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Daily Howler: I may be an idiot, David Brooks says. But that's just the 'innocent' explanation
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TOLD BY AN IDIOT? I may be an idiot, David Brooks says. But that’s just the innocent explanation: // link // print // previous // next //

TOLD BY AN IDIOT: “I may be a complete idiot,” David Brooks says near the end of this morning’s column. But that would be the innocent explanation. Stupid—or storebought? You be the judge as Brooks types the Requisite Script:
BROOKS (12/11/04): Plans to create private Social Security accounts aren't sops to the securities industry. They use the power of the market to solve an otherwise intractable problem.

The outline of the problem is clear. When the Social Security program was created, there were 42 workers for each retiree. Now there are about three workers per retiree, and in 2030 there will be two.

Without the use of private accounts, Social Security presents an “intractable problem,” Brooks says. And, to help readers see how intractable it is, he provides the Requisite Scripted Scare Story—the story every good boy know to type. Back in 1935, he says, there were 42 workers for every retiree!!! And soon, the ratio will be 2-to-1!!! How could the system survive it?

Is Brooks just an idiot, as he suggests? Or is he engaged in deliberate misdirection? As we have noted before, that frightening 42-to-1 ratio sheds absolutely no light on whether the Soc Sec problem is “intractable” (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/8/04). And Brooks fails to note the basic fact that is relevant; he fails to note that, under the current 3-to-1 ratio, Social Security is producing a surplus! Could the system remain in balance as the ratio moves closer to 2-to-1? That is a very good question. And Brooks offers data that are clearly designed to stop folks from puzzling it out.

So which is it? Is Brooks just an idiot? Or is he corrupt? Those who want to riddle that out might also consider this presentation. Can Brooks be this idiotic?

BROOKS: What you hear these days is not liberalism. It's conspiracyism. It's the belief that the Bushite corporate cabal is going to do to domestic programs what the Bushite neocon cabal did in the realm of foreign affairs. It's the belief in malevolent and shadowy forces that will grab everything for their own greedy ends. This is Michael Moore-ism applied to domestic affairs, and it will leave the Democrats only deeper in the hole.
Name-calling brilliantly, Brooks accuses Dems of “conspiracyism,” and, of course, he invokes Michael Moore. But might the people who scammed the country about Iraq also scam you on Social Security? This thought would occur to almost anyone—except, of course, for complete idiots, and except for the store-brought, scripted tribunes who type Standard Tales of the rich.

Every reader gets to decide why Brooks wrote this morning’s column. But you have two choices when cultured fellows like Brooks present that irrelevant “42-to-1" datum. It may be that they’re just complete idiots, the explanation Brooks suggests. But that would be the innocent reading. When writers throw in irrelevant, scripted facts—and fail to offer the relevant data—we’d suggest the real explanation may lie in darker parts of lost souls.

MALKIN AWARD NOMINEE: In recent days, Andrew Sullivan has been taking nominations for the so-called “Malkin Award” (for an explanation, click here and scroll down). We’ll offer Brooks’ “conspiracyism,” “Moore-ism” quote as a superlative candidate.