Pink collar

Drum posted an interesting chart yesterday showing that women are way disproportiately bearing the loss of jobs in the category of “office and administrative support occupations.”

The biggest reason you always see that very misleading “women make 75% as much as men” statistic is that women work in different jobs from men– what’s called the dual labor market.  At the hospital, more of the doctors are men and more of the nurses and billing clerks are women.  In an office, more of the lawyers are men, and more of the administrative support and paralegals are women.  You get it.  Anyway, these are so-called “pink collar” jobs and where businesses have been cutting back, these jobs have borne a huge share of the cuts.  You can see it in my very own job.  Most NCSU faculty are men.  Facing budget cuts the administration is doing everything it can to protect faculty jobs (as it should, I would argue), but that means a lot of administrative support– mostly women– is being cut.  There will be two less employees in the main PS office in the coming year– both women.  Some nice further explanation here, if you are interested.

The platinum coin solution

This is too far out there for Obama to ever use, and I presume there’s gotta be some macro-economic downsides, but that aside, I love this idea.  Via Yglesias:

I keep hesitating to write about this because it sounds insane, but Jack Balkin’s a professor at Yale Law School so I’ll let him say it:

Sovereign governments such as the United States can print new money. However, there’s a statutory limit to the amount of paper currency that can be in circulation at any one time. Ironically, there’s no similar limit on the amount of coinage. A little-known statute gives the secretary of the Treasury the authority to issue platinum coins in any denomination. So some commentators have suggested that the Treasury create two $1 trillion coins, deposit them in its account in the Federal Reserve and write checks on the proceeds.

It actually seems to me that there’s a colorable argument that President Obama is legally obliged to order Secretary Geithner to order the mint to start creating large denomination platinum coins. The debt ceiling is legally binding. We can’t borrow any more money. But at the same time, the Social Security Act is still valid. There are appropriations bills that extend through September. The assumption is that starting August 2, the Treasury will start “prioritizing” payments. But whence the legal authority to do that. By contrast, the legal authority to mint platinum coins is right there in the statute. This would, I assume, lead to a downgrading of American sovereign debt.

Oh right, there’s the downside.  Those pesky ratings of our debt.  The whole trouble we (i.e., everybody but nutty Republicans) are trying to avoid.  Still, seems better than some of the other options.


No equivalence

Joe Klein is certainly on the left side of center (though not that far), but he certainly represents the knee-jerk “pox on both their houses” centrism so typical of Washington journalism.  Thus, quite notable that he’s actually figured things out here.

And so, here we are. Our nation’s economy and international reputation as the world’s presiding grownup has already been badly damaged. It is a self-inflicted wound of monumental stupidity. I am usually willing to acknowledge that Democrats can be as silly, and hidebound, as Republicans — but not this time. There is zero equivalence here. The vast majority of Democrats have been more than reasonable, more than willing to accept cuts in some of their most valued programs. Given the chance, there was the likelihood that they would have surrendered their most powerful weapon in next year’s election — a Mediscare campaign — by agreeing to some necessary long-term reforms in that program. The President, remarkably, proposed raising the age of eligibility for Medicare to 67.

The Republicans have been willing to concede nothing. Their stand means higher interest rates, fewer jobs created and more destroyed, a general weakening of this country’s standing in the world. Osama bin Laden, if he were still alive, could not have come up with a more clever strategy for strangling our nation.  [emphasis mine]

Okay, I think enough GOP members of Congress are so monumentally ignorant and so used to drinking their own Kool-Aid for so long that they actually believe what they are doing is somehow good for our economy and the nation.  Nonetheless, I think on some level, some of the less nutty of them have to understand that their plans are bad for the economy and that millions of Americans will suffer as a result.  I think they see that as simply an acceptable side effect for one American to suffer the most– Barack Obama in November 2012.

Chart of the day

Interesting look at public opinion on extra-marital affairs from Yglesias (originally via Monkey Cage)

Of note is the decreasing tolerance for extra-marital sex.  Also of note, the more educated you are, the more tolerant you are of extra marital affairs.  As a highly-educated person, I don’t think I’d end up in the “always wrong,” category.  I’m reluctant to embrace the always standard for most forms of behavior.  If there was an “almost always wrong,” I’d go with that, but if the next option were “sometimes wrong,” I’d probably go with the “always” as I’m probably closer to that.  Short version of social science commentary: not only are the question wordings very important, so are are the wordings of the available response categories.

As for the socio-moral (can I say that?) commentary… Perhaps I shouldn’t say this since I know my wife reads my blog, but I think people place to much focus on sexual fidelity in a marriage.  In truth, there’s all sorts of ways that you can be unfaithful to your spouse that are not sexual liaisons with another person, but that is what our society is all hung up on.  Mind you, I have no intentions of violating this myself, but it has always struck me as crazy that many people see a single extramarital mistake as reason to end an otherwise okay marriage.  Now, of course, in many cases, an extra-marital encounter is a symptom of a troubled marriage and the straw that breaks the camel’s back, but, as a society, I think we place too much emphasis on that particular aspect.  I would argue that it is just as damaging (if not more so) to a marriage to show a pervasive lack of trust, respect, confidence, etc., towards a spouse.  Yet, there’s this idea that if somebody sexually cheats the marriage must be de fact over whereas if that same spouse works to undermine his/her partner’s confidence in a business venture or as a parent, that’s just something to be worked on.

Republicans standing at the next urinal

When it comes to thinks governing human behavior, there’s laws and there’s there’s social customs and norms.  It would be against the law to attack me in the men’s room, however, there’s nothing against the law saying that you cannot come and stand at the urinal next to me when there’s plenty of other free ones.  It would just be weird and creepy.  There’s a lot of things we don’t do, for better and worse, because you just don’t do it.  It violates social norms and customs.  Traditionally, Congress has been much the same way.  There’s the actual rules of the place, and then there’s the long-standing norms.  The reason that Republicans in Congress have been so successful in getting their way of late, is that they basically decided if its not an actual rule, just a norm, that damn the norms, full speed ahead.  In short, when it comes to conducting themselves in Congress, Republicans are standing at the next urinal.

That was going to be the end of my post, but I came across this excellent piece by long-time Congressional observer/scholar, Norm Ornstein, approrpriately titled, “Worst.  Congress.  Ever.”  And it’s not because of the Democrats (also worth noting, Ornstein definitely plays things down the middle and is employed by the conservative thinktank AEI).  I would actually assign it to my Intro Class this coming year, but I’m not actually going to be teaching Intro this year for the first time in a long time.  Since it’s going to lose that big audience, maybe you should just read it instead :-).  It’s quite good.  (Or, if you are JP, you can assign it to your class).  Anyway, here’s the part most relevant to my comments:

In 2006, I wrote a book with the Brookings Institution’s Tom Mann called The Broken Branch: How Congress is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track, in which we reflected on the high level of dysfunction in Congress that had been building since the 1990s. From the Clinton years through the middle of George W. Bush’s second term, partisan division had been accompanied by a growing ideological gulf in Congress, and along with it had come a decline in institutional loyalty and other norms, the near disappearance of meaningful debate and deliberation, and a sharp decline in the “regular order,” the adherence to and respect for the rules and procedures that normally operated in the legislative body.  [emphasis mine].

And, there’s no false symmetry here.  It is predominantly, though admittedly not exclusively, Republicans who are responsible for this.  There’s a reason this is the worst Congress ever.  And it starts with an R.

Spending cuts are easy in the abstract

We’ve been hearing a lot about cuts to “domestic discretionary spending,” but what, exactly?  These cuts are really easy in the abstract, but as Chait points out, specifics are hard:

The larger question here is, what level of domestic discretionary spending do Republicans find appropriate? I’m familiar with the party’s thinking on defense spending (more!), Social Security and Medicare (privatize and cut!), as well as taxes and regulation. But, despite following conservative thought quite closely, I’m fairly unclear as to whether the party thinks we’re spending way too much on non-entitlement programs — whether there’s any defined endpoint, or simply a goal of cutting as much as politically feasible forever.   [emphasis mine]  The actual impact of Republican budgets here is things like slashing funding on transportation infrastructure or food inspectors.  Yet you almost never see conservative argue for slashing those programs.

I’m surprised that Chait is unclear– I’m not.  The answer is “a goal of cutting as much as politically feasible forever.”  To actually have a position on what should be cut– other than the classic “waste, fraud, and abuse,” you’d have to think seriously about policy.  I’ve not seen one iota of evidence that the modern Republican party, at least those in Congress, pretty much ever thinks seriously and honestly about policy.

Social class and hostility

Mike Barr hasn’t commented on my blog in a while.  Perhaps its because I ignored the cool research he sent me.  Anyway, here’s a really cool experiment about how social class affects threat vigilance (i.e., chip-on-the-shoulder-ness) and hostility:

In Study 1, participants engaged in a teasing interaction with a close friend. Lower-class participants—measured in terms of social class rank in society and within the friendship—more accurately tracked the hostile emotions of their friend. As a result, lower-class individuals experienced more hostile emotion contagion relative to upper-class participants. In Study 2, lower-class participants manipulated to experience lower subjective socioeconomic rank showed more hostile reactivity to ambiguous social scenarios relative to upper-class participants and to lower-class participants experiencing elevated socioeconomic rank. The results suggest that class affects expectations, perception, and experience of hostile emotion, particularly in situations in which lower-class individuals perceive their subordinate rank.

Mike comments:

The article below seems to provide additional evidence of the impact of social class on a multitude of behaviors.  In addition to the outcomes described below, I bet that the way people deal with authority, roles, and rules in the workplace is also related to the dynamics described below.  I have seen first-hand the way people from low SES backgrounds (sometimes AAs, but frequently low SES southern whites) reacted to being told what to do by a foreman, boss, or whatever – they often took this as a personal affront to their pride or social status rather than recognizing this as part of the role of being an employee.   I observed this time and again in the New Orleans area (as a busboy, general laborer, and tree trimmer, and general roofer), Tennessee, rural south Georgia, and Philadelphia.   The folks who had problems dealing with the roles and responsibilities off the workplace were often resentful of being told what to do, combative, quick to feel insulted, blustered about kicking people’s asses, and would often express their frustration by working more slowly, sloppily, or complaining, being late, loafing, etc.  Basically, anything they could do to express autonomy and try to bolster their standing.

This is the kind of research that ought to inform a lot more of our public debates about class, race, academic performance, social mobility, and employment.

Indeed.  Personally, I’ve been fortunate enough to encounter a lot less of this than Mike.  I was intrigued of the idea of social rank “within the friendship,” though.  Not quite sure how that’s defined, but I had a good friend growing up who was clearly a lower “social rank” than the rest of our group of friends and it certainly led to a fair amount of hostility– though generally manifested in a very passive-aggressive style.

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