Glenn Beck, the IMF, and the "Global V-A-T" "prison" conspiracy

Blog ››› ››› BEN DIMIERO

In recent weeks, media conservatives have been fearmongering about the Obama administration supposedly implementing a Value Added Tax (or VAT). For example, George Will absurdly claimed that the Obama administration has "deliberately aggravated" the financial crisis in order to get a VAT implemented. Discussing rumors that low earners could get VAT rebates, Gretchen Carlson asked if such a tax would spark "a revolution."

Of course, Glenn Beck upped the fearmongering ante today. Discussing the International Monetary Fund's recommendation (this will be important later) that countries implement a financial activities tax on banks' gross profits, Beck unveiled an absurd new conspiracy theory:

BECK: We're gonna talk about it tonight. Again the government, the IMF is starting to push everything up to a glob -- they're now talking about a global V-A-T tax. Do you have any concept of the amount of money a global tax would -- would create? Who's getting that money? The IMF? Name the IMF. Name the Fed. Name the people who are involved in the Fed. You can't. It's secret.

You're going to collect a global tax and give it to the IMF? Do you know what kind of prison is built for every free man on the planet with that kind of money? My gosh. They're pushing it up. I told you they would do this, they're gonna push it up to the globe. The answer, I said lies closest with you. Push it down, get it closer to you. I was wrong, push it to you. You. You make the difference in your own life.

That's a lot of wrong to fit into a minute and a half of radio, so let's take these one at a time.

First, Beck claims that the IMF is "talking about a global VAT tax." It's probably not a good idea to speculate on where he comes up with this stuff, but it seems entirely plausible that Beck saw one of several headlines about the IMF recommending that countries adopt a financial activities tax (an F-A-T tax, if you will) -- such as this one at Drudge: NEW GLOBAL 'FAT' TAX TO REIN IN BANKS...-- and misread it to launch into a discussion of the "V-A-T tax."

But that's almost entirely beside the point. The conclusions Beck reaches based on this misreading show that despite his protestations about not being a conspiracy theorist, he is certainly quick to veer into black helicopter territory based on no evidence.

Most of this conspiracy theory is a series of questions - evidently because Glenn Beck has absolutely no idea what he is talking about. He asks "who's getting the money" from this global tax and later asks if the money will be given "to the IMF." Of course, the IMF won't be collecting any tax money, nor will they be implementing a global tax of any kind. As described by the Financial Times, they aren't even suggesting a global tax [emphasis in original]:

No one is proposing a global tax anymore. Countries fiercely protect their sovereignty on tax issues and the original proposals suggested a global tax. The IMF has steered well clear of this in its report. It suggests merely that "international cooperation would be beneficial" and that "effective cooperation does not require full uniformity, but broad agreement on the principles, including the bases and minimum rates of the [tax]".

Beck uses his distortion to scare his viewers with the question: "Do you know what kind of prison is built for every free man on the planet with that kind of money?" While I assume he is speaking metaphorically, the answer, of course, is that the IMF could build zero imaginary prisons with the zero dollars they'd collect.

Further trying to scare listeners about the IMF recommendations, Beck challenged listeners to "name the IMF" and "name the people involved with the Fed." He asserted that "you can't" because "it's secret." Once again, this fear mongering about the "secret" global tax implementers doesn't square with reality.

While I admittedly couldn't name the members of the IMF off the top of my head, they helpfully provide a list of members on their website. Additionally, the idea that the people involved with the IMF are "secret" doesn't quite make sense with the fact that the reports about the IMF recommendations were spawned by the release of their latest report, which they marked with a press conference.

His claim that the people "involved" with the Fed are "secret" is similarly ludicrous. Once again, they list in exhaustive detail the Board of Directors as well as various banks, advisory councils, and other "people involved" right on their website.

Regardless of the merits of the recommendations by the IMF, it is impossible to have a reasonable discussion of policy when media figures like Beck rely so heavily on fearmongering and blatant distortions.

As Beck noted earlier this week, "We have an honesty shortage in America." You don't say.

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.