Ron Paul’s Voting Record Examined

Orcinus has accumulated an impressive list of bills supported by Ron Paul. These will probably be defended by his supporters but also demonstrate why there is a low ceiling on Paul’s potential support. As long as he remains the lone Republican who is making sense on some issues such as Iraq he will receive some favorable attention, but this will never translate into a meaningful number of votes.

In reviewing Paul’s record there is some ambiguity as he has reportedly introduced some bills to make a point and then voted against them. This makes any review based upon his voting record alone subject to misinterpretation, but I’ve also noted in previous posts that there are areas where Paul’s philosophy is contrary to supporting freedom as most would use the word.

Paul’s record can be summarized with a few trends. Many of his votes involve his support for the gold standard, abolition of the Federal Reserve and his opposition to virtually every program of the federal government. While this platform will never achieve widespread support, there’s not any real news here. It comes as no surprise, and is consistent with his public statements, to see that Paul opposes environmental laws, anti-trust laws, and agencies such as OSHA.

Paul’s writings, as are the comments of his supporters throughout the blogosphere, are full of conspiracy theories involving the United Nations, Jews, the Trilateral Commission, and the Council on Foreign Relations. Therefore his votes against membership in the United Nations come as no surprise.

Where Paul betrays his claims to being a libertarian is in his views on separation of church and state and abortion rights. I’ve discussed Paul’s promotion of right wing revisionist history on separation of church and state in several previous posts, along with his opposition to secularism and his claims that the Founding Fathers intended to create a Christian nation. Paul’s support for the federal ban on so-called partial birth abortions also contradicts his usual support for leaving matters to the states. His use of the erroneous term “partial birth abortion” along with his support for legislation to eliminate the legal distinction between a zygote and a fully developed human are particularly surprising considering his training as an Obstetrician.

The other aspect of Paul’s voting record which contradicts his rhetoric is his support for pork to support his own district as described by The Wall Street Journal:

After reporters started asking questions, the Congressman disclosed his requests this year for about $400 million worth of federal funding for no fewer than 65 earmarks. They include such urgent national wartime priorities as an $8 million request for the marketing of wild American shrimp and $2.3 million to fund shrimp-fishing research.

The listing at Orcinus does not include many of these earmarks but does list several of his bills to support the shrimp industry. The list also is intended to show areas where the author disagrees with Paul and therefore does exclude areas where Paul does deserve credit. These include his opposition to the Iraq war (along with extending it to Iran), his opposition to the restrictions on civil liberties and increase in power of the Executive Branch under George Bush, and his opposition to the drug war.

Obama Bashing Increases As He Threatens To Win

The Obama-hype of last winter is being replaced this week by Obama-bashing as supporters of other candidates see the race tightening and face the prospect that Obama is now in a strong position to win the nomination. Taylor Marsh provides one example of the common attacks at Huffington Post. Much of her attack can be summarized by saying that Obama is not following the lead of the liberal netroots on all matters. As I noted in a post on a different matter yesterday there are increasingly sets of positions held by the bulk of both the left and right blogospheres. These rigid sets of positions, however, are not shared by many voters and Obama’s heresy is seen as a strength by many of his supporters. This especially includes independents and the new Democratic voters who gave the party their victory in 2006.

Marsh also takes selected quotes from Obama to demonstrate that, when he’s at his worst, Obama can sound as triangulating as Clinton. Tell me something I didn’t know. I’ve often been frustrated that Obama can be overly vague, as is the case with all politicians. It is not always possible to be certain if Obama is truly different from other politicians or if he is skilled in giving that impression. The difference is that, while in his worst statements he sounds no better than politicians like Hillary Clinton, at his best he greatly surpasses her, as he did most recently at the Jefferson Jackson Dinner. Besides, Marsh is hardly helping Clinton by stressing triangulation as a fault.

Much of the criticism of Obama is centered around bringing up Social Security. I find the attacks from the left that Obama shouldn’t say there is a problem with Social Security to be quite similar to the claims of the right that there is no problem with health care. Certainly the problems with health care are more severe, and conservatives sometimes might exaggerate the problems faced by Social Security, but that does not mean that there are no problems at all. Similarly the warnings of privatization sound quite a bit like the right’s use of scare tactics about “socialized medicine” to attack every serious health care proposal. Placing a small percentage of Social Security into the stock market might not have been a good plan, but it is an exaggeration to call it privatization.

The real problem with Bush’s plan was not that use of the stock market is inherently evil but that this would take away funds which are used to pay benefits to current beneficiaries, exacerbating rather than helping the current problems. I’ve seen some liberal bloggers even respond to Bush’s proposal by criticizing the entire idea of investing in the stock market. This is also an unsound financial belief, but it would be best to encourage such investments through tax breaks and tax deductible investment plans as opposed to through Social Security.

It is also strange that Clinton supporters would attack Obama on Social Security as they are both saying very similar things. Both have discussed increasing the cap on income which is taxed, possibly with a donut hole so that only wealthier taxpayers would pay more. They are both taking a risk with this approach. Increasing the cap could undermine political support for Social Security in the long run. Social Security only considers a portion of income in determining benefits and therefore places a cap on income which is taxable to match this. If the system is changed and someone making $200,000 had to pay Social Security taxes on their entire income, but benefits continue to be limited as if they were making around $100,000, Social Security would not seem to be a very good deal to those making well over $100,000. The program would increasingly become a welfare program as opposed to a retirement and disability benefits program which all share in. It is the feeling that Social Security is a shared program and not a welfare program which has limited political challenges to the program. If taxes are increased while income upon which benefits are based remains capped affluent voters will have decreased motivation to accept the program, making Republican schemes to go even further in privatizing Social Security sound more favorable.

While I was disappointed in Obama for only considering raising the cap on Social Security as a solution, I am also apprehensive in trusting Hillary Clinton on this issue. Besides also considering a similar increase in the cap, she has proposed having a commission evaluate the problem after the election. The last time Hillary Clinton approached a problem in this manner (on health care) it was a disaster.