Getting through this book was a chore, and it’s not even that long. The whole thing weighs in at nearly exactly 300 full color cartoon and graph filled pages. Without all that other nonsense, I think it would barely be 200. That was one of the things that made it difficult for me to read, every few paragraphs the narrative is interrupted by some kind of info-graph, quote, or fun fact. Most are meant to be funny, but they fall short and add little or nothing to the discussion. Especially the uninformative graphs and vague statistics. The pages themselves are printed to look aged and dog-eared, I guess to resemble old propaganda. Ironic, since this is a new version of the same old thing. The premise is Glen Beck arguing with himself. One of his selves is dressed in powdered wig and breeches, and the other in a soviet kitschy uniform. My guess is that the latter is the idiot, though it’s hard to be certain. The paragraphs are broken up in a sort of question and answer format, in which silly questions or statements are rebutted with his usual prattle. It’s written in the same annoying rambling way that he talks, which could be soothing to some like white noise. Personally, it makes me grind my teeth.

This book was physically painful to get through, since I was honestly trying to understand where he was coming from. To read this book I decided I should see how good it really was at supplying the reader with arguments against things. This was a mistake, and only lead to headaches, delirious giggles, and angry outbursts. So in short, the arguments were not good. As an informative tool to get readers to agree with his ideals, it’s a failure. Even if someone reading it already agreed with everything, which I’m sure is the case for most people reading his books, using the supplied arguments would be pointless. For instance, while reading the book there would be statements or questions from the idiot version of Glenn Beck that I would agree were idiotic. I could not imagine a real life person saying such a thing. So I would think, this one’s easy, no way his argument against it will fail. And then it would. Sometimes he would even start off pretty good, and then bring in an example that would make no sense and ruin whatever point he was trying to make.

In the first chapter he talks about how Amtrak is badly run, and is losing money because their tickets are underpriced and federally subsidized. He says that if you break down how much plane and train tickets cost by the amount of time a trip on each takes, the train ride should cost more because it takes longer. This runs contrary to the idea that for a plane one of the things you’re paying more for is the convenience of shorter travel time. He points out that most train tickets cost less than it would cost to drive, which I always thought was the purpose of traveling by train. It takes more time, but costs less than most anything else. Of course Amtrak has problems, but this book didn’t grant me any new knowledge. In this book, even an argument with failed logic is a winning one, because the non-idiot character always has the last word. Want the discussion to be continued? Too bad, you’re out of luck. It would be inadvisable to try such a thing in spoken form, since the supplied arguments just will not hold up outside of the fixed print environment of the book. Though if the argument is with a wall, or a picture of someone you don’t like, I’m sure they would work out just fine.

Each chapter addressed a different political subject, and each seemed to make less and less sense. Maybe because I had progressively lost more and more faith in anything in this book being useful. I don’t even know where to start with my problems with the details of the chapters. Pretty much every one had something in it that was completely retarded and ruined any credibility I might have granted him. For instance, the chapter about energy was like a love letter to the oil companies. You know, those guys that are so nice as to provide us all with that wonderful liquid that gets us to and from work, so we can make money to buy the food and other things we need to survive. And that same fuel also gets the things we need to us from wherever they’re produced. They’re so helpful they even decided to share this wonder substance with us for free by spreading it all over the beaches and wetlands along the Gulf Coast. And also, apparently they pay a large and unfair amount in taxes which go to help our communities. Glenn Beck writes that Exxon Mobile’s total taxes in 2008 were $116.2 billion, which was more than twice it’s net profit. That’s not what Forbes had to say about it, but apparently they were just confused by the accounting when they reported that Exxon Mobile had paid no income taxes in the U.S. in 2009, and totally legally reinvest their earnings in overseas tax shelters. Sure income isn’t the only tax, but it’s definitely one of the biggest.

Other chapters about capitalism, economics, universal healthcare, and unions were similar in their love for big huge businesses. Apparently if you don’t trust that giant corporations have our best interests at heart, then you’re a communist socialist crazy-pants. In the chapter about education, he says that the idea that everyone deserves a quality education is like saying everyone deserves a brand new Mercedes. And that it sounds a little socialist to say that if everyone can’t afford something it’s not good or fair. I was unaware that being literate and functionally educated was such a comparable luxury. The economics chapter includes this graph showing that the group with the most income growth was African-American women:

George Bush Hates Black People: Real Median Income Growth, 1980-2007
Black Women       80%
White Women       78%
Black Men            34%
White Men            10%
All People             40%

He uses this to conclude that Kanye was wrong about institutionalized racism, and that it’s actually white males that aren’t making as much. However, he fails to also point out in the text that the growth for Caucasian women was almost as high. And that in the time period shown in the graph it was becoming more common for women to work outside the home. So really, any income increase from nothing is going to appear substantial. In the universal healthcare chapter he says that people without insurance are just too lazy to get it, because the insurance companies already offer affordable plans for everyone. Of course when it comes to insurance, low monthly payment almost always means high co-pays and thousand dollar deductibles. Which makes having insurance nearly useless unless you have thousands of dollars saved up to cover anything less than catastrophic. And if you still can’t afford it or don’t get accepted then there’s always a rich benevolent family member you can loan money from, or a charitable organization.

Basically, in the world of Glenn Beck, if you’re rich you’re obviously a wonderful hard working person and if you’re not, you’re lazy but might be able to get someone to help you. This sentiment is echoed in the discussion of the tax system and how it unfairly targets the wealthiest 1% of individuals. None of the percentages in the graphs made sense or matched up with what was written in the text, and thus failed to convince me that our government is victimizing the billionaires. The tired example he used to explain how we common folk benefit from our capitalist system (trickle down vs trickle up economics) was that it was like a mountain stream, flowing downhill so the peasants in the valley can drink it, and use it to cook and clean. Therefore we need to keep our mountaintop covered in snow and be happy peasants so that we can all benefit, because water can’t move uphill. But shit also flows downhill, and water can be absorbed up through anything porous. And neither shit nor water are money, which can move either way.

Two of the last chapters are a bit of a history lesson, for those who were unfortunate enough to go to school. In one he covers all of the presidents and how they were progressively progressive. There’s a lot of discussion about the horrors of government regulation in this book, but no talk of times when it’s been beneficial. For instance, one of his personal least favorite presidents was FDR, who he said created all kinds of useless federal agencies and acts that over-expanded the government and prolonged the Depression. He gives these unemployment percentages, says that the economy didn’t benefit from the New Deal, and that there was no recovery until WWII:

Unemployment during the New Deal and New Deal II
1933: 24.9%      1935: 20.1%      1937: 14.3%
1934: 21.7%      1936: 16.9%      1938: 19.0%

The numbers look like a steady decline in unemployment, I’m not sure how that means bad things. I guess it could have been better, and it was vastly improved by our entering the war, but these numbers aren’t enough to convince me that the New Deal totally ruined everything. Unless Glenn Beck has a way to look into alternate realities in which there was no New Deal and the economy got all better by itself in a year or so, which I really doubt. One of the many apparently useless things passed was the Fair Labor Standards Act, which included more detailed child labor laws. So I guess since the New Deals were an unjustified over-reaching of federal power, then child labor, and otherwise cheap labor, is good because it’s good for business. Although in the chapter about illegal immigration he writes that illegal immigrants lower the cost of labor (and also are to blame for nearly every other thing wrong with the country) by insisting on working for less than citizens which is bad. So I guess that’s one of the few times that more regulation is a good idea. I’m just trying to follow the logic, if there is any.

The final chapter is a sort of layman’s guide to the constitution, in which Glenn Beck uses small words and cartoons to explain what he thinks everything means. He seems to oppose the idea that the constitution is a living document, despite the amendments. Maybe now that it’s had 26 amendments added to it the thing is finally perfect? As usual for the book, the descriptions and illustrations don’t shine much light on the actual text. Though having snippets of it conveniently included was nice to read as a refresher from high school government class. Then there are the over 20 pages of citations, very nicely organized. A lot of them are web sites of varied credibility, and a large chunk of those from mainstream news sources are opinion columns. I can’t say I did more than skim though, so maybe the information from books was actually well rounded from a variety of sources.

Throughout the book Glenn Beck states that he’s not an expert on many topics, but that he’s a thinker. That contradictory ‘listen to me even though I don’t know what I’m talking about’ feature of Glenn Beck’s various shows has always annoyed me. I guess that’s supposed to be his humility but I find his double-talk inherently deceitful. Combine that with the numerous mentions of his former alcoholism, and all the times that he talks about how much people dislike him, and this book would make an awesome drinking game. Perhaps that would dull some of the pain of trying to read it. I believe that listening to and reading about views in opposition to my own is important, but I won’t count this as such an endeavor. It’s written as if the readers are slow witted children. Hopefully sometime in the future I’ll find political books to read that actually enlighten me to new ways of thinking instead of making my brain melt. Suggestions are welcome in the comment section.

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