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Low wage recovery a myth

Robert J. Samuelson in the Washington Post: This isn’t a low-wage job recovery. Listen to the media, and you might think that the only kind of jobs being created are in fast-food restaurants and retail chains. It turns out that this is wildly misleading and that the economy’s employment profile — the split between high- and low-paying jobs — hasn’t changed much since the recession or, indeed, the turn of the century.

Put differently, the share of high-wage jobs is just below one-third of all employment, roughly where it was in 2000 and 2007 — the last year before the financial crisis. Similarly, the share of low-paying jobs is about one-quarter of the total, not much different from 2000 and 2007.

The figures come from Elise Gould of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a left-leaning research and advocacy group. At my request, she examined whether the recession has shifted the economy’s job distribution.

To do this, she divided businesses into three groups by their pay. Today’s average hourly pay is $25. Low-paying employment is dominated by restaurant and hotel jobs (2015 average hourly rate: $14.12) and retail jobs ($17.21). Midlevel jobs include manufacturing ($23.90), health care and education ($24.97) and construction ($26.91). Finally, high-paying jobs included professional and business services ($29.59), finance ($31.10) and utilities ($36.02).

Some economists contend that weak overall wage growth (about 2 percent annually) reflects a large influx of poorly paid workers whose low wages drag down the average. To Gould, the stable low-wage share contradicts that. “The weakness in wage growth is not driven by the mix of jobs being created but rather by labor market slack,” she notes. This justifies, she argues, continued expansionary policies to add jobs and intensify pressure for higher wages.

Harriet Tubman vs. Andrew Jackson

Gail Collins in the New York Times: The Treasury Department hasn’t changed a portrait since 1934, when it honored Woodrow Wilson, whose picture you will find on the extremely elusive $100,000 note. All of our paper money feature white men, at least half of them slave-owners.

A website called Women on 20s recently conducted a poll to find a woman to replace President Andrew Jackson. It was a great educational tool. (A high school class in Palo Alto, Calif., sent me their huge stack of make-believe money with brand-new faces of both genders. We will have to have a talk with whoever selected Tom Brady.)

But about the poll: Harriet Tubman won.

Pretty perfect. Replace the slave-owner with the escaped slave who returned to the South — again and again and again — to lead other slaves to freedom. These days “freedom” is a much-abused word, which gets applied to everything from capital gains tax cuts to office towers. But Harriet Tubman could get freedom back to where it once belonged.

So, we’re all happy, right? Harriet Tubman for Andrew Jackson. Best trade ever.

Not so fast. We should have guessed it wouldn’t be simple when all we got from the Obama administration was the president’s “pretty good idea.”

Changing American paper currency turns out to be a huge ordeal. The main decision-maker is something called the Advanced Counterfeit Deterrence Steering Committee, with representatives from a whole bunch of government entities, including the Secret Service. “Whenever a decision is made, it’s not just done. It takes years of research before the process even gets remotely underway,” said Lydia Washington of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

The myth of the objective media

George Neumayr in the American Spectator: The self-appointed guardians of journalism often deny the existence of liberal media bias. The problem is wildly exaggerated, they have long said, even as Democratic aides like George Stephanopoulos have become reporters and reporters like Jay Carney have become Democratic aides.

The scandal of George Stephanopoulos donating to the Clinton Foundation while covering it is one more confirmation that conservatives have not overstated the problem of media bias. An equivalent offense by a Republican aide turned reporter would result in a hasty firing. But Stephanopoulos can count on his bosses to defend him to the hilt.

He has now apologized for making the donation, but the apology’s emphasis on his failure to go the “extra mile” in disclosing it indicates that he considers the matter minor. By putting his apology in those terms, he is suggesting that the real problem lies in the quickness of conservatives to perceive bias. In other words, he should have gone the “extra mile” in anticipation of that criticism but in a better world, a disclosure about donations to such a worthy “charity” wouldn’t be necessary.

Recognizing how bad this flap looks, a few liberal journalists are condemning Stephanopoulos and conceding what they denied before, that he is not a neutral reporter. But their disappointment in him only extends to this conflict of interest. On other conflict of interests, such as when his support for gay activism recently led him to browbeat Mike Pence for Indiana’s religious freedom law, they applauded his lack of objectivity.

For many in the mainstream media, “objectivity” is synonymous with liberalism. Had Stephanopoulos shown a little more circumspection with respect to the Clintons, he could have sustained his charade as an objective reporter.

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