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This Texan Ain’t Shooting Straight: Rick Perry’s Double Talk On Social Security And The Constitution

This we know: Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the apparent GOP 2012 front-runner, doesn’t like Social Security.

He has, for example, described it in his recent book as not only a “Ponzi scheme,” but “by far the best example” of a program “violently tossing aside any respect for our founding principles,” and as having been put in place “at the expense of respect for the Constitution and limited government.” Elsewhere he has said that the Constitution’s “general welfare” clause does not cover Social Security and Medicare. In other words not only is Social Security bad policy, Perry believes, but actually in defiance of our founding principles in general and the Constitution in particular.

While he and his campaign had appeared to dance away from these characterizations, Perry was at it again in Iowa over the weekend, calling the program a “monstrous lie,” and saying that he stood by everything in his book (including, presumably, Social Security’s unconstitutionality).

So here’s what I want to know: What would President Rick Perry do about Social Security?

It’s one thing to note that Perry makes crazy comments. As Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen notes, “Perry is positioning himself well outside the American mainstream. It’s going to impress the Republican Party’s far-right base, but it won’t impress anyone else.”

But there is a necessary connection between views and policies. What would Perry’s policy toward Social Security be in the White House?

As it happens, he answered that question, in part, during his Iowa campaign swing. This from the Houston Chronicle:

He told the Ottumwa crowd that for people who are drawing Social Security or near eligibility “like me,” he wasn’t proposing a change in the program. But he said there should be a national conversation about potential changes for others, including raising the age of eligibility and establishing a threshold based on a person’s means.

“Does Warren Buffett need to get Social Security? Maybe not,” he said.

Huh? Let me see if I understand this. Social Security “violently tossed aside any respect for our founding principles,” and was instituted at the “expense of respect for the Constitution.” And his solution to these problems is … means testing? And a national conversation about entitlement reform?

Those responses seem awfully conventional for a pol who is so self-consciously talking such a big, radical game about one of the nation’s beloved government programs. Either he’s tossing cow chips when he decries the program, or has something else under his hat when he spouts mealy-mouthed solutions to what he sees as its problems. But either way, this Texan ain’t shooting straight.

Reporters should press Perry on Social Security—does he really believe the program is unconstitutional? If so, doesn’t he have an obligation to defend the Constitution by ending the illegal program (including for people drawing it or nearing eligibility)? And if not, what exactly does he mean when he says that the program violently tosses aside respect for the Constitution? And if it is constitutional, what is its constitutional basis, if not the general welfare clause?

If that all seems a bit much, maybe the moderator of the next GOP debate can boil it down simply: “Raise your hand if you think Social Security is unconstitutional.”

 

By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, August 29, 2011

August 30, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Conservatives, Constitution, Democracy, Elections, GOP, Government, Governors, Ideologues, Ideology, Journalists, Middle Class, Neo-Cons, Politics, Press, Public, Pundits, Republicans, Right Wing, Social Security, Teaparty, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dick Cheney’s Book Is Less Memoir Than Caricature

Self-reflection is not something we have come to expect in  elected officials, particularly those who have left office fairly recently. But  could former Vice President Dick Cheney have not even made the slightest effort  to convince people he didn’t deserve the “Darth Vader” moniker assigned by  his foes?

Cheney’s  memoir, written with his daughter, Liz Cheney, is so  unapologetic as to be a  caricature. One could hardly imagine that  Cheney—or even anyone from the  recently-departed Bush  administration—would suddenly decide that the war in  Iraq had been a  mistake, based on lies. But he might have acknowledged that the  basis  for going to war—even if one believes that it was an honest   misunderstanding, instead of a craven lie—turned out to be (oops!) not  true.  He chides the nation for failing to live within its means, but  fails to  consider the fiscal impact of two wars, massive tax cuts and a  huge Medicare  drug entitlement program. And his no-apology book tour  confirms the theme;  Cheney told the Today show that he  thinks waterboarding is an acceptable way for the United States to get  information out of suspected terrorists, but says he’d object if another nation  did it to a U.S. citizens.

Former  President George Bush certainly offered no apologies in his  memoir, and that’s  to be expected. But Bush wasn’t mean or angry in his  book. He even told a  rather charming story of how an African-American  staffer had brought his two  young boys to the White House during the  waning days of the presidency, and  that one of the boys had asked,  “Where’s Barack Obama?” There is  characteristically nothing kind or  charming or insightful to be found in  Cheney’s tome. Even the cover is  daunting—a grimacing Cheney inside the White  House, looking like he’s deliberately trying to scare away the tourists.

The  shot against former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is  inexcusable: Cheney  tells a story about how Rice had “tearfully”  admitted to him that she was  wrong to tell Bush that he should have  apologized for misleading the American public  about Saddam Hussein’s  alleged attempt to secure yellowcake uranium from Niger.  Whether Rice  broke down before Cheney, we may never know. But to turn an   accomplished woman like Rice into some silly, weak little girl is  unforgivable.  Agree with Rice or not. Slam her for misstating or  misreading intelligence  before and after 9-11 or not. But she is  brilliant; she has dedicated her life  to scholarship and public  service, and she deserves to be treated better.

Former  Secretary of State Colin Powell—who preceded Rice, and whom  Cheney seems to  believe was somehow hounded from office, although  Powell said he had always  intended to stay just one term—offers the  best summation: Cheney took some  “cheap shots” in the book. That’s not  the reflective mindset necessary for a  memoir.

 

By: Susan Milligan, U.S. News and World Report, August 30, 2011

August 30, 2011 Posted by | Conservatives, Dick Cheney, Foreign Policy, GOP, Homeland Security, Iraq, Middle East, National Security, Neo-Cons, Politics, President Obama, Public, Public Opinion, Republicans, Right Wing | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“We The People” And America’s Future: Is Rick Perry As American As He Thinks He Is?

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece asking whether Governor Rick Perry could call himself a Christian given his opposition to government actions to help the hungry, aged, and ill. Not surprisingly, many challenged my view of Christianity. In letter after letter they pointed out that Christ spoke to individuals, not government. My observation that He was speaking to a conquered people, not free individuals who could use their power to make a more just state, was not convincing. My reference to the prophets Micah, Amos, Jeremiah, and Isaiah, each of whom called on governmental leaders to help the poor, was dismissed as being from the “Old Testament.”

I will surely return to the issue of Christianity again, but I devote this piece to Rick Perry’s character and the character he would nurture in American citizens. Teddy Roosevelt said, “Character, in the long run, is the decisive factor in the life of an individual and of nations alike.” So what is the character that Perry embodies? What is his view of the American citizen and the citizen’s responsibility to our country and to one’s fellows?

First, Perry himself.

His persona evokes the rugged individualist. His warning to Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, not to come to Texas so that he can avoid being subjected to “real ugly” frontier justice evidences a character antithetical to one of the crowning achievements of the United States — a nation under law, not men. In a phrase, he dismisses the Bill of Rights — due process, trial by jury, the right to confront one’s accuser.

The real question is not what character he would make of the United States but whether he believes in America at all. He has threatened to secede. Central to his campaign is his pledge to shrink the federal government — making it impossible for our noble nation to lead the world, to serve as the “city on the Hill.”

Perry may want to pretend that he is taking America back to a better past, but his actions are part of the movement away from nation-states, where countries are largely irrelevant. The notion that we are at the end of the need for nation-states is gaining more adherents globally. The fortunate few, commonly referred to as the Davos groupies, hang out with the other well off and well-heeled all over the world. Summering in Europe, wintering in Colorado, the global elite have more in common with and feel more loyal to their carefully connected crowd than with their fellow citizens. When one’s loyalty lies with one’s own class, where does that leave one’s country?

In declaring his wish to shrink the size of government, Perry believes that government should have as little role in people’s lives as possible. No investment in education, science research, building the railroads, highways, or sewage systems of the future.  Why care about America’s future, why set inspirational goals that bring people together, if you don’t believe in “We the people”?

Nationalism, patriotism, commitment to one another are for Perry an anachronism, a thing of the past. He has not said that those with the greatest wealth, talent, and circumstances have any special responsibility to our country or their fellow citizens. He has not said we are all Americans together. Rather, he seems to be able to watch human suffering with equanimity — as though America should be a place of survival of the fittest. No Social Security, no Medicare, no unemployment insurance, no laws to protect clean air, clean water. When hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and flood destroy home and communities — no FEMA, no help. “We” are on our own.

In his book Fed Up!: Our Fight to Save America From Washington, Perry writes that the 16th Amendment, which gave birth to the federal income tax, was “the great milestone on the road to serfdom,” because it represented “the birth of wealth redistribution in the United States.”

Individualism, self-reliance, self-respect — these are great virtues, useful in many fields of endeavor. But they are not enough to sustain a nation. Virtues don’t spring into being in a moment. They need to be exercised and practiced. Nations at war need courage, quick thinking, and selflessness. Nations at peace require that sense of duty to others. No man goes into a burning building for mere money. Nor does a fierce individualism nurture the patience that a teacher requires, the love given by a hospice nurse caring for a dying man.

Citizens’ moral compasses do not stem only from their faith. Government also defines the moral standard of a nation. If we are told that blacks are worth but three-fifths of whites, many will see this as the acceptable treatment of their fellow man. Likewise, when the government declares it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, we see that discrimination is also wrong.

When a candidate like Governor Perry boasts that he will shrink government by cutting those programs that grasp the nation’s imagination of what we can do together, he is saying that America does not need the one institution in which we make our most solemn decisions together. We need not nurture a nation of laws, nor educate the young, nor protect the elderly. Teddy Roosevelt took on the trusts, protected the environment, made America more just. The character of the nation improved with his leadership. Can it improve with Perry’s?

By: Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, The Atlantic, August 29, 2011

August 30, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Conservatives, Constitution, Democracy, Education, Elections, Equal Rights, Freedom, GOP, Government, Governors, Human Rights, Ideologues, Ideology, Income Gap, Liberty, Medicare, Middle Class, Politics, Public, Republicans, Right Wing, Seniors, Social Security, Teaparty, Unemployment, Voters, Wealthy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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