Saturday, February 02, 2013

David Brooks Forgets

How every David Brooks fairy tales always ends.

I found nothing particularly objectionable in Mr. Brooks' column on immigration reform.  Here's a snip.
Because immigration is so attractive, most nations are competing to win the global talent race. Over the past 10 years, 60 percent of nations have moved to increase or maintain their immigrant intakes, especially for high-skilled immigrants. 
The United States is losing this competition. We think of ourselves as an immigrant nation, but the share of our population that is foreign-born is now roughly on par with Germany and France and far below the successful immigrant nations Canada and Australia. Furthermore, our immigrants are much less skilled than the ones Canada and Australia let in. As a result, the number of high-tech immigrant start-ups has stagnated, according to the Kauffman Foundation, which studies entrepreneurship. 
The first big point from all this is that given the likely gridlock on tax reform and fiscal reform, immigration reform is our best chance to increase America’s economic dynamism. We should normalize the illegals who are here, create a legal system for low-skill workers and bend the current reform proposals so they look more like the Canadian system, which tailors the immigrant intake to regional labor markets and favors high-skill workers. 
Of course, being a pedant, if I were over in the Better Universe proposing immigration reform and justifying on labor and economic grounds, I would also include a comprehensive overhaul of our worker training/re-retraining system to --
  1. Include a dozen or so of my pet favorite reforms in order to make the system into an actual, coherent "system" instead of a hodgepodge of uncoordinated projects and programs funded and measured in wildly different ways, scattered across almost every level and department of government you can think of (Does the Chicago Housing Authority have its own training and employment program?  You bet  it does!).
  2. Study the efficacy of each program and the outcomes for each participant over a 3-5 year period.  No more "30 days on the job and out" programs.
  3. Keep what works, toss what doesn't.
  4. Quintuple the funding for what works.
-- but other than these quibbles, Mr. Brooks' has taken a easy layup in a empty gym.

Except for this...
The second big conclusion is that if we can’t pass a law this year, given the overwhelming strength of the evidence, then we really are a pathetic basket case of a nation.
This is the sentence you should needlepoint onto a throw pillow, then mail it to your cousin in Manila and, after waiting a month or two, have her ship it back to you by slow freight  (also would it kill her to air-ship you some decent lumpia and calamansi juice?)

By the time you have it back in your eager hands, either we will be in the middle of a maddening pie fight over actual immigration reform (frustrating and full of cruel betrayals over which we will all weep bitter tears, but in the end will have actually moved the issue substantive forward)...

...or, after putting on a token fan dance for a day or two, immigration reform will have been smothered aborning by the Crazy Biggit Jebus Party and will once again be back in the cold, cold ground.

If the former happens, great. I mean, after all of the rending of garments and the gnashing of teeth, great.

But what (as is much more likely) if the latter happens?

I predict that if the latter happens, the prose stylings of professional Conservative public media creatures like Mr. Brooks will once again jettison all ties with the real world and go zooming off into the Never Never Land of pathological "Both Sides Do It"-ism.

Because when Mr. Brooks' Whig fantasies go all sideways and another one of his beloved elite hierarchies goes horribly wrong or his Crazy Biggit Jebus Party once again decides to smash something precious to make some ludicrous point, David Brooks always, always, always weasels up a way to unload half or all of the blame for the catastrophe onto imaginary hippies or "the 60s" or Al Gore or woman or Barack Obama or some-damn-body else who is a not a member in good standing of Mr. Brooks' Invisible Army of Reasonable Conservatives.

Just as he blamed women for income inequality (from Forbes):
David Brooks Blames Women for Income Inequality

Leave it to David Brooks to figure out a way to blame the ladies for income inequality.

In his most recent New York Times column, Brooks decided to take a look at the most recent research of Robert Putnam, the Harvard University political science professor best known for writing Bowling Alone, the modern treatise on why many of us feel so isolated. Putnam has now moved on to class distinctions in child-rearing, and discovered what many others, including most famously sociologist Annette Lareau, have found: the upper middle classes parent very differently from everyone else. They spend more time with their children, and they emphasize achievement and vaguely salutary extracurricular activities ranging from soccer to singing classes for their progeny over after-school jobs and familial responsibility.

All of this, in the view of Brooks, is responsible for our nation’s stunning lack of income mobility.
Just as he blamed Al Gore for politicizing the climate change debate (from Ezra Klein):
The passivity of Brooks’s conclusion is astonishing. This isn’t a story of overreach, misjudgements, and disappointment. It’s a story of Republicans putting raw partisanship and a dislike for Al Gore in front of the planet’s best interests. It’s a story, though Brooks doesn’t mention this, of conservatives building an alternative reality in which the science is unsettled, and no one really knows whether the planet is warming and, even if it is, whether humans have anything to do with it. It’s a story of Democrats being forced into a second and third-best policies that Republicans then use to press their political advantage.

It’s a story, to put it simply, of Democrats doing everything they can to address a problem Brooks says is real in the way Brooks says is best, and Republicans doing everything they can to stop them. And it’s a story that ends with Democrats and Republicans receiving roughly equal blame from Brooks. The existence of this op-ed is part of the story of why the Democrats failed. The story of what happened over the last 10 years is right there in Brooks’s column. But he doesn’t want to say who’s right and who’s wrong, which is the only tool pundits have to help those who are right and push those who are wrong. Instead, he wants to say everybody is wrong, and isn’t it just a shame.
Just as he blamed Barack Obama for making Republicans low and mean (New York Magazine)
David Brooks Now Totally Pathological By Jonathan Chait

Moderate Republicanism is a tendency that increasingly defies ideological analysis and instead requires psychological analysis. The psychological mechanism is fairly obvious. The radicalization of the GOP has placed unbearable strain on those few moderates torn between their positions and their attachment to party. Many moderate conservatives have simply broken off from the party, at least in its current incarnation, and are hoping or working to build a sane alternative. Those who remain must escape into progressively more baroque fantasies.

The prevalent expression of this psychological pain is the belief that President Obama is largely or entirely responsible for Republican extremism. It’s a bizarre but understandable way to reconcile conflicting emotions — somewhat akin to blaming your husband’s infidelity entirely on his mistress. In this case, moderate Republicans believe that Obama’s tactic of taking sensible positions that moderate Republicans agree with is cruel and unfair, because it exposes the extremism that dominates the party, not to mention the powerlessness of the moderates within it. Michael Gerson recently expressed this bizarre view, and the pathology is also on vivid display in David Brooks’s column today.
Just as he blamed the 1960s for the Penn State football rape culture (from me):
Sunday Morning Comin' Down: "David Brooks is one despicable motherfucker" Edition.

And so when any powerful, depraved institution anywhere -- from the Bush Administration to Wall Street to Penn State football -- splits wide open long enough to spill the rot in its belly out into the sunlight...well-fed Kowakian monkey-lizards like David Brooks

are always on hand to scuttle into the breach where they immediately begin to deflect and diffuse away from Power (and towards the imaginary sins of imaginary Liberals) --
MR. BROOKS: I don't think it was just a Penn State problem. You know, you spend 30 or 40 years muddying the moral waters here. We have lost our clear sense of what evil is, what sin is; and so, when people see things like that, they don't have categories to put it into. They vaguely know it's wrong, but they've been raised in a morality that says, "If it feels all right for you, it's probably OK." And so that waters everything down. The second thing is a lot of the judgment is based on the supposition that if we were there, we would have intervened.

MR. DIONNE: Right.

MR. BROOKS: And that's just not true.

MR. GREGORY: But I have to challenge you on that point.


MR. GREGORY: Is it really that we don't know right from wrong? Is there anybody who doesn't know that sodomizing a 10-year-old boy in a shower by another man is wrong?

MR. BROOKS: But if you...

MR. DIONNE: Exactly.

MR. BROOKS: If you're alert to the sense of what evil is, what the evil is within yourself and what evil is in society, you have a script to follow. It's not a vague sense. You have a script to follow. And this is necessary because people do not intervene.
-- any blame for the deeply-rooted depravity that had clearly been putrefying at the heart of those institutions for years (by Mr. Brooks' logic, the child rape cult at the heart of the Catholic Church could only have been the product of the free-wheeling, godless, anything-goes attitude for which Catholicism has so long been famous.)

On any other day I would have said that Michele Bachmann's complete, on-camera psychotic break from reality was the most astonishing freak-show on display at the Mouse Circus, but not today.

Today the sight of Mr. Books -- a man who has grown rich and powerful as the craven "Reasonable Conservative" apologist for the incompetence, corruption and outright malevolence of other rich and powerful men -- staring mildly into the camera and lecturing America on evil and "taking personal responsibility, regardless of what the rules are" left me literally speechless with astonishment.

Today Mr. Brooks walked off with the prize.

And no one intervened.
And on.

And on.

And on.

I would be delighted if we woke up in March or April to headlines announcing the enactment of thoughtful, immigration reform, but if that does not happen, now you know in advance how Mr. Brooks will almost certainly frame its failure.

Because blaming the Left is how every David Brooks fractured fairy tale always ends.

For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all, all honourable men


Neo Tuxedo said...

I've just asked my online RP group whether your comparison of the nearsighted Mr. McBobo (thanks, Tom!) to a Kowakian monkey-lizard was and/or is unfair to monkey-lizards. Since comments on the older post are closed, I'll add here that, in the immortal words of TC234Y Yuri, I don't remember consenting to this hallucination.

Bukko Canukko said...

Speaking as someone who's been a skilled immigrant to both countries that Bobo cites as better than Amurka (Australia and Canada) I'd say he's full of shit. America doesn't have a problem because it doesn't let in enough skilled immigrants. It has a problem because it lets in too many disposable semi-slaves, with the wink-wink, nudge-nudge, say-no-more complicity of the authorities.

I got into Oz and Canuckistan as a legal immigrant because the educational systems in those countries can't crank out nurses fast enough, even though they're trying hard. In part, the problem is because to become a nurse there, you have to complete a 4-year university degree and get through at least six months' of semi-professional "graduate nurse" preceptoring. There are a lot of wash-outs on the way through, people dropping from the programs because they got pregnant, couldn't handle the classwork or dealing with the patients, even mental freak-outs. I'm always surprised at how often we get patients on the psych ward who were in nursing school until they lost their shit. Add an aging population needing more medical care, plus an aging base of the nursing labour pool -- at 54, I'm right about at the median age of all Canadian nurses. It's estimated that 1/3 of all Canuck nurses will retire in the next 10 years. That's why they get so many nurses from the Philippines, Africa (usually from former British colonies, via working in London) and increasingly, American expatriates. Yes, Yank nurses are voting with their feet to come to the land of socialized medicine for its better economic security than they get under cutthroat capitalism.

Another reason for importing foreign nurses is because we can be kicked out when we're no longer needed. In Melbourne, Australia where I used to live, the housing bubble is collapsing. That means less "stamp duty" (the taxes charged on house sales) for the state government there. Austerity time! The hospital where I worked has had to close the hospice and orthopaedic (as they spell it) wards. The hospital's website says they're not recruiting international nurses any more. So foreigners lend flexibility to the labour numbers, even though they're not cheap -- unions are strong, so they make sure outsiders get paid the same as natives so as not to undercut the wage scale.

The austerity at my old hospital puts a damper on my plans to move back Down Under later this year, BTW. I'll probably do it anyway since my nursing licence is current and I have permanent residency rights in Australia. You scoff about a return to the gold standard on the podcasts, and I agree that it would be a restrictive way to base an economy, but having a stack of doubloons gives one a portable cushion for making bold moves.

The U.S. has the opposite problem to Canada and Australia. The latter are large in territory, small in population, and there are a lot of areas where there are not enough workers to go around. The U.S. has a lot of idle hands. It doesn't need to be bringing in more skilled help that was trained elsewhere. It needs to be training its own people, and paying them well enough to make them want to do the job. But you know that. And you know the reason that will never happen; because taxes might have to be raised to pay for the schooling and it's better to have insecure, frightened, cheap-ass workers that can be thrown away at the drop of a quarterly result. It's a business model that has America eating itself alive, but as long as the boss's bonus gets paid THIS year, he doesn't give two shits about what happens in the next.