Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Like Doug J, I was dreading this:

But Brooks's column turns out to be less insufferable than usual. There are no references whatsoever to "character" or "social capital" -- none! Amazing! And even though I don't fully agree with it, this is actually a nice critique of the GOP:

Republican politicians don't design policies to meet specific needs, or even to help their own working-class voters. They use policies as signaling devices -- as ways to reassure the base that they are 100 percent orthodox and rigidly loyal. Republicans have taken a pragmatic policy proposal from 1980 and sanctified it as their core purity test for 2012.

I think Republican politicians have actually started to drink their own Kool-Aid and believe that "less government and lower taxes" really do add up to a complete set of "policies to meet specific needs" for working-class (and all other) voters. But it's true that the policies don't work, and at least Brooks knows that.

And while I really don't agree with the attack on Democrats that he pairs with this, for once I'm not offended by his Democrat-bashing -- it's not his usual attack on our perceived love of granite countertops and locally sourced vegetables, and if he's off base, he's kind of in the ballpark:

As for the Democrats, they offer practically nothing. They acknowledge huge problems like wage stagnation and then offer... light rail! Solar panels! It was telling that the Democrats offered no budget this year, even though they are supposedly running the country. That's because they too are trapped in a bygone era.

Mentally, they are living in the era of affluence, but, actually, they are living in the era of austerity. They still have these grand spending ideas, but there is no longer any money to pay for them and there won't be for decades. Democrats dream New Deal dreams, propose nothing and try to win elections by making sure nobody ever touches Medicare.

In reality, Democrats talk about New Deal dreams, then take all their plans for such dreams and run them by current and former top executives at Goldman Sachs; after that, they make a real effort to implement only the ones they're given permission to pursue -- which means almost none of them. So, yes, they wind up proposing virtually nothing, and they try to win elections by making sure nobody ever touches Medicare. But at least they try to make sure nobody ever touches Medicare.

I'm also giving Brooks a semi-pass today because I realize I'd rather live in his fantasy America than in the America we actually live in, and will live in for the foreseeable future. He actually imagines we could someday join together in a series of grand compromises that would get our infrastructure repaired, retrain unemployed workers for jobs that actually exist, and ... well, this is the part where the hallucinogens really seemed to be kicking in:

The Tea Parties are right about the unholy alliance between business and government that is polluting the country. It's time to drain the swamp by simplifying the tax code and streamlining the regulations businesses use to squash their smaller competitors.

No, it isn't. It's never time. I know it's common for Beltway insiders to talk about a future tax code that eliminates corporate loopholes, but it just can't happen until there are class-conscious people with pitchforks in the streets. And the last people who'll ever take on that role are the teabaggers.

It's odd that he imagines this as possible when, early in the column, he writes this:

The Republican growth agenda -- tax cuts and nothing else -- is stupefyingly boring, fiscally irresponsible and politically impossible.

He's right about the first two characterizations. "Politically impossible"? I wish. It's his aspirations that are politically impossible -- and our leftward ones. The drowning of government in the bathtub just as baby boomers retire en masse could really happen. And a failure to address our real problems almost certainly will happen, forever, unless and until the mass public numbness dissipates.

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