Tuesday, September 20, 2011


This morning's David Brooks column is a plaintive wail entitled "Obama Rejects Obamaism." It begins:

I'm a sap, a specific kind of sap. I'm an Obama Sap.

It goes on to talk about how that awful Barack Obama -- Brooks's sometime hero -- is now rejecting Brooksian conservatism.

When the president unveiled the second half of his stimulus it became clear that this package has nothing to do with helping people right away or averting a double dip. This is a campaign marker, not a jobs bill...

He repeated the populist cries that fire up liberals but are designed to enrage moderates and conservatives.

What Brooks doesn't recognize about himself is that he's also a Republican Sap. He actually believes that compromises and bargains, even inches-from-the-rightward-extreme Grand Bargains, are possible in this climate. He ignores the radicalism and intransigence of his own party, the nature of which seemed to dawn on him temporarily at fleeting moments in the past. Of Obama's jobs speech, he writes (emphasis added):

This wasn't a speech to get something done. This was the sort of speech that sounded better when Ted Kennedy was delivering it. The result is that we will get neither short-term stimulus nor long-term debt reduction anytime soon, and I’m a sap for thinking it was possible.

No, David. You're right that we will get neither short-term stimulus nor long-term debt reduction anytime soon, but it's not the result of Obama's proposals. It's the result of Congress's makeup and governing philosophy. These people wouldn't agree to anything genuinely stimulative at this moment, and they'll never, ever agree to anything that genuinely reduces the deficit, because even if we cut spending their way, in a Perry presidency with GOP majorities in both houses, the Republicans (and Blue Dogs) will use the spending cuts as an excuse for another round of massive tax cuts skewed toward the rich and large corporations. Revenues? They don't need no stinking revenues.


He talks about fundamental tax reform, but I keep forgetting that he has promised never to raise taxes on people in the bottom 98 percent of the income scale.

That means when he talks about raising revenue, which he is right to do, he can't really talk about anything substantive. He can't tax gasoline. He can't tax consumption. He can't do a comprehensive tax reform.

Really? He can't? No, David -- no one could. Not with this sorry lot in Congress. Leaving aside any discussion of the wisdom of the proposals on this list, they're simply not possible. Grover Norquist wouldn't allow it. The Koch brothers would fund primary challenges to any Republican who supported, say, a financial incentive to switch to less polluting fuels, or tax reform that wasn't a smokescreen for slipping the rich more breaks (like an elimination of the capital gains tax).

Sorry, David -- it's your guys who have their heels dug in. Obama is just imitating them.