STOLBERG’S STATS! Sheryl Stolberg selected the stats which reflect her cohort’s crabbed values: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, JULY 12, 2006
STOLBERGS STATS: In this mornings New York Times, Sheryl Gay Stolberg serves up the stats which reflect her cohorts Millionaire Pundit Values. At one point, the scribe quotes President Bush, who says, ''[T]his economy of ours is strong. And then, she provides those selective statistics—and marvels at the views of the voters:
STOLBERG (7/12/06): By standard measurements, the economy does look good: a 4.6 percent unemployment rate, 5.4 million new jobs since August 2003 and a gross domestic product that grew an average of 4 percent in the past three years.Stolbergs construct: By standard measures, the economy looks good—but the public just wont give Bush credit.
To state the obvious, the problem with the Stolberg piece rests with the stats she selects. Yes, that unemployment rate is fairly low; the job growth she records is roughly average; and that GDP growth rate is fairly high. But Stolberg fails to include any measure of median (or low) wages, and that is her reports groaning problem. After all, you could imagine a growing economy in which millions of people toiled at brand-new, low-income jobs—while all the growth went to those at the top. For most people, that wouldnt be a great economy. But then, its not unlike our present economy, the one which Stolberg seems to praise! Indeed, even David Gergen knows this. Here he was, on last nights Hardball:
CHRIS MATTHEWS (7/11/06): The economy. David—you`re up in Harvard. Is this economy doing great or not?No ones a bigger insider than Gergen, but he had no trouble understanding why people are down on the economy—despite the selective, feel-good stats which shape the Stolberg report.
By contrast, Stolberg seems completely unable to understand this simple problem. She starts her report with that Bush-friendly construct (the president is [b]lessed with a growing economy but facing voters who do not give him much credit). And even when she briefly escapes this construct, she cant seem to internalize what shes been told. Midway through, she quotes an economist who explains the voters negativity much as Gergen did:
STOLBERG: [S]ome economists say that the picture is not all that rosy and that this is one reason Mr. Bush is not getting the customary bump in the polls from what his advisers call ''robust economic growth and job creation.''Zandi explains the problem much as Gergen did; wealthier households are doing fabulously well, but lower-middle-income households are struggling. But in her summary of what economists like Zandi are saying, Stolberg only mentions the rise in gasoline prices and interest rates. She never considers the more basic question—what is happening to most peoples incomes? According to Gergen, most people find that their incomes are stagnant. But the fundamental matter of median income never comes up in Stolbergs report—a piece in which she constantly wonders why voters arent giving Bush credit for that rise in the GDP.
To our mind, these are Millionaire Pundit Values at their best. Best example of the mindset? Midway through, Stolberg quotes a cheerful Bush flak—then tags along as Bush whips through a factory in the midwest:
STOLBERG: ''People are personally pleased with their economic position but are anxious about the future,'' said Dan Bartlett, counselor to the president, calling the shoe factory visit ''a real-life example that our economy is growing and prospering.''This company has benefitted from Bushs tax cuts? Our follow-up: How much of the companys gains have been returned to its workers in the form of wage hikes? And how many people on that factory floor are personally pleased with their economic position? Uh-oh! True to the values of her class, Stolberg forgot to ask.
THE VALUES OF UPPER-CLASS WASHINGTON: Heres the problem: Stolberg cites the growth in GDP, but none of her statistics attempts to explain where that growth is going. Last week, a front-page report in the Washington Post seemed to give a partial answer— and helped us see what the lucky duckies whose incomes are soaring have done with their income gains. No, theres nothing wrong with acquiring personal wealth—until it starts affecting our values and judgment. But make no mistake— Washingtons millionaire pundit class has gained a great deal in the Bush era. Like the people in this fascinating Post report, they are busy remodeling their bathrooms—and they often forget to speak to the people who work on those factory floors.
VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: For a comical taste of Ted Koppels MPVs, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/3/03. Yes, these Millionaire Values do explain a good deal of our mainstream press coverage.
MILLIONAIRE ADVISER VALUES: We emitted mordant chuckles when Stolberg quoted Al Hubbard, another major Bush helpmate:
STOLBERG: In addition to Mr. Bush's appearances, other administration officials, including Rob Portman, director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Al Hubbard, director of the National Economic Council, were also giving interviews and making public appearances.Too funny! Hubbard finds it frustrating when low-income people wont cheer for gains which the rich are enjoying. But uh-oh! Theres no sign that Stolberg saw the irony in what Hubbard said.
A VOICE WAS SOUNDING: Woody Guthrie had his failings—but Millionaire Pundit Values werent among them. We plan to watch this program tonight. A few quotes from Guthrie tomorrow.