Chart of the day

Nice chart from Nate Silver that nicely displays just how much our economy is under-performing:

Check out that huge red dip we’re in.  Nothing like it since the Great Depression.  Past post-WW II recessions have just been blips in comparison.  Silver nicely explains what we’re seeing:

Here, you can really see the effects of the Great Depression. In early 1933, G.D.P. was about 40 percent below what it “should” have been based on long-term growth rates. But the economy recovered at a rapid clip over the course of the next decade. In fact, G.D.P. temporarily overshot, exceeding the long-term trend during World War II as America employed all the industry and labor that it could get its hands on to help with the war effort.

By this measure, most post-World War II recessions are barely detectable. They look more like reversions to the mean after years of above-average growth.

The Great Recession, however, is highly visible. G.D.P. had already been a couple of percentage points below the long-term trend before it began, as the recovery from the 2001-2 recession was not particularly robust. But things got much worse in a hurry.

Looked at this way, in fact, not only is the worst not yet over — the situation is still deteriorating. Every quarter that the economy grows at a rate below 3.5 percent, it loses ground relative to the long-term trend. Although the economy grew at a 3.8 annual percent rate from fall 2009 through summer 2010, over the past year growth has averaged just 1.6 percent, putting us farther behind.

Right now, gross domestic product is about $13.3 trillion dollars, adjusted for inflation — when it “should” be $15.7 trillion based on the long-term trend. That puts us more than 15 percent below what we might think of as full output, by far the worst number since the Great Depression.

Yowza.  Short version: not good!  Even if we don’t officially enter another recession this anemic growth just ain’t cutting it.  But, I’m sure that Tea Party economics will really get the economy growing again :-).

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Most voters did not choose divided government

Since my friend Barry Burden, co-wrote the excellent Why Voters Split Their Tickets (along with fellow grad school friend, David Kimball), it’s not surprising that Barry would link to this nice Hendrik Hertzberg piece in his facebook feed:

A voter wishing to “choose” divided government would split his or her ticket in Presidential years. Ticket-splitters are a small minority and always have been—fewer than twenty per cent throughout most of American history, including during the past couple of decades…

Voters don’t choose divided government. It’s chosen for them by a system, unique in the democratic world, of multiple overlapping elections held at different intervals in which different electorates fill different offices, none of whose occupants have ultimate responsibility. The electorate of 2008 chose Obama and the Democrats. The electorate of 2010—consisting mainly of McCain voters, and smaller by forty-five million—chose the Republicans. Hardly anybody voted as they did out of a desire for “divided government,” as opposed to a desire for a government that would embody their own political and ideological leanings.

And, if you are curious as to why those 20% or so, do split their tickets, Burden and Kimball…

explain the causes of divided government and, rejecting the dominant explanations for split-ticket voting, they debunk the myth that voters prefer divided government to one-party control. Likewise, they make a case against interpreting the frequency of divided government as a mandate for compromise between the parties’ extremist positions. Instead, the authors argue that ticket splitting and divided government are the unintentional results of lopsided campaigns and the blurring of party differences.

Like much of what we see in American politics, the “rules of the game” have a huge bearing on actual outcomes, but these rules of the game are all too often ignored in explaining these outcomes by both politicians and journalists.  I guess that’s what Political Scientists are for.

Four myths about Mormonism

The Post’s “Five Myths” series featured a edition on Mormonism. Of course, there was the obligatory polygamy and such, but I was quite amused by the fact that the author was only able to come up with four myths to debunk and simply pretended otherwise.  To wit:

4. Mormon women are second-class citizens.

Really, that’s a myth?  Here’s the authors own words on the matter:

Mormon women are sometimes perceived as voiceless, mindless members of our faith; LDS Church spokespeople portray us as uniformly happy with our situation. Neither perspective is accurate.

It is true that mainstream Mormonism does not accord women equal status with men.[emphasis mine]  The worldwide LDS Church chain of command — including all positions of clerical, institutional and fiscal authority — is entirely male. Women cannot hold the lay priesthood shared in by men age 12 and older. The church’s Proclamation on the Family declares that men “preside” over the household. Unequal gender language is also a part of Mormon temple worship and marriage ceremonies.

Hmmmm.  That sure sounds like Mormon women are second-class citizens to me.  And no matter of protesting about the fact in the next paragraph that there’s lots of “strong, independent-minded” Mormon women changes that.

And, do note that there’s nothing mythical about the Mormon Sacred Undergarments.

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