Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) is using social media to spread the word that there are still senators willing to oppose the president and their own party.
On October 30, Lee posted a video of Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) delivering a pre-dawn appeal to his colleagues to reject the bipartisan budget agreement the White House had worked out with Republican congressional leadership. Paul made the last-minute entreaty before President Obama signed the debt ceiling increase into law on November 2.
Lee titled the video — which has now gone viral — “Protecting Social Security from the Thieves in the Night,” borrowing a phrase employed by Senator Paul in his address.
In a statement released the following day, Lee explained his motivation to help the video reach record-breaking views:
Last night while you were sleeping the Senate voted to steal $150 billion dollars from the Social Security Trust Fund. I joined 34 of my colleagues in a vote to prevent this raid. I would like to thank Senator Rand Paul for leading the fight to protect Social Security from the thieves in Washington, who seem to think that if they steal from the American people at night while they are sleeping that they will get away with it. I was proud to vote with Senator Paul on his point of order that would have protected Social Security, and I ask you to help me shine a light on what Washington has tried to hide from you in the darkness of night.
Challenging Americans to spread the message of the betrayal, Lee added: "If everyone who sees this message shares it, it will reach millions of Americans. As someone who has been fighting for years to reform our broken government in Washington, I know it is exhausting, I sympathize with your frustration, and I understand your impatience. But don’t give up. Washington wants you to give up."
According to the blog truthinmedia:
Lee’s video has been shared over 1.3 million times and counting, and has been viewed by over 25 million people.
Lee said, “This Facebook post reached over 60 million people — more people than watched all three Republican presidential debates combined. For the simple fact that the American people are frustrated by what is happening in Washington.”
According to Fox News, the viral video’s popularity is “not far from a Facebook record” that “was reportedly set this year by the White House when a video from the Correspondents’ Dinner garnered 27 million views in just 36 hours.”
As for exactly what the first-term senator and first time presidential candidate said in the speech, he focused on the failure of the federal government to follow through on promises made regarding the sacrosanctity of Social Security:
Do you know what? If you’re going to steal money from Social Security, if you’re going to take money from Social Security and you’re going to spend it on other concerns… People will say, ‘Oh, well we’re going to spend it on disability.’ Well, the Social Security fund was put forward as a pension plan. You have an obligation to those who put the money in. So stealing money from people who will be getting money in the future to pay for immediate concerns is robbing Peter to pay Paul.
In a book chronicling his journey to Washington, Paul was quoted making similar statements. In The Tea Party Goes to Washington, he said:
I promise we won't do anything to change benefits for those currently receiving Social Security. But we have the baby boomers getting ready to retire; subsequently doubling the amount of people already dependent on an unsustainable system. To just say we're going to keep borrowing more money simply will not work. We must reform the program for younger Americans, including adjusting eligibility requirements. To sustain our current system, we may need to raise the retirement age for future generations.
Of course, there are many constitutionalists and libertarians who see a more subtantial flaw in the Social Security system: It is unconstitutional.
There is not a single syllable in the Constitution authorizing Congress or any other branch of the federal government to take money out of the paycheck of working Americans and place it in retirement accounts (setting aside for a moment the fact that this was never the real intent of the scheme).
Surprisingly, perhaps, Senator Paul claims he has never questioned the constitutionality of the Social Security program he now vows to protect in the viral video.
The following was reported by ABC News during its coverage of a 2010 Kentucky senate debate:
[Kentucky Senate candidate Jack] Conway is the public face of a new push led by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee that is targeting GOP candidates who support privatizing or cutting Social Security. "Rand Paul, the Tea Party leader running against me for Senate in Kentucky, thinks Social Security is unconstitutional," Conway says in a letter to supporters of the progressive group. Joining Conway are some 200 other Democratic House and Senate candidates who have signed on to a pledge rejecting any effort to privatize or scale back Social Security benefits or raise the retirement age.
In an interview with ABC News, Conway said that Social Security represented an "area of stark contrast in the race." During the course of the campaign, Paul has suggested raising the retirement age and Conway has alleged his opponent believes Social Security is unconstitutional.
It's a claim that Paul denied as recently as Sunday night: "I've never challenged it and I do not challenge the constitutionality of it," Paul said at a debate.
On the issues page of his presidential campaign’s website, Paul seems committed to perpetuating the system, rather than recognizing the root of the problem: It is utterly unconstitutional. Paul’s Social Security page sets out his position:
During my time in the Senate, I have worked on proposals that would fix the shortfalls in the Social Security program through a gradual increase in the age of full retirement and by means testing yearly earnings, while preserving those benefits for near and current retirees. These changes would only apply to younger Americans who have time to plan for the future.
As President, I will remain committed to fixing the Social Security program, while preserving the system for seniors who have planned their lives around the program and implementing reforms to save the program for younger generations. [Emphasis in original.]
Lest there be any doubt, on the same page, Paul describes Social Security as an “undoubtedly important program.”
While the sentiments expressed in his speech that Senator Lee put onto Facebook and launched into near-record popularity are commendable, especially in light of his party’s deplorable willingness to give the White House whatever it wants, Senator Paul has yet to embrace a commitment to the Constitution on every issue, every time, with no exceptions, no matter how emotionally charged.
Image: screenshot from YouTube video of Sen. Rand Paul's speech on Social Security