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November 28, 2005

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps (Daniel Gross Reads Michael Barone and Shudders Edition)

Daniel Gross is shrill today. He takes on Michael Barone:

Daniel Gross: November 20, 2005 - November 26, 2005 Archives : VULGAR OPPORTUNIST: As an analyst of business and economic trends, Michael Barone is a pretty good political analyst. Today, he pens a piece in the Wall Street Journal... places the blame for the decline of big industrial firms in sectors like steel and autoparts squarely on labor.... "Union-driven legacy costs have already force many steel compnaies adn airliens into bankrupty," he notes. It takes two parties to iron out labor agreements. And as much as unions like "legacy costs" -- for yuppies who labor over their keyboards, like Barone, that translates to health insurance and retirement benefits -- management liked them perhaps even more. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s... management of the Big Three continually agreed to deals with the unions that added legacy costs--in exchange for keeping current wages down, and hence [reported] profits up....

Worse, [Barone] celebrates the replacement of the value-adding, high-paying auto industry--which created jobs in dozens of related industries--with the rise of lower-paying, value-subtracting industries like gambling.

On the Michigan freeways going up north, the big attractions are not the UAW's cultural haven of Black Lake but Indian casinos and outlet malls... where people throng to win sudden riches or to take advantage of low prices.... The attempt, made when the economy seemed static, to promise security and leisure and restrained good taste, has failed. We remain, as we have been in most of our history, a nation of hustlers... who strive mightily to get ahead and advance their interests, enjoying the sometimes vulgar opportunities a dynamic economy provides.

Casinos are affirmatively not "places where people throng to win sudden riches." They're places where suckers, many of them people without much in the way of resources, throng to engage in rigged games in which the odds are always -- always -- against them.

Now I never understood why Michael Barone has a "reputation" as a political analyst in the first place. Can somebody please point me to something he's written that's worth reading?

UPDATE: The consensus is that people think Michael Barone made his reputation by writing large chunks of the Almanac of American Politics. I took a look at the introduction. I am not impressed. Anybody who thinks that the U.S. armed forces are "decentralized" doesn't know the first thing about military command-and-control. Anybody who thinks that welfare reform has produced greater incomes for America's poor hasn't looked at the CPS. Anybody who thinks that FedEx is in the same business as the U.S. Postal Service knows nothing about FedEx's business model. Anybody who thinks that the fall in crime in New York City is the result of a "network-connected police force" knows nothing at all about the causes and control of crime.

So, once again: anybody have anything Michael Barone has written that is worth reading?

American Politics In The Networking Era: By Michael Barone: On the surface, the 2004 election looked very much like the 2000 election. George W. Bush was again running against a liberal Democrat who had spent much of his career in the Senate and who had clinched his nomination by early victories in Iowa and New Hampshire. In November, 47 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia voted for the candidate of the same party as they had in 2000. Only three states switched, New Hampshire to the Democrats, Iowa and New Mexico to the Republicans. Bush won again, this time without a court battle. Republicans ended up with majorities in both houses of Congress. But in many ways, the 2004 campaign was very different from 2000. It produced a different kind of politics, a politics that reflects the character of the post-industrial, networking age we live in.

For changes in politics resemble changes in the larger society. For several decades now, we have seen the change from industrial America to post-industrial America, from an industrial nation characterized by centralization and large command-and-control organizations to a post-industrial, Information Age nation characterized by decentralization and network-connected organizations. This is an America where Microsoft overtakes IBM, where FedEx overtakes the U.S. Postal Service, where Wal-Mart overtakes Sears. It is an America whose network-connected Special Forces overthrow the Taliban in Afghanistan and whose network-connected Army and Marines overthrow Saddam Hussein in Iraq. It is an America where the abolition of guaranteed welfare has produced higher incomes and greater independence for the target population, where network-connected police forces have cut crime by more than half in New York City and shown the way toward vast reductions in crime across the nation. Our private sector and important parts of our public sector have moved from industrial command-and-control America to post-industrial, Information Age, network-connected America. In 2004, our politics followed....

Posted by DeLong at November 28, 2005 12:36 PM