By Ruth Conniff on September 13, 2011

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

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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