What is David Brooks epitomizing in his column this morning with his example of Ben?
Ben would like to have majored in history, but he needed a skill so he studied hotel management. Others spent their college years partying, but Ben worked hard. After graduation, he got a job with a hotel chain. A few years later, he got a different job and then a different one.
He didn’t have lifetime security or a fabulous salary, but Ben worked. He filled in for the night manager, hired staff and cleaned up the breakfast area when that needed doing.
In other words, in school, he labored when others didn’t. At work, he sacrificed when others didn’t. He bought a house he could afford when others didn’t.
But when Ben looked at Washington, he saw a political system that undermined the relationship between effort and reward. People in Washington spent money they didn’t have. They just borrowed it from the Chinese. People in Washington taxed those with responsible homes to bail out people who’d bought homes they couldn’t afford.
People in Congress were caught up in a spoils system in which money was taken from those who worked and given to those with connections. Money was taken from those who produced and used to bail out the reckless, who were supposedly too big to fail.
This was an affront to the core values of Ben’s life.
It appears to be a new centrist movement analogous to MoveOn.org on the left or the Tea Party movement on the right. I think that misunderstands ordinary Americans, MoveOn.org, and the Tea Party movement.
I think that most Americans aren’t ideological at all. They’re only centrists in the sense that they don’t much care about the philosophical coherence of their policy preferences (if they have them). And I honestly don’t know what the relationships of MoveOn.org and the Tea Party movement are to the great mass of Americans. The values I’ve heard recently proclaimed by those claiming to be spokesmen for the Tea Party movement are limited government and fiscal responsibility. As the old joke about Maine put it you cahn’t get the-ah from he-ah.