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A false dichotomy


Currently there’s a fierce debate in the Democratic party and among what passes for the left in this country about the extent to which resistance to white nationalist authoritarianism, i.e., the contemporary Republican party, ought to focus on economic/class issues, or, supposedly in the alternative, what is called “identity politics.”

As many people are pointing out this is a false dichotomy.  This post is about some new data that highlight in the starkest terms two inexorably interrelated facts:

(1) Since the 1970s, the poor, the working class, and most of the middle class have seen (or rather failed to see, cf. the election of Donald Trump) essentially ALL the trillions of dollars of economic growth America has experienced over this time go, in ascending order of intensity, to the upper middle class, the middle upper class, the rich, the very rich, the obscenely rich, and the we don’t really have a word for that yet rich.

(2) Since the 1970s, what was at that time a shamefully vast gap between the economic status of white and black Americans has remained totally untouched by efforts to ameliorate it. (It would be more accurate to say that efforts to ameliorate it have been completely cancelled out by efforts to quash the former initiatives).


A fascinating and sobering new paper by Thomas Piketty, Emanuel Saez, and Gabriel Zucman lays out in great detail how in recent decades the benefits of economic growth have gone almost exclusively to those at or near the top of the SES pyramid.  The paper attempts to capture the changing distribution of 100% of national income, including earnings from labor, capital, fringe benefits, and government redistribution.  The authors divide the seven postwar decades into two equal periods.  Here is some of what they conclude:

From 1946-1980, pretax national income grew by 95%.  From 1980-2014 it grew by 61%.  So income growth slowed by about a third over the past 35 years compared to the immediate postwar period.  But the real story is the extraordinary shift in the distribution of income growth.

For the bottom 50% of the population as measured by income distribution, pretax income grew by 102% from 1946-1980.  From 1980-2014 it grew by 1%.  (That’s ONE PERCENT in case you think this is a typo).

For the middle 40% pretax income grew by 105% from 1946-1980 and 42% from 1980-2014.

For the top 10% pretax income grew by 79% 1946-1980 and 121% from 1980-2014.

For the top 1% the comparable figures are 47% and 205%.

For the top .1% the figures are 54% and 321%.

For the top .01% the figures are 75% and 454%.

For the top .001% pretax income grew by 57% between 1946 and 1980, and by 636% between 1980 and 2014.  In 2014 this cohort featured 2,344 individuals, and the average income enjoyed by each of them that year was $122,000,000.

Now let’s look at post-tax effects.

For each group, the first figure is the post-tax income growth from 1946-1980, and the second is the post-tax income growth from 1980-2014: (Recall again that average income growth for the entire population over these two periods was 95% and 61% respectively).

Bottom 50%:  130%/21%

Middle 40%: 98%/49%

Top 10%: 69%/113%

Top 1%: 58%/194%

Top .1%: 104%/299%

Top .01%: 201%/424%

Top .001%: 163%/617%

How’s that for a glimpse into the sources of economic anxiety?

Speaking of which, I’ve looked at census data on changes in household income to get an idea of the extent to which various social policies have managed to ameliorate the massive economic disparities between white and black Americans.  While it’s true that household income data do not provide as comprehensive a measure of income distribution as the data set put together by Piketty et. al., they still give us a clear enough view of the general picture.

It’s a commonplace of a lot of political argument in this country right now to claim that white working class resentment is based in the supposed economic decline of white America relative to the improving economic fortunes of black America. This relative decline is imaginary.

The census has recorded white non-Hispanic household income data (WNH) since 1972, so I’m using that time frame.  Note that in 1972 the Civil Rights Act was only eight years old, and affirmative action programs in education and employment had barely begun, so we would expect to find little or no evidence of decline in race-based economic disparities, even if such programs were going to be effective in lessening such disparities in the longer run.

In 1972 Black median household income was 41.3% lower than WNH median household income.

Well what about that longer run, now that it’s been nearly 50 years since, according to the Republican party, every working class white man in America started getting robbed of his birthright?

In 2015 Black median household income was 40.4% lower than WNH median household income.

I guess affirmative action must only working for upper class minorities.

In 1972 Black 95th percentile household income was 31.6% lower than WNH 95th percentile household income.

In 2015 Black 95th percentile household income was 33.1% lower than WNH 95th percentile household income.

And what about the working class? Let’s look at the 20th percentile of household income.

1n 1972 Black 20th percentile household income was 45.3% lower than WNH 20th percentile household income.

In 2015 Black 20th percentile household income was 47.2% lower than WNH 20th percentile household income.

In case you’re wondering, in 2015 the 20th percentile of household income for white non-Hispanics was $25,894, which certainly explains why a lot of white working class voters are of the view that the economy isn’t working very well for them. On the other hand, the comparable figure for African-American households was $13,670, which ought to be a simply shocking figure, assuming anybody is capable of being shocked by anything any more in this country.

Fighting for economic justice in this country is fighting for racial justice, and vice versa.




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  • Dilan Esper

    I don’t think standing up for minority rights hurts Democrats so much. I mean, there were people who voted for Obama twice and then Trump.

    There probably is an outer limit on this, where the party might look like nothing more than a grievance operation for every possible minority group, but that’s just not connected with any reality. The party talks a ton about economics and only somewhat about civil rights anyway, and there’s zero evidence taking the right side of trans- rights issues, or whatever, hurts us.

    I’m much more inclined to say that the content of the actual economic message hurts us. Rust belt voters want to stop the flow of jobs overseas, and the party has become very free trade and redistribution oriented, which doesn’t address their concerns.

    • ThrottleJockey

      1. Thanks to Paul for writing this. It is a false dichotomy.

      2. We need to rethink our position on free trade. At minimum we need a real plan to mitigate its effects.

      3. Arguing about which is more important Racial justice or Economic improvement, is academic masturbation. Keep doing that long enough and you’ll goo blind.

    • AMK

      the party has become very free trade and redistribution oriented, which doesn’t address their concerns.

      Our message to these people since Bill Clinton has been basically “the world is changing and you’re going to lose your job, but at least we can get you healthcare and your kids affordable college so they might have jobs, assuming your kids are smart enough to get into college.” It was honest and it worked for some of these people some of the time against some GOP candidates, but against Trump’s outright protectionism it didn’t work. And we knew it might not work, but we assumed that (a) enough of them would see Trump as an obvious con (b) there were not enough of them to matter anyway, because of changing demographics.

      • your kids affordable college so they might have jobs, assuming your kids are smart enough to get into college.

        Well that sure as shit didn’t happen

        • AMK

          Yup. And even if you take the debt out of the equation, college degrees are no guarantee of anything anyway. The huge wealth gap is not between the college educated and the high school drop-outs; it’s between the very very rich and everyone else. The “knowledge economy” concept only goes so far.

          • Dilan Esper

            Also, a fair economic system has to provide good jobs even for people who aren’t equipped (for whatever reason) to complete college.

            Mickey Kaus, of all people, made this point very well in “The End of Equality”. Let’s say you reformed our college system to take all favoritism for the rich out of the equation– the smartest kids go to the best schools. What would happen? You’d simply create a new elite based on intelligence and ability to perform well in college. And, Kaus said, it would actually be even worse in some ways than the current reality, because everyone in that elite would feel totally entitled to everything society gave them, because they earned it with their superior smarts.

            Thus, he argued, an economic system has to provide good paying work for people without regard to where they stand in any sort of “meritocracy”. You have to make sure that even the people who can’t complete a college degree get a good job and a chance to earn a decent wage.

            While education equity is very important, it doesn’t deliver that, and the “knowledge economy” leaves behind people who have the same right to see the fruits of success as fellow Americans who might have more knowledge than they do.

            • Jackov

              everyone in that elite would feel totally entitled to everything society gave them, because they earned it with their superior smarts

              Hmm… I think this has been happening for some time.

              The new system would certainly be worse for the rich dolts who are over represented in higher education at every level of selectivity beyond open admission two-year schools.

              Surprised a big thinker like Kaus was not able to work out that a country could have a system of higher education that vastly favor the rich and an industrial policy that benefits non-college educated workers simultaneously.

              • Jackov

                ^^ Kaus’ protective goat attacked while I was typing

                Surprised a big thinker like Kaus was not able to work out that a country could have a system of higher education that did not vastly favor the rich and an industrial policy that benefits non-college educated workers simultaneously.

              • tsam

                Hmm… I think this has been happening for some time.

                This is at the core of the rot in our society. “I work harder than you, I’m smarter than you (there’s implied I’m the right color and from the right breeding stock), therefore I deserve all the cookies and fuck you.”

                That’s old school nobility–and there is still an element of divine right to it. They DO still teach the chosen whites this in church.

              • Dilan Esper

                I assure you Kaus favors a more equitable education system.

                But the more strident critiques of education policy question whether more meritocratic systems make this problem worse. There’s a ton of, shall we say, lack of sympathy for rust belt working class whites among coastal elite educated populations. It may be that this is no coincidence.

        • Sly

          I think a lot of people underestimated the degree to which the loss of industrial jobs broke the ladder of opportunity for subsequent generations; i.e. the roll nepotism played in parents securing jobs for their children in the same industries – very often the same companies – that they worked.

          I don’t remember the title, but I saw a documentary years ago about how the decimation of Los Angeles’s industrial sector helped lock the generation that came after it into poverty, particular black Los Angelenos who came of age in the 1980s, because the path for them into middle-class life was shut when their parents were laid off. The same has certainly been true – and will doubtlessly continue to be true – for the children of a lot of construction workers here in NY, a sector I have more direct familiarity with, since that industry was put through the ringer almost a decade ago.

  • CP Norris

    Fighting for economic justice in this country is fighting for racial justice, and vice versa.

    This is very well said, and applies equally well to women’s rights.

    • Steve LaBonne

      Yes indeed.

    • DrDick

      Agree completely.

    • dogboy

      This is why Dr. King was in Memphis.

  • BGinCHI

    Those numbers are stunning.

    It’s a perfect index as to why you constantly hear locales, school districts, states, and even federal officials in the richest country in the world say “We’re Broke.”

    We live in a Hoardocracy.

    • DrDick

      I am going to have to steal those numbers to update my race and ethnicity class (I already talk about this in the class).

  • rm


  • medrawt

    I’m starting to feel more and more confident that there’s something else going on here. I mean, I think it’s totally real that there’s an intra-progressive fight about “race vs class” which I think has its roots in how some folks personalize and then oversimplify their understanding of why they believe in a progressive platform. But looking at the way the conflict can reformulate itself from Clinton vs Sanders into Trump won because of racism vs Trump won because the midwestern steel mills closed into, apparently, Perez vs Ellison, I think we haven’t yet identified what’s really motivating people to become so persistently vituperative on territory that doesn’t require a simplistic answer, and on which we should be making common cause.

    I have zero evidence or ability to argue about it, but my instinct based on 15 years in the liberal blogosphere is that it’s basically about perceptions of social class resentment, which play out in really fucking weird ways.

    • Ronan

      But does it not just mean this


      ie the messaging that consistently works (afaik) is ‘the Democrats are the party of the working class, the Republicans the party of the rich.’
      The real false dichotomy is in Campos’ framing. Do people really need Campos halfarsedly working his way through census data to know A class based argument IS explictely a race based argument, because poverty is racialised? This, afaict, is what the argument has been from the start. A class based argument means making appeals that (as polling shows) appeal to low income voters regardless of race or gender (jobs, housing etc. also crime but I guess that might be difficult)

      The alternative, by this story, is the democrats get caught up in culture war battles, or at least less *explictely* economic battles, and Reps get voters on cultural values who might have been gettable on economic concerns (as is shown in the linked tweet, what voters like about the Reps is conservatism and what they dislike about the Dems is liberalism) So the Dems (unfairly) get painted as out of touch coastal elites, rather than the party of the poor fighting against big business.
      That’s the argument, afaict, although Im interested to hear where Im wrong.

      • medrawt

        Maybe, but my comment was thinking about why the online Left is having this stupid either or argument in the first place. i.e., when I said “social class resentment,” I didn’t mean that Clinton lost because she didn’t frame herself as a hero of the working class (though that may be correct), I meant that the current “race vs class” internecine arguments are proxies for hippie punching vs contempt for The Man.

        • Ronan

          i get you

        • Paul Campos

          I meant that the current “race vs class” internecine arguments are proxies for hippie punching vs contempt for The Man.

          I think there’s definitely something to this.

          In reply to Ronan, I cited the census data because it’s a commonplace of a lot of political argument in this country right now to claim that white working class resentment is based in the supposed economic decline of white America relative to the improving economic fortunes of black America. This relative decline is imaginary.

          • Ronan

            would you not have to look at that specifically at a geographic level? since the arguments (afaict) of relative economic decline for whites is specifically about some states and industries.

            There is some evidence of


            less growth in certain industries and areas which historically were filled by white workers? This could lead to the *perception* of relative economic decline (Im not saying this is the case, I dont really have an argument in this, I just dont see what the aggregated census data does but state the obvious)

            • Ronan

              Although I think i was overly snarky on my initial comment, and strawmanned your argument. so sorry for that

              eta: actually scratch my reply above. it doesnt really dispute your argument.

          • xq

            Is that really commonplace? I haven’t seen anyone make that claim.

            • Hochschild makes something like this claim. But she attributes it to the white people she talked to. That is, she came up with the narrative and asked them if it sounded accurate to them and they said yes.

              It’s not quite the same claim. more of an image of America as a line where everybody moves up to greater affluence, pretty much automatically, if not all at the same pace, where people who thought they’d have moved up by now are seeing people of color and women, higher than the, on the ladder, and feel this is because they’ve not got in line properly and waited their turn.

      • rm

        I don’t know why Democrats get caught up in battles over false dichotomies, but I know the message that “Democrats are the party of the working class” has to be delivered carefully to voters who think that only undeserving moochers benefit from stuff Democrats propose. We want to get an economic message across, but don’t always speak the language of people who think economics is morality. Krugman keeps wondering why right-wing economists stay current when their ideas have been disproven; I think it’s because their ideas are moral, so data has nothing to do with it. When we sell our policies that really will actually improve things, it’s not enough to say that they are sound economics. Voters want to know that virtue is rewarded and vice discouraged. I’ve heard some Dems say this about rewarding work instead of investing, but we need to do better.

        • Ronan

          “but I know the message that “Democrats are the party of the working class” has to be delivered carefully to voters who think that only undeserving moochers benefit from stuff Democrats propose.”

          This seems to be true across developed countries afaict. Welfare payments dont play well at the polls unless they can be tied into a more broad range of welfare state policies (in the UK, ime, ‘people on benefits’ can be every bit as vilified as the racialised rhetoric youd see in the US, except the caricatured recipient is usually white)
          In Ireland for some reason it’s tended to not be as hot a topic, Im not sure if that’s because so many ‘go on the dole’ at some stage (across classes) or just because our media dont push it and it got heaped in with other payments, particularly public pensions.
          My impression is if you can build a broad coalition for the welfare state in the abstract, downplay payments and those out of work, stress back to work schemes, training etc, it can be perceived more positively, politically (easier said than done, I know)

          “I think it’s because their ideas are moral, so data has nothing to do with it. When we sell our policies that really will actually improve things, it’s not enough to say that they are sound economics. Voters want to know that virtue is rewarded and vice discouraged.”

          I agree with that, and I think there’s a good bit of evidence coming out that voters respond well to ‘moral’, positive messages. Battle is to build a moral, popular case for the welfare state.

        • DrDick

          has to be delivered carefully to voters who think that only undeserving moochers benefit from stuff Democrats propose.

          This is a direct consequence of 40 years of Republican propaganda to that effect, which the Democrats have not really fought back against since 1980. Indeed, Bill Clinton’s response was to “end welfare as we know it”. During the same period, the DLC (now the party establishment) abandoned class based rhetoric.

          • Republican propaganda to that effect, which the Democrats have not really fought back against since 1980.

            This seems overstated.

            • rm

              I think the attitude is centuries old, and immovable in the culture and worldview of Appalachians and Southerners.

              But that’s also why the Reagan-era propaganda of the last 40 years has found such fertile soil.

              • Jackov

                I did not realize the great migration brought so many southern whites into the northern and western suburbs. Is that from Garreau’s book?

                • rm

                  I think maybe you’re responding to a claim I didn’t make? I’m just talking about regions I have experience with. And if your point is that Trump support came from other places as well, well sure, I’m not saying anything about that. I’m saying some regions hold this worldview especially strongly. When Kentuckians voted in a governor who was promising to destroy Kynect/ACA, which had just that year saved a bunch of lives, one analysis found that people who actually needed help and benefited from the Medicaid expansion had voted Democratic. It was the working and middle class in those poorest counties, who had insurance through work, that voted against the ACA. Because they know their community is full of no good moochers and it’s immoral to give them handouts.

                  And yeah, the Great Lakes states (I don’t like “Rust Belt”) got huge Southern and Appalachian migration, but I don’t know what that’s evidence for.

                • DrDick

                  There actually were a lot of Southern, especially Appalachian, whites who moved into the northern cities looking for jobs in the 1950s and 1960s. There are a ton of them in the Detroit area and they are all over the Ohio industrial regions.

              • Yeah, I meant that Democrats haven’t pushed back.

                • DrDick

                  Please give examples where they have. Other than health care, I simply cannot think of any strong efforts to expand the social safety net or improve the lot of working Americans (no real effort to raise the minimum wage significantly, for instance).

                • I didn’t think you meant only in terms of legislation. You said “propaganda.” There are a few places in the world where people sit back and let R propagandists do their thing, but in most Ds will push hard.

                  Anyway, health care isn’t nothing; Ds never stopped saying benefits should be maintained (with admittedly big exception of “welfare reform”); Ds have argued for improved benefits for parents and children even if they involved experimentally “market-based” approaches, etc.

                • DrDick

                  I said rightwing “propaganda.” The way you push back against that is to put forward proposals and programs that counter it. You have to demonstrate that you actually mean it and are not just talking out the side of your mouth.

                • What, so you don’t have to counter propaganda directly or offer counter-messaging and counter-arguments, just quietly put forward policy proposals that people will recognize in their hearts are good? Pull the other one.

              • DrDick

                Which reveals a profound ignorance of Southerners and of history. Southern whites loved the New Deal programs. The resistance to Democratic social welfare policies among working class whites only emerged in the late 1960s and 1970s, as a consequence of the civil rights legislation, when conservatives started labeling them as programs for minorities and not “hard working whites.” It really took off under Reagan with his “welfare queens, t-bones, and caddies” schtick.

        • LeeEsq

          Krugman would agree with you that the rightist economists stay current because they are advocating morals rather than data driven. He argued that the austerity advocates won the response to the 2007 financial crisis because “the wages of sin are death” is a more morally compelling story than “shit happens.” BGI has a hard time gaining ground because even many leftists believe that “those who do not work, do not eat.”

          • rm

            Yeah, I phrased that badly. This is an idea I learned mostly from reading Krugman, not my own brilliant insight, but I sounded like I was chastening the guy.

            It’s so hard not to come across as an asshole in the medium of comment threads. I’m enjoying the both/and, all-getting-along feeling in this thread. Because we can all agree, of course, that facts are facts and that shit is fucked up and bullshit with statistics to prove it.

    • ThrottleJockey

      I’ve made an effort to avoid the circular firing squad because I think it’s unproductive and meaningless.

      But the reason we’re having this fight is because people are sad, angry and fearful. Had Hill won we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Its a projection of underlying emotions devoid of real, practical meaning.

      Do I think Hill should’ve–like Obama against Romney–focused her messaging more on destroying Trumps perceived advantage on economic matters? Yeah. Do I think that debate is worth more than a single day’s news cycle? Not at all. And I don’t really believe 90% of us debating this issue seriously would like to see the Dems shortchange either Identity at the expense of Class or the reverse.

      • kvs

        Voters who cared most about the economy were more likely to support Clinton. That message obviously got through to the people who cared.

        The problem was that the economy wasn’t the top concern for enough voters and Trump had large margins in other priorities like bringing change.

  • But if we just yell “Economic Anxiety!” every time someone does something racist, we can avoid having to deal with this tricky interplay between racism and economics, plus we don’t have to question the role of capitalism in creating Trumpism.

    • Snuff curry

      Whereas if we handwave away the racism as wallpaper for True Economic Anxiety, we definitely do PROFIT!!!1!

    • Is that really what you think people mean by that? That they’re dismissing economic issues entirely? I guess that explains why so many of your posts recently seem to be jousting windmills. If people were seriously arguing that the Democrats should disregard economic justice in favor of civil rights, that would be something worth arguing against. But I don’t know of anyone making that argument. I sure see a lot of people making the reverse argument — that the Democrats should abandon or de-emphasize civil rights in favor of a stronger economic appeal. That’s what the “economic anxiety” snark is about.

      • Origami Isopod

        I sure see a lot of people making the reverse argument — that the Democrats should abandon or de-emphasize civil rights in favor of a stronger economic appeal. That’s what the “economic anxiety” snark is about.


      • Nick056

        Can’t agree with this. Economic anxiety snark in fact is an expression of the implicit belief that personal economic worries did not play any role in the swing toward Trump among whites, especially northern rural whites. Part of the argument is that Democrats should not waste time assessing whether their economic message needs work, or whether their policy platform should change, because the decisive “but for” factors in the election were American Irredeemers and James Comey.

        Incidentally, several of the bias or hate incidents which generated economic anxiety snark have turned out to be in all likelihood false reports, e.g., the woman who said she was attacked in the NYC city subway system by men yelling about Donald Trump, who ripped off her hijab, is facing misdeamor charges for concocting the story. But the stories vividly helped to reinforce the centrality of “identity politics” in the election and purported to show the absurdity of ascribing economic anxiety to Trump voters. So if they turn out to have been false or unsubstantiated (i.e. fake news) it won’t trend in liberal circles.

        • Dr. Waffle

          And by “several,” you mean two or three out of the hundreds of reported incidents.

          • Nick056

            Yes, several post-election cases of bias assault that captured the attention of liberals, and served to exemplify both the nature of Trump supporters and the naïveté or knowing blindness of “the left,” turned out to be fake stories either dreamed up to advance a certain narrative or address some totally unrelated personal problem — I think the woman in the subway was going to miss her curfew.

            I don’t know whether it’s “two or three” or some higher number. Doesn’t really matter. The point is that several of the more dramatic stories that perfectly and directly connected Trump support to physical violence against protected groups have turned out not to be true, and liberals appear not to care.

            • Ronan

              But the general trend is accurate , afaik. There might be a bias towards these high profile ones being disproportionately false, and IMO people should generally concentrate on the trends rather than individual cases (individual cases can blow up in your face) but the increase in hate crime, as after brexit, does seem to be accurate

              • Nick056

                My understanding is that bias incidents did spike after the election. And there were lots of harassing incidents reported and substantiated. Graffiti, kids in school telling “Hiel Hitler,” the Spencer neonazi convention in DC.

                But I’m honestly not sure if there is any meaningful trend of people identifying themselves explicitly as Trump supporters and then assaulting someone in a protected group, and several of those stories did turn out not to hold up or be unsubstantiated. My point is that individual stories, widely repeated, can become almost canonical rebuttals to totally unrelated arguments about economic messaging. There’s nothing less productive to me than saying, “if you want to say it’s imperative to change the Democrats economic message or emphasis to win more votes in the Rust Belt, you’re ignoring that the real motivation for Trump voters is assaulting Muslim women.”

        • Dilan Esper

          Part of the argument is that Democrats should not waste time assessing whether their economic message needs work

          Along the same lines, how much “economic anxiety!” snark comes from eductaed people on the coasts, who are the clear beneficiaries of free trade policies, and how much comes from the rust belt?

          I don’t like snark. That’s not a secret. But this is a very good example where it is covering up actual arguments. A lot of liberal coastal elites would really not prefer an industrial policy that is designed to help more people in the rust belt, because it could upset the international trade system that they benefit from. (Heck, from a pure policy standpoint, I wouldn’t either. But I’m part of a coalition and we need votes from people who were the victims rather than the beneficiaries of our trade policies.) But they’d rather not say THAT openly, so we get snark instead.

          • Ronan

            But, and I’m not being confrontational or snarky, the effects of trade are posted on here a lot. And iirc you were generally one of the ones making the case for trade on those posts. I seem to remember you going after Erik quite strongly !
            But look, specifically what do you think can be done ? It’s fine to say you want to bring good manufacturing jobs back, but what does it mean in practice ? What would protectionist trade policies do to the economy in general (not just “coastal elites” but other sectors , or people on lower incomes more reliant on low cost consumer goods). How would such an economy be maintainable in the longer run, particularly as jobs decline due to productivity increases anyway ? Are you just going to incentivise a lot of young workers to swap education/other skills for a career with little future ?
            I mean I agree it’s a tricky situation, but I don’t see what your solution is

            • sonamib

              My solution would be a decrease in the number of hours you need to work in a week for it to be counted “full-time”. Decrease it progressively to 30h/week (and push it down further if needed). The French went to a 35h work week and they created about 400k jobs. Scale that up to the USA and you create 2M jobs. Scale that up to the EU and you create 3.5M jobs (might be less because some Germans already have lower work week arrangements through their unions but you get the idea).

              I know it’s no silver bullet for declining areas but it will definitely help. With more leisure time, people will spend more on vacations and entertainment. That might even stimulate the economy.

              • The French have strong unions and a national ideology supported by a centralized public education system and a lack of institutional opponents. We might have had part of that if the postwar consensus had been stronger and gone a different way. We don’t. And as far as I know that kind of thing would lose a good part of the left here if it were proposed.

                And without that, you could never get a crackdown on overtime to work. Not as long as the working class thinks it’s virtuous to go along with the manager when he tells them not to report it.

                • sonamib

                  Yep, it’s true that the political constraints are enormous. I was mostly daydreaming. Like I daydream that one day, cycling in Brussels will be as easy as in Amsterdam.

          • aturner339

            Empirically nearly everyone is a clear beneficiary from trade policies. Our trouble there is in very specific sectors.

            • ThrottleJockey

              The gains from trade are spread highly unevenly. IP attorneys like Dilan and other knowledge workers do quite well. Rust belt workers lose their jobs but get lower prices from a China supplied Wal-Mart. Not really a fair trade.

              To Ronan’s question a mitigation policy might take several forms. Free community college so workers could more easily adapt. Modest tariffs on things like the textiles trades. More aggressive action against Chinese dumping and manipulation of their currency. Tax cuts for workers in targeted industries. A National Infrastructure Bank (of size and influence commensurate with the Fed) whose twin goals are to maintain full employment and solid, secure infrastructure. Higher taxes on export sectors to redistribute to workers hurt by high imports. Et cetera…

              • sonamib

                And I’m curious, what do you think of my proposal to reduce the number of hours of a full-time work week? And crack down harder on overtime? That’s bound to create jobs…

            • Incontinentia Buttocks

              And if you look at Paul’s figures in the original post, all classes have experienced income growth since 1980. If we eliminate distributional questions and just ask “who benefits at all?” then a lot of terrible, unjust policies are suddenly ok, like tax cuts that favor the very rich. Such calculations also tend to ignore externalities, like the environmental impact of the species of trade deal that we’ve been signing onto since NAFTA. So asking, in a narrow way, who benefits from trade is avoiding a lot of key questions. And, of course, the real issue is not whether we trade, but rather under what set of rules we trade.

              • aturner339

                I agree completely. I would like us to do the opposite of ignoring distributional problems. I would like to see us tackle them directly rather than railing against “trade deals” in general.

        • DrDick

          Part of the argument is that Democrats should not waste time assessing whether their economic message needs work, or whether their policy platform should change,

          Yes it is and that argument is just wrong.

        • Part of the argument is that Democrats should not waste time assessing whether their economic message needs work, or whether their policy platform should change, because the decisive “but for” factors in the election were American Irredeemers and James Comey.

          Who is saying this? I haven’t heard it. On the other hand, you seem to be very eager to suggest that a few false reports of bias incidents disprove the idea that Trump support is caused by bigotry.

    • Darkrose

      Because it’s offensive for marginalized people to mock the people who hate us.

      • Dilan Esper

        Repeating my question from above:

        how much “economic anxiety!” snark comes from eductaed people on the coasts, who are the clear beneficiaries of free trade policies, and how much comes from the rust belt?

        • Steve LaBonne

          I’m an educated person in the rust belt, and fuck you and your genteel racism.

          • Dilan Esper

            So any attempt to help your working class neighbors is racist? How convenient for you.

            • Steve LaBonne

              My favorite Democrat is my beloved Senator Sherrod Brown, who is a great champion of the working class (of all colors). Again, fuck you and the racist horse you rode in on.

        • Darkrose

          I’m an educated person on a coast.

          I’m also black, female, queer and disabled.

          You seem to be arguing that the class privilege means that I should shut up about the other stuff because my existential anxiety is less important that the economic anxiety of white people in the Rust Belt.

          If that’s not what you’re suggesting, please do clarify.

    • ThrottleJockey

      Do many Democrats hand wave away racism in favor of economic anxiety?

      In a practical sense I feel like we can address both and despite comments otherwise by certain pundits I don’t think they actually mean in practice that Dems should, say, stop meeting with BLM or condemning police brutality.

      • Darkrose

        I don’t think it’s either-or. But when people who voted for Trump are surprised and shocked that he’s going to do the things he campaigned on, like taking away their health care, I really feel like focusing on how the Democrats can change their messaging to appeal to people who voted for him is not that productive.

        We can certainly discuss whether Clinton’s messaging on economics could have been better–though I honestly think it wouldn’t have mattered because EMAILS–but at the end of the day, she had policies and plans that would have benefited working class people, including Trump voters. Yet white people, men and women, as a demographic group voted for Trump. The breakdown isn’t by economics, since people making below $50,000 broke for Clinton across racial lines. The predictor for voting Trump was primarily–not exclusively–racial identity. Essentially, this election proved LBJ’s point that white people will hand over their wallets to someone who assures them they’ll still be better than a black person.

        Trump has no policies. He is demonstrably unqualified for the office he will hold. His campaign was built on “I hate the same people you hate.” And white America said, “Yeah!”

        I don’t know how to fix that. But I do think that the root of the problem is racial, and any solutions that don’t take into account that white people voted for the racist candidate are a distraction, and whether intentionally or not, will end up throwing the people who are the real Democratic base under the bus.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks

        There certainly was a tendency during the primary campaign to accuse Sanders and his supporters of racism for focusing on class issues. Clearly, Sanders and his message did not resonate enough with African Americans to win the nomination. But that’s a very different thing from saying that Sanders’s focus on class was somehow at the exclusion of a focu about race. The attempt to make Sanders sound like Mark Lilla in the weeks after the election suggests that this problem isn’t going away. There are actually competing economic and policy visions within the Democratic Party. But the division isn’t over class vs. “identity.”

        • You have a point but I see no reason why Sanders couldn’t choose to distance himself from Lilla and Kristof more than he has.

    • Morbo

      It’s weird that you draw this line but are quick to declare that anyone who moves to a better school district is racist.

      • nixnutz

        I’d say the word “racist” is generally not all that helpful because it obscures the way that racism works. People who move their kids to the suburbs so that they can preserve their economic advantage over poor people may not be “racists” but they are choosing to benefit from systemic racism, have historically fought like hell to preserve said systemic racism, and do more to perpetuate economic inequality than 99% of the self-identified racists out there.

        Most of them are probably well-meaning, are probably decent allies in plenty of fights, but if they insist on denying the consequences of their actions I don’t trust them.

        • UncleEbeneezer

          How do we explain to these people the adverse effects of their actions/inactions on Black and NonBlack PoC in a way that doesn’t set off their somebody’s-calling-me-Racist alarm?* To me the whole point is to try and get them to understand the complexity of Racism and the subtle and even passive ways that they may contribute to it. But no matter how you word it, eventually they get defensive. If there’s a way to do it that works, I’d love to know it. I’ve tried both methods and they both get the same resistance. Imo, getting White people to understand that the things that they do that they think aren’t racist, actually DO contribute to and perpetuate Racism, is the goal of the conversation.

          *Putting aside for the moment, the question of the morality of tailoring the wording of this conversation about racism around White Fragility.

    • Drexciya

      But if we just yell “Economic Anxiety!” every time someone does something racist, we can avoid having to deal with this tricky interplay between racism and economics, plus we don’t have to question the role of capitalism in creating Trumpism.

      Would it be fair to say that this exchange from the recent Sanders forum, outlined in this Jacobin article is how an appropriate, serious and considerate undertaking of this discussion would look to you?

      It was with the second woman, Gail Sparks, that Sanders had his most memorable exchange of the evening. Reema Ahmad, a Muslim audience member and community organizer had just spoken about Trump’s “campaign of hate.” Jamie Selena, the other woman Trump voter, quickly insisted, “I would never want to see anyone thrown out [of the country] just because of their beliefs. It’s awful.”

      The two men also distanced themselves from Trump’s anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant appeals, which they called unconstitutional and “unimplementable.” But Sparks said, “I hope he does” deport undocumented migrants, and went on to blame them for low wages at her factory job: “Because there are so many illegals in there, I can’t get the pay I should get.” She went on to report, “it’s been said on the radio” that undocumented people dodge traffic tickets and taxes — “they go to Mexico and hide.”

      Sparks was not looking like the most promising prospect for Sanders when, a minute later, she took control of the stage to ask the audience, “Who pays for the Medicare, for the Medicaid?” and raised her palms upward to amplify the reply, “We do.” “And” — she went on — “down on the streets, do you ever feel like we are becoming the silent minority? . . . The people? . . . Who listens to us, really?”

      It sounded like a classic Trump cocktail: nativism, economic threat, political alienation, and grim hints that “the people” is a smaller and more exclusive group than those who happen to live, work, or even vote here.

      Then Sanders stepped in. He asked — a little professorially — whether Sparks believed that Social Security and Medicare should not be cut. She strongly agreed. He pivoted to “a very fair point” Sparks had raised: who will pay for the programs?

      “What all of us need to know,” Sanders said, “is that over the last twenty-five years in this country, there has been a massive transfer of wealth . . . from you to the top one-tenth of one percent. The middle class has shrunk, and trillions of dollars have gone to the top one-tenth of one percent. Do you think it’s inappropriate to ask those people to start paying their fair share of taxes, so that we can adequately fund Medicaid and make public colleges and universities tuition-free? Is that an unfair thing to ask?”

      Sparks missed only a beat: “I don’t think it’s an unfair thing to ask. The one-percenters, they got rich off us. So it’s time they put back.”

      “That’s all I’m saying,” Sanders replied to applause, and what seemed to be newfound agreement from Sparks. It was, for a moment, as if the seasoned social democrat had exorcised Trumpism, with its nativist nightmares, and brought old-fashioned class politics blinking into twenty-first century daylight.

      And if that is fair to say, in what way are the evident effects of Trump support, as experienced and soon to be experienced by minorities, addressed by his answer? How was a thoroughly anti-immigrant appeal positively challenged in a way we could all benefit from equally by emphasizing that we all want to see rich people taxed so that it can be redistributed appropriately? When does racism not have an arguably economic component, and why is Trump support (and not, say, Jim Crow) the acceptable point to take economic arguments from white racists at face value?

      You’ve been a big proponent of “we can do both,” but that exchange and this subthread has been what “doing both” has looked like in practice. It’s looked like a trivialization of our concerns, set against a backdrop of ethnic violence. It’s looked like a deflection of white moral responsibility in the execution of indefensible actions, where their culpability is distant from any analysis of the problem/solution. It’s looked like the prioritization of the eventual betterment of white people over consideration about how their agency and empowerment came together to threaten us existentially. “Doing both” has meant the unhelpful blurring of incompatible interests (e.g being anti-racist by aiding and defending racists and reinterpreting what they actually voted for), in service of a presumably shared higher good propelled by understating their ideological and actual antagonism. It’s been the call for the internalization of manipulative apologia intended to dismiss the centrality of white supremacy as an ideological core/motivator that’s not sufficiently addressed or challenged by “well, they want more money.” And I’m left to wonder, if attentiveness to “economic anxiety” can only be done through the effective dismissal of some of our interests and priorities why, exactly, do its proponents expect response beyond the one they’ve gotten?

      I’ve said this before, and it’s only become clearer after the election, but though we may all be some flavor of liberal, leftist, Democrat or whatever, many of us fundamentally do not share a side.

      • ThrottleJockey

        Interesting post Drex.

        Question: Were you Sanders how would you have replied to the woman? What would be a more effective response than the one Sanders offered?

      • glasnost

        I’ve said this before, and it’s only become clearer after the election, but though we may all be some flavor of liberal, leftist, Democrat or whatever, many of us fundamentally do not share a side.

        I’d say we absolutely do share a side. In some magical thinking world, maybe the one you seem to live in, where Republicans were a despised minority that had trouble breaching 15% of the vote, you could have the beginnings of a pragmatic argument on behalf of the interests that you think you represent. In the current world, well..

        In this thought experiment where we don’t “share a side”, Drex, what’s the hard cap on “your side’s” electoral prospects? Five percent of the vote? What’s your brilliant plan for convincing white voters – more than, say, one in one hundred white voters – to accept your worldview as an appropriate representation of their interests and well being in an election? A lot of hostile blog comments? How well is this working?

        I wouldn’t vote for a political candidate who articulated your worldview. And I’d add that when you scour the US, you’d be challenged to name a single political candidate who articulates your worldview. And for good reason: it’s a political death wish.

        The strongest possible effect a movement with your point of view could have is the creation of a Green-Party esque splinter group on the left that could successfully guarantee the total and indefinite control of America by the Republican party under our winner-takes-all electoral system.

        So, your case for what you see as the best interests of the portion of America that you care about, if it ever caught on, would lead in practice to the maximal extent of reactionary policies aimed at, probably, heightened violent repression at everyone and everything you care about, as well as everyone and everything I and the rest of this blog’s inhabitants as well care about for good measure (because we’d probably side with you).

        Given how freaking smart you are, I could hope for you to spend two non-magical thinking seconds at some point, to ponder the actual endgame of your lonely, one-man quest to excommunicate everyone an inch to your “right” on social justice in this country from the Democratic Party. If you were successful, where do you think most of them would go? And what would happen when they did?

        • sibusisodan

          I’d say we absolutely do share a side….I wouldn’t vote for a political candidate who articulated your worldview.

          ‘We share a side, provided you agree with me‘ appears to be precisely the thing that Drexciya is hammering away at.

        • tsam

          Ah–here’s the heart of the matter. I saw a TJ comment recently that said Democrats are the only party “who will have us”. I’m not sure I’ve ever read such a stinging rebuke packaged in a seemingly anodyne statement.
          Now here’s a comment that can be summaries as saying “we share a side, but in terms laid out by us whites.” It does put a light on the bigger picture in that we have policy objectives that are designed to equalize wealth and the hope is that it chips away at racism. Our policy is to stick with it, whether it’s working or not,and remind black people that it IS working, even when it’s not.

          I feel like the worst problem in these discussion boards is the idea that this one weird trick solves all the problems. A labor historian routinely advocates for better labor conditions, pay and benefits, because that’s his thing. It HAS a positive effect on black lives when these conditions improve. I think there’s plenty of empirical evidence to support this claim. But we don’t have to choose, people. We can attack racism, sexism, bigotry in all forms and make it a priority to do so. How about we spend more time listening to the victims of it and less time pontificating on a white male solution. I promise that’ll speed up the process. And get off Erik’s nuts about income inequality and declining labor conditions. He never said trump was only about economic anxieties.

        • Little Chak

          The point is very simple: white racial resentment is an executioner holding a gun, ready to fire. Economic anxieties are the bullets needed to make the gun deadly. If Sanders only ever directs someone like Sparks to look at the increasing stratification of wealth, and doesn’t ever correct her assumptions that racial minorities and/or immigrants are moochers, then the gun will forever be armed and waiting for the next economic anxiety to befell a group of crucial swing-state voters.

          I don’t see why there is necessarily this enormous political cost to saying, “The top tenth of one percent are using these lies about race and immigrants to steal from you and hold you down”; and that there isn’t a social and political cost from assuming that we can never convince this type of voter that minorities and immigrants aren’t lazy moochers, and so insofar as it is a part of our messaging about economic justice, it must forever be hidden.

  • joel hanes

    From 1946-1980, pretax national income grew by 95%. From 1980-2014 it grew by 61%.

    I’ll take
    “What were the real-world effects of Reaganism?”
    for ten thousand dollars please, Alex.

  • aturner339

    I think that racial inequality hasclear economic dimensions and that this exists in a form entirely unlike other aspects of economic inequality. It is its own beast and a successful liberal platform must surely confront the fact that black poverty and white poverty in America are simply not alike. Affirmative Action was never conceived of as a way to do this. In fact this nation has never really target e the racial income gap with any policy whatsoever.

    That said the “non racial” income gap remains an equally serious issue and our steps towards ameliorating that issue have been tentative at best.

    Mostly because the best way to do so is currently outside of the politcal mainstream. ThrottleJockey above said we need a plan to deal with economic dislocation due to trade. Economists have a plan for this. It’s a basic part of any model of gains from trade.
    Transfers. Take from the rich. Give to the poor.

    However note even the left wing of the Democratic Party dares to touch that rail at present.

    • Linnaeus

      Yeah, relatively few people in the US really want to deal with the true social and economic costs of free trade and automation. Even if orthodox economic theory points to a solution, almost no one in practice actually believes it. One result is that people and communities that face significant economic distress either get ignored or they get blamed for their failure to “adapt” (how that adapting was supposed to be done, well that’s not our problem).

    • ThrottleJockey

      Hey AT could you elaborate on what you mean at a practical or policy level please? What do you mean when you say racial economic inequality has different drivers?

      I’m not sure I if I would necessarily agree but I think you’ve said something intriguing. I wonder though if at a policy level this means anything more than “Improve the education system”?

      If that’s the main implication I think you can win that argument without having to invoke race. Which would probably, tactically speaking, be good…So what would a policy agenda for racial economic inequality look like?

      • aturner339

        Racial economic inequality was a deliberate project of the American state for most of its history. It’s a feature not a bug of our policies. Lawmakers may have genuinely thought free trade would benefit middle class Americans (again empirically they may even be right about that)

        They had no illusion that redlining or the demise of integration busing would help minorities. They just didn’t care.

        That a 10,000 feet view. Up close what we see are massive effects from residential and educational segregation including on crime and health. On a broad scale of well being middle class black families occupy worse neighborhoods and have lower chances of upward mobility than poor whites. I don’t think “colorblind policy” can do anything about that.

        • ThrottleJockey

          How would the Democratic Party platform address racial segregation? Do you have 2 or 3 policy ideas that would be Constitutional?

          [PS–I consider this more social policy than economic policy because while it has an economic impact the levers being pulled are social. In this same vein legalizing pot or increasing education spending have economic impacts on blacks but are primarily pulling social levers.]

          • aturner339

            I consider the distribution of scarce housing or educational resources to be fundamentally economic in nature though with significant social implications (which makes sense economics is social by definition).

            And yes bumping up against a right wing SC for the past forty years obviously didn’t help. My go to suggestion has been direct cash transfers but local leaders could also try some bankshots like within-district busing.

            • ThrottleJockey

              When we talk about it in this vein I think the disagreements are small, few and far between. Within district busing isn’t all that controversial and where it is it’s not racially based (for instance in Chicago many blacks dislike busing).

              • aturner339

                But of course if it isn’t based around the dimension of inequality it can’t really address the inequality. Hence the numbers Paul posted.

                This is essentially the ball game. We both agree that the reason democrats won’t use race-sensitive policies is because they incite opposition not because they don’t exist or aren’t appropriate.

                Locating the key aspect of that opposition within the black community is a red herring as you know. It reminds me of Buckley’s claim that the average black southerner wasn’t as ‘bitter” as mouthy old MLK.

                It isn’t black families suing hat stopped integration busing and isn’t black opposition today that keeps the democratic party clinging to “colorblindness” as a defense against a dereliction of duty.

    • xq

      I don’t know what you mean. Raising taxes on the rich to fund programs for the poor and middle class has been part of the Democratic party message for decades.

      • aturner339

        Yes but those programs have been stymied by conplexity and the counter effects of “federalism” (see the Medicaid expansion)

        I think we need to take a cue from the developing world. Less programs more cash.

  • MAJeff

    I wish I could find the tweet, but last year, when the Harvard Inequality people came out with a economics paper on the importance of neighborhood-level variables in social mobility, one of the folks presenting it in the seminar was reported to have introduced it with “Turns out the sociologists were right all along.”

    There’s a degree to which I’m reading this thinking, “I’ve been teaching this shit for decades.” Sociologists have been discussing this stuff forever. But, I guess it takes economists for people to take it seriously. It sometimes feels like sociologists are the prophets in the wilderness waiting for the economist priests to sanctify what we’ve been saying.

    • Linnaeus

      That’s because economics is more “rigorous”, unlike in sociology where things are just made up.

      • Origami Isopod

        Economics is manly. Sociology is girly.

      • NeonTrotsky

        I’ve always hated this attitude among economists. Like it really doesn’t matter how sophisticated your mathematical model is if its wrong.

        • MAJeff

          They need to develop a sociological imagination :)

        • ThrottleJockey

          Wait, you just assume it’s right–like the can opener!

        • xq

          I think the best empirical work in social science is mostly done by economists these days. Not because the abstract mathematical models or theory is better, just because the grad programs are better at teaching statistics and experimental design. Like, you can make fun of “rigor” if you want but it really does seem to mostly be economists coming up with the creative experiments to deal with the major causation issues in complex social science questions.

      • rm

        Economics is about money which is real and measurable and hard and metal.

        Sociology is just about human beings who are so messy and unreliable, so full of feelings, not hard-thinking Rational Actors. Sociologists might even tell you that money isn’t real.

    • DrDick

      I know the feeling. I have been teaching this stuff for decades, but what do I know, I am only an anthropologist.

  • Think the split is bad now, wait until the robots are doing all the jobs.

    • Mike in DC

      From 2014-2047, effectively half the population would shift to being on some kind of dole. The next 40% would be treading water. 10% would have modest growth. The one percent, .1, .01, and .001 would pretty much suck up all of the gains. That is, assuming we’re not roasting them on spits and feeding them to their families.

      • We have a hard enough time with getting a dole to the people who need it. There will be no dole for anyone who is able bodied.

  • Fidalgo

    Fighting for economic justice in this country is fighting for racial justice, and vice versa.

    I agree with you here, but the problem is that many (most?) of the WWC believe that they’re poor because black people are buying lobster with food stamps and they don’t want to institute truly progressive taxation schemes because as soon as we manage to make all these freeloaders give up their Obamaphones, then the WWC people are going be rich then and damned if they will want to pay out all that money in taxes.

    • Steve LaBonne

      This is what is frustrating about the false dichotomy and the people who populate the barricades on one side or the other of it. Racism is not the only reason, but it is a very big reason for why we can’t have nice things. It is what motivates most of the non-rich white people who keep voting to impoverish themselves. Race and class / economic opportunity just aren’t separable things in the US.

      • Fidalgo

        I really wish I knew a workable strategy to convince WWC males that their economic interests are much more aligned with those of blacks/hispanics/women etc. than they are with the kleptocratic republican machine.

        The truth just isn’t enough. Repetition doesn’t seem to work. So, what then?

        • Steve LaBonne

          Accept that most of them will never be gettable votes for Democrats, and focus on registering and turning out the people who are. Which the Clinton campaign signally failed to do in the states that turned out to be critical.

          • Darkrose

            This. Right here.

            Also while we’re arguing about Democratic strategy going forward, an actual coup is underway in North Carolina. A possible (though long shot) Senate seat gain in Louisiana was lost because the Democratic party didn’t show up. Maybe we can focus a little on the now?

        • Linnaeus

          This is one reason why the decline of organized labor in the US is a major problem for liberal politcs, beyond the erosion of material benefits that collective bargaining provides for workers. Labor unions were (and are) important sources of political education and that education has waned with the power of organized labor, leaving a void that is not filled, or worse, filled with right wing bullshit.

          • And conservatives know this and that’s the primary reason unions have been targeted for extinction.

            • Linnaeus


              • Steve LaBonne

                But they aren’t coming back- certainly not *before* the Republicans are out of power- so pining for them is not especially productive. New strategies for a different time are needed. The Democratic Party needs to relearn how to organize from the ground up, since the unions are no longer able to take on much of that work. The party apparatus has decayed very badly.

                • Linnaeus

                  The Democratic Party can’t do it alone. No political party can – they all rely on institutions external to them to educate and mobilize voters. Political parties don’t have the resources or the reach to do it all themselves. The Republican Party may look like a juggernaut, but it relies heavily on the NRA, evangelical churches, think thanks, business organizations, etc. to promulgate its positions and get its candidates elected.

                  So working to revitalize the labor movement is not simply pining for a bygone era, it is exactly the kind of the organizing that needs to be done if left and liberal politics are to have a future in the US. We can discuss things like institutional forms, organizing methods, etc. and how those may change over time. But even though many of the jobs have changed, the basic social relations in which they are enmeshed have not changed all that much. Consequently, the same kinds of issues that concerned workers one hundred years ago are still present: pay, working conditions and safety, etc. Those haven’t gone away and there still needs to be some kind of institution (or group of institutions) that deals with those issues and that represents workers interests. It’s good for liberal politics and it’s the right thing to do.

                • Steve LaBonne

                  I agree in principle, but as I pointed out there is a severe chicken / egg problem there- Democrats have lost the power to help unions. That they didn’t use it when they had it was a severe dereliction of duty that has helped land us in this mess, but that ship has sailed. Edited to add that the unions have also lost their own members.

            • ThrottleJockey

              To horribly date myself: True dat.

            • Joseph Slater

              Yep. Plus the more mundane get out the vote, money, and volunteers.

        • ThrottleJockey

          Stop being so pessimistic. Shit it’s not like you have to convince all of them. Fuck all we need is 5% off them. Not even.

    • Jackov

      You appear to be confused.

      Over the past 40 years poor whites have voted more strongly for Democratic presidential candidates than whites withe college degrees. Whites in the bottom third of income voted for Obama 10-15 points higher than the white middle class.

      Perhaps you meant lower-middle and middle class whites.

  • ploeg

    If I recall correctly, a major concern of African Americans is that they did not care to be beaten and/or shot by police officers. (For what it’s worth, I also recall hearing that the situation is worse for Native Americans.) Now, the difference between an African American being shot in a rusted Chevy and an African American being shot in a new Chrysler is that it is assumed that the Chrysler is stolen.

    Economic justice is a necessary step forward but is hardly sufficient.

    Adding: I would also allow that many of the worst cases of police misconduct would be solved by more equitable policies (funding government through regular taxation rather than using police as revenue collectors, for example). There is a certain unity there, but it won’t get us all the way there.

  • jeer9

    the poor, the working class, and most of the middle class have seen (or rather failed to see, cf. the election of Donald Trump)

    Sure, 1980 is when economic inequality began to soar and Reaganism appears to be the proximate cause but did you also know that in 1980:

    A.) CNN was launched.
    B.) Tim Berners-Lee began work on ENQUIRE, the system that will eventually lead to the creation of the World Wide Web in the fall of 1990
    C.) The Washington Post published Janet Cooke’s story of Jimmy, an 8-year-old heroin addict (later proven to be fabricated).

    A coincidence? I think not.

    From there, it’s a very short hop, skip, and jump to the fact that over 62 million (primarily white) Americans looked at the issues related to economic anxiety and inequality and decided that Donald Trump was the man who could fix these problems.

    No need to thank me.

    • CrunchyFrog

      1964: Top marginal tax rate reduced from 91% -> 70% (Kennedy proposal)
      1982: Top marginal tax rate reduced from 70% -> 50% (Reagan “trojan horse”)
      1987: 38.5% (More Reagan)
      1988: 33% (Ditto)
      1991: 31% (Bush 1)
      1994: 39.6% (Clinton)
      2003: 35% (Bush 2)
      2013: 39.6% (Bush 2 cuts expire due to 10 year reconciliation window)

      When you’re dealing with huge enterprises like the US economy and wide-reaching concepts like inequality and economic growth it’s hard to identify key factors which influence trends in either. But in this case there is clearly a relationship. It’s a lagging relationship – a change in tax rate in one year will start to show cumulative effects as early as 2 or 3 years down the road but the full impact won’t be appreciated until you have a couple of decades of historical perspective.

      Basically, the higher the marginal rate the lower the wealth and income inequality. Furthermore, all things being equal, economic growth is better when the top marginal rate is higher, and that is precisely because the lower 2/3rds (or so) of the income classes have more money to spend, which is what they tend to do.

      The problem is that there is a third, incredibly important, factor that the top marginal tax rate influences, and that is the amount of money poured into politics by contributors. Once the barn door was opened by dropping the top rate to 70% it was probably only a matter of time before the wealthy were able to amass enough monetary influence in politics to get their candidate elected and bring it down again … and again … and again. Even the temporary respites of the Clinton years and the second Obama term left the top rates low enough that the rich were essentially guaranteed to be able to buy another election and get the rates down again.

      The lesson is that after whatever global catastrophe it will be that ends the second gilded age occurs, it is essential that an effective maximum income cap be established as was effectively the case in the western world post-WW2 and that it be done in a way that is essentially irreversible.

      • Very much agreed on both counts. Wealth concentration and media concentration go hand in hand. As I recall, it was the 1980s when a capital firm bought ABC (which paved the way for Disney later) and GE bought NBC. CBS was rich enough to kinda do it the other way around, but all three are now part of massive conglomerates where the news division is a tiny for profit chunk of a massive for profit empire.

        The lesson is that after whatever global catastrophe it will be that ends the second gilded age occurs, it is essential that an effective maximum income cap be established as was effectively the case in the western world post-WW2 and that it be done in a way that is essentially irreversible.

        If we survive it, I’m right there with you.

        • MAJeff

          It was also the 1980s when major media corporations decided that the news divisions had to be profitable on their own terms instead of being subsidizes by the entertainment divisions.

          • CrunchyFrog

            Even that wasn’t an independent decision. As I posted earlier, this was part of a Heritage-hatched strategy to put all major news divisions – print and broadcast – under conservative control. The 1986 and 1987 actions to remove restrictions on media consolidation, plus the end of the Fairness Doctrine, were a key part of this. Yes, they wanted the divisions to make money, but they also wanted them to be putting Republicans in a favorable light. The fact that CNN is seen today as liberal because it is the main competitor to Fox is amazing – and example of the huge success that strategy became for the rich right wingers.

      • Linnaeus

        If Wolfgang Streeck is right (NB: he has expanded this into a book that just came out last month), we may not have an opportunity to do so:

        The image I have of the end of capitalism—an end that I believe is already under way—is one of a social system in chronic disrepair, for reasons of its own and regardless of the absence of a viable alternative. While we cannot know when and how exactly capitalism will disappear and what will succeed it, what matters is that no force is on hand that could be expected to reverse the three downward trends in economic growth, social equality and financial stability and end their mutual reinforcement. In contrast to the 1930s, there is today no political-economic formula on the horizon, left or right, that might provide capitalist societies with a coherent new regime of regulation, or régulation. Social integration as well as system integration seem irreversibly damaged and set to deteriorate further. [16] What is most likely to happen as time passes is a continuous accumulation of small and not-so-small dysfunctions; none necessarily deadly as such, but most beyond repair, all the more so as they become too many for individual address. In the process, the parts of the whole will fit together less and less; frictions of all kinds will multiply; unanticipated consequences will spread, along ever more obscure lines of causation. Uncertainty will proliferate; crises of every sort—of legitimacy, productivity or both—will follow each other in quick succession while predictability and governability will decline further (as they have for decades now). Eventually, the myriad provisional fixes devised for short-term crisis management will collapse under the weight of the daily disasters produced by a social order in profound, anomic disarray.

        • CrunchyFrog

          That scenario is unfortunately far too believable. In the 1920s and 1930s the rot in capitalist systems was well understood and there was lots of discussion about better systems. Some of this discussion resulted in fascism, and a lot of people flirted with the idea of communism, but the general western consensus formed around the modern social democracy, which is what most 1st world nations established in one form or another in post-WW2.

          Compare that to today. Fascism is again on the rise everywhere, in terms of the increased numbers of voters willing to give it another go, but who is there to stand up for a solution like social democracy? Everywhere the leaders of the center-left seem to have given up on the idea and embraced various flavors of austerity thinking. When you look more closely at the individuals involved you’ll see they are, in most cases, pretty damn comfortably off as a winner in the second gilded age, and as such don’t have an appetite for the kind of tax rates the social democracies need.

          In short, the leaders of the left have been bought off.

          There’s a drum beating out of time.
          Another protester has crossed the line (HEY)
          To find the money’s on the other side.

          Given current trends if one is thinking long term for his or her progeny it’s probably a good idea to be thinking now about the kind of community to target living in 20-30 years from now and where.

      • MD Rackham

        Don’t forget the reductions in the estate tax. From 2001 to 2016 it’s gone from 55% and an exclusion of $675,000 all the way down to the current 40% with an exclusion of $5.45 million. With, no doubt, further reductions under Trump.

        (Personally, I’d like to see it at 100% with a $100,000 exclusion, with clawback provisions for the bogus trusts and asset hiding that would happen at that rate. I also would like to see free ponies.)

        • Mayur

          As someone who stands to inherit north of 2.5 million, I agree with you. This would play holy hell with life insurance though and for that reason I would argue a life insurance exemption to this pony.

      • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

        Yet a majority of Republicans, and nearly every Tea Party member, believes that “taxes have never been higher”.


  • Downpuppy

    In summation, you gotta fight to your dying day.

  • Stag Party Palin

    How about recasting the Democratic Party as the All-American Party. This is an image and a reality devoutly to be desired, but hey, a man can dream, right?

    –All Americans deserve health care
    –All Americans deserve law and order and justice
    –All Americans deserve a job that pays a living wage
    –All Americans deserve life, liberty and the purfuit of happineff.

    And so on. Rich, poor, young, old, all colors. All Americans.

    • Linnaeus


      • Stag Party Palin

        I know you’re joking, but it will be said. We just refuse to accept the name. Stay on message, etc.

        • Linnaeus


        • Steve LaBonne

          The name polls well with younger voters. Maybe it won’t always be something to reject.

    • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

      The scary thing is a majority of voters might reject it in favor of essentially only whites/christians deserve those things.

      But it’s worth a try, IMO.

  • Lord Jesus Perm

    As aturner alluded to above, black poverty is quite different from white poverty. The race vs. class debate is important precisely because of this. This does not mean that addressing class isn’t important. It obviously is, and Democrats would be making a mistake if it were to shy away from progressive policy making. But addressing class issues does not mean that were ameliorate the racial ones, because the latter can and often does manifest separately from class issues. To misunderstand this is to misunderstand racism.

    Also, the “economic anxiety” thing has been explained by myself and others here before. It would probably be a good idea to read those comments before you pull shit out of your ass like this:

    Economic anxiety snark in fact is an expression of the implicit belief that personal economic worries did not play any role in the swing toward Trump among whites, especially northern rural whites. Part of the argument is that Democrats should not waste time assessing whether their economic message needs work, or whether their policy platform should change, because the decisive “but for” factors in the election were American Irredeemers and James Comey.

    This is bad. We gotta do better.

    • Ronan

      Thanks for the link , it’s really informative . Chicago looks particularly bad, is that because segregation/red lining etc was particularly prevelant there ?

    • Nick056

      I read those comments and still wrote my comment here because I believe it’s substantially true. I’m responding to what I think is bad and where I think we need to do better — like not making “economic anxiety” a punchline. For the record I don’t think you’ve done that, to the extent you care for my opinion. And I also believe that the “identity politics is a distraction!” left, like Zaid Jilani and Connor Kilpatrick or whoever else at Jacobin, are simply immoral and foolish. Racial justice should be at the center of left-wing politics. I don’t see how anyone can read the DoJ report on Patterns and Practices in Ferguson policing and not realize that extracting wealth from black Americans under the implicit or explicit threat of force was a business model for the town. To me, that’s more urgent than Rust Belt manufacturing losses affecting whites, because being upset your town lost the jobs that once provided you or people like you a steady income is a completely different moral universe than simply being the source of income for your town.

      But I made my comment above because I have in mind folks like Theda Skocpol, who I think misunderstands what occurred this election season compared to say, John Judis, and whose pre-election analysis dismissed any economically anxious component to Trump support by noting that the median income of his supporters hovered around 70K, without acknowledging work that’s been done correlating Trump support with relative declines in communities that switched to Trump. I also have in mind people who read a story about a man punching a woman in the face for criticizing Trump and react by saying, “Economic anxiety everybody!” as though that means anything. And I have in mind not people who (correctly) point out that white people who voted for Obama twice and then Trump can still be motivated by racism, but rather the commenters who believe that such a strange creature simply could not exist because no one could vote that way.

    • ThrottleJockey

      Thanks for the link LJP.

      Question: How does this implicate public policy? That is how do racial differences in poverty change the Democratic economic policy platform?

      I’d argue that it changes it little. We’ve officially favored mixed income development since Clinton. Chicago demolished Cabrini Green (home of Norman Lear’s Good Times) as a result and got a lot of grief from residents. But decades later it’s paying off.

      IMO it primarily informs education and crime policy since high crime and drop out rates both are correlated with concentrations of poverty.

      So what about liberal economic policy changes because we know that black poverty is more concentrated than white poverty? Does that change trade policy? Or the fight for $15? Or labor union support? Or expansion of the EITC? Or free college tuition? Or universal preschool?

      I’m genuinely skeptical that the Democratic platform changes at all based on racial variations in how poverty manifests.

      And to really push the argument recall the late 90s. As a black Republican friend of mine recently said: Black people never did better than they did under Clinton. A rising tide lifts all boats. I think the primary challenge for Dems is to raise the tide. ( No global warming jokes please).

      • Darkrose

        I thought Good Times was set in Robert Taylor Homes?

        To your main point, I think it’s ironic that we’re all having this discussion when Obama’s signature legislation, the ACA, was income-based, not specifically race-linked. Poor and working-class people benefit from it. Yet, white people voted for the candidate and the party who are committed to getting rid of the ACA. Why? The main reason, based on multiple articles I’ve seen, appears to be that white voters thought that “repealing Obamacare” would mean that “those people who don’t want to work” would lose benefits and they, personally, wouldn’t be affected.

        I mock the “economic anxiety” argument because in so many cases, it doesn’t mean “I don’t want to go bankrupt if someone in my family gets sick.” It means, “I don’t want to go bankrupt if someone in my family gets sick, but I want to be sure those lazy-ass nigras and illegal mexicans and sluts and queers get punished and put back in their place, because they don’t deserve the benefits I get.”

        None of this is new. The cornerstone legislation of the New Deal only passed because FDR threw black folks under the bus to placate Southern Democrats–and that right there is why the focus on economic issues in ways that seem to be downplaying race is so infuriating. We’ve been here before.

        • ThrottleJockey

          Hi Rose I completely agree with your point. But we’re on 2 different points. I agree that many WWC want to shiv blacks while keeping benefits for themselves. But how does that fact change the liberal policy platform?

          For instance if you Queen of the Democratic Party for a Day what would you change about our public policy proposals because of this white grievance dynamic?

      • Lord Jesus Perm

        In terms of what is politically feasible, you are probably correct in saying that the platform would change very little. Democrats haven’t demonstrated themselves to be willing to push for the types of racial policies that would close the gaps and deficits that black folks face. That says a lot about our society at large, but that’s neither here nor there right now.

        It’s a mistake, I think, to use the rising tide analogy here. A broad spectrum approach cannot account for the number of very narrow spectrum policies that gave way to black poverty. How does that rising tide account for redlining? Or for segregated school districts? For a violent and unaccountable police forces? Those things are the end result of decades of social engineering. It will require an equally committed approach to fix them, IMO.

        • tsam

          Democrats haven’t demonstrated themselves to be willing to push for the types of racial policies that would close the gaps and deficits that black folks face. That says a lot about our society at large, but that’s neither here nor there right now.

          It’s because they live in absolute terror of those racist loudmouths. We don’t seem to bother with shouting them down, we just compromise and nod along to their racist bullshit. That’s how things like the reflexive hatred for the ACA come about. There needs to be a lot more “Shut the fuck up” in our national politics when people who were born on 3rd base talk about personal responsibility. It’s just plain nuts to even let them talk about it, or concede any of their so-called points. That’s where we fuck up–legitimizing the same old economic oppression tactics that have perpetuated this system since the beginning.

          • ThrottleJockey

            So TSAM rather than seeing a problem with the policy program of Dems it *sounds* like you see this primarily as a messaging issue no?

            • tsam

              Well, yes, as it pertains to dealing with the right. I think policy has some places to improve, like a much stronger civil rights message, for one. But maybe that gets back to messaging? I do think that criticisms from black people about their treatment at the hands of people like Lee Fang (a supposed leftist), are absolutely correct and need immediate redress. But then I guess that’s not really policy, is it?

              Let me ask you this: What can I do to be a better ally?

              • ThrottleJockey

                That’s very kind of you TSAM. I myself have always thought of you as an ally for minorities as I do most commenters here. More broadly I’d say good allies listen more. That’s something all of us should do though. We should all try to be genuine decent to one another if you’re practicing the golden rule then there’s nothing more to be done.

                In truth I think this fight we’re having is more based on communication style rather than genuine disagreements or policy trade offs.

                Clinton used more inclusive language than did Sanders for instance. But it’s not that racial inclusivity language that undermined her economic messaging. Its that her economic messaging was relatively thin and didn’t attack Trump as an economic charlatan best known for turning gold to lead. Attacking Trumponomics wouldn’t have cost Clinton anything in terms of inclusivity.

                • tsam

                  In truth I think this fight we’re having is more based on communication style rather than genuine disagreements or policy trade offs.

                  You might just be on to something there.

                  More broadly I’d say good allies listen more.

                  It’s a deal, then.

                  I do think that now, more than ever, solidarity is our only means of survival in the coming 4 years. I definitely will pledge to listen more and take more cues from those who weren’t born at the lowest difficulty setting in life like me.

        • ThrottleJockey

          Redlining has been illegal for decades and is part of the Democratic Party platform. The Party has opposed segregation since the 60s. It has also opposed wage discrimination. It was by design not accident that the first bill BO signed was the Lilly Ledbetter Act.

          I’m not trying to be argumentative but I’m truly baffled at the assertion by so many so I’d like see any other specific examples you have of where the Party’s economic platform fails to take into account the economic issues uniquely faced by blacks.

          I’d agree that more could be done on social aspects of the platform. For instance federal funding of police depts that fail to hold cops accountable could be cut. Pot could be de-listed as a Schedule 1 Drug so that fewer blacks face incarceration. School funding could be cut for districts failing to rein in the school-to-prison pipeline…et cetera…

          • aturner339

            The party is on record as being against the historical causes of racial economic inequality. It has no particular position on solutions to it.

            If the party was against say “too big to fail” but had no “Dodd frank” to go along with it this would be seen as odd. Only on race do we find absolutely no solution to be A-OK.

  • gkclarkson

    Does any of this really matter? All I’ve learned from the last few elections is that the decisive voters that you need to get to win are people who don’t know or care about policy, and vote for the newer, shinier outsider candidate instead of the insider candidate that they’re a bit too familiar with.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      well, yeah. I don’t consider myself nearly as well-informed as most who comment here but I feel like I know too much- or at least the wrong stuff- to be any good at choosing candidates who can win those voters

    • rm

      Do you think we should go with Ryan Gosling or Chris Hemsworth in 2020?

      • AMK

        Hemsworth is Australian. But both of them would probably get a higher % of white women votes than Hillary.

        • ThrottleJockey

          Lol. Just think how many white women votes Idris Elba would get!

      • George Clooney or Leonardo DiCaprio. They already know a fair amount about policy and can talk about it convincingly and passionately.

    • ThrottleJockey

      You’re right in certain respects. But unless you’re Trump you need white papers to push your messaging strategy and those things don’t write themselves.

      TL;dr There was more to Hope and Change than “Hey look I’m New and Shiny”

      • Darkrose

        But unless you’re Trump you need white papers sheets to push your messaging strategy


      • JKTH

        TL;dr There was more to Hope and Change than “Hey look I’m New and Shiny”

        There was in reality but did he really need it to win? I don’t think so.

    • JKTH

      Yeah I’m totally on the nobody gives a shit about policy in elections bandwagon. We just need people who make the right noises.

  • Colin Day

    Pedantic question: The middle 40% is from the 50th to 90th percentiles, rather than the 30th to 70th percentiles?

    • Paul Campos

      Middle is 30th-70th.

      • Colin Day

        OK, but then the categories are overlapping and don’t include everyone.

        • Paul Campos

          As Sibusodian says it’s actually 50th-90th. I was misled by the fact that the average income in the the 50th-90th in 2014 is identical to the average income for the entire population (which illustrates how much distortion there is from the giant incomes at the top).

          • sibusisodan

            Thank you for the link to the Saez paper – it was fascinating reading.

            Am generally terrified by how hard it is to disagree with Piketty/Saez et al’s picture of ‘the extremely wealthy basically will have all the money. 1950-1980 was a blip.’

            The post-war years basically required…the war in order to happen. And there’s no longer political support in the West for the underpinnings of the post-war settlement.

            • I think Piketty has recommended an inheritance tax. And it wasn’t just a social contract, it was also the destruction of wealth by the war that permitted and required massive growth and allowed new fortunes to be made and then later kept. But inequality has been shown to depress growth, which feeds the sense that we can’t afford what we could a few decades ago.

              • Fozzz

                I believe he described physical destruction accounting for about a third of it, but a dramatic decline in the savings rate among the wealthy, and policies of nationalization (particularly in France) accounting for a large share as well. The disruptions of the two world wars and the global depression forced the wealthy to eat into their savings in order to maintain their lifestyles during this period.

                Although Capital in the 21st Century wasn’t written that long ago, his prognostications on the current system leading to return of nationalistic protectionism if we failed to implement a progressive tax on capital (with international cooperation to deter capital flight) are striking.

      • sibusisodan

        No, in the Saez paper, middle is 50-90. The distribution of incomes sums to 100%.

    • FWIW, I seem to remember the bottom 20% is what we’d call poor, working class the next quintile up from that. I.e. at 20%ile you have only barely a living wage, at best (not accounting for government transfers).

  • If working class incomes stagnated, and the earnings of women went up, the earnings of a lot of men went down. It’s natural that WWC and middle class men feel aggrieved. The dog that didn’t bark in this election is why Republican women stayed with groper plutocrat Trump.

  • Fozzz

    “You can’t talk about solving the economic problem of the Negro without talking about billions of dollars. You can’t talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of slums. You’re really tampering and getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with folk then. You are messing with captains of industry. Now this means that we are treading in difficult water, because it really means that we are saying that something is wrong with capitalism. There must be a better distribution of wealth, and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism.”

    It’s funny how things like this get whitewashed in our public schools when we teach our kids about MLK and the Civil Rights movement. It’s almost like it’s by design that we segregate economic justice from racial justice.

  • jpgray

    The dichotomy is less about data (those things you and I care about but most voters do not) than about messaging and emphasis (which is all voters apparently hear), and it ABSOLUTELY EXISTS YOU FREAKING MAROONS. You’re not really maroons, but Holy Christ we just lost to DONALD TRUMP and we’re trying to win the argument on data – we win that argument every time! We need to win the argument on messaging and emphasis, and there absolutely is a dichotomy there.

    Exhibit A from HRC:

    If we broke up the big banks tomorrow—and I will if they deserve it, if they pose a systemic risk, I will—would that end racism? Would that end sexism? Would that end discrimination against the LGBT community? Would that make people feel more welcoming to immigrants overnight?

    Well, no. Not only that, but equal pay for women and free child care wouldn’t end sexism either – $15 minimum wage wouldn’t end hatred toward immigrants – stronger unions are notably lacking in bigotry-ending capability – even freaking REPARATIONS wouldn’t end racism. So why attack an economic policy on its failure to end racism? Because while we like to pretend there’s no dichotomy, there IS in the messaging, and someone who emphasizes economic issues leaves an opening for opponents to claim he/she doesn’t care about minorities and women.

    As long as we’re talking about it, this is going to hurt to hear but… Obama beat Hillary in part thanks to Trumpish messaging and emphasis.

    In 2008 I supported HRC mainly because Obama was off the goddam rails on health policy – “Mandate? Why not solve homelessness by mandating everyone buy a house?” Fucking ridiculous. “No lobbyists in my administration!” Enter Goldman and Raytheon lobbyists. “Billy Tauzin is a perfect example of what we want to change in Washington!” Cue secret deal with Tauzin to take drug reimportation/price negotiation off the table.

    Obviously Trump is infinitely worse in every possible way, and Obama will go down as one of the greats. But the broad strokes are the same – ignore uncomfortable truths about how policy works, promise the world, and while you’re at it pledge yourself to a good swamp draining.

    All the white papers in the world are powerless if enough people like the candidate who does this. They’ll handwave the obvious pony-promising reality-denying statements on policy, ascribe ideals to the candidate the candidate himself disavows, dismiss his actual statements and policies as just playing the game – you name it.

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