Friday, October 01, 2021


The latest David Brooks column is titled "This Is Why We Need to Spend $4 Trillion." He supports Build Back Better. That's nice.

But he supports the bill because both sides! Let him explain:
My ancestors were aspiring immigrants and understood where the beating heart of the nation resided: with the working class and the middle class, the ones depicted by Willa Cather, James Agee, Ralph Ellison, or in “The Honeymooners,” “The Best Years of Our Lives” and “On the Waterfront.” There was a time when the phrase “the common man” was a source of pride and a high compliment.

Over the past few decades there has been a redistribution of dignity — upward. From Reagan through Romney, the Republicans valorized entrepreneurs, C.E.O.s and Wall Street.
Republicans valorized fat cats from Reagan through Romney? Um, David, do you know the identity of the Republican presidential nominee in 2016, 2020, and (probably) 2024? (But at least Brooks acknowledges that this is a bad thing. I'm so old I remember when many of Brooks's columns celebrated the middle-class people who valorized the rich.)
The Democratic Party became dominated by the creative class, who attended competitive colleges, moved to affluent metro areas, married each other and ladled advantages onto their kids so they could leap even further ahead.

There was a bipartisan embrace of a culture of individualism, which opens up a lot of space for people with resources and social support, but means loneliness and abandonment for people without. Four years of college became the definition of the good life, which left roughly two-thirds of the country out.
So yes, as you'd expect, he's bothsidesing this.
And so came the crisis that Biden was elected to address — the poisonous combination of elite insularity and vicious populist resentment....

The Democratic spending bills are economic packages that serve moral and cultural purposes.... In real, tangible ways, they would redistribute dignity back downward. They would support hundreds of thousands of jobs for home health care workers, child care workers, construction workers, metal workers, supply chain workers....

Biden had it exactly right when he told a La Crosse, Wis., audience, “The jobs that are going to be created here — largely, it’s going to be those for blue-collar workers, the majority of whom will not have to have a college degree to have those jobs.”
Brooks starts by telling us that this is a crisis created by two pro-elitist parties. But if that's the case, who voted for Biden, and why? If Democrats are pro-elitist, why do Democratic voters support this agenda? Why do nearly all Democratic officeholders support it? Why are Democratic voters furious at the sellout Democrats -- and the united bloc of Republicans -- who have watered down the agenda and might prevent its enactment altogether?

Brooks can stereotype the Democratic Party as a party of selfish meritocratic elitists who want all the cake, but the Democratic voter base -- which includes many, many people who aren't upscale white suburbanites -- voted for Biden, and for two presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, who promised universal health coverage, which isn't a problem the upper middle class shares. Democrats voted for Obama and John Kerry in the hopes of ending a war the upper middle class wasn't fighting and dying in. Democrats vote for candidates who support abortion rights even though the upper middle class is likely to find a way to get abortions even in the absence of Roe v. Wade.

We have a nation skewed toward upscale Americans because corporations outsourced all the blue-collar jobs and because forty years of Reaganite and post-Reaganite tax policy have drastically increased economic inequality. Some Democratic may benefit from all that, but Democrats vote against its continuance.


UPDATE: Yastreblyansky is much less critical of this column than I am.

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