By Kelly McParland, National Post, January 22, 2013
David Brooks, a conservative-minded columnist for the liberal-minded New York Times, thought the speech “surely has to rank among the best of the past half-century,” but took exception to the president’s wholehearted embrace of collectivism as the solution to many problems.
“America’s greatest innovations and commercial blessings were unforeseen by those at the national headquarters,” he writes. “They emerged, bottom up, from tinkerers and business outsiders who could never have attracted the attention of a president or some public-private investment commission.”
I also think Obama misunderstands this moment. The Progressive Era, New Deal and Great Society laws were enacted when America was still a young and growing nation. They were enacted in a nation that was vibrant, raw, underinstitutionalized and needed taming.
We are no longer that nation. We are now a mature nation with an aging population. Far from being underinstitutionalized, we are bogged down with a bloated political system, a tangled tax code, a byzantine legal code and a crushing debt.
Memo to David Brooks:
Your use of the word "collectivism" demonstrates a colossal American paranoia of anything smacking of state operation. Your library is a collective. Your public schools are a collective, as is every police and fire department. Your military is a collective, as is your State Department. All your state universities are "collectives" as are most, if not all, of your community colleges. Your highways are a result of a collective initiative, much of it coming from the leadership of one of the most revered Republican presidents in history, Dwight Eisenhower whose name adorns the Interstate Highway System.Your national parks are another exemplary model of collectivism.
Medicare and Medicaid, as well as Social Security are both 'collectives' as are Food Stamps, and Unemployment Benefits, all of which help to sustain, by giving a hand-up, those most threatened in a seismically changing world economy.
Just because your political system is suffering from a vapid bowel obstruction, in the form of the Republic rump in the House of Representatives, not to mention an apparent brain-stem collapse from some kind of obsession with the utter contempt in which they hold President Obama, while not owning responsibility for any of the hostage-taking they have inflicted, apparently with much impunity, is no reason or justification for raising phoney red flags about collectivism.
It is not the social safety net that is bankrupting the United States, but rather two unfunded wars, a prescription drug benefit for seniors that is also unfunded and a Wall Street seduction aided and abetted by a derelict Washington, under both political parties so co-dependent on the "milk of human kindness" that flows through the cheques written by too many plutocrats seeking to impose their personal, private and privatizing agenda on the world, to better rake in their profits, while emasculating the environment, including air, water and land, in a careless abandonment of civic responsibility.
Stop demonizing acts of collaboration, co-operating and even "collectivism" in your hell-bent pursuit of a perfectly pure capitalist, survival-of-the-fittest Darwinian jungle, where the rich triumph and the rest of us quietly fade away, as you and your ilk would have it, if you had your way!
At least during what most reasonable observers would call a transformational period in world trade and economics, not to mention an equally catatonic shift in political power in too many capitals to name, would it not behoove right-wing thinkers and writers to at least consider some modest restraint on their rhetoric and their political demonization of everything the president thinks, says or even imagines, and, in the wider interest of all Americans, demonstrate a modicum of conscience and compassion for those whose homes, jobs and security have been ripped away through no fault of their own, and through no national effort to support and sustain them through the turbulence.