Joe's Road Trip 2011

Road Trip Day 16: David Brooks Edition

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Des Moines, Iowa

I’ll have more to say about the past few days soon, but a brief diversion seems appropriate. David Brooks has a terrific column today, which is more wonky and detailed than what I’ve been hearing on the road, but definitely reflects the basic sentiments of the Americans I’ve been interviewing. Here is Brooks’s policy prescription:

Simplify the tax code. End corporate taxes and create a consumption tax. Reshape the European Union to make it either more unified or less, but not halfway as it is now. Reduce the barriers to business formation. Reform Medicare so it is fiscally sustainable. Break up the banks and increase capital requirements. Lighten debt burdens even if it means hitting the institutional creditors.

These solutions are rarely mentioned by average Americans–although there is real sympathy for simplifying the tax code and for real skepticism about the banks–but Brooks’s plan reflects the desire to get back to first things, to reexamine basic propositions, that has seemed universal during my past few weeks on the road. This is a feeling that transcends traditional notions of left and right–I’ve heard liberals speaking favorably of Rick Santorum’s plan to eliminate corporate taxation and conservatives, even some bankers, speaking of the need to break up the big banks, to eliminate the current “moral hazard” that attends being “too big to fail.” It is time that politicians caught up to the pragmatic American heterodoxy.