We’re All Michael Moore Now

Someone fetch me a tincture of camphor and ready up the fainting couch, because I’ve just found a horrible violation of the new tone:

Here’s what I mean. Consider cutting SNAP benefits. Cutting SNAP benefits leads to more hungry children. Yet pointing out that consequence is consistently regarded as a blood libel, or crossing the line, or not engaging in substantive! respectful! debate! This is why I talk so much about the tyranny of social relationships in political commentary. It’s considered out of bounds to say things like “your proposal leads to hungry kids,” but cutting SNAP benefits leads to hungry kids. It just does. The thing is that when you’re stamping around talking about the unfairness of the question, you aren’t answering it.


Think about that for a little bit. All non-Social Security/Medicare/Medicaid spending reducing at that rate in that amount of time. These aren’t deep cuts. These aren’t harsh cuts. These are transformative cuts. And they will have consequences that are going to be, frankly, crazy. (I’m really going to enjoy watching the Republicans cut military pensions. Should be a winner.)

But abstraction will survive. The pundits, journalist, politicos, bloggers, and so on who advocate these cuts aren’t the people who will live with the consequences. It’s one of the most persistent and most vexing problems with our democracy: both the politicians in our country and the people who report and comment on them live in an entirely different economic station from the average American. David Brooks will never go to some poor hungry child’s home and look the kid in the eye and praise Paul Ryan’s toughness. He’s not going to be forced to live with the day in, day out consequences of cutting unemployment benefits for millions of people. Nobody’s going to be calling him, begging him to watch their kids for a couple hours because they can’t afford day care anymore. Meanwhile, he and others like him will live in the world of abstraction, where the pleasant lies of metaphor shield them from a cruelly literal world.

Moore award! So unserious! Where’s your plan?

At any rate, this post does a much better job of explaining what I was trying to get at earlier.

72 replies
  1. 1
    cermet says:

    These hungry kids aren’t in the elite 1%, so who gives a fu$k? Now, if we get a tax cut for the 1% from it, then it is a brave and serious proposal – sullivan the worthless pile of dog shit would cream his pants over such advance, far seeing murder of poor kids because they aren’t his concern … rather gay marriage is his only battle and licking the elite’s crusty ass.

  2. 2
    Johannes says:

    Actually, John, I thought you did fine–as does this post.

  3. 3
    Randiego says:

    They all have to ask themselves – why did these programs begin? Wait until next year’s elections. If the Dems dare to accurately call out the Republican assault, just watch the backlash, the calls of fear mongering, Sully to the fainting couch….

  4. 4
    Maude says:

    Perhaps there should be a federal jobs program of digging holes and filling them back up.
    Now, who is going to be doing the digging and filling?
    Somebody should do something.
    These pearls of wisdom are still making my toes curl.
    It wouldn’t matter if Brooks or any of the others saw a hungry child, they do not care. They live in another world and the belive they deserve to live better than the rest of us. Why? Just because.

  5. 5
    opie jeanne, formerly known as Jeanne Ringland says:

    I had to look up the definition of a Moore Award. What an ass Sully is.

  6. 6
    NobodySpecial says:

    rather gay marriage is his only battle and licking the elite’s crusty ass.

    I think Mr. Sullivan is thinking the poor kids can get their sustenance from licking the elite’s crusty ass, like they did back in his favorite time period of history.

  7. 7
    The Political Nihilist Formerly Known As Kryptik says:

    Don’t forget, the lobbyists whose jobs is to explicitly ignore the consequences for anyone but their clients. Or in other terms: “Our profits make your child go hungry? FUCK YOU, PAY ME.

  8. 8
    opie jeanne, formerly known as Jeanne Ringland says:

    @Maude: They don’t ever have to see a hungry child because such a thing is mythological and rare as a unicorn, to them.

  9. 9
    jl says:


    For preventing the children of poor people in Ireland, from being a burden on their parents or country, and for making them beneficial to the publick.

    by Dr. Jonathan Swift


  10. 10
    Martin says:

    Look, if the parents of those kids really cared about them, they’d stop being so fucking lazy with their 40 or 50 hour per week manual labor jobs that don’t pay shit and have no health insurance and instead get a real job – like a NYTimes op-ed column. Yeah, everyone should just get one of those.

  11. 11

    Both your post and Freddie’s post compliment each other, I’d say.

    You’re both very talented writers, albeit in very different ways.

  12. 12
    jl says:

    I don’t see why the discretionary spending could not be reduced to between 3 and 6 percent of GDP right now.

    I just went on a little tour of some national parks on my recent vacation, and I was outraged to see the waste.

    Dune buggies in Death Valley all winter! Ski half dome! Winter suntan resorts on the rocks of Joshua Tree! Comfy romantic winter deluxe minicabins in the tops of Sequoia big trees!

    Think of the vicarious thrills, movies, and gossip magazine stories and celeb TV, and even reality shows, (all economic activity increasing our individual utilities) would be generated by the lascivious and romantic doings of the super rich who would be the only ones who could afford to go there!

    The kids kicked off SNAP could earn a good living selling trinkets and providing useful services, like dune buggy polishing, at the privatized national parks.

  13. 13
    Josie says:

    @Martin: 40 or 50 hour per week manual labor jobs, my ass. My son is working 70-80 hours per week and can barely pay his bills plus insurance. I am having to supplement him with my paltry teacher retirement payments so that he is not out in the street. So much for the American dream.

  14. 14
    Jay C says:

    Well, at least the tone of this response to Rep. Ryan’s Let-em-Die Budget Plan might be respectful enough – no swearwords, no caps – to get the likes of Andrew Sullivan (assuming Master Andrew would deign to read some vulgar blog) to engage the arguments: rather than huffing about its rude language.

    I meant to add this on the other thread: Sullivan’s bitchy knickers-in-a-twist riposte to John’s comments was as telling in what it didn’t say as in what it did: others may view it differently, but for me, when I read a columnist’s response to criticism obsessing about the “tone of voice”, and dismissing the critique over its language – rather than addressing the ISSUE (i.e. a proposed budget plan that will literally starve and kill people) – the battle is more than halfway to being lost.

    Except, of course, in the DC Village: where what one says/prints/blogs is way less important than who is saying it….

  15. 15
    General Stuck says:

    These aren’t deep cuts. These aren’t harsh cuts. These are transformative cuts.

    Pretty much what I was saying when Ryan’s budget was first released. It was not so much a budget, as a declaration of a new constitution. And certainly one where the General Welfare clause is limited curbing excessive taxes on yachts, and stuff like that.

    It could have been written as the reality for The Gilded Age, until the horrors of that gave way to a spate of progressivism in the early 20 th century. Americans are not going back to that, even for a visit. This creature released couldn’t be a better springboard contrast for dems to draw from next election.

  16. 16
    jl says:

    You people don’t understand that market magic will do anything, and it will be optimal, whatever it is.

    Why do you people hate humanity?

    The rational addict

  17. 17
    scav says:

    Funny how death panels are suddenly all brave and serious.

  18. 18
    BattleCat says:

    lol @ his next post being a complete burn for balloon juice:


    (I don’t agree with any of the statements he makes, tho’)

  19. 19
    Hermione Granger-Weasley says:

    The Heckman Equation
    It is shameful that 25% of america preschoolers live below the poverty line.
    It is shameful that America spends 3 billion dollars a month to commit atrocities and make more Taliban in A-stan and Iraq on a failed missionary effort that can never work.
    It is shameful that Sully pimps Ryans “plan” as courageous…its a pack of anti-empirical garbage.
    And those horrible people are the enemies of humanity and they are purely evil.
    But y’all just go wander in the Free Market Fantasy Forest with the glibertarian teddy bears and “liberal-tarian” unicorns.
    I’m sure the innovation of the market will yet save us all.

  20. 20
    OzoneR says:

    @Hermione Granger-Weasley:
    This was tweeted today

    Socialism never took root in America b/c the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires

  21. 21
    j says:

    Let’s just start burying (or dumping) all the dead old folks on Bobo’s and Sully’s front yards.

    We can hire their newly created hobos to haul the rest of their newly created dead to Dreamy McRyan’s humble abode.

  22. 22
    PeakVT says:

    These are transformative cuts.

    That might be an overstatement, but not by much. I haven’t tracked down the details because I don’t feel like being sick to my stomach, but if the cuts really do hit only domestic discretionary, they are big. And that’s just what has been negotiated for the rest of the current fiscal year. If we get a couple of years of cuts like this, then they really will be transformative.

  23. 23
    Wannabe Speechwriter says:

    I have a Moore Award-

    “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

    “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

    “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

    Matthew 25:41-46

    Clearly Jesus was being unserious and where’s his plan!

  24. 24
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    The top 1% is filled with assholes who cannot enjoy their evening at Ruth’s Steak House without knowing, with absolute certainty, that there are others starving in the same town.

    That’s a huge part of the problem.

  25. 25
    Judge Crater says:

    Is it possible that Paul Ryan’s budget proposal will be a “let them eat cake” moment? That the outrageousness and sheer unfairness of what he is proposing will finally pierce the fog of ignorance and complacency that has settled over our citizenry and our feckless elites?

    I mean how much of the nation’s wealth do the top one percent of Americans require. And how little do they think the bottom 80 percent deserve?

    Here’s a link to George Carlin’s righteous rant:

  26. 26
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @OzoneR: I think I saw Bill Maher quote that a couple of weeks ago. Google says its Steinbeck

  27. 27
    hildebrand says:

    Slightly off-topic, although perhaps just as intemperate in tone – why is it that Obama seems to be the only Democrat of national standing that is ever in (or on) the news? Why is it that there are not hordes of Democrats flocking to the cameras and reporters and assorted whatnot to throw the elbows that Obama does not throw (or cannot throw, lest he be tagged as an angry black man). Where is the Democrat that will give Sullys of the world fits on a daily basis?

  28. 28
    Lolis says:


    I think that person was talking about the Ryan proposal not the budget deal.

  29. 29
    cleek says:

    both the politicians in our country and the people who report and comment on them live in an entirely different economic station from the average American

    has it ever been otherwise ?

    in America, or ever in the history of politics ?

    the people have always been, and will always be, represented or governed by people who are influential enough – by whatever means, usually financial – to rise through the ranks of power. politics is the business where people who have some power try to acquire more. it is not altruism.

    “average”, working class, people typically do not become political leaders. nor do they become those who are allowed to broadcast their opinions widely. but the internet could change that. we’ll see if it does.

  30. 30
    Comrade DougJ says:


    I like Freddie and I was hoping for a top-grade take down of us…but when a post talks about how liberals shouldn’t support Obama in 2012, I stop reading. I can’t take that seriously.

  31. 31
    Comrade DougJ says:

    @Wannabe Speechwriter:

    I love it.

  32. 32
    General Stuck says:

    @Comrade DougJ:

    Same here, similar mentality of the Bushies after 9-11. We got attacked from Afghanistan, so naturally, we must invade Iraq. A wingnut releases an insane budget, so naturally, we must not vote for Obama.

  33. 33
    ornery curmudgeon says:

    @hildebrand: “Why is it that there are not hordes of Democrats flocking to the cameras and reporters and assorted whatnot to throw the elbows …”

    You are asking the question that cannot be asked. It is Ralph Nader’s fault, the sacrificial lamb that was mistaken for a scapegoat.

  34. 34
    Bob Loblaw says:


    On that topic, I thought it was really, really funny that Anwar al-Awlaki is apparently viewed more favorably in Yemen than Barack Obama.


    Where is the Democrat that will give Sullys of the world fits on a daily basis?

    His name is Anthony Weiner. He’s compromised by the fact that his name is Weiner.

  35. 35
    j says:


    Milwaukee (yes, THAT Milwaukee) is the only city in America to elect 4 Socialist mayors.

  36. 36

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    no one is starving in america, grandpa reagan assured me that the only hungry people in america were on a diet.

  37. 37
    j says:

    @Bob Loblaw:

    Just as an aside, Weiner was Jon Stewart’s roommate for a time.

    Just imagine the late night chess game/bong sessions that went on in that house.

    (NOT alleging that either of them played chess or anything else, but…).

  38. 38
    Hermione Granger-Weasley says:

    @BattleCat: Freddie is a fucking quitter WATB.
    He has no sass.

  39. 39
    Hermione Granger-Weasley says:

    @OzoneR: nice.
    My man Thom was right. The noble yeoman farmers are sukkers for demagogues.

  40. 40

    @General Stuck: Haha — what? One of the weirdest things I’ve read today.

    On Freddie: he’s absolutely one of my favorite voices in the blogosphere, but he’s far more principled and unbending than I am (his pacifism re: Libya is beyond me, for example). And I think that’s pretty cool, honestly.

    The left needs more people like him. Too many of us are interested in pretending to be reasonable and pragmatic; let the White House worry about that while we continue to ask for the moon.

    (And it’s kind of a bummer that he points to that ABL post when dissing BJ…I really don’t think that’s fair to BJ or ABL, actually.)

  41. 41
    Joseph Nobles says:

    You guys! Guys, you’re not being serious with Ryan’s plan! In a world of 2.2% unemployment, GDP will skyrocket, and all that discretionary and mandatory spending that’s 12% of GDP right now will shrink all by itself to 6% of GDP by just not increasing it, you guys! Guys, that’s just math. You can’t argue with math, you guys!

  42. 42

    @cleek: They may never have been “working class,” but my understanding is that journalists, even prominent ones (major network anchors notwithstanding), once made much less money and did not have the pseudo-celebrity status of today’s big shots.

    In other words – and I do realize this is probably simplifying somewhat – their prime motivation was, once upon a time, not money and prestige, but a genuine love for their trade.

    But I didn’t live then, I only heard that. Could be wrong.

  43. 43
    General Stuck says:

    @Elia Isquire:

    Haha—what? One of the weirdest things I’ve read today.

    Not near as weird as praising some fool who chooses to voice his dissent by declaring he’s not supporting the only candidate that can win in 2012. If we get too many of these wizards, Sarah Palin will plant her high heel in the skulls of principled liberals.

    But you are 21, so a break is warranted.

  44. 44
    gex says:

    It is such dishonest bullshit to make tone or meanness interfere with a debate on policy unless. You can engage in the debate or do a “hey look over there!” move. I consider the latter to be admitting defeat.

  45. 45
    kyrol says:

    When it comes to spending: it’s a choice, not a child.

  46. 46
    gex says:

    We’re all Fifth Columnists now, I guess. Ever notice how disagreeing with Andrew is actively wishing to harm America?

  47. 47
    Ana Gama says:

    @General Stuck:

    Pretty much what I was saying when Ryan’s budget was first released. It was not so much a budget, as a declaration of a new constitution.

    Thing is, Ryan did not claim it to be a budget. He said it was a “cause.”

    I’d say it’s more of a manifesto, and should be treated as such.

  48. 48
    General Stuck says:

    @Ana Gama:

    “Manifesto” is a perfectly accurate term to describe it,

  49. 49
    Villago Delenda Est says:


    Sullivan is precisely the sort who were tarred and feathered and driven out of town on a rail some 235 years ago.

    Tories suck. Consistently.

  50. 50
    cat48 says:

    I hope someone like Wasserman Schultz goes on TV & demagogues this Ryan plan soon on a daily basis. I notice all the journalists think it would not be proper for Obama to demagogue the Ryan plan cause he’s very brave!

    McConnell & Boehner are going to demand Obama endorses the Ryan plan or they will not raise the Debt Limit. That should be fun to watch. His own plan is being worked on in the Senate but I don’t know what it looks like. Durbin, Conrad, Coburn, Warner & 2 more on Gang of Six.

  51. 51
    Tim, Interrupted says:

    So I went over to this Freddie dude’s blog, and am loving what I’m reading. Who is this guy? I saw no link to info about the writer.

  52. 52
    Ana Gama says:

    @Tim, Interrupted: Freddie DeBoer, used to write at ED Kain’s ‘Ordinary Gentlemen’ blog. Other than that, I don’t know much about him, either.

  53. 53
    White Trash Liberal says:

    My budget prop

  54. 54
    White Trash Liberal says:

    They pay these asshats an awful lot of money to convince people to adopt the way of life we’ve enforced upon Latin and South America.

  55. 55

    It’s true that some of the problem is that Sullivan and Klein and these other pinheads don’t need Medicare and don’t know anybody who does, so they don’t really care whether it dies or not. But I think that friendships with the people they write about also fucks things up. I mean, yeah, cutting SNAP will lead to hungry children. But if Paul Ryan or any other Republican politicians are their friends, how can they just write that their friends are soulless dickheads? They can’t. No normal person could (yes, I know calling Klein or Sullivan or Brooks “normal” might be a stretch, but they do have social mores they follow).

    This is why I believe that any reporters who–I don’t know whether there’s a better word here–fraternizes with the people they cover should be summarily fired. I’d go so far as to apply that rule to pundits as well. I know there’s no shot in hell of that ever happening, but that’s what would happen in a fair world. I mean, shit, I recall a few years ago, Andrea Mitchell was reporting about something Alan Fucking Greenspan had done or said. I couldn’t really believe it; well, I could, but you know what I mean. Andrea Mitchell was reporting about her own husband, and nobody on the air said anything about how she was married to the guy she was talking about in the guise of a professional reporter. Maybe most of the people watching knew already, but, still, that’s no excuse. They should have said that right off. She should have said so. Even better, they should never let her “report” on her own husband like he was some alderman she’d never met from some town of 3000 people.

    And Mitchell is only an extreme example of the problem here. Joe Klein or some other asshole writes about how so and so isn’t really an ogre. After all, Joe should know, they’re friends, after all.

    Now, I understand about loyalty to friends. I’m all for loyalty to friends. I love my friends, and one sure way to set me off is to bad-mouth one of my friends. But that’s just why these “reporters” shouldn’t have anything to do socially with the people they cover. There’s no way that–and I’m pulling an example out of my ass, and I have no clue whether Klein and Ryan really know each other or not, but I’m trying to make a point–if Joe Klein and Paul Ryan are friends, Klein can just sit by while people call his friend a sociopathic creep. He can’t, not of he has any decency. Decency would demand that he step up for his friend Ryan and defend him.

    But that’s what should disqualify him from writing about Ryan, at least if he’s going to write anything more substantive than what great canapes Mr. and Mrs. ryan serve at their swell soirees.

  56. 56

    […] just concluded budget skirmish was a mere amuse bouche to the gluttons-for-(other people’s)- punishment that is your modern GOP.   The New York Times reports today on what looks to be the […]

  57. 57
    piratedan says:

    @Tim, Interrupted: I like his stuff too Tim, although he comes off as if he’s gonna die on that hill with Kucinich.

  58. 58
    WyldPirate says:

    What the fuck does any of this hand-wringing matter for anyway? We’ve got the goddamned democratic President and goddamned Senate majority leader bragging about cutting the f’ing budget. They are doing the Rethugs work for them.

    Fuck the whole lot of them….

  59. 59
    curious says:

    some children deserve to eat, and some don’t. sacrifice etc.

  60. 60
    Steeplejack says:


    Someone fetch me a tincture of camphor and ready up the fainting couch [. . .].

    LOL. Gold, Jerry, pure gold.

  61. 61
    Mnemosyne says:

    The contrast between the two posts was … interesting. Apparently it’s horrible and immoral for Republicans to want to starve small children to death, but it’s even worse to vote for Barack Obama because it’s much worse to threaten to kill one American citizen who’s working for al-Qaeda than it is to starve small children to death.

    I mean, Freddie does realize that the US has the highest rate of infant mortality in the Western world, right? And that the rate will go even higher if the Republicans are given control of the whole shebang and Ryan’s plan goes into effect, right?

    I find it fascinating that Freddie’s idol Glenn Greenwald is desperately concerned about the civil liberties of al-Alwaki but, as far as I can tell, has not written one single word about the governor of Michigan declaring that he can take over cities at a whim or the Republican governors of several states trying to bust unions. I guess those civil liberties are not as sexy to Greenwald as defending the spiritual adviser of the 9/11 hijackers, but they’re important to those of us who are still living in the United States and haven’t moved to Brazil.

  62. 62
    TB says:

    But Mnemosyne, Freddie himself has written a lot about union-busting Republicans. Like here and here etc. He came back to blogging, as I recall, because he felt there were no voices for labor in the mainstream blogosphere, left or right. Why take him to task for what Greenwald fails to do?

  63. 63
    bob h says:

    Meanwhile, he and others like him will live in the world of abstraction, where the pleasant lies of metaphor shield them from a cruelly literal world.

    Just as he has never had to go to Walter Reed to look at the human consequences of his unabashed cheer-leading for War in Iraq in ’02-’03.

  64. 64
    4jkb4ia says:

    The subtext of this post is that Sully knows how far Freddie is to his left, but far from giving him a Moore Award, Sully has made sure to blogroll him and send traffic to his little blog. Well played, John.

  65. 65
    4jkb4ia says:

    No one is going to believe me when I say this, but the only reason that Freddie’s post is “better” is that it is less rambling.

  66. 66
    4jkb4ia says:

    Essentially John’s personal story took the whole post and sent it to a different level of awesome.

    (And this might be a really good day yet. I might even make progress on the house.)

  67. 67

    I actually just posted the last sentence on David Brooks’ Facebook page.

    “Meanwhile, he and others like him will live in the world of abstraction, where the pleasant lies of metaphor shield them from a cruelly literal world.”

  68. 68
    Freddie says:

    We’ll have to talk about voting for Obama as the election approaches, but I do think it’s fair to say that the important question for now is issue for issue solidarity. You don’t have to come to my conclusions about not voting for Obama for us to agree and work together on issues like unions, Wisconsin, the Ryan ripoff, etc.

  69. 69
    Mr Furious says:


    You don’t have to come to my conclusions about not voting for Obama for us to agree and work together on issues…

    Yeah, you’re gonna get some serious progress on those issues under President Pawlenty and a GOP Senate.

    Nader 2012!!

  70. 70
    sukabi says:

    @BattleCat: yeah, that was pretty interesting… %-P … the guy’s gonna be sitting in an alley somewhere with his “principles” to keep him warm very soon, because his principles are SOOOOO going to keep the R’s from raping and pillaging what’s left of this country.

  71. 71
    sukabi says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: and that might be his appeal to the Villagers.

  72. 72
    greenergood says:

    @opie jeanne, formerly known as Jeanne Ringland: No, but they ARE fretting about which nursery will accept their kids, otherwise kids won’t get into Harvard. Oh, the agony.

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