Open Phones: Your Political Brain

Wednesday, December 04, 2013


In his New York Times column yesterday, David Brooks asks: How much emotional and psychic space should politics take up in a normal healthy brain? We take up the question: What's your answer? How do you find balance?

I figure that unless you are in the business of politics, covering it or columnizing about it, politics should take up maybe a tenth corner of a good citizen’s mind. The rest should be philosophy, friendship, romance, family, culture and fun. I wish our talk-show culture reflected that balance, and that the emotional register around politics were more in keeping with its low but steady nature.

-- David Brooks

Comments [67]

how to get rid of black under eyes from

Nice blogger

Jan. 27 2014 01:03 PM


"Yes Gary from Queens, this is a modern form of slavery."

BS. Your reductionist argument is comparing any tax to slavery. Requiring a citizen to purchase something cannot be logically compared to a system that removes a person's ability to earn their own living. Taxes are the cost to run your government. Slavery is institutionalized theft. No good comparison can be made. You bend the metaphor so much that it breaks.

PS I don't care who you love or what their heritage is.

@gary from queens

"My counterpoint was that it was government which mandated slavery as an institution..."

As a colonial monarchy, slavery was existential. Without stolen labor, the American experiment would have failed. After our own Revolution, presumably the point at which we became a democratic republic the position that some persons could be treated as 'non-citizens' was hypocritical and could only be resolved by our Civil War.

"WHEREAS, in the free market, without the government mandate, I could be able to treat black people as equals to whites."

What horse-puckey! The free market and segregation exist side by side. Just look at how many neighborhoods are truly mixed.

"SIMILARLY, in the free market, without government mandates, I can buy the kind of health insurance i want."

And though your sub-standard policy may suit you, it doesn't kick enough into the pool to cover the universe of health issues.

The FREE MARKET you are invoking here is a utopian fantasy. Since the Great Depression, we have all (even supposed Conservatives) believed in using the (sometimes heavy) hand of government regulation to protect us from the less savory aspects of unregulated capitalism.

Don't believe me? When is the last time you can remember a sustained deflation that went on for more than six months? Not a 'here and there' reduction of prices but a sustained deflation that re-ordered the economic pecking order and put buying power back into wages. You can't. Because the good offices of the government AND commerce will work like heck to stamp it out PDQ. That is one reason why middle income wages have fallen so much. We are willing to accept low levels of inflation for zero tolerance of deflation. You cannot haul in the free market mantra without being willing to accept that it cuts both ways. Most conservatives that I have heard talk about it are just mythologizing.

Dec. 07 2013 10:14 AM
gary from queens

Products and services cost more when third parties pay the bills. THAT's why healthcare is costly, and why government is the pretext for putting it in control.

Whether it was Blue Cross-Blue Shield yesterday, or Medicare-Medicaid today, or Obamacare tomorrow, when someone else pays, costs always go up. They go up because insurance short-circuits market pressures that keeps prices low and quality high.

Perhaps the best column that explains this is John Stossel's piece in 2009: "Insurance Is No Answer"

"Patients rarely even ask what anything costs. Doctors often don't know. Often nobody even gives a damn. Patients rarely ask, "Is that MRI really necessary? Is there a cheaper place?"

Stossel then gave examples in medicine where most patients pay out of pocket, like plastic surgery and Lasik eye surgery, in which prices have gone down by 30 percent and service continues to improve.

The tradeoff is justified for catastrophic illnesses----in which the costs are inherently prohibitive. The way we insure our autos for collision, but not for tune-ups or oil changes. If we bought insurance for bananas, no one would bother walking an extra block for cheaper bananas, because price is incidental when a third party is paying for it. And if you live in that society and do not have banana insurance, you'll find yourself paying $7 for a pound bananas---out of pocket.

That is why contraceptives are so expensive now. What will be next, insurance for mouthwash and dental floss?!

Today, Stossel says, "premiums come out of our salaries, but insurers are accountable to our bosses, not to us." Obamacare will just replace private insurers with government control, then eventually just government insurers.

But "community rating" is fair you say? No more cruel "discrimination" against people who have a preexisting condition, obese people or smokers? "Yet that defeats insurance company's best price-dampening tool: Risk-based pricing encourages people to take better care of themselves, just as car-insurance companies reward good drivers." If you force auto insurers to replace your broken windshield BEFORE you buy their insurance, you'll see the price of windshields explode like healthcare prices have. "Community rating" hides the cost of healthcare."

Dec. 05 2013 05:33 PM
gary from queens

@amalgam (continued)

Example: in the 1970s, vaccine makers couldnt sell vaccines. lawsuits from vaccine injuries forced them to stop marketing them in the US. So an product which was inherently unsafe could not be sold. The free market worked as it should. But then NCVIA was enacted in 1986. Gov paid parents for the injuries from vaccines, while pharma pocketed the profits. no incentives for making vaccines safer, or for recommending them in moderation.

With a stake in vaccinations, the fed gov felt justified in inducing states to make compulsory vaccination laws with teeth. Vaccine makers loved having captive consumers, just like insurance companies had expected would come of obamacare (before the obama doublecross).

But Pharma doesnt want compulsory vaccination because they believe it benefits society. that requires a moral calculation. they just want it because it earns them profits!! It's GOVERNMENT and liberals IN GOVERNMENT who want compulsory vaccination because they believe it helps society.

With respect to your independence and freedom----the former advocate is easy to deal with. just stop buying vaccines and start buying their pimple cream or mouth wash and they'll be happy and leave you alone. again, that's what happened in the late 70s.

But the latter is a different kind of beast. the do-good liberal is right because he knows he's right, just like that earlier blogger showed. Trying to persuade that agency bureaucrat is an ordeal. actually, it's impossible. because after you talked yourself hoarse, he merely needs to point to the law and say, "look---you need to do as I say because it's the law, now get out of my office."

The framers knew a free society meant as few laws as possible. Corporations cant force you to buy their pimple creams or soap. they just provide society with what society demands by way of the free market. They just want your money. look around your house and count all the shit corporations manufacture for you. And you freely buy it. Corporations want to please you to get you to buy their shit. but government forces you to buy shit and do shit.

Which is more oppressive? huh?

Dec. 05 2013 05:27 PM
gary from queens


I should begin be saying that your ignorance about healthcare and "regulation" is breathtaking.

FACT: There has never been unregulated capitalism in modern history, and conservatives never advocate it. Strawman arguments are a mark of desperation.

FACT: The first century of our republic was the closest any nation came to low, warranted regulation, and it was the most prosperous in history.

FACT: There has never been a free market in healthcare in the US. Since the turn of the century, allopathic medicine gained hedgemony over the other healing arts, and over the next hundred years, used government to insure it's monopoly, and much of it is an integral part of the regulatory scheme of managed care.

My article covers some of that:

I know we disagree on corporations too. I think i debated you last year on this blog. You assume they're malevolent. But they're neither good nor bad. They are not immoral, but rather amoral.

Ask first, what is it's nature. For a shark, it's solely to feed. It does so without moral considerations. same for corporations. corporations are solely creatures of profit. they compete if allowed to compete. but if crony government or government as do-gooder (etc.) puts out a for-sale sign, then corporations will lobby and invest a great deal to seek the King's favor. that's where they will "feed"----in D.C. or Albany or Sacramento etc. Tax subsidies and favorable loans from gov then becomes the corporation's feeding ground. it becomes a means to eliminate the competition, rather than compete the old fashioned way-----with good service, innovation and low prices etc.

Dec. 05 2013 05:23 PM
amalgam from NYC by day, NJ by night

@ gary from queens -

The notion of perfectly frictionless free markets is utopian and has rarely (if ever) existed within the confines of the formal and legitimate workings of a complicated society (as opposed to, for instance, the black market).

Since virtually every market ever created becomes regulated in some form or another, the question then is to what extent is the market regulated?

The healthcare insurance industry, which is primarily what the ACA deals with, has always been tightly regulated by government, especially at the state level, and still remains so. Moreover, the history of health insurance is one where corporate health insurance bureaucrats have always issued "corporate/industry-standard mandates" that are coercive to consumers who wish to purchase insurance products, the basis of these mandates often being discriminatory (e.g., preexisting conditions unacceptable).

Therefore, since there has never been a real free market for health insurance, but rather a state regulated version that has always employed "government [and corporate health insurance] mandates," you and everyone else has always been participating within regulatory constraints that you characterize as "loss of freedom."

In every healthcare insurance scenario, our freedoms have always to a great extent been been curtailed. It seems that you are most opposed to the mandates of the federal government and not as opposed to those decreed by state government or a corporation/industry entity.

Dec. 05 2013 03:17 PM
gary from queens


I believe you're confused about the analogy.

Brian uncritically accepted a caller's notion that the free market caused slavery and only government was able to end slavery. He was wrong on both counts.

My counterpoint was that it was government which mandated slavery as an institution, such that living in the south, I could not treat a black person as a free person.

Similarly, Jim Crow laws mandated that I not allow a black person to eat at my diner. In both cases, I am denied the choice to treat black people as equals, BECAUSE of government.

WHEREAS, in the free market, without the government mandate, I could be able to treat black people as equals to whites.

SIMILARLY, in the free market, without government mandates, I can buy the kind of health insurance i want.

But under government mandates (i.e. obamacare), I cannot do so. Government says I'm not allowed to buy a high deductable, catastrophic plan, for example. Or that I must pay an exorbitant premium for it, set by government.

OK? So the analogy is not "slavery to healthcare." Rather, the analogy compares government mandates to the loss of freedom.

I told Brian I was bouncing off one of his caller's analogy, not one i made up. And the fact that Brian was wrong on the facts regarding the role of gov re slavery.

Dec. 05 2013 12:19 PM

Oh!! Here we go!! Here's a "terrific" example of conservative "thinking":

ALEC calls for penalties on 'freerider' homeowners in assault on clean energy


Dec. 05 2013 11:27 AM


If you noticed I stated that Obamacare will be transformed taking the best it outlines and through the force of this on going battle in the legislature the people will demand real change based in markets, properly controlled by government and owned by individuals. Where the government is a referee and not a player, as it should be. Please, take time to research history and the nature of man as it relates to the abuse of power. Step outside what you perceive as your own self interest.

Your uncomfortability with the use of word "slavery" in regards to an un-Constitutional law which forces supposed free people to purchase and pay for something, no matter how "good" a liberal / Marxist based politician tells you it is, is outrageous! When the government mandates something like that, IMO it is a FORM OF SLAVERY.

I equate you citing Sarah Palin, comparable to Bill Clinton constantly citing "the children" or Barak Obama siting the "need for redistribution of wealth", all emotional tools of master manipulators. I think that probably would indicate that you are a person that is easily manipulated based in emotion. Your a name caller, and in my experience the first one who starts calling names has the weakest argument and is the looser.

Step back and objectively see what is actually going on, free yourself, do not burden yourself with the imagery you have been knee jerk programmed / force fed by master manipulators. Wake up my friend.

PS: I love my black, fellow Americans.

Dec. 05 2013 11:17 AM

@Gary from Queens, JGL, Sarah Palin, et al.

Comparing a system that requires all to pay something for the healthcare that they will (eventually) receive to a system that treated human beings as property and systematically stole their labor for the owner's enrichment is over the line.

Go see 'Twelve Years a Slave' and imagine having the flesh flayed from your back with a bullwhip for going to the next plantation to borrow some soap.

How possibly does forcing you to buy health insurance compare to that?

Dec. 05 2013 12:59 AM

So first I ran off to read Brooks' piece. Yeah...government can't fix everything. But there are some things that ONLY GOOD GOVERNMENT can fix.

Mr. Brooks thinks a tenth of a good citizen's brain should be concerned with politics. [This after eight years of Bush the Dumber and five years of the Obama Administration and our constipated Congress and three-months of Brooks' own self-imposed hiatus.] Having stepped away from the hurly-burly, maybe David is just tired of how little overlap exists between the committed Left and the committed Right.

How much of a normal, healthy brain should be spent thinking about politics? That depends on the times doesn't it? More when government is ineffective (as ours currently is) at representing the people (from whom supposedly its power is derived), less when things are "good". Whatever "good" is...

The voters took a rest in 2010 and look what that has cost us. Let's not forget that it was our own national "Whew! At least that's over." that permitted the Tea Party to grab so many seats in the 2010 congressional races and the GOP to grab so many governorships and statehouses that they could do looney things like gerrymander districts, roll back voter access to the polls and push through invasive ultrasounds before an abortion on demand could be delivered. Those races were won not by more voters than 2008 but way fewer actually getting to the polls to defend themselves against the expected 'rollback'.

This fight is not over until AT LEAST the next census. And far, far longer if we are committed to seeing the distribution of income returned to anything close to what it was during the Kennedy Administration. Cue the broken record...It takes $105,000 (2013) to demand a proportionate amount of GDP equal to the demand of the average income in 1963 of $4,396. Get to work.

Dec. 05 2013 12:46 AM
gary from queens


you're not following my comments. True conservatives are not in control and havent been in control since Reagan:

BTW, The hallmark of a failed policy or law is the need to carve out exceptions to said policy or law. Or for the elites in society ignoring the policy, law, or what they promote for us peons.

We see it with climate change, in which elites burn carbon 1000 times more than us peons.

We see it clearly with obamacare law, with the hundreds of exemptions granted for companies and unions that supported Obamacare legislation. And today, it was reported that Senate Majority leader Reed exempted his staff from obamacare rules.

We see it with Obama's foreign policy. make no mistake about it. This exemption to this law means that Obama (and neocons in both parties) is admitting he is arming al qaeda terrorists:

And we see it with elites sending their kids to private elite schools, and not public schools.

Dec. 04 2013 07:29 PM


What I believe will happen in regards to the healthcare industry in the wake of "Obamacare" is that BOTH party's will be forced to sit down at the insistence of the people and they will be forced to hash out a market based solution incorporating the best ideas of Obamacare. This solution will include individual health savings accounts and catastrophic components that individuals control and NOT the government. This battle will serve a purpose.

In addition, the solution will not be as offensive to the Constitution as Obamacare alone is. Imagine how Obamacare would mutate 10, 20, 50 years from now if it was allowed to play out un-confronted. The only good healthcare would be available only to well connected politicians and their family's.

Dec. 04 2013 07:07 PM

Oh! I'm sorry, gary from queens…

There's an actual "conservative idea"??

Like all the great ones put forth as a counter to the ACA??? Those great "conservative ideas"???

That's what you mean…??

Dec. 04 2013 03:16 PM

You are spot on Gary, American exceptionalism is interpreted as arrogance related to how Americans interpret themselves and not the uniqueness of the Constitution. Just like equating the Constitution with government and God and religion.

I would like to hear Brian clarify this misinterpretation / misstatement on his show.

Dec. 04 2013 03:02 PM
gary from queens

Mr. Sepanek is right because HE believes he's right. He's like so many liberals who feel they can attack conservatives via ad hominems, rather than challenging conservative IDEAS.

Dec. 04 2013 02:41 PM
Donald J. Sepanek

"Balance" breeds mediocrity.

Dec. 04 2013 02:03 PM
Donald J. Sepanek

I am not seeking "balance".

Dec. 04 2013 01:57 PM
gary from queens

You're correct JGL on gov vs the constitution. but even further, "american exceptionalism" has never referred to americans being exceptional. rather, it refers to our constitution, which was the first in history, before and since, to declare as precept that CITIZENS are sovereign, from where government derives its powers, with the central gov, being most distant from the people, limited only to those powers enumerated, and no more.

Liberals forced a reinterpretation of commerce and necessary and proper clauses to include virtually anything that the fed can do to make law over us. a perversion of the Framers intent. The latest, in a word----obamunism.

Conservatives try to explain, while liberal demagogue them as evil. just look at the liberal blogger's comments. just allegations and rhetoric, because they assume they're right, anything can be alleged, factual or not.

Dec. 04 2013 01:44 PM

Keep in mind that the men that wrote the Constitution that allowed slavery also understood that what they had written would in time eliminate slavery from America. Slavery was a paradigm of the day and common throughout the world from the beginning of time.

The founders wrote THE document that has destroyed slavery as a way of life for most of the world. This new modern variety of slavery would be called by them what it is. You now can not be born in America and be compliant with the law without owning a healthcare policy, mandated by the government. Think about that for a moment and where you see this going in the next 10, 20, 50 years. The left would have you believe that slavery itself was eliminated in spite of the founders wishes so therefore the Constitution itself is invalid and must be replaced. This kind of thinking is the kind of thinking that equates the Constitution and government.

Dec. 04 2013 01:15 PM
gary from queens

Brian, i'm glad you took my call, but as a caller, I cannot compete when you shut off my audio when I need to rebut you.

One avenue I was unable to delve into was the slavery point. You accepted an example from the earlier caller that the free market could not stop slavery and was the cause of it, and you accepted the notion that only government was able to stop slavery. Yet slavery existed only because government made it legal, just like Jim Crow laws were enforced by government!

No one in the south had the option to allow slaves to be free or later, allow a black person to eat at a white diner. Just like today, no one has the option to choose the health insurance plan of THEIR choosing, because government knows best-----just like it knew best about slavery over a century ago.

Dec. 04 2013 12:55 PM

Yes Gary from Queens, this is a modern form of slavery. Obligating the people to continually pay for what the government mandates is a modern form of slavery.

Brian's echo chamber is filled with true believers, including Brian.

I do enjoy your show Brian, I enjoy the subtle way that you introduce the agenda.

Dec. 04 2013 12:36 PM
gary from queens

The restaurant investment was an ANALOGY to what we are seeing today. Obama's $2 trillion stimulus was just a "sugar rush" that went nowhere. One it's now conceded that it was barely one dollar growth for each stimulus dollar GOVERNMENT put into the economy.

Why is business not investing? Because in so many fields, (Obama's) government decided to pick the winners, through grants and subsidies and arduous regulations (best example are fossil fuel industry), and by BEING a player, such as in student loans and healthcare (in which prices, resources and services are totally gov controlled, with private insurers acting merely as conduits, and soon to become extinct by way of the regs imposed on them.).

In my hypothetical, few private investors feel they can succeed in competing against the leviathan-supported restaurant, so fewer restaurants are started in that neighborhood from private investors, and fewer jobs are one result. (because wealth creation---the SUPPLY, not demand, Mr. "blacksocialist from BKbaby"----comes from investment. Were people demanding the iPhone BEFORE Jobs invented it and invested in its production and marketing?!)

But relax, all you liberal, "government knows best" crowd in Brian's echo chamber: Big government republicans like Boner and McConnell, just like GW and Jeb, will not reduce the size of leviathan. it will hang obamacare around your necks. Because higher cost is partly because of the promises----keeping johnny on the plan well into adulthood, forcing coverage of preconditions, forcing coverage for everything from dental floss to vaginal creams. it's a damn mess, designed to placate every constituency instead of what insurance should be for-----covering expensive or catastrophic MEDICAL emergencies.

Brian's notion of voting out pols being easier than suing a corporation is classic liberal delusion. Because UNELECTED government bureaucrats have wide discretion in formulating regulations. it's happening now with Dodd-Frank legislation. And no citizen has much leverage over agencies of government.

That's fine by Obama and democrats, because this isnt about healthcare. It's about control. You control people when you control their health and mortality. And you control people's health and mortality when you make all healthcare----from dental floss to heart surgery----available SOLELY through insurance. And now health insurance is controlled totally by HHS.

Dec. 04 2013 12:24 PM


In your conversation you equate the Constitution and government, they are not equals. There will always be some form of government in the world, the Constitution describes a specific frame work within which this particular government must operate within. Actually our government emanates from the Constitution so they can not be equal.

Your equating the two is a confusion that I am not sure you understand that you are transmitting. Our particular kind of government comes after the Constitution, your interpretation would be like equating God and religion. They are not the same but people can conflate them into being the same and equal.

Dec. 04 2013 12:12 PM
Sam Butler from erewhon

Brain instead of thinking, reasoning? Did Brooks use brain instead of reason? In any case, the program seems to be part of a wider effort to subtly or not so subtly disengage citizens from their government. Given that less than half of the US population votes, this effort is pernicious and does irreparable harm. Each time citizens and residents and non-citizens are urged or encouraged not to engage with the deep events that are occuring, the nation inevitably has a different mentality that layers onto the past and in time fashions a new profile. Of course people should pay attention to politics, but the issue here is what media presents as politics and how issues or events are framed. Second by second accounts or responding to inanity and not facts is not the proper role of media; better to take up issues that are serious, such as Mark Danner's recent column in The New York Review of Books on Rumsfeld and the nation's foreign policy and how those policies were shaped.
You, Brian Lehrer, are on the same page as Mr. Limbaugh who advocates dumping the Constitution, only you are a fluffier variant, the kindlier type. Where would this country be without the political engagement of civil rights leaders and others who held their views? This is just one of so many matters that deeply affected and affect the character of our nation and its citizens. [yes, I know this will be slurped up by intelligence gathering for use at some later time or even now? But my years are numbered and I have witnessed many struggles, some I judge good, some disastrous. But never urge people in oh such subtle ways to turn the other way. Your show would disappear , I guess, if you stopped discussing politics.

Dec. 04 2013 11:31 AM

Somebody remind me…

Why does David Brooks have a job??

I ask this not, because I rarely agree with his opinions. I ask because I NEVER understand his ridiculous, circuitous and facile arguments.

Dec. 04 2013 11:26 AM

There you go again, Brian; the first caller started going into how the debacle of Bloomberg's Mayoral control of the schools destroyed his son's chance of getting into college, and you interrupted him before he could tarnish Bloomberg's image.
Bloomberg must be very happy with the loyalty his money has bought him from this joke of a public radio station...

Dec. 04 2013 11:14 AM

Brooks is right and wrong- I don't think it was a mistake for JFK or anyone to suggest that the sky is the limit. Didn't the founders proclaim all men are created equal? Standards should be high and in some things, government is needed to achieve them. ie. Civil rights. There are a lot of reasons for malaise or disillusionment- is it Iraq war fatigue, the economy, the loss of a manufacturing base and the resulting damage to the middle class, malice and grid lock in Congress?

But those who looked for utopia or a free lunch should be disillusioned because no president has ever promised anything like it. A nanny state may be desired by those who need a nanny, but it is not eth role of government.

I think that disillusionment depends on the issue and whose ox is gored. Government can do great things. It can do lousy things as well.
Moreover, there is a sense of immediacy in all things that plays into the problem. We don't wait to for things to develop. The need for instant gratification has a lot to do with a heightened sense of frustration because few programs yield instant results. Add to it the diminished middle class and the numerous log jam in Congress , the fatigue of the Iraq war and the breaches of faith between our leaders and the fair expectations in an honest and competent government.

The fault lies not in our stars, but ourselves.

Dec. 04 2013 10:49 AM

What nobody ever seems to emphasize, or even realize, is that politics is a business of compromise. A lawyer's job is to negotiate the best compromise, and the politician's job is that writ large. A consequence of this is that "winning", in the policy sense, is not a desirable outcome. There's no winners in politics - the reward is just that we get to live another day without riots in the streets. An uncompromising approach to politics (which I've seen from many liberals and conservatives) is simply doomed from the outset.

If everyone could tolerate political compromises, the world would be a much better place.

Which is to say, I think any individual action or thought that comes with the intent to compromise is political. And whenever we're uncompromising (particularly in the passive sense, ventures where there's no pressure to compromise) that's not political. Most of our life, fortunately, isn't political. Unfortunately, I think a lot of "politics" isn't political either.

Dec. 04 2013 10:47 AM

Whoa fellow listeners, get it together! Half these comments sounds cray cray and are so off topic.

I know how easy it is to go down each rabbit hole comments and respond 'in kind' but fight the urge. Remember the bigger picture here.

Geoff, RJ and William' comments, I found, were the most thought provoking. Thank you. To give a quick answer to the question poised this way (roughly-"how much time do you devote to thinking about politics") is frustrating and framed incorrectly. Won't get into it. But interesting topic generally. Less David Brooks please, there must be someone else to interview on this topic no?

Dec. 04 2013 10:46 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

To blacksocialist

I stand by my contention. Slavery simply became obsolete in industrial countries, and only lingered on in undeveloped and technologically backwards places.

Dec. 04 2013 10:39 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

Quote - blacksocialist from BKbaby - "just another dumb white conservative"

LOL, just another BLACK RACIST punk, living off the very people you despise.
"Knock out" any little old white ladies today?

Dec. 04 2013 10:38 AM
Geoff from West Orange, NJ

Politics used to play a much smaller role in government, for only a few months before an election. Once elected, representatives actually got down the the job of governing. Now, if the minority doesn't like the outcome of fair, objective elections, they seek to overturn the results by obstructing legislation and blocking appointments made by the majority. Politics has overshadowed government by forcing itself into every governmental decision and activating the next election cycle immediately following any election. Let's try actually governing before we determine that we need smaller government.

The cry of smaller government gets very quiet following events like Superstorm Sandy, or the recent train derailment. It turns out government works really well in those situations. Without government in place ahead of such events, what would be the result? Without government, what would happen when someone dials 911? Without government, would the "free market" have even created a system like 911 without trying to charge a fee for it?

Dec. 04 2013 10:35 AM
A Pragmatist

Nothing new here. I think it's unfortunate that many people do not question what is put on the air, whether it be FOX, MSNBC, or even this station sometimes.

No one has enough time to give deep enough context when covering the news such that everything is covered - it is up to the listener/viewer/reader to fill in these gaps.

If there is one thing that needs to be taught at an earlier age, it's the appreciation for context when explaining historical events - it has to be done in both a compelling as well as balanced way, and I don't think we place enough emphasis on history in education as we should. We say as humans that we learn from our mistakes, but it seems that we haven't fixed this mistake yet.

Dec. 04 2013 10:35 AM
APRIL from Manhattan


Dec. 04 2013 10:32 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

To John Gordon

"...the very foundations of our democracy are being assaulted by the extreme right?"

The very foundations of our social fabric has been assaulted by the extreme Left!

Dec. 04 2013 10:31 AM
Robert from NYC

Liberals see government as savior?! Uh, no I don't think so. Liberals see government as at the service of the people who respond to the needs of the electorate. And oddly who proved this to work more than the Tea Partiers! Unfortunately theirs was the wish to prevent the government from functioning and they succeeded doing it by getting involved in government and choosing to do nothing. So you see, government works even when it doesn't work but it does so by folks getting involved in it. Remember corporate fascism is always a threat and without a separate government opposed to a corporate supported "government" is what happened toward the middle of the last century in Europe.

Dec. 04 2013 10:31 AM
John from Fanwood

Yikes! My brother-in-law is like Gary, and there's no evidence of government's positive contribution to the economy and society that will convince him that need it. A privately owned restaurant across the street from a government supported restaurant, WA-HO!!!

Dec. 04 2013 10:30 AM
Alfred from Queens

It's my belief that politics take up an inordinate amount of space in our thought process because there's no action any more. If people actually acted upon their beliefs in relation to politics to get concrete results, perhaps people wouldn't be obsessed with watching/listening to media and gripping in the social network. And what I mean by action is boots-on-the-ground protests. With all the pent-up anger in this country (in shades of red and blue) why don't we get out in streets and protest. That woman who confronted Boener the other day took real guts to confront. It's as if we're all afraid to get on a bus and carry a sign and throw some tomatoes. We are not going to get anything done in 140 characters or an online petition or a youtube video.

Dec. 04 2013 10:29 AM
blacksocialist from BKbaby

jgarbuz - i love this, "Slavery was brought to an end by technology when the industrial revolution required paid labor....." your ignorance never ceases too amaze.... please keep posting.... so sad

Dec. 04 2013 10:29 AM
Sasha from Brooklyn

looking at these last comments, it is so refreshing to see the famous liberal open mindedness... Holy cow.

Dec. 04 2013 10:29 AM
Jon Gordon from Chappaqua, NY

Regarding your call-in this morning, I couldn't disagree more with David Brooks, who, as a conservative, would apparently like us to "relax" while the very foundations of our democracy are being assaulted by the extreme right. Efforts at voter suppression, disguised as laws to prevent voter fraud, use of the US attorneys offices under Bush to initiate groundless investigations of political opponents of Republican candidates, thereby to smear those opponents' names and influence voting, drastically cutting government services to people in desperate need - these and many other activities of the Republican party threaten the basic principles of representative and fair government. We need to be MORE INVOLVED, not less!!!!!

Dec. 04 2013 10:28 AM
blacksocialist from BKbaby

the stupidity of gary hurts....... just one basic point, demand is the engine of an economy... just another dumb white conservative

Dec. 04 2013 10:24 AM

Gary talked me into it. I'm a conservative now


Dec. 04 2013 10:24 AM

If the current speaker is sure that the private wealth creation "creates jobs," the lack of job creation over the past decades works against his faith & so do the BLS employment figures & IRS income decline below the 1%.

Dec. 04 2013 10:23 AM


Why are you indulging this caller (idiot), Gary?!??!?!

Dec. 04 2013 10:23 AM
scott Bankey from soho

Wow, this segment really sounds like you are acknowledging and making excuses for this failed administration. The next step is to look at both sides of an issue with an open mind instead of keeping yourself trapped in a bubble of the same ideas.


Dec. 04 2013 10:22 AM
Geoff from West Orange, NJ

Don't conflate government and politics. Politics has become a power game devoid of actual governance. Government should abide by the majority opinion and enact what that majority decides is best. Political minority obstructionism has ground government to a halt.

Dec. 04 2013 10:21 AM
RJ from prospect hts

Brooks's statements are wildly oversimplified. Does he define "politics"? Is it making sure your street is lit so you can be safe? Is it the Supreme Court? Politics infuses everything--one's ability to feed one's children or make sure libraries stay open or dress to have a chance at a job? Can we really walk down a NYC street and not sense the politics in everything? Seeing streetcleaners--are they paid a living wage? Brooks seems to have compartmentalized things he defines as "political": it's either a utopian JFK statement or disillusionment or an alien being known as "government." This is not possible. Living is political, not just government. Government is a means to an end--it's society's question to debate how it's used, the same as direct community activity, shelters for cats or battered women--all of this is political, with or without government.

Conservatives do *not* want small government. They want agricultural subsidies and the "freedom" to dump toxins anywhere tax breaks to bring in companies and, allegedly, jobs ... They have plenty of desire for government, just in very circumscribed ways to benefit their class.

Dec. 04 2013 10:20 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Slavery was brought to an end by technology when the industrial revolution required paid labor not only to work it, but to buy things as well from it. Slaves had no money to very buy much with. Without the civil war slavery might have continued in the South for another decade or two, but would come to and end anyway due to the industrial revolution spreading to agriculture as well.

Dec. 04 2013 10:18 AM
Rob from westchester

David Brooks is so predictable; you always always know what he is going to say about every political issue. An apologist because he says what he feels like he SHOULD say. Irrelevant.

He's wrong about idealism; history is replete with aspirations being realised.

In recent past, think of the CLinton Administration. He has to come in and clean up the disaster (of Reagan/Bush pere) deficits and depressed (mood). Through optimism and good will he manages to change the world (Mid-east, Ireland). And produce a surplus. Then Bush Jr. runs the world into the ground, (2 unwinnable wars, mass deficits and more depressed mood). Obama comes in and manages again to clean up the Republican mess. To old, poor people, mariginalized, and disenfranchised, aspirations became a little more real.

I challenege you to ask Brooks to surprise you with an idea that isn't lock-step next time he is on. He can't.

Dec. 04 2013 10:18 AM

FANTASTIC subject!!

In signature David Brooks style, poorly argued.

Dec. 04 2013 10:17 AM
John A

Does political media use emotionality to hold listeners/viewers? Well have more on that shocking revelation coming up...

Dec. 04 2013 10:17 AM
Roman from Brooklyn

But, if you truly believe that there is something happening that will very negatively affect your country and the world, and that only the government is large enough to affect that change, then you have to be very invested in the politics. For me, we are on a very, very dangerous road with regards to climate change. I strongly feel that we don't have the luxury to be lackadaisical about this issue. And we have to fight and we have to be fully engaged and fully invested, regardless of how difficult and disillusioning it may be.

Dec. 04 2013 10:16 AM
William from Manhattan

Voltaire was no stranger to politics or theory, but even he ultimately advised to "cultivate your garden". By all means ask the big questions, but don't lose sight of your immediate needs and surroundings.

Dec. 04 2013 10:15 AM
Robert from NYC

Mike is right! You media folk are among the top at least 3% don't really get what it's like down here. We have you talking empty heads just spieling off your own opinions and ideas and most of the time who cares! Politics has forced itself into all our lives, yes forced itself because we have politicians who care not about we the people who voted for them as much as for themselves and their corporate supporters who send many if not most of them home from DC millionaires. So that leaves us on our own and so we are forced to think more about politics and how to bring about changes since nothing in the system is working well enough. They even fix the ability of voting and where, when and how to vote and we have to, we must, get involved and fight back against these folks we voted for... in many cases, too many cases.

Dec. 04 2013 10:15 AM
Marc from Brooklyn

Politics is the art of getting complete strangers to believe that their interests are your interests. Thucydides knew that. Tacitus knew that. The only people passionate about politics today are the terminally naive, the deliberately delusional, or those who seek to obtain something of value from their neighbors in exchange for noting of value.

Dec. 04 2013 10:09 AM

Since when is cynicism about government and politics a bad thing?

Dec. 04 2013 10:09 AM
amalgam from NYC by day, NJ by night

David Brooks' analysis was interesting, but rather simplistic (I guess it is only a 600 word column).

It seems that Brooks is conflating many notions under the banner of "politics"; namely the significant difference between governance, ideology, and politics, to name a few. (For instance, Brooks' use of the term "religion" in that NPR quote sounds like the definition of ideology rather than politics.)

Dec. 04 2013 10:09 AM
Josh Karan from Washington Heights

Three mottos which square that circle for me, and keep me sane and joyous.

Antonio Gramsci: "Pessimism of the intellect, but optimism of the will"

Emma Goldman: "If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution"

Alice Walker "We are the one's we have been waiting for"

Keep the faith for the sake of the children and the earth.

Dec. 04 2013 10:08 AM
John from NYC

I think that politics is a sickness – very much like religion.

Politics is forced on us, but we should keep it to a minimum.

It forces out – science, technology, literature, art, and other more important things.

I love C-SPAN’s BookTV, but it is mostly politics at the expense of more important things. Why not a CULTURAL C-SPAN – how many great lectures are there every evening on America’s 3,000 college campuses?

Now with YouTube – for example all TED talks are on YouTube, I can follow interesting thinkers free of the corruption of politics and government.

Dec. 04 2013 10:08 AM

So people should abandon all attempts to stop government from stealing from us?
You can't fight Tammany Hall?
The abolitionists were wasting their time?
The Continental Congress should have stayed home?
The CIA knows best? Just let them run the country?
Give up? That will reduce your stress?

Dec. 04 2013 10:08 AM
John from NYC

I think that politics is a sickness – very much like religion.

Politics is forced on us, but we should keep it to a minimum.

It forces out – science, technology, literature, art, and other more important things.

I love C-SPAN’s BookTV, but it is mostly politics at the expense of more important things. Why not a CULTURAL C-SPAN – how many great lectures are there every evening on America’s 3,000 college campuses?

Now with YouTube – for example all TED talks are on YouTube, I can follow interesting thinkers free of the corruption of politics and government.

Dec. 04 2013 10:07 AM
Nick from UWS

Who can possibly have "faith" in politicians? Why does no one discuss the psychology of the kind of person that becomes a politician in the first place? Why can no one see them for what they are....power hungry narcissists..and leave it at that? But people project their Daddy needs over and over and over on these people..a terrible compulsion.

Dec. 04 2013 10:06 AM


Dec. 04 2013 10:05 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Well, they say the brain is divided between a Left side and a Right side, and some people's brains are more to the Left, and others' more to the Right. I was born a Leftist, but my life experiences caused me to veer towards the Right.

Dec. 04 2013 08:06 AM
John A

Oftentimes being free to be emotional is being free to be emotionally Manipulated*. Self control includes being able to deny yourself the 'toy' of emotionality.
*including by media providers such as WNYC

Dec. 03 2013 10:48 AM

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