Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Arguing With The Voices in His Head

 David Brooks is. After recounting the heartwarming story of a poor who worked her way up as high as here miserable upbringing would allow, he thinks, if that is the word I want, that
Democrats have shifted their emphasis from lifting up the poor to pounding down the rich. Democratic candidates no longer emphasize early childhood education and community-building. Instead they embrace the pseudo-populist Occupy Wall Street hokum — the opiate of the educated classes.
Part of the problem here is that "Democrats," more properly the political center which tilts toward the left and the left itself -- he must mean, are in fact "pounding down the rich," which makes the wealthy sound like a refreshing beverage, means raising their taxes and spending that money on social goods, education, etc, that provide the poors with the skills necessary to successfully negotiate post industrial and industrial capitalism. OWS "hokum," in other words is the desire to overcome the last 30 years of aggressive neoliberalization of state and society with its attendant oligarchic friendly policies

Brooks goes on to insist that OWS/99 concern with altering the maldistribution of wealth and salary is a
materialistic ethos [that] emphasizes reducing inequality instead of expanding opportunity. Its policy prescriptions begin (and sometimes end) with raising taxes on the rich. This makes you feel better if you detest all the greed-heads who went into finance. It does nothing to address those social factors, like family breakdown, that help explain why American skills have not kept up with technological change.
It is impossible to increase opportunities without decreasing inequality in so far as we are discussing the distribution of the wealth produced by any economic system. Inequality explains the differences between good, mediocre, and bad schools and the decreased state support for education which explains the lack of "skills" workers have. Brooks' position is the real materialistic ethos and the real danger to economic growth and social justice.

What is it? He argues that the way forward is
[a]s a survey of nearly 10,000 Harvard Business School grads by Michael Porter and Jan Rivkin makes clear, to get companies to locate their plants in the U.S., Obama is going to have to simplify the tax code, cut corporate rates, streamline regulations, make immigration policy more flexible and balance the budget over the long term.
To ensure there’s skilled labor for those plants, Obama would have to champion different policies: successful training programs like Job Corps, better coordination between colleges and employers, better treatment for superstar teachers, more child care options and better early childhood education.
That's right continue the neoliberal destruction of a regulated economy and transform the educational system into a a training system for business. In  short the answer to the problem neoliberalism created is more neoliberalism which will finally overcome the damages neoliberalism wrought. When Marx argued the law of the theft of the woods made the state the property owners' business manager, it was a critique of one of the manifest injustices of 19th century society. When Brooks insists that the state needs to reorganize society so that it serves the narrow interest of the managers and owners, he seems to think that it is a dramatic statement of humanist ideals.

The way forward to overcome the "social factors" is the pursuit of a democratic socialist agenda that offers more support for the majority of society allied with the aggressive promotion of a state supported system of education that focuses on liberal arts education. Corporations can start paying for their own damn apprentice systems and the rich can go back to being insanely, instead of absurdly, rich by paying 40 percent on all monies over  250k per year, 50 percent on anything over 1 million, and 60 percent on anything over 10million.


  1. We just need the china model where workers live in company dorms lwaiting for tasks, it's too bad we can't figure out a way to keep people in hibernation until factory managers need them.

  2. Isn't just flinging them out to starve on their own resources even better than hibernation? Hibernation we'd have to pay for; starvation reduces fixed costs and makes industry leaner and more efficient.