At times I have enjoyed reading David Brooks NYTimes column. Today is not one of those days.
In a column titled, "Why Hagel Was Picked," Brooks starts out with a discussion of government spending on healthcare. After several paragraphs of preamble, he gets to his thesis: that Hagel was picked to give Obama political cover for making defense cuts that are necessary to pay for Medicare as its costs grow.
That's a somewhat reasonable argument for a Republican to make. But Brooks is being somewhat dishonest. More after the orange squiggle of love.
He gets around to comparing us to Europe, which chose long ago to spend more on the "welfare state" than on the military.
Oswald Spengler didn’t get much right, but he was certainly correct when he told European leaders that they could either be global military powers or pay for their welfare states, but they couldn’t do both.So we are going the way of Europe (read: broke) because of "middle-class seniors". Greedy middle-class seniors. (Never mind that Medicare covers poor and low-income seniors, but I digress.)
He claims we are on our way to European-style military decline.
European nations can no longer perform many elemental tasks of moving troops and fighting. ... The United States will undergo a similar process. The current budget calls for a steep but possibly appropriate decline in defense spending, from 4.3 percent of G.D.P. to 3 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office.After dazzling us with his command of numbers, he makes this hyperbolic, dire statement:
As the federal government becomes a health care state, there will have to be a generation of defense cuts that overwhelm anything in recent history.Of course, he does not bother to mention that :
* The U.S. has been outspending the rest of the world on defense for decades, so the cuts are LONG overdue.
* The U.S. has blown through defense budgets, spending billions on unnecessary, ill-planned wars, like Iraq, during which billions were wasted and unaccounted for.
* Republican voters like Medicare as much as they like other social welfare programs, like Social Security, so if Brooks is going to blame voters for defense cuts, he needs to speak to his own primary readers.
Mr. Brooks: The United States is not about to lose its military might. Defense cuts will be made and the U.S. will continue to have the power to annihilate the planet several times over. If we decline in power, it will be because we continue to pretend that fighting war after war is the way to stay top dog, to push our adversaries around, and make a lot of money for military contractors (and energy companies) in the process. Remember that the Iraq war (as well as Afghanistan) revealed the limits of military might.
For these reasons, I posit, the David Brooks is a dick.
9:06 AM PT: Kevin Drum at Mother Jones agrees, with this quote:
"Brooks is right that healthcare costs are by far the most important part of the federal budget going forward. Every other component of the budget is growing either slowly (Social Security) or not at all (domestic spending and defense spending). But he's not right that healthcare will inevitably swallow everything else. We can afford to spend another 3 or 4 points of GDP if we need to, and the political climate of today isn't necessarily the political climate of tomorrow."