Friday, April 8, 2011

David Brooks is wrong wrong wrong

David Brooks is a terrible columnist. Every time I read one of his pieces, I see errors so glaring that even a junior poli sci undergrad would be able to spot them. His column today is an excellent example of this.

He starts one a premise that, now that Paul Ryan released a budget, the Democrats need to get serious about entitlement reform. Here's a gem of a paragraph:
The Democrats are on defense because they are unwilling to ask voters to confront the implications of their choices. Democrats seem to believe that most Americans want to preserve the 20th-century welfare state programs. But they are unwilling to ask voters to pay for them, and they are unwilling to describe the tax increases that would be required to cover their exploding future costs.

Has Mr. Brooks been asleep for the past two years? Does he forget the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act? Readers might recall the law. It was the one with taxes on high-cost insurance policies and major cuts to programs like Medicare Advantage to help pay for the bill. President Obama and Congressional Democrats got hammered over these cuts and taxes, specifically from the Republican legislators and candidates.

Shorter Brooks: President Obama and Congressional Democrats write, lobby and pass a healthcare reform bill that according to the CBO, will place our projected revenue to follow the pace of healthcare costs, and they are "unwilling to describe the tax increases that would be required to cover their exploding future costs."

Whereas Paul Ryan "has moved us off Unreality Island," with a plan that caps Medicare and Medicaid spending at inflation rate +1% and gets gets roughly two-thirds of it's cuts from programs for lower-income Americans.

If David Brooks bothered to care about how policy works and the reality of our problems, he could right very interesting and illuminating columns. But pieces like this are just partisan tropes that do nothing but add heat and no light to our policy dilemmas. It's a shame he abuses his platform to push this kind of junk analysis.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Wishful Thinking

God bless Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) and her amazing ability to say the most logically inconsistent things, often in between (sometimes even during) paragraphs. To whit: She went on MSNBC yesterday predicting that there would be no government shutdown. The headline initially comforted me. If a lawmaker like Bachmann is on board with preventing a shutdown, the odds of the Federal government's continued functioning must be pretty good, right?

But if you read way down in the third (!!) paragraph we have this quote:
"I cannot vote for the current compromise that we're looking at," she said. "I don't think it is sufficient because, primarily, it doesn't include the defunding of Obamacare."

Shorter Bachmann, "I'd vote to help prevent a government shutdown, so long as I get everything I want." It never ceases to amaze me how childish some of the biggest names in American government can be.

Further, I'd like to remind readers that Rep. Bachmann is out-fundraising Mitt Romney in her possible run for the presidency.

The Ab Belt Philosophy of Public Policy

Another example: Today the NYT reports on how GOP Reps are suddenly (surprise!) finding out that balancing the budget requires more than just eliminating foreign aid.

Again, I'm at a loss how these otherwise reasonably smart, competent* decision makers seem to get this idea that we're just one effortless, painless set of program cuts away solving all of our problems. This is not, and probably never will be the case. Charlie Brown, meet football.

*Yes, the intelligence and competency of our legislators is debatable.

Quote of the Day

From the excellent Ta-Nehisi Coates, on Cathleen Black's resignation
It'd be nice if we'd now stop hearing political appointees and MBA candidates crowing about their private sector successes, their nose for accountability and the perils broken government. Whatever. All I hear in that is the sneering of reformers who actually don't much like democracy. I don't want politicians who are "above politics," anymore then I want a plumber who's "above toilets."

Black's appointment strikes me as a decision endemic from the same line of (wishful) thinking that that made ab belts so marketable. Remember those? The basic pitch was that all you had to do was sit down on the couch, let 'er rip and BAM, washboard abs with zero effort.

It baffles me how decision makers keep coming up with solutions to major public policy issues (urban/suburban education inequality, over decline in public school quality, etc.) the rely on quick fixes.