Sunday, December 7, 2008
Wait, There's This One...
Second prize goes to op-ed columnist and Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas L. Friedman, who falls back on a glib, roundabout, and ultimately irrelevant route to yet another finger-wagging exercise over the government's priorities for the stimulus package:
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Tom Brokaw’s book “The Greatest Generation,” that classic about our parents and their incredible sacrifices during World War II. What I’ve been thinking about actually is this: What book will our kids write about us? “The Greediest Generation?” “The Complacent Generation?” Or maybe: “The Subprime Generation: How My Parents Bailed Themselves Out for Their Excesses by Charging It All on My Visa Card.”
Friedman goes on to dig himself even deeper into the hole created by his convoluted construction:
Our kids should be so much more radical than they are today. I understand why they aren’t. They’re so worried about just getting a job or paying next semester’s tuition. But we must not take their quietism as license to do whatever we want with this bailout cash. They are going to have to pay this money back. And therefore, we have an incredibly weighty obligation to make sure that we not only spend every stimulus dollar wisely but also with an eye to creating new technologies.
Hey, does anyone know what Friedman's talking about? Does Friedman even know? Brokaw's book chronicled the courage shown by ordinary Americans in taking on a larger-than-life cause. Friedman seems to be suggesting that we, as a people, have some power to control our economic fate by any means other than casting a vote for the politicians we believe in.
Like it or not, we don't. This generation will depend on the courage of its leaders, not on its own. As Friedman well knows, no one will blame this generation (save some greedy bankers and misguided governmnent officials) for the current economic crisis. The vast majority of us have been innocent bystanders to the subprime collapse, the market downturn and the auto industry bailout.
But Friedman won't stop pushing his point with more outsized outrage. Later in the column, he actually threatens Washington with withholding his taxes if they don't follow his plan:
You want my tax dollars? Then I want to see the precise production plans and timetables for the hybridization of all your cars and trucks within 36 months. I want every bailed-out car company to move to hybrid electric drive trains, because nothing would both improve mileage and emissions more — and also stimulate a whole new 21st-century, job-creating industry: batteries.
If the columnist is calling for widespread acts of civil disobedience, in which Americans refuse to pay taxes unless the stimulus package results in the fundamental change we need, then that's a different column. But that would require Friedman to think harder before he writes.
Maybe next time.