Posts Tagged ‘ron paul’


Update: video imbed didn’t work because someone broke the internets again, link should work now though

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He declined to endorse Romney. Good for him. Romney’s principals are, quite obviously, very much out of line with Paul’s and it’s good to see him stick to them (unlike some other Pauls out there). In declining to endorse Romney, Paul asked what I think is the most important possible question:

“What’s he going to achieve? I think it’s legitimate for us to continue the debate.”

What is Romney going to achieve? We don’t know, because he won’t tell us. His campaign has thus far not mentioned real policy, and no “Just do the opposite of Obama” doesn’t count. We know he wants to cut taxes and increase military spending while still balancing the budget and reducing debt, but those are competing goals. How will we reconcile them? We don’t know. Will he even try? Or will debt stop mattering once the guy in the White House has an R after his name (I think it’s this one)? What will he do about immigration? We don’t know. Ron Paul wants to continue the debate, and so do I. Mitt Romney will be the nominee and Ron Paul’s folks have no chance at stopping that. But if they at least force him to talk about some policy, they will have done something. I disagree with basically every policy position Ron Paul holds (very strongly, in many cases), but at least he has discussed them, and I know what they are. Romney, I have no idea. I’m not saying that presidential candidates should articulate their preferred policies in extremely minute detail, but some detail is required and from Romney we get nothing more than constant lies about Obama’s record and Obama himself, and platitudes like “double guantanamo”. 

So what is Mitt Romney going to achieve? Keep asking, Ron, because no one in the press seems to be willing to. 

(For the record, one area in which I do agree with Ron Paul: taxpayer funded conventions. What the hell?)

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In the Wall Street Journal (paywalled, so I could only read the free bits) this morning, we’re treated to this analysis:

What’s the difference between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney? More than $6 trillion.

That $6 trillion represents the difference between the amount Messrs. Obama and Romney want the federal government to spend over the next decade.

Now since this piece was behind the paywall and I couldn’t read the whole thing, I guess its possible that it went on to point out the key differences beyond the bottomline spending numbers but I doubt it.

So I will.

First of all, the six trillion is a 10 year total figure between baseline government spending numbers. Ezra Klein provides a bit longer excerpt of the piece and we see that, at the end of the next president’s first term, the difference is only 600 billion. Not chump change, but only a tenth of that attention grabbing headline. And of course this figure is much more important. 10 year budgets are fun to hit each other over the head with, but they don’t mean a damn thing. To see what I mean, let’s pretend were having this exact same 10 year projection fight, except the year is 2000. Candidates Bush and Gore have each released their projections for what spending will look like, but neither of them foresaw 9/11, war in Iraq, war in Afghanistan, TARP, or the stimulus. All of those happened within the 10 year window, and are responsible for something like half of the debt. Completely, necesarily absent from the projections of the day. (dont even get me started on social security’s 75 year projections). So playing these long term games is useless. The 600 billion figure is a bit more reasonable.

But the more important part between Obama and Romney is not the baseline spending numbers. If we’re going to keep pretending that we care about debt (which I presume we will right up until President Romney’s inauguration, at which point it will stop being important, because markets) then the effect of the plans on debt is more important than the raw spending number. And Mitt Romney will explode the debt! He wants to increase pentagon spending, maintain entitlements, and significantly slash taxes! All with no mention of how to pay for it. You could cut domestic discretionary spending as an offset, but this is Paul Ryan’s budget Romney is working with and that means you have to gut it by a whopping 80% to stay revenue neutral. Not even the most rabid tea partiers have the balls to carry through on that.

According to an analysis from back in April, Obama would increase debt slightly (+10% GDP), Romney would increase by way more (+26%), and the only candidate with a plan that would decrease debt was Ron Paul (-4%).

But no need to pay attention to the specific numbers (they’re 10 year projections!), just look at what the candidates say and do. Obama has a plan to slowly ratchet down spending and raise revenue in the medium term. Romney wants to reduce revenue and increase spending such that the offsets required to not explode the debt are not feasible.

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I don’t understand Rand Paul. Or more specifically, I don’t understand why libertarians like Rand Paul. Actually I don’t understand why anyone likes Rand Paul. Here’s why:

Speaking in Iowa last week, Rand Paul had this to say on Obama’s marriage equality “evolution”:

“Call me cynical, but I didn’t think his views on marriage could get any gayer”

Now I’m not a libertarian, but it seems to me that the appropriate, libertarian response to the President’s support of marriage equality would be something along the lines of “I believe that, personal feeling aside, everyone should have equal marriage rights, because the constitution guarantees Americans equal protection under the law. I’m glad to see that President Obama has finally figured that out”. See, I even threw a bit of backhandedness in there to make it a bit more palatable to the base.

But that’s not what Rand Paul said. No, instead he went with “that’s gay”, which is a level of discourse that could be expected from a middle school boy, not a prominent national figure. I won’t call him cynical, but I will call him a jackass. The quote above was what made news of course, but here’s the rest of it:

“Now it did kind of bother me, though, that he used the justification for it in a biblical reference. He said the biblical Golden Rule caused him to be for gay marriage. And I’m like: What version of the Bible is he reading? It’s not the King James version. It’s not the New American Standard. It’s not the New Revised version. I don’t know what version he is getting it from. Now that doesn’t mean we have to be harsh and mean and hate people, we understand sin and if we believe it’s sin we still understand that people sin. And we understand that we are not out there preaching some sort of hateful dogma against people. But that doesn’t mean that we have to go ahead and give up our traditions. We’ve got 6,000 years of tradition. There’s a lot of stability, even beyond religion, there’s stability in the family unit. Just from an anthropological point of view, the family is really important thing. We shouldn’t just give up on it.”

Has it not fucking occured to Rand Paul that marriage equality is a pro-family position? How is telling someone they are not allowed to have a family going to promote families? Of course he may also note that there are plenty of instances throughout the history of marriage where it has changed, so saying it can’t change because it never has is just completely wrong. What Rand Paul is saying here is that family is important, provided it fits his personal idea of what a family should look like. That doesn’t sound like a very libertarian position to me.

Neither does this, from last year (emphasis in original):

I’m not for profiling people on the color of their skin, or on their religion, but I would take into account where they’ve been traveling and perhaps, you might have to indirectly take into account whether or not they’ve been going to radical political speeches by religious leaders. It wouldn’t be that they are Islamic. But if someone is attending speeches from someone who is promoting the violent overthrow of our government, that’s really an offense that we should be going after — they should be deported or put in prison.

Yep, that’s right folks, if you’ve been traveling to places with funny sounding names, and heard someone say something nasty about the government, then you might be a terrorist, and should be deported or jailed. The constitution be damned.

Oh, and then there’s this (emphasis mine):

Leading United States Senate candidate Rand Paul today criticized the Obama administration’s decision to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center and try terrorism suspects in United States Civil Courts.

“Foreign terrorists do not deserve the protections of our Constitution,” said Dr. Paul. “These thugs should stand before military tribunals and be kept off American soil. I will always fight to keep Kentucky safe and that starts with cracking down on our enemies.”

Dr. Paul believes in strong national defense and thinks military spending should be our country’s top budget priority. He has also called for a Constitutional declaration of war with Afghanistan.

Rand Paul: More War! More Military Spending! Less Due Process!

Am I just really confused on what libertarians think? Because this guy sure doesn’t sound like one to me. But the Ron Paul crowd seems to love the guy! It’s been suggested Ron Paul’s delegate strategy’s end game is to secure the VP slot for Rand Paul, or that the ultimate goal is to build a base for a Rand Paul for President bid in 2016.

I honestly don’t get it.

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The Gravel Kraken has now responded fully to my piece. And so here, in turn, is my response. My apologies for the delayed writing, I’ll just jump right in.

Jastonite bases his entire case on the inactivity vs activity distinction, ignoring 70 years of precedent by the way (but I’ll give him a pass on this because he likely believes the court to be incorrect in setting those precedents). But then he gives away the whole store, by saying this (my emphasis):

[Solicitor General Verilli] seems not to like the idea that Congress could make people buy broccoli, so what in his mind is stopping them:

“No, that’s quite different.  That’s quite different.  The food market, while it shares the trait that everybody’s in it, it is not a market in which your participation is often unpredictable and often involuntary.  It is not a market in which you often don’t know before you go in what you need, and it is not a market in which, if you go in and — and seek to obtain a product or service, you will get it even if you can’t pay for it.”

Quite right, it is different, but does the Constitution concern itself with those differences?  Where in “The Congress shall have the Power To … regulate Commerce with foreign Nation, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.” does he find a limitation so specific?  Congress shall have the power to regulate Commerce … except if that commerce is predictable and voluntary, when one knows before what one needs before one goes in?  No… It certainly seems to me that “regulate Commerce” is straight forward.  If is can be deemed commerce, Congress authorize any rational regulation of it.  Now, although my reading of what counts as “Commerce” may differ from the Court, the history of the commerce clause affirms it to be a wide, power.

So, Jastonite seems to be relying here on the fact that the commerce clause does not differentiate between commerce that is predictable (ie buying food such as broccoli) and not predictable (ie medical treatment). I agree! Nowhere in the commerce clause is such a distinction made! Anyone care to guess what else the commerce clause does not distinguish between? Activity and inactivity. Jastonite quotes a whole lot of Madison, and cites the constitution a lot (both good things!), and otherwise generally implies a case built on a solid constitutional principal. But nowhere does he mention that “inactivity vs activity” is not a solid constitutional principal. It was not discussed by Madison, or Jefferson. Or even Bill Clinton for that matter. It was invented by Randy Barnett, of the Cato Institute (a libertarian think tank) about a year ago as a line of attack against the ACA. Now if you want to use the inactivity/activity distinction as a legal argument that’s perfectly fine. But two things. First, don’t try to pass it off as a deeply held constitutional principal because it is not. Second, if your preferred extra-constitutional distinction is key to your case, you cannot dismiss the other guy’s preferred extra-constitutional distinction on the grounds that it is extra-constitutional, as Jastonite does above.

The remainder of Jastonite’s argument is broccoli (and other examples in the same vein). If we can be forced to buy health care, why not broccoli? Well, lets ask Randy Barnett:

Just because the government does have the power to do x, doesn’t mean they have the power to do y, even if y has the same effect as x. There’s no constitutional principle like that.

Indeed! Even the libertarian architect of the case against the mandate admits the broccoli argument is wrong. Jastonite continues with this:

Justice Ginsburg seems to think that Verrilli isn’t reading properly from the playbook, so she decides to interrupt him before he makes too big a fool of himself:

 ”Mr. Verrilli, I thought that your main point is that, unlike food or any other market, when you made the choice not to buy insurance, even though you have every intent in the world to self-insure, to save for it, when disaster strikes, you may not have the money.  And the tangible result of it is — we were told there was one brief that Maryland Hospital Care bills seven percent more because of these uncompensated costs, that families pay a thousand dollars more than they would if there were no uncompensated costs.  I thought what was unique about this is it’s not my choice whether I want to buy a product to keep me healthy, but the cost that I am forcing on other people if I don’t buy the product sooner rather than later.”

Now, I agree that Verrilli’s performance in articulating these principals was dismally poor, but saying that Justice Ginsburg thought he wasn’t reading from the playbook is just massively disingenuous. It implies that Ginsburg has a pre-determined opinion (and she probably does!) and is tossing out liberal talking points. Now, I’m fine with Jastonite making that implication, but not in a series of posts in which he quotes the conservative justices repeating the right’s party line six times without making the same implication.

But I’m getting off topic, so back to broccoli.

In his very first post on the subject, Jastonite stated that he found the limiting principal outlined by the government to be arbitrary and not based on any law. But is the broccoli argument not the same? It is arbitrary, in that I can pick any government action, and say it could possibly in some future scenario lead to some other government action. And it is not based on law because it ignores the very structure (and reason for that structure) of the federal government.

The broccoli argument is, essentially, a way of asking “what is the limiting principal?” Well, let’s look at taxes. The ability of congress to impose a tax is unquestionably, undeniably, 100% constitutional. It’s right there in the very same section as the commerce clause (Article 1, section 8, for those playing the home game):

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises…

OK, so how does this relate to broccoli? Well, we could use the very same argument! If congress is allowed to impose taxes, what’s to stop them from setting tax rates at 100%? Or 500%? As luck would have it, the answer to our tax problem is precisely the same as to our broccoli problem. If they did that, we would vote them out and elect someone to undo it. The limiting principal is our very system of government. Jastonite addresses this:

I am of the opinion that government should be limited by law.  Even if I were under the rule of a good, benevolent king, I would want that king to be restrained by more than his conscience.  Likewise, I want Congress to be restrained by more than its conscience, the American political process

I’m of the opinion that government should be regulated by law as well! So is, I believe, everyone else. But the limitation by the political system is a key part of the limitation developed by the Constitution! It is not just voting. It’s the system of checks and balances. To continue Jastonite’s trend, let’s consult James Madison. This time, in Federalist 51:

In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.

Indeed, the limiting principle for the entire government is the electorate, but people can sometimes do foolish things, so there should be a fallback plan. Madison, luckily, had such a plan, with which he opened Federalist 51:

TO WHAT expedient, then, shall we finally resort, for maintaining in practice the necessary partition of power among the several departments, as laid down in the Constitution? The only answer that can be given is, that as all these exterior provisions are found to be inadequate, the defect must be supplied, by so contriving the interior structure of the government as that its several constituent parts may, by their mutual relations, be the means of keeping each other in their proper places.

This is nothing more than the system of checks and balances as described in the constitution, and it is presumably what Jastonite refers to when he says government should be constrained by law and not the electorate. But as Madison said, the electorate is the primary control on government. To discount it as a limiting principle throws the entire underlying philosophy of the Constitution in question.

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Ron Paul, birth control supporter:

“The morning-after pill is a birth control pill,” he said. “If people have reservations about abortion, the abortion is the issue, it isn’t the birth control pill. It isn’t the instrument. You don’t not allow surgical instruments if they’re used for certain things.”

This is exactly right, and one of the few areas in which Ron Paul and I agree on something.

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Mitch McConnell, in a letter to a constituent, had this to say regarding his opposition to the legalization of marijuana (emphasis mine):

“Because of the harm that substances like marijuana and other narcotics pose to our society, I have concerns about this legislation. The detrimental effects of drugs have been well documented: short-term memory loss, loss of core motor functions, heightened risk of lung disease, and even death,”

Death? From smoking weed? Really? I wonder if the DEA or DOJ would agree? Let’s consult the briefing they wrote on the subject in 1988, shall we?

  • Nearly all medicines have toxic, potentially lethal effects. But marijuana is not such a substance. There is no record in the extensive medical literature describing a proven, documented cannabis-induced fatality.
  • First, the record on marijuana encompasses 5,000 years of human experience. Second, marijuana is now used daily by enormous numbers of people throughout the world. Estimates suggest that from twenty million to fifty million Americans routinely, albeit illegally, smoke marijuana without the benefit of direct medical supervision. Yet, despite this long history of use and the extraordinarily high numbers of social smokers, there are simply no credible medical reports to suggest that consuming marijuana has caused a single death.
  • In layman terms this means that in order to induce death a marijuana smoker would have to consume 20,000 to 40,000 times as much marijuana as is contained in one marijuana cigarette.
  • A smoker would theoretically have to consume nearly 1,500 pounds of marijuana within about fifteen minutes to induce a lethal response.
  • In practical terms, marijuana cannot induce a lethal response as a result of drug-related toxicity.
  • In strict medical terms marijuana is far safer than many foods we commonly consume. For example, eating ten raw potatoes can result in a toxic response. By comparison, it is physically impossible to eat enough marijuana to induce death.
  • Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within a supervised routine of medical care.”

Oh. Well then. Senator McConnell, call your office.

(via The Dish)

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