I admire the thought and writing of New York Times columnist David Brooks immensely. While he eschews easy labels, he probably would not object if the public viewed him as a conservative. His writing for the Times is a well considered blend of reflection, balance, and realism. You may not necessarily agree with him, but he will make you think and encourage you to let go of your knee-jerk responses to complex issues.
In a recent article, Brooks brought some measure of sanity to the fierce argument going on between diverse economists regarding what to do to improve the nation’s sluggish economy and create more jobs. He identifies the two warring camps: those who favor additional stimulus spending and those who want to significantly cut spending to reduce historic debt levels. Brooks is wary of additional stimulus spending. He correctly ponts out that we don’t know how many jobs would have been lost without stumulus spending. The stimulus did pump up job creation in the public sector but the private sector’s response was tepid at best. Within that sector a lack of confidence in the value of stimulus spending was pervasive. It remains so today.
What to do? Given the political divide between Democrats and Republicans, Brooks advocates a limited course of action for the short term:
- First, extend UC benefits “because that’s a foolish place to begin budget balancing.”
- Second, provide federal money only to those states who provide evidence of balanced budgets and strategies “that will reduce spending and pension commitments.”
Brooks summarizes his position in a typcially balanced way: “Don’t be arrogant. This year don’t engage in reckless new borrowing or reckless new cutting. Focus on the fundamentals. Cut programs that don’t enhance productivity. Spend more on those that do.
Brooks believes our political system does have “the ability to lay some foundations for long-term growth and stability.”