THE YEARS OF WRITING SALACIOUSLY! Collins said shed analyze Ryans plan. Six long weeks have passed: // link // print // previous // next //
THURSDAY, MAY 19, 2011
The astonishing role of The Stupid: As citizens, we seem to have a very hard time coming to terms with how stupid our political culture now is.
We talk a lot about press corps bias, much less about The Dumb.
How dumb is our high journalistic culture? That culture is astoundingly dumb. From the realm of economics, two quick recent examples:
Last Sunday, Andrew Ross Sorkin wrote a piece for the New York Times about high-end taxation. Some of what he wrote was informative; much of what he wrote was pap. We were most struck by the sheer absurdity of what follows. In this passage, Sorkin explained how hard it can be to get by on a mere quarter million:
According to the Fiscal Times, its hard for families earning a quarter million to stay afloat in many locales. The oddness of this finding didnt seem to occur to Sorkin. Question: If families cant make it on $250,000, what happens to families with average incomes? Neither Sorkin nor the Fiscal Times seemed to ask themselves that.
(Versions of this Fiscal Times report have been floating around for at least six months. For our original take on this report, see THE DAILY HOWLER 12/21/10.)
Sorkins report was strangely cluelessand Sorkins a major scrub-faced player in the upper-end press. But then, this front-page report in the Washington Post was a bit clueless too. The report discussed a plan to eliminate tax breaks for major oil companies as part of the effort to reduce federal deficits. Heres the way it started, front-page headline included:
Democrats hoped to save $21 billion over the next decade, part of their effort to cut the national debt/cut [the] deficit. But how big are projected annual deficits over the next ten years? In a lengthy front-page report, Rucker and Montgomery never made any attempt to say.
Without that information, can readers even begin to judge this proposal as an attempt at deficit reduction? Actually, nothey pretty much cant. This problem didnt seem to occur to the Posts front-page editors.
Routinely, its stunning to see the role played by The Dumb in our budget discussions. But lets be honest: Stupid and dumb are the default settings for our national debate in almost all areas. That said, very few people seem to identify The Dumb as a basic problem. In our current political culture, we tend to rail about issues of bias and ideology. But we rarely tell voters a crucial fact: A vast amount of what they read is almost defiantly dumb.
This morning, a New York Times editorial discusses the budget dealings of the so-called Gang of Six, which now has five members. Early on, the editors describe Tom Coburns recent nuanced approach to taxes:
Indeed, Coburns position on taxes has been extremely nuanced. He wasnt willing to raise tax rates; in fact, he wanted to lower rates. But the editors say he was willing to take certain steps which could result in rich people paying more. Did that mean that rich people might pay more taxes on the same amount of income? Or would they only be paying more taxes because they were earning more money? Coburn kept trying to cloud the issue, in part because of GOP pathology regarding tax increases.
That said, we havent seen any news org successfully tackle the ins and outs of this basic conceptual matter. Simply put, work like that is beyond the skill level of the mainstream press. In todays editorial, the editors say that Coburn knew that budget-balancing would require new money. That is a thoroughly mumble-mouthed way of discussing these basic concepts.
Our public discussions are quite underwhelming. So are many major journalists. In fact, our culture is being destroyed by The Dumb, but we continue to screech about bias and ideology. Few people ever mention The Dumb as a basic political problem, although The Dumb is a basic player in these perilous times.
You cant run a modern society on The Dumb. Citizens need to be warned about this fact. Beyond that, citizens need to be challenged about a basic citizens duty:
We all have a basic citizens duty. Even when it feels very good, we cant let ourselves and our tribal mates succumb to the joys of The Dumb.
THE YEARS OF WRITING SALACIOUSLY (permalink): Gail Collins made a promise. Or so it seemed at the time.
Lady Collins appeared on the Maddow show on Wednesday, April 6. One day earlier, Honest Paul Ryan had released his well-intentioned new budget plan.
In the Washington Posts opinion pages, Ryans plan was already being shredded in columns by Dana Milbank, Matt Miller, Harold Meyerson, E. J. Dionne. Somehow, though, Rachel had gotten it into her head that the Beltway media were simply refusing to analyze the plan (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/8/11).
Result? Three separate times, Maddow asked Collins to explain the press corps refusal to analyze Ryans plan. In this, the first of the three Q-and-As, Collins reassured her troubled friend. She said it was going to happen:
Its going to happen, Collins said, agreeing to ignore the fact that Ryan was already getting shredded. And it got better! When Rachel asked her question for the third time, Lady Collins almost seemed to make a personal pledge:
From that, a citizen might even have thought that Lady Collins was planning to talk about Ryans disastrous plan. His numbers were all wrong, she said. His budget plan was a big mess, involving all sorts of terrible things.
Lustily, the analysts cheered. But theyd been misled again!
Six weeks have passed since Lady Collins seemed to declare her intentions. In that time, she has written thirteen new columns, touching on various tedious topics, along with some that are not. Along the way, weve had some good times, including the time she typed this:
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Oh boy, that was good!
Alas. Since the time she appeared with Maddow, Collins has mentioned Mitt Romneys dog in a column. She has mentioned Governor Otter, but only because of his comical name, which she likes being able to say. But apparently, Collins doesnt like being able to say Paul Ryan. Ryans name has never been mentioned in Collins columns, from that day right up to this.
Since talking to Maddow, Collins has written thirteen columns. Ryans plan hasnt been mentioned at allalthough, in fairness, Collins has discussed more serious issues than tends to be her wont.
This morning, Collins provides a service. She reminds us of something she does like discussing, aside from Romneys abused Irish setter.
People! Collins likes to talk about sex! She likes to stick her long itchy nose deep into other folks underwear drawers. And when she gets her long nose there, she sometimes types unfortunate things, like the things weve highlighted:
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! That said, we feel sorry for a child who has Collins pimping him as illegitimate in the nations most legitimate newspaper. Does anyone know what decade it is in the place from which Collins types?
(Perhaps she draws inspiration from Maddow, who wont stop talking about the way John Ensign was shtupping his mistress. Will someone, anyone, save us all from the minds of progressive church ladies?)
Collins has shown her less sensitive side in such discussions before. That said, lets focus on todays point of emphasis:
Lets talk about sex, Collins says, early on. As usual, the analysts jibed.
Collins loves to talk about sex, the juicier the better. Ryans plan could throw millions of people into the street, but problems like that are beneath the ken of such high-ranking ladies. Instead, Collins sticks her big long nose into underwear drawers, weirdly suggesting that Republican sex-bungles differs from those of Democrats. Are the recent sex-bungles of Ensign and Schwarzenegger really different from those of Edwards and Spitzer? Are they really worse, somehow?
It takes a remarkable person to say so. A high lady raised her hand.
That said, the world has always been lucky in one key respect. The world is lucky because its high ladies are willing to tell the proles what to do. Continuing this ancient tradition, Collins has some advice for Mitch Daniels today. She sticks her long nose in his drawer two times, dispensing some high-class advice:
I think it is pretty safe to say that this topic might come up. So Lady Collins says, having just raised the topic herself.
Tomorrow, well talk about what we saw last weekend when we visited an older friend who is struggling with serious medical issues. For us, this trip had a special resonance because Paul Krugman wrote about Ryans plan on the first day of our visit (click here). But Lady Collins still hasnt discussed Ryans plan, despite the promise she seemed to make to poor Rachel that night.
Collins is going to talk about sex. This lady likes hot entertainment. Indeed, many liberals are rediscovering the joys of political sex, having spent a previous decade arguing that we shouldnt waste out time on such matters. You see, the steamy sex in question is Republican sex now!
Really persistent sexual misbehavior says something about the character of the person involved. So a high lady rules today. The analysts authored a rain of jibes, eventually asking this:
What does persistent attention to underwear drawers say about a columnists character?