The third big Republican presidential campaign debate has come and gone, and, as always, it seems to have produced far more heat than light. This debate was held at the Ronald Reagan Airplane Museum and All-Purpose Shrine in Simi Valley, California. It differed from the last two in that the eternally lame Tim Pawlenty was no longer involved - and eternally narcissistic Rick Perry is now part of the traveling circus.
Narcissism, of course, seems to be oozing from the pores of all of the Republican candidates, along with a Pandora's box of family values designed for wealthy white families, and healthy doses of self-righteous bile.
Living as I do on the elbow of the world, I did not get to see the debate live, and I have had to depend on recaps from the Internet to form some sense of what transpired. The media take on the debate seems to be that it was the Rick and Mitt show, with all of the attention focused on the proposals, arguments, and witty one-liners of these two social dilettantes.
The expectation had been that since Perry wasn't in either of the prior debates, he might not have the gravitas and smarts needed to play with the big boys (and girl), and might shove his foot so far down his throat that he would have to hop back to Texas. Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, in particular, were said to be gunning for God's man with the good hair.
But, again according to Internet sources, Perry was able to hold his own and give as good as he got. He decided not to waffle around on his earlier pronouncement about Social Security being a Ponzi scheme, and repeated that nonsense during the debate before a national audience. That was a very ballsy response to be sure, and it might just play tolerably well with the nutters currently in control of the Republican Party. But the question then becomes, how will that play nationally if Perry gets the nod to represent his party in the presidential contest?
Calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme is not quite as dumb as it sounds. Mr. Ponzi's original scheme involved securing investors in some investment that was essentially worthless, promising great returns on the investment, and then paying those great returns to the early investors with the money of later investors. Eventually every Ponzi scheme implodes as the amount needed to keep investors happy begins to exceed new money coming into the racket. Bernie Madoff's criminal chicanery is a perfect example of how a Ponzi scheme works.
What Perry seemed to be doing was assuring the early investors (the old timers who are retired or soon will be) is that they would be okay. But he wanted the young bucks to know that they are suckers and there will be nothing left when they retire. That has been the Republican ploy for a generation or more - destroy Social Security by destroying people's trust in the system. Convince the young people that they will not benefit from it, and soon they will be open to killing the amazingly successful social program.
(The other front in the war against Social Security is being waged by corporate America who want to see the funds invested in Wall Street. George Bush rode that horse into battle, and it quickly got mired in the quicksand of a stock market slump.)
Social Security is a good program, one that is built on sound economic principles and serves the common good. Unfortunately, like most modern government programs, the poor and middle class put in a higher percentage of their total income than do the ultra-rich. I plan on beginning to draw my benefits in a couple of years, and I feel certain that my children will one day be drawing theirs as well - if we can keep the Republicans away from its cash box.
Rick Perry is sort of a Ponzi scheme himself - an empty suit with great hair who has served the people of Texas for many years - and he probably rises to the expectations of most Texans. Texas is a state where the legislature meets once every two years, and when the legislature isn't in session, being governor involves little more than glad-handing the rednecks and looking pretty. Texans probably feel that they are getting a good return on their investment. But push that lip-sticky pig into the White House and then what would we have? At best the sequel to George Bush, and at worst Bernie Madoff in charge of our national treasury!
There is some good news for the Perry candidacy, however. The Texas governor is the absolute soul of sanity when compared to Michele Bachmann, Little Ricky Santorum, Ron Paul, and Herman Cain. If God has inspired these candidates to run, she has a wicked sense of humor!