One Chart to Explain Politics Today


Wonk Blog: “Imagine everyone, as in everyone around the world, lined up based on how much they make. (This would be adjusted for how much that buys in their home country, but don’t worry too much about that). Well, that would let us set up a global income distribution. The richest people in the richest countries—and, for that matter, everywhere else too—would make up the global top 1 percent. Working-class people in rich countries would be around the 80th percentile for the world. Middle-class people in middle-class countries would be, you guessed it, around the 50th percentile. And so on, and so on. Now, when you add it all up, it turns out that nobody has done worse the past 30 years than the working-class in countries like the United States, United Kingdom, and France. Their inflation-adjusted incomes actually fell over this period. It was the richest people in the richest countries and, even more so, middle-class people in emerging-market countries who did the best. China, though, really belongs in a category all its own here. It’s that bump all by itself in the middle.”

“This chart is really a Rosetta stone for politics today—and not just in the U.S. Almost every rich country has their own anti-trade, anti-immigrant party. France has the National Front. Britain has UKIP. And the rest of Europe has an assortment of populist parties straddling the far-right and far-left. In all these countries, the simple story is that being an elite means buying into globalization whether you’re an elite of the center-right or center-left. So the people who feel like they’ve been left behind don’t feel like there’s anyone to represent their interests.”

Trump’s Image Didn’t Take a Hit on Muslim Proposal

Gallup: “Donald Trump’s image among the overall U.S. population has trended up, not down, after his Dec. 7 recommendation that the U.S. prevent Muslims from coming into the country. The statement was met with extraordinary controversy — even for Trump — and most of his fellow Republican candidates, along with Democratic leaders, denounced it. Clearly, it would not have surprised many observers if Trump’s image had taken a hit as a result.”

“But we can reject that hypothesis, at least based on data we have collected so far. Trump had a negative image among American adults to begin with, but it became slightly less so after his pronouncement, rather than more so. In the two weeks leading up to and including Dec. 7, Trump had a net favorable score among national adults of -27, based on a favorable percentage of 32% and an unfavorable percentage of 59%. That improved slightly to a net favorable of -22 (34% favorable, 56% unfavorable) for the nine days from Dec. 8 to Dec. 16.”

Opinions of Donald Trump Among National Adults

They Mystery of Missing Inflation

“Federal Reserve officials this week are expected to raise interest rates for the first time in nine years on the expectation that employment and inflation will hit targets reflecting a healthy U.S. economy,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“But Fed officials face a troubling question: Jobs are on track, but inflation isn’t behaving as predicted and they don’t know why. Unemployment has fallen to 5%, a figure close to estimates of full employment, while inflation remains stuck at less than 1%, well below the Fed’s 2% target.”

“Central bank officials predict inflation will approach their target in 2016. The trouble is they have made the same prediction for the past four years. If the Fed is again fooled, it may find it raised rates too soon, risking recession.”

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Why the Bank Bailout was a Big Mistake

Michael Lewis, author of The Big Short, appeared on the Late Show to talk about the new movie based on his book.

Said Lewis: “I think what they failed to appreciate is that when the resuscitated these places, like let them stay in business, that they would proceed then to not only get bigger, even bigger — that’s the amazing thing — but also to start to meddle in the process to reform them, and to sort of like throw their political clout into preventing any kind of change. It would have been much easier to reform the system if the banks weren’t there paying lobbyists, paying politicians to stop it from happening.”

Another Robust Jobs Report

“The American economy created 211,000 jobs in November, the government reported Friday, a robust showing that all but guarantees policy makers at the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade when they meet this month,” the New York Times reports.

“The unemployment rate held steady at 5 percent, unchanged from October.”

Which State Works the Hardest?

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Governing: “This broad definition of work considers the amount of time people spend engaged in income-generating activities, including tasks related to work (business lunches) or time spent looking for a job. Because estimates include those not working, the reported averages are lower than they would be for only employed workers.”

The Painkiller Epidemic Grows

The Washington Post got an early look at a Kaiser Family Foundation survey which shows 40% of Americans know someone who has been addicted to prescription painkillers, including 25% who say it was a close friend or family member and 2% who acknowledge their own addiction.

More from the survey:

  • 16% say they know someone who has died from an overdose of prescription painkillers, including 9% who say that person was a family member or close friend.
  • 56% of the public say they have some personal connection to the issue.
  • Prescription painkiller abuse is most common among whites (63%) and the affluent (63% among people with incomes of $90,000 or more).

How the GOP Dominates in Down Ballot Races

Washington Post: “The cliche about Democrats being the coastal party and Republicans being the party of the interior of the country is born out by this map. Outside of a pocket of liberalism in Minnesota (a long time progressive stronghold) and Illinois (a rare state where labor remains tremendously powerful), the middle of the country is entirely dominated by Republicans. The South is now solidly Republican, a transformation that began in the 1994 election. And the mountain west, where Democrats insisted they were growing in the mid-2000s, now largely looks like a lost cause with the exception of New Mexico, a state whose politics are heavily influenced by its large Latino population.”

“The map also reinforces a point I have made in this space plenty of late: Outside of the presidency, the Republican Party is far healthier than the Democratic Party.”