Brookswatch! (Let's just make it a regular feature and be done with it.) So today David Brooks checks in on Patio Man, a character who typefies the rising exurban middle class. Weirdly, I don't find the Patio Man concept particularly annoying, for two reasons: (1) Brooks doesn't overuse his coinages the way his colleague Tom "flat world/petro-authoritarianism/green-collar jobs/etc. etc. etc." Friedman does; and (2) Brooks's attention to the actual conditions of life in the exurbs is a useful counterweight to the Palinites' fetishization of an entirely invented "Main Street." Also, to be honest, maybe I'm soft on Patio Man because today he's leaning Democratic:

But deeper down, there are some shifts in values. Americans, including suburban Americans, are less socially conservative. They are more aware of the gap between rich and poor. They are more open to government action to reduce poverty....

But the shift in public opinion is not from right to left, or from anti-government to pro-government, it’s from risk to caution, from disorder to consolidation....

Democrats have done well in suburbia recently because they have run the kind of candidates who seem like the safer choice — socially moderate, pragmatic and fiscally hawkish. They, or any party, will run astray if they threaten the mood of chastened sobriety that has swept over the subdivisions.
But look at Brooks's weird swerve in the last paragraph:
Patio Man wants change. But this is no time for more risk or more debt. Debt in the future is no solution to the debt racked up in the past.
If Patio Man really believes this, Patio Man is obviously wrong. (Even the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, whose raison d'ĂȘtre is to fight deficit spending, agrees that the present situation urgently requires deficit spending.) It wouldn't be too surprising for Patio Man to be wrong about this: he probably hasn't read Keynes, and he has a tendency to overgeneralize from family budgeting to fiscal policy. ("Debt in the future is no solution to debt in the past" might make sense when it comes to Patio Man's own finances, but the rules that apply to a suburban family don't necessarily scale to the level of the federal government.) But does David Brooks agree with Patio Man on this? If not, shouldn't he come out and say so? If so, shouldn't he go down the hall and ask Paul Krugman for some very remedial tutoring?