What does a decade of stagnation do to race relations? Gallup offers these data points: In 2007 75% of whites said that race relations were good. As of last year, that number dropped to 55%. The peak point at which blacks saw good relations was 2004, when 68% said relations were good. That number has dropped to 49% as of last year, and it certainly would be lower if the poll were taken today. When countries grow at near zero rates, we fight over the stagnant pie. When countries grow at 4%, we're too busy earning money to fight.
If you want more up-to-date data: in the past three years we've gone from 17% of Americans worrying 'a great deal' about race relations to 42%. That's more than a doubling of people worried about race relations.
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The chart illustrates that race worry trended down fairly consistently after the Bush tax cuts. The anxiety bottomed out early in the Obama administration and has been trending up since 2010. The Bush Boom helped quell racial anxiety. The bust actually helped a little: Americans tend to gather together during a crisis. But the no-growth recovery coincides with increased anxiety about race in America, based on Gallup data.
When you add economic stagnation to increasingly restrictive minimum wage laws, you get an economy which makes starter jobs relatively rare. That's why we've had spikes in youth and minority unemployment. Slow growth combined with unemployed youth has always been the perfect petri dish for various strains of noxious social diseases. Of course, human nature is the real culprit. But some economic environments bring out the worst in human nature, and fighting over relative slices of a non-growing economic pie is such an environment.
Remember: the original KKK was born not just out of military defeat, but also in the midst of a post-war depression. The original Nazi party was misborne out of the high inflation, no-growth policies of Germany's Weimar (or is it, Why Less?) Republic. In general, the middle class does not revolt. So, a country with a large middle class is a country which is far less likely to join do-or-die political movements.
There's an old saying: "Idle hands are the devil's playground." A boom doesn't make extremism impossible, but it does make it expensive. There is less cost for the employed to join communist or fascist flash mobs than for the employed. There is a virtue in being just too busy earning to join a possible riot. If you genuinely hate the rise of extremist groups among young Americans, you will be willing to do something to stop it.
You'll join us in getting the economy going again, and we'll give young people more productive things to do with their hands than hold tiki torches or tear down statues.
Jerry Bowyer is President of Bowyer Research and Editor of affluentinvestor.com. He also appears on the FOX Business Network.