His foreign policy views form the basis, but his economic values could destroy what’s left of America’s social systems.
It’s interesting to look at how the right-wing media is treating Ron Paul. The analysis is simple, as articulated by Ann Coulter:
“…he’s fantastic on domestic policy. You just want to kind of keep him away from foreign policy, and in terms of foreign policy, doing nothing like Ron Paul wants to do is better than doing bad stuff like our current President is doing.”
For people like Coulter, Ron Paul carries a “fantastic” economic message indeed. Between phasing out Medicare and Social Security to his ideological opposition to any social programs whatsoever, Paul has been spewing the same Austrian economic line under a stealthy layer of Reaganite rhetoric for over 30 years.
None of this appeals to left-inclined voters, or, to be frank, anybody. Representative Paul Ryan, dubbed by the media as “courageous” for his proposals and even won a policy award from Politico, put forward an economic plan doing precisely what Ron Paul supports. The components of the bill, most prominently the demise of Medicare as a government-run program, were soundly rejected by both Republican and Democratic constituencies. Paul clearly understands this, so he leans on his remarkably popular foreign policy views to soften his image. In 2008, he admitted such: “Democrats get elected to end the wars, and Republicans get elected to reduce the size of government”.
The question for leftists then becomes, is Ron Paul worth supporting, and what is the criteria? It comes down to what it means to be “left.”
One possibly criterion is obvious: the toll of lives saved through withdrawal of US troops in foreign countries. Of course, I’m not referring to the occupiers—the US military—rather, the people of Afghanistan, Indochina, etc. Paul bitterly opposes maintaining the current crate of 800 militar bases worldwide, governmental or political aggression, interventionism on economic grounds, merciless drone strikes that murder as many innocents as terror suspects, and increasing Pentagon spending. In this sense, Coulter is wrong about Ron Paul: he is far superior to Barack Obama on foreign policy. He is superior to any Democratic leader.
He also claims that he wouldn’t end social programs as they currently are, and would pay for them by stripping US foreign policy of its hegemonic tendencies. “People are so dependent,” he argues, that they have to be weened off the public dole slowly. He believes people are addicted to social programs—welfare, social security benefits, food stamps and the like.
Speaking of addiction, Paul vehemently supports ending the war on drugs—a trillion dollar war fought by the US government that has managed to quadruple the number of inmates in prisons. And for all this talk of Paul’s tendency to be bigoted and racially motivated—a possibly valid claim in a less gossip-oriented context—his conviction to end the war on drugs would put an end to one of the most racialized state policies in US history. Just consider: the rate of drug admissions to state prisons for black men is 13 times greater than the rate for white men.
Thus, while saving lives and ending a strikingly racist governmental policy, he would manage to devastate lives (now and in the future) through his inegalitarian economic plans—which have a racial component. “Free markets don’t work for poor people in absolute terms,” said Marc Lamont Hill, a social activist. More than twice as many blacks live below the poverty line as white men. His rhetoric is a blow to the heart of values like solidarity, sympathy, and compassion. Let market power decide fate.
From this perspective, Paul is essentially doing little more than replacing a bad foreign policy with a good one, while replacing what’s left of social democratic programs with miserable, unpopular rhetoric. The difference becomes one of sustainability for the future; a surprisingly pragmatic decision. Massive changes in the Pentagon are quite possible within the confines of the executive branch, and Paul could pull them off if he sticks to his promises. But just as easily as he removes them, they could easily be revived with public support after his presidential term, given the long record of propagandistic jingoism the media consistently delivers to protect the Pentagon system.
Furthermore, it’s not inconceivable that Paul’s economic push for radical austerity could pass through a moderate legislature. Plenty of “blue-dog” Democrats exist—far more than one would think—and these are the same “blue-dogs” that helped write and pass right-wing policies like welfare reform. This kind of political implementation, between the executive rhetorical change and massive shift to the right, could manage to wipe out what’s left of progressive laws for a very long time.
I’m not ready to risk the death of those laws, or watch the audacious hope of a more equal society be buried alive by right-wing tools of ideological warfare. After much well-deserved consideration, I simply cannot support Ron Paul.
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