Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I'm not the only one who thinks that Ezra Klein is Young Broder in training

- by New Deal democrat

The other day I wrote about why I considered Ezra Klein to be the successor to David Broder (with all the negative that conveys). I failed to note adequately in that post that Ezra's hostility to social insurance programs for seniors - which they've paid into for their entire working lives - is in part because of his presumptuous ignorance of how the bait-and-switch is played out, precisely because he is only 28 years old.

Ezra blithely assumes that turning Social Security and Medicare into quasi-welfare programs won't erode their constituency, because he has no actual recollection of that history. He doesn't recall that Clinton and the GOP Congress cut back federal welfare programs in 1996 because he was in 7th grade at the time! He doesn't know that a large part of the vitriol against public employee benefits exists because private pensions were already being wiped out before he was even born! Likewise, the 1983 Greenspan plan which created the Social Security trust fund so that enough would be set aside to pay for Boomer retirements is ancient history to him, not part of a decades'-long social contrat by which over 100 million people have guided their lifelong plans. Simply put, the wisdom of those who have lived that history is meaningless to him.

But beyond that, I am not simply an isolated reader who sees Klein morphing into Broder. Take, for example, Ryan Cooper of the Washington Monthly writing about The trajectory of Ezra Klein:
I’ve been reading Ezra since around 2006 or so, and it’s been interesting to watch the way he has changed as he has gotten more and more successful....

[D]uring this time, he got rather dull. Where Old Ezra once was quick, witty, and not afraid of seeming partisan, New Ezra is bloodless, ponderous, and scrupulously nonpartisan to a fault. In other words, he sounds like a Washington Post writer. Take this column [by Klein] on the Romney campaign ....:
So at about 1 a.m. Thursday, having read Ryan’s speech in an advance text and having watched it on television, I sat down to read it again, this time with the explicit purpose of finding claims we could add to the “true” category....

.... Quite simply, the Romney campaign isn’t adhering to the minimum standards required for a real policy conversation. Even if you bend over backward to be generous to them ... you often find yourself forced into the same conclusion: This doesn’t add up, this doesn’t have enough details to be evaluated, or this isn’t true.

I don’t like that conclusion. It doesn’t look “fair” when you say that. We’ve been conditioned to want to give both sides relatively equal praise and blame, and the fact of the matter is, I would like to give both sides relatively equal praise and blame. I’d personally feel better if our coverage didn’t look so lopsided.
[my emphasis]

If Cooper isn't prominent enough for you, how about Charles Pierce of Esquire Magazine, writing about, inter alia, Klein's embrace of the proposed debt deal involiving raising the Medicare eligibility age:
Jonathan Chait and Ezra Klein have both been taking a terrible hiding for suggesting — and, in Chait's case, recommending — that raising the eligibility age for Medicare might be the the key to breaking the impasse as we slouch toward the Gentle Fiscal Incline. I disagree with both of them, for reasons we'll get to in a minute, but I'm not inclined to crank up the Enola Gay on this issue. I would just gently point out that almost every part of the primary rationale for doing what they suggest — that any deal is better than none, and that some Democratic blood-sacrifice on entitlements is required so that John Boehner is not cannibalized by his caucus — is pure Beltway group-think in that it renders almost insignificant the human cost out in the country of the policy proposed to solve what is essentially a conundrum devised by unaccountable elites.
[my emphasis]

There's a theme to all of these criticisms, and it is that Klein has internalized High Broderism. I'm not the only one who sees it.