Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Me and David Broooks Finally Agree--Sort Of

I never thought that I would see the day when New York Times' resident conservative David Brooks and yours truly would agree on anything, but that day has arrived--SORT OF. In a "conversation" with Gail Collins in the January 9 edition of the Times over the Affordable Care Act< remember that? It is the real name of the program that even most liberals and the mainstream media have allowed themselves to be suckered into calling "Obamacare.">  In the course of their "conversation," Brooks acknowledges that "Either you have a truly centralized single-payer system or you have a truly decentralized market-based system. This hybrid of semi-centralized, semi-market-based may magically combine the disadvantages of each approach." He goes on to say that "campaign finance reform is like that, too. We should either have straight-up public financing of elections, or complete transparency in political giving." Needless to say, I favor the "left pole" of both his spectra (i.e. "a centralized single payer system" and " straight-up public financing of campaigns"), while he obviously favors the other extreme.   

Mr. Brooks is confident of his positions because "the public seems to have a problem with coercion in any form," so much so that any government program <health care or whatever> "would have to be built around a paradigm of individual choice, even if it nudges the choices one way or the other. Other paradigms are just not culturally acceptable anymore." Of course, what he regards as "culturally acceptable anymore" is the result of more than three decades of carefully-crafted propagandizing by the radical right and its corporate/advertising/ brainwashing machine.It is grudgingly hard not to be impressed by the magnitude of their achievement. While true progressives passively watched, "Centrists," "Third Way" gurus,and the Democratic Leadership Council convinced most Democrats  that winning presidential elections the was "the only thing thing"--even if that meant abandoning or watering down the programs that were the legacy of the New Deal, Fair Deal, Great Society, and the Civil and Women's Rights movements. In other words, abandoning the very principles and programs that identified the Democratic Party as "democratic."

There was a time before Reagan, the Koch brothers, Karl Rove, and the other "masters of deceit," when government was widely regarded by the majority of Americans as "part of the solution," not the cause of the problem. I know that is true, not only from a professional lifetime of studying U.S. history, but also from having  lived in that world for three quarters of a century. From the height of the New Deal through the first half of the 1960s, this country enjoyed its greatest and best distributed prosperity and its most equalizing rights and opportunities--"the greatest good for the greatest number." Most progressives naively believed that we would continue to build upon those seminal improvements. Then came the Vietnam War, the assassinations of MLK and RFK, the 1968 election, and all the horrors that followed.

 The "masters of deceit" have managed to subvert that irrevocable truth by their incessant chanting of the glories of the "free market" and reactionary politics. But they have not completely obliterated it. There are many signs of its revival, especially among today's young people, who have come to realize that the highly touted "American Dream" of perpetual upward mobility through the private sector is actually  a "nightmare," manipulated by corporate America and its political lackeys. The worse things get in those two areas,the more  
people will awaken from this "nightmare" and demand real solutions, rather than "hybrids."  

So, I guess that David Brooks and I actually "agree to disagree." At least we agree that "hybrids" in both
health care insurance and voting rights are essentially "cop-outs."  


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