From Jack Welch on the overly solicitous "Morning Joe" this morning, to Sen. Robert Bennett of Utah a few minutes ago during the automakers hearing, the consensus on the right is that to save the American auto manufacturing industry, step one is to break the United Auto Workers Union. Step two: break American workers and force them to accept the model set up by Japanese automakers who operate in "right to work" (read: "right to pay you crappy wages") states in the American South. That model involves highly automated plants staffed by fewer, low skill, modestly educated workers, who make nearly half what GM, Chrysler and Ford workers, who are more skilled, and operate more technical machinery, earn per year. And no, it's not $70 an hour. That's a read herring. It's more like $28 on average, $14-15/hour to start.
Welch's latest Business Week column is out, in which he proposes that the U.S. automakers be shuttled into bankruptcy, with the federal government assuming stewardship of the various warranties offered on their cars. That way, Welch told his drooling, sycophantic audience on the set of "Morning Joe," the Big Three can finally rid themselves of the UAW, break their union contracts, and void the contracts they currently hold with suppliers. The beauty of Welch's idea is that it crushes middle class wages, and kills off the suppliers, too, forcing U.S. manufacturers to seek parts overseas, where workers make the preferred wage: subsistence. And of course, Welch also proposes the favored strategy of the "free marketeers": consolidation:
Talk about a fresh start. For more than a decade, U.S. carmakers have chipped away incrementally at massive legacy costs. But reorganization would open the doors to meaningful structural change through the renegotiation of contracts with creditors, dealers, and unions. And it would offer better odds of paying back taxpayers.
Once in Chapter 11, a merger would further galvanize real change. Three companies are too cumbersome to unite, and Ford has a two-tiered, family-owned structure, so we'll leave them out of this for now and propose GM and Chrysler join forces. Such a merger could create $15 billion in synergies from reduced capacity and overhead, money that could lower production costs and boost R&D spending. Granted, GM and Chrysler could lose share during the transition, but a merged entity would still end up with more than a quarter of the U.S. market.
Bennett, who pushed hard (video) for the passage of the Wall Street bailout and who brags about it on his website,, just sent my jaw dropping by proposing during the hearing, by proposing that instead of giving loans to the Big Three, the government give still more money to the banks, since after all, they are the ones to whom most of the automakers' debt is owed, and in his words, they "won't bee too happy" with the notion of switching out their debt holdings for equity in the companies. Wow. So the answer is: give more money to the very banks who brought us to the brink of economic collapse, since they, unlike the grunts in Detroit, are white collar, highly paid money changers.
Thom Hartmann, who's probably the smartest guy in radio, had a great segment on his show today about the natural state of capitalistic socieites, which is to have a very small, but exceedingly powerful, wealthy class, a tiny middle class (shopkeepers, farmers, the "butcher, baker and candlestick maker" who have just a handful, or even one, employee) and a massive class of working poor. He pointed out that during the 19th Century, as during the Middle Ages in Europe and even in ancient societies, some 95 percent of people fell into that last class. Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" was a tale of the tension between a member of the working poor and Ebeneezer Scrooge -- a middle-class, merchant with just one employee: Cratchet.
The point Hartmann was making is that capital will always seek to get labor for the cheapest possible price, and that when the supply of labor is abundant, the cost of labor is just that: cheap. There are only three ways to raise the cost of labor (meaning, wages) and to force a large middle class into being:
1) Dramatically reduce the supply of labor (see the "Black Plague" that killed off 1/3 of the European workforce, and the subsequent Rennaissance);
2) Dramatically increase the supply of wealth (often by expansionism, like when Europe swept across the Americas grabbing land, or when Americans swept across the plains and West in the 18th and 19th centuries); or
3) Tax capital and "spread the wealth around" (the good old progressive tax code.)
The New Deal's most important outcome was to implant and grow a substantial American middle class: something that is not a natural state, since capital's goal is to fatten itself off of the cheapest labor possible. As America's middle class grew, especially during the 1950s, the high wages and great benefits paid by companies like General Motors, and the "jobs for life" offered by American manufacturers like IBM, were a thing of pride for most Americans, and the envy of the world.
But the expansion of the American middle class, including building the kind of buying power that fueled the "kitchen rush" of the '50s, when families bought Frigidaires and televisions and gadgets galore, back when we still made the stuff here at home, is an also why the GOP, the party of capital, hates labor unions so much. Unions do two things that capital hates: they create scarcity of labor, by restricting the time availability of workers, and they raise the cost of labor by negotiating the highest possible wages and best possible benefits for workers. So-called "conservatives" hate that, and usujally to kill it, they call such outrages upon the dignity of rich folks, "socialism."
Hartmann pointed out correctly that from "Reaganomics" onward, the GOP has been engaged in a war against the middle class, on behalf of the "capital class." There was, in fact, nothing new about Reaganomics. It's simply the reassertion of the age-old imperitive of capital,, which seeks to accumulate wealth for a few people, and expand, vastly, the pool of the working poor. And since Americans have recoiled against the idea of importing cheap labor from South and Central America (why do you think Reagan signed on to Amnesty back in the 80s, and don't think for a second that Dubya wanted to revive the idea because he cares about the Latino vote...) the clearest way to expand the cheap labor pool is to bleed the middle class, and suck as many people out of it as possible.
That's the plan. The question is, can Democrats beat it back.
Anger and frustration, even rage, have become the prevailing emotions at rallies for Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin (not to mention their latest ads.) That's the storyline almost anywhere you look. And it's not a good look for a campaign that at this stage, has to bank on swing voters not being completely turned off by the spectacle of angry, vicious mobs hurling epithets at Barack Obama. From Politico sums it up:
The raw emotions worry some in the party who believe the broader swath of swing voters are far more focused on their dwindling retirement accounts than on Obama’s background and associations and will be turned off by footage of the McCain events.
John Weaver, McCain’s former top strategist, said top Republicans have a responsibility to temper this behavior.
“People need to understand, for moral reasons and the protection of our civil society, the differences with Sen. Obama are ideological, based on clear differences on policy and a lack of experience compared to Sen. McCain,” Weaver said. “And from a purely practical political vantage point, please find me a swing voter, an undecided independent, or a torn female voter that finds an angry mob mentality attractive.”
“Sen. Obama is a classic liberal with an outdated economic agenda. We should take that agenda on in a robust manner. As a party we should not and must not stand by as the small amount of haters in our society question whether he is as American as the rest of us. Shame on them and shame on us if we allow this to take hold.”
But, if it were up to them, such hard-edged tactics are clearly what many in the party base would like to use against Obama.
The anger is spilling over at campaign events such as the one in Waukesha, Wisconsin, where the now infamous "angry man" held forth:
“It's time that you two are representing us, and we are mad,” reiterated the boisterous Republican at McCain’s town hall in Wisconsin Thursday. “So go get 'em!”
"I am begging you, sir, I am begging you — take it to him," pleaded James T. Harris, a local talk radio host at the same event, earning an extended standing ovation.
“Yosemite Sam is having the law laid down to him today in Waukesha, Wis.,” quipped Limbaugh on his show Thursday, referring to the GOP nominee. “This guy, this audience member, is exactly right,” the conservative talk show host said of the first individual.
The problem for Team McCain is that their current strategy only works with the base, which is shrinking, while the spectacle of shrieking, angry ralliers turns off key voting blocks, including suburban swing voters and Hispanics, or even conservative blacks (immigrants in particular) who can't possibly feel comfortable aligning themselves with what looks like a party driven in part by racial fears and animus. With Republican party identification declining, you can't win a national election with lower middle class whites alone (and even if you can pull it off this year, that strategy is clearly, demographicaly, a long term loser.)
... Neither McCain nor Palin would dare mention Obama's middle name, Hussein, but they can play up Obama's past associations and let others connect the dots. Terrorist. Muslim. Dangerous. Other.
It is legitimate to question character and dubious associations -- and William Ayers is certifiably dubious. The truth is, Obama should have avoided Ayers, and his denouncement of Wright was tardy. But this is a dangerous game.
The McCain campaign knows that Obama isn't a Muslim or a terrorist, but they're willing to help a certain kind of voter think he is. Just the way certain South Carolinians in 2000 were allowed to think that McCain's adopted daughter from Bangladesh was his illegitimate black child.
But words can have more serious consequences than lost votes and we've already had a glimpse of the Palin effect.
The Post's Dana Milbank reported that media representatives in Clearwater were greeted with taunts, thunder sticks and profanity. One Palin supporter shouted an epithet at an African-American soundman and said, "Sit down, boy."
McCain may want to call off his pit bull before this war escalates.
Former Michigan Gov. Roger Milliken (who endorsed McCain during the primary):
"He is not the McCain I endorsed," said Milliken, reached at his Traverse City home Thursday. "He keeps saying, 'Who is Barack Obama?' I would ask the question, 'Who is John McCain?' because his campaign has become rather disappointing to me.
"I'm disappointed in the tenor and the personal attacks on the part of the McCain campaign, when he ought to be talking about the issues."
Milliken, a lifelong Republican, is among some past leaders from the party's moderate wing voicing reservations and, in some cases, opposition to McCain's candidacy.
Those include former Republican Sen. Lincoln Chaffee, who comes from an old GOP family and whose father was Yale classmate of George W. Bush's father:
McCain campaigned for Chafee's unsuccessful re-election bid in 2006, but Chafee said he is concerned McCain has swung to the right, a divisive strategy that could make it difficult for him to govern.
"That's not my kind of Republicanism," said Chafee, who now calls himself an independent. "I saw what Bush and Cheney did. They came in with a (budget) surplus and a stable world, and look what's happened now. In eight short years they've taken one peaceful and prosperous world, and they've torn it into tatters."
As for McCain's choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for his running mate, "there's no question she's totally unqualified," Chafee said.
Bob Eleveld is a former Kent County Republican chairman who led McCain's West Michigan campaign in 2000. This year, he has remained mum unless asked.
"I'm not supporting either of them at this point," he said. "Suffice it to say there are a number of people who have been strong Republicans in the past, including party chairs, who feel as I do."
He declined to name them.
In the past, McCain was more of a moderate known for his straight talk, Eleveld said.
"I think the straight talk is gone," he said, describing himself as a member of the party's moderate wing. "I think he's pandering to the Christian right. That's some straight talk from me."
American voters are staggering under the worst financial crisis since at least 1982. Asset values are tumbling, consumer spending is contracting, and a recession is visibly on the way. This crisis follows upon seven years in which middle-class incomes have stagnated and Republican economic management has been badly tarnished. Anybody who imagines that an election can be won under these circumstances by banging on about William Ayers and Jeremiah Wright is … to put it mildly … severely under-estimating the electoral importance of pocketbook issues.
We conservatives are sending a powerful, inadvertent message with this negative campaign against Barack Obama's associations and former associations: that we lack a positive agenda of our own and that we don’t care about the economic issues that are worrying American voters.
... and he adds this:
Those who press this Ayers line of attack are whipping Republicans and conservatives into a fury that is going to be very hard to calm after November. Is it really wise to send conservatives into opposition in a mood of disdain and fury for a man who may well be the next president of the United States, incidentally the first African-American president? Anger is a very bad political adviser. It can isolate us and push us to the extremes at exactly the moment when we ought to be rebuilding, rethinking, regrouping and recruiting.
I’m not suggesting that we remit our opposition to a hypothetical President Obama. Only that an outgunned party will need to stay cool. A big part of Obama’s appeal is his self-command. It’s a genuinely impressive quality. Let’s emulate it. We’ll be needing it.
"One of the most striking things we've seen in the last few day, we have seen it at the Palin rallies and we saw it at the McCain rally today," said David Gergen, appearing on Anderson Cooper 360 Thursday evening. "And we saw it to a considerable degree during the rescue package legislation. There is a free-floating sort of whipping-around anger that could really lead to some violence. And I think we're not far from that."
Gergen's remark came hours after John McCain and Sarah Palin held a rally in Wisconsin that saw attendees pleading with them to go on the attack against Barack Obama over his past associations and "socialistic" behavior. Earlier in the week crowd members at other McCain-Palin events have screamed out that Obama is a terrorist, has committed treason, and should be killed.
"I really worry when we get people -- when you get the kind of rhetoric that you're getting at these rallies now," said Gergen. "I think it's really imperative the candidates try to calm people down."
Christopher Buckley (son of William F.) speaking about the hate directed back at conservative intellectuals on behalf of McCain-Palin, and announcing that he's endorsing Obama:
My colleague, the superb and very dishy Kathleen Parker, recently wrote in National Review Online a column stating what John Cleese as Basil Fawlty would call “the bleeding obvious”: namely, that Sarah Palin is an embarrassment, and a dangerous one at that. She’s not exactly alone. New York Times columnist David Brooks, who began his career at NR, just called Governor Palin “a cancer on the Republican Party.”
As for Kathleen, she has to date received 12,000 (quite literally) foam-at-the-mouth hate-emails. One correspondent, if that’s quite the right word, suggested that Kathleen’s mother should have aborted her and tossed the fetus into a Dumpster. There’s Socratic dialogue for you. Dear Pup once said to me sighfully after a right-winger who fancied himself a WFB protégé had said something transcendently and provocatively cretinous, “You know, I’ve spent my entire life time separating the Right from the kooks.” Well, the dear man did his best. At any rate, I don’t have the kidney at the moment for 12,000 emails saying how good it is he’s no longer alive to see his Judas of a son endorse for the presidency a covert Muslim who pals around with the Weather Underground. So, you’re reading it here first.
Then there are the once-McCian-friendly members of the media, including Atlantic's Ta-Nehesi Coates:
The saddest thing about many Republicans isn't just that they disagree with liberals on race--it's they are largely ignorant on race. When the McCain campaign cast the spell of diabolical jingoism, they have no idea of the forces they are toying with. We remember Martin Luther King's murder as a sad and tragic event. Less remembered is the fact that ground-work for King's murder was seeded, not simply by rank white supremacy, but by people who slandered King as a communist.
This was not some notion bandied about by conspiracy theorist, but an accusation proffered by men who were the pillars of the modern Republican Party:
As late as 1964, Falwell was attacking the 1964 Civil Rights Act as "civil wrongs" legislation. He questioned "the sincerity and intentions of some civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., James Farmer, and others, who are known to have left-wing associations." Falwell charged, "It is very obvious that the Communists, as they do in all parts of the world, are taking advantage of a tense situation in our land, and are exploiting every incident to bring about violence and bloodshed."
Falwell was not alone. These men didn't kill Martin Luther King, but they contributed to an atmosphere of nationalism, white supremacy and cheap unreflective patriotism that ultimately got a lot of people killed. Confronted with Aparthied South Africa, men like Helms and Falwell used the same "communist" defense. While Mandella wasted away in prison, they dismissed the whole thing as a communist plot.
Let me be clear--This is the ghost that McCain Campaign is summoning. This is the Ring Of Power that they want to wield. The Muslim charge, the "Hussein" thing is nothing more than today's red-baiting, and it is what it was then--a cover for racists.
But seriously, folks, I'm beginning to worry about the level of craziness on the Republican side, the over-the-top, stampede-the-crowd statements by everyone from McCain on down, the vehemence of the crowds that McCain and Palin are drawing with people shouting "Kill him" and "He's a terrorist" and "Off with his head."
Watch the tape of the guy screaming, "He's a terrorist!" McCain seems to shudder at that, he rolls his eyes... and I thought for a moment he'd admonish the man. But he didn't. And now he's selling the Ayres non-story full-time. Yes, yes, it's all he has. True enough: he no longer has his honor. But we are on the edge of some real serious craziness here and it would be nice if McCain did the right thing and told his more bloodthirsty supporters to go home and take a cold shower. But McCain hasn't done the right thing all year. His campaign is appalling, as the New York Times editorial board said today--and more, it is a national disgrace.
Well said. John McCain must now decide: he can dive in further into the muck and become a political Michael Savage, or he can try to salvage some shred of the integrity that he has mostly shredded during this most inglorious campaign.
Will Neil Cavuto be forced to walk back from his "lending to minorities caused the housing crisis" gaffe? Recall that on Sept. 18, Neil interviewed California Congressman Xavier Becerra (D-CA) and gave the now standard Republican talking point that the problem isn't Wall Street speculators and investment banks, it's Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and their insidious practice of lending money to minorities to make them feel like homeowners... Neil? You're up:
CAVUTO: I just wonder, you know, with Congress holding all these hearings -- and you're right, there are a lot of them planned -- does anyone hold hearings on what you guys knew or didn't know or whether -- or whether you were ignorant or not? I mean, does anyone look at -- I know the buck stops with the president -- but at least it stops by you guys. What were you doing?
BECERRA: Well, we were trying to get answers from the administration. Unfortunately, it didn't seem like they were giving us a complete picture of what was going on. We can only know what the administration tells us about their administration of the government. But you're right.
CAVUTO: All right, but let me ask you -- but, Congressman, when -- when you and many of your colleagues were pushing for more minority lending and more expanded lending to folks who heretofore couldn't get mortgages, when you were pushing homeownership --
BECERRA: Neil, who did that?
CAVUTO: -- I'm just saying, I don't remember a clarion call that said, "Fannie and Freddie are a disaster. Loaning to minorities and risky folks is a disaster."
It would be nice if Cavuto was some sort of lone wolf, but it's actually a rather standard talking point on the right, that the real problem goes back to the days when do-gooders like Andrew Cuomo were running HUD, creating things like the "Community Reinvestment Act" and forcing poor, helpless banks to stop red lining black neighborhoods and denying home loans to qualified black applicants. Poor fools. Little did they realize they'd be left holding the bag for Phil Gramm and John McCain's deregulation of the securities markets.
The truth of the matter is, Fannie and Freddie are a drop in the bucket compared to the Wall Street "banks" that bundled bad mortgages and sold them as derivatives -- bad mortgages that went, not to "poor people" as Larry Kudlow and others charge, or to "minorities" alone, but to millions of perfectly white middle class Americans, and not a few people trying their hand at "house flipping." And the bad mortgages wouldn't have infected the entire system had they not been immediately sold off, chopped up, and turned into lucrative, air-thin derivative securities that were sold at inflated values to make people like Kudlow richer.
But that's too complicated for people like Neil, who like their politics simple, neat, and racist. Oh, and it's also a clever way to argue that the problem wasn't deregulation, it was overregulation...
So will Neil be disciplined by his bosses at Fox? When Sarah Palin gives a press conference...
Every so often, a member of the "conservative movement" offers us a clarifying moment, that illustrates the fundamental differences between the values and ideas of the two major political parties. (Phil Gramm declaring Americans "whiners" for not appreciating how well the economy is doing ... for rich people like him; John "seven homes" McCain declaring that "the fundamentals of the economy are strong," while Rome is literally burning all around him, being just two examples.) This morning on "Morning Joe," CNBC host, GOP booster, laissez-faire economics guru and John McCain sympatico Larry Kudlow, offered up such a moment.
Asked to explain the current crisis on Wall Street and Main Street, Kudlow declared that it's not the fault of the investment banks and hedge fund guys who packaged, bought and sold subprime mortgages for sport and profit, driving up demand for bad loans and incentivizing shady lending, or even the banks themselves, and their coterie of crooked appraisers and greedy mortgage brokers. It wasn't the Republican Congresses who systematically stripped the system of regualtions, thanks in large part to John McCain's buddy Phil Gramm. It wasn't the speculators or the flippers buying second, third, and even fourth homes and condos, or the price-gouging builders raising prices $30,000 a month here in Florida, or the greedy developers and brokers pushing home ownership with "no money down" as the latest fashion trend, or the combined speculative market that juiced up of home values beyond all reason. Nope. Those people are well off, and therefore they're better than you.
No, my friends, it turns out our current economic crisis, led by the massive mortgage meltdown, is the fault of liberals, who literally forced banks to lend mortgage money to poor people so they could assuage their "liberal guilt," and of course, it's also the fault of those icky, horrible poor people themselves. How dare they want to live like the rest of us! Why, they're POOR! ... and that's supposed to mean something in America!
Never mind that percentage-wise, home ownership among the poor is literally negligible, and that a huge part of the housing crisis is the LACK of affordable homes for people with little income, or that the majority of these 3-bedroom, $500,000 homes that are really worth $250,000 are being sold not to the poor, but to the middle class, often at teaser rates that mean their mortages literally can double after six or seven years.
Forget all that, and listen to Larry. He knows that it really was those bloody awful poor people, and the whimpering liberals who pamper them, at the expense of the downtrodden, helpless banks.
After a few minutes of this, Joe Scarborough was literally dumbstruck.
"Okay, so you're saying it's the poor people's fault," he deadpanned. Kudlow sputtered, but he had already said too much.
Going into the break, Scarborough sneered that coming up in the next segment, they'd explain how poor people were behind the JFK assassination, too.
Update: An astute commenter at TPM finds this link that delves into the role the SEC's lax oversight played in bringing us to the brink. An excerpt:
As we learn this morning via Julie Satow of the NY Sun, special exemptions from the SEC are in large part responsible for the huge build up in financial sector leverage over the past 4 years -- as well as the massive current unwind
Satow interviews the above quoted former SEC director, and he spits out the blunt truth: The current excess leverage now unwinding was the result of a purposeful SEC exemption given to five firms.
You read that right -- the events of the past year are not a mere accident, but are the results of a conscious and willful SEC decision to allow these firms to legally violate existing net capital rules that, in the past 30 years, had limited broker dealers debt-to-net capital ratio to 12-to-1.
Instead, the 2004 exemption -- given only to 5 firms -- allowed them to lever up 30 and even 40 to 1.
Who were the five that received this special exemption? You won't be surprised to learn that they were Goldman, Merrill, Lehman, Bear Stearns, and Morgan Stanley.
As Mr. Pickard points out that "The proof is in the pudding — three of the five broker-dealers have blown up."
So while the SEC runs around reinstating short selling rules, and clueless pension fund managers mindlessly point to the wrong issue, we learn that it was the SEC who was in large part responsible for the reckless leverage that led to the current crisis.
Andrew Sullivan, who is probably the most sober, intelligent conservative left on the national scene (most of the others are hacks, and the other really good ones are unknown to the public...) sums up the McCain campaign's biggest victim: John McCain's honor:
For me, this surreal moment - like the entire surrealism of the past ten days - is not really about Sarah Palin or Barack Obama or pigs or fish or lipstick. It's about John McCain. The one thing I always thought I knew about him is that he is a decent and honest person. When he knows, as every sane person must, that Obama did not in any conceivable sense mean that Sarah Palin is a pig, what did he do? Did he come out and say so and end this charade? Or did he acquiesce in and thereby enable the mindless Rovianism that is now the core feature of his campaign?
So far, he has let us all down. My guess is he will continue to do so. And that decision, for my part, ends whatever respect I once had for him. On core moral issues, where this man knew what the right thing was, and had to pick between good and evil, he chose evil. ...
Read the whole thing. And what's even more bizarre about McCain's desperate decision to seize the presidency by any means necessary, is that he is doing so while proclaiming his ability to reach across the aisle. Mr. McCain, it's usually not a good idea to throw lighter fluid and lit matches into the aisle first.
(sigh) What does it profit a man to gain the whole world (or at least to gain the miserable acquiescence of a party who really doesn't want you) and lose your soul? ... and your integrity? Somebody oughta ask "my friend" from AZ...
Meanwhile, don't look for the winger faithful to throw John-boy any bouquets for his newfound respect for the Law of "24"... these are the same guys who on background, really think he gave in to the Viet Cong...
Bill O'Reilly is shocked ... SHOCKED! ... that an upscale soul food restaurant in Harlem isn't a scene out of a BET music video! Said Orally:
"I couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia's restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it's run by blacks, primarily black patronship. There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming 'M-Fer -- I want more iced tea.' " Oh, my God.
What's worse, Orally made the comments while talking with Juan Williams, an otherwise perfectly respectable commentator. ... yeesh...
Now that Bill is reaping the whirllwind for his stupid comments, he's not getting mad, he's getting FURIOUS ... at Media Matters...
Maybe next time, Juan should take Bill-o on a field trip to see some Black children playing ... he'll be pleasantly surprised to find they're not playing tag with AK's...!
...The Wall Street Journal... so much for the journalistic integrity of that paper. It will all be like the editorial page, now. Telling bite from the NYT article on Murdoch's bodysnatching of Dow Jones:
At its most ambitious, Mr. Murdoch’s vision for Dow Jones would establish The Journal as the rival to The Times in setting the daily news agenda of the country.
The vision has a business corollary: by broadening The Journal’s influence beyond pure business readers, Mr. Murdoch wants to reposition it as not just the world’s leading financial newspaper, but the world’s leading business journalism source for consumers.
The paper has already tried this with softer service features and its Saturday edition. Reorienting the newspaper further for consumers would fit with two other aspirations Mr. Murdoch has. One is to build his nascent Fox Business Network, which begins in 30 million United States homes this October, into a viable contender with Bloomberg Television and CNBC, which have much larger subscriber bases both at home and abroad.
Mr. Murdoch has shown in the past that he is willing to experiment, even knock over some sacred cows. In an interview with The Times earlier this year, Mr. Murdoch mused aloud about The Journal, saying, for instance, that he did not have time to read longer articles during the week and might like to swap out the paper’s Pursuits section on Saturdays with a glossy magazine. More recently, he told Time magazine that he was not sure about the offbeat front-page stories known internally as “A-Heds” that are a plum for reporters to write.
Ah, the softer side of news. Just what the business minded WSJ reader was looking for. Ahem. ...
And one wonders how long it will take before the Journal is wallowing in the same tabloid propaganda that guides Murdoch's other ventures, including the Times of London, the New York Post and of course, his GOP baby, Fox "News" Channel.
What a shame. Greed obviously got the better of the Bancrofts, the family that controlled Dow Jones. The prospect of making a killing on their shares of a company headlined by a business -- newspapers -- that is now officially a dinosaur, must have been hellified tempting. Still, one would have wished that the family cared more about the integrity of the brands they helped to build. Apparently not. As David Carr of the Times writes:
The reputation of The Journal is now in the hands of Mr. Murdoch, who did not end up as the owner of one of the world’s best newspapers because he is a paragon of journalistic principle. In the end, the News Corporation’s capture of Dow Jones can be boiled down to one simple fact: Mr. Murdoch wanted it more.
He wanted it more than other potential bidders, like General Electric, Pearson and Ronald W. Burkle, who never came close to challenging his audacious bid. He wanted it more in the end than many of the Bancrofts did — or at least he offered more than they were able to pass up. He wanted it enough to make a deal for editorial independence that seems to run against his entire history as a owner.
We tend to overanalyze media moguls, in part because of their primacy in the current age. Yes, owning a pivot point in financial news will create some tidy synergies — content for a new Fox business channel to compete with CNBC on cable television, a global foothold for financial data, coverage of all of his competitors in The Journal.
(Note to other media moguls keeping track at home: Mr. Murdoch just bought the scorecard.)
But his purchase is a reminder that the unthinkable is often doable, given the loot and the will. Mr. Murdoch is buying an American newspaper because he’s a sentimentalist, not because he has shown any particular skill at making money with them. His Midas touch in foreign tabloids, television, movies, and more recently, digital properties, turns a little rusty when American publications are involved.
His ownership of The New York Post (twice) is an artistic success, but suggests that his love of American print is just that — irrational, driven by an attraction for the kind of power print conveys, and only made possible through his success on other platforms.
The Bancrofts have a sentimental side as well, but the resolution should not have surprised anyone. If the family members did not want to sell, they would have had to slam the door and get the nail gun out on May 2, the day the offer was made public.
The Bancrofts’ wan demurral set in motion market dynamics that blew the door open. Once a stock that had been mired at $36 goes to $60, a huge new constituency for change buys into the stock, one that will sue like crazy if change is not forthcoming.
Greed is not always good. Not for journalism, anyway.