David Brooks Is Disgusted . . . With the Wrong People
David Brooks is disgusted at the Tea-GOP Zombies. In another bridge-burning column, he calls out the Tea-GOP Zombies for being not only ideological zealots “unable to accept compromise,” but also anti-intellectual morons having “no sense of moral decency.”
But before you cheer Brooks’ acknowledgement of what the rest of the planet realized long ago, consider what it is Brooks believes is morally indefensible versus what is reasonable and wise.
It seems those crazy Tea-GOP Zombies are immoral because they are preventing the presumably “moderate” GOP leadership from accepting the “deal of the century” on deficit reduction. They thus risk having voters conclude that the Tea-GOP has become nothing more than destructive fanatics who are “unfit to govern.” Uh, where have you been, Joe DiMaggio?
Though the Tea-GOP Zombies reject it for the wrong reasons, the “deal of the century” is not something the American people should want. Brooks can’t even get the most basic facts right. He claims this deal offers a 3:1 ratio of spending cuts to revenue increases. Uh, it’s more like
6:1 5:1, with revenues only 17 percent, but what’s a little math error when you’ve missed the larger point.
He claims it does nothing to imperil economic recovery, even though economists explain that any deficit reduction now will hurt the near-term recovery. Christy Romer points out that spending cuts will do more damage than tax increases; indeed, tax increases or spending cuts on the middle class are worse for the economy than increased taxes or spending cuts on the rich.
He claims the deal does not increase marginal tax rates, a favorite canard of those who can’t connect the dots when the feds deprive states of needed funding to prevent massive layoffs and cuts. States raise effective tax rates on public employees by cutting salaries and pensions and raising employee benefit contributions. If the tax rates on the rich were increased enough to avoid these de facto middle class tax increases, Brooks would be howling along with Cantor and Boehner about how unfair it all is and how foolish it is to raise taxes in a bad economy.
He claims the deal would put the country on a sound fiscal footing. Uh, no it won’t. In a rational world, sound fiscal footing needs solid growth and keeping productive workers employed and fairly sharing in the nation’s wealth, but this deal won’t help. We need an increase in tax rates or lower wealth transfers and subsidies for the wealthiest Americans for the simple reason those are unfair and wasteful. Those folks have hoovered up virtually all of the economy’s growth over the last two decades.
A sound fiscal policy would move to correct a maldistribution that is producing record poverty, record numbers of folks without health insurance, massive unemployment, starving education, and declining prospects for the bottom two thirds of Americans.
Even in strict budgetary terms, the long-run debt numbers are driven by the rise in private health care costs. While the reported “deal of the century” hacks away at Medicare and Medicaid (and Social Security cost of living adjustments, so they don’t cover actual cost of living increases) — programs that benefit primarily the middle class and poor — nothing suggests the folks at Joe Biden’s dining table have seriously tackled the industry’s greed, graft and market aggregation that are raising private health care costs faster than GDP growth.
So in the end, the “deal of the century” might cut $3 or $4 trillion from the federal debt but leave the national economy still at risk.
Nevermind that the negotiators are doing nothing to alter the continued looting and hoovering out of the American economy by an undertaxed, underregulated financial sector — heaven forbid we consider a financial transaction tax! Yet this is what Brooks calls “sound fiscal footing.”
The sad reality is that the supposedly sane, non-fanatic and fiscally responsible actors in Brooks’ morality play are themselves irresponsible loons facilitating the hollowing out of America. The Tea-GOP Zombies can at least claim they believe in what they’re doing, and their defense is ignorance and insanity. But only the most cynical hypocrites would claim there’s any coherent theory to what President Obama, the Democrat leadership and the supposedly “moderate” Republicans are now proposing to do to America.
A budget deal is supposed to help matters, not retard them. But there’s nothing here to actually help the American economy, nothing to resolve the housing decline, no theory or relevant precedent under which any sensible person can claim otherwise. There’s no help for the states, no protection for workers, no relief for the unemployed, no fix of a still broken health system, no funding for decaying infrastructure, no boost to education. There’s nothing here to end America’s ruinous $4 trillion wars nor question the “we can attack any nation or assassinate anyone, anywhere, anytime” mindset.
There’s no transition to an alternative energy future, no vision of any future that even catches up with what other modern nations already have and do. We once built transcontinental railroads to speed people and goods across the nation. The Europeans and Japanese now do this 2 or 3 times faster than we do. The Chinese are rapidly laying high speed rail tracks while we lay off teachers and argue about Amtrak.
Deal of the century? More like the deal that guaranteed America’s continuing decline. That’s the “no-brainer.” So who are the irresponsible idiots in this story, David?
Update, via Politico, we learn Brooks has the Tea-GOP confused about percentages, never mind currency sovereigns.
“If we are net borrowing every year, adding to debt, then we will never be in position to fulfill a ‘sacred pledge to pay the money back,’” Morrissey wrote. “ That’s a rather large flaw in fiscal policy and in Brooks’ logic, which may be one reason why some of these Republicans don’t pay much attention to ‘intellectual authorities’ like, er, David Brooks.”
Uh, if we have healthy growth so that the GDP is expanding at a rate faster than the debt, then the aggregate debt can increase every year but it becomes a smaller and smaller percentage of GDP. So there is no problem paying it back, even in their framework. Of course, this requires fourth grade math.