TPM Cafe: Opinion

During last Sunday’s episode of “Downton Abbey,” Lady Edith Crawley, a blueblood daughter of white British aristocracy, sought an illegal abortion because the father of her baby — a married man — had disappeared in Munich and was nowhere to be found. Once in the discreet waiting room, Lady Edith changed her mind about the abortion after hearing the cries of a woman in the doctor’s office. It was 1922 London, and abortions were afforded to the very wealthy.

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In The Second Machine Age we document several tough facts confronting American workers. Median income is lower than it was in the late 1990s. The only people that have seen their real wages rise over the past twenty years are those with at least a college degree, a group that includes less than 40 percent of the labor force. Unemployment since the Great Recession remains stubbornly high, and in fact much of its reduction in recent years comes from people dropping out of the workforce instead of people finding work. Social mobility is going down while the cost of a higher education (the classic American ticket to a better life) is rising. Unfortunately, we could go on.

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Last year, the cereal brand Cheerios released a commercial that featured an interracial couple and their biracial daughter. The racist backlash against seeing a black man with a white woman was so severe that Cheerios had to disable comments on its YouTube account. During the Super Bowl this year, the brand double-downed on its efforts to be reflective of a diverse nation and released a second commercial featuring the same family. In the new ad, the mother is pregnant with the couple’s second child. This commercial was marked with far less backlash.

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Banning abortion at 20 weeks is bad policy. The bans — which are being passed in many states across the country in blatant violation of Roe v. Wade — are justified on “science” this isn’t science at all, but a lie manufactured by the religious right, the claim that fetuses feel pain at 20 weeks. It’s an attempt to loosen up the hard-and-fast viability test that the Supreme Court laid out in 1973 for outright bans. So why does Wendy Davis, pro-choice hero who famously stood up against an omnibus bill in Texas that includes, amongst a bunch of attacks on clinics that provide first trimester abortions, support a ban on abortions after 20 weeks?

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Let’s review some basic facts. A good place to start is median income—the income of the person at the fiftieth percentile of the total distribution. The year 1999 was the peak year for the real (inflation-adjusted) income of the median American household. It reached $54,932 that year, but then started falling. By 2011, it had fallen nearly 10 percent to $50,054, even as overall GDP hit a record high. In particular, wages of unskilled workers in the United States and other advanced countries have trended downward.

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This post has been updated.

This week, employees at an auto plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee are voting on whether to form a union.

It’s interesting for a few reasons: Tennessee is a low-union-density state; the Volkswagen plant in question would be the first foreign auto facility to be organized in the South, marking a growth opportunity for the United Auto Workers; and VW itself has taken a neutral-to-positive stance toward the union, citing its positive relations with employee organizations at factories elsewhere in the world.

But the most interesting part of all is the panicked reaction of local Republican politicians, who are scrambling to find ways to attack the organizing effort and deter the formation of a union.

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Texas state senator—and the candidate that gives Democrats the best shot they’ve had at the governor’s mansion they’ve had in decades—Wendy Davis declared her support for a 20-week abortion ban. She clarified her support in an interview with The Dallas Morning News on Tuesday.

Support for an abortion ban from a politician in Texas wouldn’t be notable except for the fact that last summer Davis rose to national prominence when she filibustered a bill that would severely restrict reproductive rights in the state. That bill included banning abortion after 20 weeks. While the bill eventually passed and became law, sections of it are undergoing a legal challenge.

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To help publicize The Second Machine Age we went on a two-week book tour, visiting Berkeley, San Francisco and Seattle on the West Coast and Boston, Washington and New York on the East. The days were exhausting but hugely informative because they gave us the chance to hear what's on people's minds; we averaged about two talks each day, each of which included time for questions from the audience.

This was our favorite part: we got to the point where we knew just about exactly what each other was going to say at any point in our prepared remarks or discussion with a moderator, so we looked forward to mixing things up with questions from those who cared enough about the topic to come out and listen to us.

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In the 1950s, General Atomics emerged as the nuclear research arm of General Dynamics, one of the world’s largest government contractors. At that time, General Atomics was tasked with “harnessing the power of nuclear technologies for the benefit of mankind.” (Or so their slogan said.) That unit eventually spun out of General Dynamics working on nuclear as well as the earliest versions of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), or drones.

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Everyone agrees that it would be troubling news if America’s rate of innovation were to decrease. But we can’t seem to agree at all about whether this is actually happening.

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Want to contribute to TPM Cafe? Email ideas for your pieces to us at talk@talkingpointsmemo.com

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