LBO News from Doug Henwood

Fresh audio product: middle classness, transness

Just added to my radio archive (click on date for link):

June 23, 2022 David Roediger, author of The Sinking Middle Class, on the uses of that term in US politics • Paisley Currah, author of Sex Is as Sex Does, on trans politics

Fresh audio product: racial wealth gap, Jack Welch

Just added to my radio archive (click on date for link):

June 16, 2022 Ellora Derenoncourt, co-author of this paper, on the racial wealth gap, 1860–2020 • David Gelles, author of The Man Who Broke Capitalismon Jack Welch, CEO of GE from 1981–2001

Fresh audio product: Colombia, elite capture

Just added to my radio archive (click on date for link):

June 2, 2022 Forrest Hylton on the first round of the Colombian presidential election, which was bad news for the leftist Petro • Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò, author of Elite Captureon how the ruling class has debased identity politics, and how we could reconstitute it

Fresh audio product: porn work and styles of economics

Just added to my radio archive (click on date for link, and apologies for the late posting):

May 26, 2022 Heather Berg, author of Porn Workon relations of production in sex work • Kevin Young and Leonard Seabrooke, co-authors of this paper, on the contrasting collegial styles of the Chicago and Charles River schools of economics

Americans’ class ID shifts down

The USA is the country where everyone feels middle-class, right? No.

Gallup is out with the latest edition of a question it’s asked ten times over the last twenty years: “If you were asked to use one of these five names for your social class, which would you say you belong in?” When they did the survey in April, the largest set of respondents said “middle,” 38%—but that’s not much more than a third. Almost as many, 35%, said “working” (a term that has often been pronounced obsolete).

Here’s some more detail:

Gallup class

A striking thing about the chart is its upward skew. The midpoint is just 4 points into the “middle” category, and “upper-middle” is nowhere near that midpoint—it begins about 5/6 of the way to the top. Still, it’s remarkable that in a country of alleged universal middle classness, almost half the population identifies as sub-middle.

Over the last 20 years, upper-middle and middle have declined by 8 percentage points and working and lower have risen by 9. If you start the clock in 2005, the peak of the housing bubble, the “middle” share has fallen by 9 points, with most going into “working.” The Great Recession that followed the bursting of that bubble has a lot to do with that trend, but ten years of expansion following that miserable downturn did nothing to change middle-class self-identification.

Gallup class ID over time

Before one gets encouraged by these stats into thinking proletarian class-consciousness is on the rise, a caveat: more Republicans (38%) are likely to identify as working class than Democrats (30%). But to conclude on a more encouraging note: 49% of those aged 18–34 call themselves working class, twice the share of the over-55s. Nice to see that clarity in the young.


Fresh audio product: crypto, white power

Just added to my radio archive (click on date for link):

May 19, 2022 Molly White, keeper of the Web3 Is Going Just Great blog, on the pointless and scam-ridden world of cryptocurrencies • Kathleen Belew, a scholar of white power, on that movement’s obsessions and unusual organization

Fresh audio product: climate and abortion

Just added to my radio archive (click on date for link):

May 12, 2022 Matthew Huber, author of Climate Change as Class War, explains why the environmental movement needs to take class and production more seriously •  Adam Kotsko explores why evangelicals are so obsessed with abortion

Fresh audio product: reactionaries, Ukraine

Just added to my radio archive (click on date for link):

May 5, 2022 James Pogue, author of this article in Vanity Fair, reports on the the National Conservatism conference, gathering spot for authoritarians and monarchists • Anatol Lieven returns with an update on the war in Ukraine, and the US’s escalation of the conflict

Fresh audio product: the IMF and debt, Asian Americans

Just added to my radio archive (click on date for link):

April 28, 2022 David Adler of the Progressive International on an impending debt crisis, with an emphasis on the role of the IMF (Guardian article here). • Sudip Bhattacharya on the Asian American population: its diversity, its unity, its politics

Quit rates, unions, politics

I’m not sure what this means, but quit rates are higher in states that voted for Trump, and are higher in states with low unionization rates.

We’ve been hearing for some time now that quit rates are the highest on record. That’s true if you look only at the Job Openings and Labor Market Turnover Series (JOLTS) numbers, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) started reporting in December 2000. It had an ancestor, which the BLS reported for manufacturing only, covering 1919 to 1981 (left portion of the graph below). Current quit rates now are comparable to those of the 1960s and 1970s, and are well below peaks of the 1920s and 1940s. Much of the JOLTS history (right portion of graph below) covers, other measures show, an unusually torpid period for the US job market, so today’s levels may only mark a return to once-familiar territory.

Quit rate long

In any case, quit rates are high by contemporary standards. In February, 2.9% of all workers, and 3.2% of all private sector workers, quit their jobs, slightly off highs set late last year.

But quit rates vary widely from state to state, as this map shows. Generally they’re lowest in the Northeast and highest in the South and interior West. 

JOLTS quits Feb 22 level map


If you’re so inclined, you might notice that this map bears some resemblance to the classic red–blue political map.

Screen Shot 2022-04-26 at 3.08.40 PM

And that impression is borne out when you run the numbers. In states with quit rates above the national median, Trump got 57% of the vote; in those around the median, 49%; in those below the median, 42%. (His overall share was 47%.) 

Trump share and quit rate

And here’s another curious detail: quit rates are higher in states with the lowest union density (the share of the workforce that belongs to unions), and lower in states with higher union density. In states with above-average quit rates, union density averaged 7.8%; in those with below-average quit rates, density was 12.5%. (The national average is 10.3%.) The relationship also held with the top ten and bottom ten states.

Quit rates and union density

So what’s going on here? Do Republican and less unionized states have more dynamic labor markets or fewer discontented workers? Are high quit rates signs of worker strength or desperation?

Maybe the most productive way to think about this comes from Chris Smalls, the leader of the Amazon Labor Union on Staten Island: “If I can lead us to victory over Amazon, what’s stopping anybody in this country from organizing their workplace? Nothing. You know, people got to get out of that mentality of, ‘Oh, let me just quit my job.’ Because when you quit your job, guess what? They hire somebody else. So you’re jumping from one fire into the next, and the system doesn’t get fixed by doing that.”

Fresh audio product: black radicalism, Viktor Orbán

Just added to my radio archive (click on date for link):

April 21, 2022 Donna Murch, author of Assata Taught Meon black radical politics from the Panthers to the Movement for Black Lives • Kyle Shybunko, author of this piece, on Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, a hero to many on the American right

Fresh audio product: prison and postliberalism

Just added to my radio archive (click on date for link):

April 14, 2022 Wanda Bertram of the Prison Policy Initiative on the demographics of the million people in state prisons (with a coda on the fight around cash bail in New York) • historian James Chappel, author of this article, on postliberalism, notably the reactionary Catholic law prof Adrian Vermeule (a contributing editor of the would-be left–right hybrid magazine, Compact)

Fresh audio product: global reconfiguration and nukes

Just added to my radio archive (click on date for link):

April 7, 2022 Vijay Prashad on the reconfigurations of global power prompted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine • Charles Komanoff, author of this Nation article, on why it’s a bad idea to shut nuclear power plants

Fresh audio product: Yemen and gendering

Just added to my radio archive (click on date for link):

March 31, 2022 Annelle Sheline of the Quincy Institute, author of this policy brief on the Yemen war, on the reasons behind Saudi Arabia’s brutal war on that country •  Natalia Petrzela, author of this column, on how we went from Muscle Beach to gender neutral cosmetics products

Fresh audio product: Ukraine, libraries, Cold War fiction

Just added to my radio archive (click on date for link):

March 24, 2022 Richard Seymour, author of this article, on the cultural politics of the war in Ukraine • Emily Drabinski on the war against libraries • Annie Levin on the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and Cold War fiction [info on Current Affairs]

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