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Wednesday, September 14, 2016


"This is a big deal"

by Tom Sullivan

One of the Republicans' campaign talking points this year is that electing Hillary Clinton will be a third term for Barack Obama. The horror.

Upon yesterday's release of two reports by the Census Bureau, Economic Policy Institute president Larry Mishel tweeted:

Census described its findings in a press release:

The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that real median household income increased by 5.2 percent between 2014 and 2015 while the official poverty rate decreased 1.2 percentage points. At the same time, the percentage of people without health insurance coverage decreased.

Median household income in the United States in 2015 was $56,516, an increase in real terms of 5.2 percent from the 2014 median income of $53,718. This is the first annual increase in median household income since 2007, the year before the most recent recession.

The nation’s official poverty rate in 2015 was 13.5 percent, with 43.1 million people in poverty, 3.5 million fewer than in 2014. The 1.2 percentage point decrease in the poverty rate from 2014 to 2015 represents the largest annual percentage point drop in poverty since 1999.

The percentage of people without health insurance coverage for the entire 2015 calendar year was 9.1 percent, down from 10.4 percent in 2014. The number of people without health insurance declined to 29.0 million from 33.0 million over the period.

On the stump yesterday in Philadelphia for Hillary Clinton, President Obama touted the reports' findings that both the uninsured rate and the pay gap between men and women is the lowest on record:

"So, now, let's face it; the Republicans don't like to hear good news right now," Obama said. "But it's important just to understand this is a big deal. More Americans are working, more have health insurance, incomes are rising, poverty is falling, and gas is $2 a gallon. ... Thanks, Obama!"
President Obama's approval rating approached 60 percent in a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll.

The income report was particularly good for Hispanic families in the U.S.:

The Center for American Progress, however, urged readers to curb their enthusiasm. There's more work to do:

Even as middle-class households saw solid income growth in 2015, the share of income accruing to the middle class remains at near-record lows. The latest Census Bureau data show that the top 20 percent of American households continue to bring home a majority of national income. Meanwhile, the middle 60 percent of households received just 45.7 percent of national income—far below their 1968 peak of 53.2 percent. As shown in Figure 3, the downward slide of the middle-class income share is not a new phenomenon. Decades of declining worker power, challenges from globalization, and increasing levels of market concentration have all contributed to the weakening of the middle class. Had the share of national income accruing to the middle 60 percent remained at 1968 levels, the average middle-class family would have earned about $9,900 more in 2015.
The stunning economic news might not actually boost Clinton's numbers any time soon. For one, it takes time for macroeconomic news to filter down to average voters, a former Sanders pollster told the San Francisco Chronicle. It may take several positive reports before voters notice. Plus, John Powell, director of UC Berkeley's Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, observed:
“Trump feeds off of people feeling bad, feeling angry. Then he says, ‘I can save you,’” Powell said. “Much of their effort — by Republicans and Trump — is that they need to say that things are bad. Their campaign is one of deep anxiety and polarization, that the country is going to hell in a handbasket.”
And for voters in rural areas, the news may take even longer to seep in, writes Timothy B. Lee at Vox:
The census counted more than 20 million households as being located outside any metropolitan area — that is, in rural America. And it found that these households saw their incomes drop by 2 percent between 2014 and 2015: from $45,534 to $44,657.
That is why rural voters will respond to Trump's message as many in Appalachia did to Bernie Sanders'. They feel left behind. It is not simply that the Good News has not reached them. The recovery still has not.

There is not just a liberal/conservative split in America, but an urban/rural one Democrats need to do more to address. Howard Dean recognized that the DNC's bi-coastal, urban-heavy presidential strategy essentially forfeited the rural center of the country to Rush Limbaugh and the Republicans. There may not be a lot of electoral votes concentrated there, but there are enough House and Senate seats to make the country ungovernable by a Democrat in the White House. Hillary Clinton has hinted at bringing back Dean's 50 State strategy. Faster, please. Serve the term Dean never had.