Friday, May 21, 2010

Rand Musings

There has been a lot of swirling around the most recent Tea Party candidate, Rand Paul and his comments regarding the Civil Rights Act and the American Disability Act. Rand is a pure libertarian. His dad is libertarian lite by comparison. Why do I say this? Let's take a look at just a couple of his views.
The Americans with Disabilities Act. This was a long time coming. I think about how much the image of those with disabilities has changed, just in my lifetime, I see it as being intrinsically tied to this particular Act. Prior to the ADA, those with disabilities where ferried off to institutions. Not all of them, but a crazy majority. Tucked away, out of sight, as the prevailing mentality was that disabled people - physically, mentally, etc. have nothing to offer society. Those that didn't fit into the established mold of what was deemed "normal" by the establishment had no avenue to enter into society. Unless they had the family, community, and financial support their life script was written. Institutionalized living.

The Civil Rights Act. Yet another bit of federal legislation that, in my mind, is embarrassing in its necessity. How sad that it took an act of congress to right our collective conscience. But make no mistake, it took an act of congress. I remember the National Guard coming in to the south to enforce the new legislation.

Rand believes that these Acts are over reaching in that they impose mandates on PRIVATE business. Rand believes that states and local government are better suited to address the concerns of its citizens. He also believes that a bit of creative out of the box thinking (stifled by federal mandates) will allow for solutions for individual states, individual municipalities to solve problems for their constituents. For instance, instead of forcing businesses to put in costly elevators to accommodate those that cannot get up the stairs, put those employees with limited mobility on the first floor.

All of this is based on a false premise and a bit of silliness. For the above problem, Rand completely ignores the fact that disabled CUSTOMERS are restricted to first floor business, completely cutting them off from anything that is placed above ground level. The ADA has provisions for the blind with the little dots below office numbers, etc. which make being blind less of an obstacle, for those in wheelchairs with mandates for door and hall width, for the deaf with bird tweets or pings at crosswalks so that they know how much time they have to cross the street. It is full of provisions that carefully address problems and provide solutions for issues we as able bodied individuals take for granted. I think of the shows on television that have allowed insight into "disabled" peoples lives - like Little People Big World - which has helped normalize the views of the general population to those of diminished stature. Had it been left to local or state governments, I can't help but think that institutions would still be the only place for those now provided access with the ADA.

Much like the Civil Rights Act. Had the state and local governments been left to address racism and civil rights, we would still be seeing people in rags picking cotton. Or we would have had another Civil War. Who were the ones in the South that PERPETUATED the lynchings, the arrests, the brutality? How many black men that were falsely accused of crimes were placed in front of a jury of white people and doomed? How many black people were targeted by local sheriffs and police? How many black people in the care of the local police were released to angry mobs to be ripped to shreds? I think about the 2010 Texas Board of Education that has the responsibility to provide fact based information for the textbooks from which hundreds of thousands of children will be learning.
And they refuse to include the names of the 8 Hispanics that died fighting with those in the Alamo.
And they refuse to include any reference to the influence of hip hop music - only country and rock and roll - for fear of "crude" lyrics being played in the classroom.
And they reference the historic election of our first black president but refuse to reference him BY NAME.

Rand is wrong. I understand the idea that state and local governments need to deal with individual issues that are unique to their areas. But when we have a NATIONAL problem, a NATIONAL issue, it must be dealt with nationally. I don't want Texas being responsible for the quality of my food and environment. Even with the federally established environment goals, restrictions and mandates - Texas has failed miserably. I shudder to think of what would be happening if Rick Perry had any more power than he currently holds.

Rand is wrong. The past decade has proven that the incredible influence of corporations and business has been detrimental to our country. The banks' predatory lending, the oil companies refusal to take responsibility for monumental mistakes has shown that with diminished regulations those with the money, power and access have no interest in the common good. We send representatives of ourselves into our government to have the common good as their central focus. Is that the case now? No. So adjustments must take place. Term limits are crucial. We do it for the president, it is imperative that we do it for congress. We need to make it so that other people besides multi-billionaires can run for office. There are changes to be made.
There are always going to be changes that need to be made.

But Rand's changes would send us careening back to an era that should never be revisited.

I will fight anyone that believes that the access now granted those without the power, without the money, without the voice should be rescinded.
I will fight any movement that wants to give business MORE power and the individual citizens LESS.
I am older now but still able to rage against the belief that business is the be all and end all.
If you believe that, I respectfully request that you go take a swim off the Louisiana coast.
Have a taste of the uniquely seasoned seafood.
Take a tour of the brilliantly slick and brown coastline.
Caution: Try to avoid the dead dolphins, sea turtles, manatee and fish!