David Brooks is one of the most thoughtful pundits practicing punditry, and I especially enjoy him on Charlie Rose where he’s not having to counter Mark Shield’s silly and often irrelevant points made on PBS’ “The News Hour”. Despite the obvious ideological differences, even President Obama isn’t immune to the intelligent observations of Brooks, who has met several times with the President.
I especially enjoyed his point about the wisdom of *moving slow*. I tend to be in the group that says “let’s try something new and bold”, but Brooks makes the case that slow, gradual change is the best course and one of the reasons for the great success of the American experiment. He also seemed to feel this was by design – the founders wanted checks, balances, and thoughtful innovations rather than radical ones. One could reasonably say that the US was born, revolutionarily, from a movement that advocated huge change in a short time, I think it’s also true that the founders recognized their own limitations and the limitations of government, which was why our new republic was designed more to temper the powers of Government and the ruling class than to enhance them. This point is currently lost on many Americans but soon it’ll be clear to most that big Government is going to fail us … again. Not out of bad intentions, rather from what the founders understood so well – Government that governs best, governs least.
Unfortunately it’s the Tea Party movement that has become the main advocate for small Government, but the Tea Party folks are carrying the baggage of two unsustainably dumb ideologies along with them. The first is their hypocrisy with respect to spending. There are calls for cuts in entitlement programs (important) and also for trivial things that don’t matter (dumb), but Tea Party has NO calls for the necessary large cuts in defense spending – one of the few big ticket budget items that eventually MUST be cut and SHOULD have been massively cut years ago. We spend over half the global military spend – about $550,000,000,000 each year – and the return on this extraordinary investment is not even clearly positive. Massive military responses often spawn more ferocious counterinsurgencies, so the idea that we must “root out” terrorism or face greater terror is unproven. We don’t have enough data to know how our trillions in anti-terror spending will shake out so I’m not advocating anything here other than cuts in spending, which at least free up funding for things that have a proven return on investment. [NOTE – Brooks and Obama would disagree with massive cuts in defense budget, though I think one of the great military minds of the century, President Dwight Eisenhower, is rolling in his grave watching how his predictions about the rise of a “military industrial establishment” have come true and, along with entitlements, have completely broken our bank. ] The second huge problem with the Tea Party movement is their remarkable enthusiasm for intolerance. Sara Palin? Tom Tancredo? The people who are now clearly speaking for many in that movement are generally not very bright or capable, and also they are frequently using the kind of confrontatational, intolerant speech that should have been abandoned long ago, though it’s also true that the American left – now in power – is reaping some of what they sowed with the huge disrespect they showed the Bush Administration.
Ironically the solutions to many American problems are very clear, we just don’t have a party that reflects what we need which is a small and innovative government and a smart and innovative private sector. Liberals need to abandon so much “hand holding” and demands for big Government and conservatives need to abandon their love of massive defense spending and social class warfare.
Nope, not holding my breath!