David Brooks’ Infrastructure Column Makes You Say “Oh My God!”

Dave Johnson

The New York Times’ David Brooks writes today in “The Working Nation“: ” Western economies delivered broad and growing prosperity for the middle class. This nurtured a general faith in political institutions and culminated in the democratic triumphalism of the 1990s.” But now government is not delivering, he writes. The result, he says, is that the middle class is hollowing out, earnings are stagnant, there is not enough work, people are left without purpose, morale and faith in government and institutions has plummeted.

The labor force participation rate is at its lowest in decades. Millions are in part-time or low-wage jobs that don’t come close to fulfilling their capacities. Millions more are in dysfunctional or unhealthy workplaces, but they don’t feel they can leave because they don’t think there are other jobs out there that pay the same amount.

So far so good…

Oh My God!

Then Brooks lays out his prescription to fix the problem and the only possible reaction is, “Oh my God!”.

It begins with this stunning statement: “The country is palpably in the middle of some sort of emotional recession. Yet over the past five years, the political class has done essentially nothing.”

The “political class?” And then he writes this:

…there’s a completely obvious agenda to create more middle-class, satisfying jobs. The federal government should borrow money at current interest rates to build infrastructure, including better bus networks so workers can get to distant jobs. The fact that the federal government has not passed major infrastructure legislation is mind-boggling, considering how much support there is from both parties.

“Both parties” support maintaining our infrastructure? Oh my God! It was the strategy of the Republican party to block exactly this so they could campaign on a theme of “Obama’s failed policies”! And for decades it has been the strategy of the conservative movement to make government fail and thereby turn people against government. They are succeeding, the success worries Brooks, so he points his finger at … “the political class.”

Oh my God! Brooks is not witnessing a failure of “the political class” to act, he is describing the success of conservatives and the Republican Party in shaping the current election environment using obstruction and demoralization as a strategy.

In every downturn since the Great Depression, our government has responded by boosting spending for infrastructure, schools and other public goods. The Bush administration responded to the slowing economy with a 2008 “stimulus.” But then, except for the 2009 “stimulus” that was successful at reversing the death spiral of our economy – nothing. Everything since has been blocked.

President Obama has been running around the country pleading with Republicans to please let us maintain our infrastructure. Again and again, Republicans have filibustered or otherwise blocked exactly this.

2011: Republicans filibuster Obama infrastructure bill

2012: GOP senators block top Obama jobs initiative

2013: Bipartisan Transportation and Housing Bill Filibustered

2013: Sequester Hits Federal Transportation Budget With a $1.9 Billion Cut

February 2014: Obama’s $300B infrastructure plan

July 2014: President Obama to unveil infrastructure funding initiative

“Both Parties?” Oh My God!

David Brooks is the spokesman for “center-right” thinking in the U.S. Among other perches, Brooks has a column in the New York Times and is a regular Friday talking head on the PBS Newshour. David Brooks writes a column on the need for infrastructure spending and says “both parties.”

Oh my God! Is it possible that Brooks is unaware of the conservative priority to turn the pubic against government? Is it possible that Brooks is not aware that the conservative movement opposes government spending on infrastructure? Is it possible that Brooks is not aware that the Republicans have opposed and (when able to) obstructed every single effort to restore spending for maintenance and modernization of the country’s infrastructure since President Obama took office?

Michael Grunwald sums up the problem in, “The Huge Obama Transportation Bill You Heard Nothing About“:

It reflects the unspoken recognition that no matter how much Republicans say they care about infrastructure, they’re not going to accept any infrastructure proposals that come from President Barack Obama. They opposed his $50 billion “roads, rails and runways” proposal in 2010, and then again when it was expanded and incorporated into his American Jobs Act in 2011. They’ve blocked Obama’s plans for an infrastructure bank and a national high-speed rail network. They’ve also blocked Obama’s proposals for corporate tax reform, which is relevant, because the new GROW AMERICA Act [Generating Renewal, Opportunity, and Work with Accelerated Mobility, Efficiency and Rebuilding of Infrastructure and Communities throughout America] depends on tax reform for much of its financing.

Just for some perspective, conservative thinking on infrastructure is that investing in infrastructure is “government spending” on projects that benefit “big labor.”

Heritage: “President Obama’s Infrastructure Plan Is More Tax-and-Spend Liberalism“: “…when the government taxes businesses in order to spend more money, it is just taking money out of the productive economy.”

Michelle Malkin: “Obama’s $50 Billion Union Infrastructure Boondoggle“:

President Obama calls his latest attempt to revive the economy a “Plan to Renew and Expand America’s Roads, Railways and Runways.” I’m calling it “The Mother of all Big Dig Boondoggles.” Like the infamous “Big Dig” highway spending project in Boston, this latest White House infrastructure spending binge guarantees only two results: Taxpayers lose; unions win.


● “Infrastructure bank is just another stimulus boondoggle“:

It is an article of faith among liberals that one of the best ways the federal government can reduce unemployment is to borrow billions of dollars and spend it on infrastructure projects.
For example, at a recent press conference President Obama made his case for creating an “infrastructure bank” that “could put construction workers to work right now, rebuilding our roads and our bridges and our vital infrastructure all across the country.”

● “White House back to peddling economic stimulus-via-infrastructure spending and new taxes

Etc., Etc., Etc.

Whenever people like David Brooks use their top perch among those who form America’s opinions to inaccurately claim that “both parties” and “the political class” are failing to deliver essential government functions, not only are readers left poorly informed. They are left less able to apply pressure to their elected officials how and where it is needed.

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