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NYT's Adam Davidson Parrots Disinformation as He Extols Rule by the SuperRich

Yves Smith explores Davidson's latest assault on common sense and accuracy in his new piece on Romney's crony, the revolting Edward Conard.
 
 
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Adam Davidson is moving up in the world. He has gone from fellating the 1% to the top 0.1%.

But bear in mind that we can’t hold Davidson solely responsible for his latest assault on common sense, decency, and most important accuracy. It was the editors of the Sunday Magazine that not only decided to showcase an interview with Mitt Romney’s uber wealthy former partner Edward Conard (“ The Purpose of Spectacular Wealth, According to a Spectacularly Wealthy Guy“) but to give it a full 6 pages (per my browser) and put it on the magazine cover. Conard says his new career is to “make his case for a new, decidedly pro-investor way to think about the economy.” And what follows is half-baked, largely inaccurate, unabashed propaganda.

Now admittedly, Davidson as interlocutor gets to have it both ways. He presents Conard’s arguments pretty much straight up for the first half of the piece, and treats them and Conard with a good deal of respect (well, save Conard’s view of the crisis, that is was a run on sound banks which is utterly batshit, and Davidson does pause to intimate that). For instance, after pointing out that Conard's heretofore best known in the wider world as being a mystery Romney funder at the center of a pending scandal that went poof when Conard outed himself, Davidson suggests he might be media wary. But no, this is how Davidson described his first meeting:

"Over lunch with editors from The Times Magazine, Conard proved the exact opposite. He looks like a benign middle-aged guy until he starts making an argument. At which point, Conard stares into your eyes and talks with intense force, punctuated by the occasional profanity, in full paragraphs. He delighted in arguing over corporate-bond rates and Chinese central-bank policy, among other arcane minutiae. It also became clear that he had exhaustively thought through the role of the superrich in our economy, and he wasn’t afraid to share those opinions."

This introduction to Conard as a real person segues into an overview of Conard as an icon of successful risk-taking (a theme in Conard’s book, due out next month, which this story also has the unfortunate effect of promoting): born into a middle class family, rising through consulting firm Bain to become partner, leapfrogging to M&A boutique Wasserstein Perella, taking a pay cut to go for greater upside by returning to the Bain fold, but this time at private equity firm Bain Capital.

Aside from the description of Conard’s devoid-of-reality take on the crisis, Davidson uncritically recites his views in the first half of the story and then only, all too politely, as no doubt fits in a world where men like Conard deserve deference, questions his ideas towards the end.

But even with this unduly respectful treatment, the picture that emerges is stunning. Conard is in fact a living, walking homo economicus. If he were written up in a novel, he’d be treated as a ridiculous parody. He treats finding a mate like a shopping exercise, and recommends a sampling phase prior to a selection phase. He thinks philanthropy is bad and money should go only to investments:

"During one conversation, he expressed anger over the praise that Warren Buffett has received for pledging billions of his fortune to charity. It was no sacrifice, Conard argued; Buffett still has plenty left over to lead his normal quality of life. By taking billions out of productive investment, he was depriving the middle class of the potential of its 20-to-1 benefits. If anyone was sacrificing, it was those people. “Quit taking a victory lap,” he said, referring to Buffett. 'That money was for the middle class.'"