Quote of the Day

“Sure, House Republicans have been intransigent, but Obama could have isolated them, building a governing center-left majority with an unorthodox agenda.”

David Brooks, “The Final Reckoning,” NYT

What? How could Obama have “isolated” the House Republicans?  The GOP didn’t just win the House in 2010, they won it with far-right Tea Party candidates.  And the blunt message was that any GOP member who didn’t support the nut jobs, who tried to follow a more reasonable, moderate path,  would be primaried in 2012. 

Where was this “center-left majority” going to come from?  The left didn’t have a majority and the center no longer existed.

The Unbearable Dumbness of Douthat and Brooks

How dumb are Ross Douthat and David Brooks?  So dumb that they think Mitt is breaking free from the Tea Party/right wing crazies in his party, rather than simply pretending to do so with their blessing.  Mitt isn’t just Pinocchio-like because of his lies, he’s also a puppet whose strings are being pulled by the GOP.  Douthat and Brooks incredibly believe that Mitt is now pulling the strings of his party and moving himself back to the center.  These two geniuses have it all backwards as to who’s controlling whom, plus they’re buying that Moderate Mitt is the Real Romney.

Here’s Ross Douthat, “It Could Be His Party,” NYT:

“What Romney executed on Wednesday night was not just a simple pivot to the center, as much of the post-debate analysis suggested.

“But this wasn’t some sort of Sister Souljah moment, where Romney called out his fellow conservatives in order to curry favor with the center.  Rather what he did was clarify, elevate and translate.

I guess clarify, elevate and translate are new euphemisms for lie.  Sounds very Luntzian.

“One debate does not such a leader make.  but at the very least, the fact that Romney’s strategy worked so effectively last Wednesday — that it made him seem mainstream and appealing while also winning him plaudits from almost every sort of conservative — suggests that the Republican Party can actually be led, and that its politicians don’t have be prisoners of talking points and groupthink.”

No, no, no, this first debate wasn’t Mitt leading the GOP, it was the GOP, out of desperation at his poll numbers and the fallout from the 47% remarks, allowing Mitt to seem rational and reasonable.  Mitt is the dressage horse here, not the rider, he “pivots” when that’s what his owners want.

Here’s David Brooks, “Moderate Mitt Returns!,” NYT:

“But, on Wednesday night, Romney finally emerged from the fog.  He broke with the stereotypes of his party and, at long last, began the process of offering a more authentic version of himself.

“Most important, Romney did something no other mainstream Republican has had the guts to do.  Either out of conviction or political desperation, he broke with Tea Party orthodoxy and began to redefine the Republican identity.  And having taken this step, he’s broken the spell.  Conservatives loved it!  They loved that it was effective, and it was effective because Romney could more authentically be the man who (I think) he truly is.”

Mitt didn’t break any spell, and conservatives loved it because they sanctioned it as a way to move the poll numbers before the election.  This has nothing to do with moving policy afterwards.  Mr. Brooks, do the words “The ends justify the means” sound at all familiar to you?  Mitt wasn’t breaking from the Tea Party, just from the truth.

Anybody out there trying to sell the Brooklyn Bridge?  You really should call Douthat and Brooks. 




The Worse Political Advice, Ever

David Brooks argues (“The Elevator Speech,” NYT) that Obama has to “define America’s most pressing challenge” on Thursday, and says he has “three clear options.”

The first option is global warming:

“But if this is really where Obama’s passion lies, he should go for it.

“He should vow to double down on green energy and green technology.  He could revive cap-and-trade legislation that would creat incentives for clean innovation.  He could propose a tax reform package that would substitute gasoline and energy consumption taxes for a piece of our current income taxes.  He could say that his No. 1 international priority will be to get a global warming treaty ratified by all the major nations.”

He could say all these things and then proceed to replicate George McGovern’s 1972 defeat.  Hell, Obama probably wouldn’t even carry Massachusetts.  Mitt could safely spend the rest of the campaign on his boat in New Hampshire while Ryan is off bow- and- arrow hunting.

So here is Brooks’ door number two, broken capitalism:

“Obama could go before the convention and say that there has been a giant failure at the heart of modern capitalism.  Even in good times,the wealth that modern capitalism generates is not being shared equitably.  Workers are not seeing the benefits of their own productivity gains.

“Obama could offer policies broad enough to address this monumental problem.  He could vow to strengthen unions.  He could vow to use federal funds to pay for 500,000 more teachers and two million more infrastructure jobs.  He could cap the mortgage interest deduction, cap social security benefits, raise taxes on the rich, raise taxes on capital gains and embrace other measures to redistribute money from those who are prospering tho those who are not.  He could crack down on out-sourcing and regulate trade.  He could throw himself behind a new industrial policy to create manufacturing jobs.

This agenda wouldn’t appeal to moderates, or people like me, but it’s huge, it’s serious and it would highlight a real problem.”  Emphasis added.

So Brooks is supposedly giving Obama sincere advice for a speech that’s intended to attract moderates and admitting that his advice would repel moderates.  This speech would feed the socialist, anti-capitalist GOP smear.  Again, he’d lose, maybe not as big as with the global warming speech, but he’d lose.

Brooks’ third option is to embrace Simpson Bowles.  That’s the least suicidal of the three, but you can’t offer honest, real numbers when the other side is committed to lying, imaginary numbers.

Brooks concludes, “If Obama can’t tells us the big policy thing he wants to do, he doesn’t deserve a second term.”

If Obama were to listen to Brooks, deserving or not, he wouldn’t get a second term.  And I can state unequivocally that David Brooks no longer deserves a NYT op-ed column.


What a Recall Vote Means

Sometimes I just want to shake David Brooks.  Today, after reading his column “The Debt Indulgence,” is one of those days.

He writes “A vote to keep [Wisconsin Governor Scott] Walker won’t be an anti-union vote.”

Huh?  Walker wasn’t content to get concessions from the public unions, which they readily gave, he was determined to crush them.  This wasn’t about balancing Wisconsin’s budget now, it was about talking away collective bargaining rights forever.  And Walker has admitted that his “divide and conquer” strategy was to first go after the public unions, then the private unions, and turn Wisconsin, birthplace of the progressive movement, into a Right to Work state.  He’s working for the Koch Brothers, who want to destroy unions across the country so they can’t provide campaign contributions to act as a counterweight to those from conservative groups.

So I don’t see how you can interpret a vote for Walker as anything other than an anti-union vote.

Brooks warns that a vote against Walker isn’t a vote for the idea of keeping unions alive, it is somehow a vote against reducing deficits:

“[I]f he is recalled that will send a broader message, with effects far beyond Wisconsin.  It will be a signal that voters are indeed unwilling to tolerate tough decisions to reduce debt.”

This is not true.  The public unions themselves were willing to tolerate tough decisions to reduce debt.  If Walker were recalled, it would be a signal that voters are not willing to tolerate unfairness and bullying and over-reaching.  Walker didn’t run in 2010 on a platform of stripping public union rights.  He went way beyond what the people of Wisconsin expected and elected him to do.

I agree with this guy:

“I’m not a complete fan of the way Walker went about reducing debt.  In an age of tough choices one bedrock principle should be:  We’re all in this together.  If you are going to cut from the opposing party’s interest groups, you should also cut from some of your own.  That’s how you build trust and sustain progress, one administration to the next. … Walker didn’t do that.  He just sliced Democrats. … Walker’s method was obnoxious….”

That’s David Brooks, in the same column!

Krugman 1, Brooks 0

I posted recently disagreeing with a David Brooks column  in the NYT where he said that the economic cyclicalists (a reference to Paul Krugman) were wrong and the economic structuralists (including himself) were right.

Today’s Krugman column, “Easy Useless Economics,” is a “right back atcha” to Brooks.

“A few days ago, I read an authoritative-sounding paper in the American Economic Review, one of the leading journals in the field, arguing at length that the nation’s high unemployment rate had deep structural roots and wasn’t amenable to any quick solution.  The author’s diagnosis was that the U. S. economy just wasn’t flexible enough to cope with rapid technological change.  The paper was especially critical of programs like unemployment insurance, which it argued actually hurt workers because they reduced the incentive to adjust.

“O.K., there’s something I didn’t tell you:  The paper in question was published in June 1939.

“And, once again, authoritative-sounding figures [like you, David Brooks] insist that our problems are ‘structural,’ that they can’t be fixed quickly.  We must focus on the long-run, such people say, believing that they are being responsible.  But the reality is that they’re being deeply irresponsible.

“What does it mean to say that we have a structural unemployment problem?  The usual version involves the claim that American workers are stuck in the wrong industries or with the wrong skills.

“Instead, the economy has bled jobs across the board, in just about every sector and every occupation, just as it did in the 1930s.  Also, if the problem was that many workers have the wrong skills or are in the wrong place, you’d expect workers with the right skills in the right place to be getting big wage increases;  in reality, there are very few winners in the work force.

“Every time some self-important politician or pundit starts going on about how deficits are a burden on the next generation, remember that the biggest problem facing young Americans today isn’t the future burden of debt….  It is, rather, the lack of jobs, which is preventing many graduates from getting started on their working lives.”

At the bottom of Krugman’s column, it says, “David Brooks is off today.”  I think Krugman would argue that Brooks is “off” every day.





A False Choice

In his NYT column today, “The Structural Revolution,” David Brooks sets up a false choice between those whom he calls “cyclicalists” (he means you, Paul Krugman) and those whom he calls “structuralists” (hi, Paul Ryan, hi Mitt):

“The main argument you hear from these cyclicalists is that the economy is operating well below capacity.  To get it moving at full speed, the government should borrow and spend more.

“The diverse people in this camp — and I’m one of them — believe the core problems are structural, not cyclical.

“There are several overlapping structural problems.  First, there are those surrounding globalization and technological change. … Then there are the structural issues surrounding the decline in human capital.  The United States, once the world’s educational leader, is falling back in the pack.

“Then there is political sclerosis.  Over the decades, companies and other entities have implanted  a growing number of special-interest deals into the tax and regulatory codes, making it harder for politically unconnected, new competitors, making the economy less dynamic.

Unlike the cyclicalists, we structuralists do not believe that the level of government spending is the main factor in determining how fast an economy grows.”

Brooks’ false choice is highlighted in that last sentence.  I consider myself both a cyclicalist and a structuralist.  We need to focus on this cyclical downturn in the short term and on our undoubted structural problems in the short, medium, and long term.  I don’t see government spending as a force to make our economy grow under normal circumstances.  I see it as a temporary spur to counter the lack of demand in the private sector from the Great Recession.  Once we get the private sector kick-started, government should pull back.  This is classic Keynesian economics, which Republicans used to accept and believe in.

We can address some of our structural problems at the same time as we do our cyclical ones.  They are not mutually exclusive.  Brooks bemoans our decline in education.  So let’s hire back or replace some of the hundreds of thousands of teachers who have been fired in the last few years.  Some of those teachers weren’t very good?  Fine, there are plenty of unemployed people to choose from.  Same with his complaint about special deals in the tax code.  Let’s close the loopholes.  That raises more revenue that can be used to stimulate the economy and makes the playing  field more even.  Scrubbing regulatory codes of provisions that favor one company over another is irrelevant to government stimulus spending.  You can do both simultaneously.

Brooks says the problem is that “different people are having entirely different debates.”  The real problem, the sad and shameful problem, is that we’re having an election.  Some people, whose initials are GOP, don’t want the economy to get better.



GOP Intellectuals Can’t Stand Newt, the Intellectual Candidate

It’s interesting that Newt Gingrich presents himself as the intellectual in the GOP primary race, and yet party intellectuals (George Will, David Brooks, David Frum, Peggy Noonan, Charles Krauthammer) can’t stand him and are arguing passionately against the passionate one.  They agree that he’s smart, but conclude that scary should make you run screaming from smart.