Rhetorician, heal thyself: David Brooks was looking for someone to blame for a rather weak budget agreement and for more failures to come.
He settled on a familiar safe target. And yes, we have that date right:
BROOKS (1/1/13): Whom should we blame for this? Again, we should not blame Obama and Boehner. In their different ways, they and a number of other people in the Congress are trying to find a politically palatable way to deal with these hard issues. They got what conditions allowed.The voters have done it again!
Ultimately, we should blame the American voters. The average Medicare couple pays $109,000 into the program and gets $343,000 in benefits out, according to the Urban Institute. This is $234,000 in free money. Many voters have decided they like spending a lot on themselves and pushing costs onto their children and grandchildren. They have decided they like borrowing up to $1 trillion a year for tax credits, disability payments, defense contracts and the rest. They have found that the original Keynesian rationale for these deficits provides a perfect cover for permanent deficit-living. They have made it clear that they will destroy any politician who tries to stop them from cost-shifting in this way.
Is Brook right to blame the American voters? We would say he is not.
Very few voters have ever seen that analysis of Medicare spending and “free money.” If a voter sees that analysis today, he or she will have no idea where to go to fact-check Brooks or to see his logic analyzed.
Would you know where to send such a voter? We would have no idea!
In short, the voter goes to work each day. He also lives within a political/journalistic culture in which the most important political topics almost never get analyzed or discussed.
Brooks’ own paper has never attempted to spell out the various budget issues involved in our ongoing pseudo-discussions—and most likely, it never will. The typical reader of the Times has never seen that analysis of Medicare costs. He or she would have no idea if Brooks’ numbers and logic are right.
No, we aren’t going to blame the press corps for our current predicament. But the New York Times relentlessly clowns, after which it blames the voters for our vast cluelessness.
As a general matter, Brooks isn’t this dumb. But the press corps never discusses the press corps. It’s a firm tenet of Hard Pundit Law:
Except in certain innocuous ways, the press corps can never be said to be wrong. If Obama and Boehner aren’t to blame, who else are we going to finger?
Offering several examples: Did the New York Times ever explain the full lunacy of the Romney tax proposal?
Actually no, it never did—nor did it ever discuss his proposal for the estate tax. But we did get front-page reports about his hair, about his wife’s dressage horse and about the political views of his neighbors in La Jolla. One columnist wouldn’t stop making up shit about his mistreated pet dog.
Has the Times ever done a series of front-page reports about the current state of taxation? About the ways high earners are currently taxed, as compared to the ways they've been taxed in the past? About what future budgets would look like if we returned to all the Clinton tax rates?
Has the Times ever done those reports, or dozens more? Only a fool would ask.
This is the way our elite culture works. It doesn’t begin with “the voters.”