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Are We Still Calling This Con “Sam’s Club Conservatism?”

[ 29 ] January 4, 2012 |

David Brooks has an argument that the co-winner of yesterday’s caucuses is a different type of conservatism. Unlike that upper-class swell Mitt Romney, you see, Santorum offers a frothy agenda directed towards the white working class. He cares about poverty, really! This may seem like an odd argument to make about a candidate who compares Medicaid and food stamps to fascism, and indeed it is. I would refute it, only that Brooks conveniently refutes it himself:

He is not a representative of the corporate or financial wing of the party. Santorum certainly wants to reduce government spending (faster even than Representative Paul Ryan). He certainly wants tax reform. But he goes out of his way in his speeches to pick fights with the “supply-siders.” He scorns the Wall Street bailouts. His economic arguments are couched as values arguments: If you want to enhance long-term competitiveness, you need to strengthen families. If companies want productive workers, they need to be embedded in wholesome communities.

So Santorum is even more reactionary on economic issues than Paul ‘throw grandma from the train” Ryan, wanting to do even more to shred America’s already threadbare safety net. When you hear a Republican use the “tax reform” euphemism you know they’re talking about massive upper-class tax cuts (very partially) funded by spending cuts piled on the working class, and this is indeed exactly what Santorum supports. So how on earth can Brooks argue that Santorum is the representative of the working class? Well, while your ordinary Chamber of Commerce type might be inclined to leave the sex lives of his impoverished and servile workers alone, Santorum wants the government less involved in the social welfare business but much more involved in the imposing reactionary cultural values business.    Oh.

As Ed Kilgore says, the idea that Santorum is too much of a bleeding heart might be the excuse that GOP elites use as they act to suppress his candidacy, but substantively it’s a massive fraud. It’s the old Michael Gerson routine — dressing up bog-standard supply-side Republican economics with alleged concern about the poor. Alas, empty rhetoric won’t put food on anyone’s table or pay their medical bills.

Comments (29)

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  1. dave says:

    Santorum offers a frothy agenda

    I see what you did there.

  2. mpowell says:

    Also, “his economic arguments are couched as values arguments”.

    Translation: he pretends to care about the poor, but the actual policy he supports would hurt them.

    • c u n d gulag says:

      This is the wolf pretending to care about the sheep.

      But only because he likes lamb-chops.

      And of course, he won’t tell the the sheep that. He’s too busy telling them that he wants to see them live to a ripe old age.

      But he doesn’t tell them the real reason for that is that he also doesn’t mind mutton.

      So, the lesson boys and girls is – never trust a wolf to look out for sheep’s rights.
      He’s just looking out for his meals.

      • wileywitch says:

        I am convinced that at the bottom of the success of this con is racism. I think that what the wing-nuts are saying and what the people who want to hear that crap is hearing is, “I would never treat YOU like a nigger. I’ll lay those niggers to waste, just you watch me; and then— look a chicken!”

        • Lee says:

          Yes, this is pretty much it. Conservatives need a broad base of support because you can’t win elections soley on the votes of the rich. Either they need to reduce the size of the electorate or use racism, sexism and other forms of bigotry to get votes. The GOP is pursuing both strategies.

  3. Bill Murray says:

    so a guy that helped run the K-Street project is not representative of the corporate or financial wing of the party

  4. david mizner says:

    It may be possible to be a conservative economic populist, although not without giant contradictions, and not when you’re not even willing to speak out against “free” trade. CATO gives Santorum a 100 percent rating on trade.

  5. Incontinentia Buttocks says:

    See also: “A Thousand Points of Light” and “Compassionate Conservatism”

  6. efgoldman says:

    Santorum, in his ownway, is just as batshit as Paul or Bachmann, and stands just as much chance of being elected.
    Nevertheless, last night was a wonderful result, and I hope he stays in the race.

  7. Bighank53 says:

    Please. David Brooks makes an assertion, props some cardboard cutouts around it, then claims he has an argument and supporting points.

    • commie atheist says:

      Man I came here for a good argument.
      Mr Vibrating No you didn’t, you came here for an argument.
      Man Well, an argument’s not the same as contradiction.
      Mr Vibrating It can be.
      Man No it can’t. An argument is a connected series of statements to establish a definite proposition.
      Mr Vibrating No it isn’t.
      Man Yes it is. It isn’t just contradiction.
      Mr Vibrating Look, if I argue with you, I must take up a contrary position.
      Man But it isn’t just saying ‘No it isn’t’.
      Mr Vibrating Yes it is.
      Man No it isn’t, Argument is an intellectual process … contradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of anything the other person says.
      Mr Vibrating No it isn’t.
      Man Yes it is.
      Mr Vibrating Not at all.
      Man Now look!
      Mr Vibrating (pressing the bell on his desk) That’s it. Good morning.

  8. Vance Maverick says:

    I had a vague memory of his being the only one to talk about income mobility. It’s sort of true, but naturally enough his proposal to improve it consists of…corporate tax breaks. He wants to bring skilled manufacturing jobs back to this country, which might make sense if he had a plan for making sure there were lots of those jobs and they paid well.

    • Ken says:

      And were in the United States. I mean, I can see that reducing corporate tax rates gives them more profits, and I can maybe believe that some of those profits will go to hiring more employees (though I cynically suspect even more will go to dividends, and the largest share to executive bonuses). But what makes that corporation hire people in the United States, when they can get workers in China for a fraction of the cost?

      Hmm, there might be an idea with some traction there; corporations are people, Mr. Romney assures us, but they are neither citizens nor patriotic.

      • actor212 says:

        Ninety percent of jobs in America are created by companies with owners who make less than $50,000 a year.

        Those are people who can’t afford to export raw materials to China, then import finished products.

  9. Hogan says:

    I think the real program is:

    1. Poor people marry each other and have lots of chldlren.

    2. God does something nice for them.

    3. Prosperity!

    You have to admit it’s better thought out than lots of Republican economic plans.

  10. howard says:

    i will never understand why despising people and telling lies are considered “values.”

  11. actor212 says:

    If he was all about the “sanctity of the family,” he’d be pro-choice because ultimately, that the decision which binds happy families together and tears unhappy ones apart.

    I’d really like to see the words “pro-choice” morph into “pro-family autonomy,” just as soon as we can devise a catchier euphemism.

  12. Njorl says:

    You’re overstressing the importance of this life. I’m sure Santorum’s policies will do the poor a lot of good in the afterlife.

    Not only will Ricky get more poor people to heaven, he’ll get them there sooner!

    • Hogan says:

      All together now:

      Holy Rollers and Jumpers come out
      And they holler, they jump and they shout
      Give your money to Jesus, they say,
      He will cure all diseases today

      You will eat by and by
      In the glorious land above the sky
      Work and pray, live on hay
      You’ll get pie in the sky when you die

  13. Ken says:

    Are We Still Calling This Con “Sam’s Club Conservatism?”

    Well, if by that you mean that four people control more wealth than the bottom 40% of the population, due to their incredible talent at being conceived…

  14. Bart says:

    Brooks is now getting his information while eating tapas at his local upscale Wendy’s.

  15. whetstone says:

    You may have also noticed his dream synthesis of two pols: “blue collar” Rick Santorum, the son of a clinical psychologist (and public employee!) and “blue collar” Sherrod Brown, son of a doctor (and himself a Yalie).

    No word on what they eat at Red Lobster, or how much they pay for it.

    • Hogan says:

      Everyone in western Pennsylvania is blue collar, the way everyone in Hollywood is a movie star.

      If it weren’t for lazy stereotypes, how would Brooks ever squeeze out 800 words?

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