The Curse of the Cubic Zirconia

A mostly political Weblog.
Dec. 20 2004 3:09 AM

The Curse of the Cubic Zirconia

Baubles and Bangle too.

Let's see:

1.There are "more African Americans in the upper income bracket than ever before. The portion of black households making $75,000 to $99,999, for example, increased nearly fourfold between 1967 and 2003, rising to 7 percent of the black population." (For whites the figure is 11 percent.)

2 "Since 1967, the earliest year for which statistics are available, median household income for blacks has increased by nearly 47 percent, to $29,645 in 2003. That's much faster than the 31 percent growth rate for white households during that time."

3. "African Americans have made substantial advances in the service sector and have been opening small businesses at a pace quicker than whites. ... The number of black-owned businesses jumped 33 percent to 823,499 in 1997 from 621,000 in 1992, according to the latest census figures."  [Emphases added.]

Naturally, WaPo thinks the picture is bleak! African Americans reaching "the middle income rung" are "finding it a hollow promise," Alec Klein reports, because in "earlier decades a union-protected factory worker or government employee ... could expect a comfortable life ...." Klein's main subject is a college graduate, an executive at an image-consulting business, who, with her husband, makes more than $60,000 (if I add up the numbers right). They live in an apartment with their two children. Her mother, in contrast, had "worked as a state foster care secretary for 32 years," and lived near the projects in a "small three-bedroom home with as many as 15 relatives packed in at once." Her father was "killed during a robbery" in his home. But her mother had "career security." ...

P.S.:  Middle class life is clearly less secure than it once was, for all races. I'm not saying middle class African-Americans aren't even less secure than whites, or even that the black middle class isn't somehow reeling after the boom years of the late '90s. I'm saying this weak story, featuring vague complaints about how "blacks have taken it on the chin," doesn't come close to demonstrating those propositions, or to debunking the optimistic scenario painted by the statistics Klein tries to skate around--i.e., that big, permanent progress is being made. ...

P.P.S.: The economic strain faced by Klein's subject is captured, we're told, by "the cubic zirconia ring on her wedding finger," which was "all her husband ... could afford." Do you own a diamond?

P.P.P.S.: Why assign this story now? It seems like a quickie job. Is it an awkward attempt to pander to the economic anxieties and frustrations of the Post's middle class African-American readers? Klein's story comes at a time when the Post is  trying to recover from the race-tinged in-house controversy  that followed the naming of a white managing editor over two other candidates, one of whom was black. [Excellent 'comes-at-a-timing.' You must have no evidence of a connection at all!-ed None. But it's a bizarrely bad article.] 

P.P.P.P.S.--Buried lede? The growth of black entrepreneurship is "a significant and unreported trend," notes alert reader R.G.--a common explanation for the relatively slow economic rise of African-Americans being that they've been too heavily concentrated in government and union jobs with the "career security" the Post simplistically praises. 11:34 P.M. 

Bangle's Still Big. It's BMW's sales that have gotten smaller! It sure looks from this AutoSpies post as if the Howell Raines of the automotive design world--BMW's arrogant, pretentious Chris Bangle--may be in for some sort of comeuppance. The overdone 'flame-surfaced' Z4 sports car he championed ("as big a jump in terms of aesthetic value systems as there was between an Eve before the fall … and an Eve after the fall") apparently isn't selling too well in the U.S.., as predicted in Gearbox's eerily prescient coverage ... The little people just don't appreciate Bangle's genius. ... But he talks a good car! ...  See also this post. [Thanks to reader C.G.] 8:51 P.M.

Attention DJs, A & R persons, moguls: I've now received a CD from obscure L.A. singer-songwriters In-Flight Movie, and it's as good as expected (and expectations were absurdly high). I especially like some cuts that aren't, alas, available on their Web site. (They should put up "Quality Time" and "Gray Days.") ... 8:16 P.M. 

Michael Kinsley's piece-- on the speed with which he got useful reponses to his Social Security argument from the blogosphere--skirts an obvious point. It's not just that Kinsley got more helpful criticism from the blogosphere (when Andrew Sullivan and Josh Marshall posted it on their sites) than he got from the bigshot economists he sent it to. Kinsley got more overall attention for his argument by making it in the blogosphere than it would have gotten if he'd printed it in the rather large conventional paper whose opinion pages he runs. And I'm not just talking "more attention" in the sense that the blogosphere is big--bigger than the conventional print-centric media elite. Kinsley's thesis got more attention not just in the blogosphere but within the conventional print-centric media elite, even from those who pay little attention to blogs, because he got it posted on some blogs. ... Crudely put, Tim Russert and Al Hunt and William Safire and Bob Shrum and Sen. Harry Reid re more likely to know about Kinsley's idea because Kinsley bypassed his own LAT op-ed page. ... In part that's because East Coast elites aren't used to paying attention to the L.A. Times op-ed page. But the same could be said for all opinion pages except those of the NYT, WaPo and the WSJ. A lot of opinion-generating effort that used to be wasted writing editorials for the Houston Chronicle and Cleveland Plain Dealer can now can have a national impact. And, for all the energy that goes into distinguishing the MSM (mainstream media) from the blogosphere, the dirty little secret is that the elite MSM has become addicted to (and inevitably dependent on) the blogosphere as a source of new angles and arguments. ... [So why did Kinsley go to work for the L.A. Times?--ed. They have a Web site!] 7:53 P.M.

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