Via Naked Capitalism comes a valuable tutorial cutting through the propaganda which, according to Yves Smith, is aiming to soften up the public for "entitlement reform." They're attempting to trick us into thinking we're getting a fantastic deal, and that the rich were screwed, and people concerned about their Social Security are radical lefty wack-jobs who also believe in fairies.
Those who question the Beltway blather are being made to feel like ingrates. Perhaps the most odious bit of Obama apologium I've read this week is a piece in The Daily Beast by Michael Tomasky. At 52, he doesn't really qualify for admission to that elite group of young media pundits who arrived on the national scene fully-formed and famous, apparently never having had to slog their way up through the ranks of crappy, low-paying local jobs at obscure papers or stations, covering zoning board meetings and cats in trees. Ross Douthat of the New York Times and Luke Russert of NBC are typical examples of what Charles Pierce calls the Young Fogeys. These are the people who can spew about "entitlement reform" because they will never have to rely on Social Security for their basic subsistence. If it's not there for them in their dotage, what do they care?
But Tomasky absolutely shares the Young Fogey style. He uses that annoying, cloying combination of scolding and Charles Boyer-like gaslighting techniques and cool pundit-speak with some mild, hip swear words thrown in for good measure in his role as a middle-aged Young Hippie-Punching Turk for Obama. His piece is ever so originally and predictably titled Dear Liberals: Stop Complaining. It makes the whining tone all the more ironic:
But if there’s a style of criticism that really bugs me, it’s that which reproves him for failing to be Captain Liberal while refusing to recognize that the guy has to be Mister President. Here’s what I mean. (a variation of "he's not the king and he never promised you a unicorn.")
I will readily confess that the logic (of letting us go over the Cliff) is, if not impeccable, only mildly peccable. The Republicans would have been over a barrel. Of course predicting what those people will do and how they’ll respond to any given situation is risky business, but presumably they would not have wanted to be blamed for middle-class tax rates going up, so they’d have done something vaguely rational.
I get it. But here’s what I think proponents of that argument don’t get. Obama isn’t some co-speaker. He’s the effing president. (cue the young, hip, daring yet genteel outrage) People want the president to lead. They may blame Republicans more than Democrats for obstruction, and that’s a good thing. But they still want the president to Get Things Done, and, however naively, they still think he ought to be able to just assert his will and Get Things Done. (okay, I'll cut him some slack on the Gratuitous Capitalization To Make a Point, because I often do it myself. See above.)
But the president—he’s supposed to do stuff. Obama really and deeply understands this—perhaps to a fault, but better that than believe he only has to represent the third of the country that loves him. (the same tired old canard that just because a liberal base elected him, his first duty is to the Neo-Cons. He is president of all the people. The only mandate he thinks he got was deficit reduction, championed by a whopping 15% of all the people )
Obama Is Not The Leader of a Movement -- He's the Head of a Country. (his bold, not mine.)
Now they tell us. I mean, both his campaigns have always been framed as grass-roots movements. Practically every email I received from Obama for America urged me to become part of the movement. Googling "Obama Movement" gets you 160 million hits. But according to Tomasky, you now need to have your head examined for being so naive as to actually believe their movement crap. That was the wilfully shameless then. This is the pragmatic now, people.
Only slightly less odious, stylistically anyway, is this front-page story by Annie Lowrey in today's New York Times. Lowrey, who recently wrote another monumentally odious puff-piece about deficit hawk Maya McGuineas, today informs us that President Obama is making those poor rich people suffer, by golly! Contrary to what our lying eyes and brains may tell us, our tax rate is now the most progressive in a generation! It "squeezes" a whopping $600 billion from the wealthy in the next..... um, decade. (that is peanuts, by the way.) It raises the capital gains tax from 15 to 20%! (even though it should have gone much higher, at least to 35% as originally suggested.) Not until deep into the story does Lowry admit that the progressive taxation she propagandizes about is actually only in the eye of the beholder. She acknowledges, for example, that a well-off physician still pays a higher effective rate than a hedge fund manager. Mitt Romney, despite all the anti-vulture capitalism rhetoric of the Obama campaign, is still making out like a bandit.
On further reflection, calling Lowrey's article a propaganda piece is being way too kind. Since the top marginal tax rate in 1970 was 70%, she is committing a blatant lie of omission. On the front page, no less.*
Just as an aside, this 20-something Harvard lit major came to The Times as a fully-formed economics expert directly from a blogging gig at Slate, and as the new bride of that most famous of all pseudo-liberal young pundits, Ezra Klein. Klein, who is not yet 30 years of age, has been named the most influential wonky wunderkind blogger in Washington (by, who else, The Daily Beast). Klein and Lowrey have also been named to the incoming class of media power couples by the New York Observer. Also, too (another gratuitous bit of redundant cool phraseology used by hip bloggers) they join Tina Brown of The Daily Beast and Sir Harry in The Varsity Line-Up. I just thought you should know.
The Daily Beast, as you probably already know, stole its name from that scathing satire of the journalistic class by Evelyn Waugh, titled Scoop. There sure ain't nothing like effing self-parody, and other peccable Stuff, huh?
* A new headline amends the claim to "most progressive rate since 1979."