07 April 2015

Rand Paul and the Americans left behind

Senator Paul of Kentucky said a mouthful while declaring his candidacy for the presidency today. Here's the mouthful:

We need to go boldly forth under the banner of liberty that clutches the Constitution in one hand and the Bill of Rights in the other.

I'm taking this from a transcript and I don't know if the text was provided by the Paul campaign or was copied by a reporter as the Senator spoke. All I know is that I'm a little alarmed by this word-image of a clutching banner. Does he propose to wave a flag that has arms? If so, the redundancy of Paul's imagery may belie his hopes for more efficient government. Since the Bill of Rights is a set of amendments to the Constitution, and thus part of the prior document, the Senator's banner should be able to keep one of its hands free.

On a more serious note, there was little here to distinguish the supposedly more libertarian Paul from the rest of the expected Republican field. A real libertarian would challenge the religious right more than the Senator does here, but the candidate most likely knows his base and trims his sails accordingly. Little of his father's foreign-policy skepticism seems to have survived the son's maturation in office. He's hawkish on Iran and "radical Islam" in general and vows to do "whatever it takes to defend America from these haters of mankind." He wants to cut back foreign aid, especially for "haters of America" who burn our flag in their streets. Apparently leaders who want our money will have to suppress civil liberties somewhat. Careful readers may note that he doesn't condemn the tentative deal with Iran outright, but he insists on Congressional approval of the deal, which in the current climate virtually hands Benjamin Netanyahu a veto on American foreign policy. Paul presumably wants Sheldon Adelson's money as much as any Republican. So much, then, for any hope of real foreign-policy reform from that quarter.

On the domestic front, Paul notes that "Many Americans ... are being left behind. The reward of work seems beyond their grasp." He rightly deplores expanding inequality but blames it on big government, on misguided stimulus policies and generations of failed liberal programs. Like any Republican, not to mention any libertarian, he simply can not bring himself to say that businesses were wrong to take jobs away through outsourcing, whether from one part of the country to another or from this country to another country. How can he rail against Americans being left behind without noting who left them behind? It's not the liberals and the bureaucrats whose wealth is inflating the income gap, after all. Of course, it seems disingenuous to lament anyone being left behind if your libertarian worldview takes for granted that many will be left behind by virtue of their own shortcomings, and assumes that such a result is fair. Understanding that, it's not surprising that he offers no solution to inequality beyond school choice, when if anything the screaming need for certain job skills if more Americans aren't to be left behind should persuade us that less choice, or else more uniformity, is necessary in education. All "school choice" means is that you want to blame teachers' unions for our problems the way Stalin blamed Trotskyites for shortages. It's not a serious answer to an increasingly important issue, and no candidate in any party should be taken seriously if he or she fails to explain how Americans can acquire the skills necessary in an inescapably competitive global economy without risking debt-peonage. Some people probably stopped taking Rand Paul seriously before this point in his speech, or before he started speaking, but I figure these idiots warrant at least one fair hearing apiece once they declare their intent to rule us. Expect more idiocy in the months to come.

Addendum: Here's a more detailed transcript with more typically Paulian notes on foreign policy (i.e. strong defense without interventionism) and more suggestions for reducing inequality. Most of these boil down to cutting someone's taxes, though Paul also proposes reducing foreign aid and using the leftover money to rebuild infrastructure.The Senator also makes a point of saying "work is not punishment," but I'm not sure whose premise he's trying to refute. He notes proudly that two of his sons are working their way through college on minimum wage jobs. He can be proud of his boys but is he as proud of the country that sets such a minimum? Some of his fellow Republicans would like to see the younger Pauls make less money to keep the economy competitive. Would the Senator oppose that or would he advise his sons to get second jobs? I look forward to someone asking him that question.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"What fools these mortals be..."