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Morning Reads: The American Middle Class Is Melting Away

A roundup of some of the stories we're reading at BillMoyers.com HQ...

Morning Reads: The American Middle Class Is Melting Away

An ice sculpture reading “Middle Class” is displayed as people gather to protest before the beginning of the Republican National Convention in August 2012 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images, Artwork by Nora Ligorano and Marshall Reese)

Divided ideologically –> Democratic candidates, world leaders and some of Trump’s rivals have denounced his Muslim ban, but “almost two-thirds of likely 2016 Republican primary voters favor Donald Trump’s call to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the US, while more than a third say it makes them more likely to vote for him,” John McCormick of Bloomberg Politics reviews the news service’s latest poll.

And divided economically –> “After more than four decades of serving as the nation’s economic majority, the American middle class is now matched in number by those in the economic tiers above and below it,” reports the Pew Research Center. That means that for the first time in most Americans’ lifetimes, most of us are not middle class. While “the share in the upper-income tier grew more,” the report finds that “the far edges of the income spectrum” — the very rich and the very poor — “have shown the most growth.”

Some backstory –> In a review of former Labor Secretary Robert Reich’s Saving Capitalism for The New York Review of Books, economist Paul Krugman offers a useful overview of how we have thought about inequality and the effect on politics and policy over the last quarter-century.

Job of the future? –> Former New York Times labor reporter Steven Greenhouse has a skeptical profile of Uber at The American Prospect: “Many labor advocates view Uber as the leading practitioner of illegal worker misclassification because it insists that its 400,000 US drivers are independent contractors rather than employees… Indeed, with its clout, cachet and big-name backers, Uber has sought to redefine what an employee is.”

Refugees to arrive in Canada –> Reuters: “The first planeload of Syrian refugees from camps in Jordan and Lebanon will arrive in Canada on Thursday, the country’s prime minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday. Another such aircraft will arrive in Montreal on Saturday, he told legislators.” Like the US, the country initially committed to resettling 10,000 — but unlike the US, those 10,000 will be in the country by the end of the year. Trudeau: “Resettling refugees demonstrates our commitment to Canadians and the world that Canada understands we can and must do more.”

Better than expected –> The Paris climate conference is going much more smoothly than anticipated, writes Eric Holthaus at Slate. But there are still a number of sticking points. At Grist, Ben Adler outlines where the deal still falls short of climate hawks’ expectations. And if you really want to dig in, Mashable’s Andrew Freedman has an annotated copy of the draft agreement.

Dangerous crude –> “A sobering critique of America’s pipeline spill response efforts was delivered in a new study released Tuesday, concluding they aren’t adequate when it comes to spills involving sludgy crude oil pumped from the Canadian tar sands,” Zahra Hirji reports for InsideClimate News. We wrote earlier this month about a push by the industry to get that tar sands oil shipped by train to the Pacific Northwest — an effort drawing substantial opposition from activists.

Laying those questions about motivation to rest –> “‘I’m guilty. There’s no trial,’ the accused mass killer Robert L. Dear Jr. told a startled courtroom here on Wednesday. ‘I’m a warrior for the babies.'” Richard Fausset reports for The New York Times. Dear allegedly killed three and wounded nine during a Nov. 27 rampage at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs.

Home of the brave –> Rep. Steve King (R-IA) is concerned about his Muslim colleagues in Congress: “You won’t get Keith Ellison or Andre Carson in this Congress to renounce Sharia law, let alone somebody that’s just come out of the Middle East that is someone who has been steeped in Islam for a lifetime.” Lauren Fox writes at Talking Points Memo that when asked, “Ellison said it was ‘an incredibly ignorant statement.'” AND: “Rep. Andre Carson, one of two Muslim members of Congress, said Tuesday he’s received a death threat he attributes in part to politicians ‘fanning the flames of bigotry.'” Maureen Groppe reports for USA Today.

“Terrorists Want You to Be Very Afraid. So Don’t Be.” –> Gershom Gorenberg at The American Prospect: “Terrorism is intended to make you feel terror, to make fear flood your mind and keep you from thinking straight. That’s true whether it takes place in Paris, San Bernardino or Jerusalem. The first step in defeating terrorism, therefore, is to chill out.”

The end of affirmative action? –> “An affirmative-action plan at the University of Texas seemed to be in trouble at the Supreme Court on Wednesday. By the end of an unusually long and tense argument, a majority of the justices appeared unpersuaded that the plan was constitutional. A ruling against the university could imperil affirmative action at colleges and universities around the nation,” Adam Liptak reports for The New York Times.

What could possibly go wrong? –> The Austin American-Statesman: “Gun-rights groups say they will conduct a mock mass shooting this weekend at the University of Texas campus as they try to end gun-free zones.” Asher Price reports that UT — where gunman Charles Whitman murdered 14 and wounded 32 in 1966 — warned the groups that should this plan go forward, the administration will consider it trespassing, so the activists plan to hold their demonstration next door with the university as the “backdrop.”

Morning Reads is compiled by John Light and edited by Michael Winship.

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