Are we witnessing the early stages of the disintegration of America as a global leader?

TheBlaze's national security editor Buck Sexton once again filled in for Glenn on radio this morning, and he opened the program with a 'deep dive' into national security - drawing on his background as a member of the CIA and NYPD Intelligence Division.

"I want to focus in on something that I call the 'Buck Brief' which is where I go deep into national security," Buck explained. "I am a radio host on TheBlaze Radio Network. I do a show Saturday from 12:00 to 3:00, and the 'Buck Brief' has become somewhat of a staple where we go into geopolitics into the strategy of our intelligence community, of our military, and that's what I want to start with now."

With the Christmas season upon us, Buck decided to take a look at the non-Christmas celebrating world and explain the major shift in geopolitical relations and structure that has been underway for some five years now. Are witnessing the early stages of the disintegration of America as a global hegemon? Buck explains.

I want to take you away from your presents for a minute, or at least take your attention away from them – from the tree that you are probably dressing up with all sorts of ornaments and from your yuletide cheer. I want to focus on what could accurately be called the world that doesn't celebrate Christmas, the non-Christmas world. 

You see, news as you know is a construct. News is a construct of journalists, news is a construct of people who work in that business and so while all of us are on or preparing to be on holiday and getting ready to spend time with family, the rest of the world continues on in large part as is. As part of breaking down my sense of geopolitics right now, I want to use a term that has fallen out of use somewhat. If we're going to speak about the non-Christmas-celebrating world or perhaps the world in which Christmas, if celebrated, is celebrated seldom and by very few, that term is Christendom. It used to correspond with what we now know as or consider to be the West. It is the torch of Western civilization, of course, that America now holds, America as a liberal democracy, and the global hegemon, economically, military, militarily and politically.

But what we are witnessing during this Christmas season is a shift, a shift in geopolitics, a shift in national security strategy that has occurred over the course of not just the past year, really the course of the past five years due to the ideology and proclivity of this Administration. You are witnessing the early stages of the disintegration of America as a global hegemon, and countries that fall out of the designation that we could call the West, formerly Christendom, before that the Roman Empire, before that Greece. 

There are challenges now. You could break it down roughly into three. You could break it down into political Islam, Islamism, which encompasses Sunni and Shia varieties, Jihadis and theocrats, nation states dedicated to the idea of opposing and eventually overcoming the West, like Iran, and groups within nations that seem bent upon either overthrowing those in charge of them now, the near-enemy, or striking out before they can even accomplish that at the far-enemy, which would be us and perhaps Israel. 

There's also Russia which, while not necessarily right now openly hostile in all acts and intents, has a narrative of politics and a narrative of geopolitics that is different than ours and in many ways contrary to ours. It's a friend to nonaligned countries, it's a friend to states that view themselves as oppositional to the United States. Over the past year we've seen a tremendous amount of Russian activity that we could easily decide and easily view as being intended to hamper and hobble the U.S., in some cases so openly that it's become brazen, it's become almost a point of satire for this when looking at this administration. It's unbelievable.

And then, of course, you have China whose main power and main opposition seems to be on the economic front. It's focused regionally more so than it is a global narrative. North Korea and other rogue states, of course, can find a friend in China because the Chinese government acts without a sense of any overarching morality. It's really just trying to achieve its own somewhat parochial interests now, and those interests will, of course, expand as it secures them over time.

This, if you will, is a time in which America finds itself not out of power, not pushed from the heights of being the hegemon but all of the indicators are showing it moving in that direction. And when you add to that, an administration that so clearly not only lacks a vision for the projection of American power and ideals abroad but actually shirks from that, does not believe in what had been considered the American experiment's relationship with the rest of the world up until now, wants to change it. And by changing it perhaps they only have to do what they've been doing recently, which is either bumbling through it or, just as effective in many ways, doing nothing, refusing to bolster our allies, refusing to scare off our enemies, acting as though everything is a surprise that should have been known weeks or months in advance, acting as though they've never been there before. There is an amateurism on display by those in charge of the greatest most powerful nation on the history of the planet. 

We have to understand that no matter how powerful the machine, if those at the levers have no understanding of how to utilize it, and not only that but how to keep it as it is, we will see a degradation of U.S. power abroad, and that is what we are seeing right now. We are seeing a removal of strategic interests and strategic assets in places where one couldn't have dreamed before this administration had come to power it would ever occur. We've seen Russia set up missiles in opposition to close allies.  We've seen the Chinese become increasingly bellicose over a bunch of small islands in the East China Sea, and the forces of global jihad – and this perhaps more pronounced than any of the others – see a moment, see an opening. 

At one point it would have been enough for them to strike out at the West, to lash out at us for our perceived wrongdoings. Now there is a shift. There is the possibility in Syria, for example, of a jihadist state undreamed of since the Taliban-ran Afghanistan. There was the possibility for an Iranian nuclear power pushing its Shia Islamic ideals around the region, creating a situation in which we could see a Saudi versus Iranian showdown involving nuclear missiles. This is a dangerous world we live in and that is something you will always hear, but in this case it's more than a platitude because it's becoming increasingly dangerous. And as we've seen the people in charge right now are absolutely incapable of showing anything that would approach strategic vision and I would offer to you even the most basic competence in international affairs.

The themes of healing and redemption appear throughout the Bible.

Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength. — 1 Corinthians 15:43
It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. — Mark 2:17.

So, for many Christians, it's no surprise to hear that people of faith live longer lives.

Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise. — Jeremiah 17:14.

But it is certainly lovely to hear, and a recent study by a doctoral student at Ohio State University is just one more example of empirical evidence confirming the healing benefits of faith and religious belief.

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Moreover, the study finds that religious belief can lengthen a person's life.

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. — Proverbs 17:22
Lord, your discipline is good, for it leads to life and health. You restore my health and allow me to live! — Isaiah 38:16

The study analyzed over 1,000 obituaries nationwide and found that people of faith lived longer than people who were not religious. Laura Wallace, lead author of the study, noted that "religious affiliation had nearly as strong an effect on longevity as gender does, which is a matter of years of life."

The study notes that, "people whose obits mentioned a religious affiliation lived an average of 5.64 years longer than those whose obits did not, which shrunk to 3.82 years after gender and marital status were considered."

And He called to Him His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. — Matthew 10:1

"The researchers found that part of the reason for the boost in longevity came from the fact that many religiously affiliated people also volunteered and belonged to social organizations, which previous research has linked to living longer. The study provides persuasive evidence that there is a relationship between religious participation and how long a person lives," said Baldwin Way, co-author of the study and associate professor of psychology at Ohio State.

Prayer is good medicine, and faith is a good protector.

In addition, the study showed how the effects of religion on longevity might depend in part on the personality and average religiosity of the cities where people live, Way said.

Prayer is good medicine, and faith is a good protector.

And the power of the Lord was with him to heal. — Luke 5:17
Heal the sick in it and say to them, The kingdom of God has come near to you. — Luke 10:9

In early June, the Social Security and Medicare trustees released their annual report on the fiscal health of these programs, and the situation looks dire. Medicare is scheduled to run out of money in 2026 (three years sooner than anticipated), while Social Security is expected to run out in 2034. The rising national debt is only one of the well-known financial struggles the millennial generation faces. The burdens of student loan debt, high housing prices (thanks to zoning restrictions), stagnant wage growth, the rising cost of healthcare and lingering aftershocks of the Great Recession are among the biggest sources of economic anxiety millennials feel.

Progressive politicians have been very successful at courting the youth vote, partly because they actually promote policy ideas that address many of these concerns. As unrealistic or counterproductive as Senator Bernie Sanders' proposals for single-payer health care or a $15 an hour minimum wage might be, they feel in theory like they would provide the economic stability and prosperity millennials want.

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Republicans, on the other hand, have struggled to craft a message to address these concerns. Fiscal conservatives recognize, correctly, that the burden of the $20 trillion national debt and over $200 trillion in unfunded liabilities will fall on millennials. Some conservatives have even written books about that fact. But the need to reform entitlements hasn't exactly caught millennials' attention. Pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson, in her book The Selfie Vote, notes that millennials generally view protecting the safety net as more important than reducing the deficit.

Clearly, Republicans have a problem. They need to craft solutions that address the millennial generation's struggles, but they can't seem to sell entitlement reform, their biggest policy preference that addresses those problems. The Republican approach to wooing millennials on policy is failing because talking about stopping the debt from reaching an unsustainable level is long-term and abstract, and offers few immediate tangible benefits. A new approach to both pave the way for entitlement reform and give millennials an immediate financial boost is to first reform not entitlement spending, but the payroll tax: specifically, by partially (or wholly) replacing it with a value-added tax.

Under the current Social Security model, workers pay for the benefits of current retirees through the payroll tax. This system creates the illusion of a pension program, in which what you put in is what you get out, but in reality Social Security is a universal safety net program for the elderly paid for by taxes. The payroll tax falls on workers and is a tax on labor, while the value-added tax (VAT) is a tax on consumption imposed at every part of the production process. Assuming that this policy change is revenue-neutral, switching to a VAT will shift the responsibility for funding Social Security and Medicare away from workers, disproportionately poorer and younger, and onto everyone participating in the economy as a whole. Furthermore, uncoupling Social Security funding from payroll taxes would pave the way for fiscal reforms to transform the program from a universal benefit program to one geared specifically to eliminating old-age poverty, such as means-testing benefits for high-income beneficiaries, indexing benefits to prices rather than wages or changing the retirement age.

Switching from the payroll tax to the VAT would address both conservative and liberal tax policy preferences.

Switching from the payroll tax to the VAT would address both conservative and liberal tax policy preferences. As the Tax Policy Center notes, the change would actually make the tax system more progressive. The current payroll tax is regressive, meaning that people with lower incomes tend to pay a higher effective tax rate than people with higher incomes. On the other hand, the value-added tax is much closer to proportional than the payroll tax, meaning that each income group pays closer to the same effective tax rate.

For Republicans, such a change would fit conservative economic ideas about the long-run causes of economic growth. A value-added tax has a much broader base than the payroll tax, and therefore would allow for much lower marginal tax rates, and lower marginal tax rates mean smaller disincentives to economic activity. According to the Tax Foundation's analysis of a value-added tax, the VAT would be a more economically efficient revenue source than most other taxes currently in the tax code.

Not only would replacing part or all of the payroll tax provide an immediate benefit to millennial taxpayers, it would also open the door for the much-needed entitlement reforms that have been so politically elusive. Furthermore, it would make the tax code both more pro-growth and less regressive. In order to even begin to address the entitlement crisis, win millennial support and stimulate the economy in a fiscally responsible manner, Republicans must propose moving from the payroll tax to the VAT.

Alex Muresianu is a Young Voices Advocate. His writing has appeared in Townhall and The Federalist. He is a federal policy intern at the Tax Foundation. Opinions expressed here are his only and not the views of the Tax Foundation. He can be found on Twitter @ahardtospell.

Glenn was joined by Alanna Sarabia from "Good Morning Texas" at Mercury Studios on Thursday for an exclusive look at Mercury Museum's new "Rights & Responsibilities" exhibit. Open through Father's Day, the temporary museum features artifacts from pop culture, America's founding, World Ward II and more, focusing on the rights and responsibilities America's citizens.

Get tickets and more information here.

Watch as Glenn gives a sneak peek at some of the unique artifacts on display below.

History at the Mercury Museum

Alanna Sarabia interviews Glenn Beck for "Good Morning Texas" at Mercury Studios.

Several months ago, at the Miss Universe competition, two women took a selfie, then posted it on Instagram. The caption read, "Peace and love." As a result of that selfie, both women faced death threats, and one of the women, along with her entire family, had to flee her home country. The occasion was the 2017 Miss Universe competition, and the women were Miss Iraq and Miss Israel. Miss Iraq is no longer welcome in her own country. The government threatened to strip her of her crown. Of course, she was also badgered for wearing a bikini during the competition.

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In an interview, Miss Iraq, Sarah Idan, said:

When I posted the picture I didn't think for a second there would be blowback. I woke up to calls from my family and the Miss Iraq Organization going insane. The death threats I got online were so scary. The director of the Miss Iraq Organization called me and said they're getting heat from the ministry. He said I have to take the picture down or they will strip me of my title.

Yesterday, Miss Iraq, Sarah Idan, posted another selfie with Miss Israel, during a visit to Jerusalem.

In an interview, she said that:

I don't think Iraq and Israel are enemies; I think maybe the governments are enemies with each other. There's a lot of Iraqi people that don't have a problem with Israelis.

This is, of course, quite an understatement: Iraq, home to roughly 15,000 Palestinians, refuses to acknowledge Israel as a legitimate country, as it is technically at war with Israel. The adages says that a picture is worth a thousand words. What are we to do when many of those words are hateful or deadly? And how can we find the goodness in such bad situations?