Friday, May 02, 2008
Economic Inequality of the Day
According to the latest US statistics as reported in the February 28 issue of Manufacturing and Technology News, in 2007 imports were 14 percent of US GDP and US manufacturing comprised 12% of US GDP. A country whose imports exceed its industrial production cannot close its trade deficit by exporting more.
No problem. We'll just "ramp up" production, as business school graduates are fond of saying, to close the gap. Of course this assumes that we can produce more of something that someone wants to buy.
Oh I forgot—this will also require capital, and the "credit crunch" means that no one, at least anyone local, is willing to cough it up. No problem. We can get the capital by selling off ownership of American industry, banks and infrastructure to foreign competitors.
Problem solved. The global "free market," promoted by the United States for so long, will come to the rescue. And what a wonderful insight into the mechanisms of Third World exploitation this will provide.
Thursday, May 01, 2008
Voting Minority of the Day: Married White Christians
Married white Christians now make up less than half of all voters in the United States and less than one fifth of voters under the age of 30.
Keep in mind that the majority of voters are far and away Christian, White and married (in that order, from high to low). But there's something special about being a member of all three demographic groups—
In American politics today, whether you are a married white Christian is a much stronger predictor of your political preferences than your gender or your class -- the two demographic characteristics that dominate much of the debate on contemporary American politics.
As a predictor of party preference this trifecta outperforms not only gender and class but also age. And guess who gets their votes? That's right. Every Republican crook in the country.
But the Republicans are facing not only a decline of their most loyal voting group from majority to minority status but a veritable demographic tsunami—
The proportion of married white Christians among voters under the age of 30 has plummeted from almost 80 percent in the 1950s to less than 20 percent in the first decade of the 21st century.
.... Not only are married white Christians more likely to support the GOP than other Americans, but ... the gap between these two groups has widened from less than 10 percentage points in the 1950s to 25 percentage points in the first decade of the 21st century.
Given the demographics, you're entitled to wonder why so many Republicans are still in office. The answer is this: While the absolute number of their most loyal demographic group has declined, the proportion of them voting Republican has increased—
Even though married white Christians have been shrinking as a proportion of the American electorate, the Republican Party has been able to maintain and even slightly increase its share of the electorate since the 1960s by steadily increasing its support among married white Christians. The data ... show that between the 1950s and the first decade of the 21st century, Republican identification among married white Christians increased by more than 20 percentage points, going from about 40 percent to over 60 percent.
Now here's the good news for Democrats—
... the ability of the GOP to continue to offset the diminishing size of its married white Christian base by making further gains among this group is questionable. Republican gains among married white Christians have occurred almost entirely among self-identified conservatives. Between the 1970s and the first decade of the 21st century, Republican identification among conservative married white Christians increased by 26 points, going from 64 percent to 90 percent, according to NES [National Election Studies] data. During the same time period, Republican identification among moderate married white Christians increased by only five points, going from 38 percent to 43 percent and Republican identification among liberal married white Christians actually declined by 10 points, falling from 23 percent to 13 percent. These results suggest that the potential for additional Republican gains among married white Christians may be limited. Conservative married white Christians already overwhelmingly identify with the GOP and the party has had little success in increasing its support among moderate-to-liberal married white Christians.
To put it more succinctly, the Republicans have maxed out their support in this group.
Abramowitz wondered if the support for Democrats among the young could be attributed to current events such as the Iraq War. He found that it couldn't—
In order to determine whether long-term demographic changes were responsible for the generation gap in voting behavior, I compared the preferences of younger and older voters in the 2006 House elections while controlling for their demographic characteristics. The results ... show that married white Christians under the age of 30 were just as likely to vote for a Republican House candidate as married white Christians over the age of 30. Similarly, voters over the age of 30 who were not married white Christians were just as likely to vote for a Democratic House candidate as voters under the age of 30 who were not married white Christians. Thus, the current generation gap in voting behavior appears to be completely explained by the difference between the proportions of married white Christians in these two groups. The reason that voters under the age of 30 are now significantly more Democratic than older voters is that they are much less likely to be married, white, and Christian.
This conclusion seems a little silly on the face of it. But remember that Abramowitz has so far been considering only party loyalty, not the stances on the issues that the Republicans represent. And in that regard Republicans appear to be in a no-win situation. Abramowitz concludes—
Since the potential for additional Republican gains among married white Christians appears to be limited, Republican leaders will need to find ways to reduce the Democratic advantage among voters who are not married white Christians in order to maintain the party's competitive position. However, given the generally liberal views of this group, this will not be easy. In 2006, according to data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, 57 percent of these voters supported a woman's right to choose an abortion under any circumstances, 66 percent opposed a constitutional amendment to prohibit gay marriage, and 71 percent favored a single-payer health care system. Any attempt by Republican leaders to significantly increase their party's support among voters who are not married white Christians would therefore require changes in some of the party's longstanding policy commitments -- changes that would clearly upset a large segment of the current Republican base.
Whither the Republicans?
Abramowitz' analysis of the electorate is credible and compelling. (I recommend the entire article.) But it only concerns future outcomes of the Democratic-Republican horse race. And while Abramowitz considers the potential effect of majority support for the hot social issues of abortion, gay marriage and universal health care, not a word does he write concerning the public's beliefs and attitudes toward economics, "law and order," immigration, international threats, military bases and social safety nets—to name just a few issues that may become a great deal hotter than abortion, gay marriage and health care. That's quite a hole in the narrative. And I will hazard the guess that it's exactly through this hole that the Republicans will attempt to slip. Any of those issues have the potential to wedge apart the not-Christian-White-Married majority.
But I hope by now you know that in the broader context of societal direction and control, the grand game is not between Democrats and Republicans but between international capital (referred to in the media as "the world of finance") and the rest of us. And in that game the American electorate scarcely realizes that it's a player—and it certainly isn't much of one.
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Quote of the Day: Jeremiah Wright — 2
God’s desire is for positive change, transformation, real change, not cosmetic change, transformation, radical change or a change that makes a permanent difference, transformation. God’s desire is for transformation, changed lives, changed minds, changed laws, changed social orders, and changed hearts in a changed world. —The Rev. Jeremiah Wright addressing the National Press Club, April 28, 2008
Barack Obama gave his reaction to Wright's speech at a press conference in North Carolina. He opined that—
All it was was a bunch of rants not grounded in truth.
It's safe to call your broker. No plans for big changes in the social order.
Quote of the Day: Jeremiah Wright — 1 (4/29/08)
Justification of the Day
We can't have acquittals, we've been holding these guys for years.
Salim Ahmed Hamden, alleged to have been Osama bin Laden's driver, is scheduled to be the first prisoner at Guantánamo to have his case come before a "war-crimes tribunal." This tribunal was cobbled together by the Pentagon after the Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that the Bush administration's plan to have the prisoners judged by a military commission was illegal and contrary to international law. After this week's testimony by the former chief prosecutor at Guantánamo, we can only imagine what a farce the originally planned military commission hearings would have been.
Lt. Col. Morris Davis testified at a pre-trial hearing Monday about the Pentagon's efforts to rig the current tribunal (oh—and influence the November 2006 midterm elections while they were at it). Last year the Pentagon refused to allow Davis to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee but could not prevent him from being called as a defense witness in the Hamden case.
According to Michael Mella—
Air Force Col. Morris Davis ... said Pentagon officials showed increased interest in the schedule and the selection of detainees for trial once the prisoners arrived from secret CIA custody in September 2006.
"Suddenly, everybody had strong opinions about how we ought to do our job," Davis said. 'If you can get the 9/11 guys charged, you get the victims' families energized, and if the case is rolling, whoever took the White House would have difficulty stopping this process."
Davis said one Pentagon official [Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England] called for charges to be brought against the detainees ahead of the November 2006 midterm elections. He claimed other officials reversed his policy against using evidence obtained through torture and told him that acquittals would be unacceptable.
Davis said he resigned hours after he was put in a chain of command beneath Defense Department General Counsel William Haynes, one of several officials who had encouraged the use of evidence even if it was gathered through waterboarding -- an interrogation method that simulates drowning. Under rules for the tribunals, known as commissions, it is up to the judge to decide what evidence is admissible.
"The guy who said waterboarding is A-OK I was not going to take orders from. I quit," Davis said.
Davis accused Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann, a legal adviser to the official overseeing the tribunal system, of exerting inappropriate influence by simultaneously directing tasks for the prosecution team that was supposed to be independent.
He said Hartmann handpicked prosecutors for different cases and demanded cases that were "sexy" or "had blood on them" and would resonate with the public.
I recall the days when the United States regularly accused the Soviet Union of putting on "political show trials"! Now I wonder which country would put on the better show.
Guantánamo: "The cleanest place we're holding people" (6/30/06)
Parsing the Pentagon's Geneva Conventions turnaround (7/11/06)
I told you so... (7/23/06)
1This is the same William "Jim" Haynes that Bush repeatedly attempted to promote in 2006 and 2007 to the 4th District Court of Appeals. Delays in the Judiciary Committee and Democratic gains in the Senate finally convinced the White House to remove him from Bush's list of judicial nominees.
Haynes is now pasturing as Chief Corporate Counsel at Chevron Corporation. [back]
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Quote of the Day: Jeremiah Wright — 1
If I see God as male, if I see God as white male, if I see God as superior, as God over us and not Immanuel, which means “God with us,” if I see God as mean, vengeful, authoritarian, sexist, or misogynist, then I see humans through that lens.
I watched significant portions of Wright's speech to the NAACP (transcript) and to the National Press Club (NPC) yesterday and began to wonder "Are we watching the rise of another Martin Luther King"?
Though I watched on C-Span, both Fox and CNN gave Wright's talk full coverage—a media event the likes of which I cannot remember. White liberal bloggers and commenters are bemoaning the "damage" he's doing to Obama. The commentariat on cable news—even some of the black pundits—are doing likewise. And of course the Right is rejoicing. Nevertheless the black members of the audience at the NPC welcomed Wright with a standing ovation.
Let me say that I don't find Wright "divisive." As he it put it to the NAACP, "I describe the conditions in this country. Conditions divide, not my descriptions." Anyone who addresses the state of the American underclass will most assuredly be attacked from left (liberal) and right. Not only was Martin Luther King assassinated for such effrontery, so was Robert Kennedy.
I don't know if the racist media can stir up enough froth to prevent the election of Barack Obama, but I have the feeling that the Rev. Wright is not going to go away so quickly in any event. The underclass—whites as well as blacks—have not had a leader for generations who is principled, eloquent and educated. In other words a leader who can give them a voice.
In the perfect economic storm that's upon us, that underclass, like the victims of Katrina, will be the most—and the most immediately—afflicted. They're going to need such a leader. Impossible to predict the future of course, but the Rev. Wright looks to be their best candidate. He has my support.
I think it's worth running some of his remarks as a "Quote of the Day" for a while.
Monday, April 28, 2008
The Depression Chronicles – 2: A view from the vault
Yesterday I received an email from an old friend who works in banking—a commercial bank. These are the institutions that most people think of when they think of a bank. The government hopes to assure you they're safe—but more on that in another post.
In the meantime I'm passing along his email since we seldom get to hear from anyone on the front lines—
I have been, in general, fully employed since 1963 and I have never experienced anyone being laid-off because business was bad until last week. My company is closing one office and laying off 10% of the workforce in the other two leasing offices and the bank's headquarters. Unfortunately the one of nine that went from my office on Friday was a great young man.
Bush really fucked up the economy for us this time and it has actually hit home for the first time in my life. I survived the slowdowns in every decade without really being up close to the pain. Spending, spending and spending money we don't have on a stupid war in Iraq is the primary cause of the problem though not the only one. Greed and indifference also played a role and most of it can and should be blamed on Bush and the Republicans.
The Depression Chronicles – 1: Bankruptcies (4/19/08)