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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press David Brooks Takes Advantage of Affirmative Action for Conservatives

David Brooks Takes Advantage of Affirmative Action for Conservatives

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Friday, 27 August 2010 04:10

Suppose Paul Krugman or Bob Herbert got just about everything wrong in their columns on a regular basis. Suppose that they were not just wrong on peripheral matters, but on facts that were central to their argument. What would happen?

These progressive columnists would almost certainly be sent packing. There are plenty of smart articulate progressive writers. If these two couldn't get their facts right, the NYT would have no problem finding someone to replace them who could.

Apparently, the same does not apply to conservative columnists as demonstrated by David Brooks. He gets his facts wrong on a regular basis and not just on side matters. Often the mistake is on an issue that is the central point of his column.

He gave us a beautiful example today. He told readers that the United States had decided to go the big government route to recover from the downturn whereas Germany had gone the austerity route. Brooks tells readers:

"This divergence created a natural experiment. Who was right? The early returns suggest the Germans were."

He then points to Germany's 9.0 percent growth in the second quarter compared to the near stagnation in the U.S. economy.

Brooks is good enough to note that, "results from one quarter do not settle the stimulus/austerity debate," but let's ask if they show anything.

The chart below shows the OECD's estimates of real government expenditures for Germany and the United States since the third quarter of 2008.

germany-U.S._23832_image001

Yes, that's right. David Brook's austerity model has seen a sharper increase in government spending since the crisis than his stimulus model. This suggests that the Germany/U.S. comparison might be somewhat less compelling then he implies.

How long would Krugman or Herbert be working at NYT if they made mistakes like this on a regular basis?

 

 

Comments (67)Add Comment
...
written by izzatzo, August 27, 2010 7:45
Oh yeah? That's because stupid liberals are reading the chart upside down. Alan Simpson just read it and said so. The same ones who can't add Social Security to the deficit and subtract benefits of extended lifespan can't read a chart either.
Brooks Has Been Corrected. He Then Repeats the 'Mistake'
written by Hugh Sansom, August 27, 2010 7:57
The obvious question is: When do 'mistakes' rise to something more serious? On a host of issues, Brooks has been corrected again and again, by people like me and by people with infinitely more public presence. Yet he has frequently gone on to repeat exactly that on which he was corrected. So is he just lying for propaganda purposes?

Brooks does this on international issues, economics, politics — you name it. Unlike a Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann, Brooks is more decorous in his misrepresentations (lies) — as is the New York Times generally.

Dean Baker is quite right, but he poses his case rhetorically, neither raising nor answering another obvious question: Given that liberals would indeed be treated as he describes and given that conservatives get just the opposite treatment, why is this the case? (There's a perfectly good reason for Baker to write so — we all know the answers!)

There is a parallel case with Barack Obama. Obama has coddled conservatives like Alan Simpson. He has packed his team with the likes of Geithner, Bernanke, Summers. He has systematically excluded liberals from discussions on labor, financial reform, education and health care. Currently, he is hunting for an excuse to not nominate Elizabeth Warren.

The most simple — and plausible — explanation is both cases is that the executives agree with their conservatives. Times editors agree with Brooks or Douthat (the far dimmer Brooks clone). Obama agrees with Summers, Geithner, Bernanke, Rubin — despite his vague and infrequent gestures in the direction of liberals and progressives.

What concrete evidence we do have confirms this. The Times has pretty clearly joined the Clinton-style 'moderates' against social security. It has been dragged into a tiny handful of stories revealing Israeli crimes, but largely continues to ignore them. It has repeatedly misrepresented issues of housing, banking, etc. Former reporters like Chris Hedges, John Hess, Sydney Schanberg have provided first-hand accounts.

And a handful of inside-reports on Obama — from people who have been in touch recently (e.g., Rashid Khalidi) and in the past (e.g., Penn professor Adolf Reed, Jr.) — confirm the same with the administration of President Zero.
...
written by diesel, August 27, 2010 10:39
"Original Sin" in the intellectual (not moral) sense, is to generalize from those things with which one is familiar to those with which one isn't. Carpenters know how to build a house but does this make them experts on running government? Should investment bankers be consulted on education reform? Just because an individual can balance their household checkbook, does this make them qualified to run the Federal Reserve? And so forth...

Accept this--and it is the foundation of the western skeptical philosophic tradition--and it is dishonest to see Brooks as anything other than a glib poser, a sort of solo dandy practicing his fencing routines.
A Glutton for Embarrassment
written by Ron Alley, August 27, 2010 11:00
The juxtaposition of the Brooks piece in the left-most column and the Krugman piece in the right-most column of the opinion page raises an unavoidable comparison. While the comparison may be so one-sided as to be unfair, Brooks is an intelligent, articulate man and one would think he might die of embarrassment. Or at least swear to never again write on the economy. However, since this is merely one in a series of his embarrassing columns on the economy, one can only conclude that Brooks is a glutton for embarrassment.

Like most conservatives, David Brooks sees facts as trivial inconveniences which either may be ignored or fabricated to support a conservative argument. After all, the best novels reveal truths about the human condition.
He's Not the Only One
written by Steve, August 27, 2010 11:31
Andrea McArdle does this kind of stuff all the time.
...
written by tinbox, August 27, 2010 11:48
While Brooks is consistently awful, the proposition that the NYT would be tougher on "progressives" is contrary to the evidence. Both Dowd and Collins would likely be labeled liberal or progressive and they are very bad with facts.
Bob Somerby at dailyhowler.com has chronicled their destructive influence for years.
Making Sense By Make Believe with Paul Solman
written by union member, August 27, 2010 11:48
Brooks checks himself against Paul Solman, not Krugman. From the Commanding Heights of PBS everything is as you say it is.
GB
written by Robert Hurley, August 27, 2010 12:55
Brook's examaple of teh UK also is a stretch. I am not sure if they have really contracted spending yet and if they have it most certainly is too eary to see any result
...
written by Steve in ABQ, August 27, 2010 2:46
see Krugman's blog entry "What about Germany" from 3 days ago. Brooks has got to read his colleague's blog more often.
...
written by mary, August 27, 2010 3:19
As Dean has showed more than once, the Times doesn't seem very concerned about making sure its news pages are accurate. I do think that they would probably love to get rid of Krugman (if only he weren't so famous) because he knows what he's talking about most of the time and he doesn't hesitate to criticize Serious People, whereas the other columnists toe the line and/or rarely write about anything substantive.
...
written by scott, August 27, 2010 4:13
Brooks just repeated this on NPR's Friday ATC broadcast.
have at it
written by horndog, August 27, 2010 6:05
big corporate socialism--nothing more or less
written by scott, August 27, 2010 6:07
"The most simple — and plausible — explanation is both cases is that the executives agree with their conservatives. Times editors agree with Brooks or Douthat (the far dimmer Brooks clone). Obama agrees with Summers, Geithner, Bernanke, Rubin — despite his vague and infrequent gestures in the direction of liberals and progressives."

Also Dowd and Collins aren't thinkers, they're social reporters.

The best example of what is going on can be found in the subtext of Jane Mayer's pieced on the Koch bros. This consistent sophistry is not based on agreement but on venality.

All these spokemen from top to bottom are advocates for big business that courts gov't for it's million dollar contracts, while the espouse "libertarian" Ideals to take the pennies we give the poor.

The privatization of utilities and the "free marketing" of gov't contracts represents the most profligate waste of gov't money. We should have laws of agency ruling financial markets rather than regulation where a regulator has a body of rules that can be shot through with loopholes, that are lobbied for.

We have an incestuous socialist system that benefits big connected business and that preys on the taxpayer. Alan Simpson simply wants to preserve this system for the Pentagon and big farm policy at the expense of entitlements.
...
written by JZ, August 28, 2010 1:19
This is not the argument that he is actually making though. You are quoting out of context. Later in teh article he goes on to point out that other things are going on than just the stimulus: fundamentals (i.e., Germans are socialists).
...
written by status quobama, August 28, 2010 9:54
The NY Times just wants to make sure both sides of the debate are represented - the right side and the wrong side.
data
written by Yang, August 28, 2010 12:56
Where is the actual data for this? It might be nice to compare actual dollars and also what the spending was as a % of GDP.
...
written by liberal, August 29, 2010 3:52
scott wrote,
Also Dowd and Collins aren't thinkers, they're social reporters.


You're too kind to Dowd---she's essentially a gossip columnist.
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...
written by Tom Maguire, August 30, 2010 9:18
Wow - CEPR 1, Strawman 0.

Since the *actual* argument at, for example, the Toronto G20 conference, is over more (debt-financed) stimulus versus deficit reduction, one might have imagined that Brooks is using "austerity" interchangeably with lower deficits, not lower aggregate spending.

Little hints in support of that view do appear in his text. His lead:

"During the first half of this year, German and American political leaders engaged in an epic debate. American leaders argued that the economic crisis was so bad, governments should borrow billions to stimulate growth. German leaders argued that a little short-term stimulus was sensible, but anything more was near-sighted. What was needed was not more debt, but measures to balance budgets and restore confidence.

The debate got pointed. American economists accused German policy makers of risking a long depression. The German finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, countered, “Governments should not become addicted to borrowing as a quick fix to stimulate demand.”

The two countries followed different policy paths. According to Gary Becker of the University of Chicago, the Americans borrowed an amount equal to 6 percent of G.D.P. in an attempt to stimulate growth. The Germans spent about 1.5 percent of G.D.P. on their stimulus. "

If you want to put up deficit numbers to show Brooks is wrong, have at it. But this "rebuttal" (which does not even include a link to his column and mis-states his argument) is a joke.
...
written by A. Wells, August 30, 2010 11:53
Perhaps it is because our government was not spending wisely (after all, it does run deficit in the neighborhood of 10% GDP). Perhaps German government is simply not as broke as ours. By the way, Grece, Spain and Ireland adopted austerity measures, because they are broke. Germany - not.
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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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