My, how the neoconservatives hate the Tea Partiers. David Brooks had a piece on Monday over at the NYT dripping with sweet reason and explaining how the Republicans have a budget victory within their grasp if they can summon up the wisdom to seize it. They will get “trillions of dollars in spending cuts in exchange for a few hundred million dollars of revenue increases.” Brooks specifies Medicare as one of the programs to be trimmed.
But the Republicans will not take the deal being promoted by Brooks, so he reveals that they “may no longer be a normal party” and “are infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical governing alternative.” Worse still, “The members of this movement do not accept the legitimacy of scholars and intellectual authorities” and have become “an odd protest movement that has separated itself from normal governance, the normal rules of evidence and the ancient habits of our nation.” He concludes “…that Republicans are not fit to govern.”
Admittedly the thought of an Evangelical fanatic like Michele Bachmann becoming president makes my blood run cold, but the Tea Partiers are as often as not on to something. Government is too big, too expensive, is ruining the country, and must be stopped cold. Which means harsh medicine.
Brooks is a successful product of the status quo, someone who has ridden his ideology to a position with America’s self-proclaimed leading newspaper. It is significant that he is willing to cut Medicare but makes no mention of the defense budget, which is more than half of all discretionary spending. After all, he will have great health insurance when he retires so Medicare doesn’t matter to him while having the wherewithal to wage endless wars is a top priority.
And there is also a problem with Brooks’ math in that it is somewhat fuzzier than he claims. The suggested trillions in cuts are spaced out over a number of years and the increases are considerably more than he is projecting over the same time period. What at least some Tea Party Republicans want is to end government by credit card, to increase the debt ceiling by an amount equal to cuts in the budget. In and of itself, that would not seem to be unreasonable. Undoable possibly, but not unreasonable.
But Brooks appears to be bothered most by the fact that the Tea Partiers are so common. How dare they not pay attention to “scholars and intellectual authorities,” which undoubtedly includes David Brooks himself. Brooks seems unaware that it is precisely folks like him and his scholarly buddies who have gotten the rest of us in a mess that appears to have no exit door. His invocation of the “ancient habits of our nation” appears to accept running up catastrophic debts while fighting a series of wars of choice, which he, of course, chose and even cheerleaded. That is not so much an ancient habit as a recent one, brought to us courtesy of Brooks and his friends over at The Weekly Standard, The Wall Street Journal, and the American Enterprise Institute.