Friday, April 16, 2010

I'm Shocked! Shocked!

I'm having a Claude Rains moment today.

Did you ever see "Casablanca?" That's the famous Humphrey Bogart–Ingrid Bergman wartime flick — "Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine ..."

There are some really classic lines in that movie, but I think my favorite is where Claude Rains shuts down Bogart's nightspot. When Bogart asks why he's being shut down, Rains (who is being allowed to win at roulette in a deal that was mentioned earlier) says, "I'm shocked! Shocked! To find that gambling is going on here!"

A second later, one of Bogart's casino workers comes up to Rains with a fistful of cash. "Your winnings, sir," he says.

Anyway, I was shocked — shocked, I tell you! — to see that a New York Times/CBS News poll has some revelations about the demographic tendencies of the Tea Partiers.
  • "Tea Party supporters tend to be Republican, white, male, married and older than 45."

  • "They hold more conservative views on a range of issues than Republicans generally."

  • "They are also more likely to describe themselves as 'very conservative' and President Obama as 'very liberal.' "

  • "And while most Republicans say they are 'dissatisfied' with Washington, Tea Party supporters are more likely to classify themselves as 'angry.' "
They're also wealthier and better educated than most Americans.

Stop the presses.

Now, in general, I don't agree with the Tea Partiers' complaints — and I can't say that I am surprised to learn that they tend to be affluent, white, married, Republican and over 45. Their disdain for Obama is pretty well known, don't you think?

As a student of history, I definitely think their knowledge of that subject is somewhat lacking. I mean, really. Socialist? Come on. And there are times when they really push the limits of even my advocacy of freedom of speech.

But there are some issues on which we can find some common ground.

For example, Kate Zernike and Megan Thee–Brenan report in the New York Times that most Tea Partiers "think the most pressing problems facing the country today are the economy and jobs." On that point, I agree.

You want to know what really shocks me? CNN thinks that a poll showing that 19% of Americans (roughly the same percentage that describe themselves as Tea Partiers) are optimistic about the economy is somehow significant. Granted, it is higher than the 12% who felt that way in January. But it's still less than one–fifth of the respondents.

Is this surge in optimism somehow connected with the latest jobs report — you know, the one that reported that 162,000 jobs were added to payrolls last month? Is that what is making 19% of the poll respondents feel optimistic about the economy?

Well, these days, I guess, you take your good news where you can get it, but I continue to recommend that we wait and see what happens for several months before we reach a conclusion about whether unemployment is getting better or worse.

And we got a reminder to cool our jets this week, when it was reported that initial unemployment claims went up for the second straight week.

It remains to be seen whether anyone will heed the warning.

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