JESUS Christ, Mr. Brooks, you should pardon the expression:
For centuries, American politicians did not run up huge peacetime debts.
Y'know, I'm not sure what the record is for total number of errors contained in a simple English declarative sentence with no misspellings, but, whatever it is, consider it shattered. That thing is wrong beginning to end, from the center out in either direction, and probably as a sum of all possible anagrams. I'm still checking that.
First, anybody here happen to recall when the Declaration of the Independence of White Guys Who Own Things was signed? When the Articles of Confederation went into, you should pardon the expression, effect? Anno Domini 1777? Which is how long ago? Two-hundred thirty-three years. So, to begin with, "for centuries" seems an odd construction, though this does match the rest of the sentence. And hell, we've barely built up enough steam to start our trudge back uphill when "peacetime" shows up to notify us that Brooks has found Outright Lying insufficient to his purpose, and will be adding Hedging into the bargain.
Now, honestly, I can't explain this. Did Brooks begin by writing the simple declarative (and wrong, again, but that's obviously beside the point) statement that American politicians had not added to the Publick Debt for non-military purposes before the New Deal? It seems to be what he's trying to suggest. Did he just happen to recall the Louisiana Purchase while he was typing? Does some editor read this stuff first? I have no idea. It's certainly plausible that the whole bidness of "Wartime Debt Good, or At Least Morally Unavoidable, while Peacetime Debt Bad" trumps everything in the "conservative" universe, but for the life of me, how does "peacetime" turn up there without raising some little alarm bell in the back of your head? The main reason we're now governed by the second scheme the Founders thought up is that the first failed to handle the Debt. Sure, it was Good Wartime Debt, but then, Debt's Debt, unless you're paid to apologize for one party's contribution to it. This country, rather famously, was debt free exactly once in its history, for the better part of one sunny afternoon during the Jackson administration. We've been war-free only slightly less often. Public funds built the transcontinental railroad, the telegraph system, and the national parks. Public debt irrigated the California desert, purchased Alaska, and electrified the rural South. Public debt built the Panama Canal, the Hoover Dam, the TVA, and paid veterans' benefits into the bargain.
So let's tidy up a bit now, just for neatness' sake. It's not actually centuries, since there's barely a hundred years between Andrew Jackson and the New Deal, and just over for the Louisiana Purchase, $200 billion in today's dollars, or about half of the generally estimated cost of the FDR's alphabets.
And New Deal spending was not exactly unprecedented; goodbye "never in peacetime".
In fairness, I think Brooks did get the punctuation about right.
Okay, let's look at this a little differently. Most people nowadays would allow as how the Louisiana Purchase turned out to be a pretty good deal. Most people, at least most this side of Brooks' second favorite economist, Megan McGalt, would allow as how something needed to be done to ameliorate the effects of the Great Depression. How does the value of the action get to be settled in one direction only? War good--well, a lot of us would like to have, not just the outlay for three times the ordinance of WWII dropped on Vietnam in a continuing effort to close a third of the Ho Chi Minh Trail overnight, but most of what was spent on the Cold War, and in Korea, back in the coffers. Let alone what disappeared when George W. got ahold of it.
So let's say, in all, that what doesn't seem to be working is getting lectured on the subject by someone who can't tell the truth, beginning with Ronald Reagan, the man who increased the national debt in peacetime more than any other President--more than FDR did in eight years of the worst economic depression we've ever faced. For nothing.
I'm sure there's someone out there who's pointed out that refusing to make hard choices does not differ distinctly from making hard choices but refusing to look at the evidence first. If not, allow me to be the first. David Brooks doesn't even have the courage to take on incontinent militarism in a fucking newspaper, but he can lecture the Democrats on what has to be done to check spending. And it takes him exactly three weeks before he's absolving the Historically Victorious Teabag Party from any and all responsibility for doing anything substantial. It's curious--or maybe not--how closely the approach of the Economic Wing of the Republican Party to this Life or Death Deficit Problem resembles that of the Global War for Civilization Republican response to the idea of getting on the front lines themselves.