Jim Geraghty says that Hillary Clinton is a serial liar:

We know she lies when she’s cornered. Running from snipers in the Balkans, being “dead broke” upon leaving the White House, “all my grandparents” immigrated to America, her tale of trying to join the Marines, her claim she never received or sent any material that was classified on her private e-mail system, her claim to have started criticizing the Iraq War before Barack Obama did… she lies, and she lies, and she lies.

Seriously, Jim? I'll give you the Balkans thing. That was a lie. But the others aren't. The Clintons were in debt when they left the White House. Hillary's great-grandparents were immigrants—she was off by a generation. Nobody knows if she ever tried to join the Marines, but there's no evidence she didn't. She didn't knowingly send classified material on her private email system, and it's hardly fair to judge her by the fact that some of her emails were retroactively classified. And her statement about the Iraq War was strained (she was talking about criticism after Obama joined the Senate), but it's typical political exaggeration, not a lie.

Look: all politicians lie sometimes. That includes Hillary Clinton. But as the chart on the right shows, Hillary is one of the most honest politicians on the national stage. Here's a similar conclusion from the New York Times.

I know it's in their partisan self interest for conservatives to insist that Hillary is the world's biggest liar. But she isn't. Not by a long, long way. Republicans need to get the beam out of their own eye before they keep banging on about the mote in Hillary's.

I don't have any special news hook for this chart, but it's been in the back of my mind for a while. Roughly speaking, it's an answer to why white men are so angry about the economy even though they generally earn more than any other gender or ethnic group.

It's all about progress. Women may earn 79 percent of what men earn, but over the past 40 years their incomes have increased rapidly. Black and Hispanic men haven't done quite as well, but they've still made progress—and most people are relatively happy as long as things are getting better over time. The only group that has stagnated for four straight decades is white men. That's plenty all by itself to make them angry, but it's even worse when they watch literally everyone else doing better at the same time.

Don't get me wrong: the "angry white guy" syndrome has plenty of sexist and racist overtones too. After all, white men used to be at the top of the gender/race heap, and now they aren't. They don't get to feel superior to women or blacks or Hispanics anymore, and their incomes have gone nowhere for four decades. Rightly or wrongly, you'd be mad too if this described you.

POSTSCRIPT: One reason I haven't posted this before is because the data is hard to get. It's easy for most groups—the Census data works fine—but for Hispanics the Census data is heavily skewed by the very low incomes of illegal immigrants, who have increased over time. As a proxy for income gains among Hispanic men who were born in America (to match the demographics of the other groups) I've used Pew's estimate of the income difference between 1st and 2nd generation Hispanics. Obviously this is far from ideal, but I'm not aware of a clean source of comparable data for all this.

ALSO: Asian men and women have also seen substantial income gains over the past 40 years, but the Census figures for Asians don't go back that far. That's why they aren't included in the chart.

It's been a while since I posted a chart showing the latest global temperatures, so let's do one today. This is based on NOAA data for the first half of the year. As you can see, average global temperatures have risen about 1.3°C over the past century.

For years, climate denialists published charts starting in 1998 to show that warming had "paused" and might never increase again. Needless to say, an anomaly of +0.7°C looks kind of quaint these days as we blew right past +1.0°C during this year's El Nino. Those old charts have, of course, now disappeared. But no worries. They'll be replaced by something else, I'm sure.

I wrote my post yesterday about the North Carolina voting law before I had a chance to read the 4th Circuit Court opinion that struck it down. It turns out to be even more amazing than I thought. The court wrote that various provisions of North Carolina's law "target African Americans with almost surgical precision," and they weren't kidding:

The [original] version of SL 2013-381 provided that all government-issued IDs, even many that had been expired, would satisfy the requirement as an alternative to DMV-issued photo IDs....With race data in hand, the legislature amended the bill to exclude many of the alternative photo IDs used by African Americans. As amended, the bill retained only the kinds of IDs that white North Carolinians were more likely to possess.

....Legislators also requested data as to the racial breakdown of early voting usage....The racial data provided to the legislators revealed that African Americans disproportionately used early voting in both 2008 and 2012....After receipt of this racial data, the General Assembly amended the bill to eliminate the first week of early voting.

....Legislators similarly requested data as to the racial makeup of same-day registrants....SL 2013-381 eliminated same-day registration....Legislators additionally requested a racial breakdown of provisional voting....With SL 2013-381, the General Assembly altogether eliminated out-of-precinct voting....African Americans also disproportionately used preregistration.... Although preregistration increased turnout among young adult voters, SL 2013-381 eliminated it.

....As “evidence of justifications” for the changes to early voting, the State offered purported inconsistencies in voting hours across counties, including the fact that only some counties had decided to offer Sunday voting. The State then elaborated on its justification, explaining that “[c]ounties with Sunday voting in 2014 were disproportionately black” and “disproportionately Democratic.

It's not just that every provision coincidentally happens to affect blacks disproportionately. In at least a couple of cases, provisions were added only after the legislature had racial breakdowns in hand so they could make sure they weren't accidentally targeting whites too.

Remarkably, even with this evidence before it, the district court upheld the law. This prompts a longtime question of mine: how far do courts have to go in believing the justification that a legislature provides for its actions? Obviously you want to be careful with this, but there's a point at which, literally, everyone knows what's really going on. And yet courts have to pretend to believe something else. This sure seems like a destruction test of this concept.

Donald Trump Is a Pathological Creep

This was in Politico yesterday:

Top Donald Trump donors tried to set up a meeting between the GOP presidential nominee and Charles Koch in Colorado Springs on Friday, but Koch aides rejected the entreaties, according to two Republicans with knowledge of the outreach.

....“It is not going to happen,” said one of the Republicans, adding that the Kochs appear unlikely to back away from their repeated declarations that they don’t plan to spend any money in the presidential race, and will instead refocus their spending down ballot.

And this was Donald Trump's response today:

Have you noticed this about Trump? Nobody ever turns down a meeting with him. He turns down meetings with other people. Likewise, he never calls anyone. They call him. It doesn't matter who it is. President, pope, CEO, whatever. According to Trump, they're the ones who called first. His ego just can't stand the thought of anyone thinking that he's the guy who ever goes begging.

And speaking of his ego, Trump also couldn't stand to ignore Khizr Khan, the father of a Muslim soldier killed in Iraq. Khan delivered a blistering attack on Trump at the Democratic convention, saying, among other things, that Trump had never made a sacrifice in his life. George Stephanopoulos asked him about this:

“If you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably, maybe she wasn't allowed to have anything to say. You tell me.” Pressed by Stephanopoulos to name the sacrifices he’d made for his country, Trump said: “I think I've made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard. I've created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures. I've had tremendous success. I think I've done a lot.”

And this: "When asked what he would say to the grieving father, Mr. Trump replied, 'I'd say we’ve had a lot of problem with radical Islamic terrorism.' "

This is shockingly callous, but there's a sense in which you can sympathize with Trump. Khan isn't just some guy. He was speaking at a party convention on prime time national television. And he went after Trump in a very deliberate way. Surely Trump should be allowed to respond?

Maybe. But sometimes life just isn't fair, and you have to suck it up. Republicans have used 9/11 survivors and Benghazi moms at their conventions, and there's really nothing you can do about it except let them take their shots. That's life.

Unless you're Trump. He's just congenitally unable to take a hit without hitting back. It could have been a 7-year old on that stage talking about how a Muslim fireman rescued her kitten from a tree, and Trump would have figured out a way to insult her back. He seems to literally have no control over his own actions. What a pathological creep.

A Different Way of Looking at the Minimum Wage

A couple of days ago I wrote about the minimum wage, and how it's gone down over the years. How much has it gone down? Well, that depends on what measure of inflation you use.

But there's another way of looking at it that doesn't rely on a computed inflation rate at all: just compare it to the median wage. Via the OECD, here's how we compare to other rich countries:

In countries like France, Australia, and Britain, the minimum wage is equivalent to about half or more of the median wage. In the US, it's equivalent to only 37 percent of the median wage. That's the lowest in the OECD dataset.

But it hasn't always been this way. Here's what the minimum wage in the US looks like over the past half century:

I had to massage the data a bit to get a wage series back to 1960, so this might be off slightly. But not by more than a couple of percentage points or so. The basic story is simple: Up until the Reagan era, the federal minimum wage was around 50 percent of the median full-time wage—or higher. Then it dropped for eight years running and has never recovered.

So what does this say about where the minimum wage ought to be? If we raised it to $10.50, we'd be back to 50 percent of the median wage. That would put us in the middle of the international pack, which seems perfectly reasonable. If we raised it to $15, we'd be at 72 percent of the median wage, far higher than any of our peer countries.

Obviously you can decide for yourself where we ought to be. But looked at this way, I'd be pretty happy with a minimum wage of $10-11, but pretty skeptical of $15. There's really not much precedent for a minimum wage that high, and I'm not thrilled with experimenting that far away from international norms.1 What's more, although I think the minimum wage serves a purpose, my preference is to combine a moderate but reasonable minimum wage with, say, a moderate but reasonable increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit.2 They serve different purposes and benefit different groups of people, and the combination would almost certainly benefit the working poor more than just one or the other.

1As we liberals point out endlessly, the bulk of the evidence suggests that moderate increases in the minimum wage don't have much effect on employment. And that's true. But the flip side is also true: large increases in the minimum wage probably do have an effect on employment. My guess is that a $15 minimum wage would have fairly significant disemployment effects.

2And an expansion of Medicaid. One thing that makes it hard to compare our minimum wage with other countries is that other countries have safety net features that we don't have. For example, universal health care, which reduces medical costs for the working poor to nearly zero. I would much rather have a $10-11 minimum wage + EITC increase + Medicaid expansion than a $15 minimum wage.

Here's the latest Pollster aggregate for the presidential race. Following the Democratic convention, Hillary Clinton now leads Donald Trump by nine points, 43-34 percent.

I'm putting this up because, hey, we deserve a little cheerful news for the weekend, don't we? But the usual warning applies, even if you like this chart better than last week's: It's something of an outlier due to a single poll conducted on Friday that shows Hillary 15 points ahead. So don't take it seriously. At the very least, the middle of next week is the earliest we'll have real data. And as usual, I recommend waiting until mid-August to see how things settle down before taking any poll seriously.

In the meantime, enjoy!

Friday Cat Blogging - 29 July 2016

Let's give Hopper the spotlight again. She deserves two weeks in a row, doesn't she? Here she is in one of her favorite places: plonked down against my arm when I'm lying on the couch. I do this frequently, using my tablet to peruse the web for news in order to minimize my time at the desk. The less time at the desk, the better my arm and wrist feel.

Needless to say, perusing the web on my tablet is a lot easier when there's not a cat plonked on my stomach, but them's the breaks. She usually doesn't stay very long. Unfortunately, when she leaves, Hilbert often takes her place. Blogging is a tough life.

I've mentioned before—only half jokingly—that I'm happy to see other people experiment with a $15 minimum wage. It's the best of all worlds: it provides us with test beds to see what happens, but if it's a disaster it won't affect me personally.

Seattle was one of the first to do this, and as a first step they raised their minimum wage to $11 about 18 months ago. It's probably still too early to draw any sweeping conclusions about what happened, but we do have some preliminary results from the Seattle Minimum Wage Study Team at the University of Washington. Their basic methodology is to compare Seattle with surrounding regions (plus a composite "Synthetic Seattle") to see how it compares. So what have they found so far?

  • Wages up. For starters, they spend a surprising number of pages confirming that, yes, wages went up. Apparently Seattle employers are complying with the law. However, the Seattle economy has been booming recently, so it's hard to know how much of the increase is due to the minimum wage law and how much would have happened anyway thanks to the tight job market. They conclude that the law was responsible for an average hourly increase of 73 cents among workers who were previously making less than $11.
  • No impact on availability of jobs. But what about jobs? Did the number of low-wage jobs go down? Yes it did—but less than in areas that didn't increase their minimum wage: "The half-percentage-point reduction in persistent jobs at these businesses between mid-2014 and late-2015 is actually a positive development, as these businesses contracted more slowly than usual in the historical record. We find the exact same pattern in Synthetic Seattle, suggesting that the minimum wage had little or no net impact on the number of persistent jobs."
  • Hours worked decreased. How about hours worked? Did low-wage employers reduce their hours? Yes: "We estimate that hours per employee declined between 7.5 and 9.9 over a quarter, or 35-40 minutes per week."
  • Employment decreased. How about employment of low-wage workers? Unsurprisingly, it went down: "While these low-wage workers increased their likelihood of being employed relative to prior years, this increase was less than in comparison regions. We estimate that the impact of the Ordinance was a 1.1 percentage point decrease in likelihood of low-wage Seattle workers remaining employed."
  • No effect on business closures. Did more establishments go out of business? Not really. It was a wash: "For single-location establishments that paid more than 40% of the workers less than $15 per hour at baseline, we find a slightly larger negative impact of 1.0 percentage points. Yet, this modest increase in business closure rates was more than offset by an increase in the rate of business openings....The net effect is an estimated 0.9 percentage point increase in business openings as a result of the Minimum Wage Ordinance. This increase in both business closures and business openings perhaps should not come as a surprise. A higher minimum wage changes the type of business that can succeed profitably in Seattle, and we should thus expect some extra churning."

Bottom line: wages went up, but employment went down. This is about what you'd expect. However, I'm a little unclear on how to reconcile this employment decrease with the finding that the number of persistent jobs didn't change. Perhaps there was a decrease in seasonal or intermittent jobs? It will probably all become clearer in future reports.

Needless to say, the real test will come over the next few years, as the minimum wage climbs to $15.

Horrible North Carolina Voting Law Struck Down

Rick Hasen reports on an appellate court decision rejecting North Carolina's horrible 2013 voting law. Most importantly, they rejected it by clearly finding discriminatory intent on the part of the legislature:

A partially divided panel of 4th Circuit judges reversed a massive trial court opinion which had rejected a number of constitutional and Voting Rights Act challenges to North Carolina’s strict voting law, a law I had said was the largest collection of voting rollbacks contained in a single law that I could find since the 1965 passage of the Voting Rights Act....This decision is the third voting rights win in two weeks.

....The 4th Circuit goes out of its way to commend the trial court for its carefulness and thoroughness (something I noted in my own analysis). But “In holding that the legislature did not enact the challenged provisions with discriminatory intent, the court seems to have missed the forest in carefully surveying the many trees....Although the new provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision, they constitute inapt remedies for the problems assertedly justifying them and, in fact, impose cures for problems that did not exist. Thus the asserted justifications cannot and do not conceal the State’s true motivation.”

In previous cases like this, we've seen courts uphold restrictive voting laws on the grounds that they're partisan, not racist. If Republicans want to try to restrict likely Democrats from voting, that's OK. Alternatively, if you can't show any outright racial animus, then the law isn't discriminatory. The court rejected both arguments:

Later there is this key part: “Our conclusion does not mean, and we do not suggest, that any member of the General Assembly harbored racial hatred or animosity toward any minority group. But the totality of the circumstances...­cumulatively and unmistakably reveal that the General Assembly used SL 2013-381 to entrench itself....Even if done for partisan ends, that constituted racial discrimination.

....Here is the key language on why the 4th Circuit found the district court clearly erroneous on the intent question: “The district court failed to take into account these cases and their important takeaway: that state officials continued in their efforts to restrict or dilute African American voting strength well after 1980 and up to the present day....These cases also highlight the manner in which race and party are inexorably linked in North Carolina....The district court failed to recognize this linkage, leading it to accept ‘politics as usual; as a justification for many of the changes in SL 2013-381. But that cannot be accepted where politics as usual translates into race-based discrimination.

This is tentatively good news. "Tentative" because I assume the next step is the Supreme Court. Will they uphold the 4th Circuit's decision to strike down North Carolina's law, or will they ignore the obvious and pretend that this is, indeed, just politics as usual?