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The Ryan BudgetLast week was a bad week for Republicans named “Paul”. The Libertarian Dynamic Duo of Rand & Ron Paul once again showed the world why the term “Libertarian” is just a convenient label for people that want to take already bad Conservative principles and push them to their most absurd extremes. And Republican wunderkind “Paul Ryan” had to listen in (what I am sure was) astonishment as Republican after Republican was sent ducking for cover when angry constituents demanded they explain WHY they voted for Ryan’s plan to privatize Medicare while continuing to defend indefensible: tax breaks for the wealthy while calling on everyone else to sacrifice. Add to that President Obama’s great week, mixed with the first of many pathetic GOP debates to come, and it was a very bad week for Republicans in general, but even more so if your name was “Paul”.

The first “Paul” pushing their myopic “smaller government at all costs” ideology was perennial presidential candidate Ron the Elder. Ron Paul is one of those odd Conservative politicians I find myself agreeing with 60% of the time… end the wars, legalize marijuana and prostitution, end corporate welfare, etc… while the other 40% of the time he’s just plain ol’ B.S.C. with some Closet Racism mixed in. At the very first Republican Party Debate (where all the high-profile candidates stayed home), Pappy Ron proclaimed something I’m sure he and his numerous applauding fans in the audience thought was a cogent argument in favor of legalizing heroin… a highly addictive Class-A narcotic. This goes WAY beyond the usual Liberal/Libertarian agreement on decriminalizing mild “schedule-C” hallucinogens like marijuana because there is no justification to criminalize a substance less addictive and less deleterious than alcohol. While Liberals like myself and Libertarians like The Paul’s, often find themselves on the same side of the fence on many issues, we tend to arrive there in vastly different ways. Where Liberals climb over the fence, Libertarians dig their way under it… a messy process that leaves behind an enormous hole to fill in afterwards.

The elder Paul’s big applause line at the Fox debate was: “How many people here would use heroin if it was legal? I bet nobody would put their hand up, Oh, yes, I need the government to take care of me!”, he ended snarkilly. If I didn’t take two seconds to think about it, I might agree. And that’s the problem with Libertarians in general: they NEVER take those two seconds to consider any unintended consequences of their policies. Ron rightly points out in the debate that “heroin addiction is a disease” and we don’t need to be clogging our prisons with people who otherwise should be treated for a disease. But that WASN’T the basis of his argument! Ron wasn’t arguing against “incarcerating addicts“, he was arguing wholesale “legalization”. And that’s a whole different matter if you’re a Republican. Why? Mostly because of that other Republican/Libertarian mainstay: “deregulation”.

First off, if you “legalize” a substance like heroin but don’t regulate it, then it can legally be used as an ingredient in other products. One hundred years ago, dentists used to prescribe heroin for toothaches. And yes, it is NOT an urban legend that Coca-Cola once contained cocaine. What’s to stop that from happening again in this “Paulian” utopia? We already have a pharmaceutical industry that seems addicted (pun intended) to pushing (again, pun intended) highly addictive “pain relievers” for everything from joint pain to depression. You can’t make Methamphetamine without “Ephedrine”… a key ingredient in many cough syrups and sinus medications. And just ask Rush Limbaugh whether “Oxycontin” is addictive. “Legalizing” opens the door for it to be included in other products, and they’ve got the money and the Lobbyists ready to fight for the right to include it. The elder Paul should of asked the audience, “Who here would KNOWINGLY take heroin if it were legalized tomorrow?” Because the likelihood you could end up using it UNknowingly is great.

(I’m deliberately eschewing the “ethical” issues of legalizing such an addictive substance at this point so as not to get off the subject. But consider the possible ramifications when millions of mindless teenagers decide to “give heroin a try” once it’s legalized? This isn’t like worrying if one beer will lead to alcoholism. Heroin isn’t a mild hallucinogen like marijuana either. This is a hard, intensely addictive and potentially deadly drug with serious withdrawal symptoms if you stop cold turkey. Moving on.)

Ah, but calling for the legalization of narcotics wasn’t Ron Paul’s only noteworthy remark last week. On Saturday, Papa Ron told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that he wouldn’t have voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act due to the “property rights clause”… ie: telling private business owners who they must admit into their establishments. If this sounds familiar, it is because it is the EXACT same position that got his son Rand in so much hot water just prior to the 2010 election, that the government “forcing” private business to do anything was “unconstitutional”. In the world of Ron & Rand, “public pressure” would eventually force businesses to change their ways, despite the fact that in more than 200 years, “public pressure” failed to bring about that very change. We have a more tolerant and enlightened society today BECAUSE the government stepped in and forced private businesses to behave like decent human beings.

And… continuing a theme popular with Team Rand/Ron… the scourge of “white slavery” reared its ugly head again yesterday. In his first appearance on Fox “news” Sunday since announcing he would be running for president yet again, Ron compared Social Security and Medicare” to “slavery”. There should be a rule similar to Godwin’s Law (Hitler/Nazi analogies) for people who compare any kind of imagined “Government repression” to “slavery”. I’m sorry, but just because someone “obligates” you to do something you may not want to do, doesn’t make you a “slave”. Being told that you must contribute to a government fund whose benefits to society VASTLY outweighs the costs, isn’t “slavery”. (I’m reminded of Libertarians I know who ask me why they must pay “school taxes”, to which I respond, “Because it’s cheaper than prison.”) Comparing every little public program to “slavery” demeans just what a horror true slavery really was (just as comparing every case of government over reach… real or imagined… to Nazi Germany diminishes the horror of the Holocaust.)

At the same time Daddy was comparing wildly successful government programs to “slavery”, the prodigal son, Rand Paul, was decrying Health Care Reform by comparing it to “slavery”. If the connection isn’t immediately clear, you’re not alone. Let me summarize: If you suddenly have the power to call on your doctor day or night for any reason (and Rand reminds us HE is a doctor… an eye doctor… so this is personal for him), that that doctor has essentially become your “slave”. Got that? Asking a doctor to actually PERFORM THEIR CHOSEN PROFESSION is “slavery” to Rand Paul. (And just WHY it’s bad for the government to require doctors to be “on call” 24/7… something that PRIVATE hospital organizations have been doing for decades… is so unbearable, is a mystery.) I’m sure a lot of slaves in the Deep South would of been surprised to find out they could of simply QUIT their chosen profession and find another JOB if they found the schedule too burdensome. Of all the ways to make a living! They all should of just become doctors. The hours might be the same (according to Rand), but the work isn’t nearly as brutal (or so I assume).

One can’t help but notice that the Rand/Ron’s “civil Libertarian” ideals always seem to mesh with their own (not-so) latent racism.

Conservatives and Libertarians both believe that “it doesn’t matter that you can’t trust corporations to look out for the best interest of the people because the free-market will take care of it for you.” If a company’s product kills a bunch of people, people will simply stop buying that product and the company will go out of business. Ergo, “Companies will self regulate to avoid killing off dozens/hundreds/thousands of people if they want to stay in business. They won’t make/sell harmful products or use harmful/deadly methods of production if they think it might bankrupt them.” Really? Remember the Ford Pinto? The Chevy Corvair? Fen-Phen? Do you think Toyota would of recalled 3.8 million vehicles last year if the government hadn’t made them? Remember that little oil well disaster in the Gulf last year? The Obama Administration required (albeit questionably) that any company seeking to drill in the Gulf provide an updated disaster containment plan. Do you think BP would have voluntarily made any changes if they didn’t have to? (Not that I think they have. But even the bare minimum they are likely doing now, they wouldn’t have done without the government mandating they do it.)

And finally, we have “Paul” #3: Paul Ryan, who can do nothing but watch as Republican after Republican is forced to disavow their support for his “plan to privatize Medicare” in a series of angry town halls (to the point where Speaker Boehner was forced to back down from his support for it). Republicans haven’t yet figured out that there is a reason people refer to the joint entitlements of Social Security and Medicare as “the third rail of American politics”. Because Americans LOVE these programs. Sure, if you ask people if they would like to see them run “better”, you’ll find lots of support (with few specifics), but abolish these programs and turn them over to the same people we just had to bail out to the tune of BILLIONS? There have been exactly THREE economic collapses in this nations history: The Great Depression of ’29, the “Savings & Loan crisis of ’87, and now the Mortgage Crisis on 2008… all three under Republican Administrations. Ask Americans if they want these people dismantling our cherished safety nets and hand them over to Wall Street, and the overwhelming response will be “NO!” (or “[bleep] No!”)

(ADDENDUM: After Newt Gingrich criticized Ryan’s Medicare privatization plan as “a step too far” and “too big a jump”, the Congressman swiped back at Gingrich, saying “With allies like that, who needs the Left?” No surprise, Gingrich quickly flip-flopped like Mitt Romney in a windstorm.)

If you’re like me, you know a lot of Republicans (they like to call themselves “Conservatives” and “Libertarians” now since Bush ruined the word “Republican” for them). And their reasons for doing so are often based upon myths and legends that would make any Dungeon Master proud): The Party of “fiscal responsibility”, pro-defense & national security, “family values”, small government, and protection of “individual liberties”. It’s a great sales pitch that has NO foothold in reality. And one has to wonder, after the past few weeks, why ANYONE would still call themselves a Republican at this point?

In addition to the Three Great Financial crisis’ I mention above…

Under George W Bush, gas broke $2… $3… $4 a gallon for the first time. Oil hit $50… $75… $100… $147 a barrel for the first time on the Republican’s watch. (I remind everyone again that the week before the invasion of Iraq (March 12, 2003), crude oil peaked at $37.83/barrel, and had not varied by more than $10 a barrel in over two decades. The mere possibility that invading Iraq could raise oil prices to an “unthinkable” $75/barrel was dismissed by Conservative economists as “fear-mongering”.

National security? 9/11 happened on their watch, and six months later, a Republican president was already “not concerned about” the man behind it. Instead, they focused on Iraq, which one Republican president (Reagan) befriended and another (Bush-II) decided was a mortal threat to the United States based upon cherry-picked intelligence and lies. It took a Democrat to refocus on bin Laden and finally get him. And when he does, rather than give him the credit he deserved, they told us “President Bush deserves the credit for putting in the infrastructure, instituting policies and laying the groundwork” that led to this historic event. BUT, as Sen. Sherrod Brown pointed out, “According to them, President Bush does NOT deserve the credit for putting in the infrastructure, instituting policies and laying the groundwork” that led to our current economic crisis. That’s all Obama’s doing (I also like the comment I heard from one person last week who asked, “What if bin Laden had been tipped off, and the helicopters were shot down and all the SEALs had been killed? Who would of been blamed?)

Pakistan? A Republican president gave them The Bomb, and today there is a question as to whether or not the Pakistani government can even be trusted (personally, I give Pakistan the benefit of the doubt here. There’s a reason “hiding in plain sight” works. How often do we hear people on the news “shocked” to learn their next door neighbor had been doing something criminal/despicable? And, as ABC News noted Saturday, “After the U.S., no other country has lost as many people since 9/11 than Pakistan. 3,000 Pakistani police officers and another 2,000 civilians have been killed in Taliban-related bombings since “the War on Terror” began in 2001. However, Pakistan was a sponsor of terrorism before 9/11, and they did create a “no-mans-land” in the border-region of Waziristan between Afghanistan and Pakistan as a way to get Taliban opposition off their backs (which clearly failed).

And “security” doesn’t just mean “war”: What about the people left to fend for themselves following the devastation of “Hurricane Andrew” under Bush-I, and “Hurricane Katrina” under Bush-II?

“Family Values”? Everyone from “Hot Tub Tom” Delay to John Ensign just this past week, the GOP has been so lousy with morally bankrupt “family values Republicans”, that one of them, Newt Gingrich, declared his candidacy for their Party’s presidential nomination despite a laundry list of questionable behavior.

Small government? The protection of “individual liberties”? MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow has been doing a series on that subject for weeks. They’re in your bedroom, they’re in between you and your doctor, and created the largest government bureaucracy in American history with the “Department of Homeland Security”. They passed the Patriot Act, created “free speech zones”, suspended Habeus Corpus for American citizens, and took us from a nation that prosecuted torture (after WWII) to being the worlds leading purveyor and defender of it.

Modern “Conservatism” is on life support and its red-headed step-child, “Libertarianism” is deader than Osama bin Laden. They just don’t know it yet.
 


 
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