly refused to name who would make up his foreign policy team.

When Trump was asked previously where he gets his military advice, he said, “Well, I watch the shows.”

So, there you have it. It’s okay that Donald Trump throws public tantrums and resorts to name-calling when he doesn’t get his way. It’s okay that much of his foreign policy involves committing war crimes. It’s okay that almost 100 Republican foreign policy leaders recently said that a Trump presidency would undermine national security.

All of this is okay because Trump will be consulting the best people and getting the best advice, from himself and “the shows,” before making any major decisions as president.

Phew, what a relief.

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Donald Trump’s campaign is not even close to a movement

Donald Trump’s campaign is not even close to a movement

Donald Trump’s campaign has certainly received the lion’s share of media attention in 2016. Whether it’s his bigoted comments, violent rallies, or obvious lack of knowledge on the issues, he always finds a way to seize control of the spotlight.

And, after winning 15 states this primary season, he is officially the Republican front-runner. If he can pull off wins in Ohio and Florida on Tuesday, we may have to start calling him the presumptive nominee.

His success in a crowded field of candidates, though, does not mean that his campaign is a movement that has swept the nation. It’s not.

In total, Trump has only received about 35 percent of the Republican vote this primary season, and he’s actually pretty unpopular with those in his own party who haven’t been foolish enough to vote for him. In a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, almost half (48 percent) of GOP-leaning voters wouldn’t be satisfied with Trump as their nominee.

And Trump likes to boast that he can win over Reagan Democrats in a general election, but the same poll shows that likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton would receive a greater percentage of Republican voters (15 percent) than Trump would with Democrats (9 percent) if they were to face off against each other in November.

His supporters may be loud and loyal – and they may occasionally sucker punch anyone who doesn’t subscribe to Trump’s bigotry – but they don’t remotely represent the opinions of the vast majority of Americans. In fact, a whopping 67 percent of voters have an unfavorable opinion of Trump, according to the same ABC News/Washington Post survey. That would put the billionaire businessman in the biggest pre-general election hole of any presidential nominee in decades, if not history.

In virtually every area, from the economy and immigration to trust and experience, Clinton beats Trump comfortably. And, in general election polls, Trump often loses to both Democratic candidates by double-digit margins.

Sure, there is plenty of time left for Trump to get those negatives down and make it a tight race. He could even win, God forbid. But this is not a normal election. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are two of the most well-known candidates to ever seek the presidency, and opinions about each of them are already pretty ingrained. The odds of a major shift in public sentiment are probably low.

So, no, Trump’s campaign is not a movement, as the candidate himself likes to claim at his primary night ramblings/press conferences/infomercials. At best, he is a terribly weak front-runner. At worst, he will destroy the Republican Party.

If you ask me, both of those scenarios bode well for the country.

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While no one is watching, Obama’s approval ratings are up and the economy keeps rolling

While no one is watching, Obama’s approval ratings are up and the economy keeps rolling

In February, a solid 242,000 jobs were added to the U.S. economy, and the unemployment rate held steady at 4.9 percent – half the rate it was at the peak of the Great Recession.

In December and January, the number of jobs added was also revised up by 30,000, bringing the average number of jobs gained in last three months to a healthy clip of 228,000 per month.

February’s gains make 72 straight months of uninterrupted job growth, the longest streak ever recorded. Over that span, the economy has created 14.3 million jobs, most of which are full-time positions. Factoring in the huge job losses that President Barack Obama inherited in his first year, we’ve seen a net gain of over 10 million jobs since the president was sworn in.

Perhaps relatedly, we’ve also seen Obama’s approval ratings tick up in recent months, with today’s Gallup tracking poll showing the president with a 51 percent approval rating (and 44 percent disapproval rating). This number is consistent with other polls showing a positive trend in the public’s view of the way Obama is handling his job.

No one is really paying attention to these numbers, particularly since so much of the media’s attention has been focused on the dumpster fire Republican primary race, but they may become more important as we get closer to the November general election.

Campaigns may be exciting – and this one certainly has a can’t-look-away vibe to it – but at the end of the day, the job approval of the incumbent president and the direction of the U.S. economy play an equally important – maybe even larger – role in determining which party will win the presidency.

As statistics guru and election forecaster Nate Silver often points out, it’s not so much the unemployment rate that matters so much as the trend does. If the jobless rate is steady or falling, like it was during Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, that bodes well for the incumbent political party. If it’s going up, as it was in 1992 when George H.W. Bush failed to win a second term against Bill Clinton, it’ll hurt the party in power.

If the unemployment number continues to hold steady, or even falls closer to 4 percent, that will certainly be a boon to Hillary Clinton’s campaign going into the November election. The same applies to Obama’s approval ratings, especially given the fact that Clinton is essentially running for a third Obama term.

Personal attacks, presidential debates and Donald Trump’s penis jokes may get all the buzz, but economic indicators and incumbent presidential approval ratings will likely play a large role in determining who gets sworn in on Jan. 20, 2017.

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The Republican Party is in total crisis mode

The Republican Party is in total crisis mode

Holy crap, this is fun to watch.

In the much-anticipated Super Tuesday voting, Donald Trump won the night. The self-centered billionaire pulled off wins in 7 states – Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Virginia and Vermont. The victories gave him a nice chunk of delegates and solidified his status as the party’s front-runner.

If the party wasn’t already in a panic, Tuesday’s results and Trump’s big leads in upcoming voting states are surely sending them into one.

It’s why establishment figures within the party are quickly mobilizing to figure out how they can possibly prevent Trump from winning the nomination. Even former GOP nominee Mitt Romney gave a major speech today with one purpose: to bring down Trump.

In the speech, Romney called Trump “a phony,” a “con man,” and a “fake” who is “playing the American people for suckers,” a guy “whose imagination must not be married to real power.”

I can’t say I disagree, of course, but it’s certainly rich coming from a guy like Mitt.

The former Massachusetts governor also ticked off a substantial list of Trump’s business failures, like Trump Mortgage and Trump University, saying of Trump: “A business genius he is not.”

Romney added that on foreign policy Trump is “very, very not smart.”

Ouch.

The effort to take Trump down has greatly intensified since Tuesday when, according to CNN, more than 50 GOP donors and bigwigs spoke on a call with the head of an anti-Trump super PAC and discussed strategies for how to take down the billionaire businessman.

Today, in an open letter, more than 70 conservative foreign policy thinkers bashed Trump’s dangerous foreign policy as “wildly inconsistent and unmoored in principle.”

His actual primary opponents – Marco Rubio in particular – spent the days leading up to Super Tuesday going hard after Trump, even making fun of the color of his skin and the size of his hands (and other things). 

Voters didn’t seem to care, though, and Rubio only pulled off a win in one state, Minnesota. Trump came out of Tuesday with the wind at his back.

At this point, high-ranking Republican officials seem to have conceded that there are only two possible outcomes going forward: 1. Trump will win the GOP nomination fair and square, and they’ll have to deal with the consequences; 2. Enough candidates will remain in the race, thus dividing up the delegates in a way that denies any candidate the sufficient number to become the Republican nominee.

If the second outcome comes to fruition, we will likely see a contested convention when Republicans meet in Cleveland. In this case, primary wins and delegate counts go out the window and choosing the nominee is an exercise carried out by party insiders. This is when guys like Paul Ryan or Mitt Romney could swoop in and be handed the nomination.

Of course, if that happens you can expect the New York billionaire and his supporters to revolt in a way that could damage the party even more than if Trump becomes the nominee. Either Trump wages a third-party candidacy, which would ensure victory for the Democrats, or he just tells his supporters to stay home on Election Day, which is also likely to guarantee a GOP loss.

In short, this is insanity to a degree we haven’t seen in American politics for some time, and it’s not about to go away anytime soon.

As a left-leaning voter, it’s fun to watch. For Republicans, it’s probably nothing short of cringeworthy.

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Ohio Democrats should vote for PG Sittenfeld in the March 15 primary

Ohio Democrats should vote for PG Sittenfeld in the March 15 primary

At the beginning of 2016, as the country’s gun debate once again heated back up, I decided that I would not cast my ballot for any candidate who rates higher than a ‘C’ from the National Rifle Association (NRA). Until gun safety voters decide to make gun violence prevention central to their votes, nothing will change on this issue.

This pledge most certainly includes candidates that happen to be Democrats, and it didn’t take a whole lot of time to find a primary race I could apply it to.

In Ohio, former Gov. Ted Strickland, age 74, is seeking to reignite his political career in a U.S. Senate primary campaign against 31-year-old Cincinnati councilman PG Sittenfeld.

I have nothing personally against the former Ohio governor, but his ‘A’ rating from an organization that continues to hold Congress hostage on such a critical issue should give pause to any Democrat thinking of voting for him in the March 15 primary.

But it’s more than a meaningless rating; Strickland earned it.

When the former Ohio governor was in Congress, he opposed a ban on semiautomatic weapons and supported granting immunity to gun manufactures and dealers. He has also voiced support for preventing local governments from creating their own laws that aren’t uniform with state laws that can often be lax and ineffective.

In 2010, during his unsuccessful re-election bid against Republican John Kasich, Strickland won the endorsement of the NRA and proudly accepted it in a public campaign event. He’s also been happy to take over $40,000 in contributions from the organization.

Strickland’s current campaign for the Senate has given him plenty of opportunities to renounce this support and offer a tougher stance on an issue that needs bold and courageous action. Instead, the former governor has spent the campaign waffling and shying away from even participating in debates with his opponents.

Strickland’s Democratic primary opponent, PG Sittenfeld, has rightfully made gun violence prevention a main component of his campaign platform and has offered meaningful proposals to tackle the problem.

Sittenfeld has also shown the willingless and depth of knowledge to discuss all the issues that face the state of Ohio, whether it’s an economy leaving too many people behind or quality education that too many students can’t afford. He has has practically begged – to no avail, I might add – for the opportunity to debate these issues with the former governor. Unfortunately, Strickland hopes to coast to victory using his long history and high name recognition among Buckeye State Democrats.

As the Plain Dealer put it in their major endorsement of Sittenfield, “Ohio needs to debate its future, not rehash its past,” and the Cincinnati councilman is the best candidate to lead that debate.

Sittenfeld gives Democrats eager for bold action and new leadership a real choice. In November, he would also give voters a clear contrast in a race against Republican incumbent Sen. Rob Portman. Strickland may be a good guy and a decent enough candidate, but Democrats can do better by choosing Sittenfeld to carry their torch this fall.

He’ll be my choice in the March 15 Democratic primary. He should be yours, too.

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