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David Brooks

March 24, 2010

I’m quite busy with a problem set right now, so this won’t rank among my best-written posts. But I was so moved by frustration with my fellow (pop) sociologist and U of C alumnus David Brooks that I thought I’d share a few passages from his latest NYT article, lamenting the passing of health care reform into law.

In this paragraph, he reveals that he values abstract ideas more than the impact of policy on people’s lives.

Yet I confess, watching [health care reform pass into law], I feel again why I’m no longer spiritually attached to the Democratic Party. The essence of America is energy — the vibrancy of the market, the mobility of the people and the disruptive creativity of the entrepreneurs.

Yes, health care reform may improve millions of lives, but it doesn’t nourish David Brooks spiritually! Besides, saving tens of thousands of lives per year pales in comparison to that American j’ne sais qua Brooks loves so much. The man knows his priorities.

Further down, Brooks reveals the stunning grasp on foreign affairs that led him to cheerlead the invasion of Iraq:

Nobody knows how this bill will work out. It is an undertaking exponentially more complex than the Iraq war, for example.

No doubt, health care is a complex issue. But once a problem with the law becomes manifest, you amend it. You tweak it. Problem solved. In the worst case scenario, Congress may have to raise taxes.

In contrast – and as I would have hoped that Brooks had learned by now – once you’ve broken Iraq, you own it. You can’t tweak Iraq, you have to occupy it for a decade. You pour American lives and American treasure into it. Meanwhile, Iraqis are suffering and dying. And despite all of that effort, no one really knows what will happen when we pull out.

But intellectually, you know, whatever. Health care and the destruction of a foreign state are pretty much the same.

There’s something about the passage of health care that brought out the essences of conservative columnists, from Megan McArdle’s passionately fuzzy thinking to David Brooks’ penchant for abstract inanities.

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UPDATE: To help underscore the magnitude of the false “Invade Iraq/Pass HCR” equivalency, here’s Ezra Klein on the risk of health care reform:

The bill doesn’t strike me as a big “risk” insofar as the worst case is pretty much that we insure 32 million Americans and that proves somewhat more expensive than we’d anticipated. Given that the projected spending of the bill — with no savings or revenue taken into account — is only 4 percent of our annual spending on health care, I’d take that deal and I’ll gladly sign my tax return to help pay for it. If that’s the cost of a decent society, so be it.

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