David Brooks, “structuralist”

The New York Times moderate says the welfare state is unsustainable, and buys himself a new $4 million home

Topics: David Brooks, New York Times, Unemployment, Great Recession, U.S. Economy,

David Brooks, "structuralist"

David Brooks is everything that’s wrong with elite opinion in America. The president reads him and takes him seriously. That is why the opinions of venal faux “reasonable” clowns like Brooks matter. Brooks today sums up the new argument for not actually doing anything to alleviate worldwide unnecessary hardship: The problem is “structural,” not “cyclical”!

Long Op-Ed short, Brooks says “cyclicalists” (unnamed) think we should deficit-spend our way to prosperity, because, according to Brooks, they believe that “the level of government spending is the main factor in determining how fast an economy grows.” (No one actually believes this.) But according to Brooks, all of our problems are “structural,” which is to say that the reason we have mass unemployment and debt and growing wealth disparity is because of “technological change” and crappy schools. And “special-interest deals” in the tax code.

The point of the Brooks argument is simply to make continued non-action to address actual short-term pressing problems sound serious and wise. He’s not even making a partisan argument, you see. Oh, people on “the left” have been having their silly little debate, but all the serious people — “some on the left but mostly in the center and on the right” — have accepted the sad truth, like Brooks. And Brooks is soberly explaining the situation. He is not at all responding to Paul Krugman, his fellow New York Times columnist, who has lately taken to fiercely rebutting arguments put forth by various unnamed “centrists” and “moderates” in his columns.

This is Brooks’ conclusion:

But you can only mask structural problems for so long. The whole thing has gone kablooey. The current model, in which we try to compensate for structural economic weakness with tax cuts and an unsustainable welfare state, simply cannot last. The old model is broken. The jig is up.

It’s so sad, but everyone will now just have to accept that social democracy is an impossibility. We have learned that “the old economic and welfare state model is unsustainable,” so shut up about your unemployment benefits running out and there being no jobs still. (Silly me, here I was thinking the recent massive international financial crisis actually exposed post-industrial capitalism as the “unsustainable” thing.)

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Ezra Klein has the rather polite, policy-based response to Brooks’ argument: Essentially that even if Brooks is right about America’s structural problems needing to be addressed, we should still also give poor people money and indebted people relief and spend money on infrastructure improvements to prevent these structural problems from becoming even worse.

Dean Baker has the response in which it is pointed out that Brooks is full of predictable, repetitive shit. The “we have no jobs because of technology and also there are plenty of jobs but unemployed people have the wrong skills” line is as old as the Great Depression and there is no actual evidence for it. It’s just what people who want to sound serious while dismissing efforts to spend money on economic stimulus say.

Hey, let’s check out some recent real estate news at the Washington Post’s Reliable Source blog, for fun. Looks like a Mr. David Brooks just bought himself a $3.95 million home in Cleveland Park!

The New York Times op-ed columnist and wife Sarah are trading up — from their longtime home near Bethesda’s Burning Tree Club to a century-old (exquisitely renovated) five bedroom, four-and-a-half bath house in Cleveland Park. It includes a two-car garage, iron and stone fence, generous-sized porch and balcony, and what appear to be vast spaces for entertaining. The timing seems to have been right: After only a few days on the market, their old place (which also boasts five bedrooms) is under contract for $1.6 million.

Whoops, sorry about your welfare state collapsing, 12 million out of work Americans, but it was just too “unsustainable” to keep you employed — you should all consider developing new skills and trying to find more “productive” work, like writing bullshit columns for the New York Times, maybe.

Alex Pareene
Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at apareene@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @pareene

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