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Friday, August 5, 2011

Crashing the Party and the Likely Policy Course of a Ron Paul Presidency

This in many ways is a counter intuitive argument since Ron Paul is a libertarian in every respect. He does see eye to eye with progressives like Dennis Kucinich and Bernie Sanders on war and peace, civil liberties, drug policy and foreign policy. He even opposes NAFTA and other corporatist trade deals. However, in general, Paul sees almost all federal government intervention in the economy as unconstitutional and/or hazardous to economic health.

Despite real differences on economic issues there are several reasons for progressives to embrace the unconventional strategy of jumping ship to join Republican primaries and vote for Ron Paul. The main reason is our president has governed in a conservative way and that governance has led to almost no job growth. Whether his motives are good or not is irrelevant. We cannot expect him to fulfill his progressive promises once he is re-elected, especially given the likelihood that Republicans in congress will block any attempt to make progressive reforms of any sort.

So how is voting for Ron Paul going to change this? First of all Ron Paul wants to make massive cuts in military spending. He not only wants to immediately end the wars we are in now, he wants to bring troops home from hundreds of foreign bases around the world. He wants to end the stupid and wasteful war on drugs. This could mean at least $500 billion in annual savings. Paul wants to use half the savings to pay down debt and half to shore up social security and medicare.

Why would a consistent libertarian like Paul want to put more money into social security and medicare? He dreams of a day when young people can opt out of this system and when they do, there needs to be extra funds available for those already in the system. Progressives as well as moderates from both parties are not likely to allow this to happen for very obvious reasons. When they squash this fantasy, Ron Paul has to make a deal about what to do with that money? Putting all of it into Medicare and Social Security will be unnecessary and Paul is not likely  to unconditionally deposit extra funds into the two largest government social programs.

Instead he is likely to want that half to go toward deep tax cuts and/or more debt reduction. He will have to make a deal with congress, one which has a few more libertarians and progressives resulting from the 2012 Paul vs. Obama race. That will give progressives an opportunity to do what Obama has not done: provide significant, immediate and long term funding for building the peaceful green economy.
Progressives might be able to work with Paul on tax reform by replacing the income tax with a progressive consumption tax.  At a minimum, the new congress could agree with him to greater reductions for 99% of all tax payers in exchange for a minor increase for the top 1% (which btw Democrats could propose now and save themselves from political ruin).

Progressives will probably want to directly fund green infrastructure but Paul and his allies on the right will most likely block this move. Progressives will then try to send the money to the states with a mandate. That will probably not work either. Finally progressives will agree to let the money go to the states unconditionally. That's not ideal as some states will take advantage of the opportunity to give more tax breaks to the rich. If however the money is divided according to state populations, much of the money will go into the hands of more progressive states since they tend to be also the more highly populated ones (Texas and Florida being the biggest exceptions). In any case, progressive states can vote to use the money for single payer systems, high speed rail, schools, teacher salaries, etc.

Paul is unlikely to run a second term given his age, but a one term coalition of libertarians and progressives will be very different from what we have now, Democrats bending over backwards to prove they are strong on defense and fiscal austerity. Such a one term coalition is likely to have long term effects, perhaps forcing cultural conservatives to form a separate political party and maybe even putting a few loan sharks and neo-cons in jail. More likely, it will give the American people an opportunity to compare two very different economic strategies and maybe find a new synthesis.
This may be a long shot political strategy and I don't doubt the odds that are against Ron Paul. He will not win without a large number of progressives infiltrating the GOP.

Progressives are frustrated. They do not have the president they voted for and running a Feingold against him in the Democratic primary is a sure fire strategy for further weakening Obama and getting us the first Mormon president. There are very few down ticket races that are not already predetermined so with few exceptions there is no reason not to jump ship. Jumping ship for the primaries does not prevent progressives from voting for Democrats in the general election. In fact, progressives could vote for down ticket extremists to provide Democrats with weak competition in the general election. Alternatively, progressives could help nominate libertarians to compete against blue dogs in the general election.

Finally, can you imagine the GOP convention? With this strategy in place,  chaos worse than 1968 Chicago breaks out along with actually real entertainment on TV for all the nation to see. Can you think of any more fitting punishment for a party that has done so much damage to our culture, economy and political process? That's a party worth crashing.

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