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The Democrats’ problem in the Senate, explained

The Democrats’ problem in the Senate, explained

 

One of the memes that I have read quite a few times in the past week is that the Democrats have won 7 of the last 8 Presidential elections and that the institutions of electoral government discriminate against them.

A review of the actual results of the last 8 elections does not quite support that assertion. In only 4 of those 8 elections has either party mustered a majority of voters; in the other 4 the victor won by a plurality. This to my mind betrays a fundamental disaffection (relatively speaking) for the choices given the electorate.

Here are the raw numbers:

Year      Dem.    GOP
1992.    43.0%.  37.4%
1996.    49.2%.  40.7%
2000.    48.4%.  47.9%
2004.    48.3%.  50.7%
2008.    52.9%.  45.7%
2012.    51.1%.  47.2%
2016.    48.2%.  46.1%
2020.*   51.0%.  47.3%

Only in 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2020 did the winner get more than 50% of the vote. The Democratic share has actually been remarkably stable since 1992, varying between 48.2% in 2016 to 52.9% in 2008. The GOP share has been much more volatile, varying between 40.7% in 1996 and 50.7% in 2004.

The bottom line is that in the past 24 years the Democratic brand of economic moderation and social liberalism has been only slightly more popular than the  GOP’s increasingly extreme brand of White Christian blood and soil hegemony.

This has led to the Democrats’ problems in obtaining a Senate majority.  The first two maps below show the Electoral College vote in 1992 and 1996:

Figure 1

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Biden Won Because Of White Men?

Biden Won Because Of White Men?

 OK, I confess I am mystified.  An article in The Guardian by Musa al-Gharbi looks at the data now available on voting patterns in the US presidential elections of 2016 compared to 2020.  Almost all groups moved towards being more pro-Trump, including both Black men and women, Hispanic men and women, Asian men and women, and white women.  The only group that moved away from Trump was white men, with his margin declining from 31% to 23%.  It is true that the minority groups overall supported Biden more than Trump, but they did so by smaller margins than they supported Clinton over him in 2016.  Some sub=groups of minorities actually favored Trump, including Cuban Americans and Vietnamese Americans.  The only sub-group moving away from Trump was Japanese Americans.

In terms of swing states, the move of Hispanics toward Trump gave him Florida and Texas, and the move of Blacks toward him gave him North Carolina. However, the flips of Michigan and Arizona were led by shifts of white men.

As I opened, I really do not know what is going on with all this, although the article noted that most of these trends have been going on for some time, if not especially noticed before.

Barkley Rosser

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Topical thread…who voted for who?

Via Truthout comes this thought:

In 2016, the big takeaway was that 53 percent of white women voters cast their ballots in favor of Donald Trump, according to exit polls, helping cement his victory. But, in 2020, white women voters surpassed their 2016 levels of support as, according to exit polls, 55 percent of white women turned out to vote for the president…

Via the New York Times exit poll reporting reflects this impression from the Edison Research polling.

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Republican Renegade Emulates Warren’s Student Loan Cancellation, It is Still Problematic

First a story, then an introduction to Student Loan Justice Org. and Their Town Hall Meeting November 20th, and finally some cold hard facts from founder Alan Collinge about what is happening to millions of people who have student loans.

Your Angry Bear blogger and activist went to a garden party in Michigan in support of Democrats and Senator Debbie Stabenow pre-2018 election. I had donated to the Democrats and directly in support of various county, state, and federal candidates. Since I had been involved with student loans for my three, had also talked and written about these loans, and been supportive of Alan Collinge of Student Loan Justice Org.; I had a question to ask. Senator Stabenow sits on the Senate Finance Committee and she supported the the 2005  S. 256 (Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 ).

Private student loans were largely stripped of bankruptcy protections in 2005 in a congressional move that had the devastating impact of tripling such debt over a decade and locking in millions of Americans to years of grueling repayments.

The Republican-led bill tightened the bankruptcy code, unleashing a huge giveaway to lenders at the expense of indebted student borrowers. At the time it faced vociferous opposition from 25 Democrats in the US Senate.

But it passed anyway, with 18 Democratic senators breaking ranks and casting their vote in favor of the bill. Of those 18, one politician stood out as an especially enthusiastic champion of the credit companies who, as it happens, had given him hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions – ‘Joe Biden.'”

Senator Debbie Stabenow was one of the Democrats who voted “yea.” It was a beautiful day and people were there, mostly oldsters like myself and a sprinkling of of young adults. My being older plays in my favor as I am considered safe. So. when I stuck my hand up and was chosen, I asked my question. “Senator Stabenow, you and other Democratic Senators voted for the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 which took away bankruptcy rights for many students who are struggling to pay back their student loans. The total amount of debt they carry is measured in the hundreds of $millions. Many of these students will be carrying their student loan debt into retirement and may have their SS garnished. What do you intend to do to correct this situation?

What do you intend to do to correct this situation?”

Senator Stabenow: “Democrats are not in the majority in 2018”

Recently, it was said she also made a comment of younger people having to suck it up by learning fiscal responsibility due to their having issues paying loans back. Meanwhile, this contingent of up and “hopefully coming ” citizens in chained to student loans and have had their participation in the economy debt-laden by banking, financial interests, and politicians.

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Lack of inflation in September consistent with weak demand; real wages increase, but will the pandemic derail the gains?

Lack of inflation in September consistent with weak demand; real wages increase, but will the pandemic derail the gains?

 

Consumer prices were unchanged in October, both on a seasonally adjusted and unadjusted basis:

 

But while the lack of inflation is good news in isolation, the last two months can also be viewed as a sign of economic weakness – lack of demand – from a recession.

Digging a little deeper, for the past 40 years, recessions had typically happened when CPI less energy costs (red) had risen to close to or over 3%/year. We are nowhere near that now (last 15 years shown in graph):

Again,  note that the YoY% change in inflation has decelerated since the outset of the pandemic, potentially another sign of weakness.

On the bright side, because wages are “stickier” than prices, typically as recessions beat down prices (or at least price increases), in real terms wages rise. That has been the case for the coronavirus recession as well:

It is the “real” buying power of wages among those still securely employed during a recession that is one of the engines that usually restarts growth.

Also as a result, as I’ve noted for the past several months, real hourly wages for non-supervisory workers have finally exceeded their previous 1973 peak, although part of that has been the asymmetric loss of jobs among some of the lower-paid occupations:

Finally, one of the most telling metrics of the overall health of the middle/working class is that of real aggregate wages. After declining -13.8% from February through April, they have now recovered to a point -3.5% below their peak, approximately at the same level as they were in autumn 2018:

If the rate of gains over the past 4 months were to continue – a *very* open question – aggregate real wages would exceed their February level in about 6 months.

Of course, this data like almost all other economic data remains at the mercy of the course of the pandemic – which is basically out of control in much of the US. It is also very much subject to the public policy that has been stalled in Washington for the past half a year and is going to continue to be stalled until at least January 20.

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New and continued jobless claims: best week of the pandemic; can it survive a new emergency?

New and continued jobless claims: best week of the pandemic; can it survive a new emergency?

 

This week’s new and continued jobless claims, both seasonally adjusted and unadjusted, declined to new pandemic lows – but at levels roughly equivalent to their worst readings during the Great Recession.

On an unadjusted basis, new jobless claims declined by 20,799 to 723,105. Seasonally adjusted claims declined by 48,000 to 709,000. The 4-week moving average also declined by 33,250 to 755,250. Here is the close up since the end of July (for comparison, remember that these numbers were in the range of 5 to 7 million at their worst in early April):

Unadjusted continuing claims (which lag initial claims typically by a few weeks to several months) declined by 402,298 to 6,486,000. With seasonal adjustment they declined by 436,000 to 6,786,000, both also new pandemic lows:

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New Reasons To Believe Trump Will Not Attempt A Coup

New Reasons To Believe Trump Will Not Attempt A Coup

 Officially Trump continues to hold a hard line of denying he has lost, with most GOP officeholders continuing to support his denials publicly, and he is likely to continue to not officially concede in various ways, including such as blocking official support for the transition process to a future Biden admin, which is potentially damaging in various ways.  Nevertheless, after some important developments in the last day or so and Trump’s presser today (well, technically yesterday as it is now early morning on Saturday, Nov. 14), I think there is good reason to believe that whatever irresponsible and damaging things he may yet do, I think it is now seriously unlikely that he will attempt a coup to block the transition.

I think the most important development that has triggered this is one I did not foresee: the sudden withdrawal of law firms supporting his legal efforts to demand ballots to be thrown out and to block certification of results, with those efforts becoming less able to overturn the electoral results given the calling of both Arizona and Georgia for Biden. A crucial part of the scenario I posed was Trump piling on endless lawsuits, however frivolous and vacuous, in various crucial states in a way to block clear certification of results in those states, leading ultimately to a confused or contested outcome when the Electoral College votes in mid-December, all of this opening the door for him to refuse to step down while bringing in various forces to support him.

What I did not know is that courts can punish attorneys for bringing clearly ridiculous lawsuits, especially repeatedly, with judges able to actually throw them in jail for contempt of court, not to mention them possibly losing their licenses to practice.  Add all this to just more general public embarrassment as these suits became increasingly absurd, we have now seen several major law firms that were making these suits for Trump decide to withdraw from doing so.  This has crucially undercut Trump’s strategy, such as it was.  He has always liked to sue and sue and sue, but I do not think he has ever so overdone it that his own lawyers have abandoned him.  But they have been doing so now, and I think this is the bottom line fatal development for any coup effort by him, with others supposedly under his authority in various parts of the government beginning to openly refuse to do his bidding.

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Weekly Indicators for November 9 – 13 at Seeking Alpha

by New Deal democrat

Weekly Indicators for November 9 – 13 at Seeking Alpha

My Weekly Indicators post is up at Seeking Alpha.

With Joe Biden assuming the Presidency on January 20, and an announcement of a successful vaccine by Pfizer that should be available by next spring or summer, the short and long leading indicators should once again be giving their usual signals for next year. And we have a pretty good idea of what that means…

As usual, clicking over and reading should bring you virtually up to the moment about the economy, and also reward me a little bit for my efforts.

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September JOLTS report shows jobs recovery has been real – but will it continue?

September JOLTS report shows jobs recovery has been real – but will it continue?

 

Yesterday’s (Nov. 10)  JOLTS report for September showed a jobs market that continues to be, ever so slowly, on the mend. Openings and quits were up (good), and layoffs and discharges were down (also good). The only negative was that hires actually declined, although slightly.

We are far enough past the worst of the pandemic jobs losses that it is worthwhile to compare the state of the various JOLTS components with the 2 previous recoveries from recession bottoms in the series’ histories (this because the JOLTS data only dates from 2001.

In the two past recoveries:

  • first, layoffs declined
  • second, hiring rose
  • third, job openings rose and voluntary quits increased, close to simultaneously

Let’s examine each of those in turn. In each case, I break out 2001-19 in the first graph and then this year in a second.

What appears below is that, although there has been some variation, the past several months have recapitulated the pattern from the last two early recoveries: the first two data series to turn – layoffs and hires – have indeed turned, while the last two – job openings and voluntary quits – have appeared to bottom but have had a much less dramatic rise.

This first graph compares layoffs and discharges (blue) with the 4 week average of initial jobless claims (red):

You can see that, by the end of the recessions, layoffs were already declining, and continued to decline steeply over the next 3-8 months before reaching a “normal” expansion level. The turning point coincides exactly with the much less volatile, but more slowly declining, level of initial jobless claims.

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