The meat of Paul's speech was a proposal to create "economic freedom zones" in places with especially dire unemployment and poverty. Under his proposal, depressed areas like Detroit would receive major cuts to income, payroll, and capital gains taxes, aimed at spurring businesses to invest more. "These freedom zones will dramatically reduce taxes and red tape so Detroit business can grow and thrive," he said.
The Michigan Republican Party opened a new outreach office in Detroit last week, intended to improve the party's outreach to African Americans. That wouldn't be especially noteworthy were it not for the fact that local GOP leaders invited Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to help with the launch.
There are a few angles to this. The first were Paul's remarks themselves, on which Benjy Sarlin had a good piece.
If the policy sounds familiar, there's a good reason: "opportunity zones" have been a Republican favorite for about three decades. They've never proven to be especially effective, and the fact that Paul sees this as an innovative approach to urban policy is emblematic of the superficiality with which he approaches too many areas of public policy.
Second, there's Amanda Terkel's point about Paul helping launch an African-American outreach campaign by speaking to an audience that appeared overwhelmingly white.
But the point that seems most important to me is the oddity of choosing this senator in the first place. There's nothing wrong with the Michigan Republican Party opening an office to help reach out to African-American voters -- Detroit's population is 83% black -- but why in the world invite Rand Paul?
As we talked about over the summer, Paul's on record opposing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. the Voting Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act. Paul found a neo-Confederate who celebrates the birthday of Abraham Lincoln's assassin, then wrote a book with the guy, and then hired him to work on his Senate staff. Paul doesn't believe Republican voter-suppression efforts have anything to do with race -- all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.
Paul gave a speech at Howard University, one of the nation's preeminent historically black colleges, where he was "condescending and intellectually dishonest."
The Michigan Republican Party couldn't think of anyone with more credibility on racial diversity and civil rights?