Mar 23, 2010

Please cancel my subscription to David Brooks

Sirrr: Please cancel my subscription to the International Herald Tribune, as David Brook's column on health care, published today in the NYT, will inevitably appear in your pages.

Brooks riffs about the dichotomy between Republicans ("individualism, vibrant markets, vigor") and Democrats ("inevitable fractiousness, the neuroticism, the petty logrolling, but also the basic concern for the vulnerable and the high idealism"), and then he writes:

"Today, America’s vigor is challenged on two fronts. First, the country is becoming geriatric. Other nations spend 10 percent or so of their G.D.P. on health care. We spend 17 percent and are predicted to soon spend 20 percent and then 25 percent."

Brooks is implying here that the 17% GDP are indicative of America's geriatricism. However, the US population, compared to those 10%-nations (France, Britain, etc), is much younger, so the American waste of resources should not be attributed to America's demographics, at least not when the conclusion depends on the comparison with other, older nations. Then Brooks continues:

"This [health care] legislation was supposed to end that asphyxiating growth [of spending], which will crowd out investments in innovation, education and everything else. It will not."

So, Sirrr, let's keep this in mind, Brooks just said "it will not." And why will it not?

"With the word security engraved on its heart, the Democratic Party is just not structured to cut spending that would enhance health and safety. The party nurtures; it does not say, 'No more.' "

So it is, or rather, will be, the Democrats fault (naturally). Now, when Brooks uses numbers like 20% - 25% GDP, he is talking about secular trends, future decades, not just the next two years of Obama's administration. His argument makes sense only if we can assume that the Democrats will stay in power for decades (and, as he will imply in the next paragraph, the Republicans are capable of budget cuts). Is this his assumption? Is this a plausible assumption? He does not say, but he continues:

"The second biggest threat to America’s vibrancy is the exploding federal debt. Again, Democrats can utter the words of fiscal restraint, but they don’t feel the passion. This bill is full of gimmicks designed to get a good score from the Congressional Budget Office but not to really balance the budget. Democrats did enough to solve their political problem (not looking fiscally reckless) but not enough to solve the genuine problem."---But Brooks feels the passion, right? The Republicans feel the passion, right? Like in Dick Cheney's "Reagan taught us that deficits don't matter", or in Bush's unfunded tax cuts that left a 1.6 trillion hole in the federal budget.

Back to Brooks predictive statement. "It will not." (health care legislation will not end spending growth). Remember? He said: "It will not." Because Brooks now continues:

"Nobody knows how this bill will work out."

Please send the balance of my subscription fee to the Foundation for the Logically Challenged.

Yours Truly,

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