In a post earlier this week I chided Ron Paul for writing an article about murder victim Terri Schiavo in 2005 that was misleading. Taking on Congressman Paul, from the standpoint of his supporters, is equivalent to bigotry or hate speech. Many of them are unreasonable, conspiratorial, and downright nasty. But I don’t hate Ron Paul, I just think he is wrong on his approach to some social issues. But I also think he has a better grasp of the limits of the government on economic issues than any of the other potential candidates. I wish other Republicans would listen to him.
For example, Paul believes that the government-run Social Security system should eventually be abolished. New earners should be able to opt out of the program. Giving this option is not popular with the AARP and some senior citizens who may think that any major overhaul puts their own retirement incomes at risk but Paul has offered many potential solutions that would allow us to keep the promises to those already fully vested. Most of his ideas never make it out of committee.
The Department of Education ought to be tossed out, as well. Though Paul has many reasons to do so, the main reason is the same for much of what Paul stands for: “First, the Constitution does not authorize…” Limited government just doesn’t just mean smaller government, as if the problem was only the amount government spends. The question for Paul on each piece of legislation seems to be whether the Federal Government has any constitutional authority to spend one thin dime in a particular area. (For Paul and the Constitution, the answer is usually “no”). One basis for this is the 10th Amendment, where Government is only granted specific powers, and all other powers are left to the states and the people.
Sometimes Congress gets around this limit by invoking the Commerce Clause, but it has been abused so much that Congress and The Supreme Court think that anything dealing with money is fair game. One of the craziest rulings ever to come down the pike was in 1942 when in Wickard v. Filburn
“The Court upheld the Agricultural Adjustment Act, stating that the act of growing wheat on one’s own land, for one’s own consumption, could have significant effect on interstate commerce if many farmers did the same, and therefore under the Commerce Clause was subject to federal regulation.“
It’s a shame that the lion’s share of the public is not really ready for the kinds of slashing that Paul would do at the federal government level, if he could. I say “if he could”, because even if he were to become president he doesn’t get to make all the decisions, especially since he believes in limited government.
Can Paul seriously contend for the presidency in 2012? Not likely, in my opinion. Paul’s poll numbers and lack of vote-getting prowess in 2008 can be attributed to a combination of things, most which can’t be changed very easily. His supporters think he gets a “raw deal”, and that is the only reason he doesn’t do better. But Mike Huckabee went from nowhere to a (temporary) lead in the Republican race with no help from the media or the Republican Party. The real reason may be that many people are not ready to give up dependence on big government as a solution to everything. Paul must also overcome the hawk wing of the GOP that opposes his isolationist viewpoints. He is well liked by the anti-war crowd on the left, but most of those folks can’t stomach reducing the reach of Uncle Sam in other areas and also think he is too far to the right on social issues. One the other hand, libertarians are a small bunch who often needlessly offend social conservatives, who might otherwise be their allies. Paul’s denial that homosexuality is a sin, and his subsequent vote to end “don’t ask, don’t tell”, after previously supporting it, will seal his doom with many Christians and so-cons.
None of this should keep him off the national stage, however, and his voice needs to be heard on the economy and the U.S. Constitution. He should be included in all the debates if he runs for president. Other candidates should have to answer questions on the constitutionality of both programs they propose and those they would keep. Mike Huckabee should be asked plainly where in the Constitution the Dept of Ed can be justified and whether his daughter’s one-time employment at the U.S. Department of Education in Washington has an effect upon his view of that agency. Rick Santorum has not weighed on the constitutionality, as far as I can tell.