You can add this interview to "part the infinity" as to why anything David Brooks says should never be taken seriously again. Why, oh why is this man paid to write a column for The New York Times every week? From this week's The PBS Newshour, Brooks apparently believes that GOP Ayn Rand fanboy Paul Ryan, who has never met a budget he could actually balance should be considered a policy "wonk."
Listening to this tragedy on PBS reminded me of Esquire's Charlie Pierce and his similar dismay over the praise of Ryan in Politico, or as he appropriately calls them, Tiger Beat on the Potomac: Things In Politico That Make Me Want To Guzzle Antifreeze, Part The Infinity:
Sometimes, it's the way it does its business, and sometimes, it's simply what's in it.
Obama, who has always regarded Ryan as one of the leading intellectual forces of the opposition...
Is this a dagger I see before me? Let me plunge it into my eyeballs.
His budgets don't balance. The CBO has his picture up on the wall like the mug shots of stalkers that hang in the guard shacks of Hollywood studios. Actual economists look at his work, when he actually shows it, which is not often, and they tell the tales of it to their children to scare their children out of ever becoming economists. His performance on the national stage last autumn was a clown show of epic proportions. He is a Leading Intellectual Force in a party full of people who eat oatmeal with their toes. [...]
It goes without saying, but we will say it anyway, and again, but there is simply nothing that the zombie-eyed granny-starver could propose that should be treated by any Democratic president any differently than a free introductory case of the mange. He has nothing to offer to any progressive vision of the country, not even the president's, which is admittedly a fairly pale one. He wants to demolish the social-welfare component of the government because he considers it philosophically illegitimate. He wants to establish an oligarchical system, not because it will profit him personally, although it will, but because he considers it the natural order of democracy. In every sense of the word, he is an extremist, the Louie Gohmert of economic policy.
Never mind that though. Here's what passes for a very Serious conversation by the "adults" in Washington where Brooks is downplaying the damage this sequester might do to our economy if it's allowed to go on, and praising Ryan as though he cares about anything other than lowering taxes on the rich at the expense of the rest of the country.
JEFFREY BROWN: But, from a political standpoint, do you take it further and say -- did the president overplay his hand to some degree, in saying -- in the sky is falling toward the sequestration?
DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I thought sequestration was absolutely terrible policy. So, from the point of view of are we running a decent government, it was terrible.
From the point of view are -- do people want a sign that their government can actually function, and does that overall level of confidence affect economic performance, I think he was right about that. If he was saying, well, a 0.25 percent drop in federal spending, whatever it was going to be, is going to have an immediate economic effect on hiring decisions, that was probably oversold.
JEFFREY BROWN: What do you think about the politics of the sequestration right now? Because we spent so much time talking after the election about the president has the upper hand, right, and that Republicans are down. Does it -- has it flipped at all now?
RUTH MARCUS: Well, the president has the upper hand because he's the president, by definition. But he's still got a Republican House to deal with.
I want to go back for just a second on the sequester, because we had this odd thing. During the campaign, we refuse -- when I say we, I mean President Obama and Mitt Romney refused to talk about -- declined to talk about the fiscal cliff, declined to talk about the sequester.
JEFFREY BROWN: I didn't think she was talking about all of us.
RUTH MARCUS: The -- even after the election, we didn't hear about the sequester for a while.
Then, all of a sudden, the administration way overplayed its hand by making it seem as if the sky was imminently falling. We may well feel, we probably will feel the impact of these things, not just in the macroeconomy, but because it's a small part of overall government spending, but it is a large part of government spending on some particular programs.
Wait for those airport lines. David's going be on a flight later tonight. I'm sure will be whisked right to the front.
So, when the -- but when the president -- now the president has completely flipped again.
He's gone from sky is falling, let's go out and trumpet to the country how terrible and irresponsible these Republicans are to cozying up with them in this mealtime diplomacy.
JEFFREY BROWN: Yes. Yes, so that's where I wanted to go.
The president has dinner. He invites 12 Republicans to a hotel in Washington, neutral territory.
What do you make of that? Is that -- is that -- is it useful? Is it helpful?
DAVID BROOKS: Yes.
First, I'm shocked that Ruth thinks I'm flying commercial.
I am flying commercial. I want to make that clear. So I think ...
JEFFREY BROWN: He's in a different economy altogether.
RUTH MARCUS: Oh, if I only knew how the other half lived.
DAVID BROOKS: Right.
So, I think it's vastly over -- overdue. Those of us who interview these people have a sense that they're -- you interview them separately. And they do a lot of time guessing about what the other party is thinking. And then a lot of times, what you hear -- and you heard this especially from Republicans -- wildly inaccurate views of what Obama was proposing, let alone what he believed in private.
And so the idea was, why don't you guys just get together? And I remember this -- thinking this four or five years ago. Paul Ryan and Barack Obama are two wonks. If they could actually sit around a table -- and you would think he has had a lot of lunches since he's president. Just choose one and have Paul Ryan come over.
And so it's always mystified me that it hasn't happened. But it has happened. And so far, the effect has entirely -- as far as we can tell, been entirely positive.
JEFFREY BROWN: What do you think?
RUTH MARCUS: Well, I think it's great that it has happened. I question why it didn't happen sooner, either four years ago or two months ago.
I also think that, yes, the first results are entirely positive. But it is a long way from dinner to dessert.
JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.
RUTH MARCUS: And, yes, there may be -- there are some signs of what the president called the commonsense caucus in the Senate, some willingness from Sen. McCain, Sen. Ayotte, Sen. Graham to accept some new revenue as part of tax reform, and if you combine it with controlling entitlement spending, that is all terrific.
And the president ought to be able to agree to that. But there is that thing I mentioned earlier, which is, even if you could get an agreement on that, in that grand bargain that we keep sitting here talking about, how do you get it past the House, where there seems to be ...
JEFFREY BROWN: Right.
RUTH MARCUS: I interviewed Paul Ryan the other day -- absolutely no willingness to accept new revenue, even as part of tax reform.
JEFFREY BROWN: And the president is next week continuing this. Right? He goes to Capitol Hill four times, including to talk to the House Republicans.
DAVID BROOKS: But, obviously, the basic structural problems are not going to go away with a few meals.
But I do think there has been sort of a lowering of the desire to ratchet every discussion up into World War III. And so I think on the budget where they -- they seem to have jointly decided, let's stop having these budget fights. And so on some of the budget -- thinking how to get past the sequester or really lock in the sequester, they seem to have said, let's have a compromise that we won't raise all the hot-button issues. We will just try just get through these things and we get on to other stuff.
I think the meals have helped a little on that.
RUTH MARCUS: They have decided to temporarily halt all these budget fights, so we won't ...
JEFFREY BROWN: Right.
RUTH MARCUS: I think it's highly unlikely we will have a government shutdown at the end of March.
But I really would keep an eye on, yes, once again, the debt ceiling debate that we're going have come May, June, July.