Larry Summers and Starbucks: can we understand this category more generally?

by Andrew Gelman on September 16, 2013 · 10 comments

in Public opinion

Reading Sarah Binder’s post on the withdrawal of Lawrence Summers from consideration for a post on the Federal Reserve, I was reminded of our discussion from a few years ago about the similarities of Summers and Starbucks, both of which that are disliked by the left for being too corporate and disliked by the right for being too left-wing.

This made me wonder about the more general category, what other people and institutions have that public-opinion profile. I can’t think of a lot of examples. Bill Clinton, for instance, could have ended up this way, but my impression is that he is liked (even if not loved) on the left, that liberals excuse his centrism because he got a lot done. Similarly, sure, some conservatives were annoyed at the two George Bush for various reasons, but overall I think there’s a clear partisan divide. Nothing like Summers, who was actively opposed by liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans.

{ 10 comments }

Matthew Incantalupo September 16, 2013 at 5:56 am

Mike Bloomberg; Cory Booker; Apple Computers

Andrew Gelman September 16, 2013 at 6:16 am

Matthew:

Cory Booker I’ll agree with. But my impression is that people on the left generally like Bloomberg and Apple. Maybe not the far left, but the mainstream left is ok with them.

Wonks Anonymous September 16, 2013 at 11:38 am

I would have thought Booker was more popular with the left than Bloomberg. Bloomberg isn’t even a Democrat any more! De Blasio was basically running as the anti-Bloomberg to great liberal acclaim, while Lautenberg made himself look bad running against Booker.

Chaz September 16, 2013 at 3:14 pm

Well no TRUE leftist would like Apple! ;)

(Bloomberg, c’mon, these Republican/nonpartisan/centrist clowns don’t even come close to being okay on the left.)

Chaz September 16, 2013 at 6:01 am

Tony Blair, Joe Lieberman, Brad DeLong. Too leftist for the corporations and too corporate for the left is the fundamental paradox of the center-left neoliberal.

Mark September 16, 2013 at 9:47 am

John McCain.

Vladimir September 16, 2013 at 11:42 am

Going back in time now-Henry Kissinger

andrew long September 16, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Um, POTUS?

phat September 16, 2013 at 1:11 pm

Hollywood

Ken Houghton September 17, 2013 at 4:42 pm

I think the difference you’re missing is whether the difference is one of data or interpretation.

Bill Clinton gets credit because he knows the data inside and out, and can explain himself. You may not agree with him, but you know he knows what he’s talking about.

Starbucks is on the objection block because their coffee =sucks=. It was developed as a caffeine-delivery device, and is priced accordingly. I suppose if you throw enough other **** into it (milk, foam, more syrup than when you let the three-year-old pour her own on the panckaes), it’s digestible, but if you’re looking for coffee, Starbucks isn’t it. (They recently admitted this, releasing something that’s supposed to be drinkable black.)

RoboEconomist in 2009 was at the best a s****y manager, and most of the details released are that he blocked anything that might have been useful–which is not just a reference to leaving the $1.2B recommendation out of the other* legendary memo. (That’s Exhibit A for the s****y manager charge, and Brad was being an idiot trying to defend him on that one.) Given his previous work, and his efforts in between, and his lack of repentance or even (he’s an economist, so we don’t expect toilet training to have taken) charting a course that steers clear of those errors, only a fool would call him data-driven.

*That I have to add “other”–the first was Lane Kenworthy’s IMF piece, which he gets a pass for signing because of the Economist thing–is an indicator for anyone who works basic pattern recognition. Somehow, in 57 pages, there was deemed no space to note that the Chair of the CEA recommended a stimulus at least a 50% larger than the number you’re presenting, even though you had worked in a senior position in a previous Administration and had seen how spending proposals got whittled down in negotiation. The choices at that point are that you are either stupid, clueless, or venal. Since Brad assures us (he doth protest a lot) the first two are not so, we are left to the obvious conclusion.

Summers, in short, doesn’t make decisions or recommendations based on the data.

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