Tag Archives: David Brooks

I’d say Republicans had become unhinged by the Mar-A-Lago raid but they were already there

The FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago had already produced some bizarre Republican responses when I blogged about it last week. They’re not getting better, possibly because the case against Trump is getting worse. What was he doing with classified nuclear documents or possibly information identifying intelligence sources.

It’s no surprise Trump is freaking out. It’s what he always does whenever he’s challenged, balked or criticized. But as his handling of declassified documents could violate the Espionage Act, the right wing has suddenly decided the act is bad. As noted at the link, that’s true in general — it’s the default law for prosecuting whistle-blowers — but Trump wasn’t blowing the whistle or releasing the Pentagon Papers (one comparison some Repubs are making). Nevertheless, Rand Paul wants the act killed. Other right-wigers want FBI agents killed.

Florida State Rep. Anthony Sabatini, who’s running for the federal House, thinks state law-enforcement should arrest FBI agents and other federal law enforcement officers if they’re acting against Trump. Breitbart doxxed two FBI agents involved in the raid. Remember when Republicans were so loud and proud about how they backed the blue? Now it’s defund the FBI — though as Zeeshan Aleem says, they’re lying when they pretend to care about the FBI’s history of bad behavior (see here). Don’t be fooled: if the search was the political persecution they pretend it is, but directed at A-OC or Rashida Tlaib, they’d be cheering.

Heck, they’re already cheering in advance: Charlie Kirk and Eric Metaxas are demanding right-wing state attorneys general raid liberals to pay them back and warn them away from pushing Trump: “State attorney generals that are Republican have to authorize raids against Soros groups, BLM, Planned Parenthood, the alphabet mafia, groomers, the chemical castration of children now! Here’s why—a hundred facilities should be raided by next week” even without a legal pretext (given the current Repub mindset, I’m assuming groomers means teachers not religious conservatives).

Right-wing pundit Mark Levin scraped the barrel to come up with this brilliant insight: how can we know Obama and Biden and W don’t have documents at home too, huh? How come nobody searched them? Um, possibly because nobody put together enough evidence to justify a warrant? By Levin’s logic, I could ask how we can be sure Mark Levin doesn’t have dead bodies in his basement — I mean, have we checked so we can know for sure? Oh, and Fox posted a fake photo of the judge who authorized the warrant in hopes of making him look bad.

Some QAnonites are claiming the raid is good news: the (non-existent) pedophile Satanist cabal is going after Trump because he’s about to destroy them at last! David Brooks faux wrings his hands with concern: what if this enrages the base so Trump wins re-election? Which as Roy Edroso says at the link, is like arguing if Pence had only done what Trump wanted in 2021, we wouldn’t have had the Jan. 6 attempted coup — or as someone quipped online, that we shouldn’t have infuriated Sauron’s base by sending those hobbits into Mordor. Because only Democrats have agency.

Regardless of its effect on politics, I agree with Edroso that Merrick Garland made the right call.

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The right-wing, risk and safety

According to some conservatives the important thing about capitalism is not freedom or the positive benefits it brings (e.g., the incredible array of vegetarian products out there compared to when I graduated college) but that it places everyone under the Sword of Damocles: ““The great, overwhelming fact of a capitalist economy is risk. Everyone is at constant risk of the loss of his job, or of the destruction of his business by a competitor, or of the crash of his investment portfolio. Risk makes people circumspect. It disciplines them and teaches them self-control. Without a safety net, people won’t try to vault across the big top. ” — David Frum. If there was no safety net, for example, life as a single parent would be too hazardous, forcing families to stay together.

This is a common thought. David Brooks has argued that when the economy tanks, that forces employees to stay loyal to one employer instead of switching jobs for better pay; he considers this a good thing. Odious right-wing economist Walter Williams once argued that if there was no Social Security this would be great for families: kids would have to assume responsibility for caring for their aged parents, who would therefore demand their kids get serious college degrees that lead to good-paying job, not bullshit like women’s studies (as someone whose parents hated him becoming a writer I guarantee you this approach will not bring families closer together).

It’s reflected in Sen. Rick Scott’s claim that people who aren’t millionaires don’t have skin in the game so they need their taxes raised. He is aggressively sticking with this platform, though also lying that saying he wants to increase taxes is just a Democratic talking point (I sincerely hope it will be a talking point, but it’s definitely part of his plan). Or one Texas poll asserting during the 2021 snowpocalypse that only the strong survive so his constituents should stop asking for help.

All of which is bullshit. The poor pay in plenty of taxes: sales taxes eat up much more of their income than for the rich, for instance. As Echidne of the Snakes says, American business has told employees not to expect loyalty from employers; job-hopping is a logical response (for many employers the obvious solution — pay them better, treat them better — is too outlandish to even consider). And as noted at my first link, even if you live on a tight budget, stick with one employer and do good work, there’s no guarantee your job won’t be axed or outsized so that the owners can see bigger dividends. What conservatives are proposing isn’t a plan for surviving, let alone thriving, it’s demanding that the lowly working class stay suitably submissive. Don’t inconvenience your bosses by changing jobs; don’t indulge yourself by spending money on anything fun. It won’t save your job or guarantee keeping a roof over your head but you won’t inconvenience the rich and powerful which is what really counts.

This brings me back to one of my favorite quotes, from Cato’s letter: “the best defence which we can have against their being knaves, is to make it terrible to them to be knaves. As there are many men wicked in some stations, who would be innocent in others; the best way is to make wickedness unsafe in any station.” Because the right-wingers who embrace the Risk and Suffering Are Good For You bilge never think this should apply to people in higher stations: business owners, politicians, millionaires.

For all Frum’s talk about business being at risk in capitalism, the risks are much less for them. Only one banker went to jail for all the insane risks and sometimes outright fraud that caused the 2008 financial collapse. Filing Chapter Eleven bankruptcy allows many businesses to wriggle out of paying their debts, even if they have the money. Insider trading is rife on Wall Street, even when it hurts the stockbrokers’ clients. Money and power bring immunity.

A number of people have been convicted for their actions on 1/6 but nobody in the Republican Party leadership as yet.  Ginni Thomas was an active participant in the 1/6 insurrection, which should mean Clarence Thomas recuses himself on related rulings. If he decides not to, there’s no legal constraint forcing him (Rep. Jim Jordan claims Thomas was simply acting on her political beliefs as if that’s an excuse; dude, so did Pol Pot, Timothy McVeigh and Osama binLadin). And Donald Trump, of course, has devoted most of his life to avoiding consequences for his actions, whether by lying, threatening to sue people, or launching a coup to prevent the legal transfer of power.

And of course, sexual harassers time and again get a free pass. Mark Galli at Christianity Today engaged in two decades (at least) of harassment without consequences. The Southern Baptist Church turned a blind eye to predators in the pulpit and church hierarchy.

Very few right-wingers who think the average American should live frugally and in fear really think the upper classes should do the same. And in practice, very few do. This is a problem because when wickedness in a given station is safe to get away with, wickedness will inevitably flourish. Just like Frum says, if bankers can see greater profits and bonuses by cheating customers, some of them will. And when people see that behavior is consequence free or worse, rewarded, it will spread.

There are ways to fix this, of course, but they all require the will to take action rather than fold. Without that will, I’m not sure there is a solution. I’ll take some small comfort from knowing that Alex Jones, at least, looks to be headed for a reckoning.

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Peace and prosperity are the point (a late 9/11 post)

“For all the nostalgia for the sense of national unity in the 9/11 aftermath, I remember feeling rubbed the wrong way by one specific variant of triumphalism: the idea that post Cold War we’d grown soft and frivolous and now we’d at least toughen up and deal with reality. [But] Peace and prosperity are the point of all the policy, right? The goal? Give me a soft society doing yoga and pottery and starting businesses and going on nice vacations over a tough, purpose-minded society where everyone is joining the military to fight a big foreign threat. The latter is necessary at times but it’s hardly to be desired for itself.” — from Lawyers, Guns and Money.

As Corey Robin documents in Remembrance of Empires Past (which I’ve blogged about before), that was a controversial view back when 9/11 hit. Pundit Frank Rich declared the attack “has awakened us from a frivolous if not decadent decade-long dream” and David Brooks celebrated that “it is no longer possible to live so comfortably in one’s own private paradise.” None of this sitting around on our butts enjoying life, nosirree! We’d be forced to fight! To achieve greatness! No more living comfortably … unless you were multimillionaire David Brooks, whose sacrifice to the war effort was devoting columns to how embarrassed liberals would be for criticizing W’s stunning success rebuilding Iraq (when he later wrote about how our leaders misjudged Iraq, he somehow forgot to mention his own errors). He remains enthusiastic about other people fighting wars while he cheers them on.

The belief (as John Stuart Mill put it “that savage life is preferable to civilized; that the work of civilization should as far as possible be undone” is not a new one. Nor is the belief of countless rich conservatives that working minimum wage jobs to support yourself is a proud and noble endeavor. That doesn’t make these views any more palatable or sensible. It’s true that someone who can work 40 hours a week, then chill in front of the TV knowing their bills are paid (during the Clinton years a lot more people could live that way) may never be driven to high achievement. But while someone who has to work 60 hour s a week to keep a roof over their kids’ head may be struggling harder and showing greater self-sacrifice, their life is not preferable.

And while I have respect for people who serve honorably in the military, coming home from Afghanistan with PTSD or a missing limb from combat is not preferable either. Certainly not compared to not getting involved in wars when it’s not necessary. Some conservatives wail that we’re not all stoic like the Donner Party, but you know what? Avoiding situations where people have to resort to cannibalism is preferable. If that takes government intervention, I’m okay with that.

It’s possible that people who have it easy will never achieve greatness, but struggling just to survive isn’t achieving greatness either. I’ve done a small bit of that and it’s not pleasant. Living more comfortably actually makes it easier to achieve: less stress, more time, greater mental resources.  It’s also possible to make sacrifices and contribute to the public good even in time of peace and prosperity. Donate to charity. Run a food bank. Give blood. Volunteer at an animal shelter. These are also easier to do when you have time and money.

There’s a line in the film Things to Come to the effect that “our revolution didn’t abolish danger or death, it simply made danger and death worthwhile!” That’s what people like Brooks and countless others who shit on peace and prosperity (for the common throng, that is — they ain’t giving up their own) don’t get. The challenge and struggle of launching a business, painting a masterpiece, writing a blockbuster investigative journalism piece, trying to change public policy, those mean something. The challenge and struggle just to put bread on the table? That’s necessary, but it’s not a desirable way to live. It’s depressing that some people think otherwise.

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Civil war and other links

President Whiny continues crying that he’s being persecuted as no one ever has been. Right-wing militia are ready to fight if impeachment moves ahead. However it’s unlikely we’ll see civil war because most of those calling for it are as big a chickenhawk as Trump. John Fea points out the evangelicals enthusiastic for war are still benefitting from the aftermath of the last Civil War. And Paul Krugman calls out the “radical centrists” who insist Republicans just can’t be that much worse than Democrats.

Speaking of impeachment, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio goes with ROFL, Trump was just “needling the press” as an explanation of Trump calling for foreign governments to investigate the Bidens. At the NYT, Jamelle Boulle says this is less about fear of the base and more that Republican politicians support Trump on most issues. And both Jewish and Christian conservatives continue to argue that opposing Trump is opposing God.

Oh, and Trump mouthpiece attorney general William Barr says Trump doesn’t have to cooperate with impeachment because Watergate-related court decisions were wrong. Now, in other news:

David Brooks recently wrote a fantasy of what it’s like in the mind of an extremist. To follow that up, he has a fantasy conversation between an urban liberal and simple, plainspoken Midwesterner who has no interest in all the controversy (“There’s always some fight between Trump and the East Coast media. I guess I just try to stay focused on the big picture.”). Roy Edroso argues this kind of fantasy conversation is legitimate as a writing tool, but very badly done. LGM notes one of Brooks’ odder claims (which I’ve heard elsewhere) that liberal elites are big on marriage while telling other people to live in sin.

I’ve heard right-wingers freaking out about soy before, but now white supremacists are kicking it up a notch: veggie burgers are part of a Jewish conspiracy to destroy our standard of living. I can’t help suspecting the real issue (using the word “real” loosely) is the identification of eating meat with Real Manliness, so not eating it by definition means America is getting castrated.

An Alabama female inmate needed emergency medical treatment. The jail decided to check whether she had insurance to cover it. She died.

I doubt Trump reads comic books (they’re way beyond his comprehension) but that seems to be the source of his ideas for safeguarding the border.

A federal judge has ruled that Harvard using race as an element in weighing admissions does not discriminate against Asian-Americans.

McKrae Game spent decades running an “ex-gay” ministry. He’s now come out and admitted he never stopped being gay. At the link, Fred Clark looks at the failure of Game and similar anti-gay activists to prove gays can change their orientation.

Bill Maher thinks standing up to political correctness is the hill Democrats should die on.

Amber Guyger claimed she shot a black neighbor by accident thinking she’d walked into her apartment, not his. The court found her guilty. The most hair-raising part besides the tragic murder of her neighbor is the possibility that simply by thinking she was in her own apartment, the killing could be justified.

Fred Clark shows how the Southern strategy — shift from screaming racism to saying the out loud parts quietly — shapes conservative politics, but many believers don’t realize it. I think he has a point. When Jerry Falwell founded the religious right in the 1980s, opposing abortion made a better rallying cry than his pet issue, segregation. But certainly a lot of people now believe in forced birth as an end in itself.

Right-to-lifer James Patrick Johnston believes based on no evidence that ectopic pregnancies can be reimplanted so they shouldn’t be aborted (he also believes it’s better for the mother to die than abort any fetus). At the link, a look at how his bullshit is spreading.

Greta Thunberg is seriously triggering to right-wingers.



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Impeachment and other political links

Judging by the people opposed to it, impeachment must be the right path:

Court evangelical Tony Perkins was keen on impeaching the Christian, church-going Obama. But now that he has an ally in the White House? Impeachment would damage our system. More accurately, it might remove a president who’s willing to go along with the religious right’s concept of religious freedom. I’m quite sure if faith-based refugee groups objected to Trump’s anti-immigrant policies, Perkins wouldn’t be on their side.

David Brooks is very, very worried impeachment will empower Trump and enrage his base. As noted at the link, Trump’s base is in a constant state of rage — if impeachment makes them angrier, that doesn’t translate into more votes for Trump.

Frank Bruni worries impeachment will divide the country. Because we’re so unified now.

And John Yoo, the Bush-era White House attorney who claimed the president can violate any laws he wants (except when he’s a Democrat) unsurprisingly thinks impeaching Trump is bad.

But even if the Senate voted to impeach Trump, that wouldn’t solve the white supremacist problem.

Right-wing wackaloon Rod Dreher explains the coming election is like when David Duke ran for Louisiana governor: voting for Trump is like voting against Duke, even though Duke is a Trump backer.

Sanders vs. Warren is more complicated than the very left wing portrays it. And so is the debate over Universal Basic Income, which Jacobin compares to husbands giving housewives an allowance back in the 1950s.

Inaccurate credit reports. Reluctance to fix problems. Insecure privacy. No wonder Bernie Sanders wants to nationalize credit reporting.

The right wing is much better than the left at political propaganda.

Dallas police officer Amber Guyger walked into a black man’s apartment and shot him dead, which she claims was because she thought he was a burglar in her own apartment. The trial is in progress.

Tony Perkins, a virulently anti-gay bigot, is probably also happy a judge in Michigan says religious groups that work for the state as adoption agencies can discriminate against gays.

I knew specfic author Dan Simmons was virulently anti-Muslim, but he’s also a climate-change denier (and jerk).

Confederate monuments are not about preserving history, they’re about manipulating it.

Tennessee Republican Kerry Roberts suggests the best way to get rid of liberalism is to get rid of college.

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David Brooks and other odious people

David Brooks has written about how he believes the old WASP elite ran the country better than today’s meritocracy because they imposed social structure and forced everyone beneath them to cling to common standards and rules. So there’s more than a little projection when he believes one of the driving forces of extremism is “I yearn for order. Blunt simplicities.” Because that’s his own approach.

Also, because Brooks can’t actually come out and say how bad the right is (they are, after all, the extremists doing almost all the killing), he has to explain this is the mind of extremists on both sides. And by implication that anyone who blames anyone specific is an extremist and potentially dangerous because smart people like Brooks know things are really, really complicated. And “Did you really think you could raise me on gourmet coffee and yoga pants and I wouldn’t find a way to rebel against your relativism and materialism? Didn’t you observe the eternal pattern — that if you try to flatten a man to the bourgeois he will rebel by becoming a fanatic?” is some really, really bad writing.

In other matters:

Trump’s campaign manager predicts Donald Jr. will follow his dad and form a political dynasty. As No More Mr. Nice Blog notes, not a chance.

A court decrees that it’s morally wrong cops can steal $200,000 in the course of its search, but even so, “the law was not clearly established” that this crosses a legal line.

The political hacks running NOAA warned its staff not to publicly question Trump’s “Dorian threatens Alabama” claim.

A Brazilian mayor tried to block the sale of Marvel comics featuring a gay male kiss on panel.

The movie Satan’s School for Girls? According to crackpot preacher Jesse Lee Peterson, it’s a documentary — educated women serve Satan! The sexist turd also believes Brett Kavanaugh isn’t a real man because he has daughters.

Speaking of Kavanaugh and sexist turds, right-wing misogynist Josh Bernstein says obviously Christine Blasey Ford was a slut who came on to Kavanaugh and when he turned her down, she decided to wait 20 years to get revenge! Yeah, that’s really plausible (it’s even dumber and nastier in detail).

Following Brett Stephens’ freakout over being insulted on Twitter, Slate looks at the history of Stephens and other NYT columnists being special snowflakes.

“Tour was all about how hard it was for the slaves,” according to one review of a plantation tour that discusses the realities of slavery.

Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw says universal background checks would be bad because he couldn’t lend guns to friends who couldn’t pass. He is, very, very upset that anyone should think this means his friends shouldn’t have guns. Because nobody ever uses a borrowed gun to — oh, wait. And wait again.

Alaska’s attorney general is working hard to destroy public sector unions.

The pastor of a Tennessee Catholic school has banned Harry Potter from the library because the spells are real (spoiler: no, they’re not!).

To end on an upbeat note as I like to do, North Carolina Republicans’ racist gerrymandering has been thrown out by a state court (based on the state constitution so it doesn’t clash with the Supreme Court’s federal ruling). Republicans have thrown in the towel, though I won’t be surprised if they have more tricks up their sleeves.

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Pundits begging us to mock them

Remember Kevin Williamson? The right-wing twerp currently seething with outrage that Atlantic denied him a columnist slot just because he says women who get abortions should be executed? Ed Kilgore of New York asked Williamson what punishment he really believes appropriate. Williamson’s response? Duck the question because it’s an evil liberal trap!!! No, it’s a valid question, Williamson just doesn’t want to answer. Oh, he also whines that offered to air his views in an essay for New York, for free, but the liberal fascists said no, having  seen “as much on the subject of your views on this matter as we want to publish.”

That’s not a first world problem, that’s a first-world right-wing bullshit artist problem.

*I can’t comment on Jonah Goldberg’s new book, having not even read an excerpt but I have read David Brooks’ gushing column about what a game-changer it will be (given Goldberg’s body of work, I’m unconvinced). According to Brooks, Goldberg’s thesis is that 300 years ago, Europe adopted (and America embraced) the belief that “each person is to be judged and respected on account of their own merits, not the class or caste of their ancestors.” And this worldview, which gave us democracy, equality and capitalism, lasted until the left got into identity politics, the right reacted and now we’re sliding back into tribalism. As noted at the link and in comments, any book that argues America treated all races and genders equally until social justice warriors started demanding identity politics is bullshit.

Brooks adds Goldberg’s only mistake is missing that the real problem isn’t tribalism but Brooks’ personal bugaboo, too much individualism! Brooks has always been nostalgic for the days of traditional morality, when white, male Protestants imposed a social order on everyone else, individual choice be damned. As Echidne of the Snakes says, why doesn’t he just move to Saudi Arabia where that kind of top-down social order is still a thing? As a couple of people noted in comments, it’s very easy to believe that even a rigged system is meritocratic — just assume that by definition, white men are more meritorious.

Over at Harper’s, an editor says he was fired  for opposing a Katie Roiphe piece on the #metoo movement. As LGM says, a piece commissioned to be contrarian (everyone things fighting sexual harassment is good — let’s say it isn’t!) rather than a serious investigative piece was probably a bad idea in the first place. Particularly from Katie Roiphe.

And then we have The Federalist. California is considering a bill to ban gay-conversion therapy. Conservative fake news claims the state will ban the Bible, Snopes says no — so Snopes is fake fact-checking right! A Federalist pundit argues that while, no, obviously it’s not going to ban the Bible, but you can’t tell gays “Jesus can make you straight!” (this being The Federalist, I wouldn’t trust that to be accurate) and that’s exactly the same thing!

Oh, and for bonus annoyance, Charlie Rose, having lost his TV show due to charges of sexual harassment has proposed a new talk show where he’ll talk to powerful men accused of harassment. No way that could go wrong.

And for double bonus, annoyance, the very serious journalists horribly offended over Michelle Wolf’s routine at the White House Correspondents’ dinner.

To compensate for subjecting you to all that, here’s Mr. Squirrel trying to get into our bird feeder and failing.


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David Brooks: Don’t blame Republicans, Americans are at fault (except, I imagine, himself)

It’s been a while since I’ve devoted a post to David Brooks, but I see he hasn’t improved. As witness a recent column arguing that the real problem with our dysfuncitonal government isn’t our leaders, it’s us and our damned individualism.

Sure, the next president could tell Congress that “We’ll disagree and wrangle, but we will not treat this as good-versus-evil blood sport.” and change the tone in Washington, but what’s really important is “the social context politics is embedded in.” If society worked, Brooks says, we’d be members of many extended families — church, recreational groups, neighborhood watch, PTA, our employer’s company. “But starting just after World War II, America’s community/membership mind-set gave way to an individualistic/autonomy mind-set. The idea was that individuals should be liberated to live as they chose, so long as they didn’t interfere with the rights of others.” Which according to Brooks is a Bad Thing, so the obvious course is to “scale back the culture of autonomy that was appropriate for the 1960s but that has since gone too far …  If each of us fulfill all of our discrete individual desires, we end up with a society that is not what we want at all.”

Brooks in wrong in multiple ways. Most obviously, a miraculous reconciliation after the next election isn’t possible, and that’s primarily because of the Republicans. They’re the ones who said their primary goal after 2008 was to make Obama a one-term president; who are actively restricting the vote to reduce the Democratic turnout; and who insist that everything Obama does (and Bill Clinton before him) is totally utterly wrong. Heck, David Brooks once wrote a column (can’t find the link) that said Obama proposing things like Hurricane Sandy relief was a hardball divisive tactic because not all Republicans would agree: a true conciliator would only propose policies that get 100 percent Republican buy-in. I have never heard him express a similar suggestion about the Republicans (and here’s some more Brooks discussion of how Obama is divisive.).

I’m also struck by his reference to our employers as one of the families we should be embedded in. Yes, that would be nice; I’ve been good friends with lots of coworkers and some bosses. But in a world where employers outsource jobs to China because the shareholders want more money, how much community can develop? It’s not like corporate America hasn’t been telling us for years that we’ll get loyalty from employers as long as we’re useful to them, no longer. Of course, Brooks has listed employees switching jobs as a sign of moral decline, so he’d certainly like us to feel we’re family who should loyally support our bosses, even as they slit our throats.

The rest is mostly standard Brooks. The man hates individualism and loves the days past when America’s elite fit everyone into a box and demanded they stay there. Our duty as ordinary people is to shut up and do what our leaders tell us. People who defy the party elites and vote Trump are so very, very wrong.

It is true, as Brooks says, that we’re not as group-oriented as we used to be. As Robert Putnam says in the book Bowling Alone we don’t join as many clubs, groups, churches, lodges, etc. as we did a century ago. But Putnam doesn’t offer any nice pat explanation like “we’re too individualistic” — he specifically points that no matter how you breakdown the figures (age, gender, faith, Internet use) the decline is there. So unless Brooks has some actual facts to offer, I’m going to put him down as defining the problem to fit his pre-existing solution.

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David Brooks: Republicans have bad policies, vote for them anyway!

So Marco Rubio, like most of the Republican pols, favors a tax plan that involves massive tax cuts benefiting the wealthy: cuts in upper-income tax rates, elimination of capital gains, eliminations of the estate tax, and a loss of federal revenue.

David Brooks admits the plan is unaffordable, but that’s not important because everyone running has bad budget plans. Instead, he suggests that we ignore all the details and focus on “how a candidate signals priorities. Rubio talks specifically about targeting policies to boost middle- and lower-middle-class living standards” so that proves helping the middle-class is what he cares about. A breakthrough! Never mind that his plan favors the rich, what matters is that he says it will help the poor!

I’m not sure what breakthrough Brooks imagines this is. The GOP since Reagan has embraced trickle-down supply-side economics, the claim that slashing tax cuts for the rich benefits everyone, and boosts tax revenue as well. Neither is true, and I doubt even they believe it: when we had a budget surplus in the late 1990s, supply-siders from George W. Bush to the Wall Street Journal asserted not that Reagan’s tax cuts had done the trick, but that taxes were clearly too high—if we cut taxes, it would lower the surplus before the government spent it (and then the same tools started complaining that since we didn’t have a surplus, we’d have to cut Social Security …) And invariably the tax cuts are directed at the rich, but not because wealthy politicians want to cut their own taxes or those of wealthy donors, no, the rising tide will lift all boats!

And being unaffordable has never been a big deal for Republicans. Reagan pushed massive tax cuts and massive military spending and left office with record deficits. W pushed massive tax cuts and massive military/security spending, and left office with towering deficits. Then pundits and Repubs start screaming that we can’t possibly penalize the rich by raising taxes, but with all that red ink we can’t afford the social safety net—it’s helping people who aren’t military contractors or CEOs that’s unaffordable.

As Brooks favors cutting Social Security to get the deficit reduced I can understand him wanting to believe this bilge. But there’s no reason anyone else should.


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What the hell, I’ll take another shot at David Brooks

Yep, David Brooks, the man who thinks the current depression is good for morals and that the problem with American leadership is that we don’t shut up and obey them more is once again endorsing the joys of traditional lifestyles of a hundred years ago. The new column combines two favorite Brooks themes: We need the great leaders of the past in all their sexist, racist glory and Americans today aren’t moral enough. Oh, and conservatives apparently are the only people who care about America being great.
Back in the 1980s when he started writing, Brooks explains, conservatives included a)economic conservatives who “spent a lot of time worrying about the way government intrudes upon economic liberty. They upheld freedom as their highest political value” and b)traditional conservatives who “wanted to preserve a society that functioned as a harmonious ecosystem, in which the different layers were nestled upon each other: individual, family, company, neighborhood, religion, city government and national government … They believed that people should lead disciplined, orderly lives, but doubted that individuals have the ability to do this alone, unaided by social custom and by God. So they were intensely interested in creating the sort of social, economic and political order that would encourage people to work hard, finish school and postpone childbearing until marriage.”
As Echidne points out, by Brooks’ standard Saudi Arabia is a fabulous country. The leaders believe in discipline, God, social custom and work to preserve them all, albeit at the point of a gun.
And the America of a century ago, for which Brooks has repeatedly pined, was also pretty damn good at enforcing a social, economic and political order—one where if you weren’t a white, Anglo-Saxon, male Protestant, you went to the back of the line. Or you weren’t allowed in the line at all.
The point Brooks is trying to make is even weirder: Modern conservatives have dropped the traditionalist side and become completely economic: All they care about is shrinking government and slashing spending, instead of worrying about morality and social order.
To quote Charles Pierce on another Brooks piece (he weighs in on this latest column too), here’s where the magic mushrooms kick in. The Republican Party today is all about the social order, at least as far as it concerns shoving gays back into the closet and putting women into the kitchen all barefoot and pregnant (see this And column for more). Hell, even the idea of women getting health insurance to cover their birth control outrages them.
Nor are Republicans particularly interested in slashing spending or cutting government. The deficit rocketed upward under Reagan in the 1980s, and then again under Bush. The myth that Republicans are wise stewards of the government budget (“The economic conservatives were in charge of the daring ventures that produced economic growth.” in Brooks’ words) is just that, a myth. They spend government money like a drunken sailor in a whorehouse (a metaphor I wish I could take credit for).
And for that matter, even Brooks assertions—fairly standard ones—that conservatives value tradition and custom is a load of codswallop. We’ve had laws guaranteeing equal rights—to vote, to get hired, to stay in a hotel or an apartment regardless of race, color, sex or creed—for almost 50 years. We’ve had the New Deal for 80. Yet conservatives still kick and whine and scream about how much better everything was when business owner could fire women just for being women, refuse to let blacks stay in their hotels and when workers had no right to unionize or get a minimum wage (albeit they usually phrase it more obliquely).
I don’t think custom and tradition mean what Mr. Brooks apparently thinks they mean.


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