Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 3, 2009

A JESSE HELMS FOR THE 21ST CENTURY.... Sen. Jim DeMint (R) of South Carolina yesterday became the first U.S. senator to endorse the military-backed coup in Honduras. He issued a statement denouncing the democratically-elected president and heralding those responsible for the coup as "guarantee[ing] freedom."

The statement comes about a week after DeMint unveiled his own health care plan, which amounted to little more than hundreds of billions of dollars for the insurance companies.

To get a better sense of what this guy all about, consider DeMint's interview with Human Events, a right-wing magazine, to talk about his worldview, which included his belief that "most members of Congress lean socialist."

"I regret to say that there are two Americas but not the kind John Edwards was talking about. It's not so much the haves and the have-nots. It's those who are paying for government and those who are getting government. At this point, the data I've seen is 52% of Americans get their income directly or indirectly from a government source. And if you think about how that works in a democracy, why would the voters be concerned about the growth of government if they weren't paying and they were getting something from it.

"Democracy cannot work when you have a majority of people dependent on the government. And this is not just the poor. The way we've set up Social Security and Medicare, everyone who retires are dependent, parents are dependent on the government for education of their children and now, if you look at the folks who come through my office -- business people, farmers, bankers -- everybody is coming to Washington to get their piece of the government because we're running all this money through here now."

Just so we're clear, an elected Republican senator believes Social Security, Medicare, and the existence of a public school system are necessarily threats to our functioning democracy.

Ed Kilgore added yesterday:

It's not often that you hear a politician come right out and say that making parents "dependent on the government for education of their children" -- i.e. public schools -- is a form of socialistic welfare-statism. As for Social Security and Medicare, most conservatives have learned to frame their privatization proposals in terms of "solvency" or "entitlement reform" or "letting people control their benefits." Not since Barry Goldwater's disastrous 1964 campaign have I heard a major Republican politician attack the wildly popular retirement programs as fundamentally illegitimate, or their beneficiaries as parasitical wards of the state.

DeMint's "two Americas" rap is also interesting since it exhibits the underpinnings of the kind of rhetoric that even the McCain campaign deployed last year in attacking progressive taxation. Poor people or old people who don't pay their "fair share" of taxes aren't just getting off lightly; they are a threat to democracy.

Ed concludes that DeMint is "seriously scary." He sure is.

Steve Benen 10:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (34)

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Comments

Probably still calls that little fracas in 1861 - 1865 "The War of Northern Aggression."

Moron!

Posted by: Tigershark on July 3, 2009 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

He works how many days a week per year and he
gets his paycheck and benefits from....???

Posted by: Schtick on July 3, 2009 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

The latest data I can find with my Google-fu shows that South Carolina gets $1.38 in federal spending for every dollar it kicks in to the treasury. If Jim DeMint wants to call me a socialist here in Illinois maybe he should refund that money to the treasury so our state gets a better deal than .73 cents in federal spending for every dollar in federal taxes.

http://www.taxfoundation.org/blog/show/1397.html

Somebody needs to make this argument on the national stage, not in blog comments. I know it's not polite to pit state vs. state but since the states that are footing the bill for welfare states are being called 'socialist', maybe it's game on.

Posted by: joejoejoe on July 3, 2009 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

last i knew (and if anyone has current figures, a link would be great - a i did a quick google but came up empty) the states that are the highest net recipients of government dollars (i.e. transfer payments, subsidies, contracts less business and individual taxes paid in) are almost all "Red" states. assuming that remains true, DeMint is either stupid enough to result in this unintentional irony, knows the real facts and is simply lying for ideological effect, or is such an unrepresentative representative that he is selling out the interests of his own constituents. none of those options seems particularly flattering.

Posted by: zeitgeist on July 3, 2009 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

DeMint is a specific instance of "How the South is different". He may be influential-- but this is a problem for the South, and-- since the Republican Party got swallowed up by the South-- for conservatism generally.

I think Democrats should do what they can to ensure that DeMint's views get well known. All of us parasites who went to public schools and plan to rely on Social Security will take note.

Posted by: MattF on July 3, 2009 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

Senator Jim Demint: hatred on parade.
I'm sure Demint would be willing to relinquish his "socialist" health care and any other benefits he is/will be eligible to receive, but I'm not holding my breath.
I live in GA, and I've seen voters elect politicians who care absolutely NOTHING about them because they buy into their guns, family values, anti-gay, Christian platform.

Posted by: majii on July 3, 2009 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

I remember some years ago hearing a Texas GOP politician on the radio saying that public education was a communistic idea and that it came from (I think I recall) "the pit of hell." Clearly she wasn't just speaking for herself, but represented a widespread view in her circles. MattF is right. This kind of thing ought to be much more widely known.

Posted by: davidp on July 3, 2009 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

What about states, like DeMint's own SC, that get back more from the Federal Government than it contributes? Maybe they shd be helping out fellow Republicans like bankrupt California's Governator, who was swept into office when a Democrat was tossed out over issues of fiscal responsibility. That ain't working so well in either state, but California's citizens ARE supporting DeMint's with their tax dollars.

Posted by: Tomm on July 3, 2009 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

The good people of South Carolina elected this man to the Senate, the same people who, as joejoejoe points out, receive more than they pay in the way of federal benefits. Once again, it shows the disconnect in this country between what we want and what we want to pay for, California being the most current and graphic example. Me? I think taxes, even the ones I pay, are mostly a good thing. Is it going to take a total collapse of state services before people realize that taxes and government are the way we take care of our collective responsibilities? Will that then make it clear that clowns like DeMint don't know what they're talking about?

Posted by: jrw on July 3, 2009 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

Senator DeMented will, probably, enjoy the Fourth by firing on Ft Sumter.

Posted by: berttheclock on July 3, 2009 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

The woman who said the bit about our public education system being right out of Moscow was from Houston, if I recall correctly. If you want to see where that came from, look up the Texas Republican platform. Those guys are a serious bunch of idiots.

As for Demented, I wonder if he was including the people who work for the military/industrial conglomerate in his calculations. I have no problem with eliminating our big weapons programs that have no prospect of ever being functional (F-22 - never flown in combat, antimissile defense - 50% success under ideal test conditions). Wouldn't it be great to let the people in SC, a major weapons producer, know that he is for eliminating their jobs?

Posted by: Texas Aggie on July 3, 2009 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

Sen. Jim DeMint (R) of South Carolina has health care and a healthy retirement provided by the same organization he's dissing.

He should do the right thing and resign his Senitorial position, relinquish all the money in his retirement account and turn in the keys to his publicly run bathroom privileges at the capitol.

He then should proceede to try to get a different non-government offered job in the present environment (read: job market) that other people who aren't as lucky as he are presently trying to do and hope that while he's filling out unemployment forms he doesn't contract an upper respiratory ailment that would require hospitalization.

What an ass hole.

Posted by: stevio on July 3, 2009 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

Every day another blithering bloviation from some whack job republican. Do these peolple ever stop. Wow , let's see what happens if you yank social security out from under retirees. No more republicans.

Posted by: Gandalf on July 3, 2009 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

DeMint is either stupid enough to result in this unintentional irony, knows the real facts and is simply lying for ideological effect, or is such an unrepresentative representative that he is selling out the interests of his own constituents. none of those options seems particularly flattering.

The obvious answer is simply lying for ideological effect. Like most on that side, he knows what he's doing.

I remember some years ago hearing a Texas GOP politician on the radio saying that public education was a communistic idea and that it came from (I think I recall) "the pit of hell."

While all the little rich kids are getting their private education, they can grow up and more easily control the peasant middle class of this country, if said peasants are denied access to the principle means of bettering themselves.

Posted by: oh well on July 3, 2009 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

Oh course, at real issue here isn't Demint's anti-government rhetoric, it's his blatant anti-patriotism. To go against Obama and most of the world's leadership to back a military coup of an elected government is astounding to me. Especially on the heels of condemning Obama for not taking an active role in the "democracratic elections" of Iran not more than a few days ago!

Posted by: about time on July 3, 2009 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

Some on the right frighten me, but not DeMint. Sure, it's a drag that he's a Senator, but if he dropped dead tomorrow, SC would replace him with someone more or less as bad. The learned idiocy of the Confederacy has shown great staying power.

At least he's blatant about wanting to load more of the cost of government onto the middle class and poor. That will serve him poorly (and amuse his intellectual betters) when he runs for president, which he will do -- though probably not until six years from now.

Posted by: penalcolony on July 3, 2009 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

The only way to understand the various positions that a genuine reactionary like DeMint instinctively takes is to recognize that DeMint and those like him are fundamentally against the very idea of democracy, no matter how often they invoke its name on behalf of Right Wing causes.

Supporting drug companies, cheering on military coups of democratically elected (and yes, Leftist) governments, waging attacks against Congressional colleagues as "socialists," slandering as "judicial usurpors" any judge who employ Rule of Law to keep power-hungry populist demagogues like DeMint and DeLay in check -- these are all manifestations you would expect to see from someone who thinks the world should be ruled by a cabal of upper class elites from business, the churches or the military. Those are the approved Right Wing institutions -- the ones that conservatives like DeMint should govern any country, even a democratic one -- because all those institutions are hierarchal in nature, with clearly defined chains of command, where everyone knows their place and where conformity and obediance are prized and demanded. In short, all of those institutions are conservative. That is what defines democracy for DeMint. Not whether a government has the support of the people.

As fate would have it, this is in fact how the South has been ruled for centuries, whether we look to the the ante-bellum Bourbon plantation owners who controlled Southern politics before the Civil War, or the strong governors like Wallace and Long who dominated Southern politics, or the JR Ewings of the world and his Dallas oilman crowd who pulled the strings behind the scenes in the extraction-economy states of the Southwest.

If we don't immediately recognize DeMint's fierce contempt for government by democratically elected and accountable public officials its because he and his Right Wing kin have learned to hide their anti-democratic tendencies behind a rhetoric that is rife with references to "freedom," "liberty," "individualism," "constitutionalism," and "democracy." But we should not be fooled. To Southerners like DeMint, the most important right granted under the US Constitution -- a charter of national organization and unity -- is the "liberty" and "freedom" to destroy that union if ever the Right Wing should lose control of the national government or find that it governs in ways, and for others, that is offensive to its sensibilities.

At heart, the attack by conservatives against "Big Government" is not really a complaint against the size and cost of government at all. After all, both exploded under Bush and Reagan. Instead, it is a contempt for the very idea of a government -- at least one that is of, by and "The People," an institution that takes power away from upper class elites and gives it to poor folk and "the masses" who conservatives like DeMint instinctivly fear and loath.

That is how DeMint is able to redefine a democratically elected government as a dictatorship and a military coup as a harbinger of freedom.

Posted by: Ted Frier on July 3, 2009 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

It's not often that you hear a politician come right out and say that making parents "dependent on the government for education of their children" -- i.e. public schools -- is a form of socialistic welfare-statism.

Er, public schools are, in fact, part of the welfare state.

Posted by: ajay on July 3, 2009 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

Er, public schools are, in fact, part of the welfare state.

The antipathy toward public education in the south stems from a single issue, integration. One could argue that this is what makes the modern GOP possible. If you can get the populace to cease viewing education as a common good then you can make them hostile to almost any form of government spending.

Posted by: rk on July 3, 2009 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

Way back when, Jefferson and Hamilton were at odds as to who should be allowed to vote. Hamilton, for better or worse, was of the opinion that only landowners should own the vote as an educated person would have the only true ability to understand the "complexities" of why a vote would be of such import. Jefferson thought about it and decided that the best way to make people eligible (using Hamilton's rubric) would be to educate the whole population. Ergo: Public education. Who knew Jefferson was such a socialistic dupa?

Posted by: stevio on July 3, 2009 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

Uh, I may be wrong, but isn't DeMint getting his income from a government source? What am I missing here?

Posted by: smartelephant on July 3, 2009 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe they're putting something into the water, air or food supply to South Carolina. Samford and Demint and all people who voted for them are under the influence of some very strange hallucinatory drug. They seem to have lost their grip on reality. I'll bet they can't even tell how many fingers I'm holding up.

Posted by: anonymous on July 3, 2009 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks joejoejoe. So McCain's state of NM raked in more ($2.00) than Palin's state of AK ($1.87). It looks like they rank first and second of the states on the gov-mint tit. Talk about your welfare ticket.

Posted by: Chopin on July 3, 2009 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

McCain is from AZ. They get a $1.30 for every buck they kick in (2006 data). Off the top of my head I think NM gets so much $$$ because they are home to so many government nuclear facilities.

Posted by: joejoejoe on July 3, 2009 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

My bad.

Posted by: Chopin on July 3, 2009 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

What the hell is it about the Palmetto State anyway that incites such crazyness and debauchery? Was that the one where the selective slave breeding a la "Mandingo" was going on?

Posted by: demoraptor on July 3, 2009 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

From wikipedia:

"In 2009, DeMint introduced an amendment to a multi-billion dollar economic stimulus bill that would have prohibited lawmakers from using any percentage of transportation funds on bicycle, walking, or wilderness trails. [7] Additionally, DeMint opposed the whole bill."

Apparently he's anti-exercise as well. Guess he figures more fat and out of shape people will translate into more $$$ for the InsureCos? I don't think that I will ever understand the real wingnuts.

Posted by: PaminBB on July 3, 2009 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

The antipathy toward public education in the south stems from a single issue, integration.

Bingo.

Posted by: Disputo on July 3, 2009 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

I live in Virginia. According to my local delegate, there is a strong block of about 20 House Republicans in the General Assembly whose collective attitude is, “Why spend the money on public education when I don’t think it’s important?”

They want vouchers to send their kids to private schools and tax credits for paying private tuition. They're intent on cutting funding for public education.

Posted by: pol on July 3, 2009 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

Senator Demented has nothing against proper exercise as long as it is done in the infantry regiments of Butler, Gregg or Hagood - Another place for excellent exercise is in Orr's Rifles.

All fine South Carolina units, although a tad dated.

Posted by: berttheclock on July 3, 2009 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

It's always a super day when Jim Demented has something public to say. When was he born again? You can take the boy out of the South....

Posted by: Gallop Trollop on July 3, 2009 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

This guy is caught in the mid-nineteenth century, He is right out of a Dickens novel. Remember how Scrooge talked about treating the sick and indigent? Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

Posted by: candideinnc on July 3, 2009 at 5:28 PM | PERMALINK

"Democracy cannot work when you have a majority of people dependent on the government." Sen. Demint quoted from "Human Events".
I guess that means there can't be any public roads, schools or medicine. Also, no national defense or defense industries, they add to the total number of people "dependent on the government". No health, fire or police regulations at all (see defense). If reducing the number of those "dependent" on the government for their livelihood is so vital, why the hell doesn't he resign from the Senate?
The man is either an idiot, one of the biggest hypocrites ever to come from Dixie, or a Republican.
Or all three. What's even worse, is that the majority of the electorate in South Carolina voted for him!

Posted by: Doug on July 3, 2009 at 7:59 PM | PERMALINK

C'mon, he's from South Carolina - for 294 years the single nuttiest place in North America, the seat of Southern treason. What do you expect from 15 generations of incest among the descendants of transported pig fornicators??

Posted by: TCinLA on July 3, 2009 at 11:28 PM | PERMALINK
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