Tag: Economic Policy

Minneapolis: Education pays, according to the data

Odds are if you lived in Minneapolis in 2015 and didn’t have a high school diploma, then you probably made less than $19,200.00 in that year. If you’re keeping track, that’s $10.00 per hour. Matter of fact, if you were the average person with no high school diploma, then the odds were good you made $18,165.00. In contrast, if you were the average person with a graduate or professional degree, then the odds were good you made $62,757.00 in 2015.

It is clear from the data, at least this data, that education pays for those who work and reside in Minneapolis. That is, earnings increase at each level of the educational ladder. Those residents with a high school diploma earn more than those residents with less than a high school education on average; those residents with some college or an associate degree earn more than those residents with a high school diploma on average; those residents with a bachelor’s degree earn more than those residents with some college or an associate degree on average; and those residents with a graduate or professional degree earn more than those residents with a bachelor’s degree on average.

In fact, it is striking how each level earns significantly more than the next educational level down. For example, there is a $7,092.00 difference annually between a high school diploma and no high school diploma; and there is a $21,812.00 difference annually between a college degree and a high school diploma. Of course, is this the case no matter what city data is observed? Does this educational advantage remain if one were to compare the north side of Minneapolis to the south side of Minneapolis? Does this educational advantage remain if one were to compare different parts of North Minneapolis itself?

But what if it were the case that education remained financially advantageous no matter the geographical local, i.e., any part of the United States (take your pick)?

What would this mean for economic policy? Do examples exist of local policy makers constructing such economic policy based off of educational data? Indeed, one data set is not enough. Are there counter examples? In order to satisfy the rigors of science, data sets showing such an advantage need to be illustrated to exhaustion or boredom, whichever comes first.


Matt Johnson is a blogger/writer for The Systems Scientist and the Urban Dynamics blog. He has also contributed to the Iowa State Daily and Our Black News.

Matt has a Bachelor of Science in Systems Science, with focuses in applied mathematics and economic systems, from Iowa State University. He is also a professional member of the Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics and the International Society for the Systems Sciences and a scholarly member of Omicron Delta Epsilon, which is an International Honors Society for Economics. 

You can connect with him directly in the comments section, and follow him on Facebook

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Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Education






Copyright ©2017 – The Systems Scientist

Comparing Minneapolis wages to wages in North Minneapolis

TSS Admin

As Aristotle explored in his Metaphysics: Book Delta, the parts of something, say the parts of a city, are divisions of the whole that can be differentiated from one another by quantification or by qualification. In the sense of quantifying, North Minneapolis can be differentiated from Minneapolis by observational data, for example, unemployment rates, education rates, and wages.

In the sense of qualifying, North Minneapolis can be differentiated by recognition of area. But it should be noted that the geography of North Minneapolis is still the geography of Minneapolis. It is just a recognition of a specified area, which is not Northeast Minneapolis, South Minneapolis, or Southwest Minneapolis.

Furthermore, North Minneapolis is broken down further by quantification and qualification into area codes: 55411 and 55412. Thus, the 55411 and 55412 zip codes are distinguishable by name and specific geography, this is obvious, and by observational data.

For example, previous articles in this blog have shown the 55411 zip code to be the zip code with the highest number of reported crimes in North Minneapolis; whereas, previous articles in this blog have shown the 55412 zip code to be the zip code with the highest number of foreclosures over the past decade.

Graph 1

Utilizing this systemic approach, the wages between Minneapolis and North Minneapolis, specifically the 55411 zip code, can be differentiated and analyzed.

Thus, are the dynamics of the wages (how wages change over time) shown to be relatively equal to one another? Are the dynamics of the wages of the 55411 zip code shown to be greater than Minneapolis? Or are the dynamics of the wages of the 55411 zip code shown to be less than Minneapolis?

As Graph 1 illustrates, we can see that the wage rate of Minneapolis is steeper than the wage rate of the 55411 zip code in Graph 2. And we’re not just eyeing this. We can see this distinctly via the linearization equations in Graph 1 and Graph 2.

The linearization equation in Graph 1 (y = 6.4152x + 1083.1) shows a rate of 6.4 and the linearization equation in Graph 2 (y = 2.2805x + 823.6) shows a rate of 2.3, if both rates of change are rounded-off. Obviously, 6.4 is greater than 2.3, and by quite a bit. Why is this important?

Graph 2

Dynamically (how wages change over time), this shows the wages of Minneapolis are growing at a greater rate than the wages of the 55411 zip code. Of course, these equations also show that the average weekly wages of Minneapolis are between $250 and $300 higher than the 55411 zip code.

This little bit of information ought to provide policy makers with some much-needed direction to create and apply economic policy. Of course the operative modal verb is “ought to.”

So do you think local policy makers would consider differentiating between the part and the whole when creating economic policy? Or do you think local policy makers would just create and apply the same policy for both the part and the whole?


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Want the economy to grow? It’s time to look at cities and efficiency

The economy is a hot topic in the presidential debates and is among the top public concerns. But the “economy” is a loose and hazy notion and, for politicians, a convenient place to make promises. The Conversation

Even the solutions are pitched at a high level of abstraction. On the Republican side, the common answer is to reduce taxes, which also has the obvious attraction of aiding their donor class, and to cut back on government regulations. On the Democratic side, one response is to increase taxes on the wealthy, with the precise causal mechanism never explained or demonstrated.

The reality is rather more daunting and the answers could lie in place few politicians discuss explicity: cities.

Urban economics

There are of course real economic concerns of low growth, stagnant incomes and rising inequality.

Given that growth projections are limited, we need to be thinking more about productivity gains. That means we need to make our economy more efficient – generating more economic value with the same inputs. And one way to do this is to improve the productivity of our cities in various ways, including better land use, beefed-up infrastructure and smarter technology.

Metro areas in the U.S. now house 83 percent of the population and are the main site for innovation and job growth. The 100 largest metro areas hold 69 percent of all jobs and are responsible for three-quarters of the nation’s GDP.

The bigger, the more productive: Larger, denser cities are more efficient economically. OECD

If we are serious about growing our economy, then getting our cities to work better is just as important as tax reform or wage policy. The problem is that cities tend to be discussed in terms of redistributional issues, such as welfare or race relations, but rarely as a platform for addressing the “economy.”

Consider just some of the traditional inputs of land, labor and energy. Cities use enormous amounts of energy. So policies about urban energy use and urban transportation are not just urban concerns, they are matters of national economic concern.

In other countries, there is a closer connection in political discourse between the economy and the city. In Australia, where close to half of the population lives in the five largest cities, the idea of improving living standards and competitiveness by increasing urban productivity is now part of political discussions.

Traditional economics is not much help, as productivity is generally used with reference to individual firms or workers. Rarely is it used to measure the productivity of cities. Even when they do look at cities, economic theorists rarely move on from noting that large cities achieve agglomeration economies through the clustering of activities, labor pooling and knowledge spillovers.

This explains an economic rationale for cities but does not help us make cities more productive. How can we do that?

Bigger, denser, more productive

The good news is that more people are looking at this issue with more case studies that look at how productivity is related to educational levels and labor markets.

It turns out that we should be encouraging cities to become bigger and more dense if we want to improve economic performance.

Consider transport. There are significant cost savings in increasing the ridership of mass transit systems compared with constructing expensive new systems. Even small-scale policy changes have rolling consequences. Improving traffic light sequencing, for example, reduces travel times, emissions, fuel consumption and road accidents.

Buses don’t normally figure in talk of the economy, but a city’s transportation system can make a city as a whole – and thus the economy – more productive. lodekka/flickr, CC BY

Meanwhile, encouraging telecommuting, while reducing the benefits of face-to-face contact in real time, generates savings in terms of time and energy costs as well as the wear and tear on commuters slogging their way through traffic. The collective gain is a more efficient city and greater economic productivity.

Also, a single government authority in a large city is more efficient than a multiplicity of municipal governments. One study of cities across five countries found that a metro region with many municipal governments, has, on average, six percent lower productivity than a city with one metropolitan authority.

Cities are a target-rich environment for improving productivity because they are places where public policies have leverage. Dysfunction at the federal level, likely to halt any ambitious proposals discussed in the presidential elections, does not stop experiments at the city level. And here a combination of nonpartisan federal and local policies can achieve savings.

For example, new federal legislation has allowed companies to provide the same level of benefits for mass transit users and carpoolers as it did for parkers. Against this background, city authorities can enable more carpooling by setting aside designated spots for informal carpools.

Improving urban efficiencies has the added benefit of improving sustainability and helping deal with climate change.

Social issues and big urban data

Productivity has a cold-blooded sound to it, as if citizens are imagined just as labor inputs to be trained and moved around to increase efficiencies. But there is a meshing of economic and social concerns.

A more efficient land use and transportation system, for example, means people spend less time and money commuting. I was reminded of this when seeing the route map of a low-income worker in Atlanta, Georgia, whose two-hour journey to work involves 118 bus stops and a nine-minute train ride.

Can technology make a difference? We now have lots of data on the flows of energy, people, goods, capital and ideas. While big data on its own does not provide the solution, the intelligent use of these data can provide us with a real-time handle on urban productivity to provide benchmarks of performance and measures of progress. And once urban productivity is measured, it can be improved.

Big data could also help improve our infrastructure, which would aid productivity and reduce economic losses. Many bridges need renovation and replacement. But if we use good-quality data on how much repair they need as well as how much traffic they support, we would be in a better position to prioritize our infrastructure funds so that the most dangerous and the most frequented were targeted first.

We are still at a very early stage of using big urban data to provide smarter, safer, more efficient and more socially just cities. An important start is that we realize that more of our economic activity takes place in cities and improving urban economic performance is the road to economic growth and social justice.

John Rennie Short, Professor, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland, Baltimore County


Photo credit: Gregor Smith/flickr, CC BY

Photo explanation: Traffic jams in cities, such as this one in Atlanta, have economic costs, including lower productivity.




This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Why a fractured nation needs to remember King’s message of love

The 2016 election campaign was arguably the most divisive in a generation. And even after Donald Trump’s victory, people are struggling to understand what his presidency will mean for the country. This is especially true for many minority groups who were singled out during the election campaign and have since experienced discrimination and threats of violence.

Yet, as geography teaches us, this is not the first time America has faced such a crisis – this divisiveness has a much longer history. I study the civil rights movement and the field of peace geographies. We faced similar crises related to the broader civil rights struggles in the 1960s.

So, what can we draw from the past that is relevant to the present? Specifically, how can we heal a nation that is divided along race, class and political lines?

As outlined by Martin Luther King Jr., the role of love, in engaging individuals and communities in conflict, is crucial today. By recalling King’s vision, I believe, we can have opportunities to build a more inclusive and just community that does not retreat from diversity but draws strength from it.

King’s vision

King spent his public career working toward ending segregation and fighting racial discrimination. For many people the pinnacle of this work occurred in Washington, D.C. when he delivered his famous “I have a dream” speech.

Less well-known and often ignored is his later work on ending poverty and his fight on behalf of poor people. In fact, when King was assassinated in Memphis he was in the midst of building toward a national march on Washington, D.C. that would have brought tens of thousands of economically disenfranchised people to advocate for policies that would ameliorate poverty. This effort – known as the Poor People’s Campaign” – aimed to dramatically shift national priorities to the health and welfare of working peoples.

Martin Luther King Jr. speaking at interfaith civil rights rally, San Francisco Cow Palace, June 30, 1964. George Conklin, CC BY-NC-ND

Scholars such as Derek Alderman, Paul Kingsbury and Owen Dwyer have emphasized King’s work on behalf of civil rights in a 21st-century context. They argue the civil rights movement in general, and King’s work specifically, holds lessons for social justice organizing and classroom pedagogy in that it helps students and the broader public see how the struggle for civil rights continues.

These arguments build on sociologist Michael Eric Dyson, who also argues we need to reevaluate King’s work as it reveals the possibility to build a 21st-century social movement that can address continued inequality and poverty through direct action and social protest.

Idea of love

King focused on the role of love as the key to building healthy communities and the ways in which love can and should be at the center of our social interactions.

King’s final book, “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?,” published in the year before his assassination, provides us with his most expansive vision of an inclusive, diverse and economically equitable U.S. nation. For King, love is a key part of creating communities that work for everyone and not just the few at the expense of the many.

Love was not a mushy or easily dismissed emotion, but was central to the kind of community he envisioned. King made distinctions between three forms of love which are key to the human experience.

The three forms of love are “Eros,” “Philia” and most importantly “Agape.” For King, Eros is a form of love that is most closely associated with desire, while Philia is often the love that is experienced between very good friends or family. These visions are different from Agape.

Agape, which was at the center of the movement he was building, was the moral imperative to engage with one’s oppressor in a way that showed the oppressor the ways their actions dehumanize and detract from society. He said,

In speaking of love we are not referring to some sentimental emotion. It would be nonsense to urge men to love their oppressors in an affectionate sense[…] When we speak of loving those who oppose us we speak of a love which is expressed in the Greek word Agape. Agape means nothing sentimental or affectionate; it means understanding, redeeming goodwill for all [sic] men, an overflowing love which seeks nothing in return.

King further defined agape when he argued at the University of California at Berkeley that the concept of agape “stands at the center of the movement we are to carry on in the Southland.” It was a love that demanded that one stand up for oneself and tells those who oppress that what they were doing was wrong.

Why this matters now

In the face of violence directed at minority communities and in a deepening political divisions in the country, King’s words and philosophy are perhaps more critical for us today than at any point in the recent past.

As King noted, all persons exist in an interrelated community and all are dependent on each other. By connecting love to community, King argued there were opportunities to build a more just and economically sustainable society which respected difference. As he said,

Agape is a willingness to go to any length to restore community… Therefore if I respond to hate with a reciprocal hate I do nothing but intensify the cleavages of a broken community.

King outlined a vision in which we are compelled to work toward making our communities inclusive. They reflect the broad values of equality and democracy. Through an engagement with one another as its foundation, agape provides opportunities to work toward common goals.

Building a community today

At a time when the nation feels so divided, there is a need to bring back King’s vision of agape-fueled community building. It would move us past simply seeing the other side as being wholly motivated by hate. The reality is that economic changes since the Great Recession have wrought tremendous pain and suffering in many quarters of the United States. Many Trump supporters were motivated by a desperate need to change the system.

However, simply dismissing the concerns voiced by many that Trump’s election has empowered racists and misogynists would be wrong as well.

These cleavages that we see will most likely intensify as Donald Trump prepares to take the oath of office as the 45th president of the United States.

To bridge these divisions is to begin a difficult conversation about where we are as a nation and where we want to go. Engaging in a conversation through agape signals a willingness to restore broken communities and to approach difference with an open mind.

It also exposes and rejects those that are using race and racism and fears of the “other” to advance a political agenda that intensifies the divisions in our nation.

The Conversation

Joshua F.J. Inwood-Associate Professor of Geography Senior Research Associate in the Rock Ethics Institute, Pennsylvania State University


Photo Credit: Wikispaces


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This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Minimum wage increases in 12 states as of January 1, 2017

By Matt Johnson

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 12 states raised their minimum wage as of January 1st. New York increased its minimum wage by $2, which was the most of the 12 states. And Arizona increased its minimum wage by $1.95, which was the second most of the 12 states.

Who will benefit from these minimum wage increases? This question may not be so obvious.

State Minimum Wage as of 12/31/16  Minimum Wage as of 1/1/17
Arizona $8.05 $10.00
Arkansas $8.00 $8.50
California $10.00 $10.50
Colorado $8.31 $9.30
Connecticut $9.60 $10.10
Hawaii $8.50 $9.25
Maine $7.50 $9.00
Massachusetts $10.00 $11.00
Michigan $8.50 $8.90
New York $9.00 $11.00 (Increased on 12/31/16)
Vermont $9.60 $10.00
Washington $9.47 $11.00

Nationally, odds are a minimum wage employee is white, female, between the ages of 16 to 24, and works part-time. As the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Pew Research report, minimum wage workers are

Disproportionately young: 50.4% are ages 16 to 24; 24% are teenagers (ages 16 to 19)…Mostly (77%) white; nearly half are white women…Largely part-time workers (64% of the total).

Something to keep in mind. Raising the minimum wage doesn’t address unemployment amongst black Americans or other non-whites (with the exception of Asians; very few participate in minimum wage jobs); it doesn’t address their participation rate in the market place; and it certainly doesn’t address black business, which doesn’t even have the economic horsepower to compete with white business. So what do these new minimum wage laws address?

If these 12 states follow national trends, then these new laws will address lower wages amongst new white workers entering the labor force.

Attention all white teenage girls and women between the ages of 16 and 24 who are working a minimum wage job! Rejoice! Your wages have just gone up.


Matt Johnson is a writer for The Systems Scientist and the Urban Dynamics blog; and is a mathematical scientist. He has also contributed to the Iowa State Daily and Our Black News.

You can connect with him directly in the comments section, and follow him on Twitter or on Facebook

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Copyright ©2016 – The Systems Scientist

Trump can kill trade deals but he can’t kill globalization

2016 will go down as a watershed year for all the wrong reasons: Britain’s EU exit faces strong opposition; Syria remains plunged in civil war and in the wake of the US election politics in the two major Anglosphere democracies are now deeply polarised.

In Britain and the US, the majority of voters have embraced candidates and movements that eschew globalisation, immigration and free markets. Instead, they preach nationalism, closed borders and protectionism.

But it is hyperbolic to suggest that the post-2008 financial crisis era is beginning to look very much like the 1930s in the wake of the Wall Street crash. This is not a clash between fascism, communism and democracy. But what the Brexit and US presidential votes do show is that modern democracies have proven incapable of dealing adequately with income inequality, unemployment and declining opportunity.

With Trump as president, US policy is likely to become more unpredictable, but the business of government and policy implementation must go on nevertheless.

Despite Republican majorities in Congress, Trump will not be able to treat the legislature as a mere rubber stamp. In the US system, Congress holds the whip hand. Moreover, Trump is at war with so many senior Republicans, he is unlikely to enjoy a smooth ride. Where congressional Republicans and Trump do agree is that tax cuts are needed.

Unchartered waters

In this respect, we are really navigating unknown waters as to how Trump will behave in office as president. Trump has no public sector background. He will be the first US president to enter the office without any gubernatorial or congressional experience, or any previous role in an administration.

Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush served as state governors; John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama were junior senators (Obama also served as a state senator from 1996); George H.W. Bush served in multiple roles, including the vice presidency. In the post-war period, only Eisenhower comes close to Trump as a political cleanskin. But Eisenhower had a substantial military career, a reputation as a war hero, and had been a key adviser to both the military and the Department of Defense before and after World War II.

Trump’s victory has been built on his image as a Washington outsider. But his isolationist, nationalist and protectionist policies are not new; the first US Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, was an unabashed protectionist, viewing American infant industries as central to the US’s commercial rivalry with industrial Britain.

On defence and trade policy, Trump is close to many of the positions articulated by the America First movement in the 1930s and 1940s. Substantial figures, such as Charles Lindbergh and future president Gerald Ford, sought to keep America out of the second world war. But once Washington entered the war, it did not make the same mistake it made after Versailles in 1919; instead, the US became a global economic and military superpower, eschewing the isolationism of 1920–41.

As a self-declared neo-isolationist, one of the keys to Trump’s victory was his denunciation of the free-trade orthodoxy that has dominated Washington’s economic agenda since the Bretton Woods conference of 1944, which created the IMF, World Bank and, later, the GATT, the predecessor to the World Trade Organisation.

Let’s take a look at the state of play of the US’s current and mooted free trade negotiations. We’ll also briefly canvass how President Trump is likely to deal with Janet Yellen and the Federal Reserve.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

The TPP was initiated under George W. Bush’s administration, but President Obama pushed the 12-member bloc, obtaining fast-track trade promotion authority from Congress in June 2015. This allowed him to press forward with the finalization of the agreement, which was released in October 2015. However, Trump’s opposition to TPP, along with Hillary Clinton’s second thoughts about her support for it means the deal is unlikely to pushed through during Obama’s final weeks in office.

In November 2015, Trump declared TPP “insanity”. Trump’s anti-TPP campaign demonstrated how he and the Tea Partyists had so convincingly vanquished the traditionally pro free trade Republican Party. By July this year, Republicans began to erase all trace of TPP support from their websites. By September, staunch TPP supporters Marco Rubio and Pat Toomey performed a volte-face; having praised the TPP, now they sought to bury it. Both Obama and Hillary Clinton were depending on the pro-TPP Republicans to get the pact through Congress.

Verdict: Dead in the water. Many Australians will applaud Trump for killing the TPP, as it was far from popular.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

NAFTA was a product of the Reagan-Bush years, building on its 1998 predecessor, the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement (CUSTA). George H.W. Bush’s administration did most of the heavy lifting, but Bill Clinton pushed NAFTA through Congress in 1993, expending considerable political capital as he faced off against the unions, the Democrats’ biggest supporters.

Trump has labelled NAFTA “the worst trade deal ever”. True, NAFTA may have destroyed 879,000 US jobs, according to one study. But it also provided a low-cost labor base for both the US and Canada, as they strove to compete with Asian manufacturing and the EU’s newly opened eastern periphery.

Verdict: No happily ever NAFTA. Likely to stay, but regulatory changes will be made.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)

TTIP may be dead already, mostly due to the fact that it’s as popular as Hillary Clinton. It is in Europe that TTIP has found its strongest opponents, with thousands protesting against it.

Clinton, Sanders and Trump’s position against TTIP coalesced early, as it was clear it was a vote loser within all three candidates’ voter bases. In a pitch to Sanders supporters, Clinton declared she would quash any deal that hurt American jobs.

Clinton’s opposition to free trade deals demonstrated how decisive both the Sanders and Trump campaigns had been in shaping the narrative of the anti-free trade debate. Equally, the union base of the Democratic Party had always opposed FTAs. Had Clinton won the election, it is likely she would have attempted to revive TTIP during her tenure, as both the EU and US had pushed for a transatlantic FTA in some form since 1990.

Verdict: This is an ex-parrot.

A UK-US free trade deal?

President Obama infamously intervened in the UK Brexit debate earlier this year, declaring Britain would go “to the back of the queue” if it left the EU and sought a FTA with the US. Theresa May, Boris Johnson and Liam Fox will be hoping that President-elect Trump will welcome a special free trade relationship.

During the campaign, Trump advisers indicated that he would be willing to discuss a FTA with the UK. Indeed, Trump stated that Britain would “always be at the front of the line” when it came to trade deals. This would be critical to Brexit Britain; the US is the UK’s largest third-country market, with more than £30 billion in exports.

But the UK also enjoys a trade surplus in goods and services with the US, and Trump’s administration is unlikely to grant substantial concessions to an ally that already makes substantial hay from its existing tariff arrangements.

In other words, why would President Trump do a deal that gives UK firms more access to the US market?

Verdict: Boris needs to grab that American passport of his, head for Washington and start speed-dating. Soon.

Audit the Fed!

What future for Janet Yellen, Federal Reserve Chair? The Donald has expressed his dislike of the Federal Reserve chair on more than one occasion.

In September 2016, Trump took aim at Yellen’s near zero interest-rate policy, arguing it existed only to make Obama look good. Janet Yellen wasn’t about to take this lying down. In a press conference, she responded – implicitly – to Trump, arguing that:

I can say emphatically that partisan politics plays no role in our decisions…We do not discuss politics at our meetings.

It’s unknown whether Trump would seriously attempt to remove Yellen. But in May this year, he did state that he would “most likely” replace her as she was “not a Republican”. In September, Trump’s position hardened; he said he would audit the Fed and replace Yellen in the first 100 days of his administration.

There are precedents; in 1981, US Treasury Secretary Donald Regan began to brow-beat Fed Chair Paul Volcker for maintaining his tight monetary policies as the Reagan administration sought to introduce wide-ranging tax cuts. Despite Reagan’s early support for Volcker (a Carter appointee), by 1987, the President had enough; he ended Volcker’s tenure, bringing in Alan Greenspan.

Verdict: Anyone looking for a central bank chief? Used for one term only. Low-interest rates.

Another brick in the wall

Trump’s triumph is partly built upon faulty and drastically over-simplified conceptualizations of the operation of the US and the global economy. Corporations, banks, finance and even consumers are no longer “national” entities. They have not been for many years. Manufacturing and services are not local but global. This complex web of interdependence has manifested itself over many decades.

Globalisation has even brought jobs back to America; but in the post-GFC environment, this has produced US jobs that, on average, pay 23% lower than they did prior to 2008.

Mexican walls, Chinese trade negotiations and bans on Muslims: if Trump were to implement some of these initiatives it may have some impact upon people movements. But low-tech manufacturing jobs are not coming back to America. The US used to build vast numbers of radios and TVs; these have not been made in America for a long, long time. Similarly, Apple is not about to repatriate iPhone production and establish manufacturing onshore. And US corporations are not about to stop doing business with the rest of the world.

This is the brutal reality that Trump cannot smash, but his supporters appear to believe he can. He is wrong and they are wrong. And they will be bitterly disappointed.


-Jean Monnet Chair in Politics and Economics, Monash University

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This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Shame as a political weapon: Donald Trump and the US presidential election

Many reasons are still being advanced to explain Donald Trump’s win over his experienced, accomplished, much-fancied-in-the-polls rival Hillary Clinton in the 2016 US presidential election. White working-class anger has received a lot of attention, but Trump’s success exploiting anger’s inner manifestation – shame – should be getting a lot more focus.

Shame has a political pedigree in modern US politics. So strong has been its impact that merely a tincture is usually enough to have big consequences:

  • Joseph Nye Welch, chief counsel for the US Army, is credited with turning the tide against Communist witch-hunter and senator Joseph McCarthy in 1954. He declared during a hearing: “You’ve done enough. Have you no decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”
  • Democratic vice-presidential candidate Lloyd Bentsen called out Republican rival Dan Quayle during a debate in the 1988 presidential election campaign, when Quayle compared himself to John F. Kennedy, with: “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.” Quayle replied: “That was uncalled for, senator.” Perceptions of Quayle never really recovered from Bentsen’s put-down.

By comparison with what might be described as surgical shame strikes, Trump’s use of shame in 2016 was more carpet-bombing in nature. Sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild says Trump employs a “choreography of shame” that diminishes everybody – except working-class men.

Strangers in their own land

Hochschild spent five years interviewing poor Louisianans – most of whom were Democrat voters, but who have now traveled to the Trump camp via the Tea Party.

Her recent book, Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, provides an empathic account of working-class men and women who not only feel without hope but, worse, misunderstood, or – worst of all – not seen or heard at all.

The profile of white, blue-collar men – the demographic which by a considerable margin voted most strongly for Trump – that emerges in Hochschild’s research goes some way to explaining their vote. They feel crunched by technological change and economic crisis on one side, and perceive their remaining white male privilege subsiding in absolute terms simultaneous with its redistribution towards women and minorities.

This much has broadly registered and been understood on both sides of politics. But it receives a complex mix of empathy and aggravation on the progressive side of politics: empathy for obvious class-based reasons; aggravation because women and minorities are due a fair share of that privilege whether it is subsiding or not.

Hochschild is going for something more in her research, however, than the topline economic and demographic facts. She pursues, too, an understanding of the “emotion in politics” of her subjects’ situation, of how they feel and what they are getting emotionally out of their move from the political left to right.

Hochschild wants their “deep story”. After repeated interviews with scores of subjects over a period of years, she summarizes it thus:

You are patiently standing in a long line for something you call the American dream. You are white, Christian, of modest means, and getting along in years. You are male. There are people of colour behind you, and ‘in principle you wish them well.’ But you’ve waited long, worked hard, “and the line is barely moving.

Then ‘Look! You see people cutting in line ahead of you!’ Who are these interlopers? ‘Some are black,’ others ‘immigrants, refugees.’ They get affirmative action, sympathy and welfare – ‘checks for the listless and idle.’ The government wants you to feel sorry for them.

And who runs the government? ‘The biracial son of a low-income single mother,’ and he’s cheering on the line-cutters. ‘The president and his wife are line-cutters themselves.’ The liberal media mocks you as racist or homophobic. Everywhere you look, ‘you feel betrayed.’

In short, you are resentful, and perceive yourself as ridiculous to the rest of America; you can’t hold your end up economically, therefore neither socially nor familially either; and you feel ashamed.

But shame is a secret emotion; pride prevents its utterance. Could this be the key, perhaps, to most pollsters’ failure to capture the full extent of Trump’s support?

Here lies the likely explanation for that hidden vote. By sustained rhetorical attacks on women and minorities, Trump negated – absolved – white working-class shame. And, by winning the election, he relegitimised white working-class men’s place in American society.

Trump’s campaign slogan – “Make America Great Again” – was not simply a narrative of national decline typical of proto-fascist political campaigns: it was also code for “Make White Working-Class Males Great Again”. In restoring them to the center of the national narrative, Trump turned women and minority group members into strangers in their own land.

Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous

Like Hochschild, feminist legal scholar Joan C. Williams also has a deeper take on what is happening in the “white working class” – which she sees as driven by a “class culture gap”.

Among other things, this makes more advantaged Americans blind to several features of white, working-class culture – including a resentment of “professionals” alongside what seems, at first blush, a paradoxical admiration for the rich.

Poses Williams:

Why the difference? For one thing, most blue-collar workers have little direct contact with the rich outside of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. But professionals order them around every day. The dream is not to become upper-middle class, with its different food, family, and friendship patterns; the dream is to live in your own class milieu, where you feel comfortable – just with more money.

Trump personifies Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous; Clinton personifies the professional class perceived to boss the white working class around. Trump promises – and embodies – a return to the era:

… when men were men and women knew their place … it’s comfort food for high-school-educated guys.


-ARC DECRA Fellow, Australian National University

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This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.