I do not endorse libertarianism even though, as a progressive , I do find myself in agreement with much of what libertarians advocate. Neither libertarians nor progressives like war, welfare (corporate especially but individual as well), prohibitions on drugs and other socially problematic behaviors, violations of civil liberties and human rights, and, yes, even fiscal waste and irresponsibility.
Neither do I endorse all of Ron Paul's principles or policy choices. I believe that federal, state and local governments have significant and positive roles to play in economic life. In fact, I question the basic assumption of libertarianism that economics and politics (government) can be ontologically separated. We will all be governed in our economic behavior either by elected officials or boards of corporations or by ourselves in contract with others we buy from and sell to.
What I do endorse is a strategy for changing American politics. This strategy is a bit different from the Blue Republican strategy which seeks to wake Democrats up to the realization that they are libertarians. The Blue Republican strategy has a limited appeal since most Democrats are not economic libertarians. I voted for Barack Obama because I believed him to be an economic progressive who wanted to build a peaceful green economy paid for by a more just tax system and by savings from ending wars and the military industrial catastrophe and its mirrors in a variety of industries such as energy, medical insurance, pharmaceuticals, big agribusiness, etc.
While his intentions may be different, his actions are contrary to his campaign promises. I do not believe that he has done no good. He has done good in many ways (http://whatthefuckhasobamadonesofar.com/ sic), and despite his expansion of wars, he has proven himself adept at moving the international community favorably in our direction. If he would end all 6 wars we are in right now, he might be known as our nation's greatest foreign policy president.
I do not blame him entirely for the state of our economy. He inherited the bulk of the mess and did what he could, given the urgency and limits of the moment, to stabilize markets. He has also had to contend with an obstructionist opposition hell bent on his political destruction and a Senate which has become non functional except to say no. I question whether he or any future president can ever get enough votes to pass a genuine, full-throttle progressive agenda.
It is this sense of inevitability rather than any dislike or even disagreement with the president which causes me to advocate electing Ron Paul. While I do not agree with Paul on a number of important economic issues, and I do not think he stands a chance of getting nominated through the conventional strategy of finding enough Republicans to vote for him, I do think there is a way to get him nominated and elected which will, in the end, benefit the progressive agenda.
Of course Ron Paul is no FDR or LBJ, much less McGovern, Kucinich or Sanders. Several legitimate reservations can and should be raised against his policy goals. He has no intention of using the federal government to bring about positive change in our economic system. His agenda is to miniaturize our federal government. He believes that the U. S. constitution, not just his consistent libertarianism, demands this. He interprets way too narrowly the interstate commerce clause, especially in our day when virtually every economic transaction is both interstate and global.
Going back on the gold standard in a global economy would be a disaster. We do need something like the federal reserve with some degree of independence, but I am all in favor of thoroughly and frequently auditing this central bank. I would prefer that its board of governors be elected directly by the people, but at a minimum they should be elected individually by congress at least once every 2 years.
The Civil Rights Act is still necessary and ought to be enforced vigorously and universally. I do not think that Ron Paul advocates racism but his willingness to let businesses determine who their customers will be is a recipe for racist actions which the market place alone could not overturn. If he is a racist, he does not intend to be.
Certainly Ron Paul would fight progressive reform at the state and local levels as well as the federal, but not for constitutional reasons. He believes that each state has the right to make abortion laws and single payer health care laws as well, even though he would oppose the latter and support the former on philosophical grounds. He is not likely to appoint the judge who overturns Roe v. Wade since Anthony Kennedy will probably retire under Obama. Even if he could send abortion rights back to the states, enforcement of strict prohibitions would yield swift backlash.
While Ron Paul is philosophically consistent and a man of his word, he is not inflexible. As evidenced by his transition plan (http://www.lewrockwell.com/paul/paul647.html), he is realistic about what is politically possible and what is ethically and political necessary to implement the libertarian agenda over the long run. He is not going to let the perfect be the enemy of the good if elected president. He realizes that congress can and probably will block many of his proposals, but he is not interested in a stalemate between filibuster and veto.
He is not a progressive in any way but he wants to make progress on his agenda of shrinking the size and scope of the federal government. He wants to so badly that he is willing to forego using half of the savings from corporate welfare and warfare reductions in his ilk's ideal way: tax cuts. He does want tax cuts, as much as possible, but he realizes that he would need 60 libertarian Senators to get all that he wants.
He also realizes that a great number of Americans are dependent upon social security, medicare, medicaid and the like and that kicking them off these programs immediately or any time soon for that matter would be highly unethical and politically suicidal. My guess is he wants all the baby boomers and maybe even people now in their 30s to get the full benefits promised by our government. Ironically, he would probably be less inclined than many Democrats to decrease retirement benefits in any manner. His presidency might, in this matter, be a case of Nixon going to China.
All that said, he does want eventually to end all entitlements, and to do this, he has a two pronged approach: First, use half of the savings from cuts in programs we progressives detest as much as libertarians do to shore up entitlements. Second, allow young people to opt out of the system altogether and not have to pay into it anymore. In other words he wants to shift how social security, etc. is paid for over the next generation or two from payroll taxes to savings from cuts in spending elsewhere. Eventually a new generation emerges who no longer need social security or medicare and have not paid for it anyway.
He believes, perhaps rightly, that the vast majority of young people just getting started in the work force would prefer to opt out of the system altogether so they can have more take home pay and more personal discretionary spending power. I cannot imagine any congress allowing this myopic fantasy to pass. The AARP would raise holy hell, and 60 Ron Paul clones would be needed in the Senate to make this dream come true.
Given that inevitability as well, I think progressives can make a deal with Ron Paul. Our part would be to let him have a vote on his opt out proposal in both the House and the Senate. The risks of this backfiring on us are infinitesimal while the risks of it destroying the Paul Ryans of this world are highly likely. We want him to promise that, after the votes are counted and President Paul takes an all too familiar legislative beating, he will accept a deal specifying that half of the savings from positive cuts goes in a different direction.
Progressives like myself would love to see this money go directly into federal government public works projects and contracts to build the green infrastructure and technology we desperately need to create jobs now and on into the future. Ron Paul will not go for this and would veto any legislation of the sort, and we will not have the votes to override that veto. However, he is probably open to sending that money with no strings attached directly to the states based exclusively on state populations. We would like to attach mandates restricting states' use of the funds, but unfortunately Paul would veto such a plan as well.
I know this is not ideal for progressives or libertarians. They want it all to go to deep tax cuts and there is no way in hell that we would trust Rick Perry not to hand oil billionaire's a blank check. However, we might be willing to let Texas continue on its pursuit of becoming the lone star banana and petro republic if California is allowed to use billions on building high speed rail, hemp textile and fuel factories, wind turbines and mandatory solar panels everywhere a business receives a penny of government funding. In other words, we could set up, at least for 4 years, a great contest to see which economic policies create the best-paying, safest and longest-lasting jobs for the most people.
My guess is the states will like this plan and the Senate will approve it. So here is the deal we need to make with Ron Paul: We agree with him to massive cuts in corporate welfare, warfare and empire building and maintenance. He agrees with us to send half to the savings back to the states with no strings attached and based strictly on state populations while using the other half to pay down debt. He gets a substantially smaller federal government role in the national economy with some states going all the way with him into free market wonderland. We get to actually implement real and unadulterated progressive economic policies in several heavily populated states and regions. Purple states like Virginia and North Carolina will probably do a mixture of progressive and libertarian things with their big chunks of change.
Again, none of this plan is ideal. I think we need a lot more money used for government stimulus nationwide, but given the current political environment, it's a better deal than we are getting now or would get in Obama II. I think that moving money in any direction at this point in time is going to have a positive effect, especially as states, businesses and individuals do not know how long the funds will be available.
Ron Paul is not specific about the numbers and certainly that is also something the deal ought to include. However, given the fact that we are spending about 1.3 trillion dollars annually on defense and other forms of false security, I estimate that at a minimum we could cut an average of 500 billion dollars annually. Transferring half of that to state budgets would mean one trillion dollars gets pump into the economy over 4 years time and it is very unlikely that more than half of that gets passed on in the form of tax cuts. Even then, most states would have to come up with ways to pass tax reform that helps the poor and middle income folks as much as it does the rich. Even voters in conservative states, seeing the crumbling of their public education structures, roads and bridges, are are not likely to support giving this money away to people who already have more than they could ever spend.
Let's just say you are not convinced that Ron Paul will go for this compromise or that even if he did, the consequences would be economically disastrous. Do you then stay in the Democratic primary even when there are no truly competitive races down ticket involving progressive candidates? I think that would be a very insipid voting strategy.
A wiser voting strategy would be for progressives to jump ship and get Paul the nomination or at least as close to it as possible. Imagine this very realistic scenario: Paul stays in the race with at least 2 competitors: a Romney clone and a Palin clone. It is likely, given enough determined progressives that Ron Paul goes into the GOP Tampa Bay convention next year with a plurality of votes (around 35 % is all he would probably need in a 3 way race) and a bare majority of the delegates (50.1%).
Think for a minute about what that convention looks like. The two clones gang up and form a ticket with 65% of the popular vote and 49.9 percent of the delegates. Chicago 1968 becomes a church festival compared to what will happen under such a scenario. It can happen if enough progressives see the light, not in terms of policy, but in terms of politics. If progressives get politically wise, there will be a third party in the general election, and Obama, if he wins back angry progressives, will win a second term with a GOP in total disarray.
There would be ample opportunity with a progressive insurgency to make even more trouble in the GOP primaries. We could, in congressional as well as state and local races, vote for libertarian candidates or for extremist tea party types who stand less of a chance of winning against a Democrat in a November. 60 libertarian or 60 progressive Senators is a fool's dream, but a coalition of 60 libertarian Republicans and progressive Democrats in the Senate is politically doable.
With such a coalition in place, the priorities for budget cuts would radically change. A deal similar to the one I have describe could happen under an Obama administration with such a coalition in place, but not without it. And if Obama faces Paul in November, the Democratic nominee for president will not have to prove he is steroid strong on defense but very willing to slash entitlements to somehow reach a balanced budget.
For once let's make it a debate progressives can actually win, a debate about how much to slash war and violence spending and how much to invest on domestic priorities. It happens with a coalition. It's more of the same corporate pick-pocketing without libertarians and progressives joining forces to seize the only, and perhaps last, chance either will ever have to make meaningful change real in America.