Vacuous Purpose

There is little that I can agree with David Brooks of the New York Times about. His latest column in the Times, Obama’s Elevator Speech, is an exception.

Brooks rightly points out that the President came into office with a flourish, stabilized the financial system, rescued the auto industry and turned the stock market around. The following year he instituted the most comprehensive change to the health care system in a generation. These were the actions of a strong president with vision.

Since the mid-terms in 2010, the president has vanished into the woodwork. He has done nothing of consequence.

Brooks lays out an agenda for the President that is quite ambitious considering Brooks’ conservative leaning. First on climate change, Brooks encourages Obama, despite the columnists disdain for such action. He rightly points out that the economy should be paramount. The idea that we could use our environmental problems not to destroy, but to create jobs does not occur to him. Green Energy would create jobs, but to my mind it would be the starting point, not the end in itself. Cap and Trade is an excellent way of starting to reduce the staggering damage we have done to our home. Gasoline and energy taxes, or consumption taxes should be levied, but on corporations, not individuals. Consumption taxes on gasoline puts a burden on working families. A global climate change treaty would be a wonderful idea.

Brooks’ second point shook my belief system. A conservative talking about redistribution? Again, I must agree. The benefits of living in a free, democratic nation should not accrue to the wealthiest among us. It should be shared equitably instead of productivity gains going to corporate bosses.

Brooks mentions hiring a half million new teachers, capping social security benefits, taxing the wealthy, tackling outsourcing of jobs. If Brooks were liberal I would shake his hand.

This, of course is where the wheels fall off. Brooks says that this agenda would not appeal to him, or to moderates. Why not? What is it about what he wrote that we should not do? Should we continue to hand money to bloated corporations? Destroy our home even more? Allow Wall Street to jeopardize our financial system? Give tax breaks to the wealthy that do nothing to deserve it? Was this nation built exclusively by capitalists, or was it built by the blood, sweat and tears of the hard working middle and lower classes?

Brooks goes on to claim that our institutions are rotting and should be replaced. Which ones? The ones that give average Americans a chance at a healthy life? The ones that educate our children and young adults? The ones that ensure that our food, water and air are safe? It appears to me that the institutions that are rotting are the ones that live off subsidies and tax breaks, off peoples 401k’s and IRA’s, that lobby for ever more while moving jobs overseas. These are the institutions that should be replaced. We face fiscal ruin because of the life that these corporations are sucking out of our tax system. It is time that they paid far greater taxes and received fewer subsidies.

Limiting domestic spending means putting even more Americans out of work. Corporations are not creating jobs, so government needs to step up and do it.

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