Greg Sargent’s Laughable Inability To Grasp Rand Paul

I guess when the Washington Post hired Greg Sargent to run its Plum Line blog it figured it was serving the consumers of D.C. conventional wisdom and thus keeping the paper relevant. What the powers that be at WaPo might not have recognized was that in doing so they were also providing clarity as to the gaping divide between that conventional wisdom – which can properly be described as our ruling class mindset – and the rest of the country.

Consider this from Sargent’s blog today, which carries a headline of “Rand Paul’s solution to unemployment and drugs: Rich people?”

The other day, Rand Paul got into a bit of trouble for saying that the drug problem in Eastern Kentucky is “not a real pressing issue.” Paul’s Democratic opponent, Jack Conway, blasted Paul for being out of touch with the state.

Now Paul has stepped forward to clarify those remarks in an interview with local WYMT-TV, claiming that as a physician, he does view the drug problem as a serious one. But it’s unclear whether his clarification will help much. In sum, he said the best solution to drug use is to bring down unemployment — which is best done by giving rich people the freedom to invest and create jobs.

It’s not a stretch to ask whether Paul thinks the best solution to the drug problem is leaving the rich alone to do their thing. From the interview:

“I personally think we’ve been trying the government solution, and maybe there are some good aspects to it. But we’re still failing, and we’re not getting rid of the drug problem,” Paul said.

Paul says reinvesting money in the local economy will help ease the unemployment, which he says leads to more drug use.

“You want rich people because that’s what creates jobs. If you punish people, they won’t expand or create jobs,” Paul said.

It’s unclear what Paul meant by warning against “punishing” the rich. But given his past statements, which have depicted Federal action against the private sector as punitive, he is presumably saying high taxation and regulation “punish” the rich and discourage them from investing in the local economy. This keeps unemployment high, which in turn keeps drug use rampant.

I hear Dems are going to jump on this in order to depict Paul as fundamentally unserious on economic and drug policy. I’ve asked the Paul campaign for clarification and will update you if I hear back.

Sargent got his clarification, and then put up another post about Paul’s take:

The question then became: Does Paul really believe the best solution to unemployment and drugs is to get out of the way of the rich? Paul spokesman Jesse Benton sends over a statement clarifying again:

One of the things that has made America great is ability of our citizens to invest in themselves. We must fight to preserve the power of not just the rich, but also the middle class and working class to invest through savings and investment to build a nest egg and earn financial security, or to invest in business that creates jobs for their neighbors. Dr. Paul is committed to cutting unsustainable debt and spending so we can fundamentally strengthen our economy and preserve our American way of life.

The abuse of both legal and illegal drugs is serious and complex issue. We must keep a strong focus on prevention, treatment and enforcement, and healthy employment is great prevention. There is no silver bullet, but a gainfully employed, productive person will be far less likely to succumb to the evils drugs. Dr. Paul will fight onerous EPA regulations and Obama’s plans for Cap and Tax scheme so we can preserve and grow Kentucky coal jobs in the eastern part of our state.

While the statement clarifies that we need to “keep a strong focus on prevention, treatment and enforcement,” it doesn’t say how, or whether government should have any role in doing that. The statement says twice that healthy employment is a good cure, and says the best way to ensure high employment is to free up investment — not just by the rich, but other classes as well.

In other words, though he’s broadening the original claim, the Paul campaign is basically sticking by the central thrust of it, which is that getting government out of the way of private wealth may be the best long term solution to unemployment, and by extension, drug use.

This is wonderfully droll stuff, in that Paul’s statements are anything but controversial in voicing a mainstream libertarian-conservative philosophical point that a robust legitimate economy will make illicit economic activity less desirable. In Eastern Kentucky, which is an economically depressed area serving as home to America’s largest domestic supply of cannabis, the reverse of Paul’s argument is plainly seen; government policies which retard the growth of lawful private activity – for example, coal mining – will force the locals into engaging in the drug trade and thus creating a larger supply of illicit substances. All Paul is saying is that a healthy legitimate economy, the primary path to which is proven free-market economic policies, will reduce the importance of illegal drugs as a problem in Kentucky communities.

Sargent acts like Paul is speaking in Sanskrit. He hears from his Democrat sources that this is a big winning issue for Paul’s opponent Jack Conway and that the Democrats can score points against Paul for his having offered this take.

Maybe I’m a geek, but I find this hilarious. Should Paul play the typical game and talk about more money to bust people for smoking or growing marijuana? Maybe. But my guess is more folks in Eastern Kentucky are terrified of Conway’s position favoring Cap And Trade – which would do for that region what President Obama’s offshore drilling moratorium is doing for South Louisiana – than they are of Paul’s tepid stance on drug enforcement. Considering that Paul has been accused of kidnapping teammates on the Baylor swim team and forcing them to do bong hits and he’s still ahead of Conway by double digits, it’s a classic case of ruling class disconnect with the rest of the country.

But what’s worth the biggest belly-laugh is this gem, which is well worth repeating:

But given his past statements, which have depicted Federal action against the private sector as punitive, he is presumably saying high taxation and regulation “punish” the rich and discourage them from investing in the local economy. This keeps unemployment high, which in turn keeps drug use rampant.

Uh… yeah, Greg. That’s what he’s saying. When you tax the hell out of rich people, they hire lawyers and accountants to find ways not to pay taxes and spend less effort on finding ways to make more money. This is called “punishing” the rich, and it tends to depress economic activity – or drive it underground, like in the case of the deep-forest cannabis fields of Eastern Kentucky. And when economic activity is depressed, less people have jobs. And folks who aren’t gainfully employed quite often consider sitting around and smoking rope – or maybe growing it to sell to others.

Sargent might be a bit dim for the ruling class, but unfortunately there are lots of elected officials who share his economic illiteracy and see Paul’s free-market stance as “unserious,” if amusingly quaint.

What a rude shock awaits these people in November.

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