Thursday, November 24, 2016

Politics Argument Primer and News Roundup

Good grief.  Less than two weeks on the job and I've missed two blog posts in a row.  I've failed the American people.  Thank God Donald Trump is here to Make America Great Again, so I don't have to.

I'm part of the arguably overstressed legal industry.  I'm just a secretary, not a litigator, thank God.  If I was a litigator I'd earn a lot more money (after I paid off considerable debt, of course) but I'd be even more stressed, and I can't imagine that.  I won't bellyache too much about my workload except to say that I worked, I wasn't able to stop working, and consequently I missed my posts.  Forbes contends that the "overworked American" is a myth, but over in Europe you get four weeks of paid vacation or more, so you be the judge (those lazy Austrians!).

Argue With Your Loved Ones

It's Thanksgiving today, so there isn't really time to do a great in-depth blog post.  In case you're planning on having political fights with your relatives, here's a quick recap of employment growth and wage growth since the Carter years.  The info comes from this article and also here, but perhaps more importantly, here.  There's more to say about both these topics, but you're not writing a book, you're arguing with your family!

Under Carter, 9 million plus private sector and 1.3 million plus pubic sector jobs were created.  Wage growth was largely stagnant, and then there was an external oil supply crisis as well as a Fed that wouldn't stop targeting the money supply instead of core inflation.  The result was "stagflation," and Jimmy Carter, not the world's savviest politician honestly, lost by a landslide in 1980.

Under Reagan, there was a severe recession caused by the Fed but good times were here again when oil was discovered in the North Sea and the Fed lifted rates, thus ending the recession it has generated (to, successfully, fight inflation).  Reagan created 5.3 million plus private sector jobs in his first term and 9.3 million plus in his second term, while slashing the public rolls by 24,000 plus public sector jobs in his first term before they expanded by 1.4 million plus in his second term.  The median income for young people rose 4% during the Reagan years; less so for older workers, but those rose to.

Ah, but when you adjust for inflation, as you always should (which means basically that if a cup of coffee used to cost $1 and now it costs $2, if my salary went from $15,000 annually to $30,000 my wages are flat.  A drastic oversimplification, but easy to grasp), wages basically didn't budge during the Reagan years.  So employment grew but people didn't have higher purchasing power at the end of this time in office.

Under George H.W. Bush, a meager 1.5 million private sector jobs were created, and around 1.1 million public sector jobs.  Income growth fell, even without inflation-adjustment; older people (44 years and up) actually saw their wages, as a whole, go down.  Appropriately, George H.W. Bush was a one-term President.

Bill Clinton 10.8 million private sector jobs in his first term and 10 million in his second term.  Public sector employment also rose, though considerably less than it had under "government is the problem" Reagan.  692,000 new public sector jobs in Clinton's first term, 1.2 million in his second.  Again, workers aged 44 and older saw their collective wages go down, but everyone else experienced the highest income growth of the period from the late 1970s to present.  But, once again, when you adjust for inflation, wages were basically flat.

Under George W. Bush, there was net private sector job loss for the first and only of the Presidential terms we're discussing.  800,000 plus private sector jobs were lost in the first George W. term.  In the second term, a meager 400,000 plus private sector jobs were created.  In other words, the private sector lost around 400,000 jobs under George W. Bush, the only President - including Carter and Obama - to attain this distinction.  On the other hand, he did create around 900,000 public sector jobs in his first term and 844,000 in his second term.  Income growth was tepid under Dubya, though better than his father.  Workers aged 44 and up continued to lose ground.  Wages adjusted for inflation stayed basically flat.

Under alleged socialist Barack Obama, who inherited a recession that put the one Reagan inherited to shame, 1.9 million new private sector jobs were created in his first term, and 8.3 million under his second term.  That's the third-best private sector job growth on the list, after Clinton and Reagan.  Intriguingly, more than 700,000 public sector jobs were destroyed during the first Obama term.  Insofar as he was a big socialist, he was a pretty lousy socialist, eh?  In his second term public sector hiring rebounded at around 200,000 hires, but still, Obama remains the only President on this list to, on the net, shed public sector work - around half a million public sector jobs.  Even under the Gipper, public sector employment went up, so if you hate government, arguably you should be voting for a "centrist" Democrat like Obama or Hillary Clinton, who won more votes than Donald Trump in this most recent election put who had a pathetic ground game, amongst other flaws, and lost the election.

Obama's income growth was the third-best for youngsters, after, again, Clinton and Reagan, but it was the worst of all for the long suffering 44 years and older set.  That might help explain why older voters broke so decisively for Trump this time.

Inflation adjusted median income-wise, it's worth pointing out that while GDP has roughly doubled over the period from the late 1970s to today, the median income has remained flat or even declined slightly.  From 1948 to 1973, both GDP and the median income roughly doubled.  So, how well has "Morning Again in America" and "The Era of Big Government is Over" worked out for everyone?

Eat, and fight, well!

Donald Trump News Roundup

Ok, I gotta do this quick, because my wife wants me to peel them sweet potatoes and get my ass in the gear generally.

Donald Trump gave the press a good talking to.  Accounts differ on the degree to which he actually gave major media figures a real verbal lashing, but the only account that matters in the end is the public account, and here, Donald Trump has won.  He comes off as the person who not only got it right while everyone else got it wrong, he also belittled media organizations that came off as a preening and smug while simultaneously giving him tremendous amounts of free press during his campaign.  On this one issue, the Right and the Left can broadly agree.  CNN, MSNBC, FOX, Good Morning America, even my beloved New York Times spent the whole election assuring us that Hillary Clinton had it in the bag while simultaneously not holding Trump's actual proposals up to public scrutiny, and, hey, here we are.  These major media organizations are smug and do have their heads up their asses.  So this is a win for The Donald.

On the other hand, Trump gave a very conciliatory interview with the Times.  He stated that he's unlikely to attempt to actually put Hillary Clinton in prison, which sent many conservatives into a tizzy but is unlikely to bother anyone with more important things to worry about.

Trump's language and positioning in this interview is extremely interesting, because somebody is getting the bait-and-switch.  The question is: who?

1. Is the media getting the bait-and-switch?  By more or less stating that much of what he said on the campaign trail he didn't actually mean, Trump is winking at major establishment figures.  But perhaps this is a cover for his true, more radical aims?  To play the statesman now and lull his opposition to sleep?  This is Politics 101, after all, and Trump has demonstrated he understands politics.

2. Alternately, are Trump's voters getting the bait-and-switch?  Is this the real Donald Trump that the Times is now seeing?  Maybe he's going to simply be a conventional Republican after all - one who doesn't especially care if manufacturing comes back to the Rust Belt, who isn't all that bothered by Muslims, and so forth?

We really won't know which is true until we see his first year in action, but this remains, to me, the single most interesting thing to speculate about for the time being.

Trump had some more cabinet appointments.  Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary is a thrilling pick if you believe the traditional public school system should be abandoned in favor of charters, and terrifying if you believe the opposition.  I'll have more on her soon.  For now, simply consider the following.  Emphases added mine:

Michigan is one of the nation’s biggest school choice laboratories, especially with charter schools. The Detroit, Flint and Grand Rapids school districts have among the nation’s 10 largest shares of students in charters, and the state sends $1 billion in education funding to charters annually. Of those schools, 80 percent are run by for-profit organizations, a far higher share than anywhere else in the nation.

The DeVoses, the most prominent name in state Republican politics, have been the biggest financial and political backers of the effort.

But if Michigan is a center of school choice, it is also among the worst places to argue that choice has made schools better. As the state embraced and then expanded charters over the past two decades, its rank has fallen on national reading and math tests. Most charter schools perform below the state average.

Uh oh!

There's also Nikki Haley for U.N. Ambassador.  What can be said about Haley, or about the U.N. Ambassador in general?  She will be there to give speeches for the administration, and she should be fine at it.

Then there's Ben Carson for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.  What does Ben Carson know about housing and urban development?  It's unclear at this time.  Cynics would argue that Trump has merely picked a random "urban" person who he happens to know, and who backed his during the campaign, to head a department he knows nothing about. 

Then there's Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, who has been lauded as an "influential figure" concerning Israel-Palestinian peace talks.  That seems like, potentially, an odd choice.

In any event, I've got to get ready to prepare and consume an inordinate amount of food.  Y'all have a lovely Turkey day, and while we're at it, Recep Tayypid Erdogan, legit budding dictator of Turkey, sends his regards to you and the incoming Trump administration.

Gobble gobble!

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