As we open our voting season for 2014, I offer you (linked through my title line) a single article, from the Economic Policy Institute, which to my mind explains why all the voters, right and left, are angry. It also explains why that whole “golden mean in the middle” is not gonna happen. If there is no economic middle, there will not be a political middle, because the political middle only forms to defend the economic middle. And that is gone.
These charts are amazingly clear on the topic of economic injustice. And I gotta eat some crow here, because it shows that the decline and virtual disappearance of the racial economic justice that I’d been carrying along, in old news from the 1990s. Still, it’s worth pointing out that just because the big winners are white, and the just-hanging-on are mostly white, that doesn’t mean that most whites are doing fine.
Same with men. Turns out that men working full time over the past decade have had a substantial drop in real wages, while women working full time have seen a modest rise. I don’t think that means “the black woman took my job,” but there is something to be said for the differing trend lines by gender.
But perhaps women are earning more because we have finally caught up and moved ahead in college graduation rates? Turns out — and I have to just cut and paste, because otherwise you’ll never believe me —
- “Workers with high levels of education have not been spared from weak earnings trends over the last decade. Between 2002 and 2012, full-time, full-year workers age 25 and over with a college degree saw their wages drop—by 6.8 percent for women and by 8.7 percent for men.”
(If you’re looking at the full article, they unpack this further in “Figure D.”
Figure G is instructive, because it shows the way household income for elderly used to be so much lower than for young adults, but now is passing young adult household income.
So when President Obama says your child ought to be in college, I’d weigh those loans pretty carefully. Not only are they not gonna pay for themselves, they are likely to eat the remains of any pension the family accrued and managed to hang onto so far. And the next time someone tells you that people who went to college do so much better than people who didn’t, I’d hold up those declining college-propped incomes and ask, “If I’m doing so much better than these other folks, how are they even surviving?”
It’s not just political season again, it’s also the moment when my denominational co-religionists, the Unitarian Universalists, are registering for our annual resolution-fest, the General Assembly. Other religions undoubtedly are doing the same. So whatever arena you’re voting in, secular or religious, here are some facts to ground your deliberations.