Friday, September 14, 2012

The Hollow Flimflammery of David Brooks


David Brooks is very excited by Mayor Rahmses' handling of the strike by the Chicago Teacher's Union.

He channels his great excitement by tediously steering his readers through a carefully constructed bullshit argument about what Mr. Brooks refers to as Economy I and Economy II.  

Economy I is run by heroic, private sector risk-takers whose obsession with innovation and cost-cutting appears to be so single-minded that they would gladly cut one of their own hands off they thought it would improve the efficiency and throughput of their masturbation.

The other economy -- Economy II -- is a bloated mess because it is full of sloppy, complicated Big Gummint stuff like "education" and "health care": programs where diving in with a Randite "creative destruction" Economy I meat-ax might actually cause substantial damage to the lives of millions of people.  However, like Mr. Brooks' unstinting support for George Bush's war in Iraq, none of the people who are likely to maimed by doing something Big and Stupid and Brooksian are David Brooks or anyone who David Brooks is likely to entertain in his new mansion, so fuck 'em!  

Let the creative destruction begin!
"Emanuel’s willingness to hang tough and accept a strike was itself a hopeful sign that some Democrats are hardy enough to take on interests aligned with their own party. Emanuel certainly didn’t get everything he wanted. The unions won concessions, too. But if the final results resemble what I’ve been hearing in any way, then Chicago will move toward the forefront of the reform movement. That result would also be a national credibility booster for Emanuel’s party."
What a helpful man!  Always looking for ways to boost the credibility of the Democratic Party by forcing them to capitulate to Conservative ideas!

Of course to make this argument, Mr. Brooks has to run with the time-honored wingnut fable that everything would be OK if it weren't for those damned greedy teacher's union denizens of this bloated, inefficient Economy II organization:

"The Chicago teachers’ strike is a test of this proposition. The Chicago school system is a classic case of a bloated, inefficient Economy II organization. The average Chicago teacher makes $76,000 a year in a city where the average worker makes $47,000 a year." 

And, of course,  Mr. Brooks expressed a vastly different view of this very subject (how much public money a group of people should be paid in exchange for the value they created)  on "The News Hour" back in 2009 when the "employees" in question were banksters who were insisting on collecting obscenely lavish, taxpayer-funded bonuses despite having nearly destroyed the global economy mere moments before:

Paying for talent

JIM LEHRER: Is that a moral -- that's a moral issue?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I do think it's a moral issue. I still think the McCaskill idea is just a terrible idea.


DAVID BROOKS: Because these are banks that depend on superstars. And there's not an ocean of superstars out there. And we may not like these people, but the fact is, to get a good CEO who can lead a company effectively, there are actually, if they can do it well, if they're Jack Welch or somebody, they're actually worth the money.

Now, that doesn't mean I'd buy into the hedge fund bonus structure, which was yielding $300 million bonuses. But, nevertheless, the reality is, to keep top talent from going overseas or wherever it would go, you've got to allow pay over $400,000 a year in New York City.

MARK SHIELDS: These are companies -- let's be very candid -- they are now taxpayer-subsidized. If they have these superstars, they probably haven't reached that point.

JIM LEHRER: But there also is, as the man from Chicago pointed out, there are some of these things that are called bonuses that are actually in the mid -- they're not the CEOs. Do you agree?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, they're going to stop calling those bonuses tomorrow. They'll just be regular salary, and we won't even know. We won't pay attention. That's one of the ways they'll get around all this.

JIM LEHRER: Do you agree that's possible?

MARK SHIELDS: He knows more about it than I do, but I do think, if you're going to take public money, you have to abide by a public pay scale.


Dean Baker points out that, as usual, David Brooks has no idea what he is talking about:

Did Public Schools Fail David Brooks?

Friday, 14 September 2012 03:28
...By this point, the education reform movement is pretty much old hat. The "reformers" have been calling the shots to a greater or lesser extent for more than two decades. Folks who honestly look at the data, like Diane Ravitch, who was an early reformer who served as an assistant secretary of education in the Bush I administration, recognize the movement has little to show for its efforts. 
But Brooks can't be bothered with evidence. He is eager to tout the education reform movement and its latest hero Rahm Emanuel. His article claims that his sources report that the Chicago teachers' strike is about to be settled along lines that largely meet Emanuel's demands. It's probably best to wait to see the agreement rather than rely on Brooks' sources (Brooks' sources are almost certainly Emanuel's staff, who are paid to spin gullible columnists), but Brooks tells readers that with the settlement his sources report: 
"Chicago will move toward the forefront of the reform movement." 
I suppose that is in contrast to where Chicago stood for the years 2001-2009, when the educational reformer Arne Duncan, who is currently the Secretary of Education, ran Chicago's schools. One thing is for sure, David Brooks has no problem with affirmative action for school reformers. 

And this is where I wander off into a big bog of I-don't-care.  

Yes, there are many important and legitimate issues around education and labor ranging from the difficulty of getting the occasional bad teacher out of the classroom, to our fetish for dumping every social problem in the last 40 years into the classroom and insisting that teachers solve them, to the envy and buyer's remorse of people who were stupid enough give up union protection and benefits and have watched their salaries flattened and their benefits crushed under the iron wheels of capitalism.  

There are real problems to be solved and whole libraries of books that have been written on these subjects, but I simply cannot interpret advice on how much greedy teachers should be paid for the value they create being proffered by a man who inexplicably pulls down a princely salary for dribbling 800 words of spectacularly tepid, corporatist boilerplate prose into a newspaper twice a week is anything but the grimmest kind of end-of-days gallows humor. 

As regular readers know, Mr. Brooks is one of those oily, Beltway creatures who has built a sturdy career out of saying awful and untrue untrue things in a very calm and treacly tone.  He was a staunch backer of both the catastrophic Bush tax cuts and the catastrophic Bush wars.  He had many unkind things to say about the bejeweled dancers-with-nuance on the Left who refused to shut up and go along with Dubya's catastrophes.  He lies repeatedly and easily about Fake Centrism and the "failure" of the Obama Administration's stimulus program.

Regular readers also know that despite the fact that Paul Krugman regularly take Mr. Brooks to the woodshed over his nonsense, he by-and-large gets away telling the same, long-debunked lies over and over again in America's most respectable and high-toned political salons because he assiduously avoids letting himself get cornered in any unscripted venue where there is the slightest chance anyone will ask him any tough questions about his embarrassing and sordid past (regular readers also know that one the one-and-only occasional where Mr. Brooks was hit in public with such a question, he quickly lied his way out of answering and hurriedly changed the subject.)

It is therefor hilarious to me that such person would write such as this in his latest book:

"The desire to not cause pain was just an unwillingness to have an unpleasant conversation.  It was cowardice and not consideration."   

The Beltway where Mr. Brooks plies his trade is made up of thousands of very highly paid individuals who, just like Mr. Brooks,  are all single-mindedly devoted to the cause of avoiding any and all unpleasant conversations about their own, deeply dishonest pasts.  In fact, lying constantly and ducking any responsibility for the damage their lies have caused is so central to the continued survival of the Beltway media, that the only quote I can think of that fairly represents the nature of their collective enterprise is this from F. Scott Fitzgerald:
"They were careless people, Tom and Daisy — they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made."


John said...

BoBo says: "But if the final results resemble what I’ve been hearing in any way, then Chicago will move toward the forefront of the reform movement. That result would also be a national credibility booster for Emanuel’s party."

The "reform" being what - establishment of a ONE party system?

Is it possible to be a "centrist" in a one party system.

John Puma

Suzan said...

Unstinting praise emanates from the masses.

But no mention in the paper(s) of record (or unrecord).

Journalism par excellence!

I simply cannot interpret advice on how much greedy teachers should be paid for the value they create being proffered by a man who inexplicably pulls down a princely salary for dribbling 800 words of spectacularly tepid, corporatist boilerplate prose into a newspaper twice a week is anything but the grimmest kind of end-of-days gallows humor.

Esteev said...

I find it distressing that its the unions that have become the bad guys here -- in all arenas of life.

But teachers?! Really? look, I understand that everyone, in every profession, needs to be held accountable for their performance. We also need a way to get rid of bad teachers. But we need MORE TEACHERS.

One of the main reasons kids do poorly in school (and in turn make the teacher look bad) is because there are 45-50+ kids in a class with one teacher. I was lucky, I went to a prestigious Catholic school and was taught by some amazing teachers (many of whom openly complained about the lack of pay) but they never had more than 25 or so kids in one class.

This entire portrayal of teachers as greedy, selfish, money-for-nothing-and-chicks-for free-people is complete nonsense. I sincerely believe that the students would all do better if A) there enough teachers and B) they were well compensated for sculpting the minds of our future teachers, engineers, politicians and -- dare I say -- future NY Fucking Times columnists.

And Bobo would agree, you can't put a price on that. (But you have to because Centrism).

Sean Riley said...

Thank you, Mittens, for the best laugh I've had in some time!

caliban said...

"Emanuel’s willingness to hang tough and accept a strike was itself a hopeful sign that some Democrats are hardy enough to take on interests aligned with their own party."

Is he kidding? Like the way those brave and principled GOPers fight off the Teabangers? But, you know, Randy Newman wrote a song for Dave, Mr. Sheep.

Anonymous said...

Shouldn't teachers salaries be compared to the average of (at the least) college-educated workers in Chicago? And why is it a bad thing if teachers make more than average? Isn't it a position where we want better than the average?

Anonymous said...

I think you should consider stealing (and illustrating) Attaturk's line:


Anonymous said...

The reason it's a bad thing for teachers to make a lot is because they're mostly just women anyway and nobody values teachers. Anybody can teach, right? And they only work 7 hours a day and get weeks and weeks off every year. Plus they're unionized and Unions are Bad, mkay?

That is snark BTW. And surprise that $76K figure is apparently a lie: