On both his radio and television show, Glenn Beck has spent the better part of a year denouncing the 40-year old ideas of a pair of obscure Columbia sociologists. In 1966, Frances Fox Piven and Richard A. Cloward wrote an essay, published in The Nation, called "The Weight of the Poor: A Strategy to End Poverty." This relatively innocuous thought piece has spawned, in Beck's mind, a massive left-wing conspiracy to increase dependency on government in order to "collapse the industrialized civilization," and bring "chaos," thus forcing the creation of a federal guaranteed national income.
Today, while talking about the national debt and the statutory debt limit, Beck suggested that the Congress refuse to raise the debt ceiling, which would induce a crisis, in order to "force a national conversation" on deficits and spending -- seemingly unaware that this is EXACTLY the kind of thing he's railed against.
A few examples of Beck assailing Cloward and Piven:
From the November 3, 2009, edition of Glenn Beck (transcript from Nexis):
BECK: Here's two other names that they won't ever say. Put them on the bottom of the screen, please. Two names they will never say: Cloward and Piven. If you are watching with a DVR and you don't know what Cloward and Piven is, I want you to pause this show right now and go Google it! Google it! Pause, please! Look it up.
This is important, because Cloward and Piven, the Cloward and Piven strategy, it's what they're doing. They're collapsing the system and replace it with a system of guaranteed annual income for all the workers! Workers of the world unite!
They need to do it this way. They need it do it in the cover of darkness. They need you to not to listen to me -- because if you start to listen to me, you're never going to willingly give up your freedom. You're going to be nudged into it, and if they can't nudge you into it, well then they'll push you into it.
From the May 13 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck:
Let's find the group of people, OK? The group of people who believe in Cloward and Piven. Because you have to collapse the industrialized civilization, I mean, I don't think I need to explain this one. Our deficit for April just came out, it was $82 billion. That is four times more than the April deficit one year ago and two times more than what they projected in worst-case scenarios. Cloward and Piven.
From the August 11 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck:
The federal government? No, they've been expanding. And now they're trapping the states into massive debt. Why? Why would you do that. Governor Haley Barbour put it best: "The federal government is hijacking the state budgets" Why would you do that? Two words. You know them, say it with me. Cloward and Piven. If you don't, turn the damn set off and go to the computer and look it up. We don't have the money but we keep spending it, why?
From the August 25 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck:
The average person, I don't think - the average person doesn't look at this and they don't understand how chaos works for radicals. It doesn't make sense for the average person to have chaos but it does to radicals. This is happening in Oakland, the home of militant communist Van Jones and his organization "Cop Watch." Radicals like Jones and [Bill] Ayers are always against quote 'The Pigs' as they call them.
They need the unrest, they want the unrest, they want you to be afraid and have somebody to blame it on. Why? Go back to Cloward and Piven. When chaos breaks out, people will look for anyone with an answer, anyone who will say "I can feed you. I can protect you. I can make the madness stop." All they need are people that are frightened. If you don't have food, if you don't have money, if you don't have a way to protect yourself, who is going to do those things for you? They're succeeding at frightening people in Oakland, Tulsa, and Norton, Mass. Let's keep an eye on the seeds that are being planted.
On his Fox News show tonight, Beck, while promoting his new book Broke, argued that the new Republican congress should stand firm against debt and refuse to raise the statutory debt limit. Beck claims that the "experts" he consulted on Broke laid out two repercussions. From Broke:
What if a majority party in Congress actually grew a spine and decided to stop allowing this limit to go up? What if they put their foot down and said no more, enough is enough - figure out how to manage the $13 trillion you already owe?
The short-term answer is pretty easy to figure out. We'd be unable to issue new debt, spending would be necessarily slashed, America would likely lose its AAA credit rating, and markets around the world would panic.
But what about the long-term answer? Would refusing to raise the debt limit finally send the message to all involved that there is no more money? Would it change the way everyone involved thinks about the future role of government? Would it force people to look back to the Constitution, to individual charity and free-market innovation? Would it compel politicians and policy makers to think in a completely new and radical way about what is really important, and how it's funded?
Nice how Beck just glosses over that whole "markets around the world would panic" thing.
To recap: Beck -- who regularly rails against a perceived attempt to induce a major crisis in order to bring about radical policy change -- is suggesting that the new Republican Congress induce a major crisis in order to bring about radical policy change.
What's most amazing about this isn't Beck's hypocrisy but his seeming complete and total lack of self-awareness. Never mind the fact that the original Cloward and Piven piece has NOTHING to do with "collapsing the industrialized civilization" or bringing "chaos." This inconsistency is striking, but not surprising to even a casual Beck follower.
In conclusion, Former Reagan Treasury official Bruce Bartlett, writing in June on advocates of refusing to raise the debt ceiling:
I am indeed contemptuous of those who advocate irresponsible policies in a juvenile belief that they are standing for principle instead of simply displaying their ignorance and immaturity. Sadly, we no longer live in a society where such people can safely be ignored. Some of them have an hour each day on Fox News to spew their nonsense or talk radio programs with large audiences or are members of Congress. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to think that in about 10 months they may have sufficient support to cause a default on the debt. When that happens we will see whether it leads to a downsizing of government or total chaos that nothing good will come from. I'm betting on the latter.