Friday, February 18, 2011

Broke, a critical analysis (chapter 9)

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"I have no idea what I'm doing with the economy...."
~~Glenn Beck
Glenn Beck Show, 11/26/10

This is part IX of XXI of a detailed analysis of Glenn Beck's newest book, Broke: The Plan to Restore Our Trust, Truth and Treasure, co-written with the help of Kevin Balfe. Keep in mind that it was published on 10/16/11, one month before Beck admitted complete ignorance "with the economy.". Chapter 8 is entitled "W. and O. The Progressive Era Returns." In it Beck/Balfe continue their cherry picking of facts to match their foregone conclusion which is stated in the opening sentence: "There are two ironclad rules of government. Rule No. 1: They always try to expand. Rule No. 2: See Rule No. 1." Apparently Beck/Balfe forgot that the "especially ... notoriously frugal Calvin Coolidge"(1) mentioned in chapter 5. There is a lot in recent history that Beck/Balfe seem to forget when it's convenient to ignore inconvenient details. When that is not enough, they just flat-out lie!

Broke: The Plan to Restore Our Trust, Truth and Treasure
Beck restoring "truth" = comedy

Beck/Balfe continues in manner that one can only describe as puzzling: "This eternal truth can manifest itself in a number of different ways. There's the slow and steady ocean-tide-like expansion that occurs over time."(2) Get that? The ocean tides only "expand." Moon calling Beck: the tides recede just as often as they expand. Like Beck's understanding of history, gravity also sucks.

Beck/Balfe point out that because Bush "was the biggest spender since LBJ, no conservative, who truly believes in small government, can defend Bush's spending record."(3) The problem with that idea goes well beyond Glenn Beck and Kevin Balfe. Conservatives generally want to preserve a status quo. Reactionaries are the Americans who truly believe in small government. Beck/Balfe do not make this distinction. 19th Century reactionaries like Glenn Beck do not accept the modern welfare state. Conservatives have made their peace with it even though they may seek to have it shrunk and made more efficient. Beck's reactionary perspective then concludes that under Bush "we got a conservative Progressive Era."(4) What made Bush's growth in government "conservative" was his unwillingness to pay for it with tax increases. Others, like Bush's first Treasury Secretary, Paul O'Neil considered it more irresponsible(5) than "conservative."


In a side-bar titled "Truth Serum" Beck/Balfe assert that Bush "was the first president to devote at least 3 percent on anti-poverty programs. President Obama was the second; he push it to over 4 percent of GDP."(6) The citation for this is from the conservative Heritage Foundation, and they are calling the middle and working class tax cut, referred to as the "make work pay" tax cuts, "welfare."(7) The one-time stimulus bill did not spend much on welfare and did not push "anti-poverty programs" to over 4% of GDP unless all spending in that bill is misunderstood to be "anti-poverty." When Glenn Beck uses the word "truth" to describe a claim, it's always a good idea to carefully scrutinize his reference if he cites one. In this case, the Heritage Foundation spun the facts about the stimulus bill and turned it into an expansion of welfare spending.

For an example of cherry picking Beck/Balfe point out that by 1998 "the budget deficit that has originally motivated the Republican Revolution was no longer a major national issue."(8) This is due to the fact that the budget deficit was much smaller and national debt as a percentage of GDP was being reduced again due to the Clinton tax increase, largely on the high income earners. This comes in a section of the chapter describing "The Decline and Fall of the GOP."

President Bush, the 43rd

An example of deception comes when Beck/Balfe when they claim that "back in 2001...President Bush signed legislation doubling the K-12 education budget."(9) Bush signed his landmark No Child Left Behind Act in 2002. The more significant deception is that the budget did not "double." "The increase requested for the Education Department for 2003 will build upon an extraordinary and unprecedented $15 billion or 41 percent increase since fiscal year 2000."(10) 41 percent increase is not a 100 percent (doubling) of the budget. Beck seems to have trouble with the mathematics of percentage calculations. Beck/Balfe add in that paragraph that the reputation for "fiscal responsibility" the GOP had built up over the last three decades were destroyed by Bush. They forget that they wrote how Nixon opened three federal agencies and that Reagan better than doubled the national debt. You know, what this book is supposed to be about.

One more point to make about the inaccuracies of Beck and Balfe's perspective. It's true that Bush the 43rd did increase the size of government both along the lines of domestic spending and the Pentagon budget and cut taxes, but they argue that he "Essentially nationalized the banking industry in late 2008."(11) The Troubled Assets Relief Program loaned Wall St. financial institutions money they needed to stay in business without conditions other than it needed to be paid back to the government. How anyone in their right mind can consider TARP some version of "nationalization" is a mystery. How a reactionary crank, who is far to the right of President Reagan, can consider rescuing financial institutions a nationalization is not a mystery. Right wing cranks are known to say things that make no sense to the vast majority of people. Calling TARP essentially a nationalization is not spinning a fact; it's spouting a lie. It's not a whopper, but it is not any version of the truth. But wait, there's more. Beck is going to write the "truth" about Obama.

President Obama

Beck/Balfe claim that Obama's stimulus package was a "nearly $1 trillion spending plan." It was actually over 21% shy of $1 trillion. No where in four pages of discussion of this bill did they mention the accurate amount. "Nearly" is good enough when propaganda, not knowledge, is the mission Beck/Balfe undertake. When it comes to telling lies about Obama though, they are just getting started. "A free-spending, Marxist president with an inherited crisis is just as good as a Powerball ticket ... if you live inside the beltway."(12) The whopper of that sentence is, of course, that Obama is a Marxist. That one line is so silly, so obscenely and obviously false, that it should render Broke it proper place in history's trash can next to Mein Kamph, not because it's fascist but because it's garbage. Beck/Balfe turn right around, in a severe case of Attention Deficit Disorder and claim that Obama's "gluttony of spending was inspired by...John Maynard Keynes." Keynes was not a Marxist either. An additional, minor absurdity of this quote has to do with the idea that Powerball (a lottery) has anything to do with spending, borrowing and taxing or not.

There are so many other lies and far-right spin on the facts in the remainder of this chapter, it's difficult to pick out the ones to report. Under a sub-section entitled, "Politics of the Past," Beck/Balfe write, "By the summer of 2010...[t]he economy wasn't healing."(13) The fact is that by that time, there had been four consecutive of economic growth.(14) They claim without any citation that "Incomes fell by 3.4 percent under the first year of the stimulus." However, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, "During the 2009 calendar year (latest available data), median household income totaled $49,800, which was unchanged [from the] previous year."(15) Beck/Balfe are so hell-bent to make President Obama's Keynesian (deficit funded spending) strategy to turn the economy around a "failure," that they have to pull facts out of their asses. This is something Beck has been doing since his arrival at Fox if not before. There isn't even data available to cover the entire first year of the stimulus spending!

Mr. Irony

Beck/Balfe make an interesting assertion toward the end of this chapter. "Americans," they correctly state, "don't want to be deceived, but we do want hope."(16) Because Beck routinely deceives his Fox audience and routinely predicts a coming apocalypse, one has to wonder: who are the millions who watch The Glenn Beck Show on Fox? Europeans? South Americans? The Chinese? Beck/Balfe are correct; people don't want to be deceived. It is a testament to Beck's gift as a CONvincing, deceitful propagandist that his viewers have not caught on to his pattern of lying about the targets of his rhetoric.(17) When it comes to selling gloom, doom and deceptions, Glenn Beck is an ignorant genius.

Next: Part Two, "The Crime of the Century." Chapter 10: "The Truth"  This should be good! The previous sentence will become a hot link when all of Part II of this review is completed.

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1) Broke: The Plan to Restore Our Truth, Truth and Treasure, Glenn Beck and Kevin Balfe, Mercury Radio Arts, New York, 2010, p. 58
2) Ibid, p. 115
3) Ibid, p. 116
4) Ibid
6) Broke, p. 118
8) Broke, p. 119
9) Ibid, p. 120
11) Broke, p. 121
12) Ibid, p. 129
13) Ibid, p. 131
16) Broke, p. 138