All hail our pseudolib heroine: The op-ed page of today’s New York Times is framed by two columns—columns written by Nicholas Kristof and Gail Collins.
Below, we’ll offer one complaint about one thing Kristof says. But his column discusses an actual, real-world concern—the rising share of American income being gobbled up at the top.
“In 2010, 93 percent of the gain in national income went to the top 1 percent,” Kristof notes at one point. Also this:
“America’s Gini coefficient, the classic measure of inequality, set a modern record last month—the highest since the Great Depression.”
Kristof’s column is a review of a new book by Joseph Stiglitz. Whatever you think of his views or approach, Kristof is asking people to think about an actual part of the world.
And then, on the other side of the page, we get the latest from Collins. It’s hard to be more detached, more uncaring, than this blight on the liberal world.
Collins starts her piece in her standard way, complaining that the election is boring. We’re quoting her piece as it appears in our hard-copy Times, not as it appears on-line:
COLLINS (10/4/12): Give yourselves a little pat on the back, interested citizens. You really have been through a lot. Two more presidential debates and one vice-presidential debate to go. Then we will be moving into the final days, sometimes known as the Actually Having an Election period.Collins builds an astonishing number of columns around the idea that politics and citizenship are just amazingly boring. Her attention then shifts to Irish setters, armadillos, coyotes, horses or dinosaur/porcupines.
(Did you read John Noble Wilford’s article in The Times about the discovery of the remains of a dinosaur the size of a house cat? A paleontologist told Wilford that it might have looked like a “nimble two-legged porcupine.” I am telling you this because the race for the Republican nomination first began at about the time these creatures became extinct. Michele Bachmann shot the last one when it hopped across her front yard.)
In this, her preview to last night’s debate, Collins could have presented some framework which might have helped her readers understand what they saw and heard. But Collins’ entire career as a columnist is built around the idea that watching a debate, or a speech, is just impossibly dull—an affront to upper-class humans.
At any rate, in Collins’ revised, on-line column, the porcupine stays in! As a columnist, Collins is constantly seeking ways to kill time by talking to the animals.
Earlier this year, Collins published a book about Texas. Her portrait of the Texas public schools is rank with misinformation. The book is so full of misinformation, it constitutes an act of journalistic fraud.
Why is a person like this in print? Why do liberals accept this?
Alas! The Potemkins who pose as our journalists call this the information age! It seems these gods must be joking.
Our one complaint about Kristof: Unlike Collins, Kristof discusses an actual real-world concern. We don’t think his column really advances the discussion of this matter. But he isn’t killing time discussing his boredom and talking about porcupines.
We do have one complaint about Kristof’s column. It’s a sign of the times when Kristof feels he has to say what follows:
KRISTOF (10/4/12): This dismal ground is explored in an important and smart new book, “The Price of Inequality,” by Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel laureate who was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Bill Clinton. It’s a searing read.That highlighted statement is very odd. Obviously, Kristof is massively smarter than that.
“We are paying a high price for our inequality—an economic system that is less stable and less efficient, with less growth,” Stiglitz warns.
The problem is not that the rich are venal or immoral, and I buy into the Chinese mantra of the reform era: “To get rich is glorious.” But today’s level of inequality is unusual by American historical and global standards alike, and, as Stiglitz notes, evidence is mounting that inequality at the levels we’ve reached stifles growth and employment.
Crackers! Some of the rich certainly are “venal or immoral.” To a large extent, that certainly is “the problem.” This has been true through the annals of time, as every sentient person knows. And just for the record, some of us who aren’t rich today would quickly turn “venal or immoral” if we got rich tomorrow.
This is known as human nature. That statement is very strange.
Many wealthy people are thoroughly decent, of course. But wealth and power have always tended to lead us humans astray.
Today, the wealthy are very powerful in the world where our insider pundits dwell. Smart people end up saying odd things, bowing low to that wealth and its power.