You may only read this site if you've purchased Our Kampf from Amazon or Powell's or me
• • •
"Mike and Jon, Jon and Mike—I've known them both for years, and, clearly, one of them is very funny. As for the other: truly one of the great hangers-on of our time."—Steve Bodow, head writer, The Daily Show

"Who can really judge what's funny? If humor is a subjective medium, then can there be something that is really and truly hilarious? Me. This book."—Daniel Handler, author, Adverbs, and personal representative of Lemony Snicket

"The good news: I thought Our Kampf was consistently hilarious. The bad news: I’m the guy who wrote Monkeybone."—Sam Hamm, screenwriter, Batman, Batman Returns, and Homecoming

July 06, 2011

David Brooks Reveals He Literally Worships Money

David Brooks just acknowledged that the Republican party is insane, which has caused great excitement among liberals. But no one seems to have noticed the most important thing Brooks said, which is that he actually worships money:

The members of this [GOP] movement [to default on the national debt] have no sense of moral decency. A nation makes a sacred pledge to pay the money back when it borrows money.

Obviously there's no religious or moral tradition which considers repaying loans to be "sacred." It's almost 180 degrees the opposite: the Old Testament, New Testament and Qur'an all condemn charging interest on loans. And of course the Bible requires Jubilee years in which all debts are completely canceled.

That doesn't mean that defaulting on the U.S. national debt would be a great idea. It just means that Brooks is, ethically-speaking, a gigantic pervert.

On the other hand, it turns out there's a particular kind of U.S. debt that David Brooks feels is completely unsacred:

BROOKS: There is no Social Security trust fund there.


BROOKS: We all bow down and worship at the beast of this fiction called the Social Security trust fund...


BROOKS: ... the trust fund is an accounting fiction.

What's the difference between these two kinds of debt? Well, David Brooks himself undoubtably owns a lot of standard government bonds. Paying him back is sacred. But the Social Security debt is mostly owed to peons. So paying them back is profane.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at July 6, 2011 02:54 PM

nice to have you back, jon

Posted by: otto at July 6, 2011 04:34 PM

i believe your analysis is accurate, unfortunately

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at July 6, 2011 07:21 PM

SAVE YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY, call John Boehner @1-202-225-0600. Keep what's YOURS and let the David Brooks of wallstreet fend for themselves. They won't starve.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at July 6, 2011 08:03 PM

i don't think he's much worried about his investments, or theirs. what he worships is the new extra political leverage his friends & allies got from... uh... mortally wounding the revenue side of the equation.

because if america ever finds out the public debt isn't a gargantuan monster swarm heading for our kids....

Posted by: hapa at July 6, 2011 08:36 PM

Um, by Jonathan's logic (which I am not doubting), we'd have to analyze Brooks' conclusion as to the Republican party and conclude that his problem with them is that they will cost him money. So "liberals" -- a.k.a. rightwingers who don't hate the gays too much -- are interested in exactly the wrong thing. This doesn't reveal that Brooks is dissatisfied with the Republican party's mental health; he's dissatisfied with its usefulness, a far more damning conclusion.

The comparison would be to a mafia family that, as part of an alliance of several other mob families, concludes that one other family is just so wild that it's bad for business.

Note that this also implies that Brooks is happier with Obama's actions than any actual liberal should be comfortable with.

Posted by: No One of Consequence at July 6, 2011 10:31 PM

I trust David Brooks because he is on the News Hour.

Posted by: rob payne at July 6, 2011 11:44 PM

Mr. Brooks' lackadaisical usage of "sacred" might be a reflection of his view on the importance of keeping one's word- supported, I think, by his disregard for the merits of Social Security. In context, right before this he also attaches decency to morality; I presume because only moral beings are decent, obvs. Is he attempting to appeal to the fanatical GOP base? Do they read the New York Times? Maybe he's actually spot-on with this verbiage. If it takes failure of the debt ceiling talks to chaperone this truth across the threshold of the common American psyche, then Mr. Brooks' key audience for this article must be composed of those who vote primarily on social issues and won't be swayed on fiscal matters anyhow, and/or those who stop paying attention to who's claiming to love Jesus harder promptly after they've cast their votes into the wishing well. Or, is he addressing those Democrats who, strike out "Jesus" and add "liberal things, omg," are practically the same kind of person -- taking no count of the Jonathan Schwarz's of the world who can instantaneously deduce his rhetoric to its root in self-interest.

"Over the past week, Democrats have stopped making concessions." my sleep-deprived state, I found myself briefly entertaining the possibility that he'd next say Democrats had miraculously acted in alignment with at least one of the ideals they supposedly stand for, keeping with the religious theme, but no:

"They are coming to the conclusion that if the Republicans are fanatics then they better be fanatics, too."

Well, thanks for stating the long apparent obvious. And um, duh, Republicans being unwilling to compromise is what makes them Republicans in the first place. David Brooks' guide to Baby's First Political Opinion.

Bonus misused word fun: "The struggles of the next few weeks are about what sort of party the G.O.P. is — a normal conservative party or an odd protest movement that has separated itself from normal governance, the normal rules of evidence and the ancient habits of our nation."

Posted by: Amandasaurus at July 7, 2011 02:39 AM

I tried rearranging my comment for coherency prior to posting and failed: I accidentally separated the part about the debt ceiling talks from the Republican refusal to compromise. I's tired.

Posted by: Amandasaurus at July 7, 2011 03:00 AM

What did Pink Floyd say, 'Money, it's a gas." Long, long before that, a then young fella who couldn't sing or play guitar took an interest in the worship of money, which is obviously what David Brooks does, but let's be honest--it's what almost EVERYONE does. Jesus may have thrown those money lenders out of the temple, but damn if they didn't get back in! And with the rise of capitalism, and especially finance capitalism, they are running the show. And have been for at least a couple of hundred years, when that really smart young fella took an interest in this.

As for all the many egg-headed reasons this is so, I have merely skimmed over the words of the brainiest of analysts from time to time and never really even mastered the wisdom, what with all the lingering German complexity that survived translation. But all that stuff by Marx about commodity fetishism and the refiication of abstractions relates to language and culture and how we think, which tells us what we really worship, in our minds more than our temples, because that's where worship really goes on. If you think you don't worship anything just because you're an atheist, think again! And if you think you worship God just because you go to church, think again!

Further reading for those who think Marx was just a bad economist obsessed with the relations of production and the labor theory of value:

"By possessing the property of buying everything, by possessing the property of appropriating all objects, money is thus the object of eminent possession. The universality of its property is the omnipotence of its being. It is therefore regarded as an omnipotent being."

Posted by: N E at July 7, 2011 08:48 AM

I like to pile on David Brooks as much as the next leftist, but "literally" is exactly how David Brooks did not reveal he worships money.

Posted by: Erik Ostrom at July 7, 2011 12:20 PM

But his word choice said it for him.

What it means when you say "literally"

Posted by: Amandasaurus at July 7, 2011 01:25 PM

I didn't say he literally revealed that he worships money, I said that he revealed that he literally worships money. And I stand by it!

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at July 7, 2011 02:21 PM

That "sacred bond" bit is ridiculous, but Social Security isn't really a debt. It's more of a vague promise. Benefits have been adjusted before, as it is essentially a welfare program. There is no contract with recipients they can legally stand on if Congress adjusts their benefits. The credit rating of the U.S would actually benefit if we did so.

Posted by: Wonks Anonymous at July 7, 2011 03:31 PM

Also, someone should tell Brooks that the government has actually defaulted on debt in the past (1933 to be exact).

Posted by: Wonks Anonymous at July 7, 2011 03:36 PM

"Social Security isn't really a debt..."

Social Security is a government run insurance program. After the trillions of dollars given to Wall Street as a reward for criminal behavior, the trillions of dollars spent on illegal wars and war contractors, and the billions or trillions of dollars in tax breaks for the rich it is rather upside-down to sack the retirement funds of the elderly.

The problem can be solved by getting health care costs under control using a single-payer system, ending these obscene wars, and- gasp- raising taxes on the rich.

Posted by: Edward at July 7, 2011 04:11 PM

You certainly deserve a round of applause for your post and more specifically, your blog in general. Very high quality material

Posted by: MemDyelsplelo at July 7, 2011 05:04 PM

I've heard "it's literally raining cats and dogs" more than a few times. Those are the little things I'm thankful for.

Posted by: N E at July 7, 2011 07:19 PM

I HAVE THE ANSWER---Reinstate the DRAFT but for old folks only. Free medical and a check, fill those empty holes in the ranks. Kill two birds with one stone, so to speak.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at July 7, 2011 08:39 PM

"Social Security isn't really a debt..."

The whole of the federal debt isn't really a debt in the sense that the federal govt need not borrow what it has the power to create. Do idiots really think that someday the IMF will need to bail out the US by loaning it US Dollars?

And neither does issuing federal debt constrain inflation. Owning a 30 year treasury bond does not stop me or the next person holding it from selling it today and buying a car with the proceeds tomorrow. When the government REALLY wants to lock up purchasing power it issues non transferable bonds like war bonds.

The interest paid on federal debt is a simple subsidy to rentiers.

Posted by: Jeff65 at July 7, 2011 11:43 PM

READ THE SOCIAL SECURITY ACT. Its a TAX. As long as The TAXMAN comes by to collect that TAX, regularly, then NOTHING is wrong. Something will be done with the money. YOU might get some, and then again, YOU might not.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at July 8, 2011 04:16 AM

hey, wonk, Social Security is not a vague promise.

For instance, read up the deal made in 1982.

Not vague at all.

Posted by: HM at July 9, 2011 10:37 PM

HM: I read the "anti-wonk" article and am left to ask " Where is the guarantee of YOU U&I getting ANYTHING other than a TAX INCREASE?"

Posted by: Mike Meyer at July 10, 2011 01:46 PM

Mike -

back then it was a big deal. I am not making this up, as a someone who hated Reagan. It is even in the Reagan library.

The guarantee was, they would set up the long term viability of Social Security (by raising the retirement age and raising the payroll tax, LOL) if middle class liberals would step aside politically and let them have the bulk of Reaganomics (end welfare, more prisons/guns/cops less taxes on the rich, etc.)

DC made this deal (and to this day praise the memory of Reagan) but they want to renege.

the reason, of course, is D.C. is a town of addicts. And like all addicts they make deals they mean, and then break them later to feed their habit.

Posted by: HM at July 10, 2011 07:43 PM

HM: I reiterate -Where is the benefit GUARANTEE? I think WE can ALL agree there has been a TAX INCREASE, these last 30 years.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at July 10, 2011 11:12 PM

I also read the article, and while it uses the language of "owes" it doesn't actually show SS to be anything other than a vague promise. There was a time when some politicians tried to get things in order so it could be afforded (I believe this involved cutting benefits, at the recommendation of Greenspan, but I can't be certain).

Read the second link from my original post and think about the effect different actions would have on Uncle Sam's credit rating. Defaulting on federal bonds would make it harder to borrow money. Stopping all payments of social security would not.

Posted by: Wonks Anonymous at July 11, 2011 05:15 PM

My brother suggested I might like this blog. He was totally right. This post actually made my day. You cann't imagine just how much time I had spent for this information! Thanks!

Posted by: favourites phenomenon at July 11, 2011 10:38 PM

Anyone concerned about the US debt ceiling or credit rating should give this proposal a read:

Wonks Anonymous: I'd be interested in hearing your reaction

Posted by: Jeff65 at July 12, 2011 06:57 AM