Friday, March 18, 2011

Rand Paul's Budget: A Lesson in Publicaphobia

The Tea Party elements of the Senate (read: entrenched corporate interests) are coalescing around Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)'s 5-year plan for the budget. Since this is thus far the only budget proposal offered by Republicans that lasts for more than a month, let's just call it the GOP budget plan for short. The plan obliterates the departments of Energy, Education, Housing and Urban Development, and Commerce. This is remarkable restraint from Rand Paul; devotees of the Senator's past would have expected Rand Paul to abduct the federal government, force it to take drugs, and coerce it into praying to "aqua buddha" rather than just cut off a few essential functions upon which its citizens and constituent states.

It's hard to imagine a worse plan for the economy right now, or for states. The Departments of Education and Housing and Urban Development shovel federal taxpayer money into state coffers, paying for state-led projects, state teacher payrolls, and preventing fraud and waste. States are fighting tooth and nail to keep basic programs alive. An enormous part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act kept local progams afloat amid the massive dip of property taxes brought on by the burst housing bubble. The failure of Republicans to create a similar pro-state project has precipitated massive state budget shortfalls from Washington to Florida.

Yet the Republicans backing the Paul 5-year plan are making a grotesque argument that cutting grants-in-aid to states will strengthen state power:
As for the sweeping cuts, South Carolina Republican Jim DeMint said balancing the budget requires “letting things go” back to the state level.

“There are functions and departments at the federal level that need to be devolved to the states. Part of balancing the budget is restructuring and devolving federal functions back the states, local communities and people,” he said.
"Letting things go back to the state level" at this economic moment means letting them go into the dustbin of history, especially with State Houses under the control of Republicans who are equally opposed to paying for basic government services as Rand Paul is. There is a deep fear of the republic at work here; the ironically named Republicans are seeking to remove the instruments of the people to confront issues of public consequence.

As noted in the Madison anti-worker debacle, today's Republicans evince a deep fear of the American people. Consequently the GOP has a paranoid negative reaction against any action that is democratically undertaken either by current voters (e.g. Affordable Care Act) or past American generations (Social Security). The result is a party-wide 'publicaphobia' and 'respublicaphobia,' a fear of public matters.

Republicans have no interest in governing. That's why John Boehner has been unwilling to produce a budget that lasts longer than a few weeks at a time. And yet they run for elected office. For small-r republicans (i.e. people who care about the issues that confront the public), the tension here seems irresolvable. Perhaps Speaker Boehner and his fellow publicaphobes are simply vain creatures and crave personal validation through electoral politics. Many are, after all, failures in all other walks of life.

I do not believe that this blanket psychoanalysis is either appropriate or valid. There is a rational explanation that economics affords: publicaphobes run for office to exact an opportunity cost. Because John Boehner holds the Speaker's gavel, very little will be achieved in this Congress. The publicaphobes often ran on this explicit platform of obstruction and impotence.

This is the wherefore behind the Republican budget plan, but what exactly will it do? Perhaps most shockingly, the Republican 5-year plan would stop paychecks to the technicians, engineers, and scientists who oversee safety at American nuclear power plants. The Department of Energy is also central to the tracking of spent nuclear fuel rods, a resource that we know terrorists have been interested in acquiring. Rand Paul's budget plan would relegate our first line of defense against nuclear terrorism to the whims of 50 groups of state legislators and the already failing budgets of the states. In the short term, this would shut down the entire machinery of nuclear safety in the United States. In the best case scenario, nuclear security may anemically return in a hodgepodge of locales over the next decade. Nuclear experts simply do not have the time or resources to lobby fifty separate governments and their multitude of agencies to inform them of the best ways to ensure nuclear safety. The federal government is the proper actor for such a public matter.

One can at least understand the theoretical basis for the assault on the Deparments Energy, Education, and HUD. It is consistent with the laughable constitutional theory that America's founding fathers forsaw all national problems and only provided the institutional authority to deal with the select, enumerated few. The same constitutional interpretation would also invalidate the Air Force, the constitution only authorizing Congress to create the Army and Navy. There is, on the other hand, absolutely no constitutional justification for the deletion of the Commerce Department.

I don't know what Rand Paul hates about the Commerce Department. Perhaps he thinks that it's a waste of resources to enumerate all the people in the United States every ten years, a constitutional requirement on the federal government that the Department of Commerce satisfies by running the Census. Perhaps the Republican five-year plan attacks the Department because they manage the list of controlled technology subject to sanctions. Eliminating the Commerce Department eliminates the 'bureaucrats' who prevent US companies from doing business with Iran or selling advanced military hardware to Russia. It is truly unclear what the Republicans want to accomplish with this five-year plan.

The answer, of course, is the same answer to the question 'Why do publicaphobes run for office?' By inviting republicans to talk about these nonsensical ideas, they impose an opportunity cost on the public. We could be discussing ways to better improve our lives; ways to make the economy recover faster; ways to help our friends in Japan recover from the devastation of the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster; or prepare for disasters on our own shores. Instead, people who care about public matters have to spend time knocking down these silly plans, designed just to draw attention. That is the Republican budget plan: distract the public, Congress, and Administration from any issue that truly matters.

1 comment:

  1. Who writes this crap? Besides lib Dem 'progressives' & CINO RINO Repubs who are heck bent on collapsing the US money system, Cloward & Pivon style? These members of the Benedict Iscariot Club seem very content with the coming massive collapse of our $ system.

    This article is so full of jive, deception & Grand Ma over the cliff scare tactics that it will probably be a featured article on all of the Spooky Dude Soros fringe stream media sites.

    I surmise the author thinks the NEA has done such a fine job of dumbing down America that we can't read or research for our selves. Problem is, they have done that to a degree large enough that we actually have resistance to cutting Fed govt spending in the light of a huge, bloated, [not enough words to describe haw big govt has become] MASSIVE debt. Debt that is taking this country down!

    Ahh! But that's been the agenda all along! Since at least 1913. So, what happened in 1913? The 'Federal' Reserve!

    What part of "THE USA IS DEAD BROKE!!!!!" & we cannot afford or sustain what Rand Paul wants to cut does the author of the lead article not under stand???