At 7:14 AM this morning, I learned that the recession is being caused by dumb, poor people. David Brooks, one of many elite and clueless New York Times's writers, injected some crazy into his normally awful column:
Our moral and economic system is based on individual responsibility.
BAM! Right out the gate, I got slapped across the face with Brooks's giant, wet fish of a declarative statement. Here I've been, assuming the American tax system unfairly favors large corporations and the upper echelons of our society, but apparently we've been operating on a level playing field this WHOLE time! I can't believe I've been so silly, assuming the minimum wage is slave labor, and it reenforces a de facto caste system where the poor are forever poor, and the rich elite hoard all wealth, prosperity, and power among their tiny tribes forever, and ever, and ever..
Thanks, David! These stupid poor people just need to take some darn responsibility for all of those shady mortgages sold to them with the ludicrous interest rates from subprime bandits working on commission.
As proof of popular discontent with crafty food stamp insurgents, Brooks cites the babbling outbreak by CNBC contributor, Rick Santelli:
These injustices are stoking anger across the country, lustily expressed by Rick Santelli on CNBC Thursday morning. "The government is promoting bad behavior!" Santelli cried as Chicago traders cheered him on. "The president ... should put up a Web site ... to have people vote ... to see if they want to subsidize losers' mortgages!"
This is really a beautiful illustration of our mainstream media: a wealthy, white, male columnist citing another wealthy, white, male reporter (along with a cluster of wealthy traders) as proof that Average Americans blame poor people for the state of the country.
David Brooks has been here before. Some of you may remember this embarrassing episode.
Obama's problem is he doesn't seem like a guy who can go into an Applebee's salad bar and people think he fits in naturally there. He has to change to be more like that Applebee's guy and as he's done that he's become much more transactional. Much more, I'm going to deliver this and this and this to you on policy.
Um, David? Applebee's doesn't have a salad bar. You probably made that mistake because you've never been in an Applebee's, or anywhere near Average People in the last couple decades.
Just when I thought we had reached the zenith of crazy, Brooks shot this one out of a cannon:
That's because government isn't fundamentally in the Last Judgment business, making sure everybody serves penance for their sins.
What exactly does Judge David Brooks have in mind as punishment for poor people? I always imagined being poor was sort of punishment in itself, but apparently blood-hungry David Brooks has something else in mind. Also, who are we punishing? Brooks unfairly groups all borrowers into the shady, not-to-be-trusted category. The reality is that many people are losing their homes: some because they were lied to, some because they were being dishonest, and some are truly innocent bystanders. Mind you: all of them are poor.
Brooks conveniently avoids the topics of HUD, Section 8 housing, and renters, who are losing their homes because of the Wild West tactics of Wall Street.
To ensure delicious well-roundedness, Brooks wedges an inappropriate metaphor into the middle of his Insanity Sandwich.
Psychologists have a saying that when a couple comes in for marriage therapy, there are three patients in the room -- the husband, the wife and the marriage itself. The marriage is the living history of all the things that have happened between husband and wife. Once the patterns are set, the marriage itself begins to shape their individual behavior. Though it exists in the space between them, it has an influence all its own.
In the same way, an economy has an economic culture. Out of billions of individual decisions, a common economic landscape emerges, which frames and influences the decisions everybody makes.
To clarify: David Brooks is comparing a marriage between two people to the entire machine of our economy. On the spectrum of Intimacy, I can think of no two points that lay further from each other than marriage and the economy. In a marriage, all parties are visible and personally understood in the fullest possible way. In an economy, there are billions of players, variables, laws, interests, ideologies, etc. Blaming poor people for what's happening in the economy because they bear the same weight of responsibility that they would in a marriage is ludicrous. Poor people don't exercise the same degree of control and influence in the economy as they do in their personal relationships. Oftentimes, they are victims of a larger economic paradigm that unfairly favors the rich.
It's typical of a Conservative to compare the economy, the free market, and corporations to people or forces of nature. That way, they can argue that these institutions deserve the protection afforded to individuals, and/or these forces simply exist as part of nature, and no cadre of individuals can be held accountable for crafting corrupt, evil standards to uphold the systems of the economy and the free market.
Right now, the economic landscape looks like that movie of the swaying Tacoma Narrows Bridge you might have seen in a high school science class. It started swinging in small ways and then the oscillations built on one another until the whole thing was freakishly alive and the pavement looked like liquid.
A few years ago, the global economic culture began swaying. The government enabled people to buy homes they couldn't afford. The Fed provided easy money. The Chinese sloshed in oceans of capital. The giddy upward sway produced a crushing ride down.
Brooks is describing this scene:
The Tacoma Narrows Bridge sways because of wind. The United States is in a recession because of a housing bubble blown up by the shady practices of an elite class of Wall Street and governmental players. The Tacoma Narrows Bridge sways because of a force of nature. Our economy is tanking because of the acts of a group of dishonest people, who are now placing the blame on the shoulders of the most vulnerable people in our society: the poor.
It makes sense for the government to intervene to try to reduce the oscillation. It makes sense for government to try to restore some communal order. And the sad reality is that in these circumstances government has to spend money on precisely those sectors that have been swinging most wildly -- housing, finance, etc. It has to help stabilize people who have been idiots.
Brooks makes no mention of the Idiots of Wall Street. For some reason, he fails to explain what their punishment should be. Brooks is brave enough to condemn poor people, who will never read his article, and will never see his cruel, ignorant words. From his ivory tower, Brooks applauds the manipulation of markets, the corruption of government, and the systematic repression and exploitation of the poor.
I'm wondering if the New York Times editors ever read Brooks's columns before they go to print, and if they do, if the following words have ever been uttered: "Hey, don't say this. You'll look like an elitist tool, or like a CRAZY person."
Eventually, Brooks chokes at the end of his glutunous jerk-off Neo-Conservative banquet, and heaves this turkey leg from his chariot to the trembling serfs reading his words:
The nation's economy is not just the sum of its individuals. It is an interwoven context that we all share. To stabilize that communal landscape, sometimes you have to shower money upon those who have been foolish or self-indulgent. The greedy idiots may be greedy idiots, but they are our countrymen. And at some level, we're all in this together. If their lives don't stabilize, then our lives don't stabilize.
...Thanks? Just when I'm sure David Brooks isn't human, he reminds me in the last sentence of his otherwise dreadful tirade against the poor that he's actually friendly Davey Brooks from the Kibbutz, tilling the soil for the benefit of his brothers and sisters. And when the crops grow anew, Davey will be the first to sully his hands in the soil, and feed the newly blossomed fruit to the street urchins he keeps forever at his sides.
Crossposted from allisonkilkenny.com.