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Is America Caught In The Closed Mind Trap?

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A reader responded to my recent column about how the US president was becoming a Caesar with a question: "Wouldn't a Caesar be preferable to a democracy in which the people are too ignorant, disinterested, and stupid to engage in self-government?"

Before I became a widely read columnist with many reader responses, I would have disagreed with the reader's characterization of the American people. Today, I cannot answer the reader's question with a "no" as confidently as I would like.

I receive appreciative words from many readers who are well aware of what is going on. I also hear from many who are so partisan and have such strong emotional responses that they are unable to follow an argument. I don't know what percentage these groups comprise in the population, but there seem to be a number of Americans, both on the left and the right, who are prepared to censor and even to kill in order to defend their illusions and delusions.

I remain a suspect bogyman for some on the left, because of my association with the Kemp-Roth bill and Reaganomics. As I, and others, have explained so many times, Supply-Side economics reversed the monetary/fiscal policy mix in order to cure stagflation. But some leftists persist in their insistence that it was all a trick to cut taxes for the rich -- the rich being those with more money than they. A stressed-out $100,000 a year guy with a family in a high-cost city is thrown into the rich class with the hedge fund manager who paid himself one billion dollars.
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To give the leftists their due, at least they know that I was a member of the Reagan administration. However, the right-wing zealots think that I am a pinko-liberal-commie.

Recently I wrote an article pointing out that the Republicans had picked a bad time, when the world was already concerned about US financial credibility, to make an issue over the routine increase of the debt ceiling, thus creating an impasse that threatens default. The Republicans see in the debt ceiling issue an opportunity to cut social spending as the price of allowing an increase in the national debt.  

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One can't blame the Republicans for trying to do something about the growth of the public debt. However, there is a risk in the Republican's intransigency, and that risk is that, thanks to presidential directives put on the books by President Bush, President Obama has the authority to declare the prospect of default a national emergency. Obama can simply set aside the debt ceiling limit and seize the power of the purse from Congress. The transformation of the president into Caesar would take another large step forward.

I wrote that I regarded this risk to be greater than the risk of additional public debt.

Several Republicans never reached the point of the article. I had taken for granted that everyone knew, especially Republicans, of the Republicans' concern with entitlements and unfunded liabilities. I assumed that Republicans were aware of their party's long history of reacting against the debts that are being piled upon our grandchildren, that they knew of the Grace Commission during the Reagan years, that they knew of Republican Pete Peterson's many dramatic warnings and proposals, that they knew of David Walker's accounting of the unfunded liabilities and the Republican Party's determination to do something about the heavily-hyped cost of Social Security and Medicare.

I assumed that Republicans knew that during the Reagan years David Stockman and Alan Greenspan had accelerated the payroll tax increases that President Carter had put in place to ensure the long-term viability of Social Security and had spent the money for current operating expenses, leaving unfunded IOUs in the Social Security "trust fund." I Assumed that Republicans knew that Republican Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, Michael Boskin, and his Boskin Commission had reconfigured the Consumer Price Index in order to understate inflation and, thereby, reduce the cost-of-living-adjustments in Social Security checks.

I assumed that Republicans somewhere along the way had read at least one paper by a Republican policy analyst or think-tank member about the Social Security "Ponzi scheme" and the unaffordability of Medicare.

But, no, the Republican partisans who denounced me as an anti-Republican liberal propagandist for saying what is widely reported in the media -- that the Republicans want large cuts in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid as the price of their agreement to an increase in the debt limit -- know nothing whatsoever of their party's position on social spending. Apparently, they don't even watch Fox News.

These same partisans apparently have not noticed that the $1.2 trillion military/security expenditures are "off the table" when it comes to controlling spending. The Republicans and also the Democrats regard war as more important than old age pensions and medical care for the poor and the elderly. My Republican critics have also failed to notice that House Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor has made certain that tax increases on mega-high incomes are also "off the table." According to mega-billionaire Warren Buffet, in America today we have the situation in which Buffet's secretary pays a larger share of her income in taxes than does Buffet.

When I wrote that the Republicans' fixation with slashing the social safety net -- a throw-away line that is in every news report on the debt ceiling imbroglio -- could turn out to be a threat to the separation of powers, several Republican partisans took extraordinary offense. Only a no-good liberal propagandist would claim that Republicans wanted to slash the safety net. My statement of an obvious fact reflected in the Republicans' own proposals was all that it took for my critics to conclude that a notorious Reaganite was a Republican-hating liberal.

It is annoying that people who have no idea what they are talking about are so ready to pop off. But it is discouraging to a writer that people are so emotional that they cannot follow an argument. Discouraged, in part by block-headed readers and from censorship of my writings by various Internet sites, I quit my column a while back and signed off.

I was beset by thousands of emails pleading and demanding that I continue to write. I relented, and the emails from thoughtful readers keep me going. 

It is rewarding to hear from intelligent and open-minded people. But as the weeks and months go by, I find it ever more tiresome to tolerate closed minds spewing hate and ignorance. I have become convinced that there are enough frustrated and ignorant people out there to constitute a movement for a Fuhrer. 

Washington, which has produced a long list of disastrous policy decisions since the collapse of the Soviet Empire two decades ago, will no doubt continue making incredible mistakes about everything, and we will end up with a Caesar or a Fuhrer.

 

http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/

Dr. Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury for Economic Policy in the Reagan Administration. He was associate editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal, columnist for Business Week and the Scripps Howard News Service. He is a contributing editor to Gerald Celente's Trends Journal. He has had numerous university appointments. His book, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West is available here. His latest book,  How America Was Lost, has just been released and can be ordered here.

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There is one argument that people who would prefe... by Marika on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 1:57:31 AM
The reason most alcholics return the dreary realm ... by Donald on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 2:46:09 PM
and the interest in the topic. I was going to ment... by Daniel Geery on Thursday, Jul 28, 2011 at 10:14:44 AM
As Abraham Lincoln warned, as a free people we can... by Robert James on Sunday, Aug 7, 2011 at 9:17:46 AM
A trillion dollars on the debt is one thing, but a... by Mike Preston on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 2:54:05 AM
It depends if our corporate media gets to them, be... by Greg Campbell on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 3:00:25 AM
A FEW QUESTIONSWho's hooked on prescription drugs?... by Kevin Niicole Horton on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 5:10:14 AM
Who does all the manual labor?   MexicoC... by Kevin Niicole Horton on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 5:11:54 AM
People have become accustomed to boarding a train,... by Ned Lud on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 5:56:15 AM
Mr. Roberts is being charitable when he says we WI... by Sherwood Ross on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 6:02:53 AM
See Lester Shepherd, commenter below. There are... by Ned Lud on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 8:43:20 AM
I have always believed that like Obama, Reagan was... by Matthew Peters on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 6:09:15 AM
What is so rewarding about this belief that you do... by Paul Craig Roberts on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 9:11:36 AM
With the continuing lack of regulation of Wall Str... by Robert James on Sunday, Aug 7, 2011 at 9:08:16 AM
Finally someone pointing out what should be very o... by Tom Dawson on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 6:22:36 AM
I am one that continues to be perplexed about PCR.... by Lester Shepherd on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 6:40:04 AM
I liked this comment, because of the simple honest... by Ned Lud on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 8:55:05 AM
Lester, why don't you read more carefully before y... by Paul Craig Roberts on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 11:06:56 AM
Ok.  I re-read it and now see that you were t... by Lester Shepherd on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 11:27:39 AM
Naomi Klein has spoken very eloquently (if not a b... by Audley Gaston on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 7:41:17 AM
I would avoid demonizing a school of economics tha... by Paul Craig Roberts on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 9:37:40 AM
What good is a Nobel winner (think of Obomba, too)... by Lester Shepherd on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 10:34:44 AM
Just as people constantly misrepresent what I writ... by Paul Craig Roberts on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 11:11:15 AM
Free markets without regulation is disaster capita... by Lester Shepherd on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 11:38:41 AM
Lester, as I and Milton Friedman have written many... by Paul Craig Roberts on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 12:22:12 PM
to realize the damage caused by Milton Friedman, H... by Michael Shaw on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 10:42:04 AM
A number of US trained economists from Harvard, Ya... by Paul Craig Roberts on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 12:29:36 PM
As I previously stated....true colors!... by Michael Shaw on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 12:40:02 PM
will you please acknowledge the crime committed by... by Mark Sashine on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 12:42:31 PM
Dear Mr Sashine, who could have put it more elloqu... by Michael Shaw on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 1:00:03 PM
Let's see, Reagan's domestic economic policy is co... by Paul Craig Roberts on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 2:36:50 PM
You have mentioned above your philosophy and that... by Mark Sashine on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 2:45:59 PM
What philosophy did I "and people like" me propaga... by Paul Craig Roberts on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 3:28:36 PM
Excuse me? Although Reagan deserves a whole lot of... by Michael Shaw on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 3:20:01 PM
What do you want me to blame Friedman for?  T... by Paul Craig Roberts on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 3:33:33 PM
increased Pentagon spending, are articulated by Re... by bogi666 on Thursday, Jul 28, 2011 at 4:47:15 AM
Sorry Paul, but I've been a human rights activist ... by intotheabyss on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 5:20:02 PM
I am absolutely certain that I know far more about... by Paul Craig Roberts on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 6:39:55 PM
It is you that has the ideological blind spot. Thr... by intotheabyss on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 7:59:28 PM
All you demonstrate is that you are brainwashed.Pa... by Paul Craig Roberts on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 8:17:58 PM
thrown from airplanes, not ships. It's obvious tha... by intotheabyss on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 8:55:41 PM
I would add to this that notwithstanding the ruthl... by Paul Craig Roberts on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 9:07:36 PM
but there were three American warships cruising fi... by John Sanchez Jr. on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 10:58:17 PM
As well as I remember, there were some Soviet ship... by Paul Craig Roberts on Thursday, Jul 28, 2011 at 8:26:07 AM
and I probably should since I stood two watches in... by John Sanchez Jr. on Thursday, Jul 28, 2011 at 10:41:27 AM
Unless you were in command or the Soviet ships wer... by Paul Craig Roberts on Thursday, Jul 28, 2011 at 12:37:50 PM
Sir, there is no record anywhere, not in history o... by Michael Shaw on Thursday, Jul 28, 2011 at 2:40:03 PM
although that would not have been something I was ... by John Sanchez Jr. on Thursday, Jul 28, 2011 at 6:25:52 PM
this is nonsensical!!!  Why did the Chilean m... by Paul Craig Roberts on Thursday, Jul 28, 2011 at 6:30:31 PM
This is sad Mr Craig. Very sad! I have nothing mor... by Michael Shaw on Thursday, Jul 28, 2011 at 11:40:01 PM
Mr Roberts keeps repeating ," The Chilean military... by Lester Shepherd on Friday, Jul 29, 2011 at 2:30:28 PM
Amazing that people who know nothing whatsoever ab... by Paul Craig Roberts on Friday, Jul 29, 2011 at 5:29:00 PM
Reply:  Debate this guy, If you dare.Bill Bl... by Lester Shepherd on Friday, Jul 29, 2011 at 7:23:42 PM
Yes Mr Roberts! Obviously we or anyone else who ha... by Michael Shaw on Friday, Jul 29, 2011 at 10:00:04 PM
involved Pinochet and Pinochet supporters who inde... by Michael Shaw on Saturday, Jul 30, 2011 at 11:04:38 AM
Given below is an extract from wikipedia whose con... by Ash E on Friday, Jul 29, 2011 at 11:55:52 AM
The leftwing needs to make up its mind.  Did ... by Paul Craig Roberts on Friday, Jul 29, 2011 at 12:07:04 PM
Pinochet did it with the help of the CIA and the N... by Michael Shaw on Sunday, Jul 31, 2011 at 11:40:06 AM
One point about wikipedia. Everything placed in it... by Michael Shaw on Sunday, Jul 31, 2011 at 11:40:02 AM
"But interviewing Pinochet and his guard, along wi... by Ash E on Sunday, Jul 31, 2011 at 6:30:23 PM
Well now we have more pressing problems than Mr Ro... by Michael Shaw on Sunday, Jul 31, 2011 at 8:00:02 PM
Allende made one mistake. He privatized Rockefella... by Michael Shaw on Thursday, Jul 28, 2011 at 12:20:13 PM
Concerning Chile, it was we who were the terrorist... by Michael Shaw on Thursday, Jul 28, 2011 at 12:20:09 PM
" The book by my colleague and myself was favorabl... by Ash E on Friday, Jul 29, 2011 at 5:00:12 AM
Allende allegedly committed suicide with a machine... by Michael Shaw on Friday, Jul 29, 2011 at 10:40:03 AM
There is no more evidence that terrorists were thr... by Paul Craig Roberts on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 9:13:35 PM
If all of these murders were fake, communist propa... by Michael Shaw on Thursday, Jul 28, 2011 at 12:20:05 PM
Your post does not reveal your opinion about Pinoc... by Ash E on Friday, Jul 29, 2011 at 3:48:44 AM
Bill Bloom ( William Blum is the author of:Killing... by Lester Shepherd on Friday, Jul 29, 2011 at 6:54:54 PM
We all make mistakes but, it seems too often these... by Donald on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 3:03:02 PM
I look at Nobel prizes and universities with dista... by John Smith on Thursday, Jul 28, 2011 at 4:46:00 PM
Sure wish that we all could learn to live as one. ... by Michael Dewey on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 7:43:01 AM
Onboard the train, the mind is unconscious and the... by Ned Lud on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 9:05:03 AM
This video is inspiring indeed. However, I would l... by Greg Campbell on Thursday, Jul 28, 2011 at 4:32:56 PM
each one worse than the previous. As for you being... by Michael Shaw on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 10:14:02 AM
Let's see, Nixon was a Caesar and he had to resign... by Paul Craig Roberts on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 10:23:26 AM
1. You should not be that upset with your readers.... by Mark Sashine on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 10:48:00 AM
Yes, PCR maintains some political 'chumminess' (de... by Ned Lud on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 11:50:09 AM
I tip my hat!... by Michael Shaw on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 12:40:09 PM
I can't help people understand events if they don'... by Paul Craig Roberts on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 1:08:30 PM
did not end anything: he escalated the Arms race. ... by Mark Sashine on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 2:20:08 PM
How did ending the cold war escalate the arms race... by Paul Craig Roberts on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 3:37:07 PM
Paul, I read your columns because you're an outspo... by Ned Lud on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 3:40:40 PM
false intelligence, propaganda, provided by the Pe... by bogi666 on Thursday, Jul 28, 2011 at 5:27:15 AM
LOL! He should have been jailed for his crimes as ... by Michael Shaw on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 11:01:46 AM
Everyone knows that Nixon did not break any law wh... by Paul Craig Roberts on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 11:47:24 AM
I get it already Mr Roberts! I think by now so do ... by Michael Shaw on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 12:40:06 PM
as the saying goes is not a river in Egypt.... by intotheabyss on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 5:34:04 PM
Today the criminal acts that Nixon engaged in are ... by bogi666 on Thursday, Jul 28, 2011 at 5:32:55 AM
eliminating knowledge in order to consolidate powe... by Mark Adams JD/MBA on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 10:41:58 AM
of, by and for the people, but few understand why.... by Mark Adams JD/MBA on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 10:55:59 AM
Horrors Mark, I already have ALL those symptoms, t... by Marika on Saturday, Jul 30, 2011 at 12:36:47 PM
is a big culprit in all of this. TURN IT OFF!!!... by intotheabyss on Thursday, Jul 28, 2011 at 2:56:32 PM
Each of us starts from a different place in our un... by Luis Magno on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 11:54:27 AM
You nailed it, Luis.... by Ned Lud on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 11:59:07 AM
Rich kid?  What are you talking about?How poo... by Paul Craig Roberts on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 2:44:20 PM
I cannot debate economic terms with you.  I r... by Lester Shepherd on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 4:38:49 PM
The chart would should essentially the same thing ... by Paul Craig Roberts on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 4:45:17 PM
So all governments in the U.S are frauds as I thou... by Lester Shepherd on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 5:58:38 PM
Dr. Roberts, thanks, as always, for your thoughtfu... by Janet Loughrey on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 12:30:20 PM
I enjoyed your perspective, but don't share your p... by Al Alsson on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 12:55:58 PM
From my perspective, Mr. Roberts, you are nei... by Donald on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 2:22:21 PM
but from my point of view he considers the events ... by Mark Sashine on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 4:02:59 PM
H.L. Mencken summed up it up the following way:&nb... by Phil Klein on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 4:04:08 PM
is another term for perception management.... by intotheabyss on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 5:29:17 PM
"The so called religious organizations which now l... by bogi666 on Thursday, Jul 28, 2011 at 5:49:08 AM
I appreciate this article tremendously and agree w... by Donna Sims on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 4:26:16 PM
... by Paul Craig Roberts on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 4:36:49 PM
Republicans and Democrats have no breakout id... by Robert Cogan on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 7:37:19 PM
just yesterday (7/29). Went from "R" to "unafillia... by Tom James on Saturday, Jul 30, 2011 at 11:24:08 PM
For one, I've always found you a very interesting ... by Christopher Slee on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 9:00:49 PM
I'd add my voice to the many here requesting you t... by Lewis Yang on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 9:25:33 PM
And yes, I agree, Christopher Slee is on the money... by Paul Craig Roberts on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 9:49:48 PM
An article about the 3 big issues, the very next d... by Christopher Slee on Thursday, Jul 28, 2011 at 7:15:45 AM
"There is an "insufficient" leadership in the US t... by Ash E on Friday, Jul 29, 2011 at 4:22:59 AM
It is frightening to contemplate how much les... by Ron Brassfield on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 9:30:25 PM
yes, you are right. it didn't take much for Americ... by Paul Craig Roberts on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 9:53:43 PM
Telling, and critical, are the shear numbers of pu... by Michael McCoy on Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 at 10:19:29 PM
taxes, by taxing labor, the productive sector of t... by bogi666 on Thursday, Jul 28, 2011 at 6:07:50 AM
The problem is we already have both a "Fuhrer" (th... by Adrian Tremayne on Thursday, Jul 28, 2011 at 12:59:54 AM
I read and admire your columns and the principal r... by Nathan Nahm on Thursday, Jul 28, 2011 at 2:16:40 PM
Yes, that is what I try to do.  It is the bra... by Paul Craig Roberts on Thursday, Jul 28, 2011 at 5:14:36 PM
Everyone is an ideologue.... by Lester Shepherd on Thursday, Jul 28, 2011 at 5:45:21 PM
No, your assertion is untrue.  I know many pe... by Paul Craig Roberts on Thursday, Jul 28, 2011 at 5:59:13 PM
And, they all agree with you, I assume.  Or n... by Lester Shepherd on Thursday, Jul 28, 2011 at 7:00:50 PM
"Every gun that is fired, every warship launched, ... by John Smith on Thursday, Jul 28, 2011 at 3:40:44 PM
Thanks for reminding us of this, Jan.  Ike, a... by Paul Craig Roberts on Thursday, Jul 28, 2011 at 4:51:59 PM
Decentralization:Centralized systems are failing f... by John Smith on Thursday, Jul 28, 2011 at 3:49:30 PM
As it stands today, 99% of politicians are ethical... by John Shriver on Thursday, Jul 28, 2011 at 5:27:57 PM
"As I see it, Congress has no wish to end the stal... by Ash E on Friday, Jul 29, 2011 at 12:59:34 PM
Here we have a person who will invoke anything fro... by Mark Sashine on Friday, Jul 29, 2011 at 12:38:59 PM
"I am considering though that honesty counts an... by nite owl on Friday, Jul 29, 2011 at 3:21:28 PM
because it requires the widest spread of intellige... by Jeff Poster on Friday, Jul 29, 2011 at 4:53:25 PM
 and prepared to love the rest. But where ar... by nite owl on Friday, Jul 29, 2011 at 10:33:41 PM
We've been lied to so much, nobody knows anything ... by Dawn Owens on Saturday, Jul 30, 2011 at 11:24:20 AM
Dr. PCR is normally gentlemanly in his comments. &... by Ash E on Saturday, Jul 30, 2011 at 11:39:03 AM
"I have become convinced that there are enough fru... by Lucius Sorrentino on Saturday, Jul 30, 2011 at 4:11:06 PM
More appropratly, it should be called a NO minded ... by kanawah on Saturday, Jul 30, 2011 at 7:05:14 PM