What you haven’t been told about the July jobs report

Summary:  Another jobs report, more clickbait headlines about the monthly noise. Here’s a look beneath the glitz to the important news. The US economy continues slow steady growth, with continued signs of slowing. Also, 47% of new jobs went to foreign-born workers during the past year. Important matters. Too bad neither the candidates, journalists, or Americans care about such things. On to the next astounding soundbite!

Contents

  1. The noise: monthly changes in jobs.
  2. The important news about the trend in number of jobs.
  3. A clearer trend: total number of hours worked.
  4. Where were the new jobs?
  5. What about the info sector jobs machine? Let’s all become programmers!
  6. A red flag: growth in temp workers has slowed to almost zero.
  7. It’s not a “Starbucks Economy”. See the slow but steady wage growth.
  8. Explosive news: 47% of new jobs went to foreign-born workers.
  9. Conclusions and For More Information

Here are the monthly numbers that generate the exciting headlines!
It’s noise. The trends are almost impossible to clearly see.
Graph of the monthly change in jobs since Jan 2013 (SA).

New Jobs by month through July 2016.

Here is a more useful graph. Employment is still growing, but slowing.
Do you see why the monthly outpourings of joy or despair during the past 4 years?
The real story is the stability of the slow growth in the US economy.
Graph of the year-over-year percentage growth in jobs (not seasonally adjusted).

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An anthropologist looks at the empty identity politics of America’s left

Summary: Here is the last chapter of anthropologist Maximilian Forte’s series about America’s New Victorianism. It explains many of the otherwise baffling aspects of Campaign 2016. This essay is worth a ton of journalists’ reporting about the sound bite circus that dominates the news.

Queen Victoria and family by Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1846)

Queen Victoria and family by Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1846). It could be a modern campaign portrait.

The Working Class, Identity Politics and New Victorian History

Against the Labouring Classes: Identity Politics in the New Victorian Age.
By Maximilian C. Forte. Part 4 of 4.
From Zero Anthropology.
Reposted with his generous permission.

The New Victorianism serves to not only divert politics into issues of morality and identity, it works to obfuscate the bases of increasing inequality. Focusing on the Democratic Party, and its abandonment of the working class over the past forty years, Adolph Reed Jr. (professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania) would appear to have seen from early on how these issues are linked — though he does not use the phrase “New Victorianism,” he describes it in other words. Speaking of Democrats and liberals in general, he wrote of,

“their capacity for high-minded fervor for the emptiest and sappiest platitudes; their tendencies to make a fetish of procedure over substance and to look for technical fixes to political problems; their ability to screen out the mounting carnage in the cities they inhabit as they seek pleasant venues for ingesting good coffee and scones; their propensity for aestheticizing other people’s oppression and calling that activism; their reflex to wring their hands and look constipated in the face of conflict; and, most of all, their spinelessness and undependability in crises”.

— “Liberals, I Do Despise” by Adolph Reed, Jr. in The Village Voice, 12 November 1996.

Twenty years ago he criticized “their refusal to face up to the class realities of American politics” and how liberals “avoid any linkage of inequality with corporations’ use of public policy to drive down living standards and enhance their plunder”. Instead, when it comes to the marginalized within the US they opt for a maudlin “save-the-babies politics” that demonizes working-class parents, much the same way that the right-wing has done. He concluded that liberal politics are “motivated by the desire for proximity to the ruling class and a belief in the basic legitimacy of its power and prerogative. It is a politics which, despite all its idealist puffery and feigned nobility, will sell out any allies or egalitarian objectives in pursuit of gaining the Prince’s ear” (Reed, 1996).

Reed’s critique later expanded beyond the confines of the Democratic party, moving to include left activists and the labour movement, raising an issue that I recently touched upon when I wrote that, “it now seems clear that every single sector and shade of the US left has made some sort of peace with neoliberalism, with the basic structure of the status quo, from which their hopes hang even if by the thinnest of humanitarian, cosmopolitan and reformist threads”. This is how Reed argued the point…

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An anthropologist looks at Social Imperialism and New Victorian Identity Politics

Summary: Campaign 2016 has degenerated into a circus of sound bites, ignoring the great issues facing America. To have any chance of reforming America we need a wider perspective , like that of Maximilian Forte (a professor of anthropology). This is chapter 3 in his series about Americans as the New Victorians. It’s brilliant, and getting better with each installment. Here he links together many problems — such as our imperialism, political correctness, fearfulness and tribalism.

New Victorianism

Graphic created by the author.

Social Imperialism and New Victorian Identity Politics.

New Victorianism’s Domestic Moral Code and the Political Economy of Identity Politics.
Part 3 of 4 in a series.
By Maximilian C. Forte.
From Zero Anthropology. Cites at the end. Red emphasis added.
Reposted with his generous permission.

“The nation-state in its imperialist guise was the inescapable context within which all political action necessarily took place: it determined the range of possibilities against which the left as much as the right were compelled to define their positions”. (Eley, 1976, p. 269.)

“Social imperialism,” applied to German historiography, involves some interesting coincidences with Victorianism and the New Imperialism. One of the key political figures was Kaiser Wilhelm II, German Emperor, and the eldest grandchild of Britain’s Queen Victoria. Wilhelm also presided over the expansion of the German navy in the wake of the Scramble for Africa, with some of the key ideas of the German Navy League being inspired by the US’ New Imperialism and by Alfred Thayer Mahan’s Alfred Thayer Mahan, author of the classic The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783.

“Social imperialism” is a contested concept, with Eley (1976) showing the divisions around using it to refer to socialists’ accommodation with capitalism and adhesion to imperialist practice abroad (a contemporary phenomenon that also manifested in the early 1900s) plus making concessions to reformism, versus the work of policy-makers in distracting increasingly impoverished workers from exploitation at home by diverting their energies toward external enemies, in order to negate reform and preserve the status quo. (For those who are curious, Eley largely disproves the value of the second formulation.)

There is actually more to this debate than this short sketch allows, but what I want to introduce is a third view of social imperialism, mindful of what both of the preceding conceptualizations essentially share in common: “Both are concerned with the impact of the imperialist world economy on the domestic life of the metropolis” (Eley, 1976, p. 268). “The entry of the imperialist idea into domestic politics” (Eley, 1976, p. 268) — and it is from domestic social and political conflict where the imperialist idea first emerges — should probably be rephrased as the “re-entry” of the imperialist idea into domestic politics, because what was deployed abroad produced effects and practices that later (always) come back home in new and improved form.

This is a broader concept of “blowback” which I argued for in the Force Multipliers volume (also, see “The Dismal ‘Physics’ of Blowback and Overstretch”). The third variation I propose is not better, more valid than either of the earlier two approaches — it tries to supplement them without displacing them. The third approach focuses on how imperialist principles and practices shape and take form through domestic politics. Social imperialism in this third sense is about the politics within an imperialist society, that reflect its constitution as an imperialist society.

Essentially then, what we are talking about in the current phase is liberal imperialism at home. This is a marriage of the New Victorianism and the New Imperialism in domestic matters, where politics are increasingly moralized, attention is directed towards identity issues in order to preserve basic class inequalities, reformism is limited and inexpensive (small rewards for small groups), democracy is reduced to procedures and is led by oligarchic elites, and the society is administered by a technocratic managerial class with a noteworthy penchant for ignoring criticisms, deflecting questions, and operating in secrecy.

What results, at least in the North American context, is a call for asserting certain codes of behaviour, to impose standards of proper conduct as seen through the eyes of the liberal middle class, defended with an astringent sanctimony that turns every transgression into a catastrophe. What does this have to do with imperialism? Quite a lot.

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