The Insight of Walter Kirn

 

Walter Kirn is a writer. Probably his most widely recognized work is Up in the Air because the novel it was made into a movie that starred George Clooney. But he is also an essayist and has a periodic presence on the Gutfeld! show. And he has a weekly (Fridays) video blog, America This Week, with Matt Taibbi. I don’t know that he’s formally a humorist, but his manner of presentation does reflect an ironic eye. Kirn’s pairing with Taibbi is genius because they both share a free speech absolutism while having different political orientations.  This is like the mild tang of sweet and sour sauce.

(You can get Taibbi’s newsletter with its links to the ATW video without paying, but then you only get the first 30 minutes. If you have a paid subscription through Substack you can get the whole thing. And I recommend you do so. One, because you get independent reporting from Taibbi, but also the full ATW video.)

What inspired this post occurred just after the 30-minute mark on this week’s video: Kirn highlighted how what is often missed in George Orwell’s 1984 is in the story everything is falling apart — the buildings are crumbling, people dress shabbily, the spirits have very little alcohol, etc. The mind-control that The Party is exercising is necessary to keep people accepting of decay. The old, “are you going to believe me or your lying eyes?”

Kirn had earlier alluded to, but expands importantly upon after the 30-minute mark, the fact that when government can no longer control reality it shifts to controlling perception. Kirn and Taibbi discussed a number of examples of where media figures are complaining that people just aren’t understanding how well off they are under Biden, or that other media are not doing a good enough job of obscuring what everyone is seeing (Biden’s policy failures). All of this is in service to The Party whose policies are driving popular immiseration and who cannot, as a result, retain power in a system of free and fair elections.

The other day, someone shared with me a New York Times article, “Bidenomics Has a Mortal Enemy, and It Isn’t Trump.” It is behind a paywall, but as he was a subscriber, he could share it with me. For those of you, like me, who do not subscribe to the NYT, the article (ignoring its provocative headline) is really about how Bidenomics is not addressing “income inequality.” (It included the obligatory “it was happening under Trump, too,” but that was pretty much the only reference to Trump in the article.)  I responded to the person who sent me the article:

Thomas Sowell in his most recent book takes on the “income inequality” argument. Sowell’s point is that aggregation of data ignores individual movement upward and downward. That is, individuals within a cohort at one point do not remain in that cohort over time. So Sowell argues that income inequality stats are not a valid reflection of how equality of opportunity is working out, as opposed to making it a permanent weapon in the “equity” movement. But inflation really is a problem because it is a regressive tax on the lower end of the economic ladder. And government printing money (or more correctly an unaccountable Federal Reserve) guarantees inflation. It is inflation, not income inequality, that is at the base of people’s concern about their economic well-being. If your money doesn’t go as far and you notice it because you can see the bottom of the pan each week (so to speak) you are not feeling good about things.

This NYT story is an example of what Kirn is talking about: If we focus on income inequality, we take our eyes off inflation. Individuals can and do personally close the income gap through productivity and time. But inflation robs them of the benefits of doing so. And government, not the marketplace, is the culprit for inflation. So it becomes important to message to the people that it’s the mean old hoarders of wealth, not the government’s, fault if your life is challenging; that inflation is going “down” when it is only not going up as fast; that you should ignore the fact that if your wages are not going up as fast as inflation you are losing ground in the struggle to gain/retain financial security.

This is the “your lying eyes” election. There are two strategies at play: (1) obscure what the powers that be are doing to you so you won’t vote against them, and (2) make sure that the “count” comes out right. Tough times.

You must love Big Brother. It is not enough to obey him: you must love him.

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  1. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Rodin: This NYT story is an example of what Kirn is talking about: If we focus on income inequality we take our eyes off inflation. Individuals can and do personally close the income gap through productivity and time. But inflation robs them of the benefits of doing so. And government, not the marketplace, is the culprit for inflation. So it becomes important to message to the people that it’s the mean old hoarders of wealth, not the government’s, fault if your life is challenging; that inflation is going “down” when it is only not going up as fast; that you should ignore the fact that if your wages are not going up as fast as inflation you are losing ground in the struggle to gain/retain financial security.

    How can a focus on income inequality take our eyes off of inflation, when inflation has historically been a big cause of greater inequality of income and wealth?  It’s not hard to understand how it works, because those who have disposable income that can be invested in inflation-resistant assets (like land) or indirectly in capital goods, will clean up on those who are living paycheck to paycheck.  

    There are a number of reasons that conservatives unfortunately get triggered by talk about inequality of income and wealth.  One is that the left tends to respond by wanting to tax the rich.  But taxing the rich usually is just a stalking horse for talking the poor and middle class, and in any case concentrates wealth (and the power that is accompanied by it) in a bigger, more monopolistic entity, i.e. the government that does the taxing.   We can be against extreme inequality of income and wealth without wanting to create a richer and more powerful government to tax the rich.  And we can do it without  accepting the left’s opposite extreme of a forced equality, which also creates a richer and more powerful government.  

     

    • #1
  2. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    The Reticulator

    @TheReticulator

    “How can a focus on income inequality take our eyes off of inflation, when inflation has historically been a big cause of greater inequality of income and wealth?” 

    I don’t disagree. However, when the media talks about income inequality they are not highlighting inflation and the government’s role. They talk about it to make people feel like victims of other people, not government. And to make them feel helpless and support government managing more economic activity — which makes things worse. 

    • #2
  3. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Rodin (View Comment):

    The Reticulator

    @ TheReticulator

    “How can a focus on income inequality take our eyes off of inflation, when inflation has historically been a big cause of greater inequality of income and wealth?”

    I don’t disagree. However, when the media talks about income inequality they are not highlighting inflation and the government’s role. They talk about it to make people feel like victims of other people, not government. And to make them feel helpless and support government managing more economic activity — which makes things worse.

    Yeahbut, that’s not a however. It’s an opportunity. Let the left highlight it,  while we focus on their responsibility for it, and the way their solutions make it worse. When they hand us the weapons we should use them. 

    • #3
  4. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Rodin (View Comment):

    The Reticulator

    @ TheReticulator

    “How can a focus on income inequality take our eyes off of inflation, when inflation has historically been a big cause of greater inequality of income and wealth?”

    I don’t disagree. However, when the media talks about income inequality they are not highlighting inflation and the government’s role. They talk about it to make people feel like victims of other people, not government. And to make them feel helpless and support government managing more economic activity — which makes things worse.

    Yeahbut, that’s not a however. It’s an opportunity. Let the left highlight it, while we focus on their responsibility for it, and the way their solutions make it worse. When they hand us the weapons we should use them.

    This really is where the Left itself divides between leaders and followers but conservatives are not adept at delivering a message to demonstrate what the leaders are doing to the followers.

    • #4
  5. Jim George Member
    Jim George
    @JimGeorge

    Rodin: This is the “your lying eyes” election. There are two strategies at play: (1) obscure what the powers that be are doing to you so you won’t vote against them, and (2) make sure that the “count” comes out right. Tough times.

    I just put up a post about the blatant and malign malpractice of the corporate media in refusing to cover a vote in the Senate on military assistance for Israel  as it would not further the narrative. This is a prime example of what this post is about and what Walter Kirn (who I admire and respedt tremendously) is referring to in the above quote. Please refer to the post for the details but the main point is that the Democrat Senators who voted against Israel did so in the full confidence that the major corporate media would never report their vote and therefore the Senators up for re-election could make a vote like this which would ordinarly be thought to be very damaging — on the very day of the Stand for Israel rally of 300,000 in Washington, no less — knowing it would have little to no effect on their campaign. 

    A “well informed electorate” indeed. 

    • #5
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