On Military and Spending, It’s Trump Versus Trump

Ron Paul’s Weekly Commentary
February 27, 2017

Ron PaulIt can be a challenge to follow the pronouncements of President Trump, as he often seems to change his position on any number of items from week to week, or from day to day, or even from minute to minute. Consider his speech last week at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). It was reported as “fiery” and “blistering,” but it was also full of contradictions.

In the speech, President Trump correctly pointed out that the last 15 years of US military action in the Middle East has been an almost incomprehensible waste of money – six trillion dollars, he said – and that after all that US war and meddling the region was actually in worse shape than before we started. 

It would have been better for US Presidents to have spent the last 15 years at the beach than to have pursued its Middle East war policy, he added, stating that the US infrastructure could have been rebuilt several times over with the money wasted on such militarism.

All good points from the President.

But then minutes later in the same speech he seemed to forget what he just said about wasting money on militarism. He promised he would be “upgrading all of our military, all of our military, offensive, defensive, everything,” in what would be “one of the greatest military buildups in American history.”

This “greatest” military buildup is in addition to the trillions he plans on spending to make sure the US nuclear arsenal is at the “top of the pack” in the world, as he told the press last Thursday. And that is in addition to the trillion dollar nuclear “modernization” program that is carrying over from the Obama Administration. 

Of course when it comes to nuclear weapons, the United States already is at the “top of the pack,” having nearly 7,000 nuclear warheads. How many times do we need to be able to blow up the world?

At CPAC, President Trump is worried about needlessly spending money on military misadventures, but then in the same speech he promised even more military misadventures in the Middle East.

Where is the money going to come from for all this? Is the President going to raise taxes to pay for it? Is he going to make massive cuts in domestic spending?

In the same CPAC speech, President Trump reiterated his vow to “massively lower taxes on the middle class, reduce taxes on American business, and make our tax code more simple and much more fair for everyone.” And that’s all good. So it’s not coming from there.

Will he cut domestic spending? The President has indicated that he also wants a massive infrastructure modernization program launched in the near future. The plan will likely cost far in excess of the trillion dollars the President has suggested.

That leaves only one solution: printing money out of thin air. It has been the favorite trick of his predecessors. While he correctly condemns the $20 trillion national debt passed down from previous Administrations, his policies promise to add to that number in a massive way. Printing money out of thin air destroys the currency, hastening a US economic collapse and placing a very cruel tax on the working and middle classes as well.

Following the President’s constantly changing policies can make you dizzy. That’s a shame because the solution is very simple: end the US military empire overseas, cut taxes and regulations at home, end the welfare magnet for illegal immigration, and end the drug war. And then get out of the way.

Trump’s ISIS Plan: Another US Invasion?

Ron Paul’s Weekly Commentary
February 20, 2017

Ron PaulJust over a week into the Trump Administration, the President issued an Executive Order giving Defense Secretary James Mattis 30 days to come up with a plan to defeat ISIS. According to the Order, the plan should make recommendations on military actions, diplomatic actions, partners, strategies, and how to pay for the operation.

As we approach the president’s deadline it looks like the military is going to present Trump with a plan to do a whole lot more of what we’ve been doing and somehow expect different results. Proving the old saying that when all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail, we are hearing increasing reports that the military will recommend sending thousands of US troops into Syria and Iraq.

This would be a significant escalation in both countries, as currently there are about 5,000 US troops still fighting our 13-year war in Iraq, and some 500 special forces soldiers operating in Syria.

The current Syria ceasefire, brokered without US involvement at the end of 2016, is producing positive results and the opposing groups are talking with each other under Russian and Iranian sponsorship. Does anyone think sending thousands of US troops into a situation that is already being resolved without us is a good idea?

In language reminiscent of his plans to build a wall on the Mexican border, the president told a political rally in Florida over the weekend that he was going to set up “safe zones” in Syria and would make the Gulf States pay for them. There are several problems with this plan.

First, any “safe zone” set up inside Syria, especially if protected by US troops, would amount to a massive US invasion of the country unless the Assad government approves them. Does President Trump want to begin his presidency with an illegal invasion of a sovereign country?

Second, there is the little problem of the Russians, who are partners with the Assad government in its efforts to rid the country of ISIS and al-Qaeda. ISIS is already losing territory on a daily basis. Is President Trump willing to risk a military escalation with Russia to protect armed regime-change forces in Syria?

Third, the Gulf States are the major backers of al-Qaeda and ISIS in Syria – as the president’s own recently-resigned National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, revealed in a 2015 interview. Unless these safe zones are being set up to keep al-Qaeda and ISIS safe, it doesn’t make any sense to involve the Gulf States.

Many will say we should not be surprised at these latest moves. As a candidate, Trump vowed to defeat ISIS once and for all. However, does anyone really believe that continuing the same strategy we have followed for the past 16 years will produce different results this time? If what you are hammering is not a nail, will hammering it harder get it nailed in? 

Washington cannot handle the truth: solving the ISIS problem must involve a whole lot less US activity in the Middle East, not a whole lot more. Until that is understood, we will continue to waste trillions of dollars and untold lives in a losing endeavor.

Will Congress Stop Forcing Pro-Life Americans to Subsidize Abortion?

Ron Paul’s Weekly Commentary
February 13, 2017

Ron PaulLast month marked 44 years since the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision declaring a constitutional right to abortion. Roe remains one of the Supreme Court’s most controversial decisions. Even some progressive legal theorists who favor legalized abortion have criticized Roe for judicial overreach and faulty reasoning.
 
Throughout my medical and political careers, I have opposed abortion. I believe abortion is the killing of an innocent human life and, thus, violates the non-aggression principle that is the basis of libertarianism. Unfortunately many libertarians, including some of my close allies, support legalized abortion. These pro-abortion libertarians make a serious philosophical error that undermines the libertarian cause. If the least accountable branch of government can unilaterally deny protection of the right to life to an entire class of persons, then none of our rights are safe.

While I oppose abortion, I also oppose federal laws imposing a nationwide ban on abortion. The federal government has no authority to legalize, outlaw, regulate, or fund abortion. Instead of further nationalizing abortion, pro-life Americas should advocate legislation ending federal involvement in abortion by restoring authority over abortion to the states.

Congress should also end all taxpayer funding of abortion and repeal Obamacare’s abortion mandates, along with the rest of Obamacare. Forcing pro-life Americans to subsidize what they believe to be murder is, to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, “sinful and tyrannical.” That is why I was glad that one of the first actions of the new House of Representatives was to pass legislation ending all taxpayer support for abortion. Hopefully the bill will soon pass in the Senate and be signed into law by President Trump. Congress should follow this action by passing legislation allowing antiwar taxpayers to opt out of funding the military-industrial complex as well.

The House-passed bill also repeals Obamacare’s mandates forcing private businesses to cover abortion and birth control under their health insurance plans. Of course I oppose these mandates. But, unlike many other opponents of the mandates, I oppose them because they violate the rights of property and contract, not because they violate religious liberty.

Opposing the mandates because they violate the religious liberty of a few, instead of the property rights of all, means implicitly accepting the legitimacy of government mandates as long as special exemptions are granted for certain groups of people from certain groups of mandates.

President Trump has already protected pro-life taxpayers (and unborn children) by reinstating President Reagan’s Mexico City policy. The Mexico City policy forbids US taxpayer money from being used to support any international organization that performs abortions or promotes abortions. Using taxpayer money to perform and promote abortions overseas is not only unconstitutional and immoral, it also increases resentment of the US government. Unfortunately, as shown by the recent Yemen drone strikes, President Trump is unlikely to substantially change our militaristic foreign policy, which is responsible for the deaths of many innocent men, women, and children.

Ending taxpayer support for abortion is an important step toward restoring limited, constitutional government that respects the rights of all. However, those who oppose abortion must recognize that the pro-life cause’s path to victory will not come through politics. Instead, pro-lifers must focus on building a culture of life through continued education and, among other things, support for crisis pregnancy centers. These centers, along with scientific advances like ultrasound, are doing more to end abortion than any politician. Anti-abortion activists must also embrace a consistent ethic of life by opposing foreign policy militarism and the death penalty.

Cut, Don’t Reform, Taxes

Ron Paul’s Weekly Commentary
February 6, 2017

Ron PaulMany Americans who have wrestled with a 1040 form, or who have paid someone to prepare their taxes, no doubt cheered the news that Congress will soon resume working on tax reform. However taxpayers should temper their enthusiasm because, even in the unlikely event tax collection is simplified, tax reform will not reduce the American people’s tax burden.

Congressional leadership’s one nonnegotiable requirement of any tax reform is “revenue neutrality.” So any tax reform plan that has any chance of even being considered, much less passed, by Congress must ensure that the federal government does not lose a nickel in tax revenue. Congress’s obsession with protecting the government’s coffers causes reformers to mix tax cuts with tax increases. Congress’s insistence on “offsetting” tax cuts with tax increases creates a political food fight where politicians face off over who should have their taxes raised, who should have their taxes cut, and who should have their taxes stay the same.

One offset currently being discussed is an increased tax on imports. This “border adjustment” tax would benefit export-driven industries at the expense of businesses that rely on imported products. A border adjustment tax would harm consumers who use, and retailers who sell, imported goods. The border adjustment tax is another example of politicians using tax reform to pick winners and losers instead of simply reducing everyone’s taxes.

When I was in Congress, I was often told that offsets do not raise taxes, they simply close loopholes. This is merely a game of semantics: by removing a way for some Americans to lower their taxes, closing a loophole is clearly a tax increase. While some claim loopholes are another way government distorts the market, I agree with the great economist Ludwig von Mises that “capitalism breathes through loopholes.”

By allowing individuals to keep more of their own money, loopholes promote economic efficiency since, as economist Thomas DiLorenzo put it, “private individuals always spend their own money more efficiently than government bureaucrats do.” Instead of making the tax system more “efficient” by closing loopholes, Congress should increase both economic efficiency and economic liberty by repealing the income tax and replacing it with nothing.

The revenue loss from ending the income tax should be “offset” with spending cuts. All federal spending, whether financed by taxes or by debt, forcibly removes resources from the private sector. Thus, all government spending is in essence a form of taxation. Therefore, cutting income and other taxes without cutting spending merely replaces one type of taxation with another. Instead of directly paying for big government via income taxes, deficit spending means citizens will be hit with an increase in the inflation tax. This tax, imposed on the people with the Federal Reserve’s monetization of debt, is the worst form of tax because it is both hidden and regressive.

Unfortunately, while Congress may make some small cuts in domestic spending, those cuts will be dwarfed by spending increases on infrastructure Keynesianism at home and military Keynesianism abroad. As long as Congress refuses to make serious reductions in spending, the American people will be subject to the tyranny of the IRS and the Federal Reserve.

The suffering will only get worse when concerns over government debt cause the dollar to lose its status as the world reserve currency. This will lead to a dollar crisis and a major economic meltdown. The only way to avoid this fate is for the people to demand a return to limited government in all areas, sound money, and an end to the income tax.