Freshman senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), former Princeton University national debate champ and Harvard-trained lawyer, has argued nine cases before the Supreme Court. Whereas auto-makers design cars for smooth rides, Cruz specializes in herky-jerky travel on bumpy roads to reach controversial goals.
Is Cruz, however, in control? In his fight to fend off Affordable Health Care legislation, he careens off the path most Americans want their government to travel. Although Americans are split on health care law, large majorities reject Cruz’s efforts to link it to a government shutdown. Neither do they approve of Cruz’s rightwing financial slashes spinning out of control, which in turn could mess up Uncle Sam’s credit rating.
This senator’s anti-government political ambitions are as massive as Texas. Cruz ignores citizens’ concerns, droning on and on. He began a marathon speech of more than 21 hours on the Senate floor at 2:41 p.m. on Sept. 21. He plugged White Castle burgers, complimented his dad’s pancake-flipping skills and gave a nod to actor Ashton Kutcher.
Then, in the middle of the night, with the Senate floor vacant — save the sound of his voice — Cruz verbally tucked his pajama-clad daughters into bed. He read Dr. Seuss’s “Green Eggs and Ham” as they watched him on C-SPAN.
Though intelligent, Cruz’s vocabulary sounds deficient for citizens who expect government to be kept open. Cruz didn’t use words during his talkathon such as “collaboration,” “compromise,” or “reaching consensus.” The Bible instructs us to “pursue what makes for peace and for mutual up-building” (Romans 14:19). Cruz is at a loss for words, however, because he offers no conciliatory or peace-making overtures.
Congressional stalemates sicken most Americans. They want Congress to agree and move forward. Cruz’s intransigence makes him appear heavy-handed. He uses brinkmanship to partially shut down the government and push Uncle Sam’s debt towards default.
Cruz crashes because he’s against government involvement in health care and Social Security. He’s dismissed Social Security as a “Ponzi scheme,” which is what Texas Gov. Rick Perry blurted in his ill-fated presidential bid. Cruz recycles arguments against health care and Social Security that Republicans used in the 1930s.
A Texas widow wrote to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, describing the pathetic circumstances of her elderly mother. “She is helpless, suffering from sugar diabetes, which has affected her mind. She has to be cared for in the same manner as an infant. She is out of funds completely. Her son whom she used to keep house for is in a hospital in Waco, Texas — no compensation for either himself or her. ... I appeal to you to place your dear mother in my dear mother’s place — with no money and no place to go unless it be to the poor house.”
How did Republicans respond? They shrugged shoulders at this pleader’s plight. Because state coffers were depleted, they couldn’t provide relief for the unemployed and the aged. Either go to church for a hand-out or have relatives rescue the indigent, replied Republicans.
During the Great Depression, President Roosevelt pressed for Social Security, which the GOP rejected. Republicans argued the Constitution wouldn’t allow for it because of massive federal mandates Uncle Sam imposed on states. The federal government collected $47 billion as a reserve to fund Social Security’s phase-in, nearly three times the federal debt at the time. In response, Michigan’s Republican Sen. Arthur Vandenberg sounded like Ted Cruz, throwing up his hands and bloviating, “That would be socialism!”
The GOP contested Social Security, as Cruz does the Affordable Care Act. They said Uncle Sam forced laborers to erect a financial security net for loiterers. How?
Social Security, warned Republicans in the 1930s, redistributed wealth, robbing the rich and giving to indigent people what they didn’t deserve. The system was intentionally constructed to be inherently unfair with its payouts. If a citizen who paid into the system died early-on, he would receive a meager return on his contributions. Social Security favored those who collected many multiples of their meager payroll deductions if he they lived a long life. That’s because death is dicey. Some died before collecting a cent, whereas others collected benefits for decades. “The hazards and vicissitudes of life,” as Social Security manuals described capricious death, made Social Security’s benefits uneven.
1930s Republicans declared Social Security would bankrupt the nation, spread socialism and deny the rich the fruits of their labors. Isn’t this an earlier version of Cruz careening and crashing against Affordable Care Act?
Even The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board cautions against Cruz’s out-of-control agenda, which reeks of personal presidential opportunism. “We’ve criticized GOP Senator Ted Cruz for his strategy to make defunding Obamacare a requirement of funding the rest of the government,” wrote WSJ editors.
“He and his allies know that Obama can never agree to that, and even millions of Americans who oppose Obamacare don’t agree with his shutdown ultimatum. It risks political damage for the House and Senate GOP in 2014, even as Cruz builds his email list for 2016” (The Wall Street Journal, “An Obama-Cruz Showdown,” Sept. 30).
Sen. Ted Cruz is intelligent but not smart. Republicans lost Social Security battles fought in the 1930s, using the same tired arguments Cruz concocts against health care.
The Rev. Dr. Jack R. Van Ens is a Presbyterian minister who heads the nonprofit, tax exempt Creative Growth Ministries (www.thelivinghistory.com), which enhances Christian worship through dynamic storytelling and dramatic presentations aimed to make God’s history come alive.