Kristof’s Breakthrough

Mickey Kaus Columnist
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Mo’ Blitter**–Kristof on the Cutting Edge: The NYTs Nicholas Kristof has come up with a breakthrough in pundit efficiency–a short, ass-covering phrase that works with virtually any argument, yet can be inserted without taking up valuable space. It was unveiled at the end of a recent column on the decline of public spending, when Kristof goes off on a jag in which he blames increasing money inequality on low taxes on the rich:

Since the 1950s, the top federal income tax rate has fallen from 90 percent or more to 35 percent. Capital gains tax rates have been cut by more than half since the late 1970s. Financial tycoons now often pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries.

All this has coincided with the decline of some public services and the emergence of staggering levels of inequality (granted, other factors are also at work) … [E.A.]

This is brilliant. “Granted, other factors are also at work.” The phrase neatly exonerates Kristof for his failure to even mention, let alone discuss, the powerful forces–trade, technological change, the emergence of ‘winner-take-all’ markets–that are working to produce more inequality even in pre-tax incomes.  I can use this phrase! It’s the opinion journalist’s equivalent of a “Get Out of Jail Free” card. …


We’re Number 11!: Remember all the press hype about how Detroit made cars had for all practical purposes caught up with the Japanese in terms of reliabilty?  Well, that was then. If you just got your December Consumer Reports you may have noticed that in the magazine’s seemingly authoritative reliability survey Japanese nameplates took the top seven spots–Toyota is #1, followed by Mazda, Subaru and Honda.  There isn’t an American name in the top 10. You have to go to #11 before you hit a Detroit brand–Cadillac. … P.S.: It seems almost like Japanese manufacturers are able to rebound more quickly when faced with challenges–as if they don’t have some institutional impediment that prevents them from making rapid adjustements.  … How is that UAW organizing campaign going, anyway? … Granted, other factors are also at work. [So easy!] P.P.S.: Cadillac, the top UAW-made brand, is barely better than average, but that’s significant progress–an average car is fairly reliable these days. GM’s showing on the whole wasn’t that bad.  Chrysler slipped, however (about 40% worse than average for its Chrysler and Dodge nameplates). And Ford was a disaster–60% below average, with some vehicles so bad their scores didn’t fit on the chart. …


National Review’s Robert Costa tells Politico:

“Romney would periodically call me to check in and share his take on the issue of the day. That access was invaluable …”

Really? Stuart Stevens didn’t call–Romney himself called? What other reporters were on that list? Or was it only Costa? If Romney was spending his time trying to lock up the National Review vote, that would explain a lot. …


**–Blitter = another attempt to come up with a word for twitter-based blogging. “Bleeter” was maybe not especially enticing (and could be confused with James Lileks’ popular The Bleat). Blitter sounds like a blizzard of litter, which is accurate enough. It was also apparently a type of computer circuit “dedicated to the rapid movement and modification of data” within a computer’s memory, and “capable of copying large quantities of data from one memory area to another”–another distressingly accurate resonance. We are moving items from one place on the Web to another. Maybe not so rapidly.

Mickey Kaus