Poor old David Brooks, the NYT’s Op-Ed token continues his stumbling around in the wilderness searching in vain for coherent rationalizations for his Obama vote, and this time lashes out indirectly at the tea party movement. Though, he never mentions them by name, it is clear who he is talking about.
Both attitudes will always be with us, but these days populism is in vogue. The Republicans have their populists. Sarah Palin has been known to divide the country between the real Americans and the cultural elites. And the Democrats have their populists. Since the defeat in Massachusetts, many Democrats have apparently decided that their party has to mimic the rhetoric of John Edwards’s presidential campaign.
They’ve taken to dividing the country into two supposedly separate groups — real Americans who live on Main Street and the insidious interests of Wall Street.
It’s easy to see why politicians would be drawn to the populist pose. First, it makes everything so simple. The economic crisis was caused by a complex web of factors, including global imbalances caused by the rise of China. But with the populist narrative, you can just blame Goldman Sachs.
John Edwards will apparently be making appearances in more places than just Massachusetts.
The populists have an Us versus Them mentality. If they continue their random attacks on enterprise and capital, they will only increase the pervasive feeling of uncertainty, which is now the single biggest factor in holding back investment, job creation and growth. They will end up discrediting good policies (the Obama bank reforms are quite sensible) because they will persuade the country that the government is in the hands of reckless Huey Longs.
Again, he never comes out and says tea party but his analysis is unmistakable and unmistakably wrong.
That the tea party movement is making random attacks on enterprise and capital and increasing this feeling of uncertainty is certainly news to us. That the tea party movement should have such an impact on the economy!
The tea partiers are by and large free-enterprise capitalists who believe that for the most part, at the small and medium-sized businesses, the attacks on enterprise and capital stem from excessive regulation.
What the tea party movement champions above all else is limited and responsible government – to say that we have any of that right now is delusional when we have federal and state governments that are drunk with power and swimming in debt. And for standing up to that, the partiers are branded as un-American, an angry mob, racist and the now apparently pejorative, populist.
And to the extent that a responsible government enacts sensible reforms without demonizing Wall St. with us against them rhetoric and by enacting politically-motivated excise taxes against the banks (what was Brooks saying again about random attacks on enterprise and capital?), the issue of pending cyclical bailouts of our too-big-too-fail financial institutions should take care of itself. Reform is inherently neither good nor bad and to use it as a political tool will backfire.
Brooks finishes with this:
They will have traded dynamic optimism, which always wins, for combative divisiveness, which always loses.
Poor old David Brooks. By his very own definition of populism he is describing and vilifying the very man he voted for.