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May 15, 2005

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps (Yet Another David Brooks Edition)

Kevin Drum reads David Brooks so we don't have to, and says that yes, he is a dork:

The Washington Monthly: INCOME MOBILITY....David Brooks writes about income mobility today:

The big difference between poor Republicans and poor Democrats is that the former believe that individuals can make it on their own with hard work and good character. According to the Pew study, 76 percent of poor Republicans believe most people can get ahead with hard work. Only 14 percent of poor Democrats believe that.

Elsewhere in the New York Times we learn who's right: "New research on mobility... shows there is far less of it than... most people believe.... The incomes of brothers born around 1960 have followed a more similar path than the incomes of brothers born in the late 1940's, researchers at the Chicago Federal Reserve and the University of California, Berkeley, have found. Whatever children inherit from their parents -- habits, skills, genes, contacts, money -- seems to matter more today."

Ever since World War II, the United States has done a phenomenal job of sorting people by talent.... The result is that life roles have become more hardened... [while] incomes -- and jobs -- ... are far more unstable than they were a few decades ago. And as recent research indicates, most of them are increasingly stuck....

In the face of this, Brooksian paeans to the hardworking Republican poor are little less than appalling. Clap your hands and you can be rich! What this faux optimism masks is the astonshing real-life pessimism of modern conservatism. Among advanced economies, the United States is by far the richest, youngest, and fastest growing country in the world. By far. And yet, we're supposed to believe that an increase in Social Security costs from 4% of GDP to 6% over the next 50 years is cause for panic. We're supposed to believe national healthcare would bankrupt us -- never mind that our current dysfunctional system is the most expensive and most unfair on the planet. We're supposed to believe that broader unionization would ruin American industry, home of the highest profits and most highly paid executives in the world. We're supposed to believe that the nation's millionaires, having already had their tax rates slashed by a third over the past two decades, are still being bled to the bone by federal taxes...

Posted by DeLong at May 15, 2005 07:48 PM