Charles Murray/Louis Jordan

February 27th, 2012 at 11:41 pm

Lots of important things to cover—getting lots of interesting feedback on this model that links growth, inequality, opportunity, mobility, and political power (now on slideshare, h/t: PS).

Also, finishing Charles Murray’s new book, Coming Apart, which is definitely interesting—I’ll have a lot more to say about it tomorrow.  I’ve not seen much new in there in terms of findings—he’s crunching the same numbers many of us have crunched for years, re inequality, poverty, job and wage losses.  And while his interpretation is predictably different from mine, there’s a lot here that we agree on.  EG, he writes: “The trends signify damage to the heart of American community and the ways in which the great majority of American pursue satisfying lives.”

While he describes himself as a libertarian and I’m…um…not, at the heart of the analysis is some of the same angst I’ve tried to express in writing that bemoans the shift toward YOYO (you’re-on-your-own) economics.  Even in Murray’s telling, “Coming Apart” is a function of greater inequality, less opportunity, diminished mobility, and the dysfunctional politics that these developments helped to promote—the very process described in the model above.  He then adds a strong dose of cultural analysis (the loss of industriousness, religiosity, honesty, and marriage), that connect to the findings in ways that are not at all clear to me, but very clear to him.  We clearly place the locus of these problems in different places…but like I said, more to come when I finish the book.

But none of that matters compared to what I really wanted to do here, which was share two minutes and forty-two seconds of pure joy, in boogie rhythm, courtesy of the great saxophonist/vocalist/bandleader Louis Jordan.  It’s Choo Choo Ch’Boogie and all’s I can say, cats and kittens, is that if this jam doesn’t turn your frown upside down, there’s nothin’ anyone can do for you.


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10 comments in reply to "Charles Murray/Louis Jordan"

  1. Chris G says:

    Thanks for sharing your presentation – very instructive.

  2. Nhon Tran says:

    Thank you. Look fwd to reading your full dissection of the book.
    The Louis Jordan thing is joy, indeed.
    “Turn your frown upside down” in the last sentence…shade of “Smilin’ Faces” by the Undisputed Truth (1971)?

  3. AndrewBW says:

    Always great. Here’s some bonus Jordan: “Jack, You’re Dead”

  4. PeonInChief says:

    A couple of comments on your slide #8: One of the things I’ve noticed is that there are far fewer free enrichment opportunities for children, music and art particularly, paid for by tax expenditures. In the 1970s, most school systems provided both regular and summer session enrichment programs, which were free for all children. Today parents have to pay for those programs, and their geographic distribution is much less egalitarian than the free programs of the 1970s.

    Second the largest drop is probably in the second quintile–20 to 40%–as the increased costs of other basics have crowded out children’s activities.

  5. David Bly says:

    This is very interesting I am working on a book to be published in June, about saving our middle class society (another way of saying ‘restoring our opportunity society’). I am looking for some one to write the forward. I am a subscriber to your posts and greatly admire your work. If that interests you I can send you information and the latest draft of the text. Or send me some contact information and we could discuss it further.

  6. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Slideshow questions and observations:
    #15/22: The lower left quadrant of political engagement is great; the upper right quadrant is also interesting, but it’s been my observation that people writing large checks are *also* using those as a tax write-off (often for businesses). It would be wonderful if there were some way to illustrate, via background color gradient, at what point along that x-axis the political donations are being taken as *tax deductions*, thereby further intensifying the political dynamic that favors capital over labor. On the left end, people can’t write off political contributions; but it’s not really easy to see on this slide at what point along the x-axis the tax benefit kicks in.

    The dynamic of political activity as a tax write-off links into #16/22, where you make the point that monetary policy favors low inflation (i.e., ‘bond holders and capital’) over labor. The YOYO dynamic accelerates once you are taking tax write-offs for political donations, and it’s not all that far along the x-axis. But I couldn’t tell from the slide where that new dynamic kicks in.

    I found #17/22 a bit confusing, although obviously I’m not hearing the explanation that teases out the relationships. I can see that income before, vs after, tax transfers changes from 1979 – 2007 as the transfers became less progressive. However, the text says that federal taxes also declined over this period — unfortunately, from the slide, I don’t get any sense of ‘how much’ the tax revenues declined with respect to their share of the market economy. It would be very cool if there were two ‘comparison pies’ in the background behind two bars, or some way to see at-a-glance the relative change in size of the federal taxes against the reduced progressivity.

    It would be interesting to plot the data in #17/22 against a timeline showing the rise of Fox News, 24/7 cable channels, and CNBC-Business News against some of the policy and political campaign data in charts on slides #15, #16, and #17. (Hey, us data geeks just can’t ever get enough chart comparisons…)
    That is also the historical period during which the economy became financialized; chicken, meet egg. It would be so cool to have a background series of pie charts showing the growing proportion of financialization in the economy — then compared with the income categories that vote and make tax-deductible contributions.

    #21/22: Political dysfunction (a la debt ceiling fiasco) should worry people. IIRC, I went sailing completely over the edge of the cliff right here at OTE last summer.
    YOYO vs WITT seem to be putting on the gloves for an epic conflict.
    I think really cool, informative charts will be an important part of the WITT arsenal.

  7. Rick McGahey says:

    Louis Jordan on unemployment and job search:

    “You reach your destination, but alas and alack! /
    You need some compensation to get back in the black /
    You take your morning paper from the top of the stack /
    And read the situation from the front to the back /
    The only job that’s open needs a man with a knack /
    So put it right back in the rack, Jack!”

    from the aforementioned “Choo Choo Ch’Boogie” (Jared can’t stop being a labor economist even when picking out tunes…)