There are a lot of people snarking at David Brooks today over this column of his for just one paragraph. This one:
Recently I took a friend with only a high school degree to lunch. Insensitively, I led her into a gourmet sandwich shop. Suddenly I saw her face freeze up as she was confronted with sandwiches named “Padrino” and “Pomodoro” and ingredients like soppressata, capicollo and a striata baguette. I quickly asked her if she wanted to go somewhere else and she anxiously nodded yes and we ate Mexican.
I get the snark from the way the paragraph is written, but people are missing the point of why Brooks wrote it this way. He is admitting to being part of an elite class that has a harder time relating to those outside the class. And he is right. I wonder how many people are snarking at Brooks to avoid grappling with his point.
Increasingly, I see the people who shape and report the news and those most fixated with it living lives far removed from the struggles many Americans face. Not only are their lives far removed, but they themselves are far removed. They have an upward mobility that poorer Americans do not have. They have better schools. In many cases they collaborate to block access to their schools by the children of those they view as inferior. They then work on zoning matters and local regulations that drive up the costs of the poor in their area or make it harder for the poor to move in.
They push government policies that they think help the poor, but often hurt the poor. Expansion of Medicaid is one such issue. The rich left thinks Medicaid is a panacea for the poor and then ignores how few doctors accept it and the poor care given in the program. The rich right thinks school choice is a fantastic idea so long as poor kids don’t have access to their private schools — maybe just charter schools.
The rich keep up with David Foster Wallace and raise eyebrows at the rubes reading Proverbs. They look down on Chick-Fil-A while eating at their artisan sandwich shops that get reviewed in the backs of location specific vanity magazines. Then they tax the poor guy’s coke and plastic grocery bag. They shut down the Christian baker who just wants to be left alone and put hedonism on a pedestal they can afford that the poor could not. Abortion on demand is the left’s preferred equalizer, but as the poor descend into the rich’s hedonistic lifestyle, they cannot afford the STD’s, addiction problems, etc. that the rich can paper over with money.
There is a growing aristocracy in this country as the rich disassociate from the heartland and then build up regulatory and tax walls to keep everyone else out. Instead of mocking David Brooks, the intellectuals on the right might want to start working on tearing down those walls — including patent reforms, actual school choice, and a reduction in both criminal laws that affect businesses and licensing laws that affect trades.