Glenn Beck’s 8-Step Program to Recovery

By Michael L. Klein

“We are perhaps too much inclined to think that [external invasion] is the only way a civilization can die,” writes Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America. “If the lights that guide us ever go out, they will fade little by little, as if of their own accord… Some peoples may let the torch be snatched from their hands, but others stamp it out themselves.” Glenn Beck takes this idea to heart in his latest work, Broke: The Plan to Restore Our Trust, Truth and Treasure. According to Beck, America has never been closer to losing its way of life — unalienable rights, unquestionable freedoms, and unimaginable wealth — than it is now. 

The United States is financially broke, with the national debt currently estimated over $14 trillion and growing, but Beck argues that this debt is just a symptom of our nation’s “broken spirit, our broken faith in government, the broken promises by our leaders, and a broken political system that has centralized power at the expense of individual rights.” Beck attacks politicians on both sides of the aisle for decades of fiscal irresponsibility and reforms that have made Americans reliant on a growing centralized government. His criticism is mostly directed at “progressives,” who like Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson championed expanding government entitlements and created an American society dependent on government spending the way a user is addicted to drugs. 

While Broke can be characterized by Beck’s overly dramatic and sensationalist personality that has brought him to national fame as a syndicated radio and Fox News television show host, Beck’s work provides strong evidence to support many of his claims regarding the broken state of the nation. His (and his co-writer Kevin Balfe’s) writing style is energetic and easy to read. This well-researched 406 page book includes reputable opinions, facts, figures, and charts to make the sad decline of the American nation and the disastrous state of the nation’s budget as enjoyable a read as possible. He divides the book into three parts: first, a history of how America progressed into this chaotic state; second, an assessment of what’s currently going on with this nation’s financial situation and how its been covered up; and finally an eight-step plan Beck devises that would help set the country on the right course of action.

Beck’s historical analysis opens with an overview of why great civilizations of the past failed, and then moves to the vision given to us by our founding fathers. He explains how America’s early leaders founded the country on the basis of certain “unalienable rights,” limited constitutional government, and a conservative financial plan to eradicate debt. He then explains how the nation established its superb credit rating by avoiding debt and keeping government limited until “progressives,” initially led by Woodrow Wilson, worked to “destroy the bedrock that America was built on” and “did more damage to the fabric of America than anyone who’s come before or after.” While Beck has strong, valid evidence to explain how Wilson harmed America, Beck looks to further vilify the former president by introducing him as an unreconstructed racist and elitist. This helps further tarnish Wilson’s reputation, and make the reader prone to be predisposed to dislike Wilson before knowing what he did wrong as president. This sensationalist style is occasionally employed throughout Beck’s works, and slightly undermines Beck’s argument if he can’t condemn Wilson solely on Wilson’s fiscal actions as president.

From Wilson to Obama, Beck leaves almost no rock unturned as he analyzes nearly every presidential action that caused America to let its debt get out of hand, and expand the size of the government beyond anything the founders would have wanted. While Beck attacks most presidents for their fiscally irresponsible programs and initiatives, he also takes issue with the reliance that the American public has on the government. By creating programs like Social Security and Medicare (which Beck attacks throughout the book) the government has effectively bought out a significant group of Americans and made them dependent on government spending, effectively undermining the nation’s founding principles. This reliance of individual Americans and their families on the public purse has created a downward cycle of increasing debt and dependence on the government for everyday life. Through FDR’s New Deal and LBJ’s Great Society, a new social contract was struck that guaranteed the people rights that our founders would have never promised. 

The second part details the “crimes” that “progressive” politicians have committed by expanding government and how they’ve covered-up the truth from the American people. Beck goes into detail about the nation’s budget, detailing how the government allocates funds and uses accounting procedures to veil the truth. He argues that if the government were a private entity, its behavior would be categorized as criminally negligent. This section includes a lot of data, and goes into painstaking detail to explain exactly how the government has committed “the crime of the century.”

Beck ends his book by putting forth an eight-step plan to fix the country. While I’m still not sure if its closer to insightful or doctrinaire, Beck does provide tangible steps and actions for the nation to correct itself. He explains not only how the budget needs to be reformed, but argues for a deeper reformation of the American social contract. He looks for ways to take meaningful action by carving out certain departments and functions of government. He frequently insinuates that Medicare is a huge part of the problem, but by the time he gets around to correcting it he waters down his proposal to the point that it is clear he is unsure of the right course of action. While the first two sections had been based on facts and tangible criticisms, this last section seems heavier on speculation than anything else.

Overall, Broke is worthwhile reading for anyone interested in the sorry state of the American economy and understaning how it came about. Beck’s ability to historically contextualize the problem is insightful and entertaining, and his sources give him a level of credibility his daily shows frequently lack. This fierce work of fiscal conservatism is highly critical of our current government, and makes for an interesting read.