David Brooks is upset that liberal economists keep harping on the loss of middle class jobs as the main factor behind the disruption of working class families and communities. In expressing his anger he creates a caricature, since there probably is no economist who would claim that the problems of working class people are exclusively their poor employment prospects.
Bad economic prospects lead to a variety of ills that cannot be simply reversed when the economy turns around. This is why many of us left-wing economic types are angry with the Brooks types who think it is just fine if we wait until 2020 to get back to normal levels of employment.
Brooks also has an interesting theory on the loss of skills. He tells readers:
"The American social fabric is now so depleted that even if manufacturing jobs miraculously came back we still would not be producing enough stable, skilled workers to fill them."
Five years ago we had two million more people employed in manufacturing than we do today. Has the social fabric become so depleted in this period that these people or others could now not fill these jobs if they came back? If Brooks really thinks that the ill effects of unemployment are that extreme he should be screaming for more stimulus in every column.