Friday, February 13, 2015


Updated 2/17
St. Ilija's Macedonian Orthodox church in Melbourne. Photos by Serendipity.
David Brooks is concerned about capitalism:
Capitalism is not necessarily self-regulating, as we learned during the financial crisis.
No way, really? Who could have predicted that?

Brooksy's got an actual mission to accomplish today, putting some lipstick on the pig deposited in our nation's bookstores by Senator Rubio, a campaign book under the title American Dreams: Restoring Economic Opportunity for Everyone, which came out in January with Sentinel (Penguin's fascist imprint, publishers of the bestsellers of Donald Rumsfeld, Mike Huckabee, and Feminists Say the Darnedest Things by Mike Adams). He doesn't actually link to any way of seeing it, I assume because he'd rather you didn't look, and just take his word for it that it's a very serious piece of thoughtfulness; because it only takes a glance to see its purely promotional character:

Senator Marco Rubio displays the originality of his thinking, arguing for the nonpartisan-but-conservative character of his proposals in language that is in no way borrowed from Barack Obama.
Instead, Brooks links to the report of the Translatlantic Commission on Inclusive Prosperity, a 17-member group of scholars and activists convened by the Center for American Progress in July 2013 to discuss the project of creating
new social and political institutions to make 21st century capitalism work for the many and not the few.
Brooks's intention, presumably, being to create one of those left-right equivalences, in which Rubio's six months' work is to be seen as more or less equivalent to the CAP 17's year and a half, or
1 Republican = 51 Democrats
in more or less the same way as my avatar Dr. Johnson compared himself to the Académie Française to illustrate the relative worth of the Englishman and the Frenchman as a proportion of 3:1600, except without the sense of humor part.

Brooks attempts in today's piece to mount the unfortunate young Floridian on a kind of reformiconostasis on this CAP scaffolding, from which he is supposed to shine out as a worthy opponent of Summers and Balls and their colleagues, holier than Bush.

The CAP report itself, issued at almost exactly the same time as Rubio's anecdote collection, seems to represent a decisive turn on the part of our old "Third Way" Democrats such as Lawrence Summers and Britain's "New Labour" veterans such as Ed Balls toward the egalitarianism of the traditional left, and is furnished with tons of academic analysis, including many of those graphs and tables whose appearance inevitably makes Sparklepants Rich Lowry think of Leni Riefenstahl. I suppose it is roughly comparable to last year's "Reformicon" Room to Grow manifesto by Peter Wehner and Yuval Levin and comrades for the YG (Young Guns?! That's certainly forward-looking) Network last year, and I don't know why Brooks doesn't compare the Summers-Balls report to that instead of to Rubio, unless—what's that you say, Brooks?
Drawing on work by Yuval Levin, Peter Wehner and the YG Network, he gives us the clearest picture of how Republicans might use government to enhance middle-class prospects.
Ah, yes! Or as Carlos Lozada for the Washington Post puts it a little more clearly,
No political thinker is mentioned more often in “American Dreams” than Levin, editor of National Affairs and standard bearer of the reform conservatives... The senator also says he has “admired and borrowed liberally” from the reformicon manifesto “Room to Grow: Conservative Reforms for a Limited Government and a Thriving Middle Class.” (From this crew, he also cites Reihan Salam, Peter Wehner, Ramesh Ponnuru and Ross Douthat.)
Looks like Brooks doesn't mention the Room to Grow because he's concerned mainly with avoiding the imputation that Rubio is their sock puppet. Borrowed liberally indeed. Puts a very funny spin on his contention that Rubio is
the most intellectually creative of the presidential contenders.
Some of Rubio's startlingly innovative ideas include MOOCs to make college more affordable (hasn't worked yet), increased child tax credits (that one's already popular!), and a two-tier income tax (15% up to $87,850 for singles, $175,500 for couples, according to the National Review, which is not amused, and I bet Brooks wouldn't be either if he knew where the brackets were), and that's just the ones Brooks noticed. For more, you might have to actually read the book, as Jeb Lund for The Guardian has done (much funnier on Rubio's "ideas" than I could have been, go read it), leading him to the conclusion that
Marco Rubio’s book is a work of surpassing laziness, possessed of the aimless, discursive prose of someone remembering what his original point was after concluding a digression he suddenly remembered he wanted to make. Its appeals and concessions to fact and its airy handwaving rationalizations of them read like the weightless ad-libs of someone reaching for anything to win an argument on a subject about which he studied little. It is the equivalent of someone taking his seminar class improvisations from all those mornings when professors called on him after he didn’t do the reading, then converting them to one massive, incoherent year-end term paper for all his classes. Rubio will pass, just so his professors can be rid of him. But he will not be class president.
Perhaps that's what Brooks likes about him, come to think of it. Brings out his paternal instinct, and they have such a lot in common.

Uspenski Cathedral, Helsinki, via Wikimedia Commons.

Update 2/17: It will come as no surprise that Brooks is also totally wrong about the content of the Summers-Balls report, as Dean Baker easily demonstrates (H/t Driftglass).

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