Tyler Cowen explains why rich white Democrats freely express love for immigrants and people of color


The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream by Tyler Cowen presents some interesting data. Contrary to what you might have thought, the trend in the U.S. has been toward more segregation.

Circa 2016, you can see a black president on your television or internet screen, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to see more neighbors of a different race than you would have seen a few decades ago. Or if you do, you’re much less likely to see such individuals outside of your income class, even if they are not of your race.

Segregation by income grew dramatically over the period of 1970 to 2000, with some respite in the 1990s, but then faster yet during the period of 2000 to 2007. For instance, in 1970, only about 15 percent of families lived in neighborhoods that were unambiguously “affluent” or “poor.” By 2007, 31 percent of American families were living in such neighborhoods. At the level of school districts, segregation increased as well between students eligible for free lunch and those who were not. In other words, those students who were eligible for free lunch were more likely to be grouped together than in times past.

In the South, if we consider the variable “percentage of black students in majority-white schools,” that figure peaked in 1988 at 43.5 percent; as of 2011, it had fallen dramatically, to 23.2 percent. That is slightly lower than the integration level in 1968, a time when civil rights battles were close to their peak activity

In 1980, in Maryland, 30 percent of black students were in intensely segregated schools. That same figure is now about 53 percent. If we look at the percentage of black students in what are called intensely segregated minority schools, since 1980, in Mississippi, that number has gone up 9 percentage points; in Tennessee, it has gone up 15 percentage points; in Texas, 9 percentage points; in Georgia, 16 percentage points; in Alabama, 10 percentage points; in Florida, 17 percentage points; and in Arkansas, it is up 21 percentage points. By the phrase intensely segregated schools, the literature usually is referring to white enrollment below 10 percent.21 Unfortunately, many parts of the North are failing as well, as the northern states and also California rank among the worst for many measures of educational segregation. For instance, let’s consider the variable “% black in 90–100% Minority Schools.”22 That is a measure of levels rather than changes, and by that standard, the five most segregated states are: 1.  New York 2.  Illinois 3.  Maryland 4.  Michigan 5.  New Jersey.

The future of the country looks troublingly similar on both coasts, as both New York and California perform poorly on segregation measures. In two of the three main measures of educational segregation by race, they are the worst and third-worst states in this regard, alternating those two positions. Again, the claim is not that New York and California are somehow especially racist or objectionable states but rather that segregation is being enforced by incomes, rents, home prices, building codes, how school districts are drawn, and a culture of sorting and matching.

Latinos are experiencing more significant integration problems than are African Americans. For instance, in California, only 7.8 percent of Latino students are in majority-white schools. In part that is because California has large clusters of Latinos and in part because the fanciest white neighborhoods are difficult to afford, the latter again indicating a lot of economically enforced segregation rather than racist animus. The broader data on trends in Latino segregation also are not entirely encouraging, as, for instance, in 1990 Latinos had more residential proximity with whites than they did in the period 2005 through 2009.

What if you’re a rich Silicon Valleyite paying 0 percent income tax thanks to the Qualified Small Business Stock exclusion and featuring yourself on Facebook at a Hillary Clinton fundraiser? Or maybe you’ve got tenure at a major university and therefore could keep watching those direct deposit checks flow into your checking account while you knitted a pussy hat? It turns out that you can advocate for unlimited low-skill dark-skinned immigration to the U.S. without running any risk of having one of the newcomers as a neighbor:

One implication of these measures is that the affluent and well educated in America may be especially out of touch, no matter how ostensibly progressive their politics. A high-income family, for instance, is less likely to live in a mixed-income neighborhood than is a poor family.

Florida and Mellander also find that racial segregation is positively correlated with areas that have a lot of high-tech industry, with those that have a preponderance of people in the so-called creative class, who hold jobs requiring creative skills, and with those heavily populated by college graduates. Segregation also tends to be found in places with relatively high percentages of gay and foreign-born populations—think of San Francisco as having a fair share of both, but also a lot of neighborhoods with mostly white people. Median rent in San Francisco just passed $5,000 per month for a two-bedroom apartment, and so most people, even in the upper-middle classes, feel that residence in the city involves too much financial hardship.

If we look at all metropolitan areas, rather than just the large ones, Durham–Chapel Hill, Bloomington, and Ann Arbor—all college towns—climb into the top five for segregation of the working class away from the non–working class.

many of America’s trendiest cities, including cities with quality universities, are among the most extreme for segregation by socioeconomic class.

For the folks who put up a “no matter where you’re from we’re glad you’re our neighbor” sign in Arabic and Spanish, their most likely readers are Saudi diplomats and Cemex executives.

More: Read The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream.


Cisgender-normative prejudice hits the Boston streets


“Ride-Hailing Service Focused On Women — And Safety — Launches In Boston” (WBUR):

Safr officially hit Boston streets in the last couple of weeks and aims to make ride-hailing safe for women.

Safr had planned to offer a service exclusive to women, but that raised legal questions. The company says it doesn’t want to discriminate against men so men can sign up to be drivers or passengers too.

Then how is it actually different from Uber?

[Syed] Gilani said the Boston startup just wants to offer a ride-hailing option that’s majority women — and women will be its core focus.

“We want 99 percent drivers on our side as women,” Gilani said.

I’m wondering if this service isn’t inherently full of cisgender-normative prejudice as well as gender-persistence prejudice. A person who identifies as a woman uses the app to request a ride. Unless we are locked into old-style cisgender-normative and nonfluid-gender thinking, why do we assume that the person still identifies as a woman when the car shows up, e.g., 10 minutes later? Same question on the drivers. Let’s say Mr. Gilani (WBUR identifies the CEO as a man, but of course he could have changed gender ID since the interview) succeeds in getting 99 percent “women” as drivers. Unless he is assuming that gender is immutable, how does he know that 50 percent of his drivers won’t show up tomorrow morning identifying as “men”?

In a world that is free of gender-based thoughtcrime, how does it make sense to offer (or write about) a service by and/or for women?

Time to give up on New Yorker magazine?


I have been a faithful reader of New Yorker for about 40 years, but I am wonder if it is time to let my subscription lapse. They are no longer content to have ideas big enough to justify waiting a week so they email readers every day. Here are some subject lines:

  • Trump’s Sham Populism, Exposed (i.e., Donald Trump is a liar and we need to pay $100/year to understand that)
  • Scott Pruitt Rejects Climate-Change Reality, an article on planetary physics by Amy Davidson, who has a bachelor’s degree in “Social Studies”
  • Donald Trump’s Worst Deal (about a hotel in Azerbaijan that is no doubt core to the multi-billionaire’s empire; the only dollar figure mentioned is $2.8 million, less than the cost of a D-check (12-year) inspection on King Donald’s personal Boeing 757)
  • Trump Learns That Health Care Is “Complicated” (i.e., Donald Trump is a moron)
  • Can a Free Mind Survive in Trump’s White House?
  • Holding Trump Accountable (for not being Hillary Clinton?)
  • The Deep Denialism of Donald Trump (for not admitting that he is inferior to Hillary Clinton?)
  • We Need the Truth About Trump and Russia (because the Red Scare of the 1950s wasn’t sufficient)
  • Orwell’s “1984” and Trump’s America (Trump is “pure Big Brother”)
  • “Neil Gorsuch Tried to Prove His Independence — During his Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Gorsuch attempted to show that he is not a stooge of the Trump machine.” (A guy who gets a guaranteed hyper-technical job for life will be secretly controlled by the layperson who appointed him.)

Even if I could vote for President at some point prior to 2020 and even if I lived in a state in which my vote counted, why would any of this be interesting? The New Yorker used to publish material that people referenced 10 or 20 years later. Statistically Donald Trump will be dead and buried pretty soon. At that point who would care to read, recall, or reference any of the above?

The top story as I wrote this entry was “The G.O.P.’s Lousy Health-Care Bill,” pointing out that if it is no longer illegal to refrain from purchasing health insurance then a lot of young people will shut their checkbooks. The magazine’s bias is apparent in the subhead “Twenty-four million people stand to lose their insurance”. Clicking into the article reveals that what people are “losing” is being compelled to buy something that they don’t want, at least not at the quoted price. Isn’t almost everything regarding Obamacare and its repeal a dog-bites-man story (stop using tax dollars to give people free X and there will be fewer people with X; stop making it illegal to go without X and there will be fewer people with X)?

Presumably this strategy is working for New Yorker’s bottom line. I’m wondering if it is because of Facebook and the fact that the most-shared stories are the ones that generate outrage. So they print stuff that virtuous Trump-haters can feature to their Trump-hating friends and they can all be outraged together about how stupid, racist, and sexist their fellow citizens are. But isn’t this market niche already pretty well filled by traditional news sources such as the New York Times, the Guardian, or CNN? Is the market for Trump-hatred truly unlimited?

Other New Yorker readers here in Massachusetts, where at least Two Minutes of Trump Hatred are required every day, are pointing out the same thing: we don’t need the New Yorker to remind us that people who live in a city that got crazy fat off the status quo don’t like the candidate voted in by the non-coastal deplorables. There must be something else occurring or being created on Planet Earth that is worth writing about.

Related (some New Yorker stories that I remember liking, none having to do with the moral superiority of Democrats):

Why does a laptop power supply have a three-prong grounded power cord? (Dell XPS 13 2-in-1)


This is kind of an embarrassing question considering that I studied electrical engineering, but under the theory that “there are no stupid questions, only stupid people” here goes: Why does my laptop’s USB-C power supply have a three-prong grounded power cord? Why wouldn’t a two-prong cord work just fine?

[Separately, this Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 has now racked up about 10 hours of Dell tech support time (previous post). My advice: make sure if you get one you have a phone with an extended battery life (during the latest phone call it was 38 minutes of hold time and transferring from one agent to another before a tech support person finally began work). One problem that seems to be beyond Dell’s capability to solve is that the machine cannot stay connected to a Bluetooth mouse (seems like a software problem because the severity varies). It looks slick, but it cost $2,400 with tax and has never worked properly. Who has experience with returning products to Dell that they can’t fix? (I waited for two hours on various kinds of hold with the returns department, but they eventually hung up on me. When I called back they started with an automated attendant asking basic questions and for the order ID, kept me in queue for about 20 minutes, and then dumped me back at the first menu without ever connecting me to a human. It seems like it might be a brilliant scheme to make sure that nothing ever comes back, but on the other hand how many repeat customers can they get?]

Does it make sense for the government to be responsible for health insurance given how much the government has distorted the market?


Typically I am in favor of having a larger part of the U.S. economy be market-based rather than centrally planned (right now the ratio is about 50/50). Central planning might work for some countries, but in the U.S. it seems that we aren’t very good at it. I’m wondering if health care is a legitimate exception at this point. In my 2009 health care reform piece I argued that taxpayers should fund a fixed amount per citizen per year and let the market take care of the rest. Instead we went in the opposite direction with Obamacare where (a) the cost could not be budgeted in advance, and (b) the government told insurers what to cover and how to cover. The current proposal in Congress (“Republicare”?) seems mostly ridiculous from an Econ 101 standpoint (and barely distinguishable from Obamacare), but maybe there is a rationale to the apparent madness? (New York Times offers a chart summarizing the changes; it does restore Americans’ freedom to decline to purchase the products of this massively distorted industry and, for example, fly or drive to a foreign country when they need non-emergency procedures that are expensive here)

What if we declare that, due to 50 years of heavy government intervention, there is in fact no market for health care services in the U.S. The government works with doctors to make it practically impossible for qualified foreign doctors to sell their services here and to limit the supply of U.S.-trained doctors. The government has been showering the industry with tax dollars to the point that no private individual has enough money to be a valued customer. The government helps pharma companies print money via (a) granting patent protection, (b) restricting approvals, and (c) blocking Americans from buying drugs on the world market.

An analogous situation is food stamps (SNAP). The government distorts the food market so that prices are higher than they otherwise would be. Then they have to give taxpayer-funded handouts to nearly 50 million Americans.

Americans would wet their pants in fear if either agriculture or health care were returned to the market sector of the economy. So there is really no way to get rid of food stamps or something that is the functional equivalent of Obamacare.

Congress is supposed to vote on this today? By when could the Republicare plan actually be a done deal?

Aerial Combat over Mar-a-Lago


Keeping King Donald I safe from America’s geriatric Cessnas is turning out to be a full-time job for supersonic fighter pilots: “12 Aircraft Violated Restricted Airspace Around President Trump Over the Weekend”

The sclerotic processes of aircraft certification and updates to air traffic control have left us basically with the same systems of the 1950s in a world where there is a lot less trust. Even the F-15 pilots don’t have anywhere near the advanced software of a $1,000 Chinese-designed-and-built drone.

When does it all fall apart to the point that someone is willing to ask “How would we design air traffic control if every aircraft had GPS and a digital communications capability?” (of course, with ADS-B, in theory passenger-carrying aircraft by 2020 will have this, but most aircraft are drones and they aren’t required (or even encouraged) to have ADS-B; also there doesn’t seem to have been any fundamental re-thinking prompted by ADS-B. It is just layered on top of the 1930s and 1950s stuff)

R44 overhaul story: the helicopter lasted longer than the marriage


Maria Langer has published a helicopter overhaul story that also works as autobiography, a literary achievement that I don’t expect to see replicated any time soon. Worth reading if you’re interested in the world of Robinsons.

[The Practical Tips chapter of Real World Divorce contains a subhead of “For small business owners: get a regular W-2 job”; Langer’s story lends support to the idea of avoiding showing up in family court with anything more complex than a W-2 form:

It was around 2010 that I was able to start putting aside some of Flying M Air’s revenue for the overhaul. By 2012, I’d saved up $132K, which was pretty darn close to the $150K I should have had saved by then. Not bad, huh?

Of course, it was that $132K and the helicopter that my future wasband and the desperate old whore he moved in with had their eye on in divorce court. But my legal team was smart. We brought in a helicopter flight school owner who operates a fleet of R22 and R44 helicopters as an expert witness. He testified that the money I’d saved was to cover a deferred maintenance expense — which, of course, is what the overhaul is. Fortunately, the judge understood this and I was able to keep the money.

Sadly, a portion of it went to pay for divorce legal fees. [See this post on a Guardian article for how common is this experience in countries using Common law]

For aircraft-owning Americans who face any chance of being a family court litigant (i.e., “married Americans” under our no-fault system), it might save $100,000 in legal fees to subscribe to a by-the-hour maintenance program such as Pratt ESP. This might shortcut the above-described process of expert witnesses (which lead to reports and depositions in litigation-heavy jurisdictions such as California and Massachusetts) and lawyers trying to educate judges who have never operated or flown an aircraft.]

Note that we do these “overhauls” as regular maintenance at East Coast Aero Club because we burn through the 2200-hour life limits every four years or so. Thus what Robinson calls an “overhaul” is simply done by the team of mechanics who work on the helicopters every 100 hours.



Guardian tackles the subject of divorce profitability


“The biggest financial risk for women today? Embarking on a relationship” (Guardian) looks at divorce under U.K. family law, which is similar to what prevails in the winner-take-all U.S. states, e.g., New York, California, and Massachusetts. As in the U.S., the majority of divorce lawsuits are filed by women and, as in the U.S., plaintiffs express dissatisfaction with (a) how they were unable to extract as much cash as they had hoped from defendants, and (b) how the profitability of the divorce was impaired by transaction costs such as legal fees.

A principal point in the article seems to be that women who marry should continue to work and generate income, but they don’t look at what happens if the husband responds to this increase in household income by quitting his job or scaling back his career. As in the example in Massachusetts Prenuptial Agreements, a woman who has a successful career can become the litigation target of a “dependent spouse” who traded her in on a 25-year-old from Craigslist. The U.K., like the U.S., has gender-neutral alimony laws.

The Guardian doesn’t have the bad taste to point out that the subject of the article would have been a lot better off financially if she’d had three out-of-wedlock children with three different high-income fathers than by being in a medium-term marriage with a medium-income partner (the unemployed guy (50+? The article doesn’t give his age) whom she was counting on to support her, post-marriage, had pension savings of only $282,500, likely comparable to the legal fees on both sides (we learn only about the woman’s bills, which were approximately $106,500 at current exchange rates)).

For your Christmas Wishlist: a personal Blackhawk


Check out the photo in “Heli-Expo 2017: Black Hawks flooding the market” of a Blackhawk helicopter with cow-themed paint. From the article:

According to Parsons, there is likely to be around 800 UH-60s to be divested by the US Army with the A models the first to go, followed by the Lima models. At the moment four UH-60As are being auctioned per month. … Since 2014, commercial operators have acquired approximately 140 UH-60A aircraft at auction from the General Services Administration.

Why do inequality-obsessed Californians want to feed at the federal trough?


A bunch of Facebook friends who (a) live in the Bay Area, and (b) are constantly harping on how income and wealth inequality are America’s most critical problems, have been expressing panic regarding articles such as “Congressional Republican threats to Caltrain funding could cripple Bay Area’s growth”:

Caltrain is seeking $647 million in federal funds, but the state’s entire Republican Congressional delegation sent Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao a letter demanding that she freeze funding until California did a new audit of high-speed rail.

I asked “The Bay Area isn’t sufficiently wealthy and productive to pay for its own trains? Why does a Walmart employee in Alabama have to pay for a Google or Apple executive’s train?” This led to the following exchange:

  • Inequality decrier: You have it reversed, California pays more in federal taxes than it gets back. California -today – is subsidizing Walmart’s employees in Alabama by paying for things like food stamps that a large fraction of Walmart employees get as benefits.
  • Me: Somehow the state is still rich. So if one of your concerns is income inequality wouldn’t you to want to see as much federal spending as possible directed to needier (more “vulnerable”) states?
  • Inequality decrier: The funds that are being withheld for this project are to upgrade commuter train service to SF – we have a huge problem with traffic, and investing in solutions is the smart thing to do. California (and Oregon) had the most robust economic growth of any state in 2016 and is the wealthiest state by far, there’s a reason for that: the State’s policies have led to world-beating industries over and over again. Consider branching out beyond the Murdoch’s Fox News for your views on California. [plus a bunch of stuff about how Kansas, having implemented Republican-proposed policies, is suffering an economic decline]
  • Me: All the more reason for wealthy California to pay for its own train and leave scarce federal funds to help the vulnerable in Kansas! Maybe there is some $600+ million project the Feds could find in Kansas that would boost their economy.
  • Inequality decrier: You’re saying that California should not receive federal highway funds even though we pay taxes for just that purpose? In what bizarre, delusional world does that make sense? And where have I heard the phrase ‘no taxation without representation’ before?
  • Me: If we can agree that inequality is a problem then none of the richer-than-average states should be favored with huge federally-funded infrastructure projects. (My own home of Massachusetts would be similarly excluded.) When equality has been achieved then the federal spigots can be turned back on!
  • Inequality decrier: Federal highway funds don’t exist to solve inequality. There are real investments that need to be made for our country to work. One of the reasons that California has done well is that we make infrastructure investments, this one serves silicon valley, one of the most productive regions in the world. Worse, using federal funding to settle political scores, which this pretty clear is, is destructive of the nation as a whole.
  • Me: As noted originally, if Silicon Valley is so productive, why can’t they pay for this train so that federal dollars are freed up to be spent in a struggling region of the U.S.? If inequality is not a concern, of course, we could go in the opposite direction. Give all of the money to New York, LA, SF, and DC because they are the richest and therefore most productive.
  • Inequality decrier #2: California pays more than their due, and red states take far more than their contributions. It is Californians that are subsidizing Red States, not vice versa, as you claim.

First, I’m not sure about these calculations that California is subsidizing other states. When Medicaid dollars are spent to buy pharmaceuticals in Alabama nearly all the money may find its way to a San Diego pharma company. However, let’s assume for the sake of argument that California is subsidizing these other states. If inequality remains, shouldn’t the subsidy be increased? If the individually wealthy should be hectored with demands that they pay their “fair share” why not collectively wealthy folks such as those in Silicon Valley?

Readers: Can the above Californians be considered logically consistent? How can they simultaneously decry inequality, think of themselves as tremendously financially successful, and try to maximize their share of federal handouts?

[At least some of my neighbors in Massachusetts express a similar desire to receive funding from less wealthy Americans. “Boston arts leaders signal alarm over possible federal cuts” (Boston Globe):

The heads of Boston’s largest art museums have joined a wave of local arts leaders arguing for the importance of federal funding after recent reports that the White House could be seeking to ax the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Meanwhile the New England Foundation for the Arts is lobbying on Capitol Hill and enlisting board members to speak with people close to the Trump administration.

“There is too much at stake here,” said Cathy Edwards, executive director of the New England Foundation for the Arts. “The cultural sector is a major employer. Arts jobs are real jobs, and to pull back on this sector of the economy now just makes no sense.”

In Massachusetts, the NEA provided nearly $920,000 in fiscal year 2016 to the Massachusetts Cultural Council for grants and services. That’s in addition to the roughly $2.7 million the endowment made in direct grants to arts groups, and the roughly $1 million it provided the New England Foundation for the Arts.

Anita Walker, executive director of the Massachusetts Cultural Council, said NEA grants are essential to many of the estimated 62,000 Bay Staters who work in the arts for another reason, as well.

Any time that an insurance company (or Medicaid/Medicare) pays $200,000/year or $375,000/year for a drug made in Massachusetts (examples), there is a large wealth transfer from the rest of America. Why can’t we fund our own arts?]

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