David Brooks gets shrill

DAVID BROOKS GETS SHRILL…. Just yesterday I argued that respectable figures of the political establishment are reluctant to call obvious stupidity “stupid,” especially when it comes to truly painful ideas like a spending freeze in the midst of the economic crisis.

To his credit, the NYT‘s David Brooks said on ABC’s “This Week” today what many are of his colleagues have been unwilling to say.

Describing Republican leaders, Brooks said, “The problem with them and the problem with Limbaugh in terms of intellectual philosophy is they are stuck with Reagan. They are stuck with the idea that government is always the problem. A lot of Republicans up in Capitol Hill right now are calling for a spending freeze in a middle of a recession/depression. That is insane. But they are thinking the way they thought in 1982, if we can only think that way again, that is just insane.”

On this, Brooks couldn’t be more correct. But what I’m especially impressed with is his willingness, in this case, to lay it on the line. There’s no sugar-coating — what Republican leaders are proposing is “insane.” There’s no defense for such madness, and Brooks did the audience a service by saying so.

At the risk of sounding picky, I’d just add one small caveat, though. GOP lawmakers are “stuck with Reagan” and a pre-recession mindset; this much is obvious. But what occasionally bears repeating is that they don’t even remember Reagan especially well. Reality may be blasphemous in some Republican circles but the inconvenient truth is Reagan raised taxes. He raised them several times. The conservative Republicans — with Gingrich and the WSJ editorial page, I mean that literally — who are whining incessantly about President Obama’s proposed tax increases on the wealthy are the same ones who complained bitterly about Reagan’s tax increases in 1982.

Brooks is right; conservative Republican lawmakers want desperately to turn back the clock to how they perceive the 1980s. But they’re not only wrong about today’s economy, they’re not even getting the ’80s right.

They were wrong about Reagan’s tax increases. They were wrong about Clinton’s tax increases. They were wrong about Bush’s tax cuts. And now, they’re wrong again about Obama’s tax policy while simultaneously pushing “insane” ideas.

If they could just let the grown-ups talk for a while, we’d all be better off.