Friday, September 09, 2011

Two cheers for Perry the provocateur - The Washington Examiner

By: Examiner Editorial
09/08/11 8:05 PM

Why are people like former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, left, attacking Texas Gov. Rick Perry, right, for repeating the same truth that Reagan spoke for decades? "They've called it 'insurance' to us in a hundred million pieces of literature. But then they appeared before the Supreme Court and they testified it was a welfare program. They only use the term 'insurance' to sell it to the people," Ronald Reagan said about Social Security in his landmark 1964 speech, A Time for Choosing. "There is no fund," Reagan continued, "because Robert Byers, the actuarial head, appeared before a congressional committee and admitted that Social Security is as of this moment $298 billion in the hole. But he said there should be no cause for worry because as long as they have the power to tax, they could always take away from the people whatever they needed to bail them out of trouble. And they're doing just that."

Reagan's description of Social Security is as true today as it was then. And conservative Republicans have been making the same case for almost 50 years. The election victories in 2010 of Republican Sens. Ron Johnson in Wisconsin and Marco Rubio in Florida show that the American people are increasingly open to this message.

Now here is Merriam-Webster's definition of a "pyramid scheme," which they note is also called a "Ponzi scheme" in the United States: "A dishonest and usually illegal business in which many people are persuaded to invest their money and the money of later investors is used to pay the people who invested first." To recap, Social Security was dishonestly sold as "insurance" when really it is no such thing, and the funds Americans pay into the program today are really paying for the benefits of those who contributed to the program years ago. Sounds like a textbook definition of "Ponzi scheme" to us.

So why are people like Karl Rove and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney attacking Texas Gov. Rick Perry for repeating the same truth that Reagan and countless other Republicans have spoken for decades? In his book "Fed Up!", and then again at Wednesday's Republican debate at the Reagan Library, Perry rightly labeled Social Security as a "Ponzi scheme." Yes, it's a provocative phrase but the Texas governor understands that most Americans have had it with mealy-mouthed political talk.

But instead of supporting Perry's courage in speaking frankly about entitlements, the Romney campaign wants conservatives to believe that Perry's "Ponzi" comment automatically disqualifies him from being the GOP nominee. If Republican primary voters buy that argument, it will be a disaster for our country's fiscal future. The big three entitlements, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, add hundreds of billions to our federal debt every year. And the drain they are inflicting on our economy will only get worse. Why not speak bluntly about this fact?

Should Perry be specific about how he proposes to fix Social Security and insure the benefits of those who are or are nearing retirement? Absolutely -- and no doubt he will in the days ahead. But so should all the Republican candidates, as well as Democrats like President Obama. Anything less is just business-as-usual gibberish from the professional politicians in Washington.

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