Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lawrence Vance: Glenn Beck’s Non-Solutions

Glenn Beck’s Non-Solutions
by Laurence M. Vance

March 3, 2011

Review of Glenn Beck, Broke: The Plan to Restore Our Trust, Truth, and Treasure


The other odd thing about the book is that the section "Educate Yourself" only appears at the end of the chapters in Part III (chapters 13-20). There is also no index.
So, what about the content of the book? As mentioned, the first sixteen chapters of the book are about how and why Beck thinks the country is broken. The first two chapters are introductory and can be skipped as they contribute little to the book. Chapters three through nine are a selective survey of American economic history. Chapters ten through twelve are about how bad the country is broken financially. Chapters thirteen through sixteen, although they are part of Beck’s Part III, "The Plan," offer no specific plans at all. They talk about individual rights, the role of government, the Constitution, freedom, equality, American exceptionalism, religion, socialism, decentralization, and federalism.
There are two themes found throughout what I have labeled the first part of the book: the debt crisis and the Progressives responsible for it. Although there is no question that the United States has a debt crisis, there is every reason to question labeling all those responsible as Progressives. Since Professor Paul Gottfried has recently taken Beck to task on this very subject, I defer to him:
Certainly there are features of Progressivism that anyone concerned about centralized power has every right to criticize. But there are problems with how Beck frames his critique. There were different types of Progressives who stressed diverse themes, not all of which can be subsumed under the rubric of "big government." The connection between Progressivism and modern liberalism is weak. And in truth, Fox News personalities like Beck support many federal programs vastly more intrusive than any the Progressives dared contemplate.
Beck and other Fox critics of the Progressives may be far more addicted to big government than those they demonize. Tears glaze their eyes when they talk about 1960s civil rights laws, which placed entire regions of the country that once discriminated against black voters under what is now perpetual federal surveillance.
The talk radio and television pundits who now inveigh against Progressivism have fully accepted the increased government that those they revile helped to create. And these faux conservatives celebrate the additions to it that came long after the Progressive era, amid the civil rights and sexual upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s.
I would only add that Beck foolishly makes the blanket statement that Progressives "openly mock God and religion in general" when one of the Progressives he criticizes the most – Woodrow Wilson – was a devout Presbyterian and the son of a Presbyterian minister.

Beck’s survey of American history is a mixed bag.


The last chapter of the book is about Beck’s preferred tax plan: a flat tax. He opens the chapter with a call to reform the tax system, not eliminate it. But Beck doesn’t simply want to reform the disastrous system (and I agree that it is a disastrous system), he wants to "transform it into something that, by its very nature, will attract the best and brightest back to America." How this fits with his views on immigration I don’t know. Instead of abolishing income taxes, Beck wants the tax code to become "one of America’s greatest assets." We can see on the second page of this chapter why Beck opts for a flat tax and doesn’t even mention that Americans pay too much to the government in taxes. Echoing Henry George, Beck says that "how we collect taxes is almost as important as how much we collect." If Beck were starting a country from scratch (another one of his crazy examples) he says "we’d start by agreeing that the tax code should be about one thing: raising revenue efficiently and fairly." How about agreeing that we would not have a tax code in the first place – just like we didn’t have a permanent one for more than the first hundred years in this country. The problem Beck has with our income-tax system is not that it is an income-tax system, but that it is "no longer about maximizing revenue for the government: it’s about redistributing wealth to create a more just society." Beck "would like to see everyone pay at least some tax." The main problem with Beck’s beloved flat tax, as I pointed out in my review of Steve Forbes’s book on the flat tax, is that "it would basically raise the same amount of revenue as the current system." So, rather than lowering the overall tax burden of the American people, the total amount of taxes the federal government extracts would be the same as it is now. All federal programs, all federal agencies, all federal projects, all earmarks, all pork-barrel spending – they could all continue just as now. The flat tax, like its cousin the FairTax, merely allows the government to confiscate the wealth of its citizens more efficiently. But what really needs to be flattened is skyrocketing congressional spending, not the procedure used by the government to confiscate wealth.
Yes, the country is broke. But the answer is not more legislation or constitutional amendments to fix previous legislation. The answer is to cut, repeal, abolish, eliminate, and eradicate all entitlements, whole departments, entire agencies, and complete programs.
Glenn Beck gives us nothing but non-solutions. For real solutions I recommend the new book by Thomas Woods titled Rollback: Repealing Big Government before the Coming Fiscal Collapse (Regnery, 2011).

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