The odious yet valuable nature of the New York Times
The valuable thing about reading the New York Times is that it provides clear insight into the conventional wisdom existing in the elite center-right circles of the democratic party. This is well illustrated by yesterday’s propaganda piece by Matt Bai in which he demonstrates the bipartisan admiration and almost brotherly love for Republican Paul Ryan and his efforts to slash social security.
The central thrust of the article is that Ryan has the ability to foster compromise with ideological opponents in ways reminiscent of Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich. The fundamental premise, though, – that there is a deep ideological divide between the elites of the two parties – is a lie.
Bai first seeks to present Bill Clinton as a “fierce and ideologically opposed competitor” of the right who nonetheless ended up compromising with Newt Gingrich. This is a ludicrous claim. One can say many things of Clinton, but his policies – cuts in welfare, strong support for Wall Street, expansion of neo-liberalism and the Washington Consensus throughout the world, ignoring the UN and intervening in Bosnia, etc. – are hardly the antithesis of the republican right.
Recalling Clinton – Gingrich, Bai commends Ryan for having developed “strong working relationships” with democrats Erskine B. Bowles, and labor leader Andy Stern, both of whom are on the fiscal commission. He implies these two are ideological adversaries of Ryan but this is plainly untrue. Bowles is a business man who helped found an investment bank and is a director of Morgan Stanley and General Motors. Here’s Bowles on social security:
“We’re going to mess with Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security because if you take those off the table, you can’t get there. If we don’t make those choices, America is going to be a second-rate power, and I don’t mean in fifty years. I mean in my lifetime.”
Doesn’t sound like the ideological opponent of Ryan does he? How about labor leader Stern? Stern, although theoretically representing the worker, often takes surprisingly sympathetic views on the interests of employers, fiscal orthodoxy, entitlement cuts, and the ‘realities’ of the global economic system. Here’s a few quotes:
“If this is about building a country for the 21st century where businesses can compete, where people who earn money don’t pay more taxes, where we have fairness and simplicity in our tax system, where we deal with not just the solvency of Social Security but the adequacy of Social Security, I think we can have a different kind of debate.”
“America needs a plan. And its plan has to deal with, how do employers in this country, through trade, through how we structure benefits, how we do taxes, how do employers succeed?”
“I think the question becomes, how do you build a model that serves the interests of different groups of workers, and that matches up appropriately with how employers compete and how employers are successful? We have to be much more innovative, thoughtful, quality-focused and competitive in understanding the competition of our employers or we’ll become an albatross which they’re constantly trying to shed.”
“This Commission should examine reforms that promote fairness, simplicity, effectiveness and efficiency, taxpayer rights, and that lower corporate marginal tax rates…”
“I agree with many Commissioners who have said that all entitlement programs should be on the table.”
Again, not too surprising that Ryan could befriend Stern. Ryan’s relationships with these two democrats are clearly not examples of ideological adversaries meeting in the middle – they seem far more like the bonding of ideological brothers.
Bai then proclaims that “Mr. Ryan appears to be the rare kind of guy who actually dreams of making Social Security solvent”. What an absurd proposition – Ryan’s goal is the elimination of social security as we know it and the entire bipartisan elite are essentially supportive.
Finally, Bai provides us with an insight into the true nature of elite camaraderie with this sickening serving of adoring dribble:
“Finally, in Mr. Ryan, the president might well find a generational and temperamental peer, just as Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gingrich must have recognized in each other the same manic energy and grad-school nostalgia. Mr. Obama singled out Mr. Ryan at a visit with Republican House members last January, saying that he had read the road map and considered it a serious proposal. He joked then that while he had met Mr. Ryan’s “beautiful family,” he didn’t want to hurt the congressman’s political prospects by saying anything nice about him.”
This article is an indictment on the intelligence of the New York Times but it’s also, far more importantly, a reminder of the bipartisan nature of the forces aligned against the average American.