Tim Kaine’s Philosophy of Leadership

We’re going to interrupt our usual format (and postpone part three of our response to Barton Hinkle’s critique of economic populism) and report on the visit of Gov. Tim Kaine to the University of Richmond on Tuesday evening.

Speaking to an audience primarily composed of students at the Jepson School of Leadership Studies, Kaine provided a useful and interesting summary of how he views the governor’s job, and what he hopes to accomplish this term.

Kaine said being governor involves three distinct leadership functions: first, being “CEO” of the state government, a task which he says occupies 60-70% of his time; second, being involved in the legislative process, which occupies about 20-30% of his time; and third, being the political leader of the Democratic Party in Virginia, a task which takes up roughly 10% of his efforts.

Kaine noted that the state government of Virginia is a massive enterprise, involving over 100,000 employees in roughly 100 different agencies. After listing various good governance plaudits Virginia has received in the past from Governing magazine and others, Kaine laid out his own philosophy of leadership one he said he developed at the “school of hard knocks” via his prior work experience.

Effective leadership involves two primary aspects, Kaine noted: setting goals, and developing relationships. Kaine argued that setting goals is essential to boosting productivity and performance, and said he had spent six weeks this year reviewing in detail each agency’s proposed goals for the next several years.

Kaine said that in the near future the state will launch a web site, Perform Virginia, which will publicly state the performance goals of each state agency, and provided regular updates on progress towards meeting those goals.

Kaine also said that he has his own goals for his term in office:

1)      To address Virginia’s transportation needs.

2)      To improve health care outcomes, particularly with regard to expanding access for the uninsured and reducing child obesity.

3)      To improve K-12 education, and specifically to reduce by over half the number of third graders failing statewide reading tests

4)      To preserve at least 400,000 acres of open space in Virginia

The governor then went on to talk about the role of relationships in leadership. On a few things, an executive has the ability to make things happen by fiat, but for large, complex goals you need to get the cooperation of many other people. The best way to do that is through fostering relationships.

Kaine cited through types of relationships in particular: the relationship between different agencies within state government; the relationship between state and local governments; and the relationship between the state government and the private and nonprofit sectors.

Kaine went on to talk about the symbolic importance of the gubernatorial role, and the importance of him simply showing up at certain events. (As an example Kaine cited a funeral for a state trooper he attended earlier the day Tuesday). Interestingly, Kaine stressed the particular importance of reaching out to groups that often feel left out of the political process and who only have rarely access the highest levels of power, noting that this was important in bringing to life the notion of a “Commonwealth” in which we’re all in it together.

Kaine then went on to describe his successes and failures in working with the legislature this year. Kaine called attention to several pieces of legislation he supported which managed to get through, including requiring evaluations for public school teachers, ending
Virginia’s estate tax, and providing tax incentives to protect open space.

But he acknowledged that the larger goal of coming up with a transportation bill had ended in stalemate. Kaine said there was basic agreement on certain priorities, particularly using state money more wisely and addressing land use issues, but not on how to fund new initiatives.

In subsequent comments Kaine said that room to maneuver on that question had been hampered by the no-tax pledges many Republican legislators have signed. Kaine added that his own position on taxes was that it was beneficial for Virginia to remain relatively speaking a low tax state, but that he saw no benefit in letting important public needs go unmet for the sake of having the lowest possible tax burden.

Finally, Kaine talked about his role in leading the Democratic Party and encouraging potentially strong candidates to run for office. He said that he was proud to be a Democrat and proud to be part of a big tent party, but that the Democrats don’t have a monopoly on wisdom or virtue. Consequently, he wants to reach out to Republicans and also independents, even at the same time he’s trying to get as many Democrats as possible elected.

Interestingly, Kaine said that recent election results show that Virginia is fundamentally an “independent” state, and that he thought that was a healthy situation, as a robust two-party system is a “wonderful form of government.”

In the question and answer period, Kaine responded to questions about taxes, leadership and ethics, protection of minority rights, and the relationship between Virginia’s cities and counties. On that last score, Kaine said he intends to use his first two year budget next year as a tool to encourage regional cooperation among city and county governments by providing funding incentives to metropolitan regions which engage in regional problem-solving.

Kaine also movingly spoke of his opposition to both the death penalty and the recently passed marriage amendment, saying that the amendment had targeted an unpopular minority in a manner inconsistent with Virginia’s best traditions, and that the amendment went much too far in denying any possibility of public recognition for unmarried couples.

All in all, the hour-long session provided some rich insight into the mindset and aspirations of Virginia’s not-quite-a-rookie-anymore governor.

Published in: on November 29, 2006 at 2:53 am  Leave a Comment  

Taxation and Fairness

Now on to Barton Hinkle’s second big point in his effort to dissuade readers that economic inequality is a serious issue: the question of taxes, and who pays them.

Hinkle cites data indicating that the top 1% pay over 30% of all income taxes (the exact percentage in 2003 was 34%)  as evidence of the progressive nature of our tax system. 

That is a valid statistic, but looking at it out of context paints a seriously misleading picture. Five crucial points in particular need to be stressed.

First, the top 1% of the income distribution garner (as of 2003) over 17% of all income reported to the IRS. As the overall distribution of income becomes more unequal, the proportion paid by the top 1% should increase as a matter of simple math. Put another way, statistics about the proportion of taxes paid by the richest say as much about the highly unequal overall distribution of income as they do about the tax code.

Second, following from this observation, the best way to get a good picture of how progressive the tax code is to look at the actual rates. Doing so reveals that income tax policy has been getting steadily less progressive over the past 40 years; rates on the richest have fallen from 77% as late as the 1960s to just 35% today. (Bush I and Clinton succeeded in raising the top rate from its Reagan-era low of 28% to first 31% and then 39.6%.)

Third, income taxes account for just under half of all federal revenue, and looking at them alone provides a distorted picture of the actual tax burden. Most significantly, social insurance taxes, which account for some 37% of all tax receipts, are essentially regressive: a fixed rate is paid on all income up to a ceiling ($87,000 in 2003); income above that line is exempt. Looking at this bigger picture, the Congressional Budget Office reports that the top 1% paid just 20.1% of all federal taxes in 2004–a percentage only slightly higher than their share of overall income.

Fourth, the effective tax rate on corporations has been falling for decades, with corporate income taxes now accounting for just over 10% of federal revenue, down from as high as 32% in the 1950s.

Fifth, and most pertinent for the question at hand (does the U.S. have an inequality problem?),  after-tax income inequality has grown steadily in the past generation. In 1980, real after-tax income for the poorest quintile of Americans averaged (in 2003 dollars) $13,000, compared to $305,800 for the richest 1%. By 1990, the figures were $13,100 and $520,000, respectively; in 2003, the figures were $14,100 and $701,500.

Here, then, is the bigger picture: however progressive the income tax system may be, it hasn’t come close to offset the effects of the massive increase in overall economic inequality over the past generation. Moreover, looking at the income tax in isolation from the rest of the federal tax structure leads to a dramatic over-estimate of the system’s overall progressivity.

What is a fair tax rate for the rich to pay? The answer to that question depends on the answer to a prior, more fundamental question: Is the distribution of (after-tax) income generated by our economic system consistent with maintaining a society based on equal citizenship and the provision of substantive equality of opportunity to each of its citizens?

If the answer to that question is “no,” that higher effective taxes on the rich have to be considered seriously as one important strategy for correcting that imbalance and leveling the playing field. 

The place to start is not even with the top 1%, but with the richest of the rich, the top 0.1% of all taxpayers. As David Cay Johnston of The New York Times has documented, the effective tax rate paid by those select households actually declined from 1992 to 2000. Persons at this level of income hire tax evasion specialists who help them arrange their assets in ways that the federal government can’t get at them very easily, and they can claim all manner of perks and tax breaks unavailable to the working stiff.

By far the best source on the topic of how the super-rich evade income taxes is Johnston’s 2003 book Perfectly Legal; for a detailed look at the related issue of tax evasion by the rich and well-connected, see this book edited by economist Max Sawicky.

The overall picture that emerges from Johnston’s work is that the political capacity of the super-rich to manipulate the tax system in their favor has increased in lockstep with the overall increase in economic inequality, with each trend reinforcing the other. I hope Jim Webb has read Johnston’s book; calling a few hearings in 2007 on some of the most remarkable abuses of the tax system by America’s most wealthy would be a good move by the senator-elect and a necessary first step towards reform.

Next time: Why should we care about inequality at all?

Published in: on November 26, 2006 at 4:46 pm  Comments (6)  

Income Mobility and the Social Structure

Okay, let’s get down to brass tacks here in looking at Barton Hinkle’s critique of Jim Webb’s populism. The topic here is one of the most fundamental social questions we can possibly ask—whether or not the American social order is a just one—so it’s worth sinking our teeth in just a bit.

In tackling that question, we need to distinguish between two related yet distinct concerns. The first is whether the basic structure of American society is just or fair; the second is whether the long-term trend in the United States has been towards more or less fairness and equality. This is an important distinction:  if, for instance, long-term trends are static, but the basic structure of society is unjust, then we should be less than heartened to learn that an unjust society is not getting any more just.  

Keeping that in mind, let’s look at the data.

 

The specific data in question here are snapshot analyses of income distribution, divided by quintile, i.e. how much income is the top 20% getting compared to the bottom 20%, and each sector in between? Hinkle, like many others, correctly notes that this sort of snapshot, taken in itself, provides only limited information about the fairness of the overall structure of society.

Why isn’t the snapshot data enough? Because the snapshots don’t provide us information about mobility over time between the quintiles. Consider the child of an affluent family who goes to a selective private college. As a young adult that person might well be in the middle or bottom quintiles of income as he or she finds her feet in the labor market or struggles through graduate school. But eventually that person has a very good chance of making it to one of  the higher quintiles—at least until he or she retires (or gets laid off), when they will likely see income decline.

The quintile snapshot essentially abstracts from all this churning and provides a static shot of how the income distribution looks at a given time. So it’s a limited tool, if we think that we should take not just absolute levels of inequality but also social mobility into account in evaluating the justice of the social structure.

If we compare several quintile snapshots over a long period of time, however, we can garner useful information about the long term trend in the distribution of income, towards more or less inequality. Indeed, looking at how these snapshots have changed over the past three decades produces some striking results:

In 1974, the bottom (poorest) quintile of American families captured 5.7% of aggregate family income; in 2004 that same group captured just 4.0% of such income. In 1974, the top (richest) quintile of American families captured 40.6% of aggregate family income; in 2004 that same group captured 47.9% of such income. Perhaps most strikingly, in 1974 the top 1% of American families, captured 14.8% of aggregate family income; in 2004 those same fortunate few claimed 20.9% of such income. (This data comes from the Economc Policy Institute.)

This is exceptionally strong evidence that the distribution of income in the United States has gotten (just as Jim Webb claims) substantially more unequal over time. In fact, the trend is so strong that it simply is not in dispute among economists and other social scientists who study inequality—in those circles the live debate is not about whether inequality has grown sharply, but what the causes of that growth have been.

Even so, we might not be so disturbed by this growing inequality if it were offset by an increase in social mobility. But how best to measure social mobility?

To answer this question we must again introduce another distinction: between the movement of individuals up and down the quintiles due to variations in income over the course of the life cycle, and between genuine social mobility, in which an individual sees a permanent increase (or decline) in one’s relative position. Conservatives are correct to point out that the income quintiles are not very static over time, with individuals moving in and out of each group all the time, but many (including Hinkle in this case) make the mistake of confusing variation in income over the course of the life cycle—the fact that you’re likely going to make more money in your 40s and 50s than when you’re in your 20s or 70s– with genuine mobility.

The best way to measure mobility is not via snapshots of the whole population, but by tracking a set of individuals over the course of their lives and seeing how they do compared to how their parents did. Economists who undertake such studies have found that, at a minimum, genuine social mobility has not increased over the past generation, and in fact may have actually slowed.

This is important because if mobility has been static, but the distribution of family income has gotten sharply more unequal, than we can only conclude that the American social system as a whole has in fact become more unequal and less fair to the folks on the bottom over the past generation.

But the mobility data can also give us needed insight into the justice of the social structure itself. If you are born into the bottom 10% of families, income-wise, what are your chances of making it out of that bottom 10%? What are your chances of making it into the top 10?

The best recent data on that question comes from Tom Hertz’s study “Rags, Riches, and Race,” which examines mobility among black and white families using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. (The paper is reprinted in the book Unequal Chances: Family Background and Economic Success, the best collection of recent academic work on this set of questions.) 

After adjusting for changes in household size, Hertz finds that if you are born into a family in the bottom decile (poorest 10%) of the income distribution, you have a 36.6% chance of remaining there as an adult, and a 57.1% chance of staying in the bottom quintile. You have just a 2.3% chance of making it into the top quintile, and a mere 0.5% chance (1 in 200) of making it into the top decile.

Conversely, if you are born into a family in the top decile, you have a 26.7% chance of staying there as an adult, a 43.2% of being in the top quintile, and a 77.7% chance of being somewhere in the top half of the income distribution. You have just a 5% chance of falling into the bottom quintile, and only a 1.4% chance of falling into the bottom decile.

In short, if you are born in the poorest rung (decile) of American society, you are over 26 times more likely than someone born in the top rung to stay on that bottom rung as an adult. And if you’re born into the top rung, you’re over 53 times more likely to get there yourself as an adult that someone born on the lowest rung.

Is that fair? Not if you take seriously the notion that America should be characterized by substantive equality of opportunity. (And by the way, from the point of view of African-Americans, the actual picture is even worse than these figures suggest, as Hertz found that upward mobility among African-Americans from the bottom to top quartile was less than half the rates observed among whites.)

Confronting the actual data about intergenerational mobility in the United States forces one to confront some hard truths about the basic structure of this society. Where you start has a huge impact on where you end up, and there is no evidence that it’s getting easier for people to move up. And, as we have also seen, the consequences of ending up near the bottom as opposed to near the top have become more severe, as income inequality has grown over time.

None of those conclusions are controversial among academics who study these questions, and in fact some of those scholars have been trying to ring the alarm on this issue for a number of years. Jim Webb just happened to be the Virginia politican who answered the bell.

Next installment: Do the rich pay too much in taxes? 

Published in: on November 22, 2006 at 4:09 pm  Comments (2)  

Jim Webb’s Economics, II

The Times-Dispatch finally saw fit to give Jim Webb space to air his economic views on Tuesday, reprinting an op-ed which originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal last week. Curiously, however, the op-ed staff chose to give top billing on the printed page to a piece by regular columnist Barton Hinkle—even though Hinkle’s piece is clearly a response to Webb.

Webb writes that many of the relatively privileged have put great effort into downplaying the scale and significance of the vast increase in economic inequality witnessed over the last generation. Hinkle proves Webb’s point in his article, intended to persuade us that Webb’s economic populism only “skims the surface” of the real economy.

Hinkle’s piece trots out several old chestnuts of conservative “wisdom” concerning economic justice. First, Hinkle assures us of the degree of social mobility which American capitalism affords, by pointing to the fact that many people rise and fall through the income quintiles over the course of the life cycle. Second, Hinkle assures us that the rich are already paying a great deal in taxes. Third, Hinkle argues that inequality measures really aren’t important anyway, because the real standard of living is rising over time.

Each of those claims is contentious and, I believe, either wrong or seriously misleading. To provide an adequate response to each of those points would be too much for a single humble blog posting. So over the remainder of the week, this space will roll out responses to each of those core claims in three separate blog postings; look for the first one tomorrow morning.

Published in: on November 21, 2006 at 4:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Jim Webb’s Economics, In His Own Words

Jim Webb doesn’t have a Ph.D. in economics or public policy, but he’s done something thousands of academic economists and policy scholars have not: gotten an op-ed piece published in the famously conservative Wall Street Journal, which you can check out here.

It’s an interesting article that perhaps we’ll comment on in more detail in the near future. For now we’ll confine ourselves to the observation that it’s a sad commentary when the Wall Street Journal is more open to Webb’s views than the Times-Dispatch ever was during the campaign.

Published in: on November 16, 2006 at 4:18 am  Leave a Comment  

The Conceits of Centrism

Centrism is back! That’s the overwhelming interpretation of Tuesday’s elections by Sunday-section commentators in the RTD as well as The Washington Post and The New York Times; see Larry Sabato’s election post-mortem as well as David Brooks’s most recent column for good examples of the genre.

These pundits argue that voters want an end to “ideological” mudslinging and a new era of cooperative, bipartisan policymaking that transcends partisan differences for the sake of effectively advancing the common good. Many of the new Democratic senators and representatives describe themselves in just these terms.

The “forgotten moderate” is always a popular figure among American punditry, and political scientists delight in celebrating the virtues of checks and balances and the dangers of unrestricted partisan rule.

And indeed, perhaps there are some issues on which leadership from the “vital center” in the next couple of years could be most welcome and possibly even effective. If centrists in Congress can help broker with the White House a sensible exit strategy from Iraq over the next year, that would be a major accomplishment.

But there are limits to “centrism” and bipartisan hopefulness that need to be recognized as well. Consider four key points:

First, before we deride all “ideology” as dangerous, we need to parse exactly what we mean by the word. If by “ideology,” we mean values, principles, and moral convictions, then “ideology” should be the last thing we want our politics to be drained of. Politicians should stand for something, and they should not be shy in conveying to the public what they stand for and why.

But if by “ideology,” we mean an a priori commitment to some particular policy instrument for advancing such ends–such as the a priori commitment of many Republicans to to tax cuts as the solution to, well, everything–then “ideology” becomes a more dangerous affair. Inflexible commitment to some preordained solution that is impervious to the accumulation of evidence and experience is a recipe for bad policymaking. It’s in that specific sense that “ideology” should be regarded as troubling.

But leaders who can combine commitment to strong moral principles with a sense of flexibility, pragmatism, and creativity in advancing those principles and values should be welcomed, not derided as ideologues.

Second, it’s simply not going to be possible to tackle any number of issues–most notably the health care crisis–without provoking a fair amount of ideological and partisan conflict. Any Democrat who advances a serious solution on health care is going to be bitterly attacked by conservatives and those who benefit from the health care status quo. Does this mean that they should not try, for fear of provoking partisan conflict? Of course not.

To avoid tackling serious issues–or to settle only for non-controversial, band-aid steps that don’t touch the deeper problem–in order to avoid partisan conflict would be to embrace a cure that’s worse than the disease.

Third, no one should fool themselves into thinking that the right wing of the Republican party has gone away. “Movement conservatives”are still with us, and they are not going to stop being “ideological” or partisan. Rather, they’re going to be looking for every opportunity to gather ammunition for the next round of electoral battle. Rove et al are not interested in bipartisan, balance; they want to achieve long-term political supremacy, and ultimately to dismantle the last vestiges of the New Deal.

To counter that possibility, Democrats must articulate their own vision of the role of government in promoting fairness and social justice. If the Democrats cannot explain–either to voters or themselves–what government should do (in broad terms) and why, or what obligations citizens have towards one another, then in the long run, American politics will keep shifting further and further to the right.

This observation leads us the fourth and final point: the political center should not be confused with the moral center. The political center consists of what is politically possible, here and now, given the current state of political opinion. The moral center consists of what the right thing to do is, regardless of current public opinion.

Obviously, different people define the “moral center” in different ways. Anti-abortion activists define it differently than radical feminists, to take an obvious example. A general progressive definition of the “moral center” would be a society that treats everyone fairly, gives everyone substantive equality of opportunity, empowers and protects workers, and ensures that no one falls through the cracks and that no one’s life is devalued.

Over the long haul, the political challenge is to move the political center in the direction of whichever definition of the “moral center” one favors. Readers will not be shocked, I trust, to learn that this blog is partial to the progressive definition of the moral center given above.

To move the political center closer to the moral center is no easy thing, but it has happened repeatedly throughout American history, the debate over slavery in the 19th century being the most pointed example. From a progressive point of view, making it happen in the 21st century will require three steps:

1. Bringing in new people to the political process who don’t vote now and feel disconnected and distrustful of politics, but might support progressive goals.

2. Better, more effective, and above all more organizing, at all levels; and, establishing relationships and relationships of accountability between progressive organizations and political leaders.

3. Winning in the ongoing battle of ideas. But to win that battle, you have to have ideas to fight with.

One way to engage that battle is to look at the long-term possibilities of using the enormous wealth of this country in ways which dramatically improve everyone’s quality of life, as articulated in a piece this writer co-authored last year.

A second, more modest but equally essential way is to express just what Democrats stand for and why, as well as some thoughts on how those values might be advanced in both the short term and long term.

That’s an essential task, and it’s inescapably a partisan task and an ideological task. Yet even smart moderates should recognize that if American politics is not, in the long run, to be overtaken by the organized movement conservatives, there needs to be a strongly expressed countervailing philosophy of government expressed by the Democratic Party and its leadership.

Published in: on November 12, 2006 at 5:39 pm  Comments (1)  

Remembering Ed Bradley

The Times-Dispatch on Saturday contains as moving a tribute to CBS newsman Ed Bradley as you’ll find anywhere.

The piece is written by Richmond newcomer Roberta Oster Sachs, who worked with Bradley at CBS.

Bradley died earlier this week of leukemia at age 65.

Published in: on November 11, 2006 at 2:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

RTD Gets the Scoop on New UR President!

Stick a feather in the cap of the news department of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, which ran the news this morning of the University of Richmond’s impending appointment of Edward Ayers, Dean of Arts and Sciences at the University of Virginia, as it next president.

Sources around UR say that the community is well, ecstatic, about this news. Ayers has a very impressive scholarly, teaching, and administrative record and is well known to many in these parts.

Check out the comments section of the Times-Dispatch’s article for some interesting remarks by UR community members about the news.

 

Published in: on November 10, 2006 at 5:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

Food Stamp Follow-Up

The Times-Dispatch has two excellent letters to the editor on Thursday calling the RTD to account for its misleading and mean-spirited editorial on food stamps and immigrants that was critiqued in this space a couple of weeks ago.

One is from Richmond resident Jill A. Hanken; the other is from Nancy Montanex Johner, Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Hanken calls the RTD’s attack on a Spanish-language outreach program in California “absurd and insulting to all legal immigrants who happen to speak Spanish.” Johner informs the editors that “legal immigrants in the United States may be eligible to receive benefits if they meet residency, income, and asset requirements” and that the “USDA is proud of our efforts to ensure that all eligible families, and in particular underserved populations including the elderly, working poor, and legal immigrants, have access to this critical nutrition program.”

Unlike whoever wrote the “Four-Hour Obscenity” editorial, both these letter-writers know what they’re talking about.

Published in: on November 9, 2006 at 3:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

“Congratulations”

Right about now, with the Democrats poised to take control of both houses of Congress, it sure would be nice to own stock in a paper shredder manufacturer.

Sadly, that’s not the case, but there are other satisfactions at hand.

In Thursday’s paper, the Richmond Times-Dispatch calls on George Allen not to pursue a recount barring any major changes in results from the post-election canvas; with 95% of that canvas done at this point, Webb is indeed on pace to win by about 8,000 votes.

Apparently suspecting as much, the RTD spends the rest of its editorial treating Senator-Elect Webb as a fait accomplit. Much of the editorial consists of a scathing critique of some of Allen’s tactics, along with the claim that the vote was not about “issues” but about a gut reaction to Iraq. (Along the way the editorial board can’t resist taking a shot at “sleep-inducing lectures that try to pass off partisan boilerplate as scholarship,” not to be confused, of course, with partisan boilerplate that tries to pass itself of as insightful editorial writing.)

But the editorial almost approaches graciousness in noting that Webb is an independent spirit in the Jacksonian tradition. Fair enough. It’s also fair to say that the median Virginia voter doesn’t want, just as the RTD says, a clone of a Howard Dean or John Kerry–and that Webb is no such clone.

But if Webb really is not a Dean or Kerry, why did the paper spill so much ink before Election Day trying to draw just that equation?

Pre-election day RTD: Don’t vote for Webb, he’s like Dean and Kerry and Hillary, and he’s against the President. (Here’s Ross Mackzenie’s column saying pretty much exactly that, in case you’ve forgotten.)

Post-election day RTD: Well, Webb won, but at least he’s not like Dean or Kerry.

Pre-election day RTD: “Allen’s opponent in this race, echoing Democrats everywhere, has cast Allen’s (and Warner’s) backing of the president as sufficient reason for Allen’s defeat.” (October 22) Translation: Party identification tells us pretty much all we need to know about a candidate, and Webb should be shunned because he’s like Democrats everywhere.

Post-election day RTD: “Candidates run as Republicans and Democrats; citizens elect individuals to govern.” Translation: our party lost, but voters vote for the man, not the party.

The RTD’s post-facto analysis of Webb is in much the same spirit as David Brooks’s recent column on the Senator-elect. But there’s a key difference between Brooks’s analysis and that of the RTD editorialists: Brooks published his piece before the election (on Sunday in The New York Times).

The RTD, in contrast, never made an effort in its editorials to inform readers that Webb is an independent-minded Democrat with an interesting worldview that is populist but not necessarily liberal.

Describing Webb that way might have made the Senator-elect sound more appealing to some of the RTD’s readers, and possibly even cost the RTD’s endorsee Allen a few votes.

It also would have leant the newspaper’s editorial page a measure of credibility and intellectual integrity that proved sorely lacking this election season.

Published in: on November 9, 2006 at 5:42 am  Leave a Comment