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Monday, August 20, 2012

David Brooks, "Guide for the Perplexed": Is Brooks Also an "Unserious Man"?

Returning to the New York Times op-ed page after a short break, David Brooks writes in "Guide for the Perplexed" (

"By picking Paul Ryan as his running mate, Romney has put Medicare at the center of the national debate. Possibly for the first time, he has done something politically perilous. He has made it clear that restructuring Medicare will be a high priority.

This is impressive. If you believe entitlement reform is essential for national solvency, then Romney-Ryan is the only train leaving the station.

Moreover, when you look at the Medicare reform package Romney and Ryan have proposed, you find yourself a little surprised. You think of them of as free-market purists, but this proposal features heavy government activism, flexibility and rampant pragmatism."

Now compare this language with that of Paul Krugman in his New York Times op-ed yesterday, "An Unserious Man" (

"Ryanomics is and always has been a con game, although to be fair, it has become even more of a con since Mr. Ryan joined the ticket.

. . . .

So will the choice of Mr. Ryan mean a serious campaign? No, because Mr. Ryan isn’t a serious man — he just plays one on TV."

This is indeed perplexing.

I suppose Krugman thinks that Brooks is also "unserious," but this should come as no surprise. Krugman is the only "serious" person out there, and if you have any doubts in this regard, just ask Krugman.

But back for a moment to Brooks's opinion piece, in which he observes:

"In 1962, 14 cents of every federal dollar not going to interest payments were spent on entitlement programs. Today, 47 percent of every dollar is spent on entitlements. By 2030, 61 cents of every noninterest dollar will be spent on entitlements.

Entitlement spending is crowding out spending on investments in our children and on infrastructure. This spending is threatening national bankruptcy. It’s increasing so quickly that there is no tax increase imaginable that could conceivably cover it. And, these days, the real entitlement problem is Medicare."

At the risk of also being labeled "unserious," by Krugman, I agree with Brooks.

However, I would like to ask Brooks and Krugman why they both ignore America's meaningless ground involvement in Afghanistan, which has cost the US the lives of more than 1,800 military personnel and some $443 billion (see:, of which $120 billion was spent in 2011 alone (see: Yes, Obama now owns this war.

Or am I again being "unserious"?


  1. Sorry that Mr. Krugman's language has annoyed you. Certainly, if you are going to choose the counsel of Mr. Krugman or Mr. Brooks based upon the moderate tone of their language, you will much prefer the latter.

    However, I think this is entirely the wrong question to ask. The Republicans have had so many intemperate spokesmen slinging garbage at the President, that a large portion of the country actually believes he is neither a Christian nor an American... that his ideas are socialist... and that he is probably working against America because hates it. Thus, neither Mr. Romney nor his supporters in publications like the NY Times have any need to talk dirt; they can afford a judicious and reasoned tone. And that is their game plan at the moment.

    The right question has to do with the intentions of the two major parties, and how their intentions a longer view of our country and its economy.

    Campaign rhetoric aside, it is clear that Republicans believe in an economic and legal philosophy that held sway in the early 1900s. The Scalias and Thomases would move rapidly, declaring much that has passed since the New Deal unconstitutional -- and it seems likely that a GOP administration would provide the crucial Supreme Court votes to accomplish this.

    Rhetoric aside, the Democrats would continue to move incrementally towards providing for those unable to provide for themselves... from social security to Medicare and now to Obamacare.

    However, since you are tempted to judge based on style of messaging, consider this: Democrats are, at least, more honest about their objectives.

    How can one not assume sly game playing, when the GOP objects to entitlement reform based on national solvency... and then howls in anguish at the talk of ANY budgetary improvement coming from cuts to the military (let alone any additional taxes)? If the honest-to-God point of their movement was the long term federal budget, they would not be nearly so doctrinaire on this point. The USA spends as much as the rest of the globe combined on military. Are we supposed to believe that, although we are supposedly headed towards economic Armageddon, the solution must come entirely out of entitlement spending?

    Thus, no matter how serious a tone their defender may be taking in today's column, I find it very hard to take Republican arguments seriously.

  2. Well, I find it tragic that I, a political junkie, can't vote this year.
    I am a Social Democrat and certain traditions of the Democratic party are dear to me. However, the traditions are traditions and betrayal is betrayal. In reality, the present day Democratic politicians, journalists and many others couldn't care less about the homeless, the unemployed, the hungry and the NYT whose "liberal" columnists are typical representatives of baby boomers interests (MY precious body, MY precious Mansion, MY precious civil rights ... and the Palestinians) distract dishonestly and hypocritically. So far, the boomers have managed to "incrementally" dismantle this weak safety net New Deal represented.

    Sorry, Anonymous, I can't vote for Obama who in my view is contributing to the dangerous destabilization of the world (and yes, destabilization of the world affects Americans too) while continuing the destruction of New Deal and I can't vote for Romney/Ryan team. I'll stay home.

    1. No need to apologize to me. :) Note that I did not make any case whatsoever for the Democrats in general nor the President in particular. My only point -- and I am quite sure I am correct in this -- is that the GOP has appalling goals.

      I'll vote for the sub-par against the terrible; you'll abstain. Both are rational responses. And I would guess both of us would be likely voters for a viable new party.

    2. Thinking your comment over last night, I realized how similar the left and right really are.

      "MY precious body, MY precious Mansion, MY precious civil rights"
      MY precious economic liberty

      Both sides try to make it sound like it's a matter of high principle, and it is amazing to me the extent to which most people really buy into one or the other of these phony philosophies.

      But the common thread is self over all else.

  3. Anonymous, you say:
    "and I am quite sure I am correct in this -- is that the GOP has appalling goals.

    I'll vote for the sub-par against the terrible; you'll abstain."
    Well, we disagree. GOP probably has appalling goals, BUT democratic White House has appalling, terrible reality. I've been thinking ... and it looks like I'll have a list of questions regarding Obama's foreign policy which I believe should be asked.
    Yes, there is a HUGE problem there.