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Willisms

« Lebanon: Strange, Wonderful Goings-On | WILLisms.com | Reform Thursday: Social Security- Chart Four. »

LaRouchers Against Social Security Reform.

The LaRouchers are coming!

And this time, they're, typically, against Social Security reform.

Just who are the LaRouchers, and why do they matter?

Well, they shouldn't matter, as they are remarkably few in number and nearly bankrupt of mainstream ideas, yet they do matter precisely because they are perhaps the most persistent bunch of activists in the country, appearing regularly on college campuses, passing out absurd propaganda such as this, conning some into paying $15 or more for it:

Subtle, they are not.

For these dedicated warriors of the world of ideas, Lyndon LaRouche is their spiritual leader, his endurance an inspiration for his disciples. LaRouche has been predicting an economic meltdown ("The Great Crash Of 2004-2005 Is Here!") in the United States for decades, not based on any kind of expert analysis, but, rather, based exclusively on his idea that America needs a "physical economy." That is to say, the U.S. (government) needs to build and manufacture things, and the world needs to work on projects such as a land bridge from the Americas to Asia, from Europe to Africa.

larouche.gif

LaRouche, prior to dropping out of the 2004 presidential race and endorsing John Kerry, developed an 8-figure campaign chest (that's more than 10 million dollars), including nearly $1.5 million in taxpayer-funded federal campaign subsidies (LaRouche has raked in, from taxpayers, at least a few times that amount over the years). For comparison, note that LaRouche's campaign war chest was larger than the combined campaign funds of minor party candidates Ralph Nader, Michael Badnarik, Michael Peroutka, and David Cobb. Throw in Democrats Al Sharpton and Carol Moseley Braun, and LaRouche still had more campaign cash in 2004.

larouchemoney.gif

But why wasn't LaRouche allowed to debate the other Democrats, if he raised so much money and had so many staunch supporters?

Well, he is embarrassing. So are his supporters. And his poll numbers, despite robust financial and grassroots support, never reached into the single-digits. Elites on the left have effectively marginalized LaRouche, bizarrely enough, painting him as an ultra-conservative demagogue, preventing him from gaining support in primaries and caucuses. The New Republic magazine, in 1997, called LaRouche a "right-wing conspiratorialist." LaRouche, for the most part, however, is decidedly left-wing; he even came out recently in favor of a worldwide boycott of Wal-Mart. Perhaps he is so left-wing that his ideology mingles with right-wing, or vice-versa, but he is a stoic left-winger nonetheless. In the weird world of grotesque conspiracy theories, where left and right become meaningless, LaRouche thrives. If LaRouche, the FDR-loving socialist, seemed to sudden become an extreme right-winger, it is in the same pattern that America's arch-conspiracy theorist, Austin-based Alex Jones, decidedly right-wing during the Clinton administration, seemed to (but didn't, really) move sharply to the left after Republicans assumed power. Sometimes it's hard to tell which side someone is on when his ideology is so extreme.

alexjones.gif

The rantings of Jones and LaRouche are very similar: there is always some kind of Zionist banking conspiracy pulling the strings behind America's elected leaders; Arnold Schwarzenegger is an aspiring fascist dictator; and the government is always out to get both of them.

LaRouche is so ridiculous, he became a punchline on The Simpsons:

homersimpson.gif

LaRouche and his apostles shrug off such parodies as vile insults, below them. Any critics of LaRouche, they argue reflexively, have their "heads in the gutter." The response is almost Pavlovian.

More on LaRouche's followers, from The Daily Cougar, last September:

"Supporters of former presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche distributed literature on campus Tuesday calling Vice President Dick Cheney a 'beast-man' and other Bush administration officials 'children of Satan.'

The LaRouche backers are paid $50 a week and given places to stay as they visit college campuses around the country telling students they should vote Democratic this November.

They were set up in the Philip Guthrie Hoffman Hall Breezeway with a poster that read, 'A vote for Bush is a vote for Hitler.'

Paid campaigner Dennis Daulton defended the sign. 'If the sign bothers people, they're in fantasy world. They don't want to face reality,' he said.

LaRouche, who claimed in a 1978 pamphlet that the musical group The Beatles 'had no genuine musical talent, but were a product shaped according to British Psychological Warfare Division specifications,' has run for president in several elections, each time warning that the next Great Depression is imminent.

He was convicted of federal financial fraud in the late 1980s and served five years in prison before his early parole in 1994.

Daulton, however, claimed the 82-year-old LaRouche was 'politically targeted for exposing daddy Bush's drug running,' alleging that the U.S. government 'tried to kill LaRouche for his ideas.'

'LaRouche invented what Reagan later called the Strategic Defense Initiative,' Daulton said, 'and some very powerful people didn't like that.'

During a speech in the United Arab Emirates in 2002, LaRouche said 'Jewish gangsters' and 'Christian Zionists' control U.S. foreign policy and were responsible for the 9/11 attacks."


The Washington Post
reported last October that the worldwide LaRouche Youth Movement, cult-like in its operations, has a profound effect on young recruits. The mysterious 2003 death in Germany of one 22-year-old LaRoucher, Jeremiah Duggan, as the Post article points out, very well may have been because he wanted to escape the brainwashing.

Think applying the label of "cult-like" on the LaRouche movement is excessive, or hyperbolic? Read the entire Post article first and then pass judgment.

LaRouche's troubling organization-building tactics aside, LaRouche's bizarre ideas have been adopted by some otherwise respectable liberals in recent years.

The Wall Street Journal noted all the way back in June of 2003, that LaRouche's rhetoric, although thoroughly repugnant, is not alone, exiled to the political wilderness. The New York Times and The New Yorker, making "common cause with Lyndon LaRouche," went "off the deep end" long ago. Indeed, since summer of 2003, the ideas of LaRouche, such as the notion that Israel is controlling U.S. policy through some kind of shadowy cabal of "neo-cons," have been somewhat mainstreamed.

The LaRouchers' latest diatribes focus on Social Security. But it wouldn't be a piece of LaRouche literature without a good old-fashioned Jewish scapegoat:

The pamphlet charges:

"George Shultz, the political Godfather of President George W. Bush and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, is, like his role model Hjalmar Schacht, the kind of fascist who, one would imagine, arrogantly believes he will get off scot-free at the next Nuremberg war crimes tribunals....

Shultz's hand-picked future Führer, with real-live Nazi blood flowing through his veins, is California's Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger."

It speaks for itself.

The LaRouchers are at once intensely hyper-intellectual and anti-intellectual, as one blogger explains:

"When I saw a fake human monkey with a cut-out of Dubya's face on a monkey being led around, I started to grow weary. When the fake monkey was invited to the stage to show off, I had to turn it off. How can anybody take what is being presented at the podium seriously when a fake monkey with a cut-out of Bush's face is being held hostage on a leash just off stage."

The latest charge from the LaRouchers is that Social Security reform was conceived by a Wall Street conspiracy:

"These wealthy financial institutions, and the oligarchical families that own them, have, in their own name and through cut-outs like the Mont Pelerin Society's Cato Institute, single-mindedly driven privatization: They have opened up their deep wallets to finance the multi-hundred-million-dollar-a-year campaign for privatization. They have directly crafted and specified the key financial features of the reports and the proposed legislation on privatization."

Dumb that down a bit, and you have exactly what the AFL-CIO is saying about Social Security reform. In fact, Team LaRouche and its arguments against reform are amazingly similar to the arguments of all the "mainstream" groups opposing reform. As noted before, WILLisms.com subscribes to various liberal interest group email lists, and here is just one example of a LaRouchian-type of comment over the past few weeks:

From February 15, 2005:
AFL-CIO email titled "You Beat Wall Street."

"Charles Schwab also is a member of the AWRS and of the Financial Services Roundtable. These and other front groups are raising millions for ad campaigns to sell Social Security privatization to the American public....

Social Security is America's best-run, most successful family insurance program. Millions of retirees, survivors and people with disabilities rely on Social Security. President Bush's plan to move Social Security funds into private accounts may be good for Schwab's business—but it would hurt working families terribly, forcing devastating cuts in benefits and replacing retirement security with retirement risk."

If, as the LaRouchers argue, "Wall Street" had been spending multi-hundreds of billions each year on Social Security reform, it would have happened long ago.

Unfortunately, "Wall Street" has actually been fairly neutral on Social Security reform, refusing to really take the plunge and come out strongly for personal accounts. While personal accounts would indeed lead to an infusion of cash into the stock market, it would be hundreds of millions of relatively small accounts, not exactly the kinds of customers "Wall Street" prefers. Fees for the personal accounts would likely be arbitrarily low (as mandated by the Congress), somewhere around 30 basis points, almost more hassle than they are worth, while the average fees "Wall Street" gets (1.1%) on larger accounts produce far more favorable and lucrative outcomes. The fees from Social Security personal accounts would likely comprise no more than 1-2% of "Wall Street's" total revenues. Furthermore, the Social Security personal accounts would receive greater scrutiny and regulation than other accounts, subject to the whims of future (perhaps more liberal) Congresses.

The Wall Street Journal (subsription required, so try this) notes:

"Wall Street knows a river of cash when it sees it, and personal accounts right now look more like a stream."

Nonetheless, the LaRouchers persist, simultaneously irritating and entertaining college students all across the country with banners such as, "Bush Lied, Granny Died!"

larouchers.gif

Intellectually, LaRouche and his groupies oppose Social Security reform because: 1) it would lead to a greater actualization of the inherently free enterprise system, away from socialism; 2) America's economy is not physical enough right now, thus will soon crash; and 3) it would harm FDR's legacy.

For the LaRouchers, Social Security reform would be a repeat of the mistake Chile made with privatization more than two decades ago:

"The outcome of the same plan in Chile was devastating for the working population, but provided profit rates of 20-50% for the funds which managed the pensions..."

However, as WILLisms.com noted in a previous post, Chile's successful reforms of its pension system, while they could be tweaked and improved, are a model for the U.S. Also, the plan was only "devastating for the working population" if you redefine "devastating" as a "huge boon." Chile's personal accounts just plain work.

So, is it predictable that the LaRouchers would oppose Social Security reform? Definitely. It is also noteworthy, however, that LaRouche has been the intellectual godfather of the anti-reform movement. The LaRouchers, for all their absurdity, make that case best. When a recent LaRouche publication boasted that liberals in media and politics (and on liberal blogs) have largely adopted his vision and his rhetoric on the issue, it was not really all that off-the-mark:

"...when the New York Times of Jan. 27 ran a front-page expose´ of what a disaster Chile’s Social Security privatization has been, ABC News immediately noted that the Times was 'borrowing a page from Lyndon LaRouche.'"

While that is surely a badge of honor for the LaRouche movement, to be compared to America's former paper of record, the New York Times, somehow we don't think that was what ABC was getting at.

More from the LaRouchers, on how proud they are of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid:

"A key turning point came when Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, after announcing on Feb. 1 that 'no Democrat' would support Bush’s attempt to steal Social Security, answered the President’s Feb. 2 State of the Union with a Rooseveltian proposal for a 'Marshall Plan for America, to rebuild America’s economic infrastructure.' Reid is preparing 'Marshall Plan' legislation."

Reid's discussion of a Marshall Plan for America is exactly the kind of tribute to the "physical economy" Lyndon LaRouche wanted to hear.

More boasting from the LaRouchians:

"LaRouche Strategy Working
Lyndon LaRouche’s powerful call on Columbus, Ohio radio on Dec. 16—for national action to pull together 'the Democratic Party of President Franklin Roosevelt' to stop George W. Bush from stealing the Social Security of the American people—has been extraordinarily effective....

Refuse to 'negotiate' Social Security with that mad bull; adopt a united mission to defeat Bush on it; and sane Republicans will have to deal with the consequences, LaRouche advised."

Even LaRouche's hubris on this issue, thinking Bush has already been defeated, resembles "mainstream" liberals, who, as WILLisms.com previously pointed out, declared victory on the issue in late January.

On Social Security reform, LaRouche deserves much credit for leading the opposition, intellectually, and tactically. So, the next time you hear an argument against Social Security reform that seems a little more "off" than normal, just remember the power of the LaRouche movement within his party. When you witness Democrats going off the deep end with their conspiracy theories, know that LaRouche was probably already out in front on the issue.

Posted by Will Franklin · 23 February 2005 12:47 PM

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