Sunday, December 30, 2007

One more on Ron Paul

Lots of people think Ron Paul wants to get rid of public education.

I can't speak to what the man wants, but what he's campaigning for is to get rid of the federal DEPARTMENT of Education. He wants local control over education. He supports vouchers, but has not done anything toward getting rid of the public schools, just expensive (and Paul argues, unconstitutional) federal control over them.

I don't 100 percent support him in this, though I'd be hard pressed to say that public education has improved much since the ED was founded in 1980. Indeed, several of the programs I dislike most in the Bush administration go through the DOE (again, Paul argues, unconstitutionally so.)

In the comments on the previous post, Steve gives a link to Ron Paul waffling on Evolution. OK, so the man doesn't believe in Evolution or doesn't want to say so.

But, ummm, Ron Paul also says that federal control over the schools is unconstitutional. He doesn't believe in No Child Left Behind or the abstinance stuff the Bush administration spends so much money on, even if he believed in the philisophical underpinnings.

If Paul's waffling/disbelief/lack of gimp on the evolution issue personally is enough to lose your vote, OK. I can't argue with that and will freely admit that he's either not being rational or being a wuss bending to popular Republican opinion. I never said he was perfect. But if you're worried he might DO SOMETHING about his views, I have to say that I find that his repeated asssertions that federal control over the schools is unconstitutional is a pretty good sign he won't.

Also, I've heard the "some white supremacists like him, so even though I can't prove he's never done anything for them, he must be a bad guy."

Chris Matthews likes to tell a story about how he was campaigning for a candidate in Appalachia. This is a paraphrase because I don't have the story in front of me. Anyway, he was knocking on doors and he ran across an old lady who scowled at him skeptically.

"Your candidate is the one who wants to get rid of TV!" The woman said, "I'm not voting for him!"

Matthews shuffled his feet and gently explained that his candidate wasn't going to do anything to television, he wanted to get rid of the TVA (the Tennesse Valley Authority) a Roosevelt-era program that the candidate felt was no longer useful.

"Well, I'm not taking any chances!" the lady spat out. When reading this story, I always imagine the sound of a door slam here.

I'd really like to believe in the age of the internet, people aren't like this anymore. But the spirit of "I don't completely understand this, I just have a strong opinion" and "Sure they SAID X, but it's obvious they MEANT the much stupider and more evil Y" and "Why should I look up the actual facts when assuming good things about people I like and bad things about people I don't works just as well?" are alive and kicking.

Oh well.

BTW, if you'd like to have a look at the Candidate whom I actually support, take a gander at Bill Richardson.



Joel Monka said...

Ron Paul isn't the only one who thinks the Dept. of Education unconstitutional. Many of us feel that the 10th amendment, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.", means that public education- not delegated to the United States by the Constitution- is therefore reserved to the States. People keep telling us we're wrong, but they never explain why. I guess it must be one of those post modern things I keep hearing about, where words have no fixed meaning.

Bill richardson is actually not too bad, but i have a couple quibbles. I agree that we must withdraw totally from Iraq; no residual troops or bases. I disagree with immediately- they must have a decent chance to stabilize first. At minimum, we must make provisions for those who bought into our vision and have risked their lives helping us.

The other big quibble is the goals in his energy policy. Can't be done. "Ye canna change the laws of physics", and saying "we must" doesn't grant exemptions to them.

Robin Edgar said...

Yup. "Why should I look up the actual facts when assuming good things about people I like and bad things about people I don't works just as well?" are alive and kicking in the U*U World. . .

Anonymous said...

I'm not morally opposed to the elimination of the federal department of education, but I'm very, very cautious about it. I think there are some major problems with the way the DOE has been administered, but I'm also well aware that there are lots of people who would like to see the DOE eliminated - people whose motives and overall vision for the USA I do not agree with (e.g. Pat Buchanan). I always want to know who benefits from such actions, because then one needs to be very careful about who would oversee such a dissolution.

I tend to believe in more local power, but I also want to avoid even more stratification within public education - so what are the safeguards? We do, after all, have rights as US citizens; we're not just occupants of whatever city or town we happen to live in at the moment.

Joel Monka said...

Actually, there is a good deal of debate about our rights as US citizens. When the Constitution was written, it was intended as a kind of United Nations, not a traditional country. When they said "state", they meant soverign nation- England and France were also referred to as "states". The idea of "state" as a province of a larger, unified nation is a post Civil War thing... so in practice, we are "one nation, indivisible", but in the strict letter of the law we are still a loose coalition.

Where I'm going with all this is that the Constitution is 99% about interaction between the states, and hardly mentions individual citizens. We have no Constitutional right to an education- or even to vote, for that matter; such things are left by the Constitution for the states to address. (which is how the 2000 election got so screwed up) So in the end, the current "safeguards" you refer to are not safeguards at all; the states can legally ignore them, and the worst the Federal Government can do is cut off their funding. While unlikely to happen, it is not impossible; some states forfeited their highway funding rather than comply with the 55mph limit.

Joel Monka said...

Here's a recent article about Richardson: The Best-Laid Five-Minute Plans of Bill Richardson

Chalicechick said...

Let he whose candidate has not oversimplified mideast issues cast the first stone.


PG said...

Public education is still run by the states, and especially by localities. As Joel says, the federal government can condition its *funding* on the states' achieving certain standards; it lacks the power to *require* a state to do much. This is true for a ton of things, however: as CC knows from con law, the federal government conditioned some highway funding on states' raising the drinking age to reduce drunk driving. Drinking ages are still a state matter; the federal government's funding is a federal matter. Each can make its decisions accordingly. If a state wants to say "screw you" to the feds, it can in quite a few areas.

Obviously there are some federal mandates like anti-discrimination law -- also not provided for in the Constitution, right Joel? -- that the states don't have a choice about, but those usually are about equality, not the substantive administration of government. A state that decides to get out of the education business altogether -- so long as it does it sincerely and doesn't pull the bullshit that Prince William's County did in setting up Christian academies for white kids and nothing for black kids in order to evade desegregation -- and that hasn't put a right to education in its own state constitution can't really be stopped by the federal government.

As for eliminating the DOE, my understanding is that it came into being in large part to administer recently-created federal rights that the states were dragging their feet on, in particular to ensure the education of mentally disabled kids. I don't know if this concern has been eliminated since then and there is no need to have a federal department keeping an eye on the states, but as I believe CC said about something else, if you can't imagine a good reason for something to exist in the first place, you might not be the person to declare that it should be eliminated.

(Incidentally, the cost of educating the disabled is one of those things that always gets fudged when people complain about how we spend so much more per student than we did in the 1950s and aren't getting better educated students. In the 1950s, the states didn't try to educate mentally disabled kids. Back then, minors like the kids in this article were their parents' problem. Today, they cost the state $228,000 per child per year. You can make a substantive argument that we shouldn't try to educate the mentally disabled and that parents whose kids have severe behavioral difficulties are just unlucky and too bad for them, but ignoring the existence of mentally disabled is as unrealistic as changing the laws of physics.)

I don't care much about Paul's thinking that evolution didn't happen, but I'm not a fan of anyone who wants to change the 14th Amendment to remove birthright citizenship in a blanket fashion. My parents came to the U.S. completely legally, but my sisters and I were born in the U.S. before my parents had citizenship. (You have to be resident for 7 years or get an exception in order to have naturalized citizenship.) If my parents had died before they had their citizenship, then without birthright citizenship, my sisters and I wouldn't have had citizen status, and could have been deported somewhere we'd never been and didn't speak the language. I think illegal immigration is a significant problem, particularly for the disrespect for U.S. law that it indicates. However, a lot of the more extreme recommendations that Paul makes really disturb me. The immediate deportation of anyone who overstays a visa means that people who came legally to study or work are hurt by *our* slow immigration bureaucracy. I don't think we should be very generous with people who are deliberately flouting the law, but using the 9/11 terrorists as an example of why we have to deport all visa overstayers is ridiculous. They are an example of why we should keep track of such people, ensure that they are staying in school or still at work, and so forth. (The 9/11 attackers came into the U.S. on pretexts of vacation or for flight school; they weren't attending college or picking strawberries or coding software.) They are not an example of why we need to engage in immediate mass deportations of good faith visa-holders.

PG said...

As for the Middle East and Central Asia wisdom of Mark Steyn, pardon me for doubting a man whose demographic estimates of Muslim domination require every European Muslim to have 10 kids in the next 13 years, but this is ridiculous: "Saudi men pay lip service to Wahhabist ideology but it rouses very few of them from their customary torpor."

Yeah, only 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were Saudi-born. Clearly Wahhabism isn't too rousing on its home ground. Saudis are sufficiently dedicated to terrorism that they commit it in their own country, not just overseas.

Steve Caldwell said...


I mentioned the evolution vs intelligent design topic because it suggests the possibility that Ron Paul may be driven more by ideology and less by empiricism.

We've already had enough ideology trumping empiricism with the current administration and its support for abstinence-only sexuality education and no funding for comprehensive sexuality education.

Comrade Kevin said...

In keeping with libertarian philosophy, Paul wants to simplify government. Anyone who has dealt with the needless complexities of inefficient bureaucracy can understand that.

That being said, I certainly find No Child Left Behind objectionable and unrealistic, if not altogether unconstitutional. It is uniformly despised among teachers, no matter their political allegiance.

As for abolishing the Department of Education, I would be more inclined to want to see it reformed rather than done away with altogether, but I feel the same way about the majority of federal departments.

Chalicechick said...

Steve, again, the man wants to get rid of the Department of Education. So I'm pretty sure those programs will go, too.

PG, I totally get where you're coming from and I completely respect that you are the first person to talk to me about your objections to Ron Paul's views who actually seemed to know what those views were.

Again, I never said that good and reasonable criticisms of Paul couldn't be made, I'm just flummoxed that almost nobody is making them, choosing instead to just lie about the man.


Bill Baar said...

Living in the Midwest, I like to think I take Paul a little more seriously because his combination of Libertarianism and Isolationism has a long and entrenched tradition among both the left and right.

What's troubling I think to progressives is Paul's taken over the mechanics of Dean, and it seems the enthusiasm of many young people.

There is much to oppose in Paul, but I think the spread of ideas among the GOP vs the unity around the last century's Social Democracy shows a intellectual ferment that will push the GOP forward, and the Dems to eventual obscurity.

Look at Paul on Marriage for example.

Democrats all duck it hiding behind civil unions. (UU's duck the bigger issues under the fog of Marriage Equality).

Paul knocks it all down with maybe the Gov has no business licensing i.e. discriminating, on marriage at all.

There hasn't been a successful Dem president since JFK, and he was cut short by assassination.

LBJ failed. Carter failed. Clinton at least elected twice but he's a badly tarnished flawed guy and the party may well repudiate his legacy by denying HRC the nomination.

Dems don't win 2008 and theyre no longer a National Presidential party. They need a Paul on there side kicking in some fresh ideas....

PG said...

Another problem I have with Paul is his failure to explain where we have substantive rights and where federalism trumps. It's well-illustrated by the response he gave to the marriage question to which Bill adverted. "All voluntary associations, whether they're economic or social, should be protected by the law."

Really? One might guess from this that Paul supports Lawrence v. Texas's overturning Texas's same-sex sodomy prohibition, which was a clear instance of the law's banning, not protecting, a "voluntary social association." (Incidentally, Paul's specification of "voluntary economic association" is part of his opposition to anti-discrimination law. If someone doesn't want to hire me because of my race, sex or religion -- much less sexual orientation -- Paul firmly believes that I should have no right to sue that person for it.)

Except that a right to sexual privacy among consenting adults isn't in the Constitution. Paul can point to the 9th Amendment, but most of the scholars who support any meaning to the 9th Amendment say that it refers to the "rights of Englishmen at the time of the Founding," so that the Bill of Rights would not result in a *decrease* of rights. Sadly, buggery was not a common law right of Englishmen.
Meanwhile, the 10th Amendment says that powers not specifically reserved to the feds nor prohibited to the states are reserved to the states -- which fits his federalism position nicely, but also means that Texas is fully within its state powers in banning same-sex sodomy.

So Paul seems to me to be as full of soundbites as everyone else -- his are just different. For example, I don't think there's another 2008 candidate who thinks the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was not only constitutionally improper but an actual setback in race relations. I can respect a strict constructionist and I am a bit of a federalist for a liberal; I don't respect someone who appears to be genuinely out of touch with reality as experienced by non-whites.

Bill Baar said...

Really? One might guess from this that Paul supports...

Why should we guess? Can't you research your argument here instead.

I don't have a clue what Paul's position is on sodomy...

...I'm not guessing either.

PG said...

"Why should we guess? Can't you research your argument here instead."

I didn't quickly find a direct quote from Paul regarding Lawrence, just someone else's claim about what he said. I don't like to assume what someone thinks on a specific topic based on second hand information. My point about the "guessing" is that Paul's positions are not as clear as he would like them to seem. Federalism is a complicated issue that produces ridiculous quantities of legal scholarship. Someone who takes it very seriously is going to have trouble also being able to stick to a principle like "All voluntary associations, whether they're economic or social, should be protected by the law," because states frequently will want to regulate those associations. Is Paul merely being prescriptive and saying the states OUGHT to protect such associations but the federal Constitution and branches of the federal government cannot step in to ensure their protection, or is he saying that we do have a substantive right to such associations that states cannot impede?

The whole point of my argument (as it apparently did not come across) is that Paul does not like to explain where he comes down on an issue in which his abstract principles create a conflict. While abstract principles are all well and good, they are not very useful in government.

Bill Baar said...

...Paul's positions are not as clear as he would like them to seem...

geez...did you listen to Obama's excellant victory speech in Iowa where he said change upteen times without every explaining what he'd change?

There is the Obama one reads, the Obama one hears, and the Obama who votes (often it was just voting present in the Illinois General Assembly.)

He makes Paul look a model of clarity.

PG said...


"Change," like "hope," is a slogan. It is not a position. Part of a political campaign, for good or ill, is advertising, and advertising requires catchwords to attach to the product in the consumer's mind.

Federalism, in contrast, is a serious constitutional theory. It is not a slogan. Similarly, Paul's statement that "All voluntary associations, whether they're economic or social, should be protected by the law," is not an catchword. It is a meaningful position that Paul has upheld in some instances such as his opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but on which he seems more questionable in an area like homosexuals' rights. (He finds it acceptable for the government to exclude some people based on their sexual association with other people.)

I am asking where, in the intersection of associational rights and federalism, Paul actually comes down. I know he thinks that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 worsened race relations*, but I am interested in how his views would play out in other areas as well.

* CC, if you were wondering why people get nervous about Paul's getting support from white supremacists, his opposition to civil rights legislation might be the answer.

Bill Baar said...

if you were wondering why people get nervous about Paul's getting support from white supremacists,

No one sweats David Dukes support of Cindy Sheehan or called her a supremacist.

There are problems with Paul, but what you find are pretty thin.

PG said...


Actually, I find the Sheehan remark on which David Duke's support is based -- "[My son] was killed for lies and for a PNAC Neo-Con agenda to benefit Israel. My son joined the army to protect America, not Israel" -- to be part of a worrisome tendency among some anti-war folks to over-ascribe the war in Iraq to a pro-Israel agenda. (I suppose on the flypaper theory popular on the right, the war has attracted some Islamofascists to Iraq instead of Palestine, but I don't think this was intentional on Wolfowitz, et al's parts.) I don't think that being anti-Zionist makes one an anti-Semite, but one starts to cross the line when one distinguishes between pro-war Politician A and pro-war Politician B on the basis of A's being Jewish.

Sheehan was called an anti-Semite and hatemonger for the above statement, in Slate and the Wall Street Journal. "Anti-Semite" is not quite identical to "white supremacist," but it certainly belongs to the same country club.

If you think a presidential candidate's opposition to civil rights legislation* is a "pretty thin" problem, then I honestly don't have anything left to say. Maybe finding that to be a pretty damn big problem is just the result of being a minority in race and religion, and to being female, but I'm quite happy to have legislation that says it's wrong to discriminate against me.

*As I've said, I can respect the position that the commerce clause power is insufficient to allow Congress to take such an action, so long as one is consistent about this (i.e., also believes that the federal government can't regulate your wholly intrastate drug manufacture and dealing). Clarence Thomas's views come pretty close to this position but they are consistent in doing so -- he dissented in Raich and has advocated overturning Wickard. I wouldn't want a person who held that position to be president because he would veto a lot of legislation that I think is constitutionally permissible, but it isn't a position that is wholly out of touch with reality.

In contrast, I cannot respect Paul's claim that civil rights legislation, in ensuring the access of all Americans to jobs and places of public accommodation, somehow *worsened* race relations. It is completely out of touch with reality to think that allowing racists to minimize their and their children's exposure to people of other races would somehow change their hearts or allow their children to have a different view. Every person I know who has changed her view on homosexuality has done so after interacting with a gay person and realizing, "Oh, they're not so different. I like him. Why is he treated differently?" People whose view of homosexuals is shaped entirely by fear and ignorance, in contrast, almost never have a change of heart. An irrational prejudice cannot be fixed simply through reasoned arguments; it must be touched at a more emotional level. Even conservatives have hailed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for doing what Brown v. Board hadn't achieved.

Interestingly, despite the prohibition on sex discrimination in employment also contained in the '64 Act, Paul doesn't seem worried that it worsened relations between the sexes for women to be able to sue an employer who treated them differently based on sex. Again, Paul's specific, peculiar stance on civil rights legislation goes a long way to explaining the white supremacists' fondness for him.