KRUGMAN EZRA MADDOW COLLINS! Our political discourse is very dumbthough not quite as dumb as youve heard: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, APRIL 8, 2011
Covering (for) Bloomberg: Luckily, Michael Bloombergs a billionaire, because his judgment often seems bad.
Yesterday, it happened again. At her Washington Post education blog, Valerie Strauss explains why Bloomberg had to dump Cathie Black, the publishing magnate he weirdly picked, a few months ago, to run New York Citys schools. For good or for ill, Black had no experience in educationnone at all:
For a more dignified, yet striking, account of Blacks downfall, see todays New York Times. (The report is well worth reading.)
Blacks jokes about birth control and Sophies Choice were widely reported in Januaryin the New York Post and the Daily News. But the New York Times tends to cover for Bloomberg. Except one tongue-in-cheek cite in Fashion & Style, the incidents werent mentioned there.
Our news is heavily managed. Especially in the realm of education, the public is handed a relentless array of inaccurate and misleading facts, with a wide array of other facts carefully hidden away. In the past decade, the Washington Post and the New York Times have hidden a series of testing scandals. And everyone agrees to serve the public a bunch of bum facts.
In this past week, Gene Lyons did something that just isnt done. In a nationally-syndicated column, he mentioned a set of accurate facts about American children. Well send you to Salon:
This would be a much better world if people were allowed to know that our black kids, and our Hispanic kids, are doing much better in school.
In a world where people were allowed to know that, citizens might find themselves believing that we, as a people, can solve our difficult problems. Citizens might start to admire our low-income kids, who have in fact been doing much better. Citizens might admire our much-maligned teachers, despite their infernal unions.
We citizens might even start to see ourselves as a people again. Perhaps for that reason, people arent allowed to know the facts Rothstein described. Its amazingly rare to see a columnist cite the facts Lyons cited. Few people have ever heard those facts. Well guess that very few teachers have heard those facts.
And yet, the facts are there.
Instead, we hear that crap from the likes of Bill Gatesand from Diane Ravitch. Gates repeats those misleading claims to denigrate our existing schools. (For all we know, his intentions are good.) Ravitch repeats those bogus claims to denigrate George Bush.
Is it true? Has American student achievement remained virtually flat in the past forty years? That claim can be defended as technically accurate, due to changes in the student populationbut its also grossly misleading. On the NAEP, scores by black kids are way up over that time; so are scores by Hispanic kids. And as Lyons noted, it should be stipulated that nobody's yet found a means or motive for cheating on NAEP tests.
In fact, we wouldnt quite agree with that. On the state and big-city levels, superintendents now have a motive to cheat, although we dont know if they have the opportunity. But scores have been rising for forty yearsand, during most of that period, no one had any real motive. The NAEP was used for research only. In the wider world, no one gave a dang about it. No ones job or reputation was at stake.
The progressive project would be well served if people knew about those score gains. But everyone misleads the public. And good lord, how short-sighted we liberals are! When Ravitch spreads that gloomy picture around, we liberals cheer and cheer! For an example from this week, click here, scroll through comments. We want so much to hear that Bush sucks, well trash black kidsand teachersto get there.
Also this week: To see Jay Mathews say theres been no progress, click this.
Whatever the intention might be, these endlessly repetitive claims keep driving the current conservative world view: As a people, we cant do anything right! Its time we all went our own way!
KRUGMAN EZRA MADDOW COLLINS (permalink): Oof!
At the start of this mornings column, Paul Krugman surveys the recent conduct of many establishment pundits:
More howlers than he can cover? Thats exactly what weve been saying! Since 1998!
Coded messaging to the side, Krugman runs through a few of the insults to simple intelligence found in Ryans proposalinsults ignored by swooning pundits who didnt wait for the numbers. To wit:
Would Ryans proposal address our very large deficits? Uh-oh! In the assessment of the plan which has been trumpeted by Ryan, the claim that lower taxes mean higher revenue is still very much there. This voodoo proposition has produced bad projections. A more sober assessment from the CBO finds that over the next decade the plan would lead to bigger deficits and more debt than current law.
Would Ryans proposal leave basic government functions in place? According to the CBO, the proposal calls for spending on items other than Social Security, Medicare and Medicaidbut including defense to decline to just 3.5 percent of G.D.P. in the long run. (As compared to the current 12 percent!) That percentage would be not much bigger than federal spending when Calvin Coolidge was president, and the United States, among other things, had only a tiny military establishment.
How could such a drastic shrinking of government take place without crippling essential public functions? Krugman asks. The plan doesnt say.
Would Ryans proposal protect average people? Of the $4 trillion in spending cuts he proposes over the next decade, two-thirds involve cutting programs that mainly serve low-income Americans. And by repealing last years health reform, the plan would also deprive an estimated 34 million nonelderly Americans of health insurance. With regard to Ryans Medicare vouchers: The CBO estimates that by 2030 the value of a voucher would cover only a third of the cost of a private insurance policy equivalent to Medicare as we know it. (Thats if your 80-year-old grandma can find an insurance company willing to sell her a policy at all!)
As he finished, Krugman says those swooning pundits got themselves punked by Ryan. That tends to misconstrue the way a good deal of punditry works.
Dating back at least to the Clinton/Gore years, a great deal of American punditry is mainly concerned with reciting Official Approved Standard Narratives. Such punditry isnt about the numbers, the facts. The numbers play almost no part in this game. Its about advancing the novel.
Luckily, American punditry isnt as bad as it was in the Clinton/Gore years. (That may not be enough to save us.) But first, lets revisit one of the younger pundits who swooned a bit this week:
On Wednesday evening, Ezra Klein offered a post which bore this headline: 10 concluding thoughts on Ryans budget. And good lord! Ezras concluding thoughts on the Ryan plan were just as scathing as Krugmans! These are just a few of the judgments Ezra now expressed:
Absurd, mind-boggling and much more regressive than Ezra thought! And things get no better in points 5-10, which include such judgments as dishonest/disappointing. Like Krugman, Ezra concluded that Ryans plan is a ludicrous scam. But not before the young fellow swooned on Day One, helping enable Ryan with a set of familiar hosannas.
If Honest Paul becomes a feature film, the display ad in the New York Times may feature blurbs like this:
Why did Ezra swoon like that? As a matter of fact, we cant tell you. More generally, this is the way a type of young scribe will establish himself as a Serious Person. Its the fee he pays to his elders before he tells the truth. Its one of the ways these squirming young people wriggle their way up the ladder, helping to land big careers.
News flash: Rachel wont ask Ezra about this the next time he guests on her program! People, that just isnt done! Especially in the liberal world, we do not embarrass our court personnel. In the meantime, consider Maddows segment with Gail Collins Wednesday night. (To watch the segment, click here.)
Admit itwe warned you that Collins was due for a Maddow appearance! But when she appeared, it was Maddows performance that deserves a few winks of your time. Do we want our emerging liberal culture to resemble the low-IQ culture Krugman described? In this, her very first question to Collins, Maddow invented a world:
Why no attention to the numbers? That same day, the Washington Post was spilling with news reports and op-ed columns which dissected Ryans numbersand pounded him for what they showed. Three op-ed columnsby Meyerson, Milbank and Millerhammered Ryan very hard while sifting an array of numbers. On page one, a news report by Lori Montgomery was working the numbers too:
There was a fair amount of silly swooning in response to Ryans proposal. But in truth, Maddows sweeping claims in this segment were almost as foolish. Before introducing Collins, she had insisted, in various ways, that the Beltway media was simply refusing to look at the numbers. (I doubt that actual, numerically-based fact-based information will penetrate this smoochy-smoochy love bubble surrounding Paul Ryan right now.) Maddows sweeping claims seemed to come from the planet Creeping Hannityism. But as she kept restating her question to Collins, her claims became even less reality-based:
Was Ryan being lauded coast to coast and on every show as this serious guy whos really concerned about the deficit and doing what is serious about it? That was pretty much happening on some shows, especially on Fox. But Ryan was also being trashed coast to coast on every show on Maddows cable channel. And one hour earlier, on CNN, Eliot Spitzer had lauded Ryan in the following way. He spoke with a Republican congressman:
Thats basically the way Spitzer had treated the plan the night before, though analyses of Ryans numbers were less advanced at that point. On that program, CNNs highest-ranking Serious Person agreed with some of Spitzers objections:
There was a fair amount of silly clatter on CNN, to the extent that the plan was discussed at all. But Maddows claim about the TV coverage was, in a word, untrue.
Do liberals want a serious culture? Or do we want swooning of our own? As is her wont, Maddow gave no examples of the horrible Beltway coverage; she named no names of any big players who had produced ridiculous work. But then, she couldnt name David Brooks, Collins partner in a weekly on-line discussion. She couldnt name Ezra, her regular guestand she couldnt really name E. J. Dionne, a regular guest on Meet the Press. Instead, she offered those silly sweeping claimsclaims Collins seemed to know were inaccurate.
Asked a silly question three times, Collins never challenged Maddows inaccurate premise. (Darlings! It just isnt done!) Instead, Collins did what any big pundit would do. She gave three straight non-response responses:
Its going to happen, Collins said. Presumably, that was her way of saying this: What the fudge are talking about? Its all over this mornings newspapers!
Collins non-responded to Maddow all three times. For text, see below.
Our journalistic culture is massively unintelligent. Established Pundits recite approved novels; they try to avoid naming each others names. Maddow would never name Brooks, Dionne, Ezra. Instead, perhaps from genuine cluelessness, she threw sweet feed to the herd about the Beltway press.
Hannity has done this for decades. Your nation is currently dying of dumband your side, through its millionaire stars, is now adding to the dumbness.
Darlings, it just isnt done: If we had to guess, we would guess that Collins knew that Maddows premise was wildly inaccurate.
She could have said so, of course. But darlings! It just isnt done!
Instead, Collins gave non-response responses each time Maddow asked that question. Heres the way Collins non-responded to Maddows second ask:
Youre rightthat response didnt quite make sense, except as a diplomatic attempt to avoid contradicting Maddow. The same thing happened when Hannitys Child fell for the third time:
For the third time, Collins avoided telling Maddow that the plan was being widely discussed in the Beltway pressand that Ryan was getting hammered.
Collins avoided Maddows error three times. Maddow ended by praising herself and her guest, as pundits will commonly do:
As usual, our Darling Girl had gone where no one else would!
Postscript: In her column the next morning, Collins didnt discuss Ryans plan. Perhaps she will do so tomorrow, though its more likely that she will discuss Seamus, the abused Irish setter.