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My thoughts on Ron Paul
A co-worker sent me an email extolling the virtues of Ron Paul. Here behind the cut is my reply. I'd appreciate comments.

[Redacted] wrote:
Family, friends, and fellow coworkers:
Before I begin, I would like to make the disclaimer that this is not a forwarded message; I wrote it myself, and thank you for taking the time to read it.

I had a very awakening afternoon in downtown Portland this New Years Day. I was bicycling to Powell's Books (like I do quite often) and collided with a group of over forty vibrant people holding signs sporting the name of Texas congressman and presidential candidate Dr. Ron Paul. I had always been on the fringe of supporters of Ron Paul's presidential campaign, but was convinced that his chances of gaining real support from the American public were slim. My research as of late has slowly quelled that conviction.

Dr. Paul is the only one of the candidates for either party who vows to end the war in Iraq swiftly. He is also the only candidate who is decidedly against interventionist policies. Many pundits have called him an "isolationist," but that accusation is strikingly inaccurate; Paul has said in many interviews that as President, he would seek to maintain trade with other nations, but, being a strict constitutionalist, would not interfere with other governments' policies. I, and others, call Paul's policies "anti-interventionist" rather than "isolationist" for this reason.

He is isolationist in that he wishes to restrict immigration, close off US involvement in international free trade, and pull out of international organizations and treaties. On his web site, he uses the word "foreign" as if it were a swearword.

Furthermore, Dr. Paul is an advocate for lowering taxes, and eliminating the federal income tax altogether. Skeptics may believe that this is impossible; after all, how will we render public services such as roads and education without the funding which the federal income tax provides? The truth is, your federal income tax dollars are directly funneled into paying back our national debt, and have little to do with public services. Services are rendered through excise tax on goods such as gasoline, tobacco, and alcohol.

Er, this is wrong. The estimated tax receipts for FY2008 are $2.66trillion. 46% of that is individual income taxes, 35% comes from FICA taxes (social security and medicare), 12% comes from corporate income taxes, and only 6% comes from all other sources, including excise taxes. The cost of servicing our national debt is $261 billion, or just about 10% of our tax receipts. "Discretionary Spending" (which includes just about every Federal service except social security, medicare, and the like) amount to $1.114 trillion. If you take out DoD and WOT spending, that still leaves $487 billion, or 18% of our tax receipts, thrice what we get from non-income taxes.

I suppose one could misleadingly say that since we have a national debt of $9 trillion and all of it is in the form of bonds, notes, bills, and other debt instruments that need to be paid periodically that our tax revenues go to paying off this debt, but that's playing cheap word games. The truth of the matter is that the month-to-month obligations of the Treasury typically exceed what's in the treasury at any time, so it is constantly borrowing money to pay bills. Expiring debt is just another bill in the pile that the Treasury borrows money to pay. Tax revenues, when they come in, just change the amount that needs to be borrowed at any time. We haven't "payed back" any of our National Debt since Clinton was in office. We've just been borrowing from Peter to pay Paul.
Property taxes also contribute to funding state and local educational programs.If Paul enacts an anti-interventionist policy as I outlined above, he would effectively begin dismantling the military industrial complex which has plagued this country since the second World War. We have maintained consistent troop levels in Korea and Vietnam since our interventionist wars in these countries.

Huh? We have no troops in Vietnam. I guess 0 is pretty consistent.
We have kept troops in Israel since we (illegally and unethically) formed the country half a century ago. These measures do nothing but put a band-aid on a wound which will never clot, let alone heal.

We don't have troops in Israel. Israel was formed out of British-controlled Palestine with the backing of the United Nations. Israel has fought many wars with its neighbors without direct US involvement (monetary aid and armaments do not count as direct US involvement). If Israel was illegally and unethically formed, it wasn't by the US.
Paul has a unique stance on civil liberties which could appeal to those on both sides of the gay marriage, affirmative action, abortion, and immigration arguments. Dr. Paul does not believe in using bureaucratic measures to protect the rights of special interest groups, no matter what their cause may be. That is, Paul believes in the natural right of the individual to his or her life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That means no affirmative action, no amnesty for illegal immigrants, no ban of gay marriage, and no law banning, nor preventing states from banning, abortions. However, all of these things can be further debated at the state level and as such, the confederate nature of our country which our Constitution will be rekindled under Paul's administration.

In other words, Paul supports overruling Roe v. Wade, Brown v. Board of Ed, the 1964 Voting Rights Act, etc.
The years of the rule of the Bush administration has managed to divide America in proportions not seen since the Civil War. We see only good and evil, red and blue, white and black, Christian and Muslim, Coke and Pepsi, Hillary and Obama. The sad part is that what most of us do not see is that this polarization is what will propel us toward fascism, as our government's checks and balances are slowly dismantled. I believe Ron Paul is a candidate whose platform can be appreciated by all segments of the political spectrum. On a more personal level, he is the only candidate in my voting years which I did not feel uncomfortable calling my leader.

And I see Ron Paul as wanting to dismantle some of the checks that are in place. Without Federal laws enforcing the 14th amendment's guarantee of equal protection, equal rights, and due process, the States can, and historically have, demonstrated that they will tread upon the rights of citizens they feel unworthy.
Unfortunately, the mainstream media has failed to illustrate the grassroots support that Ron Paul is receiving across the country. Fox News may not even allow him into the televised Republican debates. Dr. Paul cannot be bought by corporate interests, and this scares the lobbyists who work for the likes of News Corporation. This is where you come in. It doesn't take much to show your support; a sign in your window or front lawn suffices. The main idea is to show others that there is a fighting chance we can win our country's principles back. Remember: vote for the principles, not for the party.

Principles, huh? Here's my feelings on Ron Paul's platform (as outlined on his web-site:

Debt and Taxes: He's for lower taxes, but his Issues page on Debt and Taxes doesn't say how he'd accomplish it. As for spending.... I know enough economics to shudder at what he says. "The Federal Reserve, our central bank, fosters runaway debt by increasing the money supply -- making each dollar in your pocket worth less." That's confusing debt with inflation and neglects to mention that the Fed can, and does, reduce the money supply as well. "The Fed is a private bank run by unelected officials who are not required to be open or accountable to 'we the people'". The governors of the Fed are appointed by the President with the consent of Congress, just like any other Presidential appointee. They are often called to speak about the monetary policy of the Fed before Congress. Calling the Fed a "private bank" may technically be true, but is misleading as hell. Besides, the Fed (and the foreign central banks he mentions) don't control the Federal Budget or the debt, that's the job of Congress.

Border Security and Immigration Reform: He wants to wall off our country and overemphasized the impact of undocumented immigrants. My view of "immigration reform" is to make immigration easier, so fewer people will feel the need to enter illegally. His view of "immigration reform" is to kick people out, put up fences, and not let people in. Oh, yeah... "End birthright citizenship"... has he even read the 14th Amendment?

American Independence and Sovereignty: Here's a touchy subject. As a Constitutionalist, he should know that treaties are signed by the President and ratified by 2/3 of the Senate and are part of the supreme law of the land. Yet he constantly presents treaties, agreements, and other international bodies that the US is involved in as if they were imposed from outside, without US consent. Repeatedly he uses the terms "unelected" and "foreign" pejoratively. He discusses the "NAFTA Superhighway" which has no real plan or intent, and posits that the end goal is to join the US, Canada, and Mexico into one giant North American Union, again a plan with no support in the US government. He claims the UN wants a direct tax on us without citation (A search reveals that he is talking about a "Tobin tax" idea occasionally put forth which would put a tax on currency speculation and not directly on people). Frankly, this is the subject which Paul is supposedly really strong in, but reading his platform and looking into it makes him look a conspiracy theorist and kook.

Privacy and Personal Liberty -- again, another place where Paul is supposedly strong, yet his platform is inconsistant with reality. He's against the Real ID, good for him. Yet he states "All states are preparing to issue new driver's licensed embedded with "standard identifier" data. Not Maine, nor a few other states. Many states are balking at implementing Real ID, and the likely end result is that Real ID will be a non-issue due to non-implementation. It's hyperbole to state that Real ID means "we're heading into an Orwellian world of no privacy." Congress did not mandate the use of the SSN in the private sector, and his one example of "because the government requires it." is due to tax reporting regulations. For that matter, it should be noted that the SSA, which issues the SSN specifically does NOT want it used as a general identifier. Most of his platform here is hyperbole, misleading, and paranoia. He's against the Patriot Act, but who isn't?

War and Foreign Policy: This is one place where I agree mostly, but could do without the hyperbole. And what is it with the anti-UN and using "unelected" as a pejorative. For the record, I like my Federal Judges unelected, thank you.

Property Rights and Eminent Domain: The "Nafta Superhighway" strawman raises its head again, as well as a "Without the right to own a printing press, freedom of the press becomes meaningless" strawman. Nobody is suggesting either. This plank doesn't win me over either.

Life and Liberty: One issue here: Abortion. Dr. Ron Paul is explicitly anti-choice. He explicitly supports the repeal of Roe v. Wade, calling it a "federal court tyranny which threatens our constitutional republic". My libertarian leanings do not allow me to support Government involvement to force a person to involuntarily provide life support to another, so regardless of my feeling on the status of the "personhood" of the unborn, I don't think the Government should interfere with the choice of a pregnant woman to terminate such life support.

Social Security: This is pandering at its basest. He refuses to do anything to lower the future payments made by Social Security, yet he also wants to lower taxes and cut spending. What hypocrisy. Besides, I've looked into how the Social Security funds work and his proposals work towards misconceptions about a lot of the issues -- "money payed into the fund is used only for SS" -- that's effectively how it works now, except that money payed into the fund is (by law) used to to buy special interest-bearing government bonds which can (and are) redeemed as necessary to pay SS benefits and "haven't voted to spend a dime of SS trust fund money on anything other than SS benefits". The Social Security System was always pay-as-you-go (or, more accurately, I'll pay as Grandma goes), and the trust fund surplus was built up in the '80s to deal with the baby boomers by over-taxation. When it becomes insolvent, benefits will be paid out of general tax revenues -- assuming there is funds to do so, after taxes have been lowered.

Second Amendment: His position is hyperbolistic, but for the most part I agree with it. Except, of course, the anti-UN paranoia rhetoric.

Health Care: I don't agree with his solution or analysis of the program, but this is a difference of methods, not difference of goals. Some of his rhetoric is scare-tactics, but less so than in other parts of his plank. I do find it odd that a small-government, States-rights candidate would want to federalize the licensure of pharmacists and nurses, which is what would be required to "reform licensure requirements so that pharmacists and nurses can perform some basic functions to increase access to care and lower costs". Some states are doing quite well along those lines right now anyway. I support a single-payer, government financed system. He opposes it.

Health Freedom: I don't agree with his platform. I have a friend who has been permanently crippled by a tainted, unregulated "safe dietary supplement". Purveyors of supplements, natural remedies, alternative medicines, etc, often discourage or displace standard traditional so-called "allopathic medicine". The key regulation for medicines in the US is that they be tested and proven safe and effective. While the FDA sometimes fails at ensuring that the pharmaceuticals really are safe and effective, the dietary supplement industry continues to push to make health claims as if they were medicines yet don't want to be tested for safety and efficacy. When folks make claims and then fight vehemently against backing them up, I get skeptical and would like my regulators to be skeptical as well.

Education: Hmm, interesting newspeak here. Paul talks of "subsidies that inflate costs" which without explanation is oxymoronic. The Federal Government, before the NCLB act, had little say in school curricula, and for the most part schools are managed, maintained, staffed, and run at the state and local level. He wants to eliminate the department as overly intrusive when its job isn't to be intrusive and dictatorial but rather to be enabling. Perhaps I'm brainwashed by having my college education financed via the Dept of Ed and reading their website, mission, and overview, but I think he's way off base here. He plans tax credits for families and teachers to help pay for elementary education in ways which are much more costly than the existing DoE budget ($61B for the DoE now versus $5K tax credits for 61M kids for a total of $305B) -- but open to all kids, whether in public, parochial, private, or home schools. Not very consistent for a candidate running on a low-tax, low-spend, no-federal-education platform. But he wants to fund homeschoolers, which leads us to the next plank:

Homeschooling: He wants to encourage homeschooling, enforce Federal requirements that homeschool education is treated as equally valid as non-home schooled education, yet at the same time adamantly refuses to support any sort of standards that would ensure that home schooled students actually learn anything.

For the most part, I see his attitudes towards education and homeschooling to be with an agenda. Charitably, it's a desire to dismantle the public school systems. More sinisterly, it could be a way to pander to those who want to keep their kids out of school for religious reasons (e.g., because schools insist on teaching that the Earth is older than 6000 years and that man descended from other species through a combination of random mutations and natural selection). Since Ron Paul admits to not believing in the theory of evolution, I'm inclined to believe that there is a back-door element here.

Environment: Ron Paul's solution to pollution and environmental damage is for those who are injured by pollution to sue the polluters. Federal regulation not necessary and counterproductive. In effect, the solution to the tragedy of the commons is to eliminate the commons. This is actually a fairly straightforward libertarian view. However, Ron Paul does not address global warming, does not explain who I should sue because my neighbor's SUV is spewing NOx into the breeze which is wafting into my yard, etc. It sounds good to folks who want to prevent the government from interfering with their livelihoods, but not to me.

No Taxes on Tips: It's amazing that this is a plank on his platform. As is typical of Ron Paul, it's a mischaracterization of the issue. Yes, waitstaff and others are taxed on their tips, which the tax code considers to be taxable income. Yes, the IRS requires an estimate of tips to be made and taxes them based on that estimate. However that estimate is 8% of sales, which is much lower than the standard recommended tip of 15%, so a waiter who fails to make the estimated tips is a poor waiter indeed. He find taxing tips to be reprehensible because many waitstaff rely on tips to provide a "substantial portion of their income" to raise their families, etc. I'd like a substantial portion of my income (a salary) to be exempt from taxation too. Why is this even on his platform?

Racism: Ron Paul says "It is the federal government that most divides us by race, class, religion, and gender.", which I'm sure will come to a surprise to anyone growing up black in the south during the 60's. His solution to racial issues: get rid of government interference. I don't know what he's smoking, but I don't want any.

What a horrid platform. Is this really what you want to support? Is this really what you call a leader?

Most of you are from New York or Oregon, which are held on February 5 and May 20, respectively. For those of you in New York, that leaves very little time to change your party affiliation, so act quickly!

For those of us in NY, this leaves no time to change your affiliation, since by law a change of affiliation doesn't happen until after the next general election. If you filled out a change-of-party form now, it wouldn't take effect until after the November election.
If you've read this far, I would like to thank you. I spent some time writing this because it is an issue dear to my heart.

And remember: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Remember, Ron Paul wrote:

The notion of a rigid separation between church and state has no basis in either the text of the Constitution or the writings of our Founding Fathers. On the contrary, our Founders’ political views were strongly informed by their religious beliefs. Certainly the drafters of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, both replete with references to God, would be aghast at the federal government’s hostility to religion. The establishment clause of the First Amendment was simply intended to forbid the creation of an official state church like the Church of England, not to drive religion out of public life.
Which is curious, because I'd expect a strict Constitutionalist like himself to know that the Constitution mentions religious just twice (the no religious test clause and the 1st amendment) and the Declaration of Independence mentions God once (in the phrase "the Laws of Nature and Nature's God") and to our Creator once. Oh, and I would expect him to know that Thomas Jefferson (the author of the Declaration of Independence) coined the phrase "the wall of separation of church and state." I guess Jefferson doesn't count as a Founding Father.
Sincerely, [redacted]

I wonder if I should similarly go through the issues pages of the other candidates websites. Any suggestions?

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yes you should... start out with huckabee first

You're just not having a good time yet this election season, are you?

are any of us? Besides the prospect of the current idiot "in charge" will leave, which is good, there doesn't seem to be an obvious, good choice...

That was great. Thoughtful, well written, well informed. I'd hate to have to debate you. Yes, I love to hear your views on the rest of the candidates.

It's handy when one has the Web available for instant research. Did you follow the links to look at his actual platform, or just took my word for it?

I've done a little reading on Ron Paul but basically I just took your word for it. I know you to be a thorough and honest researcher. I haven't spent much time looking at Ron Paul because a very cursory look was enough to show me I couldn't support him. I'm not particularly for less government. I'm not a libertarian. I think the government should provide industry regulation, for example. Industry cares only for profit and fairly short term profit at that. OxyContin is a prime example. Purdue Pharma had to know about its potential for abuse. An in-bred cracker unsophisticated rural person with a 4th education could figure out all you had to do is crush a tablet to turn it into hillbilly heroin. The notion the developer didn't know that is ludicrous. They decided they could make a great deal of money before they got caught, any fine would be relatively small and just a cost of doing business. This was, in fact, exactly the case. See here for details.

At this point I'm supporting Edwards. I don't completely agree with everything in his platform but that's going to be the case with any candidate. Dennis Kucinich probably comes the closest but he's never been a viable candidate. I just hope his ideas begin to have influence in the party in the future. Obama is my second choice. I believe Dodd, Biden and Richardson are all better qualified than the front runners. I wish they had gotten more traction. I hope whoever wins makes good use of these very knowledgeable people.

As far as the Republicans go, they're all bad. However, a very weak Republican president coupled with an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress has some upsides. First, whoever becomes President will inherit a hell of a mess. It wouldn't be a bad thing for the Republican party to wear the mess they made. A veto proof Democratic Congress could and probably would go a long way toward restoring the balance of power. Presidents don't usually give up power willingly. It would have to be taken back. I'm not sure how vigorously they would do this if the President was Democratic.

Who do you like?

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