Monday, January 23, 2012

Rand Paul Missed His Connection

Just a little catch-up on my life and then I want to write a little bit more about the GOP political scene right now.

On Saturday Ciera and I performed our Missed Connections piece to a small crowd of artistically minded people. They seemed to like it. Ciera and I are going to try to clean it up and audition for 12 Minutes Max with it. So we are excited about that.

After the Town Theater’s first big event we went to a couple of bars in Capitol Hill. And when I was stuck in the crowded club trying not to get molested by a Ronnie D look alike I realized why I don’t go to these places anymore. The entire clubbing experience lies in the desire to do a mating dance on a crowded and sticky floor. There is adrenaline and energy, alcohol and cigs; a life full of anticipation, sweat, and excess.

And it’s all because you hope that you go home with someone or blur the loneliness into waste and feel comfortable against another warm body. You stand in the cold in line; sit in uncomfortable and dingy chairs; pay too much for social lubricant.

Even hipsters in Seattle go to these clubs; but they are dressed like they are about to see the greatest indie band that you have never heard of. It is bizarre to see Mr. Skinny Jeans Bedhead Flannel guy dancing to Mariah Carey.

It happens though; all in the name of fun. And that seemed like the perfect coda to Missed Connections.

Ok so, let’s take a look at Ron Paul.

Ron Paul’s big claim to fame is his libertarianism. Libertarianism can very generally be summed up in a couple of favorite quotes of mine, “Ima do me, you do you.” “You do what you want as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone.” “Government should be small and protect us only from the most egregious violators of the law.” “I’m from Nevada.”

That last quote actually may be one of the best--seriously. Nevada is considered one of the most individualist states; one that embodies best the rights of the individual over a strong and pervasive government.

Libertarianism is interesting politically because it does not make one a Democrat or a Republican. In fact, being a libertarian has been put on a grid with liberal and conservative occupying the x-axis and libertarianism and authoritarianism occupying the y-axis. So, one’s political beliefs can stem from a fundamentally liberal or conservative perspective but the way one would implement the laws determines one’s libertarian or authoritarian orientation.

Ron Paul is a conservative libertarian. He has many classically conservative values but is a strong advocate for “getting government out of our lives.”

In the last 20 years this movement has grown drastically, and with the rise of groups like the Tea Party, has heavily influenced the Republican party--as well as the Democratic Party. Arguably, during the W Bush years many Democrats were liable to call themselves libertarians chiefly because of their opposition due to expansions of government--particularly executive--authority such as warrantless wiretaps, indefinite detentions of US citizens, and suspension of habeas corpus. In fact, Democrats for a long time were adamant about shrinking what they perceived as an out of control military industrial complex that had eroded our democratic (as in democracy not the party) ideals.

The crux of libertarianism is what Ron Paul has called ‘Constitutionalism.’ Constitutionalism is a problematic term for me and I will use it for clarity’s sake with the caveat that I briefly explain my reservations. The word constitutionalist implies that the believer is dedicated to a strict interpretation of the US Constitution which is fine.

But the term implicitly hints that someone with opposing viewpoints does not know or respect the Constitution. The terminology doesn’t actually leave much room for debate on a document that was very intentionally made with vague language and provisions for revision because our Founding Fathers knew two things: they couldn’t agree on everything, and their forebears wouldn’t either. The US Constitution is one of the shortest of any country and one of the least informative.

The Bill of Rights had to be added after the ratification of the Constitution because people were so skittish about the Constitution’s brevity and lack of individually enumerated rights. Several states nearly rejected it for two reasons: it created a strong central government, and it did not guarantee individual rights.

The amendment process was created and with it the phrase, “the Constitution is a living document.”

Ron Paul’s Constitutionalism is realistically another interpretation of the US Constitution. It’s not wrong, it’s strict though. And strict in a way that can be difficult to defend.

Not every point mind you, but certainly a few. So now I'm going to go through the issues on his website; it jumps around a bit so keep up. Most glaring is Ron Paul’s position on abortion. I know this is hot water but we must wade in.

So I’ll just quote his website on this one so as not to make a fool of myself. Also, there is no such thing as a partial birth abortion according to my friend who would be definitely informed on this (haven’t specifically looked it up myself and I won’t argue the point too finely as that’s not the point I’m trying to argue, but look it up if you have some time).

Ron Paul would, “effectively repeal Roe v. Wade and prevent activist judges from interfering with state decisions...by removing abortion from federal court jurisdiction through legislation modeled after his “We the People Act.”

That sounds like he would increase states rights, but look at his mechanisms to do so. It requires federal legislation to over-rule Roe v. Wade. He justifies his action as anti-activist judges. But that argument fundamentally does not hold water. Ever since McCulloch v Maryland (1819) the Supreme Court has asserted its power to interpret the Constitution not explicitly outlined by the printed word.

Our ‘activist judges’ are merely trying to apply the Constitution to an evolving world. There is certainly nothing in the Constitution about computers, yet we hardly make the case that judges are being activists for allowing warrants to search the digital archives. It is plainly absurd to limit a cop to a traditional search of a digital device (something akin to that one scene in Zoolander where Owen Wilson breaks a computer open to the files inside).

When it comes to abortion, Ron Paul would lean on his powers as an executive in conjunction with the legislature (big government anyone) to dictate what local judges can and cannot do.

One last bit on Mr. Paul; his descriptions of the abortions he was ‘forced’ to witness are plainly illegal and/or inaccurate. And his site unethically lies about what organizations like Planned Parenthood can do with the federal funding they receive. Let me be clear, organizations like Planned Parenthood are not allowed by law to use any federal funding for abortions. Period. Only a fraction of Planned Parenthood centers even provide abortions; the rest provide low cost medical access and information--rigorously backed by the latest advances in the medical and psychological field--to provide quality care to low income or at risk individuals. Planned Parenthood’s primary goal is to prevent the spread of disease, unwanted pregnancy, or dangerous and illicit behaviors through access to information to help people make smart decisions. Their goal isn’t to harvest fetuses; it is to lower the incidence of abortions as much as possible. The states with the lowest access to these services have the highest rates of abortion or teen pregnancy. Sorry, little rant there.

Anyways, Ron Paul’s Constitutionalism may not be his strongest suit, and many pundits like to blab on and on about how he isn’t a real Ayn Rand Objectivist--yadda yadda yadda. But he is fairly consistent with his lassaiz-faire (French for hands-off) approach to governance. Excepting how he sees his executive power (able to easily bend Congress to his will which takes either a radical victory or an authoritarian executive) he does believe in letting the states free.

Ron Paul believes in drastically shrinking the footprint of most of the government: military and social services. In a Ron Paul world we would have a sustainable homeland defense but not much else. We would probably have something similar to Kennedy’s (and believe it or not Obama’s) vision of our military. Small elite units backed by other force-multipliers that could surgically take on any future military challenges. Not bad, but that does mean those cuts could severely impact our industries. Lockheed Martin and Boeing have been severely hit by the recession and cutting back on contracts to the two aeronautics manufacturers would most likely mean their bankruptcy or the lay-offs of tens of thousands of workers.

Mr. Paul would like to do that for most government agencies and the companies that the government contracts to. His policies would mean the contraction of jobs and economies reliant on our government in massive numbers. This would result immediately in the loss of over a million jobs (2 million were lost in the Great Recession) in the short-term and the long-term contraction of such jobs that could be worth many millions more.

His belief is that this workforce would be picked up by the Free Market; new innovations and industries would flourish under a freed up system; one radically devoid of the red tape that hampered industry before.

Well, not really. Think for a second. The government currently subsidizes most of the food on our tables heavily and only a few large conglomerates own the majority of America’s food supply. Removal of said subsidies could make prices skyrocket but not necessarily result in higher pay for workers. In fact, workers would probably take a pay cut in industries such as beef and corn.

I’ve written plenty about how the Free Market is just as utopian as a Communist Society. Realistically we have a democratic and capitalist society that has an interplay that is far from absolute in any sense. A capitalist economy has to play by the rules of a democracy; plain and simple otherwise we end up like China on one side or the failed Articles of Confederation on another (EU anyone?).

But Ron Paul does stick to his guns. And so does everyone else. That’s sort of the problem. There has been no legislation even hinted at by the Obama Administration, the Democratic Senate, or the 2009 House of Representatives to limit gun rights. Gun control for liberals (the Democrats’ main voting bloc) is one of the lowest priority issues; the NRA has even successfully loosened gun restrictions in several states. The only people it is an issue or even a threat for, are candidates trying to stir up voters. The days of Reagan, HW Bush, and Clinton are over and most Americans can buy almost anything short of a rocket launcher.

Ron Paul wants to end the Fed. Two reasons this is probably not a great idea: the EU and president Jackson’s pet banks. And as always, the Articles of Confederation. Central banking is very important to a modern functioning economy. That the Fed may need reform or an audit is actually a pretty good idea. The Fed isn’t directly accountable to really anyone and could use a little oversight. But if that were to happen Ron Paul would have to use the Federal Government to limit our central bank--a distinctly un-libertarian approach.

Unions. Ron Paul is all for the Right to Work. That’s generally a person’s way of saying that they want to limit the power of unions. And I don’t like corrupt unions or unions that force me to join them just so that I can work. But then I look at the nuance of the situation; right to work states have some of the highest rates of poverty and poorest quality of life conditions. State legislatures that have ‘freed up the labor market’ by limiting severely the collective bargaining rights of workers have found that they face some of the highest foreclosure rates in the nation and some of the worst economic problems of any states.

States with right to work laws tend to have boom or low skill labor industries that are impermanent and do not employ highly skilled workers. These industries have a tendency to leave states in 15-20 years and leave behind boom towns without a fallback industry. My thesis adviser spent a lot of time working on that and I also came across a fair amount of it for my thesis. So yeah.

I would love some labor reform though. Union bosses and the structure of unions could use a lot of reform to ensure that skilled laborers are allowed to work and that corrupt fat cats aren’t exploiting the working man. But considering how CEO pay has ballooned out of control; I’d say that wealth disparities lie more in companies refusing to disburse profits more equitably to the workers who put in the work and much less in annual union dues. In fact, the failure of pay rates for workers to rise with CEOs can be seen as a failure of unions to bargain effectively.

Ron Paul has character flaws--racist newsletter whatever. All of those personal attacks are so blah. Realistically Ron Paul has been an effective debater and a shrewd organizer on the campaign trail. He refuses to go away and has presented effective (and far better thought out) policies and views than his rival candidates.

His forceful attitude and unorthodox approaches make him not only a candidate to watch but a candidate whose views will have a resounding impact on the Republican (and probably Democratic) party for years to come.

I think that his long-haul approach to the campaign could be an effective strategy. I think that he is smarter than the other candidates. And I generally respect Mr. Paul for hanging in there even though the media insists on ignoring him.

Rand Paul was recently detained by the TSA and searched. He missed his flight. Get the title now?