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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press David Brooks Shows How Far We Have Gone from the Founding Fathers: It Used to be That Columnists Had to Know What They Were Talking About

David Brooks Shows How Far We Have Gone from the Founding Fathers: It Used to be That Columnists Had to Know What They Were Talking About

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Thursday, 05 May 2011 21:47

David Brooks told readers that:

"Over the past months, there has been some progress in getting Americans to accept the need for self-restraint."

This should have hundreds of millions asking who needs "self-restraint?" Does Brooks thinks that the 14 million unemployed need more self-restraint? Do the 8 million people who want full time work but who can only find part-time employment need self-restraint? Do the millions of people who are facing the loss of their home need more self-restraint?

Brooks isn't very clear on who he thinks needs to restrain themselves but he praises Senator Alan Simpson, Representative Paul Ryan and President Obama for helping to lecture us on this need. Those familiar with the basic economic data know that the richest 1 percent have used their control of the political process to hugely increase their share of national income over the last three decades. The bottom 90 percent has seen little gain from economic growth over this period. Of course Representative Ryan wants to give more tax breaks to the richest 1 percent, so he doesn't seem to be preaching self-restraint to those who have been showing the least in recent years.

If Brooks' concern is making the welfare state sustainable, then he should be talking about fixing the health care system. It is easy to show that if per person health care costs in the United States were comparable to any other wealthy country then we would be projecting huge budget surpluses, not deficits.

If Brooks bothered to take a few minutes to study the issues he writes about then he would know this. Fortunately for him, he has job for which this skill is not required.

Brooks also claims that there is an inherent tension between economic dynamism and economic security, telling readers:

"Republicans still mostly talk about incentives for growth, and Democrats still mostly talk about economic security."

Actually many Democrats have been actively talking about more stimulatory fiscal policy, monetary policy and currency policy (i.e. a lower valued dollar). All of these policies would boost growth. It is remarkable that Brooks is apparently unaware of the large number of Democrats, including several of his colleagues at the New York Times, who have been vigorously pushing these positions. 

Comments (10)Add Comment
Why is Brooks employed by any sensible organization?
written by Chris, May 06, 2011 2:28
What is astounding, and has been for many years, is why Brooks is employed by any sensible organization at all? Doesn't one need to have some smarts to be a pundit? Guess not.
...
written by joe, May 06, 2011 6:50
"incentives for growth" is merely what they call tax cuts. It has nothing to do with a concern for economic growth.

Economic growth since Bush Tax Cuts went into effect, 53% of the real growth is due to population increase. It would be more accurate to describe opening the borders as a "pro growth" policy.

US
2001 to 2010
Consumer Price Index2.34%
Unskilled Wage1.69%
Nominal GDP4.02%
Real GDP1.74%
GDP Deflator2.24%
Nominal GDP per capita3.06%
Real GDP per capita0.80%
S&P Composite-0.01%
Population (millions)0.93%
...
written by eric, May 06, 2011 7:02
Thanks for reading Brooks so we don't have to.
...
written by paine, May 06, 2011 7:59
"Actually many Democrats have been actively talking about more stimulatory fiscal policy, monetary policy and currency policy (i.e. a lower valued dollar)."

like the hebrews in egypt land they are however without a moses
pharoah warbucks needs a string of plagues


recall the hoover 30's were not
a peaceful civil period nor were the roosevelt 30's for that matter

a gaggle of well meaning pwogs croaking down at the shallow end of the party pool
is a scene older and more absurd
then
harry's "the buck stops here " sign

Brooks Plain & Simple
written by David S., May 06, 2011 8:19
David Brooks appears to be the classic pseudo-intellectual. We have all run into such a person, whether at school, work or in social encounters.

A pseudo-intellectual is not the same as a blowhard. Rather, a pseudo-intellectual can be affable and self-effacing, as Brooks appears to be.

But these pleasant personality traits are irrelevant. He spouts generalizations without any apparent ability or willingness to understand whether they apply to the specifics he then addresses.

We are left in the same quandary created by all such apparent pseudo-intellectuals: Do they really believe the simplistic nonsense they proclaim, or are they merely shills for powerful interests? (If the latter, then I suppose there is nothing "pseudo" at all about their intellects, which are more Machiavellian than they are deficient.)

I have long noted that this question regularly arises when one deconstructs a conservative idea. (Liberals are not immune from the disease, but it appears to be a necessary trait among conservatives.)

It is a question that goes to the heart and soul of the pseudo-intellectual, and is a question which perhaps he or she is likely unable to answer even in the solitude of his or her own mind.
Is Bobo projecting again?
written by Matt, May 06, 2011 8:47
"Over the past months, there has been some progress in getting Americans to accept the need for self-restraint."

When I read that, the first thing I assumed was that Bobo just thought *everybody* was into the same sort of thing as this guy:

http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/crime/dead-reverends-rubber-fetish
...
written by Milton Arbogast, May 06, 2011 9:47
You forgot to mention foodstamps. Over 44 million people in the US are on foodstamps. Brooks must want them to forego this luxury.
...
written by skeptonomist, May 06, 2011 10:51
Corporations have been showing great restraint with respect to reinvesting the huge profits they have been making recently. They have curbed their enthusiasm for expanding their businesses, preferring instead to buy back their own stock. Of course the way things work now, this gives maximum remuneration to CEO's, since they make most of their money through stock options and not on the basis of how many widgets they sell or how many people they employ.

Anyone, Democrat or Republican, who wanted to increase employment and overall growth would be thinking about "incentives" to get the people who control all that money to put it to work in a constructive way instead of just how to give them more money (by reducing corporate tax rates, for example). Or else they could be thinking about ways to get the money out of the hands of people who are not interested in overall economic growth.
...
written by Steve, May 06, 2011 4:57
I don't think Brooks actually believes the garbage he writes. It's all protect the power and prerogatives of center-right, wealthy elite.
...
written by John Q, May 07, 2011 12:25
"Republicans still mostly talk about incentives for growth, and Democrats still mostly talk about economic security."

And by economic security, Democrats mean having a job.

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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.

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