Tuesday, June 05, 2012

David Brooks: The Man of Constant Sorrow


Usually, the sheer slightness of Mr. Brooks' biweekly 800-word embarrassments act as a kind of natural Plimsoll line; their brevity permiting him only room enough under his tapioca prose to try and smuggle one Very Big Conservative Lie past the mortal remains of the "New York Times"' editorial staff and into our national conversation.

Today, he goes for two.

First, the Scott Walker  thing is not about destroying unions
"A vote to keep Walker won’t be an antiunion vote."
despite the fact that Scott Walker said his goal was to destroy unions:

Second, if Scott Walker is recalled, life on Earth as we know it will end;

"...if [Scott Walker] is recalled that will send a broader message, with effects far beyond Wisconsin. It will be a signal that voters are, indeed, unwilling to tolerate tough decisions to reduce debt. In Washington and in state capitals, it will confirm the view that voters don’t really care about red ink. It will remove any hope this country might have of avoiding a fiscal catastrophe."
Mr. Brooks' by-now-mind-numbingly-predictable public display of stupid wronginess once again took what would be career-ending volleys from several different directions --

From "The Progressive":

“I’m not a complete fan of the way Walker went about reducing debt,” [David Brooks] said, with his customary hedging. (He’s got more hedges than Versailles.) But, he said, in an end-justifies-the-means way: “Walker did at least take on entrenched interest groups.”

I love the way Republicans refer to “entrenched interest groups.” By this term, they never mean the huge corporations that dominate our politics, here in Wisconsin and in Washington. No, they only mean labor unions, which have far inferior resources than the corporations and the super rich. (Not for nothing that Scott Walker outraised Tom Barrett 10 to 1.)

Brooks said that a vote for Walker is “a vote against any special interest that seeks to preserve exorbitant middle class benefits at the expense of the public good.” Exorbitant? State workers in Wisconsin have had their wages frozen for years now; they hadn’t been living high off the hog. They had decent health and pension benefits, which everyone should have. But Brooks and Walker want the middle class to race to the bottom.

Brooks also conveniently neglects to mention that the “special interest” that he so despises actually agreed to take the cuts in health benefits and pensions that Walker demanded, but Walker wouldn’t take yes for an answer. Instead, he insisted on crushing the collective bargaining rights of public sector workers. ...

"The American Prospect":

What we’re witnessing, right now, is the failure of a social arrangement. In the 1970s and 80s, government began to pare back its commitments to decent wages, affordable housing, health care, and education, and in response, Americans took on debt to make up for the loss. This isn’t working, and the result has been widespread insecurity for American families. It’s this fact that makes Brooks’ piece even more galling; here is his conclusion, where sets up the Wisconsin recall race as a fight over the future of debt:

A vote to keep Walker won’t be an antiunion vote. It will be a vote against any special interest that seeks to preserve exorbitant middle-class benefits at the expense of the public good. It will tell the presidential candidates that it is safe to get specific about what they will do this December, when hard deficit choices will have to be made.

“Exorbitant middle-class benefits?” Like what, exactly? If the federal government has accumulated a tremendous amount of debt over the last 30 years, it hasn’t been because of benefits to middle-class families, which are far from generous. Medicare’s problems are a more recent development, and the Social Security shortfall is (conceptually) easy to fix. Where the government has been profligate, however, is with military spending, tax cuts, and wars. It’s why Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush were responsible for the largest accumulations of debt; their priorities were lower taxes for rich people, and greater military spending. The recent debt explosion has everything to do with the economic crisis–driven by an unhinged Wall Street–and almost nothing to do with the benefits given to ordinary Americans.
Dean Baker:

Okay, let’s try to put this so that even David Brooks can understand it. First, we are not borrowing money from the future. What does Brooks thinks this means, are we calling up the Ghost of Christmas Future and asking for a loan?

Borrowing occurs in the present, from some to others. At present, the government sector is the big borrower. It is borrowing from the private sector, but also in part from the Federal Reserve Board. Because the economy is so far below its capacity, the Fed can simply create money to lend to the government to finance spending. And, this borrowing is aiding the future by sustaining demand in the economy. If the government spent less (or taxed more), it would simply reduce demand and increase unemployment.

Brooks may have some magical view of the world where jobs grow up magically in the private sector when the government reduces spending, but in the real world we need a chain of causation. Can anyone tell a story where firms will be motivated to increase spending and hiring when demand drops further due to government cutbacks? There aren’t many business owners who see their demand plummet and then go, “hey, great time to expand.”

In the real world, the government’s spending is employing our kids’ parents. This will improve their educational outcomes and life prospects, making the future richer, not poorer. The benefits for the future are even greater when government money is spent on forms of investment like infrastructure, education, and research and development.

 -- if we still lived in a world where being a serially lying hack was a career impediment for Conservatives.

But we don't.

One interesting, historical fact which none of these worthies pointed out was that Mr. Brooks used to be perfectly comfortable with financial profligacy back when it came in the form of tax cuts for people like Mr. Brooks, or massive and illegal wars championed by people like Mr. Brooks.

Sadly, now that the tab for Mr. Brooks' Big Neocon Bender has come due, Mr.  Brooks is reluctantly forced to conclude that the only way to pay the bill is to kick the middle class in the head as hard as possible, and then razor out their pockets while they're groggy.

As with every other fascist goon and crackpot economic theory which David Brooks spent his life defending on behalf of his plutocrat paymasters, like buying flight insurance just before the plane takes off, at the 11th hour Mr. Brooks always gets his gutless little CYAs on record -- "I’m not a complete fan of the way Walker went about reducing debt" and "Walker’s method was obnoxious, but..." -- just in case things go very badly (as they always do) and he ends up at the other end of the line facing an angry mob waiting demanding from him the one thing his Beltway peers never will: accountability.

Then its off once again to not only make the nation safe for future tax cuts for people like Mr. Brooks, but to also selflessly provide a bracing dose of instant character development for those indolent, selfish middle class slobs who never figured out how to buy a $4M mansion by trickling 1,600 words of watery, wingnut poo every week into the pages of the "New York Times".


El Cid said...

If after this post I can begin to hear the soothing, soulful refrain of "Man of Constant Sorrow" when I am forced to encounter David Brooks, you'll have done a wonderful thing.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

... to try and smuggle one Very Big Conservative Lie past the mortal remains of the "New York Times"' editorial staff...

I don't think he needs to try very hard. They're all working the same side of that trade.

gocart mozart said...

"Second, if Scott Walker is recalled, life on Earth as we know it will end."

David has a valid point here. When Gray Davis was recalled, it was followed closely by 9/11, two wars, Katrina and an economic collapse. Not the end of the world but too close for comfort. Why risk it I say.