the national interest

David Brooks: Bowles-Simpson Should Rule Forever

Journalist David Brooks
Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

David Brooks writes today that American politics have grown “neurotically democratic.” Politicians never stop campaigning and are terrified of offending anybody. He has a cure. It involves replicating the greatest political success story of the modern era: “The quickest way around all this is to use elite Simpson-Bowles-type commissions to push populist reforms.

Due to what must be an unfortunate typo, Brooks has written “populist” when he clearly means the opposite of populist. After all, an elite commission designed to circumvent a neurotic excess of democracy is not going to supply populist reforms — Cheap gas! Higher Social Security benefits! Lower Congressional pay! Cut foreign aid! — but rather the reverse. Nonetheless his point stands.

Perhaps you are skeptical that the Simpson-Bowles model is the way to accomplish this, given that the commission began its work four years ago, and evidence of legislative progress is difficult to detect. If that is the “quickest way” to implement the elitist agenda, you may ask, what would be an example of a slower way?

The problem here is that Simpson and Bowles simply did not enjoy enough sanctimonious endorsements from the political, media, and corporate elite. Brooks believes that the drumbeat on behalf of Simpson-Bowles is but a small taste of what is needed to reshape the face of American politics. He foresees a future in which we “Gather small groups of the great and the good together to hammer out bipartisan reforms — on immigration, entitlement reform, a social mobility agenda, etc. — and then rally establishment opinion to browbeat the plans through.”

If Simpson and Bowles failed, it is only due to insufficient hammering and browbeating. This can be fixed for future Simpson-Bowles commissions. For instance, why is Morning Joe a mere three hours long? It should be on 24 hours a day, and all Americans should have to watch it, Clockwork Orange–style.

David Brooks: Bowles-Simpson Should Rule Forever