Rick Perry’s 2010 book Fed Up! is admirably blunt about social welfare programs. I say “admirably” because the admiration is embedded in the ink. Perry writes that “Social Security is something we have been forced to accept for more than 70 years now,” and that its acceptance is a “crumbling monument to the failure of the New Deal.” He continues:
Ponzi schemes – like the one that sent Bernard Madoff to prison – are illegal in this country for a reason. They are fraudulent systems designed to take in a lot of money at the front and pay out none in the end. This unsustainable fiscal insanity is the true legacy of Social Security and the New Deal. Deceptive accounting has hoodwinked the American public into thinking that Social Security is a retirement system and financially sound, when clearly it is not.
Why is Perry saying this? Because he has to. For America.
Now, if you say Social Security is a failure, as I have just done, you will inherit the wind of political scorn. Seniors might think you want to cut the benefits they have paid for. Politicians will seek to take advantage, stirring up fear about benefits that will be lost if you elect another “heartless Republican.” I get it. That’s why only retired senators chair entitlement commissions.
We are told that no politician has the courage to raise these issues, even if avoiding them puts us on the fast track to financial ruin. But by remaining quiet, politicians are really saying they think the American people won’t understand it if we share the grim details of our financial future, and that voters will simply kill – or vote against – the messenger in order to continue to receive an underfunded benefit that robbed them of the tens of thousands of dollars they should have made.
Is that how we should respect our fellow citizens? By underestimating their intelligence, their desire to retire with greater stability, or their committment to the next generation?
Apparently, it is.
His communications director, Ray Sullivan, said Thursday that he had “never heard” the governor suggest the program was unconstitutional. Not only that, Mr. Sullivan said, but “Fed Up!” is not meant to reflect the governor’s current views on how to fix the program… in an interview, Mr. Sullivan acknowledged that many passages in Mr. Perry’s “Fed Up!” could dog his presidential campaign. The book, Mr. Sullivan said, “is a look back, not a path forward.” It was written “as a review and critique of 50 years of federal excesses, not in any way as a 2012 campaign blueprint or manifesto,” Mr. Sullivan said.
Why should it dog the campaign? The Social Security passages in Fed Up! are very strong. Perry quotes Milton Friedman at one point to argue that the real problem with entitlement spending is its self-fulfilling nature – the rachet effect that makes voters depend on shaky government programs instead of imagining a world without them.