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Newt Gingrich’s Ideas Aren’t As Creative Or Effective As He Thinks

Years ago, I remember an interview  in which former Speaker Newt Gingrich said he read at least one book a week.  The trick to doing so for such a busy man?

Always carry what you’re reading, he  recommended, even when you’re  not traveling; read in doctors’ waiting rooms, in  checkout lines—any  place where you’d otherwise just be wasting time.

Some time after that—he was out of  office by this point—I saw  Gingrich in the Tysons Corner (Virginia) mall. He was in  the corridor,  slowly pacing in a circle … his nose buried in a book.

Impressive, I thought; he reads even  while (presumably) his wife shops.

The downside to this kind of  bibliophilia, for certain  personalities, is that it can lead to faddishness.  I’m sure you have a  friend who fits the bill: Whatever he’s reading at a given  moment is  all he can talk about. And then he moves on.

I’ve always had the impression that  Newt is a lot like that—and this Washington  Post report on Gingrich the “ideas factory” gives me no reason to doubt it.

Brimming with ideas is perhaps a  superior condition when compared to, say, the calcified simplicity  of George  F. Will (“Romney’s economic platform has 59 planks—56 more  than necessary if  you have low taxes, free trade and fewer regulatory  burdens.”) The latter is a  time-honored trope for too many conservative  pundits: Get government out of the  way of the market, ponder no  further, and then pat yourself on the back for  appreciating “society’s  complexities.”

But an overheated motor of idea  generation in high office is a recipe for disaster, or at least folly. As Charles  Krauthammer observes, Gingrich as president would be “in constant search of the  out-of-box experience.”

Then again, Gingrich seems to me to  be full of lots of ideas that  are not as imaginative as he thinks or,  alternatively, just plain dumb.  Gingrich wants to be able to fire federal  judges, partially privatize  Social Security and Medicare, and create a flat-tax  alternative to the  current code. This is comfortably in line with the positions  of his GOP  rivals.

Then there’s Gingrich’s now-infamous  “child janitor” idea. Kids in  the inner-city lack productive role-models, he  says; they don’t see  what it’s like for an adult to get up in the morning and  go to work.  This is itself a debatable  proposition, but what bothers me most about it is that it’s a solution in  search of the wrong problem.

When I think of Gingrich’s  hypothetical poor inner-city kid, I see a  bunch of problems, short- and  long-term. He’s going to a lousy  school—and even if he does well there, he faces  long odds  of a) finishing college and b) doing better than nonpoor kids who   didn’t finish college. Set aside the schooling question, there’s the  fact of  stratospherically high unemployment rates in the inner  city, and the broader, abysmal lack of opportunity for low-skilled men.

All of this is to say that cleaning  bathrooms as a teenager is probably not going to change outcomes for this kid.

Paycheck  President”  Gingrich really has nothing interesting to say about  declining  social  mobility in America, about how to mitigate the ways in which the global   economy and low-skilled immigrants are squeezing working- and  middle-class  Americans from the top and bottom.

All that time reading in malls and  doctors’ offices, and he’s still well inside-the-box on the most important  questions.

 

By: Scott Galupo, U. S. News and World Report, December 5, 2011

December 6, 2011 - Posted by | Economy, Election 2012 | , , , , ,

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