February 8, 2014

I don't know if David Brooks decided to start smoking pot again or if he's using something a bit stronger, but I'm not sure how else you come up with the kind of nonsense he was babbling about on this Friday's The PBS Newshour.

While discussing the latest jobs report and after his cohort, Mark Shields pointed out that we've got record high corporate profits along with record income inequality, here's how Brooks responded.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see this?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, we do talk about the job numbers every week.

I do think we pay attention to labor force participation. I sort of do agree somewhat with Mark that there does seem to be an imbalance in the power relationship between capital and labor.

MARK SHIELDS: That’s — yes.

DAVID BROOKS: And I don’t think we’re going to go back to unions, the way they were understood before. I don’t know what the next form is, employee-owned companies.

But I do think you — there probably should be something done to rebalance that relationship. Nonetheless, when I look at the jobs numbers — and I think they’re disappointing. Somebody pointed out, if we were in a normal recovery, we would have six million more jobs than we have now.

And so I look at what’s causing all the sludge in the economy, whether we’re not innovating enough. And there’s some evidence of that, some stagnation in that. A lot of people have just dropped out of the labor force. And that long decline — Doug Elmendorf, the head of the CBO, was asked.

One of the things that is moderating growth, it’s the aging of the population, shrinking of the labor force. And if you don’t have a lot of people working, paying taxes, making stuff, you’re just going to have a sludgier economy. And so there’s a whole bunch of reasons. Some have to do with the complexity of the government, which imposes costs, the complexity of the tax code.

It just feels like we have been a middle-age or late-age economy, and we need some rejuvenation of some sort.

So Brooks can't talk about the fact that the stimulus package wasn't big enough. He can't admit that the last forty plus years of trickle-down economics has been a failure. He sure doesn't want to see more people join unions and be allowed to earn a living wage. So this is what he's left with.

And he didn't stop there. The conversation continued:

JUDY WOODRUFF: Is anybody predicting that this is going to turn around in a positive way, in a big, positive way?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, there’s sort of this prediction of economic growth, and that 2014 was supposed to be good, and the market at the end of the year.

The decade — the first decade of the 1st century is the only 10-year period in the country’s history, as long as we have kept records, that we didn’t create any jobs, that there was no net increase of jobs. I mean, that’s just amazing.

And one of the things that has happened in this recession, Judy, is that the brutal austerity imposed is the number of public jobs, state, local, federal, firefighters, teachers, nurses, public employees that have been laid off. And they have not come back. I mean, even this past month, we’re still laying off people in the public sector. And, to me, it’s sheer folly, both in public services and economically.

DAVID BROOKS: It should be said that the CBO also had a report on the projected debt of the country going up, and they basically raised the debt level by $1.7 trillion. We’re going to be ramping up our public debt levels massively over the next 20 years.

MARK SHIELDS: Twenty years.

DAVID BROOKS: And that’s — that’s — that’s part of the equation of why the public employment has not gone up.

I just feel like — you know, there’s — Mancur Olson, a great economist, late economists, said countries — why did Germany and Japan do so well after World War II? It’s because, perversely, they lost the war, but all their institutions were cleaned out and they started afresh.

And middle-age economies just get a little more brittle. And it feels like we’re in that. And I don’t know how you then rejuvenate the economy, how you have a second burst, or a third burst in our case, but that sort comprehensive thing has to be talked about.

Brooks completely ignores what Shields says about austerity and the loss of public sector jobs, and instead starts talking about institutions being "cleaned out" and "bursts." If anyone has any idea of what the hell he's talking about in plain English, feel free to share in the comments section.

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