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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press David Brooks is Worried that the United States Will Lose Its Control Over Jupiter

David Brooks is Worried that the United States Will Lose Its Control Over Jupiter

Friday, 22 July 2011 04:16

I didn't see Jupiter mentioned in the piece, but loopy is loopy, so talking about controlling Jupiter or "the end of American economic supremacy" make just about as much sense.

The immediate reference is "doing nothing could lead to default." If the question is default, that would end the supremacy of the U.S. financial industry. The downturn from a default would be very bad news for all of us, but the end of the supremacy of the U.S. financial industry would likely be good news for the rest of us. This would radically reduce the political power of this sector and their ability to steer the government to serve Wall Street's agenda. We could instead pursue economic policies that serve the rest of the economy with the resources consumed by the financial sector redeployed to more productive uses. It wouldn't be surprising that Brooks would confuse the status of the U.S. financial industry with the status of the U.S. economy, but it is an incredibly embarrassing mistake.

If Brooks meant literally that the supremacy of the U.S. economy is at risk, then he is ignorant of data on international comparisons. In absolute numbers, China is virtually certain to soar past the United States long before the end of the decade. It already is ahead of the U.S. in a wide range of measures (including college graduates with science and engineering degrees), and will soon surpass us in most all measures.

Of course China has four times the population as the U.S., so surpassing the United States is inevitable as the country moves higher into the ranks of middle income countries. We can instead ask about per capita measures, but here supremacy has long been in question. The U.S. does enjoy a higher per capita income than most other wealthy countries, but most of this gap is due to working longer hours, not higher productivity. Furthermore, since we have much greater inequality than anywhere in Europe, typical workers do much better in most European countries than the United States. So here also, the "economic supremacy" in the article seems to largely live in Brooks' head.

In short, Brooks thinks it is important that we cut Social Security and Medicare so that he can maintain his illusions of economic supremacy. I suppose that is kind of cute, but it's not very serious policy.  But no one ever said that Brooks was into serious policy.

Comments (7)Add Comment
written by izzatzo, July 22, 2011 7:57
Not to worry. While control over Jupiter indeed has waned Brooks has confidence that Uranus will remain tightly under the thumb of the USA for many more years.
written by Jim in Panama, July 22, 2011 8:47
Get it? get? Uranus? He means "your anus" ..... Nyuk nyuk ..... whoooooo haaaaaaaa. Thats some dern funny stuff there.
Brooks is better
written by Zev Arnold, July 22, 2011 1:28
While the discussion on economic supremacy is interesting, the most important thing I found in this column is the following:
"We won’t fundamentally address the debt until we control health care inflation."
Brooks has implied this in previous columns, but I don't think he's ever been this blunt about it. A tremendous step forward.
The Lunatics are Running the Asylum
written by Dean Marshall, July 23, 2011 8:37
If anything the Great Recession has exposed how delusional we are as a nation. Essentially we've devolved into a mass of celebrity worshippers, gossip mongers and technophiles awash in wishful thinking. The day we sold out our "Made in America" brand to the highest foreign bidder in exchange for debt relief was the beginning of our demise. Pundits like David Brooks and Tom Freidman are so full of "hot air" its ridiculous, but sadly Americans would rather hear palatble lies than the cold hard truth.
written by Kevin, July 23, 2011 1:56
I'm having a hard wrapping my mind around the idea that China is "surpassing" the United States. Perhaps my impressions are wrong, but it is my impression that much of China is enmired in the sort of poverty only a few Americans are intimately acquainted with. According to information from the U.S. Grains Council, Chinese corn farmers still harvest their crop with scythes, by hand. Although they could modernize, the government is afraid to push even more people into their overcrowded cities. Prof. Baker acknowledges that, given its population, China will graduate a lot of people relative to the U.S. with degrees in engineering and science. I also wonder how many liberal arts graduates they want, given that such people tend to be introspective and want to talk back to the government.
written by John Q, July 23, 2011 3:10
"But no one ever said that Brooks was into serious policy."

Oh, but he has that affable, reasonable sounding air!

As WS said way back: "one may smile, and smile, and be a villain'
Poor David
written by Randy Fritz, July 25, 2011 3:40
When I go through the "Beat the Press" weekly round-up, I sometimes have time only to hit the headlines. It is often worth it, however, with your extremely wry sense of humor.



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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.