Saturday, December 20, 2003

Give David Brooks a tiny bit of credit: allowing Americans to create tax-free savings accounts for job retraining isn't a terrible idea. Oh, it's quite flawed -- it puts all the onus for dealing with job loss on workers themselves, it drains the treasury of yet more tax revenue (a Bush administration specialty), and the workers least likely to be able to take advantage are the workers who need help most, the ones who live paycheck to paycheck and can't afford to salt much cash away, tax free or not. But Clinton might have done something similar if he could have had a third term, so this won't be the worst thing in Bush's next State of the Union address.

But if you read Brooks's column on the subject, you can begin to see the difference between the Left and the Right. Call Paul Krugman a "zealot" and you won't get an argument from me -- but while he may be that, he's not a flack. Brooks is a flack. Here's an excerpt from the column:

In his State of the Union address, the president will announce measures to foster job creation. In the meantime, he is talking about what he calls the Ownership Society.

This is a bundle of proposals that treat workers as self-reliant pioneers who rise through several employers and careers. To thrive, these pioneers need survival tools.

Those capital letters in "Ownership Society" are a disgrace -- Brooks's editors should have lowercased them and told him that if he didn't like it he could go find work on Pennsylvania Avenue. Brooks capitalizes the term three times in the column, not counting the title -- he's helping the White House to create a brand, dammit.

And that use of "pioneer"? Straight from Newt Gingrich's Orwellian list of "optimistic positive governing words." (Though I'd love to see Brooks at an unemployment office trying to sell some ex-factory workers on the Pollyannaish nonsense that they're "pioneers.")

And give me a break, David -- workers don't "rise through several ... careers." At best, they rise through one, then, if they're driven out of it, they plummet to pretty close to the bottom of the ladder and maybe, maybe, rise to where they were in a new career after several years. And then maybe the whole cycle repeats after that.