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Press Clips: Why Class Warfare is the Next Big Meme

Mar4

We suppose it’s just one more sorry sign of the gloomy times for the news biz that the Indianapolis Star didn’t bother to send one of their own political reporters to cover Mitch Daniels, their Republican governor who’s weighing a run for president, make a recent speech-making swing through Cincinnati.

After all, it’s 115 miles away.

Reporter: What do you mean we can’t go with him? Southwest Ohio’s the most important target for Republicans in the biggest battleground state of 2012, and every other GOP wannabe’s already been through there.

Editor: Hey, I already told you – no travel, no overtime. And what do you need a new notebook for – did you write on both sides of that other one? And where’s those three blog posts and Sunday thumbsucker you owe me?

Fortunately for the Star, where Calbuzz once labored, when mastodons roamed the earth, both it and the Cincinnati Enquirer are owned by the Gannett Corp. (you get extra points for being old if you remember when the really big threat to newspapers was chain ownership), so the paper was able to run a little story from its sister publication on Daniels the next day.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t much of a story (we withhold the name of the reporter to avoid embarrassing her family) as she managed to bury the lede 13 paragraphs into an 18-graf feel-good yarn. That’s what you get when you sub out your  wet work:

So when he brought up collective bargaining reform in Ohio – an issue that’s drawn thousands to hearings in Columbus in the last two weeks – people listened.

“There may have been a time when government employees needed protection and needed reform, but that was a long time ago,” Daniels said.

He called the unions “the privileged elite.”

Daniels — whom we actually knew when he was Dick Lugar’s aide — is the Republican flavor of the week for some GOP propeller head pundits, who apparently never got over plucky Steve Forbes falling short of the White House.

With his “privileged elite” comment, he perfectly defined the political war now waging throughout the Midwest, as he and other Republican governors are fiercely fighting to bust public employee unions. The remark didn’t get much attention at the time (perhaps because it was IN THE 13th GRAF!!!) but when Daniels repeated it on Fox over the weekend, it got picked up everywhere, a kind of short hand  signifier in the labor battle.

Apres moi, c’est moi: Daniels’ formulation recalls Anatole France, who famously said that, “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.”

At a time when 1 percent of Americans control nearly one-fourth of the country’s wealth – and as much as the bottom 50 percent of people combined – the union bashers bring a whole new meaning to the phrase “class warfare,” as they channel Monsieur France without seeming to realize he was making a joke.

It’s instructive that labeling teachers, cops, firefighters, nurses and janitors “the privileged elite,” today is considered an important and serious political argument, a marker for how far to the right the center of the economic debate has moved over the last 30 years.

Try as we might to find some insightful MSM illumination of this calculated effort to pit those with little against those with even less, we were left to rely once again on “The Daily Show” to examine the hypocritical absurdity (absurd hypocrisy?) of all the railing about “class warfare” on CNBC and Fox.

Disgusting. The Democrats have pitted the top two percent against the lower 98, when the Republicans know that the real battle should be fought within the middle class, preferably amongst neighbors.

From Punch to Pinch to Punt: Calbuzz is hardly alone in its disappointment in the MSM’s performance in Madison, Wisc. Abe Sauer of the venerable site The Awl filed a splendid press clips report:

If the events in Wisconsin prove one thing, it is that the mainstream media has become journalistically irrelevant when it comes to national issues and coverage. Broadcast media is incapable of explaining anything outside a macropatriotic framework and has proven allergic to anything that puts off even the slightest whiff of the class warfare that scares away big-market advertorial. Meanwhile, the other side is cable news’ partisan echo chamber of regurgitated self-assurance, where no blow is too low and no fact needs sourcing before being leveraged to make a prearranged point. Cable news reporting on Wisconsin is like going to a whorehouse and then bragging to your buddies about this girl you seduced.

Jason Linkins over at Huffpost picked up one of the threads of Sauer’s reporting to churn out a must-read detailing how the mighty New York Times lurched into a major and embarrassing blunder. Deliciously, the story in question was filed by A.G. Sulzberger, one of its newer reporters, who happens to be the son of Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr.

A bit of a shaggy dog, it boils down to Sulzberger the Younger penning a front page piece so favorable to Governor Scott Walker that Walker gushed about it in his now-in famous phone call with a blogger posing as oligarch David Koch. Only problem was that Sulzberger committed what you like to call your glaring factual error. His primary source, on whom he hung his thesis, was “a union guy” who bitterly complained about public employees – privileged elites! – getting too much in benefits and pension; except…he wasn’t…a union guy, and the paper had to run a big correction.

David Brooks takes a dive: The week’s best unraveling of the political-policy-media nexus of the class warfare issue came in a superb takedown of the insufferable David Brooks, the Times’ self-righteous center-right columnist, filed by Slate blogger Tom Scocca:

Crisply titled “The politics of entitlement – David Brooks will decide when it’s time for you to die,” Scocca’s 1800-word piece masterfully exposes the blind-spot reasoning of elitist advocates for austerity like Brooks and other over-paid windbags in pink shirts and purple tie. Brooks never tires of calling for others to “sacrifice” and this week actually wrote, “The country’s runaway debt is the central moral challenge of our time,” a sentence so wrong-headed it made Scocca’s head explode:

The experts—serious, competent, thoughtful, constructive experts—have studied the problem. The solutions are going to be unpleasant. “The sacrifice should be spread widely and fairly,” David Brooks wrote.

Is wide fair? …Everyone, simply everyone—whether they have money or not—will have to make do with less. Peter G. Peterson, the self-appointed chief of the debt fighters and entitlement reformers, includes a “Personal Responsibility Primer” on his foundation’s website (“Teach children the importance of planning, saving, budgeting, investing, and using credit responsibly”).

Peter G. Peterson is a billionaire twice over, so rich he can pledge a billion dollars to charity. All he really understands about Social Security and Medicare is that it is impossible that he, himself, will ever die broke and alone. When his time comes, he can die on a mattress stuffed with gold-plated rose petals, if the whim strikes him.

What happens when there is no money to give to the people who have no money? That is the moral question. It’s fine to say that the old people should have saved more, they should have worked an extra job, they should have done without cable TV, they should have invested more wisely. Saying that doesn’t change the fact that there will be old people who do not have money. These old people will believe that they need food and shelter and medical care.

Will they get it? At the arch-plutocrats’ end of things, the Koch brothers’ end, the end occupied by the most devout worshipers of Ayn Rand, the answer is: no. That’s the goal. It’s long since time for the sloppy, implicit, badly supported social contract to go away. Rich people have been trimming their contribution to the general revenue for decades now. They are not interested in paying the premium that keeps old people and ailing people or just backward people out of the streets. If the day comes that they have to travel to and from their various compounds in armored helicopters, they can afford the helicopters. It’s not their problem.

Great stuff.

Calbuzz: A Charlie-Sheen free zone. All the best late night stuff is here.


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There are 5 comments for this post

  1. avatar OC Progressive says:

    You don’t have to go back to the Midwest to see class warfare or journalistic malfeasance. Just cruise on down to Costa Mesa in the OC, where ideologues have issued pink slips to somewhere around a third of the City workers to solve a phony “budget crisis” and a phony “pension crisis”.

    The BygodLATimes can’t even send a real reporter to Orange County, and we need to rely on the Voice of OC for this story .

  2. avatar chrisfinnie says:

    You’re right, it’s great stuff. Scocca crisply lays out the central tenant of all this total crap the MSM keeps repeating like some kind of a mantra. The rich are by and large simply not interested in whether the rest of us live or die.

    I consider that short-sighted on their part. Because, as even the conservative Henry Ford back in the early 1900s, your employees make good customers if you pay them enough to buy your products. If enough of us die, it will become difficult for the rich to find new markets, or to find serfs to do the dirty work of pumping and refining the fuel for their helicopters, growing their food, making their home theater equipment, and more. Living in a gated compound with private security forces and schools sounds viable until you really start to think about who makes the gates. Not to mention the fact that even the rich need to have clean water, breathable air, and sewage treatment. I suppose a big bubble over the compound might keep out all the pollution they hold so dear. They could locate it on a mountaintop to keep above the rising waters their industrial pollution caused with climate change. But, eventually, access to the resources they need to survive becomes increasingly difficult. Mad Max and Waterworld move from Hollywood fiction to actual fact.

    The next time you hear somebody whine about all the debt we’re leaving our children, consider the fact that we could invest intelligently in technologies that would prevent environmental catastrophe for all of us. Technologies that would create good jobs and prosperity–thereby helping to erase the debt they keep carping about by raising revenues instead of by killing people. That Medicare and Social Security, before Congress raided their funds (see Al Gore and his lockbox), were designed to be self-supporting. And wouldn’t add a penny to the debt if they hadn’t done that. Now they’re intertwined because the government has to pay that “borrowed” (aka raided) money back with interest–which may have been the intent all along. If they had invested this borrowed money intelligently, as I suggested above, instead of pitching it down the rathole of endless war, they could have paid it back. Military contractors got rich off of this strategy. But the world is no safer. In fact, as environmental problems push more and more people into starvation, it is likely to get a lot less safe. Which will probably be a great justification for more military spending!

    As you can see, the kleptocracy in this country has a habit of creating crises by doing things like Scott Walker did. He cut the corporate tax rate, which created a deficit, which gave him an opening to sell off the state’s power plants without competitive bidding, break pension contracts the state had made over decades with their workers, and eliminate organized labor. None of which would have been necessary, if it even is now, if he hadn’t created a deficit for no good reason except that his corporate funders would like to not pay taxes.

    Warren Buffet is famously quoted as saying there is class warfare in this country, “And my class won.” To his credit, he has made it clear that he considers this a bad situation. And he’s right.

  3. avatar chrisfinnie says:

    You’re right, it’s great stuff. Scocca crisply lays out the central tenant of all this total crap the MSM keeps repeating like some kind of a mantra. The rich are by and large simply not interested in whether the rest of us live or die.

    I consider that short-sighted on their part. Because, as even the conservative Henry Ford knew back in the early 1900s, your employees make good customers if you pay them enough to buy your products. If enough of us die, it will become difficult for the rich to find new markets, or to find serfs to do the dirty work of pumping and refining the fuel for their helicopters, growing their food, making their home theater equipment, and more. Living in a gated compound with private security forces and schools sounds viable until you really start to think about who makes the gates. Or where the guards and teachers come from. Not to mention the fact that even the rich need to have clean water, breathable air, and sewage treatment. I suppose a big bubble over the compound might keep out all the air pollution they hold so dear. They could locate it on a mountaintop to keep above the rising waters their dirty ways caused. But, eventually, access to the resources they need to survive becomes increasingly difficult. Mad Max and Waterworld move from Hollywood fiction to actual fact.

    The next time you hear somebody whine about all the debt we’re leaving our children, consider the fact that we could invest intelligently in technologies that would prevent environmental catastrophe for all of us. Technologies that would create good jobs and prosperity–thereby helping to erase the debt they keep carping about by raising revenues instead of by killing people. That commonsense environmental stewardship and the population control methods they so decry would extend the ability of this planet to support humankind. That Medicare and Social Security, before Congress raided their funds (see Al Gore and his lockbox), were designed to be self-supporting. And wouldn’t add a penny to the debt if they hadn’t done that. Now they’re intertwined because the government has to pay that “borrowed” (aka raided) money back with interest–which may have been the intent all along. If they had invested this borrowed money intelligently, as I suggested above, instead of pitching it down the rathole of endless war, they could have paid it back. Military contractors got rich off of this strategy. But the world is no safer. In fact, as environmental problems push more and more people into starvation, it is likely to get a lot less safe. Which will probably be a great justification for more military spending!

    Instead of worrying about leaving our children a debt, we should worry about leaving them a legacy of starvation, war, overpopulation, and environmental degradation. If these guys get their way, our children will have much more to worry about than the national debt. And it’s about time more people started saying it. It’s about time the press started covering it. Though, as you say, because our corporate masters own the press, that’s not likely to happen.

    As you can see, the kleptocracy in this country has a habit of creating crises by doing things like Scott Walker did. He cut the corporate tax rate, which created a deficit, which gave him an opening to sell off the state’s power plants without competitive bidding, break pension contracts the state had made over decades with their workers, and eliminate organized labor. None of which would have been necessary, if it even is now, if he hadn’t created a deficit for no good reason except that his corporate funders would like to not pay taxes.

    Warren Buffet is famously quoted as saying there is class warfare in this country, “And my class won.” To his credit, he has made it clear that he considers this a bad situation. And he’s right.

  4. avatar chuckmcfadden says:

    Aw, c’mon, you guys. I’m a certified San Francisco Bay liberal who happens to be a fan of David Brooks. He’s thoughtful, articulate, and ponders The Deep Questions with a unique combination of sociology, politics and psychology. He’s sometimes wrongheaded, of course, but then, with the exception of me, almost everyone is wrongheaded sometimes.

  5. avatar Buddyg says:

    As a veteran class warrior who has watched unions and working people win the battles while suffering major casualties, I hope this WI/IN/NJ/OH et al overreach finally does prove to be a wake-up call that permanently aligns middle class people with their own economic interests, forcing the Dems to give them their due, or suffer the same consequences that the Repubs richly deserve for their frontal attack.

    And don’t believe for one second the horse puckey from the Daniels of the world who purport to distinguish between collective bargaining for the private sector as opposed to the public sector. Repubs have long been hostile to both, and regularly show it, collect contributions for being in that wall-to-wall anti-worker camp, and even boast about it. They all need to be recalled in resounding fashion.

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