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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press David Brooks Is Upset that President Obama Hasn't Inflicted More Pain on the Middle Class

David Brooks Is Upset that President Obama Hasn't Inflicted More Pain on the Middle Class

Friday, 02 November 2012 04:44

I'm not kidding. If you get through the excess verbiage in his column, the main point is that President Obama hasn't moved to cut Social Security and Medicare in his first term. This is what Brooks means when he says:

"get our long-term entitlement burdens under control, get our political system working, shift government resources from the affluent elderly to struggling young families and future growth,"

and by his later call for "sacrifice." Of course Brooks doesn't really mean "affluent" elderly. We know that Brooks and his political allies question whether even people earning above $250,000 a year are affluent when it comes to tax cuts. If the cuts in Social Security and Medicare were restricted to this group then we would barely need to change the projections for these programs. There are so few seniors with incomes above this cutoff that whether or not they get Medicare and Social Security makes almost no difference to the financial health of these programs.

Brooks wants to see Obama cut benefits for retired nurses, school teachers, truck drivers and other middle class workers. That is the only way to produce real savings in these programs. And, in spite of indicating a willingness to make cuts in these programs, Obama has not delivered in his first term. So just as many Democrats were disappointed that President Bush hadn't provided universal health care or taken steps to curb global warming in his first term, David Brooks is upset that President Obama has not cut Social Security and Medicare.

(Btw, just in case anyone was wondering, more pain for the middle class is not necessary as Brooks asserts. As every budget wonk knows, the problem is simply fixing our broken health care system. If our per person health care costs were anywhere close to costs in other wealthy countries, we would be looking at long-term budget surpluses, not deficits.)

Comments (10)Add Comment
written by Mark Jamison, November 02, 2012 5:14
Can we please stop calling them entitlements. If the Right does anything well it is to recast language in simplistic ways, ex. "Death Tax".
Social Security and Medicare are paid for through payroll taxes. In a world where language is precise it would be true that people are entitled to the benefits they have paid for, in essence earned. Unfortunately the Right has co-opted the word entitlement and cast a negative pall over it.
Call them earned benefits, something, anything that gives the sense that these are not some giveaways with no greater value.
Brooks is Reality Challenged
written by Robert Salzberg, November 02, 2012 5:37
David Brooks writes that President Obama is "contemptuous of his opponents,". Based on what? President Obama has bent over backwards to in his words: "disagree without being disagreeable". President Obama's natural tendencies lean heavily towards being a mediator and engaging in civil discourse. President Obama is conflict adverse and pragmatic to a fault. Even to this day, President Obama is hampered by his moderation because Americans like their politicians to be tough and confrontational, even when it's rash and wrong headed because that shows that they have 'character' and 'believe in their convictions'.

Brooks writes: "He's (Obama) made no rash or disastrous decisions." Brooks must have forgotten about the Beer Summit which resulted from President Obama prefacing his statement by saying he shouldn't judge without knowing the facts but then making a judgement anyway about how his friend Professor Henry Louis Gates was treated by police. President Obama later admitted his mistake.

Brooks writes that "we were going to have to live with a period of slow growth, as the history of financial crisis makes clear" Of course, Dr. Paul Krugman would strongly disagree. In times of high unemployment and lack of demand in a liquidity trap, the government can and should step in with large bore stimulus spending that can quickly reverse the worst of the economic pain and lead to even faster growth than we've seen with the relatively small bore stimulus measures we've had since the ARRA in 2009.
written by Ron Alley, November 02, 2012 6:02
This is the column in which Brooks lays the groundwork for gloating after his hoped for Romney victory.
Boomer Bobos in Pair 'O Dice
written by Last Mover, November 02, 2012 6:35
Of course Brooks doesn't really mean "affluent" elderly.

Oh contraire, elderly predators eating their young to pay for health care alone, not to mention refrigerators and barbecue grills the size of a bus.

Under capitalism one lives by the luck of the draw doesn't one. If one can't face risk when young, how can one expect to face it when old?

Boomer Bobos took the risks, ended up in paradise at the cost of poverty for their offspring and Brooks can't stand it.
I would say the column was successful
written by Kat, November 02, 2012 8:32
from the austerian point of view. Read the comments-- people that would probably describe themselves as progressive are arguing that yes! Obama was willing to compromise in the name of the beloved grand bargain. Nobody is attacking the premise that a grand bargain is necessary. So he won.
Many are over the moon that Bloomberg has endorsed Obama. I don't feel this bodes well for the health of social security.
Barry's raison d'etre
written by matthew carmody, November 02, 2012 10:42
Obama will definitely get a second term because he wasn't successful in killing Social Security the first time around. Think of the benefits for the oligarchs if a black Democrat kills off Social Security. No Democrat could ever successfully run on that party ticket ever again and the puppets at FOX would make a mantra out of it come election time.
Yeah, Barry will get a second chance to screw retired Americans. Why else would the GOP have chosen someone as unelectable as Mitt? Regardless of what the polls say, I just can't believe that Romney's anywhere near Obama in terms of winning this already fixed election. I could be wrong, though. I remember watching Kerry win in 2004 only to be told sometime after midnight that Bush had won.
The only thing that's certain in this life is that people like me are gonna be continuously fucked over by the owners until I'm dead.
written by PeonInChief, November 02, 2012 1:57
Every time people start rattling on about cutting Social Security, I remember that my late mother frequently reminded me that Social Security meant that she could live on her own, and didn't have to live with her children. It wasn't that she didn't like us--she just didn't want to live with us.
A little math
written by Lrellok, November 02, 2012 8:11
THe OECD average healthcare cost is 3233 per capita in 2009. Inflated this comes to 3380 in 2011. TImes 310 million US residents, we get a total healthcare cost of 1.05 trillion dollars. Medicade and Medicare cost a combined 1 trillion dollars in 2011. The US government could completely take over healthcare for the same cost it is incurring today if it achieved the same cost structure as europe.
RNs making $90 k__speaking of a broken health care system
written by Rachel, November 02, 2012 9:50

Nurses in Caliofornia are perhaps in the top 8% in terms of income, although much of the work they do could be done by people with minimal training.

In the meantime, City College in SF may have to close for shortage of funds. The governor is making strenuous efforts to keep other schools from having to cut back. The SF Bay Area has very high rates of robbery and Oakland has seen a spike in the murder rate, after cutbacks in the police force. Even in the state parks crime is on the rise.
'middle class workers'
written by Mike B), November 09, 2012 4:20
What a joke. Talk about playing into the language frames which conservatives use....

Anyway, just another reason to hate David Brooks and his ilk. "Entitlements" indeed. The working class produces ALL the wealth outside of what is found in natural resources. Conservative lickspittles like Brooks produce nothing but more greenhouse gas.

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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.