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You Take The Good, You Take The Bad

By Jesse Taylor
Tuesday, July 1, 2008 14:37 EDT


David Brooks is full of revelation today:

As in other recent campaigns, lawyers account for the biggest chunk of Democratic donations. They have donated about $18 million to Obama, compared with about $5 million to John McCain, according to data released on June 2 and available at OpenSecrets.org.

People who work at securities and investment companies have given Obama about $8 million, compared with $4.5 for McCain. People who work in communications and electronics have given Obama about $10 million, compared with $2 million for McCain. Professors and other people who work in education have given Obama roughly $7 million, compared with $700,000 for McCain.

Real estate professionals have given Obama $5 million, compared with $4 million for McCain. Medical professionals have given Obama $7 million, compared with $3 million for McCain. Commercial bankers have given Obama $1.6 million, compared with $1.2 million for McCain. Hedge fund and private equity managers have given Obama about $1.6 million, compared with $850,000 for McCain.

When you break it out by individual companies, you find that employees of Goldman Sachs gave more to Obama than workers of any other employer. The Goldman Sachs geniuses are followed by employees of the University of California, UBS, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, National Amusements, Lehman Brothers, Harvard and Google. At many of these workplaces, Obama has a three- or four-to-one fund-raising advantage over McCain.

Brooks’ main point here is that Obama and McCain are involved in some sort of Brooks Brothers culture war, with two large camps of elites warring with each other over who eventually gets to make policy, with Obama’s likely-in-charge camp preparing to rebel against the old-guard Republicans by selling out the Democratic agenda:

If the Democrats are elected, this highly educated class will have much more say over policy than during the campaign. Undecided voters sway campaigns, but in government, elites generally run things. Once the Republicans are vanquished, I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for that capital gains tax hike or serious measures to expand unionization.

Over the past few years, people from Goldman Sachs have assumed control over large parts of the federal government. Over the next few they might just take over the whole darn thing.

There’s only one problem with David Brooks’ argument, something that was nagging at me as I read it: the whole thing. There’s a very simple reason that Obama has received so much more money from these sectors than John McCain. He’s received so much more money overall. Looking at the ratio, Obama’s received about 2.7 times as much money as John McCain, a disparity so large that you can only look at support by sector proportionally rather than directly – an equal disparity in absolute dollars should be expected were the candidates drawing equal support. Anything less is a tilt towards McCain, anything more is a tilt towards Obama. Otherwise, it just falls in the normal realm of Obama being much better at this than McCain is.

Going down the list:

  • Lawyers: 3.6:1
  • Securities and Investment: 1.8:1
  • Communications: 5:1
  • Educators: 10:1
  • Real Estate: 1.5:1
  • Medical Professionals: 2.3:1
  • Commercial Bankers: 1.3:1
  • Hedge Fund: 2:1

With an overall ratio of 2.7:1, Brooks’ thesis runs into a major problem: McCain is outperforming Obama, proportionally, in 5 of the 8 categories that make up Obama’s new ruling class. It’s not even that Brooks completely cherrypicked his data, it’s that he cherrypicked the wrong fucking data to make a point that can’t possibly stand. Even the presentation is designed to maximize the wrongness. Start with three groups that do disproportionately support Obama in order to mask the fact that none of the other groups do, and then stake out a thesis based on the initial impression rather than, perhaps, the actual information you’ve gathered.

From now on, my retirement plan isn’t saving or investing. It’s figuring out how to be insipid enough to land on the New York Times’ Op-Ed page without wandering out into traffic first.

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