Friday, June 29, 2007

What a real President should sound like

An Interview with Presidential Candidate Congressman Ron Paul

Muckraker Report: You seem to have a stronger anti-war stance than even many of the Democratic candidates: unlike Hillary Clinton, for instance, you voted against the Iraq war. In terms of foreign policy, what would a Ron Paul presidency look like?

Congressman Ron Paul: Well, it certainly wouldn’t involve going to war with countries that pose no threat to us. The 2002 Iraq war resolution transferred the authority and responsibility for waging war from the legislature to the executive branch, which is a total breach of the principles of the U.S. Constitution. James Madison pointed this out in 1798, that because the executive is the branch of government most interested in war, the question of war must be vested in the legislature – “with studied care,” I believe his exact words were. You can’t have presidents waging war willy-nilly for reasons that are fundamentally at odds with the basic interests of the American people. I voted against that resolution because I believe strongly that we should avoid getting entangled in foreign alliances and instead seek peace and trade with all nations. This is a reflection of the wisdom of the Founders, who advocated a non-interventionist foreign policy, the most eloquent expression of which can be found in George Washington’s Farewell Address. So to answer your question, if I were president, I would do my best to follow in the footsteps of the Founders by abiding by the rules laid out in the U.S. Constitution, which means limiting the power of the executive to wage war.

Muckraker Report: Each year, the U.S. gives billions of dollars in foreign aid to Israel, which, many academics have argued, not only fuels anger and hostility towards the United States among Muslims in the Middle East, but places a heavy burden on the U.S. taxpayer. As president, would you do anything to address this imbalance in America’s foreign aid policy?

Congressman Ron Paul: I’m with the academics on this one. Anyone who is even remotely aware of the facts knows that American foreign policy in the Middle East has stirred up enormous anger among Muslims, our support for Israel included, and you’re correct to say that it’s the American taxpayer who’s shouldering much of the burden. Also, the sanctions in Iraq during Clinton’s presidency, which killed nearly as many Iraqis as have died under the Bush presidency, and the presence of our military bases in Saudi Arabia – together with the situation in Israel, these actions are used by extremists and jihadists as justification for killing Americans. Just look at bin Laden’s public statements throughout the nineties. Can you imagine what it would be like if parts of the United States were occupied by a foreign power, if China was building military bases the size of the Vatican in Kansas? People would be up in arms! This isn’t to say that we “invited” the attacks of 9/11, or any other terrorist attacks, but simply that our policy decisions have certain consequences that we might wish to avoid. The CIA has given a name for this – “blowback.” This was the subject of my recent disagreement with Rudy Giuliani in the debate, who has no idea what he’s talking about. On a global playing field, deeds can have a way of rebounding on the doer, which is why the older imperial powers tended to be very cautious in their dealings with strange peoples in foreign lands. The Clinton and Bush administrations have been absolutely incompetent in comparison. This doesn’t mean that I’m against the idea of spreading the concept of freedom, just not with the barrel of a gun. Like I said, my solution would be to follow the wisdom of the Founders, which means a non-interventionist foreign policy, getting rid of foreign aid to all nations, including Israel. We ought to lead by example, not by coercion or special interest: this was what the Founders had in mind.

Muckraker Report: Where do you stand on Guantanamo?

Congressman Ron Paul: Shut it down. The current rationale at Guantanamo is based on the false premise that detainees are not entitled to due process protections. I support court decisions recognizing fundamental human rights, such as habeas corpus. Again, this is an issue that flies in the face of our civic and legal traditions as outlined in the Constitution. As such, I see no purpose for continuing the facility.

Muckraker Report: In his book “Palestine: Peace not Apartheid,” former president Jimmy Carter has argued that AIPAC, the so-called “Israeli Lobby” in Washington, exerts an undue influence on America’s foreign policy decisions in the Middle East. Do you agree?

Congressman Ron Paul: The First Amendment grants all citizens the right to petition the U.S. government, and this applies to AIPAC as much as anyone else. However, I oppose certain lobbying groups having more of an undue influence than others, and since one of the main purposes of AIPAC is to lobby for generous taxpayer subsidies to Israel, that portion of their influence would end under my administration.

Muckraker Report: Would you advocate trading with Iran?

Congressman Ron Paul: I believe in free-markets, and I think the goal of the United States should be to have a friendly trading relationship with all nations. Look at how much we accomplished in Vietnam since we stopped fighting with them and started trading with them. I believe that it’s wrong for the government to encourage or discourage trade with anyone. So while I do not advocate trading with Iran in any special or exclusive sense, I would look at how best to remove government limitations on international trade. If this should result in increased trade with Iran, then so be it.

Muckraker Report: You’re a proponent of free-market capitalism: however, when I think of the word “capitalism,” I tend to picture big multinational corporations, like Halliburton and Blackwater, both of which have been granted private no-bid contracts by the federal government, certainly not “free” in the sense that you mean. When you say “free-market capitalism,” are you thinking more of the small-business owner?

Congressman Ron Paul: Yes, I’m a proponent of free-market capitalism, and yes, I think what you point out here about large corporations receiving no-bid contracts from the federal government is a total subversion of that process. It’s ironic that we often hear members of the political class in Washington praising the free-market system when clearly by their actions they have no understanding of what that system means. During my time in Congress, I’ve seen firsthand over the years how woefully ignorant politicians in Washington are of economics, and yet these are the same people wielding tremendous economic power, through taxes and regulations and other costs associated with government, borrowing and spending Americans’ hard-earned money without even the most basic understanding of the laws of economics or the principles of human action, which are incapable of being suspended as the laws of physics. Many members of Congress have absolutely no interest in Federal Reserve policy, for instance, even though this policy determines so much of our economic life, whether through inflation or interest rates. These issues aren’t nearly as complex as many Americans are falsely led to believe. The market isn’t some mysterious inhuman entity, but a process grounded in the interplay of human choice, that is, in the total interplay of those with a desire to buy and those with a desire to sell, and to the extent that the bureaucratic overreach of the federal government and the influence of special interest and lobbying groups has interfered with that process, this is something I would work very hard to fix. Another problem you allude to is the raised barrier of entry for start up businesses, which places a disproportionate burden on the small-business owner. Again, removing these burdens and regulations at the federal level would be a top priority of my administration.

Muckraker Report: What’s your stance on NAFTA?

Congressman Ron Paul: I opposed it; my stance has not changed. NAFTA isn’t free trade, its government-managed trade.

Muckraker Report: Your views on monetary policy have been influenced by Friedrich Hayek and what’s known as the “Austrian school of economic theory.” Could you say a bit about what this entails?

Congressman Ron Paul: The approach of the Austrian school is to recognize economics as grounded in human action, that is, in the creative choices made by various individuals cooperating together under the division of labor. The tendency is to view government interference in this process of creative choice as counterproductive, and there’s an emphasis on entrepreneurship as the driving force in economic development. This is a topic that’s much too vast to go into here, but there are several books I’ve found influential that I would recommend to people, if they’re interested: The Law by Frederic Bastiat, Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt, What has the Government done with our Money? by Murray Rothbard, and The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich Hayek, to name a few. Also the writings of Ludwig von Mises, particularly the work he did with Friedrich Hayek on what’s known as the “Austrian business cycle theory.”

Muckraker Report: You’ve said that, as president, you would work to abolish both the federal income tax and the IRS. Why?

Congressman Ron Paul: The federal income tax takes billions of dollars out of the private sector, with many Americans giving as much as a third of what they earn to the federal government, which inhibits job growth and penalizes productive behavior. Also, there are unnecessary privacy violations, and power gets consolidated at the federal level against the several states. Our country got along just fine without a federal income tax for its first 126 years, with the government raising revenues through tariffs, excise taxes, and property taxes. I strongly believe we can do without it, and that goes for the IRS too.

Muckraker Report: I’m an admirer of the political theorist Hannah Arendt, who taught that freedom is something that happens between people rather than to individuals in isolation: you strike me as having a similar understanding of freedom, one in which freedom is based more on the free association between people than on the egotism or self-interest of the individual. Am I correct in saying that?

Congressman Ron Paul: I can’t imagine the philosopher who coined the phrase “the banality of evil” would be too pleased by the current level of bureaucracy in Washington DC. That said I’m in complete agreement with what she says about free-association being fundamental to human liberty, since without it, there could be no assembly, no cooperation, and ultimately no trade. However, I also feel that property rights are especially important at the moment, given that eminent domain actions as a result of powerful corporate interests who want to create an economic federation between Canada, the US, and Mexico – what’s known as the “North American Union” – are driving American families from their homes and farms. My understanding of liberty is one that would try to strike a balance between free-association and rights-based considerations.

Muckraker Report: You differ from the official libertarian platform in being pro-life: does this come out of your professional experience working as a doctor?

Congressman Ron Paul: In my medical career, I’ve delivered more than 4,000 babies, so naturally my professional experience has influenced my views on abortion. It’s my strong belief that life begins at conception, and that children in the womb are entitled to inheritance rights. More broadly, libertarians, like most Americans, respectfully come to different views on the issue based on their different personal feelings about when human life begins.

Muckraker Report: In my hometown of Ithaca, New York, I have a lot of friends who I think would be attracted to your strong anti-war stance: however, your views on certain social issues, such as abortion, would prove troubling to some people. A woman’s right to choose is as much a moral issue to these people as the preservation of unborn life is to you. As president, would you be willing to cooperate with these people, in a way that respects their beliefs?

Congressman Ron Paul: Naturally I’m aware of the extraordinarily sensitive nature of this subject, and that people hold different views on abortion. I think we ought to return the issue to the states so that local opinions could better determine the specific regulations concerning this deeply personal issue.

Muckraker Report: Another social issue of concern to many people in Ithaca is gay rights. You’ve said you’re against a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, but you’re also against changing federal law to allow for same-sex marriages. Can you explain your stance on this?

Congressman Ron Paul: Just like with abortion, I believe that marriage is an issue best decided by the states, not the federal government. I’m opposed to a federal ban on gay marriage, but it also goes both ways: I’m against the courts at the federal level pressuring the states into accepting same-sex marriage licenses. What we’re talking about in both cases is the redefinition of an ancient social institution by the federal government that’s best left to the people to decide at the local level. I have introduced legislation called the We the People Act to remove deeply personal social issues like marriage and abortion from the jurisdiction of the federal courts so the states and local governments can make the decisions, as the Constitution intends.

Muckraker Report: So if the city council of San Francisco, if the town assembly of Burlington, if the state of New Hampshire decided to legalize civil unions between gay couples, you would be okay with that?

Congressman Ron Paul: Yes, if those decisions were made by legislatures, and not by courts.

Muckraker Report: It seems to me that you make a distinction between the social and political realms: another way of saying this is that you don’t believe the federal government should legislate morality. How does this apply on an issue say, like, stem-cell research?

Congressman Ron Paul: Again, like my views on most social issues, I think the stem-cell issue should be determined by the market. In Washington, lawmakers either want to prohibit something, or subsidize something. How about doing neither, and letting people make the decisions! The whole stem-cell debate involves profound questions of a moral, ethical, and religious nature, questions that I don’t think politicians in Washington are in a very good position to decide. Asking taxpayers to fund research that they could very well be opposed to ethically seems to me to be patently unfair, for instance. I say let the private sector work it out.

Muckraker Report: My next few questions concern race relations. In a 1992 newsletter, arguing that government should lower the age at which juvenile criminals can be prosecuted as adults, you wrote, “We don't think a child of 13 should be held responsible as a man of 23. That's true for most people, but black males age 13 who have been raised on the streets and who have joined criminal gangs are as big, strong, tough, scary and culpable as any adult and should be treated as such.” In the same newsletter, you also wrote, “What else do we need to know about the political establishment than that it refuses to discuss the crimes that terrify Americans on grounds that doing so is racist? Why isn't that true of complex embezzling, which is 100 percent white and Asian?” Obviously, there are many Americans, and not just blacks and Asians, who would find these comments upsetting. What would you say to these people?

Congressman Ron Paul: In 1992, I was back in medicine full time, but lent my name to a foundation that published large volumes of material. A staffer wrote some things under my name that I did not approve. I have taken responsibility for these comments and apologized. If you look at my 30-year record and my numerous writings on the subject of race, I think anyone will clearly see that those comments do not reflect my beliefs.

Muckraker Report: That said - where do you stand on the Don Imus controversy?

Congressman Ron Paul: As I wrote in a recent article, I found it very discouraging. The young women on the basketball team are over eighteen and can speak for themselves. I believe that introducing third parties to speak collectively for minority groups is inherently racist, since it denies the rights of minorities to speak as individual people. Furthermore, I was concerned about the threats to free speech, since now with the FCC regulating the airwaves and granting broadcast licenses, we’re told that it’s okay for government to restrain certain kinds of insulting or offensive speech in the name of social tolerance, despite the fact that the First Amendment explicitly states that “Congress shall make no law.” The whole thing should have been a private employment issue. It points to our society’s uncomfortable obsession with race today, in which people are viewed in terms of racial group identities rather than as unique individuals. The solution to this I believe is liberty, which encourages a sense of personal pride and responsibility, regardless of gender, skin color, or ethnicity. Racism is a sin of the heart, which can be solved only by mutual tolerance and respect, not by government.

Muckraker Report: One place where race plays a significant role today, I think, is in education. Our inner city schools, many of which are predominately black, are in dismal shape. What do you think can be done to alleviate the situation?

Congressman Ron Paul: A good place to start would be to get rid of the bureaucratic control of education by the federal government, which has grown to gargantuan proportions in recent years. Many people in America don’t realize that most of the money they send to the federal government for education is never returned to the local schools. It’s extremely inefficient. Far less than half of each tax dollar is spent on our children’s education. Federal funding also comes with strings attached. The more money we give to Washington, the more power we give to education bureaucrats to decide the policy. Local schools are forced to carry the burden, even if it means accepting one-size-fits all education policies that aren’t in the children’s best interests. I’m for returning the power to the people to decide what’s best for their children in terms of education, and I have a steady track record in Congress of supporting legislation that seeks to do just this.

Muckraker Report: Are you in favor of lowering college tuition rates?

Congressman Ron Paul: Again, I think the free-market should set the price. Remove the bureaucracy, and the price will go down.

Muckraker Report: What’s your position on health care? I know you wouldn’t be in favor of a national health care system, but what about socialized medicine at the state level?

Congressman Ron Paul: As a practicing physician for 30 years, I find the pervasiveness of managed care very discouraging. Patients are paying more and doctors are leaving the profession in droves. It’s time to rethink the whole system. The rise of HMOs has created a harmful collusion between politicians, drug companies, and organized medicine that raises the price of healthcare by stifling competition between providers. And all this in favor of moving us towards universal healthcare! The HMOs didn’t originate in the free-market; they are the result of policy decisions that were made back in the 1970s. One problem is the 1974 ERISA law, which grants tax benefits to employers to provide healthcare, while not allowing the same kinds of incentives for the individual. This creates an unnecessary coupling between employment and healthcare that is very restrictive on patients’ ability to decide which kinds of healthcare are appropriate for them. I believe strongly that patients are better served by having an element of choice in the matter, which is why I support letting the free-market determine healthcare costs. This won’t happen, however, until we unravel the HMO web and change the tax code to allow individuals to fully deduct healthcare costs from their taxes, as employers can.

Muckraker Report: You’ve said that you wish to secure the borders against illegal immigration and to come up with sound economic policies that decrease the flow of illegal immigration into the United States. However, there are 12 million illegal immigrants already present in the country, many of whom are working honest jobs and just trying to get by. As president, would you be willing to work with leaders within the immigrants’ rights movement to grant these people their civil liberties under the law with a goal towards eventual citizenship? Or are you in favor of deportation?

Congressman Ron Paul: While I realize that mass deportation is unrealistic, I’m opposed to amnesty, because I believe strongly in the rule of law. I see this matter chiefly as a problem of the welfare state. The majority of illegal immigrants in this country are exceptionally hard workers, but there is a small minority receiving housing subsidies, food stamps, free medical care, and other kinds of welfare from the federal government. This alienates taxpayers and breeds suspicion of illegal immigrants, which in turn causes citizens to form vigilante groups to deal with the issue while Congress does nothing. Without a welfare state, we would know that everyone coming to America wanted to work hard; with one, however, you can’t avoid a small element of criminals and freeloaders being attracted into the country. This is why I’m in favor of securing the borders immediately. Federal entitlement programs such as Social Security are also threatened by the influx of illegal immigrants into the country. Successive administrations have supported the so-called “totalization” agreements, by which illegal immigrants would be allowed to qualify for programs like Social Security, programs that are already in dire shape and threatening financial ruin for the United States. Sending benefits abroad to immigrants who once worked here will cost the United States millions, perhaps even billions, of dollars. Anyone who hopes to receive Social Security someday should oppose amnesty and totalization proposals. The problems associated with illegal immigration cannot be solved overnight, but we cannot begin to address the issue until we take the difficult steps of securing the borders, rejecting amnesty, and reaffirming our right as a sovereign nation to control immigration without apology.

Muckraker Report: The REAL ID act is set to take place in May of 2008. What are your feelings about a national identification card?

Congressman Ron Paul: I’m against it. The purpose of government is to protect the liberty of individuals not the secrecy of government.

Muckraker Report: Especially after the release of Al Gore’s global warming documentary, the environment has been very much on people’s minds. Where do you stand on global warming?

Congressman Ron Paul: Global temperatures have been warming since the Little Ice Age. Studies within the respectable scientific community have shown that human beings are most likely a part of this process. As a Congressman, I’ve done a number of things to support environmentally friendly policies. I have been active in the Green Scissors campaign to cut environmentally harmful spending, I’ve opposed foreign wars for oil, and I’ve spoken out against government programs that encourage development in environmentally sensitive areas, such as flood insurance.

Muckraker Report: How about KYOTO?

Congressman Ron Paul: I strongly oppose the Kyoto treaty. Providing for a clean environment is an excellent goal, but the Kyoto treaty doesn’t do that. Instead it’s placed the burden on the United States to cut emissions while not requiring China – the world’s biggest polluter – and other polluting third-world countries to do a thing. Also, the regulations are harmful for American workers, because it encourages corporations to move their business overseas to countries where the regulations don’t apply. It’s bad science, it’s bad policy, and it’s bad for America. I am more than willing to work cooperatively with other nations to come up with policies that will safeguard the environment, but I oppose all nonbinding resolutions that place an unnecessary burden on the United States.

Muckraker Report: At the moment, I have several friends who are operating marijuana farms in northern California. The right to grow marijuana for medical purposes is protected under California state law, but it’s illegal according to federal law. Naturally, these friends of mine are concerned about the future of their livelihoods. What would you say to them?

Congressman Ron Paul: As a medical doctor, I have a special interest in this issue. Tell your friends I support their livelihoods and strongly oppose any attempt by the federal government to infringe upon the right to grow medical marijuana in California under Proposition 215 of California state law. The Ninth and Tenth amendments make it very clear that under our federal system, the states retain the full authority to craft their own laws. The federal government has only limited powers, and can therefore preempt the states only in a very narrow range of federal matters. This essential principle of our Constitutional Republic is being ridden roughshod over by imperial Washington, which bullies local governments into accepting its illegal and unconstitutional policies.

Muckraker Report: Last February, I published an article at the Muckraker Report called “9/11 Widows Keep on Asking the Tough Questions,” in which I interviewed four out of five of the “Jersey girls,” the 9/11 widows who spearheaded the drive to form the 9/11 Commission. In that article, Lorie van Auken calls the 9/11 Commission Report a “pathetic excuse of a report,” in which “seventy percent of our questions went unanswered.” Widow Monica Gabrielle had this to say: “Addressing all these unanswered questions out there is about more than simply trying to quell conspiracy theories. It’s about making sure Americans are safe by revealing the unfettered truth about the failures. Because you can’t make recommendations on distortions, omissions, and half-truths, which is basically what the 9/11 Commission did.” As president, would you be in favor of reopening investigation into the 9/11 attacks?

Congressman Ron Paul: If the 9/11 families aren’t satisfied with the results of the 9/11 Commission, than neither am I. I’m in favor of an independant investigation, provided costs are kept in check.

Muckraker Report: As someone who uses the Internet as a primary source of information, I care a lot about net neutrality. As President, what would you do to protect free speech on the Internet?

Congressman Ron Paul: I have the strongest record in Congress of opposing taxing or regulating the Internet in any way. As president, I would work with lawmakers to make sure no laws were passed inhibiting the right of Americans to communicate and do business freely.

Muckraker Report: I think most Americans would agree that the Bush years have seen some of the worst government corruption in American history. The time-honored means to heal a divided nation is to grant unconditional amnesty, so that anyone who may have committed crimes under executive privilege can come forward and be protected under the law. If you were president, would you consider taking such an action?

Congressman Ron Paul: Yes, granted we were able to take a close look at the specifics of each case.

Muckraker Report: Finally, “republicanism” as a political philosophy and a form of government stretches all the way back to ancient Rome. Is there a particular tradition of republicanism that you identify with?
Congressman Ron Paul: Naturally, the tradition I aspire to is the tradition of the Founders, who in the eighteenth century established a Constitutional Republic that has today degenerated into a bureaucratic welfare state. More recently, however, I’ve stated in the debates that I uphold the old “Mr. Republican” tradition of Robert A. Taft, both in Congress and in the presidential race. This involves limited government, the rule of law, and a foreign policy of non-intervention, traditional Republican positions for the last 100 years.

Original article posted here.

1 comment:

landers53 said...

Thank you for bringing this article to our attention. It would really be great if there was a chance of getting someone in office who actually did care about the citizens of the country, but I don't thing that the powers that be will allow it. They have a pretty tight choke-hold on who gets elected.

An interesting article to read that explains just how this works is titled, "Hacking Democracy" and you can read it here:

We all should get educated on how things really work in order to make a change for the positive.

Thanks again.