by Laurence M. Vance: Should
Gays and Lesbians Serve in the Military?
The Plan to Restore Our Trust, Truth, and Treasure (Threshold
Editions, 2010), x + 406 pgs., hardcover, $29.99.
I don’t watch
Glenn Beck on television or listen to him on the radio. But neither
do I watch or listen to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly,
and other conservative personalities that were silent on the crimes
of the Bush administration. I agree with much of what they say on
topics like liberalism, Obama, the Democratic Party, welfare, healthcare,
environmentalism, abortion, etc., but I vehemently disagree with
their support of the Republican Party, the warfare state, and the
national security state.
This does not
mean that I have my head in the sand. I did listen to Limbaugh a
great deal in the early days of his show when Bush I and then Clinton
were the presidents. I can remember when Hannity filled in sometimes
as a guest host for Limbaugh. I couldn’t stand him even then and
my opinion has never wavered. Since then I have seen and heard numerous
clips of the Limbaugh, Hannity, O’Reilly, and Beck shows, visited
their websites, and read some of their books. I previously reviewed
one of Hannity’s books here.
Limbaugh is about the only one I can stand to listen to now if I
come across his show on my car radio while traveling.
The only political
show really worth watching – because it gives you the unvarnished
truth about the crimes of both Democrats and Republicans – is Judge
Andrew Napolitano’s Freedom Watch on the Fox Business channel.
However, since I don’t get that channel, I am limited to only hearing
reports about it or seeing short clips of it every now and then.
is a relative newcomer compared to the big three of Limbaugh, Hannity,
and O’Reilly. But he has overcome some major obstacles on his rise
to fame and fortune and come a long way in a short period of time.
He went from being an alcoholic and drug addict to joining the Mormon
church. After bouncing around various radio stations, his Glenn
Beck radio program first aired in 2000 and went nationwide in 2002.
His television program began on CNN in 2006 and moved to Fox in
2008. He has had an incredible six books on the New York Times
The Plan to Restore Our Trust, Truth, and Treasure (hereafter
just Broke) is physically divided into three sections of
nine, three, and eight chapters, it should really be considered
as just two parts. Part 1, which covers the first sixteen chapters
totaling 274 pages, is about how and why Beck thinks the country
is broken. Part 2, which only covers the last four chapters (pgs.
275-349), consists of Beck’s specific proposals to fix the country’s
problems. In part 1 Beck tells us what most readers of his book
already know; in part 2 Beck gives us mainly non-solutions to the
problems presented in part 1.
The book itself
is an unusual one. Although only Beck’s name occurs on the dust
jacket, inside we see that the book was "Written & Edited
by Glenn Beck and Kevin Balfe." There are also four "contributors"
listed: Peter Schweizer, Tyler Grimm, Colin Balfe, and Gary Brozek.
There is no indication anywhere in the text of the book concerning
who wrote or contributed to which chapter or section. Beck does,
however, go out of his way to emphasize that he is the author. Unlike
most books in which the title of the book is printed in the header
on the left-hand pages and the title of the chapter is printed in
the header on the right-hand pages, Beck’s name appears in all the
left-hand headers while the name of just the book appears in the
thing about the book is its busyness. Just about every page has
something on it with or besides the text. Out of the 349 pages that
make up the twenty chapters of the book, 305 have some of the book’s
text (the rest have full-page color charts or special quotations
like those which occupy the page before each new chapter). Yet,
of these 305 pages, only 58 of them contain just text. The main
interruption to the text is a colored text box or chart that provides
some additional information to supplement the regular text. Sometimes
it is a quotation in large print or a symbol that takes up a good
deal of space. I’m all for supplemental information in a footnote
or an occasional chart, but these four things I mentioned appear
a whopping 170 times. And that’s not all. In addition to all the
different boxes, charts, quotes, and symbols, there are regularly-titled
boxes that appear throughout the book: The American Empire: By the
Numbers (5), Teachable Moment (38), A.D.D. Moment (13), Truth Serum
(12), Hate Speech? (14), Sorry State of the Union (27), History
Repeating (6), Bipartisan Debt Threats (3), Ripped from the Headlines
(33), Deficit of Trust (11), Enron 101 (6), Flyover Solutions (2).
Many pages have two or three extra things on them besides the text.
contains fifty-five pages of notes ("The Citations").
However, these are not traditional endnotes. There are no numbers
in the text to indicate that something appears in an endnote. When
you turn to the notes and look up a page number, you are presented
with partial quotes from the text in bold print followed by a source.
But in addition to this being very time consuming, all quotations
in the text are not documented even as things in the text are documented
that you wouldn’t expect. For an example of how frustrating this
is, I will refer to pages 7 and 19, two pages that I randomly turned
to. On page 7, there are three direct quotes and two other brief
statements in quotation marks. One of the quotes, from Lactantius,
is not documented in the notes. The two other quotes and the two
brief statements are documented. But then another statement in the
text without quotation marks does appear in the notes. On page 19,
there are two quotations, only one of which is documented, and two
other statements in the text without quotation marks that are documented.
Confused? You are not alone.
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:
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
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.
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.
of American history is a mixed bag.
criticizes the adoption of the first income tax during the Civil
War, but seems to justify the debt the war incurred because the
cause was worth it. Beck is definitely an admirer of Abraham Lincoln:
"What made Lincoln the iconic leader he was, however, was his
ability to recognize that these painful – indeed, excruciating –
human and financial costs were still worth it." On Beck as
a Lincoln idolater, see Professor Tom DiLorenzo here
charges Woodrow Wilson with doing "more damage to the fabric
of America than anyone who’s come before or after," yet fails
to criticize him for getting the United States into World War I.
condemns socialist ministers, but fails to mention Francis Bellamy,
the author of the Pledge of Allegiance. Perhaps this is because
Beck shares Bellamy’s view that the Republic mentioned in the Pledge
"is the concise political word for the Nation – the One Nation
which the Civil War was fought to prove. To make that One Nation
idea clear, we must specify that it is indivisible, as Webster and
Lincoln used to repeat in their great speeches."
denounces FDR for his socialistic New Deal, but applauds him for
making a "sensible decision" when he ended "the requirement
that U.S. dollars be converted into gold upon request." And
like he failed to criticize Wilson, Beck never faults FDR for leading
the country into war. A few pages later, Beck justifies the government
rationing things during World War II because "big business
and government collaborated to run the economy for the sake of winning
condemns Lyndon Johnson for his socialistic Great Society, but instead
of attacking the Vietnam War itself, he faults Johnson for how he
handled it. Johnson didn’t bomb the enemy enough, pulverize the
enemy enough, demonize the enemy enough, and wipe out the enemy
disparages Nixon for the growth of government and regulations during
his administration, but fails to mention his continuation of the
is a president that Beck thoroughly admires. According to Beck,
Reagan single-handedly changed Americans’ thinking:
Reagan came along, Americans had mostly been willing to allow
the government to take more and more of their power.
By the end
of his first term in office, Reagan had successfully changed the
American mind-set and spirit.
were ready to believe that it really was morning again in America.
admits that Reagan "ran deficits in every single one of his
eight years in office," and "incurred $2 trillion of debt
in the 1980s" he excuses these things because they financed
the Cold War military buildup and tax-rate reductions. Beck praises
Reagan as a tax cutter (true), but not a tax raiser (also true).
He was tricked into it by those evil Democrats. Beck misrepresents
the opposition to Reagan. On page 101, he says: "After four
years of seeing his proposed budgets changed and his vetoes overridden,
Reagan again stood before America and sounded no less optimistic."
Then follows an extended quote from Reagan’s second inaugural address
(wrongly labeled in the notes as Reagan’s first inaugural address).
During the first four years of Reagan’s presidency, Congress only
overrode four of his vetoes (H.R. 6198, July 1982; H.R. 6863, Sept.
1982; H.R. 1062, Oct. 1983; S.684, Mar. 1984), only one of which
was an appropriations bill. But at least Reagan tried to
restore limited government and reduce spending opines Beck. For
a brief summary of the real Reagan record, see Lew Rockwell here.
For an exhaustive analysis, see Murray Rothbard here.
denounces George H. W. Bush for breaking his promise to not raise
taxes, increasing the national debt, and expanding government, but
not for spending billions warring against Iraq the
exposes Clinton’s phony budget surplus, but dismisses Clinton’s
military interventions in Somalia, Haiti, and the Balkans as "brushfires."
heaps scorn on George W. Bush for being the "biggest spender
since LBJ," but not for spending money on the "War on
Terror" and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And in Beck’s
list of Bush’s non-economic failings, these wars are not even mentioned.
assails everything about Barack Obama, but not for the billions
he has continued to spend on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
lesson is indeed selective, for there is no mention of Eisenhower’s
doubling the defense budget during his tenure in office – the largest
peacetime military buildup in American history.
I have focused
on Beck’s lack of criticism of war and war spending for two reasons.
One, war is the health of the state that Beck claims he wants to
roll back. And two, Beck himself says: "Each time we fight,
we rack up a massive amount of new debt. Even when we subsequently
cut spending, it’s rare that we ever do enough to pay off the cost
of the war." Although Beck calls for a reduction in defense
spending in the non-solution section of his book, I see only one
negative thing in Broke about spending billions to fight
that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, that the Social Security
Trust Fund has no money in it because Congress has already spent
it, and that more will be paid out in benefits than is collected
in payroll taxes. He calls Medicare a "bigger budget bomb"
than Social Security and ObamaCare. He recognizes that "the
long-term costs of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are unfathomable."
Beck throughout the book assails dependence on government, the dangers
of debt, and entitlement spending and the taxes that pay for them.
Yet, on page 230 we read this incredible statement: "I am not
calling for the immediate elimination of welfare, Medicare, Social
Security, or a host of other programs." So what is the point
of the book? If the country is as broken as Beck claims, and if,
as Beck says, Obama’s budget proposals will end up adding more to
the national debt than every president before him combined, then
when should something be done?
Beck has some
unusual things to say about God and the United States. He maintains
that "the Founders’ work in creating this nation was divinely
inspired." He further claims that "America’s founding
was a miracle and her survival through dark days of depression,
civil war, and enemy aggression proves that the guiding spirit of
God’s hand is still with us."
often uses libertarian rhetoric and quotes people that he identifies
as libertarians (Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman, F. A. Hayek, Hans Sennholz,
Ludwig von Mises), he is no libertarian. Several places in the book
he says that he believes the proper role of government under the
Constitution to be limited to the functions of military, judiciary,
patent and copyright protection, and international relations. Although
libertarians would have a problem with our current patent and copyright
system, the ideas are nevertheless constitutional. And since Beck
emphasizes the Constitution, I won’t fault him for including them.
Beck also says he believes that "your individual right is the
right to live your life in whatever way you choose, so long as it
does not infringe on the rights of others to do the same"
But does Beck
really believe the role of government should be limited to the things
he mentions? Of course he doesn’t. Does Beck really believe in the
philosophy of "live and let live"? Absolutely not. In
spite of all his libertarian rhetoric, Beck supports the war on
personal freedom known as the war on drugs. Oh, he has (only
recently) come out for the legalization of marijuana (after
initially ridiculing the idea) because of the hypocrisy of U.S.
marijuana laws and the drug-related violence in Mexico, but what
about other drugs, and what about the freedom to use drugs for freedom’s
sake, not because of government hypocrisy or drug-war consequences?
What Beck believes
or doesn’t believe is not the real issue. Although I may disagree
with him, that is not what my main problem with Beck is. It’s all
really quite simple. If you don’t really believe in personal
freedom, if you don’t really believe in "live and let
live," if you don’t really believe that the government
should be limited to what is specifically stated in the Constitution,
then don’t call yourself a libertarian and say that you believe
these things when you don’t.
I agree with
Beck on the main idea of his book: the country is broke, financially
and otherwise. We may have some disagreements on how and why it
got broken, but on the fact that it is broke we are in perfect agreement.
So, what about
Beck’s solutions? As I mentioned at the beginning of this review,
Beck’s specific proposals to fix the country’s problems are found
in the last four chapters of the book. But they are generally not
solutions at all. They are mainly band-aids and worse.
specific proposal is a balanced-budget amendment. This ignores the
real problem: unconstitutional spending by Congress. Having a balanced
$3 trillion budget would do nothing but legitimize a bloated budget
and allow congressman to talk about how fiscally responsible they
are. The budget needs to be cut, and cut drastically, not balanced.
And as Beck acknowledges, "an exception can be included for
a war declared by Congress, or a national calamity."
specific proposal is an amendment for term limits for members of
Congress. He wants House members limited to three terms and Senators
limited to two terms. But we already have term limits – it’s called
an election. The idea that freshmen members of Congress would do
a better job is simply not true. For example, just
recently, thirty-one out of forty Tea Party-supported candidates
voted in the House of Representatives in favor of extending the
specific proposal is a line-item veto amendment. He says it would
"hand presidents a cost-cutting ‘scalpel’ that would allow
them to go into a bill and carve out just the fat." Right.
Not only would a line-item veto further strengthen the executive
branch, Dr. Bush and Dr. Obama would do a great job carving out
"just the fat." Only someone like Dr. Paul could be trusted
with this much power.
specific proposal, in addition to his "dream list of reforms"
just mentioned, is what he calls his "backup plan." He
supports the SAFE Act to limit increases in federal spending to
increases in the Consumer Price Index and population. He proposes
that the president be given "freezing authority" to "temporarily
freeze a spending item and request that Congress rescind it."
The third part of Beck’s backup plan is to return impoundment authority
to the president. The fourth is to expand the "pay as you go"
spending law "to encompass all federal spending."
In other words, more band-aids.
specific proposal is to pass a commonsense lobbying bill. His sixth
is for Congress to declare war before the United States wages war.
His seventh is a binding commission to recommend ways that Congress
could cut spending. His eighth is to end the gerrymandering of congressional
districts. His ninth is to have more U.S. holders of American debt
instead of foreigners. His tenth is to check the power of public-sector
unions. His eleventh is to have part-time politicians by prohibiting
fund-raising when Congress is in session, utilize technology, and
limit the length of congressional sessions.
All of the
above proposals are from chapter 17. In chapter 18, Beck begins
with a proposal for Congress to just stop spending. Isn’t that the
only proposal we really need? Isn’t that why the country is broke?
Yet, Beck insists that "before we can cut anything, we have
to find a way to close the deficit of trust that so many of us (me
included) have with our leaders." He wants the American people
to sacrifice by not being recipients of government spending (at
least I think that’s what he is saying) and "have whatever
money is raised from our sacrifices go directly into a special fund
that is administered by an independent board." Then this board
is supposed to "protect the money from Congress and use it
in a predetermined way to pay down the debt and get the budget onto
a sustainable track." Right.
His next proposal
in chapter 18 is to "freeze pay for all existing [federal]
personnel until market wages catch up, then cap future annual increases
at the amount that private pay rises." Sounds good, but I have
an even better idea: eliminate the jobs of the federal bureaucrats
and we don’t have to worry about the public/private pay gap. The
other proposals in chapter 18 are actually fairly good. They include
abolishing Amtrak and the Departments of Energy and Education, privatizing
or moving responsibility to the states for housing programs, highways
and mass transit, agriculture subsidies, ports, and airports, cutting
waste, pork, improper payments, and ineffective programs. I’m not
too keen on his idea to turn army ammunition plants and arsenals
into federal corporations.
Alas, all of
these things are but a small percentage of the federal budget. To
really cut spending, the three biggest parts of the federal budget
must be addressed: Social Security, Medicare, and defense. Beck
focuses on Social Security and Medicare at the end of chapter 18
and defense spending in chapter 19.
Does Beck recommend
that Social Security and Medicare be abolished? I previously mentioned
that on page 230 Beck says: "I am not calling for the immediate
elimination of welfare, Medicare, Social Security, or a host of
other programs." But surely he advocates a gradual end to these
entitlement programs? I’m sorry to say that he doesn’t. Instead
he talks about affordable health care still being a priority, empowering
consumers, decentralization, budgeting Medicare in two- to three-year
increments, and convincing people they don’t need government entitlements.
I must admit
that I was a little surprised (but just a little once I read the
entire chapter) about Beck’s call for cutting defense spending in
chapter 19. Especially since he argued as recently as last year
that the United States should have fought the Iraq war "full
on" from the beginning and had a "salute
to the troops" rally in Washington D.C. And especially
since in Broke, Beck speaks favorably of the "surge"
in Iraq, only once says something negative about spending billions
to fight wars, claims that "the 2.4 million men and women in
our armed forces can and will defeat any foreign enemy we face,"
and maintains that "our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines
are the best damn people on the planet. Period."
labels defense spending as a "sacred cow to most on the right."
He says that no spending "can be off-limits – and that includes
national defense." In the end he claims that "we can have
a far more capable military for 30-50 percent less than what we
are paying now – without cutting a dime of soldiers’ pay."
The problem with Beck’s cuts to the defense budget, besides the
fact that he admits he relied on the founder of the notorious Blackwater
(now Xe) for help with this chapter, is that they don’t include
ending foreign wars and bringing home the troops. Beck even says
that we should not "pull our troops from everywhere we have
them stationed." Doing so would "put allies in harm’s
way" and "be a slap in the face to all the troops who’ve
given up so much to serve and protect." Beck’s plan to reduce
the defense budget includes things like ending nation building (but
not fighting foreign wars), cutting waste, overhead, corruption,
and inefficiencies, switching from jet aircraft in Afghanistan to
turboprops (I’m not making that up), cutting the number of admirals,
and forming a fifty-person special commission to study the defense
budget and question costs, institute proper controls, and "make
our Pentagon more streamlined, more efficient, and more able to
react to the emergencies they are there to address."
In this chapter
on defense spending, Beck once again misuses Reagan. On page 321,
he says this about Reagan: "When President Reagan was facing
tough budget decisions back in the early 1980s, he said he got literally
hundreds of letters from soldiers telling him, ‘If giving us a pay
cut will help our country, cut our pay.’" What Reagan actually
said was this: "And I tell you, when I get a letter from
a hundred marines stationed over in Europe, and those marines write
me, as they did about a year ago in the budget talk, and say, ‘If
giving us a pay cut will help our country, cut our pay.’"
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.
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
M. Vance [send him mail]
writes from central Florida. He is the author of Christianity
and War and Other Essays Against the Warfare State and The
Revolution that Wasn't. His newest book is Rethinking
the Good War. Visit his
© 2011 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in
part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.
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