Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Can’t Stand the Cant of Rand

Conservative capitalists have always tried to link democracy and capitalism as essential handmaidens.  But as the evidence shows far from being democracy’s handmaiden – capitalism is anathema to freedom. So-called libertarian Rand Paul is running for president and his libertarian dream will be in reality a nightmare. The mere usurpation of the word libertarian should demonstrate the deceit. A more exact description of Rand Paul is propertarian where he is an avowed defender of private property rights. Never mind that the rich in the US are the richest in the developed world (in both absolute and relative terms). Never mind that the US has one of the highest levels of inequality in the developed world. This inegalitarianism is still not enough for Paul's tastes. He wants more inequality.

Among his proposals is a "flat tax." By increasing taxes on the bottom and middle while decreasing them on the top, Paul's "flat tax" plan redistributes the national income upwards. Of course, making tax burdens "flatter" as part of a project to increase the overall tax level can be justified provided surplus revenue is buried into transfers. But Paul has no intention of making the overall tax level higher. He intends to make it lower. He seeks to eliminate capital taxes. Paul wants to clear out the entire slate of taxes that fall almost entirely on the super-rich, including taxes on capital gains, dividends, interest, estates, and enormous gifts. Such a reform would be a massive giveaway to the rich. Paul protests "today, the top 10 percent pays nearly 71 percent of all income taxes" while "the bottom 50 percent contributes 2.25 percent and many in this category have a negative tax liability." And that is unfair to the rich so they according to Paul logic deserve more tax breaks.

So Paul Jnr. wants to block welfare benefit programs. To balance the budget while reducing the overall tax level, outlays have to be cut somewhere. Given what the federal government does, that means either cuts in social insurance or cuts in the military. Last month, Rand Paul proposed a budget amendment that would add $76.5 billion to defense spending that leads on to a $190 billion addition over the next two years. How does Paul propose offsetting the increased cost? With $212 billion in cuts to things like climate change research, the EPA, and departments of Housing and Urban Development, Commerce and Education.

So, that leaves social insurance cuts. To cut social insurance, the conventional Republican strategy, which Paul adopts, is to block grant a bunch of the benefit programs to the states while slowly suffocating their funding. This is what they did to TANF and the program is basically a zombie on a march towards eventual death. Block granting programs like SNAP, WIC, and Medicaid reduces benefits for the poor while also making the benefits less responsive (sometimes even entirely unresponsive) to cyclical downturns, which is when the benefits are most needed.
In total, Paul wants to give away huge sums of money to the rich via the elimination of capital income taxes and switching into his "flat tax." The "flat tax" also, all else equal, reduces the disposable incomes of the bottom and the middle. This tax reform would lower the overall tax level, necessitating social insurance and transfer cuts that will fall heavily on the poor, as well as on the elderly and sick.  Like all the other advocates of so called “trickle down economics” and upwards redistribution, Paul assures us this reform would generate growth that would actually leave the bottom and middle better off even while it spikes inequality. The problem is that this growth theory is not supported by studies.

Paul wants to partially privatize Social Security, increase the retirement age, and cut benefits for upper-middle-income earners — all things George W. Bush fought for. He would privatize Medicare and block-grant Medicaid and food stamps, all staples in Paul Ryan's budgets. He wants to cuts the Food and Drug Administration budget to limit government "intrusion into the nation’s food supply." He wants to cut the budget of  those consumer watch-dogs, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health, as well as the US Geological Survey, the National Parks, and eliminate entirely the Bureau of Indian Affairs…the list of cuts goes on and on across the whole spectrum of American government spending. Not just the technical parts of the administration but the federal spending on education and housing. Paul would either eliminate or render nonrefundable the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit; the former is the US's most significant cash transfer program for non-elderly poor, and the latter also provides substantial assistance to low-income people.

In 2013, the Washington Free Beacon broke the news that one of Paul’s social media staffers, Jack Hunter, moonlighted as the “Southern Avenger,” a Confederate flag-bedecked white-supremacist writer. Paul ultimately didn’t have to fire Hunter (which might have had the unfortunate side effect of alienating some of his more right-wing supporters). Instead, Hunter resigned, allowing Paul to have it both ways: He didn’t have to condemn the aggressive racist he had hired, nor did he have to be associated with him. In an effort to reach out to possible black voters he has condescendingly, and largely in error, presented a myopic history of Republicans and civil rights. He also asked the audience if anyone knew that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) had been founded by Republicans. The Republican Party and the Democratic Party were not the same parties back then. Yet in 2010, Paul  said he sought to modify” one of the articles of the Civil Rights law, about private institutions which would legally allow discrimination based on race. Later he explained (then denied he said it) “I don’t like the idea of telling private business owners — I abhor racism, I think it’s a bad business decision to ever exclude anybody from your restaurant, but at the same time I do believe in private ownership… In a free society, we will tolerate boorish people who have abhorrent behavior.”

Rand Paul is a climate change denier. Last April, he said he is "not sure anybody exactly knows why" the climate is changing. He went on to call the science "not conclusive" and complain about "alarmist stuff." If you're wondering what he means by "alarmist stuff," in 2011, while arguing for a bill that would prevent the EPA from regulating carbon emissions, Paul said, "If you listen to the hysterics,…you would think that the Statue of Liberty will shortly be under water and the polar bears are all drowning, and that we're dying from pollution. It's absolutely and utterly untrue." Paul went on to assert that children are being misled into believing that "pollution" has gotten "a lot worse," when "It's actually much better now." Paul, of course, was conflating conventional air pollution—like sulfur dioxide, which has declined in the US—and climate pollution, which is cumulative and global, and therefore gets worse every year, even if America's annual emissions drop. Paul has voted to strip the EPA of its legal authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, to force approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, and to prevent Congress from placing any tax or fee on carbon pollution. Paul's lifetime voting score from the League of Conservation Voters is 9 percent. Of course in recent months to ensure vote-catching from some liberal youth, Paul has started to adjust the record, suggesting that he supports action to cut air pollution and believes that man-made greenhouse-gas emissions are contributing to climate change. However, that's not the same thing as supporting action to cut climate pollution. He has not supported a single bill or taken a single vote to limit emissions of conventional air pollutants or carbon dioxide. It is not the same thing as saying the government should mandate emissions limits. Senator Brian Schatz sponsored an amendment saying human activity is "significantly" responsible for climate change. That was a real endorsement of climate science, and only five Republican senators voted for it. Rand Paul was not one of them. Paul is prone to being sympathetic to conspiracist statements about science in general. In October, he suggested to Breitbart News that Ebola may be more easily spread than scientists say and that the White House had been misleading the country on the issue. And in February, Paul told CNBC, "I've heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines." This despite the fact that the supposed connection between autism and vaccination has been thoroughly debunked.

Much was made of his father’s Ron Paul’s non-interventionism in foreign affairs and it assumed that Rand Paul follows in his father’s footsteps. Not so. Paul has stopped saying things that will potentially upset pro-Israel voters. Additionally, Paul has produced an Orwellian-titled pro-Israel bill: The Defend Israel by Defunding Palestinian Foreign Aid Act of 2015. The bill would cut funding to Palestine unless they stop seeking recognition at the International Criminal Court. Paul's also responsible for the Stand With Israel Act, a piece of legislation that would also cut financial aid. As for cutting aid to Israel, the country that takes the most in taxpayer money, Paul has assured citizens that his stance on foreign aid is specifically inconsistent: "I've never said oh my goodness! Let's target aid to Israel…I said you know what, to get to an ultimate goal maybe we should start by eliminating aid to countries that hate us, countries that burn our flag. I've been very up front to acknowledge that Israel isn't one of the countries. Israel is our friend. I have never had a bill that had Israel's name in it to eliminate aid to Israel." On the subject of ISIS, Paul has supported the military air-attacks and although he does not want American boots on the ground, he is happy to provide the finance and the supplies for a local proxy force such as arming the Kurds. Rand Paul supports intervention in Syria—but just with less gusto.

His campaign slogans featured on his site: “Stand With Rand” and “Defeat the Washington machine. Unleash the American dream.” Unfortunately, Rand Paul is on the side of the machine he claims to oppose. Don’t believe the hype of his supposed anti-establishment positions. Several years ago he blocked action on the District of Columbia Budget Autonomy Act, a power-to-the-people measure designed to give the voters of Washington, DC, and their elected representatives more authority over the spending of locally raised tax dollars. Instead of embracing the decentralization plan, the senator used his position to derail it. He’s just another top-down, autocratic, big-government Republican. Despite the apparent populist rhetoric he is no better than the others. He is interested in only winning and says what people want to hear but he is purely another puppet for plutocracy regardless of the platitudes. Money talks and whoever has more money has more voice, even if it is full of lies. Rand Paul is an intellectual fraud. If he truly loved freedom and liberty he would be advocating for another American revolution, this time a socialist revolution, as the first one was a dismal failure in securing a civilized society.

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