Reading David Brook’s column today in the New York Times, I wonder if he is sincere or not. Brooks calls the Occupy Wall Street protesters — the left generally — “milquetoast” and seems to reinforce his argument on an overly-simplified reading of the world where the protesters divide Americans into either the 99% good Americans or the 1% bad Americans. I’m not so sure the the protesters are that simple or naive.
Brooks boils it down to an economic issue, one in which he sees the protesters demanding that their problems be resolved on backs of wealthy American elites. But that isn’t the issue. If you listen to people the problem is perceived to be one where policy favors opportunities for the economic “elite.” Taxes are only one part of the overall complaint, not the complaint as Brooks seems to make it out to be.
Protesters do indeed want tax reform, education reform, and fiscal reform and not just a punishing tax on the rich. Moreover, Brooks makes an issue about whether taxes could pay our national debt in the first place, implying that the call for higher taxes on the rich is meaningless because it won’t solve any economic issues. Here again, Brooks hardly seems sincere.
The issue with taxes in the short run is not about paying down trillions in debt, it is about balancing an unbalanced fiscal reality without even further reducing services and programs that benefit most Americans. This issue is also about spending more in the short run– even if that means MORE debt — to stimulate economic growth by investing in much needed programs that will put hundreds of thousands of Americans to work again. Brooks knows this.
Our debt will be more easily paid down if we have strong economy than otherwise. If economic growth lags no amount of government cuts will eliminate our debts either. Again, Brooks knows this. You could take his argument about the futility of taxing the wealthy and turn it exactly the same way and talk about the futility of further government cuts. It won’t clear the debt.
Instead what we need is growth and that will take work from all sides. Democrats at least are proposing solutions that include a mix of cuts and revenue increases. They see both short-term and long-term needs and solutions. Brooks, on the other hand, seems to cherry pick arguments and offers scant ideas for either short or long term solutions.