Rick Perry’s limited, modified honesty

Perry’s op-ed on Social Security, boldly headed “I am going to be honest with the American people,” calls boldly for “a conversation” on Social Security without actually being bold or honest enough to contribute anything to that conversation but some predictable talking points.

Perry’s op-ed on Social Security, boldly headed “I am going to be honest with the American people,” calls boldly for “a conversation” on Social Security without actually being bold or honest enough to contribute anything to that conversation but some predictable talking points.

Gov. Perry never says whether he thinks that Social Security is Constitutional. In his book Fed Up – which is campaign is desperately trying to shove down the Memory Hole – he writes that the program was established “at the expense of respect for the Constitution and limited government.” If that’s right, then why is Perry talking about fixing it rather than getting rid of it? Doesn’t his oath (as Governor) to uphold the Constitution mean anything to him?

Mr. Perry also never says what he’d actually do “so today’s beneficiaries and tomorrow’s retirees really can count on Social Security for the long haul. Note that there are precisely two options: increase revenues or cut payouts. Which is it, Governor?

Footnotes

1. Actually, of course, there are three options: we could also increase the rate of economic growth so that paying benefits to future retirees will put less of a strain on future fiscal balances. But that’s something the people trying to scare younger workers with “Ponzi scheme” talk would prefer not to mention.

2. Not clear whether Perry’s ghost-writers are lying or just unclear on the concept, but the idea that if the program isn’t shored up it will only be able to pay out 76% of currently planned benefits in 2037 is not in any way equivalent to the idea that “investors” in Social Security have lost “24% of their money.”

2 + 2 = Banana

That’s Rick Perry’s brand of logic: government is incompetent, and the State of Texas death-penalty machinery is infallible.

Rick Perry, who believes that government never does anything right, and that public servants are overpaid parasites, also believes that the State of Texas is infallible in carrying out the death penalty. Perry says he’s never worried about the possibility of executing an innocent person.

The problem is, I believe him. He really hasn’t worried about that. He’s some combination of moral monster and moral idiot.

Footnote And yes, it’s appalling that the “small government” crowd applauded at the mention of 234 executions, as if their team had scored a touchdown. It’s possible to believe in capital punishment, either as policy or as morality. But cheering for it?

Let’s say it clearly: the Republican activist base consists largely of worshipers of evil. The god they believe in accepts human sacrifice. They call him “Jesus,” but the true name of the god they adore, and who accepts their sacrifices, is Moloch.

[Update: From C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle. (“Aslan” is Christ, and “Tash” is a demon). Aslan says,

If any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted.

/update]

And if you think that cheering for death is a fringe position within today’s GOP, ask yourself why not a single candidate tonight dared to rebuke that element of the crowd.

You want a Ponzi scheme? I’LL Show You a Ponzi Scheme.

If Mark has his way, Rick Perry’s assertions that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme will not get thrown down the memory hole.  Unfortunately, our last Ponzi scheme is already hurtling downward.

If you think about it, a large part of American (and global) prosperity rests on a real Ponzi scheme: the financial system.  I’m actually not being hyperbolic here.  In order to make credit circulate through the economy, banks must have less money on deposit than they have out on loan.  If a panic occurs, then bank runs result.  That’s why central banks were created: to be the lender of last resort.

That’s just the basics.  But if you push it even a little harder, then the House-of-Cards nature of the system gets even bigger.  Bankers have an inherent incentive to leverage far higher than they should, and it gets worse the more they get into trouble: if everything goes belly up, they can only lose their holdings (this is especially true if there is limited liability), but if everything goes well, then they make a killing.  So it is inherent within the structure of incentives for banks to take unreasonable risks.  In fact, if they don’t take unreasonable risks during good times, they will lose market share, and thus their jobs: “as long as the music is playing, we’ve got to keep dancing,” Merrill Lynch CEO Stan O’Neill famously observed.

As Hyman Minsky pointed out several decades ago, the very stability of the system creates instability: as growth and credit occur, everyone’s incentive is to keep extending credit, and then hoping to get off before the whole thing crashes.  This is not some pathology: it is inherent in the system.

To the extent that there is a “solution” to all of this, it is to regulate the system to prevent the risks getting out of control, e.g. leverage requirements, cordoning off sectors of the system to avoid contagion (i.e. Glass-Steagall), compensation regulation, and above all, transparency.  And all those are things that Rick Perry and the Republican Party oppose: the GOP is the nation’s biggest political promoter of Ponzi schemes.

It’s almost classic Rove: attack the other guy for your own weakness.  Except that Perry is too crazy/stupid/egotistical even for Rove.

In 100 years, if America lasts that long, historians will look back on this era to determine what caused someone like Perry — or a party like today’s GOP — to become major political forces.  And I’m not sure that they will be able to find a rational answer.

Social Security is a “Ponzi scheme” and “a monstrous lie”

So says Rick Perry. Think he’ll be saying that a year from now, if he’s the nominee?

If Rick Perry is the Republican nominee, he’s going to spend most of September and October working hard to make people forget he said that. So here’s some Memory Hole protection.

“If it’s not on his schedule, it’s irrelevant to him.”

That’s what one of Rick Perry’s *supporters* has to say about him.

That’s what one of Rick Perry’s supporters says about him. The headline asks the question: “Is Rick Perry Dumb?” The story implies the answer: “As dumb as a box of rocks.”

Or, as one Republican governor is quoted as saying, “Bush without the brains.”

And if you’re wondering, no, that wouldn’t be an improvement on the older model. A political party in which “Rick Perry” names a serious Presidential candidate rather than serving as a punch-line (as Dan Quayle did) is not fit to share power.

Notes to David Brooks and Ross Douthat

Is one of you prepared to stand up and say the Rick Perry is unfit to be President? And why not? He is, and you know it.

Mr. Brooks, if you think – correctly, in my view – that Rick Perry lives in an alternative reality and appeals to voters who do the same, then you owe it to your country and to conservatism to say, clearly and directly, that the man has no business even being considered as a President of the United States.

As for you, Mr. Douthat, in 2007, when it seemed unlikely that Rick Perry would be your party’s standard-bearer, you nearly laughed out loud at the notion of his candidacy. He is, after all – unlike George W. Bush – not merely pluperfectly ignorant, but actually stupid. Why won’t you say so now?

Since you both seem to admire Perry’s down-home, vulgar, macho language, let me put it this way: When are you guys going to grow a pair – one pair total, if you can’t manage a pair each – and provide some adult supervision for a movement descending into self-parody?

Yes, if the economy keeps heading south – and the Republicans in Congress are clearly willing to do their best to tank it – Rick Perry might be elected President. Patriots should be mobilizing to prevent that, not wisely stroking their beards and doing political horse-race analysis about it.

The Incompetent Paranoia of Rick Perry

Anyone who has followed Mark’s and Harold’s diligent chronicling of the Rick Perry crazy over the last few days should hardly be surprised when he says something inane.  But if you’re going to be a nutcase paranoid, you should at least make sense on your own terms.

Too high a bar, apparently.  Today, Perry rehashed the now-common right-wing charge of a scientific conspiracy on climate change:

Perry [stated] flatly that scientists drum up phony climate change data to make a buck.

“A substantial number of scientists [have] manipulated data to keep the money rolling in,” New Hampshire Union Leader editorial page editor Drew Cline quoted Perry saying on the stump in a tweet. Before that, Cline quoted Perry saying, “I do believe the issue of global warming has been politicized.”

Let’s suppose that climate scientists really did have a conspiracy to increase their funding.  Would they say what they are saying now?  Not in the least.

Climate scientists have already declared anthropogenic climate change to be real, and have already declared it be extremely serious.  That’s a lousy strategy for generating research dollars.  The better strategy would be to say that it could be serious, but we really don’t know, and there is still uncertainty, but we aren’t sure, and we really need $200 million more to figure it out.

As the science currently stands, the people looking to clean up are not climate scientists, but rather renewable energy experts, geo-engineering specialists, carbon sequestration inventors, fuel cell battery designers, etc.  I think it was Mike Huckabee who, a few months ago, said that the government should offer a $1 billion prize to the person who can invent clean energy.  Whoever that will be, it won’t be a climate scientist.  By proving the danger of anthropogenic climate change so clearly, they have actually undercut themselves financially.  Their reward for this has been unrelenting attacks from the likes of Rick Perry.

I realize that this is a little too straightforward: “well, yes, that just shows how diabolical the conspiracy is!  They are pretending that the science is certain, so that when we accuse them of making it up, they can wriggle out of it by using your argument!”  Cue crazed-dilated eyes.

Maybe Perry could secede from the United States all by himself.

Rick Perry’s Constitution

… contains a couple of provisions not included in the document the rest of us use.

In addition to the Special Secret Clause that allows Texas to secede, Rick Perry’s version of the Constitution – far more creative than the rather dull document produced by Madison & Co. – includes the following provision:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort, or stimulating the economy while a Democrat is President. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court, or the ranting of someone who got a D in economics at Texas A&M.