An exchange between reader nitu mishra and me in the Comments thread this morning to this AB post of mine from yesterday.
I’m back on my David-Brooks-formulaic-conflations watch today, because, well, he has another column in today’s Times. And (surprise!) it’s another classic I’ve-found-the-secret-formula-for-phoning-in-NYT-columns column. So I can’t resist.
The formula, of course, as anyone who reads his columns even occasionally knows, is to summarize a new book he’s read about economic or social trends (or both!) and then use the last two or three paragraphs of the column to string together conclusions that are either non sequiturs to the information or ideas he’s just summarized from the book, or to state unexplained conclusions that are contrary to that information or those ideas and pretend that the information or ideas support those conclusions.
It’s easy. And it’s a very nice gig.
Today’s offering is based on a book called “Innovation Economics.” I’ve selected two excerpts from the column, that, I trust, together illustrate my point. The first, from early in the column, is:
And then the denouement:
The title of the column is “Carpe Diem Nation.” The first excerpt is noteworthy both for its statistics and for the fact that Brooks has built a career on trashing European economic policy and culture as anti-entrepreneurial. The second excerpt would be notable for its vertigo inducement, were vertigo inducement not a regular part of the formula, column after column. But it is, so it’s not notable.
In between those two excerpts, Brooks apprises readers who aren’t regulars, and who therefore don’t know, that his real purpose is to argue for the dismembering of the social safety network for the elderly, because, well, we couldn’t possibly raise taxes to cover that social safety network, as they do in, say, Germany and Finland.** Raising FICA taxes very slightly would take care of Social Security needs, but rather than do that, or to raise taxes on upper-income folks and on corporations to Clinton-era levels, it’s better to remove basic sustenance income from millions of elderly if we want to build Harlem Children’s Zone-type projects across the nation.
This is true especially regarding corporate taxes, since record corporate profits and outright hoarding of those profits by corporations doesn’t mean that increasing their taxes by raising tax rates or by closing loopholes would be a better investment for the country than reducing corporate taxes even further. I mean, you never know when Apple might conclude that it finally has enough after-tax profits to start investing them in research and development.
Of course, seniors who rely entirely or mainly on Social Security benefits and Medicare aren’t known for their dedication to Apple MacBooks, iPhones and iPads, so there’s no real need to worry that a reduction in those seniors’ meager income would hurt the economy by depriving Apple of enough money to enable the company to invest.
So carpe diem to cut taxes on corporations while ending Medicare and Social Security. Just like Germany and Finland. If it’s the future that you’re interested in.
**Sentence was corrected to correct two typos–and to make sense. 11:21 p.m.