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“How A President Paul Would Remake Society”: Rand Paul Is Building A Bridge — To The Early 1800s

The official launch of Rand Paul’s presidential campaign this week showcased an interesting blend of proposals, with the junior senator from Kentucky agitating against the forthcoming Iran deal, racially unjust incarceration, and NSA surveillance. The bulk of it, however, was dedicated to a libertarian vision of government — one drastically at odds with the last century of American governance and more.

This vision isn’t just contained to his speeches. Paul’s budget proposals provide a blueprint for how a President Paul would remake society, and the result is eyewateringly radical. When it comes to domestic policy, his views are far to the right even of Paul Ryan, whose budgets would decimate the legacy of the New Deal. It’s a vision of government from the age of Thomas Jefferson, and ludicrously unsuited to the 21st century.

And yet Paul, despite fashioning himself as an outsider, will likely be a contender in the Republican primary, which means his ideas deserve close scrutiny.

Dylan Matthews has done a deep dive into the various Paul budgets of the last three years, and the findings are jarring. “The gap between Paul’s budget and Ryan’s,” he writes, “is nearly as big as the gap between Ryan’s and Democrats.”

On one occasion or another, Paul has proposed completely abolishing the Departments of Education, Housing and Urban Development, and Energy; the Bureaus of Reclamation and Indian Affairs; all foreign aid; and the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit. On the tax side, he proposes a flat income tax and scrapping the tax on estates, capital gains, dividends, large gifts, as well as the Alternative Minimum Tax.

As Matt Bruenig concludes, this would amount to a stupendous redistribution of income from poor to rich, likely unprecedented in American history. The poor would see their taxes massively increased, while the rich would enjoy a corresponding decrease.

In Paul’s dream world, other government departments get merely eviscerated. The Interior Department is cut by 78 percent, State by 71 percent, the General Services Administration by 85 percent, and the Transportation and Agriculture departments by a comparatively modest 49 percent cut each. The military was cut by 30 percent in early budgets, though Paul has since reversed himself on that.

But wait, there’s more! Science gets gored by Paul, with 20 percent of funding taken from the National Institutes of Health, 25 percent from NASA, 20 percent from the U.S. Geological Survey, 62 percent from the National Science Foundation, and even 20 percent from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (which, you may recall, recently prevented an outbreak of Ebola in the U.S.).

These aggressive cuts to discretionary spending are the simple result of huge tax reductions combined with a balanced budget. But Paul also appears to be groping as far towards the libertarian “night watchman state” — limited to the police, military, and courts — as he dares. Though Paul’s views, tainted by roots in his father’s very long history of bigoted conspiracy nutbaggery, are far from the austere purity of Robert Nozick, it’s clear Paul thinks most of what the government has done since the 1930s is illegitimate.

He’s a supporter of the Lochner doctrine, named after a 1905 Supreme Court case that conveniently discovered an unwritten “liberty of contract” in the 14th Amendment and thus abolished most laws regulating working conditions. He’s a fan of the Supreme Court decisions against the New Deal. His latest budget argues that anything but a flat tax is likely unconstitutional. It seems clear that if he had his druthers, he really would abolish everything but the police, the military, and the courts.

This extreme suspicion of federal government is only matched by his reverence for rich people and businesses; Paul does not touch property law, special legal protections for corporations, or even the wretched mortgage interest deduction. His position would fit reasonably well in the Gilded Age or the pre-World War I era, when “due process” for workers was often non-existent.

But it was Thomas Jefferson who made the most sustained effort to bring the libertarian utopia into being. Fighting against Alexander Hamilton and his allies, Jefferson did about all he could, especially early in his first term, to implement the night watchman state. It didn’t work very well, and he began abandoning the effort by the end of his term — and he was living in an agrarian slave society. Trying it in 2016 is patently preposterous.


By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, April 8, 2015

April 10, 2015 Posted by | Domestic Policy, Libertarians, Rand Paul | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Police Don’t Always Tell The Truth”: The Killing Of Walter Scott Sheds Light On The Problem Of Police Lying

Yesterday The New York Times published a video showing a police officer, Michael T. Slager, fatally shooting a black man, Walter L. Scott, as he ran away from the officer.

The video is disturbing enough by itself. But it becomes even more troubling when we consider how radically at odds the visual evidence seems to be with the police incident report filed on the killing. As the Times notes, Slager “said he had feared for his life because the man had taken his stun gun in a scuffle after a traffic stop on Saturday.” Yet the video shows Scott killed in flight, something like 20 feet away when the final bullet hit. After the shooting, Slager is shown placing an object next to Scott’s prone body. According to the Times, police reports also claim that officers performed CPR on Scott, an assertion not borne out in the video.

The death of Walter Scott will add more tinder to the already blazing political debate over police violence. The apparent contradictions between the incident report and the video highlight an overlapping but distinct problem: The police don’t always tell the truth. Police violence and police lying are two separate problems, although they also reinforce each other. Police violence flourishes in part because of the prevalence of police lying, which is rarely challenged by the criminal justice system.

In the Scott killing, there is good reason to believe that without the powerful counter-evidence provided by the video, which led to Slager being charged with murder yesterday, the police incident report would have been accepted as the official account of the shooting. Indeed, the persuasive power of police testimony extends outside official channels. Prior to the emergence of the video and Slager’s arrest, Slager’s version of events was echoed by the local media in South Carolina as if it were factual.

Police lying doesn’t just act as a shield for police violence, but as a larger source of corruption in the criminal justice system. Criminal cases are always narrative battles: Prosecutors and defense attorneys compete to win cases by presenting the most plausible stories consistent with admissible evidence. The police play a crucial part in this system as a supplier of narrative facts, in the form of both reports and testimony under oath.

As Ohio State law professor Michelle Alexander noted in a 2013 article in The New York Times, there is a powerful social presumption that we should put our faith in cops. “As a juror, whom are you likely to believe: the alleged criminal in an orange jumpsuit or two well-groomed police officers in uniforms who just swore to God they’re telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but?” Alexander said that this abiding faith in the police is misplaced: “In this era of mass incarceration, the police shouldn’t be trusted any more than any other witness, perhaps less so.”

Alexander’s contention rests on a strong scholarly literature about “testilying”—the practice of police officers committing perjury to secure a conviction, usually against someone they think is guilty. In a classic 1996 article for the Colorado Law Review, Vanderbilt Law professor Christopher Slobogin demonstrated that both “reportilying” (falsifying police reports) and “testilying” are pervasive in many American jurisdictions.

Police perjury, Slobogin argues, occurs because “police think they can get away with it. Police are seldom made to pay for their lying.” Not just prosecutors but even many judges see themselves as sharing a common set of goals with the police of making sure the guilty get punished. Working in a shared enterprise, they are loath to challenge police perjury. “Prosecutors put up with perjury because they need a good working relationship with the police to make their cases,” Slobogin notes.

Slobogin documented his case by citing a compelling 1992 study by Myron Orfield of the Chicago criminal justice system showing that a large percentage of judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys acknowledge the reality of police perjury: “In his survey of these three groups (which together comprised 27 to 41 individuals, depending on the question), 52 percent believed that at least ‘half of the time’ the prosecutor ‘knows or has reason to know’ that police fabricate evidence at suppression hearings, and 93 percent, including 89 percent of the prosecutors, stated that prosecutors had such knowledge of perjury ‘at least some of the time.’”

If officer Slager did fabricate his incident report in the Scott killing, he wasn’t being a bad apple but rather adhering to a dishonesty that is all too common in American police forces. Such is the credence given to police reporting that Slager’s rendition of events was only overturned by the compelling counter-narrative offered by the video, shot by a civilian onlooker.

Videos, including police body cameras, are not a panacea to the problem of police violence. The 1992 Rodney King trial alone should remind us that compelling visual testimony can be overridden by the social trust many jurors give to police. Still, in a society where both the state and many citizens are too credulous about police testimony, videos are often the best way to break the stranglehold of the official narrative.


By: Jeet Heer, Senior Editor, The New Republic, April 9, 2015

April 10, 2015 Posted by | Criminal Justice System, Police Shootings, Police Shotings | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Super-Wacko-Birds”: Another Step In The Evolution Of Super-PACs As Instruments For Donor Control Of Politicians

Ted Cruz has managed to distract attention from Rand Paul’s campaign launch by letting it be known that four Super-PACs have been set up to support his own candidacy, with commitments already in for a cool $31 million. If you boil off all the chattering about the size of the contributions (not really all that much in the larger scheme of things) and the amnesia about the role Super-PACs played in 2012, two things seem to make this noteworthy: how early the money came in, and the structure of the Cruz Super-PACS, which suggest an unprecedented degree of specialization and micro-managing of Grandee dollars.

This latter dimension was explored at Bloomberg Politics (which broke the story on the Cruz Super-PACs) by Julie Bykowicz and Heidi Przybyla:

One of the constellation of committees first reported Wednesday by Bloomberg appears to be underwritten by Republican mega-donor Robert Mercer and his family. Campaign lawyers said the arrangement is unlike anything they’ve ever seen before.

“It’s something to watch,” said Jason Abel of Steptoe & Johnson, who is not involved with the super-PACs. Abel and other lawyers speculated that multiple committees, all of which are named some form of “Keep the Promise,” were created to satisfy the whims of individual donors.

“It appears that setting up multiple super-PACs would allow maximum flexibility for certain donors to push their issues,” Abel said. The Campaign Legal Center’s Paul Ryan suggested that the arrangement creates “different pots of money for donors to fund different things.”

A strategist involved with the committees, who asked not to be named because he’s not authorized to speak publicly, corroborated those theories. Each of the super-PACs—Keep the Promise and three “sub-super-PACs” dubbed Keep the Promise I, Keep the Promise II and Keep the Promise III—will be controlled by a different donor family, and will likely develop different specialities, such as data mining, television advertising and polling, the strategist said.

If that’s accurate, it means another step in the evolution of Super-PACs as instruments for donor control of politicians. The 2012 versions were organizations set up by candidates to serve as conduits for big donor dollars that didn’t just go into the hungry maw of the campaign, much less national “issue organizations,” but went directly into ads or other tangible products. It seems the Cruz Super-PACs will allow even greater targeting of dollars beyond the control of the candidate and his dollar-hungry consultants. Add in the early timing, and it’s plausible that these Super-Wacko-Birds feel they are steering rather than simply maintaining the Cruz campaign. I guess that’s how these people want to roll.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 9, 2015

April 10, 2015 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Super PAC's, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Racial Pain That Just Won’t Quit”: The Nation’s Original Sin And The Prejudices, Pathologies, And Policy Failures That Continue To Haunt Us

The good news in race this week is that after a municipal election in roiling Ferguson, Missouri, the six-member city council now has three black members instead of one. But the bad news, on the 150th anniversary of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House, is beyond tragic.

In North Charleston, South Carolina, a white police officer was charged with murdering a black man after a video shot by a bystander showed that the man was running away from him. And in Princess Anne, Maryland, carbon monoxide from a generator was found to be the cause of death for a divorced black father and his seven children.

This is the week that the Confederacy, and slavery, suffered permanent defeat. Yet the back stories in these cases are reminders of both the nation’s original sin and the prejudices, pathologies, and policy failures that continue to haunt us.

Walter Scott, 50, the South Carolina victim, was stopped for a broken taillight and shot eight times. Officer Michael Thomas Slager’s detailed account of the incident was contradicted by the video, leading to the murder charge. Scott had four children, a fiancée, and a job. He had been arrested 10 times, according to the Charleston Post and Courier, mostly for failing to pay child support and show up at court hearings. The only indicator of violence, the newspaper said, came 28 years ago when he was convicted on an assault and battery charge.

Rodney Todd, 36, the Maryland man, was trying to keep his children warm after the local utility removed a stolen electrical meter from his rental home late last month. According to The Washington Post, Todd had a troubled, violent history with his ex-wife, the children’s mother, and served a year in jail. But friends and relatives said he had turned his life around, gotten a job at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and become a proud, conscientious father.

Before Scott and Todd, there was Ferguson — not so much the killing of Michael Brown, but the devastating Justice Department report about police and court bias against poor black residents of the two-thirds black town, who were fined constantly for offenses like jaywalking and then jailed when they couldn’t pay those fines, producing cascading effects such as lost jobs and fury at the police and power structure.

Before Scott and Todd, there was also Eric Garner, the Staten Island, New York man put in a chokehold by police who were trying to arrest him for selling untaxed cigarettes. The chokehold was the main cause of death, aggravated by obesity and asthma.

Our history and our failures are flashing before our eyes in all of these cases. The statistics don’t lie. From the Congressional Research Service: Children living with single mothers are four times as likely to be poor as those in married households. From the Kids Count Data Book of 2014: Two-thirds of black children live in single-parent families, nearly twice the national average; one in three live in high poverty areas, more than twice the national average; and nearly one-third don’t graduate from high school on time, compared with 19 percent nationally. From the Pew Research Center: In 2010, black men were six times as likely as white men to be behind bars. And in 2013, after the Great Recession, white households had 13 times the median wealth of black households — the largest gap since 1989. From Gallup: Obesity and asthma are much more common among poor people.

Now add the shocking Justice Department reports on police violence and bias against black residents of Cleveland and Ferguson, and the reports to come from the agency’s continuing investigations of other police departments. And finally, if you are white, think about your white friends and family, your white self. How many of us have been stopped for a broken taillight or an expired inspection sticker and were — or pretended to be — surprised by that news? And not having missed child support payments or court dates, not fearing jail, we did not flee. And having the money and job flexibility to fix the problem, we simply promised to get it done. And instead of being killed or even ticketed, we were let off with a warning.

The North Charleston police chief says all officers will now wear body cameras. That’s progress, but not enough. It’s time for policymakers to put ideology, fixed ideas and electoral concerns aside, look at the data on what works, and start disentangling a Gordian knot that only seems to have gotten tighter and more toxic since that defining moment 150 years ago.


By: Jill Lawrence, The National Memo, April 9, 2015

April 10, 2015 Posted by | Police Shootings, Police Violence, Race and Ethnicity | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Let Her Socialist Freak Flag Fly?”: Why Republicans Won’t Convince The Electorate That Hillary Clinton Is A Radical

One of the persistent conservative narratives about Hillary Clinton is that her identity as a supposedly moderate Democrat is a ruse, meant to conceal her radical leftist intents. If and when she reaches her long-held goal of becoming president, the mask will be removed and the true horror of her socialist scheme will be revealed.

That is, of course, assuming we reach January 2017 with Barack Obama having failed in his own plan to turn America into a dungeon of Stalinist oppression and misery. But the idea that Clinton is, like her husband, a moderate Democrat, is something that many conservatives have trouble abiding, particularly when the prospect of her becoming president becomes more salient.

So lest Republicans become complacent about the prospects for a second Clinton presidency (a real danger, no doubt), Liz Mair argues in the Daily Beast that Republicans shouldn’t fool themselves into thinking that the former secretary of state is much like the first President Clinton:

…tying Hillary Clinton to her husband is an act of political malpractice that ignores the fact that on economic issues, she was—during his presidency, during her 2008 campaign, and still today—significantly to the left of him.

For whatever else one may say about him, Bill Clinton was and is a centrist. His presidency is remembered for the taming of the deficit, his advocacy for free trade, his signature of welfare reform, his legislation cutting the long-term capital gains tax rate, and perhaps most famously, his declaration that “the era of big government is over.”

That would not have been true if Hillary had had it her way. And if she has her way now—and if she makes it to the White House—a very un-Bill-like big government will remain in the cards for some time.

Even if her bill of particulars is pretty weak, Mair is right insofar as Hillary Clinton is running in 2016 and Bill Clinton left office in 2001. In the time since, the Democratic Party has itself moved to the left in some ways, and a party’s nominee is always going to reflect the party’s consensus (with some small variation). If Bill Clinton were running now, he wouldn’t be the same candidate he was then. It isn’t that Hillary has been waiting for two decades to let her socialist freak flag fly, as I’m sure many conservatives believe; it’s that her party has evolved, and she’s evolved along with it. For instance, to be a Democrat now means to believe in full marriage equality and to question the War on Drugs, which wasn’t true in 1992. At that time there was a comprehensive debate about the party’s ideological direction, which Bill Clinton led; now there’s a remarkable degree of ideological unity.

There are still ways in which Hillary Clinton is to the right of the median Democrat; she certainly retains more hawkish instincts in foreign affairs, and I don’t know if she has abandoned her previous support of the death penalty (though that’s something presidents don’t do anything about). However you might judge her, we sometimes forget when we try to make such an assessment that it isn’t necessary for a president to be an ideological radical for him or her to be a disaster in office. Richard Nixon was something of a moderate, but that made him no less corrupt. There are ways in which George W. Bush was less than a right-wing ideologue; that mitigates the disaster he wrought at home and abroad not at all.

The real things conservatives dislike about Hillary Clinton have little to do with ideology. They think she’s a power-hungry, dishonest, overly secretive conniver who has no scruples. Someone could be all those things, and believe almost anything about policy.

This is something both liberals and conservatives will argue about when it comes to the Republican candidates, too. I tend to think that the actual policy differences between those candidates are tiny, and it’s the attitudinal differences that are significant. If you actually went down a list of every issue you could come up with, you’d find that Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz disagree on only a couple of things, but Cruz presents himself as a proud far-right ideologue, while Bush doesn’t.

Many conservatives believe that Bush is actually some kind of liberal simply because he talks about immigrants as though they were human beings and supports Common Core (which many other Republicans used to like before they decided it’s some kind of communist indoctrination program). My guess is that Bush looked closely at Mitt Romney’s ham-handed attempts to convince primary voters that he was actually a doctrinaire right-winger (“I was a severely conservative Republican governor“) and concluded that the best course is to not fight too strongly against the notion that he’s a moderate, despite what little truth there may be to it.

In any case, this kind of ideological name-calling is a feature of nearly every presidential campaign: each candidate says, “I’m mainstream, and my opponent is a radical.” Sometimes it’s true and sometimes it isn’t, but I suspect Republicans are going to have a hard time convincing the electorate that Hillary Clinton is an ideological extremist, whatever they tell themselves.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, April 7, 2015

April 10, 2015 Posted by | Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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