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WaPo Fact Checker Gets Three Pinocchios

pinocchio

WaPo’s Fact Checker has a very long report titled, “Carly Fiorina’s bogus ‘secretary to CEO’ career trajectory.”

While I’ve somehow never noticed Fiorina’s claim that, “I started as a secretary, typing and filing for a nine-person real estate firm. It’s only in this country that you can go from being a secretary to chief executive of the largest tech company in the world, and run for president of the United States,” she’s made variants of it a cornerstone of her public personae from her autobiography to her stump speeches. It being “bogus” would be troubling.

Michelle Ye Hee Lee documents, in extensive detail, that Fiorina did indeed serve as a secretary, not only for the real estate firm but for Hewlett-Packard and other firms.

She worked as a receptionist at a hair salon to pay for college room and board. During summers off from Stanford, she says she worked secretarial jobs through the temp agency Kelly Services (then Kelly Girls). One of her temp jobs was typing bills of lading in the shipping department of Hewlett-Packard. (Kelly Services declined to confirm her employment or provide any details, citing employment regulations.)

After Stanford, Fiorina went off to law school at University of California-Los Angeles to please her father, who had expected that she would follow in his footsteps. But she hated it, and dropped out after one semester. When she broke the news to her father, he responded: “I’m very disappointed. I’m not sure you’ll ever amount to anything,” she wrote.

She began looking for jobs in want ads, and was hired as a receptionist at Marcus & Millichap, a commercial property brokerage firm with nine or ten employees at the time. She became known as “the Stanford student,” and the brokers at the firm were impressed with her.

Fiorina wrote of a broker named Ed Dowd, who began giving her more responsibilities beyond secretarial work, such as writing proposals and participating in strategy sessions about upcoming negotiations. Dowd, who still lives in Santa Clara County, confirmed this account to The Fact Checker. George Marcus and Bill Millichap said in a statement that they encouraged her “to pursue a career as an investment real estate agent with our company. She ultimately went back to school and her career took a different path. Our experience with her was very positive.”

So, then, why is her claim “bogus” and worthy of “Three Pinocchios”?

[T]he description glosses over important details. Her father was dean of Duke Law School when she was at Stanford, meaning Duke would have paid for most of her college tuition. She graduated from Stanford, and her elite degree played a role in the stories of her at Marcus & Millichap (she was the “Stanford student”) and her convincing the business school dean to accept her into the MBA program (“So, can a liberal arts student from Stanford compete with the analytical jocks you have around here?”).

She worked briefly as a secretary in between law school and business school, but she always intended to attend graduate school for her career. She moved up through AT&T with her MBA, and was placed on a fast track to senior management after her company sponsored her to attend one of the most elite mid-career fellowships in the world. Her role as senior executive at Lucent caught the attention of HP recruiters, to become the company’s chief executive.

Fiorina uses a familiar, “mailroom to boardroom” trope of upward mobility that the public is familiar with, yet her story is nothing like that. In telling her only-in-America story, she conveniently glosses over the only-for-Fiorina opportunities and options beyond what the proverbial mailroom worker has. As such, she earns Three Pinocchios.

But the claim being tested has nothing to do with how she paid for school, let alone that she didn’t graduate from elite schools. Indeed, her autobiography—as detailed by this very report—goes into exhaustive detail of what she studied, how she got into an elite business school, and how those experiences impacted her.

The closest we get to an actual prevarication is this:

When Fiorina uses this phrase, she often pairs it with saying she came from a “modest and middle class family,” or “challenging the status quo,” which frames her story as an unlikely upstart. She also pitches it as an uniquely American experience.

Her father having been a law school professor and later dean at elite universities would indeed put her into the “middle class” by most standards, although certainly not what most would consider “modest.” Presumably, though, ”challenging the status quo” refers to her unprecedented success as a woman in a male-dominated field. As the first woman to lead a Fortune 20 company, I think she’s entitled to the claim.

I’m not a big Fiorina fan and haven’t paid enough attention to her candidacy to have a strong sense of how she’s played this up in her speeches. But given that the details WaPo uses to impeach her claims come directly from Fiorina’s autobiography, it’s journalistic malpractice to portray the shtick as “bogus,” let alone three quarters up the lie meter.

She was a smart, hard-working girl whose dad had connections and the means to send her to the best schools she could get into—which was to say, the best schools. Clearly, though, she actually worked low level jobs along the way in order to get experience, earn money for incidental expenses, or whatever. That’s more than most children of the well-off do.  And one would imagine that doing so provided her with some insights into what it’s like at the bottom of the ladder, even if she knew she wouldn’t be there for long.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. grumpy realist says:

    Considering there are so many other things to clobber Carly on, why does the WP go after this one?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 2

  2. James Joyner says:

    @grumpy realist: Yeah, I don’t get it. There’s plenty in her HP tenure—her chief credential for the presidency—to point to.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  3. Tony W says:

    @grumpy realist: I’m guessing a Straw-Man/issue fatigue strategy. If this weak controversy proves to be nothing, then probably all the other things people are complaining about are not true – after all, who has time to look them all up? The press is just ‘out to get her’.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  4. Andre Kenji says:

    1-) I could easily find a woman that was a sales person(A FAR more mundane job than being a executive secretary) that became one of the most well known CEOs of Brazil. She can´t run to be the President of the United States for obvious reasons, but, well, she does a pretty good job of running a company in the highly competitive market of retail in Brazil. She does not need vanity runs for political posts.

    2-) The Washington Post is saying that the story of Carly Fiorina going secretary to CEO is not a rag to riches story. She may be saying the correct version of History in her biography, but not on speeches or debates.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  5. liberal capitalist says:

    … born on third base, believes she hit a triple.

    Not an unusual republicans perspective.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 38 Thumb down 3

  6. James Joyner says:

    @Andre Kenji: I don’t think she’s portraying literal rags to riches, just having worked herself all the way up the ladder.

    @liberal capitalist: Well, no. There are lots of children of upper middle class professionals. Very few of them, indeed, go on to become CEOs of Fortune 20, or even Fortune 500, companies. It’s not as if her father owned HP and she started as a VP right out of business school. Being able to go to Stanford and then Sloan was a huge leg up, but even those required natural talent and lots of hard work. She’s rightly proud of her rise. My problem with her is what she did once she got to the top of the mountain; the climb itself was impressive.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 13 Thumb down 10

  7. DA says:

    Hillary Clinton made a completely true statement about being broke when leaving the White House, but this statement does not paint a complete picture of the Clinton family finances. James’ response? That she should be subject to “much-deserved derision.”

    Carly Fiorina makes a completely true statement about having once been a secretary, but this statement does not paint a complete picture of her career trajectory. James’ response? The critics are committing “journalistic malpractice.”

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 65 Thumb down 4

  8. C. Clavin says:

    The fact-checkers could all stand some more fact-checking

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  9. Guarneri says:

    Two items in the supposed critiques of a Fiorina stand out to me as pure deception on the part of the critics.

    1. The stock decline. HP got caught up in the tech bubble. Comps had similar performance. Comparisons to Apple are bogus. Uh, Apples to oranges.

    2. The job losses as evidence of managerial,performance. Compaq was a classic overlap and consolidation acquisition as I understand it. It’s always unfortunate and traumatic when capacity has to be rationalized. But job losses are a consequence. It always has been and always will.

    You add in the public inter generational infighting over policy and I’m not impressed with the criticism. Sonnenberg has discredited himself. Further, many of those tut- tutting about Fiorina are Hillary supporters. Hillary’s accomplishments? With a straight face now. Really? Really? Lastly, the criticism here comes from a bunch of commenters who were the CEOs of what companies again? You little management gurus, you.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 25

  10. Ron Beasley says:

    A friend of mine who was an Engineer for the HP printer R and D facility was laid off when the facility was closed because it was decided it was cheaper to buy the guts of the printer from Cannon. This was Fiorinas’ first off shoring. Later she closed nearly all of the US production facilities and moved it all to Asia laying off 30,000 people in the process. I’m not sure that HP actually builds anything themselves anymore. The exception may be the test and measurement division but I’m not even sure about that. And she has the nerve to bitch about China.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 32 Thumb down 1

  11. Ron Beasley says:

    A friend of mine who was an Engineer for the HP printer R and D facility was laid off when the facility was closed because it was decided it was cheaper to buy the guts of the printer from Cannon (which were built in China).This was Fiorinas’ first off shoring. Later she closed nearly all of the US production facilities and moved it all to Asia laying off 30,000 people in the process. I’m not sure that HP actually builds anything themselves anymore. The exception may be the test and measurement division but I’m not even sure about that. And she has the nerve to bitch about China.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  12. grumpy realist says:

    @Guarneri: Actually, I’m the CEO/President of my present company, so you might want to be careful about your assumptions of the present commentators.

    From what I’ve heard friends of mine who worked at HP say, Carly ripped out the guts of a well-respected US company, outsourced as much as she could to China (which meant that people in the US weren’t getting the experience necessary to build on later with future tech developments), acted like an arrogant cow, and then when the whole thing went to pot, cashed out with a huge payout. My ex-boyfriend, who worked at HP for many years before moving on to greener pastures, absolutely despises her.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 26 Thumb down 0

  13. michael reynolds says:

    The lie here is not in the details but in the impression she’s trying to leave us with.

    She’s trying for that whole climb-up-from-the-gutter trope. As someone who actually did climb up from the gutter, I laugh at her story. She was a child of privilege who had everything she needed close at hand. She was never in the slightest danger of real failure, there was never any chance her life would go badly. She was never afraid. She was never hungry. She was never in trouble. She never hid from bill collectors or was evicted from her home. She never chose between food and medicine.

    She’s a bullshit artist. She ran her company into the ground, and contra the weak excuses, she under-performed the market and lined her pockets like the greedy swine she is. Lined her own pockets while throwing working people onto the unemployment rolls to be supported by government, while she spent money on corporate jets and her own golden parachute.

    And for 10 years no other company offered her a job. 10 years unemployed and living off what she looted from her stockholders. That’s all you need to know about Fiorina: after what she did to HP, she was never offered another gig.

    And by the way, the printers still suck.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 52 Thumb down 8

  14. Andre Kenji says:

    Part of the problem with Fiorina is that HP was once known for producing quality products. Everything that I bought from HP since she took office proved out to be crap.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 0

  15. Pinky says:

    It’s easy to be a hack at the fact-checking desk. You get to choose which facts you check. Sure, then you have to check them, but afterwards you can give a totally subjective rating to them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 9

  16. SenyorDave says:

    @michael reynolds: Very concise analysis of her time at HP. My brother was at HP for a portion of the time she was there as a senior sales manager. He sold some of their largest products and made a lot of money, usually $300k -$400k. His boss was at a level where he was in an occasional meeting with Fiorina. After his second meeting that she was at he readied his resume and advised my brother to the same. He said you don’t want to work at a company ruin by her. She treated people like crap and tolerated no dissenting opinions. He got out and landed on his feet, but he feels she ruined the company. There are probably 100k ex-HP people who would never vote for.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  17. Ron Beasley says:

    @Andre Kenji: I agree, I bought an HP computer that lasted a little over a year. I bought a second that quit after about a year and a half. I then bought a Dell desktop and laptop both of which are going strong after more than 3 years. I haven’t bought an HP printer for over a decade.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  18. Rafer Janders says:

    Her father having been a law school professor and later dean at elite universities would indeed put her into the “middle class” by most standards,

    Um, no, it wouldn’t. Not at all. That’s insane. Being dean of Duke Law School means you have access to economic and social and networking opportunities not available to the middle class at all. These days, such a position would earn you well upwards of $250K a year, which, considering the median household income in the US is about $50K, puts you solidly above middle class.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 41 Thumb down 1

  19. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    I don’t think she’s portraying literal rags to riches, just having worked herself all the way up the ladder.

    Which, again, she didn’t do. She started two-thirds up the ladder.

    I myself came from a well-connected family that had a lot of money when I was growing up, went to private schools, went to the Ivy League for college and law school, and then started working at elite firms in Manhattan. During summers I also bussed and waited tables and washed dishes etc., and yet I don’t tell people I worked my way up to from dishwasher to Wall Street. Because that would mean I was insane and/or lying. I’m well aware of the advantages I got that most everybody else didn’t.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 43 Thumb down 1

  20. Slugger says:

    Clearly, your achievements must be measured against your peers. For example, if you are raised by a single mom and become the leader of something important it means that you have something special about you. To measure Ms. Fiorina’s merits, I’d like to hear about her peers. Duke Law is in the top ten schools in the country. If you did a survey of the kids of deans at top ten law schools, I expect you’d find lots of them in high positions.
    She was not born in a log cabin nor learned her letters by firelight on the back of a shovel. She rose in the corporate world based on her talents which include talking a good game. Ultimately, she became an embodiment of the Peter principle.
    Full disclosure, one of my college buds had a good career at HP until she came along. His bitterness about her has rubbed off on me.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 0

  21. al-Ameda says:

    @Guarneri:
    @grumpy realist:
    Ask anyone who was around at the time what Carly Fiorina’s leadership did to Bell Labs (Lucent), or just Google it. Her leadership was a failure by almost any reasonable standard.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  22. Rafer Janders says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Her father having been a law school professor and later dean at elite universities would indeed put her into the “middle class” by most standards,

    Again, law school professors at the elite law schools these days can expect to earn somewhere in the range of $200,000-$500,000/yr, not counting outside income they earn from consulting on cases. In what world is that middle class??? It’s well within the top 10%+ of income earners in the US.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 0

  23. grumpy realist says:

    @michael reynolds: Somewhat reminds me of Ann Romney talking about the period she and Mitt had to undergo while he was getting his MBA. Oh, the inhumanity–having to sell stuff from one’s investment portfolio.

    Dipping into capital seems to be the ne plus ultra sin for a lot of rich people. You can borrow, cheat, lay people off in droves, loot their pension funds based on “company hardship” (which means your financial hardship)–but selling off capital–NEVER!

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 31 Thumb down 1

  24. Stan says:

    “Her father having been a law school professor and later dean at elite universities would indeed put her into the “middle class” by most standards,”

    Middle class? By what standards? In present day dollars we’re talking about a father with tenure and an annual salary well over two hundred thousand dollars and a daughter with an immense amount of social capital. This is not somebody who worried about the next rent payment. By contrast, half the people without medical insurance have less than $100 in savings, see

    http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2015pres/09/20150922a.html

    And of course our rags to riches heroine wants to insure that they stay uninsured.
    Whatever her management skills, she’s Marie Antoinette, not Cinderella.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 26 Thumb down 1

  25. Gustopher says:

    @Rafer Janders: $250k/yr is upper middle class. You still have to work, you still have to keep track of your finances (the jobs that pay that much are generally in the more expensive cities), and it can all go to crap relatively quickly. You can save a portion of your paycheck from month to month (for the mundane things like retirement, mortgage, kid’s college), but you’re definitely a worker.

    I think a lot of people who claim to be middle class are actually poor. If you are living paycheck to paycheck, you are working poor. If you regularly carry credit card debt, you are poor. But, people don’t want to be poor,Mao they claim they are middle class, and those doing better must not be middle class.

    The dean of a top ten law school has a lot more connections than most people who make the same income, but economically, he’s still middle class.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 11

  26. grumpy realist says:

    Here’s a very good overview on how Carly and the HP people interacted.

    If she gets any higher in the race for president, I suspect she will awaken a sleeping giant in Silicon Valley. Media people don’t seem to understand exactly how much Carly is detested among the tech crowd and considered responsible for the demise of a much-beloved company.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  27. DrDaveT says:

    @michael reynolds:

    She was never in the slightest danger of real failure, there was never any chance her life would go badly.

    This is the key.

    It’s not about what jobs she worked, or even about her path up the corporate ladder. It’s about never being in any danger of failure. Anyone of even modest abilities can succeed if they know they’re going to get multiple chances to start over if the current plan doesn’t work out.

    More importantly, working low-paying low-status jobs does not create empathy or understanding of ordinary people’s problems. Fear creates empathy and understanding — fear of failure, fear of not being able to feed or house your family, fear of falling out of the economy entirely. Having no fallback position, and knowing you have no fallback position.

    (That said, yes — a fact-checking article should stick to fact-checking. Leave the analysis of the import of those facts to the op-ed page.)

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 1

  28. James Joyner says:

    @DA: Well, first off, that was Doug’s posting, not mine. But, yes, the Clintons cashed in big time on their public service and for her to pretend that she had somehow struggled to get out of poverty is a bit rich.

    @michael reynolds: Again, I’m not a fan of Fiorina’s; I just think this particular line of criticism is ridiculous. If the point is simply that “I worked my way from secretary to CEO” elides her privileged upbringing, that’s completely fair. But to do this under the guise of a “fact check” which calls the completely true statement “bogus” and awards 3/4 Pinocchios—from the perch of a supposedly impartial newspaper—is outrageous.

    I completely agree that it’s much harder to the children of the professional class—including my own—to fail than it is for those who came from circumstances like my own, much less yours. It’s entirely fair to point that out. It’s not fair to call her a liar for claiming she worked her way up the ladder.

    @Stan: What @Gustopher said. Fiorina’s dad was richer and much more connected than I am but we’re both in the professional/upper middle class, both socially and economically. It’s one thing to be able to drive nice cars, take nice vacations, and cover the kids’ expenses through college. It’s quite another to simply have whatever you want, to get your kids into any college you want by writing a check, and the other privileges that come with being truly wealthy.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 5 Thumb down 16

  29. Tillman says:

    @Guarneri:

    Lastly, the criticism here comes from a bunch of commenters who were the CEOs of what companies again? You little management gurus, you.

    Ah, just as only a septic tank cleaner can criticize another septic tank cleaner when sh!t ends up coming out of the walls.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 0

  30. anjin-san says:

    Her father having been a law school professor and later dean at elite universities would indeed put her into the “middle class” by most standards,

    Complete nonsense. The Dean of Duke Law School? That is some serious juice. You are really saying that is not well beyond “middle class” with a straight face? Considering the topic of this post, there is some serious irony in play here.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 0

  31. ElizaJane says:

    @James Joyner: This is the distorted modern American version of classes. Basically, everybody is middle class. The poor would be middle class if they weren’t so shiftless. The top 1% are, maybe, something different. But honestly, a descriptor that includes a single parent with two kids making $40,000/year and a one-child family with one working parent making $300,000/year is basically meaningless. I am at the top end of this spectrum and while yes, we whine a lot about the cost of college for our 3 children, I know perfectly well that I, and they, lead a life of privelege. Yes they work crappy summer jobs, but I would be incensed if any of them, upon becoming successful in some career, made themselves out too be rags-to-riches types.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 25 Thumb down 0

  32. anjin-san says:

    @James Joyner:

    It’s one thing to be able to drive nice cars, take nice vacations, and cover the kids’ expenses through college.

    But that’s not really what we are talking about, is it? My father went to law school with guys who went on to become some of the most powerful men in California, he even tutored one or two of them. Having people like that return your phone calls is not something everyone who drives a nice car or sends their kids to a good school has available to them.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 0

  33. Tillman says:

    @ElizaJane: Bingo. Americans have never had a firm concept of class, partly because of the American Dream and partly due to our classes usually being defined by race for the majority of the country’s history.

    One’s idea of what’s middle and upper class has to always keep in mind the mean and median incomes of households in the country. There’s only ~22k difference between them, at ~52k median and ~72k mean. If you’re substantially above that, you’re not middle class.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  34. Tillman says:

    @ElizaJane: Bingo. Americans have never had a firm concept of class, partly because of the American Dream and partly due to our classes usually being defined by race for the majority of the country’s history.

    One’s idea of what’s middle and upper class has to always keep in mind the mean and median incomes of households in the country. There’s only ~22k difference between them, at ~52k median and ~72k mean. If you’re substantially above that, I’d say you’re not middle class.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  35. michael reynolds says:

    @James Joyner:
    My kids are having a very different life from mine. My kids are roughly where young Carly was. And I would disown either of the spoiled, privileged little shites if they ever played the ‘up from nothing’ card. (Although my daughter can at least cite 3 1/2 years in a Chinese orphanage.)

    Fiorina is paying the price for hype. When you exaggerate you get called on it, one reason why I never hype my ‘accomplishments’. When I was a young prick I was a thief, but I never stole what Carly Fiorina stole. She stole the livelihoods of 30,000 American workers and stuffed the proceeds in a Gucci bag.

    Agreed this was not the best context, but the conclusion is correct nevertheless.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 25 Thumb down 3

  36. Grumpy Realist says:

    I remember the thought I had when Carly first announced her run for the nomination: why doesn’t she take up needlepoint instead?

    That lack of getting hired again for ten years (in fact, she hasn’t been ever hired again) methinks shows what the tech world AND the business world think of her: bupkis.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  37. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    Fiorina’s dad was richer and much more connected than I am but we’re both in the professional/upper middle class, both socially and economically.

    Which isn’t what you said before, is it? You said she was simply “middle class”, not upper middle class. That’s a huge distinction.

    It’s one thing to be able to drive nice cars, take nice vacations, and cover the kids’ expenses through college.

    So she came from a background in which she could drive nice cars, take nice vacations, and have her expenses covered through college. Got it. Not exactly the class struggle, is it?

    It’s quite another to simply have whatever you want, to get your kids into any college you want by writing a check, and the other privileges that come with being truly wealthy.

    Yeah, that’s the distinction between upper middle class and upper class. We’re not saying Fiorina was “truly wealthy”, though, just that she was extremely well-off and privileged, and her own description of her background is meant to elide this in order to create a false impression that she had to overcome more than she actually did.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

  38. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Gustopher:

    $250k/yr is upper middle class. You still have to work, you still have to keep track of your finances (the jobs that pay that much are generally in the more expensive cities), and it can all go to crap relatively quickly. You can save a portion of your paycheck from month to month (for the mundane things like retirement, mortgage, kid’s college), but you’re definitely a worker.

    I’m sorry. That’s not an example of being middle class, that’s a “what’s wrong with this picture” puzzle. At 250,000, a visit just now to three different income calculators showed that the salary ranked between the 95th and 99th percentile.

    Is your contention that “having to work” automatically qualifies one as middle class? If so, what’s wrong with that picture?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 0

  39. anjin-san says:

    $250k/yr is upper middle class. You still have to work, you still have to keep track of your finances (the jobs that pay that much are generally in the more expensive cities), and it can all go to crap relatively quickly.

    If you are worth 25 million you still have to keep track of your finances, and it can all to to crap relatively quickly if you don’t, especially in an era where you can blow a million dollars in one day without working up a sweat.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  40. jukeboxgrad says:

    James:

    Her father having been a law school professor and later dean at elite universities would indeed put her into the “middle class” by most standards

    Household income exceeding $209,000 puts you in the top 5% (link). Daddy’s income was probably much higher than that. With what thing other than income do we ever describe the 95th percentile as “middle?”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  41. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:
  42. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker: The red highlighted thing should have read “7 things the middle class can’t afford.” I’m technically challenged.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  43. Grumpy Realist says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker: this sort of reminds me of the eco ice professor who wrote an article for his blog whining about how even with a family income of 450k he was still “middle class”.

    Boy, did he get torn to shreds.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  44. ElizaJane says:

    @michael reynolds: Two of my kids spent their first six years in a Kazakh orphanage. So in a very literal sense their lives are rags-to-riches. The result is that they feel (or at least one of them does) an obligaion to give back in some way to those who were not miraculously lifted out of true misery. If Carly were using her way-less–dramatic life story toward that end, I’d feel a lot better about its prevarications.

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  45. anjin-san says:

    Another thing that cannot be emphasized enough is the advantage one derives simply from growing up with successful parents, growing up with other kids who have successful parents – in other words, having models for success to emulate and a comfort level around money and influence. This is certainly not something a true rags-to-riches pioneer like Brownie Wise had.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  46. KM says:

    Claiming to be “middle class” is like claiming to be a “outsider” – bullshit appeal to a mythic ideal. The 50’s iconic imagery isn’t a rich Elite in furs but Apple Pie Suburban Mom. All of our cherished national imagery is associated with making-good and work-ethics of old. The traditional American Dream isn’t being insanely rich, it’s being well-off enough to have some nice things but still work.

    This is why we’re arguing over what’s middle class or not; while having money is excellent, there’s a vast social and psychological benefit to sticking with that classification unless you’ve got enough money to make a bed from it. You’re Middle Class till you have enough to be Screw The Rules, I Have Money! It’s drummed into us that we should identify with this ideal so deeply that it’s a trope a wealthy person clings to their roots to “never forget who they are”.

    To quote Jennifer Lopez:
    Nothin’ phony with us, make the money, get the mansion, bring the homies with us /
    Don’t be fooled by the rocks that I got. I’m still, I’m still Jenny from the block

    Fiorina’s dancing to that tune. Too bad nobody’s willing to take a spin on the floor with her.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  47. Ron Beasley says:

    I grew up in an upper middle class family and my parents put me through college although in the 60s that was much easier than it is now. I did work some really horrible summer jobs to make spending money because my parents made it clear that was my responsibility. I graduated from college in 1968 and took a job with the Defense Intelligence Agency to avoid become canon fodder in SE Asia. It was my education that made that possible. Privilege? yes. After 3 years working for the DIA in Europe I returned home and started a successful career as an engineer, once again thanks to my education. Was I privileged? Yes I was and I have never denied it or claimed to come up from nothing to success.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  48. Gromitt Gunn says:

    I still have a beast of an HP N series Ink Jet printer in my office at work that was manufactured in the mid 90s and is going strong 20 years later. People like Fiorina are why average people can no longer have nice things in this country.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  49. Slugger says:

    2010 election results from Santa Clara county (i.e. Silicon Valley)

    Boxer 304 961
    Fiorina 155 313

    I would advise the GOP to look for people that can win in their home county.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  50. Pinky says:

    @michael reynolds: What you’re calling for is the opposite of a fact-checking site, a narrative-checking site. It might be useful, actually.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  51. M. Bouffant says:

    No one’s mentioned Fiorina’s father‘s judgeship yet? He was appointed just about the time she would have been graduating from college.

    Sneed was nominated by President Richard Nixon to a seat vacated by Frederick G. Hamley on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on July 25, 1973, was confirmed by the Senate on August 3, 1973, and received his judicial commission on August 24, 1973. He served as an active judge of the court until taking senior status on July 21, 1987. He continued to hear cases and serve the court in other capacities for many more years. At the time of his death, he was the fourth most senior judge on the court.

    Over his long career, Judge Sneed served on advisory committees to the Ninth Circuit, the Federal Judicial Center, the American Judicature Society and the American Bar Association. He also served as the President of the Association of American Law Schools for 1968.

    Sneed was part of a three-judge panel that replaced Whitewater special prosecutor Robert B. Fiske with Kenneth Starr in 1994.

    I’m sure none of that was in any way advantageous.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  52. anjin-san says:

    @Slugger:

    I would advise the GOP to look for people that can win in their home county.

    People in the Bay Area know what Carly’s deal is. She is toxic in these parts, she will have to go where there are rubes waiting to be fleeced…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  53. An Interested Party says:

    James does serve a useful purpose here…his tone-deafness perfectly illustrates what’s wrong with the GOP and elites, among others (some of that brushing off on Wall Street Democrats too)…until people who aren’t in the middle class actually realize they aren’t in the middle class, we’ll continue to see bogus “rags to riches” stories…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  54. Gustopher says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker: Having to work doesn’t make one middle class — many, many people who work are poor.

    There has been an expansion of the term middle class, but it really has been an expansion downwards, where a lot of people have learned to settle for less since it is still “middle class.” The inflation adjusted salary of middle class in the 1960s isn’t middle class anymore if it means that you cannot afford a house because, or you cannot afford to retire, or you cannot afford your kid’s educations, or you don’t have a decent emergency fund for the inevitable problems in life.

    Middle class used to be one salary can raise a family, buy a modest house and retire. That’s not the case anymore for a lot of people who claim to be middle class. And, if that is a life that can only be matched by people currently making in the top 10-25%, where a generation ago it was achieved by the top 60%, that’s a problem.

    The middle class isn’t being squeezed by the policies of the last 30-40 years, a lot of people have moved from the middle class to the working poor and just haven’t accepted it. They want to have things better than their parents, and while some things are objectively better (TVs are way better, for instance), people really aren’t doing as well as they want to believe.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  55. Gustopher says:

    @Tillman:

    One’s idea of what’s middle and upper class has to always keep in mind the mean and median incomes of households in the country. There’s only ~22k difference between them, at ~52k median and ~72k mean. If you’re substantially above that, you’re not middle class.

    So, a country can never be majority poor? Somalia has a thriving middle class because the middle 50% of the country earn what the middle 50% of the country earns?

    That’s a useless definition. You have to define it by what a middle class lifestyle is (or traditionally has been), and then work backwards from that to see what it costs to afford that lifestyle. And, the middle class in America is shrinking if you look at it that way.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  56. michael reynolds says:

    @Pinky:

    You know, that’s not a bad notion. You could assemble a small group of editors, writers and critics to judge whether a given narrative makes sense and is essentially true. Is the person cherry-picking his or her backstory, for example? Is the person claiming as facts things which are not in evidence? Does the story seem to conform suspiciously well to the preferences expressed in the latest poll?

    Along the way they could offer suggestions for improving the narrative. I once sat in on the editing of an autobiographical documentary where the fellow who’d made the film had no idea of its obvious emotional through-line. The film editor and I immediately saw it. It wasn’t even a case of concocting bullshit, the actual truth was great all on its own. I guarantee you some of these candidates have better stories they could tell, if only they knew it.

    I wish candidates had the balls to tell the simple truth. It may lack drama, but it makes up for it in authenticity. There’s power in honesty. What if Hillary Clinton had come out and said, “What can I say, I blew the email thing. Sorry. I have to admit, I am prone to be secretive, it’s something I have to work on as a person, and something I will work on. I’m turning everything over right now.” The issue would have died, regardless of any witch-hunting committee.

    But these candidates are all in thrall to overpaid, self-appointed consultants whose qualifications amount to having once worked for some candidate in a safe district. They’re hacks for the most part, leeches. I was on the edge of that world at one point and decided if I had to spend my days with those reptiles I’d end up drinking myself to death.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  57. James Joyner says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Which isn’t what you said before, is it? You said she was simply “middle class”, not upper middle class. That’s a huge distinction.

    I used “upper middle class” early in the comment thread. But the upper middle class is, by definition, part of the middle class.

    @An Interested Party: @Gustopher: Lots of commenters seem to be on this kick about redefining the concept of middle class. I agree that it’s probably ludicrous to lump people who make $40,000 a year and $400,000 a year into a category called “middle,” given that those levels of income allow wildly different lifestyles. But it’s not lying to claim to be “middle class” when that’s how the vast preponderance of the country understands it to be that way. Almost everyone defines themselves as “middle class” in America and that was true before Carly Fiorina was born.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 10

  58. Tillman says:

    @Gustopher: It’s useless if what I wrote is your only consideration, which is why I wrote “one’s idea of what’s middle and upper class has to always keep in mind the mean and median incomes” etc. Does it read like I’m issuing an absolute definition, or did you presume that?

    This doesn’t preclude noticing a majority poor country. If we relied solely on the mean income, you’d be right as the average would disguise the proportion of the populace that’s poor. The median gives us an idea of where the income distribution is tilted. Granted, it helps to also have a good idea of just how rich the rich are so as to notice if a number of outliers (say, a rapidly growing-in-income 1%) are tipping the scales.

    But I don’t think traditional ideas of what it means to be middle class make effective criteria in an age of rapid technological advancement. Fox News had their segment about “the luxuries” of the poor, noting many of them owned refrigerators, microwaves, dishwashers and so on, and this segment relies on such traditional ideas to discredit the idea of the poor needing any assistance.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  59. jukeboxgrad says:

    James:

    Almost everyone defines themselves as “middle class” in America

    When one is richer than 95% of the group, it’s convenient to pretend that one is still in the “middle,” even though one is not. Just like it’s convenient to pretend that one’s party is ‘conservative’ even though it’s not. Funny how the people with the first problem and the people with the second problem are often the same people.

    In both instances, we’re talking about how a word can be stretched so severely that it becomes relatively meaningless.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  60. jukeboxgrad says:

    Tillman:

    Fox News had their segment about “the luxuries” of the poor, noting many of them owned refrigerators, microwaves, dishwashers and so on

    That’s a common perspective, and it misses the point in a big way, because our experience of wealth or poverty is highly positional, rather than absolute. Money is a positional good; it’s about status in the pack. Link.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  61. Gustopher says:

    @Tillman:

    Does it read like I’m issuing an absolute definition, or did you presume that?

    It reads like you are redefining middle class downwards, to match the expectation that most Americans are middle class.

    Your point about technology advancing is well taken, however, which is why I would rely upon big, technology independent items like the ability to afford housing, education and retirement. Medical care should also be in there. As well as the ability to weather the sudden loss of a job.

    I don’t think people get that in most cities for $40k/yr. $50-60k/yr can be precarious. Today’s “solidly middle class” are dealing with problems that were previously the domain of the “lower middle class” and the working poor.

    A chunk of that is the move away from pensions to 401ks, and the underfunding of the pensions that are there — we are heading towards a retirement crisis among the so-called middle class. Medical expenses are way up. Housing is way up. College expenses are way up, at the same time as a college degree has replaced the high school diploma as the minimum requirement for many jobs.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  62. Pinky says:

    @jukeboxgrad: But relative wealth is a faulty standard if we’re considering poverty alleviation, which is usually when these “luxury” type stories are raised. First of all, it is mathematically impossible to alleviate relative poverty across society. Secondly, most people prioritize the alleviation of absolute poverty – lack of food and shelter being the highest priorities. I don’t doubt that people compare themselves to others, but most people don’t feel a moral or societal obligation to eliminate relative poverty.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  63. Pinky says:

    @jukeboxgrad: But relative wealth is a faulty standard if we’re considering poverty alleviation, which is usually when these “luxury” type stories are raised. First of all, it is mathematically impossible to alleviate relative poverty across society. Secondly, most people prioritize the alleviation of absolute poverty – lack of food and shelter being the highest priorities. I don’t doubt that people compare themselves to others, but most people don’t feel a moral or societal obligation to eliminate relative poverty.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  64. Gustopher says:

    It would have been better had the Washington Post checked whether she actually worked her way up, or whether she relied on family connections.

    Whether her family was middle class or not, they were far more connected than the average family. Even the fabulously wealthy Mr. Reynolds and his lovely wife, with all that Animorphs money, cannot open the doors for their children that the dean of a prestigious law school can, let alone a judge.

    I have only modest doubt that Ms. Fiorina was smart enough and hardworking enough to go through doors that were opened for her, but given her record of — ahem — “success” at HP, one must wonder if she began failing upwards earlier in her rise, or waited until the pinnacle of her career to begin failing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  65. Modulo Myself says:

    @James Joyner:

    The country sees middle class like the way the commenters here do, which is why she’s trying to connect to the ordinary voter by talking about starting off as a secretary and not about her dad being dean of a top law school.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  66. jukeboxgrad says:

    Pinky:

    most people don’t feel a moral or societal obligation to eliminate relative poverty

    As usual, your comment is packed with falsehoods and fallacies, so I’ll only bother to point out one: straw man.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  67. Pinky says:

    @jukeboxgrad: Explain.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 6

  68. al-Ameda says:

    @Pinky:

    But relative wealth is a faulty standard if we’re considering poverty alleviation, which is usually when these “luxury” type stories are raised. First of all, it is mathematically impossible to alleviate relative poverty across society. Secondly, most people prioritize the alleviation of absolute poverty – lack of food and shelter being the highest priorities. I don’t doubt that people compare themselves to others, but most people don’t feel a moral or societal obligation to eliminate relative poverty.

    If you assume that most people are amoral, cold and uncaring with respect to those who live in “relative poverty” then I suppose you are right.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  69. Pinky says:

    @al-Ameda: Why did you put “relative poverty” in quotes? It’s not a euphemism or something. It’s a technical term. There are different ways of defining poverty, and different ways of measuring it. My reference to relative poverty wasn’t a scoffing at poverty.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 5

  70. jukeboxgrad says:

    Pinky:

    Explain

    My record shows that I would, if I took you seriously, but I don’t, so I won’t.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  71. James Joyner says:

    @Gustopher: Again, I’m not a fan of Fiorina. By all accounts, her tenure as CEO of HP was a disaster. But I don’t care who your daddy is, you don’t get hired to be CEO of a Fortune 20 company based on those connections (unless your daddy actually owns the company, of course). The connections are a huge help at getting into good schools, getting the right internships, getting the early breaks, etc. That’s a huge leg up. But at some point, you have to do the work.

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  72. grumpy realist says:

    @James Joyner: Work? When 90% of the hassle and the strain is taken away from you by your father’s wealth and your father’s connections, it’s pretty hard to call what you do “work”. But a lot of the scions of rich, well-connected parents do indeed think that.

    Carly is nothing more than a walking ego as far as I can tell. She and Donald Trump are a good match, and I doubt she’ll rise much higher before The Donald really goes after her.

    I can’t wait.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2

  73. Pinky says:

    @jukeboxgrad: I’m glad you’re proud of your record, but I’ve looked my comment over again, and I couldn’t find a straw man. I checked that link of yours and you make a similar accusation there, that {income inequality is bad} is a straw man argument but {extreme income inequality is bad} is a legitimate one. I’m not sure it is, though. Extreme income inequality without absolute poverty doesn’t bother me. Am I missing something about your position?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  74. MBunge says:

    @Gustopher: $250k/yr is upper middle class.

    Math is our friend. Let’s assume the government takes half that $250k a year salary. That leaves $125,000. That works out to $12,500 a month, about $2,400 a week and roughly $340 a day.

    Let’s assume you save 1/4th of your income. That would mean a person earning $250k a year would be able to comfortable spend $255 a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

    That’s not upper middle class, unless you’ve got four or more kids. Someone who makes $250k a year may feel like it’s middle class but that’s because they’re actually trying to live like people who make $350k a year.

    Mike

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  75. jukeboxgrad says:

    Pinky:

    Extreme income inequality without absolute poverty doesn’t bother me.

    In my linked comment I explained why it should. When you’re ready to address what I said, let me know.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  76. grumpy realist says:

    @Pinky: Um, it should. Historically, stuff happens. Like revolutions.

    As I’ve always said: “Progressive taxation is the insurance rich people pay to make sure they don’t get hanged from lampposts.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2

  77. Ron Beasley says:

    I hate to do it but I will cut her some slack. There was a time when HP was a great innovator. Those times had already passed when she took over. When it comes to PCs companies like HP were little more than box builders – the innovation occurred in places like the Intel lab in Hillisboro , Oregon. Printers were once something that HP innovation made better but that technology had reached it’s zenith. I still think that Epson makes the best printers but even their innovations are largely in ink. She basically destroyed an old cooperate culture but perhaps that culture had gone stale. I saw this happen at one of my former employers, Tektronix.
    None of this is meant to imply she was competent, she wasn’t. Hi tech is a rapidly changing field. When I first started as an engineer we were stil doing point to point connections on circuit boards. Now we have multi layer circuit boards with components almost too small to see. My old employer, Tektronix, is now a shadow of it’s old self although it was once a hi tech giant. Perhaps that is the fate that HP faces. Anyone can build a box!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  78. Andre Kenji says:

    The problem of the idea of eliminating absolute poverty is that it´s a pretty unambitious goal, since even on the poorest areas of the world people have access to food and water. The United States, where there is generous access to consumer goods but where access to basic services like health care or public transportation can be make things more complicated. There are people with large screen TVs that don´t have access for doctors, for instance.

    (That´s something that I´ll point out when an American points out to favelas in Brazil).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  79. Andre Kenji says:

    @Ron Beasley: I think that part of the problem is that HP could be a boring producer of reliable boxes, not a producer of boxes that people are wary to buy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  80. jukeboxgrad says:

    “Progressive taxation is the insurance rich people pay to make sure they don’t get hanged from lampposts.”

    Correct. You and I discussed this exactly three years ago. In a reply to you, I quoted someone saying this:

    The top 1 percent have the best houses, the best educations, the best doctors, and the best lifestyles, but there is one thing that money doesn’t seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live. Throughout history, this is something that the top 1 percent eventually do learn. Too late.

    This isn’t the only reason to care, but it’s sufficient.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  81. Ron Beasley says:

    @Andre Kenji: One of the few choices a box maker has is selecting a reliable hard drive – HP has has not been good at this instead selecting the cheapest drive they can find.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  82. munch the blast says:

    As someone who actually did climb up from the gutter,

    TRUE THAT ASS HAT… you are the slime of the gutter.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 18

  83. ThirteenthLetter says:

    What a comments section you have here. The “fact check” is one hundred percent bullshit, but that just rolls right off their backs because there’s a narrative that must be defended at all costs.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 16

  84. motopilot says:

    @Ron Beasley: My old employer, Tektronix, is now a shadow of it’s old self although it was once a hi tech giant. Perhaps that is the fate that HP faces.

    Life in electronics “Hi-Tech” back in the day was interesting, no? But so many shadows of their former selves nowadays, partly due to evolving technology and partly due to horrible management. The latter would include the scenario at my old employer, Data I/O. Management that had no clue about the products we made and the customer’s needs. In fact they didn’t even know who our customers were. Management thought the shareholders were the customers. Competent management was forced out and arrogant profit reapers were brought in… and now it’s a ghost company. But the hatchet man CEO left with a huge golden parachute.

    I know people that worked with Fiorina at HP and they do not have good things to say about her management capabilities. Refer to above comments.

    Tektronix, eh? I developed programming algorithms using your scopes. Good stuff. Perhaps you knew Larry Mayhew, Tom Clark, Alan Hanson and Joe Mathews. They all migrated to Data I/O from Tektronix.

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  85. grumpy realist says:

    @Ron Beasley: HP was a company that had lost its way a bit and was coasting (a bit) on the income from its printer division. It did have an excellent engineering culture, a good R&D lab, and the potential for turning itself around if it could just hook on to the next big thing.

    For whatever reasons, Carly was brought on, shook up the place, proceeded to sell and get rid of the parts of the company that could have been a stepping stone up (the engineering measurement equipment division to Agilent), and charged off after the commodities PC market. She went after a purchase of another cheap PC manufacturer in spite of all warnings against it, and turned what used to be a great name into a company known for over-expensive low-quality Chinese hardware before the Board of Directors finally got fed up and dumped her. During the same period, she fired 30,000 people, convinced a sizable number of people who could have helped turn the company around to bail out and look for greener pastures, and totally destroyed the “knowhow” seed corn of the company. They don’t call her “Carly the Chainsaw” in the Valley for nothin’.

    And she’s still running around screeching how she was such a success and how everyone’s so biased against her. Bah.

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  86. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Gustopher: Unfortunately, you position posits the proposition that only those in, maybe, the top 10% of incomes are actually “middle class.” If you want to use that observation to assert that “the middle class” as a segment of economic distribution doesn’t actually exist any more and that we are really a country consisting of a “poor” class, a “less rich” class, and a “more rich” class, I’m all ears, but I haven’t heard it so far.

    If you are simply saying that most of the population has become poor but don’t realize it and that there’s no problem beyond their trying to live beyond their means, there’s a job as an economist at the Heritage Foundation waiting with your name on it. Contact “employment @ heritage dot org” for details.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  87. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Pinky:

    First of all, it is mathematically impossible to alleviate relative poverty across society.

    No, it isn’t. If people with capital will put fewer of the gross profits into their own pockets and more of them into the hands of their workers, the net effect will be the alleviation (lessening) of poverty.

    Now I realize that this works a hardship on the owners of capital in a country where the actual middle class starts at about $100,000, and no, I truly don’t understand how little money a billion dollars is these days (h.t. to the Hunt brothers for that one). But as a solution, it will work if only the “upper middle class” will permit it to,.

    By the way, your argument would have worked better if you had used “eliminate.” You actually can’t eliminate poverty, because it is relative.

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  88. grumpy realist says:

    @ThirteenthLetter: I sniff an odor of troll. No one, having read the thread above, could possibly believe this.

    Maybe our own particular troll, back again?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  89. Pinky says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker: Point taken; I should have said “eliminate relative poverty”. But your last sentence is problematic – poverty can be defined as an absolute or a relative phenomenon.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  90. Pinky says:

    @grumpy realist: If trolls are people who write a lot of comments in opposition to a site’s general ideology, and the authors of this site lean rightward, then…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 7

  91. SC_Birdflyte says:

    It’s one of the ironies of American public life that you must be seen as have “risen above” both your own circumstances and your peers. By that standard, many of us would be seen as failures. I am related both to Jimmy Carter and Berry Gordy, Jr. By their standards, I will never be a success, although I believe that I’ve fulfilled most of my life goals.

    The biggest advantage one can have in politics is a well-stocked contact list; hence, the success of George W. Bush. Both Carly and The Donald have benefited similarly from the fact that they started the race with a built-in advantage over their peers. When you get to the Presidency, such advantages don’t matter nearly as much. It’s up to us, the voters, to inquire critically into the background of any potential leader.

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  92. Pinky says:

    @Pinky: In other words, ask not who’s the site’s trolls, the troll is thee.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  93. grumpy realist says:

    @Pinky: Um, I suggest you read the comment my comment was in response to. My comment was not in response to anything you posted.

    (And yes, it’s Sunday, and I’m bored, and procrastinating from finishing tax calculations.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  94. grumpy realist says:

    @Pinky: Oh, I do have to give you a thumbs up for that one. Zing!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  95. michael reynolds says:

    @ThirteenthLetter:

    No, we’ve just expanded the conversation beyond James’ initial point, which most of us concede. James says, in effect, “This ain’t fact checking,” and we say, “Yeah, but Fiorina’s still a fraud.” Because “Yeah,” isn’t much of a conversation.

    That’s how casual conversation works.

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  96. Ron Beasley says:

    @grumpy realist: Tektronix had an entire 4 story building devoted to R&D and we pretty much had had an open checkbook to play with and play was what we usually did. We did create some things that are are still in use today like the touch screen display and the first real time giga hertz oscilloscope. We also manufactured the first desk top computer although you needed 2 desks because it took up nearly the entire desk. And then there was the direct view storage tube display was the computer graphics solution when computer memory was limited, IBM bought hundreds of them a month. Tektrononics made the mistake of encouraging many of their innovators to spin off. Several of them are still around, Infocus, Planer Systems and TriQuint to name a few. They also devoped a new printer technology which is now owned by Xerox. As an engineer I was involved in both the projects that eventually led to Infocus and the printer now owned by Xerox.

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  97. Davebo says:

    It bears reminder that Fiorina’s horrific term at the helm of HP was preceded by perhaps an even more horrific time at Lucent.

    The truth is her much storied business successes were in fact only profitable for her, not the companies she ran.

    In itself, it’s a damning history but the fact that she feels she can point to those two jobs as reasons why she would make a good leader of the free world should be disqualifying.

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  98. al-Ameda says:

    @Pinky:

    @al-Ameda: Why did you put “relative poverty” in quotes? It’s not a euphemism or something. It’s a technical term. There are different ways of defining poverty, and different ways of measuring it. My reference to relative poverty wasn’t a scoffing at poverty.

    I suppose I could have put in italics? Actually I did so because I’ve noticed that quite a few people try to dismiss the notion of poverty in America by making comparisons of the poor in America to the poor in far less advanced countries, all the while pointing out that the poor in America have it so much better than the poor in less advanced countries. The inference being that the poor in America already receive enough government assistance, and are undeserving of more.

    Also, there is always an undercurrent of morality at play. Many people believe that being poor is a measure of a lack of character and insufficient morality on the part of those in poverty. And of course from that view it follows that the poor are undeserving because they are less moral. This is nothing new, it goes back to Calvinist beliefs, to the origins of this country.

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  99. grumpy realist says:

    @Davebo: I was involved with a company that spun off (actually, forcibly ripped itself off) from the parent company. Originally, the parent company was a GREAT tech company, was the inventor of certain analytical instruments, had a great reputation, etc. ,etc. and so forth. Unfortunately they were bought out by a bunch of MBAs from New Jersey who had the ethics you’d expect and who tried to turn the parent company into a cash cow with them pulling out all the cash they could get their hands on. They managed to piss off the R&D and operations scientists to the point where the latter all marched out the door and said “we’re going to start our own company and invent the next generation of instruments.” Which happened along with a rapid gobbling up of the market on our part and a rapid dwindling on their part.

    (The parent company also managed to totally sabotage its relationships with existing clients by insisting that Customer Support ALSO be profitable just on its lonesome. They were so tardy and so expensive that we had previous customers (with a perfectly decent piece of equipment) calling us up and saying hey let’s replace our stuff with one of yours because you have so much better of a customer reputation and could you please show up next week for a demo?)

    Moral of the story: when a company goes from a three-layered company to a seven-layered company without corresponding increase in market size, GET OUT.

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  100. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Pinky: I would note that it may be possible to eliminate the negative effects of “absolute” (word being used as a word, not for semantic input) poverty if all people can make enough to be adequately housed, fed, and clothed. There will still be people who might push themselves through the voids in, or jump off of, the safety net, but that cannot be helped in a society where liberty allows for disfunctionality. Those people will still be poor, but I have not ever been a believer that the poverty itself is the problem–the fallout effects are the issue for me. It is the one piece of my former conservative belief set that I kept.

    Where ever there is a range, there will be a top and a bottom. It will always be there, no matter how high the range goes.

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  101. Gustopher says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker:

    If you want to use that observation to assert that “the middle class” as a segment of economic distribution doesn’t actually exist any more and that we are really a country consisting of a “poor” class, a “less rich” class, and a “more rich” class, I’m all ears, but I haven’t heard it so far.

    I think that’s basically just quibbling over whether we call that group that can afford the traditional middle class lifestyle “middle class”, “upper middle class”, or “less rich”.

    The “middle class” has been hollowed out and slowly impoverished over the past few decades. Workers’ salaries have not kept up with the productivity gains, or the increase in corporate revenues, but a lot of the essentials in life have, despite an artificially low and underestimated inflation rate.

    To quote Donald Trump, “the American Dream is dead.” (He is wrong on the causes)

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  102. C. Clavin says:

    @Guarneri:
    @grumpy realist:
    Guanari, or Drew as he was previously known, is convinced he is the worlds best business man. This in spite of the fact that everything he types on this site is wrong. Always.
    Like Dick Morris and Bill Kristol and that other clown that comments here, Jack…you can automatically take the opposite view and automatically be right 99-44/100ths of the time.

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  103. jukeboxgrad says:

    al-Ameda:

    And of course from that view it follows that the poor are undeserving because they are less moral.

    Yes. This important point gets to the heart of the matter, and it’s generally overlooked. Conservatives despise the poor. The psychological reasons for this are subtle. Link.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  104. C. Clavin says:

    @jukeboxgrad:
    I think you are over-thinking it just a tad.
    Most rich folks got rich by being lucky. JEB! was born a Bush. Trump inherited his wealth, as did Romney and the Koch’s and Paul Ryan and on and on.
    The less fortunate remind them of what and where they would be absent an incredible stroke of luck…and they find it terribly disturbing.
    For them the safest most secure path is to pull up the ladder behind them and protect what they didn’t earn in the first place.

    I’m anxious to hear about Trumps new Tax Reform plan. It sounds terribly un-Republican.

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  105. Pinky says:

    @jukeboxgrad: How is that not a straw man, given that no one on this thread (as far as I recall) has made the argument that the poor are less moral?

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  106. C. Clavin says:

    @Pinky:
    You could go to the famous Romney quote about the 47%.
    Or the most recent Bush quote about “free stuff”.
    Paul Ryan wants to eliminate the social safety net because the poor need his tough love.
    Indeed, Ayn Rand the high priestess of Republican thought made it morally acceptable to treat the poor like total sh!t.
    Generally it’s a Republican catechism that the poor are poor because of bad choices they’ve made and immoral behavior they indulge in.
    You know all this…but want to pretend it’s a straw-man…which is intellectually dishonest.

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  107. Pinky says:

    @C. Clavin: Romney’s 47% comment wasn’t about the poor being less moral. Nor was Jeb’s comment. Ryan’s policy recommendations aren’t either. I haven’t read Rand; as far as I know, she believed that the rich acted morally by not giving to the poor, but I don’t know what she said about the morality of the poor. That leaves us with your generalization, and you calling me intellectually dishonest. Is that all you’ve got?

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  108. C. Clavin says:

    @Pinky:

    Romney’s 47% comment wasn’t about the poor being less moral.

    There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what… These are people who pay no income tax…”[M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

    Yeah, Pinky…that’s all I got. I guess claiming people won’t take responsibility for themselves, who believe they are entitled to what Bush calls “free stuff” is not about morality.
    Like I said…you are intellectually dishonest.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  109. C. Clavin says:

    @Pinky:
    Maybe you just don’t know what the word, morality, means???
    That’s the only explanation for your position.

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  110. ernieyeball says:

    @Andre Kenji:..even on the poorest areas of the world people have access to food and water.

    Well. Maybe.

    783 million people do not have access to clean and safe water. 37% of those people live in Sub-Saharan Africa.
    http://thewaterproject.org/water_stats

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  111. C. Clavin says:

    @C. Clavin:

    I’m anxious to hear about Trumps new Tax Reform plan. It sounds terribly un-Republican.

    Actually it is a very Republican plan with the cuts going dis-proportionately to the wealthy. Also, in Republican tradition, it contains few actual details.
    http://www.vox.com/2015/9/28/9408923/donald-trump-tax-plan

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  112. jukeboxgrad says:

    C. Clavin:

    The less fortunate remind them of what and where they would be absent an incredible stroke of luck…and they find it terribly disturbing.

    I agree. I think this is similar to what I said in the comment I linked.

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  113. jukeboxgrad says:

    Pinky:

    How is that not a straw man, given that no one on this thread (as far as I recall) has made the argument that the poor are less moral?

    I said conservatives despise the poor. I didn’t say conservatives “on this thread” despise the poor, so those words of yours are bullshit.

    And your entire question is bullshit, because in my linked comment I cited multiple quotes of conservatives who “made the argument that the poor are less moral.”

    Romney’s 47% comment wasn’t about the poor being less moral.

    Among other things, Mitt said this:

    I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

    Morality has to do with distinguishing between right and wrong. So I guess your position is that a failure to “take personal responsibility” isn’t wrong?

    I realize C. Clavin already explained this to you.

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  114. James Pearce says:

    @Pinky:

    Romney’s 47% comment wasn’t about the poor being less moral.

    No, it was about reinforcing (frankly) bullshit arguments in the pandering pursuit of votes. And to the extent that it was about the whole “makers-takers” argument, and it was, there was indeed a moral component, that is that the “makers” are morally entitled to the bounty of the American system and the takers….well, are availing themselves of benefits they do not deserve.

    True story: You can be a conservative by dispensing with this nonsense.

    And this is why you should dispense with it: It’s nonsense.

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  115. grumpy realist says:

    @Pinky: No one here has, but if you look at any thread on the topic over at places like TAC, there’s always a sizable percentage of “the Poor are Poor because They’re Immoral” comments.

    It’s the modern version of Calvinism.

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  116. C. Clavin says:

    @grumpy realist:

    It’s the modern version of Calvinism.

    For a minute I thought you meant Clavinism.
    Phew….

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  117. Pinky says:

    @jukeboxgrad: It’s a stupid blanket statement to say that the poor are less moral. Some are, some aren’t; it’s not inherent to their condition. It’s a stupid blanket statement to say that conservatives think the poor are less moral. Some do, some don’t; it’s not inherent to their beliefs.

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  118. James Pearce says:

    @Pinky: To paraphrase Jeff Foxworthy, if you think the poor are stupid and immoral, you might be a conservative.

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  119. jukeboxgrad says:

    Pinky:

    It’s a stupid blanket statement to say that conservatives think the poor are less moral.

    “Stupid” is a good word for what you’re doing: transparently trying to change the subject after you got caught spewing bullshit again. You said this:

    Romney’s 47% comment wasn’t about the poor being less moral.

    You were proven wrong, and not just by me. You have zero intellectual integrity, which is why you’re trying to change the subject instead of admitting that you got caught bullshitting again.

    And I cited multiple conservative leaders describing the poor as “less moral,” so treating this as a common conservative belief is demonstrably not “a stupid blanket statement.” It’s a non-stupid “blanket statement,” because it’s supported by evidence.

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  120. C. Clavin says:

    @Pinky:

    It’s a stupid blanket statement to say that conservatives think the poor are less moral.

    We are discussing Republicans, not Conservatives. These people are not Conservative. They are radicals.
    And yes, we did all notice that you refused to address Romney’s quote impugning the morals of the 47%.
    Just admit you are wrong and we can move on.
    Or this can haunt you forever like your Killing Cops for Christmas meme.

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  121. Pinky says:

    Cliffy, I’ll grant your point on that Romney statement. I was thinking of moral failing in terms of “the poor are poor because they don’t work hard enough”, a cause-type failing, and I don’t think Romney’s statement reflects that. It does reflect a moral failing in terms of “the poor demand stuff”, a sin of envy, which is different. The Calvinist-type argument refers to the former, not the latter. The latter accusation should also be targeted at grumpy realist or jukeboxgrad, by my reading.

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  122. Pinky says:

    @jukeboxgrad: You accused me of a straw man, and wouldn’t explain why. I accused you of a straw man, and explained it, and you said that it was justified because some other people had made that argument. If you think you’ve got the high ground here I don’t know what to say.

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  123. jukeboxgrad says:

    Pinky:

    I was thinking of moral failing in terms of “the poor are poor because they don’t work hard enough”, a cause-type failing, and I don’t think Romney’s statement reflects that.

    He said the poor fail to “take personal responsibility.” Explain how that is not “a cause-type failing.”

    You accused me of a straw man, and wouldn’t explain why.

    Because you have no integrity, and you keep proving it.

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  124. C. Clavin says:

    @Pinky:
    Failing to take responsibility for yourself is not a moral failing?
    You’re full of sh!t and lack the moral fortitude to admit it.

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  125. jukeboxgrad says:

    “Full of sh!t” is his middle name, and pretty much every comment is additional evidence.

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  126. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Pinky: Wow! Pinky, I have some advice for you if you ever go to the World Series of Poker: Don’t reraise if you haven’t got the cards for the first raise.

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