Thursday, August 01, 2013

Well, which is it, young feller?

Isn't it nice when there's a copy editor to remind you of how things stand in the world at large? Say, if you work at the Washington Times and you need just the right context for a 1A story:

Deploying the rhetoric of class warfare against congressional Republicans, President Obama warned Wednesday* that “social tensions will rise” if Washington doesn’t take steps to reverse the growing gap between wealthy Americans and the middle class.

"Class warfare" fits right in, but still -- could it have been just two weeks ago that the same reporter broke a major exclusive about ...

President Obama is known for choosing his words carefully, and one of the words he rarely chooses to utter in public is “poverty.”

With more than 46 million Americans living in poverty, and people relying on food stamps at record levels, the president also talks infrequently about “the poor” in his speeches and public comments. Compared with his predecessors, Mr. Obama is far more likely to speak about the “middle class” when promoting his agenda.

Which immediately became a story itself for superstar Fox reporter James Rosen:

Standing before an audience of 80,000 rapturous supporters and framed by a pair of giant Greek columns, Barack Obama partly used his 2008 nomination acceptance speech in Denver to showcase a subject he has mostly seen fit, ever since, to avoid. "We are more compassionate," he said back then, "than a government that lets veterans sleep on our streets and families slide into poverty."

But since then, the poverty rate has increased: from 13.1 percent in 2008 to 15.1 percent in the most recent measurements released by the U.S. Census Bureau. And while he is widely seen as an ally of those Democratic constituencies most apt to focus on the plight of the underclass, Obama has actually mentioned the poor less frequently than any of his modern predecessors in the Oval Office.

And there must be something ... scientific to support that, yes?

A new study by Georgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, a non-profit center whose social scientists study issues of concern to Catholics, tabulated all references to an economic class that have appeared in the public papers of each president dating back to John F. Kennedy, the nation's first -- and to date only -- Catholic president.

Well, sort of. It's not a "new study" in the usual sense of what we'd call a "study." It's a blog post by a writer who does social science by trade and feeds a blog that's related to the stuff he studies.** The result is a pretty capable bit of impromptu content analysis -- sort of the CA equivalent of a Breakfast Experiment -- making a fairly good case that Obama doesn't talk a heck of a lot about "the poor."

Pretty straightforward American politics, huh? The poor schmuck's already a Kenyan Muslim communist who wants nothing more than to sell your daughters to Mao and Stalin; can you imagine the outcry if he really did talk about "the poor" more than the "middle class?

One thing I like about the blogger: He can count stuff, but he counts stuff in the context of what it means. Talking about "the poor" isn't related to trying to legislate on their behalf, for example; at the same time, talking about "the middle class" has gotten to be pretty silly. I tend to like that approach, and I wonder what the blogger thought on seeing his pretty  interesting thoughts turned into propaganda at the WashTimes and Fox.

Dave Boyer and James Rosen are, of course, (hem) good Party men (kaff). It'd be nice if they didn't hijack the work of real social scientists by way of supporting their masters' demands, but at least we can make fun of them when -- very well, they contradict themselves.

They are large; they contain multitudes.

* OK, last Wednesday. Things have been backed up around here of late.
 ** You can see why Your Editor is innately sympathetic

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