Week of sequester, Rand Paul might cause upheaval to the political norm

This has been a big week in politics. Two events occurred that have a strong potential to disrupt the political norm and effect major changes. The first was the collective public yawn over the sequester. The Obama administration, and its allies in the Congress and the press have discovered that most people didn’t buy their arguments that the sky was going to fall if budget deficits were reduced by a small percentage.

Recent arguments by President Obama and other members of the “Increasing Debt Caucus” were interesting. First, they argued that we really didn’t have a spending problem in this nation, but a paying for problem. Then they pivoted, arguing that a bunch of bad stuff would result if the sequester occurred. The sequester occurred, and we’re all still standing, of course.

The reason the denial-followed-by-the-Chicken-Little argument failed by Obama and his allies is that the budget situation has simply become too dire to ignore. By the middle of next year, the federal debt will be well above $17 trillion, a $7 trillion increase in about five years. And, what fewer people understand — but that will change — is that the fed is artificially keeping the markets high by buying trillions of dollars in bonds and flooding the economy with money. As a result, traditional bank investments, such as a CD, yield less than 1 percent. This strategy contributes to the inequality of wealth and it poses a really dangerous inflation threat. Unless the fed can somewhere unload these trillions in bonds in a manner befitting Houdini, our jobless recovery will be threatened.

The second big event was Sen. Rand Paul’s filibuster against John Brennan as director of the CIA. It was a game-changer in politics. The Kentucky Republican is automatically a political star, and a contender for the presidency in 2016. What Paul wants as a condition to an end to future filibusters on Brennan’s nomination is a promise from the White House for restraint on its drone policies. From the New York Times: “Repeatedly, Mr. Paul explained that his true goal was simply to get a response from the administration saying it would not use drone strikes to take out American citizens on United States soil.” (read)

My guess is that Paul and his allies (he was joined by several Republicans and one Democrat) will get that promise soon. The administration, through its cavalier responses to Congress on the drone program, finds itself in the position of arguing that it has the right to effect drone strikes on U.S. soil against U.S. citizens. (And we thought Dubya’s policies were bad!) On this argument, Paul has the high ground.

Three cheers to Paul, a Tea Party politician, for his sincerity and acting on his principles. Things are looking a little better in our nation’s capitol as a result. The president’s “boots on the ground” (think MSNBC) will go after Paul, and continue to hype sequester horror stories, but most of us aren’t buying it.

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18 Responses to Week of sequester, Rand Paul might cause upheaval to the political norm

  1. William Sillyman says:

    I applaud Mr. Paul on his stand, and I stand with him. It is about time these politicians get their heads out of their bums and start listening to what the people who put them there are saying. Obama and his administration are out of line and need to be “Jack-slapped” to see they are treading on very dangerous ground. If Washington is not careful, the government is going to find they have a Second Revolutionary War on their hands. Drones to be used on our own people, Hand me a Shotgun, I may not be able to see the thing, but point me in the direction and I’ll shoot it down.

  2. Steve says:

    It remains to be seen what the sequester will do. I expect that it is not the laudable fiscal response Republicans think it is, nor is it the end of the American economy as Democrats think it is. What it actually is remains to be seen, though I suspect it’s somewhere in between the two extremes.

    Much as I don’t like Rand Paul (and his seemingly bottomless Hitler obsession) I agree with him about the necessity of better spelling out the drone policy, both what can (and I would argue can’t) be done to US citizens inside and outside the borders of the United States, as well as how it can and can’t be used against foreign powers. I also applaud his use of the talking filibuster instead of simply blocking it and holding a press conference. This is what filibusters should be…and would have been if Harry Reid had any courage at all.

    As for MSNBC, the only response to this that I saw was Rachel Maddow’s and she was rather pleased with Paul and his talking filibuster. Over the past year or so Maddow, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have all hammered Obama hard about his drone policy, though that fact seems to be missing from your blog piece. Sorry if reality interferes with your snark, but the left is generally unhappy about the Obama administration’s use (they would contend, abuse) of drones and have been saying so out loud and in public for quite a while. Perhaps you should have taken a look at what they’ve actually been saying before snarking it up at the end.

    • Brent Glines says:

      “Much as I don’t like Rand Paul (and his seemingly bottomless Hitler obsession)”

      There is a meme going about on Facebook right now that reads:

      Tyranny: When someone in the Executive Branch says they have the right to kill you — Without Due Process.

      Perhaps the Hitler obsession is justified. It’s not necessarily paranoia when there really are people out to get you.

      • Steve says:

        Rand Paul’s Hitler problem is that he can’t seem to get through a speech (or interview) on whatever subject without bringing up Hitler in one way or another. It’s a general problem he has, not specific to this filibuster.

  3. Mark Shenefelt says:

    “(And we thought Dubya’s policies were bad!)” … Doug, you never thought Dubya’s policies were bad.

  4. Doug Gibson says:

    Nice shot, Mark. You are right; I was too easy on Bush at times. To Bill and Steve: I believe that the government understands it cannot renege on its promises to the middle class and poor on Social Security and Medicare. The current fiscal policies, along with the reductions in persons employed and the end of the defined benefit norm for retirements, will make Social Security indispensable for tens of millions of people, more so if the fed’s QE inflows of dollars causes a market bubble that bursts. There will be riots if Social Security promises are not met. So, expect Social Security and Medicare to be means-tested severely to the point that you get it in full only if you need it. Also, a consumption tax (in addition to the income tax) will be needed to keep these entitlements solvent. This is why the sequester is resonating. People understand we have to cut where we can. Finally, Steve, if Maddow supported Paul’s efforts, kudos to her.

    • Steve says:

      I’m not quite sure what you mean about the sequester resonating. I understand it’s generally applauded in the right-leaning media and vilified in the left-leaning media but since none of the cuts have actually taken effect (from what I understand, they don’t start until next month) it’s a bit early to be passing judgment on how they did or did not disrupt the economy. I ignored the sequester (even though I think it’s generally a bad idea) because it was obvious early on that the politicians wouldn’t get their act together to do anything to prevent it…so it wasn’t out of some strange love of austerity that I didn’t get all up in arms about it, but out of a knowledge that politicians wouldn’t bother doing anything about it so it was useless to get upset: it was going to happen.

      I think you’re jumping the gun on a consumption tax (would this be the same as a VAT?). It would be completely unnecessary if we simply did away with the arbitrary rule that exempts churches from taxation.

      • Brent Glines says:

        The sequester has already had adverse effects. Last month, the Harry S. Truman carrier strike group did not deploy out of Norfolk VA as planned due to the sequester. As such, we are short one CSG in the middle east, to the detriment of National Security interests.

        • Steve says:

          I hadn’t heard about the CSG. I know that the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds are being put on hiatus starting next month (I know this because my brother-in-law runs the Wendover Air Show). I guess a few of the cuts are having a more immediate impact.

        • Michael Trujillo says:

          “…the Harry S. Truman carrier strike group did not deploy out of Norfolk VA as planned…”

          The U.S. has 10 Aircraft Carriers (with two more being built). That’s as many as the entire rest of the world COMBINED. I think one carrier sitting at its home port rather than shuttling sailors to liberty calls in Crete and Slovnia won’t affect “National Security” one bit.

          Besides, they’re only saying the deployment has been canceled due to the “sequester.” That’s a convenient excuse if there’s another reason to keep her close to home. The Commander, Naval Air Forces, doesn’t vet its mission decisions through you, Owain.

  5. Mark Shenefelt says:

    Social Security riots — I visualize people with canes and in wheelchairs and pushing walkers, storming the Capitol Mall.

  6. Michael Trujillo says:

    The current obsession with drones by many people is amusing. A drone is merely a tool, like a power drill, or a cell phone, or an automobile, or a firearm, or a dishwasher, or an F-35. Like any tool, it doesn’t act on its own accord, but performs the task the human controlling it decides to use it for. It is a new tool that can be utilized by civil law enforcement agencies. If a specific agency is prone to violate civil rights or act counter to the Constitution, they’re going to do it whether they have a drone or not.

    This current drone hysteria is reminiscent of the paranoia that many people experienced when airplanes were first used to clock speeders. “Oh, my God! They’re watching us everywhere! We’ve lost our privacy.” Likewise, when recording technology became sophisticated enough that many, many people feared that they’re phones would be bugged by “the Man.”

    Personally, I’m as worried about being taken out by a drone as much as I’m worried about being taken out by a Blackhawk helicopter manned by Navy Seals. People need to calm down and quit acting like a lost tribe in Borneo being shown a camera for the first time. The subject of drones, along with many other technological innovations that are being questioned these days, makes me wonder if some of these chicken little the-drones-are-coming nimrods are ready for life in the 21st Century.

    • Steve says:

      Michael: A lot about Rand Paul’s meandering speech was silly and tin-foil-hatish. He is, after all, Rand Paul so how could it not. He’s never been even close to the sharpest crayon in the box. But ever since a drone was used to kill an American citizen in Yemen I’ve been uncomfortable. I want to know what the rules are for using combat drones specifically to target American citizens outside the country (and inside the country) and how those jibe with the Constitution and American law. If there is a legal justification, I’d like to know it. If there isn’t, I want the practice stopped. For me at least, this has nothing to do with unarmed surveillance drones used by law enforcement inside the United States. There are issues that need to be dealt with with that, but they are not what I’m concerned with here.

      Yes, Rand Paul is an idiot. Yes, most of what he spouted off about was utter nonsense. But he did manage to bring to the forefront of American consciousness something I’ve been wondering about for a while now and something that has not been adequately addressed by the administration, imo. I’m not worried about this administration using combat drones against American citizens inside the United States; my own collection of tin-foil hats does not include that one. However, they have already used combat drones against an American citizen outside the United States and I don’t think there is anything particularly paranoid or silly about wanting to know the circumstances under which the administration thinks it can do that.

      • Michael Trujillo says:

        I don’t believe the issue is that “a drone was used to kill an American in Yemen.” Had the opportunity presented itself, I think the American could have been killed with a missle, or a sniper, or any other weapon that we use for so-called surgical strikes. I think the issue that is worthy of debate is whether Americans fighting alongside enemy combatants can be targeted.

        As I said above, I don’t believe a citizen on U.S. soil has cause to fear being killed by a drone any more than being killed by a police sniper. It’s about who’s giving the orders, not the method being used. Particularly since a drone is remote piloted by a human, just as a sniper rifle is wielded by a human and a helicopter is piloted by a human. It’s the humanity of the person using the tool that is the question mark, not the specific tool used.

        Drones are simply cell phone cameras with wings. One day, we’ll have personal drones and people will laugh out our 2013 fear of this new technology.

        By the way, my father is retired and lives in AZ. The RV park he lives in has built a remote control car race track and he and his retired buddies spend a lot of time racing their RadioShack remote controlled cars. No one is worrying about citizens being killed by remote controlled cars with explosives or firearms strapped to them (even though it’s a great plot device used in movies.) Remote controlled planes, aka drones, are the same thing.

    • Debra says:

      They’re not ready……..they’re afraid – of anything “new.”

      And irrational.

  7. J. Hartwell says:

    Mr. Sillyman, please loosen your tin hat, I do believe it’s making you sound like a traitor.

  8. Dovie says:

    Rand Paul is not going to be president. Just like Sarah Palin is never going to be president. (Search the SE website with “Doug Gibson and Sarah Palin” and see what comes up).

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