Wednesday, November 26, 2014


In his new Time op-ed on Ferguson, Rand Paul spends several paragraphs discussing the War on Drugs -- even though the War on Drugs is not at all relevant to the killing of Michael Brown. In fact, Paul writes as if he thought the War on Drugs actually was relevant to the Brown case, but, upon being informed that it wasn't, he decided he didn't want to edit out references to it because being a Republican who's kinda-sorta not 100% anti-drugs is his brand:
In the search for culpability for the tragedy in Ferguson, I mostly blame politicians. Michael Brown's death and the suffocation of Eric Garner in New York for selling untaxed cigarettes indicate something is wrong with criminal justice in America. The War on Drugs has created a culture of violence and put police in a nearly impossible situation.

In Ferguson, the precipitating crime was not drugs, but theft. But the War on Drugs has created a tension in some communities that too often results in tragedy.
Paul makes some reasonable points about disparities in the ways blacks and whites are treated by the justice system; liberals and moderates are all supposed to stand up and cheer at that. But it's all just a table-setter for this:
Reforming criminal justice to make it racially blind is imperative, but that won't lift up these young men from poverty. In fact, I don't believe any law will. For too long, we've attached some mythic notion to government solutions and yet, 40 years after we began the War on Poverty, poverty still abounds.

When you look at statistics for the white community alone, you see that we've become two separate worlds in which the successful are educated and wait to have children until they are married, and those in poverty are primarily those without higher education and with children outside of marriage.

This message is not a racial one. The link between poverty, lack of education, and children outside of marriage is staggering and cuts across all racial groups. Statistics uniformly show that waiting to have children in marriage and obtaining an education are an invaluable part of escaping poverty.

I have no intention to scold, but escaping the poverty and crime trap will require more than just criminal justice reform. Escaping the poverty trap will require all of us to relearn that not only are we our brother's keeper, we are our own keeper. While a hand-up can be part of the plan, if the plan doesn't include the self-discovery of education, work, and the self-esteem that comes with work, the cycle of poverty will continue.
So in what way is Paul different from any other Republican blaming the poor for their own poverty? Yes, he prefaces this with some hip talk about the drug war, and yes, he says that poor whites are also lazy, shiftless work-shirkers who can't keep it in their pants. How enlightened.

To Paul, the people who run the economy -- -- the haves and the politicians who do their bidding -- are utterly blameless when it comes to poor people's economic problems. It doesn't matter that blue-collar jobs have been rapidly disappearing and the overall middle class has been relentlessly shrinking. No one's to blame! It's that invisible hand!

Oh, and do you notice what else is missing from Paul's op-ed? Dave Weigel noticed:
Not mentioned, apart from an aside about an infamous case of police misconduct in Georgia, was the subject of Paul's first Ferguson op-ed, also published in Time. "We must demilitarize the police," wrote Paul in August....
Why? As Weigel notes, ever since we the Ferguson story went nationwide, the Fraternal Order of Police and National Sheriffs Association have lobbied furiously to keep the military gear flowing. And so Paul dropped the subject. A real profile in courage, that guy.

(Links via Reality Chex.)


Ken_L said...

The argument that if only everyone got a good education and made sure they were in a stable marriage before they had kids, poverty would disappear, is so self-evidently idiotic it's a wonder anyone can make it with a straight face. Maybe Paul can preach the message next time he goes to Guatemala for some photo-ops: "Guys you realise the only reason you can't pay for this excellent surgery is that you dropped out of school and your parents never got married?"

Unknown said...

40 years after we began the War on Poverty, and 30 years after we said "Ah, fuck it" and gave up, poverty still abounds.


Philo Vaihinger said...

Capitalism permanently secrets poverty for a variety of reasons. The war on poverty was not supposed to eliminate it but cope with it by various redistributive means. Just as poverty is permanent, the redistributive means of coping must also be permanent.