Here Is Number Three to Jump Ship

I have two other posts in this group about Liberal/moderate writers that supported Obama who are now going the other way.  I really did not expect to see Mr. Brooks to go this way.

This new story is placed here along with the others for this reason and this reason only.

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Published: March 2, 2009

You wouldn’t know it some days, but there are moderates in this country — moderate conservatives, moderate liberals, just plain moderates. We sympathize with a lot of the things that President Obama is trying to do. We like his investments in education and energy innovation. We support health care reform that expands coverage while reducing costs.

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David Brooks

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But the Obama budget is more than just the sum of its parts. There is, entailed in it, a promiscuous unwillingness to set priorities and accept trade-offs. There is evidence of a party swept up in its own revolutionary fervor — caught up in the self-flattering belief that history has called upon it to solve all problems at once.

So programs are piled on top of each other and we wind up with a gargantuan $3.6 trillion budget. We end up with deficits that, when considered realistically, are $1 trillion a year and stretch as far as the eye can see. We end up with an agenda that is unexceptional in its parts but that, when taken as a whole, represents a social-engineering experiment that is entirely new.

The U.S. has never been a society riven by class resentment. Yet the Obama budget is predicated on a class divide. The president issued a read-my-lips pledge that no new burdens will fall on 95 percent of the American people. All the costs will be borne by the rich and all benefits redistributed downward.

The U.S. has always been a decentralized nation, skeptical of top-down planning. Yet, the current administration concentrates enormous power in Washington, while plan after plan emanates from a small group of understaffed experts.

The U.S. has always had vibrant neighborhood associations. But in its very first budget, the Obama administration raises the cost of charitable giving. It punishes civic activism and expands state intervention.

The U.S. has traditionally had a relatively limited central government. But federal spending as a share of G.D.P. is zooming from its modern norm of 20 percent to an unacknowledged level somewhere far beyond.

Those of us who consider ourselves moderates — moderate-conservative, in my case — are forced to confront the reality that Barack Obama is not who we thought he was. His words are responsible; his character is inspiring. But his actions betray a transformational liberalism that should put every centrist on notice. As Clive Crook, an Obama admirer, wrote in The Financial Times, the Obama budget “contains no trace of compromise. It makes no gesture, however small, however costless to its larger agenda, of a bipartisan approach to the great questions it addresses. It is a liberal’s dream of a new New Deal.”

Moderates now find themselves betwixt and between. On the left, there is a president who appears to be, as Crook says, “a conviction politician, a bold progressive liberal.” On the right, there are the Rush Limbaugh brigades. The only thing more scary than Obama’s experiment is the thought that it might fail and the political power will swing over to a Republican Party that is currently unfit to wield it.

Those of us in the moderate tradition — the Hamiltonian tradition that believes in limited but energetic government — thus find ourselves facing a void. We moderates are going to have to assert ourselves. We’re going to have to take a centrist tendency that has been politically feckless and intellectually vapid and turn it into an influential force.

The first task will be to block the excesses of unchecked liberalism. In the past weeks, Democrats have legislated provisions to dilute welfare reform, restrict the inflow of skilled immigrants and gut a voucher program designed for poor students. It will be up to moderates to raise the alarms against these ideological outrages.

But beyond that, moderates will have to sketch out an alternative vision. This is a vision of a nation in which we’re all in it together — in which burdens are shared broadly, rather than simply inflicted upon a small minority. This is a vision of a nation that does not try to build prosperity on a foundation of debt. This is a vision that puts competitiveness and growth first, not redistribution first.

Moderates are going to have to try to tamp down the polarizing warfare that is sure to flow from Obama’s über-partisan budget. They will have to face fiscal realities honestly and not base revenue projections on rosy scenarios of a shallow recession and robust growth next year.

They will have to take the economic crisis seriously and not use it as a cue to focus on every other problem under the sun. They’re going to have to offer an agenda that inspires confidence by its steadiness rather than shaking confidence with its hyperactivity.

If they can do that, maybe they can lure this White House back to its best self — and someday offer respite from the endless war of the extremes.

Grits4life Grits4life
46-50, F
7 Responses Mar 3, 2009

Um, no Serenity.<br />
WPA, NRA (the other one), Social Security, were all examples of spend boosting to try to halt the slide into poverty.<br />
Must have worked, since 1932, the last year of the Hoover admin, was the bottom of the depression.

My understanding is that the spending in Obama's budget is high because he is trying to intervene in the economy. According to Keynesian economics, government spending should increase as the economy contracts in order to stabilize employment and prices. The trick is...when the economy rebounds, the government needs to pull back on the spending, and that is politically difficult as people have gotten used to the programs.<br />
An experiment? Well, maybe, as he is acting radically differently than they did in after the economic disaster of '29. And rightfully so. Why repeat what was done then (unless you care nothing at all about the average person and are all about survival of the economically fittest)? The actions taken back then landed us in the Great Depression. Obama is trying to chart a different course. It may work and it may not, but at least he is not repeating the actions shown by history to fail.

What is there to argue about?<br />
Repigs don't want health care, decent wages, affordable housing, or security for the workers.<br />
They want profits for the rich, more profits for the rich, and still MORE profits for the rich.<br />
There's the difference.

Not a good start to the comments, in my opinion, but oh well. My biggest problem with Brooks' article is that it reiterates the phantom menace of redistribution of wealth, a catchprase from the McCain campaign that is devoid of meaning. There are way too many people that actually think Obama isn't just changing the tax rates, but that he's out to take away the wealth of the wealthy to give it to the needy, and try to make everyone equal as part of some newfangled communism. This idea is both utterly ridiculous and far too accepted by the very conservative end of the right wing. <br />
<br />
Obama is changing the tax rates to the same levels they were at back in the 1990's. You know, back when we were COMMIES. <br />
<br />
Saying the budget is bloated and contains too many well intentioned attempts at improving our nation is one thing. But invoking the boogeyman of redistribution is quite silly and also harmful to the national debate that he claims to care about.

I would love to enter into an empirically based, logical rebuttal of your fallacious story but I doubt you'd understand it. So I endorse redwings comment.

"The U.S. has never been a society riven by class resentment"<br />
Are you serious! You might want to read the history of the labor movement in this country.

i think you're a fuckling imbecile