David Brooks has a great plan for the president: give up all the things you campaigned on -- things that real Americans actually care about, such as jobs and health care and education and energy -- and spend the year babbling about an issue that mostly no one understands or cares about. Oh yeah -- the budget deficit.
Oh, and the substance of what the president will be saying, apparently, is that everyone's taxes should go up, and their benefits should be cut.
This would be a great idea if the goal is to see if it's really possible for a president to fall below a 20% approval rating. My guess? Yup. Followed by record Congressional losses, and revving up of Democratic campaigns in Iowa. Really, if he follows the Brooks plan, I'd give Barack Obama very little chance of renomination.
The best part? Brooks seems to believe that the president could somehow achieve a (presumably bipartisan) budget deal out of that strategy. Hey, David Brooks: Republican politicians don't want deficit reduction. That's why they voted against legislative PAYGO. That's why they opposed Medicare savings in the health care bill. You know, the bill that will actually cut the deficit. The bill that you want the president to abandon, so that he can go around the country complaining about the deficit.
All of which is something that anyone who cares about the deficit in the real world would know. But Brooks isn't interested in that. For him, "The deficits...symbolize Washington’s institutional dysfunction" So treating the budget as a means to goals such as full employment, economic growth, stable prices, or other things that actual people actually care about is silly, because it doesn't deal with the deficit as a symbol of all sort of bad things. Nor does actually, you know, cutting the budget deficit help, since (once again) the deficit isn't about anything as mundane as the gap between government expenditures and revenues, but it's about things such as the "tyranny of the news cycle."
(Yes, some people claim to care about the budget deficit. Ask them what it means, and you'll get all kinds of odd gibberish. Ask them if they want to raise taxes and cut benefits to solve it, and they'll look at you as if you're nuts -- that's why Ross Perot opposed all the real deficit reduction plans. Deficit concern runs, very predictably, not in a cycle with actual deficits, but correlated to things like unemployment, falling GDP, or rising inflation. No one really cares about the actual, as opposed to the symbolic, budget deficit).
Worst advice ever? Worst column ever.