Dr. Ron Paul is currently the Representative for Texas's 14th district in the United States House of Representatives. However, Paul's influence on American politics extends far beyond the boarders of Texas. He has run for president on two separate occasions, most recently in 2008. Paul is considered to be the leader of the "Ron Paul Revolution." His campaigns have been based around Republican ideals, but with a special emphasis on constitutionalist and libertarian values. In 2008, Paul was the only Republican candidate for President who opposed the Iraq War and other interventionist policies.
Michael Bendetson: Out of the 535 voting members of 111th United States Congress, only 14 are doctors. What inspired you to leave your lucrative medical practice to enter politics?
Ron Paul: It was concern that the country itself was going in the wrong direction. The government was getting bigger, personal liberties were being undermined, and the financial situation was quite bad. I [entered politics] more as a lark, just to speak out and not with the expectation of winning a seat. The odds were against me, however I did win.
The first time I ran and the first time I won was in 1976. Overall, I sought office to help fulfill my desire to shrink the size of government, enhance personal liberties, and improve the economy.
MB: In October of 2002, you were one of the of 6 out of 224 Republican congressmen to vote against the Iraq War Resolution. Please elaborate about why you were so adamant in your dissent towards the bill six years ago and continue to oppose our involvement in Iraq today.
RP: We went to war based on lies. Lies, bad intelligence, and the interests of special interest groups were pushing our foreign policy. Also, [the Iraq War] had nothing to do with our national defense. Further, if the country goes to war, we [Congress] need to declare war. There were so many reasons: moral reasons, economic reasons, constitutional reasons, and practical reasons. I thought it was a complete waste and a violation against everything America stands for. As a result, I strongly opposed going in and I think if you make that bad of a mistake, you ought to get out as soon as possible.
MB: You are one of the few politicians in Washington who believes that Iran is not a serious threat towards the United States. Why do you reject the notion of Iran as a dangerous enemy?
RP: [Iran] does propose some problem to the United States. They are a so-called "enemy," but it's a consequence of our policies toward them. So, they did not one day wake up and say, "Hey we all hate Americans." Our foreign policy has consequences. It is very well remembered by most Iranians, that in 1953 we went over to Iran and our CIA secretly overthrew their democratically elected government. This makes a mockery of what we claim to be. We fight wars, because we claim, "to spread our goodness and democracy." However at the same time, if a democratically elected leader does not please us, we do everything possible to remove him. If there is a military dictator that supports us, we praise him and give him money. The Iranians are acting logically and in their own best interest. Even in the literal sense, they do not pose a threat. They do not have a [nuclear] weapon and they are not likely to get one. Even if they had one, they would not be so foolish as to use one. If they ever did anything and we were completely out of the area, [Iran] would not dare touch Israel. Israel has around 300 nuclear weapons and they would wipe Iran of the face of the earth rather quickly. This whole idea that we have to keep spending money, building up fear, sending troops over, and putting blockades around a country, all it does is stir up trouble and creates more enemies for us. This foreign policy does not make any sense for us. I think the Iranian situation is a typical example, of how these things backfire on us.
MB: You have remained consistent in your disapproval of federal bailouts of both the financial institutions and auto industries. Why are you against federal intervention and what alternative solution would you propose?
RP: First, there is no authority in our constitution that we [Congress] should use taxpayer money to go and bailout companies that have not done well. That alone, should be enough to stop [the bailouts]. Second, it is morally wrong, because you have to take money from somebody who may be productive and reward people who have been non-productive. Third, the economics of [the bailout] are atrocious. Why should we subsidize mistakes? We have been doing that in the past. Our Federal Reserve System has created all the financial bubbles, and now we are suffering the consequences as these financial bubbles collapse. Propping up the mistakes made during the boom phase of the cycle is exactly the wrong thing to do. It prevents the correction [of the economy] and delays the inevitable. In order to get back to economic growth, you have to liquidate the excessive debts and bad investments. The only way you can do that is to just get out of the way. You cannot buy up all the bad debt, but that is what we are doing. This is exactly what we did in the Great Depression. So we are working real hard in the US Congress and with the Federal Reserve to recreate another Great Depression. It makes no sense, what so ever.
MB: Despite the fact that all of the former Republican candidates endorsed Senator John McCain for president, you abstained from doing so. What prevented you from supporting the Republican nominee for President?
RP: I could not find any issues we really agreed upon. I know what Republicans claim they believe in, and that's what I claim to believe in. However, I practice what I preach. Republicans claim they believe in small government, balanced budgets, less taxes, no intrusion on our first amendment rights, and strong national defense. There was a time when Republicans actually believed that we should not go looking for problems overseas. As recently as the year 2000, Bush advocated for no nation building and no policing the world. I have just stuck with that. John McCain stood for the opposite of all these things that I believe in and the Republicans claim to believe in. He has raised taxes, sponsored McCain-Feingold Act, and voted to double the size of the Department of Education. Further, he has never really voted for a balanced budget. Finally, I have a major disagreement with him on foreign policy. He scared me with his plan to send more troops [abroad] and his claim that we should stay in Iraq for a hundred years if necessary. Domestic policies, civil liberty policies, monetary policy, and foreign policy, there was not one issue in which I was in agreement with him. Therefore with a clear conscious, I was not even able to consider supporting somebody that I had such strong disagreements with.
MB: The relationship that you have with the Republican Party has been strained over the recent months. During primary season, you were constantly in the minority combating the other major contenders on issues such as the War in Iraq. In addition, you held "A Rally For the Republic" during the Republican Convention. Do you still consider yourself to be a Republican, or rather a Libertarian?
RP: I think you can be both [Republic and Libertarian]. A small "l" libertarian is a strict constitutionalist. If you look at what the Constitution says and what the founders believed, they were very libertarian. Nobody has written a rule in the Republican Party that said, "those of you who believe in liberty and the constitution should not be allowed in." We can be both libertarian and Republican. It is true whether it was the McCain leadership in the campaign or in the Party itself; they were not exactly friendly [to libertarians]. However at the same time, it very clear that the grassroots still supported me. When it came to one on one at the lower level, [Republicans] were very anxious to support me. When it came to those in party leadership, they did not want to be challenged.
MB: Over the course of your political career, you have acknowledged that global warming is a serious problem. You have supported the idea of "strict property rights" as a solution over government regulation. Why do you place more faith in the private sector than the public sector to solve this problem?
RP: I do not trust the public sector to do anything right. Their record is extremely poor. Although there is evidence from some data that the earth might be getting warmer, you have pretty reputable scientists on both sides of that argument. So to act on the absolute authority that man is the sole cause of the problem would be a mistake. I simply do not trust the government to deal with [the problem]. Once the government gets involved, they end up what they are doing right now. The [Federal Government] is selling permits to pollute. If a company comes along and has these CO2 or pollutant promises that they can pay for, they can [buy land]. Under a property rights viewpoint, if you are truly polluting your neighbor's property, you have no right to do it and are stopped immediately.
MB: On the issue of healthcare, you have rejected the notion of universal healthcare based on a fear of socialized medicine. Instead you have chose to promote a serious of measures based on free market healthcare, such as tax credits for individuals. Why are you confident that solution for this crisis is found in the private sector of society?
RP: Socialized anything does not work. Socialized medicine has failed throughout history. It did not work in the radical socialized systems such as that in the Soviet Union. Today, you can see around the world that in areas where [medicine] is socialized, there are long lines. It may be cheap so to speak when you see the doctor, but there is often no doctor their and you have to wait months for routine surgeries. With a market-oriented system, things are far more efficient. It is not difficult for me to see from both a political and medical viewpoint to see which is best. The problem today is about half the money goes to the middleman: management companies, drug companies, and insurance companies. This drains the money from the care of the patient and the doctor. As a result the system becomes very expensive and the quality of care goes down.
MB: Despite the fact that the federal income tax accounts for around 42 percent of the federal budget, you have proposed eliminating both the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the income tax. What are the reasons for your plans mentioned in the above?
RP: We lived a good while without the income tax, from the founding of the country up until 1913. We paid all of our bills, but we did not pretend to be the policemen of the world. We did not need to have a huge standing army. Also, we did not have a welfare state before 1913. Once the government gained the ability to tax welfare and warfare and once they were able to debase and inflate the currency, the federal government started to grow exponentially. This is where we are today. So if we are a country that cares more about freedom than the government taking care of us, we do need not need an income tax. If we got rid of the income tax we would still maintain 60 percent of federal revenue. That 60 percent is what we had has a federal budget 10 years ago and at that time government was plenty big enough. We [Federal Government] need to cut back and only do things authorized in the Constitution. Under those conditions, we do not need an income tax. If you want to talk about a boost for the economy, just stop the income tax and bring our troops home.
MB: So much has been made in this past election as to "The Ron Paul Revolution." Your recent book, The Revolution: A Manifesto, was a major success, becoming #1 on the both The New York Times and Amazon best seller lists. Also despite a lack of media attention, you managed to raise more money than your fellow Republican opponents during the early primary season. What in your opinion does this "The Ron Paul Revolution" entail, and why has it become so popular?
RP: I think the American people are starved for an answer. I think there is still a love of liberty in this country. They were looking for somebody who would talk about it [that love] clearly. I think what helped and gave our campaign a boost is that more and more people are starting to recognize the failure of our system. Even since the campaign ended, it has become so evident that the things we talked about have unfolded. Government really does not work. Those of us who have discovered this, know we need less government.
Unfortunately, the sentiment in Washington is so locked in that the problem is still not enough regulation. These people are still in charge of the government, but our revolution is going on. There is this tremendous amount of people, especially young people who realize that they are inheriting not only this financial mess, but also the obligation to have troops around the world. They are not buying into the idea that government is the solution to our problems.
MB: What recommendations can you provide for President-elect Barack Obama with regards to what issues to focus on during his initial months as president?
RP: My advice to him would be very simple: stick to your promises, especially with regards to foreign policy. He wants to bring the troops home and have a different foreign policy. However right now, because of his appointees he has not done that. It is very hard for me to expect him to take much advice from me, because we hold such different beliefs. On the important issues, he should listen to the base. Hopefully, he will then listen to us, who talk about free markets rather than depending on central economic planning. Unfortunately, I am afraid he will be going in the wrong direction.