By: Stephen Carter
The go-to guide on understanding Ron Paul and a Paul presidency.
For a summary of most topics in this piece via video format, please scroll to the bottom.
Ron Paul is a very unique politician that sharply stands out from others. Having served 24 years in the U.S. House of Representatives he has a record of being an outsider in congress; having never voted for a budget that would increase U.S. debt, choosing to opt out of the congressional pension plan, returning unspent money from his congressional office each year, and sponsoring bills where other politicians dare not tread, he is a rare breed that stands on principle. When he talks to people he doesn’t flop around in order to get votes, he means what he says and doesn’t try to mislead people. His goal is a constitutionally restricted federal government that promotes liberty for all and he has demonstrated his seriousness of this issue time and time again.
With all of that being said, there’s still quite the misunderstanding of who Ron Paul is and why he thinks the way he does. Many still know very little about the man, which is common in our drive-by, sound bite driven media. It is my hope to present to you here a full summary of who Ron Paul is, what his political stances are and where they are derived from, as well as tackle many of the questions surrounding Paul and what his presidency might look like.
For a little background on who Ron Paul is, this comes directly from his website.
The Role of Federal Government
Ron Paul is primarily concerned with limiting the Federal government to its proper roles as outlined by the constitution. In many cases he doesn’t necessarily want to not have government do many things he doesn’t want the federal government involved in, but to merely keep things in their proper role and allow local communities and states to address their issues. The way our political system is designed most things are taken care of on a state and local level and this is good because it creates an atmosphere of experimentation so that we can find out which approaches are good and which are bad more easily. This also allows for people in a given area to tailor a system that is best for their unique needs. Imposing a one size fits all federal model does not work and can even cause a lot of unintended damage. Imagine the outrage of people in California if open carry Arizona-style gun laws where just about anyone can carry just about any type of loaded gun at just about any time were implemented by a one size fits all federal policy. Or Chicago’s gun laws were implemented in Texas through a federal policy. Needless to say, it wouldn’t go over well at all.
The main point that needs to be emphasized from the last paragraph is that Ron Paul’s positions on federal policy are strictly derived from keeping the federal government consistent with what the constitution provides for as its roles. This is a reoccurring theme throughout all of his stances and must be kept in mind when considering where he is coming from.
Newsletters and Racism
Let’s start with what seems to be at the forefront of everyone’s minds and seems to be the worst people can come up with against Paul, that some newsletters written under his name feature what appears to be racist content. Most people have not read these newsletters and have only gotten pieces and parts which may or may not have been taken out of context, so without reading them in their entirety there is no way to see the context. He has stated that he did not write them and does not endorse them and it is very plausible that someone in his position does not read every single piece written under his organization. However this is all largely irrelevant. Let’s get to the real question at hand here.
Is he racist? I don’t know, possibly, however if he is he hasn’t let it affect his legislating. In fact, considering the generation he’s from, the great majority of them harbor racist tendencies so to find someone of his generation that is not racist would be quite challenging. I’m not trying to say being a racist is ok, but let’s put all of this in perspective.
There are reasons to suspect that the man is not racist, this video of him helping a young black couple in their time of great need is evidence of him not being a racist, however a much stronger case for him not being a racist is made by his position to end the drug war, a war that which harms minorities the most, particularly young black men. Studies have shown that drug usage among blacks is lower than whites even though blacks make up the majority of drug offenders in prison. To end the drug war would be a boon for minorities who take the brunt of its consequences whether it be through going to jail or having to endure in neighborhoods ravaged by gangs who profit from the drug war.
We’ll likely never know for sure, though I suspect the evidence is compelling enough to say no, he is not racist, and even a leader of the NAACP has said he is not racist. Considering the newsletters are the best people can come up with considering the baggage of the majority of other politicians, Paul is in a better position than most.
The War on Drugs
Speaking of his opposition to the drug war, let’s cover that controversial subject. The international war on drugs has been a complete failure as many studies have shown. However we don’t need studies to tell us it has been a failure as this is easy enough to see on its own. Drug cartels have essentially taken over Mexico and are a powerful force all over South America prompting leaders to call for legalization. In their wake we have seen record amounts of violence and bloodshed with one person being killed every 30 minutes on average. Drug prohibition has served to inflate drug prices which has padded the pockets of cartels and terrorists to the tune of $39 billion and has increased the dangerousness of drugs while proving that demand cannot be curbed by prohibition, as we already learned once before from the time of alcohol prohibition. Prohibition has given rise to not only cartels and terrorists in other countries, but organized crime in our own country as well, creating turf wars where we see gangs that are better equipped than the police could ever hope to be, gunning down innocent by-standers. We have seen over-zealous police kick in doors to the wrong homes in search of drugs, killing innocent people and their pets, and essentially terrorizing people who did absolutely nothing to warrant it. All of this however is not something Ron Paul can really fix.
Only congress has the power to repeal drug laws and even then there will still be state laws against drugs. The constitution does not give the federal government the power to regulate drugs and if you’ll recall, prohibition of alcohol required a constitutional amendment, yet this prohibition did not seek out an amendment. This is part of the reason why Ron Paul advocates for this issue to be dealt with at the state level. Just about all of the positions Paul takes is in keeping consistent with limiting the Federal government to its proper roles as prescribed by the constitution. Paul has stated that upon entering office he would direct the DEA to stop going after states that have decided to enact marijuana laws and pardon all non-violent drug offenders. Beyond using his position to advocate for legalization, there is little more he can do in this area.
Ron Paul has been nicknamed Dr. No during his time in congress due to the sheer amount of his “nay” votes on congressional legislation, often times standing alone or in very small company. To name just a few pieces of legislation he has opposed, they include the Patriot Act, the legislation that recently failed to regulate the internet SOPA, the legislation recently signed by President Obama allowing for the indefinite detention of people NDAA, the authorization of war with Iraq, and many others that were not consistent with the constitution. There were even several ceremonial pieces of legislation that he personally agreed with but found to not be something the Federal government should be involved in, so he voted no on those as well. The thing to keep in mind here is that his no votes stem from a constitutional standpoint in keeping consistent in federal constitutional roles.
Some say that they like Ron Paul but cannot vote for him because of his foreign policy, believing that he would be an isolationist and let our enemies roll right over us. This stems from a misunderstanding of what isolationism is, which is the severing of all relationships with other countries in the world, no economic trade, no alliances, and little to no communication. This is also due to a lack of understanding of his foreign policy ideas, which actually originate from the non-interventionist views of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson; that is we should have peaceful relations and economic trade with any country that will have them and not involve ourselves with the internal affairs of others, as we would not like it if other countries involved themselves with our internal affairs. This means spreading our values through leading by example and not through brute force, a tactic that has only served to make more enemies.
He would withdraw most troops from around the world, especially in Europe where we have been subsidizing their defense costs since WWII. We have over 700 military bases around the world which is costing us a fortune to maintain and has promoted the armament of other countries as a response to our ever growing military presence. He will maintain a strong standing army that has the readiness and capability of responding to any threats and has stated that he will only go to war if congress votes to do so; and will then prosecute the war quickly and efficiently. If war with Iran or any other nation becomes necessary and congress authorizes the war, Paul will make quick work of them.
In order to have a strong military and a strong economy, cuts must be made to military waste and Paul intends to cut this waste while making the lives of our soldiers better by providing more care and stability. He would know better what military personnel needs than other candidates, having been the only one out of all of them to have served in the military. The Department of Defense would see $832 billion disappear from its budget during his first term, most of which would stem from the end of all foreign wars and foreign aid, aid which tends to end up in the hands of corrupt politicians in the countries receiving the aid and ultimately does not help those most needful of it.
As far as Israel is concerned, he wants to get out of their business and let them manage their own affairs, and Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu agrees with him. Currently those surrounding Israel get more foreign aid from the U.S. than Israel gets, so cutting all foreign aid would be a net benefit for Israel.
Spending Budgets and Economy
One of his biggest issues is balancing the budget and he has vowed to veto any unbalanced budgets that congress sends him. In his Plan to Restore America he seeks one trillion dollars in budget reduction the first year and plans to completely balance the budget after three years. This may not be realistic though since only congress can make the budgets. It is unlikely that we will see the proposed cuts made by Paul, however his vetoing power will force congress to work together to either pass a budget that won’t be vetoed or overcome the 2/3’s majority needed to bypass the veto. Either way we will see significant, meaningful reductions in government waste. In keeping with his promises of budget reductions he has stated that he will also cut the salary of president to $39,336 which is the median income of the American worker. Further information can be found here.
Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid
For those concerned about their benefits from Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid, he recognizes these contracts made with U.S. taxpayers and has stated that he will not touch these programs that people have become heavily dependent upon, though at some point down the road he will seek to reform them so that they can become sustainable without reducing the benefits of those that have paid into them.
Cutting Federal Agencies
Paul has stated that he will abolish five federal agencies: Energy, Education, Housing and Urban Development, Commerce, and Interior would cease to exist. Their elimination would reduce the budget by about $179 billion. All of these agencies will be cut because they are not authorized by the constitution and because state control of these matters would be more preferable, as stated earlier in this piece local communities have different needs and require custom made plans for their own unique situations. All employees cut from these agencies would be transferred to other sectors of the government.
*note: We have since learned that we incorrectly stated Paul’s stance on the EPA. For those wondering about incident like the BP oil spill and what the elimination of the EPA in this situation would result in, you can have a look at this piece.
The Federal Reserve and Monetary Policy
Another centerpiece of Paul’s policy is to audit, reform, and ultimately abolish the Federal Reserve and return the U.S. to the gold standard. Auditing the Federal Reserve is a must in order to gain transparency into this secretive banking system. A limited audit last year revealed that the Fed had made trillions of dollars in secret loans interest free all over the world in order to prop up businesses that had made bad decisions and screwed their customers over. Reform is direly needed as the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy since it was established in 1913 has fueled enormous bubbles that have led to many boom/bust recessions, the most recent due to loose credit policies through the expansion of the money supply. This subject of the Federal Reserve is too vast to discuss here, for further reading on the subject you can go here. As for the abolishment of the Federal Reserve and return to the gold standard, this will take a long time and will likely not happen during a Paul presidency both because of the necessary time it would take to do so and because this power ultimately lies with congress. The only immediate effects of a Paul presidency here would be more transparency in the banking system and the appointment of a Federal Reserve chairman that will work to straighten out monetary policy and punish bad lending practices.
The Civil Rights Act
There has been controversy surrounding Paul’s remarks on the Civil Rights Act in saying that he believes it is too far reaching. While he believes that government should never discriminate against anyone his beliefs on this subject are derived from a very deep understanding of what property rights are and how far reaching they are. There’s a split between people on this issue, some people believe that property owners have the right to exercise their freedom of association and choose not to provide service from their business to anyone they choose for any reason they choose. Others believe that property owners have the right to set the rules for those on their property, but do not have the right to discriminate against groups. Paul has said however that he has no desire to get rid of the Civil Rights Act and agrees with the spirit of it. To get a deeper understanding of this issue, this article will help clarify his stance.
Abortion has been a largely debated issue in this country for a while now and as an OB/GYN Ron Paul has ample experience in this subject. He believes that life begins at conception and will at some point later in his presidency seek a constitutional amendment to define it as such. Until then he would like to see this become solely a state issue as currently he believes there is no constitutional basis for the Federal government to be involved in this matter. All of this is very unlikely to happen though. Every president has limited political capital and his priorities will take up all of his time before he gets to this issue.
Putting this into perspective, if this issue were ever to be addressed it would have been during the Bush administration while Republicans controlled both houses of congress. If it didn’t happen during that time, it surely will not happen during a Paul presidency so the issue at this point is largely irrelevant in the grand scheme of things since there is really nothing he can do about it.
Paul has been dinged over his positions on gay rights. While he did support the end of DADT so that gay soldiers could serve openly in the military, he also supported, though did not vote for, the Defense of Marriage Act. This legislation defined marriage as between a man and a woman at the federal level and gave protection to states by not requiring them to recognize same sex marriages from other states. Paul has stated that his support of this legislation stems from wanting to prevent federal courts from imposing same sex marriage on states that have not voted to recognize them.
The issue is that if the Federal government is going to recognize a marriage status for whatever reason, mainly taxation, then it needs to either recognize both types of marriage or not recognize either one of them. Paul takes the position that government should not be in the business of recognizing marriage.
Under the U.S. system of government marriage is not a federal issue, but a state issue. Without a constitutional amendment either making it a federal issue, or leaving the matter solely to the people and not the states, we will continue to have a system that allows for each state to choose whether or not they want to recognize same sex marriage or any marriage at all. It could also be argued that under the 14th amendment providing for equal treatment before the law that states must either recognize both forms of marriage or none at all.
It would seem that Ron Paul is a hypocrite on this matter though. While it is understandable of what he was trying to do in limiting federal power on this issue he went about it the wrong way and has ended up signaling support for a law that does not treat everyone equally.
Unions and Worker’s Rights
There is this perception that Paul wants to eliminate unions and worker’s rights and get rid of the minimum wage. The first charge is untrue as Ron Paul wholeheartedly supports the voluntary association of workers to collectively bargain with their employer, and while he believes that the minimum wage is a bad idea and not a matter the Federal government has constitutional authority over, there’s absolutely nothing he can do as president about that since only congress has the ability to decide this matter.
Deregulation and Corruption
Another perception of Paul is that with his presidency he would bring about corruption and massive fraud. As many understand it, Paul would completely deregulate all businesses, which is not the case. He would seek to get rid of many regulations, those that were written by lobbyists and only serve to empower the wealthy by providing them protection from prosecution while preventing smaller businesses from competing. Paul would seek regulations that prevent fraud, theft, and damage to others in order to ensure that compliance costs are low and accountability is high.
If the elite have their own people in the form of lobbyists writing the laws and regulations, who do you think is benefiting from them?
A point to consider: If claims that his presidency would promote corruption and fraud were true, why aren’t the corporations following in lockstep behind him, promoting him every step of the way? Why is the media ignoring him so much? He presents a genuine challenge to the status quo and those in positions of power right now are very afraid of what a Ron Paul presidency would mean for them. The gravy train of corruption and corporate handouts would come to a standstill, and that doesn’t sit well with them.
When choosing a candidate to support for president this year, we should try to base our choices on what the president will do on the issues that they do have the power to impact, rather than on issues the president has no control over.