Rand Paul: Joe Biden Agrees With Me on Social Security, but Won't Admit It

Weigel
Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 1 2013 11:47 AM

Rand Paul: Joe Biden Agrees With Me on Social Security, but Won't Admit It

164047167
In Democrats' hearts, they know he's right.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

In the long summer before the 2008 Republican convention, Rep. Ron Paul only sort of admitted defeat. He turned his main organization into the Campaign for Liberty; he did the same to his youth organization, transitioning its president, Jeff Frazee, into a new, ongoing role.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

Five years on, Paul has a clutch of acolytes in the House and Senate, and Young Americans for Liberty meets annually to train young activists and let them hear political pep talks. At least 40 reporters showed up for night one, which started with a series of prizes for students and continued with a panel of stars: Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Rand Paul. I'd hoped for a free-for-all of student questions, pinning down the senators on libertarian litmus test issues, but what I got what a Frazee-moderated discussion that stuck almost entirely to the NSA and fiscal policy.

Well, almost. It really started with Frazee asking the senators what they'd been like as young men. Only one man on the stage had faced campaign ads shaming him for a college prank. So Rand Paul ran into the flames.

Advertisement

"When I was in college, I was in the library every night, home in bed by 9," he said. "I never drank any beer or smoked any pot." He stopped himself. "Oh, actually, no, no, that's Mike Lee's story! I'm stealing Mike Lee's story!"

The serious bits:

Lesson one: Sequestration was both a joke, and a worthy victory for small-government believers. Paul, using the tone with which he'd mocked Chris Christie this week ("Gimme gimme more Sandy money!"), mimicked a fear-mongering Barack Obama. "Ohhh, the planes are gonna crash into each other!" said Paul, as hundreds of (mostly male) college students chuckled. "The food will be rancid! We can't fire the guy who's trying to invent roll-up beef jerky, but we have to fire the food inspectors? Everybody now knows that the president wasn't joking, he wasn't being sarcastic—he was just maybe being dishonest."

Lesson two: Social Security is doomed, and Barack Obama knows it. Lee walked through the Supreme Court precedent that made the program legal ("they saved it as a tax—sounds familiar?") and explained why all of the libertarians' suspicions about it were right. "It's your money. It's your property. The government has lied to you."

Cruz, whose national politician ambitions may be larger than Lee's, took a less absolutist approach. The coming crash of the system, he said, "presents an opportunity to reform Social Security, to make the program solvent and strong."

There came a loud boooooooooo from the back of the room. This wasn't a crowd interested in personal accounts inside an existing Social Security system, though that's what Cruz pitched for a few minutes. "It's still socialism," grumbled the heckler, at a lower volume.

Paul just talked about his and Lee's vain efforts to introduce a Social Security reform bill. "We raised the age," he said. "We means-tested it. We tried to get Democats on board—Democrats have to know, we need to do this. ... I asked the president face to face, I asked the vice president face to face, don't we have to raise the age? Wouldn't means-testing raise the age, fix a lot of these problems? They both say yes in private, won't say yes in public."

Lesson three: The greatest threats to personal freedom were the TSA, the NSA, and ... any other acronyms the government was using at present. Cruz praised Paul for his "heroic filibuster" on domestic use of drones, and reminded the crowd that he (Cruz) had been there for him in another moment of crisis.

"I remember when Rand was detained by the TSA," said Cruz. "On Facebook, we launched a petition to Free Rand. The meme that was chosen for that was a picture of a physician putting on a rubber glove. For some reason, online, that really went viral." Lee added that he'd texted Paul some advice that day on which constitutional passages to cite as the TSA hassled him. Not discussed: immigration, any social issues, or even the standby of the drug war.

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Irritating Confidante

John Dickerson on Ben Bradlee’s fascinating relationship with John F. Kennedy.

My Father Invented Social Networking at a Girls’ Reform School in the 1930s

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

The All The President’s Men Scene That Captured Ben Bradlee

Medical Examiner

Is It Better to Be a Hero Like Batman?

Or an altruist like Bruce Wayne?

Technology

Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

The World’s Human Rights Violators Are Signatories to the World’s Human Rights Treaties

How Punctual Are Germans?

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 22 2014 12:44 AM We Need More Ben Bradlees His relationship with John F. Kennedy shows what’s missing from today’s Washington journalism.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 21 2014 5:57 PM Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors
  Life
Outward
Oct. 22 2014 9:00 AM Wailing Against the Pansies: Homophobia in Whiplash
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 3:03 PM Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
  Slate Plus
Working
Oct. 22 2014 6:00 AM Why It’s OK to Ask People What They Do David Plotz talks to two junior staffers about the lessons of Working.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 9:42 PM The All The President’s Men Scene That Perfectly Captured Ben Bradlee’s Genius
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 8:43 AM Thunderstruck: Rock Out With Mother Nature’s Evil Side
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 22 2014 7:30 AM An Illusion That Makes Me Happy and Sad
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.