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Is Hillary Clinton’s Messaging Strategy Straight from the 1988 Dukakis Campaign Playbook?

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Hillary Clinton: Dukakis in a Pantsuit? 

editor-commen-deskYes, I confess, this is mainly an excuse to use this really scary photo of Hillary. We already know what Mrs. Clinton looks like in a pantsuit. But how many of us know what it’s like to be that close to one of her eyeballs? Highlights from Jonah Goldberg’s weekly G-File. It includes a bonus excerpt from Jonah’s review of Piketty’s Marxist book (there’s no other thing to call it) and since it’s a book that even dedicated neo-Marxists only pretend they read all of, I imagine even some of them are taking Jonah’s word for it. See that full review, in Commentary, here.

For the article excerpted below, see the full text here.  (I suggest you read all of it, otherwise you’ll miss the joke about spoon-banging on a high chair). Anything else? Yes! Order Jonah’s book here.

…I have no doubt that Clinton likes data. When she was working on Hillarycare in the early 1990s she assembled hundreds of wonks collecting literally millions of pieces of data, filling filing cabinets like the warehouse in Indiana Jones. When a journalist asked her if she needed anything else, Clinton replied something like “just a little more data.” As if her entire Rube Goldberg machine would click into place and hum with perfection if she just got a few more columns of numbers on heart-bypass rates in Missoula.

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But just because Clinton likes data doesn’t mean this isn’t a crock. Oh, it’s savvy. But if her husband taught us anything, it’s that bullsh*tters can be savvy. First, all of this data talk is a brilliant way to exploit the “Big Data” fad in elite circles these days and subtly play lip-service to the liberal conceit that “facts have a liberal bias.” If she were running in the late 19th century she’d be talking about canals on Mars.tyranny-of-cliches

[Jonah’s book, The Tyranny of Cliches, is available at Amazon]

If she were running in the 1920s, she’d be saying “Engineering, Engineering, Engineering.” In the 1960s, she’d be saying “Plastics, Plastics, Plastics.” If she were running in 50,000 B.C. she’d be going around saying “Fire, Fire, Fire.” I talked about this a bit in my review of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century:

Marx tapped into the language and concepts of Darwinian evolution and the Industrial Revolution to give his idea of dialectical materialism a plausibility it didn’t deserve. Marx-TVSimilarly, Croly drew from the turn-of-the-century vogue for (heavily German-influenced) social science and the cult of the expert (in Croly’s day “social engineer” wasn’t a pejorative term, but an exciting career). In much the same way, Piketty’s argument taps into the current cultural and intellectual fad for “big data.” The idea that all the answers to all our problems can be solved with enough data is deeply seductive and wildly popular among journalists and intellectuals. (Just consider the popularity of the Freakonomics franchise or the cult-like popularity of the self-taught statistician Nate Silver.) Indeed, Piketty himself insists that what sets his work apart from that of Marx, Ricardo, Keynes, and others is that he has the data to settle questions previous generations of economists could only guess at. Data is the Way and the Light to the eternal verities long entombed in cant ideology and darkness. (This reminds me of the philosopher Eric Voegelin’s quip that, under Marxism, “Christ the Redeemer is replaced by the steam engine as the promise of the realm to come.”)

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But the more important point is that Clinton’s messaging gambit is an entirely obvious indictment of Barack Obama. The need for “evidence-based optimism” isn’t a shot at Republicans. It’s a shot at the guy who beat her out for the nomination in 2008 by running as the Pope of Hope. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Juicebox Mafia’s Utopian Excess

From Commentary (read the whole thing here) by the Washington Free Beacon‘s Matthew Continetti:

Charles Fourier, the utopian socialist who lived from 1772 to 1837, has been on my mind. Long ago, Fourier was considered a deep, monumental, visionary thinker.

“Among Fourier’s more spectacular beliefs: One day the oceans will turn into pink lemonade. He wasn’t joking.”

His theories of social organization inspired the establishment of a communal society, the North American Phalanx, in Monmouth, New Jersey, in 1843. It collapsed a little more than a decade later.

Among Fourier’s more spectacular beliefs: One day the oceans will turn into pink lemonade. He wasn’t joking. “His temperament was too ardent, his imagination too strong, and his acquaintance with the realities of life too slight to enable him justly to estimate the merits of his fantastic views,” wrote the Scottish philosopher Robert Adamson.

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As with Fourier’s North American Phalanx in the 19th century, so it is with the Juicebox Mafia Phalanx in the 21st. The Juicebox Mafia, of course, is the dismissive term assigned to the Beltway clique of twenty- and thirtysomething journalists known for their love of President Obama, their hatred of conservatives, their opposition to the war on terror, their quasi-religious faith in social science, and, juiceboxabove all, their earnestness.

“The Juicebox Mafia arrived in Washington a little less than a decade ago, just as the progressive left assumed its upward trajectory. Everything seems to be going their way.”

The Juicebox Mafia arrived in Washington a little less than a decade ago, just as the progressive left assumed its upward trajectory. Everything seems to be going their way. A larger government, universal health insurance, cuts in military spending, withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, same-sex marriage, marijuana legalization—bliss it should be in this dawn for these ardent temperaments, these possessors of strong imaginations, to be alive.

And yet, reading liberal websites and magazines over the last few months, one cannot help but think that their acquaintance with the realities of life is growing increasingly slight.

Someone is filling those juiceboxes with pink lemonade. Read the rest of this entry »


New Measure of Literary Unpopularity: ‘The Picketty Index’

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“Capital in the Twenty-First Century” by Thomas Piketty 

Yes, it came out just three months ago. But the contest isn’t even close. Mr. Piketty’s book is almost 700 pages long, and the last of the top five popular highlights appears on page 26. Stephen Hawking is off the hook; from now on, this measure should be known as the Piketty Index.

So take it easy on yourself, readers, if you don’t finish whatever edifying tome you picked out for vacation. You’re far from alone…

(read moreWSJ


The Elizabeth Warren Delusion

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The senator’s sit-down with Piketty reveals the shallowness of her populism

For National Review OnlinePatrick Brennan writes: How many rookie American politicians, seated in a colloquy with a French economist, can get repeated rounds of applause from the packed high-walled pews of Boston’s Old South Meeting House?

” if Warren’s student-loan proposal is meant to address this, she’s abandoning the pretense that it’s about inequality or access to education and instead is calling for a bizarre roundabout economic stimulus.”

At least one: Senator Elizabeth Warren. And she can do it while repeatedly referring to Thomas Piketty, the bestselling author of Capital in the Twenty-First Century, professor at the Paris School of Economics, as “Tom.” He even seemed to like it.

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“This is the kind of policy that comes out of focus groups, not white papers.”

That’s the phenomenon that is Elizabeth Warren. She doesn’t have a massive or national following (the Boston event was full but not mobbed), and she isn’t the policy prodigy some supporters might hope, but she has some serious political talent.

On Saturday, Warren and Piketty participated in a discussion led by Ryan Grim, Washington bureau chief of the Huffington Post, in part funded by Patriotic Millionaires, a group of wealthy Americans campaigning for higher taxes on themselves. Read the rest of this entry »


The New Marxism

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A prominent liberal economist contends capitalism will inevitably increase inequality.

‘Karl Marx wasn’t wrong, just early. Pretty much. Sorry, capitalism. #inequalityforevah”

James Pethokoukis writes:  When trying to condense a sweeping, 700-page analysis of the past, present, and possible future of capitalism into an 85-character tweet, you’re bound to miss a few things. But the above Twitter-fication of economist Thomas Piketty’s much-awaited Capital in the Twenty-First Century captures the gist of the author’s argument.

“Piketty, a left-wing Frenchman who teaches at the Paris School of Economics, is hardly the only economist arguing inequality is headed inexorably higher…”

Piketty thinks the German progenitor of Communism basically got it right. It’s only that his essential insight — private capital accumulation inevitably leads to the concentration of wealth into ever-fewer hands — took a hiatus during the middle part of the last century thanks to depression and war hurting the fortunes of the well-to-do. But now Marxism’s fundamental truth is reasserting itself with a vengeance, a reality borne out in both Piketty’s own meticulously gathered data and in business pages replete with stories of skyrocketing wealth for the 0.001 percent and decades of flat wages for everyone else.

John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich Hayek famously squared off in the 1930s, Left versus Right. But when Keynes published his revolutionary General Theory in 1936, Hayek went silent….Who will make the intellectual case for economic freedom today?”

And it’s only going to get worse, Piketty concludes. Sure, the productive and innovative capacity of market capitalism will generate enough income growth for the masses to prevent revolution. He concedes Marx got that bit of apocalypticism wrong. But an “endless inegalitarian spiral” will create such wealth bifurcation that “the meritocratic values on which democratic societies are based” will be undermined. The political process will be hopelessly captured by a tiny elite of rent seekers and trust-fund kids. America (and then the other advanced economies) will become what Occupy Wall Street types and Elizabeth Warren think it already is.

Read the rest of this entry »


Is Income Inequality the New Climate Change?

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Jim Pethokoukis writes: If you dare question the alarming claims about income inequality made by progressives and Democrats, including President Obama, does that make you a “denier” — akin to climate change “deniers” — whose arguments should no longer be taken seriously?

In a recent post, “Yes, Rising Inequality is a Problem,” excellent economics blogger Ashok Rao is sharply critical of Manhattan Institute scholar Scott Winship. Rao describes Winship as “a representative agent of those making the best arguments that progressives overstate the costs of inequality.” I myself have frequently quoted Winship or used his careful research in my blog posts and columns. It’s also worth noting that Winship’s profile has risen dramatically recently due to his role advising House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, who may run for president in 2016.

Rao has a number of problems with Winship’s arguments, but his core criticism is that Winship sets an unnecessarily high bar for evaluating the “mountain of evidence” that rising inequality is a real phenomenon deserving of redistributive policy action. Rao:

Winship’s argument against inequality being a problem is a value judgement–a value judgement that those of us with a strong theoretical ex antecase must amass an enormous amount of high-quality, expensive, detailed evidence that rising inequality has in fact had the obvious consequences before we are allowed to even have a conversation about the subject, let alone make the case for policy changes. This does strike me as similar to some of the most sophisticated forms of climate-change denialism, which also focus not on reading the evidence we have differently but rather setting up a very different prior from the rest of us, and so redistributing the burden of proof. … Let us hope the future debate about inequality and its consequences does not mirror that on climate change.

Income inequality is an important issue deserving of honest and open debate. But if you’re worried about the issue becoming politicized and hopelessly muddied, Winship is hardly a concern. Unlike many center-right folks, he had conceded that high-end inequality likely has risen dramatically in recent decades. Winship, however, is highly skeptical of the supposed deleterious economic impact and disagrees with claims that middle-class incomes have stagnated since the 1970s.

Read the rest of this entry »


Reality Check: Standard of Living Steadily Improving

When we measure by consumption, it’s clear people are better off today than they were 30 years ago.

iPhones for sale at the Apple Store in Manhattan.

iPhones for sale at the Apple Store in Manhattan.

Aparna Mathur reports: Commenting on the state of the economy at a Habitat for Humanity construction site in Oakland, Calif., former president Jimmy Carter recently said that “the disparity between rich people and poor people in America has increased dramatically” and that “the middle class has become more like poor people than they were 30 years ago.” These sentiments are commonly echoed across the country as the effects of the most damaging economic slump since the Depression continue into their sixth year.

The Census Bureau’s “Income and Poverty” report, released in September, underscored that the economic recovery has largely failed to reach the poor and middle class. However, there is a subtle but substantive difference between stating that inequality is worse today than it was 30 years ago, and that people are worse off today than they were 30 years ago. Rising inequality does not preclude an improvement in standards of living at the bottom of the income distribution.

Stepping back from the traditional debate about income inequality, Kevin Hassett and I recently co-authored a study that focuses on changes in material standards of living over the last 30 years. Consumption of goods and services is often a far better measure of household welfare than is income. What we buy and consume with our income directly adds to our utility and happiness, and it also has a direct impact on our standard of living. Read the rest of this entry »