Sunday, December 30, 2012

David Brooks Says It's Our Fault


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Great episode of Meet the Press, featuring an interview of the President by David Gregory, as well as commentary by Doris Kearns Goodwin, Chuck Todd, Tom Brokaw, John Meacham, and the inimitable David Brooks.

This video was recorded just as our nation approaches the so-called fiscal cliff when most Americans' tax rates will increase if Congress doesn't work out a deal.

I enjoyed President Obama's calm, measured tone.  I came away from the video thinking, OK, cliff might be overkill.  More like a ditch.  We might twist our ankles but it's not going to kill us.  What are we, a bunch of whiny-butt worry-warts?  Our grandparents, and in my case my old-ass dad, lived through the Great Depression when things were much harder for most people than they are now.  I mean, yeah, it's a bummer to cancel cable because we can't afford it anymore, but I can watch the same shows online.  Online.  Because I live in this amazing society where high-speed internet is pretty commonplace anymore.  Middle-class people can afford it without blinking a strained eye.  Sure, things are sometimes tough for my family.  We worry about how we're going to pay all the bills.  But I'm not making Katie's and my dresses out of feed sacks just yet.  Although now that I think about it, Will would look killer in a feed-sack man skirt.  

It seems like the definition of middle-class changes with technological advancements.  When my mom first got married she felt like she was rich when my dad bought her a dishwasher that she could roll across the floor and hook up to the sink to, get this, automatically wash her dishes.  Nowadays I sit on my ass blogging while my whisper quiet, energy efficient built-in dishwasher washes my dishes.  If I'd get off my ass and load the thing.

Are Americans today more spoiled and lazy than generations before us? 

After watching the video, what do you think of David Brooks' suggestion that the blame for the shambolic state of the nation lies not with the do-nothing Congress but with everyday Americans who want to bankrupt their children to spend money on themselves?  David Brooks thinks Americans who whine about paying higher taxes or having their social benefits cut are a bunch of spoiled, self-centered brats.  Do you agree?  Or am I misinterpreting what he's saying?  Here's the direct quote, my emphasis in bold.

Mr. Brooks: "But in some sense, the Republicans are being shambolic and they’re making fools out of themselves. But in another sense, they are reacting favorably or rationally to the incentive structure they are with in. The big lie in this whole thing is that we have got the sensible country with the dysfunctional Washington. The reality is we have a country of people who want to bankrupt their children to spend money on themselves, and they will punish any politician who prevents them from doing that. And therefore they will punish Republicans if they-- if they cut entitlements. They will punish Democrats if they cut entitlements. So what you saw today was the president shifting the attention from debt reduction to tax cuts, which is the easy thing.  So, I think the problem is centrally in the country, and the politicians look like idiots because they are responding to horrible incentives."

I don't know.  I'll ponder it while I watch on our flat-screen TV the DVD about Depression-era hardship and heartiness, Kit Kittredge: An American Girl, with my six-year-old and her brand-new $100 American Girl doll.