Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What's Wrong with Michael Kinsley ?

In circa 1981 I said that he is often so eager to point out the contradictions, hypocrisy and idiocy of someone that he neglects to mention his own opinion.

More generally, he seems bored with merely pointing out that Republicans are demostrably wrong and that there policy proposals are based on false factual premises.

So, for the sake of saying something original, he takes their premises as valid.

So, for example, he decided that liberals really do have less respect for people who disagree with them then conservatives. Click the link. His post is brief and, as always, witty and fun to read.


His evidence is that Jacob Weisberg notes that majorities US adults have contradictory policy proposals. Note that this means that on half of the issues noted by Weisberg the majority agrees with him. He is noting an inescapable fact. Now I will agree that liberals are much more likely than conservatives to accept reality, but that was not the topic under discussion.

Kinsley's point is that it is not condescending to tell people they have contradicted themselves and it is condescending to flatter people when you happen to like their conclusions.

However, as always, Kinsley concedes much too much. Recall the Tea party convention where Tom Tancredo said Obama would not have been elected if voters were required to pass a "civics literacy test." That's condescending. I don't notice any criticism from Krauthammer.

I think the key issue is that conservatives deceive themselves about the wishes of the American people. For decades a large majority has favored higher taxes on the rich and corporations (this was true in 2000 too).
http://www.pollingreport.com/budget.htm
and search for "fair share"

In fact, there is reliably a majority in favor of any proposal to raise taxes on the rich.

In the health care debate the House income surtax is popular and the Senate excise tax is unpopular. Also huge majorities support the public option.

Does Krauthammer think that such views show the bedrock common sense of Americans ? I think not. I think he completely denies the massive evidence. I would guess that he doesn't know about it (Gallup is after all a very obscure organization).

Now Krauthammer is not alone. Obama just said that he thought most Americans don't resent Lloyd Blankfein's $9,000,000,000 bonus. I think he should get out more. My guess is that the overwhelming majority of Americans resent it. I'd guess a majority would say so (although "to resent" is stigmatized) and a huge majority would say it is unfairly high.

update: game of telephone here. In the paragraph above commenting on my recollection of Paul Krugman's interpretation of those of Obama's words recalled by Simon Johnson. In fact, Obama mildly criticized the bonus and suggested that an employee deciding how much to pay himself is not his understanding of capitalism. On the other hand, if Obama is too subtle for Simon Johnson, Obama has a problem.

The true condescension is that of elite people who claim they know what the American people want without having to ask us. They can only think they know what we want better than we do. Now that's condescension.

These facts are totally ignored by Kinsley in his eagerness to be intellectually arrogant (and really is anyone more eager to argue that he is smarter than everyone else -- I'm a close second but he wins).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

... and really is anyone more eager to argue that he is smarter than everyone else -- I'm a close second but he wins)

My understanding is that you both (along with nearly everyone else) are pikers along side Larry Summers.