Friday, October 30, 2015

David Brooks: Trick or Treat!

Image via Stevenson Financial Marketing.
David Brooks writes, "The Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio Moment", October 30 2015:
Well, it has been a pretty long summer, hasn't it! And I'm just about ready to party. I'm going as Zombie Bill Safire, and I've even got a couple of kids to shlep around door-to-door for the tricks and treats, little Paul and little Marco, dressed as that fabulous WWE tag team The Wonks, and let me tell you these kids look great!
No, but seriously, folks, these boys are the freshest thing in town, and if you think I'm kidding take a look at young Paul assuming the gavel in the House of Representatives, youngest speaker since James G. Blaine (the continental liar from the state of Maine), who was only 39 on his ascent in 1869. As for Marco, I think it's wise to start predicting right now that he's getting the presidential nomination, because that's been my plan since, oh, last February, and it looks like it could be starting to happen, as voters begin to tire of looking in the windows on Madison and go home to Jersey to start thinking about what they're actually going to buy.
Because for one thing, voters don't need to have a very clear idea what their candidate's agenda is, but they have to think she might have an agenda of some kind, and celebrity candidates Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson do not project that deep and abiding seriousness the way, say, that guy who was president before Obama once did in the awed eyes of your humble correspondent.
And then there's J.E.B. Bush, who would probably be a very effective president if anybody respected him enough to vote for him. But just kidding, he's got the right temperament to run a great campaign, if he can run it in 1956 [Note to editor: do you have any idea what I mean by that? If it has something to do with Eisenhower, is it something dirty?].
Ted Cruz seems as if he is going to inherit the role of representing the alienated and poorly educated white guys after Trump fades out, but do you really think there are enough alienated and poorly educated white guys in the Republican Party to get him through in the primary? I don't see that as a possibility at all. Oh, really?*
But nobody likes Cruz in any case, I mean not if they have to eat lunch in the same room as he does, as Senators often do, and as soon as voters start having lunch with Cruz they will definitely be put off. Whereas in the case of Rubio to lunch with him is to love him. Indeed, he has no natural enemies in the party, other than people who think it's their turn to run for president, which can't be more than 45%. He has great natural skills, and his greatest weakness, his youth, is his greatest strength, because that's just logic.
While other candidates just repeat the slogans of the 1980s and 1990s, Rubio has the sense to repeat the slogans of the decade after that, when that guy whose name I can't remember was president, and people at least tried to show a little understanding of the life challenges faced by the less advantaged, jobs lost to automation and globalization, and their mysterious failure to get married when I told them to, and think of ways of occasionally tossing them a piece of fruit where they languish behind the bars of their cages. Unlike the other candidates, who habitually leave their unrealistic plans in prose online, Rubio distinguishes himself as a master of the Major Policy Speech, something a Jeb Bush or Rand Paul or John Kasich would simply never dream of.
Not that you should listen to the speech too closely, because it's full of absurd lies and unkeepable promises, just like some Democrat speech since both sides, as you know, do it, but it gives you a great idea of what your candidate is really like, and what her priorities are, and what kind of pony you'd get if it were that TV show.
Thus Rubio's tax proposal is to reduce top marginal income tax rates from 39.6 to 35%, deduct 100% of business expenses, and eliminate the capital gains tax and inheritance tax altogether, but it's not just pro-business, it's got a big-hearted child tax credit of $2,500! 
Which a lot of conservatives think is just crazy, I mean these people will just spend the money on opioids, but what the hell, sometimes you just need to do the nice thing. And although Ramesh, to name just one conservative, thinks the whole plan will bump up the deficit by $6 trillion, is that really relevant? Since it's not going to happen anyway, except for the business deduction and the cuts on income tax and inheritances and capital gains, I mean. And you think when your boss sees what kind of cash he's realizing out of the deal he's not going to give you a raise? For heaven's sake, what part of "It's the thought that counts" don't you understand?
And then in the same way, when Rubio shows his understanding of the structural character of American poverty by proposing that we get rid of those cumbersome, bureaucratic federal programs and just turn over the money to our sensitive and incorruptible state governments to do with as they see fit, it's the kind of stunning new idea Republicans have never thought of before. Or a different name, anyway, "flex fund". I mean, wouldn't you love your state to have a "flex fund" instead of some dreary old traditional-Republican block grant?
Anyhow, this is all just to give you a preliminary sketch of how wonky these guys are, and the kind of visionary change they would fail to bring if given the power. I'm sure Senator Rubio will be coming out with many more preposterous and terrifying ideas over the course of the next few months, and I'll try to be here to assure you that they'll never happen but wouldn't it be amazing, and wonky, if they did.
*Ronald Brownstein, National Journal:
In the 2012 GOP primar­ies, voters without a col­lege de­gree cast a ma­jor­ity of the vote in 13 of the 20 states where exit polls were con­duc­ted, and at least 45 per­cent in four oth­ers. Those voters also gen­er­ally dis­play much more re­ceptiv­ity than col­lege-edu­cated Re­pub­lic­ans to the sharp anti-im­mig­ra­tion mes­sage Trump is de­liv­er­ing.
Driftglass and Tom Levenson have picked up on the most important point, with a little help from Dr. Krugman (for the first time ever, Brooks's column is so bad that Krugman finds it necessary to call him out by name). Levenson's title, "The Love Song of David Brooks", is reminiscent of something I used once.

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