Rand Paul Channels Jack Kemp
Now that the hubbub over Paul-agiarism has died down, Rand Paul appears to be weighing a presidential run in 2016. If his wife will let him . . .
And, to that end, Paul has been traveling, most recently to Detroit, for try-outs. When politicians with relatively little experience [Paul first took office in 2011] decide to run for president, it is incumbent upon them to prove to the electorate that they have the “right stuff” in a daunting number of categories.
During his trip to Detroit, Paul launched the Detroit branch of a GOP African-American Engagement Office and also visited the Detroit Economic Club to present his proposal for lifting Detroit out of bankruptcy via what he calls “Economic Freedom Zones” - another name for massive tax cuts, specifically income tax, corporate taxes, payroll taxes and the capital gains tax.
As Paul describes his scheme:
What we hope to do is create taxes so low that you essentially are able to bail yourselves out, by having more money accumulate in the area over time.
If this idea sounds vaguely familiar, you are probably remembering another old Republican supply-sider and compassionate conservative, Jack Kemp, who advocated an “enterprise zones” concept for many years. [To give you some idea where Jack Kemp was coming from, Paul Ryan cited Kemp as his mentor in his acceptance speech of the 2012 VP nomination.]
The consensus on the effectiveness of past enterprise zone experiments in the US is not a rave review.
Lambert and Coomes (2001) found that the Louisville, Kentucky enterprise zone mostly benefited large corporations rather than small entrepreneurs and did not benefit local neighborhoods at all, even though community re-development was a goal.
Since that was in Rand Paul’s backyard, I’d expect him to know a little about it.
Peters and Fisher did a more comprehensive study published in 2002 that reviewed most major enterprise zone studies from the enterprise zone heyday of the 1980s and 1990s and concluded that most state and local enterprise zone programs come up short in achieving their goals and objectives. Which might have something to do with the fact that Republicans have a habit of labeling policies with goals and objectives that sound appealing to the public but don’t have a snowball’s chance of being realized via the actual policy mechanics enacted.
Rand Paul promises that his new spin, Economic Freedom Zones will somehow work better than Kemp’s enterprise zones did. Time will tell - he’ll be introducing his legislation on Monday and at least Paul is making an effort to solve a problem—albeit with a recycled and not terribly successful party-line solution. And he’s making progress by at least giving Kemp credit for the model.
But then, obviously pumped up from all of this economic policy heavy-lifting, Paul appeared this morning on Fox News and shared one too many of his fiscal bright ideas coming out in opposition to the President’s call for an extension of longterm unemployment benefits set to expire at the end of December.
“You do a disservice to these workers,” Paul said on “Fox News Sunday,” explaining that employers prefer to hire people who have not been out of work for an extensive period of time. “You’re causing them to become part of this perpetual unemployed group in our economy.”
The implication, of course, is that old Republican axiom that if you give a person unemployment benefits s/he won’t look for work. Because we all know what a great standard of living unemployment provides . . .
It took Joe Weisenthal of Business Insider exactly two lines on one little chart to prove that Paul’s premise is utterly, laughably wrong.
Undaunted and on a roll, Paul then went on to explain how the high rate of unemployment among African-Americans is due to policy failures on the part of the Obama administration:
You know, I don’t doubt the president’s motives, but black unemployment in America is double white unemployment. And it hasn’t budged under this president. A lot of African-Americans voted for him, but I don’t think it’s worked, I don’t think his policies work.
Fair enough, the man is entitled to his opinion BUT since he is planning to run for President it would be nice for him to share with us what President Paul would do differently to solve these pressing problems.
And that is where 21st century Republicans are failing us. We get that conservatives really dislike the current president and 99% of what he does and stands for. But we no longer have a clue what Republicans would do differently because the party has taken itself out of the constructive policy business, refusing to discuss anything other than those things that they would like to prohibit.
We know where Republicans stand on abortion, gun ownership, immigration, contraception and marriage equality. But what would a Republican president, like Rand Paul, do to put more African-Americans to work? To create jobs? To make America a better place to live?
And how about the long-term unemployed? those American citizens who, through no fault of their own, bore the worst of the fallout of the Great Recession brought on, in no small part by the egregious failures of their government to safeguard their life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.
Rand Paul wants to protect them from prolonged unemployment by making them desperate. Surely Mr Paul understands that employers prefer not to hire the homeless, either. And, if he’d really been paying attention to the plight of America’s unemployed he’d know, like the rest of us, that employers are not hiring the unemployed at all, no matter how long or short a time they have been receiving unemployment benefits. Google that topic and you’ll find 4 million + articles on line.
So where, in the Republican Party Platform, do we find a plan to redress the avoidable suffering of American workers and their families, the victims of their failed economic and regulatory policies that played a starring role in the fiscal mess from which we are still struggling to recover? And is there a plan to prevent it from happening again?
If you think that blaming decades of Republican economic and regulatory policy for contributing heavily to the 2008 Recession is hyperbolic, please take the time to read the Conclusions Summary of the U.S. Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission report published in January 2011.
Back to my question about Republican policy ideas to fix things? The answer is “currently, there aren’t any.” Republicans have compulsively pursued one, and only one, economic goal throughout the country’s troubled times and that was to prevent the President, his cabinet and members of Congress from carrying out any effort that might result in a successful economic turnaround during his administration. Republicans have demonstrated a willingness to threaten the stability of the global economy to achieve that end.
As to Rand Paul’s chances of being elected president, I’d have to put them at slim to none along with any other Republican candidate on the horizon. No one in the country wants to hear about the magic bullet of one more massive tax cut. People who are on the brink of financial ruin will not appreciate the GOP “tough love” approach of removing their safety net. Economists will not be wowed by the idea of putting the brakes on our fragile recovery by yanking those unemployment dollars out of circulation. Unemployed blacks in Detroit will not be impressed that their landlords and the businesses that won’t interview them for a job are receiving tax cuts. No one, save an extremist few, are interested in listening to Republicans fiddling with social policy while the country burns.
Until Republicans face the bitter truth that policy really does matter - a lot - and that the electorate is not stupid and can usually spot the pig beneath the lipstick, Republicans simply won’t win national elections.