New York Times Crashed-and-Burned Watch (Worst David Brooks Column Ever Edition)

Back when there was a bipartisan fiscally-conservative socially-liberal opportunity-enhancing internationalist moderate faction to belong to, I was a proud member of it. The *New York Times* should be ashamed of letting David Brooks steal my name. The whole of the Obama budget *is too* the sum of its parts: that’s what the words “whole” and “sum” mean. “Moderate” does not mean “underbriefed partisan Republican”:>A Moderate Manifesto: [T]here are moderates in this country…. We sympathize with a lot of the things that President Obama is trying to do. We like his investments in education and energy innovation. We support health care reform that expands coverage while reducing costs. But the Obama budget is more than just the sum of its parts….>[W]e wind up with a gargantuan $3.6 trillion budget. We end up with deficits that, when considered realistically, are $1 trillion a year and stretch as far as the eye can see. We end up with an agenda that is unexceptional in its parts but that, when taken as a whole, represents a social-engineering experiment that is entirely new. The U.S. has never been a society riven by class resentment. Yet the Obama budget is predicated on a class divide…. Those of us who consider ourselves moderates — moderate-conservative, in my case — are forced to confront the reality that Barack Obama is not who we thought he was….Joe Klein gets it right in reply:>On Moderation: We are at the end of a 30-year period of radical conservatism, a period so right-wing that many of those now considered “liberals”–like, say, Barack Obama–would be seen as moderate pantywaists in the great sweep of modern political history. The past 30 years have… [seen] such a profound destruction of the basic functions of government that a major rectification is called for now–in rebalancing the system of taxation toward progressivity, in rebuilding the infrastructure of the country, not just physically, but also socially and intellectually.>So it’s not surprising that the President would feel the need to move on all fronts…. This is a ten-year budget. Some of the more dramatic changes, like the cap-and-trade plan to limit carbon emissions, will be insinuated slowly and not for several years. In almost every case, Obama has chosen a moderate path….>I could argue that Obama isn’t being radical enough in the areas of health care and education. His health care plan is vague, and he hasn’t quite embraced universality. He rejects left-liberal solutions like a single-payer system out of hand, but also rejects the radical moderation of the Wyden-Bennett plan that would immediately relieve corporate America of its health care burdens. I fear that the ultimate result, without strong guidance from the Administration, will be an homage to health industry lobbyists and assorted Congressional health eccentrics. His education plan is also small-c conservative….>[T]he question on the table now is this: Is the Obama budget the right direction to take… the broad thrust of the plan is… the correct way to go… an essential rebalancing toward the center… the path of moderation and prudence…And Ed Kilgore:>Democratic Strategist: Brooks is off to the races, providing a lurid spin on specific Obama proposals that are apparently “unexceptional” in themselves, but are somehow terrifyingly radical when attempted in combination. Consider his treatment of the Obama tax proposals which, as I am sure he knows, are basically designed to restore the structure of federal income tax rates as they existed prior to 2001.>>The U.S. has never been a society riven by class resentment. Yet the Obama budget is predicated on a class divide. The president issued a read-my-lips pledge that no new burdens will fall on 95 percent of the American people. All the costs will be borne by the rich and all benefits redistributed downward.>Then there’s this howler:>>The U.S. has always had vibrant neighborhood associations. But in its very first budget, the Obama administration raises the cost of charitable giving. It punishes civic activism and expands state intervention.>Brooks appears to be referring here to a relatively minor Obama tax proposal that would further limit (they are already limited now) the total value of deductions for high earners, a very conventional way to ensure effective progressive rates of taxation. To hear Brooks, this is a direct assault on the Tocquevillian concept of voluntary association.>He doesn’t bother to extend the argument much further than these pathetic examples…. >Brook’s essay… epitomizes two key Brooksian vices… “moderation” is defined as compromise, any kind of compromise, and “moderates” are invariably urged to pursue a course of action that coincides with the immediate political needs of the Republican Party…

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