David Brooks Writes an Excellent Column, But He Doesn't Know Why
May 10, 2011
RUSH: David Brooks, column in the New York Times yesterday, "The Missing Fifth -- In 1910, Henry Van Dyke wrote a book called 'The Spirit of America,' which opened with this sentence: 'The Spirit of America is best known in Europe by one of its qualities -- energy.' This has always been true. Americans have always been known for their manic dynamism. Some condemned this ambition as a grubby scrambling after money. Others saw it in loftier terms. But energy has always been the country's saving feature. So Americans should be especially alert to signs that the country is becoming less vital and industrious.
"One of those signs comes to us from the labor market. As my colleague David Leonhardt pointed out recently, in 1954, about 96 percent of American men between the ages of 25 and 54 worked. Today that number is around 80 percent. One-fifth of all men in their prime working ages are not getting up and going to work." Okay, that's a great lede. My gosh, you give me another 500 words and I can win a Pulitzer Prize. Mr. Brooks does not understand what a great lede he had and he just goes off on some intellectual-size tangents here. Okay, the question is: "Why?" Why? Why is one-fifth of this country, men in their prime, not getting up and going to work? Back to his piece here...
"According to figures from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States has a smaller share of prime age men in the work force than any other G-7 nation. The number of Americans on the permanent disability rolls, meanwhile, has steadily increased. Ten years ago, 5 million Americans collected a federal disability benefit. Now 8.2 million do. That costs taxpayers $115 billion a year, or about $1,500 per household. Government actuaries predict that the trust fund that pays for these benefits will run out of money within seven years," as will everything else.
"Part of the problem has to do with human capital. More American men lack the emotional and professional skills they would need to contribute." Why? After every sentence, you ought to ask: "Why?" There is an answer to every one of these questions. "According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 35 percent of those without a high school diploma are out of the labor force, compared with less than 10 percent of those with a college degree." That makes sense. "Part of the problem has to do with structural changes in the economy. Sectors like government, health care and leisure have been growing, generating jobs for college grads.
"Sectors like manufacturing, agriculture and energy have been getting more productive, but they have not been generating more jobs. Instead, companies are using machines or foreign workers." Now, this is where it starts getting really provocative, maybe even good, and he doesn't know it. "The result is this: There are probably more idle men now than at any time since the Great Depression, and this time the problem is mostly structural, not cyclical. These men will find it hard to attract spouses. Many will pick up habits that have a corrosive cultural influence on those around them. The country will not benefit from their potential abilities.
"This is a big problem," writes Mr. Brooks. "It can't be addressed through the sort of short-term Keynesian stimulus some on the left are still fantasizing about," i.e. Obama. "It can't be solved by simply reducing the size of government, as some on the right imagine." Oh, yes, it can! That would be a damn good start. What are those 20% living on, Mr. Brooks, and off of whom are they living? This delusion "will probably require a broad menu of policies..." See? Only government policy can fix this! Government made this problem, Mr. Brooks. Government created this problem.
"It will probably require a broad menu of policies attacking the problem all at once: expanding community colleges and online learning..." Nope, nope. Mr. Brooks, what needs to change is what's being taught. The curriculum needs to change, Mr. Brooks. We are spending more than we ever have on education. There are more schools, junior colleges, vo-techs. We've got more training centers, we learning centers, and they're not learning anything. They're being taught a bunch of gunk. They're being indoctrinated, propagandized, whatever. He then says we to change "the corporate tax code and labor market rules to stimulate investment; adopting German-style labor market practices like apprenticeship programs, wage subsidies and programs that extend benefits to the unemployed for six months as they start small businesses."
Uh, well, we're already up to 99 weeks! Wage subsidies? Yeah, welfare. This is the New York Times' conservative columnist. "Reinvigorating the missing fifth -- bringing them back into the labor market and using their capabilities -- will certainly require money." See? Every one of these Beltway insiders, whatever the problem, the solution is more money. The problem is not enough money. We spent $14 trillion! We have targeted money at people like this -- I mean focus targeted -- since the 1960s, Mr. Brooks! That has made this problem, that has created this attitude. You couldn't write this piece if this were 1940, 1950.
"If this were a smart country, we'd be having a debate about how to shift money from programs that provide comfort and toward programs that spark reinvigoration. But, of course, that's not what is happening. Discretionary spending, which might be used to instigate dynamism, is declining. Health care spending, which mostly provides comfort to those beyond working years, is expanding. Attempts to take money from health care to open it up for other uses are being crushed," and then he goes on to talk about how to cut back on government health care spending.
The close to this thing is this: "Let's be clear about the effect of this mendacity: We're locking in the nation's wealth into the Medicare program and closing off any possibility that we might do something significant to reinvigorate the missing fifth. Next time you see a politician demagoguing Medicare, ask this: Should we be using our resources in the manner of a nation in decline or one still committed to stoking the energy of its people and continuing its rise?" The next time you talk to President Obama (and get past the crease in his pants), you need to ask him that very question, Mr. Brooks, because he is presiding happily over a nation in decline.
That 20% is a success story for the American left, Mr. Brooks -- and there used to be days years ago where you used to teach people this very thing. Back when you were genuinely a conservative, you understood this. You understood that that missing fifth is a political boon to a particular political party in this country. The simple, best solution to this is defund the Democrat Party. You defund the Democrat Party, that's step number one -- and then you focus on long-term here, which is gonna be self-esteem reliance. At some point this "missing fifth" is going to have to do it themselves. Mr. Brooks, nothing's gonna change as long as that missing 20% continue to vote Democrat. As long as they continue to vote Democrat, the Democrats will be happy -- and in fact be looking to make that 20% into 25%. That's Mr. Obama's purpose. That's right in front of your eyes and you refuse to see it 'cause of the crease of his pants or because you think he's smart guy or what have you.
So, Mr. Brooks, a good column.
He doesn't know why, but it was a good piece.
As far as it goes.
RUSH: By the way, you know, this missing fifth, stop and think about this. Twenty percent of men between 25 and 50 get up and do not go to work. That missing fifth helps the Democrat Party keep the unemployment numbers low, because they've given up looking. They're not getting up and looking for work, either. They're out of the workforce. They, therefore, are not counted in the unemployment number that's reported every month, the U3 number. They actually help the Democrats keep the unemployment number down. How in the world can you have 20% of the 25 to 50 year old male workforce not working and only have an official unemployment rate of 9%? That 20%, The Missing Fifth -- interesting Mr. Brooks thinks the future revolves around them, but regardless -- they're part of the group simply dropped out of the workforce which is now to almost, what, half the adult population, 58.4% of the country now works? This is unsustainable, folks.
RUSH: So you see, ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Brooks, the problem is not government, it's government's using the wrong programs. But government is the solution to all these things. It's just using the wrong programs. And that, of course, is wrong.