In the lead-up to Glenn Beck's 8-28 rally in Washington D.C., Beck repeatedly tried to co-opt the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement. Beck's motivation was clear: by cloaking himself and his band of small government rabble-rousers with King's legacy, he hoped to inflate the historical significance of their gathering while hiding behind the shield of the civil rights movement's moral authority.
As I documented at the time, Beck's co-opting of King was a complete farce:
King forcefully advocated for drastic action by the federal government to combat poverty; supported "social justice"; called for an "economic bill of rights" that would "guarantee a job to all people who want to work"; and stated that we must address whether we need to "restructure the whole of American society" -- all ideas that Beck has vilified.
After his rally, Beck was pressed by Fox News' Chris Wallace about how the "civil rights movement was always about an economic agenda." Beck responded by saying that "that's a part of it that I don't agree with." This represented a major backtrack for Beck, who had accused progressives of "perverting" King's legacy by tying it to economic issues. Apparently Beck hasn't learned his lesson.
In his new book, Broke, in a section about how "entitlements like Social Security and Medicare are murdering our finances," Beck has the audacity to quote Martin Luther King Jr. to make his point. He writes:
As Martin Luther King, Jr., once said, "No lie can live forever" -- well, these programs are based on the biggest lie of all: that money can be shuffled from person to person, from states to Washington and from trust fund to trust fund without consequence. It's time for that way of thinking (or, in this case, not thinking) to finally end. Progressive thought has brought us straight to the brink -- only an equal but opposite force can move us away from it. [Broke, pg 203-204]
Beck's invocation of King in this context is gratuitous and shameless.
What did King think about the "biggest lie of all," according to Beck? A brief recap:
- King: "[W]e are dealing with issues that cannot be solved without the nation spending billions of dollars -- and undergoing a radical redistribution of economic power." In his book Judgment Days: Lyndon Baines Johnson, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Laws That Changed America, author Nick Kotz writes that during a 1968 trip to Mississippi, King stated: "It didn't cost the nation one penny to integrate lunch counters," and, "It didn't cost the nation one penny to guarantee the right to vote." King concluded that "now, we are dealing with issues that cannot be solved without the nation spending billions of dollars -- and undergoing a radical redistribution of economic power."
- King's "American Dream": "[P]roperty widely distributed" and "a land where men will not take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few." In his 1961 address to the AFL-CIO, King discussed how the "American dream" hasn't yet been fulfilled because it requires "equality of opportunity, of privilege and property widely distributed." King specifically decried the idea of taking "necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few."
- King: "We will place the problems of the poor at the seat of government of the wealthiest nation in the history of mankind." King was quoted in an article published shortly after his assassination in 1968 as saying that it was the government's responsibility to "acknowledge its debt to the poor," or else it will have "failed to live up to its promise to insure 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to its citizens.'" He called for an "economic bill of rights" that would "guarantee a job to all people who want to work and are able to work.
- King: "Some will be called reds and Communists merely because they believe in economic justice and the brotherhood of man. But we shall overcome." King predicted that critics like Glenn Beck would vilify those who believe in "economic justice" by invoking communism. In a 1961 speech to the AFL-CIO, King dismissed the idea that his adherence to "economic justice" somehow made him a Communist, saying: "Yes, before the victory is won, some will be misunderstood. Some will be dismissed as dangerous rabble-rousers and agitators. Some will be called reds and Communists merely because they believe in economic justice and the brotherhood of man. But we shall overcome." [A Testament of Hope, Page 207]
"No lie can live forever" -- and the lie that Glenn Beck and Martin Luther King have anything in common in terms of economic philosophy died a long time ago.