David Sirota, a progressive columnist and blogger at OpenLeft, has made an art of railing against the follies of America's upper class. His wrath against the avuncular Mitch Albom, author of "Tuesdays with Morrie" and Detroit philanthropist, was particularly memorable: he called Albom "a truly disgusting human being" and "a fool" for protesting that taxes on the top 1 percent were growing burdensome.
Now Sirota has become a one-man paladin against stories like this from the Washington Post over the weekend. Granted, the story's headline, "Squeaking by on $300,000 a Year," acted as an invitation for invective. But even as Sirota took the bait, he sounded weary. He has seen too many stories like these, from the New York Times to the San Francisco Chronicle to be surprised:
In the months following the Wall Street meltdown, we've seen a stealth marketing campaign that is profound for its boldness - a marketing campaign designed to make us believe that very wealthy people are suffering the most.
We've seen this campaign in Wall Street spokespeople insisting that a $500,000-a-year salary isn't very big, in a New York Times style section that asserts that it's impossible to live in the city on a half million dollars; in a punditburo that says millionaires are oppressed and can't afford to pay $9,000 a year more in taxes for universal health care; and in a national press corps that seeks to portray any effort to raise taxes on the richest 1 percent as unfair; and a business press that threatens a class war if President Obama moves forward with his promise to mke the payroll tax more progressive. As I said, this is a marketing campaign, and a fairly well coordinated one.
What's surprising is how solitary Sirota is in his frustration. Only Foster Kamer at Gawker joined Sirota in criticizing the story, which, as Kamer observed, attracted 766 fiery comments from readers. Have liberal writers lost interest in stoking or at least channeling populist ire? As we observed last week, pundits' energy for denouncing inequality is dwindling as fast as the recession's pain is blunted.
For better or for worse, the next attempt to rein in pay may come from the top, where Obama's pay czar will soon be reviewing the compensation of top executives at bailed-out banks.