Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Soggy Toast. David Brooks As The Real Radical

David Brooks has chimed in on the Wall Street Occupation movement. He thinks the protesters are soggy-toast radicals who hate Murka and capitalism and that the real radicals look surprisingly like David Brooks.

I love this! It shows how desperate the 1% is getting.

Most of Brooks' column creates straw-people which he then strikes down: The 99% are Not Virtuous! The 1% are Not Nefarious! And this:
They will have no realistic proposal to reduce the debt or sustain the welfare state. Even if you tax away 50 percent of the income of those making between $1 million and $10 million, you only reduce the national debt by 1 percent, according to the Tax Foundation. If you confiscate all the income of those making more than $10 million, you reduce the debt by 2 percent. You would still be nibbling only meekly around the edges.
As Paul Krugman points out, those small figures come from comparing one year's additional tax intakes to all of national debt:
I read David Brooks citing the Tax Foundation this morning, and I thought he must have misread them. They couldn’t possibly have compared one year’s take from higher taxes on the rich with the total stock of debt, could they? They can’t possibly be that stupid, or think that their readers are that stupid, can they?
Yes they did. They actually find that their version of the “Buffett rule” would collect $120 billion a year, which is a seriously significant sum. But they try to make it look small by comparing one year’s revenue with the total debt outstanding.
But isn't it wonderful how Brooks frames the problem: If taxing the rich won't solve all our problems, let's not tax them. They are so few, even if they have most of the wealth in this country! But then taxing me, for instance, would solve even fewer of our problems so let's stop taxing me! And I'm only one single person, too small to matter.

What Brooks doesn't get is that the protests are ultimately about fairness and the way the society has reneged on its implicit contracts, always in the direction of benefiting the 1%.

Working hard will not help you when jobs are outsourced abroad, when collective bargaining is attacked and when all that is left to you is something called "The Right To Work" which gives all the rights to the employer.

Getting an education does not make finding a job that much easier, what with that outsourcing, the cuts in public spending on state levels and the nonexistent consumer demand today. But those student loans still must be paid.

Many middle class families are a few paychecks from being homeless. The security net has frayed and Brooks would like to fray it even more:
The U.S. economy is probably going to stink for a few more years. It is beset by short-term problems (low consumer demand, uncertain housing prices, too much debt) and long-term problems (wage stagnation, rising health care costs, eroding human capital).
Realistically, not much is going to be done to address the short-term problems, but we can at least use this winter of recuperation to address the country’s underlying structural ones. Do tax reform, fiscal reform, education reform and political reform so that when the economy finally does recover the prosperity is deep, broad and strong.
Make no mistake: Brooks means to unravel the safety net when he talks about those reforms. But note how the pain and suffering of people is something he glides over in a few sentences, concluding that not much is going to be done to address that pain and suffering, but that we should use the opportunity to cause even more pain and suffering by altering the system in ways which guarantees it to become permanent.