Or read the transcript below:
Transcribed by J. C. Hendershot
Interview with Larry Schweikart by Roger Aronoff
The “Take AIM” show on BlogTalkRadio, April 7, 2011.
ROGER ARONOFF: Good morning, and welcome to Take AIM, Accuracy in Media’s weekly talk show on BlogTalkRadio. Our guest today is Larry Schweikart, a professor of history at the University of Dayton in Ohio, and author of the recently published book What Would the Founders Say?: A Patriot’s Answer to America’s Most Pressing Problems. In this book, Schweikart takes aim at our nation’s challenges, including education, health care, and government bailouts, and provides clarity in tackling ten tough issues we face. He examines the problems of big government solutions, and shows us that the system of our Founding Fathers is one that can help resolve the nation’s problems without government overreach and nanny state solutions. Good morning, Larry—we’re pleased to have you with us today on Take AIM!
LARRY SCHWEIKART: Well, it’s my pleasure!
ARONOFF: Great. Now, before we start our discussion, I want to tell our listeners a little more about you. Larry, as I said, is a professor at the University of Dayton. He specializes in business and economic history, technology-in-war issues, and American history. His published works include 48 Liberal Lies About American History (That You Probably Learned in School). He is the coauthor of A Patriot’s History of the United States: From Columbus’s Great Discovery to the War on Terror. In 2000, Larry published The Entrepreneurial Adventure: A History of American Business, and he’s published more than twenty books on American history, national defense, and business and banking history. To learn more about the recent book, What Would the Founders Say?, you can visit the website patriotshistoryusa.com. There’s so much ground to cover here. One thing I know that people will be interested in is that you’ve been on Glenn Beck’s show a number of times, and are considered his favorite historian—there’s a blurb on your book from him, “Larry is a great historian!” Glenn was in the news yesterday. He’s apparently leaving his daily show on Fox, but I saw him come on another show and say, “For those who think, ‘Ah, no more Glenn Beck,’ you’re in for a big surprise.” What can you tell us about Glenn? What’s going on with his show? What do you think of him?
SCHWEIKART: Glenn, of course, is a great guy. “Glenn been very very good to me!” His endorsement of A Patriot’s History made it into a New York Times number one bestseller six years after it was first released—which is quite an accomplishment. I actually saw Glenn in New York about three weeks ago. We had a little visit—possibly having to do with his new network, but we’ll have to see. I have no idea what he’s doing, if it’s going to be a network, a cable network, if he’s just going to do shows for Fox, how that’s going to work. I’m sure that whatever he’s going to do will be of very high quality, and that he’ll be very successful at it.
ARONOFF: That should be encouraging to authors who put a book out there and not much happens in the first months or years, even. Somebody comes along and discovers it, makes note of it, and six years later it becomes a bestseller. That’s a rare story, but it’s an inspiring one to writers everywhere, I would think.
SCHWEIKART: And I think you can see that, also, in Atlas Shrugged, which, in the last couple of years, again became a bestseller within the top ten on all the Amazon lists, and the other lists. These books kind of go in cycles, sometimes, and people develop an interest, they say, “Wait a minute! Where did those ideas come from? Well, that’s from a book called Atlas Shrugged, that’s from a book called Patriot’s History of the United States,” and, all of a sudden, interest picks up, and there you are.
ARONOFF: We live in a different kind of media world today, where something can “go viral,” as they say. Anyway, let’s get into a few other things. First—before we get into your new book—your book 48 Liberal Lies About America: Give us, say, your two favorites, one that would surprise most conservatives, and one that would surprise most liberals.
SCHWEIKART: The one that would surprise most conservatives is that FDR knew in advance about Pearl Harbor. That’s actually a lie that was created, and started, by liberals, by Charles Beard, Walter Millis, Charles Tansill, and, over the years, it’s gravitated over to many on the conservative side because they hate Roosevelt, and they want to believe the worst about Roosevelt. But the fact is, there were no sufficient advance warnings sent to Washington. The Japanese achieved complete surprise, which was their goal, and I have to say that the commanders in Hawaii, Admiral Kimmel and General Short—I don’t know if you want to say they were derelict in their duties, but they weren’t very good at doing what they were sent there to do: They didn’t have long-range reconnaissance planes or ships out, and they had changed the alert codes, reversed them, actually, from three-to-one to one-to-three, and didn’t tell Washington, so when Washington said, “Are you on Alert Three?” and they said “Yeah!” it meant a different thing by that time. So that would be one that would surprise, I think, conservatives. The worst of all, I think, is probably any of the ones dealing with Reagan, but Mikhail Gorbachev, not Ronald Reagan, ending the Cold War, that’s one you’d find in many, many textbooks, and it’s just nonsense.
ARONOFF: Mm-hmm. That’s a good point. I know a lot of people—I think even the Roosevelt thing is not—I mean, it may be ideological to some extent, but there are, I think, people on both sides of that, but I appreciate your findings on that. Do you have one more good one from out of the 48 Lies?
SCHWEIKART: One of my favorites is that whites killed all the buffalo. This is an interesting story that you find in almost all the textbooks: The Indians were living in harmony with nature, whites came along and killed all the buffalo, and destroyed the environment. Fact is, there have been three new studies that have come out in the last ten years on buffalo on the prairie which all conclude the same thing: The Indians were on their way to exterminating the Plains buffalo had whites never arrived in the western prairies. It would have taken longer, but they were still killing more than the herds could replenish. Then the whites show up, they accelerate the killing—but here’s the part nobody hears about: It was white ranchers and philanthropists who said, “Hey, wait a minute! We’re running out of buffalo!” and began to protect them, began to breed them, began to gather them into herds. J.P. Morgan donated 20,000 acres for a Buffalo National Park. A rancher, Jesse Chisholm, bred his own herd from two calves that he captured, and eventually gave it to Canada to form the basis of their Wood Buffalo National Park. So it’s kind of a reversal of everything you’ve ever been taught in school, that the Indians loved nature and that the whites were the great despoilers. It was these ranchers and philanthropists who saved the buffalo for us today.
ARONOFF: Let me ask you about something I saw on TV this morning. Every Thursday morning, Richard Stengel, the Editor of Time magazine, goes on Morning Joe and reveals the upcoming cover story that will be released the next day, on Friday. This time he had a picture or a portrait of Abe Lincoln with a tear. He compared it to one they had several years ago, with Ronald Reagan with a tear and a “Where Did the Right Go Wrong?” or something. This time it’s “Why Are We Still Fighting the Civil War?” His point—or at least what he referred to on TV, I haven’t seen the article—is that many people still believe that the Civil War was fought over states’ rights, when it was really about slavery. They had Pat Buchanan on there, he kind of took the other side of that, in a sense, talking about Lincoln and saying that he would allow the states, if he could hold the Union together, to continue to be slave states, and there were more slave states in the North. Anyway, I’m always kind of suspicious of what Time is up to, and I’m guessing that somewhere in there they’re going to make a link between the conservatives, the Republicans, the Tea Party, and slave-owners, or something—that’s probably where they’re going with that. I’ll hold off until I read it. But on that issue, the Civil War, where would you come down on that?
SCHWEIKART: In Patriot’s History, Mike Allen and I are very clear on this: Slavery, and slavery alone, caused the Civil War. I know what Lincoln said, but we were already at the point of civil war, because the South had already seceded. And what had they seceded over? They had seceded over the election of an anti-slave President. Now, if you substituted the word abortion in there, and you get a—a whatever you want to call it—an anti-abortion President, and some of the states secede, it’s very clear why they’re seceding. The Confederate Constitution has three specific references, and numerous non-specific references, to slavery. So to cite states’ rights is totally out of left field. It was a state’s right do one particular thing, and that is a state’s right to own slaves. That’s the only state right any of them were concerned about. In fact—and this ought to just terrify conservatives, I can’t believe there are still conservatives who want to come down on the wrong side of this issue—John C. Calhoun said that it wasn’t enough that the federal government protect, in his words, “our rights in slaves.” What had to happen was that they needed to be able to own their slaves free from public criticism, and Calhoun went on to say that true protection of rights in slaves would include the banning of all abolitionist newspapers, gag orders on anyone who wanted to teach or preach against it—in other words, the same kinds of speech codes we’re seeing in Canada relative to people who want to preach against homosexuality in churches. It’s very clear to us that slavery was the sole cause of the War. And I’ll give your listeners one more source here—there’s a book called Calculating the Value of the Union by James Houston. Houston’s a lib, but I think that he has tremendous evidence in this book, and he shows that it wasn’t the physical work-value of slaves in terms of picking cotton that was important, it was their value as capital, and that slaves constituted more capital than all the railroad and textile mills in the North put together. Now that’s astounding. Clearly, if somebody’s going to try to take away your property value—that is greater than all the railroads and textile mills in the North put together—it’s something you’re going to fight over, and that was the position of slavery in the South.
ARONOFF: This leads to one of the other books I didn’t mention that you did, which is called Seven Events that Made America America. Each of those could be a whole show, but what is the least obvious one of those seven that you found, which would surprise people by being on that list?
SCHWEIKART: I think that the one that everybody was most interested in—and it surprised me—was the first chapter, about the founding of the modern political parties, and this goes back to slavery. It’s “Martin Van Buren has a Nightmare” and creates the modern political parties in the 1820s. Van Buren, seeing that, because of the Missouri Compromise, it wouldn’t be too long before the free states outnumbered the slave states, and therefore might try to vote slavery out of existence, created a new political party in 1820. To be a member of his party, all you had to do was shut up about slavery. Whether you were for it, against it, or didn’t care, you just promised that if you got into office, or whatever situation, you were going to shut up about slavery, and, as a reward for doing that, Van Buren would award people with jobs both in the party and then, later, in government, as you worked your way up the ladder. So what happened is that, at that time, the American electoral process started to turn over into a process whereby you were promising jobs to get elected. Now it didn’t take long before a rival party, the Whigs, came up, and, to play on the same field, they had to offer jobs, too. So what starts to happen? By the early 1830s, in order to get elected, each party had to promise more jobs, in party and in government, than the other one. So government starts to grow a little faster than it had prior to this point. Government has always, always, always grown, but it grew very, very slowly at first. After Van Buren, it starts to grow very rapidly, because to get elected you’ve got to give away jobs. So to keep the Civil War from happening, Van Buren says, “We won’t talk about slavery, and we’re going to make sure that the federal government stays in the hands of a President who is comfortable with slavery.” He knew you weren’t going to elect a Southern slave-owner, but his words were that you could elect a “Northern man of Southern principles.” So from 1828 to 1860, the United States elected Presidents who were all Northern men of Southern principles, or Westerners who agreed to shut up about slavery: Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce, Buchanan—and then you get Lincoln. And all of a sudden, you’ve got Abraham Lincoln, a Northern man of Northern principles, someone who believes that slavery is wrong, and, at that point, all of a sudden, everybody wakes up and says, “Oh my gosh! The federal government has grown in power all these years because we’ve been giving away jobs! Now it’s in the hands of—” quote, unquote, “‘wrong guy.’” And that’s why you get a Civil War.
Oh, I should mention—the name of that party that Van Buren created was the Democrat Party. It was created for one purpose only: To get and hold power. It had no principles, no ideals, no founding concepts other than get and hold power, and shut up about slavery.
ARONOFF: Okay. Why don’t you just rattle off a list of the other seven events? We won’t go into them, but just so people know what they are, and then we’ll go on to your current book.
SCHWEIKART: Okay. There’s the Dred Scott case, Dred Scott causing a financial panic; the Johnstown Flood shows the power of private philanthropy; Eisenhower has a heart attack and starts government nannyism in terms of food, rock ’n’ roll helps bring down the Iron Curtain—and, by the way, we finished a film on that, a documentary movie, just last year, called Rockin’ the Wall, made with rock ’n’ rollers from both sides talking about their experiences in sending music across the Iron Curtain and witnesses on the other side of the Iron Curtain, it’s a great movie and we have a website called rockinthewall.com, if you want to go there—and the last two chapters are Ronald Reagan’s biggest mistake, which was Lebanon; and Barry makes a speech and the media gets a tingle up its leg. And I’m not talking about Barry Goldwater, I’m talking about Barry Soetoro.
ARONOFF: Okay. So you didn’t pick the obvious—Pearl Harbor, 9/11—
SCHWEIKART: Right. I didn’t pick the most important episodes in American history. I picked those that shaped us—culturally, politically—over a long period of time.
ARONOFF: All right. So now we’re up to your new book, What Would the Founders Say?: A Patriot’s Answer to America’s Most Pressing Problems. First, why did you write this book?
SCHWEIKART: At the time I started this, the Tea Party movement was really coming on, and I noticed that a lot of people were carrying their Constitutions and their copies of the Federalist Papers around. I thought, It’s nice to have some of the original documents. But it’s not enough—I think you need to know what the Founders meant by the words they used in the Constitution. If you have a pocket Constitution, that’s good, but do you know what they meant when they used the term well-regulated militia? Or general welfare? Do you understand what they had in mind when they used those terms? I decided to write the book so we’d have a sense of what they would have said about the problems today based on what they did say in the Constitution and the Declaration.
ARONOFF: This week, Supreme Court Justice Steven Breyer is out plugging his book, which is called Making Our Democracy Work. He said that the Constitution should be adapted to modern times. His quote was, “George Washington didn’t really have a view about the Internet.” What about that? Is there something to the idea that we can’t always find the best solution by a court or a judge because it involves issues not contemplated by the Founders—or not even related to anything that existed in their time?
SCHWEIKART: I think that whether it’s the Bible or the Constitution—the Bible doesn’t contain prohibition against Internet gambling, but it does tell you what to do in general about gambling. There are principles espoused clearly enough in the document that it can easily adapt itself to modern times. We don’t need to adapt it—it speaks for itself. In terms of the Internet, for example, we know what is said about freedom of speech, and we know that that freedom of speech was specifically political speech, that the Founders were very concerned about anybody limiting political speech in any way. So I think we can take from that that none of the Founders would agree with Cass Sunstein, one of Obama’s cronies, who constantly wants to regulate the Internet because he’s afraid people might go to places like Free Republic or the Drudge Report instead of MSNBC.
SCHWEIKART: So we can kind of figure out—they said enough that we can clearly discern what they meant.
ARONOFF: Okay. Let’s hit on a few of the subjects you deal with in this book. What would the Founding Fathers say about the role of the federal government in education?
SCHWEIKART: This one surprised me. I thought I would find that they were all homeschoolers, that they all sent their kids to private schools.
Almost without exception, the Founders believed in public education—that is, taxpayer-supported public schools at the local level, governed by the state and locality, never the federal government. Benjamin Rush was one of the Founders who took the lead in this kind of stuff. Now, that said, it doesn’t mean they would support the modern education system the way it is, because what they thought should and would be taught in these public schools is very different from what is taught in modern public schools. The Founders wanted, of course, math and English grammar taught, but they also—and they almost used these exact words—wanted a patriotic history taught, and one of them came very close to a comment on modern multiculturalism when he said, “All nations have their advantages, and there are good points about all nations, but we are the United States of America, and we need to know what’s great about our nation.” I think they would all reject the multiculturalism that we see seeping into our schools, and the kind that Obama espoused, I think it was last year, when he said, “Well, the French believe in French exceptionalism.” Sorry, Mr. President: They don’t! They really don’t!
The French believe in France, but not because France is inherently better. They have no grounds for arguing that the French system of doing things is any better. Quite the contrary: modern France is drifting toward a very secularist, multiculturalist notion where they can’t even control the Muslim populations in their own country. So to say they believe in exceptionalism is crazy.
ARONOFF: Another thing, though—isn’t it obvious at this point that federal involvement in education across the country has resulted in worse results in schools, costs going through the roof, a breakdown of discipline, all this—I guess there are a lot of things you could partially attribute that to, but it just seems that the negatives have so outweighed the positives. This idea that just throwing more money at it will create a better system—just the opposite seems true.
SCHWEIKART: Yes, I wouldn’t place all the blame on the federal government. They have their share, but there is a whole cultural milieu in which you can’t kick a kid out of school who’s misbehaving because the parents will bring some sort of lawsuit. I don’t know about you, but I went to school at a time when if a girl showed up in high school pregnant, she was not getting into high school. And it wasn’t that they denied her her personhood, or didn’t think she was important—it was that there were important messages that society needed to send, and one of them was that we do not want to encourage illegitimate children, we don’t want to encourage unmarried mothers to be setting an example for everybody else. It’s a number of these kinds of things that have slipped in through lawsuits, through teachers’ unions—I mean, I’m sure there are all sorts of causes for this. I’ve taught in public schools—and I’ve taught in private schools, almost all grades, and it’s very difficult. I was teaching in Eloy, Arizona—which, by the way, has turned out no fewer than, I think, four NFL All-Pros!—it’s a town of about, I don’t know, maybe 30,000, a very small town, but they seem to manufacture—
ARONOFF: Sounds like American Samoa.
SCHWEIKART: [Laughs.] Yeah! Art and Benny Malone actually—Benny Malone played in the Super Bowl, with the Dolphins—
SCHWEIKART: —and Cade, the Cade guys, played in the Super Bowl. Anyway, I was teaching seventh-grade reading to students who, when I tested them, had a second-grade reading level when they came into my class. Many of them would tell me that the only thing they wanted to do was turn fifteen-and-a-half, I think it was, when they were legally eligible to get out and go pick cotton. That was their life goal.
ARONOFF: Hmm. All right, let’s touch on some other ones so we can get through a number of them. What would the Founders say about the role of the government in the environment, global warming, and trying to control the climate?
SCHWEIKART: This is one, of course, where the Founders had no comment, obviously, not on global warming or the ozone layer or anything like that. But what we do know about the Founders is how they treated property, and what they thought would result in the best environmental protections for all of us, by virtue of how they treated property. Here we go mostly to Thomas Jefferson, who didn’t write the Land Ordinance of 1785, but he was a key influence on it. In that Ordinance, Jefferson established a system, a survey, whereby the lands in my area—Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana—would be surveyed and sold, sold very, very cheap. The goal there was clear: Get the land out of the hands of government, get it into the hands of the people. The people will always do more to protect the environment, on an individual basis, than the government ever will on their behalf. So, over the years, what happened was, there was so much western land that was unclaimed that the ranchers lobbied to have it turned into grazing land. Once no one was settling on it, the federal government assumed a kind of control or authority over these grazing reserves, these large tracts of land out there, and, gradually, they started taking them off the market. Then, of course, after Teddy Roosevelt, you get the process whereby they start turning large tracts of land into National Parks, often where there is absolutely nothing on there—nothing scenic, nothing interesting, and people aren’t even given access to it—but nevertheless it takes the land out of the hands of the people. The Founders would be strongly against that.
ARONOFF: Okay. What about bailing out businesses?
SCHWEIKART: Well, this is one we actually have. We don’t need to know what they said—we can look at what they did. There was a panic in 1791, 1792, in New York, started by a man named William Duer, D-U-E-R. Hamilton was Secretary of the Treasury at the time, and he publicly told Duer, “You’re on your own. Government is not bailing you out.” Privately, Hamilton went to the Bank of the United States and said, “If you can, quietly shore up any bank that is having trouble, but don’t tell anyone.” So the message there is clear: He does what he thinks is necessary to prevent a loss of confidence in the banks, but that’s all private—and the public message is, “If you need a bailout, you’re not getting one.” Now, to take it a step further, I think that Hamilton and Washington, especially, were concerned about making sure that we had sufficient industry for national defense. Hamilton put out a program of what we call “protective tariffs” to raise the price of American iron and textiles. He’s always charged with wanting to protect the iron and textile industries, the capitalists. That’s part of it, but a large part of what he’s trying to accomplish there is much different: He’s trying to make sure that the U.S. has sufficient military industrial capabilities, so that if we go to war, or fight again, we have textiles for uniforms and we have iron to make guns and muskets and cannons. That was his real concern. So, based on that, I would think that Hamilton, Washington, Madison, and the rest would have supported the bailout of Lockheed back in the 1970s, because it was our leading manufacturer of fighter planes and spy planes. I think they probably would have supported the bailout of Chrysler in the ’80s because it was our leading tank manufacturer. But not Harley-Davidson, and certainly not Chrysler or GM in 2009 or 2010, because they weren’t of strategic, military importance.
ARONOFF: Since you brought up Hamilton—you do talk about him in the book. Conservatives should take another look at him, and, maybe, not be so drawn to Jefferson, as compared to Hamilton, you say. PBS has a new documentary coming out about him next week. I don’t know exactly what the point of view is going to be. I was actually invited to the premiere this week, but I couldn’t go.
SCHWEIKART: Do you know if it’s based on Chernow’s biography?
ARONOFF: I’m not sure.
SCHWEIKART: If it is, that would be a very good show, because I think Chernow is extremely fair.
ARONOFF: Okay. So what is your point about Hamilton versus Jefferson?
SCHWEIKART: First of all, let’s not fall into the error of thinking that Hamilton was some kind of statist mercantilist and that everybody else were free marketeers. Everyone, at that time, was still coming out of mercantilism. Wealth of Nations had only been published in 1776, it was only getting over the U.S., and starting to affect people in terms of their thinking, by the early 1780s. No one was a “free marketeer” in the 1780s. So Hamilton is acting out of a system that he grew up in, that everybody was familiar with, and that everybody else used. Now, Hamilton is always accused by conservatives of favoring debt and deficits. Absolutely untrue! What he favored was good credit for the United States. He thought that the only way to do that was to pay our bills. Some people misquote him as saying that “a national debt is a national blessing.” He said it can be a national blessing—if you pay it off! And it’s the same thing with your kids: You want to give your kid a credit card that has a very low limit on it so that they learn to manage money. Then as they learn to manage a $100 limit, they can get a $2,000 limit, then a $5,000 limit, and so on. So the United States, in Hamilton’s eyes, had to prove that it was credit-worthy to the Europeans in case we got into a war and had to borrow money, and the only way it was going to do that was by paying your debts. So Hamilton set up something that I think is truly ingenious—it’s called a “sinking fund.” The sinking fund was a system by which Congress had to pay off existing debt before it could generate new debt. It’s sort of like an American Express card. It wasn’t too long before Congress gravitated into a Visa/MasterCard system whereby they just kept rolling over the debt and kept increasing the limit, which is not what Hamilton had in mind at all.
ARONOFF: Let’s lead that into a discussion about where we are today. It was only in the early 1960s that, for the first time, we hit a $100 billion annual federal budget. Today, it’s $3.7 trillion—an increase of nearly 40 times in less than 50 years. With deficits set to be $1.65 trillion—and that’s with good projections as far as revenues and all that sort of thing—how much trouble are we in today? Where do you come down on that? What would the Founding Fathers—
SCHWEIKART: We’re in a lot of trouble. It’s not good. Now, to be fair, a number of very smart economists that I’ve talked to—it’s not like the end of the world is coming, but what is very likely is inflation, significant inflation. One of my favorite economists says that it would not be at all out of line to expect the kind of stuff that we saw in 1977, ’78, with twelve percent mortgage loans, 25%-30% credit card interest rates, ten percent car loan rates, that kind of stuff. Sooner or later, the debt has to be monetized. Right now, essentially what you have is, the Chinese foisting our debt off on their people in the form of subsumed taxes through lower wages. In essence, the Chinese people are paying for our debt by continuing to lend us money at unrealistically low levels. Now how long are they going to do that? I don’t know. There’s an old phrase that says, “If you owe the bank a hundred dollars, you have a problem, if you owe the bank a million dollars, the bank has a problem.” We owe the Chinese more than a million dollars, and the Chinese have a big problem: They can’t call the debt. They can’t force us to repay it. All they can do is try to slowly get out from under it. The way that they would do that would be to allow prices to rise and spearhead inflation. So I don’t know where we’re going. All I know is, it’s really bad.
ARONOFF: Right. A couple more things. Health care, Obamacare: Did the Founding Fathers have any thoughts about the government taking care of people as they get sick and old? What about being in the insurance business, where they’re now dictating salaries and bonuses and all this? What about the history of the Founding Fathers in regard to the federal government having a role in our health care?
SCHWEIKART: It’s still outrageous. This is one of those topics that they never even dreamed that an American government would get into, which is trying to dictate what you eat. The notion that someone would, as I say in What Would the Founders Say?, go to Jefferson and tell him he can’t have his favorite wine, or go to George Washington and tell him he can’t eat meat, or, today, as they’re trying to do in New York, tell people they can’t order Happy Meals—it’s just absolutely nuts. It was undertaken under the General Welfare clause, which is badly abused. The General Welfare clause—we know what they meant by the General Welfare clause, because you can look under that in the Articles and see what Congress is allowed to do in relation to that and see what they’re talking about. They’re talking about copyrights, patents, coinage of a sound money system, trade—in other words, all the kinds of things that make for a prosperous economy were viewed as General Welfare. Nowhere did they mention caring for people’s health, caring for almshouses, caring for the poor—none of that is anywhere mentioned in any of these documents. So it’s clear that what they meant by “General Welfare” was a very restricted view of keeping the economy solid, honest, fair, and humming.
ARONOFF: So you think the federal government shouldn’t have a role in, say, taking care of senior citizens? How do you get around—“isn’t that cruel?” Clearly the costs, between Medicare and Medicaid, and the amount that the government is committed to paying $50 trillion to $100 trillion in estimated obligations that they’ve taken on, because when they give “free” services like that, basically, people are going to use a lot of them.
SCHWEIKART: Well, yes. Whether it’s Medicaid, or Social Security, which is utterly and totally bankrupt—by the way, quick trivia question: Who was the first President to argue for the privatization of Social Security? Answer: Franklin Roosevelt, in his 1935 July speech, in which he said that we should include in the system private annuities which should, he said, eventually replace all these other forms of assistance. In other words, even Roosevelt knew that Social Security couldn’t last forever, that it was doomed.
SCHWEIKART: No, these aren’t “cruel and unusual”—that refers to punishment.
SCHWEIKART: Taking care of the elderly is the purpose of children!
SCHWEIKART: Of families! And most of all—and I’m going to get a lot of old people mad at me—it’s the job of old people to take care of themselves before they get old. You have an obligation to everybody else to save for your retirement! Social Security is supposed to be a supplement. I ask my students, “How many of you take vitamins?” Several will raise their hands. I go, “So you don’t eat?” “Oh, no, no, we eat!” “Well, why? Vitamins are a supplement!” People treat Social Security like it was the food. It’s the vitamin. And you should be saving for yourself. Now here’s a couple of other little scary statistics: When Roosevelt started Social Security, there were about fourteen people paying in for every one person taking out. Today, there are three people paying in for every one taking out, and by the time most of my students retire, if it’s even still around at all, there will be one person paying in for every three trying to take out. Now that math simply doesn’t work. And Medicare, as you pointed out, is vastly worse. It’s the single worst program we have to deal with.
ARONOFF: One more topic. Going to war—World War II, I guess, was the last war we actually declared, though I know we got Congressional approval, one way or another, with the Gulf of Tonkin, an authorization to use force in Iraq, but this time Obama, going into Libya, didn’t. He sort of hid behind and got the Arab League, the United Nations, NATO, but never went to Congress. What was the idea about when we would go to war? What do you think of, say, the last two, Bush going into Iraq versus Obama going into Libya?
SCHWEIKART: Let’s go back much further than World War II. Actually, we had a non-declared war, started with a joint resolution of Congress, in which the entire U.S. military, such as it was, was sent into action against the Muslims. This would be the Barbary Wars of 1804-1814. Jefferson never had a declaration of war—moreover, using his joint resolution, Jefferson then declared war himself on all the Barbary States if they sided with Tripoli. It’s very much the same phrase that Bush used, “You’re either with us, or you’re with the terrorists”—Jefferson said, “You’re either with Tripoli, or you’re with us,” and he made war on any of the Muslim states that threw in with Tripoli. Of course, we were eventually successful in that enterprise. The point about declaring war is that you state your reasons for going to war, and you state your war aims, your goals. You know: The war will be over when we achieve x, y, and z. I think there are times—including the current War on Terror—when it is not palpable, for whatever reason, that you state your war aims, and the war aims, unfortunately, are to kill all the terrorists. Now Bush would never say that, certainly Obama would never say that, and most of the military wouldn’t—I don’t think even Petraeus would say that—but that is the aim of this war: We have to eliminate the terrorists. You can’t do it by invading country after country. I think Bush was right in invading Iraq based on the evidence that was out at the time. I think it pointed to the likelihood that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, and we couldn’t wait around until he gave those to al-Qaeda. But, unintentionally, by going into Iraq, we created a roach hotel for all the terrorist roaches from all over the world—Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Morocco, Indonesia, Iran—and they all came to Iraq to fight us there. In my book America’s Victory, I gave some numbers that I was able to find that, apparently, no one else found or was interested in, that showed that we had killed an astonishing 40,000 terrorists in Iraq, wounded another 120,000, took 20,000 prisoner, and, in all likelihood, saw another 10,000 to 15,000 desert. Now that’s an awful lot of terrorists taken out of the order of battle.
ARONOFF: As a historian—I guess this will be our final question, though we can see if there’s anything else you want to mention—how do you view the growth and spread of Islam today in Europe and the United States and the world? What is it comparable to? Is it a threat? How do you view it?
SCHWEIKART: For the longest time, Islam spread only by violence. Let’s be honest: The first thousand years of Islam, the only way it spread was not by willing conversion but by violence. Since that time, it has spread mostly through immigration and by Western societies allowing Muslims to come in—which is fine, I have no problem with immigration of anybody, but what I do have a problem with is, after they come in, you allow them to retain their national identities or their cultural and spiritual identities if they’re in violation of your Constitution and laws, which they clearly are in France and Germany and Britain today. If you want to come to America, be American, abide by our rules, and support our Constitution—yay! I’m all for you. If you want to come here and establish sharia law, we’ve got a problem.
ARONOFF: Okay. I guess we’re going to wrap it up there. Is there anything else you want to say? Tell people how they can get your book. Our guest has been Larry Schweikart, author of some twenty books, including, most recently, What Would the Founders Say?: A Patriot’s Answer to America’s Most Pressing Problems. Larry, tell people how they can find your work and your book, and if you have any closing thoughts.
SCHWEIKART: Sure. Our book is available wherever books are sold. Our website is patriotshistoryusa.com, all one word, patriotshistoryusa.com. You can find our film Rockin’ the Wall, about music’s part in bringing down the Iron Curtain, at rockinthewall.com, rockinthewall.com. It’s been a pleasure talking to you!
ARONOFF: Thank you so much for joining us today on Take AIM!