The rise and fall of the property-owning democracy

Flip Chart Fairy Tales:

Sometime in the late 1980s, a friend who was on the libertarian right of the Conservative Party explained the idea of the property-owning democracy to me. The point, he said, was to detach the respectable working class from their poorer neighbours, encourage them to identify with the middle-class and thereby turn them into Tories.

It worked for a while. Middle earners had been doing relatively well since the 1970s and home ownership was within the reach of many once mortgages became more readily available. Helped along by cheap council house sales, home ownership rose. In recent years, though, things have started shifting back the other way. The property-owning democracy is now looking like a one-off event rather than the ongoing process it was meant to be.

Property analyst Neal Hudson pointed out that, as a proportion of all tenure, home ownership peaked in 2003 but mortgage ownership peaked in 1996. As older property owners paid off their housing debts, they were not being replaced at the same rate by new  mortgagors.

The rise in home ownership exacerbated the rise in inequality. Until the 1990s, the cost of housing only made a slight difference to the inequality figures but from the 1990s, housing tenure became a significant factor in the make up of people’s disposable income and the divide between owners and renters widened.



Brexit is clearly a terrible idea. But it has to happen

John Harris in The Guardian:

The big question, though, centres on where Brexit came from, and what sustains it. A large part of the answer is about an ingrained English exceptionalism, partly traceable to geography but equally bound up with a puffed-up interpretation of our national past, which has bubbled away in our politics and culture for decades. The likes of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson have used it for their own ideological ends; in the kind of post-industrial places long ignored by Westminster politicians it turned out to be the one bit of pride and identity many people had left. It runs deep: even if the economy takes a vertiginous plunge, it will take a lot longer than two years to shift it.

The only way such delusions will fade is if they are finally tested in the real world and found wanting, whereupon this country may at last be ready to humbly engage with modernity. And in that sense, to paraphrase a faded politician, Brexit probably has to mean Brexit. That may result in a long spell of relative penury, and an atmosphere of recrimination and resentment. By the time everything is resolved a lot of us will either be very old or dead. But that may be the price we have to pay to belatedly put all our imperial baggage in the glass case where it belongs, and to edge our way back into the European family, if they will have us.

In the meantime, this messiest of national dramas grinds on, and not for the first time the story suggests the priceless words of the American writer and satirist HL Mencken: “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”

Brexit: the ballad of Digby Jones

David Allen Green in the Financial Times:

On Tuesday, there was a tweet about Brexit from Lord Digby Jones. He is the former director-general of the UK’s CBI business lobby group and he served as a government minister for trade and investment when Gordon Brown was prime minister. Lord Jones is a legislator in the House of Lords and promotes himself as an authority on business. You would expect not only that he would know what he is talking about, but also that he had something worth saying. You would be wrong. The tweet said: “So that’s trade deals with both the US & Oz in the bag. Remoaners must be hating this.” Where does one begin? What do ridiculous statements like this signify? The second sentence can be quickly dismissed. It is in the language of the playground, not the upper house of parliament. But the first sentence warrants closer inspection. This is because it is false and misleading to an impressive degree. Trade agreements between Britain and the US and Australia are not “in the bag”. They are nowhere near the bag. The bag is not in sight, and it may never be.

Black Girls Are Perceived As Less Innocent Than White Girls — Starting at Age 5

New York Magazine:

Researchers and advocates have noted for years that black Americans face a higher risk of imprisonment than white Americans and constitute almost 1 million of the 2.3 million people incarcerated in the United States. One reason for the disparity may be racial bias. Now, a study from Georgetown Law’s Center on Poverty and Inequality reveals black girls may face such bias while still in kindergarten. According to the findings, black girls are perceived as less innocent than white girls as early as age 5.

“These are preschool girls who are being viewed as needing less protection and needing less nurturing than their white counterparts,” says Rebecca Epstein, lead author and executive director of the Center on Poverty and Inequality at the Georgetown University Law Center. “At that age, I find that shocking.”

The most recent findings build on past studies that surveyed respondents’ perceptions of black boys. Though viewed similarly to their white peers through the age of 9, black boys 10 and older are viewed as less innocent than white boys their age. In this case, “innocence” is used as a proxy for children’s lack of worldliness and need for protection. People are also likely to believe black boys are older than they are. When shown pictures of black, white, and Latino boys alongside descriptions of felonies, study participants overestimated black boys’ ages by an average of 4.5 years — the type of guess that would render a 13.5-year-old a legal adult. This effect was unique to black boys; people guessed Latino and white boys’ ages with similar accuracy.

Black girls also face prejudice. In one study of a predominantly black and Latino public school, black girls frequently called out answers in class, performed well academically, and were disproportionately well-represented in AP classes. But although black girls’ participation may have propelled their academic success, teachers — including those who were black women — tended to scold black girls more frequently when they called out than when black boys called out, or when girls of other races called out. Black girls called out more overall, but were also chastened at a higher rate than other kids who called out. So if you were a kid who called out, you were more likely to be scolded if you were a black girl. Rather than viewing black girls’ participation as evidence of engagement, teachers focused on how the shouted answers were indecorous and “unladylike.”

The Georgetown Law study is the first to focus on how people perceive black girls’ innocence and maturity relative to white girls. The researchers surveyed 325 adults (74 percent were white) about the maturity of either white or black girls. Survey respondents considered questions like how often black or white females seem older than their age, how much they need to be comforted, and how much they know about sex. They separately assessed girls in age groups ranging from 0 to 19.

The study found that black girls are viewed as more mature and less innocent than their white peers at an even earlier age than black boys — beginning at age 5, with the most pronounced difference between ages 5 and 14.

Viewing children as more mature because of social stereotypes is called “adultification.” The adultification of black girls may reflect stereotypes about black woman, says co-author Jamilia Blake, of Texas A&M University. “It’s the stereotype of black women as being loud, aggressive, and over-sexualized,” says Blake. “You can trace [these stereotypes] all the way back to slavery.” She adds that adults may not even realize the way stereotypes influence their views.

The authors say the belief that black girls are more mature could be harmful, both in school and in the criminal-justice system. Consciously or subconsciously, educators and legal authorities may view black girls as more culpable for their actions and therefore be more inclined to punish them severely. These prejudices, for example, could help explain why black girls are five times more likely to be suspended than white girls. (They’re also more likely to be suspended than white boys.)

Analysis indicates partisan gerrymandering has benefited GOP

AP News:

The 2016 presidential contest was awash with charges that the fix was in: Republican Donald Trump repeatedly claimed that the election was rigged against him, while Democrats have accused the Russians of stacking the odds in Trump’s favor.

Less attention was paid to manipulation that occurred not during the presidential race, but before it — in the drawing of lines for hundreds of U.S. and state legislative seats. The result, according to an Associated Press analysis: Republicans had a real advantage.

The AP scrutinized the outcomes of all 435 U.S. House races and about 4,700 state House and Assembly seats up for election last year using a new statistical method of calculating partisan advantage. It’s designed to detect cases in which one party may have won, widened or retained its grip on power through political gerrymandering.

The analysis found four times as many states with Republican-skewed state House or Assembly districts than Democratic ones. Among the two dozen most populated states that determine the vast majority of Congress, there were nearly three times as many with Republican-tilted U.S. House districts.

Traditional battlegrounds such as Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida and Virginia were among those with significant Republican advantages in their U.S. or state House races. All had districts drawn by Republicans after the last Census in 2010.

The AP analysis also found that Republicans won as many as 22 additional U.S. House seats over what would have been expected based on the average vote share in congressional districts across the country. That helped provide the GOP with a comfortable majority over Democrats instead of a narrow one.


Donald Trump and Rupert Murdoch: inside the billionaire bromance

The Guardian:

Now Murdoch’s White House meetings are reportedly happening again, and if Murdoch needs Trump, Trump needs Murdoch, too. The president’s disastrous performance his first months in office has been accompanied by a historic slump in ratings, and with so many Americans relying on cable and Fox in particular for their national news, Murdoch is uniquely valuable to Trump right now.

So far Fox’s fawning coverage of Trump, and in some cases total avoidance of certain topics unflattering to the president, hasn’t been enough to lift him out of his presidential doldrums. Being skeptical about the significance of the regular government leaks regarding Trump’s presidency has not necessarily played well with Fox’s viewers.

The proof is in the place that hurts Murdoch and Trump the most: the ratings. Recently, MSNBC won all five weekdays in primetime over Fox News, according toNielsen data, with NBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show topping the week’s list of most watched programs. And MSNBC finished last month as the No 1 cable news network on weeknights that month, beating out Fox and CNN for the first time since 2000.

We can’t know what that will mean for the Trump-Murdoch axis, just as we can’t know what these men are discussing on the phone, or what, precisely, the Trump presidential library will reveal some 30 years from now. We do, however, know that the last time this happened with the same media mogul and a president he had far fewer connections to, the media mogul got a hell of a lot out of it.


How Britain voted at the 2017 general election


Since last week’s election result YouGov has interview over 50,000 British adults to gather more information on how Britain voted. This is part of one of the biggest surveys ever undertaken into British voting behaviour, and is the largest yet that asks people how they actually cast their ballots in the 2017 election.

GE2017 and the Media

Simon Wren-Lewis at Mainly Macro:

There is a danger of missing the point about Labour’s surge and the media. The issue is absolutely not that political commentators were surprised by Labour’s sudden popularity among voters. Of course they were surprised, because there was no evidence for it before May 2017. The dismal showing of Labour in the council elections at the start of May was real enough. Those on the left who say they knew it would happen are using the word ‘knew’ in the same sense as football supporters knowing their own side is going to win.

We all have a pretty good idea why the surge happened. In style Corbyn was everything May was not, and Labour’s policies were popular. What the media should be worried about was that both those things came as a surprise to the public. As I said here, a general election campaign is unusual because the public get to see much more of the party leaders and hear much more about their policies, and the broadcasters are duty bound to be impartial. But the character of May and Corbyn did not change overnight, and neither were the policies offered by either side very different from the stance they took before the election. So why were people so surprised?

Someone more cynical than I might suggest that the media’s job is to distort reality: to portray May as more competent than she was and to portray Corbyn as incompetent. What happened in the election campaign is that the electorate got a proper look at the two main leaders and their policies, and realised what the media had been saying was false.

That cynical view is completely appropriate to most of the right wing press, whose job is to distort reality as much as they can get away with. (Remember that damning article about May just before the election that was pulled by the Telegraph?) But why did the truth about May and Corbyn not make any impression on the public until the election? Did political commentators know no more than the public, and were just as surprised as the public about May and Corbyn’s character and their policies during the campaign? If that is the case, they were poor journalists. Or is it that they failed to communicate what they did know?

Robert E. Lee Monuments Are Symbols of Neo-Confederacy, Not the Confederacy

New York Magazine:

While observing the brouhaha over Robert E. Lee’s legacy that has arisen again after certain cities (most famously New Orleans and Charlottesville, Virginia) have chosen to take down monuments to the general who surrendered at Appomattox, I had the frequent thought that the debate suffered under the misapprehension that these monuments were memorials to the Confederacy. They weren’t. They were monuments to the neo-Confederacy that dominated the South and national race relations up until and in some respect beyond the civil-rights movement. In his second eloquent take on why the monuments need to come down, Adam Serwer makes the key point:

The Lee monument in New Orleans went up not in 1876 but in 1884, as racist paramilitaries like the White League helped the Democratic Party re-establish its political dominance over the city; these statues are commemorations of those victories, not politically neutral commemorations of fallen warriors. They were raised to, in the words of the historian David Blight, help “construct a story of noble sacrifice for a holy cause of home and independence, and especially in the service of a racial ideology that would sustain white supremacy.”

This is true not just of monuments to Lee and other Confederate leaders, but of that other recent source of controversy, the maintenance of Confederate emblems (typically the Confederate battle flag) on southern state flags and at state capitals. For the most part, these emblems were adopted not immediately after the Civil War, but after the South had regained its “sovereignty” and proceeded to erect a Jim Crow society (in Mississippi, that was in 1894) — or even much later, in the 1950s, when Jim Crow was finally challenged in the courts and in civil protests (the Confederate battle flag appeared on the flag of my own home state of Georgia in 1956). As the preeminent political scientists who studied this issue concluded:

The battle flag was never adopted by the Confederate Congress, never flew over any state capitols during the Confederacy, and was never officially used by Confederate veterans’ groups. The flag probably would have been relegated to Civil War museums if it had not been resurrected by the resurgent KKK and used by Southern Dixiecrats during the 1948 presidential election.

Neo-Confederacy is in some respects even more consciously racist than the Confederacy itself. But however you assess its motives, it has been very clearly focused not on the personalities and sacrifices of the Civil War, but on the racist South’s long and amazingly successful struggle to maintain white supremacy despite the abolition (formally, at least) of slavery and the enactment of the Civil War amendments to the Constitution that were long in conflict with southern realities. As Serwer notes, Lee was a convenient symbol of the supposed “reconciliation” between North and South that made Jim Crow possible.

Related, Lee’s Reputation Can’t Be Redeemed.

More on confederate symbols here.