Sometimes, a line of writing from something sticks in your craw like a poorly-chewed piece of popcorn. No matter how hard you try, you can't get it to stop poking your insides. One such line came from today's New York Times, on the mighty opinion pages. It was from David Brooks's latest column (if by "column," you mean, "an ongoing chronicle of despair, loneliness, and failure from a mind unwilling to admit just how goddamned wrong he has been for years"), wherein Brooks waxes Brooksishly about how "This Century Is Broken."
Nominally, the photo that accompanied the article would have annoyed the shit out of me. It's of "a shuttered business in downtown Wilkes-Barre, Pa." The last time I was in Wilkes-Barre was in 1995; those stores were shuttered even then and had been for a long damn time. But the use of that photo was not David Brooks's fault, although, fuck, it's pretty much par for the course for the column.
No, the line that has nagged at me all fucking day, like a splinter under my fingernail, came after Brooks told us that "between 1948 and 2000 the U.S. economy grew at a per-capita rate of about 2.3 percent a year," as an article in Commentary by Nicholas Eberstadt he read told him. Then, still summarizing, in the six words that made me want to punch my iPhone screen, Brooks observes, "But then around 2000, something shifted." Are you fucking kidding? You might expect the most obvious answer in the world here, especially as Brook continues, "In this century, per-capita growth has been less than 1 percent a year on average, and even since 2009 it’s been only 1.1 percent a year."
"Something shifted" in 2000. Something changed. Starting in 2000. The end of 2000, if you look at the Commentary piece. Something that we haven't recovered from. God, what could have happened? Brooks throws all kinds of things at us then, about demographics and shifting priorities of workers and millennials. Eberstadt talks about economic inequality as a factor, something that Brooks fails to mention. But, really, and come the fuck on here. Is this that difficult to figure out?
Here's the fun part: Brooks, like Eberstadt, leaves out one key word, one word that would do more to explain the mystery of slow growth, than any other statistic or fake psychological insight. And that word is "Republican."
For fuck's sake, in 2000, George W. Bush was appointed president, and his policies quickly, in 2001, took the economy back to the fucking Gilded Age, with tax cuts, unfunded mandates, and, what do you call it, two motherfucking useless wars, and Republicans have done their goddamnedest to ensure that the fuckery done by the Bush years wouldn't be set right by the Obama administration and Democrats. Brooks was a wet-pantied cheerleader, rubbing himself on George W. Bush's groin back in 2001, so maybe he's still distracted by his unslaked lust.
Practically every shitty thing that Brooks describes can be directly attributable to Republican policies (with some aiding and abetting by some Democrats) that dicked over the working and middle classes in this country. The end of social mobility that Brooks mourns from his mansion was an intended effect of the deregulation mania that started in the Reagan era and was put into high gear in the W. Bush reign of "Fuck You, Proles" economics. We're heading back to those good times now with Trump.
If you leave out Republicans, whether in action in the Bush years or in intransigence in the Obama presidency, then you are willfully blind, willfully ignorant, and pathetically deluded. Which, come to think of it, are generally the abiding principles of a David Brooks column.
(Note: Thanks to the good Driftglass for the reminder of Brooks's days of fucking the quarterback.)