Shit on David Brooks Archive


The Year is Over

So, it’s 2012 in a bit, and as 2011 winds down, we figured we’d do you the disservice of providing some links to some of the better stuff we’ve put out this year. Everyone does it, I know. We’re not trying to blaze trails here, we’re just trying to toot our own horns. We did some terrific shit! It’s just a shame that back when we actually tried, no one paid attention.

Without further ado:

The list is long, but if you’re new here, those are some of the things we’re proud of in this website’s brief existence. We’ll be back next year with more. We hope you’ll stick around.

Much love & respek,

~The editors


“Of all the major Republicans, the one who comes closest to my [=David Brooks'] worldview is Newt Gingrich.”

But you shouldn’t vote for him because he’s crazy for all these reasons I’m about to lay out….” (This last part isn’t an exact quote. The title, tho, is.)

Presumably he still thinks you should vote for Romney. Here’s why you shouldn’t vote for him either.

TIL Newt Gingrich once proposed putting a giant mirror in space so that we could do away with night time.


David Brooks’ apparent banality is a ruse!

Cass Sunstein wants you to imagine his “soft paternalism” as that of a nurturing mother elephant, nudging you in her/his great and democratically inaccessible wisdom into better serving your own interests — or so implies the cover of his manifesto. His choice of the word “paternalism” is a bit funny, in light of the image. I guess calling it “soft maternalism” would have been too girly. Or maybe the whole mother elephant thing is bullshit window-dressing for what’s nothing more than a rationalization for an only slightly abashed pseudo-technocratic (and anti-democratic) power grab. Because what’s the matter with Kansas is that it’s been inadequately “cognitively infiltratedby the powerful.

Naturally, David Brooks is on board, and all the more so since OIRA’s come under “withering attacks from the left.”

[T]he White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs and its administrator, Cass Sunstein, have been the subject of withering attacks from the left.


The organization Think Progress says the office is “appalling.” Mother Jones magazine is on the warpath. The Huffington Post published a long article studded with negative comments from unions and environmental activists.

If you step back and try to get some nonhysterical perspective….

Pause for a second. David Brooks’ colleagues, more and more, have bought into the standard web practice of providing links when they refer to articles — a fine practice spearheaded at the Times by Frank Rich. That Brooks refuses to adopt said practice makes me think Brooks doesn’t akshully want you to read said articles; to assess their relative hysteria/non-hysteria for yourselves. What better reason could Brooks give you to read the referenced articles and assess them for yourself?: the Think Progress hysteria; the Mother Jones hysteria; and I think this is the HuffPo hysteria he’s referring to, but I’m not sure. Anyone got a better candidate? Note that in all cases, major claims are substantiated. This will be important later.

Moving on…

…you come to the following conclusion:

Oh I do, do I?

This is a Democratic administration. Many of the major agency jobs are held by people who come out of the activist community who are not sensitive to the costs they are imposing on the economy.

Examples? I can think of a number of former industry lobbyists and academics. What exactly are these policies they’re proposing that are so insensitive to cost? Remember how those “hysterical” articles substantiated their claims?

[Parenthetical update: As the hysterics were pointing out, a large proportion of the programs kiboshed by OIRA have been related to fighting climate change. As the International Energy Agency's latest report put it in their most recent report, “… we are on an even more dangerous track to an increase of 6°C [11°F]…. Delaying action is a false economy: for every $1 of investment in cleaner technology that is avoided in the power sector before 2020, an additional $4.30 would need to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions.” So I guess Brooks meant “insensitive to short-term costs within the false economy.” Seems like somewhat less of a condemnation put that way, isn’t it?]

President Obama has a political and philosophical incentive to restrain their enthusiasm.

Who-tf are you talking about??

Oh shit, here’s a thought: Maybe you actually understand substantiation itself as hysteria. That makes me sad. You and yours used to just call it shrill.

Anyway, in your language: more hysteria please!

He has, therefore, supported a strong review agency in the White House that does rigorous cost-benefit analyses to review proposed regulations and minimize their economic harm.

That’s nothing like any broad conclusion I would ever come to regarding OIRA. But go on…

This office, under Sunstein, is incredibly wonky. It is composed of career number-crunchers of no known ideological bent who try to measure the trade-offs inherent in regulatory action. Deciding among these trade-offs involves relying on both values and data.

Their ideological bent is unknown because they’re beyond any democratic accountability that might demand that they make it known. Or actually, their ideological bent isn’t really that unknown. Some of Think Progress’ hysteria:

During a six-month period, Sunstein’s office literally met with nearly 6,000 lobbyists, 65 percent of whom represented industry, compared to only 12 percent representing public interest groups.

Their ideology, one might fairly assume, is for whatever counts as normal in D.C. lobbyist culture.

But back to Brooks…

This office has tried to elevate the role of data so that every close call is not just a matter of pleasing the right ideological army.

Leaving aside the dubious assumption that data deployed under conditions of questionable intellectual honesty (and basically no transparency) is necessarily ideologically transcendent, you’re imputing a lot of great motives here. On whose word do you take them? Sunstein’s? Doesn’t power always imagine it has a great soul? (h-t) I’d really enjoy even just one small example of OIRA successfully doing what you’ve described. Or, you’re just gonna move on, aren’t you?

Over all, the Obama administration has significantly increased the regulatory costs imposed on the economy. But this is a difference of degree, not of kind.

One might point out that whatever regulatory costs have been imposed would have to be pretty fucking steep not to pale trembling in the shadow of the costs we’re still paying for three decades of radical deregulation.

Brooks goes on for a couple paragraphs about the costs of regulation under various recent Presidents, concluding with this:

George W. Bush issued regulations over eight years that cost about $60 billion. During its first two years, the Obama regulations cost between $8 billion and $16.5 billion, according to estimates by the administration itself, and $40 billion, according to data collected, more broadly, by the Heritage Foundation.

Not exactly sure how “cost of regulation” is estimated, but you can bet it involves making a lot of assumptions. You can further bank on the Heritage Foundation having made every cost-inflating choice with their assumptions they thought they could get away with.

Considering Obama’s fetish for jumping straight to what’s perceived as the ideological mean, I’m not sure the opposite could be said to be true.

Either way, links to reports again would be nice, Mr. Brooks.

Nor is it clear that these additional regulations have had a huge effect on the economy. Over the past 40 years, small business leaders have eloquently complained about the regulatory burden. And they are right to. But it’s not clear that regulations are a major contributor to the current period of slow growth.

The US Chamber of Commerce has “eloquently” complained about the regulatory burden. The US Chamber of Commerce is not a “small business leader.” It’s a lobbying organization representing “the interests of” about 300,000 businesses and organizations of “every size, sector, and region,” and counts among its membership a “handful” of “non-U.S.-based (foreign) companies.” I wonder what proportion of its budget is supplied by genuinely small businesses. There certainly aren’t many represented on their decidedly “big business” board of directors.

According to a recent study by McClatchy, of a random sampling of small business owners….

None of the business owners complained about regulation in their particular industries, and most seemed to welcome it. Some pointed to the lack of regulation in mortgage lending as a principal cause of the financial crisis that brought about the Great Recession of 2007-09 and its grim aftermath.

But that’s neither here nor there, is it Mister Brooks? It’s certainly nowhere in your column, which goes on…

The Bureau of Labor Statistics asks companies why they have laid off workers. Only 13 percent said regulations were a major factor.

That’s actually kind of similar. Doesn’t make your previous paragraph any less fatuous though.

That number has not increased in the past few years. According to the bureau, roughly 0.18 percent of the mass layoffs in the first half of 2011 were attributable to regulations.


Some of the industries that are the subject of the new rules, like energy and health care, have actually been doing the most hiring. If new regulations were eating into business, we’d see a slip in corporate profits. We are not.

Well reasoned.

There are two large lessons here. First, Republican candidates can say they will deregulate and, in some areas, that would be a good thing. But it will not produce a short-term economic rebound because regulations are not a big factor in our short-term problems.

And, in all likelihood, it’ll open the door still wider to the kind of systematic fraud that saw us into the Great Recession in the first place, but why consider that? Not like that’s relevant.

Second, it is easy to be cynical about politics and to say that Washington is a polarized cesspool. And it’s true that the interest groups and the fund-raisers make every disagreement seem like a life-or-death struggle. But, in reality, most people in government are trying to find a balance between difficult trade-offs. Whether it’s antiterrorism policy or regulatory policy, most substantive disagreements are within the 40 yard lines.


Obama’s regulations may be more intrusive than some of us would like. They are not tanking the economy.

This is your point? Really? Fuck you, Mr. Brooks. This was not what your column was about. This required none of the fatuous bullshit and unwarranted aspersions ladled all over the the front end and middle of your column to stand. No one reasonable disagrees with this. This is the most banal kind of common sense.

What your column was about, David Brooks, was sneaking a bunch of fatuous bullshit and unwarranted aspersions into the discourse under the banner of the most banal kind of common sense.


David Brooks is still stupid

God. I guess Ben and I decided when we were in Montreal that we would try to make fun of David Brooks more (I can’t remember, I was drunk the whole time). And so Ben’s going to see Ghostface tonight and today’s column has fallen to me. Yippee!

Paragraph one:

Why are nations like Germany and the U.S. rich? It’s not primarily because they possess natural resources — many nations have those. It’s primarily because of habits, values and social capital.

Okay, not really? But since I don’t want to shoot my load all at once, let’s continue.

It’s because many people in these countries, as Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute has noted, believe in a simple moral formula: effort should lead to reward as often as possible.

I can’t speak for the Germans (Ich kann nicht fur die Deutschen Leute sprechen), aber but in America, we primarily pretend to believe in this formula. In reality, the formula reads: “Effort on behalf of the interests of rich people should lead to reward as often as possible; no one cares about your shitty novel, hippy.”

People who work hard and play by the rules should have a fair shot at prosperity. Money should go to people on the basis of merit and enterprise. Self-control should be rewarded while laziness and self-indulgence should not. Community institutions should nurture responsibility and fairness.

Okay, see? Without the context of a “David Brooks Column,” I agree with all of this. The trouble is that David Brooks has spent his entire life defending the exact opposite. People who don’t play by the rules (rich fraudsters, e.g.) get Brooks’s seal of approval, because they’re “job-creators.” Money should go to people on the basis of “merit and enterprise,” which is why Brooks cups the ballsacks of the people who tanked the economy. “Responsibility and fairness” should be “nurtured” as long as these virtues don’t interfere with the interests of the very wealthy. And on, and on.

This ethos is not an immutable genetic property, which can blithely be taken for granted. It’s a precious social construct, which can be undermined and degraded.

Right now, this ethos is being undermined from all directions. People see lobbyists diverting money on the basis of connections; they see traders making millions off of short-term manipulations; they see governments stealing money from future generations to reward current voters.

All of which I will happily defend in other columns, just not today, because today I am being David Brooks, and being David Brooks means being PRETTY OKAY WITH LOTS OF FUCKING COGNITIVE DISSONANCE. Ahem.

The result is a crisis of legitimacy. The game is rigged. Social trust shrivels. Effort is no longer worth it. The prosperity machine winds down.

Yet the assault on these values continues, especially in Europe.

Fucking Yurp.

Over the past few decades, several European nations, like Germany and the Netherlands, have played by the rules and practiced good governance. They have lived within their means, undertaken painful reforms, enhanced their competitiveness and reinforced good values. Now they are being brutally browbeaten for not wanting to bail out nations like Greece, Italy and Spain, which did not do these things, which instead borrowed huge amounts of money that they are choosing not to repay.

“Complex international economic crises are reducible to a fifth-grade notion of schoolyard fairness.”

 [Germans] are being asked to bail out nations with vast public sectors and horrible demographics. They are being asked to paper over fundamental economic problems with a mountain of currency.


But our sympathy should be with the German people. They are not behaving selfishly by insisting on structural reforms in exchange for bailouts. They are not imprisoned by some rigid ideology. They are not besotted with some semi-senile Weimar superstition about rampant inflation. They are defending the values, habits and social contract upon which the entire prosperity of the West is based.

No, they really aren’t. They’re defending what they think to be their own economic interest, because even though the Eurozone is an integrated economic entity, it’s still comprised of a bunch of different countries that haven’t always gotten along with one another. But, whatevs. What David Brooks would have you believe is that Germany is playing the role of the disappointed moral authority, reluctantly saying to Southern Europe, “Guys, you didn’t follow the rules. You’re grounded.” International relations: they’re just like you and me!

The scariest thing is that many of the people browbeating the Germans seem to have very little commitment to the effort-reward formula that undergirds capitalism. On the one hand, there are the technicians who are oblivious to values. For them anything that can’t be counted and modeled is a primitive irrelevancy. On the other hand, there are people who see the European crisis through the prism of some cosmic class war. What matters is not how people conduct themselves, but whether they are a have or a have-not. The burden of proof is against the haves. The benefit of the doubt is with the have-nots. Any resistance to redistribution is greeted with outrage.

“Which, of course, is why I’ve always stuck up for the haves. Who will defend the weakest in society if the weakest are the wealthiest? Huh? HUH?!”

The real lesson from financial crises is that, at the pit of the crisis, you do what you have to do…. And, as soon as the crisis passes, you move to repair the legitimacy of the system.

That didn’t happen after the American financial crisis of 2008. The people who caused the crisis were never held responsible.


The structural problems plaguing the economy remain unaddressed. As a result, the United States suffers from a horrible crisis of trust that is slowing growth, restricting government action and sending our politics off in strange directions.

You know what’s slowing growth? It isn’t a horrible crisis of trust. It’s a lack of fucking money! Nobody has any fucking money to spend! And the ones that do have money aren’t spending it, aren’t lending it, and aren’t giving it the fuck away, like they should be doing. Nah, they’re weathering the storm until the good times roll again (mix’d metaphor, I know). They’re horrible, miserly twits, and David Brooks will be back to defending their interests right after the previous paragraph.

Europe’s challenge is not only to avert a financial meltdown but to do it in a way that doesn’t poison the seedbed of prosperity. Which values will be rewarded and reinforced? Will it be effort, productivity and self-discipline? Or will it be bad governance, now and forever?

Economics is a morality play, you see. The poor ones, whether countries or people, just aren’t productive or self-disciplined enough, gosh darn it, and they need to be put in their place. The rich ones, on the other hand…

Well, I mean, hell. Who signs your motherfucking paycheck? The hobo down the block? RICH PEOPLE RULE 5EVER & ALWAYS, KTHXBAI, <3 DAVID BROOKS.


David Brooks wants you to decide to be dishonest with yourself

David Brooks:

There were many long, detailed essays by people who are experts at self-examination. They could finely calibrate each passing emotion. But these people often did not lead the happiest or most fulfilling lives. It’s not only that they were driven to introspection by bad events. Through self-obsession, they seemed to reinforce the very emotions, thoughts and habits they were trying to escape.

Many of the most impressive people, on the other hand, were strategic self-deceivers. When something bad was done to them, they forgot it, forgave it or were grateful for it. When it comes to self-narratives, honesty may not be the best policy.

To me, that the way we structure society rewards self-deception suggests more that there’s something seriously wrong with the way we structure society than with those who fail to strategically self-deceive. I also suspect that society’s system of rewarding particular kinds of self-serving self-deception (and punishing honest self-criticism) contributes a great deal to the anti-rational trends ultimately subverting advanced capitalist societies’ ability to govern themselves democratically (something Brooks has identified and lamented in dozens if not hundreds of columns by now).


Fuck you, David Brooks


I don’t think we remind young people enough that life is hard. Bad things happen.

We know, David Brooks. And better than you.

The job market for young adults is about as bad as the job market was for the general population during the Depression. We have to compete harder than than your generation ever had to, David Brooks, for far worse jobs. As we pointed out previously, a recent McDonald’s employment drive hired only 6.2% of its million applicants (comparable to the rate of successful applications to Yale), and now the average McDonald’s employee is 7.5 years older than she was in 2000.

David Brooks, we also know when old people are making bad things happen for terrible reasons. The pain of the employment crisis (inflicted disproportionately on young people) is not necessary pain. Your rationalization, David Brooks, of the “punish people that aren’t me or my children” policy track explicitly favored by Republicans and largely accepted by Democrats, that unnecessary hardship by young people that aren’t your children does a soul good, is maybe the worst, most obscene rationalization going.

David Brooks, fuck you.


David Brooks is probably into weird porn

In today’s column, David Brooks blah blah blahs about the Sun and the moon and how everything is in an abstract equilibrium and how basically the parties are in a celestial balance but the balance is receding but in proportion etc etc etc, queue politically self-serving but problematic conclusions from problematically reductive polls. The usual bullshit.

Then, he writes this:

In policy terms, the era of the two moons is an era of stagnation. Each party is too weak to push its own agenda and too encased by its own cocoon to agree to a hybrid. The supercommittee failed for this reason. Members of the supercommittee actually took some brave steps outside party orthodoxy (Republicans embraced progressive tax increases, Democrats flirted with spending cuts), but these were baby steps, insufficient to change the alignment.

In what universe did Republicans “embrace” progressive tax increases? Here’s how the WaPo described the tax component of the Republicans’ final offer:

The offer, delivered Thursday to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), included no cuts to the Pentagon other than attrition in the civilian workforce. It also included just one small tax increase, focused on owners of corporate jets, failing two key tests for Democratic negotiators.

David Brooks does not know what an embrace is. Explains a lot.

“Now, our [supercommittee] Members continue to talk among themselves and with their Democratic colleagues about ways to reach the committee’s goal, and whether Democrats will agree to ANY spending cuts without job-killing tax hikes,” a GOP leadership aide said in an e-mail, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss private negotiations.

Preliminary guess: Brooks’ mother didn’t love him.

Thinking about his definition of flirting, though, I suspect somewhat deeper early-childhood psycho-sexual scars than can be accounted for by just that.

Martin Gelin‘s pithy distillation of reality:

David Brooks says Democrats “flirted” with spending cuts. They offered 2 trillions in cuts. #flirt

Massive cuts to the social safety net whose consequences would be lived brutally by society’s most vulnerable people and families. Medicare, MedicAid and all of the social support programs funded through non-defense discretionary spending.

Any reasonable observer asked to analogistically describe the Democrats’ negotiating behaviour in sexual terms might choose something like “eager submission to public sexual humiliation… something involving leashes, stiletto-heel ass-scars and whip marks.”

To Brooks, this is flirting.

There must be some really fucked up porn in that guy’s browser history.


David Brooks Has It All Figured Out

I dislike David Brooks.

…felt good.

This week, he’s decided it’s time he rolled up his sleeve and, with a flourish, place his finger square on the root cause of the Penn State sex crimes (or, more specifically, its cover up), and in doing so, illuminate us all in the light of… truth? So what is this root cause??  You’ll never guess…. Give up? MODERNITY, duh:

In centuries past, people built moral systems that acknowledged this weakness. These systems emphasized our sinfulness. They reminded people of the evil within themselves. Life was seen as an inner struggle against the selfish forces inside. These vocabularies made people aware of how their weaknesses manifested themselves and how to exercise discipline over them. These systems gave people categories with which to process savagery and scripts to follow when they confronted it. They helped people make moral judgments and hold people responsible amidst our frailties.

But we’re not Puritans anymore.

Knowing what we know about the widespread “plague” of sexual abuse occurring (and tolerated), for example, among the Amish, or that took place within “moral” institutions that put a great deal of emphasis on the sinfulness and cultural uncleanliness of those they dominated, like the Church-run residential schools for First Nations people in Canada (pdf), does David Brooks seriously believe that the decline of puritan ideologies is really at the core of both the occurrence and toleration (within the inner community of UPenn football) of Sandusky’s crimes?

We live in a society oriented around our inner wonderfulness. So when something atrocious happens, people look for some artificial, outside force that must have caused it — like the culture of college football, or some other favorite bogey. People look for laws that can be changed so it never happens again.

So really, underneath it all, it’s the self-esteem movement, which, unlike “the culture of college football,”  is not just “some artificial, outside force … some other favorite bogey.” Which is credible, if you forget that the “culture of college football” is far from “outside” the context of the relevant crimes and cover-ups, or if you’ve never read David Brooks before and don’t know that the self-esteem movement is arguably his very favorite “bogey.”

How does this slimy fucker not just wanna punch himself in the face?


David Brooks <3s Mitt Romney, because obviously

America’s highest-profile fetishist of intellectually dishonest pseudo-technocracy <3s the personification of intellectually dishonest pseudo-technocracy? Shocking!

Link (click it if you must, but this isn’t an endorsement)

In the Marx Brothers movie that is the Republican presidential race, Mitt Romney is Zeppo. He doesn’t spin out one-liners. He’s not the rambunctious one. He’s just the earnest, good-looking guy who wants to be appreciated.

David Brooks appears to live in a bizarro world in which Mitt Romney can be described as earnest outside the context of an absurdist joke’s punchline. When I think “earnest,” I think of Anne Frank. Mitt Romney is nothing like Anne Frank.

Last week, while the Twitterverse was entranced by Herman Cain, Romney delivered his most important speech yet. It was politically astute and substantively bold…

Substantively bold? Do elaborate…

Romney grasped the toughest issue — how to reform entitlements to avoid a fiscal catastrophe — and he sketched out a sophisticated way to address it.

Sophisticated, you say?

In his speech, Romney proposed some sensible Social Security reforms: gradually raise the retirement age and slow the growth of benefits for richer retirees.

Raising the retirement age is a great idea because who would want to free up jobs for 20% unemployed under-25s? Also, about the supposed social security crisis everyone’s so eager to solve, here’s Krugman writing last year:

Legally, Social Security has its own, dedicated funding, via the payroll tax (“FICA” on your pay statement). But it’s also part of the broader federal budget. This dual accounting means that there are two ways Social Security could face financial problems. First, that dedicated funding could prove inadequate, forcing the program either to cut benefits or to turn to Congress for aid. Second, Social Security costs could prove unsupportable for the federal budget as a whole.

But neither of these potential problems is a clear and present danger. Social Security has been running surpluses for the last quarter-century, banking those surpluses in a special account, the so-called trust fund. The program won’t have to turn to Congress for help or cut benefits until or unless the trust fund is exhausted, which the program’s actuaries don’t expect to happen until 2037 — and there’s a significant chance, according to their estimates, that that day will never come.

Meanwhile, an aging population will eventually (over the course of the next 20 years) cause the cost of paying Social Security benefits to rise from its current 4.8 percent of G.D.P. to about 6 percent of G.D.P. To give you some perspective, that’s a significantly smaller increase than the rise in defense spending since 2001, which Washington certainly didn’t consider a crisis, or even a reason to rethink some of the Bush tax cuts.

He goes on to make the point that workers in the bottom-half of the income distribution haven’t seen the life-expectancy gains that have served as the moral rationalization for raising the retirement age. For a large portion of these people, withholding access to Social Security for an extra five years essentially means five years of pain, dependence on family, or possibly destitution, and in all likelihood, very little retirement time at all.

But what was that second thing Romney mentioned? “…slow the growth of benefits for richer retirees.” I call WAR ON WEALTH on that idea!

But we haven’t talked about Medicare yet:

Romney proposed keeping Medicare just as it is for everybody currently in or close to the system. But he would slowly introduce a premium support system, with less-affluent beneficiaries receiving more support than more-affluent ones.

Medicare actually runs cheaper on a per-patient basis than the private insurance market, and its costs have been rising considerably more slowly (at one third the rate of private insurance, according to S&P data analyzed by Reuters). Will Republicans really put the government on the hook to pay for full coverage in a private market that runs that much more expensively than the existing public system? No. Romney’s proposal depends on patients being incentivized to price-shop, which reads to me like a built in rationalization for only providing seniors with an amount of money falling considerably short of the market rates, essentially fucking seniors out of care, if they choose that option. If they offered even close to the market amount needed, this wouldn’t result in a cost savings, but a massive inflation of the budget.

Thankfully his rhetoric, as of now, suggests that Medicare will be left intact for those who opt to stick with it. But what about people coming into the 65+ age bracket? Do we really believe they’ll be given the same option? I guess we’ll just have to see….

There are several points that Romney made that go unmentioned by Brooks. For example:

“Now there’s some programs that I just don’t like, which will be easy to eliminate, like Obamacare,” he said, to applause, citing a savings of roughly $90 billion.

How earnest of him to disparage a program that actually falls on the conservative side of the program he implemented in Massachusetts as governor, and present a cherry picked savings number taken so far out of context that it’s utterly misleading. From ThinkProgress:

They pointed us to a Congressional Budget Office analysis of the GOP’s repeal bill, which does find on page 5 that eliminating the law would reduce federal spending by $95 billion in 2016. But page 6 of the same document also notes that the government would lose substantially more in revenue — $219 billion over the period of 2012 to 2016 — resulting in an increase to the budget deficit of $85 billion. Overall, repealing the law would “cause a net increase in federal budget deficits of $210 billion over the 2012-2021 period,” the CBO found.

Brooks also gives Romney a lick for, with impressive political astuteness, spinning a grand yarn about navy ships….

In World War II, the Navy commissioned 1,000 ships a year and had 1,000 employees in the purchasing department. Today, Romney said, we commission nine ships a year but have 24,000 employees in the department.

How bloated government has become! Unless it’s a steaming pool of diarrhea straight from a fat, choleric bull’s ass (the WaPo…)

Meanwhile, this month we also awarded two Pinocchios to former Massachusetts governor. Mitt Romney for repeating a tall tale about “enormous waste” in the military. We checked into the story, which came from former Navy secretary John Lehman, that during World War II, the Bureau of Ships had 1,000 people to build 1,000 ships and now the Navy has 25,000 people just to build nine ships. We found that the actual number today is closer to 500 people, not 25,000.

Lehman forwarded our e-mail exchanges to current Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who in turn sent us a copy of his reply. Here’s a copy of his letter, which includes updated numbers on the personnel at Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), the entity that now includes the functions of the former Bureau of Ships.

The letter:


Thanks for forwarding your exchange with the Washington Post. As you would expect, with the focus on reducing our cost of doing business – particularly in the current and foreseeable fiscal environment – we have placed a great deal of attention into reducing unnecessary overhead in all of our headquarters. Your observation that NAVSEA headquarters has grown five-fold runs counter to this effort, so I made it a point to run the real numbers to ground.

As you’ve pointed out, on average, 16-17 ships per year were authorized/appropriated over the period of 1981 – 1987. For this workload, which comprised a relatively low number of new start programs, NAVSEA headquarters averaged 4,854 employees (including personnel now resident in our PEO* structure). At the same time, the total NAVSEA workforce including field activities, warfare centers, Supervisors of Shipbuilding, and shipyards totaled, on average, over 107,000 employees.

Today we procure about 10 ships per year, with all but the DDG 51** program either currently building or recently delivering its first of class (within the past 5-6 years). For this workload, NAVSEA headquarters currently employs 3,127 (including personnel in the affiliated PEOs). Moreover, this sized headquarters has absorbed a number of functions through various consolidations as the total NAVSEA workforce has decreased by about half, from 107,000 in the 1980s to today’s total of just under 55,000. These numbers have varied somewhat with workload. For example, in 2007, NAVSEA Headquarters was at its lowest point in the last 20 years (2,275 employees), consistent with the fact that 2006 was our low-point for ship authorizations/appropriations (6 total that year).

The truth of the matter is that the workforce associated with NAVSEA headquarters and NAVSEA overall has been reduced considerably since the 1980s. This reduction was not all good. In fact, a series of critical independent reviews has pointed to the downsizing of NAVSEA headquarters through the mid-1990s as a key causal factor to the history of cost growth experienced by new ship programs launched during that period.

I took the opportunity to also scrutinize the Department’s contractor support. Here, too, we have been steadily drawing down our reliance on outsourcing certain technical and programmatic expertise and authority that belongs within the government. Since 2009, contractor support to NAVSEA headquarters (as well as other systems commands) has been reduced by about 12%, from 5800 to 5100 contractors, and I’m pushing to make continued concerted reductions that are in line with our overall efforts to reduce our cost of doing business. While anecdotal information suggests today’s level of contractor support at headquarters is on par or even below that of the 1980s, I can’t draw that conclusion simply because we don’t have adequate records on support contractors from that time (not for an apples to apples comparison, at least).

We have a long way to go to balance our cost of doing business with fiscal reality, but we’ve made meaningful progress and are pointed in the right direction. Along the way, we also need to tighten our grip on the expertise we need in-house to tackle the significant technical, contractual, financial, and programmatic challenges that come with being the greatest Navy in an ever-dangerous world.

We share this same cause and I always welcome your insights to such end.



David Brooks is an Idiot

But I’m not touching his latest column with a ten-foot pole. I’ll outsource that duty to Steve M. at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Also, Krugman:

One last point: I see that David Brooks is arguing that the oligarchy issue, if it matters at all, is a coastal phenomenon, not the issue in the heartland. Let me point out, then, that we have one country, with a tightly integrated economy. High finance is concentrated in New York, but it makes money from the United States as a whole. And even when oligarchs clearly get their income from heartland, red-state sources, where do they live? OK, one of the Koch brothers still lives in Wichita; but the other lives in New York.

Put it this way: having much of the wealth your state creates go to people who are in effect absentee landlords, whose income therefore shows up in another state’s statistics, doesn’t mean that you have an equal distribution of income. Out of state shouldn’t mean out of mind.

Look, I understand that some people find the notion that we’ve become an oligarchy — with all that implies about class relations — disturbing. But that’s the way it is.

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