Perry's Reagan Moment
Rick Perry is taking on big issues with no sense of fear. In the Florida Republican debate, Perry did little to soften his attack on the Social Security System as a "Ponzi Scheme." Someday, perhaps, Perry's insistence on using tough language when talking about Social Security will be seen as a defining moment in American political history.
None of the other Republicans has openly agreed with Perry's name for Social Security, and even stout conservatives like Herman Cain, in the South Carolina debate, urged conservatives not to get bogged down in rhetoric. Cain is dead wrong. A serious rhetorical attack on Social Security must be made.
Frontal rhetorical attack on dangerous leftist nonsense is the key to conservative victory. In March 1983, President Reagan addressed the National Association of Evangelicals. In that speech Regan ignored the counsel of advisers and said that the Soviet Union had "the aggressive impulses of an evil empire."
In June 1977, President Carter at Notre Dame embraced the moral equivalence of our nation and the Soviet Union and called upon us to abandon our "inordinate fear of communism." President Ford in his October 1976 debate with Carter said, "There is no Soviet domination of eastern Europe." Nixon, famously, embraced the cynical politics of practicality divorced from ethics.
Reagan repudiated this unsavory nonsense. Any empire with KGB border guards larger in size than our whole Marine Corps with a sole purpose of keeping enslaved populations behind barbed wire is an Evil Empire. Any nation which in its war in Afghanistan put explosives in children's toys designed to blow off young children's hands was an Evil Empire. Any regime which from September 1939 to June 1941 did everything possible to help Hitler defeat Britain was an Evil Empire.
Once Reagan boldly told the truth and eschewed limp and nuanced language, we stopped fighting the Cold War and started winning it. This did not mean that Reagan hated Russians. In fact, as a serious Christian, he loved them. It did not mean that Reagan stopped negotiating with Kremlin leaders. It meant, rather, that his negotiations with the Kremlin focused increasingly on how the Evil Empire could be peacefully dissolved (e.g., letting Poles solve their problems without Soviet pressures and pulling out of Afghanistan).
Perry loves old people and he will cause them no harm. His guns are aimed at an inherently dishonest and cynical Social Security System. Once Social Security is defined as wrong, then its replacement by many of the myriad good ideas proposed over the years by conservatives can be implemented.
But the invaluable rhetorical assault by Perry on Social Security has even broader implications than saving the federal government. The whole free world is full of Ponzi schemes. Greece allows hairdressers to retire at age 50 because their work is considered hazardous. Small wonder, then, that the Greek government is drowning in debt which will only get worse. The interest rate required to sell Greek short-term notes is a staggering 60%, which means that default on those notes is virtually certain. Greece, along with several other European nations, has been operating variations of a Ponzi scheme for decades. If the European Union melts down and the euro dramatically inflates, that disaster will hit our shores hard.
But we need not look across the Atlantic to see societal hurricanes coming. California has unfunded pension obligations of $500 billion, and the American Enterprise Institute estimates that the states together may have $3 trillion to $5 trillion in unfunded obligations. Governor Walker in Wisconsin faced ferocious assaults by leftist thugs before he was able to make even modest rationalization of teachers' pensions.
What Perry provocatively proclaims about our Ponzi Security System can resonate throughout America and Europe. It can embolden those who fear the lash of leftist rage which will strike him who first tells the truth. Before Reagan, what American president, what prime minister of any NATO nation, and what leader of a major political party in Europe or America told the truth about Soviet evil? Yet once said and defended, Reagan's words had an electric effect. Six years later, the Berlin Wall fell.
The potential benefits of ending all these Ponzi Schemes are vast. The most common alternatives, which usually center around good business investments, can lift our economy out of its dismal state. If private security plans seek wise portfolios spread across well-run and rising businesses, that capital can spur genuine long-term growth. Americans themselves become invested in business rather than invested in reckless politicians.