Why progressives should not support Ron Paul

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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."

Paul also opposes the notion that man-made climate change is a "major problem," despite the science supporting the phenomenon, and claims that the Environmental Protection Agency harms the economy.

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

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  • I have to admit I like Ron Paul. He isn't perfect and in fact there are some things (mostly mentioned in this article) that I flat out disagree with him on.

    However, when it comes to some of the biggest injustices of the day - military policy and the war on drugs - he is probably one of the only politicians I actually trust to do the right thing.

    Besides - we know exactly who is going to get the Democratic nomination, and the only variable left is how the Republican nominee influences the final presidential debate. We could have someone like Romney or Bachman pushing the discussion toward their particular brand of authoritarian crazy, or we could have a right-wing influence that at least acknowledges the role of individual rights in a society.

    Posted by indie, 07/06/2011 10:28am (3 years ago)

  • First of all, I think the author of this article has completely missed the most important reasons why Paul gets so much support from both the left and the right. First, he is and has always been an outspoken critic and prophet of caution regarding the monetary and banking system. Indeed, I would argue that this is the core reason why Paul gains so much support. His views are more libertarian than conservative, but not 100% so. As a libertarian, I actually disagree with a number of things that Paul says. However, I support Paul because he is the only candidate I've heard of who truly understands the nature of the monetary and banking system and how it is currently destroying this country.

    Also, I'd like to respond to the commenter named Owen who wrote, "While neoconservatives were promoting torture as the quintessence of American foreign policy under the Bush regime, it was libertarians (chief among them, Alan Greenspan) and not neocons who were bringing the domestic and world economy to its knees." Greenspan is roundly rejected by libertarians of virtually all stripes precisely because he abandoned the principles of sound money in favor of fiat money manipulation, and Paul has long been Greenspan's greatest opponent and critic for this very same reason.

    Posted by Walt Thiessen, 07/06/2011 9:43am (3 years ago)

  • Why Democrats? The Democratic Party's credo is that people should go forward, not backward, that they should vote their hopes, not their fears, that above and beyond anything else, we are all human and should advance as one people, not just our separate parts.

    Why Obama? President Obama never busted a union to serve his own political ideology; never apologized to BP for their own negligence; never cut education and health care funding to pay for tax cuts for the rich; never revoked a human right because of who a person chooses to love; never used the fear of a different culture to score political points; and never put ideology above analysis to win the battle of words but lose the war of governance. That's why.

    Obama has -- ended the war in Iraq, killed bin Laden, started the draw down in Afghanistan AFTER killing bin Laden, prevented a genocide in Libya without sending in any U.S. troops, helped nurture Democracy in Egypt without "shock and awe" -- granted full hospital visitation rights to LGBT couples that work for the government, repealed DADT, suspended the defense of DOMA in federal court, and successfully lobbied the U.N. to pass the Gay Rights Protection resolution.

    I think that pretty much sqaushes any Ron Paul neophyte arguments. Run along now, the president has work to do.

    Posted by Jon, 07/06/2011 7:59am (3 years ago)

  • Sorry, I disagree. Changing US foreign policy is the most important issue right now even if I disagree with Ron Paul on a lot of other stuff.

    Posted by Chris, 07/06/2011 7:02am (3 years ago)

  • The author of this article has it all wrong. Please read the issues for yourself and don't acknowledge this biased article.

    Posted by Jordan, 07/06/2011 2:16am (3 years ago)

  • Welfarism is draining the very productive members of the whole Economy. Welfarism Does Not Work!

    Volunteerism Works. Volunteerism works by private institutions like community church Works.

    Free your mind from Government Dependency…
    Think LIBERTY my friend and knowing it by heart, living it religiously with passion and loving it like a family member!!!

    Peace and Independence!
    That's what we celebrated yesterday...

    Posted by Joe the Taxpayer..., 07/06/2011 12:36am (3 years ago)

  • @ Joe Bernick; "2) Corporations should be free to pollute and poison our water and air, subject only to law suits by individuals (very costly) if they can prove damages."

    100% untrue. Ron is completely consistent on property rights, meaning pollution trespass on our property or our bodies is a gross violation of our property rights in same. This was the ancient view of pollution at the start of the Industrial Revolution, which was eroded and destroyed by corrupt government courts and regulations. Now, the biggest corporations have Federal and state LICENSES to pollute. So no, you are wrong about that point.

    Posted by libertyvini, 07/05/2011 11:44pm (3 years ago)

  • @Terri: Why would a corporation trample its workers? If one company isn't willing to give the compensation in pay and benefits for a worker, another company will be willing to take that worker for those skills.

    How would a corporation trample its workers? Unfortunately forced membership of unions can put workers in a tight spot, and Dr. Paul is very against forced unionship (as well as anything that limits the liberty of people to do what they want to do).

    Dr. Paul is hardly pro-corporate. He would not have allowed cash-for-clunkers that forced tax payers to disproportionally benefit auto-makers, car dealerships and even scrap metal industries. He opposed the bail-out of companies in Detroit and on Wall Street that ran their businesses poorly and took unnecessary risks. He would not force citizens to be customers of pharmaceuticals and health insurance companies by requiring health insurance.

    Posted by Edward Lee, 07/05/2011 11:37pm (3 years ago)

  • Ron Paul opposed spending money to combat Swine Flu - the ease with which that could have mutated and killed ten of millions. The only thing more amazing than that, is that a doctor would be so bound up in ideology that he wouldn't take something like an agressive mutating flu seriously; speaks volumes for why people shouldn't take Paul's views seriously.

    Posted by Teddy Wood, 07/05/2011 11:29pm (3 years ago)

  • You will always be able to disagree with Paul on one of his positions because he is the only politician that is clear on his positions.

    You misunderstand his position on gay and lesbian rights. He believes that no group of people should have special rights because the only rights that matter are those of the individual. In that way he actually does more for gays and lesbians because he feels they should be treated equally like everyone else. Do you really need "hate" crimes? A crime is a crime regardless.

    The guy voted no to giving Rosa Parks a gold medal because it came out of the taxpayers pocket. He told congress that if they wanted to give Rosa Parks a gold medal, they should all pitch in and buy it out of their own pocket.

    All those social issues you bring up should not be handled by government when groups of private individuals with their own collective resources can do much better. Why force other people to pay for things that you support? Especially when it comes to social issues which are so subjective.

    You do a fine job of misrepresenting Pauls views, but the icing on the cake is that you give no alternative. Who do you suggest a progressive can vote for? At least Paul will do what he says he will do and I don't have to wonder where he stands on an issue.

    Posted by Cade, 07/05/2011 11:19pm (3 years ago)

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