Ezra Klein Profile picture
14 Apr, 14 tweets, 3 min read
One thing I've been thinking about since my podcast with @tressiemcphd is the difference between status and class, and how a focus on class often confuses issues of status 🧵 nytimes.com/2021/04/13/opi…?
There's been this debate in recent years about whether class should be measured by education rather than income. Or maybe by occupation rather than income.

Michael Lind wrote a whole book making this argument from the right: penguinrandomhouse.com/books/607661/t…
There's something to this: A tech CEO and an English professor at Berkeley experience more similar worlds, and vote more similarly, than the tech CEO and the owner of a plumbing company in Akron — even if the CEO and the small biz owner have closer incomes.
But when you make that move, you begin ignoring economic power in a way that really messes with your analysis.

I've come to think class is just too limited a concept, and has too much historical baggage, for what we're trying to get at.
And a really important limit of class is that we treat class as fixed: you have one class, as measured by annual income, or degree, or job, or whatever.
I think @tressiemcphd's approach to status fixes a lot of these problems.

First, people get that status has multiple streams. It's related to your job, your income, your education, your family, etc.
Second, as she says, "it operates a little differently everywhere you're standing."

In her most searing essay, it changes as she moves from the classroom to the hospital bed. But there are far smaller changes than that too. It's always changing.
Class feels fixed, stable. Status doesn't.

And I think that gets at something really important in our politics right now, which is that America's status hierarchy is unstable.
For basically the entirety of American history, political and cultural and economic power were highly correlated. The same group held all three.

But they've become less correlated in recent years.
That's particularly true for cultural and political power.

White, older Christians hold political power far beyond their numbers. Young, diverse, secular, educated urbanites hold much more cultural power.
Economic power is a little more mixed. Wealth gaps aren't closing. Some are widening.

But corporations are changing who they side with in these fights. Both sides feel like they're losing economic power, and there's something to that.
But all of this comes together in a fight for status, which is driven by all of these (and more), not just one of them.

And right now, different sides are winning some parts and losing other parts of the status wars.
There's not a new, settled hierarchy of status to replace the old one.

There's just a country where power is in flux, and status is in flux, and lots of people feel like they're losing, but no one quite feels like they're winning.
Anyway, I have a lot more thinking to do here, and I need to relisten to the conversation to do some of it. But lots more on this question here: nytimes.com/2021/04/13/opi…

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More from @ezraklein

13 Apr
“You’re repurposed as fodder for content generation in a way that’s just so dehumanizing. I don’t really believe in cancel culture, I think it’s a platform failure.” warzel.substack.com/p/its-not-canc…
One way I've been thinking about this is "cancel culture" is a less useful term than "cancel behavior."

There is a certain set of behaviors which, when combined the the problems of this (and other) platforms, lead to cancellation, harassment, and too many very bad days.
The key thing is the behaviors don't feel, to the people engaging in them, like a big deal. You're just dunking on someone! Or criticizing them! Or making fun of them!

You're just doing some tweets. Joining in on the game. You don't want anyone fired or harassed or swatted.
Read 4 tweets
13 Apr
My column last week was about whether regulators in America have been too cautious, so afraid of the consequences of getting a decision wrong that they've cost lives through inaction and delay.

This is *very* relevant to the J&J issue. 🧵 nytimes.com/2021/04/01/opi…
I fall on the side that thinks they are too cautious. I think that's clear.

But it's a mistake to think these are easy decisions, or to just say that the math is 6 blood clots out of 6.5 million shots, so wtf are you thinking.

That's missing their actual fears.
Mass vaccination campaigns work only if the masses take the vaccines. As Daniel Carpenter said to me, “In this way, it’s a deeply social technology, and so the credibility is everything.”

"Effective therapies depend on credible regulation."
Read 15 tweets
12 Apr
Substack/Ghost/etc are a pretty straightforward tradeoff.

Institutions bring advantages and disadvantages. For writers with large, loyal audiences, you make less money than if you directly monetize your audience, but you get more audience, resources, editing, legal help, etc.
I think the focus on top incomes has obscured a lot of this.

I could make more money going to Substack. But the New York Times offers audience reach I could never get otherwise. They're read by people who'd never think of subscribing to my newsletter. That’s worth a lot to me!
But institutions also have disadvantages.

Bureaucracy, pressure to be on the news, time it takes to publish, bad management, divergence between your voice and the institutional voice, etc.

If those really bug you, and you can make more on your own, going indie is great.
Read 10 tweets
8 Apr
Always hate to disagree with Paul, but I'm not using Larry Summers as a stand-in for all economists here!

Economists in *this* administration tell me there's a difference between the weight Biden puts on their advice and the way Obama and Clinton engaged, and I believe them.
As I say in the piece, some of them think that's bad, others think it's good — a proper rebalancing of roles.

A lot of the advice economists gave in past administration was political advice masquerading as economics advice. That political advice was often very, very wrong.
And I'm not saying Biden ignores economists outright. Yellen, in particular, carries a lot of weight with him.

But in a relative sense, Biden is more skeptical of the way economists view the world — always has been — and more proudly political than some of his predecessors.
Read 7 tweets
8 Apr
There are (at least!) four big reasons why Biden's presidency has been so much bigger, so much more ambitious, than the rest of his career: nytimes.com/2021/04/08/opi…
1. The collapse of the GOP as a negotiating partner, which has unleashed Democrats to legislate the way they actually want to.

I don't think this can be overstated. It has transformed policy design. Bills are no longer pre-compromised, and Senate Dems accept that.
2. A new generation of Democratic staffers, both in the White House and in Congress, has grown up amidst skyrocketing inequality, financial crises, and climate emergency.

They see the world very differently, and they have the power now to do something about it.
Read 8 tweets
7 Apr
About a week ago I thought it would be interesting to do a quick piece on how the word “infrastructure” is changing, but when I asked some folks, the answers were boring and seemed like a distraction from more interesting questions about what the Jobs Plan does.

I stand by that.
Imagine I could prove to you, absolutely prove it, that care work isn’t infrastructure. (I cannot prove that, btw, and nor can anyone else. Categories are contested!)

Would that in any way change whether the care work provisions are good or bad?

No. No it wouldn’t.
This bill is *vast*. It’s more like an agenda than an idea. I’m having trouble covering it because there’s just so much to cover. But it demands a lot of analysis. I hope we don’t waste too much time in a semantics debate that doesn’t help us understand the bill or evaluate it.
Read 6 tweets

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