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Ohhhh Sh*t! The Irony of the Regulation Conversation

Larry Beinhart's Body Politic

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On Friday, November 3, Senator Rand Paul was assaulted. On his own lawn. While riding his power mower. By his neighbor. Who broke six of Paul's ribs.

Rand can be variously described as a libertarian, a rigid ideologue, a wing-nut conservative. Be thankful for that. If he were a regular neoconservative Republican, the destruction of Obamacare would have been accomplished by now. Rand stood against it. On principle. It was a "compromise," it was Obamacare Lite, anathema, an abomination. It was insufficiently destructive, and therefore not principled.

For a moment, rumors swirled that the lawn tractor tackle had to have been political.

The attacking neighbor was a Democrat! If you read the comments after the story on those websites where it's permitted, they are frothy from foam-at-the-mouthers, certain it must be political, because liberals are violent thugs set upon destroying such fine principled politicians like Senator Paul.

Oddly, neither the senator nor the assaulter has spoken about the incident, its circumstances, or the motive. That resulted in some salacious speculation. After all, what sort of motives do people refuse to speak about?

The lawyer for the assailant finally made some sort of public statement. He said it was "not political." There goes that. The lawyer then said it was over something that most people would consider "trivial." That seems to rule out adultery, a gay lovers' quarrel, revenge over the killing of a pet, and a blackmail scheme gone awry.

Paul and his neighbor live in a gated development, protected from the rabble. There's something a bit weird about that. As a libertarian, the senator has declared, "I don't want to live in a nanny state where people are telling me where I can go and what I can do." Yet he chose to live in Rivergreen, a McMansion development that came with a list of rules and restrictions that's 21 pages long. There he was, amidst the perfectly groomed lawns, surrounded solely by people of his own class and background, all living in super-sized suburban white-people houses, and still there was dissension.

The local newspaper, the Louisville Courier Journal, is the only source I've seen that provided some real insight. "While there's no official word on what caused the fight, Skaggs [the developer] suggested it might have stemmed from Paul allegedly blowing lawn trimmings into his neighbor's yard." 

Lawn rage!

This circles back to politics. Not your ordinary Democrat v. Republican, liberal v. conservative stuff, though that's volatile enough.

As noted, Rand Paul is a self-described "libertarian." He was born into it the way fans of the Green Bay Packers, or the Yankees, or Chicago Bulls are. His father is Ron Paul.

Ron was a four-term libertarian congressman from Texas. He quit to run for Senate, but lost. In his farewell address to Congress, he said, "Special interests have replaced the concern that the Founders had for general welfare. It's difficult for one who loves true liberty and utterly detests the power of the state to come to Washington for a period of time and not leave a true cynic." You really have to respect a guy who says that and, while he's still in office, goes to work for Citizens for a Sound Economy, funded by the Koch Brothers and Big Tobacco. He went back to Congress from 1997-2013 and had three failed presidential bids.

Ron is still around. You may have seen him on infomercials selling gold. He's not just some cheesy TV conman, he truly believes in gold. He went into politics when Richard Nixon took the US off the gold standard. As, long ago, there were folks who thought money was the root of all evil, Ron is certain that the Federal Reserve and fiat currency are the roots of all evil.

You might expect anyone named Rand, with a libertarian father, would have been named for Ayn Rand, but that's not the case. It was Randal. He went by Randy. Apparently, his wife said, 'Please, how about Rand?'

Rand is dead set against regulations.

Apparently, and rather surprisingly, given that he chose to live in a totally conformist, regulated place, that carries over into how he lives his personal life. Again, from an article in the Louisville Courier Journal following the assault: "Skaggs also said that Paul 'was probably the hardest person to encourage to follow the [home owner's association regulations] of anyone out here because he has a strong belief in property rights,' said Skaggs, who is the former chairman of the Warren County Republican Party." 

That's what makes this twisted little incident interesting. And revealing. It goes to the heart of the battle over regulations. Most Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians are dead set against them, hate them, whine about them, and want to remove them. Yet most of them come down to a rule nearly as simple as the Golden Rule: "Thou shalt not dump your shit on your neighbor's lawn."

That shit might be as innocuous as dead leaves or the trimmed tops of blades of grass. It might be dumping chickenshit in the rivers that flow into the next state, a practice that Scott Pruitt, the head of the EPA, has fought to defend. It might be toxic waste from coal-fired power plants that comes down as acid rain and kills your trees. Or perfluorooctanoic acid, linked to cancer and child development issues, currently found in many New York and New Jersey water systems (most notably in Newburgh and Hoosick Falls) according to the Environmental Working Group.

When you hear a politician or a corporate spokesperson complain about the cost of regulation, they're complaining about the cost to them, of dealing with their own shit. What they want is the savings that come from dumping it on your lawn, in your water, in your stomach, and your lungs, and making you pay for clean-up and the consequences. Ohhh shit!

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