I don’t normally write about David Brooks. He just makes me too angry. He is Paul Ryan in a Bill Clinton mask. In today’s column, The Upside of Opportunism, he compares an Obama second term to a Romney first term. Spoiler: Romney’s term rocks and Obama’s sucks!
What Brooks proposes is Romney’s main way to election: convince the masses that he really is a moderate and that once he becomes president, he will govern that way. Remember George W. Bush and compassionate conservatism? Remember what a moderate he was going to be? How did that work out? Oh, I remember! Tax cuts for the wealthy. A totally unjust and unfunded war. A huge giveaway to the pharmaceutical industry. You know: compassion!
But this is not what Brooks is worried about. He’s worried about our debt. “The mounting debt is ruinous.” Oh, really? This bit of ridiculousness is thoroughly debunked by Dean Baker today, David Brooks Is Upset that the Interest Burden of the Debt Is Near a Post-War Low.
But let’s suppose for a moment that the debt is a problem we want to deal with. Should we elect Romney to take care of it? The answer is: yes, but only if we are complete idiots who have the memory of a gnat. The only substantial reduction in the federal deficit over the last 30 years was under democratic presidents: Clinton and—Wait for it!—Obama. I know that Fox News and others push this idea that Obama has exploded the deficit, but he has actually brought it down substantially. When he took office, it was $1.7 trillion and it is now $1.1 trillion; that is a 35% reduction in the deficit. Don’t believe me? This is from the conservative website usgovernmentdebt.us:
This graph is a little deceptive. They do not stop their graph where the data ends, so it makes it look like that last peak was due to Obama. In fact, that peak is the beginning of 2009—Bush’s budget.
What I want everyone to understand about this is that Republicans always claim that they will reduce the deficit and they never do. (Well, Bush Sr did reduce the deficit a bit, but you will remember that he is reviled by conservatives for doing the unthinkable: he raised taxes.)
But there are more reasons to believe that Romney will increase the deficit. Step one of his budget balance plan is to cut taxes by $5 trillion dollars. This is not what you do when you want to balance a budget. And anyone who thinks that Romney will choose a balanced budget over tax cuts is a fool.
So David Brooks is trumping up a non-problem (at least in the short term while our economy is depressed). And then, he is calling for the worst candidate possible to solve that problem. I don’t know how it is David Brooks got his jobs at the New York Times. It must be more affirmative action for conservatives.
Update (30 October 2012 12:33 pm)
Ezra Klein sees David Brooks’ column in the context of all the Romney endorsements: vote for Romney because the Republican House will work with him. But Klein calls this out for the nonsense it is:
While it’s true that President Romney could expect more cooperation from congressional Republicans, in the long term, a vote against Obama on these grounds is a vote for more of this kind of gridlock. Politicians do what wins them elections. If this strategy wins Republicans the election, they’ll employ it next time they face a Democratic president, too, and congressional Democrats will use it against the next Republicans. Rewarding the minority for doing everything in their power to make the majority fail sets up disastrous incentives for the political system.
There are good reasons to endorse Mitt Romney for president. But if you want the political system to work more smoothly, endorsing McConnell and Boehner’s strategy over the last four years is folly.
I’m not sure what those good reasons to endorse Romney are, but you understand his point.