Why do people seem to think saying
"I don't get ulcers. I give ulcers."
is winning, as opposed to obnoxious? ... It's not like saying "I don't make art. I buy art." ... 2:23 A.M.
Michael Kinsley used to say that every time journalists use the "from A to Z" form of expression--as in "spans the spectrum from A to Z," or "everyone from X to Y"--it only serves to show how narrow the spectrum being described is, not how broad. There's a good example of this Kinsley iron law** in the press-releasey piece The Big Money ran on Mayor Bloomberg's newfangled poverty measure:
For decades, scholars and policymakers across the political spectrum— from Patrick Moynihan to researchers at the American Enterprise Institute —have argued that [the old poverty] measure is broken. [E.A.]
I submit that the distance between Daniel Patrick Moynihan and AEI is something less than vast. It would be more accurate to say that Moynihan is revered at AEI, especially Moynihan's neoconservative tendencies. Chris DeMuth, AEI's president from 1986 until recently, worked for Moynihan . And here's a Charles Krauthammer showpiece AEI lecture that builds on praise for Moynihan.
It's hard to tell if the Big Money 's author, Georgia Levenson Keohane, is credulous or simply thinks her audience is. Are you impressed that in developing his new poverty measure, Mayor Bloomberg "met extensively with Rep. Jim McDermott of Washington, who in September introduced the Measuring American Poverty Act of 2008 in the U.S. House of Representatives"? Then you are easily impressed. Keohane doesn't even deal with some of the obvious potential controversies surrounding the new measure (which produced a poverty figure for New York City that is 20% higher). Specifically,
a) Should Medicaid and other government health benefits really be counted at full dollar value? They cost what they cost. But you can't eat fancy health insurance--if it might one day pay for a $100,000 heart operation for you or someone else on the plan, that doesn't mean you're not destitute today.
b) Counting regional variations in the cost of living is a bit fishy, no? If I make enough money to live semi-comfortably in Tennessee, but choose to live uncomfortably in New York City, should I really be counted as part of America's failure to eradicate poverty? Keohane cheers Bloomberg's measure for apparently carrying this to ridiculous extremes by adjusting for varying costs of living "even within the city." It's one thing to suggest that New Yorkers shouldn't be expected to seek cheap rents in Tennessee. It's another to say people in Manhattan can't be expected to move to Brooklyn. And there's an obvious pecuniary incentive for a New York pol like Bloomberg to take into account geographic variations in cost of living--it makes New Yorkers look needier and helps him beg for more federal assistance.
c) The poverty line is just a line--a necessarily arbitrary line. It's mainly useful to show trends--i.e., is there more "poverty" or less? If the line is reformulated so more people fall below it, they are no better or worse off than before. But moving the line serves an obvious propaganda point--if "advocates" can say 23% of the population, not 18%, is officially "poor." Why not avoid the "propaganda" charge by doing what Gary Burtless of the Brookings Institution once suggested to me: refine how we measure income, but then set the poverty line so that, for the first year, there are exactly the same number of poor people under both new and old measures. That would make it harder for those on the left to use the new formula as part of a rhetorical scare campaign. Why do I have a feeling that would also reduce much of its appeal to Keohane?
**--Another journalistic iron law: Every time a reporter says a person is funny and gives an example, the example won't be funny . As in yesterday's NYT piece on Bill Richardson--
He is known for his easy sense of humor — during the 2004 Democratic convention, he distributed jars of salsa with his picture on them ... [E.A.]
This rule holds even, perhaps especially, if the person in question really is funny. I do not know whether that's true of Richardson. ... 1:23 A.M.
Monday, January 5, 2009
A knowledgeable insider notes a source of labor leverage over on Big Business that I hadn't thought of in discussing ( below ) a possible Big Business sellout of small business on "card check":
Also, don't forget, the Business Roundtable [i.e., Big Business ] in particular has a strong incentive to keep the unions happy on card check because of the pressure unions are exerting on capital markets issues such as access to the proxy, "say on pay," precatory proposals etc . - issues that BRT CEOs really care about. If people really want to understand the leverage unions have, despite their small size, they should look to the power of union pension funds and such groups as CII. [E.A.]
CII seems to be the Council of Institutional Investors , whose membership includes lots of union funds . ... P.S.: It's kind of a sad commentary on American capitalists if they aren't scared of what might happen to their actual production process, but are scared of what self-styled do-gooder investors might say at a shareholders' meeting, no? ... After all, they can always ship those union production jobs overseas. They can't do that with shareholders. ... 8:22 P.M.
LAT vs. CFL: The PC Times turns against compact flourescent bulbs , on aesthetic and environmental grounds. I'm with the Times , against the times. Does that put me to the right of Wal-Mart or the left? ... P.S.: Or just in the Shade ? ... 6:08 P.M.