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David Brooks, Romney/Ryan, and the Faustian Shell Game

Do you have gay friends? Colleagues? Loved ones? First things first.

Do you think women should receive equal pay for equal work? First things first.

Do you have sympathy for those who are struggling to find work? First things first.

David Brooks makes an ass out of Uma Thurman and you can tell his heart’s not in it. It’s a shame, because it’d be really nice to read the other version of this column. He frames the column as a “Guide to the Perplexed”, and buries the lede way down in the third-to-last paragraph:

You’re still deeply uncomfortable with many other Romney-Ryan proposals. But first things first. The priority in this election is to get a leader who can get Medicare costs under control.

Oh, so first things first? Okay, so the evidence that Romney/Ryan will do that–get Medicare costs under control–is hard to come by, and the evidence that they will do it without destroying one of the most beloved social programs is even more scant. It’s actually really easy to get Medicare costs under control: just stop paying the bills. I’m guessing there’s some reason that that proposal hasn’t been floated, but the Ryan budget is as close as anyone has gotten. So that’s the Faustian bargain that’s–at least ostensibly–on the table: don’t you care about your grandchildren? Then old people have to take it on the chin.

Medicare spending per capita

Which, if I’m being honest, if I thought there was a chance they could actually do it, well, it might sound appealing. Clearly they can’t, but let’s just assume they can, to ride where Brooks is leading us. First, we have to throw old people under the bus. The rest of the Faustian bargain, though, is tied up with a nice little bow: sure, you’re uncomfortable with their other proposals, but first things first.

Hidden in there? Well, equal marriage rights should be excluded by constitutional amendment. Medicare costs are just too important; don’t you love your grandchildren? At least the straight ones?

Do you think prisons are too numerous and too full, and that too many of our juveniles get locked away to become institutionalized for life? Maybe you shouldn’t be so soft–Paul Ryan is tough enough for all of us.

The War on Drugs–interested in doubling down? No? Well, first things first. Paul Ryan’s got big plans, y’see.

Do you think abortion and the right to choose are complicated? Stem cell research? Paul Ryan says it’s a no-brainer. Conversation over. Why do you hate the economy by even continuing this conversation?

So okay, that’s where you get if you go down that path: Medicare is saved, huzzah, at the cost of continued violence in our cities, our prisons, and in Mexico as the war on drugs continues, the expansion of marriage benefits to our friends and loved ones comes to a screeching halt, and government stays out of your life unless you’re a woman who wants to consider her options or  a scientist trying to find a cure for spinal deformities.

Is there any evidence Medicare would be saved? I used to consider myself a Republican because I believed in fiscal responsibility, but the party left me on that issue a long time ago. It’s because Republican philosophy and its applications, including Paul Ryan’s budget, are not about fiscal responsibility. Ryan continues the devotion to Grover Norquist’s tax philosophy. It’s not about consumer sovereignty; it’s about small government at all costs. If you can reduce people’s positive experiences with government–paint it as just the IRS and traffic tickets–then it’s a lot easier to sell small-government policies. When it actually runs efficiently, the entire philosophy has been disproven, and the movement settles down instead of turning out.

If people want big government–and the evidence suggests that they do–and are willing to pay for it–and they might if anyone had the cajones to stand up to Norquist–then what right do you have to stand in the way?

Still, I’m mostly curious about this: David Brooks, which polices are you uncomfortable with, and what helps you sleep at night knowing who you’re backing?


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August 2012
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