Doug Smith: Useful Idiot Watch – Matt Yglesias

By Douglas K. Smith, author of On Value and Values: Thinking Differently About We In An Age Of Me

Earlier this month, Matthew Yglesias of Slate tweeted “EXCLUSIVE: The activities of individual business executives have no relationship to the level of economy-wide employment.”

It’s hard to choose what is most ridiculous here: The adolescent “EXCLUSIVE”? The Olympian “no”? Or, the sophomoric logic? (Yglesias to world: you just cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the activities of one teeny-weeny, single, stand alone business executive have any relationship whatsoever to ‘economy-wide’ employment!! See!! Gotcha!! And, yes, I – with my high school sophomore level of maturity — really am smarter than everyone else!!!)

All of which reminded me of ‘useful idiots’: people who are propagandists for causes and goals they do not understand, and who are used cynically by leaders of those causes.

Urban legend says Lenin was the first to coin ‘useful idiots’ with reference to Western sympathizers of Communism – but no one has ever confirmed this. Lenin’s version of communism as a threat to democracy, the rule of law and capitalism is in the dustbin of history now.

In its stead, though, democracy, the rule of law and capitalism itself face the monster of corpocracy. The corpocrats control huge swaths of the global – and US – economies (finance, energy, housing, health care, etc), are the paymasters of legislative, executive, judicial and agency officials from all levels of government (local, state, federal and international), and heavily influence the nonprofit sector as well. Corpocratic power dominate both major US parties as well as mainstream media – and, no surprise, dictate the ideas that do – and do NOT – move through the Overton Window from unthinkable and radical to sensible and popular foundations for policy.

And, the corpocrats need useful idiots like Yglesias to warm hearts and provide ‘tough love’ to the 99% being prepped for misery. Yglesias apparently is only too happy to carry water for them. And, his ignorance of empirically and ethically sound economics in favor of superficial headlines from the orthodox version ensures that he’ll fail to grasp the actual causes and goals of those who must laugh themselves silly over his microfilm-thin ‘coverage’.

All this was enough to drive Mike Elk up a wall – not just over the silly tweet, but also Yglesias’ ‘tough love’ proclamation that the US needs an ‘asshole” (Yglesias’ word) like Mitt Romney to administer suffering because, in Yglesias’ celebration of Romney, that’s just the sort of thing Romney has learned by being a ‘bad guy’ capitalist. Read Elk carefully and you’ll see that he’s beside himself over the travesty of an outlet such as Slate providing this useful idiot Yglesias a perch that Slate describes as ‘covering’ economics.

Hey Slate, Elk basically bemoans, how about requiring Yglesias to ‘discover economics’ before allowing him to cover it?

That would be wonderful. But, it wouldn’t be nearly as much like the useful idiocy that, apparently, Slate wishes to promote as content safe for sponsorship. For Yglesias (and Slate) to do the bidding of the corpocracy, it’s best that he not probe too deeply. Otherwise, he’d risk bumping into inconvenient truths that wouldn’t sit well with the children’s book version of capitalism that is his actual ‘beat’ – and the propaganda preferred by Slate’s advertisers.

In Yglesias’ world of economics and capitalism, ‘good guy’ innovators – e.g. Apple – creatively destruct. And, yes, sadly, some people suffer. Or, as Yglesias grandiloquently intones: “Almost every successful business career is built on the ashes of doomed factories, pink-slipped workers, and towns laid to waste.” But, boys and girls, you see it’s all okay because the ‘good guy’ capitalists, gosh darnit, create jobs too. And, oh by the way, the ‘bad guy’ capitalists such as Mitt Romney are necessary evils. Why? Well they are sort of like surgeons who save lives by cutting out huge parts of the body. Holy snikeys Batman, Ygleasias admits, he’d personally much rather be the cape-wearing good guy capitalist than the garbage clean up bad guy capitalist. But, the cold truths and harsh realities of economics and capitalism require both these heroes. That’s what and how economics and capitalism work. And, Yglesias is here to explain it all to you on behalf of the good and bad guy capitalists who, after all, are just doing God’s work.

Elk points out that useful idiots like Yglesias cannot bother with logical, knowledge-based or, even, factual inconsistencies. For example, just as a matter of logic internal to Yglesias’ own claims: When business executives lay waste to whole towns, how is it that they nonetheless have no impact whatsoever on economy-wide matters such as jobs?

Or, move from logic to facts. In Yglesias’ children’s book of capitalism, good guy capitalists such as Steve Jobs and Apple create just as many jobs – even more!! – than the jobs destroyed by the firms who fail to innovate. In actual ‘facts about the real world’, it turns out the vast majority of jobs Apple created went to folks outside the United States who labor for little pay and in dangerous conditions so that the products of their labor can be sold on credit to U.S. consumers who are unemployed, underemployed, ill paid and in debt because of the predictable behaviors and strategies of both good guy and bad guy capitalists.

That’s just one take on all this. I welcome NC readers to dip into Elk’s comments as well as the Yglesias’ tripe about Romney and share your own thoughts in comments:

• What are the causes and goals for which Yglesias propagandizes without any understanding of those causes and goals?

• Who are the individuals – and entities — that cynically use idiots like Yglesias to propagandize on their behalf?

• Who are the folks out there who waste their time and endanger themselves by reading this nonsense?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Middle Seaman

    I refuse to answer any of the thee questions assigned as homework. It has years since I read anything Yglesias writes. To prevent a wider confligration I’ll simply say the we do suffer from a large assortment of idiots of this type. All being respected members of bloghistan. Some even infiltrated the main media with naturally unnoticable results.

  2. Jesse

    The claim may or may not be founded (I never had this strong of a reaction when I occasionally read Yglesias); that is a pretty obnoxious tweet.

    But I motion that we retire the term “useful idiot”. I’ve seen it used to ridicule many people who merely raise reasonable, substantive objections to our foreign policy and such.

    1. sedeer

      I don’t think retiring the term “useful idiot” will help improve discourse on foreign policy (or other areas). There are plenty of terms and techniques that can be used to marginalize dissenting opinions; the only way to try to rectify that is to encourage people to participate critically in dialogue (and politics) and to refuse to accept ad hominem attacks. There’s nothing wrong with labelling someone a “useful idiot” if you explain why you think so. If you don’t, I’m likely to be uninterested in your opinion.

      Maybe I sound like a hopeless idealist…but maybe idealism is a helpful framework for defining the goals towards which to strive.

  3. YankeeFrank

    Yglesias is a careerist smug little douche, saying all the things that will get him the cushy position in establishment “journalism”, which is not journalism at all. He says idiotic things all the time, and frankly, anyone who listens to him was most likely a hopeless idiot as well long before he showed up on their idiot-radars. Yglesias sole original contribution to blogging, as opposed to his capitalist and war cheerleading, was to be the first blogger to think that posts about public parking were in too short supply, and he would eagerly make up for that glaring deficit by posting a constant stream of pointless analyses of various parking rules in the suburbs surrounding whatever town is currently unfortunate enough to have him living in it.

    1. Mel

      At the same time he was riding a hobby-horse against a local restaurant where the food was bad and not worth the money. The only reason people went in at all, he said, was that you could always get a table. It escaped him that this restaurant had managed to find a market-clearing price for tables and chairs. I doubt that he’d thought much about pay parking, either.

  4. Procopius

    Hey, he’s just like, and no worse than, guys like Bobo Brooks, Tom “Suck.On.This” Friedman, Matt Bai and Ross Douthat. If you can get people to pay you for writing crap then good on ya. Wish I could do that, but I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night.

    1. sglover

      It’s long been obvious that Yggie’s Big Life Goal is to become the next Davey Broder or Davey Brooks. In that sense he does bring at least one useful service to the world: Watching him is a kind of field study in the metamorphosis of media creatures. And for those interested in Beltway Kremlinology, Yggie’s sycophancy can probably yield some clues about Beltway courtier status alignments.

      But reading Yggie for **content** has always been a total waste of time.

    1. Foppe

      Do not malign? Why on earth not, given that “maligning” these days seems to be synonymous with “criticizing for being ideological hacks”? Have you read the crap McArdle put out in order to “rebut” Warren’s Two Income Trap?

  5. Goin' South

    The real useful idiots are the “progressives” who brought Yglesias to broad attention in the first place. In college, Yglesias wrote for the Harvard Independent, a right-wing rag founded in the late 60s to counter the slightly left, pro-strike Crimson.

    But since Yglesias was loudly atheist and pro-LGBT rights, he quickly became promoted by Markos at DailyKos and Duncan at Eschaton. Nobody showed the least concern for the obviously right-wing views he held otherwise.

    1. Ned Ludd

      If you want to know Markos’ politics, he revealed a lot in a June 2, 2006, interview at the Commonwealth Club. The audio used to be available here, but it’s now gone (unfortunately, it was a RealAudio stream, so tough to save).
      Luckily, somebody wrote a transcript, and it concurs with my memory about what Markos said (including the tasteless joke):

      Markos Moulitsas: “So, I applied to the CIA and I went all the way to the end, I mean it was to the point where I was going to sign papers to become Clandestine Services. […]

      “This is a very liberal institution. And in a lot of ways, it really does attract people who want to make a better, you know, want to make the world a better place … Of course, they’ve got their Dirty Ops and this and that, right but as an institution itself the CIA is really interested in stable world. That’s what they’re interested in. And stable worlds aren’t created by destabilizing regimes and creating wars.

      “They’re done so by other means. Assassinating labor leaders … I’m kidding!

      “I don’t think it’s a very partisan thing to want a stable world. And even if you’re protecting American interests, I mean that can get ugly at times, but generally speaking I think their hearts in the right place. As an organization their heart is in the right place. I’ve never had any problem with the CIA. I’d have no problem working for them.”

  6. Jim3981

    Useful idiot clearly describes some of his ilk.

    Many of the decisions in the last 30 years have been so anti-worker, there is no way to explain it other than seeing it being part of a bigger plan.

    It amazes me how the media, governments, businesses all seem to make such bad decisions for the long term future of the average person.

    If I had to choose one example, I always think of is medicare part D. A trillion dollar prescription drug company giveaway during a War with already exploding deficits. Governments wouldn’t do that unless they were intentionally trying to kill the economy with weapons of mass budget destruction.

    It’s hard to understand it any other way than thinking corporations are controlling governments actions, and the medias line of selective/creative reporting.

    Unfortunately, I suspect some of this slash and burn thinking has been deeply ingrained in peoples minds through MBA programs or something….

    As crazy as it sounds, when one applies Secret Societies to the equation it seems to make the puzzle fit together. How such strange things happen to the consensus in an alleged democratic society.

  7. kms

    As to his readers, people like to feel smarter than everyone else. They also like to feel good about the fact that they aren’t doing anything to change their terrible economic and political situation. Yglesias’ pooh-poohing propagation of the status quo works pretty well on both fronts from that standpoint.

    As to his corporate masters, wh are the people good ole Matt really works for?

    We all know the answer to that. Slate is owned by a giant media conglomerate with 4.7B in revenue- of course it stands up for business interests, and so will our little soldier boy. These are the same frakking people who own Kaplan for crying out loud. Of course he’s a useful idiot, but he’s worse than that. He’s a tool who glosses over being a tool with a thin layer of hipster veneer very enticing to my generation (the kind of people who think being good at math is beneath their creative minds). He encites people to support positions he clearly doesn’t understand, when he has time to do the research and his readers don’t. I wish we had someone really loud to make mincemeat of him.

  8. par4

    I don’t think the economic system Lenin and the Bolsheviks created can be classified as communism. I believe it could better be described as State run capitalism, as opposed to Mussolini’s, and now the U.S.’s corporate run State.

    1. Ignim Brites

      Maybe but irrelevant. The theory that brought us communism, historical and dialectical materialism, can certainly be categorized as a superstition. That is what counts.

      1. Fiver

        Any more “superstitious” than “the Founding Fathers” or Newtonian physics, or that stress causes ulcers, or any of the world’s great religions, or US exceptionalism or umpteen other examples I could fire out?

        We now hear claimed on a routine basis, hundreds, even thousands, of scientific “facts” that will be overturned over the course of the next century. At some point, Einstein is going to be shown to be more wrong than right. And I’ve absolutely no doubt that future generations will look at the entire spectrum of human activity in 2012 and dismiss us as perhaps the stupidest couple of generations that ever lived.

        To just dismiss the entire historical impact of Marx under the rubric of “superstition”, as if WE have the first f-ing clue what we are doing is a bit much.

        1. tom allen

          Newtonian physics works just great under everyday conditions, and is backed up by reams and reams of experimental data. It breaks down under extreme conditions (high velocities, high gravity) but that scarcely makes it a superstition.

  9. craazyman

    why do people care what these fools write about?

    That’s a rhetorical question because I already know the answer. People care because these writers champion a strain of political economy that’s toxic, unconscious, blind and destructive of everything but its own ability to satiate its ravenous money libido. These symptoms are a classic signs of group soul loss.

    Here are answers to the three questions:

    1. Soul loss. If Satan can erode souls through deceit and trickery he has more food for his eternal barbeque.

    2. Human zombies, being spiced up for #1 (see above), and by extension, Satan himself.

    3. I don’t know. Not me, usually. I don’t even know who this Yglesias due is. No clue who Ezra Klein is either — Although I have personally witnessed people hotly arguing about him. Thank God I was drunk at the time. The idiot wind is hard enough as it is. Why add two more idiots to it? I’d rather just stare out the bus window and think my own thoughts. Or waste my time posting comments.

    1. Lambert Strether

      I’ve always been tempted to take The Screwtape Letters literally.

      Except the trans-human, immortal entities colonizing and feeding on human souls would be corporate persons, and not devils.

  10. Max424

    I for one miss the old Yglesias blog. I especially miss the unabashed and outrageous hypocrisy found there on a daily basis. Here’s an example:

    Matt hated the idea of COIN ops. He thought they were foolish and inefficient. His basic argument was; you can’t expect Marines to play cop in the middle of what is essentially, a quasi-battlezone.

    Cool. Got no problem with that. I personally thought COIN was a better use of our ground forces than having them slaughter the locals with their superior firepower, but there was lots of room for discussion and disagreement on COIN applications, because even in these twilight days of our fading, faux-democracy, invasions and occupations still create enormous intellectual and ethical grey zones within the collective (depraved & disjointed!) American psyche.

    So there was lots of interesting back and forth whenever Matt put up a COIN thread. Like: Is there such a thing as COIN? Are we really applying COIN? Is COIN as bad as Matt says it is. Et cetera…

    THEN, one day last January, Matty decided that COIN operations could be highly effective, but only if it they were used, right here, in America (I shit you not!) Matt proposed rounding up returning combat vets and organizing them into a Federally funded national police force, prepared and ready to be used in “hot spots” all across the nation –should these “hot spots” ever arise (wink, wink).

    This is what I wrote at the time, in reply to a comment by Don Williams (the greatest commentator of them all), after he accused Matt and the Democrats –for the umpteenth time– of being “SELLOUT WHORES!”

    Don’t you find it strange that Matt rails against COIN? I do.

    Two days ago, Matt proposed the formation of a “quasi-military federal organization.” Trained to “conduct an occupation,” these para-military units would be used, here, as a “flexible auxiliary police force,” to “surge” into “high-crime jurisdictions,” whereupon, they would stamp out trouble.

    What’s good for the goose should be good for the gander, right? If Matt is against COIN operations “over there,” why is he in favor of COIN operations here — on our soil?

    I believe there is an observable, planet-wide firestorm brewing. Already, it’s burning so hot and so close, Washington can smell it. The arrival of this unpleasant fetor has our –recently– dauntless Progressives scared sooo shitless, they can’t negotiate away their souls fast enough to save their hides.

    Don, I agree; the Democratic Party represented the last of the great bulwarks. But fear, cowardice and complicity have torn the party down. The gates are now wide open — for Republican-style Fascism, or something much worse, to march through in columns.

    1. Max424

      Matt’s posts on “COIN Operations for America” created oodles of confusion.

      Many people thought he was kidding, had to be kidding, because nobody could possibly be saying what he was saying. Others thought that commentators screaming, “BROWNSHIRTS!,” should calm the fuck down, that Matt was just giving a crazy idea a test drive. Relax. No biggie.

      Personally, I thought MattY was being ordered to put this unpalatable idea into progressives heads; to prepare them, so to speak, for what was coming. And for logical reasons. This is what I wrote in reply to somebody at the time (don’t remember who):

      I wouldn’t reject the conspiracy theories out of hand. I, for one, don’t think this post came out of the blue, the result, perhaps, of some drunken CAP gathering at the local watering hole. The nerds pound too many shots and design an American Freikorps — that type of thing.

      The powers-that-be have to deal with demobilization. I believe half the reason Obama opted for up tempo operations in Afghanistan is that he was advised, by his “wise men,” not to release 7 or 8 Iraqi combat brigades — all at once.

      Better to shift these units from one place to another, so that in the future they can be brought home … piece by piece.

      “Absorb the returning heroes into the body, Mr. President, one brigade at a time.”

      Still, things are not going smoothly. Already we find 200,000 veterans of Operation Where is bin Laden? currently unemployed. Using the BLS U-6 as a rough metric, we can assume that approximately 380,000 (mostly) low-skilled veterans are either jobless, or find themselves toiling away part-time … somewhere within the bowels of our service sector.

      So, why not roll these dangerous Lost Boys up into paramilitary outfits and have them cleanse…er…police some ghettos? Sounds crazy, but these are crazy times, and they’re definitely getting crazier.

    1. Vicky

      Crazy Horse,

      Matt Taibbi was being very, very sarcastic. He is not happy at all about the so-called settlement. Sarcasm without the ability to roll your eyes and exaggerate your diction is tought to convey. But you can tell if you get past the first few paragraphs. :-)

    2. charles sereno

      Who wouldn’t be thrilled if Matt Taibbi is right? With a long history of “useful idiocy” myself, I’ve got my fingers crossed and lit a candle.

    3. Lambert Strether

      Here’s the update from Taibbi; it looks like he got some feedback, and good:

      My only point about this deal is that it appears to have been effectively negotiated down from a bloocurdling outrage to whatever it is now, which is probably something far less than that: it may still be a serious underpay, but it’s not the unreal, criminal giveaway it was originally meant to be.

      That seems fair to me. I don’t think the Obama administration has changed its goals one iota, since Obama’s goals are the goals of his oligarch owners, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a tactical victory achieved with outside pressure. Could we take “yes” for an answer, while recognizing the small scale of the advance measured against the entire front”?

      1. charles sereno

        “as an ook cometh of a litel spyr” (Chaucer; ‘spyr’ = ‘sapling’). That’s the way it always happens.

  11. Wentworth

    I think there’s something useful to be written about what happens to young “thinkers” who get discovered on the internet, and then move to Washington to take jobs that immerse them in the political culture there (Ezra and Matt being a couple of examples). Per Matt’s trajectory, it’s a far, far too-short journey from young out-of-town wunderkind to dinner at McMegan’s. (I think she’s sprinkling Galt on his food before she serves it, but only a blood panel could determine that for sure.)

    There’s nothing wrong with Matt and Ezra that couldn’t be cured by 2 months of the old Barbara Ehrenreich “Nickeled and Dimed” routine: a succession of powerless, minimum wage jobs where nobody has your back, and nobody gives a sh*t what you think, or how, or even IF.

    And as long as this is a 100% ad-hominem post already, I miss Don Williams’ comments too. He had a welcome bumptiousness that cut through Matt’s tendency to go cute.

    1. Wentworth

      Minor correction on what I wrote: the last paragraph should start out, “As long as MINE is a 100% ad-hominem post already….”

    2. Jane Doe

      You are say that they lack the experience other than living in intellectually dishonest bubble. I don’t see how that’s an ad honinem.

  12. F. Beard

    The activities of individual business executives have no relationship to the level of economy-wide employment.” Matthew Yglesias

    Then the alternative is the system itself is at fault? I agree.

    And this is certainly true: A corrupt system tends to produce and reward corrupt actors.

  13. DC Native

    Yglesias is a courtier. He smugly spouts Establishment-approved conventional wisdom in hope of getting noticed by the Big Guys, e.g., the ruling administration, the major networks, etc. That he doesn’t understand many of the issues he writes about is evident. But understanding isn’t needed when your sole goal is to regurgitate the talking points of rich, photogenic, well-connected men.

  14. Iolaus

    A brief intrusion from the Word Police:

    “Corpocracy” is an ungainly and unnecessary coinage. “Oligarchy” is a fine old word and still useful.

  15. JTFaraday

    So, Matty says:

    “America is beset by parasitical rent-seekers of various kinds, and President Obama’s deal-cutting instincts arguably exacerbate the problem. Maybe there are some boils that need lancing, some people who need to feel the pain. If it takes a village to raise a child, maybe it takes an asshole to govern a country.”

    I think there’s about as much a chance that Romney would, say, use his vampire capitalist skillz and impose on the zombie banks a model similar to the “controlled bankruptcy” that the Republicans forced on GM, as there is of Ron Paul leading a Tea Party movement in Congress to impeach Obama and call off the election.

    But, beyond that minor detail, I don’t see how Matty is wrong here. Bam’s need to be accepted into the elite and his desire to get rich off the presidency like Clinton makes for completely ineffective governance and is a loser deal for national economic recovery.

    He’s also not wrong when he says technological innovation and business competition also puts people out of work. I do disagree that there’s anything redeeming about profiting off the practice of inducing business failure where none otherwise exists– zombie banks on government life support excepted.

    Matty IS a thug, but I still don’t see what all the hand wringing is about– other than that his Machiavellian antidote offends those who are more comfortable working exclusively in the platitudinous rhetorical style of Barack Obama– who IS an asshole too after all.

    1. K Ackermann

      Since when does technological innovation put people out of work? Or, more precisely, more than it employs? Is this a new phenomena, because I have to tell you, history says innovation is a great creator of jobs.

      Cheap overseas labor is what puts people out of work here in the US, not innovation.

      1. F. Beard

        Cheap overseas labor is what puts people out of work here in the US, not innovation. K Ackermann

        Both do which is why the solution is not jobs but a just “share” in the profits of automation and outsourcing.

        Also, while the population is supposed to constantly retrain and educate itself, the bankers need only learn one skill set – exploitation via counterfeiting, temporary money creation.

      2. JTFaraday

        Matty’s example is Kodak in upstate NY, from which he hails. Digital photography put people out of work in upstate NY.
        Almost no one does photo development any more. You do it yourself at a computerized kiosk that prints it while you wait.

      3. Fiver

        Not quite.

        Innovation in the form of constant technological “progress” is consistently moving the “value” of what a given individual can contribute up the line of intelligence or ability broadly speaking – not surprisingly given the virtually unquestioned acceptance of meritocracy. We have paid almost zero attention to this as a phenomenon as it actually played out to produce its current incredibly skewed economy – only indirectly, as vaguely touched on by such conceits as the “knowledge economy”.

        In other words, good jobs are created by smart people for other smart people – also things like the world’s greatest killing machine, the Pentagon, or the greatest corporate outlaws, your Monsantos and Exxons, and Pfizers and Big Pharma and all. Or high-tech. Or medicine. And scads of others. Point is, more and more peeople every day drop right out of being employable at all. It’s why the elite has completely disconnected from the rest of the country in that it SEES the rest of the population as essentially useless. “Give him a landscaping job. Get her a counter clerk job. He can work in a meatpacking plant – or be a street clown.

        We need for the smart folks to spend a little bit of time looking around at what they’ve wrought over the last 75 years and ask themselves when they’re going to start thinking about how to productively employ human beings that we can pay a solid wage to for doing work that we absolutely depend on having done. The smart cookies have had the ball and run with it in ways that favored them for far took long. Let’s be a tad more thoughtful before rolling out some new technology we’ve no idea is safe or not but do know WILL kill umpty jobs if it’s a go.

        Half the population is now hard to employ at a solid wage/salary/contract. Getting worse all the time. The answer so far has been to now just equate all jobs in discourse, as if it wasn’t evident the service sector consistently fails to deliver.

        It ain’t just about the wealthy finally doing their share. It’s about the smart men and women who by virtue of their positions are the only ones the elite can’t do without. How about easing off the innovating that requires fewer people to produce a toy the elite cares about (eg. best smartphone)and getting those minds working on how to make a viable economy for the REST of the people.

    2. Lambert Strether

      “America is beset by parasitical rent-seekers of various kinds….”

      You can bet discourse like that didn’t start with Yggles, but on blogs like this one. The Overton Window doesn’t always move right.

      * * *

      I’ve always thought The Droner’s post-White House employment would include a stint as a greeter at the Golden Sacks casino, and possibly as a host on the teebee. I hadn’t considered management consulting as a career choice for him, but… why not?

      1. James

        Speaking and glad-handing the fundraising crowds will be far more lucrative and less-taxing (pun not intended, but definitely apropos). Obama will be a well-spring of corporate propaganda (aka pseudo-intellectual bullshit) for the rest of his days. In his heart of hearts, he was always just another used car salesman in the mold of his mentor, Slick Willy. With the decided advantage of a modicum of political horse sense thrown in for good measure.

      2. JTFaraday

        Obama is clever after a certain fashion, manipulating liberals in the culture war in 2008, for example, but Obama has no future in management consulting.

        Everyone knows the “Teleprompter” is a political dependent, leaning entirely on TurboTax Timmy and teh Treasury Boyz from Golden Sacks. That’s why Obama needed a different kind of administration around him to give him a future.

        A little less evil and the retention of his popular base would have given him and his family a better future than taking his place amidst a pathologically corrupt elite. But Obama thought it was the 90s and that then-hedge fund manager Chelsea Clinton’s poop would never start to stink.

        I think it was a dumb move.

    3. James

      The truly ironic part of it all is that Romney – flying the Republican flag – will be far less effective in the service of the 1% than Obama will be. Obama is a political strategist’s wet dream. An infiltrator who serves the need of one party/economic demographic while nominally representing the interests of and discrediting the other, all knowing full well that the American electorate – informed by an asleep at the wheel MSM – will buy into the ruse hook, line, and sinker. All the while completely redefining the left-right political landscape for both parties for years to come. My hat’s off to whomever hatched this plot (could Rove and Cheney possibly have been this far sighted?). It’s been brilliant in its design and execution thus far.

      1. JTFaraday

        That’s probably true. I’m not going to wail and tear my hair out if Romney gets elected. I would hope that we would try to push him where we want him to go.

        God know he’s gone every which way already, LOL.

          1. JTFaraday

            If the consensus of the Administration that was given to him is to go to Iran, Obama will teleprompt it, just like Obama teleprompted everything else.

            It’s election season–you’re going to have to get used to this.

  16. tar, etc.

    The advocates of trickle down-supply side-job creators are going into overdrive. I could spend 2012 just demanding they define terms. Apple is sitting on $93 billion and using slave labor in China. They even collude with other US-based tech firms to avoid paying free market rates to American employees. My three questions:

    What is the difference between a tariff imposed by a government or one imposed by a corporation?

    Are the wages paid by Apple based on the need to compete or because they are allowed to exploit?

    If government can require citizens to insure their own bodies under the guise of commerce, can it impose federal standards of conduct on state charters of incorporation? Just for openers, could we do as the Swiss recently proposed and legally limit corporate management pay to a multiple of their workers’ average pay?

  17. Pokey

    Do I detect a tinge of jealousy in these and Smith’s remarks? Few expressions of opinion should inspire such vitriol. White power! for example.

    Romney has already proved useful to the 99% vs. 1% debate. The unfairness of low taxes on unearned income can no longer be ignored and justified by saying the “money” has already been taxed as stated in an AP dribble published by Gannett today. Income is the object of taxation, not money.

    Yglesias’ point might be little more than an expression of frustration with Oblabla, a sentiment shared by many rational people.

  18. LeonovaBalletRusse


    The gold nugget in this whole piece is the LINK to which the phrase “empirical … economics leads:

    What a fun way for the public to learn officially what NC Thinkers with a Heart already realize: Milton Friedman’s “Greed is Good” system turned out to be “Disaster Economics” for We the People, so it has been PROVEN (empirical evidence) WRONG, wrong, wrong. Secondly, there is a workable alternative for We the People in the making as we speak.

    This alternative is what every child knows: justice is important for success for all, when it comes to fundamental economics: “Cut the cake into tranches that satisfy everyone at the birthday party, as they all look at the cake while it’s being sliced and distributed (transparency). The “Econ4” introductory film doesn’t use this analogy, but a child can understand the justice of the film’s argument readily.

    As we have discovered, without *participatory democracy*–such as the process in evidence at Naked Capitalism–the 1% will take 80%of the cake and leave the 99% with 20% of the cake. In order for the 99% to help change the model for our society, we must participate in the new economic process; hence Economics Education is a huge part of radical change to a new economic system that serves the 100% justly.

    NC has been an exemplary model of *participatory democracy* at work, especially in the Economics sphere. The commentariat has demonstrated that We the People can grasp what’s bad for us, and what’s good for us, when it comes to an Economic System of/by/for the People of the U.S.A., and likely of the world.

    YVES, Lambert, bloggers, and the Commentariat, please express your opinions about the New Economics proposed in this *starter* animated film:

    Let the snark over the Old Economic System for the Dead end, and let the New Economic System for the *Quick* begin, with OUR active participation. “The Revolution Will Take Place.”

    YVES, please take your bow, even in illness, since you undoubtedly helped bring the New into being. The minute I can rise from my position as a “squashed cabbage leaf” underneath the bottom stones of the Old Pyramid, I WILL send your flowers.

    1. F. Beard

      I’m not impressed with “Econ4”. Not one mention of the counterfeiting cartel, the banks? And who knows what people need? Food, clothing and shelter, yes. But who the heck knew I needed an Ipod and a personal computer to be happy? So the free market is essential to human happiness.

      As for Milton Friedman, he believed in a free market for everything EXCEPT money creation – an economy’s most critical component.

      1. skippy

        Is it just me or is Beard, Dan Duncan feminine side.

        Free markets are a fallacy in toto… cough manufactured desire. People and the planet before corporations!

        Skippy… go read Yves book for a start.

        1. F. Beard

          People and the planet before corporations! skippy

          What I advocate would put the people in charge of the corporations in short order.

          Btw, if you are for the people then why do you oppose a universal bailout? Because you think it would damage the planet? Ever hear of the damage desperate poor people can do to the environment?

          Speaking of Yves, the good lady advocates principal reductions for debtors. Do you oppose that too?

    2. DSP

      It’s just dawned on me.I think the 1% are mostly broke.
      When the debt disaster in Europe causes a cascading crash in the derivatives market,all their clever financial stratagems will fall in a heap.
      Then we might get change.

  19. Ed

    I don’t miss Yglesias’ blog, which I haven’t read in years (is it really defunct now?), but I do miss Don Williams. There were stretches where his comments and those of Richard Hack were the only things reading on there.

    In all honesty, I bailed on the blog not because of the blogger’s toolishness, which was bad enough at the time but which I am told got worse over the years, but because Yglesias seemed to get paid by the post and/or the comment. For some reason it was blocked at my workplace, so I would return home to find about a dozen posts, most with over a hundred comments. Apparently there was no attempt made to edit the posts or filter the comments at all. I didn’t have time for that.

    Incidentally, something like the “use returning veterans as auxiliaries to the police in COIN operations at home” idea has been tried before. The British did exactly that in Ireland after World War I. It was a partial success at best.

  20. Ed

    Yglesias was actually pretty good at asking the right questions, then giving precisely the wrong answers to them. But that gets tiresome after awhile.

  21. Benedict@Large

    We must remember that Yglesias picked up his econ “training” at Harvard, perhaps the single school that has managed to surpass the UofChicago in economic idiocy. But don’t diminsh Matt’s intelligence for that; he’s really a quite smart guy. He simply missed the lesson that was so stressed during my (earlier) time in the Ivies; that one should never become so enamoured of one’s intelligence that one fails to examine one’s ideas with critical introspection BEFORE announcing them as Truth.

    1. Benedict@Large

      P.S. 99% of the arguments as to what and who should be taxed and for how much vanish once we understand that taxes do not fund the operations of a fiat currency-issuing goverment.

      1. Fiver

        Seems a pity to collect a couple trillion a year just to count it and still be short a trillion every time out – talk about government waste. And with no taxpayers to answer to, government can provide unlimited everything. So the rich can get richer and the poor can get rich, then richer, too. Status will be determined by being able to hit the high note. I’m all in.

  22. Max424

    Don’t know, Lambert. Straight from the top, maybe?

    I had my suspicions. I got kicked out of the blog for attempting to discuss the crisis in the Gulf of Mexico (a subject Matt never once blogged about! Imagine that).

    I felt Obama was committing multiple Gulf related impeachable offenses, including, handing over the US Coast Guard to a foreign corporation, falsifying the true rate of the oil blowing out of the ocean floor, and allowing the use of deadly poisons in a sorry attempt to make the oil go away.

    And I said so, loudly and incessantly. And then I was banned (giggle).

    So who banned me? Matt, who didn’t give a shit what was said in his comment section, or someone at a much higher pay grade?

    As far as the idea of putting together a “paramilitary force” with the capacity to “surge” into American neighborhoods, I don’t know.

    Like I said at the time: I think Beltway players are frightened shitless. A week before Matt’s Freikorps for America! post, in a little noted event, angry Italian citizens took to the streets by the tens of thousands, and using nothing more than Molotov Cocktails, they scattered Rome’s Polizia in pitched confrontations, all over the capital city.

    Little noted by the media, obviously, but my guess is, people in Washington took notice.

    Right now Washington and Wall Street are probably thanking their lucky stars they only have to deal with this peaceful OWS thing, but at some point, there are going to be, at least, 1.5 million repatriated War on Terror veterans residing on our soil, and probably 500,000 of those will be hardened, combat vets.

    Whose side they gonna be on? That’s what Republican Chickenhawks and Faux-Liberal Chickenshits are probably asking themselves, and each other.

    Bi-partisanship! Ain’t it beautiful?

  23. Gil Gamesh

    Thanks for reading such nonsense so that I don’t have to. But, why be surprised by Slate? Look what owns it. Slate is comfortably neo-liberal and neo-conservative. Yawn.

    1. tom allen

      All those neos, gladly taking their blue pills and passing them out to the rest of the population. :-P

  24. Fiver

    The subsuming of Journalism under Entertainment has ruined the profession and most of those that now pretend to practice it. But not all. Compare this fellow’s career path with that of, say, Chris Hedges.

  25. Jonathan Dean

    I think serious consideration should be given to whether this kind of ad hominem approach is worthy of the Naked Capitalism blog and what this community is interested in achieving.

  26. FNP

    This is a great post. I can’t believe somebody like Matt Yglesias actually writes “serious” economic analysis as a job. His articles almost always seem to me like they’re written by somebody who just took an intro to Econ course and thinks they’re now qualified to comment on something. They’re embarrassingly bad and almost always entirely predictable. My favorite one is when he says that all our economic problems could be solved if only the Fed had the ability to make interest rates negative, i.e. just straight up destroy savings.

    Of course this makes sense considering his training consists of getting a degree in Philosophy at Harvard. I’d be willing to bet his economics education was little more than a couple intro Econ classes, if that. Of course, that’s not necessarily a bad thing if you branch out from it and learn on your own, but he stills sounds like a 22-year old that just found out about Keynes. Oh, and after I discovered this terrible economics blogger, I asked my girlfriend if she knew him (she graduated same year, also philosophy major). She said he was generally considered an arrogant douche in college and she didn’t like him. I was not surprised at all.

    1. Rob

      FYI: There are a subset of people that have adopted the term MattYg as a synonym for arrogant douche. The even shorter is MYG with a Y (not to be confused with the fighter of Soviet origin, of course). There is a lot more arrogant than douche, though. The right douche can begin a cleansing, or so I am told; this example ain’t one of those.

Comments are closed.