Rand Paul, savior of Detroit or destroyer of the American middle class?

130724_rand_paul_ap_328Trying to put some distance between himself and his most recent plagiarism scandal, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who has aspirations of running for President in 2016, made his way to Michigan yesterday, promising to unveil a plan that would help turn around not only Detroit, but every struggling community across the United States. According to Paul, he’ll be introducing the bill, which he calls the Economic Freedom Zones plan, in the Senate on Monday.

[Speaking of plagiarism… Much of Paul’s new plan seems to have been lifted from Jack Kemp’s unsuccessful Enterprise Zone bill back in the early 1980s.]

Not surprisingly for a man named after Ayn Rand, Paul’s plan has free-marketers creaming their Chinese-made jeans. Among other things, the plan, if voted into law, would reduce federal income taxes in these “Economic Freedom Zones” to just 5-percent, eliminate capital gains taxes altogether, roll back environmental regulation significantly, implement wide-ranging school voucher programs, and relax federal wage requirements on public projects. And this program wouldn’t just roll out in Detroit and a few other failing cities, according to Paul. It would be implemented in any zip code where there’s an unemployment rate over 1.5 times the national average. In Kentucky alone, Paul tells us, that would 25 counties.

So, if enacted, legislation would eliminate the EPA across a significant portion of our country, make school vouchers the norm, and, perhaps most importantly, significantly cut down on the amount of money going to the federal government, effectively starving the beast.”

“These Economic Freedom Zones,” says Paul, “allow blighted and bankrupt areas to remove the shackles of big government by reducing taxes, regulations, and burdensome union work requirements. These zones give parents and students the flexibility to find better schools, allow talented immigrants to pursue entrepreneurial and job-creating endeavors, and will provide additional incentives for philanthropy to help those in need.”

I particularly like the “incentives for philanthropy” part, as it implies that federal government will no longer be in the business of feeding and sheltering the poor. Paul, like many in his party, wants to take us back to the time of robber barons, where the rich could do what they wanted, without fear of reprisal, in exchange for the promise that they might, at some point, step in clean up their messes… Thankfully, some are seeing through it. Michigan Democratic Party spokesman Josh Pugh had the following to say in response to Paul’s speech at the Detroit Economic Club yesterday. “Senator Paul was a vocal opponent of the auto rescue, which saved over a million jobs,” he said, “and led the Republican effort to shut down the government, costing Michigan’s economy hundreds of millions… It’s time for our elected leaders to stop the tax giveaways, invest in communities and improve education.” I couldn’t agree more. This is a time for increased government investment in education and infrastructure, not the wholesale abandonment of the system that brought us out of the Great Depression, delivering nearly a century of prosperity, and putting Americans on the moon.

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  1. Edward
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Nothing says “freedom” like a law saying that businesses can pay less and pollute more.

  2. Posted December 8, 2013 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    Alright Maynard. I am with you until you write this, “…the system that made us brought us out of the Great Depression, delivering nearly a century of prosperity, and putting Americans on the moon.”

    Not only is that highly sensational, it also oversimplifies what happened in the wake of October 1929 and beyond. But, you know that!

    Caveat: I wonder if this current batch of the ol’ Chicago Boys will need a Pinochet to follow through on their plans.

  3. jcp2
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Not to worry about Chinese made jeans. There is a company that makes jeans in America from material completely sourced in America, rather than assembling jeans in America from materials sourced elsewhere. They only cost $160 a pair.


  4. Thom Elliott
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Could anyone with a straight face defend this nausiating bromide for nihilisitic plutocrats? I’d actually be for Paul’s plan, so long as his economic freedom zones were walled off with 12 layers of electric razorwire fences, with a gun tower every six feet, and they had to grow all their own food/produce all their own medicine/clothing.

  5. koosh
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Levi’s are made in China. Everyone must be creaming their jeans.

  6. Posted December 8, 2013 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Well, I had you until the very last sentence, Greg. I reckon that’s pretty good… As for what I said, I’ll admit that I got lazy toward the end. It was late and I needed to sleep. What I was trying to get at is that the New Deal worked, and that investing in public education worked. Yes, there was lots of shit along the way, and things weren’t perfect, but I’d argue that, all things considered, we did pretty well. The Middle class grew. Our schools turned out good, bright kids. And, by most counts, we did pretty well. Now, it seems, there are people, like Paul, that want to throw all of that away.

  7. Posted December 8, 2013 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    “I tore my $160 jeans swinging my $300 axe.” I wonder if anyone’s ever had cause to say that.

  8. jcp2
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    There’s a better deal for you, Mark. Jeans made in Texas from Texas Jeans. They have a sale now, so here’s a pair for $33. Note the special concealed carry pocket for your handgun.


    I thought the 1791 jeans wouldn’t work for you, as that is a Glenn Beck company.

  9. Demetrius
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    This is nothing more than an articulation of the multinational plutocrats’ agenda re-packaged as “economic salvation” for people living in economically struggling areas.

    It is also, in many ways, merely a sharper, deeper version of the “neoliberal” economic agenda that politicians of both parties have been pushing ever since the Reagan.

    The sad part is that, to many poor, struggling people living in these communities — many of whom no longer remember the struggles that unions and other progressive activists had to fight to gain social benefits like universal free public education, a living wage, unemployment benefits, the social safety net, and clean air and water – these so-called “solutions” may actually appear somewhat appealing.

  10. Posted December 8, 2013 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    Let’s not just let FDR off the hook, tho. While the New Deal did spend hell of money on education and public works, he wasn’t down with public sector unions one bit:

    “All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management. The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations. The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress. Accordingly, administrative officials and employees alike are governed and guided, and in many instances restricted, by laws which establish policies, procedures, or rules in personnel matters.”
    Letter on the Resolution of Federation of Federal Employees Against Strikes in Federal Service
    August 16, 1937

  11. Posted December 8, 2013 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    Or, at least he wasn’t down with their ability to collectively bargain or ever go on strike. Which, 6 to one, amirite?!

  12. Posted December 8, 2013 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    Don’t dis on $300 axes if you don’t know what you’re talking about. My GB axes have completely outlasted my crappy Lowe’s axes. I sharpen GB axes less, they make a better cut and are easier to swing than any of the crap you buy at Lowe’s.

    What Mr. Paul fails to realize is that a lack of tax revenues is exactly what got cities like Detroit in their messes in the first place.

  13. Posted December 8, 2013 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    I know Paul thinks he might win some inner city African American votes with this talk of throwing off “the shackles of big government.” I think, however, he’ll find it difficult to rebrand himself a new Abe Lincoln, offering freedom to the downtrodden, when, just three years ago, he was defending segregated lunch counters.

  14. anonymous
    Posted December 9, 2013 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    In his defense, Rand said that he wouldn’t eat at a segregated lunch counter. He just said that he wanted to live in a world without big government where they could exist.

  15. idea man
    Posted December 9, 2013 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Well, as long as you’re getting rid of environmental law in Detroit, why not get rid of civil rights law as well? That would really stimulate investment!

  16. Dennis
    Posted December 9, 2013 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    When Rand Paul proposes these zones, it’s jean creaming. When your pal Stewart Beal gets a big tax break, there’s no comment?

  17. Dan
    Posted December 9, 2013 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    The Echo had a nice article about the speech in the Opinions section.

  18. 734
    Posted December 9, 2013 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    What’s this about a new Stewart Beal tax break?

  19. Meta
    Posted December 9, 2013 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    Rand Paul Says Unemployment Benefits a ‘Disservice’ to Workers:

    If Rand Paul would just come out and say (as his muse Ayn Rand would not have hesitated to do) the long-term unemployed are worthless people the Almighty Market has judged as disposable, I might at least respect his position that unemployment benefits should be denied after 26 weeks, regardless of economic conditions. If he claimed we just can’t afford it, that, too, would be a position worth arguing about.

    But his contention that helping people secure food, shelter and other necessities is a “disservice” to the long-term unemployed is really annoying, right up there with Paul Ryan’s perpetual claims that his budget proposals are anti-poverty measures.

    The paternalism reflected in these attitudes is obviously breathtaking. If the long-term unemployed actually could go out and get jobs and are simply refusing to do so because they prefer living on next to nothing at public expense, then Paul might well be righteously angry at them, not condescending. If he’s wrong about their motives and their opportunities, then again, he should come right out and say it’s not America’s problem that they can’t find jobs.

    Read more:

  20. Posted December 9, 2013 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

    What makes Dennis think that Stewart Beal is Mark’s pal?

  21. Posted December 10, 2013 at 6:02 am | Permalink

    I interviewed him once. I guess that makes us friends.

  22. alan2102
    Posted December 10, 2013 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    mark: “What I was trying to get at is that the New Deal worked”

    The New Deal was not responsible for the U.S. economic recovery. Unemployment was running near 20% as late as 1938. What WAS responsible for recovery was WAR — MILITARY KEYNESIANISM, WHICH (YOU MIGHT NOTICE) NEVER STOPPED, RIGHT UP TO THE PRESENT MOMENT. That, plus the Martial Plan — a wonderful scheme for ensuring massive corporate profits for a few decades. The U.S. emerged from the war as the last man standing. Europe, the USSR, Japan — all in ruins, industrial bases smashed, infrastructure in tatters. Hence being successful was a slam-dunker, no matter what your policies (“liberal”, “conservative” or other).

  23. alan2102
    Posted December 10, 2013 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    mark: “Yes, there was lots of shit along the way, and things weren’t perfect, but I’d argue that, all things considered, we did pretty well. ”

    Yes, lots of shit along the way, and things werent perfect, but ya gotta break eggs to make an omelette, right? WE did pretty well… and what is more important than US doing pretty well, anyway?

  24. Posted December 13, 2013 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    “I particularly like the “incentives for philanthropy” part, as it implies that federal government will no longer be in the business of feeding and sheltering the poor.”

    Mark, where in the constitution is the authority reserved for the federal government to feed and shelter the poor? It’s not there – this is a power reserved to the states or to the people, and it is the people to whom Sen. Paul was referring to when he suggested that his plan would create new opportunities for philanthropy.

    The federal government should not be feeding the poor, you and I and our neighbors have a responsibility to do that ourselves.

  25. The Miracle
    Posted March 5, 2014 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    Neither. Just the failed manager of a Kentucky Lenscrafters.

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