Howling Dog Graphic
Point. Click. Search.

Contents: Archives:

Search this weblog
Search WWW
Howler Graphic
by Bob Somerby
E-mail This Page
Socrates Reads Graphic
A companion site.

Site maintained by Allegro Web Communications, comments to Marc.

Howler Banner Graphic
Caveat lector

YELLING QUOTA! Rich Lowry recited a spin-point for Bush. The press has no quota on toadies:


YELLING QUOTA: Conservative or “mainstream,” your Washington press corps spills over with propagandists and phonies. Here was Bruce Fein in Tuesday’s Washington Times. Fein was propagandizing hard:

FEIN: At issue in Gratz is a 150-point scale employed in admissions to University of Michigan. Applicants from “underrepresented” minority groups, including African-Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans, receive 20 bonus points for race or ethnicity. In contrast, but 12 points are awarded for a perfect 1,600 SAT, a seemingly bizarre slighting of genius in an admissions program defended as upgrading educational stimulation and achievement.
But why does UM’s conduct “seem” so “bizarre?” Because that’s the way Fein wants it to seem. In his column, Fein became the umpteenth pundit to play the “20/12” card, offering a deeply misleading picture of the way UM selects undergraduates. But so it goes when Washington pundits mislead you to gain preferred outcomes. Tomorrow: An astounding misstatement by J. C. Watts—unchallenged by his NPR host.

But then, factual misstatements or tortured tendition have abounded in the UM debate. Right beneath Fein in Tuesday’s Times, for example, Rich Lowry presented a tendentious piece in which he yelled quota/quota/quota. “The Bush administration has filed a brief…challenging the quota system that is now before the Supreme Court,” Lowry said. By contrast, “Michigan is straining to justify its quotas.” It’s not surprising that UM is arguing a certain claim, Lowry went on to say. Otherwise, “Michigan’s quota” would almost surely be struck down.

For the record, it’s hardly surprising that Lowry yelled quota—because that’s what President Bush had done in his speech about UM last week. Does UM use “quotas,” which are illegal? To all appearances, our high-minded president wants you to think so; in his 700-word speech, Bush used the word “quota” four times. But Bush never said that UM uses “quotas,” since, of course, it plainly doesn’t. Parse very carefully, boys and girls. Here’s what POTUS actually said at the start of last Wednesday’s oration:

BUSH: The Supreme Court will soon hear arguments in a case about admissions policies and student diversity in public universities. I strongly support diversity of all kinds, including racial diversity in higher education. But the method used by the University of Michigan to achieve this important goal is fundamentally flawed. At their core, the Michigan policies amount to a quota system that unfairly rewards or penalizes prospective students based solely on their race.
Bush didn’t say that UM uses quotas. What he said was much more “nuanced.” At their core, the president said, UM’s policies amount to a quota.

What exactly does that statement mean? Terry Eastland, an honest conservative pundit, unpacked the Bush Administration’s claim on that same Times op-ed page. The Bush Admin feels that UM’s use of bonus points for race amounts to a “disguised quota,” Eastland writes. According to the Bush Admin’s view, UM decided to give 20 points to blacks to maintain a preordained level of admissions. In short, although UM doesn’t use an actual quota, the 20-point add-on was chosen to give the same result. And you almost have to make this claim if you want to shoot down the UM system. The Bakke decision forbids state schools from using quotas, but allows them to consider race as one factor among others. On face, that’s exactly what Michigan does. So Bush, opposing the UM plan, says it “amounts to” a quota. (Here is Eastland’s shorthand on Bakke: “[I]n Bakke, the Court also permitted race-based admissions provided they weren’t quotas.”)

Does UM’s policy “amount to” a quota? That will be left for the Court to decide. With any given group of applicants, it is certainlly possible to award bonus points in such a way as to produce a certain level of black acceptances. (Indeed, if UM gave 200 points for race, it could produce an all-black class.) But the current dispute is at least a bit odd because UM (like other schools) acknowledges the crime Bush alleges. Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman recently said this: “There is no effective substitute for the consideration of race as one of many factors in our admissions process. Other methods do not allow us to recruit a diverse student body while maintaining our consistently high academic standards.” In short, Michigan acknowledges that it uses “consideration of race” to maintain a diverse student body. And Bakke said such behavior was OK, as long as there weren’t any “quotas.” (At Cal Davis Med School—whose admission procedure Bakke struck down—sixteen out of 100 seats were reserved for blacks. Cal Davis did use a “quota.”)

Is UM’s procedure illegal? Again, here’s Eastland on Bakke:

EASTLAND: [I]t was also in Bakke that Justice Powell said achieving a diverse student body qualified as a “compelling interest” of the kind necessary under the Constitution to permit a state to draw distinctions—and discriminate—on the basis of race.
That’s what UM seems to be doing. The Court will decide if UM has gone beyond the procedures which Bakke allows. (To read UM’s response to quota/quota/quota, you know what to do. Just click here.)

Is UM using quotas? Unless it all depends on what the meaning of “quota” is, literally, no—it is not. But our “uniter” president will yell quota/quota/quota, sliming decent people with whom he disagrees and getting the talk show crowd all stirred up. And pundits like Lowry will yell “quota” too. The press has no quota on toadies.

ONE FACTOR AMONG MANY: Is UM’s use of bonus points fair? That is a matter of judgment. But consider a bright black kid from inner city Detroit and a bright white kid from Grosse Point. The white kid gets 18 bonus points—10 points for his “rigorous” suburban high school and 8 more points for his AP courses. The black kid gets 20 bonus points for race. Would that procedure “seem bizarre?” It would seem bizarre if Bruce Fein described it—because Fein would mention the points for race and would deceive you about all the rest. How does UM’s system really work? On that, we need more reporting (don’t hold your breath). But both those bright-eyed Michigan kids deserve to be free of our millionaire press corps. Is there a single kid in the state of Michigan as fake as your Washington press corps?

The Daily update

THE TRUTH IS JUST TOO TAXING: Many mailers wrote to tell us that estates are rarely taxed even once. But then, that’s the situation to which we alluded when we wrote this in yesterday’s update (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/22/03):

THE DAILY HOWLER: Assuming the deceased person’s income was actually taxed to begin with, it’s taxed only once during his lifetime—and it’s only taxed a second time when it’s passed on to somebody else.
We’re no experts on these matters, but only if an estate was built from wages can we assume it was taxed even once.

Why are we less than expert here? In part, because it is virtually impossible to find real info about how our tax systems work. Our press corps, with their Millionaire Pundit Values, love to talk about haircuts, earth tones, blow jobs and show tunes, but they shy away from the hard hard work involved in reporting real facts. Spinners spin you about the tax code; real reporters rarely sift through their words. Spinners are paid to yell “double taxation” (or “20/12”), and the mainstream press corps, snoring soundly, makes little effort to lay out real facts.

That’s why Tim Noah came out of his chair when he saw Tuesday morning’s New York Times. On page one of the business section, Daniel Altman penned a report, “Doubling Up Of Taxation Isn’t Limited To Dividends.” On an inside page, Altman even provided a chart showing how rich and poor are taxed. Altman includes all taxes—local, state, federal. And how much do different groups really pay? According to Altman, the bottom fifth of all earners—average income, $7946—pay 18 percent of their income in taxes. The top fifth of all earners—average income, $116,666—pay 19 percent of their swag. That’s your progressive tax system at work. To see Altman’s chart, just click here.

There’s absolutely no doubt about it—Altman was waging some nasty class warfare. But why haven’t you seen this sort of info before? More on this in the days to come. Meanwhile, check out Noah’s recent work—and read Altman’s article carefully.