Mr. Brooks returns from vacation with his essay Guide for the Perplexed, an assertion of his political reasonableness, for a brief rhetorical moment he models a kind of ersatz centrism reinforced in the readers mind, by the inclusion of a link to Third Way, a think tank, the name affirms it's political usefulness. The question of 'Entitlement Reform' the euphemism for dismantling the remains of the New Deal in the Neo-Liberal vocabulary is the issue. And the rising cost of Medicare is the salient question for Mr. Brooks. 'Entitlement' is the insulting and demeaning term that somehow the benefits of Social Security and Medicare are unearned and undeserved. 'Entitlements' rob the next generation and hobble our efforts to assist the the poor, feed the hungry and repair our decaying infrastructure: Should we call this what it is, a pandering hypocrisy aimed at liberal readers? And please don't tell me that Mr. Brooks did not attack Social Security, because the two are inextricably linked; anything not linked to 'market forces' is Neo-Liberal heresy. Here Mr. Brooks asks the pertinent question:
“ So when you think about the election this way, the crucial question is: Which candidate can slow the explosion of entitlement spending so we can devote more resources toward our future?”
There are no surprises when reading Mr. Brooks, the terminus of this question takes up the remainder of his essay, all of which is a carefully and artfully garnished tribute to the 'surprising passion' of Mitt Romney.
“When you look at Mitt Romney through this prism, you see surprising passion. By picking Paul Ryan as his running mate, Romney has put Medicare at the center of the national debate. Possibly for the first time, he has done something politically perilous. He has made it clear that restructuring Medicare will be a high priority.
This is impressive. If you believe entitlement reform is essential for national solvency, then Romney-Ryan is the only train leaving the station.”
There is no hysterical appeal to the political theology of the Tea Party but a calm appeal to the exercise of public reason by a responsible public actor: Grover Norquist scrubbed clean of the political taint of economic extremism and political purism.
Here is the key to the wisdom of Romney/Ryan:
“Moreover, when you look at the Medicare reform package Romney and Ryan have proposed, you find yourself a little surprised. You think of them of as free-market purists, but this proposal features heavy government activism, flexibility and rampant pragmatism.”
The voucher is the answer. Yet serious questions remain, for some readers.
“ This system would provide a basic health safety net. It would also unleash a process of discovery. If the current Medicare structure proves most efficient, then it would dominate the market. If private insurers proved more efficient, they would dominate. Either way, we would find the best way to control Medicare costs. Either way, the burden for paying for basic health care would fall on the government, not on older Americans. (Much of the Democratic criticism on this point is based on an earlier, obsolete version of the proposal.)”
“Process of discovery” acts rhetorically as a stand in for an article of faith for Conservatives,even the New Democrats, the wisdom of the market. Seen in the light of the economic crash of 2008 and subsequent occurrences, merely confirm a viable suspicion that 'The Market' is simply incapable of making anything resembling sound, ethically based political decisions. That strains, even explodes the parameters of a mere descriptive mechanism, such is the hold of this moral/political chimaera.
“You’re still deeply uncomfortable with many other Romney-Ryan proposals. But first things first. The priority in this election is to get a leader who can get Medicare costs under control. Then we can argue about everything else. Right now, Romney’s more likely to do this.”
One grows tired of Mr. Brooks as incense bearer at the alter of Austerity! The Market and Capital, under the rubric of the exercise of responsible citizenship, might busy themselves with the real business of producing the number of well paying, secure jobs that will bring this country back to it's once prosperous state. Let the discussion of 'Entitlement Reform' take place within the context of that national endeavor.
“All of which causes you to look over to the Democrats and wonder: Why don’t they have an alternative? Silently, a voice in your head is pleading with them: Put up or shut up.
If Democrats can’t come up with an alternative on this most crucial issue, how can they promise to lead a dynamic growing nation?”
One can say with a note of regret and despair that the New Democrat President Obama is a Neo-Liberal, and as such is a Free Marketeer, with a window dressing of New Deal Liberalism: a modified welfare state exercised within the framework of that market, both Simpson-Bowles and the ACA demonstrate that Conservatism, quite conclusively. So the choice for the voter seems clear: do we want a destructive austerity led by Rep. Paul Ryan, steeped in the belief of American economic decline and the demonstrable failure of Free Market economics, or a conservative New Democrat who is also attached to a modified but equally unjustified faith in the current economic theology?