Posted by Brian at 9:08 AM
David Brooks is praising moderation for moderation's sake again, and reminding us that he lives in a completely different world than the rest of us.
The U.S. has never been a society riven by class resentment. Yet the Obama budget is predicated on a class divide. The president issued a read-my-lips pledge that no new burdens will fall on 95 percent of the American people. All the costs will be borne by the rich and all benefits redistributed downward.Ah, David. Perhaps you've never resented those classes lower than the one you've been ensconced in for quite a while now, but trust me, there's a fair amount of resentment bubbling up from below and it has been for quite some time. And there's always been that sort of resentment in American society--where do you think the labor movement came from? Early union members didn't put their lives on the line for some ideal of fairness in the workplace--they did it because they resented having to do all the work and having all the profits go to the robber barons of their day. Brooks will never say what's obvious to most people--that there's been a class war going on here for as long as the US has existed, and that for most of our history, everyone not at the very top has gotten their teeth kicked in.
But Brooks is a moderate, so he claims, and the point of this article is to raise the flag of moderation and wave it--timidly, I guess, so as not to raise a fuss--and hope to gather followers. His big ideas?
The first task will be to block the excesses of unchecked liberalism. In the past weeks, Democrats have legislated provisions to dilute welfare reform, restrict the inflow of skilled immigrants and gut a voucher program designed for poor students. It will be up to moderates to raise the alarms against these ideological outrages.Those are the big crises that moderation wants to address? An easing of welfare reform, work visas that have (in many cases) been abused by companies looking to lower wages in the US programming industry, and handouts to middle class people who want to send their kids to private schools? Brooks, I don't know if you realize this, but we've got bigger problems right now. We've got an economy in free-fall (as do most of the other major countries in the world) and we could be looking at double-digit unemployment rates in the next year or so, and you're all het up about voucher programs and H-1B visas? Yeah, that'll rally the troops to your cause. What was that cause again?
But beyond that, moderates will have to sketch out an alternative vision. This is a vision of a nation in which we’re all in it together — in which burdens are shared broadly, rather than simply inflicted upon a small minority. This is a vision of a nation that does not try to build prosperity on a foundation of debt. This is a vision that puts competitiveness and growth first, not redistribution first.Brooksie, let me tell you a little something about this country you live in. We've never all been in it together--there's always been at least one group that has rarely been asked to sacrifice anything for the common good, and guess what? They're being asked now. Those burdens you're saying will be inflicted on a small minority? We've been carrying them for generations, and just because your class is going to be asked to pick up a corner of them doesn't mean we get to put our burdens down.
Let me put President Obama's tax plan into perspective. He's going to raise the marginal tax rate on families who make more than $250K a year. The rate will only go up on that money in excess of the $250K a year, mind you--it's not going to hit anything below that number. Now how much is that? Because in the world of high-level salaries, $250K a year might not sound like much, but here's some comparisons that might bring it home.
It's roughly five times the median income in the US. Half the country lives on incomes lower than one-fifth the size of the people who are being asked to pay more taxes. Not vivid enough for you? How about this? I have two degrees, work full-time in my field, and have been in economic hardship deferral for my student loans for nearly four years now. I owe just under half of what the people being asked to pay just a small bit more in taxes make in a single year. Think about that for a second--if I earned $250K a year, I could increase my standard of living substantially and still pay off my student loans inside of three years, if I were the slightest bit careful. But I'm not carrying my share of the burden, according to David Brooks. I'm looking to slough it off on those poor, under-appreciated people making more than $250K a year. Somehow, I don't think you're going to convince me.