David Brooks Thinks We Have an Emotional Recession

You make me FEEL LIKE I’ve been locked out of PARADISE: 

During the Cold War era, Western economies delivered broad and growing prosperity for the middle class. This nurtured a general faith in political institutions and culminated in the democratic triumphalism of the 1990s.

So begins David Brooks, who apparently slept through Watergate, and NAFTA for that matter. Democratic triumphalism? Trust in political institutions?

Seriously, did Maureen give him some of her devil weed?

If you are not earning enough money so you can feel respected, and live without desperate stress, you will begin to lose confidence and élan.

Also teeth. You will begin to lose your teeth.
And that is what’s happening today. The labor force participation rate is at its lowest in decades. Millions are in part-time or low-wage jobs that don’t come close to fulfilling their capacities. Millions more are in dysfunctional or unhealthy workplaces, but they don’t feel they can leave because they don’t think there are other jobs out there that pay the same amount.

The country is palpably in the middle of some sort of emotional recession.
God damn it, this is an actual recession, not an emotional one. People are living in boxes and getting food from the food pantry, but hey, let’s talk some more about their fucking feelings and how today’s politicians are not entertaining David Brooks.
It is precisely at this moment that leaders are called upon leap past the current moment and to point the way to the sun-drenched path ahead. You may disagree with every policy they ever uttered, but Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher leapt beyond the stagnant mood of the late 1970s.
They leapt beyond the stagnant mood. People were still goddamn broke, but hey, it played better on TV. The speeches were more inspiring. The bunting was freshly laundered.
These are the important things to consider in an emotional recession.
If you get outside the partisan boxes, there’s a completely obvious agenda to create more middle-class, satisfying jobs. The federal government should borrow money at current interest rates to build infrastructure, including better bus networks so workers can get to distant jobs. The fact that the federal government has not passed major infrastructure legislation is mind-boggling, considering how much support there is from both parties.
It’s not so mind-boggling when you realize the vast majority of Republicans are bugfuck insane, and would vote against a resolution approving of peanut butter if Obama was photographed eating some Skippy.
Other shifts are more fundamental, but should be the signature themes of the next political era. First, the government should reduce its generosity to people who are not working but increase its support for people who are. That means reducing health benefits for the affluent elderly. But it means, as Michael Strain of the American Enterprise Institute recommends, increasing wage subsidies when employers hire the long-term unemployed and issuing relocation subsidies so people in high unemployment areas can move.
Yes, nothing says “step outside partisan boxes” like boilerplate from the American Enterprise Institute, advocating cutting benefits for old people and the poor while shoveling money at business owners.
Second, the tax code could do a lot more to encourage work and investment. Ideally, we’d move to a progressive consumption tax. But at least we could have the sort of tax reform that Senators Marco Rubio and Mike Lee have suggested, which would simplify the code while subsidizing middle-class families.
Yeah. If we would just listen to Republicans, we could step outside our partisan boxes!
Third, the immigration system should turn into a talent recruiting system, a relentless effort to get the world’s most gifted and driven people to move to our shores.
Give them the SATs while their boats docked at Ellis Island. If they don’t pass, chuck them overboard.
This isn’t rocket science.
Certainly not for the immigrants we pre-selected based on their intelligence or possibly the circumference of their skulls.
Vast majorities support every idea I’ve mentioned here. It just takes a relentless focus on job creation, bold political leadership and a country willing to be shaken out of its fear.
Right. If we’d all just stop being so afraid of poverty just because we’re on the brink of eviction, we’d see that it’s so easy to fix years and years of shitting downstream and denying people raises and letting their towns crumble.

4 thoughts on “David Brooks Thinks We Have an Emotional Recession

  1. St Ronnie, St Maggie, and the American Enterprise Institute “…to point the way to the sun-drenched path ahead”? Smokin’ something, David? For Brooks, the recession is only emotional, not the least bit real, and he honestly feels very, very bad about the unemployed and the underemployed.

    “The federal government should borrow money at current interest rates to build infrastructure…” Tell it to your Republican friends. St Ronnie and St Maggie are surely turning in their graves at the suggestion.

  2. Paul Krugman has noted any number of times (including this column by Brooks) that all the pining from the so-called respectable right is for..precisely what the Obama administration has proposed from the moment they took office. But, as you note, Rethugs would oppose peanut butter if Obama came out in favor.

    They made a calculated political decision that they could stoke enough blind-no-actually-white-hot–emphasis-on-white– rage amongst the mouth breathers that it would drown out any honest discussion of policy. And…it worked, at least in some places…like South Carolina, where some Repug, I forget his name now, got beat 70-30 by a wingnut/teahadist in no small part because he refused to play along with the birther/Kenyan usurper nonsense.

    The fact that Brooks et al are finally having a moment of epiphany makes me think they’re finally realizing the degree to which the monster they created is … out of fucking control…

  3. The most amazing thing–with each and every Brooks column that appears–is that the NYT adamantly refuses to acknowledge the obvious: Brooks is a fucking dolt.

    He’s not even very good at disguising the propaganda he’s dispensing. A “progressive” consumption tax? No one even remotely progressive has ever proposed such a thing, because they’re inherently regressive, and the two main proponents of same, Herman Cain and Steve Forbes, were laughed out the primaries. So, no, Davey boy, there’s no groundswell for the right-wing claptrap you’re advocating.

    And here’s an outright lie: “Vast majorities support every idea I’ve mentioned here….” Good grief. People don’t want wage subsidies going to businesses, because when some nitwit in Congress decides it’s a waste of money, they’re left with a crappy job at crappy pay, or they’re gonna get fired when the business no longer gets free money, and beyond that, it’s typical trickle-down bullshit. Let’s always make sure that the money we do have to spend is spent on business, which more often than not, just pockets some or all of it as profit. Most of the things he’s advocating are monstrously biased to business, some of them downright reactionary, and none of them actually address the primary problems of today–the financialization of the economy and the increasing income and wealth inequality that financialization produces. And rewriting (“simplifying”) the tax code is an ongoing obsession with the wingers, and while the idea initially sounds attractive, when ordinary people get a whiff of the actual details, they run screaming in the opposite direction, because “simplifying” is just another code word for cutting taxes on the wealthy, corporate and individual.

    This man is terrifyingly stupid and transparently disingenuous. Bad combination, especially when gracing the pages of the “paper of record.”

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