I defy anyone to read David Brooks’ column today and not think, “Well, we’ve done it! We’ve found the most incorrect human alive!” Let’s quickly go through this and then move on to more serious business, like watching a cat try to understand how a printer works.
Brooks’ column roughly argues that with the passage of the health care bill, the Democratic party has completed a 90 year project of creating a safety net for the county’s most at-risk citizens. Now, if the bill were better, this actually might be true, but no one at all (save Brooks, apparently) sees this bill as the end of the project.
But what’s really destructive about his column is the way it both creates and reinforces “conventional wisdom” without any factual support whatsoever. That’s what’s wrong with David Brooks specifically, and all mainstream punditry generally. Here’s a sentence of his from today that reads like self-parody:
Nobody knows how this bill will work out. It is an undertaking exponentially more complex than the Iraq war, for example. [emphasis added.]
What?! What the fuck does that mean? What possible evidence does Brooks marshal to support that claim? None. Nada. Just let the subtext — the Democrats are more irresponsible than the Neo-cons — float there in the ether, and see if any mainstream pundits run with it. “I’m just sayin’ this bill is more complex than Hitler’s Final Solution plus Berkley University, for example. Look, I’m just saying it’s a complicated bill!”
And Brooks rehashes the old “Republicans care about fiscal responsibility” chestnut:
The second biggest threat to America’s vibrancy is the exploding federal debt. Again, Democrats can utter the words of fiscal restraint, but they don’t feel the passion.
That second sentence, in the most basic sense, means nothing. Under Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II, debt as a percentage of GDP skyrocketed. Yet the myth of the fiscally responsible GOP remains, because of column’s like Brooks’. [chart source]
Brooks attempt to paint the bill as fiscally irresponsible and concludes, as Brooks so often does, with an incorrect metaphor:
This country is in the position of a free-spending family careening toward bankruptcy that at the last moment announced that it was giving a gigantic new gift to charity.
According to the CBO, the bill will reduce the deficit by 1.3 trillion dollars over the next 20 years. The Republicans started two wars of aggression that lead to costly occupations, wars that have been financed with borrowed money, outside of the regular federal budget. It simply isn’t the case that the GOP is the party of fiscal responsibility.
Now, it’s important to criticize this bill and the Democrats who drafted it. We still have a long way to go in this country before we will have anything resembling fair, universal coverage. This bill may even be a step in the wrong direction, as I’ve argued before (also, please check out this Chris Hedges article that persuasively argues leftists need to abandon the Democratic party [h/t Allison Kilkenny]). But to ensure that our criticism is heard over the right-wing noise, the false perceptions of the bill that pundits like Brooks create need to be exploded as early as possible.
As promised, here’s some intellectual stimulation after all that Brooks nonsense.