where the President of the United States keeps some of his daily reading material and here is what I learned from Abbot Grima Wormtongue:
Some people think the stimulus worked but didn't go far enough.Or, as our Mr. Brooks puts it:
Some people think it was a bad idea that failed.
However no one can ever know whether anything works or not or is true or not or is real or not or happened or not because everything is so very, very, very complicated.
The problem is that no model can capture enough of the world’s complexity to yield definitive conclusions or make nonobvious predictions.Of course, this is not the first or even the fiftieth time Our Mr. Brooks has lied about the stimulus.
As regular reader of this column know, Our Mr. Brooks trotted out that lie in a very big and public way while standing the pulpit of the Hammerschmidt Memorial Chapel lecturing on the subject of Reinhold Niebuhr, epistemological modesty and the perils of ideological certainty (apparently Irony was not dead enough already.)
That night, his "the stimulus failed" lie was embedded in a much larger, longer lie about his Very Enthusiastic backing of George W. Bush's Iraqi Clusterfuck. After lying about his degree of support for George W. Bush's Iraqi Clusterfuck, and lying about what actually went wrong with George W. Bush's Iraqi Clusterfuck, and lying about the bilious, excoriating things he had written about people who opposed George W. Bush's Iraqi Clusterfuck, Our Mr. Brooks then trotted out his "stimulus failed" lie in order to reframe the discussion thee Hell away from all the lies he had just told about his support for George W. Bush's Iraqi Clusterfuck...
...into a classic David Brooks Big Centrist lie by asserting that "See! See! Liberals get stuff wrong too! Both sides do it! Both sides do its"
As I wrote at the time (from "All the Lies That Are His Life"):
So that was the first, ridiculous observation Our Mr. Brooks makes in his Friday column.
It was a fine night out, except for the bits where David Brooks utterly betrayed Niebuhr's most basic teachings by manifestly lying about his own horribly inconvenient past statements and beliefs (I never said what I said) and repeatedly drawing manifestly false equivalences between Left and Right positions and policies (asserting, for example, that while the invasion of Iraq may have been problematic, it was a largely a noble and well-intentioned effort that was poorly executed. Just like the Stimulus Package! Which, Bobo asserted, had also proven to be a failure because it was based on a similarly false model of human nature.)
Of course, if I had publicly shit myself as badly and repeatedly as David Brooks has over the years, I'd be kinda desperate not to have it publicly recalled and recounted either, which is why Beltway pundits and journalists are such fetishists about their Villager manners and rituals, and why they generally stick with their own species and rarely wander off into the weeds: out here in the Real World, people are liable to ask all kinds of rude, impertinent questions.
Here is the second:
Businesses conduct hundreds of thousands of randomized trials each year. Pharmaceutical companies conduct thousands more. But government? Hardly any. Government agencies conduct only a smattering of controlled experiments to test policies in the justice system, education, welfare and so on.
Why doesn’t government want to learn? First, there’s no infrastructure. There are few agencies designed to supervise such experiments. Second, there is no way to conduct a randomized experiment to test big economywide policies like the stimulus package.
Finally, the general lesson of randomized experiments is that the vast majority of new proposals do not work, and those that do work only do so to a limited extent and only under certain circumstances. This is true in business and government. Politicians are not inclined to set up rigorous testing methods showing that their favorite ideas don’t work.
My, my, my. Where to begin? I mean, from how many different angles can this little jewel of David Brooks' patented Village Common Wisdom glint its reeking dumbness?
Well, since we here at the Professional Left Central Command are a little tight on time today (podcast to record/edit/post, long overdue "Thank you" notes to write, job hunt to continue, etc etc.) let's just focus on three.
- Mr. Brooks, in case you hadn't noticed, the government of the United States has been conducting a massive experiment for about the last 30 years. It's call "Conservatism". Maybe you've read about it? It's key features radical deregulating of everything, the mass rejection of science, running up staggering debt by throwing money at rich people, gutting our manufacturing base, shredding our social safety net, lying our way into some of the worst foreign policy decisions in our history, slandering, lying and impeaching opponents, voter suppression, mass-distributing firearms as if they were free sausage samples being handed out at the mall and never, ever shutting the fuck up with the whining about gays, women, brown people, Libruls and immigrants when their idiotic social experiment blows up again and again and again.
This is all done because, um, "Freedom!"
- It is a dirty little secret, but governments do experiment with changes in the way they meet their missions all the time, but I can personally attest to the fact that change is often-painfully small and slow because government is not a fucking business. See, Mr. Brooks, I know on your job when you screw horribly up over and over again there are no consequences except maybe you end up accidentally double-booked doing a TED talk on the glories of Centrism and David Gregory is forced to simply read your column aloud on "Meet the Press" rather than having you on to relate it verbatim. But in much of the grossly-underfunded portions of the government where basic, survival-level services are provided for actual human beings, asking the often exhausted and constantly ridiculed staff to gamble with the very, very limited resources they have available to them to meet their clients' basic needs is ridiculous.
You're asking them to gamble with the government equivalent of the rent and grocery money, Mr. Brooks, which even I might be willing to support were it not for...
ACORN, Mr. Brooks.
Planned Parenthood, Mr. Brooks.
Your Republican Party, Mr. Brooks, has made it perfectly clear that they will stomp on the throats of anyone doing anything that violates in the tiniest way what they believe the purpose of government to be (mainly bombing other countries, throwing money at rich people and making sure their constituents get their God Damn Social Security checks on time) even if they have to make up shit to be furious about out of whole cloth. Your Conservative Movement, Mr. Brooks, has patiently spent billions of dollars to whelp an entire generation of meatsticks who are convinced that everyone in Gummint is a lying, thieving scumbag who will happily steal the pennies off a dead man's eyes, and that Gummint programs (that doesn't involve bombing other countries, throwing money at rich people and getting those God Damn Social Security checks out on time ) are all Socialist Frauds.
This is Movement you helped create, Mr. Brooks; this is the ideology you helped build.
If you can wave a magic wand and make Modern Conservatism shut the fuck up and go away, then your scheme might just have a chance of working.
Then again, if Modern Conservatism ever wandered off into the woods and never came back, how on Earth would you pay for your lovely home in Bethesda?
*Thanks for the catch, sopranospinner