Earl Ofari Hutchinson Author and political analyst posted 1/2/2012
GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul just can’t seem to help himself when it comes to his fetish on a law which has been on the books for nearly five decades and which has long since been rendered a moot point by even avowed white supremacists. That’s the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Paul caught much flack when he flatly said he’d have opposed it if he had been in Congress in 1964. He dredged it up again as an issue in 2004 when he voted against a symbolic resolution honoring the law on its fortieth anniversary. He dredged it up again during his abortive presidential bid in 2008. And now he’s dredged it up yet again stumping for 2012 presidential votes.
To hear him tell it, it’s a matter of the simple principle of upholding the sanctity of private property from any government encroachment. It’s a libertarian purism taken to the nth degree and it’s a legal and public policy fraud. Paul’s oft times uttered quip that private business owners have an absolute right to decide what to do with their own property; to make his point that it is legally wrong to tell private business owners what they can do with their business is laughable. Local, state and the federal government tell businesses what to do all the time. They compel businesses to pay state and federal taxes, business taxes, adhere to environmental, building, and safety codes and regulations, have liability and workers compensation insurance, file employee tax reports, and corporate filing reports, and publish a DBA notice.
Paul, and GOP anti-government deregulation crusaders, pay obligatory lip service to the campaign to slash and burn government regulations, but the long laundry list of subsidies, protectionism, tariffs, import controls, benignly weighted tax shelters, tax write-offs, and depreciation options that corporations use to reduce taxes and increase profits all courtesy of government intrusion, would fill up a small telephone book.
Paul knows that the times that government has gone lax on “intrusion” into the affairs of private business it’s been an unmitigated disaster for the public and business. The loosening of oversight on the savings and loan industry resulted in failure of banks, and left taxpayers holding the bag for lost account values. The deregulation of the electricity industry allowed for large-scale manipulation of rates for profit-making. The result was market panic and skyrocketing electricity prices. The jewel in the crown of government non-intrusion is Wall Street’s scamming of the real estate and financial system in 2008. That did much to get the country into the fiscal mess it’s still struggling to get out of, and for which President Obama gets blamed for. Paul makes no fetish of the appalling failures of business left to its own devices without government intrusion to handle, well, its own business.
There’s no mystery why. Carping about workers compensation or safety regulations as government intrusion into private business is not chic, media eye catching and will not stir up controversy. It won’t get lusty cheers from the legion of Paul devotees that think taking shots at a civil rights law decades after the fact proves he’s a fearless, uncompromising fighter for his principles. Harping on the Civil Rights Act has even greater value since it provides cover for race baiting without the odious stench of actual race baiting.
Paul’s use of the Civil Rights Act as a foil to snatch a headline any other time could be dismissed as an archaic rant from the fringe. But Paul now has virtual household name identification, hordes of fanatical backers, unbridled media allure, and he’s stirred nervous tremors among GOP mainstream leaders. He’s not going to fade away no matter what happens in the presidential caucuses and primaries especially since he’s dropped the coy hint that if the GOP doesn’t play ball with him and take some of his positions more seriously, he may just pick up his political marbles and not support the eventual GOP presidential nominee, meaning in reality, Romney.
This makes Paul’s broadside against civil rights laws more dangerous. There’s no danger that government or corporations will roll back the clock on the Civil Rights Act but it does send another strong signal to government agencies to slacken up even more in vigorous enforcement of anti-discrimination laws. The relentless water down and outright elimination of affirmative action laws and measures by courts, state legislatures and ballot initiatives, and the near impossibility of scaling the stratospheric bar of proof of intent required to win discrimination lawsuits against corporations and financial institutions that engage in blatantly discriminatory practices, has already severely crimped the fight to broaden civil rights protections.
Paul is clever though. He recognizes that attacking the 1964 Civil Rights Act while in the next breath saying he’s against discrimination makes his ploy seem like it’s solely about protecting private property, and not the bigotry that it is. We haven’t heard the last of Paul’s civil rights fetish.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the author of How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge. H