Today's NY Times Op-Ed page provides us with a lopsided battle of columns on Capital author, Thomas Picketty, whose book is now the No. 1 bestseller:
In one corner, wearing the blue, Nobel winner trunks, Paul "Shrill one" Krugman.
In the other corner, wearing the red "Civility Award" winner trunks, David Manhood Problem Brooks.
Krugman leads with a left jab: "The right seems unable to mount any kind of substantive counterattack to Mr. Piketty’s thesis." Brooks, stunned at the outset, feels his knees buckling. He ducks down into a crouch, dredging up the "Bobos" from his 2000 book: "The modern left is led by smart professionals -- academics, activists, people in the news media, the arts and so on -- who tend to live in and around coastal cities." According to Brooks, inequality isn't about the wealthy-poor class divide at all -- it's about envy of the very wealthy by the "coastal" intellectuals (i.e., the Bobos).
Steve M. in No More Mr. Nice Blog points out that here Brooks is mirroring the the effective right wing "channeling" of white, middle-American anger away from the wealthy to the "cultural elites" on the coasts, driving Priuses in Hollywood and "looking down" on the "real Americans." It's just Palin, Fox and Rush dressed up in phony "Burkean" rhetoric.
Back to the bout:
Krugman comes back with a left hook: "Still, it has been amazing to watch conservatives, one after another, denounce Mr. Piketty as a Marxist." Trying to duck under this punch, Brooks pounds the air with continued flailing at those bookish elites, who are not Marxists (that's too crude for the "civil" Brooks), but "those who are rich in cultural capital."
Then Brooks unleashes a string of self-inflicted blows -- ideas so absurd on their face, that Krugman need only stand there and watch:
Brooks suggests a "beefed up inheritance tax." In what parallel political universe will Republicans ever go for that?
He says we should be "Lifting people from the bottom with human capital reform," Presumably, education -- but what -- the despised common core; vouchers?
No need for "pushing down the top," write Brooks. OK -- now we get it -- Despite giving lip service to an increased estate tax, Brooks questions the whole idea of Piketty's book -- that concentration at the top over generations is impoverishing more and more people. If we just "human capitalize" the poor, then the people fighting tooth and nail against, e.g., the minimum wage, those on top will be happy to reduced their wealth and compensation to help lift them up.
Then Brooks makes a fatal mistake by mischaracterizing Picketty, writing that he predicts that family fortunes will concentrate, though big ones in the past have tended to dissipate and families like the Gateses give a lot away."
Krugman is now compelled to answer in his blog:
First, "Piketty doesn’t just assert that fortunes will concentrate, he shows that they have in fact concentrated in the past." Second, whatever generational dissipation of wealth does occur will happen over four to five generations, "controlling a large portion of wealth for that time."
It's a KO in the first round for the Prof over the Poseur.
If you're like me and you can't get enough Brooks bashing, see Charlie Pierce, The Comedy Stylings of David Brooks and Driftglass If it were a fight, they would have stopped it.