Rand Paul: Property Rights Come Before Worker Safety
by Charles Lemos, Mon Aug 02, 2010 at 08:23:17 PM EDT
A short article in The Hill points to a longer profile of Rand Paul, the Kentucky Tea Bag candidate for the Senate, in Details magazine in which the libertarian Paul declares that Congress has no business formulating mine safety rules or enacting environmental standards.
Paul believes mountaintop removal just needs a little rebranding. "I think they should name it something better," he says. "The top ends up flatter, but we're not talking about Mount Everest. We're talking about these little knobby hills that are everywhere out here. And I've seen the reclaimed lands. One of them is 800 acres, with a sports complex on it, elk roaming, covered in grass." Most people, he continues, "would say the land is of enhanced value, because now you can build on it."
"Let's let you decide what to do with your land," he says. "Really, it's a private-property issue." This is a gentler, more academic variation on a line he used the evening before, during his speech at the Harlan Center: "If you don't live here, it's none of your business."
It's the kind of catchphrase that may serve him well in Kentucky, where he has remained steadily ahead of Jack Conway in polls, even after the Rachel Maddow incident. (The small size of Kentucky's African-American population—just seven percent—may have softened his comments' impact back home.) Barring, or maybe not barring, any further philosophical tangents, Rand Paul seems poised to enter the United States Senate, where he'll bring the ideological zeal inherent in that mantra—"If you don't live here, it's none of your business"—to 99-to-1 votes, as well as 51-to-49 ones.
Yet that battle cry, presumably, is what Harlan County's coal operators shouted when they kept a brutal anti-populist grip on their fiefdoms.
"Is there a certain amount of accidents and unfortunate things that do happen, no matter what the regulations are?" Paul says at the Harlan Center, in response to a question about the Big Branch disaster. "The bottom line is I'm not an expert, so don't give me the power in Washington to be making rules. You live here, and you have to work in the mines. You'd try to make good rules to protect your people here. If you don't, I'm thinking that no one will apply for those jobs. I know that doesn't sound..." Here he stumbles, trying to parse his words properly but only presaging his campaign misstep. "I want to be compassionate," he concludes, "and I'm sorry for what happened, but I wonder: Was it just an accident?"
So property rights are sacrosanct, workers' lives not so much. A property owner has the right to pollute in Rand Paul's world and he may have a moral obligation to protect the lives of his employees but the government should not interfere in either case. If the extremism of Rand Paul's views are not evident, then we are truly lost.
It's quite probable that Rand Paul has never seen Harlan County USA, the 1976 Academy Award winner for best documentary that covered the bloody struggle to unionize mines in eastern Kentucky.