What to Read on Ron Paul

Ron Paul: The Alternative Candidate Is a Force to Be Reckoned With — Joel Achenbach

He’s 76 — the only one in the race who was born during the Great Depression.

He’s by far the most radically anti-government candidate in the running. He’d boil the federal government down to a few, skeletal functions. He’d end the welfare state, cut every dime of foreign aid, halt overseas military action and bring home all the troops. He’d return to the gold standard and abolish the Federal Reserve.

Paul opposes not only recent government shenanigans but also stuff that happened 50 or 70 or 90 years ago, such as the creation of Medicare (1965), Social Security (1935) and the federal income tax (1913). He’s against national banks, the first of which was the handiwork of Alexander Hamilton in 1791.

Paul believes that powerful and secretive forces (the Fed being the best example) have manipulated human events and bankrolled wars. He fears that the nation is turning into an Orwellian police state.

He’s a stalwart opponent of the USA Patriot Act and regularly condemns post-Sept. 11 security measures, as well as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

From modest ­beginnings he became a highly successful obstetrician/gynecologist, delivered about 4,000 babies, became the patriarch of a sprawling family and was elected to Congress 12 times.

He bemoans the decline of the dollar and blames the printing of money “out of thin air.”

He’s not a dealmaker and is not interested in forging bipartisan compromises.

When someone…asked him what he’d do to overcome the partisan divide in Congress, he said the gridlock was a blessing. […] In his view, the moderates are the most dangerous people in Washington.

G.O.P. Monetary Madness — Paul Krugman

[Ron] Paul…fiercely [opposes] the kind of monetary expansion [Milton] Friedman claimed could have prevented the Great Depression — and which was actually carried out by Ben Bernanke this time around.

After Lehman Brothers fell,…the monetary base more than tripled in size.

[Ron Paul was] sure about what would happen as a result: There would be devastating inflation.

So here we are, three years later. How’s it going? Inflation has fluctuated, but, at the end of the day, consumer prices have risen just 4.5 percent, meaning an average annual inflation rate of only 1.5 percent. Who could have predicted that printing so much money would cause so little inflation? Well, I could. And did. And so did others who understood the Keynesian economics Mr. Paul reviles.

And what will happen if [Ron Paul’s] doctrine actually ends up being put into action? Great Depression, here we come.

The Presidential Candidates on Taxes — Citizens for Tax Justice

A proposal that anti-tax radicals call a “Fair Tax” is basically a national sales tax that replaces all other federal taxes. …in order to maintain current revenue levels, this sales tax would have to be around 50 percent. It is also very regressive. Low-income households would pay more for everything they buy, while the wealthy would hit the jackpot with tax-free capital gains, dividends and interest. We are fairly confident that this proposal will go nowhere when people realize that a house that costs, say, $200,000 would cost $300,000 under this plan.

[Ron Paul has] expressed support for the “Fair Tax” proposal.

[Ron Paul is] in favor of abolishing the Internal Revenue Service. It’s not entirely clear who would administer the national sales tax [he supports] if there was no IRS.

Republican Debate Reality Check Shows Misfire — Bloomberg News

…Ron Paul saying he would close the Department of Interior in addition to [the Departments of Commerce, Education, and Energy.]

Why Libertarianism Fails in Health Care — Ezra Klein

…CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked whether an uninsured 30-year-old who had chosen to go without insurance should be left to die if he falls unexpectedly ill. Ron Paul dodged the question. “What he should do is whatever he wants to do and take responsibility for himself,” Paul said. “That’s what freedom is about.” Blitzer pressed the issue. “But, Congressman, are you saying the society should just let him die?” “Yeah!” whooped the crowd. But Paul stammered out a “no.”

House Conservatives Contradict Themselves on Tax Increases — Suzy Khimm

[In November, Ron Paul and 71 other Republicans] sent a letter to the debt-reduction supercommittee that urged them to rule out any tax increases whatsoever as part of the deal…

But just two weeks [earlier, he was] among the 100-plus House members who signed a “go-big” letter that asked the supercommittee to keep everything on the table, including revenues.

Why Ron Paul Challenges Liberals — Matt Stoller

…while old newsletters bearing his name showcase obvious white supremacy, he is also the only prominent politician, let alone Presidential candidate, saying that the drug war has racist origins. You cannot honestly look at this figure without acknowledging both elements…

My perspective of Paul comes from working with his staff in 2009-2010 on issues of war and the Federal Reserve. Paul was one of my then-boss Alan Grayson’s key allies in Congress on these issues, though on most issues of course he and Paul were diametrically opposed. How Paul operated his office was different than most Republicans, and Democrats.

Paul’s office was dedicated, first and foremost, to his political principles, and his work with his grassroots base reflects that. Politics and procedure simply didn’t matter to him. My main contact in Paul’s office even had his voicemail set up with special instructions for those calling about HR 1207, which was the number of the House bill to audit the Federal Reserve. But it wasn’t just the Fed audit — any competent liberal Democratic staffer in Congress can tell you that Paul will work with anyone who seeks his ends of rolling back American Empire and its reach into foreign countries, auditing the Federal Reserve, and stopping the drug war.

…when considering questions about Ron Paul, you have to ask yourself whether you prefer a libertarian who will tell you upfront about his opposition to civil rights statutes, or authoritarian Democratic leaders who will expand healthcare to children and then aggressively enforce a racist war on drugs and shield multi-trillion dollar transactions from public scrutiny. I can see merits in both approaches, and of course, neither is ideal. Perhaps it’s worthy to argue that lives saved by presumed expanded health care coverage in 2013 are worth the lives lost in the drug war. It is potentially a tough calculation (depending on whether you think coverage will in fact expand in 2013). When I worked with Paul’s staff, they pursued our joint end goals with vigor and principle, and because of their work, we got to force central banking practices into a more public and democratic light.

Marginalizing Ron Paul — Robert Scheer

[Ron] Paul marshaled bipartisan support to pass a bill requiring the first-ever public audit of the Federal Reserve. That audit is how [Americans] first learned of the Fed’s trillions of dollars in secret loans and aid given to the banks as a reward for screwing over the public.

…his is a rare voice in challenging irrationally high military spending. At a time when the president has signed off on a cold war-level defense budget and his potential opponents in the Republican field want to waste even more on high-tech weapons to fight a sophisticated enemy that doesn’t exist, Paul has emerged as the only serious peace candidate. As the Wall Street Journal reported, Paul last week warned an Iowa audience, “Watch out for the military-industrial complex — they always have an enemy. Nobody is going to invade us. We don’t need any more [weapons systems].”

Paul said: “Little by little, in the name of fighting terrorism, our Bill of Rights is being repealed…. The Patriot Act, as bad as its violation of the 4th Amendment, was just one step down the slippery slope. The recently passed [National Defense Authorization Act, would allow the president to order indeterminate military imprisonment without trial of those accused of supporting terrorism,] continues that slip toward tyranny and in fact accelerates it significantly…. The Bill of Rights has no exemption for ‘really bad people’ or terrorists or even non-citizens. It is a key check on government power against any person. This is not a weakness in our legal system; it is the very strength of our legal system.”

Quote of the Day: Glenn Greenwald

The U.S. has long had Iran virtually encircled as a result of the American occupation of Afghanistan on Iran’s Eastern border, its invasion of Iraq on its Western border, its NATO ally Turkey hovering on Iran’s Northwestern border, some degree of military relationship with Turkmenistan on Iran’s Northeastern border, and multiple U.S. client states sitting right across the Persian Gulf (Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain, where the massive U.S. Fifth Fleet is stationed). Additionally, some combination of the U.S. and Israel has bombarded Iran with multiple acts of war over the last year, including explosions on Iranian soil, the murder of numerous Iranian nuclear scientists (in which even one of their wives was shot), and sophisticated cyberattacks… In the past decade, the U.S. and/or Israel have invaded, air attacked, and/or occupied Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, Lebanon, Sudan, Syria, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (to say nothing of the creation of a worldwide torture regime, a system of “black site” prisons around the world to which people were disappeared, and a due-process-free detention camp in the middle of the Caribbean Ocean where many people remain encaged for almost a full decade without charges). During this same time period, Iran has not invaded, occupied or air attacked anyone. Iran, to be sure, is domestically oppressive, but no more so — and in many cases less — than the multiple regimes funded, armed and otherwise propped up by the U.S. during this period. Those are all just facts.

But — despite all of these facts — all Serious people in the U.S. know that Iran is the Aggressor, the Modern Nazis, a True Menace, while the U.S. and Israel are its innocent peace-loving victims.

— Glenn Greenwald (Salon)

What to Read on Newt Gingrich

Gingrich Urges War with Iran and Skyrocketing Oil Prices — Juan Cole

Gingrich: “We need a strategy of defeating and replacing the current Iranian regime with minimum use of force. We need a strategy…of being honest about radical Islam and designing a strategy to defeat it…

“We need a strategy in central Asia that recognizes that, frankly, if you’re Pashtun, you don’t care whether you’re in Pakistan or Afghanistan, because you have the same tribal relationships.

“But if we were serious, we could break the Iranian regime, I think, within a year, starting candidly with cutting off the gasoline supply to Iran, and then, frankly, sabotaging the only refinery they have.”

The new round of sanctions on Iran recently announced by the US, the UK and Canada have helped drive the price of Brent crude over $100 a barrel…

Oil supplies are tight, and if the US and Israel really could succeed in taking the 2.3 million barrels a day that Iran exports off the world market, on top of the Libyan reductions, it would likely put the price up to more like $200 a barrel (i.e. for Americans $6-$7 a gallon for gasoline).

The US…cannot hope to both replace Iranian production and meet increasing Asian demand with any known “all-energy” policy in the short to medium term. That is a science fiction scenario.

Iran has more than one refinery. The US doesn’t have the assets in Iran to conduct such extensive and massive “sabotage.” And, Iran could “sabotage” things right back. If he means bombing Iranian refineries from the air, that would be an act of war.

There are no [Pashtuns] in Iran or Central Asia, and Gingrich’s bizarre comments on Islam and Central Asia have nothing to do with Iran or its gasoline and petroleum production. Most post-Soviet Muslims in Central Asia are Tajiks or Turkic and are relatively secular.

As far as I can tell, Gingrich wants war with the whole Muslim world.

Newt’s War on Poor Children — Charles M. Blow

Nearly two weeks after claiming that child labor laws are “truly stupid” and implying that poor children should be put to work as janitors in their schools, he now claims…, “Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works. So they literally have no habit of showing up on Monday. They have no habit of staying all day. They have no habit of ‘I do this and you give me cash’ unless it’s illegal.”

[But, the fact is,] three out of four poor working-aged adults — ages 18 to 64 — work.

[Most] poor children live in a household where at least one parent is employed. And even among children who live in extreme poverty…a third have at least one working parent. And even among extremely poor children who live in extremely poor areas…nearly a third live with at least one working parent.

[Even] as more Americans have fallen into poverty in recent years, the crime rate over all — and, specifically, among juveniles — has dropped.

Gingrich Culls War Hawks for His National Security Team — Ali Gharib

Gingrich announced his national security team…:

  • David Wurmser: In 2007, a U.N. official called Wurmser one of the “new crazies” who wanted to attack Iran. In 1996, Wurmser co-authored a paper…advocating the removal of Saddam Hussein from power.
  • Ilan Berman: Berman…has advocated U.S.-led regime change in Iran… [He’s] also attempted to minimize negative effects of [a military] attack and, in 2005…, said Iran is a “prime candidate” for Iraq-style pre-emption…
  • James Woolsey: Woolsey advocated for the Iraq war, supports illegal Israeli West Bank settlement construction, and now pushes a confrontational stance on Iran. In 1998, Woolsey signed onto a…letter urging the military removal of Saddam Hussein…
  • Robert “Bud” McFarlane: In 1988, McFarlane plead guilty to four counts of withholding information from Congress in the Iran-Contra scandal, in which he played a major role, even secretly travelling to Iran in the early arms-for-hostages part of the affair.

Fact Checking the Tea Party Debate: Republicans Stumble on Tax Issues — Citizens for Tax Justice

Gingrich [said] that he is “cheerfully opposed” to raising taxes by closing the sorts of corporate loopholes that benefit GE and other corporations, while also conveniently leaving out that he actually works as an advisor to GE.

Gingrich and the Destruction of Congressional Expertise — Bruce Bartlett

Gingrich said the [Congressional Budget Office] “is a reactionary socialist institution which does not believe in economic growth, does not believe in innovation and does not believe in data that it has not internally generated.”

Most policy analysts from both sides of the aisle would say the C.B.O. is one of the very few analytical institutions left in government that one can trust implicitly.

Gingrich said, “If you are serious about real health reform, you must abolish the Congressional Budget Office because it lies.”

Gingrich did everything in his power to dismantle Congressional institutions that employed people with the knowledge, training and experience to know a harebrained idea when they saw it. When he became speaker in 1995, Mr. Gingrich moved quickly to slash the budgets and staff of the House committees, which employed thousands of professionals with long and deep institutional memories.

In addition to decimating committee budgets, he also abolished two really useful Congressional agencies, the Office of Technology Assessment and the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations. The former brought high-level scientific expertise to bear on legislative issues and the latter gave state and local governments an important voice in Congressional deliberations.

The amount of money involved was trivial even in terms of Congress’s budget. Mr. Gingrich’s real purpose was to centralize power in the speaker’s office, which was staffed with young right-wing zealots who followed his orders without question.

Sorry, Newt. You Never Balanced the Budget — Robert S. McIntyre

In fact, the budget surpluses that we enjoyed from 1998 to 2001 had nothing to do with [Gingrich’s] balanced budget act. Instead, the surpluses stemmed from a dramatic surge in federal revenues, mainly personal income taxes.

In 1993, Bill Clinton undid some of the Reagan tax cuts for the wealthy, in a bill that every Republican in Congress opposed. In the years that followed, federal revenues shot up. By 1996, the deficit had fallen by more than half from its 1993 level.

In 1998 tax revenues continued to soar… That was enough to produce a $64 billion budget surplus. …this had nothing to do with the ’97 budget act, which, because of its tax cuts, actually reduced the 1998 surplus slightly.

How Newt Gingrich Added $16 Trillion to the National Debt — Bruce Bartlett

According to the latest Medicare trustees report, the unfunded liability of Medicare Part D is $16.1 trillion.

[Just before Congress voted on Medicare Part D], Newt Gingrich [wrote in the] Wall Street Journal: “Every conservative member of Congress should vote for this Medicare bill. […] If you are a fiscal conservative who cares about balancing the federal budget, there may be no more important vote in your career than one in support of this bill.”

The Republican Candidates’ History on Mandates — Sarah Kliff

Newt Gingrich has repeatedly supported the mandated purchase of health insurance… “I agree that all of us have a responsibility to help pay for health care,” he told “Meet the Press” earlier this year.

Newt Gingrich’s Doctoral Dissertation — Robert Paul Wolff

“Belgian Education Policy in the Congo: 1945-1960 A Dissertation Submitted on the Sixth Day of May, 1971 to the Department of History of the Graduate School of Tulane University in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy by Newton Leroy Gingrich.”

There is no evidence in the text that he traveled either to Belgium or to the Congo, and he seems not to have interviewed any of the principal actors, Belgian or Congolese, even though the dissertation was written only a handful of years after the departure of the Belgians from the Congo.

Colonization is seen almost entirely from the perspective of the colonial power, not from that of the indigenous population. The rule of King Leopold II, who literally owned the colony as his private property until, at his death, he willed it to Belgium, is widely understood to have been the most horrifyingly brutal colonial regime in Africa. Gingrich acknowledges this fact once in the dissertation.

What to Read on Perry vs. Romney

Republican Front-Runners Mitt Romney, Rick Perry Come From Different Worlds — Philip Rucker

One was born into a privileged family in a tony Michigan suburb; the other, onto a flat expanse of West Texas dirt with no indoor plumbing. One spent his youth tooling around his father’s car factory; the other, selling Bibles door to door so he could afford to buy a car. One excelled at Harvard University, simultaneously earning law and business degrees and swiftly climbing the corporate ladder; the other, his hope of becoming a veterinarian dashed when he flunked organic chemistry at Texas A&M University, joined the Air Force.

Where Mitt Romney is obedient and cautious, Rick Perry is bombastic and spontaneous.

“It’s populist against patrician, it’s rural Texas steel against unflappable Romney coolness, conservative versus center-right establishment, Texas strength versus Romney’s imperturbability, Perry’s simplicity versus Romney’s flexibility.”

Romney is campaigning as a steady, capable grown-up who can fix anything that needs fixing; Perry, as a passionate, principled leader who can channel the ire of a frustrated electorate.

Romney represents both the party’s upper-crust establishment and the state — Massachusetts — that for so long has been the GOP’s boogeyman. Perry represents the angry grass roots that are giving the party new energy and he personifies the state — Texas — that for a generation has been the GOP’s soul.

Romney, a former consultant who founded a successful private-equity firm, seems at his best discussing the intricacies of how businesses grow.

It’s when Romney tries to relate to average folks or banter about trivial things that he can struggle.

It’s in relating to people that Perry seems most at ease. He routinely puts down elites.

Perry, Romney Offer Contrasting Approaches to Job Creation in GOP Race — Philip Rucker

Romney’s view of the economy is shaped by his time as a management consultant and venture capitalist. Perry’s frame of reference is his family’s cotton farm and his state’s oil and gas boom.

Despite both candidates’ focus on the economy, neither has offered more than standard Republican positions.

Romney talks more about his business career than his four years as governor of Massachusetts, when the state’s job-creation record was among the worst in the nation. The state did add jobs, about 1 percent, but it bested only Louisiana, devastated by Hurricane Katrina, and Michigan and Ohio, both beset by declines in manufacturing.

Although he is partially responsible for big success stories — for instance, the founding of Staples, the office supplies superstore — he also was involved in controversial decisions, including the laying off of hundreds of workers.

Just the (Tax) Facts: GOP Candidates Parade Terrible Tax Ideas — Citizens for Tax Justice

Perry [supports] the radical balanced budget amendment (BBA)…, [which] would tie the hands of lawmakers to react to changing economic conditions and force immediate catastrophic cuts to critical government programs like Social Security, food inspection, and housing. Although Perry is one of the BBA’s most outspoken advocates, all of the GOP presidential candidates have voiced their support for it in principle.

Romney did reject the claim that 47% of Americans pay no federal income taxes (a popular conservative talking point) when prompted by the moderator. Instead, Romney rightfully noted that every American feels that they are contributing “through the income tax or through other tax vehicles” and that he does not want “to raise taxes on the American people,” presumably even on those on low end who pay very little.

Although Romney signaled his intention to not raise taxes on the poor, his recently released economic plan provides insignificant token relief for lower income Americans and heavily favors tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations.

Fact Checking the Tea Party Debate: Republican Candidates Stumble on Tax Issues — Citizens for Tax Justice

Romney made misleading statements about President Barack Obama’s tax record, claiming that Obama “had raised taxes $500 billion.” What’s deceptive about this is that while Obama raised taxes by $500 billion dollars (mostly through the progressive tax included in the healthcare reform bill), he has simultaneously cut taxes overall by more than double that. Specifically, Obama cut taxes by $243 billion as part of the economic recovery act in 2009, $654 billion as part of the tax compromise he signed at the end of 2010, and is now proposing $240 billion in additional payroll tax cuts, to say nothing of his proposal to continue 81 percent  of the Bush tax cuts and other smaller tax cuts at a cost of an additional $3.5 trillion.

Romney expressed skepticism toward the [so-called Fair Tax (a proposed national sales tax)] saying that it would decrease taxes for the “very highest income folks” while increasing taxes for “middle income people.” An analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy confirms this point showing that a Fair Tax would primarily benefit the super-wealthy, while increasing the taxes paid by the bottom 80 percent by more than half.

While rejecting the radically regressive Fair Tax may seem like a logical move for any presidential candidate who wants to be taken seriously, Romney is actually bucking at least half of the Republican field (and most notably current front-runner Texas Governor Rick Perry) who have come out in favor of it.

Perry Struggles To Make His Foreign Policy All That Different From Obama’s — Benjy Sarlin

“I think the entire conversation about, how do we deliver our aid to those countries, and is it best spent with 100,000 military who have the target on their back in Afghanistan, I don’t think so at this particular point in time,” Perry said…, calling for a transition to Afghan forces.

But the next day,…an unnamed adviser [said] that “a precipitous withdrawal is not what he’s recommending.” But the same adviser also mentioned that Perry might entertain using only 40,000 troops in Afghanistan — far below numbers either Obama or his generals have suggested is doable so far.

Previously he had been called out for condemning “military adventurism” while also urging Americans to “renew our commitment to taking the fight to the enemy wherever they are before they strike at home,” employing two loaded and contradictory phrases associated with the Bush administration’s foreign policy.

Mitt Romney [said,] “One lesson we’ve learned in Afghanistan is that Americans cannot fight another nation’s war of independence.” He quickly followed up by indicating that he would first consult with generals on the ground before coming up with any timetable for withdrawal. Later that month, he criticized President Obama for planning to reduce troop numbers…

Romney simultaneously supported the Libya mission, criticized Obama’s “tentative, indecisive, timid and nuanced” foreign policy, and offered no suggestion as to what he would have done instead as president. The next month he accused the White House of “mission creep and mission muddle” for expanding airstrikes beyond their stated goal of preventing civilian deaths, and quoted former Bush aide John Bolton warning that Obama was setting himself up for “massive strategic failure” by demanding Qaddafi’s removal. Qaddafi’s regime appears to be gone for good, a development that Romney celebrated with no reference to Obama’s policies.

As a general policy, Romney has consistently condemned Obama as a wuss on the world stage… Obama has heavily escalated the Afghanistan war, initiated a second military conflict in Libya, and ordered a raid into an allied nation’s territory to kill Osama Bin Laden…

Rick Perry’s Crotch Shot — William Saletan

Perry attacked the Massachusetts health care law signed by then-Gov. Mitt Romney. Perry said the program showed “what will not work, and that is an individual mandate in this country.” People “don’t want a health care plan like what Governor Romney put in place in Massachusetts,” Perry concluded. “What they would like to see is the federal government get out of their business.”

Half an hour later, Perry defended a 2007 executive order in which he ordered girls to be vaccinated against HPV, a sexually transmitted virus.

Perry can’t continue to denounce mandatory health insurance while defending mandatory vaccinations for a sexually transmitted virus…

Perry’s Immigration Problem: Even Bigger Than It Looks — Byron York / David Frum

Start with the border fence. Perry opposes it. “Building a wall on the entire border is a preposterous idea,” he said recently in New Hampshire. “The only thing a wall would possibly accomplish is to help the ladder business.”

Perry opposes E-verify, which is a program requiring employers to check the legal status of new hires.

Then there is taxpayer-subsidized, in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. Perry signed the Texas Dream Act in 2001 making it the law in Texas. [He] still supports the measure

“I support a guest worker program that takes undocumented workers off the black market and legitimizes their economic contributions without providing them citizenship status,” Perry said in 2006. “A guest worker program that provides foreign workers with an ID removes the incentive for millions of people to illegally enter our country.”

By contrast,…Romney articulated something almost never said in a Republican primary: much, much, much more important than a fence or “boots on the ground” is tighter enforcement of labor laws inside the country.