On his show last Friday, Glenn Beck did something quite unusual for a guy who makes his living scaring people into thinking that America is on the road to communism -- he promoted an idea straight out of the Paris Commune of 1871, an idea considered by the Commune to be a necessary stepping stone in the transition from capitalism to socialism to communism. And, to make it even more special, Beck did this before a studio audience of West Point cadets and faculty members.
Now, the fact that West Point allowed a group of uniformed academy cadets and faculty to be used as props by Beck is a serious matter in itself, and I'll get to that in a minute, but Beck, in his zeal to slam Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, unknowingly promoting a core step towards socialism is just way too ironic to pass up. And what is this step towards socialism that Beck, in all his ignorance, was so enthusiastically promoting? That government employees and officials should never be paid more than what the average citizen earns.
In a 1911 speech about the Paris Commune -- a movement lauded by Marx as "heroic," and said by Lenin to have been "a practical step that was more important than hundreds of programmes and arguments" --Lenin pointed out the Commune's (and apparently now Glenn Beck's) position on government salaries: "And, as if to emphasize its character as a truly democratic, proletarian government, the Commune decreed that the salaries of all administrative and government officials, irrespective of rank, should not exceed the normal wages of a worker ..." I think maybe that crack research team (or research team on crack) that Beck is always boasting about should have done a bit more research for this show.
Now, back to the other issue with this episode of Beck -- the utter impropriety of West Point allowing Beck to use West Point cadets and faculty members for his studio audience.
According to CPT Olivia Nunn of West Point's Public Affairs office, the cadets and faculty members, all from the academy's Systems Engineering Department, were visiting the studios of FOX News as an academic exercise "to watch how news productions are done from beginning to end." The cadets appeared on several other FOX News shows on Thursday, answering questions about why they decided to join the military and their experience at West Point, and the faculty members answered questions about teaching there. All of this was perfectly appropriate. But then, on Friday, they appeared on Beck, which was completely inappropriate. Military personnel in uniform cannot engage in any activity that gives the appearance of supporting any political, religious, or ideological movement.
There is no question that, more than anything else, what Glenn Beck's show consistently promotes would be classified as an "ideological movement," fitting the dictionary definition of "ideology" to a tee: "a system of ideas and ideals, esp. one that forms the basis of economic or political theory and policy." Whatever the specific topic of any given Beck episode -- whether it's history, religion, politics, or just picking someone to bash for weeks on end -- all are clearly tied into the promotion of this ideology in one way or another. How can a studio audience full of uniformed West Point cadets and military officer faculty members clapping for Beck's overtly partisan rant against Congress not be seen as engaging in an activity that gives the appearance of military support for Beck's "ideological movement?"
As I wrote in a previous post about the problem of Glenn Beck's show being aired on the American Forces Network, and the complaints received by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) about televisions in PXs, gyms, and other facilities on military installations being regularly tuned in to Beck, Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) -- "Contempt toward officials" -- states: "Any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or the Governor or legislature of any State, Commonwealth, or possession in which he is on duty or present shall be punished as a court-martial may direct."
But on Beck's show last Friday, during which Beck spewed his typical contempt towards members of Congress, we had eighteen future Army officers, under the guidance of five faculty members -- four majors and a lieutenant colonel -- clapping on national television for statements that they, as military officers, could be court-martialed for uttering themselves.
As seen in the video above, in addition to being contemptuous towards Congress as a whole, Beck, of course, singled out Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid in his rant about members of Congress whose wealth has increased during the time they've been in Congress, even though, according to Roll Call's 50 Richest Members of Congress list, Pelosi is only at number 13. But the wealthiest member of the House of Representatives is a republican -- Darrell Issa of California, whose minimum net worth for 2009, according to Roll Call, was more than seven times the net worth of Pelosi. And Harry Reid? Well, he didn't even make the top 50. But these pesky facts didn't stop Beck from insinuating that there's something suspicious about Pelosi and Reid having money. Exactly what Beck is implying isn't clear, but his intent certainly is -- plant the notion in his audience's heads that Pelosi and Reid have somehow gotten rich as a result of serving in Congress.
When asked if West Point considered it risky to allow the cadets to appear on a show hosted by someone who is well known to be highly partisan and contemptuous towards the President and Congress, CPT Nunn responded that Glenn Beck had told them that his show would only be about honoring the military for Veterans Day, and they had no way of knowing that he was going to get political. Right. We all know that Glenn Beck would never be less than completely honest.
Now, there actually was one very important federal regulation that West Point was apparently quite concerned about. As Beck pointed out on his November 11 radio show, he wasn't allowed to spend more that $20 per person when he bought the cadets dinner that night. Obviously, violating that regulation would have been a real problem.
It was pretty clear, however, that Beck just didn't care that he was crossing a line, beginning the overtly political part of his show by saying "I'm going to try very hard to not get overtly political here because then everybody in the military always says, oh no, oh no, don't look at me, I neither agree or disagree," and, towards the end of his little rant, actually laughing about the fact that his captive audience of cadets wasn't allowed to respond to his political opinions even if they disagreed with them.
Beck also had a few things to say about my previous post, "Should the U.S. Military Be Promoting and Endorsing Glenn Beck?," on his October 29 radio show:
"Well, we have now -- we have now -- another attack -- and we'll get into this probably next week -- on us, now through the military. 'Should the U.S. Military Be Promoting and Endorsing Glenn Beck?' And this is the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, and they're saying that the military is pushing my religion. Now, it's not my actual faith, or not my actual religion, but, you know, the religion of Glenn Beck, if you will. Complaints about the program on the televisions in the PXs, the gyms, and other facilities now include complaints that 'these televisions are being tuned into Fox News's own evangelist Glenn Beck.' They're the usual complaints -- 'one about a senior NCO beginning each day by quoting a bit of Glenn Beck's wisdom to his subordinates, and telling them they should continue their education by attending Beck's online university, making their base a satellite Beck University campus.' And then it just goes on about how evil I am, etc, etc. I think this is fantastic, and if I can find out who this NCO is and this base, we'll make them an official satellite -- a satellite of our Beck University. There's nothing better. Of course, then again, I'm just a -- I'm just a crazy anti-communist."
No, Mr. Beck, I didn't just go on about how evil you are. I went on to write that it's your constant contempt for the President, Congress, and other government officials that makes your show inappropriate to be aired on the American Forces Network, as this kind of contempt against government officials is prohibited in the military. But, I realize that letting your listeners know what the main issue addressed in my post really was might have been a bit awkward, so I'd expect nothing less from you than your complete omission of my main point.
Finally, a note on the numbers Beck used to show how the evil Congress is screwing over the troops. Now, I don't think anyone would disagree that our troops in the junior enlisted ranks should absolutely be paid more. A private's starting salary of around $17,000 a year is unconscionably low for someone who's putting their life on the line for our country. But Beck's use of the salary of a specialist with four years service as the "Average U.S. Army" salary, while very effective for his goal making the disparity between military pay, civilian salaries, and federal employee salaries appear as big as possible, is more than a bit deceptive. For one thing, Beck's "Average U.S. Citizen" income of $50,462 is the median "household" income, not the average individual income. This figure, of course, includes households with more than one wage earner, making it significantly higher than the average individual income, which, according to the Census Bureau is $39,138. Next, military personnel don't have the single largest expense that civilian workers do -- their housing. If they don't live in government-provided housing, they receive a Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), based on the cost of housing where they're stationed, in addition to their pay. So, the pay for Beck's example of an E-4 getting out after four years of service would not be $22,676. Their base pay would have been $25,128, plus a BAH of $14,940 if they lived off post and had a family (using Fort Drum's BAH scale as an example), for a total of $40,068, well above the average income of a high school graduate with four years at a civilian job. If they stay in for a few more years and make staff sergeant, the'll be up to about $50,000 (again based on Fort Drum's BAH scale). If they make a career of it and stay in for twenty years and make first sergeant, they'll be up to a total of about $75,000 -- well above the average civilian income. And what about those future officers in Beck's studio audience? Well, when they graduate, their base pay of $33,396, plus a BAH of $15,984 (again based on Fort Drum's scale) if they live off post, would add up to about the same as the average starting salary for a recent college graduate in the civilian world. At the end of their five year active duty commitment, by which time, unless they're a total screw-up, they'll have made the rank of captain, their combined salary and BAH will be over $78,000 -- more than the average federal employee. And if these cadets decide to make a career of it, and rise to the rank of colonel or one-star general, they'll be in the $120,000 to $160,000 range. So, yes, something absolutely needs to be done to raise the pay of the lower enlisted ranks, but the income of officers and NCOs is actually well above the average American's income (and they deserve every penny of it, of course).
The full November 12 Glenn Beck episode can be found here.