The Three Problems with Ron Paul
Ron Paul does not have the smile of Obama, the folksy likability of Romney or the carving wit of Gingrich. In fact, Ron Paul looks (and sounds) nothing like a Washington elitist. In our visual society we too often pick our politicians based on hair line and pearly whites and too seldom on the content of their character or value of their platform.
No one who sees Ron Paul on the street will note his stateliness, but he is noteworthy because he has always followed his conservative principals, and in the Land of Oz that certainly is rare.
From a platform of reducing government spending (he promises to cut $1T from Federal spending in the first year) and ending the wars, Ron Paul seemingly labors through interviews and debates. But this platform would appeal to almost all Republicans, almost all independents and a handful of Democrats if presented with more polish.
In spite of this common sense approach, the party has not gathered behind Ron Paul. The reason for this lack of support (though his supporters are adamant) is more than his visual appeal. Paul's platform is so different that his opponents have attacked him relentlessly. They suggest that Ron Paul is too radical to be elected.
When people ask us who we like for our candidate, we are often met with confused looks of concern when we reply, "Ron Paul." They are concerned because someone they thought was well learned they now feel has obviously been brain washed and they proceed with one of three major points to discredit our choice.
The most often cited criticism of Ron Paul -- by pundits, voters and Republican presidential candidates alike -- is that his foreign policy is weak or worse. After his poor Iowa Caucus showing, Newt Gingrich lashed out at Paul and said that "His views on foreign policy are stunningly dangerous for the survival of the United States." Many voters (and many of them thoughtful) share the same fear: that if America were to reduce our military presence from the 150 countries that currently host American military forces than the world would be a much more dangerous place for Americans.
It is true that the World faces many political challenges but it is dangerous to assume that we have the power to control those variables. Instead, the hubris of our foreign policy has often led to such problems.
For several decades, American foreign policy has been proactive in nature - and there certainly have been successes including the Marshall plan that rebuilt Europe after WWII and the war in Korea that helped stem the dangerous tide of Communism. Still, there are many other examples where our efforts have been less beneficial and where our mission less vital or clear. Do we really need a military presence in over 150 countries?
It is likely that one of the largest existential threats that will face the developed world over the next several decades will be the growth of the Arab Spring. At its simplest, the Arab Spring is about people revolting against despotic rulers, at its worst the Arab spring is about extremists who hope to return to a medieval Islamic state. The danger comes in the fine print: for decades, American foreign policy in the Middle East (i.e. Egypt) was to support (militarily, financially and politically) authoritarian rulers like Egypt's Hosni Mubarak who ruled with an Iron fist but kept the peace. The rub is that the Egyptian people knew that the United States was providing support. Now -- through the Arab Spring -- Mubarak has been removed from power and any resulting ill will towards us has "made in America" stamped on it. (This interesting video offers a different perspective and is well worth a minute of your time).
An intelligent observer must at least ask whether all the effort of proactive foreign policy has been a net positive for America. It seems that Dr. Paul is the only candidate asking that question and that's a problem.
A second often cited criticism of Ron Paul is his disdain for the un-elected agency that has complete and unilateral control over money supply -- the Federal Reserve. Voters who understand the Federal Reserve (there are few who do) and support its role in monetary policy suggest that "The Fed" can smooth out the natural and sometimes severe peaks and valleys that an economy experiences as it grows. These supporters point out that economic downturns have been less severe since the Great Depression -- when Federal Reserve's powers were broadened by "The Banking Act of 1933" -- compared with the decades preceding.
Ron Paul's "End the Fed" policy forces us to ask: what about the last 15 years? -- those seem pretty severe! In fact, it is likely that the Federal Reserve actually helped cause the recent financial/housing crisis by keeping interest rates artificially low in the early 2000's. Further, it is likely that the Federal Reserve helped create the hyperinflation of the 70's and 80's through the same misuse of monetary policy. And what about the Great Depression? The rabbit hole goes as deep as you have time for.
Ron Paul asks why the government - through the Federal Reserve -- should have the power to control every rate in the economy: mortgage, money market, credit card, student loans. Why should savers be penalized with all-time low interest rates in 2012 and home buyers penalized with a super high mortgage rate of 20% in 1980?
Is it possible that we've been so indoctrinated over the last eight decades that we believe the only way to save ourselves is through government intervention? Only Ron Paul is asking this question, and that's a problem.
Finally, some talking heads and voters suggest that Ron Paul's investment/political newsletters of the 80s and 90s contain the rhetoric of a bigot. You may have heard this accusation but have you actually read the quotes?
The most damning quote we could find follows:
Order was only restored in LA when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks three days after the rioting began. The "poor" lined up at the post office to get their handouts (since there were no deliveries) -- and then complained about slow service. (Read for yourself)
This quote is not flattering to Dr. Paul but may not warrant the charge of racism. Instead, it's possible that Paul's adversaries are trying to discredit him the same way that some accuse President Obama having less than flattering ties. Dr. Paul claims that he didn't write the passages in question but he did write the following:
The political left argues that stringent federal laws are needed to combat racism, even as they advocate incredibly divisive collectivist policies. Racism is simply an ugly form of collectivism, the mindset that views humans strictly as members of groups rather than individuals. ...
The true antidote to racism is liberty... in a free society every citizen gains a sense of himself as an individual, rather than developing a group or victim mentality. This leads to a sense of individual responsibility and personal pride, making skin color irrelevant. Rather than looking to government to correct our sins, we should understand that racism will endure until we stop thinking in terms of groups and begin thinking in terms of individual liberty.
- Texas Strait Talk, 4/18/2007
When we are asked by others about the Republican candidates we reply that our country is not knee deep in trouble, we are chin deep. Our candidate cannot be a tepid small 'r' republican with a sorted legislative past - we need a candidate of substance. The Republican field is lost among a field of purple (the color of moderate: one part red, one part blue -- stirred vigorously); candidates who have been in politics so long that they have been on every side of an issue at some point. Ron Paul seems to be the only candidate willing to stand outside of the pack with steadfast conservative values and that's the real problem.