Maiello's Book-Almost Hits the Metaphorical Stands
Miami Fans Mistakenly Chant "Let's Go Eat" During Playoff Game
The insouciant conservative is back to work after Christmas, sharing his typical rationalizations of the core beliefs of conservatives and the failings of, for example, Obama.
Framing his criticism of Obama's Teddy Roosevelt pitch within his own vast perspective of three centuries of social norms and economics, Brooks debunks Obama's attempt to compare the Progressive movement in the early 1900's with our current state of affairs. In criticizing the Obama team for making inept comparisons, he does worse himself.
While I liked Obama's speech I found an element of truth in Brooks' comments, and his conclusion: "The Progressive era is not a model; it is a foil. It provides a contrast and shows us what we really need to do." I agree. It provides a contrast. But the contrast is irrelevant in Brooks' case because the solutions which he offers are no different than they would otherwise be---other than the inclusion of misappropriated references to the early Progressives. (Oxy, that sounds kinda like insouciance from the Left)
Coming out of the gate, Brooks refers to the Depression era, contrasting it to today in terms of folks' views on "big government"---i.e., a recent Gallup poll showing 64% of Americans fear Big Government. Much different---says the pundit---than in the 1930's when people " genuinely looked to big government to ease their fears and restore their confidence". The 64% poll number was seized upon by a number of conservative pundits a few weeks ago when it was published and apparently having giving it considerable thought, Brooks has morphed it to a response to Obama's "activism"---no mention of the fact that in a 2000 poll, the comparable number was 65%.
The 64% number might also be misleading from the aspect that it was a forced choice question, listing Big Business as the alternate choice. But concurrent polls asking folks about both Government and Big Business in differently framed polls show that there is not only a necessary role for government to improve paths to income equality, but that about 80% of the people think that big corporations have too much power. But the nature of the polls is not the most embarrassing flaw in Brooks' comparison of big government views. Research by Gallup itself destroys Brooks assumption that things were different then.
In a 1935 poll Gallup asked the question, "Do you think expenditures for relief and recovery are too little, too great, or just about right?" 9% said too little, 31% said about right, and 60% said too great. Three months later they asked, "Are you in favor of government old age pensions for the needy? 11% No, 89% Yes. Gallup's conclusion about these early polls: "Americans wanted to have their cake and eat it to. And why not? It's a pattern that continues to the present day." People today fear big government except when they don't. The 64% number in a current poll by itself doesn't prove anything, leastwise a reaction to Obama's activism
With a lazy article launch like the above, the rest of Brooks' article is pretty much sabotaged by his other inept analogies.
The economy is not an adolescent as it was in early 1900, so call it a mid-life crisis, the task is to rejuvenate it. Thank you very much, but total GDP is just great, couldn't be better. But it's an adolescent---in fact a juvenile delinquent, judging from the escapades of the financial industry. GDP is fine but workers are getting screwed.
The information economy widens inequality for deep and varied reasons that were unknown a century ago. (He gets paid for a sophomoric generalization like that?) Thanks, David, didn't know that but let us know what you come up with. In the meantime, consider that information, being money, accrues quite well to the financial industry where $20 Trillion a year is speculated. On the other hand, the financial industry, which in quaint definitions of the past was seen as an instrument to direct capital to companies---manages to issue only about $200 B a year. Yes, the information economy is indeed complex.
One of Brooks' best: "The government spends so much on poverty that if we just took that money and handed poor people checks, we would virtually eliminate poverty overnight." Now the insouciance of that statement is hard to top, but I'll give it a try.
"If we had just dropped $100 bills all over Iraq for ten years we probably could have achieved regime change for about $100 billion instead of $800 billion."
Obama's team may be inept, the early Progressive period is different from today---all that might be true. But as far as a mid-life crisis is concerned, it seems that the analogy should be reserved for the writings of David Brooks.