We’re going to need a bigger chart

Love this from David Leonhardt and friends comparing Trump’s provable falsehoods versus Obama:

Photo of the day

Pretty cool theme for a recent Atlantic gallery– hopeful images:

A couple kisses next to a bonfire on the Poniente beach celebrating the summer solstice in Gijon, Spain, on June 24, 2017. 

Eloy Alonso / Reuters

American oligarchy

You know inequality in America has gotten bad when Putin’s Russia is our only peer.  Check this out from an excellent article in the Times:

Damn.  As the chart shows, the trend is pretty universal in OECD nations, but particularly bad in America.  Not entirely, but to a significant degree, this is about policy choices.  It doesn’t have to be this way, e.g., see Denmark, Netherlands, Japan.

What I really like, though, is the articles attempts to consider various hypotheses and explain what’s going on.  They conclude, it’s not: trade, decline of unions, rise of information technology, or immigration.  Rather:

Almost all of the growth in top American earners has come from just three economic sectors: professional services, finance and insurance, and health care, groups that tend to benefit from regulatory barriers that shelter them from competition. [emphasis mine]

The groups that have contributed the most people to the 1 percent since 1980 are: physicians; executives, managers, sales supervisors, and analysts working in the financial sectors; and professional and legal service industry executives, managers, lawyers, consultants and sales representatives.

Without changes in these largely domestic services industries — finance, health care, the law — the United States would look like Canada or Germany in terms of its top income shares…

The United States also stands out in terms of how much money its elite professionals earn relative to the median worker. Workers at the 90th percentile of the income distribution for professionals make 3.5 times the earnings of the typical (median) worker in all occupations in the United States. Only Mexico and Israel, which have very high inequality, compensate professionals so disproportionately. In Switzerland, the Netherlands, Finland and Denmark, the ratio is about 2 to 1.

This ratio, the elite professions premium, is very highly correlated with income inequality across countries.

So, how is this policy, you ask:

Problems cited by these analysts include subsidies for the financial sector’s risk-taking; overprotection of software and pharmaceutical patents; the escalation of land-use controls that drive up rents in desirable metropolitan areas; favoritism toward market incumbents via state occupational licensing regulations (for example, associations representing lawyers, doctors and dentists that block efforts allowing paraprofessionals to provide routine services at a lower price without their supervision).

These are just some of the causes contributing to the 1 percent’s high and rising income share. Reforming relevant laws can make markets more efficient and egalitarian, and in contrast with trade, immigration and technology, the political causes of the 1 percent’s rise are directly under the control of citizens.

And the downside?  These super-rich really believe in spending their money to protect their undeserved wealth (yes, undeserved, compared to pretty much every other modern nation) and they have super compliant legislators in Republicans (and too many Democrats who count on their fundraising checks) to help protect them.  As you know, I’m not the biggest Bernie fan, but he’s definitely right about stuff like this and it’s really going to take some kind of revolution to break the stranglehold.

And on the bright side

Actually had a bit of an argument with my wife yesterday as she was ecstatic about Moore’s loss, and I could not help but be frustrated by how disturbingly close he came.  That said, there’s definitely plenty of bright side and Moore’s loss does represent the continuation of some important ongoing trends.

Ron Brownstein brings the demographic analysis likes nobody, and it is definitely the bright side:

Jones beat Moore with a strong turnout and a crushing lead among African Americans, a decisive advantage among younger voters, and major gains among college-educated and suburban whites, especially women. [emphases mine] That allowed Jones to overcome big margins for Moore among the key elements of Trump’s coalition: older, blue-collar, evangelical, and nonurban white voters.

This was the same equation that powered the Democratic victories in the Virginia and New Jersey governors’ races. The consistency of these results suggests that Democrats are coalescing a powerful coalition of the very voters that polls have shown are the most disenchanted, even disgusted, by Trump’s performance and behavior as president.

That points to a clear near-term threat in 2018 for Republicans. It also crystallizes the risky long-term trade Trump is imposing on his party: He is improving the GOP’s standing among groups that are almost all shrinking in the electorate, at the price of alienating groups that are growing…

Moore’s own words and actions provided plenty of provocation for minorities, Millennials, and college-educated whites. But these key groups moved the same way in November’s major elections. In both the New Jersey and the Virginia governors’ races, Democrats won about 70 percent of Millennials and half of college-educated whites, and they enjoyed solid turnout and preponderant margins from nonwhite voters. In all three states, the core Trump groups of older, blue-collar, evangelical, and rural whites remained loyal to Republicans (although Moore’s margins with those voters eroded slightly relative to Mitt Romney’s in 2012). But they couldn’t match the impassioned turnout among the groups hostile to Trump.

“Anti-Trump fever is now so strong among Democrats, young voters, and independents that the GOP is likely to face a surge in turnout on the Democratic side that will make the 2018 midterms lurch toward the demographics of a presidential year,” says longtime GOP strategist Mike Murphy, who advised Attorney General Jeff Sessions when he first won his Alabama Senate seat, in 1996. “That is a looming disaster that could well cost the GOP control of the House. We are in a Trump-driven worst-case situation now.”

From his mouth to God’s ears ;-).  Of course, November 2018 is a long way off and lots can happen between now and then.  But based on what we know now it is looking to be a very, very good Democratic year.  And, to an important degree, that can actually be a self-fulfilling prophecy.  We’ll see the best, most-qualified Democrats run for office where ambitious Republicans will wait for a better time and those on the margins may just retire.  We’ve actually already seen that happen and it very well may accelerate.  So, yeah, there’s some very real bright side here, but I’m still worried as hell for the health of our democracy.

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