The Watering Hole, Monday, November 2, 2015: Reflections On The Alternate Universe Of David Brooks

David Brooks has been e-mailing his columns in the New York Times from an alternate universe, based on his recent profession of his love for Sen Marco Rubio (R-FL) and his wonkiness.

Ryan is the new House speaker and right now Rubio is the most likely presidential nominee. The shape of the presidential campaign is coming into focus. It’s still wise to expect (pray) that the celebrity candidates will fade as the shopping phase ends and the buying phase begins.

[Ed Note: As of this writing, according to RealClearPolitics, Rubio is third with 9.6%, and the election is still one year away. That’s for those who think nothing will change between now and the day we actually cast our votes for whomever we choose.] With more than a dozen candidates still vying for the nomination, I’m not sure how he could see anything on which to focus in this race. We are still in the “shopping phase,” and there is an awful lot we don’t know about the candidates themselves including, in some cases, what their actual policies will be. The candidates like Trump, Carson, and Fiorina from his universe stand some chance of winning the nomination (“It’s still wise to expect” is hedging your bets, Dave. And saying it’s wise to “pray” is just plain giving up. Which are you doing?) Their counterpart candidates in this universe stand no chance at all of actually winning the nomination of the Republican Party. None whatsoever. I wouldn’t lose a nanosecond’s sleep over ever having to hear the word “President” (with or without the word “Vice” in front of it) followed by any of the names Donald Trump, Ben Carson, or Carly Fiorina. Nor Jim Webb, Lincoln Chafee, Newt Gingrich, Chris Christie, Piyush “Bobby” Jindal, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, or John Ellis Bush, for that matter. Not in this universe. But back to David’s.

Voters don’t have to know the details of their nominee’s agenda, but they have to know that the candidate is capable of having an agenda. Donald Trump and Ben Carson go invisible when the subject of actual governance comes up.

They’re not the only ones, but back to that first point you made. The one about voters not having to know the details of their nominee’s agenda. Really, Dave? A blissfully ignorant and uninformed electorate is considered normal in your universe? It is the goal of the Republican Party in this universe, that’s true, but our universe also has people capable of critical thinking, and we like to know exactly what the people we put in power have in mind, just in case they want to bring about the Biblical End of the World so Jesus Christ will come back and spit on all us Liberals who followed his teachings better than you guys ever did, even if we didn’t believe in him. We’re funny that way. After focusing on one of Rubio’s policy papers, David again brings up caution about what the candidates actually propose.

At this stage it’s probably not sensible to get too worked up about the details of any candidate’s plans. They are all wildly unaffordable.

They are only “wildly unaffordable” if you never consider the simple idea of raising taxes back to the rates they were before President Reagan, on the ill-conceived and childish advice of people like Grover Norquist, who at the ripe old age of twelve came up with his idea for a pledge to voters from candidates that they’ll never raise taxes, and who admit to a starve-the-beast strategy that would inevitably cripple, if not destroy, the framework of our society. The demented theory that supply-side economics would raise revenue to the government was ludicrous. Supply-side economics believes that supply drives demand (Say), not the other way around, that demand drives supply (Keynes). In Reality (i.e., this universe), it is consumer demand that drives an economy. The theory was that giving tax cuts to businesses (and people) would enable them to make more goods for people to buy. It was apparently assumed that everyone would buy whatever was being offered, and THIS would create the jobs. You can make all the widgets you want, but if nobody wants to buy them, you have no reason to have so many employees, and jobs are lost. If demand were high, you would need more and more people to keep up with the timely shipment of customer orders. It is consumer demand that drives the economy. And not the consumer demand of the rich, but of the middle class, along with what the people with even less disposable income can contribute. But they have to have the money to spend in the first place. The rich and super-rich already have enough money to live on day-to-day, so cutting their taxes is nothing but a free gift to them. They don’t struggle to find food to eat, clothes to wear, or shelter from the elements every day. They aren’t going to take their tax cuts and go buy that Gulfstream V they’ve had their eye on. They already had enough money to do that before the tax cuts, and they didn’t do it. And for the ones whose brains weren’t corroded by Ayn Randian self interests and aversion to paying taxes, it had nothing to do with the taxes they’d have to pay because they could easily afford those, too. So it was nothing but a gift, pure and simple. And they didn’t spend it. And it didn’t “trickle down” to the rest of us (though that wasn’t technically part of the theory) as was promised. And the rich just started getting much, much richer (meaning they were accumulating more and more of the limited money supply) and the rest of us were getting less than before. So we weren’t spending as much as before, and the rich weren’t spending what we would have spent if we had it (because we needed to, not because it would be nice to have another jet plane), so local governments weren’t collecting sales taxes to cover their expenses. So instead of residents getting their garbage picked up twice a week, it’s cut back to once a week. And instead of recyclables getting picked up once a week, it’s reduced to twice a month. And instead of their local police force patrolling 24 hours a day, they would take midnight to six AM off. And with the rich and the large corporations getting their taxes cut, there’s less money to the federal government for things like road and bridge repair, or education scholarships, or scientific exploration, or programs that assist local governments by giving them extra money to hire more police officers. But you’re not one who believes in government as being The People, and that what The People want is to provide a safety net for those down on their luck, to provide mom and dad with a retirement check so they can live in dignity, to provide healthcare to our seniors so they don’t die of the first thing they catch. But if there’s no money coming into the government, and if nobody wants to borrow it, those things can’t be done. Lastly,

Rubio would reform the earned-income tax credit and extend it to cover childless workers. He would also convert most federal welfare spending into a “flex fund” that would go straight to the states. Rules for these programs would no longer be written in Washington. The state agencies that implement welfare policies would have more freedom to design them. He’d maintain overall welfare spending, adjusting it for inflation and poverty levels, but he’d allow more room for experimentation.

This makes the totally unwarranted assumption that states now receiving that money want to spend it on those programs, but the ones controlled by Republicans do not, and they have made that abundantly clear. So if you do away with the federal mandate that the states spend this money on the programs, and in the amounts, for which they were intended, does anyone really believe they’ll all spend that money more efficiently and help even more people than they do now? In what universe are you living? Wait, don’t tell me. I bet David Brooks is standing right next to you. Tell him I said, “Keep dreaming, Pal.”

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to make fun of David Brooks or Marco Rubio or me, Brian Williams, if you like.