Sunday, June 13, 2010

Friedman and False Equivalency

Tom Friedman has a typically thoughtful and well-written piece in today's New York Times.  But he perpetuates what I hate most about "serious" pundits.  It is this false equivalency that asserts "both parties" are wrong or contribute equally to a problem.  In so doing, I believe the "serious" pundit positions him or herself above it all and superior in knowledge or motives to those engage in the grubby business of actually making policy.   This approach also diminishes the possibility of any constructive advancement of the debate or policy change by essentially absolving the true culprits of any unique responsibility for the positions they hold.  So, here's Friedman in his Olympian declarations:
We cannot fix what ails America unless we look honestly at our own roles
in creating our own problems. We — both parties — created an awful
set of incentives that encouraged our best students to go to Wall Street
to create crazy financial instruments instead of to Silicon Valley to
create new products that improve people’s lives. We — both parties —
created massive tax incentives and cheap money to make home mortgages
available to people who really didn’t have the means to sustain them.
And we — both parties — sent BP out in the gulf to get us as much
oil as possible at the cheapest price.
He's just wrong.  It's not "both parties."  For the most part, he describes the logical outcomes of the conservative policies that have held prominence since Ronald Reagan's Administration.  The fact is that one party is actively trying to address these problems and the other party either denies their existence or simply obstructs solutions for political reasons.    So, here's Friedman later in his piece:
We need to make our whole country more sustainable. So let’s pass an
energy-climate bill that really reduces our dependence on Middle East
oil. Let’s pass a financial regulatory reform bill that really reduces
the odds of another banking crisis. Let’s get our fiscal house in order,
as the economy recovers. And let’s pass an immigration bill that will
enable us to attract the world’s top talent and remain the world’s
leader in innovation.
Let's see, now.  Who is trying to enact the legislation he says we need and who's blocking it?

Only by calling out the obstructionists (read: Republicans) can we really move the policy.  But Friedman prefers his posture a an objective observer, above it all, damning both houses, and accomplishing nothing.

1 comment:

Laurel said...

Well I have to agree with him. The "problem" after "problem" that is cropping up results from a systemic approach that permitted corporations to exert undue influence on government. I suggest going even further back than Reagan to the history of how Hawaii became a state; the Iranian revolution; the erupting volcano stamp of Central America.... Both parties either directly caused the eventual problem or passively sat by and permitted the problem to continue.