Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Problem with Rand Paul

It is likely Rand Paul is an apple that didn't fall far from the tree, but he is very likely to be an apple that after hitting ground, then rolled down the hill.

Consider his latest move. Yesterday, the U.S. Senate voted on a series of amendments to H.R.1, the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill, to fund disaster relief for victims of Hurricane Sandy. Among these amendments was one introduced by Rand, which would waive the Davis-Bacon prevailing wage law from applying to government projects funded in the bill.

The amendment, No. 3376, failed passage, 42-52.

Prior to the vote, Sen. Paul spoke on the Senate floor, urging his colleagues to pass this measure.

Below is a transcript of his floor speech.
Mr. President, when Hurricane Sandy struck the Northeast, hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people were without power. We all saw the video footage, we saw the terrible trauma and people are still trying to dig out from underneath the debris of Hurricane Sandy.

During that period of time, hundreds of workers drove up from the South wanting to help. These workers were non-unionized and they were turned away. This was a sad day for our country that non-union workers were not allowed to participate in the cleanup and were asked to join a union before they would be accepted as workers. I think it’s a mistake to politicize things like this, particularly at a time of an emergency. So what I’ve asked for and what my amendment would do would be to allow an exemption to Davis-Bacon.

Davis-Bacon is a federal law that requires that we not have competitive bidding on federal projects. What happens is, on federal projects the wages are fixed at a union-scale wage, and there is not a competitive bidding for wages. So what I’ve asked is that we suspend that and say in order to get better use of the money, in order to advance the money by billions of dollars and do more with the money -- and this is an enormous amount of money, running into the billions of dollars, in order to get better money to suspend Davis-Bacon we would basically be allowing competitive bidding on wages. This has been done before.

President Nixon and both President Bushes did this during Katrina, we suspended Davis-Bacon because it was an emergency and we wanted to make the best use of our nation’s dollars. This amendment would suspend Davis-Bacon for this emergency. It’s estimated that it might save as much as 22 percent of the cost. Now, we’re talking about billions of dollars here, $60 billion is being requested for this cleanup. Where is the money going to come from? You’ve heard we van enormous debt, $16 trillion in our country, we have over a trillion dollars in debt this year. Now, we print up the money you the but that simply steals from your savings and steals from your current currency. We can tax you or borrow more but we owe $16 trillion already. So what I’m asking here is why don’t we try to make good use of the money that’s going towards this disaster, allow the money to go farther, and that is simply by allowing competitive bidding on wages.

Currently there is no competitive bidding on wages, and my amendment would allow for this. I urge my colleagues to stand with taxpayers, to stand with taxpayers against special interests, against political and partisan purposes, and for the sake of an emergency to say we’re going to be frugal with the dollars spent. We’re not going to be extravagant. We’re not going to reward certain special interests that are very involved in the political process. We’re going to say we’re going to use the money wisely. We’re going to allow competitive bidding on wages. So I urge my colleagues to support this temporary and specific suspension of Davis-Bacon for emergency funds.
What's the problem with this? Rand is calling for a restriction to be removed on government, relative to federal aid. The libertarian position is that there shouldn't be any federal aid for hurricane victims, any hurricane, in the first place. It is not impressive libertarian, or solid small government, advocacy to unshackle an arm of the government beast so that it is free to create more mayhem. What is Rand thinking?

He couches this in terms of "standing with taxpayers." But making it easier for an unneeded government agency to hire more easily is not standing with taxpayers, it is standing with government. The proper small government position is to point out the dangers of government involvement in rescue operations. Rand's father got it right. The Hill reports:
Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) said Monday that the billions of dollars in damage Hurricane Sandy caused in New York and New Jersey raises "uncomfortable questions" about whether taxpayers should continue to pay for the cleanup from natural disasters.

While many New York and New Jersey members are calling for billions in additional funds, Paul said on his website that the government will continue to lose money by insuring these sorts of events. 
The former GOP presidential candidate said most of the funding to help with Sandy will come from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). But he said these agencies will only put taxpayers deeper in debt by writing checks.

"Many think there is a need for the government to provide flood insurance of this kind," Paul said. "After all, the market would never provide insurance in flood prone areas at an affordable price. But shouldn't that tell us something?

"Shouldn't that tell us that it is a losing proposition to insure homes in coastal areas and flood plains often threatened by severe and destructive weather patterns? And if it's a losing proposition, should taxpayers subsidize the inevitable losses arising from federal flood insurance?"

Paul said the NFIP in particular creates a moral hazard by making it more affordable for people to keep building and rebuilding in flood prone areas.

"The obvious and expected outcome is more danger to life and limb when disaster strikes," Paul wrote.

Regarding FEMA, Paul said that agency has a record of "mismanaged recovery and relief" efforts in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Ike. He said charities and private organizations are better equipped to help people that FEMA.

So there you have it, the father correctly calling for getting the government out of the rescue business, while the son attempts to micro-manage the government folly and pretend that he is making the monster more efficient. Instead of calling for the killing of the beast, he is calling for the feeding of a better grade of banana to the beast. And that is the problem with Rand Paul, unlike his father, he has been sucked in by the D.C. beast and wants to micro-manage it rather than kill it.


  1. I wonder how much he asks for his dads council.

  2. Robert, you couldn't be more right. It is so easy to "capitalize" on the emotions of people who genuinely want to help others through a catastrophe.

    But government always makes the long-term problems worse, even if it "helps" in the short-term. It violates basic moral principles to provide this help too. People don't realize that without government, resources would be allocated very efficiently. Only those with the adequate private insurance (or liquid wealth) would be living in high-risk areas.

    The poor, many of whom live in high-risk areas like New Orleans, could be helped with far more capability if the government would stop subsidizing failure. The booms that create illusory wealth cause people to overextend their lifestyles, instead of encouraging them to build sound financial well-being.

    We truly live in bizarro world. There are seemingly far more poor people today. Unlike the poverty-stricken of the past, today's poor have cell phones, cars, and other luxury gadgets. What a paradox: it took centuries of saving, investment and production to enable the poor to live so well. Yet, they have these things because of government welfare in many cases.

    As Mises said, we are destroying the capital that took centuries to build. When will people realize that there is no middle way?

    There is no such thing as utopia. That aside, humanity would be far wealthier and compassionate if we lived in an anarcho-capitalist society.

  3. But of course! Don't you know he's playing the game, folks? And that sometimes you've gotta destroy certain principles in order to save them? Rand, sage that he is, long ago realized that you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs---and maybe, on occasion, a few thousand innocent foreigners. That's how the game is played. So why can't you silly purists just get it already?

    Even though you ingrates don't deserve it, you can rest assured that on his upcoming, Christian Right-sponsored pilgrimage to Israel Randy will be on his knee . . . toes, "gaming" like a champ! And the whole time he'll be thinking only of you!

  4. Think about it this way:

    Fruit falls off a tree for two reasons,

    1. It's ripe
    2. It's rotten

  5. I think most places in the US are subject to destructive weather patterns. Blizzards up north, hurricanes down south, flooding in the bayou, tornadoes in the interior, high seismic zones out west and in the south. I agree with Ron in spirit, but how do prices align to make it affordable to live, well, anywhere? Would it be that true prices for insurance would cause people to behave differently and in ways that may more effectively mitigate risk? I know it is hard to answer specifically what the free market would do.

  6. Robert, this is your problem. Rand is trying to offer modest amendments and to get senators on record. If Rand offers an amendment or bill to cut and eliminate ALL foreign aid, it would fail 98-1, what would that achieve? He is clearly offering modest amendments to smoke out the senators who do not want to cut ANY spending. He is not going to gut the Sandy bill because it would be defeated 99-1, this way he advances the argument a little way in the other direction and shows us which senators are serious and this can be used for further political ammo.

    Consider his amendment to offset the Sandy spending with cuts in foreign aid to 'hostile' countries. Only 3 senators supported it (Paul, Lee and Heller). Rand can now attack a potential political opponent like Rubio and ask if he's serious about cutting spending when he voted against a modest proposal to offset the Sandy spending against some foreign aid. This vote will be useful in a future political campaign.

    If he offered an amendment to gut the whole bill and tried to kill it and lost 99-1, it might make you feel better about him but it doesn't really achieve much including the useful goal of a senator who has presidential ambitions of trying to nail his potential opponents.

    In conclusion, Rand and no serious conservative believes in foreign aid but they understand you're not going to be able to cut it off tomorrow and that advancing the argument incrementally and in the right direction is the way to go and if you can expose your political opponents along the way then it is a worthwhile endeavor.

    This is simply a strategy of Rand who has presidential ambitions. Ron's strategy of voting against everything (except for the horrific AUMF in 2001 which you never mention) did not work in winning the presidency.

    1. I tend to agree. In spirit I agree with Wenzel, and would love to see us at that position politically. Unfortunately big government has grown through millions of small baby steps marched over the years by progressives, having someone attempting to take baby steps back the other way is not a *bad* thing at all.

      The unfortunate problem is that we will likely hit the wall of massive price inflation, inability to pay entitlements, or a combination of the two (resulting in quite a bit of strife) before we can baby step away from this monstrosity of a government we have.

    2. What are you talking about? This amendment wasn't a baby step in the right direction. It was another baby step in the big government direction. It amazes me that even when Rand proposes a bill that would increase the damage the government does that people still defend him.

    3. It is a baby step in reducing .gov intervention. I would like to see as much as anyone a complete removal of the .gov from intervening in private affairs, and in subsidizing failure, but I am more than willing to admit that removing false .gov price support to union slobs is a step in the right direction.

      Remember its not the end result, its just moving in the right direction. First get the .gov out of fixing prices. Next step get the .gov out of intervening at all in cases of "emergency".

      I think that advocating for the appropriate end result, while acknowledging that a baby step is a minor yet incremental improvement is not an approach that will destroy libertarianism by any stretch. In fact its the only way a libertarian solution can ever really be approached given our current world.

    4. It is not so very amazing. Rand is an astute and capable defender of liberty. His tactics are suitable to his area of influence. Rand understands his enemy, which is critical to achieving any measure of victory over them. The subtitle of some of these articles should be "Damn the Torpedoes".

    5. The issue is not whether "This vote will be useful in a future political campaign." Who cares about that? "Ron's strategy of voting against everything ... did not work in winning the presidency." Of course it didn't, that was not the primary objective.

      You miss Robert's point, he's been saying this for months and months. A good libertarian in politics is an activist, not a politician, and he should be after converts, not votes.

      Once we have the converts, the rest will take care of itself. Mises taught that government, no matter how tyrannical, requires the consent of the majority.

    6. Oh boy, there we go again with the apologists with the crystal balls pretending to know he is all doing it for the good of dismantling the state.

      How tiresome.

  7. Doesn't this fall into the same category as his father inserting earmarks into spending bills for the benefit of his district?

    Too many people start with the axiom that all of Ron Paul's actions were perfectly "princpled" from an an-cap perspective, and when they see that Rand's aren't, they freak out and exclaim how different the two men are. They are different, and I prefer the former, but the axiom is flawed, and the application is, too, because it overlooks the differences in the way the House works and the way the Senate works. We don't know exactly what Senator Ron Paul would have done, because he never held the office.

    I admire both men, the elder somewhat more than the younger, but hero worship is one of the state's main control mechanisms, and it seems foolhardy to play into their hands by making Ron Paul something that he wasn't, and using an idealized version of his career as a club to bludgeon younger politicians with.

  8. I don't know I would fault Rand using this example. It seems to me you are effectively arguing that the government should keep the costly Davis-Bacon "prevailing wage" requirement because to waive it in this instance would help the government (?) and libertarians shouldn't be concerned about this sort of thing--we should just be trying to oppose hurricane relief. Now, given political realities, we know hurricane relief is going to pass. I don't see why it is wrong to try to save taxpayers what seems like a substantial sum of money. Perhaps, it helps the government expand its reach in some way--and this is very questionable--but the overriding concern should be saving taxpayers their tax dollars right? Is it better that we have significant future debt and taxes because we are afraid of unshackling an arm of the government beast in this instance? It is just too anarchist a stance, even though I normally sympathize with the anarchist position on other similar "good government" issues (like vouchers).

    1. Exactly. It's not so much an "anarchist" stance as it is simply an irrational one. I would think an "anarchist", who isn't quite anarchist enough to be able to give Ron Paul credit for his performance as a government employee, would likewise be able to give Rand credit for trying to reduce government expenses.

  9. This blog constantly attacks the only congressman who is close to a libertarian. I don't get it. Stick to economics.

  10. When Rand plays chess, he does not charge out with his queens and rooks. Rather, he develops his pawns, bishops and knights. Sometimes you gotta be smarter than the NWO.

  11. Let's be clear about what Rand did - he proposed an amendment to a bill which he voted against anyway. So it is completely inaccurate for Mr. Wenzel to claim that "Instead of calling for the killing of the beast, he is calling for the feeding of a better grade of banana to the beast." In fact, this is part of Ron Paul's argument for attaching pork to bills; he votes against the final bill anyway.

    As to the amendment, which didn't gain passage anyway: it sought to remove the Davis-Bacon act from the Hurricane Sandy recovery aid process. The Davis-Bacon act requires the federal government to pay a minimum labor wage to contracted workers, thereby forcing the federal government to pay workers who charge more money for their services. Rand Paul wanted to allow the government to bargain for lower prices - which certainly would have protected the taxpayer.

    If there is any indicator that proves Rand's amendment would have helped the taxpayer, it was that Chuck Schumer stood up and vehemently opposed it with froth spilling out of his mouth, because he feared there would be a "race to the bottom" (meaning that the government would pick the cheapest labor and thereby lower quality work.)

    Sorry, this isn't the best anti-Rand argument out there.