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Richard Brodsky

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David Brooks on Inequality, Part II: The Comedy Tour

Posted: 11/17/11 03:11 PM ET

The right doesn't know what to do about the surging popular concern about gross inequality of wealth and the right-wing policies that cause it. They've tried every trick in the book: deny, explain, minimize, change the subject, and now a kind of ridicule.

The NY Times' David Brooks, often the source of respectable reactionary thought, originally tried to distinguish the concentration of wealth and power as small potatoes compared with divisions within middle-class America. It was not an illuminating exercise. (See my response to last week's piece). Rather than move on to more comfortable territory, Mr. Brooks continues to poke at the scab, apparently trying to find the humorous side of a phenomenon that erodes basic American values and endangers the American Dream.

Put aside that his latest piece just isn't funny. Humor should be left to the humorists, and the Times has never been a reliable (intentional) source of things that make you laugh. Mr. Brooks offers us a tour of things like beer inequality, cupcake inequality, sports inequality, supermarket inequality and more. As the Jesuits used to say, Vey Is Mir. He seems to be a reasonably intelligent man faced with a proposition he can't absorb.

Income inequality is the greatest domestic long-term threat to the American experience that we face. We have created an economic aristocracy and unsurprisingly it is translating its economic power into political power. Not just very wealthy individuals, but aggregations of wealth in the form of business corporations are now granted the rights we associate with a natural person and so also enter the political system. One can support or bemoan all this. But it ain't funny and it ain't trivial.

When you think about it what can right wing economists say? "Wealth disparity is a good thing?" "It's inevitable?" "Don't worry, we really know what we're doing?"

We need a Republican Party that includes fellow travelers who are willing to debate real issues, and stand or fall on the merits of their ideas, not "read my lips" slogans or 9-9-9 numbers. I want a presidential campaign that's a full-throated debate about our economic future. I'd settle for just a decent argument. Instead, we're getting silliness from people like David Brooks, who should know better.

 

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