Part 2—Democrats, losing elections: The foppistry of our upper-end press corps almost defies description.
On Sunday, Margaret Sullivan tackled the problem in her New York Times public editor column. Responding to complaints from readers, rolling her eyes at the Times’ “Wealth” section, Sullivan asked executive editor Dean Baquet to describe the typical Times reader.
According to Sullivan, Baquet responded like this:
SULLIVAN (11/9/14): I asked the executive editor, Dean Baquet, whom he has in mind when he directs coverage and priorities.We’d call that a fairly amazing response.
“I think of The Times reader as very well-educated, worldly and likely affluent,” he said. “But I think we have as many college professors as Wall Street bankers.”
On the question of all that high-end content, he called it “one of the bigger tensions” in The Times’s big picture. The paper has become expensive to subscribe to, and it is supported financially by advertisers who want to reach a high-earning readership, but “you don’t want to become an elitist news operation.” And it’s not just The Times that pitches to the rich, he said, noting that The Wall Street Journal’s real estate section is called “Mansion.”
Mr. Baquet said that stories about $56 million apartments and parents who buy houses near their children’s boarding schools are a legitimate part of the mix. But there are also stories about people struggling to get by, he noted.
In Baquet’s mind, New York Times readers are “likely affluent.” That said, he thinks the Times serves “as many college professors as Wall Street bankers!”
Don’t blame us, the boss man says. The Wall Street Journal fawns to the super-wealthiest too!
We don’t know what Baquet meant by the quoted remark about professors. We don’t know what else he might have said in his chat with the public editor.
That said, Sullivan’s column appeared five days after a national election. The election went badly for Democrats and seems to have featured a record-low voter turnout.
Why did Democrats do so poorly? Different people will have different answers. Ever so briefly, let’s consider the state of the nation’s economy.
For ourselves, we aren’t giant fans of the Times editorial board. That said, the newspaper offered these pensees in the aftermath of the election:
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL (11/8/14): The employment report for October, released on Friday, reflects a steady-as-she-goes economy. And that is a problem, because for most Americans, more of the same is not good enough. Since the recovery began in mid-2009, inflation-adjusted figures show that the economy has grown by 12 percent; corporate profits, by 46 percent; and the broad stock market, by 92 percent. Median household income has contracted by 3 percent.Even at the lordly Times, the board seemed aware of the contraction in median income. At Salon, Thomas Frank was perhaps a bit more pointed in his remarks:
Against that backdrop, the economic challenge is to reshape the economy in ways that allow a fair share of economic growth to flow into worker pay. The October report offers scant evidence that this challenge is being met...
The economy added 214,000 jobs last month, in line with its performance over the past year. Consistent growth is certainly better than backsliding, but growth is still too slow: At the current pace, it will take until March 2018 for employment to return to its pre-recession level of health.
Even then, more jobs would not necessarily mean higher pay. Updated figures by the National Employment Law Project, a labor-advocacy group, show that about 40 percent of the private-sector jobs created in the last five years have paid hourly wages of $9.50 to $13, and 25 percent have paid between $13 and $20. Those findings are underscored by the new jobs report, which shows that nearly all of the private-sector job gains were in restaurants, retail stores, temporary work, health care and other low-to-moderate-paying fields.
Wages have barely kept up with inflation for several years running, and there are no economic or political forces to push them up.
FRANK (11/9/14): Low turnout is one reason for these contradictory results. Big money is a second. But a third reason voters did these futile, clashing things is that this is our fourth hard-times election in a row. Lashing out blindly and in all directions against the powerful—against low wages as well as against a comfortable “class” that is amply represented in Washington—is still our political default position, some six years after the financial crisis and the Wall Street bailout. For many Americans, the recession is still on. They know that their region hasn’t recovered, that their household wealth isn’t coming back, that people like them no longer have a shot at the middle-class life in which they were raised.According to Frank, many Americans know that “people like them no longer have a shot at the middle-class life in which they were raised.”
Middle-class lifestyles are going away! At the same site, Paul Rosenberg had offered a similar analysis one day before:
ROSENBERG (11/8/14): The economy has done just fine for the Mitt Romneys of the world. But not for anyone else.Oof! According to Rosenberg, median household income was over $56,000 in 2007, before the great economic collapse.
As my former Open Left blogmate Ian Welsh pointed out, “Two Charts Show Why the Obama Economy Sucks.” The first shows the portion of the working-age population that’s working. It was hovering around 63 percent before the Great Recession, and has been between 58 and 59 percent since late 2010. The second shows median household income, falling from over $56,000 in 2007 to roughly $52,000 in 2011, about where it’s been ever since. These two charts show why the headline economic numbers showing a recovering economy fail to register with the American people. It’s not the people who are mistaken—it’s the pundit class that’s out of touch, clinging to an outmoded set of increasingly misleading statistics.
Seven years later, median income is still well below that figure. Unless you're an out-of-touch pundit class, low gas prices do not offset that large economic problem.
Different people will blame different people for the state of the nation’s economy. Then again, some members of “the pundit class” may not acknowledge or discuss this problem at all.
Are those people “out of touch?” Are they simply churning the propaganda they received from the DNC?
It’s very hard to answer such questions. Tomorrow, we’ll show you how the economy looks to a well-known TV pundit—a pundit is reportedly paid $7 million per year.
Tomorrow: It’s all good in Faux Pundit Land