Friday, May 27, 2011

Meet the candidates: Ron Paul

Rep. Ron Paul (US Congress)
Judging by the number of “Ron Paul for President” signs in the Atlanta area in 2008, Congressman Ron Paul had some of the most loyal and motivated supporters of any candidate in the 2008 presidential primaries.  Sadly for Rep. Paul and his supporters, that devotion did not translate into widespread appeal.  Rep. Paul finished fourth in the Georgia primary with only 2.9 percent of the vote.  It wasn’t much better in other states.  Paul failed to win a single primary, although he did finish second a number of times. 

Now Ron Paul is running for president again.  After four years of Barack Obama’s record-setting spending, Paul’s message of fiscal restraint may be more attractive to recession-weary Americans.  Nevertheless, a RealClearPolitics average of polls from April and May 2011 shows Paul in sixth place with 7.9 percent.  He trails Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, and Newt Gingrich respectively.  He leads Herman Cain, Michelle Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty, and Mitch Daniels.  Paul might get a slight bump from the recent withdrawals of Huckabee, Trump, and Daniels.

Ronald Ernest Paul was born in Pittsburgh on August 20, 1935.  On Election Day 2012, he will be 77 years old.  He is one year older than John McCain who was 72 when he ran against Barack Obama in 2008. details Paul’s early life in Pennsylvania as the third among five boys.  He grew up working on the family dairy farm.  He also worked as a paper boy and at a local drugstore.  In high school, he served as president of the student council and was a member of the track and wrestling teams.  He met his future wife, Carol, in high school and married her as a senior. 

Paul attended medical school at Duke University and specialized in obstetrics and gynecology.  He interned at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and then joined the Air Force where he was on active duty from 1963 to 1965 and in the Air National Guard from 1965 to 1968.  He later opened a private practice in Texas where delivered more than 4,000 babies over the course of his career. 

Paul was elected to the House of Representatives from Texas for the first time in 1976 during a special election.  He lost an earlier attempt in 1974.  He served only a few months and lost the general election, but in 1978 was re-elected and served three terms.  He ran unsuccessfully against Phil Gramm for senator in 1984 and passed his house seat to Tom DeLay.

In 1988, Paul once again left private practice to run for president as a Libertarian.  Paul differs from most Libertarians on the issue of abortion.  While most Libertarians are pro-choice, Paul is quoted on as saying, “As an O.B. doctor of thirty years, and having delivered 4,000 babies, I can assure you life begins at conception…  there’s a legal life there…  if there’s an injury or a killing, there is a legal entity. There is no doubt about it.”

Paul returned to the house as a Republican in 1996 and has served continuously since then.  He currently serves on the House Financial Services Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee.  He is chairman of the Subcommittee on Domestic and Monetary Policy.  During his long career, Paul has also authored a number of books.

Paul has a strong reputation as a critic of government spending and the expansion of government power.  He voted against the PATRIOT Act and the Iraq War, but did vote to authorize the Afghanistan War. He has been very critical of President Obama’s decision to go to war in Libya without congressional authorization.  A deficit hawk, he returns the unused portion of his congressional office funds to be used toward paying down the deficit.  In 2011, he returned $141,580, almost ten percent of his office budget, according to his press release. 

Ron Paul is well known for his criticism of the Federal Reserve. He is the sponsor of H.R. 459, a bill that would require an audit of the Fed.  At his speeches, supporters often interrupt him with chants of “End the Fed!”  He is author of a book by the same name.  Paul supports a return to the gold standard to prevent the Fed’s manipulation of the currency by printing fiat money that can cause inflation.

Paul also has a number of other controversial positions that often put him at odds with the Republican establishment.  He supports an end to the War on Drugs and would legalize some illicit drugs.  On foreign policy, Paul seems to be almost isolationist and favors eliminating foreign aid to almost all countries.  In 2008, Paul endorsed the Constitution Party candidate over the Republican nominee, John McCain, and Libertarian Bob Barr.

A few weeks ago, Paul made headlines when he told Fox News that the SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden was “absolutely not necessary.”  Paul said that he would not have ordered the raid if he had been president.

In spite of Paul’s intensely loyal supporters, many of his positions are too far outside the mainstream to appeal to the moderate and independent voters who decide elections.  Even though Paul has an established base of support on which to draw during the campaign, it will likely be an uphill battle for him to win the Republican nomination.  The odds would be even more against him if he decided to run as a third party candidate.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Conservatives are from Mars, liberals are from Venus

Venus (Chosovi/Wikimedia Commons)
A well known relationship book a few years posited the obvious truth that men and women thought and communicated differently.  The same seems to be true of conservatives and liberals. 

While there are exceptions to every rule, it seems that conservatives are more logical and rational while liberals tend to be more emotional and spontaneous.  This is evident from frequently heard charge that conservatives are heartless or lack compassion, while liberals are often referred to as “bleeding hearts.” 

The truth is that, for the most part, both conservatives and liberals share the common goal of improving America and making life better for its citizens.  The irony is that without thinking through the consequences of their policies, both sides often end up doing just the opposite.  This is particularly true of liberals.

In many cases, liberal social programs, while well intentioned, do more harm than good.  In some cases, the harmful effects are obvious and logical.  In others, they are masked by other factors and can only be ascertained through careful study. 

One example is the minimum wage.  Raising the minimum wage has long been viewed as a way to increase the income of the working poor.  However, numerous studies show that raising the minimum wage actually hurts the very people that it is intended to help.  Most economists now accept as fact that raising the minimum wage leads to increased unemployment among unskilled workers.  University of Chicago economist Casey Mulligan notes that minimum wage increases hit younger workers especially hard.  According to Mulligan, after the minimum wage rose from $6.55 to $7.25 in July 2009, the employment rate among teens fell by eight percent in three months, a fast decline even considering the recession.

A second example is gun control.  As more states enact concealed carry laws and federal law changed in 2010 to allow guns in national parks, many liberals predicted that violent crime would increase sharply.  The same claim was made in 2004 when the Clinton-era “assault weapons” ban expired and was not renewed by Congress.  These predictions have not come true.

In contrast, in the book More Guns, Less Crime John Lott shows that states with the largest numbers of gun owners show the largest drops in violent crime.  Recent FBI statistics show that all categories of violent crime decreased in 2010.  The crime rate has been falling since 2007 even though gun sales increased dramatically following President Obama’s election in 2008.  During this time, the number of people licensed to carry guns in public has also increased sharply.  It is also noteworthy that the crime rate has decreased during a deep recession, disproving the supposed link between crime and poverty.  If liberals were correct, more guns in public, more licenses to carry in public, and more poor people should have increased the crime rate, but that has not happened.   

The FBI statistics show that the south saw the largest drops in crime of any part of the country.  The northeast with its strict gun control laws actually had increases in some types of violent crime.  The report does not break down crime rates by state, but the actual number of reported offenses is available for four Georgia cities.  Although most decreased from 2009 to 2010, Atlanta reported a significant increase in murders.  Georgia allows open or concealed carry of pistols with a Georgia Weapons Carry License (formerly called a Georgia Firearms License).

An additional example is federal spending.  It is becoming apparent to most Americans that the orgy of government spending under President Obama has not helped the economy recover.  It has been over two years since Congress passed the stimulus bill that was supposed to revive the economy. 

As a percentage of GDP, both the federal debt and the deficit are higher now than at any point since WWII according to  At of the end of fiscal year 2011, the total national debt will stand at more than $18 trillion.  This represents an increase in the national debt of almost $8 trillion from 2008. 

For all that money, the results have been decidedly mixed.  The average length of a recession is eleven months.  The Great Recession officially lasted eighteen months from December 2007 to June 2009.   According to an analysis by Politifact, it is true that the recession is technically over, but unemployment remains high with many Americans out of work.  Many other economic indicators are lagging as well.  In Georgia, the unemployment rate has consistently been above the national average since the economic crisis began in 2008. 

Liberal emotionalism is exemplified by repeating calls for more of the same policies even when, in cases such as these, there is objective, empirical evidence that their effect is the opposite of what was intended.  Liberals and conservatives should both slow the rhetoric and take an objective look at the results of their policies.  Programs that don’t work or that are not cost-effective should be discarded.  States should be given the freedom to experiment with their own solutions rather than merely being forced to implement federal policy.

Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  The noticeable failure of liberal policies probably goes a long way in explaining why conservatives outnumber liberals by two-to-one according to Gallup.  In fact, conservatives outnumber liberals in every US state.  Perhaps the US is on the verge of stopping the insanity.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Second state enacts Health Care Compact to fight Obamacare

Oklahoma has become the second state to sign the Health Care Compact into law according to a press release from the Health Care Compact Alliance.  Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed the bill into law on May 18.  Georgia became the first state to enact the Health Care Compact on April 20 when Governor Nathan Deal signed Georgia’s version of the compact.

Protesters displeased with Obamacare (Marc Nozell)
The interstate compact would supersede federal health care laws and allow states to enact their own laws on the subject when it becomes effective. Under the terms of the compact, now that two states have passed the compact legislation, the Health Care Compact will become effective when Congress gives its consent. 

The compact legislation can now be introduced to Congress, but its chances of passage are unclear.  The Republican-dominated House of Representatives would be likely to give its consent, but passage through the Democratic-controlled Senate is far less certain.  According to Leo Linbeck III, vice chairman of the Health Care Compact Alliance, it is not clear whether the congressional consent would be subject to a presidential veto.

In an email Mr. Linbeck also confirmed that member states of the compact would be free to enact whatever health care legislation they chose.  “Health care policy is about who and what is covered,” Mr. Linbeck said.  “The Health Care Compact is about who decides.” 

The compact would restore the states as “laboratories of democracy” that can experiment with various solutions to the health care problem.  Linbeck continued, “Some states may be attracted to a more regulated system built around accountable care organizations. Other states may decide to implement a single-payer system. Still others may create a consumer-oriented, market-based regime. And some may choose to experiment with hybrid systems.”

Gov. Mary Fallin
Mr. Linbeck also responded to criticism from UCLA law professor Adam Winkler that the Health Care Compact is a tacit admission that Congress has the authority to regulate health care because congressional consent is required for interstate compacts only when the subject matter is “appropriate for congressional legislation.” 

“This is an interesting question only to lawyers,” Mr. Linbeck answered.  “As a very practical matter, the feds have the power right now to regulate health insurance, and effectively do through [Medicare and Medicaid] and ERISA (for big corporations). They have not fully exercised that power, and the litigation against [the Affordable Care Act] is currently focused on the individual mandate, not the health exchanges that will effectively regulate the currently state-regulated part of the private health insurance system. The courts and lawyers can't fix health care; only the people and the politicians can do that.”

According to the press release, the Health Care Compact has been introduced into fourteen states.  Not including Georgia and Oklahoma where it has already become law, the compact has passed the House of Representatives in Montana, Missouri, Colorado, Arizona and Texas.  It has also passed the Senate in Arizona and Missouri.  It is being considered by legislators and citizen groups in a total of thirty-six states.

Click here for more information on the specifics of the Health Care Compact.

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