Archive for July, 2016


Well, this one is over. I’m not sure whether to call it Republican or Trumpican. I didn’t see many nationally known Republicans in the hall, or on the stage. Mrs Trump got her speech wrong (or had it gotten wrong for her). The candidate contradicted several Party positions in his comments. A major Republican did not mention the nominee in his speech and was booed off the stage. I watched too little of the convention proceedings to get any sense of what the platform was about, though it probably doesn’t matter. The candidate flew in and out of the convention on his own plane and helicopter, though the party paid.

Despite obvious efforts by commentators, they could not keep their opinions out of their comments for long. Since there was nothing else going on, Mrs Trump having part of her speech “borrowed” verbatim from Mrs Obama occupied the better part of two days. The commentary got increasingly sharp, but the candidate dismissed the issue.

So, the candidate was nominated, the balloons dropped, the speech was given and everyone slouched off home. Except, of course for the news people, who tried to have a day of rest to get ready for the one this coming week.

I have listened to and watched every democratic convention since 1944. For me, the most interesting (and exciting) was the one in 1948 when President Truman sat on the back steps outside the old hall in Philadelphia until about 2 AM waiting to be nominated so he could go it and give his acceptance speech. I don’t think this one will have that kind of grip.

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The Crisis of the American Middle Class

The median household income of Americans in 2011 was $49,103. Adjusted for inflation, the median income is just below what it was in 1989 and is $4,000 less than it was in 2000. Take-home income is a bit less than $40,000 when Social Security and state and federal taxes are included. That means a monthly income, per household, of about $3,300. It is urgent to bear in mind that half of all American households earn less than this. It is also vital to consider not the difference between 1990 and 2011, but the difference between the 1950s and 1960s and the 21st century. This is where the difference in the meaning of middle class becomes most apparent.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the median income allowed you to live with a single earner — normally the husband, with the wife typically working as homemaker — and roughly three children. It permitted the purchase of modest tract housing, one late model car and an older one. It allowed a driving vacation somewhere and, with care, some savings as well. I know this because my family was lower-middle class, and this is how we lived, and I know many others in my generation who had the same background. It was not an easy life and many luxuries were denied us, but it wasn’t a bad life at all.

Someone earning the median income today might just pull this off, but it wouldn’t be easy. Assuming that he did not have college loans to pay off but did have two car loans to pay totaling $700 a month, and that he could buy food, clothing and cover his utilities for $1,200 a month, he would have $1,400 a month for mortgage, real estate taxes and insurance, plus some funds for fixing the air conditioner and dishwasher. At a 5 percent mortgage rate, that would allow him to buy a house in the $200,000 range. He would get a refund back on his taxes from deductions but that would go to pay credit card bills he had from Christmas presents and emergencies. It could be done, but not easily and with great difficulty in major metropolitan areas. And if his employer didn’t cover health insurance, that $4,000-5,000 for three or four people would severely limit his expenses. And of course, he would have to have $20,000-40,000 for a down payment and closing costs on his home. There would be little else left over for a week at the seashore with the kids.

And this is for the median. Those below him — half of all households — would be shut out of what is considered middle-class life, with the house, the car and the other associated amenities. Those amenities shift upward on the scale for people with at least $70,000 in income. The basics might be available at the median level, given favorable individual circumstance, but below that life becomes surprisingly meager, even in the range of the middle class and certainly what used to be called the lower-middle class.

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The Absolute Last Word On The Employment Rate

One of the things that is constantly discussed and argued over in books, newspapers and journals is the unemployment rate compared with whatever subject the author is interested in: influence on marriage (or even getting married), schooling and what happens in schools, effect on dreams, eating, health, you name it. But, in this year, what’s happening in the political scene, particularly election for president, sees unemployment dragged in frequently. So, I determined to come up with something as disinterested as I could.

I chose four states, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Illinois, because they (supposedly) have high unemployment rates. At least in my lifetime they have often voted Democratic in national elections, in large part because of the large number of workers related to the automobile industry, but recently have shifted to mostly to the Republican party. Then I set out to gather a set of population data to examine this hypothesis. Naturally, I thought the population data collected by the federal census bureau would be the authoritative place to start. I got the population figures for the four states and found that despite the decline in the economy, the population in all four states had increased slightly. The unemployment figures for the four states were:

Illinois:       848,760,    6.6% out of a total population of 12,860,000
Michigan:   476,283,    4.8%    9,922,576
Ohio:             603,898,   5.2%   11,613,425
Wisconsin:  253,938    4.4%   The absolute  5,771,337

As I stared at these figures wondering what could I do next, it came to me that if the population numbers represented the total population, what was the population beginning at 18, or whatever the beginning working age was in each state? Or did each state have a different age for beginning work? What was the age for stopping work, or at least not counting people in the work force? Were all the unregistered Latinos counted? Were these figures worth a damn? After several days trying to find/work out a universal method of figuring out the number of unemployed workers was beyond me. BUT, I now know that people who are looking for a particular answer could find a way to get it out of the mass of numbers out there!

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