Back when this newsletter was still getting off the ground, I wrote a column about how the media was ganging up on workers by platforming economic pundits excitedly calling for millions of Americans to be laid off and undermining rail workers’ case for going on strike. That very same day, our Senior Fellow (then Research Director) Max Moran ran a piece in The American Prospect discussing former Federal Reserve official Richard Clarida’s jocular, aloof tone when discussing condemning millions of workers to unemployment.
Unfortunately, this condescension is all too familiar to anyone who regularly reads the economic press. Sometimes, though, it becomes so blatant that the out-of-touchness leads to pundits becoming a parody of themselves. That’s what happened this week, when pundits who obviously don’t understand the average American’s life insisted on opining about it:
That’s Jason Calacanis of the “All In” podcast bemused by consumers and workers having the gall to complain about something. Economist Noah Smith not only agrees but elevates the whole thing before it gets retweeted (or reposted, or whatever they’re calling it now) by Substacker Matt Yglesias. That’s a trio that maps pretty well onto the “nightmare blunt rotation” meme right there.
For those who don’t know, Calacanis is one of four tech-bro/venture capitalists who co host “All In,” (not the Mormon lifestyle podcast by the same name) a program that bemoans ongoing politicization, even as they themselves fuel it. Fellow host David Sacks, for instance, is an astroturfer extraordinaire. The entire podcast also vocally supported recalling California Governor Gavin Newsome. Similarly they rail against wokeness and cheered on last year’s mass layoffs in the tech sector. Unsurprisingly, the hosts are also tied to Elon Musk as semi-official advisors to X, nee Twitter.
The podcast produces astounding insights like “Nobody cares about…the Uyghurs.” This one comes from Chamath Palihapitiya, who didn’t think it was possible to be sympathetic to people experiencing genocide as long as there were other domestic issues going on. The podcast is not exactly a class act and often can boil down to four rich dudes explaining why they’re willing to discount the suffering of people less well off than themselves.
Calacanis also conveniently put his ignorance on full display last week by trying to imply that the new UPS contract with the Teamsters will result in workers getting paid too much, at least based on his assumption that they deliver only five packages an hour (which would make a current daily load take 45 hours to deliver):
Has he not seen the size of UPS trucks? They carry a lot of packages and have pre-optimized routes. One stop at a business could easily be five or ten deliveries on its own. An apartment building could be dozens or more. The tweet is a perfect example of how some economic pundits think their ideas are important, even on subjects they don’t know the first thing about.
This is especially ironic because one of the things Calacanis cited as a reason people shouldn’t be mad about the economy is that you can get things delivered to you quickly. But God forbid the people actually getting it to you be well-paid! The horror!
Calacanis also grumbled about the cost of groceries in another convenient post from last week. My goodness! Another consumer caught complaining about the economy.
Noah Smith is the least objectionable of the three; he’s an economist who writes a substack about policy issues. But, he has credited the Fed’s efforts to create mass unemployment for waning inflation, opposed affirmative action, and was heavily involved in the widespread malignment of UMass’s Isabella Weber.
And that takes us to our old friend Matt Yglesias. We’ve butted heads with Matt on a number of occasions, notably about the legitimacy of cryptocurrency and Sam Bankman-Fried (we called BS, he insisted SBF was “for real”) and on whether Jerome Powell should have been renominated as Fed Chair (we said no). On both counts, Yglesias’s takes have aged very poorly. He also has previously praised virulent racist Richard Hanania
Some other Yglesias lowlights include condoning horrific working conditions after a factory collapse killed 1,100 people and telling everyone that the United States was overall a good place to live right after the school shooting in Uvalde.
In that newsletter column I mentioned at the top, one section was called “Out of Sight, Out of Mind, Out of a Job.” That’s how a lot of this type of intra-elite discourse plays out. Calacanis demonstrably has no idea what he’s talking about even as he tries to make a case against delivery workers making a fair wage. Noah Smith legitimated inflation hawks’ strategy of tossing millions out of their jobs. Yglesias abetted fraud en-masse by legitimizing SBF and FTX, helped get Powell (who was proven to be an incompetent regulator by SVB’s collapse) appointed, supported rate hikes, and delights in being contrarian in the face of others’ suffering
That these three are comfortable boosting the idea that Americans are whiny is emblematic of the punditry’s general paternalism. The Fed’s rate hikes wouldn’t cost them their jobs. The economy seems great to them, they have successful platforms that earn them money. It isn’t their wages that have failed to keep pace with inflation. It’s not them who struggle to make rent or afford healthcare. David Dayen has a good piece in The American Prospect that explains how even though the economy is doing better, there are still plenty of things that are concerning.
It’s important when discussing the economy to remember that the economy is all of us. Economic trends are about real people. As I wrote nearly a year ago now, all of this is “totally abstract to the hacks.” It’s time to stop accepting rich guys with a podcast or a Substack as authorities peoples’ everyday lives.