St. Bobo on the Way to Damascus
On his way to Damascus to persecute a small sect for failing to abide by the Law, Saul stumbled, saw the light and arose St. Paul, hero to a new church. In Taking a Depression Seriously, David Brooks has his epiphany. He stumbled, from his eyes, the scales fell and he arose St. Bobo. Conversos are always suspect until they prove their worth, as are commentators like Josephus, who conform history not to their eyes, but to the ears of the victor.
Here are highlights from St. Bobo’s First Letter to the Republicanists in New Rome. He starts by defining the problem: "It’s a bloomin’ emergency." (Written while watching a laser disk of My Fair Lady; Democrats are his Pygmalion.)
Stock market declines are destroying $23 trillion in wealth….Auto production is down by two-thirds since 2005. In China, 20 million migrant laborers have lost their jobs. Investment in developing countries has dropped from $929 billion in 2007 to $165 billion this year. Pension systems are fragile. Household balance sheets are still a wreck.
Next, he criticizes his followers’ reaction to our bloomin’ emergency:
[A]fter a decade of profligacy, the Republicans have decided to demand a rigid fiscal straitjacket at the one moment in the past 70 years when it is completely inappropriate….
Then he stumbles, confusing Democrats with Republicans, which he uses as a rhetorical device to show his followers that The Way is not easy:
Unlike the Democrats, [Republican are] not for making trillions of dollars in long-term spending commitments until they know where things stand.
St. Bobo has forgotten the trillions in long-term commitments made by our warrior president, who plunged into wars and other follies without a thought for their cost or consequence. He repeats his mistake, as if that will correct it:
Republicans should be the party of restoring fiscal balance — whatever it takes — not trillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see….
Republicans could argue that it’s Nero-esque for Democrats to be plotting extensive renovations when the house is on fire. They could point out that history will judge this president harshly if he’s off chasing distant visions while the markets see a void where his banking policy should be….
And repeats it again:
[Republicans are] going to focus obsessively on restoring equilibrium first, and they’re going to understand that there is a sharp distinction between crisis policy-making and noncrisis policy-making.
The scales are back. The Republican Mr. Bush was always in crisis mode. He didn’t know what he was doing, he assumed Mr. Cheney did. He delegated all his power to him and Mr. Cheney kept us in permanent crisis mode. St. Bobo’s conversion is now suspect. How will he end his Good News?
Global capitalism is an innovative force, [Republicans] could argue, but we have been reminded of its shortcomings. When exogenous forces like the rise of China and a flood of easy money hit the global marketplace, they can throw the entire system of out of whack, leading to a cascade of imbalances: higher debt, a grossly enlarged financial sector and unsustainable bubbles.
St. Bobo has lost his halo, he has reverted to Mr. Brooks. His passive voice hides unregulated capitalism’s many ills and who they benefit. His "exogenous" excess is Chinese, comfortably foreign, as, impliedly, are all capitalism’s woes. He ignores better examples closer to home: the massive greed on Wall Street and in DC.
David Brooks may be sincere. His dabbling with facts is not. Is he preparing to renew his contracts with the Times and Jim Lehrer? Or is he attempting to lie low, like a stammering Claudius, to buy time in hopes of avoiding the fate of pundits more obviously resistant to the new regime (being relegated to the WaPoo)?