Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Book Review: "Broke: The Plan to Restore Our Trust, Truth and Treasure" by Glenn Beck

I know I'm a little late to this party, but I finally finished reading Broke: The Plan to Restore Our Trust, Truth and Treasure, Glenn Beck's latest book.  I thoroughly enjoyed his previous books, especially An Inconvenient Book and Arguing with Idiots, which I felt boiled down essential issues into terms anyone --even someone who is not a political junkie--can understand and enjoy.
To a certain extent, Broke is a sequel to An Inconvenient Book and Arguing with Idiots: How to Stop Small Minds and Big Government--they use the same style of writing, the same colorful graphs and charts, and the same page format and print style.  However, keeping up with the tone on Glenn's radio show, Broke is a much more serious, urgent-sounding treatise on what-is-wrong-with-America-today-and-what-can-we-do-about-it.  The "sky-is-falling" mentality which has been more and more prevalent on the radio (which, incidentally, is no longer on 1210 AM in Philadelphia) is on full display in the book, which, as the title suggests, is built on the premise that America is broke, and we have to do something about it ASAP.
When Glenn uses the term "broke", he means more than just financially.  Modern America, he says, is lacking in many things besides money (although that is a huge issue as well).  The steady decline of religion in today's society, the lack of fidelity to the Constitution, and the repeated fiscal disasters which the progressives have led us into are all topics Glenn goes into in detail in the book.
Glenn starts with a quick recap of U.S. history, starting with the fiscal philosophy of the founders (basically: debt is bad), and fast-forwarding through the 1800s to the beginning of the Progressive movement in the beginning of the twentieth century.  Here, he introduces us to the first villain in the book: President Woodrow Wilson, the president who really started using the power of the federal government to impose his vision of a progressive society on the people, beginning with the progressive income tax.  From Wilson, Glenn moves on to Public Enemy No. 2: Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  Under FDR's New Deal, he says, progressivism moved into the mainstream, where it gained its permanent foothold in the middle class in the form of Social Security.
Glenn continues through the rest of the twentieth century detailing the steady march of progressivism and progressive policies that have made their way into the American system, with the corresponding loss of some liberty and freedom with each step.  From the New Deal, to LBJ's Great Society (Medicare and Medicaid), to Clinton's failed HillaryCare initiative, to Bush 43's Medicare Part D and Wall Street bailouts, to ObamaCare, Beck shows how progressive policies are in the process of bankrupting the country both fiscally and morally.  Fiscally, because we are getting to the point where all taxes collected from the American people will only be able to pay for entitlements, without even paying the interest on the national debt.  In addition, we will soon be paying more in interest payment every year than we spend on defense, which has always been a harbinger of disaster, starting with ancient Rome and continuing to modern times.  Morally, because while our grandparents and great-grandparents would never have thought of demanding a handout from the government, we have been conditioned for more than a hundred years to demand that Washington "DO SOMETHING!!!!" about each new crisis (and it's always a crisis).
To fix the problem, Glenn says we will need a combination of things to get done.  First, we need to get faith back into the daily lives of Americans.  Second, we need to return powers to the state and local governments, as is dictated by the Constitution and the Tenth Amendment.  Finally, and most of all, we need a total reform of the budget process, including the political "third rail": entitlements.
Overall, I enjoyed Broke.  As I mentioned before, the tone of this book is a little more depressing than the last couple of Glenn's books, which made it a little harder to get through., but that wasn't the biggest problem I had with the book.  My biggest problem is that Glenn specifically says that there doesn't have to be massive amounts of pain inflicted on the poor and the elderly in order to reform Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security--and then he doesn't go into any details!  Besides that minor sticking point, I thought Broke was an enjoyable--if slightly depressing--read, which, if nothing else, will make you very wary of any politician promising things to people without giving details on how to pay for them.
Next book review, coming soon: Decision Points, by President George W. Bush.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Election 2012

Now that the 112th Congress is about to take office, the minds of Americans will start turning towards November of 2012, when President Obama will attempt to win reelection.  Given the shellacking Obama and the Dems just took in the recent midterms, they are probably (justifiably) worried about their prospects just under two years from now.  However, they have one significant advantage: they all know who their candidate is. Barring some unimaginable circumstance, no one will challenge a sitting president in the primaries (we all know how that worked out in 1976 for the GOP and in 1980 for the Dems), so we can be close to 100% sure who the candidate on top of the blue ticket will be (who will be underneath him remains an open question, but that's another discussion for another time).
The bigger question lies on the right side of the aisle.  Who will be able to challenge Obama?  Despite the president's recent challenges, many people (especially in urban areas) will still gladly vote for him if he is on the ticket--especially if the Republican on the other side is uninspiring, extreme, or out of touch.  I'm going to go through a bunch of early contenders and explain why each of them will have trouble handling Obama--especially if the 2008 campaign crew is anywhere close to the scene.

  1. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin: Oh, where to begin?  We fell in love with her so quickly, but it also became clear quickly that a) her relative inexperience was indeed a problem, and b) the mainstream media were eating her alive.  Now, despite her incredible popularity among the Tea Party-types (see Bristol's surprise DWTS run), not much has changed since '08; in fact, her standing may have only worsened among independents (her resigning the governorship before the end of her first term will surely come back to bite her in any general election campaign).  I think she could be a much greater asset to the conservative cause if she remains where she is: running her PAC, attending tea parties, and showing up on Fox News on a regular basis, as opposed to being in elective office.
  2. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich:  Take everything I just said about Palin and triple it.  I can't even imagine where the far right is coming from on this one.  It's as if they have totally forgotten about how he started dating his current (and third) wife, Callista, while he was still married to his second wife and, oh yeah, in the middle of the Lewinsky scandal, while he was getting all sanctimonious about President Clinton's lack of fidelity.  Again, Gingrich is a great idea factory, and whoever wins the nomination should probably hire him as an advisor.  But as a presidential candidate?  No, no, and no.
  3. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee: Speaking of No, no, and no.  Holy @#$%, have you ever heard this guy talk economics?  Pastor Huckabee is so far to the right on Christian issues that he expects the government to force people to give charity.  Yes, as in redistribution of the wealth.  As in not remotely fiscally conservative, right after an election when the American people declared emphatically that the government needs to stay out of our pockets.  From 1996 to 2004, Arkansas' budget increased by 65%, with Huckabee's progressive tax policies funding much of the growth.  And let's not forget the compassionate Christian pardoning/clemency/etc. of Wayne Dumond, Maurice Clemmons, and Eugene Fields.  The Democrats have been waiting for nearly a quarter century to take revenge for Willy Horton.
  4. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney: From an economic standpoint, I would have loved to support Romney in 2008 (would have beat the heck out of McCain, at any rate), but there were several reasons (legitimate or otherwise) he didn't win the nomination then, and none of those reasons have gone away.  His well-documented flip-flop on abortion rights and his implementation of socialized healthcare in Massachusetts, in particular, are problems that cannot be explained away easily to the base of the GOP.  In addition, as unfair as it may be, the fact that he is a Mormon will create a huge problem among voters on the Christian Right (i.e., Huckabee's base).
  5. Former New York Mayor Rudy Guliani: Speaking of 2008 retreads whose problems aren't going away, no one who has the abortion, guns, and personal record of Rudy will ever win Iowa or New Hampshire.  Sorry.  He has my vote for VP or Attorney General, though.
  6. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie: Notice that Christie is the only one on this list not to be preceded by the word "former"?  He actually has a current job.  Which, unfortunately, he has been in for less than a year.  Maybe in 2016 or 2020.
  7. The rest of the pack: Bobby Jindal?  Mike Pence?  Tim Pawlenty?  Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour, or Jim DeMint?  Basically, everyone who has an elected office and has appeared on Fox News in the last two years is being looked at as a possible GOP contender.
And herein lies the root of the problem.  There is obviously still a while to go until the 2012 primaries begin, but that doesn't mean that the problems I've outlined here aren't real.  Hopefully, the nice people at the RNC can stop tearing each other to pieces and focus on the real issues here--otherwise Obama will have a cakewalk back into the White House in 2012.


Hello everyone!  Allow me to introduce this blog, by which you will get to know me.  The purpose of this blog is to get my thoughts out into the open on a variety of topics: mainly politics, but also sports, religion, technology, and whatever else strikes my fancy.
A bit of background on me first.  I am in my late twenties, a religious Jew, a resident of Philadelphia, and in the financial services industry.  In addition (as the title of this blog should suggest), my politics tend to be waaaaaaaay to the right of center, which will become obvious fairly quickly.  However, I am always willing to hear both sides of an issue, and I'm not afraid to "cross the aisle" if I think the "liberal" side of an issue makes sense (see Kelo v. New London, for example).
You will hear about all of the above-mentioned topics in this blog, and I hope to get comments from any reader who is willing to give his or her point of view on any given topic.  The point is to be able to open a dialog, so all parties to the discussion can come away feeling more educated than they did before.
Feel free to follow me on Twitter @shimonmds, or post a comment if you want to contribute to the discussion or if there is a topic you want to hear about.
Thanks, and I'll see you on the interwebs!