Friday, June 15, 2012

A Series Of Invisible Incidents -- UPDATE II


In which I once again implore the University of Chicago to rescind David Brooks' bachelor's degree and suspend his license to practice History in public once and for all.

Today, all Mr. Brooks wants is for you to trust him.

And to earn your trust, this one time he will part the Secret Beltway curtain let you -- an ordinary rube -- in on a little secret that only insiders would normally be privy to.  Mr. Brooks wants you know -- just between you and him -- that unspecified groups of "Democrats" (just like you!) trust him so much that they come to him to seeking his deep, Delphic insights into the secrets of the Republican Mind;
Democrats frequently ask me why the Republicans have become so extreme. As they describe the situation, they usually fall back on some sort of illness metaphor. Republicans have a mania. President Obama has said that Republicans have a “fever” that he hopes will break if he is re-elected.
And he reassures those "Democrats" (who are just like you!)  that:
...Republicans don’t have an illness; they have a viewpoint.
Well thank goodness for that! I was beginning to worry.

And now that you now trust Mr. Brooks (because he has given you the real, gritty, inside dope on the GOP) you can absolutely believe him when he tells you that, sure, things may have been awesome back when Dwight Eisenhower's hand was on the tiller of the welfare state, but since then (insert ominous music) a buncha stuff happened.

Bad stuff.

At least I think some Bad Stuff must have happened because Mr. Brooks (whom we now trust completely because unspecified group of "Democrats" just like us! trust him) has elected to skip entirely over the whole who-struck-John portion of today's breakneck, hallucinatory trip through his Man-in-The-High-Facile, alternate American history.  So instead boring, old "facts",  we get a fast, fizzy Rod-Taylor-in-"The Time Machine" slingshot through time:  Hey, a snail moved!  Hey,  fashions changed!  Hey, something exploded!  Hey, we invaded the wrong country!  Hey, the Earth opened up and swallowed me!

All of which is actually very important in the sense that keeping your eyes on the Three Card Monte dealer's hands is important if you want to figure out exactly how he is separating rubes from their beer money.  Because folded into Mr. Brooks' tectonic-strength conflation of and rocket-sled-fast elision over the events of the last 50 years (which you should just STFU and trust already!) is the enormous, invisible implication that all the Bad Stuff which has led Republicans to the reluctant but ultimately very understandable conclusion that we need to eat the poor and render the elderly down into dishwater detergent pellets just....sorta...happened.

In Mr. Brooks' alternate American history, our current accumulation of Bad Stuff has neither causes nor culprits.  Like the Tunguska explosion, or Tom DeLay, where our current accumulation of Bad Stuff came from is entirely mysterious and no matter what certain smarty-pants "historians" and "economists" and "Liberals" and "people with intact long-term memories" say about the disaster of Reaganomics or the mass-outsourcing of American jobs or the massive and reckless deregulation of the financial system or massive, unpaid-for tax cuts (which Mr. Brooks strongly favored at the time) or catastrophic, unpaid-for wars (which Mr. Brooks strongly favored at the time) or any number of other terrible ideas that Conservative snake oil salesmen have foisted upon the American public over the last few decades,  no one knows what caused this Bad Stuff to happen.

* Or, as Vinnie explained to Jimmy Conway after Tommy DeVito was shot in the head for whacking Billy Batts:

Jimmy Conway: Vinnie, what happened?

Vinnie: Well we-...

Jimmy Conway: You get it straightened out?

Vinnie: No, we had a problem... and uh, we tried to do everything we could.

Jimmy Conway: What d'you mean?

Vinnie: Well, you what I mean. He's gone, and we couldn't do nuttin' about it.

[pause] Vinnie: That's it.

Jimmy Conway: What d'you mean? What d'you mean? Uh...

Vinnie: He's gone. Uh, he's gone.


Vinnie: And dat's it.
Got it?

All of our prosperity?  Our middle class?  Our manufacturing base?  Our capacity to do great things? Our sense of ourselves as a nation committed to the common good and our fellow citizens general welfare?


And dere wasn't nuttin' nobody could do about it.

The GOP never deliberately chose to reconstitute the scattered, raving remnants of the Confederacy for one, last glorious bonfire of democracy.

Newt Gingrich never industrialized political hatespeech.

Fox News and Hate Radio do not exist.

Richard Bruce Cheney never summed up the GOP's pre-Kenyan Usurper attitude towards deficits like so:
"You know, Paul, Reagan proved that deficits don't matter. We won the mid-term elections, this is our due."
The Right never lost its damn mind because a black man stole their purdy White House.

Conservatives have not spent the last 80 year relentlessly pouncing on every single crisis -- real, imagined or, in many cases, engineered by Conservatives themselves -- as proof that unions need to be abolished, the social safety net is destroying America and we'd all be much better off it we just rolled everything back to 1840.

Ain't nobody knows how shit got all fucked up and dere wasn't nuttin nobody could do about it.

Got it?

And thus relieved of any need to mention context or culpability, Mr. Brooks -- our trusty guide! -- frees up his hands to fling doctrinaire Randite poo all over you (and Democrats just like you!):
In America as in Europe, Republicans argue, the welfare state is failing to provide either security or dynamism. The safety net is so expensive it won’t be there for future generations. Meanwhile, the current model shifts resources away from the innovative sectors of the economy and into the bloated state-supported ones, like health care and education. Successive presidents have layered on regulations and loopholes, creating a form of state capitalism in which big business thrive because they have political connections and small businesses struggle. 
The welfare model favors security over risk, comfort over effort, stability over innovation. Money that could go to schools and innovation must now go to pensions and health care. This model, which once offered insurance from the disasters inherent in capitalism, has now become a giant machine for redistributing money from the future to the elderly.
You see, the real reason why Both Sides cannot come together for the Greater Centrist Good (and you had to know that there was a Centrist razor in the apple somewhere) has nothing to do with the Republican Party's generation-long swan dive into a Southern Strategy cesspit of economic quackery, raving Bircher paranoia, imperial bloodlust, theocratic zombification and stone cold racism.

No, the real reason both sides can't get back to the snuggly comity of Eisenhower's America is because Hippies are Stoopid:
Democrats have had trouble grasping the Republican diagnosis because they don’t have the same sense that the current model is collapsing around them. 
And now Mr. Chairman, I will cede the balance of my time back to whatever Mr. Charlie Pierce   others will be writing about Mr. Brooks' latest 800-word embarassment...


Ed Kilgore at "Washington Monthly":
David Brooks Casts His Early Ballot

Given his habit of perpetually posing as the Columnist From Dover Beach, forever wheeling eagle-like above the grubby partisan pols with their petty concerns (before landing, inevitably, somewhere amidst the ignorant army of the Right), it’s refreshing to see David Brooks in his latest column just coming right out and making the case for his party, the GOP. Sure, he maintains the third-person in explaining the Republican “viewpoint” to his readers, but the whole way he frames the choices facing the electorate make his allegiances as clear as if he put on a fake elephant trunk and ran around yelling about “secular socialism.”
The Stopped Clock:
If I were to ask Brooks to realistically explain how the Republican Party will implement any of the reforms they supposedly favor, and why we should believe that any of it would work, I suspect his answer would be along the lines of, "Um, er, well, if you look at the, um -- OMG! LOOK AT GREECE!"
Public sector jobs are never part of the Republican stimulus equation because the party does not respect the service professions. Romney’s gaffe about not needing “firemen, policemen and teachers” was no gaffe at all, but the dark subtext of his campaign to reduce government. The irony of the right wing attack on public services is that while reducing the employees that provide them, it complains indignantly about falling test scores, rising crime rates, and exploding health costs.
Dean Baker:
Brooks account of U.S. growth is just bizarre. Did he somehow miss the collapse of the housing bubble? If he excluded the period since the crisis then there is not much of a case for a weakening economy. The economy definitely did better in the three decades immediately following World War II, when the top marginal tax rate was between 70-90 percent than it did in the post-Reagan years, but there was a substantial uptick in productivity growth in the mid-90s. The second half of that decade saw the strongest sustained growth since the early 70s, with workers up and down the income latter sharing in the gains of productivity growth.

The economy did turn down with the collapse of the stock bubble in 2000-2002, but it is hard to see how Republicans tie the collapse of this bubble to the death throes of the welfare state, just as it is difficult to see how the more recent collapse of the housing bubble implies the death throes of the welfare state. In principle the Los Angeles Kings victory in the Stanley Cup could also signal the death throes of the welfare state, but it is not easy to see the connection. The more obvious take away from this story is that a corrupt financial sector can wreck the economy.
Brad DeLong extensively quoting Dean Baker:
In terms of the link between wages and productivity growth, Brooks Republican friends seem to be in an inverted world. If this is the concern, then the welfare states in Europe would seem to be the answer, not the problem. Workers have certainly seen more of the benefits of productivity growth over the last three decades in northern Europe than in the United States. If Brooks has a point here, it is very difficult to see what it is.
Ab-Norm-al Econ:
David Brooks Justifies GOP Extremism

I'm glad that David Brooks has finally come out of the closet. He no longer pretends to be an objective observer of the political economy. The GOP wants to end the "welfare state". Republicans always hated the "New Deal" that rescued capitalism from the Great Depression. Now they are using the Great Recession as an opportunity to provide the finishing blow to it.
p m carpenter:
David Brooks' betrayal

Today David Brooks attempts to reframe and thereby legitimize Republicans' extremist ideology as a mere "viewpoint." In so doing, Brooks demolishes his previous and persistent claims of a personal, "progressive conservatism"; his present, deliberate conflation of--his blurring of the vividly demarcated lines between--Burkean change and what is nothing short of a revolutionary system is simply appalling.

He begins by flatly denying that Republicans have morphed into mania, fever and madness, notwithstanding all the accumulated evidence, from Sarah Palin's unhinged rants to Mitch McConnell's seething objectives to Allen West's raging paranoia to John Boehner's conceded anarchy to Joe Walsh's spooky psychosis to Eric Cantor's self-evident malevolence to Grover Norquist's despotic terrorism to more generalized madnesses such as more and more tax cuts and more and more defense spending to balance the budget.
Coffee Muses:
What universe does Mr. Brooks live in? Moving health care to a more market based system? That is exactly what we have been doing for the last 2-3 decades. Don’t you love where it has gotten us to?
The American Conservative:

After they wiped their hands of the crisis until they could wipe no more, movement conservatives did fess up to one thing: expanding entitlements and generally spending too much.

This was nice. I can see why it was attractive narrative to people like Yuval Levin, who had a role in shaping Bush administration domestic policy.

But it fell far short of what the 12-step community calls a “searching, fearless moral inventory.”

The truth is, Medicare Part D had nothing whatsoever to do with the financial crisis. The lukewarm implementation of policies that feel under the rubric of “compassionate conservatism” had nothing whatsoever to do with the financial crisis. Tariffs on steel had nothing whatsoever to do with the financial crisis. The No Child Left Behind education reform law had nothing whatsoever to do with the financial crisis.

What were the root causes, then? Look them up: “dramatic failures of corporate governance and risk management at many systemically important financial institutions”; “excessive borrowing, risky investments, and lack of transparency”; “systemic breakdown in accountability and ethics”; “collapsing mortgage-lending standards”; “over-the-counter derivatives”; “the failures of credit-rating agencies.”

Of course, the big-government conservative legacy looks worse after the crisis, as revenues plummeted and annual deficits spiked. But to fasten onto these policies is to confuse effect for cause. So it is with the apparatus of the welfare state: It looks to be in even worse shape than it was before the crash. But it did not cause the crisis.

Does it need to be reformed? Of course it does. Only the most ideologically hardened liberal would deny it.

Yuval Levin strikes me as a smart and serious-minded guy. Yet I can’t blame Democrats for not trusting his motives. The conservative movement has railed against the welfare state for as long as it has existed. He and his cohort give every appearance of ideologues who are doing what they’ve wanted to do all along; they’re following the dreaded Rahm Emanuel’s advice, and not letting a crisis go to waste.
Compulsive Reflection:
What I found exasperating about Brook's column was an almost complete lack of analysis of the material he presents. Does he agree with this new GOP point of view, or not? He clearly used to think some of the positions advocated by the GOP after the financial crisis were "insane." Has he changed his mind? If so, why? You'll never found out by reading the column.

However, Brook's lack of analysis goes beyond a mere refusal to self-disclose. It is also remarkably passively uncritical. Assume, as I am willing to do, that his description of the current GOP "point of view" is accurate. Is there any reason to think that it is true, or even a reasonable approximation of reality?

What do we know in 2012 about the burdens of the welfare state that we didn't know in 2007? Nothing so far as I can tell. We have demographic problem in which fewer and fewer workers will be supporting more and more retiring baby-boomers. The places a burden on Social Security, but especially on Medicare that is quite serious unless something is done to reign in the inflation rate of medical care. Is there anything new about this? Public policy wonks have been talking about this for a couple of decades at least. 
Freddie deBoer at "Balloon Juice"
Who could be a clearer example of the failure of our meritocracy than David Brooks? He’s a man who holds a position in the most prominent, respected news organization in the world. His work is a weekly exercise in unsupported claims, in vague jargon, in narrative that means nothing and achieves nothing. And no one is ever going to take that position away from him; how could they? There is no accountability for him whatsoever. He calls for dynamism and change, and he’s buried in like a tick.

I know giving up is a luxury most people don’t have, but for now, I’m just spent, exhausted by the effort of running up the slippery walls of this kind of empty argument. Congratulations, David Brooks, I give up.
Tales of Copper City:
Republicans know that if we can control health care spending with an intelligently-designed Medicare-for-All health system, one that resists the commodity bias of the market, we can begin to spend money on infrastructure repair, education, and other needed areas. The GOP opposes health care reform not because it would be bad for us, but because it would be good for us. Republicans of today want to keep the good news of a democracy that treats "people as people" as far away from the public as they can. Brooks is a shill for the right wing; he wants us to think he's more intelligent than his clients, but plainly there's no idea so stupid he's not willing to put a fig leaf on, to hide the bankruptcy of the modern Republican party, just so long as the money for his "alibis" for political cynicism and hatred keeps rolling in. 
Horse's Ass:

The Quality of Writing

by Carl

On Friday David Brooks and Paul Krugman share space on the New York Times Op-Ed page. Sometimes, the contrast between the quality of writing is embarrassing...

And, finally, Dr. Paul Krugman goes there:
Death Throes

My colleague David Brooks tells us that Republicans see the economic crisis as showing that the welfare state is in its “death throes”. And it’s true — that is what they think, or claim to think.

And I understand why that’s what they want to think. But the fact that they think this is a testimony to the ability of people to see what they want to see, in the teeth of the evidence.
* And speaking of "Goodfellas"...

Henry Hill?

Won't see him no more.
For 'Wiseguy' Henry Hill, Mobster 'Days Were Over'

June 15, 2012

Henry Hill, the mobster-turned-informant portrayed by Ray Liotta in the film Goodfellas, died on Tuesday. He was 69. Hill's colorful life — he had lived in Cincinnati; Omaha; Butte, Mont.; Independence, Ky.; and Topanga, Calif., among other places — was documented in crime reporter Nicholas Pileggi's 1986 book Wiseguy and then in Martin Scorsese's film Goodfellas, which was based on Pileggi's book...


casimir said...

Another expert evisceration, Mr DG - makes me think of what would have happened to Roy Scheider in Marathon Man if he hadn't gotten his hand up in time. But when it comes to society's present plunge into the abyss, let's keep in mind that notwithstanding a tiny little bit of wealth redistribution effected by Democratic legislation during the Golden Age of the American social contract, the establishment Democrats (i.e., the ones that get invited to the Twister parties in DFB's new manse and ask him questions) are equal enablers of the raping and pillaging of the public wealth and welfare. Much of the hyena-like pathology you reference is just the way that the Republicans keep their part of the peoncy ignorant and passive. For the Democrats, it's NPR and the NYT. That's another reason why Centrism is such galling mortadella - when it comes to what matters (pilfering the commons), there's no distance between the Two Sides. All that differs is the method each uses to delude and distract its constituency.

Anonymous said...

Well, it's all a part of the scintillating insight that Mr. Brooks, as an "immeasurably superior" person has shown time and time again, to the benefit of this nation (big eye roll). And that's why we simply MUST defer to the wisdom of him and his fellow elites, as per his prior column.

And I see he's calling, yet again for, "boldness" and "sacrifice" and an end to the nasty old welfare system that holds us down. And like most of the Villagers who call for such things, he's made sure he's exempted from same ($4 million house, eh?).

So it looks that for himself, dear little Davy prefers "security over risk, comfort over effort, stability over innovation"--all of which he's achieved by jamming his nose way far up the asscracks of the "elite".....

jim said...

Personally, I think America can solve all its problems once it gains permanent access to more "large open spaces for entertainment."

bluicebank said...

Every once in a while I start to read a Brooks column, instead of coming here first. The problem with that is that Brooks writes his first sentence.

"Democrats frequently ask me ..."

You see right there? I can't even get through half his first sentence before the goddamn bullshit meter needle has snapped off the peg. Because whenever any columnist not six feet under starts off with this people-coming-up-to-me-all-the-time shit, I'm reminded that I didn't just fall off the turnip truck from Mars just yesterday. Didn't Brooks only recently begin a column claiming that another group of people come up to him on the street all the fuckin' Martian day long to ask him how the weather blew on fucking Mars? I believe he did.

Thank you for your service, Driftglass.

brobob said...

jim, didn't read dfb column. these "spaces"- would that be akin to how we resolved the "Indian problem". and for just whose entertainment? i didn't want to jump to any conclusions you see.

Anonymous said...

That is quite possibly the most frightening PShop I have ever seen, driftglass. I hope I don't have nightmares now. - AWS

Frank Stone said...

It's entirely possible that Brooks suffers from the same mental disorder that afflicts Michele Bachmann: seeing imaginary people who say peculiar things. Remember the guy who told Bachmann that he used to live in Japan and people there are afraid to speak out about the dismal state of health care because "they know that they would get on a list, and they wouldn't get health care"? Or the seven-foot-tall doctor who told her that because of "Obamacare" he had to call the IRS to get a number to put on a form before he could see a patient? I'd guess Brooks is likewise seeing imaginary Democrats.

Cirze said...

This writer is misinformed and should read Dean Baker and Paul Krugman for further explanation to straighten out his/her thinking.

Dean demolishes the "fewer" workers argument quickly and easily and then addresses the real causes of Social Security instability (tax cuts and very small adjustment of the rates upwards to make up for the financial starvation of the fund) and Paul demolishes the Medicare "inflation" argument by showing how easily the system could be made self supporting if the powers-that-be actually wanted it to succeed.

But you know all this. I just fear that some of your readers may still believe these so-called "public policy wonks" (In actuality mostly Pete Peterson spouting rightwingers.)

What do we know in 2012 about the burdens of the welfare state that we didn't know in 2007? Nothing so far as I can tell. We have demographic problem in which fewer and fewer workers will be supporting more and more retiring baby-boomers. The places a burden on Social Security, but especially on Medicare that is quite serious unless something is done to reign in the inflation rate of medical care. Is there anything new about this? Public policy wonks have been talking about this for a couple of decades at least.

David Brooks is Still Livid That Barack Obama Was Reelected in 2012: UPDATE

See, what Barack Obama was supposed to do in 2012 was martyr himself to Brooks' idea of the Noble Centrist.  To lose, of cou...