Rand Paul is Willing To Breach the Debt Ceiling

Republican Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has been a rising star in the GOP the past couple of months, particularly after his drone filibuster. He’s been the leading libertarian voice, following in his father’s footsteps, but with a more populist tone that could give him a legitimate shot at the Republican nomination in 2016. However, he is very, very confused about how harmful breaching the debt ceiling would be. Here’s what Paul said on Glenn Beck’s radio show this afternoon:

With the debt ceiling, I’ve always been willing to go through the deadline. I’m willing to go a month, two months, three months, as long as it takes. And I think we could use that leverage to bring the Democrats to the negotiating table.

AHHHHHHH. I honestly don’t understand how Paul can think this. By all accounts, he’s a smart, hard-working guy who believes in what he says. But he can’t possibly think that breaching the debt ceiling for three months would be acceptable? That would be a disaster of unheard of proportions. Our interest rates would rise significantly, increasing the cost of our debt by trillions of dollars in the long-term. Vital government services that keep the country going would stop. Three months of that could lead to anarchy.

And this was all after Paul said that he doesn’t want a government shutdown, because it would be bad for the Republican Party. Undoubtedly, Paul understands that a government shutdown would be bad for the country as well. But does he really think that breaching the debt ceiling for 90 days is more acceptable than a government shutdown?

Maybe Paul is bluffing here so that Republicans will be in a better position to extort the President.  Maybe he is trying to shore up support from the base. I don’t know. But the casualness with which Paul speaks about breaching the debt ceiling and causing an international financial crisis is alarming. I truly hope he doesn’t believe what he’s saying.

2016 Republican Hopefuls Must Show Their True Stripes

I said I wasn’t going to post on Syria today, but I couldn’t help myself. This is just a quick one on the politics of it.

Matt Lewis has a smart post today noting that Rand Paul benefits the most from a vote on a strike on Syria. After all, the junior senator from Kentucky has already declared himself as an anti-interventionist (or, not pro-interventionist) and he can simply continue to lead that group. For others though, this vote will force them to choose sides. The New York Times‘s Jonathan Martin notes the difficulty of the situation:

But the Syria measure also has important implications for the 2016 Republican presidential contest. White House hopefuls in Congress will be forced to choose between the wishes of Tea Party activists opposed to a strike and the wishes of more traditional Republicans, whose ranks include some major donors and Israel supporters with whom presidential candidates typically align themselves.

And as the hawks are aware, a “yea” vote on taking action in Syria would put potential opponents of Mr. Paul, like Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Mr. Cruz, on the same side as Mr. Obama.

This is a serious topic obviously and has grave implications for the Middle East and U.S. foreign policy. But, it’s also one of the first legislative battles in a while that forces Congressmen to do more than just stick to their side. It’s not President Obama vs. Speaker Boehner. It’s not Senate Democrats vs. Senate Republicans. For once, the entire focus is on doing what is best for the country. Of course, it’d be better if Assad never used chemical weapons and we didn’t have to debate whether to go to war with him. But it also would’ve been nice to not have to debate raising the debt ceiling or sequestration. In the midst of those crises though, partisan politics prevailed. This one is different.

It’s about time that Rubio, Cruz and other 2016 hopefuls had to support a policy on its merits, instead of for political reasons. Rubio deserves credit for sticking with immigration reform and pushing for its passage, but he also walked a tight line the entire time, worried about how his support for the bill would play with the Tea Party. As for Cruz, he’s spent his first nine months in Congress opposing everything the President has done. That’s it. It’s time that he had to face tough questions and do more than repeat the angry Tea Party talking points. The politics of voting for or against a Syrian strike are very unclear. That means that everyone in Congress will get to look at the entire situation and decide based on pure policy grounds what they believe is the best strategy going forward. Politics, for once, will be almost entirely absent from the conversation. It’s about time Congressmen voted for what was in the best interests of America, instead of their own.

Rand Paul: Health Care is Not a Right

Katrina Trinko has a nice piece at National Review on Rand Paul continuing to offer pro-bono healthcare work when he returns home to Kentucky. Trinko reports right from the operating room, where Paul is literally giving people back their vision through cataracts surgery. But, it’s what Paul said in a speech at the University of Louisville that is most interesting:

“There’s a philosophic debate which often gets me in trouble, you know, on whether health care’s a right or not,” Paul, in a red tie, white button-down shirt, and khakis, tells the students from the stage. “I think we as physicians have an obligation. As Christians, we have an obligation. . . . I really believe that, and it’s a deep-held belief,” he says of helping others.

“But I don’t think you have a right to my labor,” he continues. “You don’t have a right to anyone else’s labor. Food’s pretty important, do you have a right to the labor of the farmer?”

Paul then asks, rhetorically, if students have a right to food and water. “As humans, yeah, we do have an obligation to give people water, to give people food, to give people health care,” Paul muses. “But it’s not a right because once you conscript people and say, ‘Oh, it’s a right,’ then really you’re in charge, it’s servitude, you’re in charge of me and I’m supposed to do whatever you tell me to do. . . . It really shouldn’t be seen that way.”

There’s a nuisance nuance here that Paul misses. If I want to purchase food or water, I know I can do so at an affordable, reasonable rate. I may not have the money to do so, but I know that if I do make a bit of money, I’ll have the ability to feed and hydrate myself. Health care is not the same. If I have a pre-existing condition, health care providers may not offer me any coverage whatsoever, or may only offer plans that are way too expensive to be deemed reasonably affordable.

If Paul wants to make those markets more similar to each other, then he must require insurance companies to cover those with pre-existing conditions. That way everyone has the ability to purchase insurance. But if that happens, then the old and sick buy coverage while the young and healthy forego it. This creates a bad risk pool and leads to higher premiums, causing more young, healthy people to drop out of the market. Thus, the death spiral ensues. How do you stop that? By requiring or convincing young, healthy people to purchase health care. That’s what the Affordable Care Act does using both carrots (subsidies) and a stick (individual mandate). Paul’s comparison of health care to food and water demonstrates the need for greater regulation in the insurance market.

Paul’s answer to health care reform has always been that there needs to be greater competition in the industry. But greater competition isn’t going to help those with pre-existing conditions. If insurers don’t want to cover them, they aren’t going to cover them up – barring a requirement from the government that they do. That’s the type of requirement that makes the healthcare market more similar to the market for food or water. It’s also the type of requirement that Paul vehemently opposes. Nevertheless, that inherent contradiction doesn’t seem to bother the young senator as his speech at Louisville shows.