Keeping up the pressure on Rand Paul

The first rule of politics is: When your opponent is down, don’t stop kicking.

Now is the time (if you’ll allow me to mix a metaphor) to drive a stake through the heart of Teabaggerism, and Rand Paul’s candidacy is the perfect place to do it.

Buy now that Paul has backed off on the Civil Rights Act – and then ducked a Meet the Press appearance where he might have been asked why he would have voted for a piece of legislation he considers not merely unwise but unconstitutional – I don’t think that either race relations or public accommodation represents his greatest vulnerability. He needs to be pressed on employment discrimination – especially employment discrimination against women – and on the treatment of Americans with disabilities.

The voters of Kentucky, including those who join in the Tea Party grumble about “big gummint,” need to be confronted with the application of Tea Party principles to the case of a blind man looking for work. That will help them find their inner Democrat.

Footnote And yes, the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act passed with substantial Republican support. Those Republicans were the RINOs now being purged from the GOP by the Tea Party set and the Club for Growth. If ADA were proposed as new legislation today, the usual suspects would be screaming “Socialism!”

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

25 thoughts on “Keeping up the pressure on Rand Paul”

  1. Government and economics more generally — what is his stand on the minimum wage, workplace health and safety practices, Social Security and Medicare, government funding of cancer research, et al.

    But I agree with your general point. The guy's a gift and he should be used to the max.

    On a more sociological or maybe psychological note, one of the things I find interesting about him is that he's only now realizing, it seems, just how bizarre and even offensive many of his beliefs are to most Americans. It's weird because my sense is that part of what these guys like about their belief system is that it lets them feel like some kind of revolutionary vanguard — and yet that would seem to carry within it the understanding that most people don't think the same way they do. Yet here he is, surprised to discover that.

  2. The tea bagger "movement" is modern conservatism's most extensive effort ever at an astroturf operation to mobilize the ignorant masses and blame government for the results of Conservative policies.

    But the conservative Republicans leaders seem to have overlooked the fact that much of the non-religious ideology of the rank-and-file of the conservative movement is libertarianism, mixed with a toxic stew of racism and Southern triumphalism. Rand Paul, carrying on for his father Ron who has pushed the idiocy of libertarianism nationally for three decades, is stepping in to take advantage of the anti-Democratic rhetoric the conservatives have unleashed since the voters nationally unceremoniously let them go in the 2006 and 2008 elections. He is just going where Dick Armey, a well-known libertarian (as was another failed economist, Senator Phil Gramm) wants the tea bagger movement to go. But it's all corporate-funded astroturf.

  3. Astroturf? That's hilariously ironic, given that the only confirmed cases of astroturfed tea party organizations are a handful of false flag ops the Democratic party has set up. I suppose Democrats make that accusation so often because astroturfing is such a SOP on your side, that you assume Republicans must be into it, too.

    The truth is, the GOP is more into letting the base build real organizations, and then covertly taking them over. They're certainly trying this with the tea party movement, but without notable success so far. The fact that the tea parties have been working to defeat establishment favorite incumbents in the primaries ought to clue you into that: Defeating Republican incumbents isn't exactly the sort of thing the GOP establishment puts much work into. (Unless their last name happens to be Paul; They make an exception in that case…)

    No, much as you loath it, the tea party movement is not astroturf.

  4. If Rand Paul gets kicked by coastal elites like Mark Kleiman, do you suppose it'll make him weaker or stronger?

  5. I put this together last night when it occurred to me that there is a logical trajectory here:

    What Rand Paul's done is very important.

    He isn't saying anything that isn't entirely consistent with decades of conservative rhetoric. For years all we have heard is how terrible the federal government is. Regulations are evil. Taxes are evil. Progressive legislation and judicial philosophy is evil.

    Now, what conservatism used to mean was that government had a tendency to be wrong. Government wasn't necessarily wrong in principle. Sure, the real crazies thought that. But they were sidelined to the fringes of mainstream conservative thought. Of course we had to have government. It did important things. The rhetoric was OK because it was merely hyperbole; it was useful as a bludgeon against the steady leftist march towards more social protections, environmental regulations and higher taxes. But the intelligent conservatives knew that it could only ever be talk. Actually following the rhetoric would be politically and practically insane.

    But then something happened and the smart conservatives left the room. Maybe they were drummed out. Or maybe times changed. But suddenly the voices of responsibility and reason were no longer there to keep the boat from capsizing. Instead of being the hyperbolic froth above the ideology, the rhetoric became the ideology. The tradition of temperance and moderation had faded away and all that was left was the crazy.

    So, after the worst financial crisis since the depression forces the government to take drastic measures, bailing out the financial industry, then the auto industry, then pouring nearly as much into a Keynesian stimulus plan for economic recovery and stability – up pops the tea party, with the force of a thousand blustering AM radio jockeys and the FOX broadcasting corporation supplying a steady infusion of rhetorical red-meat. Yet it is incoherent and preposterous. Beyond the anger and recrimination, there is little substantive political philosophy. Conspiracy theories are flung out left and right, and in the profound ideological vacuum, each seems as acceptable as the next. The list is breathtakingly long: Birthers, FEMA camps, NAFTA superhighway, Socialism, Death Panels, Federal Reserve, Acorn, Secret Muslim, etc. Each seems as plausible as the next because the ignorance at the bottom and and crazy at the top is so profound. Medicare is something to be protected from the government.

    And Rand Paul gets elected, claiming and claimed as the Tea party's first big success.

    Sure, he wasn't the first nutter. His father made sure of that. But when Ron Paul talked about returning to the gold standard, pulling out of the UN or shutting down most Federal Agencies people mainly rolled their eyes. I mean really, who the heck wants to try and understand fiscal and monetary policy? But that was before.

    Now people are really listening. They want to find out what they really believe. And by golly, he's telling them! It turns out that if government is evil, and taxes are evil, and regulations are evil, then a lot of what we've been doing for the past century is really, well… evil. It turns out that we can't make people pay taxes for the government to regulate private businesses anymore – whether they put rotten meat in hotdogs, pay their workers $3 an hour, dump sewage into the creek, or deny minorities employment. I suppose you could add any number of other things to the list – things that we as a nation have fought very contentiously over for decades, but that now seem as American as apple pie.

    These are Rand Paul's principles. They are libertarian principles. And they are now the principles of the modern conservative movement.

    The nice thing about a democracy is that we get to elect our leaders based on what they tell us. The problem has been that Republicans have been taking advantage of the fact that the public hasn't understood the difference between the rhetoric and the policies their party has supported – if often grudgingly – for the past century. The trick was simple: just say one thing and do another. One wonders if they were able to do this because their candidates were either ignorant of simple political philosophy or just dishonest.

    Yet somehow this trick just didn't work so well anymore and for whatever reason they elected a man who wasn't afraid to make sense of what they have been saying. Not only that, but he actually believes it.

    So I say, "Good for you Rand Paul!" An honest Republican for once. "Don't let those handlers keep you down. Preach it, brother!" He's like a big bullshit magnet. I just hope he can get as many of the other tea partiers to sign on with his brilliant plans so we can watch as many of them as possible get flushed down the drain when the public is finally able to see what enormous a-holes they all are.

  6. Wow, Eli. That's some hardcore verbal diarrhea you've got there. Can I get you some Kaopectate?

  7. Look, it's not unknown for people sometimes to use blog comments to vent a little. Even on this most decorous of blogs. I don't think it calls for insulting comments. There's more than enough of that everywhere else.

  8. Yeah, they need to take the case of a blind man looking for work, and the case of a small business which can't afford to make the accommodation requested and required by law without cutting a couple of jobs. Except we know that in the fantasy land where modern liberals live there aren't any trade offs.

  9. Thomas, you seem not to have read the story. Paul was, falsely, claiming the ADA was exactly the sort of absolutist, no-accomodation dictate you say we liberals demand. We aren't who you say we are.

  10. hmmm.. Sorry if that was a bit much – and I try not to make a habit of posting at such length – but I had literally just written it on my blog and felt it might add to Mark's theme.

    Now, you could take an opportunity to try out a reasonable response to one of my arguments, although my guess is we're not going to get along that well, if the thesis of my post is correct.

  11. Thomas, liberalism is all about trade-offs and compromise. That's what the right consistently nails us for.

    But keep it coming. I like this. More conservatives need to get some balls.

  12. Thomas, of course firms with fewer than 25 employees are exempt from the employment-discrimination provisions of the ADA. But please don't let facts get in the way of your fantasies, or you may find yourself starting to think.

    "Hmmm…" our "play nice" rules are posted: no insults directed at bloggers or other commenters. If Larry Birnbaum hadn't commented on your comment before I saw it, I would have zapped it. Any repetition will lead to banning.

    If Eli's list of the grossly illogical and unworkable consequences of libertarian ideology contains any mistakes, you may point them out, politely. But as far as I can see, Eli is correct. If regulation is identical to government takeover which is in turn identical to socialism which is in turn identical to Stalinism, then limits on the sale of adulterated food products, whether by federal or state governments, are immoral in principle as violations of freedom of exchange. Caveat emptor!

  13. I thought that decentralization of power was the essence of conservatism. State and local governments can be more responsive to the needs of state and local crooks than the national government can be to the needs of national crooks. County commissioners are much cheaper than congressmen, after all.

  14. Professor Kleiman, with all due respect (and you can decide how much is due), allow me to quote in full the last two sentences of Eli's comment:

    He’s like a big bullshit magnet. I just hope he can get as many of the other tea partiers to sign on with his brilliant plans so we can watch as many of them as possible get flushed down the drain when the public is finally able to see what enormous a-holes they all are.

    Ban me if you like. What would that say about you?

  15. hmm…, in all honesty I didn't read Eli's comment. I was reading on a mobile device, and it was just too long for my taste (given some of my own comments, that may have been hypocritical of me). But it's clear that the (admittedly offensive) passages you quote are in reference to Rand Paul, Republican candidate for Senate from Kentucky, who is a public figure and is not a party to this conversation. I don't know what standard Kleiman et al have set for comments about public figures and other third parties, but the policy he states in his comment above is in reference to bloggers and other commenters, and so doesn't necessarily apply.

  16. I must say that Eli's comment was well thought out and well written. That's my two cents.

  17. Mark, apparently you believe that any business with more than 25 employees qualifies as a "large business" (or at least as "not a small business"). Which is an interesting place to draw the line, but doesn't really help your position. Let's just take my example, but move it to "Big Restaurant" (or whatever label you Democrats would use to signal to your friends that they needn't do any more thinking, because we've identified the bad guys) with 26 employees. Then the trade offs start, right? I mean, you concede that they start at some point, right? Of course you don't. Ideology isn't just for libertarians anymore.

  18. Thomas, you've already repeatedly demonstrated that you don't actually know what the ADA mandates, and offered scary hypotheticals. How 'bout you give us a real-life example of this cruel burden?

  19. Fairly accurate and well-written account = 'hardcore verbal diarrhea'. Sure.

    The reaction is a fairly accurate indicator, IMHO.

  20. Brett Bellmore says:

    "Astroturf? That’s hilariously ironic, given that the only confirmed cases of astroturfed tea party organizations are a handful of false flag ops the Democratic party has set up. I suppose Democrats make that accusation so often because astroturfing is such a SOP on your side, that you assume Republicans must be into it, too.

    The truth is, the GOP is more into letting the base build real organizations, and then covertly taking them over. They’re certainly trying this with the tea party movement, but without notable success so far. "

    Lessee now – for the Tea Baggers, we saw Dick Armey's 'FreedomWorks', and, of course, Fox News (i.e., the news network run by a former RNC head). We also saw fleets of busses become available to carry people to massive protests against HCR, busses which didn't seem to flock anywhere to take people to protest against Wall St reform (which is a bad sign about how harsh those laws are).

  21. Yes, you've seen the efforts to take over a movement, with real people getting on the busses, and proceeding to do things Dick Armey would rather they didn't do. Meanwhile, we've seen petition gatherers paid by the Democratic party, and organized by a Democratic PR firm, origanizing to put a "Tea Party" on the ballot in Michigan, without any involvement from anybody who's actually part of the Tea party movement. THAT is what real "astroturf" looks like.

  22. Warren, I do know what the ADA mandates. You want a real life example because you don't think there's a tradeoff? My god, what good could the example do you, given your ideological blinders?

  23. Thomas, you claimed that the ADA requires a moderately sized (more then 25 employee) business to hire a blind person at enormous expense, costing other workers their jobs. I basically said that I didn't trust the veracity of your hypothetical, given how other claims you and Candidate Paul have made about the requirements imposed by the ADA have proven not to be accurate, and I asked for a specific example. The relevant text of the law might also suffice to prove you are correct in your hypothetical, although I'm not a lawyer and I wouldn't know how other parts of the law or other guidelines might affect the implementation of that text.

    The origin of this thread, and my comments in this thread, have been precisely to the effect that there are trade-offs, and that liberals like Bob Dole realized this when they crafted the ADA, and that the law acknowledges those trade-offs rather than acting in a manner that attempts to impose an unworkable and utopian absolutism.

    If you'd like, I'll give you a specific example of how the ADA is evaded by an abusive employer: Wallmart doesn't employee cashiers. Instead, it employs people who do nothing but work cash registers, but whose job description states that they might be called upon to do other tasks, such as stocking shelves or collecting shopping carts. Because the ADA does not require that jobs be made available to people physically unsuited to the tasks envisioned in their job description, Wallmart is free under the ADA not to hire, or indeed to fire, any cashier who is physically unsuited to performing those other tasks. That's an actual existing issue in which people fully capable of performing their actual duties indistinguishably from their able-bodied coworkers are discriminated against even within the terms of the ADA. Now, you find me an actual (as in, not a hypothetical) case where a company is expensively and punitively required to accommodate a worker who would otherwise be incapable of performing the duties of their job, to the detriment of other workers' jobs.

    Also, even if you are correct, is the correct answer to this problem more discrimination against the disabled? After all, in at least one Scandinavian country (and I can't recall which one), the government actually subsidizes the employment of disabled people who would otherwise be unemployable, in theory giving just enough money to make up for the extra expense posed by their disability. This is hard to do well, and it's easily subject to abuse – the specific case I'm recalling was rather outrageous, as it involved a young man who (successfully, at least initially) claimed that his employment should be subsidized because he had a legal right to unpredictably fail to show up for work because he had to go to the concerts of his favorite rock band – but at least in principle it's an approach worth considering.

  24. Warren, what other claims have I made about the ADA? Mark quibbles about whether a small business is a small business–apparently a small business is like a rich taxpayer, and I'm just incapable of recognizing the plain facts. I know lots of small business owners, or at least I thought I did, but apparently I'll have to check with them to see whether the dry cleaning operation, for example, employs more than 25 people.

    I don't think the anecdote you provided is true in any respect–the facts you provide sound substantially similar to a stolen internal Walmart discussion in which Walmart HR managers proposed lowering health care costs by changing the mix of responsibilities in a manner that would lead to a healthier (on average) workforce. My understanding is that the proposals were never implemented. In any case, it isn't that easy to evade the requirements of the ADA. If Walmart were to define a cashier job so that it included certain other tasks, Walmart would need to demonstrate in court that those other tasks are an essential part of the job, and that any proposed accommodation of the disabled would be unreasonable. So in the case of a cashier, the burden is on Walmart to demonstrate that what appear to be marginal duties are in fact essential duties, and if it's as you say, they wouldn't be able to make that case. As for the case you're looking for, take a look at Siebens v. Walmart Stores, decided way back in 1997. It's the first result when you google "Walmart ADA cashiers". It's a case involving a meritless charge of discrimination brought under the ADA. The meritless claim lost in the district court and was appealed by the plaintiff to the 7th circuit, where it again lost. Litigating such a claim using the same firm as Walmart employed then would cost well over $100,000 today–perhaps closer to $300,000. The cumulative effect of this kind of litigation at Walmart is fewer stores and fewer job opportunities. At a small business, the result is closing, or paying an extortionate settlement, because litigation is simply too expensive, and losing plaintiffs never have to internalize their costs. The end result is the same: fewer jobs.

    No, the correct answer to this isn't more discrimination against the disabled. The approach you suggest–where we collectively are responsible for the costs imposed by our moral preference for the inclusion of the disabled–is much different from the system we have now, where those costs are imposed at random upon businesses of all sorts, large and small. I'm not of the view that the ADA as it is is without merit, but there are obvious ways to make it more flexible and less punitive, and a time when there's a shortage of jobs may be the right time to consider those changes.

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