Brooks: Why the Progressive Era Offers Few Historical Parallels

David Brooks has an interesting piece in today’s NYT (I must admit, he has written more than a few fine columns this year).  He notes that the Obama administration assumed office drawing on parallels to the Great Depression and FDR. It has since abandoned this historical analog and turned, instead, to the Progressive Era. The remainder of the column argues quite persuasively that there are few useful parallels to be found here.

A teaser:

One hundred years ago, we had libertarian economics but conservative values. Today we have oligarchic economics and libertarian moral values — a bad combination.

In sum, in the progressive era, the country was young and vibrant. The job was to impose economic order. Today, the country is middle-aged but self-indulgent. Bad habits have accumulated. Interest groups have emerged to protect the status quo. The job is to restore old disciplines, strip away decaying structures and reform the welfare state. The country needs a productive midlife crisis.

3 thoughts on “Brooks: Why the Progressive Era Offers Few Historical Parallels

  1. David Brooks is correct to a certain extent. Over the last 80 years or so the Progressive (socialist) agenda has been and continues to be put into place in America. And,his statement about oligarchic economics is,,to a large extent, also true. There are about 400 elite families that own and control much of the wealth in America. This owning and controlling is done through trusts,endowments and corporations that pay no or limited taxes. Also,as an aside, much of the Main Stream Media is owned and controlled by these same elitists. Of course Mr. Brooks Idea about restoring economic “order” really turns out to be Fascism. With these same elitists,,behind the curtain,,pulling the strings of their political puppets.

  2. Social security cuts & the death of the Democratic Party
    Jane Hamsher, Fire Dog Lake – From the moment he took the White House, the President has wanted to cut Social Security benefits. David Brooks reported that three administration officials called him to say Obama “is extremely committed to entitlement reform and is plotting politically feasible ways to reduce Social Security as well as health spending in March of 2009. You can only live in denial for so long and still lay claim to being tethered to reality.

    And if you think it’s only the President, and the progressives in Congress will oppose him, we’ll have to disagree about that too. Nancy Pelosi can always come up with the votes she needs to pass whatever the White House wants, and she’ll do it again this time. It’s her only chance to ever be Speaker again. If the Democrats somehow manage to retake control of the House, she needs Obama’s support. She’ll shake her fist and say things like any health care bill “without a strong public option will not pass the House” and then turn around and force her caucus to walk the plank.

    What we’re watching is the death of the Democratic Party. Or, at least the Democratic Party as most of us have known it. The one that has taken its identity in the modern era from FDR and the New Deal, from Keynesianism and the social safety net. Despite any of its other shortcomings (and they are myriad), the Democratic Party has stood as a symbol for commitment to these principles. As recently as 2006, Democrats retook the House in a surprise wave election because the public feared that George Bush would destroy Social Security, and they trusted the Democrats over Republicans to secure it. Just like George Bush, Obama now wants to “save” Social Security”¦.by giving those who want to burn it to the ground the the very thing they’ve wanted for decades.

    Any member of any party who participates in this effort does not deserve, and should not get, the support of anyone who values Social Security and cares about its preservation. The amount of damage that the Democrats under Obama have been able to do has been immeasurable, by virtue of the fact that they are less awful that George Bush. But where George Bush failed, Obama will probably succeed.

    Max Richtman, National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare – Social Security is a self-financed program paid for by Americans throughout their working lives. It has kept millions from poverty for more than 75 years and has absolutely nothing to do with the federal deficit. President Obama has promised Social Security benefits for current retirees would not be at risk and that he would not ‘slash’ benefits for future generations. However, that’s exactly what will happen if the COLA formula is changed as has been reported. The chained CPI is nothing more than a backdoor benefit cut Washington hopes Americans won’t notice or understand. Having weathered two years of no COLAs, Washington now wants to tell seniors that ‘nothing’ is too much.” AddThis Print This Post

    Paul Krugman, NY Times – It’s getting harder and harder to trust Mr. Obama’s motives in the budget fight, given the way his economic rhetoric has veered to the right. In fact, if all you did was listen to his speeches, you might conclude that he basically shares the G.O.P.’s diagnosis of what ails our economy and what should be done to fix it. And maybe that’s not a false impression; maybe it’s the simple truth.

    One striking example of this rightward shift came in last weekend’s presidential address, in which Mr. Obama had this to say about the economics of the budget: “Government has to start living within its means, just like families do. We have to cut the spending we can’t afford so we can put the economy on sounder footing, and give our businesses the confidence they need to grow and create jobs.”

    That’s three of the right’s favorite economic fallacies in just two sentences. No, the government shouldn’t budget the way families do; on the contrary, trying to balance the budget in times of economic distress is a recipe for deepening the slump. Spending cuts right now wouldn’t “put the economy on sounder footing.” They would reduce growth and raise unemployment. And last but not least, businesses aren’t holding back because they lack confidence in government policies; they’re holding back because they don’t have enough customers — a problem that would be made worse, not better, by short-term spending cuts. . .

    Watching Mr. Obama and listening to his recent statements, it’s hard not to get the impression that he is now turning for advice to people who really believe that the deficit, not unemployment, is the top issue facing America right now, and who also believe that the great bulk of deficit reduction should come from spending cuts. It’s worth noting that even Republicans weren’t suggesting cuts to Social Security; this is something Mr. Obama and those he listens to apparently want for its o

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