Saturday, February 4, 2012

Liberty for Capital

Who is Ron Paul?

Ron Paul is running for President in the Republican Party primaries, but he’s more important for what he means outside the Republican Party than in it. He’s appealing to independents, youth and even some anti-war people. He might run as an independent again, like he did once before in 1988 as the Libertarian candidate for president, though I doubt it. If he or his son develop a long-range independent political organization, he could claim part of the political space that a populist Labor party might claim. What is clear is that his newly prominent status is due to a vast failure of the Left to provide an alternative to capitalist policies, either of the Democratic Party kind or of the Republican kind. A vacuum needed to be filled, and it is being partly filled by Paul.

Paul also draws on the collapse of the economy - and the growth in sectors the ideologists of capital like to call 'entrepreneurial' -independent consultants, entrepreneurs starting cupcake stores, people with tech and internet start-ups. This even involves the hipster zone - artists of various kinds, yoga instructors, craft brewers and bicycle-makers, etc. - all provide a seeming alternative to the drab life of a cube dweller, retail salesperson or factory hand. "Being your own boss" seems to be a way to escape wage slavery - without a revolution. This is a great draw for young people coming out of college, and those unemployed or hating their present jobs. Of course the success rate for entrepenuers over 10 years is 29%, according to Scott Shane.

Two ideologists of Libertarianism are Ayn Rand and Friedrich Hayek. Ayn Rand was a refugee from the revolution in Russia. Her views were completely shaped as a reaction to Marxism. Fredrick Hayek grew up in Austria, and also developed in reaction to European socialist theoreticians and later, the partly planned economies in Eastern Europe. Both developed a sort of extreme right-wing anarchism in response. This has been adopted by American Libertarians, who blend it with long-time American ethics of individualism and proprietorship, and sometimes other ideologies, like Agrarianism, classic liberalism and evangelical Christianity.

The key thing in the analysis of a politician is, A, what class he represents, and B, what class backs him. 'A' is primary. So looking at Paul, it is pretty easy to see he represents the simon-pure ideas of a small businessman. And that is what Libertarianism is. His opposition to international imperialism reflects most small businessmen's views – because for the most part they only do business in the U.S. His opposition to the government’s growing police & other powers reflects the fact that small businessmen do not benefit as much from the government as large capital. The government is seen by them as being in big capital’s pocket, and for good reason. In the case of the drug war, I think many small businessmen are salivating at the legalization of pot, at least. Apply this logic to almost everything he says, and you will see it is from the view of a shoe-store owner in Muncie, Indiana. But not exactly Wall Street – until you draw out the implications. Then even large capital benefits by libertarian ideas – as they both embrace the myth of the ‘free’ market, among other things.

You can see this class outlook even here in Minneapolis when Libertarians in the Minneapolis Republican Party and some Greens coalesced around the mayoral campaign of Papa John Kolstad, a small businessman on Lake Street. Kolstad made the center-piece of his campaign the onerous regulations on small businessmen. (Kolstad’s 2009 campaign reviewed below.)

Is Paul backed by the ruling class right now? No, even though he’s running in the Republican Party primaries, a party dominated by a wing of the ruling class. The establishment Republican Party ‘black shirts’ (as I call them) do not support him. The establishments of both parties have never lost control of the nominating process in the recent past – except in the cases of Goldwater and McGovern. I do not think it will happen this year either. The Republican Brownshirts – Bachmann, Perry, Cain – and the fake Brownshirt, Gingrich – are all dropping one by one.

Politics should not be like a bad Chinese restaurant, where you pick one policy from column A, and 3 from column B and don’t order from column C, and then you ‘vote’ for the politicians with the ‘best’ policies. Once you understand the class roots of a politician, his seemingly ‘good’ policies (or perhaps just words…) become transparent as to their source. This applies to both Paul and Obama. That is what a class analysis does – it allows you to see beneath the hype and hope.

Paul represents the area around Galveston, Texas and was a doctor. His district is one of the top recipients of federal money in the country - $31B since 2000. This is similar to the rest of Texas, which got twice as much from the Federal government due to things like Fort Hood, the biggest employer in Texas. In 1988 he ran on the Libertarian Party ticket. Paul was one person who understood that deficit spending on the Vietnam war ended the gold standard, and brought large federal deficits. (See review of “Debt – the First 5,000 Years” on the role of war in creating government debt – reviewed below.) He gets 48% of his money in small contributions – with a few corporations, small businesses and professionals donating too. In a new development, Paul has relied on the kindness of PayPal founder Peter Thiel , a like-minded libertarian in favor of the smallest government possible, who gave $900,000 to Paul’s “Endorse Liberty” Super PAC. So like other candidates, he has a rich sugar-daddy.

Many members of the US military donate to Paul, which is interesting, given his stand on the wars. Paul also has supporters who are neo-Confederates, white supremacists and Nazis. He has been endorsed by Klansman David Duke, among others. His newsletters reprinted racist material, and Paul doesn’t understand how that material got in there. Right. Paul is also a former member of the John Birch Society. And the Republican Party today is, if nothing else, a giant Birch Society.

So what would Paul’s election mean for workers? Selections from Menu A:
* Ron Paul’s website doesn’t mention either “jobs” or “unemployment” under the category of “issues.” Nor is there one word about foreclosures. Think about that for awhile. In the middle of the greatest job and house losses since the 30s, not a word! The closest he gets is advocating the passage of more anti-union “right to work” laws. So he’s anti-union. In other words, he’d be on the side of Walker in Wisconsin. He does not support the theory of unemployment insurance or its extensions or ANY benefits for working-class people. But in his program, he does bow a bit to the existence of social security, veteran’s benefits and Medicare/Medicaid, and does not openly call for the end of unemployment yet. He thinks unemployment insurance should eventually be ‘privatized.’ He’s against NAFTA (managed trade) … but for free trade. Again, reflecting his support of small business, who were not the drivers of NAFTA.

Oddly enough, the Libertarian Party itself wants to repeal the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA") and state right-to-work laws. But they oppose the closed shop or collective bargaining too. They also support child labor, oppose the minimum wage and all welfare programs of any kind. Some people in the labor movement have also called for abolition of the NLRA, which would cut the legal rationale of government controlling union and labor affairs.

* Paul opposes the Civil Rights acts of the 1960s because they infringe on private property, and hence he would also oppose affirmative action in hiring. So black, women and brown workers would not be able to get a leg-up against discrimination. Much of the hiring in government or government-contracted jobs in the past would have been much whiter if Paul had been in control. Implicit in this is support for a return to Jim Crow and ‘white only’ businesses and employment.

* He wants to lay off 10% of government workers and privatize many parts of government, closing 5 Departments. I guess Perry borrowed his ideas from Paul, though he can't remember. Laying off 10% of government workers was also the position of Obama’s Deficit Commission. Paul wants to allow young workers to opt out of Social Security, which would slowly destroy the program. He wants to deregulate Wall Street even more, and get rid of even the most timid attempts at regulation, so the early appearance of Paulites in the OWS protests is basically dishonest. Their only interest was ‘abolishing the Fed’ and did not go beyond that. He wants to eliminate capital gains taxes and those on large estates.

* He supports privatized medical care and does not want a mandate. The latter benefits big insurance and corporations, but might be rough on small businessmen. Like all the other candidates, he wants to cut the federal budget, this time by $1T in just ONE YEAR. Remember the Deficit Commission wanted $3.5T of cuts over many years. He supports home schooling, charter schools and vouchers, all which will undermine public education, union jobs and decent educations for working-class children, but will benefit business by privatizing education. This position is similar to all the other candidates in this race, including Obama and his dreadful Education Secretary, Ernie Duncan. Think about that, teacher union members.

*Re: immigration, he wants to ‘end the welfare state,’ (a direct quote) which he incorrectly thinks is being ‘used’ by immigrants from Mexico. Immigrants pay more into the system then they ever get out of it actually. He also wants to end ‘birthright citizenship.’ His position on immigration will mean an even more oppressed section of the U.S. working class. Abortion? He’s agin’ it. So women workers will be forced to have children if there is a slip-up.

* Paul mentions nothing about using the state against the working class. His whole program is based on the legal sanctity of private property by the State, so I do not think Paul would be against the courts if they acted against strikers to 'protect private property.' He does not want to repeal Taft Hartley, in other words. Paul unsurprisingly thinks global warming is a ‘hoax.’ So I guess you could say he wants workers to cook, and not just in the kitchen.

And from Menu B - here are some of the good things Paul supports: Quote from Paul in 2007: "We're not moving toward a Hitler-type fascism, but we're moving toward a softer fascism," he said. "Loss of civil liberties, corporations running the show, big government in bed with big business." Hmmm.

Paul opposes the drug war, some of the encroachments of government on civil liberties, and the broader imperial military & foreign aid project. So workers would not be sent overseas to die, and this approach would partly de-militarize the U.S. However, he does not have an industrial plan for what to do with all those laid-off workers – nor does he believe in one. Paul’s plan would lower the massive racist incarceration rate for poor working people, who are usually the ones jailed for drug crimes. This might weaken the for-profit incarceration industry. It would also weaken the ‘total police state’ that has been developing, which is used against strikes and the working class, as well as any other protest movements. The very term ‘terrorist’ in fact has been applied to strikers. Paul is against most farm subsidies – many of which benefit corporate farms and large farmers. Paul comes from a part farm district, and I’m guessing there are some small farmers there who do not benefit so much from Big Agriculture welfare. Paul wants to audit the Federal Reserve, which IS a secretive banker’s cabal, and should be audited - and ended. He’s actually for more alternative medical treatments to be available, like acupuncture and homeopathics. He does mention, like the UE, that his salary will be that of a worker’s median income - $35,000. Of course, his earnings on investments, like Mr. Romney's, will make sure Paul is not too poor.

So what would really happen if Paul was actually elected? Quite simply, the ruling class would prevent those parts of his program they don’t like from going into effect, while endorsing the others. It could basically drag the U.S. back to the late 1800s – even prior to Wilson and Teddy Roosevelt. His positions share much in common with the rest of the Republican candidates, and with some parts of Obama’s program too. However, his ‘base’ of young college people and small businessmen is not sufficient to actually win power in the U.S.

Many think he’s running interference for his son, Rand Paul, who is already bending on certain libertarian/Ron positions. Rand once said, “there are no rich or poor people.’ Ok, let the laughter die down.

We’ve already had a Libertarian in high places, remember? Alan Greenspan, chair of the Federal Reserve from 1987 to 2006 – 20 years! – re-appointed under both Republicans and Democrats. An exemplar of laissez-faire capitalism and a personal friend of Ayn Rand to boot. What did this great Libertarian do? Greenspan supported the ending of Glass-Steagal, along with Clinton/Reich/ Schumer and the whole Republican Party. (Their motto? “We’re all Libertarians now!”) This created ‘too big to fail’ banking institutions, and brought gambling into the normal ‘banking’ world. The Fed’s low interest rates destroyed interest-rate products, and pushed people into the stock market. The rates also provided fuel for the bubbles of housing and derivatives, commodities and gold. (the latter, no surprise for a Libertarian.) Greenspan came out for adjustable rate mortgages (“ARMs”), and believed that Wall Street could be ‘self-regulating.” In essence the ‘low doc/no doc’ mortgages being sold as the basis for derivatives were to be treated with a position of ‘buyer beware’ - and not regulation. That is an Ayn Rand position on fraud, by the way – ‘caveat emptor.’ If you get ripped off, it is your fault. Government has no role in protecting you. Greenspan supported privatizing social security and opposed tax cuts for the wealthy. Unsurprisingly, he worked at a Wall Street Bank prior to the Fed. Greenspan's cheap money allowed the banks to make high interest rate loans on public funds - it was a no-loss proposition for the banks. The policy was followed by Bernanke, another bi-partisan Fed chairman after the 2008 crisis, and continues to this day. Greenspan never called for an audit of the Fed, however, unlike Paul.

Some anti-war activists are voting for Paul in the primaries, and I don’t see much wrong with this tactic, as it could fuck-up the Republicans a bit. But as a general strategy against war, it will be a failure. And as a general plan for society, Paul would be a failure too.

Red Frog
February 4, 2012

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