Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.
Who are these people?
At the last two Republican Presidential debates, the biggest cheers erupted at the mention of Texas Governor Rick Perry's execution record and at the suggestion that uninsured people who become critically ill should be left to die.
At the September 7 debate at the Reagan library, the audience cheered at the mention that Rick Perry has presided over the killings of 234 people.
During the September 12 debate, the applause rained down again when a Tea Party audience member shouted out "let him die!"--after Wolf Blitzer asked Ron Paul what society should do for a young, uninsured person who becomes critically ill and cannot afford emergency care.
And those are just a couple of recent highlights.
"Live and Let Die" is the new Republican motto.
Offstage, Representative Paul Ryan did his best Marie Antoinette at a Labor Day parade last week in Racine, Wisconsin. (The video is worth watching.)
Confronted by constituents who wanted to ask him questions about unemployment and his controversial safety-net-slashing, corporate-tax-cutting budget plan, the Republican Budget Committee chair brushed them aside. "Want a piece of candy?" he sneered, after explaining that a Labor Day campaign appearance was "not the time" to talk to him about jobs.
It takes a sociopath to walk down the street in the rust belt city of Racine, smiling and tossing out candy, and calling out, "Happy Labor Day, everybody," while promoting the destruction of unions, Social Security, Medicare, and the entire middle class.
But sociopathic is in.
Check out Republican frontrunner Rick Perry and his bold (some would say politically toxic) assertion that Social Security a Ponzi scheme.
Politifact analyzed Perry's Ponzi Scheme analogy and rated it "false."
On its web site, the fact-checking group quotes the man who wrote the book on Ponzi, Mitchell Zuckoff, a Boston University journalism professor, who took apart the Ponzi/Social Security comparison in Fortune Magazine.
"First, in the case of Social Security, no one is being misled," Zuckoff clarifies.
While a Ponzi scheme is a fraud that is destined to go bust, "Social Security is exactly what it claims to be: A mandatory transfer payment system under which current workers are taxed on their incomes to pay benefits, with no promises of huge returns."
Second, Zuckoff writes, Social Security need never run out. "The government could change benefit formulas or take other steps, like increasing taxes, to keep the system from failing."
Third, and most importantly, "Social Security is morally the polar opposite of a Ponzi scheme... At the height of the Great Depression, our society (see "Social") resolved to create a safety net (see "Security") in the form of a social insurance policy that would pay modest benefits to retirees, the disabled and the survivors of deceased workers," Zukoff writes.
"Ponzi himself, who died in a hospital charity ward with only enough money for his burial, would never have recognized it as his own."
Ponzi was a bad man who benefited from the destruction of other people. The last thing he would have cared about was a safety net program like Social Security.
Remind you of anyone?
Let's check another definition on Dictionary.com:
Sociopath: "A person, as a psychopathic personality, whose behavior is antisocial and who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience. . . . Someone whose social behavior is extremely abnormal. Sociopaths are interested only in their personal needs and desires, without concern for the effects of their behavior on others."
Sounds like a diagnosis for an entire political party this year.
If you liked this article by Ruth Conniff, the political editor of The Progressive, check out her story "Obama's Jobs Talk is Just Talk."
Follow Ruth Conniff @rconniff on Twitter