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Stagnant wages and income are nothing new. Real median household income grew at only 0.5% per year from 1984 to 2015. Therefore if stagnant incomes were to be a cause of political instability, it would already have happened.

Instead, stagnant incomes have exacerbated political polarization, as voters punish incumbent parties for the perceived inability of government to ameliorate the conditions leading to income stagnation. This in part explains the victory of the Democratic presidential candidate in 2008 and of the Republican presidential candidate in 2016.

However, the sources of political discontent go beyond slow growth of wages and incomes. The crux of the problem is the decline in living standards and job security for those who formerly held good, stable, union jobs paying medical benefits and providing defined-benefit pension plans. As plants and mines have closed, these sources of stable income have disappeared, leading to profound unhappiness as current low-income unstable jobs lacking previous benefits are compared to the much better employment conditions of the past.

Bottom line: Since Trump has no plausible solutions to revive the lost jobs, the political pendulum may swing back in the opposite direction in 2018 and 2020.

Other voices in the conversation:

Go deeper

Pew: Over 80% of Asian adults say violence against them is increasing

Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

More than 80% of Asian adults say that violence against them is increasing, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

The big picture: The survey, conducted April 5-11, comes after the recent shootings in Atlanta in which eight people, including six Asian women were killed, as well as a yearlong spike in hate incidents against the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.

Danger lurks in the Democrats' police talk

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats celebrate last June after they passed the George Floyd Policing Act. Photo: Ting Shen/Xinhua via Getty Images

As Congress forges ahead with police reform legislation, Democratic operatives are warning lawmakers to steer clear of any defund-the-police rhetoric since it could hurt them in the midterms.

Why it matters: President Biden and his fellow Democrats say Congress needs to pass the George Floyd Policing Act, which would ban chokeholds, prohibit no-knock warrants and generally make it easier to hold officers accountable for misconduct.

Exclusive: Harris meets Guatemalan president Monday, travels in June

Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Vice President Kamala Harris will meet virtually Monday with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei to discuss solutions to the surge of migration, and she'll visit the region in June, a senior White House official told Axios.

Why it matters: The administration is taking a multi-pronged approach to solving the problem and also hopes to announce details about its plan for investing aid in Central America on Monday — although a final dollar amount has yet to be decided.

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