Wage stagnation– Ezra’s take

Of course, it was only a matter of time before Ezra Klein weighed in all of this.  A lot of good points, my favorites (bold are from Ezra):

1) According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, average hourly earnings rose at roughly the same rate during 2011-2012 as they did during 2013-2014. But one of those cycles ended with Democrats routing the Republican Party and the other ended with Republicans routing the Democratic Party. It’s hard to attribute such wildly different electoral outcomes to such a stable trend…

4) Democrats won the most votes among voters with the lowest incomes. They won 59 percent of voters making less than $30,000, and 51 percent of voters making between $31,000 and $50,000, and lost every income class above that. Their most lopsided defeat came among voters making more than $100,000 — they gave 57 percent of their votes to Republicans.

5) Leonhardt’s main advice to Democrats is to run “probably the oldest and most obvious play in the book: a tax cut.” He notes that in 2008, Barack Obama ran on a bigger middle-class tax cut than John McCain, and “by the campaign’s end, polls showed that many voters understood this fact  —  and viewed the Democrats as the party of tax cuts.” But I think the telling point comes in the aftermath: in office, Obama passed that tax cut  —  and more tax cuts —  and then Democrats got destroyed in the 2010 election. So it’s not clear that middle-class tax cuts are much of a salve…

I suspect the answer has more to do with structural changes in American politics than with the mood of the electorate. Voter opinion seesawed in previous decades, too, but for various reasons, control of Congress wasn’t as closely divided, and so didn’t change hands as often. This chart — which remains incomplete for 2014, because some Senate races haven’t been called yet — shows that though the electorate’s midterm judgments against Obama have been brutal, they are not really unprecedented

[chart omitted]

But the truest answer I can give to the question of what the voters are saying is: I don’t know. And I’m not even sure the question makes sense.

Yep.  As usual, Ezra makes a very compelling case.  I’m going to have to go with a version of everybody is right here.  What we are seeing is more structural than anything else.  That said, I do think it is pretty clear that Democrats absolutely need to develop a more compelling economic message for middle class voters and that wage stagnation is likely part of the problem.

The attack on public education in NC

Wow– this is an amazing document on the transformation of North Carolina politics by a Duke Economics professor and her education journalist husband (Helen Ladd and Edward Fiske).  I strongly recommend all my NC readers give it a good look.  It’s a pretty terrific summary of all the political changes in our state since 2010.  It’s main focus is on how the Republicans in NC are undermining public education, but it really covers the whole political context quite well.  It’s actually from this Spring, but somehow I did not come across it until today.  Here’s a great bit from the conclusion:

To fully understand the radical nature of the General Assembly’s recent actions with regard to schooling in North Carolina, one need only to examine the Republicans’ program against the fundamental values laid out in the Vision Statement. It is clear that it has rejected these values in at least four ways.

First, members of the General Assembly have distanced themselves from the fundamental premise that North Carolina needs a strong public education system by undermining two of the basic bedrocks of such as system: adequate funding and a strong teaching force.

Second, the Republican education agenda violates the constitutional mandate for a “uniform system of free public schools” through its enactment of vouchers and its push for untrammeled expansion of charters with little concern for their impact on existing schools and with minimum standards of accountability for how they spend public funds.

Third, Republicans have aggressively sought to upset the traditional balance of private and public interests in education by privileging the former. The charter expansion has already put millions of public funds in the pockets of entrepreneurs whose ultimate responsibility is to a bottom line rather than to quality education, while vouchers divert much-needed funds from traditional public schools to largely unaccountable private schools, a majority of which are religious.

Fourth, the Republican actions with regard to education demonstrate little or no concern for the fundamental obligation of public schools to serve each and every child in North Carolina, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds and those with special needs.

If one were to devise a strategy for destroying public education in North Carolina, it might look like the following: Repeat over and over again that schools are failing and that the system needs to be replaced. Then seek to make this a self-fulfilling prophecy by starving schools of funds, undermining teachers and badmouthing their profession, balkanizing the system to make coherent planning impossible, putting public funds in the hands of unaccountable private interests, and abandoning any pretense that diversity and equal opportunity are fundamental values. [emphasis mine]

Ugh.  Great analysis, but as somebody who cares about the future of this state, hugely depressing.


Photo of the day

Great shot in a recent Telegraph photos of the day gallery:

A young male elephant seal relaxes on Macquarie Island in Tasmania, Australia, surrounded by a colourful colony of breeding king penguins.<br /> The seals and penguins share the picturesque island but usually reside on opposite ends - until this curious pup set out to prove he was the real king of the beach.

A young male elephant seal relaxes on Macquarie Island in Tasmania, Australia, surrounded by a colourful colony of breeding king penguins. The seals and penguins share the picturesque island but usually reside on opposite ends – until this curious pup set out to prove he was the real king of the beach.>Picture: Gunther Riehle/Solent News


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