IMAGINE MY SURPRISE: DAVID BROOKS DOESN'T GIVE A CRAP ABOUT COMPROMISE
A couple of times a year, David Brooks lulls moderates by fretting about modern Republicans' unwillingness to compromise. Here he is in July of last year, for instance, denouncing GOP extremists:
The members of this movement do not accept the logic of compromise, no matter how sweet the terms. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch in order to cut government by a foot, they will say no. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch to cut government by a yard, they will still say no....
The members of this movement have no sense of moral decency.
Here he is in December 2010:
And my problem with the Republican Party right now ... is that if you offered them 80-20, they say no. If you offered them 90-10, they'd say no. If you offered them 99-1 they'd say no. And that's because we've substituted governance for brokerism, for rigidity that Ronald Reagan didn't have.
Well, now there's a governor in Wisconsin who's just like that. He won't compromise. He won't meet Democrats partway. So it's safe to assume that Brooks is appalled by Scott Walker -- yes?
Shockingly, the answer is no:
Today voters in Wisconsin go to the polls to decide whether to recall Gov. Scott Walker. I’m not a complete fan of the way Walker went about reducing debt. In an age of tough choices, one bedrock principle should be: We’re all in this together. If you are going to cut from the opposing party's interest groups, you should also cut from some of your own. That’s how you build trust and sustain progress, one administration to the next.
Walker didn't do that. He just sliced Democrats. But, in the real world, we don't get to choose perfect test cases.
Oh, well -- can't make an omelet without breaking a few unions, right?
So refusal to compromise is no big deal, as far as Brooks is concerned, if you can just roll over your opponent and win total victory. It's not a sign that you have "no sense of moral decency" if you're powerful enough and thuggish enough to crush the opposition. It's only immoral if your opposition has the strength to fight back. If not, just crush 'em like a bug. Brooks will say you're less than "perfect," but that's about it.
Oh, and it's also acceptable to reject compromise if your opponents represent the interests of History's Greatest Monsters -- namely, middle-class people who want to maintain a middle-class existence:
Every generation has an incentive to borrow money from the future to spend on itself. But, until ours, no generation of Americans has done it to the same extent. Why?
A huge reason is that earlier generations were insecure. They lived without modern medicine, without modern technology and without modern welfare states. They lived one illness, one drought and one recession away from catastrophe. They developed a moral abhorrence about things like excessive debt, which would further magnify their vulnerability.
Recently, life has become better and more secure. But the aversion to debt has diminished amid the progress. Credit card companies seduced people into borrowing more. Politicians found that they could buy votes with borrowed money. People became more comfortable with red ink.
Today we are living in an era of indebtedness....
That's Brooks's justification for backing Walker -- Walker opposes some of the true tyrants of our age, workers and retirees who weren't virtuous enough to demand that the pensions they were granted in the hiring process be fully funded decades later when they retired.
It's hopeless to try to point out to Mr. $4 Million House that, even with the social spending we have, millions of Americans still live "one illness, one drought and one recession away from catastrophe." He clearly thinks it would be better for our moral fiber if none of us (his circle of friends excepted) had a means of diminishing that fear of economic disaster. We need that fear. It builds character, says Mr. $4 Million House.