David Brooks

I don’t mean to offend people who like David Brooks, but if you like David Brooks, you’re probably going to be offended when I point out that he’s basically a pundit for people who don’t like to actually do their homework.

He’s not the only one, of course, but he’s a pleasant, genial conservative who’s a little liberal on some issues and that’s how he became a sort of bipartisan fetish toy. And while’s he not an intellectual, he does play one on the op-ed pages of the New York Times, so close enough.

Anyway, it’s always fun when Brooks gets put in his place — like this, when economist Dean Baker takes about Brooks’ new crusade: cutting Social Security and Medicare:

Brooks better hope that the masses march before they think, because if the sequence goes in the other direction, the march will never happen. As everyone knows, there is no story of programs with out of control costs.

The whole story is of out of control health care costs. This is a problem of a broken private sector health care system. This becomes a budget problem because we pay for more than half of our health care through public sector programs like Medicare and Medicaid. If per person health care costs in the United States were the same as in any of the countries with longer life expectancies, we would be looking at huge budget surpluses, not deficits.

The evidence would suggest that Brooks’ mass movement should be directed at reforming our health care cesspool. We pay 10 times what we should for prescription drugs because of our absurd method of financing research through government granted patent monopolies. This government intervention gives an enormous incentive for drug companies to lie about the effectiveness and safety of their drugs, something which they do with considerable frequency. There is a similar story with medical devices.

Our doctors also get paid far more than doctors in other wealthy countries. This is not true for our retail clerks and our steelworkers. The reason is that our doctors enjoy much greater protection from international competition than less politically powerful workers. If Brooks, who fashions himself as a free trader, really wanted to get our deficit under control, he would be revving people up to reduce the barriersthat sustain the high salaries for doctors in the United States.

Brooks could also be trying to motivate people to support a Medicare buy in that could save hundreds of billions in administrative costs over the next decade. Or, in keeping with his “freedom” theme, how about just giving Medicare beneficiaries the option to buy into other countries’ health care systems with the beneficiary and the government splitting the savings. This one is all about freedom — let our beneficiaries go!

So, the basic question is whether we confront the powerful interest groups who profit from our broken and corrupt health care system or whether we beat up the retired and disabled workers who depend on Social Security and Medicare. David Brooks told us where he stands.

2 thoughts on “David Brooks

  1. There is also the insurance industry that eats money, skimming it off the system and producing NOTHING.

    Medical facilities have to be the newest and shiniest with lots of extras like nice office furniture, potted plants, framed art and photos on the wall – also contributing NOTHING.

    And millions of dollars in advertising – full color sections in the newspapers, billboards promoting emergency rooms, and long pieces on the 6 o’clock news. Not to mention direct advertising of prescription drugs. Millions and billions for nothing.

    Again spending money like water and contributing NOTHING to medical care. Cost could be controlled lots of places.

    When I teach my classes I have many students on pre-healthcare professional tracks. I have each of them write an autobiography, and I can’t tell you how many tell me that they want to be nurse anesthetist (the highest paid specialty in nursing) and get a job where it is warm and near the ocean.

  2. The problem with David Brooks is that he’s genial. My mother-in-law, who considers herself to be a liberal Democrat, loves him on the Sunday talk shows, because “he’s such a nice thoughtful soft-spoken man.” I point out he’s a fairly conservative Republican, and she doesn’t believe me, because he’s not angry or vindictive. She can’t be the only one.

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