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Hullabaloo


Monday, March 07, 2005

 
Tears Of A Klein

It turns out that Joe Klein is even thicker that I took him for. Josh Marshall put out a call to find cases where Klein explained his bizarre theory that social security would have to be privatized because we have moved from an industrial age to an information age.

Google has oodles of cites and none of them make any damned sense whatsoever. Here are a couple you might enjoy:

Joe Klein

Oh, it changed dramatically. Welfare, the Welfare Reform Programme, which I was opposed to, I was wrong, it has been a tremendous success and I'll tell you why. Because Clinton had a coherent governing philosophy, which Tony Blair shares to a certain extent, which is that in the Information Age, you don't deliver public services the same way you did in the Industrial Age. You don't rule out huge bureaucracies, what you do is give targeted cash payments. He gave targeted cash payments to the working poor, so that if you were a mother on welfare, after, you know, after eight years of Clinton, you got $5,000 more a year, you kept your health benefit and your children got health benefits. That was no small thing. If you were middle class or below, you got college tuition tax credits, 10 million Americans take advantage of this. This is a social programme on a scale that dwarfs the GI Bill of Rights, which everybody speaks of as one of the great American social triumphs.

Charles Wheeler: Doesn't dwarf the Great Society of Lyndon Johnson does it?

Joe Klein: The Great Society was an utter failure because it helped to contribute to social irresponsibility at the very bottom.


Oh my, I'll bet that started a clatter of teaspoons in Georgtown, didn't it? What a ballsy, no-nonsense, manly statement, and him a tried and true liberal, don't you know. (And after he wrote that nasty book about Clinton and the black women, too.)

Yet, for some reason I still don't quite understand why exactly in the information age you don't deliver public services the same way you did in the industrial age. If he's talking about automatic deposit and e-filing your taxes, then I guess he's right. But I still don't see what these targeted cash payments or tuition tax credits have to do with the information age or why they are so superior and don't contribute to the social irresponsibility among the darkies ... er ... I mean "those at the very bottom." (And is it even slightly believable that it dwarfs the GI Bill? is he talking about unadjusted 1953 dollars?)

Here he takes another stab at it:

Clinton did come to the presidency with a coherent, long term political philosophy and purpose. To a very great extent--a surprising extent--he lived up to it. I know because I was there and I was one of those who was involved in the formulating of this new philosophy, which has been called The Third Way. There was a general understanding that the Democratic Party had gone off the deep end and needed to come back. Clinton once told me that when he was hoping to be Mario Cuomo's vice president, the job of the next president is going to be to move us from the Industrial Age to the Information Age.

Government was, and very much still remains, the last of our major institutions that stuck in the Industrial Age, where the paradigm is top-down, centralized command and control, assembly line, standardization, and one size fits all.

In the Information Age, Clinton knew that the paradigm was the computer, that the government had to be more decentralized, that bureaucracies had to become more flexible, and that our social safety net had to reflect that--the fact that people had more information and have to have more choices about where they get their health care, where their money for their retirement is held, and so on.



The government has to be more like a computer. Bureaucracies have to be more flexible and our social safety net has to reflect that because people have more information so they have to have more choices about where they get their health care and where they put their retirement money. Huh?

I can't find anywhere where Klein actually explains why we need to have all these choices about our safety net or why having more information compels it. Indeed, as Josh Marshall pointed out earlier, it is counterintuitive. In a world in which people are asked to take many more chances in their careers, where pensions really are a relic of the past, where health care can be yanked from beneath you in a moments notice, it seems to me that government guarantees of basic security are more important than ever.

Klein's DLC catechism has all the markings of someone who jumped on a sexy trend when he was younger and hasn't realized the fashion has changed. There is no there, there. He's like one of those e-venture capitalists of the late 90's spewing fast talking bullshit about "new organizational paradigms where knowledge is defined in terms of potential for action as distinguished from information and its more intimate link with performance." In other words, gibberish.

It was fashionable for one brief period to think that turning government into a collection of kewl, outsourced, totally, like, stand alone pods of individualized data collection and service modules, but most people sobered up sometime in early 2000. It was always crap.

Clinton did what he could to survive, reframe the Democratic image and move the country forward while under monumental pressure from the opposition. I do not blame him for doing what he did. But I have never understood that this discredited e-commerce comic book version of government was his vision. If it was, I imagine his enthusiasm has cooled by this time. Crashing stock markets and huge crony capitalist boondoggles generally make intelligent people think twice about utopian capitalist wet dreams. Klein doesn't seem to have gotten the memo.

And, by the way, who knew that Joe Klein was personally involved in formulating the "third way?" Funny, I thought he was just a bad journalist and a worse novelist. I had no idea he was such an open Democratic partisan. Frankly, I think he would have been more helpful to the cause if he'd simply shut his gossiping, moralizing, judgmental trap during the administration.



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