Saturday, September 19, 2015

2016 Democratic Debate Party Food

The Democratic debates are coming up (not nearly fast enough). And I know people are planning on getting together. What might food at a Democratic Debate Watching look like? Well if you want to get all thematic, here are some drink and food suggestions listed by candidate.

Lincoln Chafee

Lincoln Chafee hails from Rhode Island. Iconic Rhode Island drinks include the Rhode Island Red Cocktail, Coffee Milk, and Rhode Island Ice Tea.

In terms of food, here's a list of favorites. Clam cakes and pizza strips should go over well as party food. Or make some mini hotdogs or mini crescent dogs to dip in homemade New York System Wiener Sauce.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton was born in Chicago. Here's 20 Chicago drinks to choose from. Green River is the iconic soft drink from IL. If you can't get hold of it, you can make your own limeade.

Slate did a piece on Hillary's favorite food, so we don't have to look far for party ideas. Apparently, what Hillary enjoys most is called an Oliveburger, which is a hamburger topped with pimento-stuffed green olives. So buy some hamburger meat, make some small patties to top with a pimento-stuffed olive and put a toothpick through both. Like with the image to the right, but with an olive on top - bun, lettuce, and tomato optional.

Martin O'Malley

Martin O'Malley is from Maryland. The signature cocktail of Maryland is the Black-Eyed Susan, and the signature soft drink is ginger ale.

Like Rhode Island, Maryland is also known for its crab cakes. Other foods include oysters, chicken with white cream sauce, and Smith Island Cake.

Bernie Sanders

I did a whole post on Bernie Sanders themed drinks, so you can take your pick, but my favorite was this homemade recipe for Vermont Switchel.

Maple is staple in Vermont. There's tons of recipes for maple bread. My personal favorite was this recipe topped with soft cheese. Finish with a toothpick.

Jim Webb

Jim Webb is from Missouri. The staple cocktail is the Missouri Mule, and the staple soda is IBC Root Beer.

Finding Missouri staple food was a little difficult, but here's a whole list of food from St. Louis. This includes toasted ravioli, gooey butter cake, and St. Louis style BBQ.

Friday, September 18, 2015

What is Bernie Sanders' Plan for the Deficit / Budget / Debt?

I've seen this question pop up a lot in one form or another. So, first let's have a little vocabulary lesson.

The budget is when the government plans where to spend money and how much to spend for the fiscal year. This isn't concrete. The government can over or under spend in areas just like you or I.

The deficit is when the government spends more money than it takes in.

And the debt is when the government borrows money to account for the money it overspent.

When a country doesn't have a deficit, this does not mean that leftover money automatically goes toward the debt. The government has to decide to what to do with that extra money, and it could just as easily (and probably more likely) be spent on something else than go toward the debt.

For 2015, the US is estimated to have a deficit of $583 billion and a debt of $18.6 trillion.

General Provisions

I don't know what Bernie Sanders plans to do about this in the way of specifically setting aside money to pay back the debt or putting in careful calculations to make sure we don't have a deficit. But I do know he's looking for specific ways to cut spending.

Military Spending

We currently spend more money in military spending than the next 9 countries combined. The Military budget for 2015 was $598.5 billion. Bernie Sanders wants to cut that. He hasn't said how much, but we could cut the budget by 60% and still lead the world in defense spending. If we did that, we'd have $359.1 billion in savings.
Mass Incarceration

The 2.4 million people we imprison in this country, costs us $80 billion a year. If we ended the War on Drugs and gave people medical treatment instead of putting them behind bars (as Bernie Sanders wants to do), this would cut our prison costs by over half, saving $41.3 billion a year. (Ah! You say. But what about health care costs? We'll get there.) This would also save money in welfare costs as about half of US states provide welfare for convicted felons who struggle to find jobs once released.

Ending Off Shore Tax Havens

Bernie Sanders wants to put an end to offshore tax havens, which allow corporations and rich Americans to store money overseas. They then pay less taxes to other countries, which costs the federal US government $150 billion year and state governments a total of $39.8 billion a year (source).

Ending Corporate Welfare

No one knows for certain how much money is paid to corporations each year in subsidies, but it's estimated to cost $110 billion a year. The top 8 paid corporations (such as Boeing, Nike, Shell, and Intel) made up $22 billion of that cost last year. (And while you're at it, here's a Top 30 list.) A number of these companies are Fortune 500 companies that don't need government handouts, and some of them aren't even US companies (source). Bernie Sanders isn't against business, but he is against giving tax payer dollars to corporations that already making millions or billions of dollars in profit.

Raising the Minimum Wage

It's estimated that $152.8 billion a year is spent in taxes on welfare programs for minimum wage employees who don't make enough to support themselves or their families. Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would eliminate that cost.

Tax Reform for the Rich

No one knows the exact numbers, but it's estimated that 25% of millionaires and at least the top 400 billionaires pay less in taxes than the average middle class American. Bernie Sanders wants to fix this by raising income taxes on the richest Americans, abolishing tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, and changing the cap on and raising the estate tax. It's estimated reform on the estate tax alone would bring in $31.9 billion a year. We don't currently have numbers for the other areas.

Tax Wall Street

Bernie Sanders wants to implement a Financial Transaction Tax (a.k.a Robin Hood Tax), which is a small tax (.003%) on each transaction of a stock or bond. This would bring in $35.2 billion a year.

Specific Programs

The following includes a number of programs that Bernie Sanders wants to implement a discussion on how they may or may not contribute to deficit. You can read more specifics about these bills in a previous post.

Green Energy Initiatives

The Climate Protection Act and Sustainable Energy Act implements a number of green energy initiatives. This would be paid for by implementing a $20 carbon tax per ton of carbon emissions, rising by 5.6% per year over 10 years. The bill would also end fossil fuel subsidies. The revenue from these bills would generate approximately $300 billion to go specifically toward debt reduction.

Tuition Free College

Bernie's College for All Act would be paid for by taxes on Wall Street. While the bill costs $47 billion, the taxes on Wall Street is projected to bring in hundreds of billions of dollars a year. And extra revenue could be used elsewhere.

Create Jobs Rebuilding America's Infrastructure

Bernie Sanders' Rebuild America Act would cost $1.6 Trillion (paid for by the development of a National Infrastructure Development Bank that would then give out loans). However, this bill would presumably provide jobs for those who are unemployed, saving in welfare costs. This bill would also build up our infrastructure to allow it to compete with the rest of world. A study by Duke University estimates that every dollar spent into transportation infrastructure pays back $3.54 in economic impact. It's not clear how exactly this would impact the deficit, but it's information worth having.

Health Care

I don't know how much Bernie's American Health Security Act would cost (someone smarter than I will have to look at it). But is it estimated that the US spends $3.1 trillion on health care. That includes $374 billion in prescription costs, which Bernie wants to lower. It also includes $836 billion in Social Security costs for Medicare, Medicaid, Children's Health Insurance (CHIP). The American Health Security Act would replace these programs along with Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB), TRICARE, and provisions under the Affordable Care Act.

Whatever the cost of Bernie's American Health Security Act, it's important to note that its cost wouldn't go on top of what the US already spends in health care. The American Health Security Act would absorb the programs we already have. In effect, the money the government currently spends in health care programs would simply be transferred to the American Health Security Act, and our previous health care programs would be eliminated. So, one way or another, the cost of this new bill should come out as a general wash.


Bernie Sanders has a lot of changes he wants to make for America. It's easy to take them at face value and miss the cost savings underneath. Pass this article around for those who have questions.

UPDATE 09/19/15: Added more headings and a more of Bernie's programs

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

How Obama Won and Bernie Sanders Can Too

How many times have you read the words in an article, "It's a reality that Bernie Sanders can't win?" Bernie Sanders has no chance. Bernie Sanders will never be the democratic nominee. Bernie Sanders will never be president. Over and over and over again.

I seem to remember Hillary going up against an African American in 2008 who got the same kind of press over and over again saying he couldn't win. Gee, I can't remember who that was...

He's the freaking president of the United States, people! 

And Hillary's not. How many news journalists and political science experts told you that would happen? Not very many, if any at all.

So let's just stop with all this "reality" crap. It is not reality that Bernie Sanders won't be president of the United States. Hillary was defeated once, and if the right pieces come together, she can be defeated again. The only "reality" is when the election happens and we have the final votes counted.

Social Media

Part of what made Obama's campaign so successful was his ability to utilize social media to invigorate volunteers and grow into a grassroots movement to reach other to potential voters. His popularity on social media also helped him with gaining the youth vote.

Bernie Sanders is trending well on Twitter with both of his hashtags winning the fight against Hillary's for the most part. But Hillary still far outreaches Bernie on Youtube. Though he may be gaining on her on Facebook (that article is from June).

However, what none of those statistics can tell us is how many people are actually engaged with Bernie's or Hillary's campaign and if those people are making efforts to reach out to other potential voters and if those efforts are effective. If they are, Bernie's campaign could turn out a lot like Obama's.

The Issues

Another factor that helped Obama was his ability to address voter concerns regarding the economy. Today, voter concerns have not changed much. The GOP debate might have been entertaining (and guess which candidate actually came out on top), but there was little to no discussion about the issues Americans want to hear about.

According to several polls, Americans want to hear the candidates discuss real issues. They want to hear about fixing the economy, about jobs, about education and healthcare. Bernie Sanders has been consistent in his message about income inequality and protecting working families. Supporters have flocked to him because he's speaking about real issues that the American people want to hear about.

Another draw for Sanders is that he refuses to use attack ads against other candidates. On multiple occasions he has spoken against the media for their focus on political drama and not on the real issues facing American citizens. He has garnered a lot of respect from potential voters on that aspect alone.


Obama's campaign had a lot of enthusiasm, and Bernie's campaign is showing signs of having more. At the beginning of July, Obama had 180,000 small donors contributing, Sanders had 250,000. Bernie Sanders has consistently drawn bigger crowds than any other presidential candidate.

July 29, 2015, one hundred thousand people attended house parties for Bernie. Double that number is being called to march on Washington for Bernie rally. Bernie Sanders has the most active Reddit page of any presidential candidates. And supporters of Bernie Sanders came together on their own to create a website that made it easy to find and understand Bernie's position on important issues.

The enthusiasm for Bernie Sanders is there, and it can only grow. And we're still four months away from 2016.


Another thing Obama did well was get young people and minorities out to the polls, demographics known for not voting. A large number of Bernie supporters are millennials. He has the young vote for sure. The test will be if he can amp up his appeal to minorities. Time will tell.

Poll Data

Bernie is currently 24.2 points behind Hillary in the national polls. At the same date in 2007, Obama was 16 points behind Hillary nationally. Though Bernie has a much larger gap to cover than Obama, Bernie has recently surpassed Hillary in NH, something Obama didn't achieve until January of his election year. Bernie's still closing the gap in Iowa, but he has four months (Obama's turn around) to get there. There's still plenty of time for Bernie to catch up, and the enthusiasm behind him, and how quickly he's climbed, I'd be worried if I were Hillary.

A Different Campaign

Obama's campaign is different that Bernie Sanders'. But if we should have learned one lesson from Obama's win, it's that nothing is for certain. So go ahead. Continue saying Bernie will never make it. I'm willing to bet you'll be eating those words a year and a quarter from now.