Friday, August 10, 2007

Wall Street Journal vs. Ron Paul

A brief follow-up thought after my Ron Paul Radio appearance, and then I promise I’ll address some other topic:

The recent Wall Street Journal editorial, seemingly calculated to take Paul down a peg by noting earmarks with his name on them, either deliberately or ignorantly glossed over the fact that, as Paul has quite openly said, most earmarks simply place a politician’s name on money already designated to be spent, which is why any earmark “reform” that merely takes their names off the expenditures is unlikely to have much impact on spending — more important is voting against the appropriations bills themselves, as he does (though surely, even if only as a symbolic matter, he probably ought to have kept his name off the spending he rails against).

An old friend of mine who works for Congress has been saying for a long time that earmarks reform does nothing except push the individual-legislator “carving up” process from the halls of Congress into the subsequent bureaucratic formulations, with no money saved and an even less-public, less-democratic process for achieving the (nominal) distributions.

Still, Sen. Tom Coburn, almost as devoted a foe of government spending as Paul and far more hated by the establishment because (unlike the marginalized Paul) he often gets things done, argues that having legislators’ names enshrined right there in the legislation may have the negative side effect, even if it does not technically add to the total amount being spent, of making them less likely to criticize the overall spending bill for fear that rocking the boat might end up causing the part that names them to be what falls overboard — just as I might be less willing to see a building demolished if it had my name on a plaque on its side (that I could show off to supporters) even if I hadn’t actually called for extra construction work.

In any case, in a race where the other major-party candidates (and, again, I am enough of a pragmatist to want a candidate with the major-party campaign apparatus behind him if at all possible, which is why it’s exciting to have Paul running as Republican this time rather than as a potential-spoiler candidate for the Libertarian Party, as he did once before) get no better, fiscally, than Giuliani (for example) who isn’t sure he likes the idea of a flat tax, you still have to vote for Paul — and with America’s long-term fiscal stability rather than merely its various short-term crises starting to become an issue, picking Paul looks downright pragmatic.

I suggested on the radio show that wonderful as the pro-Paul grassroots zealots are, they ought to be thinking about how to reach out to a broader coalition comparable to the Perot supporters of 1992 (like my parents, at least before Perot had his pre-election meltdown), who may not have been libertarians — indeed, in some cases were quite the opposite — but who definitely responded to the general Perot theme of America needing to get its financial house in order. That huge federal debt doesn’t just disappear when we obsess over other issues.


John said...

ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, CNN, Time, New York Times, US News, World, and now the Wall Street Journal. The silence has become too deafening. Now for phase II: defamation. Warning: It won’t be easy with Dr. Paul’s squeaky clean record, guys. You may defame yourselves in the process.

bret said...

My parents also supported Perot.

Kinda amusing, what was the debt in 92, 1 or 2 trillion? It’s going to be something like 9 trillion by 2010 at current projections (likely to speed up under a Democratic party executive/Congress with socialized medicine, war against Iran or Pakistan, or both).

I think you’re right. However, I think there is a lot of cause of optimism. A cross section of any meetup group will clearly show you that the coalition of folks who’re getting behind The Message is very broad indeed. That was sort of the take away point of the NYT article, although it masqueraded as a hit piece – he may attract some crazies (who, let’s be fair, at least actually give a crap about this country and their fellow Americans), but he also attracts a lot of normal folks, people who are sick and tired of the way we’ve been consistently marginalized and ignored by the ruling elites.

The peasants are revolting, again … they better hope DC doesn’t turn into another Bastille. It very well could, given the way we’re going.

Mr.B said...

Sorry to say that the debt in Jan. 1993 was $4.2 trillion. When W took over, it was $5.7 trillion, having grown at roughly 3.9% per annum during the Clinton years. Under the leadership of W and Republicans, the debt has grown at roughly 6.8% per annum to $8.9 trillion. Let’s go back to gridlock.

Eric said...

Mr. B, I agree gridlock is one positive factor. But in all fairness, there was a huge surge in revenue in the late 90’s that corresponded with a stock market bubble, one that busted shortly after Clinton left office. Clinton didn’t spur the bubble and Bush didn’t spur its busting.

Granted, though, despite that point, there’s no denying that federal spending has gone way more out of control in Bushes tenure than it did in Clinton’s, even apart from military. Frankly, I don’t see why liberals don’t like Bush more than they do. He’s supported and signed laws on education, prescription drug coverage, and transportation that far exceed big-spending accomplishment Clinton could claim as far as I can recall.