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The Morning Grumpy 3/6/2012

6 Mar

All the news and views fit to consume during your morning grumpy.


Seuss Army Knife

1. Please ignore the wealth inequality, you dirty class warrior! Nothing to see here!

“The top 1% captured 93% of the income gains in the first year of recovery.”…The bottom 90% of Americans lost $127, the bottom 99% of Americans gained $80, and the top 1% gained $105,637. The bottom 99% is net positive for the year because of around $125 in average capital gains. They can take comfort in efforts by the Right to set the capital gains tax to 0%, which would have netted them an addition couple dozen bucks.

In other good news for rich people, corporate profits have already roared back to their pre-recession heights. Wages, however, have yet to follow suit.

2. Richard Florida and his colleagues at The Martin Prosperity Institute in Toronto, published a study which explored the reasons behind income and wage inequality in American cities. I’m still churning through the full paper, but the summary Florida published on The Atlantic yesterday is a great start for discussion.

Inequality is shaping up to be one of the biggest issues in the 2012 presidential election. The Occupy movement may have waned since last fall, but its focus on the privileges of the top one percent has yet to go away.

Most studies of inequality have focused exclusively on its manifestations on a national or international scale, but there is much to be learned by examining local patterns. With the help of my Martin Prosperity Institute colleagues Kevin Stolarick, Charlotta Mellander, and Zara Matheson, I began by simply mapping two different measures of inequality – wage inequality and income inequality – across America’s 350 metro areas.

From the abstract of his research paper:

Our findings indicate that wage inequality and income inequality are quite different from one another. Wage inequality across metros to be closely is associated with skills, human capital, technology and metro size, in line with the extant literature. However, wage inequality explains only 15 percent of income inequality across metros according to our analysis. Furthermore, we find skills, technology, human capital and metro size be either weakly or not related to income inequality. We also find no relationship between income inequality and average incomes and only a modest relationship between it and the percent of high income households.

Our findings indicate that income inequality is more closely associated with unionization, race and especially with poverty. These findings suggest that perhaps too much attention has been paid to skill-biased technical change, the changing nature of the labor market, and the effects of high-income households and not enough to the role of declining unionization, race, and endemic poverty in shaping income inequality across the United States.

Very interesting data to consider.

3. How the culture wars helped Ohio Democrats get their groove back. Also, the consequences of right wing paleo-politics.

Jonathan Beck, a 55-year-old attorney in Columbus, loved the speech. Two or three months ago, he wasn’t particularly optimistic about Obama’s reelection, he said. But with the economy ticking upward and the Republicans seemingly competing to be the most out-of-touch, his pessimism was fading.

“There’s been a steady stream of slightly better news — that and the fact that the Republicans appear to be shooting themselves in the foot with these attacks on women and all the social-values, religious talk,” Beck said.

“They are losing women, and I think they’re losing the middle of country,” he added.

Go ahead Republicans, keep up the “war” on contraception. Please.

4. When I think of TED, I think of frank discussions about complex issues that result in a new perception. After one viewing, this became my favorite TED Talk.

In an engaging and personal talk — with cameo appearances from his grandmother and Rosa Parks — human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson shares some hard truths about America’s justice system, starting with a massive imbalance along racial lines: a third of the country’s black male population has been incarcerated at some point in their lives. These issues, which are wrapped up in America’s unexamined history, are rarely talked about with this level of candor, insight and persuasiveness.

There was a fantastic article in The New Yorker which serves as a reading companion of sorts for this talk.

More than half of all black men without a high-school diploma go to prison at some time in their lives. Mass incarceration on a scale almost unexampled in human history is a fundamental fact of our country today—perhaps the fundamental fact, as slavery was the fundamental fact of 1850. In truth, there are more black men in the grip of the criminal-justice system—in prison, on probation, or on parole—than were in slavery then. Over all, there are now more people under “correctional supervision” in America—more than six million—than were in the Gulag Archipelago under Stalin at its height.

Absolutely remarkable.

5. America is in a great moral decline, according to Rick Santorum and the religious right. Funny, that.

Mr Santorum noted that “Satan has his sights on the United States of America.” As would Mitt Romney, who has attacked the decay caused by Barack Obama’s “secular agenda”. Newt Gingrich has gone the furthest, stating, “A country that has been now since 1963 relentlessly in the courts driving God out of public life shouldn’t be surprised at all the problems we have.”

So, what are all these problems were facing? What moral decline? I’m sure the numbers back up these assertions, right? These fine, upstanding men wouldn’t just foment these types of fears! That would be crass political opportunism.

If Satan is at work in America, he’s probably nicking wallets and assaulting old ladies. But over the past several decades the crime rate has fallen dramatically, despite what you may think. The homicide rate has been cut in half since 1991; violent crime and property crime are also way down. Even those pesky kids are committing less crime.

Abortion rates have declined, divorce rates are down, infidelity is less prevalent. In fact, it seems the higher rates of moral decline we’re allegedly experiencing is really only happening in red states. Red states typically have higher rates of teen pregnancy and divorce. Odd, that.

The lowest divorce rates in the country tend to be in blue states. The highest divorce rates tend to be in states that voted – so-called red states that voted Republican in 2004, 2008. I think a lot of people would be surprised by that. It seems to suggest that places that are more politically left of center tend to reflect what we might regard as having more traditional family values.

With the economy ticking upward, the Republicans have moved to the 3G strategy – Gods, Guns, and Gays – to motivate the vote. Talking about the moral decline of America is part of that strategy, and it’s bullshit.

Fact Of The Day: On March 6, 1857, in its Dred Scott decision, the Supreme Court held that Scott, a slave, could not sue for his freedom in a federal court.

Quote Of The Day: “Feminism was established to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream.” – Rush Limbaugh

Cartoon Of The Day: “Duck Amuck” – Chuck Jones

Video Of The Day: “The Most Astounding Fact About The Universe” – Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Song Of The Day: “The E Street Shuffle” – Bruce Springsteen, Live at the Hammersmith Odeon – Bruce’s first concert in England and the absolute joy in his performance is so clear

Part 1:

Part 2:

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