Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Rand Paul's Primary Victory in Kentucky

OK, folks. Hold your hats. What I am about to say may come as a surprise to some, but it really shouldn't.

As much as I find Rand Paul's social conservatism to be appalling and disturbing, and as much as I find his isolationist foreign policy positions to be naive and dangerous, I have to say that I'm a fan of his refreshing candor on fiscal policy. I sympathize with his concern for our debt load and our deficit-driven fiscal policy. I worry about the growing imbalance in our national budget. And I have said on any number of occasions on this blog that the big make-or-break item for the Obama presidency will be Obama's ability to bend the debt/deficit curve downards. But what I find most appealing about Rand Paul's fiscal conservatism is its refreshing honesty that any serious deficit hawk who loathes the prospect of raising taxes must put deep budget cuts in popular GOP spending items like the military squarely on the table along with entitlement programs. I may disagree with many of the ingredients in Rand Paul's recipe for regaining some fiscal sanity in our country, but I agree with his central emphasis on the need for attention to sane fiscal policy ideas and his frank acknowledgment that the mainstream conservative approach to fiscal policy is dishonest and farcical. So, if Rand Paul wins the Senate seat in this generally safe GOP state, I am secretly relishing the thorn in the GOP's side he will likely play in the Senate; and I am secretly hoping that some of his honesty on what needs to happen to seriously tackle the fiscal madness of our federal government will chasten the irresponsible and unserious players from both parties in the fiscal responsibility game.

Now, that said, I need to qualify my comments by saying that my own recipe as a liberal deficit hawk, if I can be called such, is very different in the particulars than that of Rand Paul. And I'll mention a few of these differences in a moment; but I would say also that on the fundamental fiscal goals of the need for balanced budgets, manageable debt, and defecit-spending controls, Rand Paul and I are not that far apart. However, here's where we differ. I am realistic enough to recognize that if I want spending on certain social programs like universal health care, social security, medicare/medicaid, I have to support revenue generating policies to pay for them. And if this means tax increases, then so be it. Like just about everyone, paying taxes is not my most favorite thing to do; but I'm happy to do so to pay for the things that I think government should be doing. Rand Paul and I would most certainly disagree on this particular; but I'm fairly certain that Paul would at least respect the seriousness of tax increases as at least a responsible approach to our shared fundamental fiscal goals, if not a preferred or desirable approach. I'd also probably disagree with Rand Paul on what programs should experience budget cuts and how deeply these cuts should be, but I would agree with him that budget cuts are an important aspect to fiscally sane policy. We'd agree on deep military cuts, but disagree on deep cuts to certain entitlement programs. In budget balancing policy, he'd probably prefer to shrink government more than I would, and chafe more at raising taxes than I would.

Whether or not Rand Paul's fiscal orientation is worth the price of having to live with his regressive social conservatism or his foreign policy unseriousness is another question altogether, which is probably why I still much prefer his Democratic opponent in the general election; but among the GOP options in the running, he would have been my preferred choice.

So, there it is. A rare moment where I'm more likely to be challenged and criticized by my fellow liberal compadres. But ... what can I say? It is what it is.


Jeff said...

sigh... when will people stop calling a non-interventionist foreign policy "isolationist"? It really just makes you sound ignorant.

Huck said...

Well, Jeff, let's see who sounds ignorant and who seems to be engaging in knee-jerk reactions.

First of all, Rand Paul seems to have expressed some support for the Afghanistan war, albeit lukewarm support, so claims that he is "non-interventionist" are perhaps not entirely accurate. But his antipathy to collaboration with other nations through international organization and his views on U.S. sovereignty go much beyong simple "non-interventionism" -- for how is Rand Paul's unwillingness to support US participation in the UN, the IMF, or the World Bank "non-interventionism" as opposed to a "non-entangling alliances" isolationism?

TO the extent that Rand Paul is anti-war and opposes military adventurism overseas, I support that "non-interventionist" aspect of Rand Paul's position. But I also think U.S. Alliances and formal U.S. participation in international organizations help advance U.S. interests. I don't see such international relations, as Rand Paul does, as threats to U.S. sovereignty.

And when you add all this to Rand Paul's opposition to a more liberal immigration position on the basis of what I would call a Buchananite "nativism," it only adds more evidence to support the isolationist roots of Rand Paul's views.

Isolationism has a "non-interventionist" dimension, but such "non-interventionism" is merely a subset of isolationism which include a broader range of suspicion of entangling alliances and a go-it-alone nativism -- both of which Rand Paul also embraces. So, while Rand Paul may be considered "non-interventionist" in some respects, his "non-interventionism" is merely a product of what I would contend is the driving isolationism that motivates his views of U.S. foreign policy and U.S. sovereignty.

Now let's revisit the question of who sounds ignorant, shall we?

eric said...

I haven't followed Rand Paul that closely, but wow... being the son of Ron Paul *and* named after Ayn Rand. It's almost like he is a libertarian comic book superhero. He should campaign with a cape and a dollar sign emblem on his chest!

I like what I see from him so far, and agree that if he wins the seat it will be entertaining to see him stiff arm the party leadership with some regularity. My Senator Tom Coburn has gotten into a lot of scraps with party leadership over spending issues, and it has always been fun to watch (and Paul seems even MORE restrictive on spending than Coburn, which I did not think was possible).

As to his foreign policy, I've always been torn between his brand of non-interventionism and the needs to work proactively to protect ourselves from foreign threats. But the truth of the situation is that, regardless of one's foreign policy ideas, we just can't afford the military we have. At the very least, we should be working on unwinding the operations of the 100,000+ troops deployed in South Korea, Germany, and Japan. Those troops could much better serve our national security interests by being redeployed along our borders.
And I DO agree with Paul on the futility of our involvement with the U.N., and have supported the bills his father introduces in Congress each year to withdraw us from formal participation in that organization.

Anyway, Paul had an interesting interview with Rachael Maddow last night. I wish he would have been a little more direct in answering her question about the Civil Rights Act, but by obfuscating the way he did, he refused to give her the 'gotcha' she was looking for, and was succesful in delivering his message about property rights, which was intrinsically tied up with what she was asking. At the end of the day though, I agree with what Paul was getting at: The Civil Rights Act was hugely important in that it forced the government to desegregate and end policies of institutional racial prejuidice... but it overstepped the boundaries of the government's proper role where it forced private businesses to do the same, however horrid those practices migh be.

eric said...

Also, I've long said that if the Tea Party movement can manage to get only a handful of small government libertarian candidates electede to high office, then the movement will have been succesful in my eyes.

If Paul wins a Senate seat, that will actaully be a bigger victory towards than end than I had thought probable.

slapstick said...

Very eloquently written. We will simply agree to disagree here as neither of us will change our minds as to the proper role of government.

You say you dont mind paying more for the things that you think govt should be doing. Fair enough I suppose, but you should realize that this is not the utopian world you wish it would be. And it never will be. Your altruism should not be forced upon me. If you want to pa more taxes, there is a section on your tax return that allows you to do exactly that. How much extra did you give this year? Virginia and Mass have funds set up for this as well. Care to guess how much was contributed to these funds? Mass. is a liberal as they come, youd think that must have been a popular thing over there to donate money to govt, right? HA! I dont mind helping people out, but I prefer to do it on my own conditions, not on your unconditional whim. I will help anyone if 1) they needs it 2) they DESERVE it and 3) I can afford it.

You seem to be a big fan of entitlements. Why? First off, using the word 'entitlements' disgusts me when its used to describe certain social programs. Not you, me, nor anyone else is 'entitled' to shit financially speaking. We've been 'fighting poverty' in this country for over 80 years now and the problem has done nothing but gotten worse. The gap between the rich and poor has WIDENED in that time. Why is that happening? Why is it that people like you propose to keep doing more of what has failed for over 80years?

Healthcare? I suppose youre one of those who consider healthcare a 'right'. Can you define healthcare? My simple definition of healthcare is treatment or advice form a medical professional. Explain to me how you, or anyone else has a 'right' to that professional's time or skills? Whats next? Forcing doctors to work for set govt wages? I'm sure that will work out well.

Social Security? Explain to me why this is such a great program. I think it was well intended, but if you cannot see the flaws in it by now, then you are beyond help. I would love an explanation on why this is such a great program.

As for R. Paul, he is exactly the type of guy we need in Washington. We need 434 more just like him in fact. I say cut the ENTIRE govt across the board at a MINIMUM of 15%. I'm not naive enough to think that that will happen though.