Brad is right. I was wrong. Michael Kinsley has become a reflexively contrarian twit who can't manage to avoid contradicting himself.
Kinsley wrote a blog post here
"For every group Obama takes to task, he also has a “to be sure” passage in which he tries to make clear that he’s not talking about you. But if you listen to the music, not the words, you might well think otherwise."
So Kinsley feels free to ignore the words. After sneering at Obama for "to be sure" he dares to write
"this distinction is hard to maintain if you’re simultaneously suggesting that there is something ill-gotten about most rich people’s gains."
Note the weasel word "suggesting." Kinsley has just noted that Obama said the opposite of what he writes Obama was "suggesting." Positive proof that a claim is false doesn't matter, because as a pundit, he can always ignore what Obama said and write about what he thinks unattentive listeners might have thought he said. So ignoring the text when interpreting is a form of sophistication, because the really hard challenge is to figure out how people who don't pay attention to the facts hear things.
Then at length Kinsley plagiarizes while pretending he is criticizing
"conflating actual crooks and the innocent affluent makes it hard to claim that raising their taxes isn’t punishment for some form of misbehavior. Taxes are not a punishment; they are a source of necessary revenue. But if you tie them to the financial scandal, they sound pretty punitive."
Notice that he has gone from discussing what some might think Obama said if one ignored what he actually said, to ignoring what Obama said. Having admitted that the claim immediately above is totally false, Kinsley asserts that Obama suggested it. Read down a few lines, and it becomes something Obama did with no qualifications. In a few sentences black has become white and up has become down.
Does Kinsley really think Washington Monthly readers are dumb enough to fall for that ?
He goes on to say that the middle class must be hammered. He pretends to forget that Obama proposed doing so this summer. The claim that this must be done is just something that everyone who is anyone accepts. There is no need to present evidence.
Also it is outrageous to say that a family with income of $250,000 is borderline rich, because Kinsley has totally lost touch with the vast majority of people in the USA (and don't even think of the world).
update: I just realized that Kinsley criticized Obama on the grounds that an income of $250,000 does not make a family rich and for not asking (in this speech as opposed to his policy proposals) for sacrifices from the middle class. Again, the two criticisms contradict each other. No matter what Obama said, Kinsley must be wrong, just based on logic.
update 2: Welcome Thomaites. I didn't like the Kinsley post, but it is criticism at its best compared to the work of the title, abstract and illustrations guy at The Washington Monthly.
"To be sure" Kinsley's conclusion isn't harsh. He concludes that the speech was not "a really great speech" but now the illustration and teaser suggests that Obama is the reincarnation of Robespierre.
Chrome's automatic URL completer often has trouble deciding if I want to go to The Washington Post or The Washington Monthly. Today, I have trouble deciding to which organ of the absolute faith in Ballance and cutting social security it sent me.
I commented. Much below is redundant.
I have long defended you from criticism at my friend Brad DeLong's blog, but I think I will now give up and admit that he was right.
First income of $250,000 makes one incredibly rich by any reasonable standard. The fact that you are spoiled doesn't mean that the top 3% isn't rich.
Second Obama has described extremely painful spending cuts and significant tax increases in great detail. You earn a place with T Friedman by insisting that Obama do what he has already done.
You may have forgotten everything that happened last summer, but a responsible columnist would have googled it.
Finally, you agree with Obama's policy proposals. You note that he always adds a "to be sure" to explain that he is not lumping honest people together with crooks. Indeed you snear at him for doing exactly that. You also snear at him for not doing that.
Put the criticism from the sentence including "to be sure" along with the criticism that Obama didn't make the distinctions you make and you find that logic alone proves that you are wrong.
Basically your problem is you know a banker whose feelings are hurt. You admit that it is absurd, ridiculous and nonsensical to critice Obama because of this tragic event,then go on to do so.
I think your fundamental problem is that you are envious. Obama is President. He clearly knows more than you do. He makes serious policy proposals which I can't remember the last you made. He writes better than you do. He has carisma. That is soooo unfair.
I admit, in advance, that I envy you, partly because you write infinitely better than I do.
Also, of course, you must be contrarian.
So now I have to admit (to Brad) that he was right and I was wrong. And I hate that.