Opinion | Do Democrats Know What Unites Us? – by David Brooks – NYT

“National identity is the most powerful force in world politics today. Most of the strong leaders around the world were swept to power with a strong nationalist story and govern in nationalist ways. This is true in Russia, China, India, the U.S., Israel, Turkey, Britain, Brazil and on and on. It’s hard to see how any party could appeal or govern these days without a strong national story.

In this country, Donald Trump has almost nothing but a national story, which he returned to with a vengeance in the closing days of this year’s campaigns. It happens to be a cramped, reactionary and racial story. Trump effectively defines America as a white ethnic nation that is being overrun by aliens — people who don’t look like us, don’t share our values, who threaten our safety and take our jobs.

Trump’s blood-and-soil nationalism overturns the historical ideal of American nationalism, which was pluralistic — that we are united by creed, not blood; that our common culture is defined by a shared American dream — pioneers settling the West, immigrants crossing an ocean in search of opportunity, African-Americans rising from slavery toward equality.

The Republicans have flocked to Trump’s cramped nationalism and abandoned their creedal story. That’s left the Democrats with a remarkable opportunity. They could seize the traditional American national story, or expand it to gather in the unheard voices, while providing a coherent, unifying vehicle to celebrate the American dream.

And yet what have we heard from the Democrats? Crickets.

What is the Democratic national story? A void.

Why have the Democrats failed to offer a counternarrative to Trumpian nationalism? For two reasons, I think, one political and one moral.

First, these days nations often define their national identities through their immigration policies. Democrats have never liked to talk about immigration at election time. The immigration issue splits the Democratic coalition. Affluent progressive and liberal activists are for it, but working-class whites and African-Americans are more skeptical.”


Opinion | What Is the Democratic Story? – by David Brooks – NYT

David Brooks in an intangible national treasure. He starts with:
“There’s a lot of discussion about how far left the Democratic Party should go these days. Is it destroying its electoral chances when its members call for a single-payer health plan or abolishing ICE?

That’s an important question, but the most important question is what story is the Democratic Party telling? As Alasdair MacIntyre argued many years ago, you can’t know what to do unless you know what story you are a part of. Story is more important than policies.”

. . . .    “In brief, Democrats have stayed away from this narrative because the long hoped-for alliance between oppressed racial minorities and the oppressed white working class has never materialized, and it looks very far from materializing now.

Maybe this year is different, but for 100 years, Democrats have tended to win with youthful optimism and not anger and indignation. The Democrats who have won nationally almost all ran on generational change — on tired old America versus the possibilities of new America: F.D.R.’s New Deal, J.F.K.’s New Frontier, Bill Clinton’s bridge to the 21st century and Obama’s hope and change.”

David Lindsay:

Thank you David Brooks for shining more light into the darkness that appears to be growing. The detractors are many, and they are like those annoying children of Kahil Gilbran, They have their own thoughts. You do not pander to any group, but perhaps to those of us who are into self flagellation and searching for deeper truths at the expense often of popularity.

“The story Donald Trump tells is that we good-hearted, decent people of Middle America have been betrayed by stupid elites who screw us andbeen threatened by foreigners who are out to get us. That story resonated with many people. You can get a lot of facts wrong if you get your story right.”

In tennis, if you hit a ball before it lands by the baseline, you will never know for sure if it was going out. We will probably never know how we would have done in the last election if we had chosen Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton. While I lie awake at night thinking about such things, I force myself to think about what do to in this next election. I think fondly of David Leonhardt, who pointed out that we have to be disciplined, and focus on the red and blue state voters  who voted for Obama, and then switched to Trump. We also have to somehow force the government, or at least the press, to hold off the Russians and GOP manipulating Facebook and other social media with dark ads, paid for with dark money.

Opinion | The Failures of Anti-Trumpism – by David Brooks – NYT

WACO, Tex. — Over the past year, those of us in the anti-Trump camp have churned out billions of words critiquing the president. The point of this work is to expose the harm President Trump is doing, weaken his support and prevent him from doing worse. And by that standard, the anti-Trump movement is a failure.We have persuaded no one. Trump’s approval rating is around 40 percent, which is basically unchanged from where it’s been all along.We have not hindered him. Trump has more power than he did a year ago, not less. With more mainstream figures like H. R. McMaster, Rex Tillerson and Gary Cohn gone, the administration is growing more nationalist, not less.We have not dislodged him. For all the hype, the Mueller investigation looks less and less likely to fundamentally alter the course of the administration.”

David Brooks, in my opinion, wrote and filed this before the Mueller investigation raided Trump’s lawyer yesterday afternoon. He gets my respect anyway. He has balls to not have pulled and ammended it. Unfortunately, it has more mistakes than ususual. Some of his counsel is sound, but here are two critical comments I fully endorse.

Michael Hogan
Georges Mills, NH
Times Pick

David, I was right there with you, right up to this little nugget of nonsense: “…tens of millions of Americans rightly feel that…their religious liberties are under threat.” Oh, please. What’s under threat, in the case of the Americans to which that is presumably directed, is their right to impose their religious beliefs on others, whether it’s to refuse someone service that’s available to anyone else or to deny their employees access to medical insurance for any procedure they find distasteful. It is no different than saying that the civil rights movement threatened the civil liberties of those who wanted to carry on segregating people and refusing to serve them based on their race. Your analysis is otherwise spot on, but you need to get past this blind spot about the creeping efforts by Christian fundamentalists to stage a back-door takeover of the public square.


Kathy Lollock
Santa Rosa, CA3h ago
Times Pick
Mr. Brooks, let’s get one thing straight, and I think I speak for thousands of anti-Trumpers. We are not “insufferably condescending.” On the contrary, we are merely fighting tooth and nail for our rights, including health and welfare and equality and justice for all persuasions, that we see daily trampled on by this failure of a man and his ruthless Cabinet and Congress.

I have friends and family who are Trump supporters, and again I would never dream of patronizing or impugning them. Even though I may not agree with their politics, they are good people, and I will not judge them.

But what I will do is NOT be swayed by your analysis of our “failures.” I will continue to fight for the vulnerable, the black and brown-skinned, the aged, the woman, the gay, the Muslim. I will continue to support our youth who have better sense than we so-called adults when it relates to guns. And I hope everyone out there who reads this column agrees with me that we should not and can not stop when it comes to an amoral, degenerative who was fraudulently elected president..a word that will be tainted for years to come by this horrible man.

5 Replies 441 Recommended

Here is a comment I liked a lot, but couldn’t recommend, because it gets ugly and rude at the end, after making a series of excellent points. We should always listen respectively to David Brooks, who despite his blind spots, is a national treasure. His multiplicity of strengths far outweigh his weaknesses.


I’m confused, Mr. Brooks, did you write this column before or after the FBI raid on President Trump’s lawyer’s office and residence today?

This has never happened in our country before.

Trump still has the support of the Republican base because the Republican leaders are allowing this wildly corrupt, shady liar to hold onto his base. Speaker Ryan and Senator McConnell refuse to hold Trump accountable, refuse to investigate his corrupt practices, his corrupt cabinet members, refuse to call out his lies. They are feckless, spineless, complicit.

Since Trump makes policy decisions by literally watching “Fox and Friends,” Trump’s Fox-watching base is living in some sort of weird bubble.

The 40% can have this lying, corrupt President Trump. The opposition is winning because Trump’s support hasn’t grown, and that’s because of the protests, the enthusiasm on the left, the resistance.

A majority of Americans did not vote for President Trump in 2016.

We need this majority to galvanize and vote all Republicans out of office in 2018, in 2020, and beyond.

Don’t listen to Mr. Brooks.


David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | Pending Approval
David Brooks is a national treasure. I’m guessing that he wrote and filed this before the Mueller investigation raided Trump’s lawyer yesterday afternoon. It already feels dated. He gets my respect anyway. He has courage to not have pulled and amended it. Unfortunately, it has more mistakes, or challenging comments, than usual. Some of his counsel is rock solid sound, but there are two critical comments I fully endorse. (Michael Hogan and Cathy Lollock.) There is a comment by V I liked a lot, but couldn’t recommend, because it gets ugly and rude at the end, after making a series of excellent points. Brooks sounds soft sometimes on the GOP leadership. His digs are subtle, even oblique. We should always listen respectively to David Brooks, who despite his blind spots, or gentleness, is a national treasure. His multiplicity of strengths far outweigh his weaknesses, such as when he writes about psychology and philosophy and love and values. He also covers a wider range of topics than many of his peers at the NYT. And he is right, that Hillary Clinton, and many of her supporters, disrespected many of the Trump supporters. Fearless Brooks does not tire in reminding us to always show respect to our opponents and people in fly-over country. He never promises you a rose garden, but will help you identify and climb mountains.
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion,” and blogs at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNews.wordpress.com

What Holds America Together – by David Brooks – NYT

“Unity can come only from a common dedication to this experiment. The American consciousness can be formed only by the lab reports we give one another about that experiment — the jeremiads, speeches, songs and conversations that describe what the experiment is for, where it has failed and how it should proceed now.

One of my favorites of these lab reports is Walt Whitman’s essay “Democratic Vistas,” published in 1871. The purpose of democracy, Whitman wrote, is not wealth, or even equality; it is the full flowering of individuals. By dispersing responsibility to all adults, democracy “supplies a training school for making first class men.” It is “life’s gymnasium.” It forges “freedom’s athletes” — strong and equal women, courageous men, deep-souled people capable of governing themselves.”

“Whitman was not, however, pessimistic. He had worked as a nurse during the Civil War, watching men recover and die, and the experience had given him illimitable faith in the goodness of average citizens. Average American soldiers showed more fortitude, religious devotion and grandeur than all the storybook heroes, he wrote. They died not for glory, nor even to repel invasion, but out of gratitude to have been included in the American experiment. They died “for an emblem, a mere abstraction — for the life, the safety of the flag.”

Whitman spent his life trying to spiritualize democratic life and reshape the American imagination, to help working people see the epic heroism all around them that unites the American spirit.”

David Lindsay Jr. Hamden, CT Pending Approval NYT Comments.
Wow. This is magnificent piece by David Brooks. I am sorry that so many of the comments tear him apart, without addressing the brilliant ideas he brings forth from the genius and heart of Walt Whitman.
I hate to sound snobby, but the comments section doesn’t seem to give this man a fair hearing, or to even understand the profundity of some his research and questioning. My father was a Lincoln scholar, who read Whitman, and it is a priviledge to hear some of Whitman’s extraordinary essay, and to contemplate his faith in and admiration of common people.
I almost wish that the comments section had a 4th tab, after: All, Readers Picks and NYT Picks, there should be another, called Mostly in Praise, or, In Support. This 4th tab, would be especially usefull when reading quickly through the angry mob of comments for David Brooks, or for instance, Brett Stephens. I love Socrates the commentor, but he makes a fool of himself, when he suggests that Abe Lincoln would be shocked by the scoundrels that have taken charge of the government today. Lincoln was famous for so many things, joke telling, brilliance, humor, wrestling, and especially his humility and sadness over the behavior of his fellow citizens. I recommend all six volumns of the Carl Sandberg biography. Now, we should read Whitman.
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth-century Vietnam,” and blogs at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNews.wordpress.com

The Virtue of Radical Honesty – by David Brooks – NYT

“This week I asked a group of students at the University of Chicago a question I’m asking students around the country: Who are your heroes? There’s always a long pause after I ask. But eventually one of the students suggested Steven Pinker. Another chimed in Jonathan Haidt. There was general nodding around the table.

That was interesting. Both men are psychology professors, at Harvard and N.Y.U., who bravely stand against what can be the smothering orthodoxy that inhibits thought on campus, but not from the familiar conservative position.One way Pinker does it is by refusing to be pessimistic. There is a mood across America, but especially on campus, that in order to show how aware of social injustice you are, you have to go around in a perpetual state of indignation, negativity and righteous rage. Pinker refuses to do this. In his new book, “Enlightenment Now,” he argues that this pose is dishonest toward the facts.

For example, we’re all aware of the gloomy statistics around wage stagnation and income inequality, but Pinker contends that we should not be nostalgic for the economy of the 1950s, when jobs were plentiful and unions strong. A third of American children lived in poverty. Sixty percent of seniors had incomes below $1,000 a year. Only half the population had any savings in the bank at all.Between 1979 and 2014, meanwhile, the percentage of poor Americans dropped to 20 percent from 24 percent. The percentage of lower-middle-class Americans dropped to 17 from 24. The percentage of Americans who were upper middle class (earning $100,000 to $350,000) shot upward to 30 percent from 13 percent.”

The Retreat to Tribalism – by David Brooks – NYT

“Imagine three kids running around a maypole, forming a chain with their arms. The innermost kid is holding the pole with one hand. The faster they run, the more centrifugal force there is tearing the chain apart. The tighter they grip, the more centripetal force there is holding the chain together. Eventually centrifugal force exceeds centripetal force and the chain breaks.

That’s essentially what is happening in this country, N.Y.U.’s Jonathan Haidt argued in a lecture delivered to the Manhattan Institute in November. He listed some of the reasons centrifugal forces may now exceed centripetal: the loss of the common enemies we had in World War II and the Cold War, an increasingly fragmented media, the radicalization of the Republican Party, and a new form of identity politics, especially on campus.

Haidt made the interesting point that identity politics per se is not the problem. Identity politics is just political mobilization around group characteristics. The problem is that identity politics has dropped its centripetal elements and become entirely centrifugal.Martin Luther King described segregation and injustice as forces tearing us apart. He appealed to universal principles and our common humanity as ways to heal prejudice and unite the nation. He appealed to common religious principles, the creed of our founding fathers and a common language of love to drive out prejudice. King “framed our greatest moral failing as an opportunity for centripetal redemption,” Haidt observed.”

DL: David Brooks has written a challenging piece, and it is full of great points, but it is so abstract as to be almost meaningless. Does he really mean that college professors and their students are as responsible as Donald Trump and the GOP for centrifugal forces tearing apart America? A second, careful reading suggests that Brooks is in fact aiming most of his barbs at Trump and the GOP, but so abstactly, that he maintains a distance, even deniability. Many of the commenters point out that it is mostly the GOP that is doing many things to undermine our democracy and its principles, as they cater to the desires of the billionaire donors.

Here is a comment, that though it fails to recognize that a few Republicans are not pleased with GOP radicalism, I endorse:
B. USA 3 hours ago
The right spends a significant amount of its time and effort to make it harder for individuals to participate politically, while making it easier for corporations and organizations with vast sums of untraceable money to be included in the political process.

The right has been driving wedges and creating an us-vs-them atmosphere since Reagan declared “government is the problem” and demonized freedom of association by attacking unions which work for the common good.

The right has abandoned the notion of truth, has abandoned education for all, and has abandoned traditional moral values in favor of dogmatism, science denial, exclusivity, and power-grabbing at any cost. The current leader of the right now sitting at 1600 Pennsylvania is the embodiment of GOP beliefs and practices brought to life.

After 30 years of attacks on American values and decency, the left has finally said “Enough!” and have started to speak out. Suddenly Brooks et.al. think the nation has become divided as never before.

The nation has been divided for a long time; it’s only recently that the left has decided things have gone too far in the wrong direction and it’s time to fight back, to fight for American values of honesty, decency, and inclusion. There is a big blue wave just over the horizon, and it’s going to sweep away anyone who is not willing to stand up for traditional American values of honesty, decency, inclusion, and a fair deal for all.

FlagReply 305 Recommended

Opinion by David Brooks | The Workers Paradise

From the comments section, the top comment, and my rebuttal.


Indianapolis 16 hours ago

The tax revenue lost by the 7% difference between 21 and 28 is sizeable, and Obama never would have placed the impact of any corporate tax cut on the backs of the middle class and those with even lower incomes. Do not act like this is no big deal Mr. Brooks. It is.

David Lindsay Jr.

Hamden, CT

Bravo David Brooks. Keep writing, and don’t let the detractors get you down. I’m disappointed that 698 commenters endorsed JBC. The problem with the JBC critique is that Brooks is just right that the world is going towards a 20% or lower corporate tax. But progressive, steep income taxes, and vat taxes, make up the difference, so that other developed countries have plenty to spend on social services for the middle and lower classes. We also spend more on military than these other counties, and fight in poorly thought out wars, which are wasteful. The problem with the GOP tax bill is not the 20% corporate rate, but almost all of the rest of it. They were supposed to get rid of all the loopholes, so that corporations would have to pay 20%. David is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth-Century Vietnam”, and blogs at TheTaysonRebellion.com.

The Siege Mentality Problem – by David Brooks – NYT

“Why are so many conservative evangelicals in Alabama still supporting Roy Moore? For that matter, why have so many evangelicals around the country spent the past two years embracing Donald Trump?

I just took part in a compelling conversation on this subject at the Faith Angle Forum, founded by the late Michael Cromartie of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and came away with one core explanation: the siege mentality. In fact, I’d say the siege mentality explains most of the dysfunctional group behavior these days, on left and right.

You see the siege mentality not just among evangelical Christians but also among the campus social justice warriors and the gun lobbyists, in North Korea and Iran, and in the populist movements across Europe.

The siege mentality starts with a sense of collective victimhood. It’s not just that our group has opponents. The whole “culture” or the whole world is irredeemably hostile.”

This is an imortant piece by David Brooks, and it rings true. There are issues to work through, as presented by the top comment, which I also endorsed, even though I basically agree with Brooks’ main premise. What is frightening, is that as a hard working environmentalist, terrified by climate change and overpopulation, I fit the bill of being in a member of group that has a siege mentality.

Ed in Seattle

Seattle, WA 1 day ago

Mr. Brooks thinks that America’s leaders should have worked out an accommodation with evangelicals over gay marriage. That’s a typical Brooks position – find a way to spread the blame over both sides. But he ducks the question of what kind of accommodation might be possible. Because there is no possible accommodation.

The evangelicals already have freedom of religion in their houses of worship. The government isn’t asking their churches to perform gay marriages. Would the accommodation have been, allow restaurants to deny service to gay couples? Allow hotels get to deny rooms to gay couples?

The fact is, religious conservatives are being asked to live in a society that recognizes the rights of people whose beliefs are different than their beliefs. Compromising on that basic principle not only sanctions bigotry, it sacrifices our core values of liberty and freedom for people of all faiths.

Guns and the Soul of America – by David Brooks – NYT

“The reality is that in some places people want these laws. It’s true that individual gun control measures, like banning bump stocks, have popular support, but, over all, the gun rights people are winning the hearts and minds of America. In 2000, according to a Pew survey, only 29 percent of Americans supported more gun rights and 67 percent supported more gun control. By 2016, 52 percent of Americans supported more gun rights and only 46 percent supported more control.”

“The real reason the gun rights side is winning is postindustrialization. The gun issue has become an epiphenomenon of a much larger conflict over values and identity.

A century ago, the forces of industrialization swept over agricultural America, and monetary policy became the proxy fight in that larger conflict. Today, people in agricultural and industrial America legitimately feel that their way of life is being threatened by postindustrial society. The members of this resistance have seized on issues like guns, immigration, the flag as places to mobilize their counterassault. Guns are a proxy for larger issues.”

David Lindsay:  The strengths of this op-ed way outweigh its weaknesses. Brooks is brilliant at looking for answers deeper than what is being discussed, and revealing truths, that add to our understanding of the enormous frustration of our political polarization.

Here are some top comments that are helpful, though none of them acknowledge that Brooks has just made an important point.


is a trusted commenter Verona NJ October 6, 2017

A 2017 Pew survey indicated 51% said it’s more important to control gun ownership, while 47% said it’s more important to protect the rights of gun owners.

The 2017 Pew survey revealed Americans want more gun control:

89% of Americans want to restrict people with mental illnesses from buying guns.

84% think there should be background checks for private gun sales and at gun shows.

83% percent want to ban sales of guns to people on no-fly or watch lists.

But Republicans have fought these common sense ideas like Communism

Why ?

Because stoking fear, ‘free-dumb’, spite and paranoia is more politically profitable to them than selling common sense, unity, thoughtfulness and public safety.

And shameless right-wing stoking of that fear and paranoia led to a surge in deranged consumer demand of ‘bump stocks’ this week by Americans who were ‘impressed’ with the Las Vegas massacre and deranged murderer.

Several ‘bump stock’ customers suggested that demand for bump stocks was because of fear that the products could soon be outlawed, presumably limiting their abilities – and ‘freedom’ – to haul around automatic murder weapons.

The truth is that Republicans have been working against the public’s safety interests for decades while stoking America’s deranged and violent gun culture that is an international disgrace.

Instead of protecting living Americans, Republicans protect guns and ‘pray’ for dead Americans.

2nd Amendment Derangement Syndrome is no way to run a country.

NYT Pick

Lisa Murphy

Orcas Island October 6, 2017

I’m really tired of hearing that stupid phrase”this is not who we are”, to counteract all the cruel, thickheaded, destructive and bigoted ways of thinking and acting taking place in this country everyday. America this is exactly who you are. A country that thinks owning guns( to prove you’re tough) is worth the slaughter of your public officials, innocent people in movie theaters, concerts and shopping malls, and most disgusting of all the murder of little children. America you are a blight on the landscape, not a “shining city on the hill”. Tawdry, mendacious, ill educated and cowardly.


New Hampshire October 6, 2017

One way that might help solve this issue is to require insurance of every gun owner. Not insurance on the value of the gun, but insurance against what that gun might do to others. When the families of victims start going after the insurance companies, things would change.

NYT Pick

Virginia Fowler

Bali, Indonesia October 6, 2017

Why does everyone keep saying that gun control wouldn’t affect mass shootings? This goes against not only logic, but the facts. Australia hasn’t had a mass shooting since they severely cut back on gun ownership. Countries in which it’s very difficult to buy guns, like Japan and Indonesia, don’t have mass shootings. Remember earlier this year when a guy in China went crazy and attacked a bunch of kids in a kindergarten? All he had was a knife, so no one was killed. Anyway, mass shootings are the tip of the iceberg of gun deaths. The statistics are overwhelmingly clear; less guns equals less gun deaths. Pretty simple.

NYT Pick


Konstantin October 6, 2017

You are wrong about the NRA, their spending and their political influence.

This is the second article to minimize that influence by citing the amount they have spent on political campaigns. This is a well designed talking point that has effectively made in to what might otherwise be considered a moderate perspective on gun control.

Fact: the NRA is a top ten spender in outside activities. These activities are often election related and unambiguously intended to influence politicians even when carefully designed to not to be classified as political contributions.

The NRA also spends at least 3 times as much on lobbying as they do on political contributions. Since of this money goes to salaries to hire ex government employees to staff approximately half of the lobbying operation. Is anyone naive enough to believe that this money is not spent too influence our political system?

How did the myth that the NRA is a minor political player as measured by political contributions suddenly become a popular cause of otherwise thoughtful people? I don’t think the answer is obvious, but I am certain it’s part of their budget.

NYT Pick

David Paquette

Cerritos, CA October 6, 2017

It makes me shudder, but there is a vast amount of truth in this article. The unfortunate fact is that it makes no difference what people say they are in favor of, what makes a difference is what people do. People are in fact electing representatives that pass laws that support guns. They are buying guns in record numbers. I’m terrified, but that is the facts.

Even in California, with the some of the strongest gun control laws in the country it is illegal to buy high capacity gun magazines, but it is not illegal to own them. Thus one can just hop over the border to Nevada and buy what you want an bring it on in. No problem.

That interstate gun transport problem is the probable reason that gun control states are not as free from gun problems as one might expect.

The scariest statement in this article is this: “Gun rights are about living in a country where families are tough enough and responsible enough to stand up for themselves in a dangerous world.” There is virtually no support for this statement in facts. There are close to zero cases where one can point to the case of a gun owner successfully terminating a mass killing. In the Pulse night club shooting, the armed guard was hiding in the rest room with the rest of the patrons. In Nevada, it is simply inconceivable how any reasonable amount of armament among the concert goers could have had even the slightest effect on the number of deaths. Yet the “self protection” myth reigns.


The Economy Isn’t Broken – by David Brooks – NYT

“The evidence from the past two years strongly supports those who have argued all along that income has not decoupled from productivity. A wide range of economists, including Martin Feldstein, Stephen Rose, Edward Lazear, Joao Paulo Pessoa, John Van Reenen, Richard Anderson of the St. Louis Fed and a team from Goldman Sachs, have produced studies showing wages tracking very predictably with productivity.

If anything, as Neil Irwin of The Times’s Upshot has noted, wages are a little higher than you’d expect from looking at the productivity and inflation numbers alone.The problem of the middle-class squeeze, in short, may not be with how the fruits of productivity are distributed, but the fact that there isn’t much productivity growth at all. It’s not that a rising tide doesn’t lift all boats; it’s that the tide is not rising fast enough.For those interested, Shawn Sprague has a good summary of the data at the Labor Department’s “Beyond the Numbers.” He shows conclusively that during this recovery we’ve endured a historically low labor productivity growth rate of 1.1 percent. By some estimates if productivity increases had kept pace with the mid-20th-century norm, l median incomes would be $40,000 higher than they are today.”

David Brooks, two years of modest growth do not make up for three decades or more of severe decline in middle class incomes.

The comments, as I expected, shred your report. Here are the top ones:

Mark Stave Baltimore 8 hours ago

Mr. Brooks, over the last few years, I have noted with interest your emphasis on character, compassion, empathy, commitment to something larger than oneself.

All of which seems to be belied when you label a 3% increase in household income “especially good news for the poor” I work as a Legal Aid attorney representing abused and neglected children in the foster care system. Please be advised that your ‘especially good news’ has had no impact on the number of children suffering among ‘the poor”.

A 3% increase in the household income in a household where the children don’t have enough to eat – well, that works out to one day a month of not being hungry. This is not good news, this a way for those who live their comfortable lives to justify doing nothing while children are hungry in the richest country on the planet.

Reply 350Recommended

Ted Morton Ann Arbor, MI 7 hours ago

The economy IS broken David, you’re wrong.
I run a small company, an LLC, and I pay 35% tax; technically my company pays no taxes but all that happens is that any profits made pass through to the owners who then have that treated as taxes on personal income – for the last 20 years, I have paid 30-35% of my income in tax and over those 20 years my income has been the same – stagnant.
Just Google “companies that pay no taxes’ to find articles that list major corporations that pay zero taxes or, in some cases, negative taxes; these include GE, AT&T, Wells Fargo, J.P. Morgan Chase, Verizon, and IBM – some of the most profitable companies in the world.
Out of the $1,686 billion 2017 global spending on defense, the USA spent $611.2 billion, that’s 36.25% of global defense spending and we are less than 5% of the world population! The minimum wage for those poor people who work at my local TGIFs is $3.38 per hour, our infrastructure is in shreds, and a bunch of billionaires have bought off most of our so-called representatives in Congress who get platinum healthcare for life while voting to deny ANY coverage for 30 million people. The US economy IS VERY broken.

Reply 297Recommended

Tim Berry Mont Vernon, NH 7 hours ago

The economy IS broken for the majority of us David and what will fix it is taxes.
MORE, not less taxes. Taxes on the rich and corporations need to get so high that they will no longer have the funds to purchase our “elected” representatives.

Reply 285Recommended

Bejay Williamsburg VA 7 hours ago

So Obama’s policies fixed the economy and in the last two years of his administration, things went very well. Fine. Does that make up for the decades preceding?

I have worked in the same place for 38 years. When I started there, in 1980, I was paid $5.00 an hour. Last year the rate for new hires in the same job was raised by more than 10% to $11.00 an hour. No doubt that raise was the sort of improvement Brooks speaks about. However $5 in 1980 adjusted for inflation is equivalent to $15 in 2017 dollars. So, in terms of buying power, new hires are still paid less today than they were in 1980. And the ceiling, the highest rate that a front-line employee can earn, with enough senior-and-merit increases, was recently lowered. So they earn less, and have less hope of improvement in their income if they stay with the job as I have done for almost 38 years. I know now that it is highly unlikely I will ever make a penny and hour more than I do now.

These are a kind of direct public service jobs, but in which skill, experience, and knowledge are assets. There has not been much room for increased productivity, except in the sense that staffing is reduced, and everyone has to work harder than we once did. Working harder to receive less in buying power, while things like health insurance take a bigger chunk of the gross than they did 30 years ago. This is not progress.

I did not think I was living high in 1980, but compared to the young people coming in today …

Reply 221Recommended

chickenlover Massachusetts 7 hours ago

The “problem of the middle-class squeeze” is explained by Brooks to be the result of stagnation in productivity. He goes on to note that ” It’s not that a rising tide doesn’t lift all boats; it’s that the tide is not rising fast enough.”

Well, if it is the case that the “tide isn’t rising fast enough,” then I’d ask Brooks to explain how the ultra rich had such a boost in their income and why their share of the total wealth increased as much as it did?

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Socrates is a trusted commenter Verona NJ 4 hours ago

Lord Brooks thinks two years of good economic news (thanks to Obama-era progressive policies) has cured three decades of right-wing Grand Old Parasitism that has systematically leeched the economic blood out of the middle class, the poor and the common good.

Look at the data for the preceding 34 years of cruel and sadistic Reaganomics that we’re still drowning in, Mr. Brooks.

Incomes for the top 0.001% richest Americans surged 636% during the 34-year period between 1980 and 2014

Meanwhile, the average pretax income of the bottom 50% of Americans has stagnated since 1980, while the share of income going to Americans in the bottom half of the distribution collapsed from 20% in 1980 to 12% in 2014.

The top 1% made 12% of income in 1980, but it’s up to 20% in 2014.

The top 1% of US adults now earns on average 81 times more than the bottom 50% of adults; in 1981, they earned 27 times what the lower half earned.


And the wealth picture is even bleaker.

The richest 10% of American families are worth a combined $51 trillion, equal to 75% of American household wealth.

And the eight richest humans on the planet have as much accumulated wealth as the poorest 3.6 billion humans.

But according to David Brooks, everything’s pretty good thanks to two years of 3% raises for the peasants after a near liftime of Grand Old Plantationomics.

Get your head out of the Republican sand and wake up, Mr. Brooks.

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