How Conspiracy Theories Are Born




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Here's the one thing: When the media completely ignores the biggest fraud in history, conspiracy theories are born.

We've told you about the two middle-aged guys with Japanese passports who were stopped by Italian police after trying to enter Switzerland with $134 billion worth of U.S. Treasury bonds.

This broke June 1. Since then the under-reporting and misreporting of the story has the bohemian grove-type crowd licking their chops, and they're probably already registering URLs for their next conspiracy Web site.

Under-reporting means no facts. No facts means there will be speculation. And speculation ends up looking like this — from a Bloomberg columnist:

"Are these would-be smugglers agents of Kim Jong-Il stashing North Korea's cash in a Swiss vault? Bagmen for Nigerian Internet scammers? Was the money meant for terrorists looking to buy nuclear warheads? Is Japan dumping its dollars secretly?"

So we know the questions. But what are the facts? There aren't many, but at least 10 reliable news sources are reporting that the bonds are fake.

Our Bureau of Public Debt suggests they're bogus and here's the quote from the Treasury: "Based on the picture we've seen via the Internet, the securities are crude fakes."

The Internet? Possibly the biggest scam in history and the best you can do is a Google search? Please, don't work too hard on this one, guys — geez.

The apparent lack of investigating in this story is leaving all the questions unanswered. Questions like: If these bonds were so obviously fake, why would it take two weeks for that information to come out?

This isn't just a run-of-the-mill scam. This is huge. Why are they ignoring it? This makes Bernie Madoff look like a petty thief. If economies were for sale, these two guys could buy Slovakia, Croatia and Mongolia.

It's so big that if real, confidence in the dollar would plummet. But apparently, it's not big enough for the authorities to bother holding onto these guys.

Our researchers couldn't find any wires or major dailies carrying official word on whether these two men are still in custody. Reports from the Financial Times and at least two credible Japanese papers suggest they were released.

If you make a mistake on Turbo Tax, the IRS is at your door in 10 minutes (unless you're Tim Geithner). But if you get caught with $134 billion in U.S. bonds, the reaction seems to be: "Whatever. If you guys have to go, that's cool. No need to stay in jail. We'll talk about this later."

Where the heck are these guys? Why doesn't anyone know? Why aren't the Italian police releasing any information or at least verifying that they know?

With so many questions left unanswered, we're left with speculation.

There's talk of four possible scenarios:

• It's just a couple of dopey schlubs acting alone

• The mob and Venezuela are working together. Venezuela hates the U.S. government and wants to collapse the economy. And the mob (not necessarily the Italian mob, but maybe a Russian or Japanese syndicate) wants money to do it

• Another government, such as China, Japan, Great Britain or Russia, wants to dump their money quietly, but don't want to collapse the dollar

• Our government is double-dealing. They are personally dumping debt, because they know about the possible deflation of the dollar. Could they be running a separate set of books? I mean, other than the ones we already know about

But those are just guesses. No one is answering any questions and if this story just dies, mark my words, in two years, when our dollar really starts to lose its value and we can't sell our bonds, this conspiracy theory will gain power and we'll have to listen to yet another drug-induced Charlie Sheen theory.

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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?