Rand Paul Radical Rhetoric Endangers Kentucky's Working Families

The list of bedrock American laws that Rand Paul is opposed to keeps growing longer. In addition to the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, Paul has made it clear that he doesn't like the Clean Air Act either. Last weekend, Paul said that President Obama should leave Kentucky alone, especially when it comes to pollution. "You need to keep the EPA out of our affairs," he called on the president.

Paul prefers to have things "handled on a local level."But unlike Paul, I grew up in Kentucky, and I question this logic.

My elementary school sat on a cliff above an Ashland Oil refinery, and our playground was about eye level with the top of their smokestacks. When the paint on teachers' car started to peel and children started getting sick, the PTA tried to make Ashland Oil do something about it. After some fighting, the company finally installed air monitors on the kickball field - and a few months later the school closed its doors.

What sticks with me still is the way the problem was solved: As far as I can see, Ashland Oil didn't clean up its act at all. Our school shut down instead.

Federal efforts to cut pollution aren't perfect, but they are the last line of defense for places like my hometown. They literally save our lives: the Clean Air Act, for instance, has been documented to prevent hundreds of thousands of premature deaths.

Kentucky has a long dark history of environmental injustice. Amazing groups like Appalachian Voices have been fighting for cleaner water, cleaner air, and better safety rules for miners. They often find local solutions, but they also turn to federal agencies like the EPA and the Mine Safety and Health Administration when they need to.

Paul may call it "federal overreach," but I call it protecting the health of Kentuckians. 
Of course, Paul trots out the old saw that cutting pollution kills jobs. But I think Paul is more concerned about ideology than jobs, because if he really wanted to create jobs for Kentucky, he wouldn't turn his back on clean energy and climate legislation. Clean energy jobs are growing 2.5 times as fast as traditional jobs. Paul would rather shoot down federal climate solutions than bring the jobs of the 21st century to his state.

Instead, he is banking on the same old dirty industries, and he seems to think that if children get asthma because they played on a field next to a refinery, that's alright because someone had a job. I am sorry, but I can't accept the misconception that my classmates and I were the collateral damage of some polluter's payroll. Good companies that are following the law and being good neighbors provide jobs every single day.

Companies have found time and again that a clean business model is part of the recipe for a successful company. That is why 5,171 small businesses from across the country are supporting the climate bill. That is why some of the largest companies in the nation are calling on Congress to take action immediately.

The parents I know in Kentucky have no interest in working jobs that sacrifice their children's health. They want to provide for their families AND keep them safe at the same time. This isn't an either or situation. Paul seems to forget this in the midst of his fixation with "federal overreach." I too respect states rights, but states still have to be good neighbors. Local empowerment doesn't give you the right to endanger your residents' health, export pollution into nearby states, or block national solutions to fight global climate change.

If leaders like Paul forget these lessons in responsibility, then I am glad federal agencies like the EPA can step in and remind them. 

 

 

Rand Paul Trying to Back Out of "Meet the Press" Interview

It's never a good sign for a campaign when the candidate is forced to cancel scheduled interviews. But that's exactly what's happening in the Kentucky Senate race, according to "Meet the Press" producer Betsy Fischer:

BetsyMTP Friday drama here @DrRandPaul having a tough week. Now trying to cancel big #MTP interview for Sunday that he committed to on Wednesday. #ky

It's certainly a strategy for a candidate enmeshed in a national political scandal to try to hide away from the press -- but it's not necessarily a good one. It's always possible that some other news will overtake discussion of Rand Paul's controversial racial stance -- but it's also possible that left in the public square, debate over the Paul's position will only continue.

Regardless, considering that if Paul does cancel his appearance he would, according to Sam Stein, join just Louis Farrakhan and Prince Bandar as "Meet the Press" guest canceling last minute, this can't be good news for the GOP's Senate nominee from Kentucky.

KY-SEN: Jack Conway Comes Out Swinging

What bugs me most about Rand Paul’s comments isn’t even the substance, the opposition to the Civil Rights Act. It’s the way he characterized the issue: “But what you have to answer when you answer this point of view, which is an abstract, obscure conversation from 1964 that you want to bring up.”

Try telling the folks on the other side of Bull Connor’s dogs that it was an “abstract, obscure conversation.” Try telling that to Emmett Till, or Jonathan Daniels.

If there was ever anyone unfit to hold a US Senate seat, it’s Rand Paul. Fortunately Democratic opponent state AG Jack Conway, who we’ve been pushing here at MyDD for months, has come out swinging. From an e-mail:

Rand Paul's narrow and rigid ideology would have dangerous consequences for Kentucky's working families, veterans, students, disabled citizens, and anyone without a voice in the halls of power.

Students who need federal loans to help pay for college? Sorry. Disabled people facing discrimination on the job? Tough luck. What about a person of color who is refused service at a restaurant? Paul thinks businesses should be free to do that.

Rand Paul says that there's too much government oversight in America today. Really? Does he think that too much government oversight caused the oil spill in the Gulf, the collapse of Wall Street and the housing market crash?

If you think Rand Paul is completely out of touch with the vast majority of Americans, you're right - he is. So it's up to us to stop him. Please make a donation to my campaign today so I can beat Rand Paul in November. I'll stand up for Kentucky. He won't.

Click here to make a donation of $25, $50, or more to my campaign right now. With your help, I can stop Rand Paul's rigid ideology that threatens our fundamental rights and protections.

This is gonna be a fun general election.

Rand Paul Opposed Anti-Racial Discrimination Measure in 2002

Rand Paul's campaign has made some efforts to walk back the candidate's statements in opposition to a key tenet of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 -- the provision prohibiting individual racial discrimination, not just state-sanctioned discrimination. But any effort at damage control was dramatically undermined minutes ago with the report from Dave Weigel that Paul had vocally opposed an anti-discrimination measure as recently as 2002.

In a May 30, 2002, letter to the Bowling Green Daily News, Paul's hometown newspaper, he criticized the paper for endorsing the Fair Housing Act, and explained that "a free society will abide unofficial, private discrimination, even when that means allowing hate-filled groups to exclude people based on the color of their skin." (Hat tip: Page One Kentucky.)

"The Daily News ignores," wrote Paul, "as does the Fair Housing Act, the distinction between private and public property. Should it be prohibited for public, taxpayer-financed institutions such as schools to reject someone based on an individual's beliefs or attributes? Most certainly. Should it be prohibited for private entities such as a church, bed and breakfast or retirement neighborhood that doesn't want noisy children? Absolutely not."

In language similar to the language he's used talking about the Civil Rights Act, Paul criticized racism while defending the right of businesses to discriminate.

"A free society will abide unofficial, private discrimination," wrote Paul, "even when that means allowing hate-filled groups to exclude people based on the color of their skin. It is unenlightened and ill-informed to promote discrimination against individuals based on the color of their skin. It is likewise unwise to forget the distinction between public (taxpayer-financed) and private entities."

It's awfully hard to argue, as the Paul campaign has attempted to this afternoon, that the candidate does not support rolling back protections against racial discrimination when, on the same basis as his comments this week, he previously spoke out in favor of "abid[ing] unofficial, private discrimination."

This all reminds me of something I read in Ethan Bronner's outstanding book on the Bork nomination, Battle for Justice. The key turning point in the battle over Robert Bork, Bronner writes, came when white Southerners read of the nominee's backwards writings on the subject of race.

Southerners perceived the nomination as racially divisive and so a threat to their peace and prosperity. No matter what racial resentment many southern whites still harbored, they recoiled at the prospect of reviving the period of intense racial tension.

It's not clear to me that we are already at this point with regards to the Senate candidacy of Ron Paul in the border state of Kentucky -- but it's also not clear that we are all that far away, either. The prospect of relitigating Civil Rights legislation aimed at prohibiting the type of racial discrimination that kept African-Americans out of restaurants and other accommodations cannot sound appealing to Southern voters, even many Southern whites who have in recent years flocked to the GOP. I'm still not sure just how Paul gets out of this pickle.

On Rand Paul and the Civil Rights Act

desmoinesdem has already written a bit about the recently stated views of Kentucky's Republican Senate nominee Rand Paul -- questioning the validity of the section of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 banning discrimination in public accommodations like restaurants. I just had a chance to watch through Paul's interview with Rachel Maddow, which have included below, and wanted to jot down a few thoughts.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

During the interview with Maddow, as well as an earlier interview with NPR's Robert Siegel, Paul made fairly clear that he did not believe it within the bounds of Congress's powers to address issues of private discrimination. In legal parlance, Paul does not believe that Congress's power under Article I, section 8, clause 3 of the Constitution to "regulate Commerce... among the several States" extends to the private actions of the citizens of these states. Instead of Congress addressing the issue of discrimination under this power, Paul apparently believes that it should be left up to private citizens to weed out discrimination. Here's an illustrative exchange from the NPR interview:

SIEGEL: But it's been one of the major developments in American history in the course of your life. I mean, do you think the '64 Civil Rights Act or the ADA for that matter were just overreaches and that business shouldn't be bothered by people with the basis in law to sue them for redress?

Dr. PAUL: Right. I think a lot of things could be handled locally. For example, I think that we should try to do everything we can to allow for people with disabilities and handicaps. You know, we do it in our office with wheelchair ramps and things like that. I think if you have a two-story office and you hire someone who's handicapped, it might be reasonable to let him have an office on the first floor rather than the government saying you have to have a $100,000 elevator. And I think when you get to the solutions like that, the more local the better, and the more common sense the decisions are, rather than having a federal government make those decisions.

The problem with this view is apparent to just about anyone who lives in a world of reality rather than ideology. It is fine enough to believe that, in theory, individuals' contractual and property rights should not be trampled on by the state, and that, what's more, the market will solve all problems. But the fact is the market did not solve the problem of institutional racism. It took state action, not only in directing state actors but also in directing the practices of private individuals like the ones who owned restaurants. The same can be said about the Americans with Disabilities Act, which like the Civil Rights Act restricted individual action to ensure access for those who otherwise might be denied access. The good acts of individual property owners to accommodate their workers in the ways described by Paul in his NPR interview are important -- but they were not enough. Only when the state stepped in were the rights of the disabled to access restaurants and other accommodations ensured.

This isn't to say that Paul is racist or biased against the disabled. He's not. He holds a principled stance against federal action to regulate private action in these areas. But this stance, when the manifested as the law of the land prior to enactment of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, enabled institutional racism to occur. That's a fact. And that's a problem for Paul because it's hard to imagine many Americans, or Kentuckians specifically, want to go back to a period in which segregated lunch counters, whether on the basis of race or disability, are condoned under the law.

[UPDATE by Jonathan]: Four more questions for Rand Paul considering his apparently limited views of Congress's Commerce Clause powers:

  1. Do you believe the federal minimum wage is constitutional?
  2. Do you believe federal overtime laws are constitutional?
  3. Do you believe the federal government has the power to enact work safety laws and regulations?
  4. Do you believe that federal child labor laws are constitutional?

A "no" answer to any of these questions would presumably be problematic for the Paul campaign considering folks seem to like the minimum wage, laws that stop employers from, say, making their workers use machines that cut off their hands, and laws that prohibit 7 year olds from laboring in coal mines.

UPDATE from desmoinesdem: Paul's campaign issued a statement today on the controversy. He says he supports the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and will not seek to repeal it. "As I have said in previous statements, sections of the Civil Rights Act were debated on Constitutional grounds when the legislation was passed. Those issues have been settled by federal courts in the intervening years."

Diaries

Advertise Blogads