Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ever Wonder How Two People Can Read the Same Thing and Reach Completely Different Conclusions?

That's the feeling I had after reading David Brooks's column and the Firedoglake screed linked to it at Memeorandum.

Brooks's column, titled The Values Question, goes into a philosophic tale about what American was, is, and hopes to be.

During the first many decades of this nation’s existence, the United States was a wide-open, dynamic country with a rapidly expanding economy. It was also a country that tolerated a large amount of cruelty and pain — poor people living in misery, workers suffering from exploitation.

Over the years, Americans decided they wanted a little more safety and security. This is what happens as nations grow wealthier; they use money to buy civilization.

Occasionally, our ancestors found themselves in a sweet spot. They could pass legislation that brought security but without a cost to vitality. But adults know that this situation is rare. In the real world, there’s usually a trade-off. The unregulated market wants to direct capital to the productive and the young. Welfare policies usually direct resources to the vulnerable and the elderly. Most social welfare legislation, even successful legislation, siphons money from the former to the latter.

Brooks then goes on to compare these earlier attempts at creating the welfare state with Obamacare, and discovers that when promising additional goodies (especially after you've already maxxed out the credit card), you have to figure out how to pay for them. And Democrats don't really like having to figure out how to pay for these things because it's not terribly popular with the pitchfork set. Brooks concludes that how we decide to deal with the supposed health care crisis says more about our values than anything, and he implies that we're really shitty people if we don't swallow the Democrats' solutions.

Earlofhuntingdon at FDL must've read a different column than the one I did, because the spittle-flecked post about Brooks' writing didn't really seem to address what Brooks actually said, but rather, what EH wanted him to say to fit the cruel, heartless conservative stereotype:
The "moral choice" for Bobo is clear: future business vitality trumps individual vitality and family health. He gets there by neatly synthesizing Republican talking points and by reducing to passive abstraction millions of Americans denied medical treatment by our bizarre and unsustainable health insurance system. He then reassures Republicans that they will be "responsible stewards" of tomorrow when they say no to demands for greater "comfort" today. Because we just can’t afford it.

I searched in vain for the part of Brooks' column where he said that "future business vitality trumps individual vitality and family health." Quite the contrary, really:
Reform would make us a more decent society, but also a less vibrant one. It would ease the anxiety of millions at the cost of future growth. It would heal a wound in the social fabric while piling another expensive and untouchable promise on top of the many such promises we’ve already made. America would be a less youthful, ragged and unforgiving nation, and a more middle-aged, civilized and sedate one.

Exactly what part of that statement shows that Brooks thinks "future vitality trumps individual vitality and family health"? This quote was used in the FDL piece, yet it's obvious that EH either didn't read it (entirely possible) or completely misread it (most probable). If anything, Brooks' statement seems to lean in favor of Obamacare because taking care of the poor and weak is what civilized societies do. But, I guess, if you are looking for a reason to hate conservatives--any conservatives--you really do have to misread what they say to get to the point you want.