A Defense of Ron Paul and Political Boldness
A recent editorial by Adam Yoshida published on American Thinker struck us as quite strange in its criticisms of presidential candidate Ron Paul. Instead of going after the usual red meat (i.e., Paul's non-interventionist foreign policy or the racist remarks published in old newsletters that Paul claims he did not write and has since disavowed), the author goes after Paul for being a bad libertarian and basically for being too bold. Stranger still, the author gives the impression throughout the piece that he is himself a libertarian, or at least a strong sympathizer with the libertarian cause.
In his piece, Yoshida poses several questions to which we feel obliged to respond. First he asks, "By what means do you suppose that a President Paul would get his economic program -- a return to the gold standard, the abolition of the Federal Reserve, the overnight abolition of a large portion of the federal government -- enacted into law?"
First off, it needs to be stated that while Ron Paul supports returning to the gold standard and abolishing the Fed, these actions are not part of his very detailed economic plan, and so it makes no sense to lump them all together.
Regarding Yoshida's original question, we would like to propose a counter-question: how stupid do you think Paul's supporters are? From our humble vantage point, it seems that very few of us are deluded into thinking that enacting Paul's plan -- which is not exactly as Yoshida describes -- would be easy, or even possible. We are enthusiastic because it is bold and because it is clear about its specific intentions.
The problem with political campaigns in general is that candidates intentionally run on platitudes, all the while providing very few specifics. Then they get into office only to find that the majority of citizens do not support their proposals. While these frequent occurrences make for great political theater and much handwringing from the Beltway crowd, the simple explanation for them is that the voters didn't know what they were voting for, but now they know, and they don't like it. Just think about Obama's "Hope and Change" campaign and the political realities of his economic stimulus and ObamaCare, neither of which captured majority support. The new Republican Congress haven't done any better since getting elected, and now they find themselves even more unpopular than the president.
The same could not be said of a President Paul because he has clearly laid out his plan and made his intentions known. Electing Paul would represent a clear mandate from the electorate to reduce the size and scope of government. Any other candidate running, without a clear plan, could not claim a similar mandate, which would mean at least 4 more years of business as usual -- enter every other Republican presidential candidate.
On announcement of Paul's plan, Rush Limbaugh proclaimed:
Ron Paul is about to show the Republican presidential field what a serious fiscal reform plan looks like. He is going to propose $1 trillion in real spending cuts. He is going to propose immediately freezing spending by numerous government agencies back to 2006 levels...Beyond that the EPA would see a 30% cut. The FDA would see a 40% cut. Foreign aid would be zeroed out immediately. And he would take an ax to Pentagon funding for wars. Medicaid, food stamps, family support programs, children's nutrition programs would all be block-granted to the states and be removed from the mandatory spending column of the federal budget. Some functions of the eliminated departments, such as Pell grants, would be continued elsewhere in the federal bureaucracy. The federal workforce would be reduced by 10%[.]
What this indicates is something, folks, that we have got to face, if we are serious about this. Fooling around the margins isn't going to get it done. A 2% tax cut here, or a 3% tax variation over there is not going to fix what's wrong. Genuine, big spending cuts are the only thing that is going to bring us back[.]
We agree with Rush on this. America is in dire straits, and this is one reason why we enthusiastically support Ron Paul.
Next, Yoshida asks, "What do you suppose the near-term economic results of such a transition would be, and furthermore, is there any reason to expect that such a return to 19th century-style economic arrangements would not generate the sort of drastic ups and downs in the economic cycle that they did in that era?"
Here it seems that Yoshida is provoking the same kind of scare tactics repeatedly employed by the Chris Matthewses and Al Sharptons of the world. God forbid that anybody try something other than pandering to the public! Unfortunately, you are just living in Keynesian fantasyland if you think we can painlessly solve our problems.
Here is a question to Yoshida: have any economists ever postulated that central banking might actually be the cause of the business cycle? The answer is yes, and they happen to be the libertarian and conservative economic icons Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek.
Here is another question to the author: have you ever entertained the possibility that the Fed was created not for the benefit of the public, but for the benefit of the government and big banks?
One more question to Yoshida: what do you think about the legality and morality of an institution who has a monopoly on the currency supply and can print it when they want and give it to whomever they want? Take for example the wives of two Wall Street executives who received $220 million in bailout funds for a startup company called Waterfall TALF ("bailout" for a "startup"...huh?). According to Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone:
[W]ith an upfront investment of $15 million, they quickly received $220 million in cash from the Fed, most of which they used to purchase student loans and commercial mortgages. The loans were set up so that Christy and Susan would keep 100 percent of any gains on the deals, while the Fed and the Treasury (read: the taxpayer) would eat 90 percent of the losses.
Does this seem fair? Does it follow the libertarian and conservative principle of equality under the law? Or rather, is it crony capitalism at its worst? Furthermore, doesn't this bastardization of capitalism ultimately undermine true capitalism in the eyes of the public? See the Occupy Wall Street movement for your answer.
Finally, Yoshida asks, "How would Paulite policies, if implemented, be sustained in the face of popular discontent when adverse economic events did occur?"
Is this a serious question from a libertarian or conservative thinker, or rather from Karl Marx? How would any policies that decrease the size and scope of government and free the market be sustained in the face of popular discontent when adverse economic events occurred? Has Yoshida or the likes of Paul Krugman suddenly derived an economic policy that will assure that no more adverse economic events ever occur? Or has the author simply given up on the idea of free markets because during an economic downturn, some in the public will turn to the government for intervention?
Yoshida's objections to Ron Paul are made all the more confusing by his conclusion. In it he states, "We need men and women to speak out against, to stop, and then to reverse the advance of the nanny state at all levels. We need to reduce the regulatory and tax burdens that weigh down not only business, but also, indeed, the human spirit itself."
How exactly is this inconsistent with the very specific plan Paul offered? The only thing missing in Paul's plan that Yoshida mentions is tax cuts, and that is because Paul believes that we need to cut spending first. (Silly, right?) To be clear, Paul is the strongest defender of property rights (that includes the money you earn), and this is what he has to say about taxes:
Tax policy should not be based on the premise that government owns you and allows you to keep some arbitrary amount of your labor. Thus, the AMT should be repealed. The estate tax should be repealed. Capital gains taxes should be repealed. The income tax should be repealed. We don't need to overhaul or adjust tax policy, we need to scrap the whole thing and start over.
In regard to Yoshida and his arguments against Dr. Paul, we can only conclude that we don't know what to conclude. Our best guess is that Yoshida would, in theory, agree with most of Paul's positions with the exception of his position on the Federal Reserve -- however, he thinks that Paul is simply too bold and trying to do too much too fast. From our standpoint, the very fact that Paul's ideas seem so extreme only underscores the need for them! Yoshida would have his readers believe that you can move the country piecemeal toward libertarian and constitutional conservative ideals, essentially reversing the trend of the last one hundred years, by taking baby steps backward. Unfortunately, history shows that in regard to democracy, there is only creeping leftism/socialism until a country finally collapses. However, we would rather it not get to that point.