It is very disheartening to see Republican presidential primary candidates racing to out-demagogue one another in denouncing Texas Gov. Rick Perry's accurate description of Social Security as a Ponzi scheme. It used to be that Republicans at least waited until the general election campaign to pander to liberals.
I admire Perry both for telling it like it is and for having the guts to stand by his statement when under fire. That shows character.
Honest people have been warning for years that our entitlement programs, as structured, are imminent train wrecks. Democrats were even saying it for a while, as Bill Clinton and Al Gore made a phony fuss about placing Social Security in a lockbox.
It's nothing short of outrageous that our politicians' instincts are to attack those who are talking realistically about entitlements instead of join them in talking realistically. I understand Democrats not doing so; I don't even expect them to anymore. But it's unacceptable for Republicans to pile on.
Surely, everyone knows by now that our out-of-control entitlement spending poses a greater threat to the nation's future even than the unbelievably dangerous path of discretionary spending we are currently pursuing. Indeed, isn't the main reason most of the Republican candidates claim to be running that they want to help save America's financial future and get the economy going again?
Then why would some of them opportunistically embellish and even distort Perry's statement about Social Security? Politics is one thing, but their decision to grovel on this critical issue does long-term damage to our ability to defeat Democrats on the issue of entitlement reform and otherwise to secure passage of legislation that would restructure reforms.
For decades, the straight shooters among us have been pointing out that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme. What would you call a plan that has forced Americans to entrust a significant portion of their earnings to politicians who have raided them as if they were general revenue?
Don't you dare tell me that there is nothing wrong with this practice because these greedy, do-gooder politicians have substituted government IOUs in place of the Social Security revenues, which should have been earmarked for recipients. An IOU from the government is a fraud; it's a chimera; it's a phantom asset, especially when the government itself is bankrupt. Our government no longer has the money to honor these debts it so casually and cavalierly took on instead of having taken the responsible path all these years and lived within its means.
Regardless of whether you believe the Social Security system, as now structured, satisfies the precise elements of a Ponzi scheme, you have to admit that if it had been correctly designed and administered, it would not be approaching insolvency and threatening our liberty and prosperity.
Have we reached the point that telling the truth about certain programs is an automatic death warrant for your campaign? Personally, I don't believe so.
It's fine and good for candidates to claim they have strong business experience, know how to grow the economy and would be fiscally frugal. But one's stated policies mean nothing if he doesn't have the character to stand by them when they're under attack or when it becomes politically expedient to do otherwise. Politicians severely harm their own credibility when, for whatever reason, they choose to attack their competitors for having the courage to demand national sobriety on these existential financial threats to America.
No matter what, there is no excuse for candidates or their supporters to lie about or distort the positions of their opponents.
That's why it was disturbing to read that Tim Pawlenty, in an interview explaining his decision to endorse former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, said: "Gov. Romney wants to fix Social Security. He doesn't want to abolish it or end it. ... Gov. Perry has said in the past that he thought it was 'failed.'"
Is that a fair characterization of Perry's position? It seems to me that Perry's idea is much like Rep. Paul Ryan's; Perry believes that the Social Security benefits "for current recipients and those nearing retirement must be protected. For younger workers, we must consider reforms to make Social Security financially viable."
Why aren't these Republicans who are dishonestly trashing Perry on this issue aiming all their rhetorical weapons against President Obama and the Democrats, who refuse even to consider meaningful entitlement reform?
The way I see it, those who are shamelessly attacking Perry on this issue, in an effort to score cheap political points, are tempting many of us to choose sides way before we wanted to. So be it.
David Limbaugh is a writer, author and attorney. His latest book, "Crimes Against Liberty," was No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list for nonfiction for its first two weeks. Follow him on Twitter @davidlimbaugh and his website at www.davidlimbaugh.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.