Tuesday, May 29, 2012

This Week in Fake American History -- UPDATE II


Today, in yet another great, swirling fury of whinging fusspot concern truckling, Our Mr. Brooks has finally put that University of Chicago history degree of his to use and identified the Three! Count! 'Em! Three! causes of America's decline and financial ruin.

Are those three causes Reaganomics, illegal trillion-dollar wars and the Bush tax cuts?

No they are not.

Slavery, Jim Crow and Vietnam?


Neocons, Nicholas Cage movies and 30 years of union-busting?

Still cold.

Prohibition, reality teevee and our alarming lack of moon bases?

Getting warmer, but no.

Forrest Gump beating out Pulp Fiction and Shawshank Redemption for Best Picture, the death of Mike Royko and Richard M. Nixon?


Tony Scalia, Robert Bork and every "Dune" sequel after "Children of Dune"?


David Brooks, David Gregory and Tom Friedman?

Again, no.

The Progressive Era, the New Deal and the Great Society?


You must be shitting me!

I shit you not.

You see, America (as constructed single-handedly by Imaginary Alexander Hamilton) "prospered" until successive phases of Dirty Fucking Paleohippies came along and fucked everything up.

Despite being handicapped by the fact that none of this is, y'know, true (from Armando at Daily Kos) --
To invoke Hamilton in support of limited government, knowing his critical role as a Founding Father, is to write dishonestly. Brooks is dishonest here because his clear implication is that the Constitution itself reflects Brooks' Lochnerian constitutional views. It does not and Hamilton would no doubt be the person most surprised to see himself used as "a champion" of a limited national government. Consider Sandy Levinson's piece, also in today's New York Times. Levinson writes:
Advocating the adoption of the new Constitution drafted in Philadelphia, the authors of “The Federalist Papers” mocked the “imbecility” of the weak central government created by the Articles of Confederation.
Instead of being an advocate a "limited" national government, as Brooks claims, Hamilton was THE champion of a strong national government. Brooks dishonest invocation of Hamilton for support of his vision of a Lochnerian relationship of government to the People is belied by two of the most famous passages in the judicial history of our country.
-- Our Mr. Brooks bravely soldiers on to unmask the really destroyers of America.

First came the Progressive Era with its...
"...excessive faith in the power of government planners to rationalize national life."
Those damn, meddlin' Progressives! Don't they know that America cannot possibly survive without child labor, firetrap sweatshops, breathing polluted air, drinking industrial waste and workers losing the odd arm or leg or eye

in a sloppy steel pour or stamping accident or assembly-line mishap?

Second came (insert sinister incidental music here) The New Deal. And while FDR was "...right to energetically respond to the Depression" the idea that the economy should work for everyone"  the results were "eventually corrosive" causing a groups of people called "Americans" to become...
"...corrupted by the allure of debt, sacrificing future development for the sake of present spending and tax cuts."
This will no doubted come as a terrific shock the generations that followed whose prosperity rested on the solid caissons of massive government investments in roads, bridges, education, dams, national parks, highways, etc. from whence all of this terrible corruption came, but onward!

And then comes Bad Thingie #3: The Great Society.

 Again we begin with a sop being thrown to the good intentions of those wooly-headed Liberals:
"Lyndon Johnson was right to use government to do more to protect Americans from the vicissitudes of capitalism."
After which comes the "but"...
"But he made a series of open-ended promises, especially on health care. He tried to bind voters to the Democratic Party with a web of middle-class subsidies."
Poor, dumb Liberals. Always trying to help out but always fucking everything up worse than before.

Mr. Brooks begins to wind down is latest work of revisionist flapdoodle by telling us that he has:
"...taken this tour through history because we are having a big debate about what government’s role should be, so, of course, we are having a debate about what government’s role has been."
Except Mr. Brooks hasn't taken a real tour of the real history of America at all.

Instead he has taken a lazy and fraudulent 800 word amble through a Reaganized, Disneyfied alternate universe version of American History, checking each, obligatory, wingnut talking point along the way.

In Mr. Brooks' alternate America, distrust of government did not stem from discovering that it's mostly Republican leaders were engaged in massive criminal enterprises (Nixon -- Watergate) or outright treason and war crimes (Reagan/Bush I-- Iran/Contra...Bush II -- Iraq), or city-killing criminal incompetence (Bush II -- 9-11/Katrina/Iraq/Afghanistan/Osama bin Laden, et al) or fiscal malfeasance on a scale Americans had never seen before (the crippling deficits of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush respectively.)

In Mr. Brooks' alternate America the absolutely relentless, sustaining 30-year verbal bombing campaign from the Right designed to persuade the public that "Government is not the solution to our problems. Government is the problem." also has nothing to do with why Americans distrust government.

In Mr. Brooks' alternate America, the "Tea Party" was not the ginned up product of the native rage and racism of the GOP base fueled by Koch brother's cash, Dick Armey's perfidy and Fox News' business model.

Instead, our...
"...balanced governing philosophy was destroyed gradually over the 20th century, before the Tea Party was even in utero. As government excessively overreached, Republicans became excessively antigovernment."

Ed Kilgore at "Washington Monthly" --
So the beautiful constitutional design that prevailed when women and southern African-Americans couldn’t vote (or for that matter, much earn a living) and working people were quasi-serfs was ruined, and it’s taking an overreaction to re-achieve the kind of balance that a proper Hamiltonianism—you know, the Hamiltonianism of David Brooks, or perhaps Mitt Romney—would achieve. Maybe women and minorities can’t be disenfranchised, but at least we can “reform entitlements” and get rid of labor unions, right?

David Brooks has always been a master at redefining “the center” to coincide with his own views, and at identifying the immediate needs of the country with the tactical positions of the Republican Party. But this takes the cake: Republicans—the sane, non-Tea Party Republicans—are today’s true Hamiltonians! Those wanting a vigorous, proud politics of common good should be pushing the Ryan Budget, lest the excesses of 20th century liberalism unleash the Jeffersonian Tea Party furies. If there existed an ideological Olympics with a gymnastics competition, Brooks would be the gold medal winner time and time again.

UPDATE I -- and Charlie Pierce

... And in this remarkable tour through American history, I haven't seen a single actual American worker. The Erie Canal was carved by magic glaciers. The transcontinental railroad was laid by elves, not underpaid Chinese laborers from the West and immigrant laborers in the East. The steel that was laid was made by woodsprites and gnomes, and dwarves and happy goblins dug out the coal to power the trains. The goods in the freight cars were made by sprinking golden Founders dust on the cotton plants, which magically turned into clothing, and was not picked by slaves nor made into shirts by Irish girls squinting themselves into blindness in the mills in Lowell. There were no workers to join unions, to insist on luxuries like the five-day week and the eight-hour day. There were no breaker kids picking through the coal bins. There was no middle class. There were just Contending Theories Of Government, which do not eat much. ...

And leave poor [E.J.] Dionne alone. He's got enough trouble with the bishops these days without your using him to chicken out on the fact that the primary forces that "destroyed the balanced government philosophy" gradually over the 20th century did most of their work in the last quarter of it, when the Republican party guzzled snake-oil economics and got drunk and wrecked the place, to the polite applause of, among other people, David Brooks...

UPDATE II -- and Booman
[Republicans] created a debt crisis with their policies and now they want to dismantle a century of progressive government to pay for their folly. They gave the ultra-rich twelve years of absurdly low taxes that directly ruined our balance sheets, and now they refuse to allow any of those people to pay into the system. No wonder people are getting angry with the rich. You're going to make me work two more years before I can collect Social Security just so a billionaire can keep a few more million bucks?

David Brooks continues to concoct new ways to excuse this behavior, and he's probably going to burn in hell for it.

-- each deliver what would be career terminating kill-shots if holding journalists accountable for purveying horseshit as history was something we still did in this country.

But those days are long gone.

Instead, Mr. Brooks will go right on making a living spooning this weak, watery poo into the pages of "The New York Times".

He will continue doing it twice a week, 800 words at a time.

And for this minimal effort Mr. Brooks will continue to reap truly regal rewards.

Somewhere, Alexander Hamilton is weeping.


AdHoles said...

No one can fail to notice that the cause of all history in David Brooks's mind is these neat little psychodramas, where "habits" and "norms" effortlessly overwhelm structural, material, and even free will to dictate the flow of history. Better yet, to fix all our problems we only need to think correctly.

This from a man who would say that Communism doesn't work because it ignores human nature.

Can the NYT really not find a useful idiot that isn't such an idiot?

runst said...

"Second, the New Deal. Franklin Roosevelt was right to energetically respond to the Depression. But the New Deal’s dictum — that people don’t eat in the long run; they eat every day — was eventually corrosive."

Yes, damn those lazy poor people and their corrosive demand for daily food! Why can't they agree to a reasonable compromise, like only eating in months that have 31 days? Or maybe they could hibernate, like sensible bears do? Is that really too much to ask?

Anonymous said...

When I read this stuff, I can just see Mr. Brooks, in powdered wig and knee breeches, taking a pinch of snuff before lecturing the lower orders to mind their betters in the propertied classes--of which he, of course, is a member.

David Brooks a centrist? Certainly correct--if we were talking about 1760s England, perhaps.

Rehctaw said...

Preamble: First. LBJ was no liberal. He, flat, was NOT despite the forests of newsprint used to label him thusly. By today's standards perhaps, but NEVER in his time.

Second. Most of LBJ's "Great Society" was left to Nixon to implement, which he did by putting a cast of characters in charge who spent their entire careers in government making sure that any benefit was diverted before reaching the spigot end.

That IS the history. Not the Texas approved textbook history. That's the real deal that we nattering nabobs were vilified for daring to question.

Someday the accounts will be reconciled. When that day comes DFB should spend his Quisling days dragging the carcasses from the wall to make room for tomorrow's crop.

trickyrick said...

Funny how Republicans only talk about austerity when a Democrat is in the White House, but when a Republican is President, Happy Days are Here Again!, open the spigot, let the dollars flow, and blame the Democrats for being anti-business. Who cares about debt? All money is only relative anyway. They only care about debt when it serves them.

Anonymous said...

In addition to this great post, I have added two wonderful words to my vocabulary today.

From the post: "truckling," meaning"the act of obeying meanly (especially obeying in a humble manner or for unworthy reasons)."

From the comment by Rehctaw: "Quisling," meaning "a traitor who serves as the puppet of the enemy occupying his or her country."

Grung_e_Gene said...

The Repubvlicans are just trying to get rid of Uncertainty!

You know the Uncertainty that comes from people not agreeing to be ground to dust and blow to pieces to enrich the 1%.

The 1% of this Nation hate uncertain elements. What they would rather have is the certainty of the economic model they are confident in; Neo-Feudalism, in which their profits are privatized and protected by Government and their losses are socialized and paid for by the 99%.

So, if it's revealed 1 in 2 Americans live in "Poverty"? The 1% funds Think Tanks to produce the kind of education they want you to have. Poverty? Harumph! Why that doesn't exist in America! Here is this Study which clearly shows the 99% "have an adequate and reasonably steady supply of food". This comes from the mouths of the puffy faces of those who've never, ever missed a meal.

Habitat Vic said...

Among the pleasures of reading Driftglass are the occasional need (for me anyway) to look up a word meaning, or to perhaps run down a literary/SciFi reference. I get that with Pierce as well, and Gilly more than once made me read up on military history.

KWillow said...

Remarkable that the entire World's economic problems are caused by the Very Poor people! Greece: their problems caused by greedy retired people and labor unions demanding "extras", like vacation time off and pensions! Oh those poor, pitiful Billionaire Bankers! How they peasants make them suffer!

n1ck said...

Criticism of government is a good thing. It would be wonderful if government was run by intelligent people, who would change or reform things that don't work, while expanding and making better the things that do. In fact, there is nothing inherent in government which prohibits it, besides evil and corrupt men who don't want government to work.

Alas! We have a party that calls government "the problem" while working tirelessly to get elected to that government and enact policies that have no basis in reality. We're also unfortunate that the other party refuses to call them out on it, and attempts to compromise, perpetually, because they are the "adults in the room".

David Brooks is evil because he is lying while using pieces of truth and reason to cover up the lies. Half-truths are the hardest things to refute, because the snippet of truth in them tends to override the outright lie.

That is centrism. A snippet of truth wrapped in a huge lie that takes more than 30 seconds to refute. As DG has said, people love stories, and they hate charts, graphs and statistics.

Conservatives tell stories, and by doing so, create the narrative that their followers believe because there is a start, middle, and end. They can relate it to any number of ways that are personal to them.

Throwing up a few charts, with some accompanying stats turns people off, because rather than explaining in a narrative why things should be one way or the other, you're leaving it up to the audience to make those connections with the data. People aren't interested in that. They want to know what you think and why they should agree, not what the facts are in abstract.

Brooks is a propagandist for the conservative movement, and you can spot this right away by his self-identification as a "centrist". The fuck he is. He is as conservative as the market will bear.

We need more liberals to tell stories, and I'm glad that DG does this on an almost-daily basis. The fact that his writing is brilliant is what brings me back every day. The more people namedrop DG, the faster his narrative can become more "mainstream", and the faster we can turn back the lies and euphemisms from the right.

trickyrick said...

.......the 99% "have an adequate and reasonably steady supply of food"......
And the reason the government supports Monsanto frankenfoods that are ruining our health and destroying the ecological balance on our planet is because they want to feed the masses as cheaply as possible. There are few revolutionaries with full bellies.

Stephan said...


I did not think the day would come that you and I did not see eye to eye. However, I simply cannot abide your slander of God Emperor of Dune.

Sometimes it is the case that 3,000 pages of turgid prose are what is required to make points worth making.



Anonymous said...

To n1ck:

One of my favorite quotes from P. T. Barnum, which relates very well to the point you make, is: "Make people think they're thinking and they'll love you. Make people really think and they'll hate you."

The conservative narrative make people feel like they're doing thought-stuff. It puts a complete closed narrative with pre-defined interpretation into their heads, and make the masses think they came to an understanding.

The progressive approach is to give people information so they can learn and come to an understanding. That pisses off lazy people.

To be blunt, the masses to not understand the joy of thought or understanding or learning. They just want to be told what to think and say and believe to be right and be better than others. Then they can sink back into the love of their Glowing Rectangular God and see which Kardashian is flashing a boobie or her hooner to the world this week.

It's a long sidetrack I won't get into, but years ago a friend tried to set me up with someone who didn't understand why I would take a college course for fun, or go back for further education. Further, he was an online game addict, and paid someone to do his schoolwork. The thing is, he actually argued with me that he *earned* his degree. He said he had a contract that he paid the university, they gave him work, and he saw that the work got done. Therefore, he earned the degree.

That is the type of mentality we are dealing with here.