Saturday, December 20, 2003

Rating David Brooks

The time has come to grade the Satuday Op Ed of David Brooks, our favorite Brother from another planet. This week was a welcome surpise, compared to last week's boiler plate special that seemed to be a victim of deadline rather than good use for the most important sounding board in the Western world.

Brooks serves us two scoops of yummy Beltway sorbet in the form of some of the content of the President's State of the Union Address. Brooks begins rather confidently:

"Not long ago, a man who runs a construction company came to the White House to meet with a senior Bush administration official. He talked economic policy, then was asked how his business was going.

"He said things were going well. Orders were up. He'd revamped his I.T. system, and he'd re-engineered his production process so he'd been able to reduce his work force to 7,200 from 9,800.

"You can imagine the reaction as he dribbled out this final bit of good news."

No, David Brooks, we, lowly and untethered to the inside beltway that is Washington DC , do not have the contact with the Administration that you do, but we can guess. Call us outsiders, David Brookie! Blindly and in vain, we can guess, O lord: out of the Divine Light of Karl Rove, flailing in the darkness of the GOP in the wilderness, we can only guess in error. To be sure, our guesses would not be anything near in approximating your divine knowledge of, say, the name of the construction company owner.

You see, Brother Brooks is saying in his signature offhand way that someone in the administration told him that story and they probably did. Brookie is top drawer right now, he is The Republican at the New York Times. He is useful, especially in those swing states and in communicating with the East Coast Establishment.

And in that mutually dependent cha-cha, carried out discretely across those blue states, the Administration slips David some scoop in his lapel; scoop in the form of SOTU (State of the Union, my little pomegranate) content:

"In his State of the Union address, the President will announce measures to foster job creation. In the meantime, he is talking about what he calls the Ownership Society.

"This is a bundle of proposals that treat workers as self-reliant pioneers who rise through several employers and careers. To thrive, these pioneers need survival tools. They need to own their own capital reserves, their own retraining programs, their own pensions and their own health insurance.

"Administration officials are talking about giving unemployed workers personal re-employment accounts, which they could spend on training, child care, a car, a move to a place with more jobs, or whatever else they think would benefit them.

"President Bush has a proposal to combine and simplify the confusing morass of government savings programs and give individuals greater control over how they want to spend their tax-sheltered savings. Administration officials hope, in a second term, to let individuals control part of their Social Security pensions and perhaps even their medical savings accounts."

Pioneers? "Give individuals greater control over how they want to spend their tax-sheltered savings"? Having "individuals control part of their Social Security pensions and perhaps even their medical savings accounts."

Hmm. Interesting (The Corsair rubs his chin in recognition of an interesting idea). I thought the President was going to rattle off a Moon program, reacting to the Chinese mission, unfocused, silly. Been there done that, was my reaction to Cheney's latest treat bag to the aero-space-defense industry.

But this ... this. Hmmm. It smacks of vision. It smacks of policy wonkishness, of make the economy of prime importance. Yes ... yes. It is not the McGrocery list that Bill Clinton used to read at the SOTU, you know, the Fillet O' Fish, the Dunkin Doughnuts Kruller, the more charter schools, the Egg McMuffin, the tax credits for stay-at-home parents -- but you get the picture.

The speech has not yet happened, so there is still time for the President to mess things up, but this is an interesting piece of news and David Brooks did a good job. So, up from last week's C-minus, we give Brookie and A.

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