More Man Bites Dog: Good Items on WSJ Ed Page and Fox!

Consistent with my self-reminder yesterday that it's worth giving compliments when there is a legit reason to do so, especially about people or institutions that are usually the occasion for gripes, here are two more illustrations:

1) Yesterday on the WSJ's op-ed page, Gov. Jon Huntsman made his voluntary absence from the embarrassing CNN/WWE* GOP debate/smackdown a win-win from his point of view. Win #1: he avoided being part of this spectacle, which included lots of entertaining vitriol but few moments when a sane person could think, "I have just heard a public figure talk seriously about our public problems." And #2, he could instead use the time to write about the predicament of America's bigger-than-ever new banks. For instance, with emphasis added:

More than three years after the crisis and the accompanying bailouts, the six largest American financial institutions are significantly bigger than they were before the crisis, having been encouraged to snap up Bear Stearns and other competitors at bargain prices. These banks now have assets worth over 66% of gross domestic product--at least $9.4 trillion, up from 20% of GDP in the 1990s. There is no evidence that institutions of this size add sufficient value to offset the systemic risk they pose....

Hedge funds and private equity funds go out of business all the time when they make big mistakes, to the notice of few, because they are not too big to fail. There is no reason why banks cannot live with the same reality.

You can disagree, and I do, with Gov. Huntsman's proposed fixes and policy responses. But he makes a fully grown-up argument, unlike practically anything we have heard recently from the "debate" stage.

2) Fox News.Com has made itself a platform for an impassioned defense of the Occupy Wall Street movement, by Sally Kohn. It contains such deviations from the prevailing Fox "class warfare" line as these:

In America today, 400 people have more wealth than the bottom 150 million combined. That's not because 150 million Americans are pathetically lazy or even unlucky....

Most of the Occupy Wall Street protesters aren't opposed to free market capitalism. In fact, what they want is an end to the crony capitalist system now in place... The protesters are not anti-American radicals. They are the defenders of the American Dream, the decision from the birth of our nation that success should be determined by hard work not royal bloodlines.

Sure, bank executives may work a lot harder than you and me or a mother of three doing checkout at a grocery store. Maybe the bankers work ten times harder. Maybe even a hundred times harder. But they're compensated a thousand times more.

The question is not how Occupy Wall Street protesters can find that gross discrepancy immoral. The question is why every one of us isn't protesting with them.

I'm not sure exactly how this ended up on the Fox site. Ailes out sick that day, perhaps with gout? A nervous glance over the shoulder at the growing signs of sympathy for the 99%? A (mistaken) judgment that the argument would be so weak that it would be its own rebuttal? Or just connections from Kohn's interview appearances on Fox? I don't know, but in my glass-half-full mood of the moment I'll say thanks and congrats to all involved: WSJ op-ed editors,, Huntsman, and Kohn.
* Yes, this is a little joke. WWE was not an official co-sponsor of the debate. It only seemed that way.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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