Reminders of the opportunities and perils in the world today - On this anniversary of Pearl Harbor, what stands out about the 2016 race this morning is how much we’ve been reminded of both the opportunities and perils the modern world offers America today. We wake this morning to the good news of the Chavista government in Venezuela having been routed last night. On the heels of a new and more modern government in Argentina, and the beginning of the normalization of ties with Cuba, Latin America is going through an important period of shedding some of its more destructive and anti-modern impulses. This is of course is good news for the United States, as it is likely to make our own neighborhood more peaceful and prosperous in the years ahead.
But we also wake to the news of another far right victory in European elections, this one in France. In the US and Europe, globalization and all that it brings (rapid migration, economic/social dislocation) is fueling a rise in reactionary parties and politicians. There isn’t a great difference between France’s Le Pen and the US’s Trump. The rise in this reactionary sentiment on both sides of the Atlantic is worrisome of course, and terrorist attacks and Syrian refugees are adding fresh grist to this nationalist mill. The weakening of establishment politics here and in Europe has to become a central reason for greater urgency in both eliminating the Islamic State and resolving the various sectarian conflicts in the Middle East, starting with Syria.
We had some other good news last week as it appears that the Saudis and Iranians worked together to fashion a new government in Lebanon. Perhaps the combination of lower oil prices, the barbarity and prowess of ISIL, the instability mass Middle Eastern refugees are bringing to other regions of the world is all creating a moment where sustained Saudi/Iranian cooperation could become possible. Certainly our leaders should be doing everything we can to encourage this path, as it is the only way peace will ever come to the region in the years ahead.
Be sure to also read my take on the panicky, disappointing GOP response to Paris and San Bernardino terror attacks here. All of these developments are a reminder why we need an experienced, forceful leader in the White House in 2017. Ain't going to be an easy time to be US President in the coming years.
2016 Landscape – Only real significant change this past week is growing evidence that Ted Cruz is making a major move in the polls nationally and in the early states. Ben Carson’s collapse has benefitted Cruz, and he has now become the most significant challenger to the front runner Donald Trump. While Rubio has gained a bit of ground in recent weeks, he is still in the second tier. One thing I wonder is whether his first ad in the early states which so firmly identifies him as coming from a striving immigrant family will end up limiting whatever momentum he may have had from his good performances in recent debates. The GOP’s next debate is in eight days, Tuesday, December 15th. And then six more GOP debates come in the first 10 weeks of 2016. Lots of fireworks ahead!
"Monday Musings" is a new column looking at the national political landscape published most Mondays here on the NDN site. You find previous versions here.
1292 – American injured in 379 mass shootings this year (mass shooting = 4 or more people killed/injured)
431 – Americans killed in mass shootings this year
390 – American civilians killed by terrorists from 2002 to 2013
130 – The number who died in the Paris attacks two weeks ago
4 – The number of Americans who died in the 2012 Benghazi attack (none of whom were civilian, 2 were CIA)
0 – the number of mass shooters stopped this year by a civilian with a gun
Given how much time and effort we’ve put into discussing Benghazi, and terrorism of course, can we continue to have those conversations without also creating a spirited, sustained conversation about how we can keep Americans safe from mass shooters – something that has now become a daily occurrence in the US? At current rates, 10 times as many Americans will die this year due to a mass shooter than a terrorist and yet we do nothing, not even the easy things like universal background checks, allowing the background check system access to the terrorism database, limiting the number of bullets in a clip and more reasonable regulation of gun shops themselves. As a parent of three, I am, for the first time in my life, growing truly worried about the safety of my kids. And I am sure I am not alone.
Those on the center-left should not let NRA backed politicians off the hook any longer. We can honor the 2nd Amendment, while keeping our families safe at home. We also should work to make sure the coming and necessary debate about combating the Islamic State includes steps we need to take here at home to protect us from a threat that has killed many more Americans in recent years – mass shooters.
But our disappointment with the right about their unwillingness to do what is necessary to keep us safe should be not limited to their coddling of the gun industry here in the US. It was on full display in the days after the Paris attacks. As I wrote last week, in the days after Paris rather than finding common ground with the President and his party, the GOP panicked, choosing to deeply politicize the debate over Syrian refugees, something that is a side show to the core issue of how we end the Islamic State and bring better days to the Middle East. The fecklessness that we’ve seen in the GOP Presidential field (and with Speaker Ryan) these last few weeks “After Paris” should be worrisome to all.
Polling/2016 landscape – Nothing really new here. Trump, Cruz and Rubio continue to have the momentum on the GOP side. Not sure the Christie chatter is real. Next GOP debate on CNN on December 15th will be important. Obama’s favs have taken hit a post Paris, but they have been coming back up in recent days. Worth watching. Hillary remains firmly in charge in the Democratic primary, and with improving numbers in the general.
Simon on Howard Kurtz – SImon appeared on Howard Kurtz's Sunday morning show, MediaBuzz. The first segment discussed Donald Trump and his struggles with telling the truth. You can watch the segment here.
12/2 Update - As expected, the House GOP blocked a common sense measure that would make it much harder for terrorists to buy guns in the US.
Earlier this summer, NDN was proud to have helped fund and produce a paper by the chair of NDN's Globalization Initiative, Dr. Rob Shapiro, and his frequent collaborator, Dr. Kevin Hassett of the American Enterprise Institute. Called, "Regulation and Investment: A Note on Policy Evaluation With an Application to FCC Title II Regulation of the Internet," the paper takes a detailed look at how FCC regulation in telecommunications can affect capital investment in the industry, with particular attention to the Internet and investments in infrastructure,
You can find a full PDF of the paper below. An excerpt:
"In this paper, we discussed the special challenges faced by policy analysts attempting to evaluate the likely impact of regulation on investment. We suggested a systematic approach toward policy evaluation wherein a researcher first relies upon our theoretical taxonomy to sort a particular regulation into the correct box. This allows one to have clarity regarding the likely sign of the effect of the regulation. To investigate the scale, we argue that micro analogies can be informative but should be checked for plausibility against the predictions of the macro literature we cite. Finally, one should classify the type of investment likely to be affected by the policy, and establish both whether the policy would increase that uncertainty, which is harmful, and would introduce a threshold effect, which could have devastatingly negative effects on investment until the threshold issue is resolved.
The final section provided an empirical example of our approach to analyzing the impact of Title II regulation on Internet investment. First, we showed that Title II regulation should be expected to increase costs, and therefore is the type of policy that should be expected to reduce investment. Second, we reviewed field-specific evidence that suggested that the scale of the negative effect could be quite large, from about 5.5 percent to as much as 20.8 percent. Next, we documented that the ratio of investment to the capital stock would be expected to decline to roughly that extent if Title II regulation in the United States would be comparable to the regulatory framework of the OECD continental European countries in the first decade of the 21st century. Next, we cited an analysis by a legal scholar that suggests that this analogy is reasonable. Finally, we found that the negative effects on investment may well be significantly understated by these factors because the new regulation’s threshold effect will maximize the negative effects of uncertainty."
Shapiro Discusses the Paper with Congress - On October 27th, Dr. Shapiro discussed the findings of the paper at a hearing of the Communcations and Technology Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. You can find Dr. Shapiro's testimony and other related materials here.
In a time of challenge, the GOP panics - The one upsmanship for who could be harder on Muslims we saw among Republican President candidates this past week was a powerful reminder that the GOP has long ceased being a “conservative” party and has descended into a far more pernicious “reactionary” period. This is a subject I have discussed at length over the years, including in this long form magazine piece and in this recent piece about how fear will drive the Republicans this election cycle. The fear of modernity that is driving the reactionary right these days is perhaps the most significant force in American politics today, one that is crying out for an equally muscular and modern liberalism to challenge it head on.
Another example of this kneejerky fear of others and foreign threats was the House GOP’s terribly disappointing reaction to the Paris attacks. Of all the things the House GOP could have done last week, the Ryan-led House rushed out a bill – with no hearings and overriding their own internal rules about time needed to consider legislation – making it far tougher for the US to admit Syrian refugees. Regardless of the merits of the bill, the haste in which it was rushed out made it appear to be designed more to undermine and embarrass the President in the middle of an important foreign trip than to develop a more effective, bi-partisan response to the growing threat of the Islamic State. Paul Ryan’s choice was craven, nasty politics in its purest form in a time of challenge, the very opposite of patriotism.
Contrast this not ready for prime time behavior with that of the Democrats: the President continued his important trip to Asia, selling among other things his newly negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement; and Hillary Clinton gave a thoughtful and mature speech about defeating the Islamic State. Senate Democrats also made a valuable contribution to this nascent debate, countering Ryan’s refugee with a proposal to close the NRA supported loophole that allows those on the terror watch list to legally buy guns in the US (something we think has happened several thousand times, and yes this is a real debate).
There can be no doubt that the nation needs to both develop a better response to the Islamic State and have a respectful, public debate about it. Given how the two parties responded last week to Paris, I am proud of how the Democrats have responded, and worried about where the GOP is headed at a time when we need to come together, work with our allies and be smart (see here for my thoughts on the US should move forward now “After Paris.”)
The US remains a welcoming, generous nation - And while I disagree with Ryan’s refugee bill, I also want to challenge the assertions by some that we are an ungenerous nation when it comes to allowing immigrants into the US. Since 1950 the US has allowed close to 50 million immigrants into the US legally. Another 4 million refugees have resettled here, and another 11 million or so have come here without authorization. In the past 65 years, the US has absorbed 65 million new immigrants – an extraordinary number, equal to 1/5th of our total population today. We are currently taking in 1 million new legal immigrants every year in the US; so over the next 100 years at current rates we will take in 100 million more new immigrants. This graph does a good job capturing both the scale of the recent migration into the US, and its diversity. So while we may head into the Thanksgiving break disappointed with the GOP, we should not for a moment buy into the argument that America is anything but a generous and welcoming nation to immigrants from throughout the world.
See the graph below for US immigration trends ("200 Years of Immigration to the U.S.", Natalia Bronshtein).
I remain convinced that the Democrats should make it far more explicit on their strategy for improving the immigration system. I offered this three part plan as a starting point, one that would include reintroducing the House Democrats immigration bill from 2014, fully funding the Vice President’s Central American plan and supporting the aggressive efforts by this Administration – and repeatedly blocked by the GOP – to make the deportation of dangerous criminals the highest priority of our immigration enforcement system. Pro-reform advocates should stop playing defense now and go out and make it clear how we want to modernize and improve America's terribly broken immigration system.
Polling/National Landscape – The GOP field saw changes last week: Trump’s lead increased across the nation and in the early primary states; Carson, as we predicted, has begun to fade; Cruz and Rubio are making meaningful gains. If current trends continue the GOP race could soon be a three way among Trump, Rubio and Cruz with a large group in the back of the field hanging on by their fingernails and not much else.
The Democratic side saw Hillary having another good week, appearing Presidential and competent in the days after Paris. Bernie Sanders, however, choose to go ahead and give a major address on “democratic socialism,” an act that seemed to reinforce both the liabilities and limitations of his spirited candidacy. What should be worrisome to the Democrats, however, is the initial hit in the polls Obama took this week. After what was the very best run he had had in almost three years in Gallup, the President lost 5 or so points in the last few days. It is a reminder to Democrats that while there is now great optimism about the revitalized Clinton campaign, the performance of the President over the next year will matter as much to 2016 as what she does. It will be important for the President to return from his foreign trip and take control of the substance and politics of this debate about how to best rid the world of the Islamic State and bring a better day to Syria and the broader Middle East.
"Monday Musings" is a new column looking at the national political landscape published most Mondays here on the NDN site. You find previous versions here.
State of the race – Despite having two debates this past week, don’t think the race has changed all that much. Clinton still dominates the Dem side, and the big five – Carson, Trump, Cruz, Rubio and Bush – the GOP. With the next round of debates coming in a month, not sure the race will change all that much till then. But you never know.
Where there has been some movement is in general election polling. In two national polls last week Clinton had advantages of at least 3-4 points over most of her opponents in general election match ups. This is significant as pre-recovery Clinton was even or trailed most GOPers. Additionally, Obama’s job approval rating is now clearly up in the high 40s/low 50s, where the Democrats need it to be next year. In the Gallup daily track he has had his best run since early 2013, and hit 50% this weekend for the first time in almost three years. Given the advantage Democrats have in Party ID and favs/unfavs, the race is settling in where it felt like it should be – with Clinton having a modest but significant 3 to 4 point advantage now.
As we wrote last week, however, the dark cloud on the horizon is the lack of enthusiasm in the Democratic coalition, an issue which has plagued the Democrats in 2 of the last 3 elections. Stan Greenberg warned about this in his most recent poll memo and the inadequate Democratic debate schedule is an extraordinary missed opportunity to engage the Democratic coalition a year out. There are many things the Democrats can do to improve their debate schedule. In this memo, I lay out three things they should do right now to help close the gap with a far superior Republican approach to the debates.
Hats off to John Dickerson – I add my voice to the chorus of praise for John Dickerson. The CBS anchor set a very high bar for the future debates. He was in control, fair, subdued, knowledgeable and tough. Kudos to him and CBS for doing such an excellent job on Saturday.
After Paris – There can be little doubt now that the Paris attacks and the Islamic State's effort to reach beyond its current borders will bring a new dynamic to the 2016 race. I offer up some initial thoughts on what is likely to come next in this new essay. But Democrats should be taking all of this very seriously. The Republicans used this sense of an unsafe world to their advantage in 2014. In national polling the basket of issues around foreign policy and security are President Obama’s greatest liability. As I’ve written before, there is an opening here for the GOP to exploit if they are measured and adroit (not likely). But above all else, Paris means that security issues will be a very important part of the 2016 conversation, and Democrats need to be prepared to engage in what will be complicated, volatile policy and political terrain.
"Monday Musings" is a new column looking at the national political landscape published most Mondays here on the NDN site. You find previous versions here.
As many predicted, the unusual experiment of hosting a Presidential debate on a Saturday night brought the Democrats very few viewers, clocking in at just 8.5 million for the night. This compares with 23m, 23m, 14m and 13m for the first four GOP debates, and 16m for the Democrat's only other debate. An audience tally so far:
The Republicans - The 4 GOP debates so far have reached 73m viewers or 18.25m per debate. If this average holds for the remaining 7 scheduled GOP debates the 11 GOP debates will reach a little more than 200 million viewers.
The Democrats – The 2 Democratic debates so far have reached almost 25 million viewers, or 12.5m per debate. If his averages holds the 6 Dem debates will reach a total of 75 million viewers. With 2 of the 4 remaining debates on weekends, another in Spanish and the other on a non-commercial broadcast network, it is possible that the total will come closer to 60 million than 75 million The Republicans, of course, have already reached the 75m mark after just 4 debates with a superior approach.
Two additional observations:
GOP will reach three times as many people - At this rate the Republicans are on track to reach three times as many people through their debates as the Democrats will. The gap is about 125m-140m, or about the same number of people who will vote in the general election next year. And keep in mind this gap is magnified by the time people are spending watching these debates (far more than a 30 second spot), and the days of free media generated by the debates themselves. It is hard to put an exact figure on all this but it is safe to say that the DNC has made a choice to give the RNC a free media advantage of hundreds of millions of dollars this primary season, or the equivalent of what a large Super PAC is likely to spend this entire cycle.
Reliance on broadcast to deliver was a mistake - In a Friday Politico story, a DNC official defended its schedule by saying they were going for bigger audiences with the big broadcast networks. While in the abstract going with the big broadcast networks could have produced large audiences, weeknight debates even with low rated cable networks like CNN and Fox Business have produced audiences twice as large as the Democratic debate last night. In the social media and digital age, viewers can find other TV channels if sent there through aggressive marketing. The value of traditional networks for aggregating audience just simply isn't what it used to be (and I say this as an ABC News alum) and their audiences skew old. The Democratic coalition of course is much younger, and not avid TV watchers. Reaching large number of Democrats would have required an entirely different approach than the one the DNC has pursued this cycle.
As we've been writing for months now, the Republicans have produced a far better debate approach than the Democrats. It is critical that while there is still time the DNC take steps to close the gap with the GOP. Failure to do so will make the job of every Democratic candidate that much harder next year.
Note: this piece has been updated. Early estimates had the audience last night at 7.2m. Late this afternoon these estimates were updated to 8.5m. We updated the analysis above to reflect the more accurate and larger figure.
On the day after the Paris attacks, some initial thoughts:
Can we develop and execute a comprehensive plan to deal with ISIS? - We are now facing a true test of the civilized world. Can we muster the will over the next decade to end the Syrian conflict, manage the refugee crisis, come to a rough regional peace between Sunni and Shi'a, Arab and Persian, Palestinian and Israeli? Can we saddle up once again for a significant military engagement in MENA, doing what is required to "destroy and degrade" ISIS, knowing full well that we will lose more young Americans and the outcome is not certain? Can we continue to invest in distributed, cleaner energy to ensure the despotic governments of the region have far less capacity to export chaos and oppress their own people? Can we create a global dialogue about the lack of opportunity for tens of millions of young people in MENA, whose repressive, oligarchical societies continue to be relentless breeding grounds for radicalism?
What happens now is as much about us as it is about them.....we know what needs to happen - can we get it done? Do we have the resolve, the vision, the patience and the capacity? Perhaps no more important work in the world today........let's let this debate begin now in earnest.
Rising anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe - There can be little doubt that the attack in Paris will cause the rising anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe to soar. It will make managing the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis far more challenging, and will likely strengthen anti-immigrant, anti-globalization parties throughout the continent. This sentiment could also effect other important US priorities like TTIP and the ongoing discussions over data flows and other 21st century tech issues already contentious between the US and EU.
For the US these developments should be as worrisome as any other, and add to the pressure of taking decisive now. The political negotiations in Vienna on Syria's future showed promise today. Let us work hard there now to accelerate the political track too long neglected.
Additionally, my hope is that here at home Paris will make the logic for TPP more compelling, and help us pass this important legislation in the spring. Paris is a powerful reminder of the need for the civilized world to invest in those institutions and arrangements that work to ensure that the international order and modernity prevail over their opponents in the years ahead. TPP is a critical part of that strategy, and should be sold that way to the American people.
Huge Thank You to US security services - Given the chaos we are seeing in the world today, it is truly remarkable so little of it has come to the US in recent years. The entire nation should be grateful for the truly incredible job those protecting us have done to keep us safe in an uncertain age.
Impact on US immigration debate? - What impact it has on the US immigration debate remains to be seen, but I assume it will strengthen the restrictionists here.
The campaign against ISIS in the region appears to be gaining steam - The campaign against ISIS in the region itself seems to have had some significant victories in the past few days. Is this a turning point? A sign that we now understand the terrain and are becoming more effective at targeting the enemy? Will be interesting to hear from our military leaders with their take in the days to come.
That France has called the struggle with ISIS a "war" is significant. Will chapter 5 of the NATO treaty be invoked? Far more effective way to mobilize reluctant populations in the West for what could be a long and diffcult - but necessary - struggle. Watch the words of our leaders in the days ahead, particularly at the G20 in Turkey.
This version has some minor corrections from the initial draft.
Obama, Clinton strong – polling last week found Hillary Clinton in firm command of the Democratic primary race, and in a far better position nationally. The respected NBC/WSJ poll found her ahead of most Republican contenders by 3-4 points. A month ago she was even or behind most Republicans in the national polls. So it is fair to say now that HRC has not only strengthened her position in recent weeks inside the Democratic primary, but also in the overall electorate.
We are also seeing a sustained improvement in the President’s numbers. In the Gallup daily track Obama’s job approval has been regularly up in the high 40s, the strongest run he has had since 2013. The NBC/WSJ poll also had Democratic Party ID ahead of the GOP’s by 6 points, 43/37, and Dem fav/unfav outpacing the GOP by 41/29 & 29/44. All in all, one can now say a year out the Dems hold a slight but meaningful advantage in the race for the Presidency.
A warning about 2016 however comes from a new poll by Stan Greenberg. His findings indicate that important elements of the Democratic coalition are far less enthusiastic about voting in 2016 than Republicans right now. This is an issue we’ve been warning about in our work to get the Dems to adopt a better debate schedule – the DNC is simply not using every tool in its toolbox to gets its coalition fired up about 2016, and the cost could be significant (as we saw in last week’s disappointing election showing by Democrats).
Carson unraveling? - The story on the GOP side here remains Trump, Carson, Cruz and Rubio, with Jeb staying alive, barely. The GOP gathers for its fourth primetime debate tomorrow night, one that will likely have as much impact on the race as its three recent debates. The Democrats gather this Saturday night in Iowa for their second debate. Barring some significant moment, it is likely not to have as much impact as other recent debates as far fewer people will be tuning in.
Ben Carson is in serious trouble. His campaign has been an unusual one from the beginning, but I think the recent revelations and his campaign’s amateurish response to them may just be the beginning of the end of this quixotic candidacy. Have no real opinion about what this means for the rest of the field, though it may be best for the non-Trumpians in the race, all of whom need more air time to advance their campaigns.
Greg Sargent of the Washington Post had an interesting piece last week on the irony of the two major GOP Hispanic candidates fighting to be the most "anti-amnesty" candidate in the GOP primary.
"Monday Musings on 2016" is a new column looking at the broad political landscape published most Mondays here on the NDN site. You find previous versions here.
So we are a year out from the 2016 elections. Where are we exactly? Not sure, but some observations:
A new GOP generation advances – The generational wheel took a significant turn this week with strong debate performances from Rubio and Cruz, and Paul Ryan’s ascension to the Speakership. The rise – and strength – of the 40something Gen X Republicans is becoming a significant event in American politics. While the Democrats may be winning the hearts and minds of an emerging America of the 21st century, the GOP may have short term advantages i having a new and better prepared “next” generation rising now, one aided by the incredible exposure the aggressive GOP debate schedule is offering them. Be sure to read more from me on this new GOP generation, one I’ve called the “children of Reagan.”
Clinton leads the Dems, still waiting for the Rubio surge– Not clear that the dynamics of the race have changed in the past week. Hillary continues to put impressive numbers across the board, and is seeing more of the Party leadership rally to her side. Bernie Sanders has gone up on the air in Iowa and New Hampshire, and is signaling that he has the resources and commitment to give Clinton a real challenge.
Nothing much appears to have changed on the GOP side, and for all the hype around Rubio, he is still way back in the back nationally and in the early states, has never polled regularly in double digits, and is not well funded. Roughly a third of the GOP electorate falls into the restrictionist anti-immigrant camp, and I remain skeptical these voters will fall in line behind a Rubio candidacy if he wins the nomination. As of today four GOPers seem to have momentum - Trump, Carson, Rubio and Cruz - an odd lot for sure.
Obama's job approval remains in a healthy place for Democrats in 2016, something we will be discussing more in future editions of MM.
The debate over debates continues – The ongoing disquiet from almost all the candidates in both parties over the debates this fall highlight just how important these events have become in choosing our leaders. At its core GOP candidate concerns about the toughness of the debate questions coming from a TV network long associated with conservative politics – particularly when it is now clear that Rubio, Carson and Trump offered huge whoppers as responses – reinforces how new to the game many of these candidates are. But in each party’s debate over their debates important principles are being discussed now, and I remain concerned about the how little exposure the Democratic debate schedule is providing its candidates and future leaders this cycle.
Tally so far: 3 GOP debates, 60-62m viewers. 1 Dem debate, 16m viewers. Rs have debates scheduled on Tue Nov 10th and Tue Dec 15th. Next Dem debates are Sat Nov 14th and Sat Dec 19th. By year’s end Rs will have had 5 weekday primetime debates. Dems will have had 3 debates in total, w/only 1 during the week in primetime and 2 on Saturday nights, one of the least watched times in television. And as a reminder, there is NO evidence so far suggesting the more aggressive debate schedule is hurting GOP candidates.
For a change, the latest Census Bureau data on what’s happened to the incomes of Americans is good news. For the first time since the 1990s and 1980s, household incomes rose substantially in 2014, and did so across all demographic groups. You might miss the good news if you looked simply at everyone’s median income or median wage. What’s actually happening becomes clear only when you track, as I have, the income paths of various “age cohorts,” year after year as they grow older. Using this approach, the new data show that across households headed by people in their late 20s, their late 30s and their late 40s in 2013, median household income grew an average of nearly 2.7 percent in 2014.
This is a big and important change: As documented in my recent Brookings Institution report on income progress since 1980, the median income of households headed by people of comparable ages in 2001 declined an average of 0.1 percent per year from 2002 to 2013.
Drilling into the new data, we also see that households headed by minorities made considerably greater progress in 2014 than their counterparts headed by whites; and households headed by men had larger income gains than those headed by women. Yet, all of those groups saw significant income growth. Most striking, households headed by high school graduates, as well as those headed by college grads made substantial income progress in 2014; and even those households headed by people without high school diplomas had significant gains. While all of these happy developments reflect just one year’s data, they nevertheless bear watching.
Let’s step back and put these new data in their larger context. The Brookings study covered the period 1980 to 2013. I followed the incomes of households headed by people who were 25 to 29 years-old in 1975, until they reached age 59; and then repeated that process for households headed by people who were 25 to 29 in 1982; as well as 25 to 29 in 1991, and 25 to 29 in 2001. The analysis showed that across age groups and across gender, race and ethnicity, and education, Americans made strong, steady income progress as they aged through the 1980s and 1990s. Since 2002, however, the median household incomes of the same groups have declined, stagnated or grown much more slowly, depending on their demographics.
I also examined the income progress of three age cohorts under each of the last five presidents, tracing the income paths of households headed by people who were 25 to 29, 35 to 39, and 45 to 49 at the beginning of each president’s administration. (For these income records by president, I began in year two of each administration and ended in year one of the following administration, because economic conditions and income results in the first year of any presidency are set by the preceding administration.)
As expected, the new 2014 data improve Barack Obama’s record. Over his presidency thus far, income growth across the three age cohorts has averaged 1.2 percent per year, as people aged from 2010 to 2014. That’s a big step up from George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush: Income progress across comparable age groups averaged 0.2 percent per year under Bush I and 0.3 percent per year under Bush II. The income progress under Obama is also a big step back from annual gains averaging 2.6 percent under Bill Clinton and 2.4 percent under Ronald Reagan. Nonetheless, income growth in 2014 roughly equaled the strong, sustained gains under Clinton and Reagan.
The question is, why did this happen? First and probably foremost, employment accelerated sharply last year: The United States created 2.95 million net new jobs in 2014, compared to an average of 528,000 net job gains per year from 2002 to 2013; and 1.78 million per year from 2010 to 2013.
Strong job creation can have powerful effects on incomes, especially for people working near the margins of the economy. This effect is evident in the 2014 income progress by people without college degrees. Across the three age cohorts, incomes increased 4.8 percent among households headed by high school educated graduates and by 2.6 percent among those headed by people without any diplomas. In stark contrast, the median incomes of comparable households decline substantially from 2002 to 2013.
Beyond jobs, U.S. businesses also enjoyed relief in 2014 from fast-rising health care and energy costs, which allowed them to attract and retain employees by raising wages and salaries. Spending by employers on health insurance for family medical coverage, for example, rose less than 2 percent in 2014, as compared to increases averaging nearly 7 percent per year from 2002 to 2013 and nearly 5 percent per year from 2010 to 2013. Similarly, energy costs for industrial and commercial businesses, which rose by an average of more than 6 percent per year from 2002 to 2008, virtually flat-lined in 2014.
Yet, even with 2014’s strong gains, years of flat or falling incomes for many Americans have left us with stark inequalities within the middle class. Across our three age cohorts, the median income of households headed by men averaged $71,382 in 2014 — 25 percent greater than the $56,946 median income of households headed by women.
Inequalities based on race and ethnicity are much larger, even though 2014 was a very good year for minorities. In 2014, the median income of households headed by whites across the three age cohorts averaged $74,149, or 85 percent greater than the $40,049 level for the households headed by African-Americans and 56 percent greater than the $47,440 average for those headed by Hispanics.
Finally, the vast income disparities based on education keep expanding. Across the three age cohorts, the median income of households headed by college graduates averaged $101,298 in 2014 — 113 percent greater than the $47,560 average for households headed by high school graduates and 269 percent more than the $30,146 average for households headed by people without any diploma. With such gaping differences, it is no surprise that many of this year’s would-be presidents, especially among the Democrats, have plans to reduce or eliminate tuition burdens at public colleges and universities.
This post was originally published on Dr. Shapiro's blog.