Ron Paul, the Republican congressman from Texas, has become a living legend for many due to his outspoken libertarian views. Perhaps many of his followers are attracted by his vocal drug-legalization views. Either way, he has attracted a multi-generational following that occasionally borders on cult-like status. They have been coined the “apostles of Ron Paul” by Mother Jones magazine.
Some of Paul’s views have drawn the support of progressives who might otherwise be diametrically opposed to his Republican status. For example, he has steadfastly been against our massive deployments in the Middle East, as well as opposes the encroachments on our civil liberties found in the Patriot Act. However he holds several core policy positions, ranging from opposition to social programs to ignoring climate change, that should send progressives running.
Paul holds to the right-wing view that America is a Christian, rather than secular, nation. He steadfastly opposes the concept of the separation of church and state which has historically been viewed as being enshrined in the First Amendment’s “establishment clause.” Instead, he claimed in a 2003 article that “the notion of a rigid separation between church and state has no basis in either the text of the Constitution or the writings of our Founding Fathers.” He argued that, “the Founding Fathers envisioned a robustly Christian” nation.
Paul’s supporters have tried to promote the notion that his positions are pro-LGBT in his own, libertarian way. However, his libertarian dogma, which his supporters claim treats lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens in a “live and let live” fashion, does not advance LGBT rights in any way. While he opposed the draconian federal amendment banning marriage equality, he stated that he would have voted for the Defense of Marriage Act and he is not against individual states practicing discrimination against their gay and lesbian residents.
Paul opposed the ruling in Lawrence v. Texas which banned prohibitions on sodomy, whose real targets are any gay or lesbian activity, claiming that the Constitution provides no protections for those wishing to engage in “sodomy.” This seems surprising from a man who wishes to legalize heroin – hardly a practice protected by the Constitution..
Moreover, Paul opposed the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA) which would have prohibited employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. Additionally, he opposed expanding hate crimes protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
It’s not just gays and lesbians that Paul seems unwilling to protect against discrimination, Paul says he would have voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which ended racially motivated voter suppression and segregation in schools and businesses. He argues that it “reduced civil liberty” and violates private property rights. In 2006 he voted against renewing the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which helps to remove barriers to minority voting, again citing property rights, and claiming that it was too costly.
If that hasn’t turned off progressives, perhaps a look at his economic policies will. Paul supported a 10 percent flat income tax during his 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference speech. The big beneficiaries of that would be the richest people in our country, who would have their taxes drastically reduced. Not only would this completely defund the majority of all social and educational programs provided by the government, it would also likely increase the income disparity that has been exacerbated since the onset of “supply-side” economics. In another seemingly populist assist to the super-rich, he often proposes abolishing the Internal Revenue Service.
Not surprisingly, Paul opposes regulations on industries, even the financial industry whose greed and lack of oversight led us to the economic crisis we have been dealing with for the past two years. According to Paul and the right wing, regulations are burdens rather than consumer protections, and the much hailed “free market” will regulate itself. This ignores the fact that the financial industry had steadily been in a state of deregulation for over two decades, and look what happened.
Calling anti-trust laws “much more harmful than helpful,” Paul opposes any federal regulations against corporate monopolies. He also opposes the federal minimum wage, and opposes Equal Pay for Equal Work legislation ensuring women are paid equally to men.
Speaking of the free market, Paul also opposed the Americans with Disabilities Act, claiming that it is an “intrusion into private property rights.” He again claims that the free market will punish those who discriminate.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Paul believes that the wildly popular and successful Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid programs are unconstitutional and should be abolished.
What else does Paul believe should be abolished? The departments of Energy, Education, Agriculture, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and Labor are all on his list. He also called the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) “bad economics” and “bad morality,” claiming that the government helping communities after natural disasters is a “moral hazard” because it says that the “government is always going to take care of us when we do dumb things.”
Following along with the GOP’s open season on family planning services, Paul proudly states that he, if president, would veto any funding to Planned Parenthood and what he calls “family planning schemes.“
Overall, a cursory look at his record should be enough for any progressive American to be turned off to Congressman Ron Paul. While we may applaud his antiwar stance and his opposition to the “war on drugs” and the Patriot Act, it would be folly to ignore the largely regressive nature of his politics.
Photo: Ron Paul addresses the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference in February. Gage Skidmore CC 2.01