This election’s first Presidential debate will be held on September 26th, the anniversary of the first televised Presidential debate, between Richard M. Nixon and John F. Kennedy, in 1960. Nixon and Kennedy met in a bare CBS studio in Chicago, without an audience; the event was broadcast, live, by CBS, NBC, and ABC. Each candidate made an eight-minute opening statement and a three-minute closing statement. The rules were the result of strenuous negotiating. The very scheduling required Congress to temporarily suspend an F.C.C. regulation granting equal time to all Presidential candidates (there were at least fourteen). Much of the negotiation involved seemingly little things. Nixon wanted no reaction shots; he wanted viewers to see only the guy who was talking.
To be fair, it’s not hard to understand why it took the G.O.P. and much of the press so long, too long, to take Donald Drumpf’s candidacy seriously. Many times before, he flirted with running, and, each time, he quit. His bids were stunts. Still, he learned something from those stunts, and the distance between his earlier bids and this one suggests that, while much in American politics has changed, Drumpf has not.
For about a century, economic inequality has been measured on a scale, from zero to one, known as the Gini index and named after an Italian statistician, Corrado Gini, who devised it in 1912, when he was twenty-eight and the chair of statistics at the University of Cagliari. If all the income in the world were earned by one person and everyone else earned nothing, the world would have a Gini index of one. If everyone in the world earned exactly the same income, the world would have a Gini index of zero. The United States Census Bureau has been using Gini’s measurement to calculate income inequality in America since 1947. Between 1947 and 1968, the U.S. Gini index dropped to .386, the lowest ever recorded. Then it began to climb.