A lot of people know about Rick Perry's assertion in his book that the Depression ended only because, at the time of the Second World War, "FDR was finally persuaded to unleash private enterprise.” That's an absurd description of what FDR did at that time -- but what's odd is that I can't remember seeing a mention of what Perry says right after that in the book, an assertion that strikes me as possibly the most politically damaging thing he's said:
And there you have it: the vaunted New Deal did not bring the country out of the Great Depression, but the bigger problem now is that its numerous programs never died, and like a bad disease, they have spread. The impact of the New Deal is staggering not just because of the number of programs but also because of their scope. Certain of these programs massively altered the relationship between Americans and their government with respect to critical aspect of our lives, violently tossing aside any respect for our founding principles of federalism and limited government.
By far the best example of this is Social Security.
Want to beat Rick Perry in a general election? Start there: Rick Perry calls Social Security "a bad disease."
And today we have this from Marco Rubio, the likely #2 on the Republican ticket, in a speech at the Reagan Library, as reported by The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf:
In the 20th Century, America's leaders ..., Rubio says, ... made a well-intentioned mistake: "Except for the Reagan Administration, to be quite frank, both Republicans and Democrats established a role for government in America that said yes we will have a free economy, but we will also have a strong government, which through regulations and taxes will control the free economy, and through a series of government programs, will take care of those in our society who are falling behind. That was the vision crafted in the 20th Century by our leaders."
Reagan actually shared much of that vision, but set that aside. Rubio says it was doomed to fail from the very start. It was financially unsustainable, he argues. But more importantly, he said:
These programs weakened us as a people.
You can go to Friedersdorf's post for a longer quote, but the gist of what Rubio is saying is right there. And so there's Democratic message #2: Marco Rubio says Social Security and Medicare "weakened us as a people."
Are the Republicans just so cocksure at this point that they don't believe the Democrats can do effective messaging on this (despite the fact that Social Security and Medicare are just about the only subjects on which Democrats have done effective messaging in recent years)?
Or are the Republicans just so caught up in "epistemic closure" that it simply doesn't occur to them not to make these assertions?