Did Rick Perry Violate one of the Ten Commandments in the Presidential Candidates Debate?

What do we do when a front runner candidate for presidential nomination speaks outright lies?

Rick Perry repeated last night in public on national TV what he said in his 2010 book, namely that the Social Security program of the US is a "ponzi scheme."

That is an absolute falsehood. Social security is an essential legal and long established retirement program that millions of Americans have relied upon for several generations.

A "ponzi scheme" is an illegal criminal activity that takes people's money under utterly false pretenses.

Had Perry sworn that Social Security program is a "Ponzi scheme" he would have violated one of the Ten Commandments.

A vain oath is a statement which denies self-evident facts. When the statement invokes the name of God as a sworn oath, it is a violation of the third commandment -- Exodus 20:7 and Deuteronomy 5:11 -- You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

Mishnah Shabuot 3:8 says: "What is the definition of a vain oath? If one has taken an oath to differ from what is well known to people. If he said (1) concerning a pillar of stone that it is made of gold, (2) concerning a man that he is a woman, (3) concerning a woman that she is a man..."

Obviously if a person took an oath that Social Security is a "Ponzi scheme" -- that would be a vain oath and a violation of the third commandment.

CBS news reported that influential republicans Karl Rove and Dick Cheney criticized Perry for his statement:
Perry called the popular federal program a Ponzi scheme in his 2010 book "Fed Up!" and his views have come under scrutiny since he entered the presidential race last month. Most recently, Republican strategist Karl Rove said Perry's take on Social Security will prove "toxic" in the 2012 election. Former Vice President Dick Cheney also said recently it was inaccurate to call the program a Ponzi scheme.
In fact, Perry was not under oath during the debate. So technically and Talmudically, no, he did not violate the biblical prohibition against a vain oath.

But yes, technically and Talmudically he did speak a big brazen utter lie.


Gil Student said...

The bottom line, though, is that Social Security is unsustainable and must be fixed before it collapses. If Perry uses inaccurate rhetoric to convey this uncomfortable fact and everyone else pretends the problem doesn't exist, he's the better candidate.

tzvee said...

Nobody pretends the problem does not exist. So your stated premise to justify or overlook Perry's lies is just as false and vain as his statements.

Joels W. Davidi said...

Well, yeah if he and the rest of the Christian world followed the interpretation of the commandment in the Mishna....

Gil Student said...


tzvee said...

thanks gil. most of the TNR references are pre-madoff. now, post-madoff, having seen the devastation of that actual ponzi crime, the comparison makes very little sense as a metaphor and it is biblically and rabinically wrong to use it.