Joseph Bottom of First Things, a conservative journal of religion, culture, and politics, thinks that David Brooks coined the term “beyondist.” A beyondist is one of those people who claims to go beyond the liberal/conservative divide, or beyond the sterile politics of left and right, yet, predictably, falls safely on one side or the other. Thomas Friedman, in his shit sandwich of a column today, begins with a beyondist opening, scaring us with the 9.2% unemployment rate, running through Democratic and Republican fix up plans, and then sweeping them aside to give us his “they’re both wrong; here’s what we gotta do” solution. Only, being Thomas Friedman, his solution doesn’t fall left or right, but squarely in some retarded middle.
Let’s follow our mustachioed master as he leads us to another wrong answer.
The rise in the unemployment rate last month to 9.2 percent has Democrats and Republicans reliably falling back on their respective cure-alls. It is evidence for liberals that we need more stimulus and for conservatives that we need more tax cuts to increase demand. I am sure there is truth in both, but I do not believe they are the whole story.
Well, actually there’s more than just “truth in both.” Stimulus really would help the economy. It would create some jobs. That’s not a bad thing. And tax cuts can increase demand, if they go to the middle class who’ll actually spend that extra money rather than the super wealthy who’ll stick it in the bank. But, alas, the Republicans want those tax cuts for the super wealthy. But I digress. That is all beside — or should I say beyond? — Friedman’s point. That’s why he quickly raises and waves them away with a haughty “I do not believe they are the whole story.”
Okay, so what is the solution to our economic woes and high unemployment rate, Tommy Boy?
I think something else, something new — something that will require our kids not so much to find their next job as to invent their next job — is also influencing today’s job market more than people realize.
Great idea! Why we don’t tell all those unemployed people to become entrepreneurs. Fuck start up capital.
Oh, Tom Friedman isn’t really suggesting unemployed people start their own businesses. He’s telling them what job skills they need to perfect and what jobs they need to look for.
Look at the news these days from the most dynamic sector of the U.S. economy — Silicon Valley. Facebook is now valued near $100 billion, Twitter at $8 billion, Groupon at $30 billion, Zynga at $20 billion and LinkedIn at $8 billion.
Those unemployed millions should go work for Mark Zuckerberg, who’s been looking to fill countless openings. Oh, wait, what’s that?
These are the fastest-growing Internet/social networking companies in the world, and here’s what’s scary: You could easily fit all their employees together into the 20,000 seats in Madison Square Garden, and still have room for grandma. They just don’t employ a lot of people, relative to their valuations, and while they’re all hiring today, they are largely looking for talented engineers.
Holy fuck. Friedman’s solution to high unemployment is praising a handful of rich internet companies that only hire a few people with superstar computer skills. That’s about as brilliant a strategy as telling poor young urban teenagers to practice basketball so they can compete for a few job openings in the NBA, and then breathlessly suggesting it’s the pathway out of urban blight.
Our economy needs to create jobs for millions of people, even (and especially) for people who do set tasks like clean toilets and fix electric breaks (which, I might add, are intellectual tasks in their own right). Not everyone needs to be Mark Zuckerberg’s computer programmer. And a few hotshots getting hired by Facebook and Twitter won’t do shit to fix our country’s 9.2 percent unemployment rate.
What we need are not solutions that go “beyond” left and right. We need solutions that go beyond stupid. And, as Thomas Friedman has proved time and time again, he’s not the man for the job.