My friend Don Cardwell wrote to me, ” I marvel at (David Brooks) intellectual origami, and unfettered legerdemain. He SOUNDS so reasonable, so calm. I went to the kitchen window and basked in the morning sun, after days of rain. I think Brooks would shutter the blinds good and hard and run screaming to the basement to escape the light.”
So I found this piece and read it, and liked it. It was the comments section, one of the best set of top comments I’ve ever seen in the NYT comments, that helped me see Don was right, this is one of the worst columns Brooks has ever writen.
I wrote to Don: “At first quick read, I thought you were off your rocker. But I read deeply into the comments, and kept agreeing with all the criticisms of the column. By the end, I felt you were spot on, though I feel bad for David Brooks. He doesn’t have any urgency about climate change, which is odd. I’m afraid he doesn’t get it, or he thinks the threats that the scientists lie awake worrying about, are just abstractions. He does, accurately point out, that conservatives want a monumental carbon tax, so that Big Government can use it as a pointer, and all the States and Corporations can pull in the same direction. Mr. Brooks does not appear to realize that if we don’t jump on this wild horse, in 10 to 12 years it might be too late.”
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey introducing the Green New Deal on Thursday.CreditCreditPete Marovich for The New York Times
“Over the past generation, global capitalism has produced the greatest reduction in human poverty in history. Over the past 10 years, American capitalism has produced 20 million new jobs. The productive dynamism of capitalism is truly a wonder to behold.
But economic growth alone is not enough. Growth alone does not translate into economic security for the middle class and the less skilled. Growth alone does nothing to reverse the social decay afflicting communities across America.
This reality is transforming the political debate — and shifting everything leftward. Among conservatives there are now a bevy of thinkers who are trying to find ways to use government to reduce inequality, promote work and restore community.
For example, in the lead essay of the conservative journal National Affairs, Abby M. McCloskey notes that the family you are born into and the neighborhood you live in have a much stronger influence on your socioeconomic outcome than any other factors. Her essay is an outstanding compendium of proposals designed to strengthen family and neighborhood.
Pell grants could be used to pay for vocational and apprenticeship training and not just for college. The federal government could support a voluntary national service program by paying people, once in their lifetime, to work for a year at a local nonprofit. The tax code could be tweaked so that people with no income tax liability could receive a cash credit for making charitable donations.
These proposals are activist but humble. It’s not the federal government centrally deciding how to remake your community. It’s giving communities and people the resources to take responsibility and assume power for themselves.
As many conservatives have shifted leftward, so have progressives. From Bill Clinton through Barack Obama, Democrats respected market forces but tried to use tax credits and regulations to steer them in more humane ways. Obamacare was an effort to expand and reform private health insurance markets.
That Democratic Party is ending. Today, Democrats are much more likely to want government to take direct control. This is the true importance of the Green New Deal, which is becoming the litmus test of progressive seriousness. I don’t know if it is socialism or not socialism — that’s a semantic game — but it would definitely represent the greatest centralization of power in the hands of the Washington elite in our history.”
Here is a sample of the great comments at the NYT: