History as politics

When you define and explain history you are framing things in such a way as to favor particular political solutions for current problems.  That’s exactly what John Locke Foundaton (an Art Pope thinktank) president, John Hood, has done in an N&O Op-Ed.  His basic argument is that NC isn’t so special and the story that liberals tell and that despite our public investment in higher ed, technology, etc., our per capita economic growth is nothing special compared with our neighbors.  Therefore, it is time to unleash the policies of the present GOP lot in Raleigh.

Nobody knows more about the political history of NC than the N&O’s Rob Christensen and he says Hood is wrong:

Hood’s argument is that North Carolina’s reputation as a leader in the South is overblown, or as he puts it, the idea of North Carolina Exceptionalism is “a fairy tale.”

Hood bases his assertion on statistics showing that North Carolina’s GDP between 1963 and 2010 grew only at the average of the rest of the South, and behind the national average. When adjusted for population, Hood says, North Carolina looks worse.

So Hood’s implicit argument – although he didn’t quite belly up to the bar to say it – is that North Carolina was wasting its money in building one of the nation’s great university systems, one of the best community college systems and one of the most extensive road systems, and in trying to be a leader in the arts.

If you are arguing for fundamental change, you are obligated to make the case that what has gone before is not working.

Even better than Christensen, though, I think Thomas Mills really nails it:

And that’s the problem with John’s analysis. While we may not have significantly exceeded our neighbors’ GDP or per capita income, the benefits were distributed much more evenly. As Irwin notes, “The rubber-meets-road measure of whether the economy is working for the mass of Americans is median real income and related measures of how much money is making its way into their pockets and what they can buy with that money.”

Using those measures, we have consistently and substantially outpaced our neighbors. Our median income has been higher for decades until the economic crash. On almost every quality of life measure, our families have fared better. That’s because of the political choices our leaders have made…

So if the most important measure of prosperity is the rate of economic growth, then we’ve not done substantially better than our Southern neighbors. If the most important measures are the strength of the middle class and health and welfare of our citizens, we’ve done significantly better.

Yep.  I’ll take a great university system and higher quality of life and opportunities for the average citizen over rich people in my state being even richer.  Alas, our current “leaders” don’t see it this way.

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Photo of the day

I’m not much for beer, but I am proud of my German ancestry (both my mom’s parents emigrated independently of each other in the early 1930’s) so here’s one from an In Focus Oktoberfest gallery:

People enjoy a festival ride in front of St. Paul’s church at Oktoberfest 2014 on September 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

Chart of the day– where’s the racism

Say what you will about racism in society at large (the evidence for its persistence is pervasive and compelling), but whatever the case there, the obvious precense of racism in our criminal justice system seems pretty hard to ignore.  Unless you are Republican, apparently.  Via Drum:

But I want to play partisan hack today and just focus on the far left bar, which shows that Republicans are far less likely than Democrats to think that blacks don’t get a fair shake from the criminal justice system. At first glance, you might figure that’s just demographics at work. Republicans are heavily white and old, and those two groups are the ones least likely to think blacks are treated unfairly.

Wow.  Drum puts this all on the right-wing media.  I don’t know, but makes as much sense as anything else.  Reality, of course, tells a different story.  (But who needs data when you just know).   On the bright side, even Republicans are increasingly likely to perceive the racism that exists.  Here’s hoping this uptick is not just a blip.

A venture capitalist on trickle-down economics

This is just awesome (thanks John F):

Economic prosperity doesn’t trickle down, and neither does civic prosperity. Both are middle-out phenomena. When workers earn enough from one job to live on, they are far more likely to be contributors to civic prosperity — in your community. Parents who need only one job, not two or three to get by, can be available to help their kids with homework and keep them out of trouble — in your school. They can look out for you and your neighbors, volunteer, and contribute — in your school and church. Our prosperity does not all come home in our paycheck. Living in a community of people who are paid enough to contribute to your community, rather than require its help, may be more important than your salary. Prosperity and poverty are like viruses. They infect us all — for good or ill.

An economic arrangement that pays a Wall Street worker tens of millions of dollars per year to do high-frequency trading and pays just tens of thousands to workers who grow or serve our food, build our homes, educate our children, or risk their lives to protect us isn’t an expression of the true value or economic necessity of these jobs. It simply reflects a difference in bargaining power and status.

We’re undeniably becoming a more unequal society — in incomes and in opportunity.

Inclusive economies always outperform and outlast plutocracies. That’s why investments in the middle class work, and tax breaks for the rich don’t. The oldest and most important conflict in human societies is the battle over the concentration of wealth and power. Those at the top will forever tell those at the bottom that our respective positions are righteous and good for all. Historically we called that divine right. Today we have trickle-down economics.  [emphasis mine]

The whole thing throws in lots of good stuff about the minimum wage, but I really loved that part.

The decline of marriage

Nice piece in the Upshot looking at the latest data on demography and marriage.

Of all the milestones on the road to adulthood, Americans are increasingly forgoing one of the biggest: marriage.

Twenty percent of adults older than 25, about 42 million people, have never married, up from 9 percent in 1960, according to data in a Pew Research Center report published Wednesday.

The trend has been consistent for decades. Since 1970, each group of young adults has been less likely to marry than the previous generation. Although part of the trend can be attributed to the fact that people are simply marrying older, Pew projects that a quarter of today’s young adults will have never married by 2030, which would be the highest share in modern history…

Educated, high-income people are still marrying at high rates and tending to stay married, according to economists and demographers who study the issue. Remaining unmarried is more common among the less educated, blacks and the young, Pew found.

I’m sure there’s lots of reasons that marriage has increasingly become the domain of the better educated with higher incomes, but this bit just struck me wrong:

And as modern marriages have become more about love than about survival, it has become an indulgence that is easier for well-off people to take advantage of, said Justin Wolfers, an economist who writes for the Upshot and has studied marriage and divorce. The benefits of sharing passions are more likely to accrue to people who have the time and money to invest in them, he said.

Really?  For one, I’m not sure how much of a marriage about love is necessarily based on “sharing passions” that couples “invest” in.  I don’t exactly have any data here, but when I think of the happily married, high SES couples I know, it’s not about investing time and money in shared passions (other than the shared passion of child-rearing).  I would happily be disproved on this, but this is the Upshot– give me data damnit.

I might as well conclude by beating a dead horse I have before (as someone who got married three weeks after graduating from college):

Though marriage was once a steppingstone to economic stability, young adults now see financial stability as a prerequisite for marriage. More than a quarter of those who say they want to marry someday say they haven’t yet because they are not financially prepared, according to Pew.

Just get married to the right person already and make a life together.  Overcome young adulthood’s challenges together– it’s much better as a team.  Get more financially stable by sharing those financial burdens with another person.  Okay, I’m just old school on this.  Honestly, people should get married when it’s right for them, but I do think too many young people have become convinced that it is not right until they are financially independent and established despite the lack of any evidence that this is what makes the time right.

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