Category Archives: Labor

Jared Bernstein: The whys of increasing inequality

I posted about this chart last week, Inequality in One Chart, and our “usual suspects” posted their utterly nonsensical defenses of faith based supply-side “trickle down” GOP economics in the comments.

Today, economist Jared Bernstein weighs in at the Washington Post, The whys of increasing inequality: A graphical portrait:

The graph below, based on the work of economists Gabriel Zucman, Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, has been receiving considerable attention since it appeared in the New York Times last week. It shows the rate of annual income growth for adults at each percentile in the income distribution — from those who have the lowest incomes to those who have the highest incomes — over two time periods: the mid-1940s to 1980, and 1980 to 2014. Over the first period, post-tax income growth was fastest at the bottom, about 2 percent per year for the “middle class” (the 40th to the 80th percentiles), and a little slower among the wealthy.

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The growth pattern over the second 34-year period looks very different: The richer you were, the faster you got ahead. Incomes grew less than 1 percent for the bottom 50 percent and less than 2 percent for the next 45 percent. They then took off for the richest Americans, with the growth rate for the richest adults ending up about six times that of those in the middle.

The chart is a clear, intuitive way to show the increase in income inequality over the past few decades, and an important reminder that growth for the rich cannot be expected to trickle down to everyone else.

But it doesn’t show why inequality has grown. What explains this portentous change, one that has had profound effects on our society, our living standards, and our politics?

In fact, there are many perps, each of which is captured in the “Inequality’s Causes” slide below. They do, however, share a theme: Many of the factors that enforced a more equitable distribution of growth in the earlier period have been eroded. Moreover, that erosion is neither an accident nor the benign outcome of natural economic evolution. It is often the result of policies that have reduced workers’ bargaining power and supported the upward redistribution of growth.

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Inequality in One Chart

David Leonhardt of the New York Times reports on the latest research from Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman. Our Broken Economy, in One Simple Chart:

Many Americans can’t remember anything other than an economy with skyrocketing inequality, in which living standards for most Americans are stagnating and the rich are pulling away. It feels inevitable.

But it’s not.

A well-known team of inequality researchers — Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman — has been getting some attention recently for a chart it produced. It shows the change in income between 1980 and 2014 for every point on the distribution, and it neatly summarizes the recent soaring of inequality.

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The line on the chart (which we have recreated as the red line above) resembles a classic hockey-stick graph. It’s mostly flat and close to zero, before spiking upward at the end. That spike shows that the very affluent, and only the very affluent, have received significant raises in recent decades.

This line captures the rise in inequality better than any other chart or simple summary that I’ve seen. So I went to the economists with a request: Could they produce versions of their chart for years before 1980, to capture the income trends following World War II. You are looking at the result here. [Interactive graphic – see the article.]

The message is straightforward. Only a few decades ago, the middle class and the poor weren’t just receiving healthy raises. Their take-home pay was rising even more rapidly, in percentage terms, than the pay of the rich.

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‘Trump TV’ parrots RT network with state propaganda

In December of last year, there was a concern that the the National Defense Authorization Act now allowed Voice of America access to U.S. audiences (previously banned by law). This was stoking fears that Donald Trump could wield a powerful new propaganda arm. From fake news to the Trump ministry of propaganda. Those particular fears have not (yet) come to fruition.

In January, POLITICO reported Pro-Trump TV Network Has Big-League Dreams:

The clunky, black Panasonic PS2 belonging to Right Side Broadcasting Network (RSBN), a year-old conservative media startup based in Alabama, made a habit of filming the teeming crowds at Trump rallies and developed a cult following in the process, with Trump supporters regularly holding up makeshift “I love RSBN” signs and seeking out the RSBN cameramen to wave.

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The RSBN operation, which now employs 14 full-time employees and three contractors, began in July 2015, when Seales, a stay-at-home father at the time, grew frustrated with the lack of raw Trump rally footage online. He hired a freelancer to film what became the network’s first Trump rally broadcast and posted it on YouTube. When the video quickly amassed a million views, Seales realized that there was a robust demand for pure Trump footage—a feed that wasn’t clipped or talked over by mainstream outlets . . . That was when, borrowing from a phrase he’s fond of using—“being on the right side of history”—Seales started Right Side Broadcasting Network, originally a livestream operation airing on YouTube. He later added two call-in talk shows to the network’s YouTube channel, one hosted by conservative commentator Wayne Dupree, the other hosted by televangelist Pastor Mark Burns, a Trump surrogate.

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At the same time, the openly pro-Trump RSBN—which bills itself as a “ragtag bunch of media outsiders” seeking to deliver news to the common man—has been quietly attempting to transform itself from a small live-stream operation into a major and diverse digital media outlet, just in time to cover the Trump White House.

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July jobs report exceeds expectations

The U.S. economy added 209,000 jobs in July, according to government data released Friday morning, surpassing economists’ expectations. U.S job growth surges in July, as U.S. fully regains jobs lost in recession:

The unemployment rate ticked down to 4.3 percent, compared with 4.4 percent in June, and wages rose by 2.5 percent from the year before to $26.36 in July.

“It was pretty solid across the board,” said Michael Feroli, chief U.S. economist at JP Morgan. “It suggests there is really no slowing in the momentum of the labor market.”

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President Trump greeted the report as evidence of his administration’s success, tweeting Friday morning, “Excellent Jobs Numbers just released – and I have only just begun.”

Remember when this carnival barker con man dismissed the official unemployment rate published by the Labor Department as “such a phony number,” “one of the biggest hoaxes in American modern politics” and “the biggest joke there is”? He variously described the real rate as 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 24, 25, 28, 29, 30 and 35 percent. In August 2016, he told Time magazine that the “real unemployment rate is 42 percent.” Trump called the government’s job numbers ‘phony.’ What happens now that he’s in charge of them? The man is a shameless liar who frequently takes credit for things he has had nothing to do with. Trump says he created 600,000 jobs. Not true.

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June jobs report rebounds

Steve Benen has the June jobs report. Job growth picks up steam as spring turns to summer:

Monthly job growth was a little underwhelming as 2017 got underway, leading to questions about when we might see more robust numbers. Apparently, we now have an answer.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this morning that the U.S. economy added 222,000 jobs in June, which is a very healthy total. The unemployment rate, meanwhile, inched higher to 4.4%.

June Jobs

As for the revisions, the totals for April and May were both revised up, and combined they show a net gain of about 47,000 jobs.

Above you’ll find the chart I run every month, showing monthly job losses since the start of the Great Recession.

Here’s another chart, this one showing monthly job losses/gains in just the private sector since the start of the Great Recession.

June Private
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What are Democrats Doing for Disillusioned Trump Voters in Mobile Home Parks??

There’s a groundswell of new volunteers at the Democratic Party. Candidates are talking about healthcare, gay rights, and Planned Parenthood. This plays great with progressive voters. But we are all talking to ourselves inside a bubble.

What are we doing for all the white and Latino working class people who voted for Trump? Are we going to totally blow it in 2018 because we ignored the victims of bad housing because we didn’t knock on doors in trailer parks? These are the people who elected Trump, and they are losing confidence in him.

Consider this:

  • 44,000 people live in mobile home parks in Tucson. They are Trump voters if they voted.
  • There are 430 mobile home parks where tenants are living in a housing nightmare, being abused and taken advantage of by park landlords. They live at the whim of the landlord.
  • 10% of housing stock in Tucson is mobile home parks.

It is Dickensian and it’s right here in town. In my Precinct, #238, I knocked on doors and made phone calls to people who live in beautiful condos and grand houses sitting on enormous lots. As Tamar Rala Kreiswirth pointed out, 25% of these Democrats in Tucson didn’t vote in 2016.

You know that lily-white Republicans would never leave their country clubs to  dirty their hands by going into a trailer park.

Are we going to let it happen again?

Are we afraid to see poverty in person? Do we lack the guts to meet housing victims face-to-face? Are we too prissy and effete to actually go to the homes of people who need our help?

Or are we Democrats people with cojones, guts and heart?

The National Low Income Housing Coalition shows that a typical Arizona renter needs to work 70 hours a week just to pay rent.

A person working in zip code 85705 makes $13.27 per hour or $520 per month. The Fair Market Rent for a two-bedroom home is $690 per month.

Read some of the headlines:
Two weeks without water for mobile home park residents

Tucson’s aging mobile homes: Problems run deep, but solutions do exist

Goal: Hold irresponsible trailer-park landlords accountable in Tucson

So put on your camo baseball cap, change out of your sandals and get into some shoes from Walmart. Put on a shirt from Bass Pro Shops. Leave your jewelry behind and stop reading The New Yorker and read Hillbilly Elegy.

We may be able to win seats in the 2018 mid-term election, but not if we sit in our comfortable houses and ignore voters who are being viciously mistreated. Get out there and be real Democrats, dammit.