Abominations of the World

by Henry Farrell on August 5, 2008

“Scott”:http://www.artsjournal.com/quickstudy/2008/08/verily.html at his other place blogs about the latest McCain video (which is so staggeringly bad at achieving its purported aims that it doesn’t make sense _except_ as a dogwhistle video).

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The great risk shift, yet again

by John Q on August 5, 2008

The Wall Street Journal has a fascinating article about how corporations like Intel are loading up their general pension funds with obligations to pay massive “supplemental” benefits to senior executives. It’s partly a tax dodge, and partly an example of what Jacob Hacker has called the great risk shift. The extra liabilities increase the risk that the fund will fail, but the top brass can be protected against this eventuality with a trust fund, while the rank and file get to take their chances.

Update To clarify, in response to comments, the pension entitlements of ordinary workers are supposed to be protected by the government through Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, and to the extent that this works as expected, risk is shifted to the PBGC rather than to workers. But as both the WSJ story and the discussion below make clear, things don’t always work as planned. Some benefits paid to ordinary workers turn out to be classed as supplemental and therefore lost when the scheme fails.

Quiet around here. Alright: about that Britney/Paris ad. First, I take it to be obvious the dog whistle ‘he’s coming for your daughters’ subtext was, if not expressly intended, then well appreciated by the ad’s producers. But here’s something else about these ads in general. McCain is an old man without a lot to say, policy-wise, running against a charismatic younger man in an environment that favors the younger man for a lot of age and charisma-independent reasons. There is really no choice but to go for the ‘but he’s too young’, ‘he’s not ready’, ‘he’s all smile, no substance’ line. Obviously there isn’t really any reason to think so, and obviously the Republicans don’t actually think so. This isn’t their reason for voting McCain – namely, they’ve thought hard about the age issue and concluded it favors McCain. It’s just: what else are you going to say? Joe Lieberman: he’s a “good young man.” Who calls a 46-year old man ‘young’? Lieberman just called Obama ‘boy’, in effect. Is Lieberman racist? I doubt it, so why did he do it? Because there isn’t anything else for him to say that would make Obama sound bad, in a general sort of way. He would have done the same for John Edwards, if Edwards had gotten the nomination.

But: there’s no way for old white men to call a professionally accomplished, intelligent, articulate, younger – but not actually young – black man ‘boy’, in effect, without it being heard as racist. There’s no way for an old white man to drop hints that such a man might have a certain animal magnetism, might be qualified to be an entertainer, but should hardly be placed in a position of professional responsibility. (Perhaps someday, but for now, people like this ‘aren’t ready’, for obscure and unspoken reasons.) Again, Edwards would have gotten the same treatment: he’s a blow-dried lightweight. But the race angle changes it. And there isn’t any way for the attackers to convincingly deny they were making a racist attack because the true defense, if any, would be: ‘I wasn’t making a totally baseless attack on his race, I was making a totally baseless attack on him personally.’ That’s a funny corner to be driven back into. Hence the rather strange ‘these ads are just fun, sit back and enjoy it’ defense. But what’s the alternative? ‘What’s the country coming to when an honest man can’t unfairly attack another honest man, personally, without that other man saying the unfair attack is against his whole race, which is just plain an unkind thing to say and drags our political discourse through the mud? This is where Political Correctness has gotten us!’ [click to continue…]