Over at the New York Times today, Eduardo Porter takes on the notion that working-class whites ignore their economic interests and vote for Republicans because of social issues like abortion and guns:

This view fits a common narrative among liberal analysts of American politics....But it largely misses the mark....There are almost nine million more jobs than there were at the previous peak in November 2007, just before the economy tumbled into recession. But the gains have not been evenly distributed.

Despite accounting for less than 15 percent of the labor force, Hispanics got more than half of the net additional jobs. Blacks and Asians also gained millions more jobs than they lost. But whites, who account for 78 percent of the labor force, lost more than 700,000 net jobs over the nine years.

This is very badly misleading. Let's plow our way through a fistful of charts to get at the truth. First up, here's the employment level:

Porter is right: if you look at the raw number of jobs, blacks and Hispanics have gotten most of them. Whites are at about the same level as they were in 2007. How can this be? That's easy: it's because the white population is at about the same level as it was in 2007

Whites have the same number of jobs as in 2007 because there are the same number of whites as in 2007. Hispanics and blacks have more jobs because there are more Hispanics and blacks. This means nothing. What you'd like to know is what percentage of each group is employed:

These numbers rattle around a bit. Whites did better in 2010-13 while blacks and Hispanics have done better in 2014-16. At this point they're all within a few points of each other. Now put all this together and you get the unemployment rate:

All three groups are at nearly the exact same level as they were in 2007, which means that all the new jobs have been shared out equally by population. Whites have done about as well as anyone else, and since whites started out ahead, it means they're still ahead. Here's the unemployment rate today, which is nearly identical to the rate in 2007:

  • Whites: 4.2 percent
  • Hispanics: 5.7 percent
  • Blacks: 8.1 percent

If you take a look at this stuff without accounting for population growth you'll be badly misled. When it comes to jobs, whites had it better than blacks and Hispanics in 2007 and they still do today by about the same amount. They haven't been screwed by the job market any more than anyone else, and they haven't gained or lost ground. After ten years with a huge recession in between, we're all back where we started.

After reading my post this morning about voter turnout rates, a friend asks if I can break this down by state. His wish is my command:

Nationally, voter turnout was up about 1 point from 2012. However, in Oregon it was up about 5 percent. In Wisconsin it was down about 3 percent. Of the three big Midwestern swing states, Wisconsin was down 3.5 points, Pennsylvania was up 2.7 points, and Michigan was up 0.9 points.

I don't know if there are any conclusions to be drawn from this. Nothing obvious pops out at me.

UPDATE: The initial version of this post had all the numbers reversed. It's now correct.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Chinese economy isn't looking great right now:

Chinese authorities halted trading in key bond futures for the first time on Thursday, as panicky investors sold the securities on concern that a long, credit-fueled bull market was coming to an end amid slowing growth, capital outflows and heightened government concern about asset bubbles. China’s 10-year and 5-year Treasury bond futures recorded their biggest ever drops in early trading, falling by 2% and 1.2%, respectively, prompting exchange authorities here to suspend the securities. Trading resumed only after China’s central bank injected around $22 billion into the short-term money market.

Just a reminder: when bond yields go up, it means bond prices are going down. They're going down because everyone is selling. And everyone is selling because they want to put their money someplace else—preferably someplace non-Chinese.

If China's economy really is in trouble, it means that Donald Trump could have more leverage over China than he expected. He won't need a 35 percent tariff. Even a modest targeted tariff on certain key goods could be enough to rattle the Chinese economy even further and bring them to the negotiating table.

Of course, the Chinese might refuse to be bullied and retaliate instead, even if it hurts their own economy. Who knows? What's more, if China's economy really does tank, that will affect the US as well—and not in a way that brings any jobs back. More likely, it would slow global growth and put Americans out of work.

Welcome to real-world economics, Mr. Trump. Slogans don't work here, and the iron triangle constricts your options just as much as it does any other president. I hope you're ready.

After a month of desperately trying to prevent Democrat Roy Cooper from taking office even though he won the gubernatorial election, the North Carolina Legislature has changed tack:

After calling a surprise special session, Republican lawmakers who control the General Assembly introduced measures to end the governor's control over election boards, to require State Senate approval of the new governor's cabinet members and to strip his power to appoint University of North Carolina trustees.

Republicans also proposed to substantially cut the number of state employees who serve at the governor's pleasure, giving Civil Service protections to hundreds of managers in state agencies who have executed the priorities of Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican.

Unbelievable. Every time you think Republicans can't get any worse, they get worse. I'm curious: Have any conservatives denounced this banana republic behavior? Breitbart? The Weekly Standard? National Review? The Wall Street Journal? Anyone?

Was Hillary Clinton such a crippled, establishment candidate that voters stayed home in droves because they were so unenthusiastic about her? With all the votes now counted, here's the raw data:

The 2016 election had the third-highest turnout of the past ten elections, so there was no general lack of enthusiasm. However, the Democratic share of the turnout was a couple of points lower than usual. I don't think we have the data to know exactly what caused this, but the most likely explanation is that a small number of dedicated Sanders supporters decided to stay home rather than vote for Clinton. The Republican share of the turnout was about the same as in 2012.

Roughly speaking, there weren't any major shifts in turnout, and if you dig down into the exit poll data you won't find any big shifts in vote share by race or income or age. You'll mostly find a few small shifts (negative among young voters, people of color, and high school grads, positive among college grads, married women, and high-income voters) but only of a few points. For political professionals there are some lessons here, but in a broad, national direction sense, there's really not a lot to see.

Two days after promising that he will be "leaving" his businesses, which will henceforth be run by Eric and Don Jr., Donald Trump held a "private" get-together with various leaders of Silicon Valley firms, presumably to discuss his plans as president. Neither the assembled CEOs nor Trump revealed what they had talked about, but there were a couple of outside business executives who got a detailed briefing: his children.

It's just corruption all the way down and Trump doesn't care who knows it. Most presidents would at least do stuff like this on the sly, via telephone calls or personal visits. But Trump invites his kids to meetings and then brings in the cameras to make sure everyone knows they're there. He knows there's nothing we can do about it, and nothing that Republicans in Congress will do about it, so he figures he can just thumb his nose at the entire country. I guess he's right.

NBC News tells us today that the CIA assessment of Russia's hacking goes further than previous reports have suggested:

Two senior officials with direct access to the information say new intelligence shows that Putin personally directed how hacked material from Democrats was leaked and otherwise used. The intelligence came from diplomatic sources and spies working for U.S. allies, the officials said.

Putin's objectives were multifaceted, a high-level intelligence source told NBC News. What began as a "vendetta" against Hillary Clinton morphed into an effort to show corruption in American politics and to "split off key American allies by creating the image that [other countries] couldn't depend on the U.S. to be a credible global leader anymore," the official said.

....The latest intelligence said to show Putin's involvement goes much further than the information the U.S. was relying on in October, when all 17 intelligence agencies signed onto a statement attributing the Democratic National Committee hack to Russia....Now the U.S has solid information tying Putin to the operation, the intelligence officials say. Their use of the term "high confidence" implies that the intelligence is nearly incontrovertible.

This comes from William Arkin, Ken Dilanian, and Cynthia McFadden, who are all pretty careful reporters. Arkin adds this via Twitter:

This makes sense. Nobody had any idea that Donald Trump would run, let alone win the Republican nomination, when the hacking operation started. And even after Trump did win the nomination, nobody thought he had much of a chance to win. All of Putin's hacking would have been for nought if he hadn't had some help from James Comey and a rogue group of FBI agents in New York.

So yes, Putin got lucky. But that's the way intelligence operations work. You try a lot of stuff and hope that a fraction of it pans out. This probably seemed like a low-cost-low-probability exercise when it was first started, and ended up succeeding beyond anyone's wildest dreams.

At the Wall Street Journal today, Damian Paletta notes that Donald Trump is announcing his cabinet picks at a faster pace than his predecessors:

But there also are signs some of Mr. Trump’s choices haven’t been rigorously vetted during the informal deliberation process....That leaves open the possibility that the first officials to study such material will be the Senate committees that next year will conduct the confirmation hearings, a process that can be grueling and disqualifying.

....People involved in the process said Mr. Trump is running an unorthodox transition process—much like his campaign. He is making some decisions based on gut instinct and his chemistry with people, and at times has revealed the name of a nominee before his transition team was ready for the announcement.

Well, that's about what we expect from Trump. But the Journal's headline writer concludes that this means Trump's picks are "likely to face heavy Senate vetting." Raise your hand if you believe that. Anyone?

Over the weekend I was diddling around with some charts because that's apparently what I do now when I'm trying to take my mind off Donald Trump. Here's one I did that never made it into a post because it didn't seem to show anything interesting:

So let's crowdsource this post. What's interesting or unexpected about this chart? Anything? There sure is a big drop in the number of people getting education degrees.

The volume of hot takes about how Hillary Clinton—and Democrats more generally—blew the election is getting way, way out of hand. Of course Clinton made mistakes. Every campaign makes mistakes. But her margin of loss was only 80,000 votes among three states. She won the popular vote by 2 percentage points. She outperformed the econometric models. And she accomplished this despite the headwind of the Comey letter, the Russian hacks, and the media's insane preoccupation with her email server.

Over at the Niskanen Center, Jacob Levy has written a much-discussed piece about identity politics. But he also makes some more general points about how this election unfolded:

The pundit’s fallacy when applied to losses takes the form of a morality play: because you fools did the thing I don’t like, the voters punished you. [Mark] Lilla solemnly noted that “those who play the identity game should be prepared to lose it.”

....The [white] backlash hypothesis is of this sort. Trump got a lower share of the white vote than Romney did (58% vs 59%)....Fundamentally, voting patterns didn’t change enough between 2012 and 2016 to justify big claims about new national moods or about Trump’s distinctive appeal. I believe the consequences of this election will be deeply abnormal. But the voting behavior that brought it about was, in the end, very normal.

An 80,000 vote margin in a 137 million vote election, about .05%, is susceptible of almost endless plausible explanations....But anyone trying to generalize about popular beliefs or the electorate’s mood should be very wary of any of them....An explanation that...implies some large shift in opinion or mood toward Trump, is a bad explanation overall.

So too is any explanation that is incompatible with the observed variation in the polls over the course of the campaign. The worst moments for Trump’s campaign focused on egregious episodes of political incorrectness....In other words, the more the electorate focused on his proud political incorrectness, the more they recoiled from him....[This] didn’t stop a normal level of white voters from voting for him.1 But the poll evidence suggests that they were most reluctant to support him at the moments when these things were most vividly on their minds.

Everyone wants to draw big, world-historical lessons from this election. That's understandable, since the result was the election of an unprecedentedly dangerous and unqualified candidate. But the data just doesn't support any big lessons. Barack Obama won the popular vote in 2012 by 3.9 points. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in 2016 by 2.1 points. That's less than a two point difference, despite the fact that Obama is unusually popular and Clinton had to run after eight years of Democratic rule. In the end, she did slightly worse than Obama, which is about what you'd expect. Unfortunately, a little too much of that "slightly worse" happened to be in three must-win states.

Nevertheless, the identity politics critics insist that the lesson for Democrats is to ditch identity politics. The economic lefties say the lesson is that Democrats need to be more populist. The Bernie supporters are sure that Bernie could have won. The DNC haters think it was a massive FUBAR from the Democratic establishment. The moderates blame extremism on social issues for alienating the rural working class.

These have one element in common: All these people thought all these things before the election. Now they're trying to use the election to prove that they were right all along, dammit. But they weren't. This election turned on a few tiny electoral shifts and some wildly improbable outside events. There simply aren't any truly big lessons to be drawn from it.

But that doesn't make anyone feel good, and it doesn't make good fodder for a "smart piece" on what happened. There has to be someone to blame when something bad happens. But sometimes there isn't.

Except for James Comey. Feel free to blame him all you want. Unfortunately, there aren't really any lessons to be drawn from that.

1OK, fine, you want a big lesson? Here it is: our country is now so polarized at a partisan level that it almost literally doesn't matter who runs. Republicans will vote for the Republican and Democrats will vote for the Democrat. There's probably not much more than 3-4 percent of the population that's truly persuadable anymore.

POSTSCRIPT: This is all about national-level politics. I don't think there's any question that Democrats took a huge beating at the state and local level, where they were already weak. If you want to write a smart piece about what's wrong with Democrats, that's the place to start. Forget Hillary Clinton. Tell me instead why Democrats have such dismal prospects at the state level.