יום רביעי, 28 בפברואר 2018

Trump Is Winning


Donald Trump is on track to win reelection to the presidency of the United States.

Yes, despite Russiagate, despite shitholegate and despite whatever gate he blunders through next. Despite approval ratings that would make Nixon weep. Despite his mind-numbing political misjudgments—defending accused pedophiles, for example—and the endless, unnecessary daily drama. Trump is winning. It is actually happening, people. And if there are those who want to stop it—and there are, of course, millions—they need to know what they are up against. It’s a lot more than they overconfidently think.

First, consider the fact that Trump is simply lucky. Maybe one of the luckiest men to ever run for president. He’s somehow managed to turn his reputation for audacity and shamelessness into a shield. How many controversies and scandals has he survived that would have destroyed any of his predecessors long ago or sent them hiding in their homes in shame? The other day his personal lawyer made the preposterous claim that he personally paid $130,000 to an ex-porn star threatening to expose her relationship with Trump—with money from his own pocket—apparently just because Trump is a notoriously swell guy. How many lawyers do you know who’d so generously shell out over one hundred grand for a friend simply out of the goodness of their heart?

Did anyone believe that ridiculous story? Who knows—because it’s off the front pages and we moved on to yet another shocking scandal like last weekend’s tweetstorm, when the president of the United States seemed to blame the Russia investigation for the death of schoolchildren in Florida. Remember the pardon of the controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a birther who was accused of using his office to target political opponents and conduct racial profiling and was found guilty of a felony for disobeying a court order? Remember the phone call with the war widow when Trump seemed to forget the dead soldier’s name? Nobody does. We are too exhausted. We don’t have time.

Second, consider Trump’s record as president. He actually has something to run on. He’s cut taxes. He’s rolled back regulations. He’s put ISIS on its heels. The economy and the stock market are humming along again, despite recent turmoil. Any other Republican incumbent running on that record of relative peace and prosperity—just as Eisenhower and Reagan did—would be in pretty good shape for reelection. Trump, as loathed as he is, might not cruise to reelection on an electoral landslide like those predecessors. But if jobs continue to be created and the economy continues to hum, whether he deserves the credit or not, enough voters might just hold their nose again and vote for him.

Third, his opposition can’t get their act together. Who speaks for the Democratic Party? Depends on what time it is. What does the Democratic Party stand for? Well, they hate Trump and Russia. Oh, and they oppose tax cuts, always a popular proposition, especially at a time when Trump’s supposedly satanic tax bill has now found favor with a majority of the nation.

A lot, of course, depends on who Trump will be running against come November 2020. With Trump appearing both despised and vulnerable, the Democratic field in 2020 is going to be perhaps the largest in the party’s history. But that’s actually a problem. One can easily envision an ugly two-, three- or four-way free-for-all between aging but popular politicians—Biden, Warren and Sanders—along with any number of younger but untested outsiders that could divide the party for the entire campaign. The Hillary and Bernie wings never quite reconciled in 2016—to Trump’s benefit. This time, the divide looks like it could be even worse.

Ah, but wait, you say. You forgot about the silver-haired knight waiting in his castle to come out and slay the orange dragon once and for all. What about the Robert Mueller investigation, the one that CNN has devoted its entire network to covering with such intensity that they may soon move the entire D.C. bureau to Mueller’s front lawn? Isn’t that going to send Trump and his evil cronies to the pokey?

Well, I guess it’s possible. But not likely.

It’s true that Mueller seems to run a tight ship with a penchant for surprises, such as the recent indictment of 13 Russians for conspiring to tamper with the 2016 elections. Maybe Mueller will take the unprecedented step of indicting a sitting American president, for everything from perjury to obstruction of justice to secretly running an Airbnb with Vladimir Putin. But, in fact, that seems like a bolder move than one can expect from a by-the-book former prosecutor who needs to maintain his credibility. Most likely, Mueller and his team will compile a persuasive but not conclusive case that the president committed one or more crimes, leaving it for the good men and women of the United States Congress to decide what to do about it. And when has Congress last been counted on to do the right thing?

Then there’s the truly desperate notion lingering out there among the left: Surely there must be someone in the GOP who will come to his or her senses and lead a stand against the president. Yes, maybe it will be Mitt Romney, who hates Trump so much he tried to be his secretary of state. Or maybe it’s Bob Corker, who quite incredibly seems to have gone from saying Trump was unstable and roaming around an adult day care center to becoming a telephone buddy trying to regain Trump’s favor.

Face it: The Republicans, most of them, are by now so accustomed to inertia and groupthink and political impotence that they seem willing to lose control of the House just to avoid getting a mean tweet from the president. Think the GOP will abandon Trump easily? They’ve all but given up.

Yep. Trump is a helluva lucky guy. And that just might give us six more years.

How Republicans Can Win the Midterms

It won’t be easy, but with some lucky breaks and a lot of Democratic squabbling, the GOP could hold the House.


There are so many signs of a coming rout in the House in November that’s it’s almost impossible to envision any way for Republicans to hang on to their 24-seat majority. And yet a faint outline of how the party might pull it off is nevertheless taking shape.

It’s not readily obvious. There are a record number of GOP retirements—42, so far—including many in the kinds of suburban districts that will be hardest for the party to hold. Democratic energy and enthusiasm are stratospheric, whether measured in polling, small-donor fundraising, turnout in special elections or sheer number of candidates running for office.

Republicans must also contend with historical precedent. Looking back over the past quarter-century, four of the past six midterms produced wave elections against the party in control of the White House. And the two that were kind to the party in power came in the wake of extraordinary circumstances: the Clinton impeachment and 9/11.

Change the aperture to the past half-century, and there’s still more ominous news. In nearly every midterm election in which a president’s approval rating was below 50 percent—the zone where Donald Trump lives—a shellacking followed. (The lone exception was 2014 in President Barack Obama’s second term, when Democrats lost only 13 seats.)

It’s not clear House Republican incumbents recognize how bad it is. Members typically have finely tuned political antennae, but more than 40 of them were outraised in the final quarter of 2017 by their Democratic opponents. They’re either oblivious to the forces swirling around them or have flat-out given up.

But here’s the surprising thing. As dire as the situation seems for Republicans, the elements of a skin-of-their-teeth escape are coming into focus.

Beginning in late December, both the generic congressional ballot and Trump’s approval ratings began ticking upward. These numbers, apparent across almost all polls, were enough to curtail growing talk of a Democratic wave election on the horizon. Even Priorities USA, the biggest Democratic super PAC, took notice.

“In the last few weeks, Democrats turned their attention to other issues while Trump has continued to promote his economic policies, and Trump’s numbers have incrementally improved as a result,” the super PAC announced in a memo. “While still on track for a successful November, the extent of Democratic gains will be blunted if Democrats do not reengage more aggressively in speaking to the economic and health care priorities of voters.”

The snapback in the polls may be short-lived. Over the past two weeks, the generic ballot numbers have moved slightly in a Democratic direction. The Republican uptick in the polls could represent a sign that the president and his party are beginning to get credit for the economy and tax cuts, or it could be simply a dead cat bounce. Either way, if the party can keep the generic ballot deficit under about 9 percentage points and the president’s approval ratings can remain in the mid-40s, the GOP is in the range of where it needs to be to have a fighting chance of holding its House majority.

The cavalry will be arriving in force for the members who can hold out. It’s not just the National Republican Congressional Committee that’s cash-flush and ready to rescue hopelessly outgunned candidates. There’s the Congressional Leadership Fund and its sister group, the American Action Network, which together raised $66 million in 2017. That money will be spent on bolstering candidates and promoting the tax cuts to voters. The Koch network has promised to spend $300 million to $400 million during the 2018 election cycle on conservative political and policy campaigns.

The reliable a-noun-a-verb-and-Nancy-Pelosi strategy will still work. But then comes the hard part. To a large degree, the fate of House Republicans will be decided in the places where the party’s brand is weakest: in suburban districts Hillary Clinton carried in 2016, or where Trump ran well behind past Republican nominees, or where the new tax bill could hurt more than it helps.

Democrats, in fact, would be in reach of a majority just by running the table in California and a few Northeastern states. There are at least six—and as many as 10—realistic pickup opportunities in California alone. And there are another 10 to 12 seats that are gettable under the right conditions in New York, New Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania.

Republicans will have to embrace, fund and protect their blue-state colleagues, not to mention allowing them to get distance from the president and his policies. None of that will come naturally to the red-state dominated Republican Conference. It won’t be easy for the party to acknowledge its fate in the House might be tied to the Vichy Republicans of the Acela corridor.

The other essential ingredient of the Republican survival plan is largely out of the party’s hands: Democratic self-immolation. Naturally, it’s already underway.

Trump has re-engineered the laws of candidate supply and demand, leading to Democratic primaries that are teeming with viable prospects. Yet that’s also raising the odds of bruising, cash-draining contests before the general election, which could force some candidates to adopt positions that will haunt them in a general election.

In one of those primaries, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has thrown an incumbent, Chicago-based Rep. Dan Lipinski, under the bus, by declining to provide its endorsement to him against a top challenger, Marie Newman. Across the border in Wisconsin, the long-shot bid to knock off House Speaker Paul Ryan has been sidetracked by a primary between progressive favorite Randy “Ironstache” Bryce and another progressive, Cathy Myers, who raised $183,000 in the latest fundraising quarter.

Various Democratic and liberal groups are already taking steps to cull the primary herds. That work, in turn, is leading to the kind of intraparty bitterness and acrimony that proved costly to Clinton after her 2016 primary with Bernie Sanders. In Texas, for example, the DCCC dropped an oppo research bomb last week on a leading progressive candidate it judged to be a sure loser in November. She won’t forget that, and neither will her supporters.

In California, the primary problem is acute. Democrats are approaching flop-sweat status over a nightmare scenario: The state’s unusual top-two primary system could mean that no Democratic candidate at all appears on November ballots in several key races. Under the system, the top two vote-getters move on to the general election, regardless of party affiliation. With big fields of Democratic candidates threatening to splinter their party’s share of the vote—there are eight Democrats, for example, running in the seat left open by the retirement of Rep. Ed Royce, an Orange County Republican—it’s a very real prospect that two Republicans will face off for a seat or two in November.

“We have a population problem,” Eric Bauman, the California Democratic Party chairman, warned delegates at the state convention on Saturday. “We may be aced out of seats that are primed, set and ready for us ... where the voters in those districts are ready to elect a Democrat.”

The first election of the campaign season doesn’t take place until next week in Texas, so it’s too early to know whether the Democrats’ demolition-derby primaries are a problem or merely a consequence of the party’s health. But for now, they offer hope for the Republicans in a year when there isn’t much of it.

What Facebook, Google and Twitter Owe America

Our freedoms made these companies rich. It’s time they lived up to their responsibilities and cracked down on foreign interference in our democracy.


America has been good to Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The 33-year old entrepreneur’s net worth is $74.2 billion as of February 26, 2018, according to Forbes. Our country has also been very kind to Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Their net worth is $52.4 billion and $50.8 billion, respectively, Forbes tells us. And Jack Dorsey, the founder and CEO of Twitter, has thrived under our system, with a net worth of $3.5 billion.

These individuals, with a total net worth of more than $180 billion, have prospered in our democracy and under our constitutional form of government. But they have not returned the favor to their fellow Americans—at least, not when it comes to dealing with perhaps the greatest foreign, nonmilitary threat our democracy has ever seen. On the contrary, they and their companies have so far largely failed in their responsibilities to respond effectively to the 2016 Russian electoral attack exploiting their platforms—and to defend against the coming 2018 and 2020 attacks. This must change.

Following the 2016 election, the heads of America’s top intelligence agencies concluded “with high confidence” that Russia had interfered with the 2016 presidential election. They found that one of Russia’s goals was “to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process”—the very democratic process under which these individuals were able to attain extraordinary wealth.

Earlier this month, our current intelligence chiefs testified before the Senate that Russia is planning to continue its efforts by intervening in the 2018 midterm congressional elections. Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats testified that there should be no doubt that Russia views its efforts to meddle in the 2016 presidential campaign as successful. Facebook, Google and Twitter were unwitting facilitators of these Russian efforts to sabotage our elections in 2016. They will have no such excuses in 2018 and 2020.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s 37-page indictment of Russian individuals and entities for using social media to meddle in our democracy refers to Facebook more than any other technology company. Facebook itself concedes that Russian propaganda dealing with the 2016 election reached some 150 million Americans. According to one independent study, Russian messages could have been seen on Facebook “hundreds of millions—perhaps many billions—of times.” As for Google, the company found that tens of thousands of dollars were spent by Russian operatives on ads across its platforms. Another Google examination identified more than 1,000 videos linked to Google platforms. And according to Twitter, more than 50,000 Russian linked accounts used that service to intervene in the 2016 election.

Even after these various disclosures, we do not know just how extensively Russian operatives used these platforms to sabotage our elections. We do know, however, that they were crucial to Russia’s disruptive cyberattacks. Facebook, Google and Twitter were used to spread false, wildly misleading and vicious messages from Russian operatives. And Americans did not know until after the 2016 election that Russians were responsible for these distorting, campaign-related communications. The tech companies are now fully on notice about the essential role their platforms played in the Russian intervention.

For Zuckerberg, Page, Brin and Dorsey, this should be a code-red warning about the need for their companies to take immediate, effective corrective measures and to treat this matter as their highest priority. These four founders should recognize their responsibilities to a country that enabled them to become among the richest people in the world. They need to ensure that a foreign power can never again use their software to manipulate our democracy.

Unfortunately, there is little evidence that they have fully recognized this responsibility or understood the duty they have to the American people. Instead, these Silicon Valley giants have appeared to be reluctant warriors in the battle to defend democracy. Rob Goldman, vice president of Facebook ads, perhaps revealed the real state of mind of the companies in his recent tweetstorm. He took on Mueller’s indictment of the 13 Russians, tweeting that “swaying the election was *NOT* the main goal” of the Kremlin’s disruption efforts, even though the intelligence community and the special counsel have explicitly said that it was.

Why haven’t the companies already taken effective action? They appear to be balancing their efforts to stop Russian misuse of their platforms with their perceived need to protect their business plan and their profit margins. According to Jordan Lieberman, president of the ad firm Audience Partners, for example, Facebook could go further in its efforts to prevent Russian intervention, but “it’s going to interrupt revenue flows and it’s absolutely going to cost them money.” Facebook’s algorithms might even reward provocative content since it is more likely to be shared and seen by additional users than content that is less divisive, according to a recent article in Wired.

This is unacceptable. The companies and their founders should aggressively lobby for the Honest Ads Act, which would improve transparency of social media and internet election advertisements in a way that is consistent with our First Amendment freedom of speech. (Zuckerberg has said Facebook supports the Honest Ads Act, but we have seen no evidence of the kind of vigorous lobbying that characterizes Facebook’s or the other companies’ usual pursuit of their interests on Capitol Hill.) They should similarly support efforts to improve the effectiveness of the existing federal ban on foreign interests’ spending money to influence our elections by prohibiting foreign interests from financing any broadcast or Internet ads that promote, attack, support or oppose a candidate. These common-sense reforms will be good for our democracy, but they will also be good for the companies. In the long run, their businesses depend on a large number of individuals spending time on their sites; users may flee if they know that they can expect to interact with bots and fraudulent accounts. Advertisers too will worry that the ads they purchase will appear in front of fake accounts—not the potential clients they seek.

Outside experts have advanced additional ideas worth considering. Some have advocated making the inputs and outputs of the algorithms used to shape social media content much more transparent (through what’s called an “open API”) to help expose propaganda. Others recommend greater communication between tech developers and national security professionals, social media companies and independent researchers to identify potential vulnerabilities in new and emerging technologies.

Whatever help they end up accepting, the big three tech companies must take the lead in presenting the American people with a robust menu of effective solutions. They have the best technology, skills, information and algorithms to address the problems and prevent Russia from again misusing their platforms to conduct cyber invasions in 2018 and 2020.

Zuckerberg, Page, Brin and Dorsey became unimaginably wealthy thanks to America’s open system of government and free enterprise. Now, with that system under attack from foreign adversaries, it’s payback time.

The Facebook's business model and the electoral process

Rubén Weinsteiner

Facebook's business model is such a problem for the electoral process because what they have done is essentially incentivize the more polarizing and extreme communications. You don’t know if someone is calling in a neighbor to watch an ad on TV, but Facebook knows if you’re sharing it.

It makes sense if you're selling, you know, swimsuits. If you're Facebook, you should absolutely want to serve up better swimsuit ads. But when it comes to politics, it makes less sense because if you have a super fired-up community that's going to love your content even if it's nutty or racist or untrue, then the platform shouldn't give that stuff an advantage.

Despite this grumbling, the idea that Washington might write new regulations to rein in the tech industry has so far amounted to a lot of heated words. Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Mark Warner of Virginia have, alongside Arizona Republican John McCain, pushed a bill that would force the social media platforms to disclose who’s paying for political ads, one response to the past year's revelations about Russian interference. But that measure has failed to gain momentum.

Elsewhere in Congress, there’s been high-level idea-floating about the need for government to act as a check on the tech industry — Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and former Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) have been among those engaging in that discussion. But there’s been little appetite for turning that rhetoric into concrete legislative proposals.

Rubén Weinsteiner

יום שלישי, 27 בפברואר 2018

Why Democrats need to keep worrying about Trump and Facebook

Rubén Weinsteiner

The president's mastery in generating outrage on social media may have helped him stretch his campaign ad dollars in 2016. And Hillary Clinton isn't happy about it.

Hillary Clinton (pictured) and her supporters reacted with outrage after Wired magazine reported last weekend that Facebook’s ad-pricing model allowed Donald Trump to pay much lower rates than Clinton did.

Hillary Clinton’s latest complaint about Facebook’s role in the 2016 election sends one big message: The way social media is transforming American political campaigns offers a huge advantage to candidates like President Donald Trump.

Clinton and her supporters reacted with outrage after Wired magazine reported last weekend that Facebook’s ad-pricing model, which favors “provocative content” likely to draw readers, allowed Trump to pay much lower rates than Clinton did. Brad Parscale, Trump’s 2016 campaign data guru, later claimed on Twitter that the disparity in the price for each ad “impression” might have been 100- to 200-fold, crowing: “This is why @realDonaldTrump was a perfect candidate for FaceBook.”

Underscoring the importance of digital campaigns in modern politics, Parscale was back in the headlines Tuesday as the newly named campaign manager for Trump’s 2020 reelection effort.

A Facebook vice president tried to tamp down the story Tuesday, maintaining that Trump usually paid higher ad rates on the company's platform than Clinton did. But several digital marketing specialists of both parties were unanimous in telling that Facebook’s ad pricing system is tailor-made to benefit candidates like Trump, whose mastery in generating controversy through the media allowed him to generate a steady stream of traffic to his online utterances.

To Democrats' dismay, they say voters clearly responded.

“Right now, the system is incentivized for red meat,” said Tim Lim, a Democratic advertising strategist. “But that says less about Facebook than it does about the American public.”

The disagreement about whose rates were higher will probably only further complaints, especially among Democrats, that the inner workings of Facebook and other Silicon Valley giants are far too opaque given their vast and growing influence on society. Former Clinton aide Philippe Reines hinted that the allegedly favorable treatment for Trump could help fuel a push for regulations of online ads — a topic that Democratic lawmakers have only begun to broach.

“Zuckerberg is either untroubled his 2 billion user beast is abused like tax cheats outsmart the IRS; or @facebook’s grown too immense, too complex, it’s a runaway train,” Reines fumed on Twitter after Wired’s article ran. “Either way the public good is at risk. That’s when companies are regulated.”

Clinton herself weighed in Monday night: “We should all care about how social media platforms play a part in our democratic process. Because unless it’s addressed it will happen again. The midterms are in 8 months.”

Even in traditional media, it’s hardly a new phenomenon for some candidates to win big advantages in ad buys versus their competitors: In 2012, for example, President Barack Obama’s campaign was able to stretch its dollars by buying television ads directly at the discounted rates that federal law guarantees for presidential candidates — while Republican challenger Mitt Romney relied heavily on advertising by outside political groups that had to pay the full price.

Romney’s campaign was entitled to the same discount as Obama’s for its direct ad purchases, but Obama’s campaign — which had the luxury of not facing a divisive primary — also made sure to lock in those savings by buying the spots months in advance.

Still, Clinton supporters leaped on the reported disparity at Facebook as the latest evidence that social media had undermined democracy in 2016, akin to the sale of politically charged ads to Russian “troll farms” and the unvetted fake news that flourished on the company's trending news feed in the months before the election.

On the other hand, a senior Clinton campaign official told on Tuesday that her team was well aware at the time of how Facebook’s pricing model works. But they underestimated how appealing Trump’s bombast would prove with a wide swath of voters.

"The only element of this that is a surprise is just how popular that content was," said the Clinton official, speaking only on background to avoiding being seen talking for the candidate. “We had a slightly more optimistic theory of who the voters are. We knew there was a narrow set of people who were loving the ‘nutty’ Trump stuff. We thought it was narrower than it was."

Rubén Weinsteiner

יום ראשון, 25 בפברואר 2018

A closer look at who identifies as Democrat and Republican

American political parties have long been vehicles to represent ever-shifting coalitions of particular interests — economic, regional, social and ideological. For example, Great Plains farmers who often voted Democratic a century ago now solidly favor Republicans; African Americans who were loyal GOP voters for decades after the Civil War began shifting during the New Deal and now are overwhelmingly Democratic. Political observers can still spend hours of pre-election time ruminating over whether the “big-city ethnic vote” or the “farm vote” will prevail.

But the parties also are coalitions of distinct groups of voters, whose shared attitudes and values unite them — and shape the parties they incline toward — at least as much as more impersonal economic and societal forces. The Pew Research Center’s mammoth new political typology report offers a different way to think of the two major parties’ component pieces. (For the purposes of this post, we limited our analysis to registered voters and combined self-identified Republicans or Democrats with independents who lean toward one or the other party.)

Who are the political typology groups?

For both parties, two similar but distinct groups form their electoral cores, with a younger, more ideologically mixed group providing crucial — but not always consistent — support. First, let’s look at the left.

Nearly a third (32%) of Democrats are what we call Solid Liberals, while about a fifth (21%) are part of what we call the Faith and Family Left — a somewhat more socially conservative group than Solid Liberals. Add in the younger, more economically moderate Next Generation Left (18%) and you have seven out of 10 Americans who identify with or incline toward the Democrats.

On the right, three-in-ten Republicans are what we term Steadfast Conservatives and nearly a quarter (24%) are Business Conservatives — just as opposed to government taxes and regulation, but more moderate on social issues and friendlier toward business interests. Another 17% are Young Outsiders — fiscally conservative but socially quite liberal. Interestingly, those three groups comprise 71% of Republican registered voters — the same share accounted for by the three biggest Democratic components.

Democrats and their leaners make up almost half (48%) of registered voters, while Republicans and their leaners account for about 43%. The remaining 9-10% are people who expressed no preference for and did not lean toward either major party. As you might expect, they’re the most varied segment of the electorate, with none of our typological groups predominating.

Looked at this way, it’s clear that neither party can depend solely on its largest, most ardent (and often loudest) supporters to win elections. For example, Steadfast and Business Conservatives together make up 54% of all Republicans and Republican leaners, but only 27% of registered voters; similarly, 53% of Democrats and Democratic leaners, but only a third of registered voters, are Solid Liberals or Faith and Family Left.

Not only that, but there are key differences even between the core groups in each party. Business Conservatives, for instance, are significantly more supportive of a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and more supportive of homosexuality than their Steadfast allies; they also are more favorable toward free trade agreements, an active U.S. role in world affairs and, as their name implies, business interests generally. (The current battle over reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank reflects, in part, that divide.)

Meanwhile, the Faith and Family Left is much less supportive of same-sex marriage than are Solid Liberals, and are more favorably inclined toward U.S. efforts to solve global problems.

Rubén Weinsteiner

Rubén Weinsteiner

5 facts about blacks in the U.S.

By Kristen Bialik

Angel C. Dye (left) celebrates her graduation from Howard University in Washington, D.C., with her friend Renee Walter.

More than 40 million blacks live in the United States, making up around 13% of the nation’s population, according to 2016 Census Bureau estimates. Here are five facts about the U.S. black population today, drawn from Pew Research Center studies in the past year.

1A growing share of blacks are completing high school and college. For the first time in U.S. history, 90% of Americans ages 25 and older have completed high school, according to the U.S. Census Bureau – and the share of blacks who have done so is also at the highest level on record. In 2017, 87% of blacks ages 25 and older had a high school diploma or equivalent. Although the high school completion rate for non-Hispanic whites was higher (94%) than for blacks, the gap has been gradually shrinking. In 1993, the high school completion gap was twice as large (14 percentage points) as it is today (7 points). The share of blacks ages 25 and older who have completed four years of college or more has also roughly doubled during that span, from 12% in 1993 to 24% in 2017.

2The black immigrant population has increased fivefold since 1980. Immigrants are making up a growing number of the overall U.S. population – but the black immigrant population is growing twice as fast. There were 4.2 million black immigrants living in the U.S. in 2016, up from 816,000 in 1980, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of census data. Since 2000 alone, the number of black immigrants in the U.S. has risen 71%.

Much of the recent growth in the black immigrant population has been fueled by African migration. Africans made up 39% of the overall black immigrant population in 2016, up from 24% in 2000. Still, about half of all foreign-born blacks (49%) living in the U.S. in 2016 were from the Caribbean.

3Black households have only 10 cents in wealth for every dollar held by white households. In 2016, the median wealth of non-Hispanic white households was $171,000. That’s 10 times the wealth of black households ($17,100) – a larger gap than in 2007. The Great Recession of 2007-2009 triggered a stark decline in wealth for U.S. families and further widened the already large wealth gap between white and black households. Yet the black-to-white wealth gap has evolved differently for families at different income levels, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Federal Reserve data. The wealth gap increased between middle-income black and white families, but shrank between lower-income black and white families from 2007 to 2016. Much of the reduction in the wealth gap among lower-income families was driven by a sharp decrease in wealth for whites.

4There has been a steady increase in the share of Americans who view racism as a big problem in the U.S. – especially among African Americans. Since 2009, the first year of Barack Obama’s presidency, the share of those who consider racism a big problem has grown among all racial groups. This is especially true for black Americans. In 2017, about eight-in-ten blacks (81%) said racism is a big problem in society today, up from 44% eight years prior. By comparison, about half of whites (52%) said racism is a big problem in our society, up from 22% in 2009. There were also partisan divides on this question, which have grown from 2015.

5An overwhelming majority of blacks (92%) say whites benefit at least a fair amount from advantages that blacks do not have. This includes nearly seven-in-ten blacks (68%) who say whites benefit a great deal. By comparison, 46% of whites say whites benefit at least a fair amount from advantages in society that blacks don’t have, with just 16% saying whites benefit a great deal. As with views on racism in the U.S., there are wide partisan divides on this question. In addition, those who do not think white people benefit from societal advantages are more likely to say they approve of President Donald Trump’s job performance, while those who think whites greatly benefit from these advantages are nearly unanimous in their disapproval of Trump.

יום שישי, 23 בפברואר 2018

Patriotic, honest and selfish: How Americans describe … American

The American public has shown itself to be quite critical in its views of politicians and the federal government, expressing low levels of trust in both. Yet a recent Pew Research Center survey of attitudes about government also finds that Americans pull no punches when assessing the strengths and weaknesses of their fellow citizens.

The public gives the “typical American” a mixed assessment when asked about specific traits. Most (79%) agree that the term “patriotic” describes the typical American very or fairly well, and majorities also view the typical American as “honest” (69%) and “intelligent” (67%).

However, just over two-thirds (68%) say the term “selfish” also applies to the typical American very or fairly well, and half of the public says that the typical American can be aptly described as “lazy.”

In general, younger people tend have more negative views of the typical American than do older adults. Millennials, who are highly critical of members of their own generation, are especially likely to see the typical American as lazy: 63% say that term applies at least fairly well, compared with no more than about half in older age cohorts.

It’s worth noting, however, that in a separate Pew Research Center survey released today, few Americans call themselves “lazy.”

When it comes to politics, the public also is self-critical: Just 34% say they have “very great” or a “good” deal of trust and confidence in the political wisdom of the American people. Fully 63% have “not very much” confidence or “no confidence at all.”

These views have changed dramatically since 2007, when a majority (57%) had at least a good deal of trust and confidence in the American people’s political wisdom. The decline has come among both Democrats and Republicans: Just 37% of Democrats and Democratic leaners have at least a good deal of confidence in the public’s political wisdom, as do 36% of Republicans and Republican leaners, down from 57% and 61%, respectively, eight years ago.

However, even as the public readily acknowledges the shortcomings of Americans, a majority nonetheless see themselves as better able than politicians to solve the nation’s problems.

Most Americans (56%) acknowledge that the big issues facing the country lack clear solutions. Yet a comparable majority (55%) says that “ordinary Americans” could do a better job than elected officials of solving the country’s problems. Only about four-in-ten (39%) say elected officials could do no better than the politicians.

The belief that ordinary people are superior problem-solvers is particularly widespread among the minority of Americans (22%) who say they are angry with the federal government. Among those angry at government, 73% say ordinary Americans could do better than politicians. That compares with 53% of those who are frustrated, but not angry, with government and 40% of those who are basically content with the federal government.

Midterm campaign Trump debuts at CPAC

The president abandoned his talking points in his speech to conservative activists in favor of reviving greatest-hits lines from his campaign.

President Donald Trump abandoned a scripted speech to conservatives on Friday to launch into a greatest hits roster of lines from his 2016 campaign, marking a return to candidate mode as he begins campaigning for Republicans in the midterm elections.

The speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference was supposed to highlight tax cuts and sanctions targeting North Korea, but veered instead to familiar tropes, including his victory over “crooked” Hillary Clinton and a spirited reading of “The Snake,” an allegorical song that candidate Trump used frequently to illustrate dangers posed by undocumented immigrants.

It was a departure from the slightly more controlled, presidential Trump — who was back in evidence at the White House later in the day speaking alongside Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull — and a sign that the president plans to lean heavily on what’s worked for him in the past as he tries to boost Republicans in the November elections.

“It’s now his party. It’s now his conservative movement and there are no challengers. This was like a victory speech,” said Ed Rollins, lead strategist for the pro-Trump Great America super PAC. “It was the kickoff to the 2018 campaign — and the 2020.”

Calling his first 365 days “the most successful first year in the history of the presidency”, Trump went off script to rattle through a list of superlative achievements — the “biggest” tax cuts, “heaviest” sanctions and record firearms prosecutions.

“I think now we’ve proved that I’m a conservative, right?” Trump told the crowd, as he ran over his allotted time. “We have put more great conservative ideas into use than perhaps ever before in American history.”

Trump warned that complacency in November’s elections could lead to Democratic gains in Congress and, in turn, gun control and higher taxes.

His revival of familiar themes — including not just “crooked” Hillary but also the “very, very crooked” media — prompted chants of “USA” and “Lock her up!” from the crowd at the National Harbor convention center just south of Washington.

Republicans, who control the House and Senate, have advanced their agenda sometimes in spite of the president. Going into this year’s midterms, it’s far from certain that Trump, or the party, can translate those accomplishments into congressional gains.

Democrats are defending 25 Senate seats, including 10 in states that supported Trump over Clinton in 2016, compared with Republicans’ eight. Still, Democrats hope to capitalize on Trump’s low approval ratings, scandals and an investigation into Russian campaign meddling to pare or eliminate Republican majorities in the House and Senate.

As Trump basked in CPAC’s friendly glow, a former campaign aide, Rick Gates, was pleading guilty to charges brought by special counsel Robert Mueller in a deal that requires Gates to cooperate with Mueller's prosecution of Paul Manafort, Gates' former business partner and Trump’s onetime chairman.

“He made it very clear he’s going to campaign very aggressively in 2018,” Rollins said. “Whether that’s good or bad we’ll find out.”

Trump urged the audience — about 1,000 people — not to get complacent.

“We have a problem: We need more Republicans,” Trump said. “We have to worry — right now, we have a big race coming up in '18. You have to get out. You have to just get that enthusiasm. Keep it going.”

Rubén Weinsteiner

Rubén Weinsteiner

Why 2018 Is Do-or-Die for Democrats

It’s a chance to reverse the party’s lost decade—or slide further into irrelevance.

Back during the Clinton presidency, I used to spend a fair amount of time as a White House reporter plopped in the office of Doug Sosnik. A veteran of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Sosnik joined Clinton’s team as White House political director and later morphed into a more free-floating and influential job as a Clinton “counselor.”

Truth be told, Sosnik was of modest utility as a news source: He knew but didn’t much share the details of West Wing intrigue that reporters feast on. What Sosnik did like talking about was national politics. He combined on-the-ground knowledge—the so-called horse race—with a command of the broader demographic and cultural trends that were shaping individual races.

In the years since, Sosnik’s PowerPoint presentations have become cult favorites among a certain circle of Washington political junkies. One he wrote in 2013, “Which side of the barricade are you on?” and accurately forecast the ways that populist furor against political elites would overtake both parties in the years ahead.

In his latest analysis—which coincides with the National Governors Association’s arrival Friday for its annual Washington meeting—Sosnik argues that the long-term future of American politics hinges on a roster of gubernatorial and legislative races in key states. A combination of Donald Trump’s unpopularity and significant demographic shifts in once-solid Republican suburbs has given Democrats an opportunity—more perishable than many observers realize—to reverse a “lost decade” after their disastrous performance in 2010 elections. Republicans currently control both the governor’s mansion and state legislature in 26 states, while Democrats do the same in only 8 states. The GOP used that power to draw congressional districts to its advantage after the 2010 census, and Democrats should have an overwhelming focus on reversing this dynamic after the 2020 census.


Charlie Mahtesian: Doug, so I’ve read this new memo, “Politics in the Age of Trump,” and it’s really fascinating. I wonder if you could walk us through some of the factors that lead you to conclude this could be the fourth midterm wave election in a row.

Doug Sosnik: [In] the last three midterm elections, there was a repudiation of how the public had voted in the previous presidential elections. And the question is, is it going to be a good year for Democrats, is it going to be a great year for Democrats, or can this be another tsunami kind of election? And I think the signals right now are mixed.

At the federal level, the structure of the cycle is bad for Democrats. There are 26 Senate Democrats’ seats up this year, and only eight Republican seats — and most of the Republican seats are safe. Donald Trump carried 10 of the 26 Democratic seats that are on the ballot. And so, it’s a bad map in the Senate.

And in the House, through reapportionment and redistricting, there just aren’t the number of swing seats that there were in the past, and it’s more difficult to run the table when there are fewer competitive races.

At the state level, it’s a completely different matter. It’s a huge opportunity for Democrats to regain the losses of 2010.

In 2010, Democrats lost six Senate seats, 63 House seats, six governors, and 729 state legislative seats. And the biggest problem for Democrats was that was the election cycle before reapportionment and redistricting. This has been a lost decade for Democrats.

Nancy Cook: I’m curious about the Trump effect on these midterms. Can you talk a little bit about how the first year of the presidency is going to impact Senate races?

Sosnik: We are now at a point where 85 out of 100 U.S. senators are of the same party of the presidential candidate who carried their state in 2016. But the trends that we’ve seen since the turn of the century in midterm elections is that the presidency has not been transferrable when [presidential candidates] are not on the ballot.

There’s been no evidence of transferability for a president down the ticket when he’s not on the ballot, but it has been proven to be a negative—which was the case not only in 2006 with Bush but also 2010 with Obama and 2014 with Obama.

John Harris: If you’re one of those Democrats in kind of an uphill state or district that trends Republican, how much do you talk about Trump? I’ve heard different version of this. One says, “Talk about Trump a lot. Democrats and independent voters can’t stand him, and this is how you energize that vote and get a high turnout.” I’ve heard another argument that says, “Look. Everybody knows what they think about Trump. Let cable TV talk about Trump. You talk about yourself and something else.”

Sosnik: There are people that love Trump; there are people that hate Trump; and then there’s civilians who are conflicted. So for the love-Trump or hate-Trump, it doesn’t matter; they’re done. But for the people in the middle who are conflicted a little, I think the only way you can talk about Trump is by when you make the counterargument against Trump, it has to be in the context of what he’s doing and how it affects people in their lives and nothing else.

The real question, I think, in 2018 is going to be, “Who votes?” There is no question, based on the 2017 elections and the three or four specials in 2018, that Democrats are highly motivated to turn out to vote against Trump—particularly amongst African Americans, young people and suburban women.

Mahtesian: I’m sort of fascinated by this, the idea of the cohort in the middle that the civilians that occupy this demilitarized zone where they’re not obsessed as the right or the left is with Trump. Roughly speaking, how big is that cohort?

Sosnik: Well, what happened with Obama, which is even more true with Trump, is Obama almost without exception throughout his eight years of presidency never went below 40% in the polls and never went above 55%. So he had a very narrow band. Trump has an even narrower band. When he’s mostly, I would say, in the mid to high 30s, maybe up occasionally to the low 40s, and a pretty solid consistent 55%, most of it strong, by the way, opposed to Trump.

If you unpack the Trump voter, there’s probably 25 to 28, maybe 30 percent that’s just all in. But then there’s [about 12 percent of voters] where I would characterize them as saying basically they like a lot of his policies but they don’t like the tweets and they’re uncomfortable with him on a lot of other things. So when he does things that appeal to the policy side or changing the status quo, that’s where [his approval rating] moves up into the low 40s even. But when he’s being Trump unplugged, tweeting and saying things and embarrassing people, that’s when that number goes down.

Mahtesian: I think, to me, the suburbs are where the midterms will be won and lost. I think that the biggest problem facing the Republican Party in an electoral context is the rapid corrosion of the southern Republican suburbs. Meaning the old-line suburbs, they’re all gone. They’re all either totally blue or mostly blue by now, the suburbs of the Northeast and the Midwest. But what’s almost fatal to the Republican brand is the idea that the Atlanta suburbs are beginning to spiral out of the Republican orbit, the Texas suburbs, the Houston suburbs, outside Richmond, those places. What’s left, if they’re gone, of the Republican Party?

Sosnik: Suburban districts—which are largely in the Sun Belt if you go from Virginia south through Georgia and all the way out to Arizona—are big opportunities for Democrats. But you can’t take the House back with just a suburban strategy.

During the Obama years. if you told me the following about a person I can tell you how they’re probably going to vote: their age, their race and their gender. Now, with Trump’s election, there’s a fourth driver which is a strong predictor: their education.

The demographic composition of a district that skews older, less educated and has a larger percentage of white voters—that’s the kind of district that Republicans are likely to perform well in. Districts that have a large non-white population or have a higher education level are much more likely to be an opportunity for Democrats.

Harris: Doug, you're a Democrat, but you're also somebody who sort of looks at politics as a practitioner, independent of party. So there was a Republican version of Doug Sosnik, who is facing this kind of headwind moment; what would that advice be? How do Republicans mitigate the damage or avoid a blowout if these larger trends continue to hold?

Sosnik: It's pretty much the same advice I would give a Democrat. If I were running a Republican campaign this year, first I want to know what the demographics are of the area, because that gives me a clue as to how I lean, how much this way or that way. But it's not going to change the fact that I would do two things: Beneath the surface, out of the public view, I'm going to do everything possible to gin up my turnout—and that is, generally, a negative message and argument. They're going to use Nancy Pelosi and the liberal Democrats as their driver for turnout.

The more educated the district, the more I've got to on the public broadcast way, I've got to communicate a localized case of why to vote for me. So it's a false choice at a midterm: You have to do persuasion and you have to do turnout. If you're a Republican dealing with Trump or a Democrat in a red area, it's largely the same strategy, tactically done in a different way.

The governors are coming into town this weekend; the National Governors Association. What are the governors' races that you're looking at most closely and why are they interesting to you?
This is the lost decade for Democrats. It was a lost decade because of our losses at the governors' races in 2010, and in order for us to have a much better shot at drawing fairer lines for the House of Representatives, we have to win these governors' races.

So, for me as a Democrat, there are 13 states in particular that I'm focused on in the 2018 governors’ races. But especially, these five: Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida. If Democrats can win the governorships in these states and hold the one in Virginia, then we have a seat at the table at the redistricting coming up—we can't be politically gerrymandered in these big industrial Midwest states and Florida.

So those five states are critical for Democrats to not be shut out in the process in the next decade like we were in this current. There are eight other states that have the potential for Democrats to actually take control of all aspects of reapportionment so that we can draw lines that are more favorable to Democrats. This is the last huge, big opportunity for Democrats to be able to undo for the next decade the damage that was done in this decade.

Harris: Let's imagine it's November 2018, and Democrats really underperformed what you're expecting they do. And the question in Democratic circles is, "Oh, my gosh. We screwed up again. How did that happen?"

Sosnik: There's an old saying, "Life's not whether you win or lose. It's whether you beat the spread and the expectations." That’s one of the reasons I think it's important for everyone—particularly Democrats—to see the structural challenges at the federal level in terms of the Senate map and the fewer number of House seats.

While there would be a reckoning if we don't beat the spread, to some extent, I don't think it matters. Because the people who are active in the party—who have true beliefs and have a theory of what they need going forward—that's not going to change based on a series of midterm election outcomes.

Rubén Weinsteiner
Rubén Weinsteiner

Church and State: When Richard Nixon Used Billy Graham

For ‘America's Pastor,’ access to the highest rungs of American power came at a price—one he would later regret.


As countless obituaries remind us today, Billy Graham knew every president from Harry Truman to Barack Obama; he was a White House visitor for decades. The Southern Baptist preacher known as “America’s pastor” was by turns counselor, confessor and confidant to chief executives from both parties.

The first visit, to Truman in 1950, did not go well. When Graham and fellow evangelists revealed the details of their conversation, and staged a prayer session on the White House lawn, Truman labeled him a “counterfeit,” seeing him as more a publicity-seeking opportunist than a pastor. But Graham persisted, seeing the national stage as possibly his biggest chance to influence America’s spiritual life—and even the course of the nation’s history.

Across the decades, he gained unique access to the power centers of American life. Publishing magnates William Randolph Hearst and Henry Luce helped propel him to fame; financial and business leaders saw his message as a powerful antidote to the appeals of “socialistic” politics, while more liberal political figures saw the benefits of bonding with America’s favorite religious figure. More and more, Graham came to embody the tension between the spiritual necessity of speaking Biblical truth to power, and the compromises required by access to power itself.

In this regard, of all Graham’s White House visits, none was more intriguing—and revealing—than the one he made on September 8, 1968.

This was a visit with a message to President Lyndon B. Johnson from one of the two men battling to succeed him. And it reveals just how much Graham, the most prominent religious figure of his time, was pulled in by the temptations of temporal power. At the time, Richard Nixon was the Republican presidential nominee, with a good chance of taking the White House away from a Democratic Party deeply divided over the war in Vietnam. His relationship with Graham stretched back decades; Nixon’s militant Cold War anticommunism had been a perfect match with Graham’s “Christianity vs. Communism” message of the 1950s and ’60s.

And the message Graham brought was tailormade for a president plagued by doubts over the war, and about his place in history.

Nixon wants to you to know, Graham told LBJ, that he greatly admires all of your hard work; you are, he said, “the hardest working president in 140 years.” He told Johnson that if Nixon won and ended the Vietnam War, he would give Johnson "a major share of credit" for a settlement and would "do everything to make you ... a place in history.”

For his part, Johnson promised Nixon his full cooperation should he win the White House.

It was a message unlike anything out of our political past: the nominee of the opposition party sending a trusted envoy with words of admiration, and the promise of a kinder judgment from history.

It was a message destined to fall on receptive ears. LBJ’s unhappiness with Democratic nominee Hubert Humphrey—his own vice president—was an open secret in Washington. He was convinced that Nixon was closer to him on Vietnam than Humphrey; so much so that Defense Secretary Clark Clifford came to believe that LBJ actually wanted Nixon to win.

Why would Billy Graham, of all people, have been selected to deliver this most sensitive of political messages? In fact, there were good reasons.

There were strong ties between Johnson and Graham; a scheduled five-minute meeting shortly after JFK’s assassination stretched for five hours, and Johnson had often turned to Graham for spiritual strength. And Graham’s ties to Richard Nixon were stronger. In 1960, when he wrote John F. Kennedy to assure him—misleadingly—that he was not going to use JFK’s Roman Catholicism against him, he also wrote that he would likely vote for Nixon because of longstanding personal bonds. In using Graham as his emissary, Nixon knew that Johnson would receive him as a messenger he could trust. He’d know with absolute certainty that Graham was faithfully delivering Nixon’s assurances.

Only someone with a claim to stand outside of politics, someone with a cloak of spiritual respectability, could be trusted with so unusual a test. It is hard to imagine such a message being delivered by, say, an emissary of the Republican Party or Nixon's campaign.

But of course the message wasn’t outside of politics at all: It was deeply political, even opportunistic, and, as we know now, factually dubious. It was later revealed that Nixon’s campaign was actually working to undermine a peace initiative.

It is one example of just how much “America’s pastor” was a staunch political ally of one particular American, Richard Nixon. At the 1969 inaugural, Graham delivered a prayer that read, in part: “We recognize, O Lord, that in Thy sovereignty Thou has permitted Richard Nixon to lead us at this momentous hour of our history”—a sentiment that sounded to some as if he was asserting that Nixon was God’s choice. His support for the war in Vietnam was so enthusiastic that on April 15,1969, after meeting with missionaries from Vietnam, Graham sent a memo to the White House urging that, if the peace talks in Paris failed, Nixon should bomb the dikes that held back floodwaters in the North. This, said Graham, “could overnight destroy the economy of North Vietnam.” It would also have destroyed countless villages, sending as many as a million civilians to their deaths.

He became even more instrumental to Nixon, moving well beyond spiritual counselor. In 1972, he peppered the White House with memos on everything from campaign strategy to stagecraft.

His most infamous “bonding” with Nixon happened in 1972, when a White House conversation turned to the subject of Jewish domination of the media. Nixon was a notorious anti-Semite—a fact that became clearer after the Watergate tapes—and Graham played to the president’s prejudices with enthusiasm. He called that alleged media control “a stranglehold,” mused about “doing something about it” in a second Nixon term, and added, “A lot of Jews are great friends of mine,’’ Graham said. ''They swarm around me and are friendly to me because they know that I am friendly to Israel and so forth. But they don't know how I really feel about what they're doing to this country, and I have no power and no way to handle them.''

''You must not let them know,” Nixon replied.

These repellent remarks may well indicate a core of anti-Semitism; but they can also be read as Graham’s effort to curry favor with Nixon by feeding his darker impulses, much as Henry Kissinger did throughout Nixon’s White House tenure. That reading, in turn, tells us much about the willingness, even eagerness, of a spiritual guide to preserve his access to temporal power. Had Graham chastised Nixon for such views, or even declined to endorse them, it might have made him more of a spiritual shepherd, but lessened Graham’s access to the inner circles of power.

Late in life, Graham came to view his choices differently. In a 2011 interview with Christianity Today, he said, “I … would have steered clear of politics. I’m grateful for the opportunities God gave me to minister to people in high places; people in power have spiritual and personal needs like everyone else, and often they have no one to talk to. But looking back, I know I sometimes crossed the line, and I wouldn’t do that now.”

He also spoke in very different terms about international matters, strongly endorsing efforts toward disarmament, was open about the idea that Christianity might not be the only road to salvation, and distanced himself from the Moral Majority and other manifestations of the Religious Right.

But the road Billy Graham took during his prime raises a fascinating question: What if Graham, with his undeniable magnetism, had chosen a different path? What if his insistence on integrated religious gatherings—a provocative posture in the South of the 1950s— had been accompanied by a forthright campaign for integration in schools, and in a campaign for the vote? What if he had found the boardrooms and offices of the political elite less appealing than the injunction to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable?” We might have been remembering him as we do another Southern minister, who led a life 60 years shorter, but who moved mountains.

Millions of young people in U.S. and EU are neither working nor learning

Rubén Weinsteiner
Rubén Weinsteiner

Teens and young adults were among the groups hit hardest by the global financial crisis. And while many young people have since regained their footing – as employees, students or both – there are still millions in the U.S. and abroad who are neither working nor in school. Though sometimes referred to as “disconnected” or “detached” youth, globally those young people often are called “NEETs” – because they are neither employed nor in education or training.

Although NEET rates rose both in the U.S. and the EU during and after the crisis, they jumped higher but have fallen faster in the U.S. By contrast, many EU countries’ NEET rates remain well above pre-crisis levels. (While similar, the U.S. and EU measures aren’t directly comparable – in part because the EU begins tracking young people’s labor-force participation at 15 rather than 16, and also because apprenticeships and other workplace-based training is more common in Europe than in the U.S.)

Labor economists are paying increasing attention to NEETs – especially when, as in much of Europe, NEET rates are persistently high. They fear that without assistance, economically inactive young people won’t gain critical job skills and will never fully integrate into the wider economy or achieve their full earning potential. Some observers also worry that large numbers of NEETs represent a potential source of social unrest.

In 2015, there were nearly 10.2 million NEETS ages 16 to 29 in the U.S., or 16.9% of that age bracket’s total population, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That represents a modest decline over recent years: In 2013, there were just over 11 million NEETs in the U.S., representing 18.5% of the 16-to-29 population, according to our analysis.

Precisely corresponding data aren’t available for prior years, because the monthly Current Population Survey used by BLS only began collecting detailed school-enrollment data from Americans ages 25 and older in 2013.

However, longer-trend CPS data are available for 16- to 24-year-olds. Those numbers show that the NEET rate among that group generally follows the economic cycle. It fell between 1985 and 2000, from 19.5% to 14.3%, except for a bump during the early-1990s recession. The 16-to-24 NEET rate rose again following the early-2000s recession, fell back to 14.5% in 2007, then jumped during the Great Recession. The rate has ratcheted lower since peaking at 17.6% in 2010; last year it was 15.7%, a hair above what it was in 2008.

What does the nation’s NEET population look like? According to our analysis of the 2015 data on 16-to-29-year-olds, they’re more female than male (57% to 43%), and two-thirds have a high school education or less. Blacks and Hispanics are most likely to be NEETS: 22% of young black people ages 16-29 are neither employed nor in school, versus 16% of young whites. About 20% of young Hispanics are NEET.

A separate analysis by Measure of America (a project of the Social Science Research Council), while not directly comparable, adds additional context. That report, using 2013 data from the American Community Survey, found considerable variation in the estimated share of what it calls “disconnected youth” (ages 16 to 24 only) in nearly 100 of the most populous metropolitan areas. The metro areas with the highest rates were Memphis (21.6%); Bakersfield, California (21.2%); and Lakeland-Winter Haven, Florida (20.4%). The lowest rates were in Omaha-Council Bluffs, Nebraska-Iowa, and Fairfield County, Connecticut (both 7.7%), and in Boston (8.2%). In general, higher disconnection rates were more commonly found in the South and West than in the Northeast and Midwest.

Noting that “disconnected youth come overwhelmingly from communities that have long been isolated from the mainstream,” the researchers identified six factors associated with high rates of youth disconnection: high rates of disconnection a decade earlier, low levels of human development (as measured by an index combining health, education and income indicators), high rates of poverty and adult unemployment, low levels of adult educational attainment, and a high degree of racial segregation.

The European Union also saw a surge in its NEET population during and after the financial crisis. (The EU’s statistical agency, Eurostat, sets the lower age bound of NEETs at 15 instead of 16.) In 2014, the most recent year for which data are available, 15.4% of the 15-to-29 population – or roughly 13.4 million young people across the EU – were neither employed nor in school or other training, a rate that has changed little since 2010. As in the U.S., more NEETs were young women (55% of the total) than young men (45%).

The NEET rate varies considerably among the EU’s 28 member nations: Those with the highest rates were in struggling southern Europe, led by Greece and Italy; more than a quarter of 15- to 29-year-olds in those countries were NEETs (26.7% and 26.2%, respectively). Luxembourg (6.5%) and Denmark (7.3%) had the lowest NEET rates in the EU.

The NEET rate trends in the largest EU economies vary considerably, both with each other and with the pattern observed in the U.S. In Germany, for example, the NEET rate peaked in 2005 and has gradually declined ever since; in Italy, by contrast, its already high rate began rising higher in 2008 and, as of 2014, had yet to stop. The U.K.’s NEET rate fell sharply in the mid-2000s, jumped in 2007 and peaked in 2011, falling somewhat since. And France’s rate has been remarkably stable, varying only between 12.8% and 15.1% over the entire 2000-2014 period examined.

Rubén Weinsteiner
Rubén Weinsteiner