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Explanations of White Despair



I don’t know quite know what to make of this, but for those of us who know that the problems of the white working class is more than just “they are a bunch of racists,” it is interesting. Moreover, it by no means downplays the role of racism, or more accurately, how racism intersects with other issues, such as economics, to create a certain worldview.

Case and Deaton published a second paper last month, in which they emphasized that the epidemic they had described was concentrated among white people without any college education. But they also searched for a source for what they had called despair. They wondered if a decline in income might explain the phenomenon, but that idea turned out not to fit the data so well. They noticed that another long-running pattern fit more precisely—a decline in what economists call returns to experience.

The return to experience is a way to describe what you get in return for aging. It describes the increase in wages that workers normally see throughout their careers. The return to experience tends to be higher for more skilled jobs: a doctor might expect the line between what she earns in her first year and what she earns in her fifties to rise in a satisfyingly steady upward trajectory; a coal miner might find it depressingly flat. But even workers with less education and skills grow more efficient the longer they hold a job, and so paying them more makes sense. Unions, in arguing for pay that rises with seniority, invoke a belief in the return to experience. It comes close to measuring what we might otherwise call wisdom.

“This decline in the return to experience closely matches the decline in attachment to the labor force,” Case and Deaton wrote. “Our data are consistent with a model in which the decline in real wages led to a reduction in labor force participation, with cascading effects on marriage, health, and mortality from deaths of despair.”

The return to experience is not the best-known economic concept, but it is alive in most of our contemporary economic spook stories, in which the callow private-equity analyst has the final power over an industry in which people have long labored, in which the mechanical robot replaces the assembly-line worker, in which the doctor finds his diagnosis corrected by artificial intelligence. It seemed to match at least one emotional vein that ran through the Trump phenomenon, and the more general alienation of the heartland: people are aging, and they are not getting what they think they have earned.

This makes of a lot of sense–thinking about “deserve” can bring out what people think it means to be an American, to be a worker, to be white. It also allows plenty of leeway for the power of myth in American society, which given how strongly people want to believe in bootstrapism and the middle class, only adds to the power of the argument. It seems those who are familiar with the arguments agree that it fits their lives.

Since they published their first paper, Case and Deaton have found their e-mail in-boxes filling up with emotional responses from people for whom the idea of an epidemic of despair had personal resonance. “People want to tell their stories,” Case said. In those stories, economic and social despair and health crises often intertwined. “Not being able to get a good job and my girlfriend threw me out,” she said, recounting themes that came up over and over. “Hurt my back at work, lost my job, got evicted, couldn’t get another job.”

Case said that she had lately been drawn to the research of the scholars Sara McLanahan, of Princeton, and Andrew Cherlin, of Johns Hopkins, who study the relationship between family structure and economic circumstance, and whose statistics tended to match many of the stories that were coming in via e-mail. Declining economic prospects seemed to wind their way into all kinds of difficulties. “People who have less education, people whose job prospects aren’t great, are finding it harder and harder to get married,” she said. People were having children and cohabiting, but not necessarily forever. When they encounter a setback, or when their health begins to decline, they find themselves without support. “That’s a story we hear quite a lot,” she said.

Again, this may not explain everything, but it is the kind of multifaceted response that I think leads us in the right direction of getting toward the root of the issues.

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  • smyoussef

    Why is this problem specific to white people?
    – Sharif

    • Because while there is still an inexcusable gap on most measures of social and economic stability, security, & achievement between white and most non-white groups, African-Americans and Latinos in almost every sub-demographic are doing better than they were 25 or 40 years ago. Whites without a college education have t had the same upward shift, and in many sub-groups or locations are doing worse.

      Worth pointing out, btw, that whites without a college education are a significantly smaller share of the overall white population than in the 80’s or 60’s.

      BTW, I want research breaking down rural vs small metro vs large metro. I bet it’s worst among the rural, best among those in large metros

      • Chetsky

        [preface: This doesn’t refute your point, in the sense that blacks and other PoC might see their lives improving, while whites see their lives degenerating, *even when* whites are objectively better-off — even the whites in the particular category. But then, if that’s your point, it’s a pretty weak one — and there’s a term for it (not for what you’re saying, Dana, but for those poorer whites who do it): “poor-mouthing”. Complaining that I can’t afford my nice house, when poor black people live in tenements with lead paint and use public transport *everywhere* is poor-mouthing.]

        ETA: what this -does- suggest, is that even “whites w/o college ed” are doing much better than black people, overall.

        *cough* I’m not a social scientist, and I sure can’t judge the veracity of these findings, but:

        (1) WaPo sez -mean- real earning of white non-hispanic males 25-54 w/o college degree is ~50k. p90 is only 80k, so I’m guessing the mean isn’t skewed down significantly

        (2) Journal of Blacks in Higher Ed sez median income of blacks w/ only HS degree is ~19k.


        Not an apples-to-apples comparison [mean-vs-median, prime-age-vs-all-blacks, probably other weaknesses I haven’t noticed]. But from what I’ve read elsewhere, whites with wildly less ed attainment, or with criminal records, are hired over blacks.

      • Chetsky

        ISTR reading just a few days ago an article about this very subject. Rates of poverty in urban areas are higher than in rural areas, and of course PoC are over-represented in those poverty-ridden populations.

      • sibusisodan

        Mildly OT, but I have been greatly enjoying and profiting from your tweets in recent months. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

      • Chetsky

        Ah, I found a graph in echidne’s breakdown of Case&Deaton’s second paper. It shows “Median household real income per member/Householders aged 25-54 w/h.s. or less education” broken down by white/black:
        Here’s the graph. As the surrounding text in Echidne’s writeup make clear
        they disguise the fact that the black incomes are lower than the white incomes in both tables.

        • Chetsky

          Argh, HTML fail. The last sentence is from Echidne’s writeup.

        • WhatToDo

          Thanks for the link. Case-Deaton are credible but their tendency to present their data in a somewhat biased manner is troubling.

      • Ronan

        There’s probably a healthy migrant effect aswell among Latinos, I assume?

    • Nobdy

      I think it’s been postulated that it’s a matter of expectation. White people EXPECTED returns to experience and a stable middle class life. Minorities already knew America was a tough, indifferent, place and so their situation hasn’t been upended, it’s just as expected.

      It’s a form of loss aversion. If you’re frozen out of those “good dependable” manufacturing and mining jobs because of your skin color you’re not so upset when they dry up.

      • smyoussef

        I’m a minority and I expect to be rewarded for my experience, but, since I am an academic, I am not. I think the same goes for all the minorities I know. We don’t have alien psychologies.

        • Huh? I’m not sure what that means. But did you catch the part about this not being about “white people” but about white people without a college education?

        • Nobdy

          Of course minorities don’t have alien psychologies, it’s not about that at all.

          If your grandpa was able to raise a family in comfort on a single income working at the local plant, and your dad was able to raise a family in comfort mostly on a single income working at the local plant, and then you go to the plant to get your job so you can raise your family, only to find that the plant closed down and instead the best you can do is make barely above minimum wage at some job where you’re disrespected and treated as disposable…well…that’s pretty disappointing and rough.

          If, on the other hand, your grandfather was frozen out of the good jobs by racism, and your father was frozen out of the good jobs by racism, and now the plant closes down but you never expected them to hire you anyway…it’s not so disappointing. You’re in a worse objective position than the first guy, but subjectively you may not feel it as much because you didn’t have the expectation.

          Also a lot of the effects on poor whites has made them look more like minorities demographically, so maybe minorities are suffering just as badly but we, as a country, unconscionably kind of expect minorities to suffer and do worse so we accept it.

          • sharonT

            Weighing in here:
            I’m African American, one of my grandfather’s was a supervisor at US Steel and raised a family on a single income. My parents, two college grads, raised a family on two incomes from the 60s through the mid-80s. They are happily retired, living on the fruits of incomes that placed them and keep them in the middle class.

            I’m a college grad, working as a creative in a professional environment and experiencing the “lack of returns to age,” noted in the article. My friends in their 49s and 50s are all experiencing the lack of returns, including the stressors associated with a flattened workplace and in many cases, straight up income stagnation noted in many studies about the WWC.

            What I’m trying to say is that it’s not just a “White Thing.” It’s an everyone who isn’t in the top 10% is experiencing some version of this. African Americans experience loss, just like everyone else.

            • Crissa

              And yet, your experience isn’t the median. My father went to war, came home, was wrongly shot by police after chasing multiple short-term jobs to support the family and my mother had to raise me alone. That’s a far more common experience for someone more than a few shades darker than I am.

              Loss aversion is about losing those things – and demographics are about finding patterns. That you – or I – experience the loss aversion that many of peers in our demographic do or do not don’t change the averages.

              Or do you just not understand medians and averages? Of course there’s some going to be on one side or the other. That doesn’t negate your experience.

              • sharonT

                No, I get medians and averages just fine.

              • epidemiologist

                Or do you just not understand medians and averages?

                Do you just not understand how to respond to someone whose experience doesn’t provide support for your preferred argument, without being breathtakingly condescending?

                • cpinva

                  thank you for saying that. I too thought it was unnecessarily rude.

            • Nobdy

              Race and class are obviously intersectional. And obviously no story told about a population as large and diverse as “minorities” or “African Americans” will apply to everyone in that group.

              People are looking at the data and theorizing as to why it might look the way it does. It’s very possible those theories are wrong. These kinds of things are always multidetermined anyway.

    • wjts

      The problem isn’t. But one party ran a candidate and a campaign that explicitly made the case to white people (and pretty explicitly only to white people) that they could fix the problem for them (and wouldn’t fix it for anyone else) and, well, here we are.

      • Mike G

        One candidate presented reasonable, moderate plans with a decent chance of improving things for everyone.

        The other made aggressive wild-ass magical-thinking claims that he’d improve things dramatically for whites, with little chance of actually working; sweetened by green-lighting hatred of everyone else.

        • cpinva

          “sweetened by green-lighting hatred of everyone else.”

          “he says what we’re thinking.” and what they were thinking wasn’t nice.

    • ASV

      This is a question that is embedded in all the problems of the first Case & Deaton paper.

      • ThresherK

        There’s been such a rush by our press corps to inform us about poor-unfortunate-and-ignored-WWC that I really hadn’t heard about Case and Deaton.

        The linked article is very sharp. Good stuff.

    • Chetsky

      Not being a data scientist, I can’t really judge, but it seems that Echidne did a bang-up job on that second paper

      She points out lots of problems. And that quite clearly, minorities are still worse-off by any measure.

      • Is anyone serious saying minorities aren’t worse off? Not that I know of. But I do know that in just about any poll minorities say
        A. There are more problems for minorities than white people acknowledge.
        B. Life has gotten better for minorities over the last several decades

        • Chetsky

          [hereinafter “black” will stand in for “PoC”, b/c clearer — no way it can be argued that they’re not just as American as … Thomas Jefferson’s white children.]

          (1) yes, there are lots of people saying minorities are better-off. It’s a standard narrative of the reactionary right. We’ve all read (I’m sure) those interviews with poor whites in Kentucky who voted for Trump, complaining about black people who got something for nothing. “Young bucks with T-bones”, etc.

          (2) All these articles bemoan the plight of poor white people, but it is rare that they mention that (e.g.) most black people are even worse-off. When there -is- an article about how even well-educated black people suffer undue burdens, it’s always completely separate from this political discussion.

          The subtext to me is this: white people are -justified- in their rage. But black people, well, it’s just the way it is. Gosh, we should change it, but there’s no reason for alarm, other than on humanitarian grounds. But white people? Oh yeah, that’s a real injustice, and they have reason to be ready to burn this sucker down.

          Look, Dana, I’ve read you for a while, and you’re a good guy (? male, yes?) I can see where you’re going — that these poor whites have something to be angry about. But just as white feminists have had to learn to make common cause with black feminists. And that’s not happening. Furthermore, the -focus- on the awful outcomes for poor whites, without mentioning the even-worse outcomes for poor blacks, makes it easy for whites to ignore poor blacks.

          I’m brown (not black), but geez, this sure seems like what they call “intersectionality”. As I remember, it took for a while for white liberals (and to be fair, many other kinds of liberals, e.g. brown ones) to get this.

          • Ronan

            If it’s a failure of intersectionality then it’s a failure towards poor whites. Why not just acknowledge that some parts of the white pop are suffering without all the caveats?
            And look, people can’t have their cake and eat it here. There is no called group poc where all suffer the same levels of oppression,(so if your comparison group is African American why not just use that term) just as there’s no group “white” which draws from the same well of privilege . It seems quite clear that some white groups are suffering more than some minority groups .

            • aturner339

              “It seems quite clear that some white groups are suffering more than some minority groups ”

              I think this is the reasons for all the caveats. Because this is decidedly not clear. At least not at any level relevant for policy.

              • Ronan

                Well as an empirical matter it’s clear


                I don’t know what’s meant by policy relevance

                • aturner339

                  I mean that it’s pretty irrelevant to public policy that Asian Americans are making more than white Americans. Perhaps you could explain the relevance?

                • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

                  Any yet, for some reason, lower class whites see black and brown people as the cause for their economic problems more than they see Asians as the cause.

                  I don’t disagree that poor people, regardless of race, have grievances which are often valid, but who they blame seems to me to have been manipulated.

                • jamesepowell

                  For some reason . . .

                  This goes with so much, yet it is persistently denied.

                  We can’t go forward till we deal with this.

                • sonamib

                  Don’t you think there’s a major confounding variable which explains Asian-American high incomes? Like, the fact that it’s a lot easier for an educated programmer to move to the US than a house cleaner? I mean, I bet if you counted the wages of European immigrants* in the US, you’d find that they’re richer than regular white Americans. Not because Europeans are awesome, but just because there’s a selection bias in immigration.

                  Mexicans can immigrate illegally into the US. It’s a lot harder for Asians to do that.

                  All this means that we should expect Asians to earn more money than the average American, given the US’s immigration policies. Noting they have higher incomes doesn’t rule out them suffering from racism, even financially (is there a study checking whether American-born programmers earn more or less than foreign-born ones?).

                  *Actual immigrants, not people whose great-grandmother was Italian or something.

                • Ronan

                  Sonamib, yes of course. (Although Chinese American wages had already converged on whites before the post 60s immigration)

                • Ronan

                  Aturner, my listing of income by ethnicity was just to make the point that ‘POC’ and ‘white privilege’ arent particularly analytically useful terms. Why talk about POCs when what people are actually talking about is the specific position of African Americans and Native Americans(and possibly some ‘Latino’ groups)?

                  A few things

                  (1) the post was primarily about a rise in mortality among some groups of whites. The first comment in the thread was ‘Why is this problem specific to white people’ (this seemed to be mostly rhetorical as the OP offered a theory of why it might be specific to some white people) That’s the caveating Im talking about. Why not just acknowledge it’s terrible without all the whataboutery?

                  (2) whether some white groups are stuck in a cycle of despair(as I said below I dont really buy this) because they see their position in society(not just in the racial hierarchy) diminishing is an empirical question. If it’s correct then it isnt negated by pointing out other groups have it worse and arent collectively behaving in a similar manner. Relative status decline could be a plausible cause.

                  (3) I agree that the rise of far right politics in the west is in large part a white backlash to demographic change. Pointing out that similar attitudes might be causing the rise in mortality(as I said below I dont buy it personally)doesnt excuse the political choices they made, it just offers an explanation.

                • Ronan

                  Sonamib re ‘Asian’ wages converging on white wages before the post 60s immigration


                  “Hilger’s research focuses on native-born whites, blacks and Asians to rule out the effects of subsequent immigration. In 1965, changing laws ushered in a surge of high-skilled, high-earning Asian workers, who now account for most of the Asians living in the United States today.

                  But even before the arrival of those highly educated immigrants, the Asians already living in the United States had more or less closed the wage gap with whites.”


            • Chetsky

              It seems quite clear that some white groups are suffering more than some minority groups .

              Ronan, I’m sure you don’t mean this, but you’re edging pretty close to the old line

              The poorest white man can still be proud of the fact that he’s more worthy than the highest-class ni-clang

              Your argument, on its face, is that every reasonable subgroup of whites, should do better than every reasonable subgroup of every other minority, or there’s a grievance?

              That’s nuts. And as I said, it’s also pretty racist. I’m sure you didn’t mean it that way.

              • Crissa

                Are you whining that someone observed that racism exists? I’m not following this comment.

                • Chetsky

                  Uh, no. I’m pointing out that Ronan’s argument can easily be read as “some blacks are richer than some whites, so whites are oppressed”. Or (per his link) “oh no, Indian-Americans are 1/3-again richer than European-Americans, there you see the violence inherent in the system”.

                  Let me put it differently: “Sheryl Sandberg is rich; so why do we need feminism?”

                  It’s ridiculous on its face, and it’s also misogynist. Similarly to argue that Indian-Americans (click thru his link) are so much richer than European-Americans is in any way relevant to the state of oppressed white working class Americans, is equally ridiculous.

              • Ronan

                Eh riiiiight : )
                I can’t reply at the minute (on my phone )though I’ll teply to u (and aturner) later

              • Ronan

                see my reply to aturner above, chetsky.

            • Chetsky

              Why not just acknowledge that some parts of the white pop are suffering without all the caveats?

              Because the policies of their much-loved tribune, amount to a boot in the face of other groups who JUST SO HAPPEN to be suffering much more, and for much longer — so long that they’ve …. ugh. So long that no possible ending to the sentence is possible. So sure, you’re suffering. You don’t get to take your rifle and rob your neighbor, who happens to be suffering even more, b/c of that.

          • I’m happy to have provided you with an opportunity to refute claims i didn’t make, ignore things I did say, make normative rejections of empirical claims, and attribute assumptions & motives to me that I do not have.

            • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

              Forget it, Dana, it’s Internettown.

            • efgoldman

              I’m happy to have provided you with an opportunity to refute claims i didn’t make….

              Hey, this are the intartoobz, right?

          • epidemiologist

            Yes, exactly. Racial and ethnic health disparities are something most people are probably aware exist, but they are totally unappreciated in the US for just how massive, preventable and unjust the suffering and death they cause really are. An acknowledgment somewhere in most articles that are really about whites is nowhere near enough.

            As a health scientist I think there are many reasons this story has gotten so much professional and public attention. It’s easy to remember because one visible group is affected. It’s counterintuitive, both in the sense that trends in mortality are not behaving as expected, and in the sense that to die “of despair” whites must break many stereotypes we hold of them, such as whether they are likely to abuse drugs. And health professionals are contributing the problem by failing to dispense opioids properly. But one is undeniably our cultural fascination with the inner lives and self-justifications of white people, and our radical overvaluing of their lives and comfort compared to other people.

            I think there is a tiny something in the arguments advanced in this thread, that possibly whites experience not only the disappointment and deprivation that everyone does in our society, but also a sense of outraged entitlement. It feels wrong to call expecting dignity and security “entitled”, which is perhaps why people won’t go there. But expecting dignity and security, even when they are not available to all, because one is white, is certainly a widespread attitude and it is entitled.

          • WhatToDo

            Well said. All this reminds me of pioneer Republican race-baiter Lee Atwater, who predicted that to create programs to screw as many African-Americans as possible, the net was eventually going to pull down a lot of whites, too.

        • cpinva

          “B. Life has gotten better for minorities over the last several decades”

          when your life was shit to begin with, improvement doesn’t exactly have a high bar to hurdle.

    • wetzel

      I think ‘anomie’ gets at what’s going on pretty well.

      • Nothing close to a one word explanation. But that’s probably the least distant.

    • Murc

      It isn’t.

      We pay a lot of attention to it because white people control the balance of power in this country, and it turns out when people control the balance of power there’s a lot of interest in what makes’em tick!

      • PunditusMaximus

        Except that they don’t. The Dems could totally turn out their base and solve the problem. The white folks who voted Obama/Trump were a tiny minority, concentrated in a few Rust Belt states.

        But . . . what if the people advocating that we pay close attention to white guys were ALSO white guys? Could it be?

    • CrunchyFrog

      Why is this problem specific to white people?

      It isn’t but the difference is that the right wing media has been telling white people that while they are working hard to barely get by Obama’s brothas in the ‘hood are living high on the hog on Food Stamp steaks and Obamaphones and free mortgages and cash for clunkers.

      As Atrios points out, wingnuts really believe that there is a secret government welfare system that only blacks and illegal Mexicans have access to. It’s the mirror image of that Eddie Murphy sketch where he put on white makeup and applied for a loan at a bank only to have the banker laugh and say “you’re white, of course you can have whatever money you want”.

      So, yes there is despair. But they also know who to blame. This is why they’ll gladly vote to cut off their own government benefits (which they grossly underestimate) in exchange for promises to end the secret minority welfare system.

      • You mean a certain segment of white people who are foolish enough to believe it. You know, #notallwhitepeople.

    • Why is this problem specific to white people?
      – Sharif

      There were a significant percentage of ‘despairing’ white people who voted for Clinton. The difference for them is that race and gender were less important. So however we slice it, for Repubicans it was about race and gender. And about pissing off those libtards.

  • Steve LaBonne

    But this is not Trump’s core electorate, which is not down and out and has no excuse. The people with these miserable life stories- to whom my heart goes out whatever their prejudices, because nobody should have that kind of life in a rich country- generally don’t vote. Democrats must try to help them because it’s the right thing to do, but without much hope of electoral reward.

    • efgoldman

      The people with these miserable life stories… generally don’t vote.

      And those that did, broke for HRC.

      • twbb

        The critical mass of them in States we couldn’t afford to lose broke for Trump.

        • Steve LaBonne

          What is the evidence for that? Everything I have seen suggests that critical mass was actually comprised of people who are doing pretty well.

          • twbb

            Everything I’ve seen suggests that Trump won because a critical mass of white, poorer voters in PA and FL either swung from the Dems or showed up to vote when they didn’t before. The doing-just-fine white Boomer sociopath demographic voted Trump but we always knew they would.

        • PunditusMaximus

          The Obama/Trump voter is really a very small group.

          This is not to say that Obama didn’t shaft them so hard they are now being played by Samuel L. Jackson. Just that they’re a pretty small group.

          • econoclast

            Please. Richard Roundtree.

            • DocAmazing

              Shut your mouth!

              • cpinva

                but I’m talkin’ bout………….

                never mind.

                • PunditusMaximus

                  He’s a complicated man, and no one understands him but Tim Geithner.

    • sharculese

      This. Anecdata and all, but the one person I know who’s open to me about having voted for Trump is a rich girl (I mean girl literally, she’s still in high school) who is very open about the fact that what she likes about him is the racism.

      • Crissa

        18 on Nov 8 and in HS? I guess someone had to be.

        • Dilan Esper

          Thanks to the phenomenon of holding kids out of kindergarten a year, this is going to get more common.

          • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

            Holy crap, they’re redshirting kindergartners now?

    • msmarjoribanks

      The paper is about middle aged whites with high school only or less. That group broke big for Trump:

      First, Trump did better with older people, of course.

      On college, nationally:

      white, college graduate: 48% Trump, 45% Clinton
      white, no degree: 66% Trump, 29% Clinton

      It doesn’t eliminate “some college” people, but looking at the totals for that (white specific figures aren’t available), I don’t think there would be a significant difference.

      In PA:

      white, college grad: 48% T, 48% C
      white, no degree: 64% T, 32% C

      In MI

      white, college grad: 51% T, 43% C
      white, no degree: 62% T, 31% C

      In even in IL, where Clinton won easily:

      white, college grad: 43% T, 50% C
      white, no degree: 60% T, 33% C

      It would be interesting to cull out no college, low income (the stats I’ve seen don’t allow it), and low income people of course have a much higher percentage of not voting, but the stats suggest that the population in question who voted broke heavily for Trump.

      • Steve LaBonne

        But the median white, no college Trump voter was a small contractor or some other reasonably comfortable type. You can’t leave income out of the equation.

        • msmarjoribanks

          Looking at the Case and Deaton paper (and admittedly I’ve skimmed it), it seems to focus on education level as well as income, and to show the same issues when you look just at the no college degree (or in some cases high school only) groups. Thus, I don’t think there’s going to be a big difference, and suspect there’s serious overlap with Trump voters.

          The question is, of course, if you looked at the non college whites group by income, is there a huge difference such that only the above median income are voting for Trump? The stats I know of don’t answer that, but I doubt it — the fact that Clinton won among lower income voters seems to be accounted for by the fact that she won with Blacks, Hispanics, and younger voters.

          I’d love to see the analysis or stats that answer this question, however.

          Oh, also, in some states it’s such a huge majority that I can’t imagine these groups are exception and voted the other way. Kentucky non college whites:

          73% Trump, 23% Clinton

          Missouri, same group: 71% T, 25% C

          • Crissa

            And yet, nationally, Clinton did better in the under $50K set. Even whites.

            • xq

              I’ve seen this posted a lot on LGM recently but can’t find a source saying it. Does anyone know the source?

              I wouldn’t have any confidence in this if it’s based on (highly unreliable) exit polls.

              • imwithher

                It isn’t based on anything. I googled and googled, and there seems to be no exit polling that combined race and income in this way. Somewhere, I found something that said that HRC did marginally better with white voters with annual income under 35k than Shithead. But nothing on fifty k. The meme being repeated here is actually in reference to ALL voters with annual income under fifty k. Of those, Hills won about 52/53 per cent, and Shithead about 41. Of course, a lot of those folks are POC.

                Hills did marginally worse with this group (under fifty k, all races) than Obama, but a lot of the defection went Third Party. Also, there is no evidence that Shithead brought out any more of the white portion of this group to the polls. In fact, the WWC share (whether measured by income or lack of college education) of the white vote and of the total vote is declining.

                • Emmryss

                  Given how poorly polls did before the election it drives me up the wall to see exit polls quoted with such implicit belief in their accuracy. As if we really know with such precision.

                • xq

                  Pre-election polls did ok overall; only off by a couple of points. But exit polls are particularly inaccurate and have mislead a lot of people.

                  Anyways, I also googled a lot to try to find support for the claim that Clinton won whites with income <50k and failed to do so. I'm guessing the source of this claim is a commenter here misreading an exit poll.

        • cpinva

          “But the median white, no college Trump voter was a small contractor or some other reasonably comfortable type.”

          bolding mine.

          not after the recession/near depression they weren’t. those are the kinds of people who feel the effects of a recession quickly, as their clients tighten up on spending, because their clients are tightening up on spending.

  • Marek

    The return to experience tends to be higher for more skilled jobs: a doctor might expect the line between what she earns in her first year and what she earns in her fifties to rise in a satisfyingly steady upward trajectory; a coal miner might find it depressingly flat. But even workers with less education and skills grow more efficient the longer they hold a job, and so paying them more makes sense. Unions, in arguing for pay that rises with seniority, invoke a belief in the return to experience. It comes close to measuring what we might otherwise call wisdom.

    So, union yes! I just got my anniversary date bump and am pretty psyched.

  • Happy Jack

    I think I have had enough about the WWC. When will we get the long awaited piece; Altruism or Racism : Why White UMC Liberals Choose to Live in the Suburbs.

    • Linnaeus

      You sure you want to open that can of worms?

      • PunditusMaximus

        I do!

      • Happy Jack

        He’s a tenured radical now. He can withstand the brick bats. For the good of the nation.

  • NewishLawyer

    The concept of “deserve” is a powerful and hard to define force in American politics and possibly just in politics and culture in general. You can find countless examples of different groups stating “We deserve this” or “You don’t deserve that.” It is the basic tribal struggle seemingly.

    When it comes to work there are still huge divisions about what work should and should not be like. I’ve found that one thing that seems to united the far left and far right is an extreme distrust/hatred of white-collar work, knowledge work, etc. At best it is seen as meaningless bullshit and a conspiracy theory.* At worst it is seems as exploitative and/or feminine (as opposed to working with your hands) and/or undeserving of the salaries upper-middle class professionals can get or the riches that finance can get. The far left and far right seem to have shared fantasies of a not-very realistic communal type of town that is wholly self-sufficient from the outside world. Maybe the far left version is a bit more hippie and the far right version a bit more like the Shire.

    And since humans are essentially tribal, it is easy to see the other group (whoever they may be) as undeserving or to turn them into undeserving if you are offended by some of their other core beliefs.

    I’m not sure what the answer is here besides the belief that every person is entitled to a basic level of dignity and decency but then we will debate about what that level is.

    *The essay I remember about this was called On the rise of BS Jobs or something similar from a few years ago. IIRC the author argued that modern white collar work is basically a conspiracy by the elites to keep the masses tame and docile. His opening example was a punk rock friend who got his girlfriend pregnant and became a corporate lawyer. There seem to be a lot of stories about why someone goes where someone does a complete 180 from punk rocker squatter (or something equally bohemian) to a completely corporate career. Do people not realize that there are steps along the way? I also disagree with the notion of evil elites paying people to do meaningless work just to make them docile. That is a conspiracy theory that doesn’t understand capitalism very well.

    • aturner339

      I think you could make a conceivable case to call the conservative instict the desire to see people get what they deserve and yes the artificial tribes that are imposed on us are a big part of that. Part of the “white working” class sees both of those modifiers as proof of their desert just as our culture has been teaching for centuries.

    • DocAmazing

      undeserving of the…riches that finance can get

      I’m sorry, was there some question of this?

      • Nobdy

        No way man. Those hedge funders work so hard for their money. I mean they somehow have time to always be jetting off to Aspen or going to the Symphony or having a bunch of young mistresses, but they’re working constantly.

        Unlike some poor schmo with 3 jobs and 45 minute commutes between them. He’s the lazy one!

      • NewishLawyer

        I didn’t mean to imply that Wall Street deserves all it gets but I am not a total socialist and finance is important.

        There is a tendency to being insulting to brain work that I’ve seen though. “Why do you deserve so much money for just sitting on your ass all day?” kind of sneers which are fairly common and can basically go to any white collar worker.

        But there is no argument from me that the financial sector just eats up too much.

        • Linnaeus

          There is a tendency to being insulting to brain work that I’ve seen though. “Why do you deserve so much money for just sitting on your ass all day?” kind of sneers which are fairly common and can basically go to any white collar worker.

          I don’t doubt that these sneers happen, having heard them myself, but I think you’re overstating the extent to which these are indicative of our culture’s attitude toward white-collar work, especially professional white-collar work. Those jobs still have considerable social prestige, are still often paid very well, and are still held up as positions for people to aspire to. Moreover, people who hold such jobs who tend to have more economic and political power and influence in our society. Just look at the kind of people who run and staff our government, our major financial institutions, etc.

          It goes in the other direction, too, I might add. I could relate to you any number of times when I’d heard comments and sneers to the effect that my family and people like my family were “overpaid” because they were industrial workers without college educations.

          • NewishLawyer

            Fair points.

          • diogenes

            Fuckin’ A. Had a roomful of local MOU’s let me know my union ass was overpaid.

          • Dilan Esper

            Brain work IS highly overcompensated, in the sense that for all my long hours as a lawyer, it’s not nearly as taxing as moving heavy stuff around, for instance, is. I get far more tired when I have to box up my stuff for a move than I ever get as a lawyer, and it’s far more unpleasant.

            Plus, high finance is basically evil, in that the people who do it steal tons of money from the masses and use their enormous power for their own benefit.

            So I am sorry, pissing on knowledge workers (NOT knowledge) is justified.

            • Chetsky

              Awwwww, h*ll YES! H*LL YES! I worked 2.5 years in fast food. -That- was work. Everything since has been a dawdle in comparison. When I’m standing in the line at Starbucks, and I sigh (heavily, as I am wont) and the barista asks (kindly, b/c they all are) “oh, hard day?” I always respond “ehh, it’s just office work — a hard day is in -food- -service-“.

              All these candy-asses who think they work, need to do back-to-back 8hr shifts, ending with closing the store at 2am. My shift managers and asst managers did that. They were in their 30s and 40s with kids.

              ETA: And this doesn’t even -touch- how much harder a nurse’s job is, than a doctor’s.

    • Linnaeus

      Regarding Graeber’s essay on “bullshit” jobs, it should be noted that Graeber is not saying that administrative or knowledge-type jobs are inherently bullshit; obviously, he holds such a job himself, and doesn’t think that it’s bullshit. Graeber is arguing that capitalism, instead of lessening our workloads because of increased wealth, creates jobs that the people who hold them often regard as meaningless or unfulfilling. It’s kind of a twist on Marxist alienation. And you may disagree with Graeber, but I think he is making a narrower argument than what you attribute to him.

      • NewishLawyer

        Eh, I think there have always been jobs that people found meaningless and/or unfulfilling including craftwork and blue-collar work. There has never been a time when all people enjoyed their labor or every aspect of their job.

        And his opening example of the punk rocker turned corporate lawyer is a very specific one and a subjective one.

        I knew I wouldn’t like corporate law so I avoided it. The guy in question seemed to have the intelligence to get through law school but not enough analytical ability to find that there are many things between punk rocker and corporate lawyer that can pay reasonably well.

        • Linnaeus

          True, and that’s probably something that Graeber should have addressed more explicitly. But he’s pretty specific as to what he means by a bullshit job.

    • PunditusMaximus

      “This growth is apparent whether one measures the financial sector by its share of GDP, by the quantity of financial assets, by employment, or by average wages. At its peak in 2006, the financial services sector contributed 8.3 percent to US GDP, compared to 4.9 percent in 1980 and 2.8 percent in 1950.”


      Finance does nothing it didn’t do in 1950; about 2/3rds of the money Wall Street makes is pure grift.

      • BiloSagdiyev


    • Tyro

      Honestly, Parkinson’s Law makes a lot of sense.

      It seems plausible because unlike, say, manufacturing work, you can’t really quantify the value-added output of many white collar workers. And in many cases, there isn’t: the job of an entry-level business analyst or investment banker isn’t to actually add value commensurate with his or her salary. Their job is to observe and work with more senior level people in the hopes of showing their worth to become a higher level staffer who is considered worth their value. Plus, they are compensated as a percentage of the transaction size, not at a fixed rate according to the amount of time and skill required. The career path and compensation structure simply doesn’t make sense compared to people who work “making” things.

  • aturner339

    Over and above whether this explains the political behavior of the white working class if people are in despair then we ought to be figuring out how to alleviate it. To take a pot shot at the “Murray/Vance” approach for a second this seems to support poverty as cause rather than effect of “cultural dysfunction” like unstable relationships. I know people are going to be tempted to say “it goes both ways” but like most invocations of “both sides do it” it’s really not helpful to lose sight of the forest for the trees.

    The “culture of poverty” thesis is first and foremost a call to inaction.

    • Chetsky

      ARRRGH YES, THIS. THIS. Thank you!

      Murray/Vance are morally bankrupt to argue culture. Culture isn’t something that’s supposed to change in a generation or two. To blame social ills on culture in a population that only 20-40 years ago was arguably well-functioning is a moral abdication.

      I’m -glad- that white people are calling bullshit on this (not M/V, but others). And I sure hope that they think “gosh, if white people doing horse isn’t a problem of culture, then maybe black people doing horse isn’t, either!”

      But I’m not holding my breath.

      • sharonT

        Thank you.

      • Murc

        Culture isn’t something that’s supposed to change in a generation or two.

        Uh. Yes, it is. That… that happens. That’s a thing.

        • aturner339

          At what point do we distinguish between “culture” (cultivation necessarily rooted in time) and conditions that may be more immediate? I mean in some sense the “culture” of Japan was altered in the post WII generation but in another sense it was nuked a couple times and then occupied by a foreign army that re wrote its Constitution.

          I think it is admirable to refuse to strip a community of its symbolic autonomy but sometimes that comes at the risk of denial of larger exogenous forces.

          • PunditusMaximus

            The same way “illness” is something we can treat and “personality trait” is something we can’t.

        • Murc, you’re a smart and insightful person. I like reading what you have to say. So I beg you: please consider phrasing your disagreements in a less contemptuous manner.

        • Chetsky

          Let me put it differently: “Culture isn’t something that’s supposed to change in a generation or two, absent war, famine, pandemics, or other mass cataclysm”.

          And no such thing happened to white working class America. Instead, they just lost any decent jobs they ever had, and any hope that they, or their descendants, would ever have any ever, ever, ever again.

          Murc, maybe you mean that “culture can change in 2 generations with no strong external cataclysm”. I’d like to see some evidence of that.

          • Perhaps Murc is referring to the fact that specific aspects of culture can change fairly quickly. This is undeniably true. American society used to be rabidly homophobic, but this changed in roughly ten years to the point where homophobia is now regarded as a roughly equal problem to racism, sexism, and so on (which means, to be clear, that there are segments of society that consider it a problem and there are other segments of society that don’t), and a film about a gay man coming to terms with his identity can win the Academy Award for Best Picture and gross $60m (40x its budget) at the box office.

            But one’s definition of culture can just as easily represent something far, far broader than that. I suspect the two of you are just coming at this with completely different definitions of the word.

          • Patick Spens
  • Ronan

    Is most of it not just a supply issue? Greater access to opioids and then heroin ? It seems to match changes in prescribing and then new heroin supply chains more than it does any economic downturn .(or potential increase in despair)

    Eta: the rise in mortality that is , not the (possible) political consequences

    • econoclast

      You don’t see it any other group, so your explanation is insufficient.

      • Ronan

        But there’s evidence that African Americans weren’t prescribed opioids at the same rate (and afaik you see an increase a bit in addiction among AAs) The new supply of heroin could just be a geographic factor(drug epidemics are usially concentrated in specific areas)
        You see some increase in heroin and opioids deaths in some parts of Europe over the same period.

        Eta: I agree it’s not all of it, but surely an important factor

        • efgoldman

          The new supply of heroin could just be a geographic factor

          Opiods are easier to get than meth, and don’t have the manufacturing danger.

      • xq

        It’s possible other gains are offsetting it in other groups.

    • PunditusMaximus
    • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

      I’d suggest the sub-culture that one belongs to influences what drugs you take. If most of your friends are doing a particular drug, you’re more likely to use it both because you want to be part of the group that your friends are in, and of course, you’ll have an easier time getting that drug than another one because of social connections.

    • epidemiologist

      I think supply likely is part of the issue.

      An important contributor the current epidemic of harms and deaths from opioid abuse is the massive oversupply of perfectly legal painkillers. Many people begin by abusing a legal prescription, or are poisoned by misusing one.

      Legal opioid use can be quite dangerous because it is so easy for the user to misunderstand. They may have legitimate pain, which may not be controlled (or could be exacerbated) even with use or overuse of painkillers. Abuse may be difficult to recognize or admit to because the prescription is legitimate. It is extremely dangerous in combination with other common substances such as alcohol and anti-anxiety medication, causing accidental deaths by poisoning. And abuse of prescribed pain medications does not (yet) fit our idea of who abuses drugs, how, or why. There is an element of class racism here for sure– when you read stories about people harmed by opioids, there is often a sense of disbelief in part because of who the person was.

      Both access to health care and referral and prescribing patterns are racist in the US. Whites are more likely than others to have insurance coverage and a regular doctor. Black patients are more likely than whites to be perceived by health care providers as potential drug addicts or as seeking drugs, even when they have a known medical condition that causes severe pain such as sickle cell anemia. There are even still people who believe the sickening racist myth that black people are less sensitive to pain than whites. This myth has justified generations of medical abuse and neglect of black patients, of which racist prescribing is just one.

      So yes, whites likely have greater access than other groups to legal opioids which are in oversupply generally.

      • twbb

        I would also guess that government-subsidized medical distribution gets opioids places where it would not be economically viable to traffick the solely illegal stuff.

      • MAJeff

        Legal opioid use can be quite dangerous because it is so easy for the user to misunderstand. They may have legitimate pain, which may not be controlled (or could be exacerbated) even with use or overuse of painkillers. Abuse may be difficult to recognize or admit to because the prescription is legitimate.

        Yup. Neighbor who mowed my lawn died a couple weeks ago of an OD.

      • Ronan

        Thanks for that, epidemiologist.

        Out of curiosity, What do you think of this?


  • econoclast

    According to Gelman, the effect is stronger among women than men, so if that holds up the “returns to experience” seems insufficient.

    • Chetsky

      From reading both Gelman and Echidne, it sure seems like in fact, it’s not really a problem amongst -men-. Or, erm, not death rates. They’re skyrocketing amongst women. Arrgh.

      • efgoldman

        They’re skyrocketing amongst women.

        Weren’t there some recent stats showing sharply decreased life expectancies among poor, rural white men?

        • Chetsky

          Echidne addresses this (though again, I’m not a social/data scientist, so can’t judge her veracity) for C&D’s second paper, where the claim is made that less-educated white males are seeing greatly increasing mortality. She’s got a pile of bones to pick, and I sure can’t judge whether she’s right. I suppose we’ll have to wait for confirmation from other analyses. But in the meantime, I have no reason to doubt her analysis, and esp. given that Gelman’s and others’ analyses of the first C&D paper
          confirm her position (which is that sure, there’s some increasing mortality amongst males, but the real story is amongst females).

          Again: I’m not skilled enough to judge directly.

          • xq

            C&D appear to agree that the rise in mortality is larger among women. But drug, alcohol, and suicide mortality appears to be rising in parallel among white men and women ages 50-54 without college degrees (Figure 1.11 in the Brookings paper). They seems to believe the male-female difference is due to other causes of mortality.

            • Chetsky

              Agreed, and that’s a specific point that Echidne analyzed and found wanting (at least, as I read her fisking). Maybe she’s wrong. I await other analyses.

        • Crissa

          Poor, rural, period. We’ve had a serious aging of the population and erosion of the rural medical care. I wonder if the higher average age might reduce response time somehow?

          At any rate, the distance to hospitals and hospital choice and staffing has actually gone down for rural areas – not to mention red state reluctance to spend on health care or better public health amenities from urgent care to available exercise types.

          • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

            I may be misunderstanding, but it looks to me like you didn’t mean to say that distance to hospitals has gone down for rural areas.

            It always amazes me that so many people in rural areas are so opposed to Medicaid that they’d rather see their hospitals close than stay open because more of the patients they treat can pay.

        • Srsly Dad Y

          A while ago here I flagged the critiques of Case and Deaton, and predicted that, regardless of them, a popular narrative around Dying White Men had already taken hold and would not be dislodged. It’s happening. As Gelman shows, POC still die much earlier than whites; the rising mortality among whites is concentrated among women, not men; and the big changes in white mortality had already happened by the mid-90s, and so have very little to do with the post-2008 economy. Despite these facts, mark my words, it will be accepted as obvious in a few years that the 2008 crisis fundamentally and uniquely altered the life expectancy of WWC men.

          This fallacy will take its place alongside my other bugbears, the “STEM shortage ” and “Bill Clinton came out of nowhere to win in 1992.”

  • Nobdy

    I think we all agree that America has gotten harsher and crueller towards some people over the last few decades (though not everybody; obviously there have been advances in gay rights and other areas, even if the bad guys are trying to claw those back.)

    What I don’t understand is why SO many people are willing to blame the obviously blameless rather than the people who actually caused the issue. A bigtime executive sends all the jobs in an Ohio town to Vietnam, and the townspeople react by voting for the guy (or his friends) in the next election, while simultaneously getting mad at minorities and immigrants for “stealing” those jobs EVEN THOUGH THE MINORITIES AND IMMIGRANTS CLEARLY DON’T ACTUALLY HAVE THE JOBS.

    I mean has anybody actually found a car factory full of black people and Mexican immigrants hiding somewhere in this country? Statistics show that black wealth has not improved since the recession and while Hispanics are making some progress in some areas you’d expect that from a population who are assimilating after a major immigration wave.

    “You stole our jobs” is a bizarre thing to say when the accused thieves don’t actually HAVE the jobs.

    Meanwhile, the Republicans are literally running the guys who got rid of the jobs. Mitt Romney was famous for outsourcing and downsizing during his career. Donald Trump is well known to cheat small time contractors and employ mostly immigrant exploited labor in his businesses.

    The thing that everyone elides over in these arguments that white people are angry or in despair and so they vote Republican out of anger or despair is…HOW DOES THAT LEAD TO VOTING REPUBLICAN? The Republicans are openly aligned with the obvious actual villains in this story.

    And I know that to some degree the vote for Trump was a vote of anger at Obama for not fixing everything, but that’s not enough of an explanation for me. You may be mad at Obama (unjustifiably considering Republican intransigence) but voting for the fraudster scion of wealth doesn’t follow from that frustration.

    • aturner339

      I think this is how the “white” operator in WWC functions (and indeed was designed to function). Working class gets you economic insecurity but “white” gets you a centuries old list of villains to blame.

    • keta

      The thing that everyone elides over in these arguments that white people are angry or in despair and so they vote Republican out of anger or despair is…HOW DOES THAT LEAD TO VOTING REPUBLICAN? The Republicans are openly aligned with the obvious actual villains in this story.

      It leads to these people voting Republican because every news source, acquaintance, and everyone they associate with on social media tells them all the problems in their lives are the fault of the Democrats. And they swallow it whole, the dears.

      • Chetsky

        the dears.

        Is that like “bless your heart”? Just curious. Haven’t heard it often enough to be able to infer a definition from context.

        • keta

          It’s a sarcastic form of affection…or at least it is when I use it.

      • PunditusMaximus

        No, they’re just super racist fscknuggets. White culture is brutal.

    • efgoldman

      “You stole our jobs” is a bizarre thing to say when the accused thieves don’t actually HAVE the jobs.

      Not only that, they're using their stolen pay to buy drugs, T-bones and Cadillacs.

    • efgoldman

      You may be mad at Obama (unjustifiably considering Republican intransigence) but voting for the fraudster scion of wealth doesn’t follow from that frustration.

      Let me spell it out for you: S-T-O-N-E C-O-L-D R-A-C-I-S-M

    • PunditusMaximus

      Every vote for every Republican ever is racism. Period. Republicans’ record of total failure is just too vast.

      Non-racists who wanted a decent economy had zero choices in this election. I’m elite and educated enough that HRC wasn’t gonna do me damage, so it was easy for me. But if you were anti-shitgibbon and pro-keeping-your-house, there were no options, period.

      Can’t beat racism with nothing.

      • What was Clinton going to do to the economy?

        • PunditusMaximus

          Either agree with Obama or disagree with him.

          If agree:
          Anything Goldman Sachs asked, no matter how destructive, because rich bankers and hedgies “deserve” whatever they loot. If Mnuchin wants to foreclose on your house for less than a buck and engage in systemic mortgage fraud, then good for him.

          If disagree:
          Campaign very differently.

          • Alternatively, both Obama and Clinton are experienced enough politicians to recognise that there are structural factors meaning that even presidents only get so much political capital to spend in our system, and Obama decided to spend most of his providing health care to ≈20m people. You may not agree with that priority, but it doesn’t mean Obama thinks the financial system is just. It could just as easily mean he’s a pragmatic realist about what one Democratic president can accomplish in our system. As I said yesterday, if Obama makes Wall Street’s abuses his focus, maybe ≈20m people don’t get health care. This is one of the reasons I don’t believe I’d ever want the job: I’m not capable of making political calculations like that.

            Clinton certainly did comment quite a lot about Wall Street’s abuses of power, but like her comments about every other political issue, most of them weren’t covered.

            • efgoldman

              like her comments about every other political issue, most of them weren’t covered.

              Or dismissed out of hand as lies, or at best, expediency, by Punditus and the Band of Berniebros, along with every other leftier than thou asshole that helped elect Mango Malificent.

              • PunditusMaximus

                1) Obama elected Tr45. He hired Comey. I know you folks don’t like to have St. Obama criticized, but if you like HRC, you gotta know who shanked her for realsies.

                2) I would have had enormous difficulty, even as I pulled the lever for HRC, believing that she planned to regulate Goldman Sachs closely after she looted their craft services table, yes.

                • 1. Your repeated assertions that liberals are unwilling to criticise St. Obama run into the small problem that nearly everyone on this blog agreed that Comey was a terrible appointment years ago, and that’s not even getting into the many other policies he has been criticised for (education, for example).

                  2. “If you can’t eat their food, drink their booze, screw their women, take their money, and then vote against them, you’ve got no business being up here.” -Jesse Unruh

                • PunditusMaximus

                  (1) The “Bernie Bros sitting it out lost the election” meme is pure Obama worship, period. Comey lost the election. Obama hired Comey. Obama shanked HRC, and the FSM above knows why.

                  (2) …and she didn’t! Still voted for her, but no illusions.

            • PunditusMaximus

              George HW Bush managed.

          • Anything Goldman Sachs asked, no matter how destructive, because rich bankers and hedgies “deserve” whatever they loot.

            Okay, you are officially too stupid or dishonest to be worth paying attention to anymore.

            Hint: who’s on Trump’s cabinet now? Whose financial regulations are being actively clawed back by that cabinet? There is a lot of space between “serving Wall Street’s every whim” and “making Wall Street run red with banker blood”, believe it or not.

            • Harkov311

              There is a lot of space between “serving Wall Street’s every whim” and “making Wall Street run red with banker blood”, believe it or not.

              It kind of saddens me that this apparently needs to be spelled out, but apparently it does.

            • PunditusMaximus

              I definitely agree that HRC and Tr45 have essentially the same plan in this area.

              I don’t get the meme that if one isn’t fond of HRC, that means one endorses the precise same behavior in Tr45. The only reason to vote for Tr45 was pure black tar mainline paddyroller racism. That doesn’t have anything to do with HRC’s neoliberalism.

              • Harkov311

                That doesn’t have anything to do with HRC’s neoliberalism.

                I love how it’s always one extreme or the other with you. If you’re not hanging bankers from the lampposts, then you’re cool with whatever they want to do. Apparently in your world there are only socialists and Randroids, and nothing in between.

                • PunditusMaximus

                  Those are pretty much the only two options.

                  2/3rds of what the finance sector pulls in is pure theft. You don’t get to only kinda support people who know that what they’re doing is stealing money. They know that you’re either with them or against them.

    • I don’t have time to get into this in particularly great depth today, but one explanation for a rather large part of this is quite simple, and rooted in basic human psychology: People are very, very bad at determining that authority figures they assume to be benevolent are, in fact, malevolent. No matter how much evidence they are shown otherwise, it rarely registers with them.

      Combine this with the concept known as “blue lies”, that is, lies told to benefit an in-group at the expense of an out-group. At some point, Republican leaders (i.e., politicians and their news media) figured out that they could lie their asses off without consequence, because their marks probably aren’t going to figure it out, and if they do, they may not even care. So you have completely malevolent leadership that shamelessly lies to the public, and a public that is very poorly equipped to determine that it is being lied to.

      That’s really a huge part of what’s going on. And the particularly disturbing part is that the only people who are capable of making the Republicans’ base realise they’re being scammed in any large numbers are people they recognise as part of their in-group.

      This is one of the most important reasons that I’ve come to distrust the very concept of authority. There are necessary hierarchies in society (teacher-student, parent-child, and other hierarchies based on expertise). But power over others is very easily abused, and any society that relies on it too much is fragile at best. Our society is structured in a strongly top-down fashion both economically and politically, and so it is particularly vulnerable to this kind of abuse.

      • stonetools

        Yup. But the media had a role as well.Trump lied his ass off for the beginning of the primary campaign to the end, contradicting himself at times mid speech.He was also plainly racist and mysogynistic. But he said a few populist things , and the media ate it up. They also spent most of thei time highlighting Hillary’s flaws, presumably because they felt Clinton had it won, so her flaws were what mattered.
        By the end of the campaign Hillary was not only more untrustworthy than Trump, despite being more honest throughout, but she was also the corrupt plutocrat and the warmonger. The left was united with the right wing press in this portrayal of Clinton-indeed , it still is.
        Faced with that, its not surprising the the WWC concluded , “Clinton is as bad as Trump, but at least Trump is looking out for us white working class folk.”

        • Agreed. But that actually still fits with my thesis, because the mainstream media weren’t really much less dishonest in their coverage than the right-wing media, and people did a terrible job noticing this too. I agree that media coverage had a yuge role. So did “fake news” from faux-leftist angles that just flat out made up shit about Clinton, overconfident electoral result projections that didn’t take into account the observer effect and factor in uncertainty as a result, Wikileaks, Comey, and a bunch of other factors.

          But still, almost all of these can be considered reflections of the fact that people often consider authority figures to be far more trustworthy than they actually are. I myself was guilty of this somewhat; I assigned the projections far more credibility than I should have. Other people assumed Comey wouldn’t have released that letter if there wasn’t a good reason for it. And so on. The effect of nearly all of these on the election returns can be attributed to people’s unmerited trust in authority figures. Some of these figures may not even have been malicious in intent, but they were at least being assumed to be far more reliable and trustworthy than they actually were.

      • PunditusMaximus

        You may rest assured that after seven years of screaming into the darkness that Obama is not the best human of all humans, I am aware that humans are lousy at figuring out when authority figures do not have their best interests at heart.

  • mikeSchilling

    “Deserve’s got nothing to do with it.” — Willam Munny

    Also every economist in the world.

    • aturner339

      Indeed any serious study of economics explodes the whole “meritocracy” ideal irreparably. But it’s a powerful one. If we are to discuss the cultural roots of poverty I’d suggest that as a place to start.

  • PunditusMaximus

    Acting as the frontline oppressors in white supremacy is tiring and makes you an awful human being. It also destroys anything resembling social capital.

    So when you need your community to start coming together and producing social goods, it just doesn’t exist. Dudes whose main hobby is beating their wives (or lamenting that they can’t beat their wives anymore since the divorce) don’t help each other through tough times. They drink and fail.

  • imwithher

    Nope. They are all racists.

  • I’ve been despairing since November 21st, but that’s probably not what they meant.

  • Chetsky

    Observation: what’s happening with the whole “WWC despair” thing, is people of color attempting to point out that even the subgroups that are crying out in despair, are privileged compared to their reasonably comparable peers amongst minorities.

    In short, this is somewhat like when BLM took over the stage at a Bernie rally. He took some time to understand and learn. I think he’s still going thru that process. It’s not easy to go thru, and I expect that he’ll come out of it a better man and a better politician. I remember when Chris Hayes had two women on his show, one of them a (black) prof, the other a former HRC staffer, to talk about the Women’s March. They were -both- crystal-clear about how women of color were critical leaders for the March. I thought it was excellent, and a real demonstration that at least some white liberals were getting that intersectionality was unavoidable.

    In a similar sense, perhaps this current conversation could be summarized as: “you wanna talk about how WWC are economically oppressed? If you don’t remember to mention (and to keep front-and-center) that oppressed minorities are EVEN MORE economically oppressed, we won’t take it lying down”.

  • Matt

    people are aging, and they are not getting what they think they have earned.

    Plenty of them voted for Raygun thirty years ago and cheered every time he fucked over unions and slashed taxes for the 1%. They’re getting EXACTLY what they’ve earned.

  • wphurley

    Louis CK on “Being White” – clipped from one of his stand-up specials of (around) 2009.

    Sorry I’m being so negative. I’m a bummer. I don’t know–I shouldn’t be. I’m a very, you know, lucky guy. I’ve got a lot going for me: I’m healthy, I’m relatively young, I’m white…which, thank God for that shit, boy. That is a huge leg up. Are you kidding me? Oh, God, I love being white. I really do. Seriously, if you’re not white, you’re missing out. Because this shit is thoroughly good. Let me be clear, by the way. I’m not saying that white people are better. I’m saying that being white is clearly better. Who could even argue? If it was an option, I would re-up every year.

    “Oh, yeah, I’ll take ‘white’ again, absolutely. I’ve been enjoying that. I’m gonna stick with white, thank you.”

    Here’s how great it is to be white: I can get in a time machine and go to any time, and it would be fucking awesome when I get there! That is exclusively a white privilege. Black people can’t fuck with time machines! A black guy in a time machine’s like, “Hey, anything before 1980, no thank you. I don’t want to go.”

    But I can go to any time! The year 2. I don’t even know what’s happening then, but I know when I get there…

    “Welcome, we have a table right here for you, sir.”

    “Thank you. Oh, it’s lovely here in the year 2.”

    I can go to any time–in the past. I don’t want to go to the future and find out what happens to white people because we’re gonna pay hard for this shit, you got to know that. We’re not going to just fall from number one to two. They’re gonna hold us down and fuck us in the ass forever. And we totally deserve it. But for now, wheeeeeeee!

    Now, if you’re white and you don’t admit that it’s great, you’re an asshole. It is great. And I’m a man. How many advantages could one person have? I’m a white man. You can’t even hurt my feelings! What can you really call a white man that really digs deep?

    “Hey, cracker.”

    “Uh. Ruined my day. Boy shouldn’t have called me a cracker. Bringing me back to owning land and people, what a drag.”

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