Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Decline Mongering

David Brooks has a really tough task ahead of him. His career depends on cheerleading for conservatives in 2012 to an audience who understands the poverty of their arguments. If you're going to get voters who can add excited about the Republican party, you've got to make the situation look bleak enough to distract voters from the actual plans, personalities, and platform of the Republican party.

Brooks prefaces his pundiry for the remainder of the 2012 election cyle with an simple declaration of his theme. Here is the template that David Brooks will be reusing ad nauseum:
I’ll be writing a lot about the presidential election over the next 16 months, but at the outset I would just like to remark that I’m opining on this whole campaign under protest. I’m registering a protest because for someone of my Hamiltonian/National Greatness perspective, the two parties contesting this election are unusually pathetic. Their programs are unusually unimaginative. Their policies are unusually incommensurate to the problem at hand.
Of course, any policy wonk (or man-on-the-street with a calculator) would say that Ryan's Folly and the Pawlenty Tax-a-palooza are probably too imaginative with their accounting, this will certainly be Brooks' theme. I'd like to call attention to the art of decline mongering, however. What tells Brooks that the situation is bleak as can be?

Well, first there is the plight of America's easily exploitable labor:
The American working class — those without a college degree — is being decimated, economically and socially. In 1960, for example, 83 percent of those in the working class were married. Now only 48 percent are.
There's fewer easily exploitable laborers, and the marriage numbers indicate a smaller population of cyclical poverty?

I'm genuinely confused by what this trend in the data is supposed to represent. Whatever inference that Brooks wants us to make here is not explained. The harm itself must lie in 'fewer married working class,' but I can't find intrinsically harmful (or decline-inducing) in that phrase. Does continued matrimony create jobs? Or is it some sort of harbinger of apocalypse. I must have missed that verse in the bible. Or is it just that the number has gone down?

Of course, Brooks has no answer to the evidence that America is on the right track over the last five decades. In fact, the calendar year has increased from 1961 to 2011 during that same period. The proportion of singles in the American working class has also expanded by a factor of 3, from 15% to 52%. That's robust growth that augurs well for the future.

It's not that David Brooks is entirely wrong; it's jsut that I have no idea what he's actually trying to say here. He's pushing a decline-fantasy in hopes that the pessimism will make Americans desperate enough to vote for the same ideas and failed policies that were in place while the Great Recession started in 2006 and did nothing to stop it until late 2008.

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