For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, Rand Paul delayed a new, 700-page congressional budget that purportedly adds $300 billion to the deficit. CNN has the money shot:
“When the Democrats are in power, Republicans appear to be the conservative party,” Paul said at one point. “But when Republicans are in power, it seems there is no conservative party. The hypocrisy hangs in the air and chokes anyone with a sense of decency or intellectual honesty.”
Read the rest. The delay lasted a couple of hours. What I found most interesting was the complaining, by Senators and House Representatives alike, about having to stay up until 4 or 5 in the morning to pass the budget.
Good. At first I was incensed that politicians could think of nothing other than getting a good night’s sleep after adding hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit (these are the same people who have voted to give themselves six-figure salaries for their “public service”), but then I remembered, thanks in part to Rick’s constant reminders, to give my enemies all my faith. Washington’s politicians probably believe they are doing honest work, and that adding to the already massive deficit is okay as long as it achieves a bipartisan consensus.
One other thought: Rand Paul is playing politics when he uses the term “conservative” to describe budget discipline. He knows, like Jacques, that conservatives are unprincipled, middle-of-the-road opportunists, but in today’s public discourse, fiscal discipline is somehow associated with conservatism, so he uses the term “conservative” to describe his libertarian politics.
Does anybody know where the deficit actually stands?
U of Missouri Student VP: “I think that it’s important for us to create that distinction and create a space where we can all learn from one another and start to create a place of healing rather than a place where we are experiencing a lot of hate like we have in the past.” Mmhm. And what better way to learn from one another than by restricting what can and cannot be said?
Ian Bremmer, a political scientist at NYU (and numerous think tanks), has teamed up with Time to put together this quiz on what you think the proper role for the US (“America”) is in the world today. According to Bremmer, a neoconservative, there are three basic points of view with regard to the US’s role in the world: Independent, Indispensable, and Moneyball (you can read his explanation for these three types, as well as his analysis of how major presidential candidates fit into these categories, here).
I ended up being “caught between Independent and Moneyball America,” just like Rand Paul. Leave your scores in the ‘comments’ thread! Bremmer got his PhD in political science from Stanford back in 1994.
Sen. Rand Paul, the nominally Republican presidential candidate, has inherited an uncommon trait from his father. He manages to inspire distrust in his credibility even as he conveys a message I want to hear and believe. On Thursday June 18th 2015, he had an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about his proposed tax reform. Any national tax reform involves fiendishly difficult calculations about complex matters. Sen. Paul wants to junk the whole repulsive, disgusting, oppressive income tax and the IRS in favor of a flat tax. Music to my ears but difficult to believe his assertion that this replacement would be revenue neutral.
I don’t especially want federal revenue neutrality. I want the federal government’s share of GDP to decline. Yet, I understand that Mr Paul wishes to avoid conducting two discussions in one. (Junk the personal income tax; decrease the power of the federal government.) So, he has not done anything wrong there.
My problem is that in the course of a longish piece, he misuses grossly two sets of simple, basic economic terms. In this second paragraph, he refers to “duties and tariffs…” Toward the last third, he states something about “small businesses” and “corporations.” Both statements would be unacceptable in a sophomore basic economics class, even in a introduction to economics in a reasonably good high school.
Here is the first mistake: duties and tariffs are the same object. A “duty” is a tax on imports (or, very rarely, on exports). A tariff is the mechanism used to levy such taxes. It could be 10% of the value of the import or it could be $1 per bottle, for example. (Both methods are common.) That’s it. Referring to “duties and tariffs” proves beyond any doubt that you don’t understand the ordinary and oldest form of taxation. It looks bad in an essay devoted to …taxation.
Contrasting, or building any sort of parallel construction between “small business” and “corporations” is a common mistake but it does not belong under the pen of an elected politician who wants, as his main contribution, to overturn the way we have been financing most government for fifty years. “Small” businesses are in fact small. “Corporations” can be of any size, including two people, such a dentist and his wife. Most American corporations are small. The word corporation refers to a legal arrangement. It has nothing to do with the size of the business.
It’s as if Sen Paul did not know simple stuff when he talks about complex stuff. It’s as if, even more seriously from the standpoint of his credibility, he had no one to proofread his writing for blatant errors. It’s as if he were so convinced of knowing everything that he did not need -ever – anyone looking over his shoulder. If these two mistakes are the product of carelessness, they also imply hubris. That’s worse than simple ignorance because it has no cure in a grown man.
How can I trust someone to unravel the complex relationship between taxes, government revenue, economic growth, and personal liberty when he sounds like one of my indifferent former students?
That’s the title of this short piece of reporting by the Weekly Standard‘s Michael Warren (the Weekly Standard is a neoconservative outlet). I recommend the whole thing, but cannot resist sharing an excerpt:
Without mentioning his name, Paul took on fellow Republican senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who may be running for president and who spoke to the conference just a few minutes after Paul. Paul and Graham were on opposing sides during a 2011 Senate debate on indefinite detention of American citizens accused of terrorism. Graham’s argument was that these Americans ought to be classified as unlawful enemy combatants, and that the rules of war apply so long as Congress has authorized military action. Enemy combatants can be detained for as long as hostilities continue or when Congress otherwise says so, goes the thinking. “And when they say, ‘I want my lawyer,’ you tell them ‘Shut up. You don’t get a lawyer. You’re an enemy combatant,'” Graham had said during the floor debate.
But Paul didn’t see it that way.
“One of them said, ‘When they ask for a lawyer, you just tell them to shut up.’ Really? That’s the kind of discourse we’re going to have in our country? Tell them to shut up?” Paul said. “You would send an American citizen to Guantanamo Bay without a lawyer, without a trial? He said, ‘Yeah, if they’re dangerous.’”
Paul cracked a smile as he launched into full libertarian lecture mode.
“It sort of begs the question, doesn’t it? Who gets to decide who’s dangerous and who’s not dangerous?” he said, pacing back and forth across the stage in blue jeans and without a jacket. “Has there been a time in our history when we decided who was dangerous based on the color of your skin? Has there been a time in our history when we decided someone was dangerous because of different beliefs, didn’t look like us, or had a different religion? Are we going to give up on our right to trial so easily?”
Say what you will about Paul, but you won’t see anybody else in the primaries discussing the issues he discusses. The rest of the article has a lot more great stuff, and not only about the battle for the soul of the GOP, but bigger issues – thanks in part to Paul’s initiatives in the Senate, but also to the work of libertarian theorists and activists for the good part of four decades – such as asset forfeiture. Also, more subtly, you can find a penetrating insight into democracy itself (and if you find it, brag about it in the ‘comments’ threads, as I’d like to discuss it further). (h/t James Parsons)
“Part of the problem is the Kurds aren’t getting enough arms,” Paul said. “The Kurds are the best fighters. The arms are going through Baghdad to get to the Kurds and they’re being siphoned off and they’re not getting what they need. I think any arms coming from us or coming from any European countries ought to go directly to the Kurds. They seem to be the most effective and most determined fighters.”
In addition, Paul called for giving the Kurds their own country for them to defend against radical Islamists.
“But I would go one step further: I would draw new lines for Kurdistan and I would promise them a country,” Paul said.
Cue the notes here at NOL on adhering to a more internationalist foreign policy: decentralization, secession, devolution, and federation. Notice that Paul is not calling for the US to draw up boundaries between imperial powers. He’s simply calling for the international community that the US largely built to recognize the sovereignty claims of peoples in the post-colonial world, peoples who were ignored when the imperial powers did their carving up over a century ago.
Which option sounds better to you: 1) ignoring the whole situation in the Middle East, 2) pretending that states in the Middle East are legitimate and continuing with the status quo (random bombing campaigns, giving money to dictators to squelch Islamists and socialists), or 3) recognizing that the US could contribute to a more internationalist world by welcoming aspirant regions into statehood, and destroying the legacies of colonialism and Third World nationalism?
That’s because the vaccine didn’t exist when I was a kid. I got the disease instead, leaving me with natural immunity. I think my chums all got it too and it amounted to a few days of discomfort, no big deal. But there must have been some who got it and suffered serious consequences, even death. News just didn’t get around in those days (ca. 1950) like it does today.
It’s terrific that a vaccine now exists, but like all vaccines it entails perverse incentives. When nearly everyone is vaccinated, there is little incentive for an individual parent to get it for his child because the disease can’t spread through a vaccinated population, and at least some incentive not to get it: cost, bother, and a remote chance of ill effects. And if enough parents skip the vaccine, the percentage of vaccinated children may fall low enough to permit the disease to propagate as, in fact, it has begun to do lately in some areas.
The solution for public schools is simple: require vaccination for all entering school children. As long as we have public schools, there have to be rules and this would be a quite sensible rule. For private schools the situation is trickier. Should the government require private schools to require vaccination? I think not. Most parents would have sense enough to keep their kids away from such schools. A no-measles policy would be a selling point for private schools.
I can only list, in order of magnitude, three: 1) Republican hawks, 2) condescending Leftists, and 3) anti-Americans abroad.
In some ways none of this is surprising. All three of these factions hate each other, mostly because they are the least libertarian factions in the world (familiarity breeds contempt, it is often said).
Republican hawks are first on my list because they are the most dangerous. This is a deeply reactionary faction that does not care one iota about the national interest. It is a vulgar mob that has no need for nuance or depth. One of the state of Florida’s Senators, Marco Rubio, exemplifies this isolationist faction. This is demagoguery at its finest. It also goes a long way toward explaining why I will never, ever be a Republican, despite the honest efforts of courageous statesmen like Ron and Rand Paul.
Condescending Leftists are second because of their reactions to the beginnings of the end of a vicious, self-defeating embargo: Decrying the fact that Starbucks and McDonald’s will soon be forcing poor, naive Cubans into becoming customers with actual choices in an actual marketplace. According to the worldview of these Leftists: the lives of Cubans have been better than those of Westerners because of its simplicity (this simplicity was brought about, of course, by the heavy-handed tactics of the Castro dictatorship, but somehow this always fails to make the final cut of the condescending Leftist’s narrative). Capitalism will put an end to the simple lives of the Cuban people, and this is a bad thing for both the world and the Cubans themselves.
Embarrassing and disgusting.
The last faction on my list, anti-Americans abroad, have taken the Obama administration’s decision to reach out to Cuba as an excuse to lie to domestic factions everywhere. They have seized upon the fact that the US sometimes pursues bad policies, and have turned it into a soapbox preaching session for all of the gullible schoolboys and girls in the world who instinctively hate the world’s liberal hegemon. What is lost (or, more likely, ignored) in these preachers’ message is the fact that the US is changing its bad policy. The same cannot be said for the tired tropes wielded by aging anti-Americans in the name of some variant of socialist (whether national or international) revolution.
Some notes in the margins:
Cuba will not become free or (or) democratic overnight.
It will not become wealthy overnight, either. In fact, there is bound to be a whole lot of cronyism in the near future, as Castro’s butchers and henchmen gobble up much of the wealth that will inevitably flood Cuba’s markets. Remittances will likely increase as well, which means that the cronysim of Castro’s henchmen will be offset by the influx of cash from the US. This, in turn, means that the Castro dictatorship is likely to be around for a lot longer than anticipated.
A closing note: I always thought, life often being unfair, that Fidel Castro would die the death of a happy monster, old, in bed, a cigar jutting out from the pillows, a brandy on the bedside table. My dream the past few years was that this tranquil end would be disturbed by this scene: American tourists jumping up and down outside his window, snapping pictures on their smartphones. American tourists flooding the island, befriending his people, doing business with them, showing in their attitude and through a million conversations which system is, actually, preferable. Castro sees them through the window. He grits his teeth so hard the cigar snaps off. Money and sentiment defeat his life’s work. He leaves the world knowing that in history’s great game, he lost.
Open the doors, let America flood the zone and snap those pictures. “Fidel! Look this way!” Snap. Flash. Gone.
I already know what the neoconservatives are going to say. Same goes with those on the socialist Left. I think everybody knows what they are going to say and that, in a nutshell, explains why the neoconservatives are becoming as marginal in contemporary debates as the socialists.
Shots were fired in the Capitol today after a lone female fled a checkpoint in her car. A child was in the woman’s vehicle, now presumably orphaned by law enforcement fatally shooting her dead outside of the black sedan, used to ram a newly-erected ‘Barrycade’ in Washington, DC.
House Majority Leader John Boehner praised the courage of the Fed’s security for gunning down the unarmed woman with an infant on the threshold of the halls of congress. Shoot-to-kill seems to be increasingly the only tactical response for law enforcement, from the unarmed Tsarnaev brothers now to a weaponless, unstable mother, clearly outside of the vehicle she was driving.
Could ‘shoot-to-kill’ be a federal-level directive aimed at preventing the voice of dissent from surfacing in the media?
Police have yet to confirm rumors that the suspect is Miriam Carey a 34-year-old Stamford (CT) Dental Hygienist with ‘mental health’ issues. It would seem the political landscape is saturated with partisan rhetoric to the point that the proverbial chickens are coming home to roost in the Capitol faster than ever before.
The partisan theater that is the current government shutdown has apparently struck a chord with a public increasingly suspicious of government, rather than one party or the other. The abuse of power and authoritarian statism may have finally hit a pitch pushing the electorate from the customary partisan vitriol to a new, holistic hatred and mistrust of not just a particular government, but of governance in general.
This blog isn’t intended to assign blame to the ham-fisted-yet-impotent GOP or to the openly manipulative Democrat party — there are the usual pundits and party hacks more than willing to play the left-right game on this (and every other issue), and point the finger across the aisle. In fact, it’s probable that the usual partisan coverage of one national crisis after another likely whipped the woman into the frenzy that resulted in her behavior and subsequent public death-by-firing squad. Looking at the current national political climate of deepening partisan divides, it would seem this sort of thing is indeed inevitable.
From a libertarian perspective, it is evident that whether the woman is a dyed-in-the-wool leftist or a red-blooded conservative, the simple truth is that it is the false dichotomy of the two party system within the larger construct of a Goliath Government* that is fueling the schism among the current American political zeitgeist. Libertarian ideals have found more support within the GOP than the Democrat party, but with the political landscape quickly evolving with left-leaning progressives increasingly autocratic and hawkish, and the right continuing to be the party of ‘smaller’ behemothic, socially-oppressive government, libertarian-influenced politicians may need to re-evaluate their alignment with the GOP and assert their own space on the political spectrum.
By distancing themselves from the GOP, this current crisis could be the moment at which the principles of limited government and personal liberty fix in the minds of the electorate as the sole territory of the libertarian philosophy. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul…the nation awaits your voices. Use this opportunity to point out the stark failure of the current junta to fix problems with the force of statism. Point out the fact that a ‘government shutdown’ seems to consist of closing parks and monuments that require little if any state management to simply exist as they do, and furloughing non-essential personnel easily replaceable with simple automation and elimination of redundancy. Draw attention to the fact that of the 700,000-or-so suspended government functionaries are eligible and filing for unemployment benefits, drawing income from the same stolen tax revenues which are used to ‘pay’ them usually — and paying them not to work may be preferable than paying them to do their jobs, if the goal is shrinking the size of the state. Be sure to reference the 1.2-or-so million bureaucrats that continue to serve the public by stealing their wealth and threatening their lives and safety with the full force of a statist totalitarian regime and a monopoly on violent oppression.
Government employees carrying firearms aren’t furloughed, nor are the three-letter agencies that spy on the public unconstitutionally and ‘appropriate’ our money as taxes. The IRS isn’t really furloughed, despite reports to the contrary — they are needed (including their 16,000 gun-toting new recruits — yes, IRS agents carry firearms) to run Obamacare as ‘navigators’, who are paid on commission per signup to the new compulsory, unconstitutional insurance law.
In conclusion, if the Authoritarian government continues to fan the partisan flames with more political theater, they can expect a multitude of Miriam Careys to continue to go postal and throw themselves against the bulwark of the evil machine that has wrested liberty away from a free people. You called down the thunder, politicians — now you will reap what you’ve sown for decades. US foreign policy has been breeding terrorists for decades, and now it’s domestic policy will begin to do the same. Maybe it’s time to rethink the ‘shoot-to-kill’ mentality…