BROOKS: YOUR GENITALS CAUSED AMERICA'S REAL CRISIS, JETHRO
David Brooks thinks he's cooked up a clever conceit for his latest column: those hipsters in the big-city Occupy protests may think that they're complaining about general economic inequality, Brooks tells us, but what they're really grumbling about is "Blue Equality," which is the fact that they're not as rich as all the zillionaires in New York and other global capitals. The hipsters think that's important -- but it's not! Here's what's really important (and, sorry kids, but you can only choose one of these problems or the other -- declaring both to be significant is not permissible):
Then there is what you might call Red Inequality. This is the kind experienced in Scranton, Des Moines, Naperville, Macon, Fresno, and almost everywhere else. In these places, the crucial inequality is not between the top 1 percent and the bottom 99 percent. It's between those with a college degree and those without. Over the past several decades, the economic benefits of education have steadily risen. In 1979, the average college graduate made 38 percent more than the average high school graduate, according to the Fed chairman, Ben Bernanke. Now the average college graduate makes more than 75 percent more.
This is a completely separate problem from the problem all those hipsters are complaining about, y'see -- Red America is a totally different country! What -- do you think the jobs Red America has lost used to be provided by the 1 percent in big-city corporate office towers, the same people the Occupy protesters are protesting? Silly you!
The people in Red America actually made their own jobs disappear, by eating poorly and screwing in inappropriate ways:
In fact, the income differentials understate the chasm between college and high school grads. In the 1970s, high school and college grads had very similar family structures. Today, college grads are much more likely to get married, they are much less likely to get divorced and they are much, much less likely to have a child out of wedlock.
Today, college grads are much less likely to smoke than high school grads, they are less likely to be obese, they are more likely to be active in their communities, they have much more social trust, they speak many more words to their children at home.
Some research suggests that college grads have much bigger friendship networks than high school grads. The social divide is even starker than the income divide.
They shut down the factory where you worked for decades, and your father and grandfather before you? They shipped all the jobs to the third world? Blame yourself -- it's because you eat too much fatty food and don't have enough friends!
Over the past few months, attention has shifted almost exclusively to Blue Inequality.
That's because the protesters and media people who cover them tend to live in or near the big cities, where the top 1 percent is so evident. That's because the liberal arts majors like to express their disdain for the shallow business and finance majors who make all the money. That's because it is easier to talk about the inequality of stock options than it is to talk about inequalities of family structure, child rearing patterns and educational attainment. That's because many people are wedded to the notion that our problems are caused by an oppressive privileged class that perpetually keeps its boot stomped on the neck of the common man.
Yeah, that's right -- whereas the real problem is that the common man keeps a boot stomped on his own neck! And that hurts a lot more, because he's so fat!
Maybe I'm misinterpreting Brooks. When he writes about these behaviors of which he so disapproves, maybe he's not really saying that they're causes of of poverty rather than symptoms. But he sure does spend a hell of a lot of time dwelling on food and sex among the lowly, and a hell of a lot of time trying to get the fat cats cleared on all charges.
UPDATE: Via LG&M (thanks for the link), here's Paul Krugman's take on this subject, which (though he says it more politely) is essentially that Brooks doesn't know what the hell he's talking about, and here are the charts to prove it.