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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Senator Rand Paul, hoping to become president, says he is a tight-fisted libertarian working on behalf of beleaguered Americans to cut spending and stop waste.

But if you look at what he has done, rather than what he says, a completely different story emerges.

In just one deal, Paul wasted a quarter-billion dollars. The terms resemble the old Soviet central planning model, which Paul claims he abhors.

Paul’s role in the deal, which propped up two big Kentucky enterprises at the expense of millions of Americans living in the Pacific Northwest, has gotten no attention from the political reporters covering his campaign. Instead of scrutinizing his actions, they just quote what he says, while serving up frivolous stories that are as cheap as they are easy to throw together.

Just based on what Paul says, there is plenty to examine. He has a habit of getting facts completely wrong. You seldom hear about fabrications and errors, however, unless an opponent points them out. Political reporters tend to just quote candidates without checking facts or challenging assumptions.

While Paul boasts that he underspent his Senate office budget by $1.8 million since 2011, many members of Congress do the same. Just ahead of his presidential campaign announcement, he spent tax dollars on a makeover of his Senate website to make it look less focused on rural Kentucky and more on Paul as a supposedly visionary leader. That got little coverage.

Grover Norquist calls Paul “a taxpayer advocate,” and many news reports cast him as a friend of taxpayers.

What you probably have not read is that the junior Kentucky senator wants to fully tax wages, while letting plutocrats enjoy tax-free dividends, interest, and capital gains.

But the quote that invites serious examination of Paul’s record is this one from his presidential campaign announcement: “Too often when Republicans have won, we’ve squandered our victory by becoming part of the Washington machine. That’s not who I am.”

Oh yes, he is, as we shall see.

The supposed champion of all things libertarian and sponsor of a bill to eviscerate unions by imposing so-called right-to-work laws nationally got in bed with the most progressive industrial union in America, the United Steelworkers. Political necessity won out over libertarian principles.

Paul’s actions preserved several hundred jobs at a bankrupt government-enabled corporation until after the 2012 elections. Had those workers and others whose jobs were tied to the deal been laid off before the elections, it would have hurt Republicans facing voters in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia.

Paul did not act alone. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and John Boehner, the House Speaker, joined in. So did Senator Sherrod Brown, Ohio Democrat.

The deal involved converting uranium from old Soviet nuclear bombs into fuel for a West Coast nuclear power plant. The bomb material had already been downgraded to power plant fuel, but piles of very low-grade leftovers remained.

Reprocessing the leftovers kept inefficient coal-fired electric power plants burning Kentucky coal, which in turn eased the troubled finances of the Tennessee Valley Authority, the New Deal era project that brought electricity to Appalachia.

Paul says that he opposes government-sponsored utilities like the TVA, yet here he was helping it avoid losing 5 percent of its output until after the 2012 elections.

A government-sponsored private company in Paducah, Kentucky, the United States Enrichment Corporation, purchased the electricity from TVA. The company was bankrupt but continued operating, thanks to Paul and other lawmakers making the deal and slipping a $62 million subsidy into a spending bill. (The firm has since been reborn as Centrus).

Paul claims to oppose special-interest subsidies and anything that even looks like an earmark, making the subsidy especially worthy of scrutiny by campaign reporters. Don’t hold your breath.

The leftover uranium was 2,499 parts nonradioactive material to one part uranium. Reprocessing raised the ratio to 249 parts to one, the level needed in electric generating plants.

This fuel was reworked using antiquated technology developed in the 1940s.

Generating electricity to run the outdated equipment burned 20 times more coal than modern technology requires. That was awful for the environment, but good for keeping Kentucky coal miners employed, mine owners prosperous, and the TVA paying its bills.

The plant also leaked Freon, a coolant that the U.S. started phasing out decades earlier. When Freon escapes into the atmosphere, it rises to the ozone layer. The ozone layer protects humans and other life from ultraviolet solar radiation. Freon eats ozone, endangering everyone.

Paducah plant leakage in 2012 accounted for 68 percent of all the Freon released into the atmosphere, federal records show.

I’m against pollution and think we should minimize pollution,” Paul says. I cannot find any record of a journalist pressing him to square that statement with the Freon fiasco.

The reprocessed uranium was sold to the Bonneville Power Authority (BPA) in the Pacific Northwest. BPA is a federal utility similar to TVA. Paul described the deal as a bargain that would save money all around, a position his spokesman confirmed to me last year.

BPA operates the only nuclear power plant in the Pacific Northwest, which in some months has so much hydropower from the Columbia River that every fossil-fuel plant must shut down lest the overabundance of juice melt transmission cables.

The uranium can run the BPA nuke for many years. However, BPA did not need the fuel. The power plant is nearing the end of its life.

A new report this month analyzed the costs of the uranium deal. Rather than saving money, BPA wasted $250 million buying fuel years in advance and storing it.

Utility economist Robert McCullough made the calculations after filing requests for BPA’s internal records. “I used their data, their economic modeling,” said McCullough, whose work I have found consistently reliable over many years.

You might think $250 million being wasted would have made every newspaper and broadcast news program in Oregon and Washington, where the burden comes to about $90 for every family of four.

The group that sponsored the report, Oregon and Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility, contacted news outlets big and small, said Chuck Johnson, who runs its nuclear power task force.

Total coverage: this National Memo column.

Paul’s deal worked like a hidden tax on people and businesses in the Pacific Northwest. Their pockets were drained to subsidize Kentuckians and help Republicans in the 2012 elections. That is precisely the kind of economic activity that Paul claims he opposes, asserting such transfers both morally wrong and economically inefficient.

Also not covered in Kentucky or anywhere else, except for my reporting, is the anti-market nature of the deal Rand Paul championed. As Christopher Paine of the National Resources Defense Council told me: “This was not a business deal, it was exactly like the old Soviet deals in the days of Soviet central planning.”

If journalists accurately quote politicians like Paul on what they say they will do, yet pay almost no attention to what they do, how can voters possibly make informed choices? Our democracy is already under assault by plutocrats writing huge checks to trick us into believing what’s good for them is good for America

We need news that is more than recirculating the hot air coming from the mouths of politicians. Without it, our democracy will have as much substance as, well, recirculated hot air.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

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52 responses to “Rand Paul: Libertarian, Except When He’s Not”

  1. Carolyn1520 says:

    He should hold on to his Kentucky job. He’s already reached his level of incompetence there.

    • Dominick Vila says:

      Paul’s antics may resonate in Kentucky, I doubt he has a chance in the Northeast or West Coast.
      The dichotomy between Republican rhetoric on so many issues, including this, are ignored by the corporate owned media, and by most people in the South and the Bible Belt; I doubt he will gt away with it in states where people are capable of rational thinking and understand the effects of the Republican policies they are desperately trying to hide, with the help of a complicit media.

    • johninPCFL says:

      As I understand it, he has to give up his Kentucky job to run. Maybe we’ll get lucky and he’ll be the nominee and lose. Then, at least, Kaintuck will be rid of him.

  2. Peter says:

    Make it simple for yourselves: ALL POLITICIANS LIE. It’s the system. If they don’t, they don’t get elected. (Ron Paul was a stunning exception.)

    • Mr Corrections says:

      I think you meant “example” there, not “exception”.
      There is no larger fraud in politics than goddam Ron Paul, although obviously his son is giving him a run for his money.

  3. ericlipps says:

    Rand Paul is as phony as wax fruit. His libertarianism is the kind Republicans favor: everything for business, nothing but talk (if even that) for everyone and everything else.

    Not that it matters. Barring the proverbial “dead girl or live boy” scenario, Jeb Bush will be the GOP nominee–and even the live boy might not be a show-stopper these days. Jeb’s coronation appears to have been decided on as far back as November 2012, after Mitt Romney’s defeat; the only issue has been how to make it look as though there were going to be a real contest.

  4. orrsra says:

    Rand may flip flop or evolve as BO but he is not a Liar, a Hypocrite or a Nracissist Nincompoop like BO

    • highpckts says:

      Boy talk about rose colored glasses! You are truly in fantasy land if you think for one minute Paul will do anything worth mentioning but, have no fear, he won’t even make it to the primaries! He’s a proven liar!

    • eaglesfanintn says:

      Random capitalization doesn’t make your rant any more true.

  5. TMZ1928 says:

    Who cares. Our next president is someone we are not even talking about yet.

  6. Blueberry Hill says:

    Rand Paul is as phony as they come and the biggest liar in the Senate. That is really going some, as every rethug/bagger in the Senate lies daily. Watch the senate and you can see for yourself when they stand in the well of the US Senate and spew lie after lie after lie. He has not done one thing that will help us. He is too busy looking at how he can further enrich himself. He wants Medicare, medicaid, and the new ACA health insurance stopped. Guess he doesn’t need them, so figures we don’t need them either. Be sure to study this phony hick before you even think about voting for him. Look for something positive he has done for us. You won’t find anything.


    • TMZ1928 says:

      There is no one on the political scene today who is a bigger liar than Obama and the lemming Democrats in Congress.

      • Blueberry Hill says:

        You obviously haven’t listened to any of them. Every R in congress lies on a daily basis. Haven’t heard the truth escape their mouths yet, and yes, I watch them. You are an obvious troll, so just go back under your bridge. Won’t be engaging in any more conversation with you, as you are as senseless as the rest of the trolls. Bug off.


      • Mr Corrections says:

        Except every single person in the Republican party, of course.

      • Not as much a liar as W was

      • Grannysmovin says:

        How many deaths did his lies cause? You act like he is the first President that has ever lied. Is it wrong yes, but here are a few Presidents who have lied – Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Kennedy,Nixon, Reagan, Bush 1 and 2 and Clinton.

    • Rand Paul don’t want taxpayers to fund my disability and welfare income. I sure have a problim with taht. Many idabled Americans will suffer under his regime if elected

      • Blueberry Hill says:

        Do you just not know how to type or just not able to spell? I don’t believe this moron will get elected; but it is most important to make sure he doesn’t get elected.


    • Dominick Vila says:

      In all fairness to Republican Senators, they stood united when after declaring Iran a hub of terrorism, they decided to write their Supreme Leader a letter encouraging him not to trust an incumbent U.S. President, and reminding him that if a nuclear weapons development agreement is reached, the U.S. Congress will not ratify or, as a minimum, the next U.S. President will repeal it. In that case, they were not lying, they were only committing a bit of treason which, not surprisingly, did not get the media attention it deserved.

      • Blueberry Hill says:

        The bad thing is that these lunatics want a war with Iran at any cost to the rest of us. They even sent a letter to try to provoke them into a war. They are not able to see into the future or who the next President will be. So, until it is proven to be true, it is all lies too, as well as treason and they should be censured or punished in some way for doing what they did. To go behind our President with a letter like that when he is trying to make peace with Iran, is about as untrustworthy as anyone can be. I wouldn’t trust them to empty my trash. They are sneaky liars and don’t deserve the seats they have bought. Normally, I agree with your comments.


        • Dominick Vila says:

          My comment included a heavy dose of sarcasm to highlight the way the media obsesses over anything President Obama does, and the way they played down what anyone with an iota of common sense would interpret as a treacherous act. The 47 Senators that wrote the letter denouncing the trustworthiness of an incumbent U.S. President, promising to not ratify and eventually repeal any treaty reached between President Obama, our allies, and the Iranian leadership, goes beyond treason. It also highlights the political fragmentation that exists in the USA and the fragility of any accord reached between our government and other nations.
          They deserve more than a reprimand. They should be investigated to determine their loyalty to the United States, and their ability to rationalize thought logically. Engaging in little vendettas, or tactics to score political points, is not a game. The consequences of what they did are far reaching and can undermine the ability of future Presidents to negotiate with foes and allies.

  7. Jeff Bottaro says:

    Kosher pork.

  8. Whatmeworry says:

    His actions pale in comparison to Barak’s billion pork deals losses

    • Mr Corrections says:

      I’m sorry that you have to resort to imagining things like that. It must be very frustrating!

    • Dominick Vila says:

      Is this what you are talking about?

      1. Healthcare reform (ACA)
      2. Stimulus package, cash for clunkers, subsidies for appliance replacements, help to first time home buyers, favorable refinancing terms.
      3. Saved two major industrial giants (GM&Chrysler), and tens of thousands of jobs in the car industry, suppliers, and dealerships.
      4. His policies helped turn around an economy on the verge of collapse, record bankruptcies/foreclosures, and jobs losses in spite
      of obstructionism
      5. Wall Street reform
      6. Recapitalized banks
      7. Created more jobs in 6 years than his predecessor did in 8
      8. Ended the war in Iraq
      9. Ordered the raid that brought justice to Osama bin Laden
      10. Ordered a dramatic reduction in U.S. military presence in Afghanistan
      11. Ordered attacks against Al Qaeda safe havens in Pakistan and Yemen.
      12. Helped topple Moammar Qadaffi
      13. Reversed Bush’s torture and rendition policies

      14. Tightened sanctions on Iran to force them to the negotiating table, and extracted incredible concessions from them.
      15. Restored U.S. international credibility
      16. Repealed DADT and championed marriage equality.
      17. Lilly Ledbetter (equal pay for women)
      18. Fought for lower student loan interest rates
      19. Coordinated activities to solve the global financial crisis
      20. Championed the Veterans Program Improvements Act of 2011
      21. Championed and signed credit card reforms
      22. Nominated two excellent candidates to fill Supreme Court vacancies
      23. Invested in renewable technology and focused on alternate energy source development, while helping development and production efforts in the Bakken oil fields to reduce dependence on foreign oil imports.
      24. Expanded hate crime protections
      25. Improved school nutrition program
      26. Expanded stem cell research
      27. Terminated the unnecessary F22 project
      28. Proposed investment in infrastructure to address national concerns and create jobs (killed by GOP)
      29. Proposed Veterans Jobs Act (killed by GOP)
      30. Proposed expansion of Reagan’s Brady Act (killed by GOP)
      31. Proposed immigration reform and signed an EO granting a work permit for undocumented immigrants who have been in the USA for over 5 years and who have children born in the USA. (opposed by Republicans)
      32. Reduced civil servant workforce
      33. The effect of his policies contributed to revenue increases and to reducing the Federal government deficits by 2/3.
      34. No foreign terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, and reduced attacks against U.S. diplomatic missions from 11 to 1.
      35. Restored diplomatic relations with Cuba, ending an embarrassing and counter productive blockade/sanctions that did not produce the desired results for half a century.

      • Apparently you haven’t read any newspapers where you live

        • Sand_Cat says:


          • Dan’s just being a moron, the only talent he has. As far as his blind gop patriotism, tell him to quit impersonating an Air Force Colonel on one of his facebook pages, he never served squat, and stayed in college to avoid the draft during Vietnam. Can’t imagine why Ford would have him on their payroll, but the union guys wanted nothing to do with him? The federal govt sure wouldn’t hire him. Must have something to do with him being a WASP bigot, which our society is fortunately phasing out.


      • Whatmeworry says:

        Cash for clunkers 75% of those purchases were for Jap and Korean..
        Saved 2 automotive giants?? Bankruptcy was much better solution rather than taking bond holders $$$ and giving it to the unions.
        Ended what war? So he started another war in Iraq.
        He toppled an ally Kaddafi
        He turned around the economy ruined By Dodd and Franks

      • Dom,
        Ole moron dan/whatmeworry was once on Ford Motors payroll as a nonunion desk clerk, so he knows all about cars. However, the union guys kicked his butt, and he was fired for impersonating an Air Force Colonel, but still thinks he is (based on one of his two facebook pages see below). Ask whatmeworry about his staying in college while dodging the Vietnam War draft, never serving in the military, and his pro military/gop stance he uses today on one of his many sock puppet profiles. Why he even accuses Bill Clinton of staying in school during the VW. What an idiot!

    • Insinnergy says:

      Ahhh off your meds again, I see.

  9. Rund and his looniterans borders on criminal for their actions, much worse than Barack ever was

  10. charleo1 says:

    This campaign will be the same GOP scripted dog, and pony show, as the one in 2012. A la, Lou Perlman style. Perlman, the now infamous boy band producer. Who’s formula of ‘one cute one, one bad boy, one sincere one, and so forth, gave us the Back Street Boys, and NYSYNC. There will be Santorum, and Huckabee, to keep the Evangelicals engaged, and Cruz to excite the T-Party insurrectionists. As well as some also rans, like Ben Carson, like Herman Cain before him, will give the contest the flimsiest bit of color. Just so it doesn’t look too much like a KKK meeting in Sledge Mississippi. As it will surely sound like one at times. Of course some outcasts, like Christy, and Rubio, so the base can enjoy watching the Party punish them for allegedly talking to a Democrat, or God forbid, hugging one. It looks like Rand Paul will play the part of attack dog, much like Newt Gingrich was supposed to in the last production. Only he went off script, attacking the star of the show, then won S, Carolina! Unexpectedly queuing the base, who loathed the RINO Romney, from the get go.The charlatan who signed Romneycare. A man with all the fire of a wet noodle, and a member of what many Fundamentalist Christians considered a cult. Here, panic stricken Party directors decided it was time to pull the plug, and announce Romney as the projected winner. Done deal, they reported. He had the money, and name, and support of the Party. And he was the only one, they reminded an angry base, that could beat Obama. And, for the survival of the Nation as we know it, they implored the Party faithful to accept Romney as their leader. The base didn’t buy it. Now in all out rebellion, they turned to a bit player. The former fast food mogul turned lobbyist, Herman Cain. Now the fifth contestant to lead the contrived little stage play. And the Clown Car moniker started to take on a life of it’s own. And so the show was promptly shut down, Romney the pre-designated nominee all along, was officially declared the winner. And just as the base predicted, they lost. Now, never ones to learn from history, or their past mistakes. The Cons have got another little show all keyed up, they hope will convince their cynical base, and the Country to forgive them for Bush, all their idiocy, and treachery over the past 8 years, and grant them another crack at the Presidency. Well I say, better luck on the stage show fooling your base this time. And may the best woman win!

  11. Tony Torres says:

    What ever happened to journalist that do their job and are not worried who they might anger with the truth? I blame the media for selling out or just plain laziness for not being actual reporters and getting at the truth. The media would rather print and show what they think their corporate owner want to hear,not always the truth or they just do not want to find out if the politician is telling the truth. They might not be able to ask anymore question directly from the persons stating a lie(s).

    • dpaano says:

      That’s the new media…..get used to it!

      • Tony Torres says:

        I guess dpaano, you either are content on the status quo,nothing but BS as I stated or you can join me and i bet many,many ,many other that would people either would agree that the status quo is not (and should not) be acceptable and it must change. Hey,it has to start some where, (maybe somebody already has), before it get’s any worse and the USA will be full of fucking morons. Somebody has to start calling out these frauds.

        • dpaano says:

          Tony: I agree wholeheartedly with you….I didn’t mean to sound so apathetic. The liberal press needs to step up and start shouting from the rooftops about the lies that are being told by the more conservative media! For some reason, they don’t step up. It’s frustrating sometimes, and I don’t know how to fix it or what to suggest.

  12. terrence simms says:

    Damn this comment column is full of bad mouthing Jew Jihadist’s already in bed with Hilary … and other Rothchilds candidates

    Looks like Rand Paul will be next President hopefully

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