Killing Social Security and Medicare, One Speech At A Time

I watched Glenn Beck’s speech at CPAC this past weekend.  I am the first to admit that he is quite good at what he does. The man has talent.  Forever forecasting inevitable tribulation, he is like a gifted evangelist who writes books and sermonizes, warning us of the doom to come.  And like most gifted evangelists, he profits from his prophesying, making God-like money as he points the way through the apocalypse.

His latest speech—a continuation of a theme he has been hawking for a while now—contained his diagnosis of our sickly condition:  “progressivism is the disease in America.”

He preached:

Progressivism is the cancer in America and it is eating our Constitution. And it was designed to eat the Constitution. To progress past the Constitution.

Comparing progressives to Communists, he explained there is a small difference between the two: Communists of old desired revolution; progressives, being more patient, were and continue to be willing to wait for things to evolve.  But the goals are the same: trash the Constitution and turn America into a “big government,” “socialist utopia.”

Okay.  So far, there’s nothing unusual about that pew-stirring rhetoric, sold to acne-tortured, college-age Republicans at CPAC and the more mature, meat-loving mobs that buy Beck’s books and watch his hysterical television show.

But I have begun to notice something happening on the right.  The straw poll at CPAC went this year to Ron Paul, not exactly a friend to some of Beck’s crazy ideas, but certainly a supporter of the anti-government philosophy that serves as a foundation for conservative thought.  Paul, to orgasmic applause, said:

Government is the enemy of liberty!

The fire was barely out at the IRS building in Texas—where Joseph Stack took seriously words like Paul uttered—and speakers at CPAC were using words like “enemy” to describe the government and violent metaphors to describe what Americans should do about its growth. 

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, who is moving to the right at brakeless Toyota speed, said Americans should “take a 9 iron and smash the windows out of big government in this country!

Of course, such talk is hyperbole.  I get that.  But what is happening among a growing group on the right is that people are starting to take seriously the idea of dismantling big government programs like Social Security and Medicare. 

Beck said:

It is big government – it’s a socialist utopia. And we need to address it as if it is a cancer. It must be cut out of the system because they cannot co-exist. And you don’t cure cancer by – well, I’m just going to give you a little bit of cancer. You must eradicate it. It cannot co-exist. And we need big thinkers, and brave people with spines who can make the case – that can actually say to Americans: look it’s going to be hard – it’s going to be hard but it’s going to be okay. We’re going to make it.

Now, what could he be talking about?  The subsidy for public television? The Department of Commerce?  No. Big government, especially since most conservatives exclude the Defense Department from budget cuts, has to mean Social Security and Medicare.

He continues:

We believe in the right of the individual. We believe in the right, you can speak out, you can disagree with me, you can make your own path. But I’m not going to pay for your mistakes, and I don’t expect you to pay for my mistakes. We’re all going to make them, but we all have the right to move down that road. What we don’t have a right to is: health care, housing, or handouts. We don’t have those rights.

Rep. Michele Bachmann, another CPAC speaker and trusted ally of Glenn Beck, has advocated “weaning” as a means of reducing the size of government.  A few weeks ago in St. Louis she said:

We’re $14 trillion in debt, but that doesn’t include the unfunded massive liabilities. That’s $107 trillion, and that’s for Social Security and Medicare and all the rest. You add up all those unfunded net liabilities, and all the traps that could go wrong we’re on the hook for, and what it means is what we have to do is a reorganization of all of that, Social Security and all… So, what you have to do, is keep faith with the people that are already in the system, that don’t have any other options, we have to keep faith with them. But basically what we have to do is wean everybody else off. And wean everybody off because we have to take those unfunded net liabilities off our bank sheet, we can’t do it. So we just have to be straight with people.

So, she is saying do away with Social Security and Medicare, after those in the present system are finished.  At least she is being more honest than usual.  And such honesty is being forced upon Republicans, as they are no longer getting away with screaming for deficit reduction and tax cuts without specifying spending reductions.

Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP’s budget guru in the House, has offered a privatization plan for Social Security and Medicare and has at least nine co-sponsors.

One of those co-sponsors, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, appeared on Chris Matthews recently:

 

It appears that Republicans are becoming so emboldened by the Tea Party movement that some of them are now willing to talk openly about ripping out or seriously reducing the effectiveness of the social safety net that serves so many Americans. 

And if Democrats let them get away with it, then one day Republicans will have their way.

The Logic Of “Government Is Evil” Talk

Joseph Stack, the man who flew his plane into a government building, is to the anti-government movement what Scott Roeder, the man who killed Dr. George Tiller, is to the anti-abortion movement. 

The mantra of the strident anti-choicers—that abortion is murder—leads to the most extreme and unstable believers in that cause to do things like kill or maim abortion providers.  The mantra of the strident anti-government movement—that government is evil—inevitably leads to the most extreme and unstable believers in that cause to do things like fly airplanes into citadels of “the enemy.”

Scott Roeder has his supporters in the anti-abortion movement, despite widespread condemnation among most mainstream groups, who while rightly condemning the murder of George Tiller are wrongly providing the Scott Roeders of the world with the logic of such action.

No doubt, Joseph Stack has his supporters, too.  Facebook has already removed some pages quickly created to show support for the anti-government, anti-patriot.  I found the following on a website called “NewsWithViews,” written by a “pastor” named Chuck Baldwin. He posted this today:

After carefully reading Stack’s manifesto, I am quite convinced that he was not crazy, and he was not a “terrorist.” However, he was angry.

A lot of us are angry–and for many of the same reasons that Mr. Stack was angry! While I would certainly take exception to some of the things Stack says in his manifesto, he said things that many of us are feeling.

I think it’s important to know how far some—read: some—of those angry, frustrated people out there—whose “mainstream” fellow-travellers have become the darlings of the Republican Party—are willing to go to defend such actions by the most unhinged among them.  

So, I will quote at some length from the man of God, Pastor Baldwin, as he goes on to approvingly cite passages from Stack’s rambling rhetoric. Referencing Stack, Baldwin writes:

He goes on to say, “Sadly, starting at early ages we in this country have been brainwashed to believe that, in return for our dedication and service, our government stands for justice for all. We are further brainwashed to believe that there is freedom in this place, and that we should be ready to lay our lives down for the noble [principles] represented by its founding fathers. Remember? One of these was ‘no taxation with representation’ . . . These days anyone who really stands up for that [principle] is promptly labeled a ‘crackpot,’ traitor and worse.”

For the most part, he’s right about that, of course. It has been a long time since the average hardworking American has been represented in Washington, D.C….

Obviously, Mr. Stack had long felt the frustration of being ignored by these pimps in Washington that we know as congressmen. He wrote, “While very few working people would say they haven’t had their fair share of taxes (as can I), in my lifetime I can say with a great degree of certainty that there has never been a politician cast a vote on any matter with the likes of me or my interests in mind. Nor, for that matter, are they the least bit interested in me or anything I have to say.”

I suppose that just about every American could say the same thing.

Pastor Baldwin ended his little paean to the things that made Stack tick with this:

My heart goes out to Joe Stack! The sentiments expressed above are shared by millions of Americans who are also fed up with Big Brother. We are fed up with our country being turned into a burgeoning police state, under the rubric of “national security.” We are fed up with the harassments of the IRS. We know the “war on drugs” is merely the government’s way of cutting out the competition (this is exactly what more than one retired federal law enforcement agent–employed in the drug war–told me). We know the “war on terror” is nothing but an excuse to trample our constitutional liberties. We are fed up with the voracious vampires known as the Federal Reserve sucking the lifeblood out of the veins of America’s hardworking Middle Class. We are tired of the CFR, CIA, and America’s State Department manufacturing perpetual wars that cost trillions of dollars and thousands of American lives for the benefit of the global elite. We are fed up with an arrogant and oppressive federal government that is strangling the life and freedom out of our states. We all share Joe Stack’s pain!

I really wish Joe Stack had not killed himself, however. We need each other. By taking his life, he reduced our strength. The global elites delight in our demise. As we grow weaker, they grow stronger.

But the fight is not over; the battle is not lost! Rumblings of freedom’s revival can be felt across the length and breadth of this nation. The clanging of liberty’s resolve can be heard in hamlets and villages from Montana to South Carolina. There are still millions of us–from virtually every walk of life–who will not surrender our liberties without a fight! And we have not yet begun to fight!

I advise all to go to the website, NewsWithViews, which posted Pastor Baldwin’s nonsense.  The link to the article is here and the website itself is here.  While certainly the site is more extreme than most government-hating sites, like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck and Fox “News,” it is not a qualitative difference.  It’s only a matter of how far one is willing to follow the logic of government-is-evil philosophy, which is the foundation of the tea party movement and of contemporary conservatism.

[IRS Building photo: AP, KVUE-TV; Joseph Stack photo: Billy Eli website]
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