October 20, 2011
Many assumed it couldn’t happen, but something useful has
finally emerged from the battle for the GOP presidential nomination.
It’s Ron Paul’s “Plan
to Restore America.”
The document explains that President Paul would repeal Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank, and
requirement “for thorough congressional review and authorization before
implementing any new regulations issued by bureaucrats.” Income-tax rates
wouldn’t change, but the death tax would die for good, and the levy on
corporations would drop to 15 percent. The Federal Reserve, Paul’s bête noir, would get a decades-overdue
audit, and he’d sign “competing currency legislation to strengthen the dollar
and stabilize inflation.”
All good stuff -- the measures would do much to end America’s
economic doldrums and get the nation back on a path of sustained growth.
But it’s Paul’s spending reforms that should get tea partiers really
While not sweeping enough -- it retains NASA, the Department of
Agriculture, and many other needless federal bureaucracies, and does nothing
about Social Security and Medicare -- Paul’s budget represents a giant step
toward true austerity.
The new president would prune $1 trillion in the first fiscal year
of his administration. Most agencies, including the Pentagon, would see their outlays
rolled back to 2006 levels, then frozen in 2014, 2015, and 2016. Five egregiously
inessential cabinet-level departments -- Housing and Urban Development, Interior,
Commerce, Education, and Energy -- would vanish. The out-of-control Environmental
Protection Agency would suffer a 30 percent cut. Medicaid would be
block-granted to the states, as would food stamps. And Paul promises to slash congressional
“pay and perks,” while taking “a salary of $39,336, approximately equal to the
median personal income of the American worker.”
All budgets are projections, and subject to unpleasant variables.
But Paul’s number-crunchers believe that their plan would get the U.S.
treasury to a surplus by 2015. (The
2011 deficit was $1.3 trillion.) By 2016, Washington’s share of gross domestic product
(GDP) would dwindle to 15.5 percent -- still far too high, but headed in the
A final fact about Paul’s skinflintery: If it were implemented, assuredly
over the squeals of liberals and the legacy media, the national debt would continue to rise. “Entitlement” growth
ensures that even four years of “discretionary” cuts would hike the nation’s
credit-card balance by $1.6 trillion -- putting you and your progeny on the
hook for a total of $16.6 trillion.
“Dr. No” will not, of course, get the Republican Party’s nod to
challenge Barack Obama. For reasons sacred and profane,
the GOP’s core constituencies adore the warfare state. Candidates who advocate
noninterventionism abroad are largely shunned.
Republicans’ foreign-policy kookery will cost him the
nomination, but Paul’s inevitable loss doesn’t mean that he can’t play a huge
role in the 2012 campaign. His expenditure plan offers a test to all fedpols and fedpol-wannabes. GOPers who
flee from Paul’s proposed cuts cannot be considered serious advocates of fiscal
restraint, and they should stare down the business end of tea-party wrath.
Exhibit A: Mitt Romney. The Republican likeliest to challenge
Obama devoted scant attention to spending in his 160-page policy manifesto. He
endorsed the GOP’s tepid, specifics-free “Cut, Cap, and Balance” blueprint. Defunding
cabinet departments isn’t a priority for Romney, and he’s willing to accept a
federal government that consumes 20 percent of GDP.
Most Republicans running for Congress are likely to mimic Romney’s
strategy. Endorse a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution. (Tough to
pass, and would probably be riddled with loopholes.) Bloviate about “waste,
fraud, and abuse.” (Certainly a problem, but a pittance compared to Social
Security, Medicare, and militarism.) Bash “overpaid” bureaucrats. (They
are indeed overpaid, but compensation right-sizing can’t offset Washington’s marquee expenses.)
Although imperfect, the Paul agenda’s gravity cannot be
questioned. It’s the gold
standard, so to speak, of D.C. downsizing, at least until something better
Activists should turn Paul’s plan into a weapon. Print it out,
and wave it in candidates’ faces. Too “radical” for some, perhaps? Neocon
mouthpiece Rush Limbaugh, who ridicules Paul and despises libertarians, virtually
endorsed it. “We know that little chunks here and little chunks there are not
gonna make a dent in the problem,” declared the talk-show host.
the Northeast, Republicans posture themselves as advocates of limited
government. Their claims have always been more rhetoric than reality. Now, with
a cratered economy and imminent federal insolvency, it’s time to make the
“tough choices” they’ve long talked about.
Ron Paul has made his budget-cutting priorities clear. All
Republicans running for federal office should follow suit.
D. Dowd Muska (www.dowdmuska.com) writes about government, economics, and technology. Follow him on Twitter @dowdmuska.
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