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.

“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.
We’d call that a fairly amazing response.

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.

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.
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:
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.

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.
Oof! According to Rosenberg, median household income was over $56,000 in 2007, before the great economic collapse.

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


  1. Best Prediction from a Howler Commenter:

    November 8, 2014 at 8:41 AM

    I eagerly await next week, when Bob might get around to the mid-terms.

    1. Not getting your comment. Are you upset Bob points out the Obama economy sucks?

    2. No. Are you upset I quoted someone else's comment? Was it his you didn't get, or mine?

    3. So Somerby is three days behind Salon on this economic issue.

      At least he is only a day behind Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo.

    4. Quaker in a BasementNovember 11, 2014 at 4:42 PM

      Attention! Attention, Somerby! You're not keeping in step with the timetable set

    5. One could only hope that given the time lag, Somerby could at least arrange his thoughts into words before he takes to his blog.

      Really, these week-long series that quite often have no real focus or point, plus the added irrelevant "supplementals" (to what?) are a cheap trick of a weak writer and a fourth-rate thinker.

    6. Yes, though no one but you is hanging on every word, 4:51.

      The rest of us are just interested in the inevitable appearance of your own incisive comments, wherein we trust to get the down-low scoop on Somerby's unfocussed, cheap, irrelevant, weak, fourth-rate opinions.

      The only mystery: Why a thinker such as yourself wastes themselves on the drivel found here!

      But never mind that quibble. We thank you for your tireless devotion!!

    7. It is hard to determine if 5:11's comment is high end foppistry or mid level rattery.

    8. It's high-end rattery. Here's @4:51P who doesn't think the blogger has "arranged his thoughts into words." Which I take it to mean that the blog isn't a coherent arrangement of words, since it's literally words (except maybe for "foppistry"). These arrangements have no focus, no point, and, some of them are also irrelevant, although I'm not sure how any entry could be relevant to a series of pointless entries. Not only that, the blogger is a bad writer and a worse thinker.

      Who reads stuff that bad? And then spends time to comment on it? Even KZ, who's marching to the cacophony inside his skull, has found some meaning in TDH, weighed it in the balance found in a distant galaxy, and judged it wanting. OK, I get that fact even if I don' t get his criticisms.

      Commenters like @4:51 mystify me.

    9. I bet a lot of things mystify you, especially when your notion of the brilliance of Somerby is challenged.

      But face it, this blog is a mess. But fear not. Except for the occasional race-baiting and women-baiting that seems to draw at least some attention, most people have taken your advice and ignore this blog.

    10. Yes, many things mystify me, from large things in national politics to small things like how Bob Somerby's obsessions can keep him blogging for over fifteen years.

      It also puzzles me that the trolls here cannot read for comprehension and that they all have the same script. I once posted rules for trolls, and right on cue you hit two of them: anyone who criticizes a troll must think that TDH is brilliant, and everybody ignores TDH anyway. I'll not run the fool's errand to counter these stock declarations, but I'll note that 1) the unsupported assertion of your opinion does not really constitute a "challenge", and 2) I'm not defending TDH but merely asking you a question.

  2. I'm still waiting for the report on the procrastination conference...

    1. In our view, that Oxford conference on procrastination was a genuine pip. It's also something to be truly angry about!

    2. I can't decide whether the whole thing was a joke by Bob. He's fairly smart enough not to let irony get by him so I'm leaning to ward yes.

    3. Yeppers. Writing about Bush 2 and Schieffer pounding excuses for a decades old election shows a wicked sense or irony attributable only to the highest caliber of smartitude.

    4. Do you not understand that Bush 2 is part of the 2016 election because his brother Jeb is running?

  3. At The Confluence, Riverdaughter is pointing out the same thing -- Democrats don't seem to want to talk about bread and butter issues for voters and Republicans are encouraging this by focusing on the Pipeline, which is an important issue but not for everyday voters who are struggling in this economy.

  4. Hillary Clinton will soon start connecting with economically disaffected voters by stopping those paid speeches.

    I am surprised Somerby didn't mention this bit of "real" news.
    Wait, it is only five days old.

    1. The ridiculous spin of your opening sentence is not "news", real or otherwise. It's your own inane opinion. Although Bob frequently comments on the opinions of idiots, that's no reason to believe he should comment on yours.

    2. Let me try it a different way. Hillary Clinton has made so much money making speeches that soon she will start giving them away for free again.

    3. Hillary Clinton did a lot of campaigning for midterm Democratic candidates. If she were only about the money, as you seem to suggest, she wouldn't have been doing that. This is especially true since she can only lose stature when her help doesn't produce victories.

    4. Hmm, a candidate preparing to run for president in 2016 hits the campaign trail in 2014. Imagine that.

      No doubt for altruistic reasons.

    5. She was campaigning for OTHER candidates, just as Bill Clinton did and others not running for office themselves.

      She is NOW hitting the campaign trail on her own behalf with her listening tour.

      Any candidate for public office is being altruistic these days because of the severe drawbacks to both campaigning and serving in any government office. There are easier ways to make a living -- such as by continuing to give speeches for high fees. Both Clintons are over 65 and could be retired. That they continue doing this stuff is altruistic, not self-serving.

  5. Why vote when both parties serve their Wall Street corporate masters?

    1. Why vote indeed. Or why not follow the advice of Somerby admirers to the trolling class. Get out there and start your own party.

    2. I'm planning to vote the nihilist ticket in the next election.

    3. Such a party already exists:

      We would like to see it grow. We are not, however, sanguine about the chances of that happening. Human nature seems to have a strong bias towards homeostasis, as long as the stasis is tolerable. And then again, some of the things this party advocates run against the interests of elite "liberals." We will also note that Bob, despite his claims of being in favor of that style of liberalism, has to our knowledge never once mentioned this group, or any other similar organization, that is actually devoted to economic liberalism (in the American, not the classical, sense, just to head off some eager wannabe pedant). In our view, this is one of the ways he marks himself as a crank, as cranks are never really FOR anything, but rather, are always riled up about the things they dislike.

  6. I have long been struck at the contrast between Times articles favoring the poor and downtrodden vs ads aimed at the very rich. One sees the same contrast in the New Yorker magazine

    David in Cal

    1. You see, when a magazine's advertising department and it's editorial department love each other very much, ....

      Oh, never mind.

  7. I find both publications to be irrelevant to the California lifestyle and experience.