GAIL COLLINS CARES: Does she care about kids?

MONDAY, MAY 28, 2012

Prologue—The New York Times cares about horses: Who does the New York Times care about? How about Gail Collins?

By their works ye shall know them! To all appearances, the New York Times doesn’t care a whole lot about those steel workers in Kansas City—the people whose pensions got “gutted” or “looted” when Mitt Romney was at Bain Capital. To date, this is the newspaper’s full account of that unfortunate matter:
CRESWELL (5/24/12): [I]n the case of GST Steel, a manufacturer based in Kansas City, Mo., that Bain bought in 1993, the company, according to a Reuters article this year, issued new debt that was used to pay tens of millions of dollars in dividends to its buyout owners. That sent GST's debt levels and interest payments soaring, which eventually pushed it into bankruptcy.

When the bankruptcy was announced, the company also said that it was shutting down a mill, resulting in the loss of hundreds of jobs, and that it would not provide workers with severance pay, health insurance and other benefits. The company's underfunded pension was eventually bailed out by the federal government.
To date, that is the newspaper’s full account of this “underfunding.” According to that five-month-old Reuters report, Mitt Romney underfunded those pensions by $44 million—even as Bain was taking $20 million in profits and fees from the company. (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/24/12.)

(Were more millions taken for Bain’s investors? We don’t know, and the New York Times doesn’t seem to care.)

The Times doesn’t seem to care a whole lot about the loss of those pensions. Creswell even created a large misimpression—a large misimpression which favors Mitt Romney. The federal government was forced to step in to bail Romney out—but only part of those “underfunded” pensions was restored. Because Romney underfunded the pensions while taking out many millions in profit, workers lost as much as $400 per month, Reuters long ago said.

The New York Times doesn’t seem to care a whole lot about those looted steel workers. It certainly doesn’t care enough to explain their plight. But the Times does care about other topics, as we learned on Sunday's front page.

People! The New York Times cares about horses! More specifically, it cares about Ann Romney’s horses, the ones she employs for dressage.

Creswell devoted a hundred words to the plight of those looted steel workers. But in yesterday’s Sunday paper, Trip Gabriel devoted more than 2300 words to the question of Ann Romney’s dressage.

The report began on the front page, accompanied by two small photos. Inside the paper, the sprawl was vast—and the photos were really quite large.

Just a guess: The Times didn't present that sprawling report because it favors Mitt Romney. Indeed, this piece extends several themes which are generally believed to cut against Romney.

Here’s the way the piece began. Commenters captured the drift:
GABRIEL (5/27/12): In a Romney’s Favorite Sport, Glimpses of a Rarefied World

As Ann Romney immersed herself in the elite world of riding over the last dozen years, she relied on Jan Ebeling as a trusted tutor and horse scout. In her, he found a deep-pocketed patron.

A German-born trainer and top-ranked equestrian, Mr. Ebeling was at ease with the wealthy women drawn to the sport of dressage, in which horses costing up to seven figures execute pirouettes and other dancelike moves for riders wearing tails and top hats.

A taskmaster, Mr. Ebeling pushed Mrs. Romney to excel in high-level amateur shows. He escorted her on horse-buying expeditions to Europe. She shares ownership of the Oldenburg mare he dreams of riding in the Olympic Games this summer. Mrs. Romney and her husband, Mitt, even floated a loan—$250,000 to $500,000, according to financial records—to Mr. Ebeling and his wife for the horse farm they run in California, where the Romneys use a Mediterranean-style guesthouse as a getaway.


The relationship has given the Romneys “the ability to enjoy the horses in a very safe and private haven, along with enjoying the people who provide them the service,” said Robert Dover, who knows the Romneys and Mr. Ebeling and his wife, Amy. “That friendship has stood the test of time.” It also offers a glimpse into the Romneys’ way of life, which they have generally shielded from view.

Protective of their privacy, they may also have been wary of the kind of fallout that came after Mr. Romney’s mention of the “couple of Cadillacs” his wife owned and the disclosure of plans for a car elevator in the family’s $9 million beach house in California, which prompted criticism that Mr. Romney was out of touch with average Americans.
Darlings, dressage is a bit too rich for the New York Times’ blood! Indeed, the sport suggests that the Romneys may be “out of touch with average Americans.” It shows that they live in a “rarefied world.” Meanwhile, Gabriel worked those other markers in—the car garage and the two Caddies.

The Times was eager to let us know about these troubling signs. But how about the way Mitt Romney looted those pension funds? Did that suggest that Romney was “out of touch with average Americans,” or perhaps something much worse?

The New York Times doesn’t seem to care. Photos of those looted workers have not appeared in the Times.

As this campaign proceeds, the Times is giving us a lesson in the actual values of modern elites. Yesterday, the paper wasted oodles of time as it sniffed around in the rarefied world of dressage. (In comments, liberal and conservative readers quickly showed they had gotten the message.) But modern elites don’t give a fig about the lives of steel workers.

Ann Romney’s horses got 2300 words. Mitt’s looted workers have barely been mentioned—and they won’t be mentioned again. Elites have tended to agree! Complaints about Bain are too much! (More on this tomorrow.)

The New York Times cares about dressage, perhaps not about steel workers. This brings us to Gail Collins’ new column, the one about public schools.

Question: Does Gail Collins care about children? More precisely, does she care about American public schools?

Does she care about low-income children? Does she care about their schools?

We’ll try to answer these questions all week—questions which popped into our head when we read Collins’ new column.

Collins does care a great deal about dogs, a point she drove home once again in this column. But does she care about low-income children? She hasn’t dirtied her hands with those steelworkers’ plight. But how about low-income kids?

Alas! In Saturday’s piece about public schools, we were struck by all the old signs—the clowning, the joking, the killing of time, the lazy indifference to her subject matter. She claimed to be discussing Romney’s education plan—but had she actually looked at the plan? And one of the ways she killed time, of course, involved Mitt Romney’s poor dog.

Plainly, Collins cares about dogs; her newspaper seems to care about horses. But does anyone care about looted steel workers?

Does Gail Collins care about schools?

Tomorrow—Part 1: Killing time—and playing the rubes

Wednesday: Understandably, the world’s least informed readers


  1. If the Times had wanted to praise the Romneys, they could have focused on a point they made in passing -- how remarkable it is for someone to start the sport of dressage in middle-age and reach the top. They could have focused on Mrs. Romney's courage to face her multiple sclerosis and deal with it so effectively. They could have focused on Mitt's love for his wife -- love that leads him to support her special hobby, both morally and financially. This last point hit me particularly, because my niece who suffers from MS is currently being divorced by her husband.

  2. Needless to say, this is why "the left" has trouble attracting working class votes, even against someone like Romney, who ought to be despised by working people everywhere. But "the left" has been working for decades to make itself even more despicable. Romney's an economic elite; "the left" prides itself on being a cultural and intellectual elite -- and people, logically or not, despise the latter more than the former.

    I am reminded, not for the first time, of George Orwell writing about the left of his own era, when he pointed out that their goal wasn't actually to win, but to complain about how the stupid Tories were so stupid -- but the stupid Tories just kept on winning, stupidity and all. The British left then, like the American left now, was full of people with the highest of brows, the wittiest of insults, and the most ineffectual of results.

    1. Maybe. But the "stupid Tories" kept (and keep) adapting 'left wing' goals. Health care, reduced military, out of Ireland, sub sized housing, reduced power of the House of Lords, increased access to college education, unemployment insurance, and Scotland ruling itself.

      So, as to who won elections, close call but probably the Tories won the most. But who changed (read: inculcated their policy goals on society)I'm not so sure. But I would suggest the Left.

  3. Dressage is a cool sport because the horse has to be as smart (and well-trained) as the rider. It is teamwork.

  4. "the Times is giving us a lesson in the actual values of modern elites"

    Spot on, Mr. Somerby.

    Your statement simply could not be more accurate.

    Buy why is it so?

    The economic values of *both* parties are largely in sync. Neither cares about the economic realities for "average Americans."

    The intent is to wage battle on cultural markers alone.

    Because for elites it matters very little whether the GOP or Democrats rule -- neither party threatens the interests of the 0.1%.

    It is all just a show.

    "we were struck by all the old signs—the clowning, the joking, the killing of time, the lazy indifference to her subject matter"

    Well, of course.

    If it mattered to them, there would not be indifference.

    But since it is largely a charade -- a kabuki -- the "subject matter" can be treated as if it were an entertainment.

    This is a post-politics.

    If there is anything to lose, we have already lost it.

  5. Gail Collins is a national treasure for how clear she makes the class system and the fundamentals of the two-party system.

  6. Midwestern yokels and dogs in roof cages
    gun toting (white) men and mitt romney's wages
    eight dancing horsies, TWO caddies, darlings!
    these are a few of our favorite things

  7. I still don't get why in his piece from last week wherein Bob discussed how Al Sharpton and Ed Rendell spoke about job losses at companies where Bain was involved, that didn't count as evidence that at least a few people in the reputedly Liberal Media actually care about the suffering of working-class Americans. Why is "looting" of pensions the only litmus test?

    1. If I remember he praised them for bringing up Bain, but despaired at how incompetent they were.

  8. Bob, you're right that the Dressage piece was almost surely intended to hurt Romney, as it was meant to support the narrative of his elitism, but I'm surprised you missed another equally important narrative it was meant to push, one that's usually used against democrats -- that Romney is effete. Dancing horses and men in top hats doesn't sound very masculine (even though it's his wife's hobby, but make no mistake the reader is meant to get the impression that Romney is a weird, unserious girlyman).

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