Tuesday, July 27, 2010

NY Times op-eds hit "sustainability" real hard today

David Brooks has a valuable op-ed in the New York Times today (July 27), “The Long Strategy”, link here. To sum it up, he says about Obama’s accomplishments to date, “These accomplishments aren’t big government versus small government; they’re using government to help set a context for private sector risk-taking and community initiative.”

He then points out that it is not just the short term problems, like the prolonging of unemployment for so many Americans (and the difficulty in restarting extended benefits) that worries people;  it;s not even whether banks can pass stickypad stress tests (as they did in Europe now);  it’s the long term erosion of wealth; it’s the expiration of the good life; it’s lack of sustainability. (Although back in the mid 1970s, after the oil shocks, people were writing columns like “The End of Affluence” and “The New Poor” but we bounced back under Reagan.) Bob Herbert said the same thing today in a similar column called “Long Term Economic Pain”. Health care and eldercare costs skyrocket, partly because of demographics and partly because of the lack of an ethical framework for using life-saving technology.

Brooks mentions the importance of making tax policy more family friendly. Some people, like Allan Carlson, have suggested reducing social security taxes for married household heads who have more children. Jennifer Roback Morse talks about the unsustainability (in economic terms) of an “atomized” culture where extended families split into deadwired individuals.

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