Equal Time at the New York Times

by | Jan 13, 2003

The New York Times reveals its deep anti-capitalism bias even when it purports to offer a little op-ed space to dissenting views. After a week of relentlessly demagoguing the Bush administrations tax plan as a subsidy to “the rich” — both in editorials and in what should have been straight news stories — on Friday […]

The New York Times reveals its deep anti-capitalism bias even when it purports to offer a little op-ed space to dissenting views.

After a week of relentlessly demagoguing the Bush administrations tax plan as a subsidy to “the rich” — both in editorials and in what should have been straight news stories — on Friday it ran an op-ed purportedly defending the plan. And whom do you think the Times chose to write it? Larry Lindsey — the very guy whom President Bush fired as his chief economic advisor last month precisely because he has shown himself to be incompetent to explain the President’s economic policies. Nice choice, Howell.

Lindsey’s op-ed dutifully lists all the benefits the Bush administration ascribes to its plan — but everything’s just a little, well… off. He spends half his ink summarizing the views of the plan’s opponents, and he spends the other half with second-best arguments. It ends up being a form of damning with faint praise. At least he’s managed to stop talking about “putting money in people’s pockets” — his standard all-purpose rationale for any economic policy during his White House years. And to Lindsey’s credit, at least he had the grace to write the thing at all. Ex-Treasury secretary Paul O’Neill, who was canned at the same time as Lindsey, is obviously still in a snit about it — he publicly damned the Bush plan with faint damning last week. Clearly this is a man who isn’t interested in working in Washington (at leats for the Republicans) ever again (and who can blame him?).

There was another opposition op-ed in the Times. This one lacks ad hominem political intrigue, but conceptually it’s far more interesting. Titled “The Triumph of Hope Over Self-Interest,” it’s a think-piece by David Brooks, a senior editor at the conservative political rag, the Weekly Standard, on why American voters don’t consistently elect candidates who will raise taxes on “the rich” and redistribute their money to everyone else. What makes this topic so interesting is that it could be rephrased this way: why won’t the public follow the unceasing, haranguing urgings of the New York Times to eat the rich?

It’s an outstanding question, and if the New York Times ever dared to turn me loose on their op-ed page I’d give them one hell of an answer. But that’s not what they want — they want brownie points for having let the question be asked, but then they want to make sure that the answer doesn’t have any impact. And Brooks’ answer sure doesn’t.

The title says it all. From the beginning Brooks concedes that eating the rich would be the smart thing to do — the path of “self-interest.” Why don’t people do it then? There are lots of reasons, but they all boil down to one form or another of “they just don’t feel like it.”

For example, according to Brooks, it’s because are mired in wannabe fantasies.

“People vote their aspirations… Americans read magazines for people more affluent than they are (W, Cigar Aficionado, The New Yorker, Robb Report, Town and Country) because they think that someday they could be that guy with the tastefully appointed horse farm. Democratic politicians proposing to take from the rich are just bashing the dreams of our imminent selves.”

But then Brooks offers another equally psychobabbly explanation — in which he asserts just the opposite view.

“… if you are a middle-class person in most of America, you are not brought into incessant contact with things you can’t afford. There aren’t Lexus dealerships on every corner. There are no snooty restaurants with water sommeliers to help you sort though the bottled eau selections. You can afford most of the things at Wal-Mart or Kohl’s and the occasional meal at the Macaroni Grill. Moreover, it would be socially unacceptable for you to pull up to church in a Jaguar or to hire a caterer for your dinner party anyway.”

If these are the reasons why American voters don’t eat the rich, then it’s just a matter of time until they finally succumb to the repeated urgings of the Times, and then

Don Luskin is Chief Investment Officer for Trend Macrolytics, an economics research and consulting service providing exclusive market-focused, real-time analysis to the institutional investment community. You can visit the weblog of his forthcoming book ‘The Conspiracy to Keep You Poor and Stupid’ at www.poorandstupid.com. He is also a contributing writer to SmartMoney.com.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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