The Club for Growth paper on Ron Paul has generated some discussion over pragmatism vs radicalism. The Club for Growth, while overall praising Ron Paul, took exception over some stances that they believed as too unrealistic. This post will take a look at the actual paper and evaluate which who’s right on any particular issue, Ron Paul or the Club for Growth.
1) Federal funding of elections:
Despite this impressive record, Ron Paul’s history contains some curious indiscretions, including a vote for $232 million for federally mandated election reform (only 1 of 21 Republicans to vote for it)
The Constitution is very clear on elections, states run them, but Congress can pass regulations on how they’re conducted for Federal offices. Without looking at the actual legislation in question, the legislation is clearly constitutional. I cannot comment on the merits of the legislation.
2) Line-item veto:
a vote against the line-item veto -even after it was modified to pass constitutional muster.
The line-item veto is clearly a violation of the Constitution since there is no authority for the president to veto only parts of bills. The president must either reject or sign an entire piece of legislation.
3) Pork barrel spending:
Paul’s record on pork was outstanding in 2006, voting for all 19 of Jeff Flake’s anti-pork amendments in 2006, but his record took a stark turn for the worse in 2007, in which Paul received an embarrassing 29% on the Club for Growth’s RePORK Card, voting for only 12 of the 50 anti-pork amendments.
Some of the outrageous pork projects Paul voted to keep include $231,000 for the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association’s Urban Center; $129,000 for the “perfect Christmas tree project;” $300,000 for the On Location Entertainment Industry Craft Technician Training Project in California; $150,000 for the South Carolina Aquarium; and $500,000 for the National Mule and Packers Museum in California. This year, Ron Paul requested more than sixty earmarks “worth tens of millions of dollars for causes as diverse as rebuilding a Texas theater, funding a local trolley, and helping his state’s shrimp industry.”
In defense of his support for earmarks, Rep. Paul took the if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em position, arguing that “I don’t think they should take our money in the first place. But if they take it, I think we should ask for it back.” This is a contradiction of Paul’s self-proclaimed “opposition to appropriations not authorized within the enumerated powers of the Constitution.”
Paul has no serious defense for this special interest oriented spending for local projects.
Ron Paul embraces the importance of free trade, but lives in a dream world if he thinks free trade will be realized absent agreements like NAFTA and CAFTA. Paul himself argues that “tariffs are simply taxes on consumers,” but by opposing these trade agreements, he is actively opposing a decrease in those taxes. While Paul’s rhetoric is soundly pro-free trade, his voting record mirrors those of Congress’s worst protectionists.
The Club for Growth is absolutely correct, the only way the US will get lowered tariffs on its exports and imports is through trade agreements. There are too many protectionist special interests with too much clout in Congress and overseas, so the only way to get lower tariffs is to have trade agreements that demands other nations to lower their barriers in return for the lower barriers.
5) Social Security Reform:
Just as in trade, this tendency leaves Paul opposing pro-growth reforms of Social Security. He opposes allowing workers to divert some Social Security payroll taxes into private retirement accounts, arguing instead for cutting payroll taxes and leaving it up to workers to do what they will with the savings. While the ideal is admirable, it is not a sufficient reason to oppose the pro-growth, expansion of freedom that personally-owned retirement accounts represent.
I support private retirement accounts, however the Bush plan was a terrible plan. Ron Paul was correct to oppose it, however, he’s wrong to oppose the concept of private retirement accounts in general. Both sides have good points.
6) Welfare Reform:
The Congressman was also 1 of only 4 Republicans to join the Democrats in voting against the extension of welfare reform in 2002. While Paul probably opposed the bill because of his distaste for government welfare in general and the authorization of additional funding, the legislation was an important step towards weaning millions of Americans off the government dole and imposing new work requirements on welfare recipients.
There is no reason for opposing weaning millions off the government. Club for Growth is absolutely right here.
7) School Choice:
Ron Paul’s opposition to school choice stems from his opposition to the government’s role in education, arguing that federal voucher programs are “little more than another tax-funded welfare program establishing an entitlement to a private school education.” He consistently voted against voucher programs, including a 1998 school voucher program for D.C. public school students, and a 2003 bill for a DC voucher program.
Instead, Paul supported education tax breaks and introduced the Family Education Freedom Act (H.R. 612) that provides all parents with a tax credit of up to $3,000, available to parents who choose to send their children to public, private, or home school. While Paul’s sentiment is understandable, it doesn’t change the fact that his votes are a direct impediment to achieving high-quality school choice. By voting against school choice programs, Paul is aligning himself with Democrats and the National Education Association in opposing progress towards achieving a truly competitive, market-based education system.
I also prefer tax credits to school vouchers because of the fear that with government vouchers comes government control of private education. Having said that though, there is a way to come up with a voucher program that does not intrude on private education. Both sides have valid points here.
8) Tort Reform:
Paul recognizes the danger of runaway lawsuits and bemoans “malpractice premiums that cost doctors tens of thousands of dollars per year, and increasingly threaten to put some out of business.” To his credit-and somewhat incongruous-Rep. Paul voted against a measure that would allow negligence lawsuits against gun manufacturers, for liability protection for manufacturers of certain gasoline additives, and for a bill that would move national class-action lawsuits out of local state courts to federal courts in order to stop the pernicious practice of court shopping.
Instead of traditional federal tort reform, he proposes “private contractual agreements between physicians and patients” that “enables patients to protect themselves with ‘negative outcomes’ insurance purchased before medical treatment.” In theory, Paul’s solution may help alleviate the situation, but it is politically untenable. While Paul’s idealism is laudable, he has not offered a viable alternative for dealing with a problem that is hurting American consumers and businesses, while diminishing our international competitiveness.
I agree with Ron Paul mostly on this. I oppose Federal intervention in setting caps on punitive damages because each incident needs to be judged and damages awarded on the merits of each case. I also oppose any Federal measures that restrict the jurisdiction of state courts. Other than that, I am open to tort reform measures that are targeted on the Federal level.
In all, this passage from the Club for Growth’s report describes one of the reasons why I don’t support Ron Paul’s candidacy:
But Ron Paul is a purist, too often at the cost of real accomplishments on free trade, school choice, entitlement reform, and tort reform. It is perfectly legitimate, and in fact vital, that think tanks, free-market groups, and individual members of congress develop and propose idealized solutions. But presidents have the responsibility of making progress, and often, Ron Paul opposes progress because, in his mind, the progress is not perfect. In these cases, although for very different reasons, Ron Paul is practically often aligned with the most left-wing Democrats, voting against important, albeit imperfect, pro-growth legislation.
Ron Paul is, undoubtedly, ideologically committed to pro-growth limited government policies. But his insistence on opposing all but the perfect means that under a Ron Paul presidency we might never get a chance to pursue the good too.