TPM Cafe: Opinion

What do you do when at the age of 42 you’ve been a Rhodes Scholar, a state agency head, a university president, a member of Congress and a two-term governor of your state? What if you have also been described as a “genius” for two decades, the epitome of your political party’s new tolerance and diversity, and as part of every wave of every future?

The obvious next step for Bobby JIndal is the White House, but there’s a problem: for all of his credentials and the symbolic freight he carries, his every step towards the Ultimate Prize has been frustrated from the get-go by false starts and the pesky folks back home in Louisiana (including many in his own party) who aren’t real enthused by his performance there.

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Nicholas Kristof wrote in his Sunday New York Times column that to the detriment of the American people, professors are missing from the great debates of our time. He blames this on scholars themselves and the larger academic culture that “glorifies arcane unintelligibility while disdaining impact and audience.” As long-time scholars in political science and sociology, we agree. Yet we are glad to report to Mr. Kristof that the tide is rapidly changing and scholars are much more publicly engaged than he realizes. And yes, we are happy to take some credit for that too.

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Things get pretty wild in the Senate during Season 2 of "House Of Cards," which came out Friday on Netflix. If you haven't watched though the end of the third episode of the new season, consider this a fair warning that there are MAJOR SPOILERS below.

If you have seen it and are wondering how Frank Underwood -- the calculating, murderous, newly minted vice president -- masterminded it, and whether his bizarre maneuvering is legal (short version: it is), read on.

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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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