May 24, 2010

Who’s Afraid of Rand Paul?

A number of other blogs and sites have had a great time bashing poor Rand Paul these days, and while I’ve been sitting back and watching the whole thing happen, I can’t help but laugh and join in.

This is the same man who said – and was forced to significantly backtrack from – that not only would he have opposed the 1964 Civil Rights Act – which ensured Black Americans had the unfettered right to vote and ended segregation and the policies of the Jim Crow south – but that he also had reservations about the Americans with Disabilities Act. The way he characterized his remarks implied that he would also have issues with the Lucy Ledbetter “Equal Pay for Equal Work” Act, with the right of women to vote, and just about any other Federal law that protects basic human rights in America without exemptions for private industry.

I think J Smooth said it best in this video about Rand Paul and his beliefs:

He’s absolutely and utterly correct, of course – and while he’ll stop short of saying that Rand Paul is racist, I think it goes back to another one of his videos that describes the difference between being a racist and saying or doing something that is racist. One is calling someone out on their behavior, the other is a character judgement you simply can’t make – and I think that’s Rand’s issue – he’s doing things that pave the way and open the doors to institutional racism, but is he a racist? Can’t say – all I can say is that his ideals and policies support institutional racism and he clearly prefers those policies to actual people.

What’s that? You haven’t seen the interview to which J Smooth is referring? Rachel Maddow has the lowdown on her blog, where she corrects a New York Times story on Paul and links to her own interview where Paul does some artful dodging of pointed questions:

[ New York Times gets Rand Paul wrong ]
Source: The Maddow Blog

Still, over at TruthDig, the venerable Robert Scheer – writing before the explosion of idiocy that’s been spewing from Rand Paul’s mouth like so much BP oil into the Gulf of Mexico, asks the question, “Who’s Afraid of Rand Paul?” and pointing out both sides of why we should be concerned about him – not because of the so-called rise of the Tea Partiers, because they’re willing to elect anyone who embodies their rage without checking to see whether they actually share that person’s beliefs, clearly – but because they may prove a way for fringe and extreme right-wingers to get elected. But in the long run, at least he’s not a traditional Republican, right?

Tuesday’s election results were pretty good for progressives. The retirement of that windbag chameleon Sen. Arlen Specter is long overdue, and pro-labor forces were able to push Sen. Blanche Lincoln into a runoff in Arkansas. Even the big tea party win in Kentucky has its bright side.

Count me as one lefty liberal who is not the least bit unhappy with the victory by Rand Paul in Kentucky’s Republican primary for the U.S. Senate. Not because it might make it easier for some Democratic Party hack to win in the general, but rather because he seems to be a principled libertarian in the mold of his father, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, and we need more of that impulse in the Congress. What’s wrong with cutting back big government that mostly exists to serve the interests of big corporations? Surely it would be better if that challenge came from populist progressives of the left, in the Bernie Sanders mold, but this is Kentucky we’re talking about.

[ Who’s Afraid of Rand Paul? ]
Source: TruthDig

Scheer tries desperately to make the best out of the election of Paul, which could very easily have been spun positively, but since he’s outed himself as anything but libertarian and more of a fringe-right corporatist when the pressure is on and only libertarian when it comes to revoking human rights by law and instead preferring the law of the market to rule not just business life but all life, I doubt even Scheer could defend him now.

Joshua Holland, writing for AlterNet, completely dissects Rand Paul’s attempt to be libertarian and winding up father right than most Republicans, specifically with regards to his desire to let BP off the hook entirely for the oil still pouring into the Gulf of Mexico:

Rand Paul’s supporters argue that his greatest flaw is his relentless honesty. In the Wall Street Journal, James Taranto gushed that “Far from being evasive, Paul has shown himself to be both candid and principled to a fault.”

But in an Appearance on Good Morning America, Paul proved that he is just another corporate-power-loving wing-nut who believes companies can do no harm, and there’s nothing principled or libertarian about that stance.

As Matt Corley reported earlier, Paul said Obama’s promise to put his “boot heel on the throat of BP” was “un-American.” He mused that it was an example of our “blame game society,” in which “it’s always got to be someone’s fault,” and added: “maybe sometimes accidents happen.”

The context here is important. Obama was talking about forcing BP to accept full liability for its actions. Libertarians believe that we are all autonomous agents who should be free to make our own rational choices, and then we must take responsibility for the results of the decisions we make. BP has caused billions and billions in damages to others, and its liability for the mess is capped at just $75 million plus the actual costs of the clean-up (but since BP will likely be found negligent in operating the rig, those caps are not necessarily going to apply).

Along the way, the company made choices. Its managers chose to drill in 5,000 feet of water, and then cut corners in terms of safety not only on the Horizon, but as a general operating principle. They made a rational decision to drill with a blow-out preventer that had a dead battery and was effectively “useless.” And they chose not to invest a half million dollars in a back-up system that might have prevented the worst damages.

That’s right – 11 people died on that rig from a completely preventable explosion and now near immeasurable damage is being done to the ecology and economy of the Gulf of Mexico – and as rare and unusual as it is for such a thing to happen, Rand Paul wants to chalk it up to an “accident” and move on without looking into it any further or holding anyone accountable for their actions. This is the kind of behavior I would expect from a Tea Partier or a webertarian (eg, the ignorant, mom’s-basement libertarians that troll YouTube and Reddit), but not someone who actually understands and wears the label of libertarian.

Holland continues:

The people of the Gulf whose livelihoods are being destroyed by the spill had no say in those decisions. It’s what economists call a “negative externality” — effects of a private transaction on a 3rd party. True libertarians believe that government’s only role should be to keep the peace and to correct market failures when they occur. Negative externalities represent the classic market failure.

Libertarians believe the government doesn’t need to regulate — to, for example, force oil-rig operators to have redundant systems and tightly monitor their safety routines — because the market will punish those actors who make the wrong choices. BP, according to the “logic” of the free market, should now bear the full burden for the results of the choices it made. Libertarians believe that when a free individual makes choices that harm others, litigation from other private actors will result. That’s known as “private enforcement,” and true libertarians argue that it is far preferable to “public enforcement,” AKA regulation.

I have a whole chapter in my book about how ours is a political culture that embraces the idea of free markets, but only in principle. BP made those choices I mentioned above because they were the economically rational things to do — they knew that if they destroyed a large swath of the Gulf Mexico in the process, they wouldn’t end up paying for it in its entirety, so management could rationally take more risk than they would have in a real free market system.

If Rand Paul were truly a principled libertarian, he’d be out in front of Obama, demanding that BP take full responsibility for its actions because it’s the free market thing to do. Instead, he dismisses the whole notion of taking responsibility for one’s decisions with an airy statement that “accidents happen.”

That makes Rand Paul just another Republican whose first instinct is to bow down in obeisance to the corporations that he apparently believes can do no harm — they only suffer “accidents” — even while thousands of barrels of oil continue to leak into the Gulf.

That about sums it up – Paul is completely willing to shield BP from the ramifications the market will take on their actions, when in reality what he would be doing if he were remotely libertarian. But then, this psuedo-libertarian scourge goes all the way back to his father – the man that Robert Scheer was trying in vain to defend in some regard, which I wrote about at length in my column The Ronulan Menace back when he was running for President.

Will this nonsense be the end of us all or the dooming of American politics? Not likely, especially as long as people like Paul pretend that he doesn’t have another election to win come November and keep his foot firmly planted in his mouth, but even if he does win that Kentucky senate seat, he’ll be so fringe he’ll likely find his time in Washington short either by will of the poeple or his own inevitable weakness.

In the interim though, it all makes for excellent, if not facepalm-worthy, political theatre.

[ That Was Fast — Rand Paul Throws Libertarian “Principles” Out the Window ]
Source: AlterNet

1 Comment »

  1. […] enough – and I have to admit, the political dramady that is Rand Paul is hilarious and fantastic to watch, but here’s the real breakdown: But the biggest credit […]

    Pingback by Not So Humble dot net || Proud Member of the Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy » Americans Have Worse Opinion of Tea Parties Than Ever Before — June 14, 2010 @ 2:07 pm

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