A Jesse Helms for the 21st century

A JESSE HELMS FOR THE 21ST CENTURY…. Sen. Jim DeMint (R) of South Carolina yesterday became the first U.S. senator to endorse the military-backed coup in Honduras. He issued a statement denouncing the democratically-elected president and heralding those responsible for the coup as “guarantee[ing] freedom.”

The statement comes about a week after DeMint unveiled his own health care plan, which amounted to little more than hundreds of billions of dollars for the insurance companies.

To get a better sense of what this guy all about, consider DeMint’s interview with Human Events, a right-wing magazine, to talk about his worldview, which included his belief that “most members of Congress lean socialist.”

“I regret to say that there are two Americas but not the kind John Edwards was talking about. It’s not so much the haves and the have-nots. It’s those who are paying for government and those who are getting government. At this point, the data I’ve seen is 52% of Americans get their income directly or indirectly from a government source. And if you think about how that works in a democracy, why would the voters be concerned about the growth of government if they weren’t paying and they were getting something from it.

“Democracy cannot work when you have a majority of people dependent on the government. And this is not just the poor. The way we’ve set up Social Security and Medicare, everyone who retires are dependent, parents are dependent on the government for education of their children and now, if you look at the folks who come through my office — business people, farmers, bankers — everybody is coming to Washington to get their piece of the government because we’re running all this money through here now.”

Just so we’re clear, an elected Republican senator believes Social Security, Medicare, and the existence of a public school system are necessarily threats to our functioning democracy.

Ed Kilgore added yesterday:

It’s not often that you hear a politician come right out and say that making parents “dependent on the government for education of their children” — i.e. public schools — is a form of socialistic welfare-statism. As for Social Security and Medicare, most conservatives have learned to frame their privatization proposals in terms of “solvency” or “entitlement reform” or “letting people control their benefits.” Not since Barry Goldwater’s disastrous 1964 campaign have I heard a major Republican politician attack the wildly popular retirement programs as fundamentally illegitimate, or their beneficiaries as parasitical wards of the state.

DeMint’s “two Americas” rap is also interesting since it exhibits the underpinnings of the kind of rhetoric that even the McCain campaign deployed last year in attacking progressive taxation. Poor people or old people who don’t pay their “fair share” of taxes aren’t just getting off lightly; they are a threat to democracy.

Ed concludes that DeMint is “seriously scary.” He sure is.