The 2016 U.S. Presidential Election

The 2016 U.S. Presidential Election has been unlike any that has occurred within the last 50 years and, in some ways, ever.  It is the first in which both of major political parties, the Republicans “Grand Old Party” (GOP) and the Democrats, ran preliminary candidates with little or no history with or loyalty for the party in which they ran.  Bernie Sanders, an Independent (not a member of a political party) and Donald Trump, one who has switched party affiliations throughout his adult life; including in the little known Reform Party, have both gained support from the U.S. populist attitudes, within each party, that have been impacting politics throughout the world.

There are a number of reasons for this world-wide populist trend but many, if not most reasons, are directly related to the recent world-wide “Great Recession” and the slow economic recovery in which the gap between the “have’s” (those with exceptional social, political, and economic resources) and the “have not’s” (those without much, if any, social, political, and economic resources) has continued to increase and done so with an increasing rate of disparity.

Donald Trump gained enough votes, during the various Republican Party state primaries, to gain the GOP endorsement, to run as that party’s candidate for President of the United States, at the Republican National Convention (Cleveland, OH  July 18-21).  Donald Trump received more delegate votes (1,427) than Ted Cruz  (549), Marco Rubio (168), or John Kasich (159).

Hillary Clinton did likewise, as the Democratic Party candidate for President of the United States, at the Democratic National Convention (Philadelphia, PA  July 25-28).  She received more delegate votes (2,775) than the progressive, “populist candidate”, Bernie Sanders (1,889).  Hillary Clinton represents the traditional, non-populist politics that has been the norm, as well as, the beneficiary of the Democratic Party’s blatant expression of political elitism (the reliance on winning elections via the politically and economically influential and powerful).

Donald Trump represents an increasingly conservative shift, within the Republican Party,  which began around 30 years ago and has become the basis of a populist movement which can be broadly characterized as anti-immigrant, anti-free trade, and anti-establishment.

The means by which Donald Trump has stated he would respond to (“fix”) these issues would tend to require the expansion of the power of the U.S. Executive Branch (the Presidency), assumes the U.S. Legislative Branch (the U.S. Congress, consisting of the House of Representatives and Senate) supports his policies or are by-passed altogether, and that many of his more controversial policies and procedures would not be subject to review by the U.S. Judicial Branch (the Supreme Court).

There are two additional characteristics that tend to defined Donald Trump’s candidacy: the use of social media to 1) convey his narcissistic personality and 2) spread conspiracy theories and misinformation.  For these reasons, Donald Trump’s candidacy can be characterized as expressing significant neo-fascist rhetoric.

The 2016 U.S. Presidential Election is not yet concluded (as of 02.12.16) in that the total electoral count, voting by the “Electoral College”,  hasn’t yet taken place though it appears Donald Trump will win with 306 electoral votes to Hillary Clinton’s 232 out of 270 required despite Hillary Clinton receiving over 2,012,000 more in the popular vote.

Because the Trump presidency rose from a conservative populism, accompanied by neo-fascist rhetoric, and a refusal to follow the conventional wisdom inherent in successful political campaigning, there is a legitimate concern that the U.S. could enter a period of social, political, and economic transformation, of the worst kind, that could have ramifications long into the future of the country.

 

Meaningful Complications

There’s a phenomenon on the internet in which someone with a specialty, involving traditional architecture, will be dismissive or critical of others for not having the same point of view but who are, nevertheless, doing their part to contribute to our enjoyment of old homes and historic structures. It’s one thing to be helpful, to share information, and to be encouraging; it’s another to be dismissive and critical on some point that may not matter in the big scheme of things. I think those who are putting up the money and putting in the time should decide to what extent they want a museum quality restoration or an interpretive one. I think the only criteria that matters is not to remove or destroy that which is irreplaceable or to do work that isn’t reversible at some later date.

I’m reblogging this post from JaMa House because it speaks about the larger issues involved with traditional architecture and not just the process of one project.

JaMa House

Lately, I’ve been thinking more about the political economics surrounding the old house industry and how it impacts one’s ability to purchase, rehabilitate, and restore the old home.  As a part of my inquiry, I’ve been looking into what notable supporters of traditional architecture have to say.

[Those who think traditional architecture should never have a resurgence in popularity have an inordinate amount of influence over what architectural students are taught, what products are readily available to consumers, and laws to help ensure the Modernist agenda works its way into the fabric of American life and dominates the architectural landscape.  These areas are covered under “political economics”].

I’m a bit surprised to find what I thought were personal observations and conclusions are the opinions and points of view from those who have a “name” in the traditional architecture camp.  That might mean I’m either more insightful than I thought or maybe they’re not all that brilliant.  I’m inclined to believe the latter…

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Brief History of the Decline of Western Residential Architecture

DIY Home Design & the Psychology of Home:

There are many books about home design but I wouldn’t recommend anyone design their home based solely on them.  Nor would I recommend anyone use stock ‘home plans’ magazines.  The problem with either source is they lack a fundamental understanding of the psychology of “home”; which relies on an in-depth understanding of traditional home design which, in turn, relied on an in-depth understanding of classical architecture.

Classical architecture is governed by ‘rules’ of proportion and scale derived from the human form.  Psychologically, we unconsciously recognized such proportions and scales in our surroundings and we, therefore, tend to feel an empathy with them.  They feel welcoming to us and we feel ‘at home’ with them.

Why Most Contemporary Architects and Designers Don’t Understand the Psychology of Home – A Brief History:

About 100 years ago a group of egotistical architects thought (correctly) they could make a name for themselves by coming up with an architectural philosophy differentiated from the traditional, classical-oriented philosophy (with which they were neither particularly successful or skilled).  Being sensitive “artsy” types they were among those concerned about the backlash against industrialization by the traditionalists and hoped to tap into the growing idea that the world’s woes were not the result of industrialization but the result of weak state governments incapable of suppressing regional self-determinations and the ambitions of the ‘mob of society’ (democracy).

The devastation wrought by World War I, the demonstrated potential of fascism during the war, and the political and economic upheaval that followed it, gave these anti-traditional, anti-liberal democratic architects momentum but not enough that the ‘Modern’ architectural forms they were advocating became very popular in Europe prior to WWII.  In the United States, however, they found fertile ground for their “Modernism” ideas in a nation that was becoming highly industrial, wealthy, and in need of architects to build its rapidly growing cities.

It wasn’t difficult for them to design ‘Modern’ themes which switched from ‘powerful governments seeking to suppress regional and individual aspirations’ to designs for ‘powerful industrialists seeking to suppress worker aspirations’.  Either only required the simplest of forms; the more oppressively plain, the better.

Hadrian’s Wall & Monuments of Oppression:

You may ask, “How does design accomplish anything relative to how people live or think?”  Good question.  Why did the Roman Empire build Hadrian’s Wall?  In some places it never got taller than 10’0″ (3 m).  So what was the point?  It sent the message, “We are here and this is to where the Roman Empire extends.”  It had an impact on those who found themselves on one side of the wall or the other in different ways even though it was often just a pile of rocks.

In a similar way, the imposing structures built by industrialists and the corporations they control are meant to convey their wealth and power relative to everyone else.  In contrast, workers living in tenements have no illusion about where they stand relative to the industrialist.  This symbolic intimidation tends to work very effectively on those with little or no hope of attaining a similar status of economic or political power.  By the way, no (successful) revolution has ever been orchestrated by the lower stratum of society.  And architecture can send the very powerful message of where one stands compared to others and, therefore, discourage any challenge to the status quo.

“All Animals Are Equal, But Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others.”

Eventually, the wealth and prestige backing the ‘Modernist’ architects led to co-opting American architectural institutions concerned with education, construction, and fraternity.  Then, after the urban devastation of WWII, the ‘Modernists’ returned to Europe and, with American financial backing and resources, re-built the cities of Europe in their own favoured style.

“The Fox and The Grapes” and “The Emperor’s New Clothes”

Despite propaganda to disparage traditional architecture (which persists), by the 1960s it was clear individual homeowners had rejected the ‘Modern’ and ‘Post-Modern’ movements (except for the Prairie style) but, by then, the ability to find traditional, classically trained architects had become exceedingly difficult.  Like the ’emperor’s new clothes’ few architects are brave enough to acknowledge the obvious shortcomings of Modernism and call for the revival of classical training.

Today architects with an appreciation for traditional architecture exist but they tend to be self-taught or graduates of preservation curriculum and usually only after being encouraged by a discriminating, traditional or preservation-minded client.  Such architects tend not to write DIY home design books; nor do they tend to create stock home plans for magazines.

Hiatus

My attention to this blog was interrupted by a number of events leading up to the commencement of our construction project to turn a muddled ranch style house into a neo-Queen Anne Victorian.  Then, during the Spring of 2012, a storm hit before any of the second floor walls had been framed.  The tarp failed and the first floor and basement were drenched (along with the notes I had for this blog’s “Middle Class” posts).  Fortunately, the exterior envelope was completed before hurricane Sandy hit, in October 2012, and the interior remained dry.  But Sandy put a halt to our project for the rest of the year and well into the Spring of 2013.  I’ve been doing all the interior work, by myself, for the past 18 mos. and hope to be finished in another 6-12 mos.  But I’m hoping to return to Acroteria soon.

The Middle Class – Part 3 of 6

A little more light is shed on the implications of the US Census Bureau’s data if one considers the US Internal Revenue Service data. To its credit, the IRS acknowledges the adjusted gross income (AGI) it uses is defined as that from IRS Form 1040, Line 41. Therefore, we have a standard definition of income. The IRS also uses a more informative income bracket break-down that categorizes incomes greater than the US Census Bureau limit of $100,000.

Unfortunately, the IRS will only release its income data as a comparison of “Number of
Returns”, which includes returns filed singly and jointly; without stating how many of each were filed. And while the IRS uses income ranges of $5,000 for incomes below $30,000 or $60,000 (depending on which version of the data one has); the income ranges increase as incomes increase, thus giving a visually misleading inference of what the middle income might be.

Instead of thirty-five income brackets up to “$100,000 and over”, as used by the US
Census Bureau, the IRS uses twenty-two or nineteen income brackets (depending on the version of the data) up to “$10,000,000 or more”.  But, like the US Census Bureau, there are more income brackets at the low end of the income spectrum than at the high income end. While the middle bracket on the US Census Bureau table is “$40,000 to $42,499” the middle bracket on the IRS table is “$50,000 under $55,000” or “$50,000 under $75,000” (depending on version).

In both cases, one is led to the visual impression that the middle income bracket may be the middle of the middle class. And, one can be led to believe the following idea:

“Since the US Census Bureau median income is $26,197, any income over $26,197 is ‘above average’ and, since the US Census Bureau mean is $49,445, any income around $49,445 is middle class and the middle class is doing better than most”.

Both the US Census Bureau and the IRS tables support this inference. It’s almost as if the US Census Bureau data establishes expectations and the IRS data shows those expectations are surpassed.

But why did the IRS revise its earlier table?

IRS Individual Complete Report (Publication 1304), Table 1.1 Before & After

A possible answer might lie in what the ” # returns” column seemed to indicate in the earlier version. The first three AGI ranges show about 12,000,000 returns. Then the number of returns declined from the $15,000 to $60,000 AGI and then jumped up significantly for $60,000 to $200,000 AGI.

This makes it appear the “middle class” AGI returns are fewer in number while “low” and “high” income AGIs are greater in number. Therefore this table might imply a dramatic income inequality with a shrinking middle class.

The revised table divides the lowest AGI range, so it no longer has the second greatest number of returns, while combining several “middle income” brackets, so that nearly all AGI ranges have no less than 10,000,000 returns. Also, the visually middle AGI range (“$50,000 under $75,000”) has the greatest number of returns.

While this revision somewhat implies “middle class” is from $50,000 to $75,000 (contradicting the US Census Bureau by 250-300%) it also resolved the implication that there’s a great income disparity and a shrinking “middle class”.

It appears the IRS made a value choice of the ‘lesser of two evils’; in that, “yes, the middle class makes more than we’d prefer you to believe but, no, the middle class is not shrinking…in fact, they’re the largest group and they have better than expected incomes.”

The Middle Class – Part 2 of 6

Quick “Facts” About the 2010 Census:

308,745,539 – total population

$26,197 – median (middle) individual income (50% earned less; 50% earned more)$38,337 – mean (average) individual income (see below)

$49,445 – median household income                                                                      $67,530 – mean household income (see below)

1.797 – mean number of income earners per household

Normally, to get the mean (average) income, one would add all the incomes together and divide by the number of income earners. The government manipulates the data, to
achieve a low mean, in the following ways:

–      The US Census Bureau “plugs-in” $250,000 for all incomes greater than $250,000 for the sake of “privacy”; the higher income isn’t used to establish the mean
income,

–      Various US Census Bureau publications use different populations of earners (ie. All earners, full-time, year-round, part-time, seasonal, etc.) so that a consistent comparison among its various publications and data tables can’t be made,

–      Various US Census Bureau publications use different definitions for ‘income’, ‘income earner’, ‘wage’, ‘wage earner’, and ‘household’, again, preventing comparisons
among its publications and data tables.

In its Current Population Survey (CPS) Annual Social & Economic (ASEC) Supplement [PINC-1], the US Census Bureau breaks-down incomes under $100,000 into thirty-four ranges of $2,499 and combines the data for everyone making “$100,000 and over” into a single category.

2009 US Census CPS ASEC

The middle category is the range “$40,000 to $42,499”. The 2009 CPS ASEC survey states the median income to be $26,197 and the mean to be $38,337; almost 50% higher. Statistically, because of the nearly 212 – 250 million incomes used in the equation, the median and mean should be no more than the 2-3% margin of error plus the standard deviation. This 50% discrepancy should be unacceptable to anyone considering this data.

The total of all incomes is never given in US Census Bureau publications. The total
of all incomes within an individual income bracket is also never given. Statistically, such an omission is completely unacceptable. Instead a ‘weighted aggregate’ of $8,107,886,645 is given and this is due, in large part, to the plugging-in of $250,000 for all incomes over $250,000.

Also, it must be assumed, that because 33,000,000 people with no incomes are part of the data table they were used to figure the median though they contribute nothing to the aggregate total of all incomes; thus reducing the mean and median.

It is in the governments best interests, for the sake of ‘domestic tranquility’ and the public’s best interest, for the sake of personal pride, that everyone believes these artificially low median and mean incomes; which are often used to infer middle of middle class income levels.

The Middle Class – Part 1 of 6

The people and government of the US are co-conspirators in perpetuating the ambiguity, if not myth, of what is middle class. For most people there is no ambiguity. Middle class is what they are. Whether it’s by virtue of their income, education, or values and outlook; most people will say they are middle class. The government supports these assumptions and beliefs in a number of ways:

–      The US Census Bureau manipulates perception by manipulating the data it publishes: the way the data is organized to create the greatest amount of distraction from the wealthiest, by excluding data it knows but doesn’t want the public to know,
and by not being consistent  from one publication to the next

 –      The IRS and other government agencies manipulate perception, much like the US Census Bureau, in that the data used by one agency’s publication is inconsistent from that of other agencies, as well as, from itself from one publication to another

 –      Despite the frequent use of the term “middle class”; the people, the government, the media, economists, and everyone else refuses to clearly define to what ‘middle class’ refers.

Why the ambiguity?

The most obvious answer to this question is, “to ensure domestic tranquility”.

By not defining ‘middle class’ the government allows people, of nearly all incomes, to enjoy the misperception they are in it. An official definition would surely rob many of them of this fallacy and may cause discontent within and on both sides of the middle class income range.

An official definition would also preclude politicians from seeking broad support for legislation which clearly benefits only a particular class. For by defining ‘middle class’ the government would, by implication, be defining the others.

Some might argue that defining ‘middle class’ would be the first step toward restrictive social castes and the institutionalization of “untouchables”, the privileged, or a nobility. In response, one could point-out US history toward minorities, the handicapped, or the under-privileged. One could also consider the histories of South Africa, India, or any number of societies with or without legal discrimination and the move toward a more equal society. In making such comparisons it becomes obvious simply defining what already exists will not change the nature of it nor cause it to arise in a people not already predicated toward it.