|The Phony Class War |
|"Tensions between the rich and poor are increasing
and at their most intense level in nearly a quarter-century, a new
survey shows," reports the Associated Press:|
The survey released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center highlights U.S. perceptions of the economic divide, an issue that has moved to the forefront in the 2012 presidential campaign amid stubbornly high unemployment, increasing poverty and protests by the Occupy movement. . . .
The Pew survey shows that younger adults, Democrats and African-Americans remained the most likely as in previous years to cite the existence of strong disagreements between rich and poor. But in the last two years, three important swing groups--whites, middle-income Americans and political independents--registered some of the biggest increases in those who now also hold this view.
As a result, majorities of each political party and ideology all agree that serious disputes exist between Americans at the top and bottom of the economic ladder.This is no doubt heartening news to President Obama's re-election campaign, and worrying those who oppose it. One reader who is in the latter camp emailed us the AP headline, "Conflict Between Rich, Poor Strongest in 24 Years," with the comment: "Obama's mission accomplished."
That's bunk. The Pew report contains a crucial disclaimer that disproves the AP's thesis:
While the survey results show a significant shift in public perceptions of class conflict in American life, they do not necessarily signal an increase in grievances toward the wealthy. It is possible that individuals who see more conflict between the classes think that anger toward the rich is misdirected. Nor do these data suggest growing support for government measures to reduce income inequality.
In fact, other questions in the survey show that some key attitudes toward the wealthy have remained largely unchanged. For example, there has been no change in views about whether the rich became wealthy through personal effort or because they were fortunate enough to be from wealthy families or have the right connections.In fact, Pew does not claim to have found, as the AP falsely asserts, that "tensions between rich and poor are increasing." It finds, rather, that "perceptions of class conflict" and "the belief that these disputes are intense" have become more prevalent, especially since 2009.
It isn't hard to understand why that might be the case. After all, what have Americans seen when they turned on the news over the past few years? In the White House, a president who, for want of political or managerial competence, has nothing to offer but bitter partisanship and ideologically driven class resentment. In public parks around the country, professional protesters and ignorant college kids ranting about their grievances against "the 1%." Now, in New Hampshire and South Carolina, even Republicans, led by nonsensical old Newt Gingrich, are getting in on the act.
The perception of "class conflict" has grown because the media have paid the putative conflict so much attention. They have done so in part for ideological reasons--lefty journalists have had a weird preoccupation with "income inequality" for as long as we can remember--but also in part because it's newsworthy, especially when the president of the United States is trying to foment class war.
It would also be newsworthy if he succeeded--and that is the story the AP is trying to peddle. But Pew's findings show it is a phony war. If underlying "tensions between rich and poor" were really rising, the survey would have found some evidence of actual hardening of attitudes across socioeconomic lines.
Further, note the list of "important swing groups" among which the perceptions of "class conflict" have been intensifying: "whites, middle-income Americans and political independents." These are groups among which the president has been polling terribly, suggesting they either are averse to class war or don't think of Obama as an ally.
Mr. Personal Responsibility
"Newt Gingrich signaled Wednesday that he believes his criticism of Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital is a mistake," Politico reports:
Gingrich conceded the problem when pressed by a Rick Santorum supporter at a book signing [in Spartanburg, S.C.] Wednesday.
"I'm here to implore one thing of you. I think you've missed the target on the way you're addressing Romney's weaknesses. I want to beg you to redirect and go after his obvious disingenuousness about his conservatism and lay off the corporatist versus the free market. I think it's nuanced," said Dean Glossop, an Army Reservist from Inman, S.C.
"I agree with you," Gingrich said. "It's an impossible theme to talk about with Obama in the background. Obama just makes it impossible to talk rationally in that area because he is so deeply into class warfare that automatically you get an echo effect. . . . I agree with you entirely."Things got a little out of hand. It's just this war and that lying son of a bitch, Johnson!
O.J. Wasserman Schultz
A year after the Tucson massacre, the unwieldily named Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is still looking for the real killer, the Washington Examiner reports:
"We need to make sure that we tone things down, particularly in light of the Tucson tragedy from a year ago, where my very good friend, Gabby Giffords -- who is doing really well, by the way,--[was shot]," Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic National Committee chair said during a "Politics and Eggs" forum [Wednesday] morning. "The discourse in America, the discourse in Congress in particular . . . has really changed, I'll tell you. I hesitate to place blame, but I have noticed it take a very precipitous turn towards edginess and lack of civility with the growth of the Tea Party movement."
Having brought up the Giffords attack as a political cudgel, Wasserman Schultz doubled down on that attack. "You had town hall meetings that [the Tea Party] tried to take over, and you saw some their conduct at those town hall meetings," Wasserman Schultz said today. "When they come and disagree with you, you're not just wrong, you're the enemy."
Warming to that theme, she added that "when they disagree with you on an issue, you're not just wrong, you're a liar."She has a point about the overuse of the word "liar." But in this case it would seem to fit. It's been clear for over a year that the man who shot Giffords was in no way motivated by partisan politics.
On Tuesday night, notes the Daily Caller, Wasserman Schultz showed up on MSNBC trying to rain on Mitt Romney's parade:
"I think it's important… to make a couple of observations about the outcome tonight," she said. "Mitt Romney got about 36 percent of the vote. Four years ago, Chris, he got about 32 percent of the vote . . . [in] what is essentially his home state, for him to only do a handful of points better than he did four years ago, after campaigning for five years--I mean, that's really not anything to write home about."
And based on the results, Wasserman Schultz said Romney's primary win was technically a loss because of his inability to generate enthusiasm.
"You could really declare it a loss, because he should have blown the doors off in this state," she pronounced. "In addition to that, the Republican turnout was off about 40 percent from the turnout in 2008, showing that this is not a field that their side is very enthusiastic about."The Hill reports on the Republican front-runner's rejoinder:
Romney said Wednesday morning that he feels "sorry" for . . . Wasserman Schultz for having to defend President Obama's economic record.
"She's got to stand up for the president's record, and it's pretty bad," Romney said Wednesday morning on CNN.
"You've got almost 2 million people that have lost their jobs under this president. You have median income that's dropped by 10 percent over the last four years. You've got 24 million people out of work or [who] have stopped looking for work.
"This is a failed presidency. People know that."We've occasionally wondered why the DNC would choose such a maladroit and unpleasant person as its spokesman. Reading about her exchange of words with Romney, we came up with a theory: because she is a maladroit and unpleasant woman.
As male politicians from Rick Lazio to Tim Pawlenty have learned, it can be dangerous to get into a political dispute with a woman. (President Obama, too. Remember "You're likeable enough, Hillary"?) If Romney had responded to Wasserman Schultz's nasty comments in kind, he probably would have ended up looking either weak, bullying or both.
This is another reason to think Newt Gingrich might be a disastrous general election candidate. He has a tendency to let things get under his skin. Romney's response to Wasserman Schultz, however, was perfect. By saying "I feel sorry for her," he diminished her, but he did so without directly insulting her, and he refocused the discussion on the failings of the man in the White House.
About That Guy in 2nd Place
Our lead item yesterday about the New Hampshire primary brought several replies along the lines of this one:
I've been reading your column every day for a while, and not once have I ever gotten upset at anything you wrote. That could be my fault, I guess, but this snip about the New Hampshire primary goes beyond the pale: "Romney's closest serious opponent, Jon Huntsman, managed a hair under 17%." Huh?
Sir, at times you appear brilliant, even scintillating, but implying that a powder puff like Jon "Manchu" Huntsman is more serious than Ron Paul is baffling, and it's insulting. I'm no Paulista, and I'll vote for Romney in the likely event he is the nominee, but Paul is clearly superior to Huntsman. Paul's domestic policy is rock solid, Huntsman's is incoherent. While Paul's foreign policy can be unsettling--perhaps disturbing--Huntsman's foreign policy is not demonstrably better, and may in fact be worse. Paul has money and a vigorous organization, Huntsman's persistence in this race is inexplicable. Often, you are very amusing, but if this was intended as a joke, I assure you it has fallen flat.We'll admit we used a generous definition of "serious." Huntsman's probability of getting this year's Republican nomination is infinitesimally small. But it is, if only by an infinitesimal amount, greater than zero.
Paul's chance, on the other hand, is not just effectively zero, it is zero. He is unacceptable to a significant number of Republicans because of certain of his views, and it is not in his character to change those views. Thus it is a logical impossibility for the Republican Party as currently constituted to nominate Paul for president.
We regard the Paul campaign as a sideshow, albeit an interesting and potentially important one. No doubt we will write about Paul again, but our item yesterday was about the main show.