Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Rand Paul - Constructing Populism

 Many young ‘progressives’ are seeking potential alternatives. Rand Paul has carefully positioned himself to seek those younger voters. Not everything is as it appears. Rand Paul is a conservative and voting for him is a vote for more of the same ideas. You might experience euphoria and think change is going to occur but you will be disappointed. On economic issues Paul is a dangerous and heartless right-wing radical. On social issues he's as reactionary as the worst Republican theocrat. Even on drugs and foreign policy, it's not at all clear that Paul would be an improvement. When it comes to the interests of all but the obscenely wealthy, Rand Paul is a wolf in sheep's clothing. Rand Paul is channeling his name-sake, Ayn Rand. A woman who created a make believe world where all problems stemmed from doing anything to help your fellow man, and all that was good and true came from pure, unrestricted capitalism. Unfortunately, her world was only make believe, and her solutions have never been demonstrated to work anywhere. Her ideas do, however, appeal to the worst aspects of human nature, and have found a home in the libertarian party.

While few believe across-the-board libertarianism is a pragmatic governing strategy, some of that ideology’s core tenets—like respect for privacy and civil liberties—are valuable, constructive ideals. But when the most famous libertarian icons so often contradict themselves, those ideals are undermined. They end up seeming less like the building blocks of a principled belief system and more like talking points propping up a cheap brand—one designed to hide shopworn partisanship.

In America right-wing libertarianism is the idea that in a completely free market society, the economy would operate as millions of small producers in perfect competition. As long as a person works hard and competes fairly, they will succeed; if they are lazy, they will fail. Libertarians believe that if only the government got its hands out of the affairs of private enterprise, then a purer form of capitalist harmony would emerge.

But it is a myth. In reality, the more “free” a market becomes, the more the competition gets rigged. In a capitalist system, the main goal is to grow and accumulate indefinitely. Competition is an effective way to drive innovation and efficiency in theory. But as businesses grow into large corporations and gain larger shares of the market, smaller producers can no longer compete, and must either work for the competition or exit the industry. We see this dynamic at work in the dominance of companies like Walmart and Amazon, who have managed to stack the deck overwhelmingly in their own favor and drive innumerable smaller competitors out of business. One thing about capitalism that free-market libertarians do not seem to understand is that it represents a constantly evolving social system. This also means that theories must also keep up with reality. Capitalists do not care about theory, as libertarians do; they care about getting ahead and increasing profit. Tilting the scales in one’s favor is simply an expedient way to achieve said profits. Libertarians excel only at manufacturing empty slogans.

Many of those on the right distrust the Fed and want to eliminate its power in the belief that the private economy, including the private banks, will be much more efficient, productive and even democratic if they are left to themselves: in other words, the criticism of the Fed really reflects a desire to cripple the government in the service of increasing the power and authority of the market. The perspective of most progressive critics is quite different: they don't want to destroy the power of the Fed to regulate the macroeconomy and finance. They want to regain control over it so that it better serves the interests of the whole population. So the right wants to destroy the power of the Fed to increase the power of finance; and the progressives want to reorient the Fed so that it will stop protecting the interests of finance and protect the interests of the broader population instead.

Getting rid of regulations and privatizing everything, as libertarians propose, would not create a pure form of capitalism where everyone has a fair shot — it would create a dystopia of abusive and uncaring corporations without any accountability to the public. Paul's budget would entirely eliminate funding for the Department of Education The worst case scenario there would be the elimination of funding for public schools entirely, while the best case would be allowing block grants to states to spend education money as they see fit. So if Alabama wanted to make education funding dependent on teaching students that dinosaurs lived alongside humans before missing Noah's ark, they would be allowed to do that in Rand Paul's perfect world without pesky oversight from the federal government. But that's not all. Elementary students would lose school lunches, as well as children's health insurance programs and other food assistance. Even though  federal money is a small percentage, it's still significant to individual schools. It would put the burden on states to drum up more cash from the taxpayers and those same taxpayers could choose to close down the Dept of Education. 

 Rand Paul didn't have any difficulty in placing the interests of big banks over those of students by voting against Elizabeth Warren's proposal to allow students to borrow money from the government at the same low rate that banks do. Meanwhile, Rand Paul also supports repealing the Affordable Care Act, including its provision that allows Americans under 26 to remain on their parents' health plans. He would eliminate the Housing and Urban Development and Energy departments, crucial instruments for improving blighted neighborhoods, helping working Americans achieve stability, and moving the country toward a renewable energy future.

One of Paul's supposed differences with the Washington establishment is his stated opposition to the surveillance state and his support for privacy rights. Rand Paul is indeed vocal in his opposition to the renewal of the Patriot Act, but the devil is in the details. When Paul had a real opportunity to curtail the NSA's power in November of last year, he infuriated civil liberties advocates by voting against a bill that would have dramatically scaled back NSA operations on the grounds that the reforms would be part of the Patriot Act. The Patriot Act might be modified when it comes up for renewable, but it's very unlikely to be scrapped entirely. So civil liberties advocates know that the best chance at reforming the NSA will come by making alterations to the law. Which means that when Rand Paul opposes NSA reform on a hardline stance against renewing the Patriot Act, he gets to have his cake and eat it, too: he wins support from privacy-minded voters while ensuring that the establishment knows he's not a real threat to make even minor changes to how the security state does business.

Despite styling himself as a libertarian who favors privacy rights, Rand Paul stridently opposes both abortion rights and gay marriage, sticking the government in your womb and in your bedroom. On abortion Rand Paul goes further than even many of his Republican colleagues, opposing abortion even in cases of rape and incest and when queried upon applying the federal government's power to force a 13-year-old to carry her father's baby to term he tried to dodge the question by saying the issue wasn't worth talking about. Paul, for all of his anti-big-government rhetoric, he supports using the power of huge government to ban women from making their own choices about whether or not to terminate pregnancies. As if that weren't bad enough, Rand Paul also took the extraordinary step of voting against the Violence Against Women Act. On marriage equality, Rand Paul continue to take an archaic stance against the rights of LGBT Americans to marry and strengthen household stability, despite blaming the weakening of marriage for increased poverty among straight Americans.

Paul also opposed the Civil Rights Act, including its provisions demanding that all Americans be treated equally regardless of race. He then attempted to backtrack on that statement by claiming that civil rights provisions should be left up to the states to decide, but that's an obvious dodge, given that the Civil Rights Act was passed at the federal level precisely because intransigent, mostly former Confederate states adamantly refused to integrate schools or force businesses to serve blacks as well as whites at the lunch counter. If civil rights were left entirely up to states to decide, many states would still be stuck in the Jim Crow era. Which is precisely how conservative politicians like Rand Paul who advocate for "state's rights" in the realm of civil liberties want it. Paul's antiquated views on civil liberties match up with his support for discriminatory voter ID laws on their merits (if not on their politics), and his steadfast opposition to gay rights.

Rand Paul does not support decriminalizing drugs. As we've seen, Rand Paul often pretends to be something he is not on many issues, not least of which is drug policy. While his father, Ron Paul, is a strong advocate of drug decriminalization, the son has not followed in his father's footsteps. In fact, he has gone out of his way to distance himself from his father on the issue to reassure the GOP base. He has publicly assured conservative evangelicals that he disagrees with drug decriminalization, and that his father's views on the subject should not be attributed to him. Paul's stance even on marijuana, much less harder drugs, isn't "live and let live," but rather just more of the same "just say no." It's true that Rand Paul advocates sentencing reforms for nonviolent drug offenses, but so do many others.

As a senator, he more than others has strayed from Republican Party orthodoxy and taken some genuinely strong libertarian positions. He has tried to foment a discussion about the taboo topic of government subsidies to corporations. In January, he said that “we will not cut one penny from the safety net until we’ve cut every penny from corporate welfare” and last month he said that if elected president, he’d slash business subsidies “so I don’t have to cut the Social Security of someone who lives on Social Security.” However, Paul’s pledges about corporate welfare apparently do not extend to the Pentagon, which has often been a big repository of such welfare for defense contractors. As Time reported in March, “Just weeks before announcing his 2016 presidential bid ... Paul is completing an about-face on a longstanding pledge to curb the growth in defense spending.” The magazine noted that he introduced legislation “calling for a nearly $190 billion infusion to the defense budget over the next two years—a roughly 16 percent increase.”

While speaking with Iowa-based radio host Jan Mickelson, Paul criticized efforts by the U.S. and the United Nations to settle Iraqi refugees in the country. 
“We won the war in Iraq, why would we be giving political asylum to people to come from a country where we won the war?” Paul asked. “It’s one thing if you’re trying to escape Castro or trying to escape communism in Russia or Vietnam or somewhere else or China, I can understand asylum, but when you win the war, why would you give people asylum? And if the 60,000 coming here are friends of the West, wouldn’t you want that 60,000 to be in Iraq helping to form a better country over there?” He continued: “If you let the better people, the people who like the United States leave and come here, then aren’t you diminishing the numbers of folks that would make that country a better place to live? So I think the whole idea of resettling 60,000 people from Iraq over here was a mistake. But I also think that the refugee program as well as the student visa program are some of the highest risks for us to be attacked.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

the guy is a monster