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A Manifesto for Fools – David Brooks

The economics-challenged David Brooks sticks with Obama’s budget this week. He acts like a depressive crying for help by repeatedly slitting his wrists with a used Popsicle stick. His cure for the budget’s failings is in A Moderate Manifesto. A subversive title, that, since the Right’s pet intellectual historian would associate manifesto with its missing modifier: "Communist”, as in the Communist Manifesto .

Karl Marx’s most accessible work is a short pamphlet. Marx, a bohemian and iconoclastic German scholar, wrote it for a nascent workers’ party in 1848. Its topic is the historical abuse of power by the propertied classes. American students are taught to be afraid of it (and Marx generally), but are never supposed to have read it. European students are bored with it because its criticisms are now so familiar, if its implications are still hotly debated.

Never mind that Marx wrote before Stalin and Mao and their authoritarian regimes were born. His name has been appropriated as shorthand for their criminal excesses. Money never likes a conscience or a scold, so it is better to lump the academics in with the other criminals, which is exactly what Mao and Stalin did. The Manifesto’s second paragraph is Orwellian in its prescience:

Where is the party in opposition that has not been decried as communistic by its opponents in power? Where is the opposition that has not hurled back the branding reproach of communism, against the more advanced opposition parties, as well as against its reactionary adversaries?

A hundred fifty years later, Mr. Brooks is still at it. The Right’s mild-mannered Clark Kent uses his contradictory title to lay the foundation for his claim that Obama is revivifying class warfare with his ueber-partisan budget.

The U.S. has never [sic] been a society riven by class resentment. Yet the Obama budget is predicated on a class divide.

David forgets that he delivers mail for a movement riven with class resentment, which blames the poor and middle class for wanting the rich also to pay taxes and follow the law, and which has just launched a multi-fronted campaign to express it. One would think the Mr. Brooks had never seen a mole-hill or compared it with one of Mr. Rumsfeld’s Iraqi sand castles or Mr. Bush’s mountains of debt. Mr. Brooks carries on, describing Mr. Obama as if he were George Bush:

There is, entailed in it, a promiscuous unwillingness to set priorities and accept trade-offs. There is evidence of a party swept up in its own revolutionary fervor — caught up in the self-flattering belief that history has called upon it to solve all problems at once.

That’s music to the ears of the Cheneys and Paulsons who drowned baby government in a bathtub full of public debt the government must pay and private debt Wall Street will never pay. Bobo spreads the blame for that all over his plate, as if it were mushy peas, so that mom can’t tell it was the Repulicans who haven’t eaten their supper.

The U.S. has always been a decentralized nation, skeptical of top-down planning. Yet, the current administration concentrates enormous power in Washington, while plan after plan emanates from a small group of understaffed experts.

One might suppose from Mr. Brooks’ silence that Mr. Cheney’s administration abhorred secret, centralized power and preferred cooperative government poised elegantly on its three legged-stool. And “understaffed experts”? That’s another infomercial for K Street lobbyists who must be too beleaguered to do their own marketing.

Finally, Mr. Brooks emits a siren call for the Dead Poets’ Society of ‘Publicans to rally to the Rush flag: Obama isn’t who he says he is; he’s a closet FDR. (An observation many, including Time Magazine, made last year):

Those of us who consider ourselves moderates — moderate-conservative, in my case — are forced to confront the reality that Barack Obama is not who we thought he was. His words are responsible; his character is inspiring. But his actions betray a transformational liberalism that should put every centrist [sic] on notice. As Clive Crook, an Obama admirer, wrote in The Financial Times, the Obama budget “contains no trace of compromise. It makes no gesture, however small, however costless to its larger agenda, of a bipartisan approach to the great questions it addresses. It is a liberal’s dream of a new New Deal.”

Quoting the “moderate” English Financial Times is like Bush claiming it was the Brits who made the false claim that Iraq was buying uranium ore in Niger. To cap it off, Mr. Brooks, who never quits when he’s in a role, ends with the false equivalence of Obama on the "left” and Rush Limaugh on the right. They are the opposing, equally extreme [sic] rocks on which the ship of state will flounder, with moderate Brooks at the helm.

The helmsman’s plea to his oarsmen is not for them to bind their ears and row like hell. It is to bring Obama back to sanity, to draw him back from the precipice of his ueber-partisan budget by returning to a fictional Republican approach to public administration: a neighborly attitude of, “We’re all in this together," facing our fears and our fiscal responsibilities honestly.

As propaganda, that’s not bad. Mr. Brooks never once accurately describes our plight, how we got there, or who is to blame. He gnaws, like a hamster with one tooth at the chance we have to repair ourselves without bitter social unrest. (A future he "predicts" by borrowing Marx for his title.) He pleas for a “return” to non-existent Republican good statesmanship. How does A Moderate Manifesto fair as an honest assessment of Mr. Obama and his budget? If he were on the Gong Show, he’d have never gotten past "Moderate…" before the hook yanked him off, stage right.

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