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What Rand Paul has in common with Hitler’s Vice Chancellor

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Franz von Papen gave the world Hitler the monster. He was the powerful German politician and war hero who persuaded Hindenberg, Germany’s president in 1933, to appoint Hitler as Chancellor. A grateful Hitler made von Papen his Vice Chancellor, and later appointed him to several diplomatic posts.

In his “Memoirs,” von Papen describes his ultra-reactionary politics. He hated Germany’s Federal government, believing that power should be reserved to the states. He believed in individual “discipline and obedience,” which made him “conservative by nature.” He detested Marxism, which was a “struggle to overturn the capitalist system.” He was dedicated to the Catholic Church.

He was particularly incensed by the Weimar Republic’s turn towards socialism, which he defined as “the State [being] the ultimate factor in all our affairs…and the final repository of authority.” By von Papen’s reckoning, the “masses,” that vast collection of Germans, had no business turning to government for any rights. If they suffered, they should find “comfort in the teachings of the Church.” He was especially against “national insurance schemes,” a position he held “throughout my life.” Had von Papen lived in America today, he would have been a member of the tea party.

Last summer, Rand Paul said on Fox “News” that repealing Obamacare is not “about actuarial tables and insurance…this is about freedom…it’s about whether the individual knows best or government knows best.” For Rand Paul, the least government is the best government. For good measure, in his remarks he just had to get in a few insults of President Obama. “Are we too stupid that President Obama ha[d] to tell us what kind of insurance? Does he think Americans are too dumb to make their own decisions?” For Paul, letting the government have a hand in providing healthcare to Americans is “giv[ing] up our freedom.”

Both von Papen and Paul share the belief that human beings should depend on themselves for the things they need. Von Papen, in “Memoirs,” wrote vividly of the Germany he grew up in: a rural heartland, in which religion, family, the military and hard work were the central pillars of life. Paul, too, reveres those simpler values. If Americans want healthcare insurance, they can turn to their families, their churches, or various charities for help. But they should expect nothing from the government: not healthcare, not Social Security, nothing at all, except for a strong military to protect them.

The reason why Rand Paul is so fantastically incorrect in his political thinking is that America is no longer a rural heartland of farms, churches and closely-knit white Christian families. Paul’s version of libertarianism is peculiarly ill-suited for our modern nation, which is so diverse. There are things only government can do, besides national defense, and one of those is to get into the healthcare business. Until we rid healthcare of private insurance companies, for-profit hospitals and greedy pharmaceutical companies, adequate healthcare is simply going to be too expensive for the vast majority of Americans to afford. But if we get rid of the capitalism factor in healthcare, the only thing that can take its place is government.

National health insurance seems to work in every civilized country in the world. America is an outlier, and one of the reasons is arch-conservatives like Rand Paul, who insist on unrestricted capitalism, which means letting corporations gouge people as much as they can. I find it hard to believe that Rand Paul, himself a doctor, actually believes the nonsense he spouts. I suspect he’s feeding us the line that his wealthiest donors want him to. Because of Citizens United and its allowance of dark money, we can’t know where Rand Paul’s campaign funds come from. The Center for Responsive Politics has assembled this list of his top contributors; the Koch Brothers are right up there, but I’m sure their money, and the money of their friends like the DeVos family, is flowing to Rand Paul in ways we’ll never know. The aim of these billionaires is to keep as much of their money as they can, to maintain their power, to crush whatever socialistic incursions they perceive into their capitalistic monopolies, and to persuade Americans to vote for people like Rand Paul, who is so inimical to the interests of working-class folks.

Von Papen’s career didn’t end well: he was tried at Nuremberg. He was acquitted, although it was a close thing: the British and American judges declared him not guilty of war crimes, while the Russian and French judges found him guilty. Under the rules, he was set free—but not before the Court said he had committed “political immoralities.”

Rand Paul has committed political immoralities, too. He has not stood in front of a tribunal—yet. Perhaps someday he shall.

  1. Bob Rossi says:

    ” For Paul, letting the government have a hand in providing healthcare to Americans is “giv[ing] up our freedom.””

    I wonder how he feels about insurers controlling our health care, which is basically the case now. Is that better than the government controlling it?

  2. I wouldn’t look for any intellectual consistency in Rand Paul, or in any Republican. They really are a basket of deplorables.

  3. Bob Rossi, the answer is “yes.” Libertarians tend to focus only on government power and ignore instances where corporate power deprives people of freedom and choice. Which seems exactly backwards to me, because government is accountable to the people (at least in theory), while corporations are only accountable to their owners.

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