This article is so glib. Let me count the ways:
1. Brooks claims that the U.S. has more entrepreneurial creativity than Europe. That’s a pretty broad sweeping statement. An examination of this, say starting with the invention of the printing press, would take in a fair amount of history where the U.S. was not even competing. Is he talking about the 20th century? Where does he think all those Manhattan project scientists came from? Was Europe less entrepreneurial in the 20th century than the U.S.? Brooks is shouting rah rah America. Yes, “We’ll make America Great Again.” Go Trump.
2. The U.S. has always favored higher living standards for consumers, says Brooks. What does this mean? Which consumers does he have in mind? Is he speaking of the broad bottom 60 percent, or the top 1%? How do you measure this “higher living standard?” Does he mean lower product costs? Does he mean products are more expensive in Europe because of higher taxes? If true, and he makes no pretense of saying anything about this, I suppose one would have to look at the total trade offs before one could conclude America’s consumers have a “higher living standard.” He's dog whistling to Republican mindsets.
3. There is a bipartisan consensus that we should stick to “our form of capitalism” and “our style of welfare state,” he says. Does Brooks really think there is consensus between R’s and D’s on this? Between Nancy Pelosi and Paul Ryan regarding “our form of capitalism’ and “our style of welfare state?” Really?
4. “There has always been a broad consensus that a continent-size nation like ours had to be diverse and decentralized, with a vibrant charitable sector and a great variety of spending patterns and lifestyles.” Well, no. There has been a marked lack of consensus on this going back to Jefferson and Hamilton. Federalism vs. state’s rights. Slavery vs. not slavery. School integration vs. Jim Crow. Living wage and health care and free education and voting rights vs. where Rubio and Cruz--and apparently Brooks--want to take us.
5. "American values have always been biased toward individualism, achievement and flexibility,” says Brooks. Certainly, that is how we like to think of ourselves. Brooks must be thinking of Superbowl commercials. There is not much meaningful content in this statement that would say anything about Hillary vs. Bernie. In the real world of America we have environmental regulations, consumer product regulations, bank regulations, social security, and medi-care. And good for us.
6. America nurtures Bell Labs, Wallmart, Google and Apple, crows Brooks. As opposed to Europe, which does what? Give me a break. Bell Labs was started with an award from the French Government and was supported for decades by a monopoly supported by the U.S. government. Walmart started as a dime store business in the 50’s and became the worlds largest retailer on the back of the bar code invented thanks to some graduate student hanging around Drexel Institute of Technology, and on the back of Chinese manufacturing, and on the back of global finance and supply chains. Bar codes are pretty great—but the fact that it was invented in America rather than in Europe has nothing to do (that I can see) with rugged individualism in America vs. Brooks’s imagined stultifying socialism in Denmark. Nor do I see anything particularly American about Walmart or Apple these days.
7. “It’s amazing,” marvels Brooks, "that a large part of the millennial population generation has rejected this consensus.” What is Brooks suggestion here? That they are traitors to the American way? The consensus that he says is being rejected here exists nowhere but in the Republican mind... and in Superbowl commercials.
8. Sanders “fundamentally wants to reshape the American economic system and thus reshape American culture and values,” says Brooks. How so? Sanders is saying there is something unfair about the top 10% of income earners receiving 50% of all income and heading higher. Of course the top income earners also pay most of the taxes (top 10% pay 53% of all federal taxes). See also Pew report Here. But, of course, wealth (property and financial assets) is even more heavily skewed—with the top 3% holding 50 percent of wealth. This inequality of income has risen dramatically since the 70’s. Is it un-American to put these issues front and center for discussion? Is it un-American to want to do something about this as Sanders and “a large part of the millennial population" is ready to do? No, David Brooks, it’s not.
9. Brooks warns that Sanders wants to “radically increase the amount of money going to the Washington establishment,” and he cites the Wall Street Journal for the proposition that if Congress enacted everything Sanders would like it would cost $18 trillion over 10 years. Well, even if we follow this silly fantasy that Congress would enact everything Sanders has suggested in his campaign to date, and that it would cost $18 trillion over 10 years…. that is not the same as giving $18 trillion to the Washington establishment; no more than taxes for social security gives money to the “Washington establishment.” Taxes for social security gives money to old people.
10. Brooks drones on in this alarmist vein: “Sanders would take away the ability of the middle class to make choices about their own lives!” Huh? How would finding ways to raise the income of middle class Americans at the expense of the top few percent reduce choices available to the middle class? Brooks doesn’t bother to make an argument. Because higher taxes, he says. Because no Tesla, he says.
11. Free college is bad says Brooks. It would reduce the quality of education (??), it would cause students to hang around college longer (awful, just awful I tell you!), it would grant government more “control” over colleges, it would threaten expensive private colleges. There is nothing more American, implies Brooks, than for profit Universities. Not so much. Does he really mean to suggest the University of California system is “better” now that it charges $40,000 for graduate programs, now that it is forced to cater to foreign students to bring in money, now that it relies on football programs to build prestige to facilitate private fundraising? Does he think the UC system was a worse institution in the 1970’s when it was nearly free? The man has completely lost me.
12. “Sanders would create a centralized and streamlined” medical system, says Brooks. Oh the horror! He must not have heard that in Europe they spend half (as a percentage of GDP) of what we spend in America, or that life expectancy is higher in Europe.
What makes the man drone on so? He cites no study or evidence. David Brooks is living in a Super-bowl commercial fairyland.