Naturally, I live in a city where the instant response is to ask what this means for our local industry. There's been a lot of linkage to this interview with David Plouffe, who denies that this is going to be a problem for Obama:
It's looking more and more like Obama will have to do something no president has done since Franklin Roosevelt: Win reelection with unemployment around 8 percent.
Ronald Reagan, another president Obama is sometimes compared with, was reelected in 1984 when unemployment was 7.2 percent. Obama isn't likely to see a number that low.
. . . That seemed to be at the root of Plouffe's remarks on Wednesday, as quoted by Bloomberg.
"The average American does not view the economy through the prism of GDP or unemployment rates or even monthly jobs numbers," Plouffe said, according to Bloomberg. "People won't vote based on the unemployment rate, they're going to vote based on: 'How do I feel about my own situation? Do I believe the president makes decisions based on me and my family?'
This is obviously some whistling past the graveyard. No president since FDR has gotten re-elected with unemployment above 8%, and while unemployment was still near 17%, it had also dropped by more than 7% since its high. To see the difficulty Obama faces, compare unemployment under his administration to Reagan--the last president to be re-elected with high unemployment:
The scales don't exactly compare, but as you can see, by this point in his presidency (mid-1983) Reagan was starting to see a sharp decline. For Obama, by contrast, the numbers seem to be moving in the wrong direction. It could always be a blip, of course. But even if they resume their gentle decline, it wouldn't be the same--Reagan saw a steep run-up, and then an equally sharp decline. Under Obama, by contrast, the number has been bouncing around between 9-10% for most of his presidency.
Contrary to what his political critics will claim, this is not because Obama has somehow screwed things up--either by passing the stimulus, or not passing enough stimulus. The fact is, we don't really know much about how to treat the high and lingering unemployment of a post-financial crisis recession--the massive stimulus advocated by some of the High Keynesians has never really been tried anywhere (well, China, maybe, but for various reasons that's hard to evaluate.) There are all sorts of reasons to think that it would have been hard to do a much bigger stimulus--not just because of the politics, but because of the technical difficulties of pushing that much money out the door, and the uncertainty over the willingness of the markets to support so much borrowing. Maybe you can argue that he should have focused on jobs instead of spending a year passing his health care bill, and I'd agree, but I'm not sure I'd want to bet much money that unemployment would be much lower if he had.
But it seems quite likely that Obama is going to pay a price for this even though it's not his fault. I don't mean that it will be impossible for him to win re-election, but this is certainly going to make things much more difficult. It takes about 125,000 new jobs every month just to keep even with labor force growth, so reducing unemployment by even a percentage point would require creating over 2 million jobs in the next year, adding at least 250,000 jobs to payrolls every single month. This is still possible, but it is not, right now, looking very likely.
The recession seems to be validating what Reinhart and Rogoff argue in This Time is Different, their landmark work on financial crises: post crisis, government debt balloons, and economic growth is slow. According to Reinhart, 8-9% unemployment could well persist to 2014. And voters may not be willing to wait long enough to let Obama enjoy the rebound.
A new anatomical understanding of how movement controls the body’s stress response system
Elite tennis players have an uncanny ability to clear their heads after making errors. They constantly move on and start fresh for the next point. They can’t afford to dwell on mistakes.
Peter Strick is not a professional tennis player. He’s a distinguished professor and chair of the department of neurobiology at the University of Pittsburgh Brain Institute. He’s the sort of person to dwell on mistakes, however small.
“My kids would tell me, dad, you ought to take up pilates. Do some yoga,” he said. “But I’d say, as far as I’m concerned, there's no scientific evidence that this is going to help me.”
Still, the meticulous skeptic espoused more of a tennis approach to dealing with stressful situations: Just teach yourself to move on. Of course there is evidence that ties practicing yoga to good health, but not the sort that convinced Strick. Studies show correlations between the two, but he needed a physiological mechanism to explain the relationship. Vague conjecture that yoga “decreases stress” wasn’t sufficient. How? Simply by distracting the mind?
If Hillary Clinton beats Donald Trump, her party will have set a record in American politics.
If Donald Trump can’t erase Hillary Clinton’s lead in the presidential race, the Republican Party will cross an ominous milestone—and confront some agonizing choices. Democrats have won the popular vote in five of the six presidential elections since 1992. (In 2000, Al Gore won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College and the White House to George W. Bush.) If Clinton maintains her consistent advantage in national and swing-state polls through Election Day, that means Democrats will have won the popular vote in six of the past seven presidential campaigns.
Since the 1828 election of Andrew Jackson that historians consider the birth of the modern two-party system, no party has ever won the presidential popular vote six times over seven elections. Even the nation’s most successful political figures have fallen short of that standard.
City dwellers spend nearly every moment of every day awash in wi-fi signals. Homes, streets, businesses, and office buildings are constantly blasting wireless signals every which way for the benefit of nearby phones, tablets, laptops, wearables, and other connected paraphernalia.
When those devices connect to a router, they send requests for information—a weather forecast, the latest sports scores, a news article—and, in turn, receive that data, all over the air. As it communicates with the devices, the router is also gathering information about how its signals are traveling through the air, and whether they’re being disrupted by obstacles or interference. With that data, the router can make small adjustments to communicate more reliably with the devices it’s connected to.
Do mission-driven organizations with tight budgets have any choice but to demand long, unpaid hours of their staffs?
Earlier this year, at the encouragement of President Obama, the Department of Labor finalized the most significant update to the federal rules on overtime in decades. The new rules will more than double the salary threshold for guaranteed overtime pay, from about $23,000 to $47,476. Once the rules go into effect this December, millions of employees who make less than that will be guaranteed overtime pay under the law when they work more than 40 hours a week.
Unsurprisingly, some business lobbies and conservatives disparaged the rule as unduly burdensome. But pushback also came from what might have been an unexpected source: a progressive nonprofit called the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG). “Doubling the minimum salary to $47,476 is especially unrealistic for non-profit, cause-oriented organizations,” U.S. PIRG said in a statement. “[T]o cover higher staffing costs forced upon us under the rule, we will be forced to hire fewer staff and limit the hours those staff can work—all while the well-funded special interests that we're up against will simply spend more.”
The inequality at the heart of America’s education system
HARTFORD, Conn.—This is one of the wealthiest states in the union. But thousands of children here attend schools that are among the worst in the country. While students in higher-income towns such as Greenwich and Darien have easy access to guidance counselors, school psychologists, personal laptops, and up-to-date textbooks, those in high-poverty areas like Bridgeport and New Britain don’t. Such districts tend to have more students in need of extra help, and yet they have fewer guidance counselors, tutors, and psychologists, lower-paid teachers, more dilapidated facilities and bigger class sizes than wealthier districts, according to an ongoing lawsuit. Greenwich spends $6,000 more per pupil per year than Bridgeport does, according to the State Department of Education.
No one will ever find a closer exoplanet—now the race is on to see if there is life on its surface.
One hundred and one years ago this October, a Scottish astronomer named Robert Innes pointed a camera at a grouping of stars near the Southern Cross, the defining feature of the night skies above his adopted Johannesburg. He was looking for a small companion to Alpha Centauri, our closest neighboring star system.
Hunched over glass photographic plates, Innes teased out a signal. Across five years of images, a small, faint star moved, wiggling on the sky. It shifted just as much as Alpha Centauri, suggesting its fate was intertwined with that binary system. But this small star was closer to the sun than Alpha. Innes suggested calling it Proxima Centauri, using the Latin word for “nearest.”
The dim red star soon entered the collective imagination, inspiring dreams of interstellar travel. Gravity has linked the star to the Alpha Centauri system, but our culture of science and storytelling has linked it to the solar system. Today, that link will grow stronger, when an international team of astronomers announces that this nearest of stars also hosts the closest exoplanet, one that might look a whole lot like Earth.
The global education pioneer eases students into the classroom.
Heading into my first year of teaching in Helsinki I felt pretty nervous. One of my graduate-school professors—a former Massachusetts Teacher of the Year—had warned me that Finnish students were academically advanced, especially in math. Indeed, Finland’s students had excelled on international standardized tests like the PISA for more than a decade. But it wasn’t just those high-performing Finnish students that intimidated me. Their teachers did, too.
If I had chosen to pursue master’s-level training as an elementary-school teacher in Finland (instead of the United States), I would have applied to the small handful of teacher-training universities, where annual acceptance rates hover around 10 percent. These programs are so selective, claimed The Atlantic journalist Amanda Ripley in her book, The Smartest Kids in the World, they’re “on the order of MIT.” Furthermore, Finland’s classroom teacher-training programs require five years of coursework, practicum, and thesis writing. The Finnish version made my two-year master’s degree in elementary education, through a non-selective college in the Boston area, look quite humble.
A recent scholarly paper on “microaggressions” uses them to chart the ascendance of a new moral code in American life.
Last fall at Oberlin College, a talk held as part of Latino Heritage Month was scheduled on the same evening that intramural soccer games were held. As a result, soccer players communicated by email about their respective plans. “Hey, that talk looks pretty great,” a white student wrote to a Hispanic student, “but on the off chance you aren’t going or would rather play futbol instead the club team wants to go!!”
Unbeknownst to the white student, the Hispanic student was offended by the email. And her response signals the rise of a new moral culture America.
When conflicts occur, sociologists Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning observe in an insightful new scholarly paper, aggrieved parties can respond in any number of ways. In honor cultures like the Old West or the street gangs of West Side Story, they might engage in a duel or physical fight. In dignity cultures, like the ones that prevailed in Western countries during the 19th and 20th Centuries, “insults might provoke offense, but they no longer have the same importance as a way of establishing or destroying a reputation for bravery,” they write. “When intolerable conflicts do arise, dignity cultures prescribe direct but non-violent actions.”
She is regarded as the best women’s soccer goalkeeper in the world, but her comments after the U.S. team’s loss to Sweden got her in trouble.
NEWS BRIEF U.S. Soccer suspended goalkeeper Hope Solo on Wednesday for behavior it called “unacceptable” and that does “not meet the standard of conduct we require.” The suspension is for six months, but the organization also ended her contract with the women’s national team, which makes it likely that Solo, who is one of the world’s best goalkeepers, will never play for the U.S. again.
Solo has had several controversial off-field moments—one of which recently led to a 30-day suspension—but Wednesday’s move was punishment for comments she made after Sweden beat the U.S. at the Rio Olympics earlier this month. Sweden eliminated the U.S., and did so by playing a conservative game, which prompted Solo to call them “a bunch of cowards.”
This much is obvious: Young people don’t buy homes like they used to.
In the aftermath of the recession and weak recovery, the share of 18- to- 34 year olds—a.k.a.: Millennials—who own a home has fallen to a 30-year low. For the first time on record going back more than a century, young people are now more likely to live with their parents than with a spouse.
It’s become en vogue to argue that young people’s turn against homeownership might be a good thing. After all, houses are not always dependable investment vehicles, a lesson the country learned all too painfully after the Great Recession. Without being anchored to any one city from their mid-20s and into their 30s, young people who don’t own are free to roam about the country in search of the best jobs. What’s more, given the copious advantages of a college degree in this economy, perhaps many young people could be commended for investing in their intelligence, professional networks, and abilities rather than devote that same income to a roof, floor, and furniture.