This Disaster Averted

Thanks to many articles and posts being shot around the online world by rabid supporters, I’ve read a lot lately about the size of Ron Paul rallies, especially in contrast to the size of Mitt Romney rallies. In light of Romney’s primary successes, many postings posit a coordinated and conscious media and political establishment conspiracy to keep Paul away from his due, which is to say the Republican presidential nomination. (Why do we Americans never seem to tire of conspiracies? Frankly, they exhaust me.) Here’s a YouTube video that makes that case; the Michigan crowd looks particularly large and excited.

If rallies were convention delegates, there might be something to talk about. But, of course, they aren’t, so there isn’t. Michigan, the location of that especially stirring rally shown in the video (above), is an interesting case in point: Paul got a little over 11% of the Michigan vote, Romney a little over 41%. Did bigger rallies really matter? Exactly.

Here’s why I think the Paul 2012 campaign has floundered: his policies would be a complete disaster for America and, thank providence, enough Republican voters were able to recognize it.

Throughout American history, we have balanced the competing impulses of individual liberty and collective responsibility more or less within a sustainable range. Paul would push the balance so far in the direction of personal freedom (as he conceives freedom, that is) it would be nearly impossible to keep this society together.

Some examples:

Income tax: In an interview with The New York Times, Paul said: “I want to abolish the income tax, but I don’t want to replace it with anything…We could eliminate the income tax, replace it with nothing, and still fund the same level of big government we had in the late 1990s. We don’t need to ‘replace’ the income tax at all. I see a consumption tax as being a little better than the personal income tax.”

First, the personal income tax funds over half of federal government operations. Can more than half of what the federal government spends possibly constitute waste or misapplication? Let’s see, that would be, like, Social Security (21%), Medicare and Medicaid (23%) and interest expense (6%). Take those off the books and we could come out where Paul thinks we should be. Do we really want to do without them? Would we or our fellow citizens be better off? Of course, Paul thinks these programs are unconstitutional anyway; he suggests the federal government has no right to collect income tax, and has violated the Constitution by doing so since 1913. Second, the so-called consumption tax is regressive; it hits the poor hardest because a higher percentage, nearly 100%, of poor budgets go to necessary consumption, like food and shelter.

States Rights: Paul believes the Constitution lays out the full responsibilities of the federal government, literally and comprehensively. If it isn’t specifically written in the Constitution, he believes, the right to set policy reverts to the individual states, not the federal government. Voting rights. Contraception. Marriage. Environmental policy. Disabled accommodation. Paul believes there is no federal right to ensure equal protection for all Americans, that it should be up to each individual state to decide. In other words, we’d be doing something vital, like environmental policy, by crazy-quilt.

Voting Rights: The men who actually wrote the Constitution intended and expected only white men to have the right to vote. Sorry to you, women and people of color. Most believe our definitions of personhood and suffrage have evolved since the Constitution was initially written, but not Paul. Paul called the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1964: “a massive violation of private property and contract, which are the bedrocks of a free society,” and said he would have voted against it had he been a member of Congress then.

“Streamlining” Government: Under a Paul administration, the federal government would lose the following agencies and their programs, in favor of allowing “market solutions” to work: the Environmental Protection Agency, the Departments of Education, Energy, Agriculture, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and Labor. We’re going to depend on market solutions to address environmental issues, education inequities, health challenges, workplace inspection and safety? Seriously? To believe it, one must be dangerously unaware of the true character of modern American life, and/or want to create a radically different society.

Hands Off? Sometimes.: For all his libertarian talk, there are some absolute limits of libertarianism for Paul. While he does advocate legalization of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and other harmful and addictive drugs, and the abolition of the FBI, the CIA and the IRS (Individual states fighting terrorism?), Paul is much less hands-off when it comes to women’s bodies. As a member of Congress, he introduced legislation that defined life as beginning at conception and granted legal rights to “people” from that moment onward, including the right to be free from harm (a euphemism for abortion, plain and simple). Paul signed the “Personhood Pledge” published by PersonhoodUSA. This pledge says in part: “I stand with President Ronald Reagan in supporting ‘the unalienable personhood of every American, from the moment of conception until natural death,’ and with the Republican Party platform in affirming that I ‘support a human life amendment to the Constitution, and endorse legislation to make clear that the 14th Amendment protections apply to unborn children.” When it comes to women making decisions about their own bodies, Paul believes the government should have a very substantial and active interest indeed.

Yesterday morning, just down the street from my son’s school, I saw the pitch-perfect totem for Paul’s campaign; it was an $78,000 Range Rover with a Ron Paul bumpersticker. Federal government hands off my gas-guzzler!

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