Nocera's column: stale and moldy even though it's new

Stale and moldy even though it's new

by digby

I had my problems with Frank Rich, but I really liked the idea behind his Saturday column. He would synthesize the week's political intrigue and activity into a narrative -- a kind of weekly recap of the zeitgeist. A lot of people seem to think that's a worthless exercise, but I would imagine that for those who aren't as in tune with the day to day and don't have a handle on the bigger picture, it can be interesting.

However, I assumed that his successor Joe Nocera would not take that tack and would concentrate on the business beat, which was his area of expertise. And that is certainly a fertile subject. It's also one which a lot of people probably don't follow so it could have brought some analysis to the opinion pages that wasn't being covered. Unfortunately, today's piece indicates that he's going to be another recycler of stale beltway CW instead.
I hadn’t realized until I met him on Tuesday that Paul Ryan had been a protégé of Jack Kemp. But the minute I heard him talking about his late mentor, everything suddenly made sense.[...]“Jack used to talk about the battle of ideas,” Ryan told me. In fact, he lived for those battles.

Ryan clearly views himself as Kemp’s natural successor. At 41, he’s been in Congress most of his adult life, where he has pushed the boundaries of Republican economic orthodoxy, just as Kemp did. He has the same kind of “happy warrior” mentality. (“I’m a walking piñata,” he said with a smile.) And he’s finally latched onto a Big Idea that could reshape the country even more than the Kemp-Roth tax cuts did in 1981 — namely, the Republican budget he masterminded, particularly its radical vision for turning Medicare into, essentially, a do-it-yourself voucher program.

He goes on to talk about Ryan's plans to cut Medicare and how they aren't good plans but that Democrats shouldn't be dismissive of him because it's a Big Idea and he's very bold and we have to do something about Medicare right now. In other words he says the same thing you could expect to hear out of the mouth of any nameless, faceless cable news host at 2 in the afternoon.

And just as with those callow cable hosts, there is no acknowledgement that the health care reforms (passed on a party line vote) were based upon the very ideas Nocera seems to think are Ryan's novel contributions to the "necessary" debate -- the fact that health care costs are eating us alive. Particularly galling is the fact that he doesn't seem to know that the Republicans just rode to victory last November demagoguing that same health care plan, particularly the 500 million dollars in Medicare cuts.

No, instead he's wringing his hands like Cokie Roberts about how irresponsible the Democrats are for failing to take the looming problems of health care costs seriously.

This is the new columnist for the NY Times, not some windbag blogger. And he's spouting the most shallow analysis of the current Medicare debate possible. And, sadly, it's probably going to have an influence on the way the Villagers see it. After all, he's a crackerjack "business reporter." He must know what he's talking about, right?

Instead of reading that stale Village CW (Jack Kemp -- idea man!) read this piece by Nocera's Times colleague:

The Economy Is Wavering. Does Washington Notice?

The latest economic numbers have not been good. Jobless claims rose last week, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Another report showed that economic growth at the start of the year was no faster than the Commerce Department initially reported — “a real surprise,” said Ian Shepherdson of High Frequency Economics.

Perhaps the most worrisome number was the one Macroeconomic Advisers released on Wednesday. That firm tries to estimate the growth rate of the current quarter in real time, and it now says annualized second-quarter growth is running at only 2.8 percent, up from 1.8 percent in the first quarter. Not so long ago, the firm’s economists thought second-quarter growth would be almost 4 percent.

An economy that is growing this slowly will not add jobs quickly. For the next couple of months, employment growth could slow from about 230,000 recently to something like 150,000 jobs a month, only slightly faster than normal population growth. That is certainly not fast enough to make a big dent in the still huge number of unemployed people.

Are any policy makers paying attention?

Now that would be worth a little analysis and punditry from the business point of view, don't you think?

Update: oops. Nocera is replacing Bob Herbert not Rich.