David Brooks, Fooled by Inequality

1 Nov

He’s at it again, being reasonable out of one side of his mouth while makin’ it up out of the other. I’m talking about David Brooks, Mr. Reasonable, the Mr. Blizzard of plausible risibility. His current column, The Wrong Inequality, is a masterpiece of rhetorical legerdemain and misdirection.

It’s about two inequalities, call them Inequality One and Inequality Two. That’s not what he calls them, but his labels are part of the misdirection, so we’ll skip them for the moment. Inequality One is the 1% vs. the 99%. Inequality Two is the college educated vs. those without college.

After laying them out Brooks helpfully observes: “These two forms of inequality exist in modern America. They are related but different. Over the past few months, attention has shifted almost exclusively to” Inequality One. And, yes, he’s right on all three counts. America has both, they’re related, and attention is now on One, rather than Two.

The point of Brook’s advertorial is that, while Inequality One is bad (his loss leader), Inequality Two is Much Much Worse. For it affects many more people, a big percentage of the 99%, though he doesn’t quite put it that way. Here’s his oh so reasonable conclusion: “If your ultimate goal is to reduce inequality, then you should be furious at the doctors, bankers and C.E.O.’s. If your goal is to expand opportunity, then you have a much bigger and different agenda.”

Notice, first of all, that that conclusion is apples vs. oranges. We’re angry at the beneficiaries of Inequality One (apples), but we’re supposed to expand opportunity in response to Inequality Two (oranges). Umm, err, Mr. David Brooks, Sir, if we’re angry at the One Percenters, what are we to do about it? He doesn’t say or suggest. All he does is divert out attention to the need for more opportunities for, well, the bottom 50%. Well, yes, they need opportunity, and debt forgiveness, health care, and jobs would be nice too.

Now, let’s go back to where Brooks admits to some relationship between these two inequalities. Just what IS that relationship, Mr. Wise and Reasonable, Sir? He doesn’t say. Maybe he wants us to think it’s that most of those One Percenters are college graduates. For all I know they are, though neither Bill Gates nor the late Steve Jobs are.

I suggest that there’s a much deeper relationship between these two inequalities, One and Two. For money is not just fancy houses, fancy clothes, and yachts. It’s also power. The top one percent exercise considerable power over both the private and public sectors in our society. They’re responsible for many of the policies that sustain Inequality Two. They didn’t create it. But the manipulate it to their benefit.

Inequality One maintains and feeds off of Inequality Two.

That’s the relationship Brooks doesn’t want us to see or think about. That’s why he pretends that the current focus is only about money and not at all about power.

He’s wrong. It is VERY MUCH ABOUT POWER.

What’s he call these two inequalities? He calls the first inequality Blue Inequality while the second inequality is Red Inequality. And thus he associates these inequalities with the traditional political parties, blue for Democrats and red for Republicans. When you take that bit of flim-flammery and combine it with his apples vs. oranges conclusion the message becomes: Democrats are angry, but Republicans want to expand opportunity.

What a crock!

The fact is that both parties are signed sealed and delivered to the One Percent and pay attention to the Nine-Nine Percent only so they can pick our pockets and steal our votes. This Blue vs. Red inequality is obfuscating nonsense designed to fool us into thinking they are very different things, like red is different from blue, rather than realizing that the beneficiaries of one inequality feeds on and exploits the losers in the other.

Does Brooks know what he’s doing or is he flimflamming himself too?

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3 Responses to “David Brooks, Fooled by Inequality”

  1. John Emerson November 1, 2011 at 1:37 pm #

    “Does Brooks know what he’s doing or is he flimflamming himself too?”

    I have a theory of Brooks.

    1. He has a smooth, pleasant, affable, knowledgeable-seeming persona.
    2. He appeals to a certain sort of genteel, comfortable, middle-class-and-up moderate who might be offended by the abrasiveness of the typical Republican spokesmen. He speaks to their prejudices (which are also his own) in a way that makes them feel good about themselves.
    3. He is well educated enough to be able to mimic social science, political philosophy, ethics, etc. This is enough for his audience, which doesn’t want to be drawn into any of these discourses, but only to be assured that the their prejudices have scholarly backing.
    4. He doesn’t intend to talk to people who ARE involved in these discourses and doesn’t care what they think.
    5. Whether through animal cunning or with full awareness, he knows perfectly well that his job is to present this demographic with the best possible case for the Republicans. He is allowed to wander now and then in order to protect his cover, but on important topics he always pitches in with the right thing at the right time.

    I don’t think that he has the clarity of thought required to answer your question. Everything points in the same direction for him: his own prejudices, the prejudices of his audience, the prejudices of his employers, the prejudices of his friends, the economic incentives, and possibly some sort of oiety justifying the Noble Lie.

    The ethical-intellectual utility which would empower him to go against these united forces has not been installed in Brooks.

  2. kubla November 1, 2011 at 2:01 pm #

    That makes sense, John. I like your #3.

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