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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press Brooks Is Wrong: The OWS Crew Is Against Redistribution

Brooks Is Wrong: The OWS Crew Is Against Redistribution

Tuesday, 25 October 2011 04:26

David Brooks told readers that the Occupy Wall Street movement it out of step with the country because it favors redistribution while most of the country opposes it. It is not clear what Brooks thinks he means by this.

The country has been seeing enormous redistribution over the last three decades, but it has all been in an upward direction. For example, the government gave trillions of dollars of below market interest rate loans to the largest banks to save them from collapse. The big banks continue to benefit from a too big to fail subsidy.

It has strengthened patent monopolies and sought to impose them on foreign countries through trade agreements. These monopolies provide the basis for huge drug companies like Pfizer and Merck.

The government has also pursued a policy of one-sided enforcement of labor law. The firing of union organizers and other law-breaking measures directed against workers are given a slap on the wrist, whereas unsanctioned strikes are confronted with the full power of the law, with unions seeing assets seized and officers put in jail.

It would not be surprising if most of the country is against this sort of redistribution since 99 percent (or thereabout) are losers from these government interventions. But this is consistent with a populist stance against the wealthy and their abuse of governmental powers to advance their interests.

Comments (16)Add Comment
written by PeakVT, October 25, 2011 6:30
It is not clear what Brooks thinks he means by this.

What he thinks is probably something along the lines of "I don't have time to come up with a good way of criticizing OWS before my deadline, so I'll just use this lame old argument I've got lying around."

Biting the Hand That Feeds You Makes Everyone Worse Off
written by izzatzo, October 25, 2011 6:42
It would not be surprising if most of the country is against this sort of redistribution since 99 percent (or thereabout) are losers from these government interventions.

Any economist knows there's three kinds of efficiency. Productive and allocative efficiency determines the size of the economic pie. Distributive efficiency determines who gets what from the pie.

Brooks is merely clarifying what everyone knows, that interfering with the current structure of trickle down distributive efficiency will destroy the very productive and allocative efficiency that provides that to be distributed in the first place.

Socialists attempting to occupy Wall Street will rue the day when they get what they ask for - a shrinking economic pie of squalid serfdom.

Stupid liberals.
Not redistributionist...
written by LSTB, October 25, 2011 7:52
More like, unredistributionist.
written by Union Member, October 25, 2011 8:25

OWS is not opposed to wealth.

OWS is opposed to fraud.

David Brooks - and the NYPD - should know OWS wants the Law enforced.

Last week people from OWS were arrested while withdrawing money from their own bank accounts!

OWS hungers for the truth, but it is a pointless exercise to confront Brooks with that.
David Brooks, a man of the people, speaking out for the little man...
written by diesel, October 25, 2011 8:59
Brooks' column just shows how important framing is to understanding an issue. He begins with this trust/distrust dichotomy and then gets stuck in a maze he builds out of dubious poll results that seemingly take the measure of a thoughtful populous but which actually reflect the gut reactions of dazed and confused people who are still trying to pick themselves up off the pavement after having been run over by the Wall Street juggernaut.

As said above, a little bit of math goes a long way to put things in perspective and unfortunately, a properly constructed poll of the same people will reveal a monumental ignorance about the underlying issues.

Seems like whenever the Republicans invoke the wisdom of "just us folks" they're getting ready to ream the poor bastards royally.

And finally a question: why don't Americans call Tea Party types "Christian Royalists" as they do in European politics. It seems much clearer and would make our debates less prone to ambiguity.
written by skeptonomist, October 25, 2011 9:16
There is no way that polls can legitimately be interpreted as favorable to Wall Street and banks. Polls show overwhelming agreement with the opinions and objectives of OWS, but not much support for the protesters themselves. Typically 60-80% favor higher taxes on the rich, oppose any further bailouts of banks, etc. Asking people if they like "government" is totally inadequate, since what they hate most of all is Republican lawmakers.

Polls on attitudes can be very misleading and subject to the type of distortion which Brooks exercises. Polls should focus on specific issues on which the President and Congress must make decisions.
written by ComradeAnon , October 25, 2011 10:08
I think that "Inside The Beltway" needs to be revised to "Inside The Wealthy's Anus".
written by Jeff Z, October 25, 2011 10:16
I like what Skeptonomist says here. It is disturbing though, that even though there is wide agreement on the opinions, and aims of OWS, there is virtually no support for their methods.

That is a risk that such actions take. One of the main points was to demonstrate to people that the old channels of reform are not working. It is not surprising that there should be this tension, since real reform would mean upsetting the status quo.

Another example of our vaunted news organizations failing to pay attention to anything that doesn't fit into a pre-existing narrative.
written by dick c, October 25, 2011 10:17
"It is not clear what Brooks thinks he means by this."
All he wants to do is throw out the word "redistribution." It's an all time favorite Republican bogeyman. Guns and abortion exist as issues only as an attempt to bring those they divide from Democrats to *this* cause. It blows my mind that it works so well since the real redistribution going on has always flowed in their direction.
written by two beers, October 25, 2011 12:45
"trickle down distributive efficiency"

Comedy gold, Izzy, gold, I tell ya.

Just when I'm convinced you must unironically sport an "Ayn Rand is God" trampstamp, you come up with this (perhaps unintentional) satire of laissez-faire nonsense.
written by fuller schmidt, October 25, 2011 2:40
Definitely not unintentional.
@Jeff Z
written by J, October 25, 2011 3:40
I think that marching, carrying signs and chanting just may be one of those old channels of reform that are not working.

Protest has already been priced into the graft market.
written by urban legend, October 25, 2011 5:16
I find it highly annoying when supposedly progressive economists go along with calling a graduated income tax, a minimum wage or enforcing labor laws "re-distribution." Progressive taxes do not "re-distribute" income unless you go in with the assumption that a flat tax really is the norm -- even if that means a huge increase in discretionary income for the wealthy (who spend little of it), and elimination of discretionary income for most Americans (who spend almost all of it). Paying your fair share of taxes because it is easier for you is not re-distributing income." Neither is setting a minimum standard of fundamental decency in wages -- one that still keeps the recipient below the poverty line -- nor giving people some power to participate in how the business revenues are divvied up in the first place. That is "distribution" of the first order, not "re-distribution" from some imaginary state where ownership is supposed to take all of the revenue.
@ J
written by Jeff Z, October 25, 2011 5:29
Marching, carrying signs chanting may be one of those old channels that "isn't working."

But isn't this Marching and Carrying Signs Plus? It has no organized 'leadership' the way that I understand it. They do not protest and chant for a few hours, get arrested or get their heads beat in, then go home. They have occupied a 'public space' and shown how a direct democracy could work, and have sustained this 'occupation' for 5 weeks. They police themselves, and all in all it reminds me a little of the labor actions in Seattle in 1919 or 1920.

By doing so,they have demonstrated to many the complete capitulation of the Democratic Party to financial interests, and the resulting insipid blather about the 'greatness' of the two party system that comes from shills like Brooks. At least the Republicans are more up front about who bought them.

Can they (we) sustain this thing long enough to generate real change? Even if they can't, they set the stage for further action.

Just when conservatives need a liberal buffer to co-opt a movement like this and steer it into 'safe' channels, they find that they have destroyed a safety valve for the system as whole by discrediting 'liberals' who used to play this role.

One can only hope for a peaceful 'redress of grievances.' I shudder to think what might happen in the longer term if not.
written by mel in oregon, October 25, 2011 6:40
well protesting is about all that's open to people. we've been lied to so much by presidents & the congress. it's very difficult for anyone to know what the protests will accomplish. remember old blood thirsty stalin when told the head of the catholic church opposed his actions said,"how many tanks does the pope have?" that's probably what wallstreet & the pentagon are thinking, except it's,"how many divisions do the protesters have? none, well nothing to worry about then".
Against the Corporate Coup dEtat
written by James Palmer, October 28, 2011 2:31
No Government by Merchants !
The "Father of Capitalism", Adam Smith, warned against what we have today.
"Take care that you do not get yourselves a goverment composed of the merchants, for you will get the worst of governments, and the worst of markets."
In his iconic bok, " The Wealthof Nations" (often quoted by the champions of Capitalism) he often reiterates this warning against commercial interests being allowed to gain control of democratic institutions.

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.