The Democrats’ wage problem – By TIMOTHY NOAH 11/14/15 07:50 AM EST

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders joins low-wage workers, some who labor as cooks and cleaners at the Capitol, as he speaks during a rally. | AP Photo

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders joins low-wage workers, some who labor as cooks and cleaners at the Capitol, as he speaks during a rally. | AP Photo

Americans’ incomes have declined during Obama’s presidency.

Democrats were gleeful this week when Donald Trump blurted out in Tuesday’s debate that “wages [are] too high.” But as Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley prepare to debate Saturday night, the Democrats have a wage problem of their own: American incomes have dropped during the Obama presidency.

It’s a vulnerability that Republicans haven’t figured out how to exploit, and it’s clearly one of the biggest weaknesses in the Obama economic recovery.

In 2014, the last year for which Census data are available, median household income was $1,656 lower than it was in January 2009, when President Barack Obama took office. A recent survey by the private firm Sentier Research showed household income finally rose this year above its level in June 2009, when the Great Recession ended — but only by 1.3 percent. That’s a terrible record for any presidency. But that such stagnation occurred during a Democratic one is potentially a big problem for Democratic candidates, and especially for Clinton, who’s running on her role in that administration.

“I think that there are two phenomena here,” said Stuart Stevens, a senior strategist in Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign. “Those who normally are the most articulate, passionate voices for those who are doing least well in the economy have been muted over the past seven years” because they don’t want to undercut Obama. That should create an opening for Republicans.

But “Republicans have never been great at talking about this,” Stevens said.

The Republican candidates’ wage conundrum isn’t about excoriating the Democrats. They’re all too happy to call out Obama for failing to lift incomes.


Article continues:

Scott Walker’s immigration policies cause fear in Wisconsin’s dairyland – by Naureen Khan August 19, 2015 5:00AM ET

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at Aug 19, 2015 9.46

SAUK CITY, Wis. — By the time the first rays of sun touched down on Mitch Bruenig’s farm, sprawled across 900 lush green acres of America’s dairyland, the operation was whirring with activity.

Bruenig, the Wisconsin-born-and-bred owner who came back to tend to the family farm in 1993 after studying dairy science in Madison, attended to an early morning equipment delivery. Juan Sancristobal, a stocky, tanned Uruguayan who prefers Madison summers to those in his home country, spent the morning preparing the feed in a mixing truck. And as the cows were ushered from the barn into the milk parlor, 20 at a time, Hermes Francisco, who learned to take care of farm animals in his native Nicaragua, worked methodically, wiping down their undersides with a towel dabbed with disinfectant before hooking each to the milking machine.

With 380 cows, the process would take all morning, before it was time to start all over again for the afternoon and night milkings.  Hours of gritty, grueling work would ultimately lead to the production of hundreds of pounds of dairy bound for high-end pizza parlors up and down the East Coast via Bruenig’s buyer, a Wisconsin-based cheese manufacturer.

Bruenig said maintaining a reliable workforce — seven out of nine are immigrants from Latin and Central America — is a critical part to keeping his business afloat.

“I couldn’t do all of this and at the same time, run the business,” he said. “The most important thing is, who’s willing to do the job, willing to train and improve every day, and that’s what my staff really wants. We are always working on getting better.”

These days, Bruenig’s employees look much like the rest of the labor force powering Wisconsin’s $43.4 billion dairy industry, more than 40 percent of which is made up of immigrants, according to a conservative estimate from a 2009 University of Wisconsin-Madison study. Many of them — like Sancristobal and Gonzalez — are undocumented.


Article continues:

How schools push black students to the criminal justice system – Updated by German Lopez on July 30, 2015, 3:30 p.m. ET

A recent study found misbehaving white students are more likely to get medical help, while misbehaving black students are more likely to face punitive measures like arrest and suspension.

David Ramey, an assistant professor of sociology and criminology at Penn State and the author of the study published in Sociology of Education, analyzed a data set of more than 60,000 schools in more than 6,000 districts. He found schools with relatively larger minority and poor populations are more likely to implement criminalized disciplinary policies — such as suspensions, expulsions, police referrals, and arrests — and less likely to medicalize students by, for instance, connecting them to psychological or behavioral care.

Ramey put the findings succinctly to the Daily Beast’s Abby Haglage: “White kids tend to get viewed as having ADHD, or having some sort of behavioral problem. Black kids are viewed as being unruly and unwilling to learn.”

The study helps explain one way black students are disproportionately affected by the school-to-prison pipeline, the criminalized disciplinary system in schools. And it shows just how badly implicit biases can feed the pipeline.

The school-to-prison pipeline disproportionately hurts black students

 Chris Walker/Chicago Tribune/MCT via Getty Images

When lawmakers began enacting tough-on-crime policies in the 1970s and ’80s, some of the concepts trickled down to schools, which began outsourcing discipline to police through school resource officers and referrals to the juvenile justice system. The result has been a school-to-prison pipeline that acts as many kids’ first exposure to the criminal justice system — and it can lead to more interactions with the justice system later on, because the lost school time and bad marks on their records can make it much more difficult to get ahead.

Beyond Ramey’s study, there’s a lot of research and data that shows black kids are much more likely to be affected by schools’ punitive disciplinary policies:

  • Boys with imprisoned fathers are much less likely to possess the behavioral skills needed to succeed in school by the age of 5, a 2014 study published in Sociological Science found. Black children, who are more likely to have imprisoned black fathers, are therefore more likely to be set on a bad course before they start kindergarten.
  • Black students with disabilities are almost three times more likely to experience out-of-school suspension or expulsion than their white counterparts, and twice as likely to experience in-school suspension or expulsion, according to a 2014 report from the National Center for Learning Disabilities.
  • About 70 percent of students involved in in-school arrests or referred to law enforcement are black or Hispanic, according to, which seeks to expose the issues with the school-to-prison pipeline.

So schools aren’t just more likely to criminalize their students nowadays; they’re more likely to criminalize their black students in particular. Some socioeconomic issues — black kids are more likely to be poor, and poorer schools tend to be more punitive — play a role, as Ramey’s study found. But subconscious racial biases play a significant role, as well.

Trickle-down’s middle-class massacre:  Failure of conservative economics should discredit these bankrupt ideas forever – DAVID MADLAND SATURDAY, JUN 13, 2015 03:30 AM PDT

Supply-side economics hollowed out the middle class. It’s time to stop listening to the architects of inequality

Trickle-down's middle-class massacre: Failure of conservative economics should discredit these bankrupt ideas forever

On April 30, 2012, Edward Conard, a former partner for the financial management company Bain Capital and a multimillionaire who retired at age 51, sat across from Jon Stewart, host of “The Daily Show,” to promote his new book. Conard smiled and stared intently through his black-rimmed glasses as Jon Stewart, the liberal host of the comedy show, held up his book and described its contents. Conard’s book argued that America’s economy would be stronger if people like Conard were even richer and the country had even higher levels of economic inequality.

Stewart was puzzled by Conard’s argument and joked that it didn’t seem right because inequality in the United States was approaching the level in countries with “kidnapping-based economies,” generating laughter in the audience. Then Stewart shifted to an opening that would give Conard a chance to explain himself. “My question to you about the premise of the book,” Stewart stated, pausing for effect before setting up his punch line, “is huh?”

Conard laughed along with the audience, and then launched into his argument that great rewards for the “most talented” people were the secret to America’s success. Making the rich richer is good for everyone, he claimed, because high levels of inequality provide strong incentives for risk taking and innovation that are essential for economic growth.

Though Conard’s comments were provocative—indeed his book tour generated significant press, including a multipage feature in the New York Times Magazine—he was merely stating the barely hidden premise underlying supply-side economics. Supply-side economics, the misguided theory that has controlled economic policymaking for the past three decades, is built on the idea that inequality is good. Tax cuts for the rich and less regulation of business supposedly provide incentives for the wealthy to invest and work more. Enabling “job creators” to get richer helps us all, the theory goes.


Article continues:

On The Line: Charlie LeDuff Discusses Inequality in America – Published on Jun 8, 2015

It wasn’t too long ago that American power and the wealth of the nation was created by cities like Baltimore, Detroit, and Newark. Now, as wealth has been concentrated among the elite, these and many American cities are in decline. Infrastructure is crumbling, the middle class is struggling, and the effects of urban poverty are becoming harder to ignore.

VICE News contributor Charlie LeDuff ( looks at these issues in his work for VICE News and joined On The Line to take your questions.

Read “Baltimore, Wilmington, Philly, and Newark — Inside the Forgotten Corridor” –

Historian Says Don’t ‘Sanitize’ How Our Government Created Ghettos – MAY 14, 2015 3:16 PM ET

A helicopter flies over a section of Baltimore affected by riots. Richard Rothstein writes that recent unrest in Baltimore is the legacy of a century of federal, state and local policies designed to "quarantine Baltimore's black population in isolated slums."

A helicopter flies over a section of Baltimore affected by riots. Richard Rothstein writes that recent unrest in Baltimore is the legacy of a century of federal, state and local policies designed to “quarantine Baltimore’s black population in isolated slums.”

Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Related NPR Stories

Fifty years after the repeal of Jim Crow, many African-Americans still live in segregated ghettos in the country’s metropolitan areas. Richard Rothstein, a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute, has spent years studying the history of residential segregation in America.

“We have a myth today that the ghettos in metropolitan areas around the country are what the Supreme Court calls ‘de-facto’ — just the accident of the fact that people have not enough income to move into middle class neighborhoods or because real estate agents steered black and white families to different neighborhoods or because there was white flight,” Rothstein tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross.

“It was not the unintended effect of benign policies,” he says. “It was an explicit, racially purposeful policy that was pursued at all levels of government, and that’s the reason we have these ghettos today and we are reaping the fruits of those policies.”

Interview Highlights

On using the word “ghetto”

One of the ways in which we forget our history is by sanitizing our language and pretending that these problems don’t exist. We have always recognized that these were “ghettos.” A ghetto is, as I define it, a neighborhood which is homogeneous and from which there are serious barriers to exit. That’s the technical definition of a ghetto.

Robert Weaver, the first African-American member of the Cabinet appointed by President Johnson as his secretary of Housing and Urban Development, described many of the policies that I’ve described today in a book he published in 1948 called The Negro Ghetto.

The Kerner Commission referred to the ghetto.

Article continues:

The Walter Scott outrage nobody is talking about – HEATHER DIGBY PARTON TUESDAY, APR 14, 2015 02:58 AM PDT

Michael Thomas Slager, right, pulls out his handgun as Walter Scott runs away from him, April 4, 2015, in North Charleston, S.C. (Credit: AP/Courtesy of L. Chris Stewart)

Michael Thomas Slager, right, pulls out his handgun as Walter Scott runs away from him, April 4, 2015, in North Charleston, S.C. (Credit: AP/Courtesy of L. Chris Stewart)

The horrific story of the unarmed Walter Scott’s death at the hands of Officer Michael Slager continues to reverberate. Aside from the incontrovertible evidence on the tape that the accused officer shot him in the back as if he were doing target practice, there has since emerged more tape of the traffic stop itself and audio of the officer speaking with his superiors on the phone raising even more questions about his state of mind at the time of the shooting. But as journalists have gone back and studied the officer’s record and found that he was previously investigated for taser abuse. And on even further investigation it was found that this jurisdiction is known as “Taser town”:

Until the eight shots heard ’round the world, cops in North Charleston, South Carolina, were primarily distinguished by their zesty use of Tasers.

As computed by a local newspaper in 2006, cops there used Tasers 201 times in an 18-month period, averaging once every 40 hours in one six-month stretch and disproportionately upon African Americans.

The Charleston Post & Courier did the tally after the death of a mentally ill man named Kip Black, who was tasered six times on one occasion and nine times on another. Black died immediately after the second jolting, though the coroner set the cause of death as cocaine-fueled “excited delirium syndrome.”

It’s important to note that Taser International has spent large sums convincing local coroners that this syndrome (which primarily seems to kill people in police custody) makes it the victim’s responsibility if they have the bad luck to die from being shot full of electricity with a taser. It’s not just illegal drugs in the system which can allegedly cause it. Adrenaline can as well. So if a person fails to remain calm in face of an arrest and finds the feeling of 50,000 volts going through their system to be stressful they have no one to blame but themselves if they die.

The Gender Pay Gap: Easy to Politicize, Difficult to Fix – By Tierney Sneed and Andrew Soergel April 13, 2015 | 6:00 p.m. EDT

The gender pay gap persists more than a half century after the Equal Pay Act and is a top concern among voters.

Nancy Reichman, a member of Colorado's Pay Equity Commission joins a rally in downtown Denver.

According to the Labor Department, female employees are paid only 78 cents for every dollar made by their male counterparts.

Every year, progressives use Equal Pay Day to call attention to the gender wage gap. The day, which falls on Tuesday this year, typically comes in early April and represents how far into the current year an average female employee would have to work to earn what her male counterpart brought home in the last calendar year.

But with the 2016 presidential campaign gaining momentum, the day is not only a moment to reflect on the challenges women face in the workplace, but an opportunity to politicize a concern held by a wide swath of voters.

Equal Pay Day comes more than a half century after President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which aimed “to prohibit discrimination on account of sex in the payment of wages by employers.” Despite that legislation and labor laws enacted since, the earnings gap between American men and women remains wide, though its size depends largely on who you ask.

The Labor Department estimates female employees are paid only 78 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts, and the agency’s figures are used to determine that the average woman would have essentially needed to work slightly more than three additional months into 2014 to earn what her male counterpart would have made during the 2013 calendar year.

Article continues:

The Race Gap in America’s Police Departments –

The Race Gap in America’s Police Departments


via The Race Gap in America’s Police Departments –

Listed below are local police departments from 17 metropolitan areas, sorted so that departments with the largest percentage-point differences of white officers to white residents are at the top.

Many charts follow this link: