Archive

November 15th, 2016

Americans finally are receiving bigger paychecks

    Earlier this year, the U.S. Census Bureau delivered some good news. Finally, after years of what seemed like a sluggish and uncertain recovery, American incomes were rising strongly again. Median household income jumped by more than 5 percent in 2015, and the lion's share of the gains went to middle-class and lower-income folks. Employment rose strongly, and poverty fell faster than it had in any year since the 1960s. The gains were felt in both cities and rural areas.

    What's more, every age group had gains. Overall income statistics are muddled by the aging of the population. As economist Robert Shapiro has shown, the years from 2013 onward have lifted the incomes of boomers, Gen Xers, and millennials at rates that compare favorably to anything seen since 1980:

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A Time to Keep Fighting

    As I watched the unfolding electoral disaster on Tuesday night, a banner appeared on the New York Times website for the musical “Hamilton.”

    It made me wonder what Alexander Hamilton would think of the state of the nation he helped create and the man who just took the White House. But even more, it reminded me that the battle that has consumed, tormented and once almost destroyed our country is still raging.

    It is the battle between rural and urban, between those who want to keep things as they are, and those who are not part of that order and want a new one. It started when the country was born, and it has been bound up inextricably in race. It’s a battle of culture and religion, too, but race — starting with the implacable evil of slavery — has primarily driven the divisions in this country since 1789.

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A time of 'charismatic authority'

    For those of us who viewed a potential Donald Trump presidency with alarm, the only thing more troubling than his victory Tuesday is the manner in which he won.

    If Trump had run a more-or-less conventional campaign, and if it had earned him a lead in the polls for weeks before Election Day, then his triumph would have been a more-or-less normal event, in the eyes of both his supporters and his foes.

    Instead, he broke all the rules of American politics (and politesse) on his way to proving false a near-unanimous expert consensus that his election was not possible.

    As his rambling wreck of a campaign rolled on, only he and a hardy few true believers insisted to the end that he knew better, and was going to win - and, well, now no one can argue with his success.

    Therefore, this victory is also a vindication - confirmation, in the eyes of the millions who evidently wish to believe it, that "Mr. Trump" is gifted with special insight and a special connection with the people.

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Ten-Step Program for Trump Trauma

    Well, wow. We’ve got a president-elect who a great many Americans regard as the spawn of Satan. A dimwitted, meanspirited spawn embodying the nation’s worst flaws, failings and nightmares.

    But on the lighter side ...

    The question today is how to deal with the reality of Donald Trump, next president of the United States. Remember, we’re doing this for your mental health, not his.

    The bottom line is to presume the best while preparing for the worst. “They killed us but they ain’t whooped us yet,” said Tim Kaine, channeling Faulkner in one of the losing team’s biggest applause lines.

    Forget about moving abroad. Of course it sounds tempting, but you’d be surprised how many countries are unenthusiastic about acquiring new former-American citizens. The Canadians will just keep telling you about their terrific, sensible, well-adjusted young prime minister. Plus there’s that terrible housing bubble in New Zealand.

    Let’s get more practical. Here goes:

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November 12th

Who Won in 2016? Big Money.

    In one of Agatha Christie’s murder mysteries, the key clue that solved the whodunit wasn’t something that happened, but something that didn’t — specifically, a dog that didn’t bark.

    That plot fits one of the great mysteries of this year’s Trump-Clinton race for president: There was no barking at the democracy-murdering power of big corporate money in our politics.

    Record expenditures of at least $6.6 billion flooded into this national election, most of it from a handful of plutocratic interests blatantly buying controlling shares of the White House and Congress.

    That’s why a phenomenal 78 percent of the public is united in support of overturning the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United decision. That ruling opened the floodgates to this corrupting torrent of cash, producing public policies that profit corporations at the expense of the common good.

    With so much at stake and such overwhelming public agreement for stopping this wholesale purchase of America’s democracy, how odd that neither major candidate barked much at Citizens United.

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Why technology may prevent Trump from delivering on his jobs promise

    As the election results rolled in last night, it became increasingly clear that America -- and the world -- would never be the same. The American people overlooked all of Republican nominee Donald Trump's faults and elected him to office in the belief that he will fix the nation's deep-seated problems of inequity and injustice. And they rebelled against the business interests and corruption that they believed Hillary Clinton represented.

    Trump's victory was enabled by technology -- everything from his use of social media to Clinton's email scandals to Russian hacking. But advancements in technology and how they reshape our economy may also keep him from delivering on some of the major promises that made him so popular during the campaign season.

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What Now?

    Many Americans feel sick Wednesday. The country they thought they knew doesn’t seem to exist. Many of them are worried in a way they never have been before. I share a lot of those worries.

    But what now?

    Here’s my immediate answer: No task has become more important than persuading a much larger number of Republicans that the health of the planet matters for their children and grandchildren too.

    Yes, of course, there are other vital issues, especially the constitutional and civil rights that Donald Trump has at times disdained. And, yes, Democrats need to begin plotting their comeback for 2018 and beyond. Yet we also need to recognize that the climate is like nothing else.

    Most issues are part of the historical push-and-pull of politics. One side makes gains; the other can reverse them later.

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What does President Trump mean for feminists?

    I'm a feminist writer. I am inundated with sexist harassment and political ugliness more or less constantly; I know that the history of women's progress in the United States has been uneven, and often marked with big setbacks just as we were on the precipice of real change.

    This, though, I did not predict.

    I'm writing from my current, and I assumed temporary, home in Nairobi, but now I wonder whether the United States - this United States, the one that just elected Donald Trump - is one to which I want to return. That sounds melodramatic. But what a clear statement of what so many of my countrymen (and the people who put Trump in power are mostly men) value: white male supremacy above all, especially over female ambition, intelligence and basic competence.

    Still, abandoning the playing field is not an option. It's hard to think about tomorrow when today is so crushingly awful. Take a day: hug your kids, drink your wine, punch a pillow, go for a run. Then let's get to work.

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What a President Trump means for foreign policy

    Donald Trump is the president-elect of the United States. Among many other things, this means he will take charge of U.S. foreign policy. Trump will not manage foreign policy alone, but presidents have a lot of power nonetheless. Here are three things we know about leaders, advisers and foreign policy.

    Leaders' beliefs matter, and they tend not to change

    It is now well-established in research on international relations and foreign policy that leaders' beliefs matter. My own book found that leaders' beliefs about the nature of threats had important implications for when and how they decide to use military force. I also found that leaders' beliefs are very stable over time. They tend to be formed before presidents take office and then leaders view the events and crises of their tenure through the lens of these beliefs. This is consistent with a long tradition of research on how beliefs and ideas matter.

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We’re Near the Breaking Point

    I think it’s appropriate that the last words on this campaign and the first words for our new president go to an immigrant. They’re from my friend Lesley Goldwasser, who came from Zimbabwe in the 1980s. Surveying our political scene a few years ago, Lesley remarked to me: “You Americans kick around your country like it’s a football. But it’s not a football. It’s a Fabergé egg. You can break it.”

    I’ve thought of Lesley’s remark often in recent weeks, because for the last decades we’ve seen people deliberately trashing our institutions and eroding the foundations of trust that are the bedrock of American democracy. They did so with the seeming assumption that the American system is indeed a football we can kick around endlessly to advance one’s political career or, worse, make money, and it will always bounce back.

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