Friday, January 31, 2014

Brooks Whigs Out

(graphic by Kat Garcia)

David Brooks, concerned that the president he frequently canoodles with is in "stately decline," has a solution. Barack Obama can battle Lame Duck Syndrome by appointing commissions made up of the Davos/Aspen Ideas Festival crowd to lay out the framework for his successor's agenda! Obama
can become a Whig, and follow in the pragmatic footsteps of Lincoln! Never mind that Abe forsook Whiggery because of its regional factionalism and became a Republican. Brooks is counting on readers not to have boned up on any actual history.

In the world of David Brooks, Obama is finally at that point where he is free to transcend mere factionalism and pandering to Congress and voters and donors by allowing various outside influence peddlers (the Opportunity Coalition) to move in and dictate policy for the remainder of his term:
This means he will have the opportunity to build what he himself could have used over the past few years: An Opportunity Coalition. He’ll have the chance to organize bipartisan groups of mayors, business leaders, legislators, activists and donors into permanent alliances and institutions that will formulate, lobby for, fund and promote opportunity and social mobility agendas for decades to come. 
President Obama could travel the country modernizing the Whig impulse, questioning current divisions and eroding the rigid battle lines. More concretely, he could create a group of Simpson-Bowles-type commissions — with legislators, mayors, governors and others brought together to offer concrete proposals on mobility issues from the beginning to the end of the life span.
Brooks, in his usual roundabout mushy way, is giving the stamp of elite approval to an Obama agenda that already exists, and has existed since the beginning of the president's political career. Obama has always served the Masters of the Universe, who are currently trying to take cover from the Inequality Craze behind the gilded walls of their charitable-industrial complex and their various corporate-funded think tanks. He's always traveled the country in a frenzied non-stop campaign to prop up business. Obama already created his Simpson-Bowles Commission, his White House Council on Jobs and Competitiveness made up of Forbes 400 billionaires. His Justice Department has already invited the Malefactors of Great Wealth to partner up in the Fight Against Criminal Accountability. Obama has always been a congenial host to the movers and shakers of the global oligarchy.

Brooks is being disingenuous when he suggests that Obama needs to set a new cooperative agenda for his successors, because Obama is merely the latest front man of the de facto oligarchy. These global power players got their start with RRRR (Ronald Reagan's Randian Revolution), continued their assault all through the centrist Clinton triangulation years, made a killing both literally and figuratively during the Bush Neocon era, and then saw their wealth skyrocket to dizzying heights under Obama's reign as the wealth gap widened to historic proportions.

Brooks telling Obama to play nice with the plutocrats is like calling Genghis Khan a couch potato, and to get on with the plundering already.

It's all part of the same old shell game of the media-political complex. 

And, oh so coincidentally timed with the advice in Brooks's column, the president invited a whole cabal of tax-phobic CEOs over to the White House so that they can "voluntarily" and magnanimously pledge to hire more long-term unemployed people, and try to placate the increasingly restive masses for yet another day via crumbs, phony pledges, (I got a pen, yo!) and photo-ops. The outlandishly wealthy are so rattled by the specter of pitchforks and torches that even such misanthropes as Rupert Murdoch and the Waltons are being forced to pretend to care. And to show how personally accomodating he is, Obama even invited the CEO of Bank of America over for Concern-Fest,right in the midst of the DOJ trying to extract a multimillion-dollar mortgage fraud settlement from the bank.

  As Robert A. Isaak explains the strategy in his book "The Globalization Gap,"
The only ones who ultimately accept the power of the super-rich individual are other excessively wealthy people who perceive a common bond and, presumably, a network of interests for their own long term security. Yet the affluent need to have the poor be marginally successful economically for much the same reason that the farmer needs to fatten up the cows before taking them to market. Absolute poverty leads to greater uncertainty and absolute chaos.
Brooks is simply slapping new phraseology (neo-Whig) on the same old agenda of the never-ending class war. And by shilling for the neoliberal Clinton Global Initiative, he also seems to be doing his best to set the stage for Hillary's Coronation. My published Times comment to his latest obfuscatory epistle:
Just what we need: a permanently enthroned power structure of philanthropic plutocrats pretending to solve the same social and economic problems they had an intimate hand in creating.
The fat cats... oops, I mean "thought leaders" -- fresh from their paranoid sojourn in Davos, are feeling nervous about the ever-widening wealth gap and opinion polls showing that the masses are mad as hell about their station in the Feudalistic States of America.
And thus does Income Inequality, only lately touted as the "defining issue of our time" get bowdlerized into ephemeral "ladders of opportunity" to encourage us to dream big, work hard, and shut up.
David Brooks's neo-Whig Party is just another name for the plutocratic cult of centrism, in which the rich get richer, and the poor get a little training and the nirvana of a meager $10 minimum wage if they're lucky enough to score a McJob. This grotesque opportunity cult supposedly will make up for the recent unbelievably sadistic slashing of food stamps for hungry families with children, discontinuation of federal unemployment benefits, and retention of most of the cuts of the Sequester.
Instead of Simpson-Bowles Catfood commissions and gap-widening Clintonoid "initiatives" that feel our pain while throwing us to the curb, we need to expand Social Security, ensure Medicare for All, get the money out of politics, and give the pathological rich their own unique opportunity to experience the joy of progressive taxation.


Zee said...

Yes, indeed, Karen. Just what we don't need.

Another collection of “mayors, business leaders, legislators, activists and donors [organized] into permanent alliances and institutions that will formulate, lobby for, fund and promote opportunity and social mobility agendas for decades to come.”

In other words, yet more lobbyists and money coming to D.C. to purchase any of our Federal legislators who are not—as yet—as thoroughly bought-off as they would like to be.

And I just don't see any of our ├╝ber-rich “donors” clamoring to “fund and promote opportunity and social agendas” just because Obama asks them to. Yes, there are philanthropists among them, but mostly they seem to be enjoying huge trophy homes, cars, yachts and other personal indulgences—and buying politicians—rather than doing anything really constructive with their enormous wealth.

If they were actually doing anything they could really be proud of with some of their spare change, perhaps they wouldn't feel so defensive just because someone dared to ask them if they were doing so.

What hogwash.

James F Traynor said...

Karen, Brooks? Don't you gag?

Kat said...

Yes. that column was particularly gag worthy.
This is from Dissent. It's about big philanthropy. It almost could have been written as a direct response to Brooks.
Meanwhile, the public needs more critical, in-depth information. The mainstream media are, for the most part, failing miserably in their watchdog duties. They give big philanthropy excessive deference and little scrutiny. Public television and radio live on big philanthropy’s largess. Collaborative programming with mega-foundations has undermined the credibility of major for-profit news organizations as well as public media, especially on health and education issues.

Early twentieth-century skeptics were rightly suspicious of plutocrats deciding how to improve the human condition and then paying to translate their notions into public policy. Now it’s time for a new progressive era—complete with muckrakers and trust-busters to cast a critical eye on big philanthropy.

Jay - Ottawa said...

Enough of reading David Brooks. Not only is it a waste of time, it rots the mind. You are what you read.

So here’s a chaser to Brooks. Read the following and, I promise, you’ll walk away refreshed:

ste-vo said...

@Jay-Ottawa, "You are what you read." I like that. I don't read David Brooks, just the comments. I have a book from Verso/Counterblasts titled "The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Freidman at Work" by Belen Fernandez. I wish someone would publish the same thing regarding David Brook! I would purchase my own copy.

Will said...

OK, so I didn't read Brooks either. Big shocker, huh? (Love the graphic by Kat Garcia, though! Always enjoy her work.) Anyhoo, it's random video time. Here's a guy biking down a mountain with his border collie leading the way. She is soooooo fast! I could watch her run forever:

annenigma said...

Personally, I've grown bored with Brooks and ALL the other opinion writers at the NYT on both ends of the political spectrum. I don't read them nor do I even read the comments to those opinion pieces unless they are specifically mentioned here at Sardonicky. I'm always pleased when Karen prints her comment here for that reason. There's simply too little time, too many other superior sources of news and opinion, and far more penetrating analyses elsewhere.

Actually, the comments to NEWS pieces in the NYT do a far better job of critiquing than the usual Comment Club who dominate the Opinion section. For some reason the 'trusted' CC don't usually comment in the News section. Maybe they can't get a quick jump to the top of the pack to get the most Recommends because their email alerts are only for Opinions.

That's actually a relief. We get to read other people's comments without having to scroll past the Comment Club first. Also we hear from those who don't bother with the Opinion section, like Norman Pollack who contributes pieces to Counterpunch. Here's his latest piece in Counterpunch critiquing the President's SOTU address:

***If Karen had her own column in the Opinion section of NYT, I'd be there in a flash!***

Karen Garcia said...

I would find Brooks a must-miss too, were it not for his outsized influence on the Obama Industry. Click the link to the "New York" article in the first sentence and read all about the bromance between the hacks. The fact that David Axelrod praises Brooks as one of the leading American public intellectuals really helps explain the incredible over-estimation of Obama's own intellect within his own clique of sycophants. Brooks and Barry: two neoliberal peas in a pod. Brooks poses as a Republican and Obama poses as a Democrat to give free market ideology that sexy bipartisan thrill.

I agree about the difference between Times commenting in news articles and op-eds. Former more radical/issues oriented and latter pretty much aligned on party loyalties and personalities. One reason that I usually skip Collins and Blow is that their topics are often restricted to the business model of MSNBC, i.e. shooting GOP fish in a barrel.

Will, thanks for the video. I sent it to my son, an amateur competitive mountain biker who isn't getting much biking in during this horrendous Northeast winter.

Jay - Ottawa said...

h/t for that pointer to Norman Pollack’s ruminations on the SOTU.

“…. Liberalism looks good, in seeking to break down encrusted feudal institutions, but when faced by a viable and unafraid Left, its centrism—always the primordial nature of property—strikes out viper-like against radicalism in defense of capitalism.

“Thus, Obama’s State of the Union Address: Hunt as one will, not an inch of concession on administration policy, and instead the word “business,” repeated ad nauseam, points up the harmonization of property and the state, capitalism and government, a synthesis which provides the rationale for accumulation at home, trade partnerships, regional alliances, and military expansion abroad.

“If I were a political scientist I would elevate Obama’s historical stature for [unconsciously] revealing the guts of liberalism in the last six decades .... Obama has fleshed out liberalism’s ersatz character, the public-relations, [and] doubletalk unctuousness ….”

Brooks and Obama are brothers.

Habits are hard to change – tell me about it. But given the blogroll (topside), I find we have less and less reason to turn first, or even last, to the opinion pages of the Times.

annenigma said...

FYI, I just wanted to point out that the great website listed on Karen's blogroll, Popular Resistance ( is actually the new renamed website for the original Occupy Washington DC protest organized by activists Kevin Zeese, JD and Margaret Flowers, MD (the one that got pre-empted and morphed into Occupy WallStreet/U.S. Day of Rage.)

Their website has a great team of contributors. It is well worth reading on a regular basis - if you can tear yourselves away from David Brooks!

Thanks to Karen for having it listed. I wouldn't have known about it otherwise.

Zee said...

@annenigma and @Jay--

When Pollack speaks of the " accumulation [of property] at home..." just who are the "accumulators" whom he seems to be criticizing.

All of us? Or just the accumulators of massive property?