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Up until a few weeks ago, I had never paid much attention to Megan McArdle. But then, I was linked to this blog post. And now, like many before me, I have to ask:  Does this person really write for The Atlantic? How is that possible? What the hell is going on at The Atlantic?  

This particular post begins with McArdle noting that Ron Nixon of The Times busted "some alleged spending-hawks in a fine bit of hypocrisy"; namely, several "Freshman House Republicans ... [who] rode a wave of voter discontent into office last year [and] vowed to stop out-of-control spending, ...[are now] quietly trying to funnel millions of federal dollars into projects back home." McArdle next turns to the purported point of her post - the thoroughly pedestrian observation that "if you want to cut spending, you need to be against it in the specific, rather than just the aggregate." Finally, in the last paragraph - and this is what she wanted to say all along - McArdle demonstrates that, when it comes to this brand of hypocrisy, both sides do it:

The failure to think specifically applies to taxation, incidentally. I know a very large number of east coast progressives who are outraged when they suddenly discover that middle-class ol' them, who doesn't even have enough money to repair the cracks in the ceiling after property taxes and school bills and one not-very-nice vacation to Nova Scotia, are technically "the rich" for the purpose of assessing taxes. They, too, are not thinking specifically about where the money is. They're just thinking it would be nice for Rupert Murdoch and Bill Gates to have less stuff, while people living in housing projects have more. But there, as with cuts to the nebulous cloud of "spending", the math doesn't work. If you want to raise more tax revenues, stop thinking about corporate jets and the carried interest, and start thinking about eliminating the mortgage interest tax deduction for all earners, and allowing the AMT to kick in on the upper end of "middle class" incomes. In other words, start thinking about taxing New York Times reporters, not a very small class of rich people.

My problem with this post is not that McArdle is serving up the cult of balance Kool-Aid (although she's certainly doing that). My problem is that in order to create balance, McArdle is pretty obviously fabricating a "very large number" of hypocritical progressives to offset the actual GOP hypocrites called out by Ron Nixon.  

I mean the math just doesn't work. I sincerely doubt McArdle personally knows even one or two real-life, walking-and-talking East Coast progressives who: 1) make enough money that the proposed tax hike applies to them, but not much more (they need to have cracks in their ceiling and take second-rate vacations, after all); 2) mistakenly believed the proposed tax hike did not apply to them; and 3) upon learning the proposed tax hike applied to them, spontaneously reacted like a libertarian's caricature of a progressive. Claiming one or two acquaintances meet all of these criteria is dubious, but it is virtually impossible that McArdle personally knows a "very large number" of similarly situated, identically uninformed, spontaneously hypocritical East Coast progressives.  

So okay, I know this isn't the worst thing in the world. But it bothered me. This is The Atlantic.

This prompted me to start looking into Ms. McArdle a bit. And she's... well... evil. The hit job she did on the Mark Ames/Yasha Levine article may well be the worst of it. However, for pure sleaze it's hard to beat the baseless Elizabeth Warren smear (see here, here and here). And then, of course, there's her defense of Goldman Sach's securities fraud. So, hard to say.  

But, with respect to the issue of fabricating sources, I soon came across this little gem from Ms. McArdle:

Yesterday, I rode the bus for the first time from the stop near my house, and ended up chatting with a lifelong neighborhood resident who has just moved to Arizona, and was back visiting family. We talked about the vagaries of the city bus system, and then after a pause, he said, "You know, you may have heard us talking about you people, how we don't want you here. A lot of people are saying you all are taking the city from us.  Way I feel is, you don't own a city." He paused and looked around the admittedly somewhat seedy street corner. "Besides, look what we did with it.  We had it for forty years, and look what we did with it!"

That this source was fabricated was pretty much obvious to anyone who read it (see here, here, here and here).      

Now I realize it's an open joke that certain journalists invent cab drivers to introduce a theme, but the thing that sets McArdle's man on the bus apart is the racial component. Inventing an eldery, African-American man to admit African-Americans ruined the neighborhood and then have him give his blessing to gentrification because "you don't own a city" is something that Ms. McArdle could only express by fabricating an African-American to say it. Ms. McArdle's man on the bus exists to do McArdle's dirty work. And it's really dirty work.  

It would be like a male reporter fabricating a female source who said: "You know, before I had children I didn't get it, but now that I'm a mother, I'm really not as committed to my career. I hate to admit it, but I can understand why women get paid less." Obviously a male reporter could not express such an overtly sexist sentiment himself. However, he could get away with it if he was quoting a woman.  

And that's the thing: The McArdle man on the bus is not the Friedman cab driver everyone jokes about; the McArdle man on the bus is the Stephen Glass cab driver. And that's a much uglier thing.  

The ideas being expressed by McArdle and Glass are overtly racist - tolerable only because the supposedly real people expressing the ideas are members of the targeted racial minority. Once you realize the piece is cooked, once you realize the source is fabricated, the racism is even more sinister. There is something particularly pernicious (not to mention cowardly) about fabricating an African-American to serve as a mouthpiece for the author's racism.    

And the fact that it's an open joke that this is happening at The Atlantic is a disgrace.

Originally posted to PlutocracyFiles on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 10:01 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The Atlantic has a right wing history. (17+ / 0-)

    Its former editor was the late Michael Kelly.  If there was a more vicious Clinton hater in the universe, I don't know who it was, because Kelly really took the cake.

    So I don't think it should come as a surprise that McArdle is writing for The Atlantic.  It has a lot of right wing content.  McArdle is a reliable mouthpiece for the kind of neoliberal economic thinking that prevails among the punditocracy these days.  And in case you're interested, if you do a search here on DK, I think you'll find a few stories and/or diaries in which her crackpot, right wing economic theories have been debunked.  

    "Ça c'est une chanson que j'aurais vraiment aimé ne pas avoir écrite." -- Barbara

    by FogCityJohn on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 10:14:17 PM PDT

  •  Of course she's evil (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    radmul, Fed up Fed

    She's a libertarian.

  •  Not convinced (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Justanothernyer

    I think it's rather a nasty slam to accuse MM of lying without actual proof. The sources linked don't add anything except a couple more dollops of skepticism from folks who would like nothing more than to catch McArdle in a lie. Just to put forward a cautionary query: how many of these sources also rushed to the charge the accusers of Anthony Weiner of lying? Four paragraphs of excoriation based on something unprovable strikes me as questionable.

    BTW, here in NYC, where modest housing exceeds the new cap on federally-insured mortgages, nothing is easier than to know dozens of people, many progressives among them, to whom all three qualifications listed apply. My own food coop, which has 15K members, probably numbers hundreds, if not a couple thousand, of such people.

    http://www.nytimes.com/...

    http://foodcoop.com/

  •  I have no objection to what she wrote... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Justanothernyer

    ...and I have no doubt that she knows plenty of those people.  It must be the case that you've recently discovered McArdle, because she has some far more outlandish opinions, which is why I don't read her anymore.  I couldn't take her condemnation of people who walk away from underwater mortgages as some kind of moral shirkers.

    Let us resolutely study and implement the resolutions of the 46th Convention of the Democratic Party!

    by Rich in PA on Mon Aug 29, 2011 at 06:47:13 AM PDT

    •  It's not the OPINIONS - it's the fabrication+ (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      World Patriot, MJB, FogCityJohn

      But, you know, since you find the guy on the bus believable.... you should go check out some Stephen Glass too.

      Thousands of years ago the question was asked: 'Am I my brother's keeper?' That question has never yet been answered in a way that is satisfactory to civilized society. ~ Eugene V. Debbs

      by PlutocracyFiles on Mon Aug 29, 2011 at 09:19:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Why is not credible... (0+ / 0-)

        ...that she knows people like that?  I know people like that and the population density in central PA is a lot lower than NYC/DC, not to mention that she's probably a lot more sociable than I am.

        Let us resolutely study and implement the resolutions of the 46th Convention of the Democratic Party!

        by Rich in PA on Mon Aug 29, 2011 at 04:57:37 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  See my comment to similar objections below+ (0+ / 0-)

          It's the number of factors that have to coincide - I honestly doubt she knew even 1 or 2, but a "very large number" that all meet the criteria just doesn't work mathematically.

          Thousands of years ago the question was asked: 'Am I my brother's keeper?' That question has never yet been answered in a way that is satisfactory to civilized society. ~ Eugene V. Debbs

          by PlutocracyFiles on Mon Aug 29, 2011 at 06:36:58 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  As a New Yorker (0+ / 0-)

    I can attest that finding people who meet all three qualifications is not that hard.

    •  as another New Yorker (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Fed up Fed

      I find your assertion as likely as the existence of Ms. Mcardle's fellow bus passenger.

      "You try to vote or participate in the government/ and the muh'fuckin' Democrats is actin' like Republicans" ~ Kweli -8.00, -6.56

      by joey c on Mon Aug 29, 2011 at 09:38:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Which part do you find unlikely? (0+ / 0-)

        That she knows a large number of people who make between $250,000 and $350,000?

        That a large number of those are progressives?

        That they do not consider themselves rich?

        That their ordinary  expenses are relatively high, so they don't have money for extravagant vacations or home repair/renovation?

        •  Um, reality check here: (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Boston to Salem
          That she knows a large number of people who make between $250,000 and $350,000?

          [. . .]

          That they do not consider themselves rich?

          McArdle may indeed know people who make between $250,000 and $350,000 and who do not "consider themselves rich," but that is only because such people are living in some kind of upper class cocoon.  What they consider themselves to be is largely irrelevant to determining, on the basis of facts, whether they are rich.  

          Life in New York is certainly expensive.  But people whose incomes place them in roughly the top 2% of earners in the U.S. are rich by any definition.  That they consider themselves something else is a testament to nothing more than their own delusions.

          "Ça c'est une chanson que j'aurais vraiment aimé ne pas avoir écrite." -- Barbara

          by FogCityJohn on Mon Aug 29, 2011 at 01:38:26 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Oh, this is interesting + (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          FogCityJohn

          Note that you knew the tax hike applied to those making $250K plus.  That wasn't in my post.  

          The fact is, the $250K was a WIDELY repeated figure.  I'm guessing you didn't look it up - you just knew it.  We all knew it.  Well, none of McArdle's progressives did.  These people all had an identical ignorance even though the $250K figure was prominent - conservatives and libertarians made sure to emphasize that this tax applied to people making $250K and not just the uber-rich.  You knew the figure, I knew the figure - but McArdle knows a "very large number" of people who ALL didn't know this same piece of very widely repeated information.  

          And that's not all.  It's the coincidence of factors that makes it unlikely.  

          They have to be people Ms. McArdle personally knows.  This isn't a poll or the population at large, these are her personal acquaintances.  So, stop there -  how many people do you think she personally knows?  Even if she's very social - how many?  I'd 1000 is a LOT.  

          Next, they have to be East Coast progressives - this doesn't include people who are conservative or libertarian, just the progressives.  And she hangs out with quite a few libertarian type folks.  So, assuming half of her personal acquaintances are progressive would be generous.  So cut that first number in half.  That's 500.

          Alright next, how many people did she talk to about this specific issue - certainly not every single progressive she knows.  I think 10% would be generous, but let's be super generous and say 20% - she talked to 20% of the East Coast progressives she personally knows - now we're 100 people.

          Next, they have to be in a goldilocks income zone - just over $250K.  Well, the amount of the population making this much is fairly small.  But certainly, she's in NY and knows more affluent people, so let's say 1/4 fall into the goldilocks zone (which is WAY above average).  So, rounding up, that's about 25 people.

          Next, of the East Coast progressive she personally knows that she talked to and are in the goldilocks income zone, how many of them didn't know the proposed tax hike applied them?  Keep in mind that number was widely known and repeated.  I knew it without looking it up and I don't make that much.  So, these people all have to be misinformed on the same fact - a fact that was widely repeated in the media and that you knew seemed to know off the top of your head (I certainly did).  Also, keep in mind, these people are likely educated and political.  I'll give you 50% and that's iffy, but even so, rounding up we're down to 13 people.

          Next, upon finding out the tax applied to them, they were spontaneously outraged. Keep in mind, these are progressives - that was a requirement.  It is not my experience that progressives aren't willing to have a tax increase on themselves in order to save education, medicare, etc.  I know libertarians would like to think so, but I don't think it's the case, at all.  At best it's half - so, that's 7 or so people.  7 is not a "very large number" - not if that phrase is to have any meaning.

          And also, I was being really generous at every juncture.

          Her math problem is that so many factors have to be met - they're all personal acquaintances; they're all progressive (it's not her libertarian or conservative friends - just the progressives); she talked to every one of them about this issue; they all fall into a narrow, goldilocks income range; they all didn't know the $250K number even though that was widely repeated; then, they all reacted the same - even though they're progressives they're outraged by the thought of a tax increase.

          I just don't think McArdle personally knows a "very large number" of these people.  I call BS.

          Thousands of years ago the question was asked: 'Am I my brother's keeper?' That question has never yet been answered in a way that is satisfactory to civilized society. ~ Eugene V. Debbs

          by PlutocracyFiles on Mon Aug 29, 2011 at 06:18:29 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Also, to all of this you have to add a time limit+ (0+ / 0-)

            She had to talk to them between the time the tax hike was proposed and the time of the column.

            Thousands of years ago the question was asked: 'Am I my brother's keeper?' That question has never yet been answered in a way that is satisfactory to civilized society. ~ Eugene V. Debbs

            by PlutocracyFiles on Mon Aug 29, 2011 at 06:38:32 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Please rec this (0+ / 0-)

    good to shine some light on McArdle's (bad) writing.

  •  Say like it is bro! (0+ / 0-)

    "Don't believe everything you read in the press" is a hackneyed old expression for a reason.  No?

    "Hackneyed," I made a joke.  Ha ha.

  •  Ongoing take-down of McCardle (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    princesspat, MJB, i like bbq, Eric Nelson

    Can be found at Susan's blog:

    The Hunting of the Snark

    I can't read McCardle anymore, she drives me insane. Susan's take is that she's at The Atlantic to give cover to libertarian's and conservative's horrible policy ideas. She's a great example of failing up.

    Lisa

    All Kossacks are my allies, but if you can't express your thoughts in a civil and kind manner, I won't be engaging in a conversation with you.

    by Boston to Salem on Mon Aug 29, 2011 at 07:55:37 AM PDT

    •  Yes, everyone should read SUSAN - great blog+ (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eric Nelson

      She and I have emailed a bit re: McArdle

      Thousands of years ago the question was asked: 'Am I my brother's keeper?' That question has never yet been answered in a way that is satisfactory to civilized society. ~ Eugene V. Debbs

      by PlutocracyFiles on Mon Aug 29, 2011 at 06:44:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Megan McCardle, Primate: (6+ / 0-)

    http://www.tinyrevolution.com/...

    from the comments:
    "McArdle reminds me of that prisoner in Schindler's List who tries so hard to please the German guards they end up shooting her. Poor Megan tries so hard to be the smart-ass libertarian put on earth to impress her Goldman Sachs heroes she doesn't even realize she's got neither the ruthlessness nor the smarts for the task."

  •  Not so sure... (0+ / 0-)

    I'm not a MM fan, quite the opposite, but this seems to be a pretty harsh character assassination to make without proof.

    The ideas being expressed by McArdle and Glass are overtly racist - tolerable only because the supposedly real people expressing the ideas are members of the targeted racial minority. Once you realize the piece is cooked, once you realize the source is fabricated, the racism is even more sinister. There is something particularly pernicious (not to mention cowardly) about fabricating an African-American to serve as a mouthpiece for the author's racism
    Well, it could be "pernicious" and could be "cowardly" and yes there could be a body of work so diffuse with such weak tea'd racism that it speaks for itself. But, such a case hasn't been made and this specific article is base don a type of interaction that is very very common. So, this discerning reader, having observed MM's evolutions from an insightful young contrarian blogger to a libertarian scold broad brushing through hack deadlines, is unconvinced.

    You're a talented writer. I'm just not into hit pieces unless they're bulls-eyes with no survivor. Loved this, not this. IMO this diary is like the latter.

    Eliminate the Bush tax cuts Eliminate Afghan and Iraq wars Do these things first before considering any cuts

    by kck on Mon Aug 29, 2011 at 08:55:43 AM PDT

    •  By the way, here's another example (0+ / 0-)

      If you've ever sat through a budget meeting...

      http://www.ginandtacos.com/...

      Thousands of years ago the question was asked: 'Am I my brother's keeper?' That question has never yet been answered in a way that is satisfactory to civilized society. ~ Eugene V. Debbs

      by PlutocracyFiles on Mon Aug 29, 2011 at 09:49:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I have no idea what makes MM's mgmt think... (0+ / 0-)

        ...she's deserving to be a senior editor at The Atlantic on business and economics.

        knows that almost everyone overestimates their successess (sic), underestimates their costs; it's easier to go back for money later, when you can wave a nice hunk of sunk costs around, than say up front that you think whatever it is you're proposing will be expensive as hell.
        But I think that's true about many writers who "came up" as writers.

        And yes, I've sat through a budget meeting, also squirmed, acted, danced, pranced, frowned, sweat, smiled, slept, and once pounded my fist in budget meetings, in every role, in every chair.

        Eliminate the Bush tax cuts Eliminate Afghan and Iraq wars Do these things first before considering any cuts

        by kck on Mon Aug 29, 2011 at 10:25:27 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  You're setting up an impossible standard of proof. (0+ / 0-)

      You're demanding that PF be able to prove that McArdle's conversation with this unnamed bus rider did not take place.  Obviously, proving a negative is always difficult.  In this case, it would be utterly impossible.

      But to call this a "hit piece" merely because it raises very obvious questions about the truth of the reported conversation is really unfair.  I lived in DC for 26 years, and spent almost all of that time living in a "transitional" neighborhood, yet I never once had a conversation like that with anyone.  

      And I have to say that I find it kind of incredible that McArdle just happens to have this conversation on what she describes as her maiden voyage on the bus.  Would love to know what line it was.  Would also love to know what neighborhood she lives in.  (From one of the links in her article, it looks to be Bloomingdale, but she doesn't specify.)  I guess she was heading to someplace far from home, because her trip must have been pretty long for her to get into such a deep conversation with a complete stranger.  Providing details like these might have helped make her story somewhat more believable, as would the name of her alleged partner in conversation.  Of course, she provides none of that.  So you're going to have to forgive my skepticism.  

      In summary, McArdle's story is this:  She takes her first ride on an unnamed Metrobus from a stop near her home in an unnamed neighborhood and on the bus she meets an unnamed black man with whom she has time to discuss the issue of gentrification.  Said unnamed black man just happens to come up with a quote that fits perfectly into her own views and coincidentally touches upon the subject of a book she's reading.  Sorry, but it sounds pretty fishy to me.

      "Ça c'est une chanson que j'aurais vraiment aimé ne pas avoir écrite." -- Barbara

      by FogCityJohn on Mon Aug 29, 2011 at 02:06:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  That quote from the bus passenger is (5+ / 0-)

    quite simply beyond belief.

    It strains credulity is to put it in the mildest possible fashion.

  •  Well done. An she IS evil n/t (0+ / 0-)

    Barack Obama: So morally bankrupt that he thinks people who tortured other people to death should get a pass. Likes to prosecute whistleblowers, though.

    by expatjourno on Mon Aug 29, 2011 at 12:18:35 PM PDT

  •  Nice job. Tipped and rec'd. nt (0+ / 0-)

    "Any of you other goat motherfuckers want to put a hoof on my bridge?" -- Stephen Colbert, 8/1/2011

    by Fed up Fed on Mon Aug 29, 2011 at 12:33:15 PM PDT

  •  I don't know about the rest of it (0+ / 0-)

    as I've never heard of her before. But the fact that she is likely lying about the bus trip doesn't change the fact that I have indeed seen a great many middle class Kossacks insisting that the middle class needs and deserves tax cuts, health benefits, etc, somehow manufacturing lame excuses why the working poor and poor deserve no consideration.

  •  Bye to 25 years of the Atlantic (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JayBat, ybruti, FogCityJohn, Calamity Jean

    When this whole new bunch showed up, McArdle, Sullivan, et al, and started producing load after load of  juvenile crap, I cancelled my decades' long subscription.  McArdle  is the brat that stupidly and smugly lists her lack of experience proudly.  Look at this:

    Megan McArdle is a senior editor for The Atlantic who writes about business and economics. She has worked at three start-ups, a consulting firm, an investment bank, a disaster recovery firm at Ground Zero, and the Economist.

    The final straw was her lecturing Paul Krugman on economics and the ways of Washington when he was "unaware" of just how terrific her new BFF/love, Paul Ryan was.  (Google Mcardle and Krugman for details).  After all, she was in three bankrupt startups, was a worthless consultant dispensing what, the knowledge she got from those failures and worked at a bank, possibly as the drive up teller?  That obviously qualifies you to critique a full professor at Princeton's work.  She's written about economics!

    Who on earth would hire someone to work for them with so little qualifications?  Senior Editor? Isn't that what the Weakly Standard is for?  

    GOP Legislators; surprisingly affordable - Trudeau

    by BurningFeet on Mon Aug 29, 2011 at 02:26:34 PM PDT

    •  Ditto here, 24 years in my case... (0+ / 0-)

      ...And I was reading my mom's subscription for 7-8  years before that.

      There have always been conservative voices in The Atlantic as long as I've been reading it, but historically they've been intelligent voices that made me think. But McArdle, Tsing Loh, Flanagan and Postrel are an insult to my intelligence. I feel really uneasy listing off that set of women's names, but there are so many excellent female writers out there, and you give me this, The Atlantic? Feh.

      I let the subscription lapse.

      -Jay-
      
  •  she's been beating this drum for a while (4+ / 0-)

    A few weeks ago I tried to call McArdle on her imaginary progressives who don't want to be taxed, saying that the ones I know -- including me -- are OK with higher taxes.

    I got badgered by libertarians responders saying I should make a voluntary contribution to the treasury. The point that taxes aren't charity was lost on them.

    Read the Weekly Sift every Monday afternoon. http://weeklysift.com

    by Pericles on Mon Aug 29, 2011 at 03:43:54 PM PDT

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