As a retired American Lit professor enjoying his retirement in Weimar, Germany, I begin everyday but Sunday reading “The International Herald-Tribune” in the great Anna Amalia research library, a five minute hike from my third floor flat in a 1782 villa at Seifengasse 10, down the street from Goethe’s last residence at No. 1.
I inevitably begin by reading Paul Krugman, whose openness to evidence and clarity of exposition please this one time English professor. And I always guard my balance by then reading David Brook’s take on our value system. With less and less assent. Today’s essay (June 16-17, 2012), “Which model to buy?”, a tout of Yuval Levin’s “Our Age of Anxiety” in The Weekly Standard is an wholly unconvincing analysis of the threatening collapse of our economy. Let me describe my analysis, beginning with the false dawn of Ronald Reagan’s “Morning in America”.
This B actor was once head of his Hollywood union. Joe McCarthy’s Commie busting turned him around. He became a slick TV flack for GE whose product was progress. His Santa Barbara estate was his reward for jettisoning the emerging middle class. And his first presidential action was to abolish the flight controller’s union. Soon after he was advising manufacturers to offshore their production, Mexico first and the China and other Asian countries. They learned as well to offshore their profits, so that the now famous 1% got richer and richer while the new middle class gradually disappeared.
I remember in the 1950’s as I worked summers in Detroit factories for tuition money for a doctorate (my GI Bill as a Navy aviation radar technician 2c had run out) that middle aged workers were buying summer cottages up North. My Hamtramck middle school teaching mother could afford Birchloft, on a bluff overlooking Lake Huron, south of Tawas: $800 for a 50 foot lot, $783 for a two story three bedroom cottage. Reagan’s maneuvers against unions killed all that, savaging the new middle class into the economic basement they had just abandoned.
Then came the smug “C-“Yalie Bush 43, the first amoral moron to be president. Amoral? Consider his CV and his impunity from punishment, as the USA became the incarceration capital of the world—with jails reserved for the black and the poor. “Equality and Justice for All?” DUI indictments ignored.
After we invested a million to make him a pilot for the Champagne Squadron, so-called because it was an upper class dodge from Vietnam service, he went AWOL to help a friend run for office in Alabama. With impunity. He was a flop as a businessman, but not as a felon who committed insider trading in his last failure, with SEC tapping him softly on the wrist, as he left that business with loot enough to become a baseball millionaire, the stadium paid for by the City of Arlington. And yes the ranch outside Crawford, and two terms as Governor of Texas.
Then the Supreme Court began its sly, slow motion coup, s/electing him president in 2000, arrogantly goreing our electoral process with impunity. Bush’s “missions unaccomplished” in the Middle East as well as his tax breaks for the already rich accelerated the deficits the right wing attributes to Medicare and fat pensions. The five right wing Roman Catholic Justices who mystiphysically argued in “Citizens United” that rich corporations were “persons” completed the political corruption that had diminished the Congress since Reagan into a dysfunctional rubber stamp.
I am astonished that the canny Brooks has never once explained how the infantilization of our media and a playpen educational system have precluded amelioration. When the likes of Rush Limbaugh can describe his mishmash as “Excellence in Broadcasting” without being mocked off the air shows you how cynical our power class is about the truth—so long as the money keeps pouring in. They think only in fiscal quarters not in future maturity.
When Brooks stops talking like a local Chamber of Commerce hack, I will begin to take his counsel seriously. As is, he is just a bit more literate Bush 43, a disgrace to democracy.