Never let it be said that NYT columnist David Brooks, the Earnest Weasel, doesn’t have a sense of humor, even though his attempts at social satire are about as amusing as a buyout by Mitt Romney’s private equity firm. Here’s Brooks on Friday:
Foreign tourists are coming up to me on the streets and asking, “David, you have so many different kinds of inequality in your country. How can I tell which are socially acceptable and which are not?” This is an excellent question. I will provide you with a guide to the American inequality map to help you avoid embarrassment.
Haha. I’ll bet no one approaches Brooks on the street. He probably spends about 10 minutes a month on the street. And if someone did approach him, the question would be much simpler, something like, “David, how come the gap between rich and poor is bigger in America than in any other advanced country?” Or maybe, “Hey weasel, can you spare a dollar?”
The income gap in America is exactly the issue that Brooks dodges at all costs, in all of his lame newspaper columns. In this one, he weasels away from it by invoking concepts such as “ancestor inequality” and “fitness inequality,” presumably to trivialize the very concept of inequality — to argue in an oblique way that inequality is in the eye of the beholder; that it is not something as clear and quantifiable as income distribution.
He writes that income inequality is socially acceptable — poor people don’t mind that baseball players and CEOs make multimillions — but “spending inequality” isn’t:
If you make $1 billion, it helps to go to work in jeans and black T-shirts. It helps to live in Omaha and eat in diners. If you make $200,000 a year, it is acceptable to spend money on any room previously used by servants, like the kitchen, but it is vulgar to spend on any adult toy that might give superficial pleasure, like a Maserati.
In other words, “inequality” is an abstraction, a rigid-sounding but flexible term that has more to do with personal needs and expectations, with notions of political correctness and even fashion, than with the material well-being of the general population.
We have to infer this because Brooks, being a weasel, is incapable of making the argument directly. He’s the same affluent Republican mouthpiece who, over the years, has shouted “Class warfare!” in response to anyone who, for instance, suggested that huge tax breaks for the rich have contributed to the growing inequality between rich and poor.
Brooks’ conclusion: “Dear visitor, we are a democratic, egalitarian people who spend our days desperately trying to climb over each other. Have a nice stay.”
Nicely done, weasel, except that you very obviously forgot to add that the 99 percent of us who aren’t wealthy can’t climb out of the hole dug for all of us by the ultra-rich, not without a prolonged and very nasty fight.