By David Swanson
If Ron Paul had been president for the past 6 years, a million more Iraqis would be alive, and another 4 million would not be refugees. The world would be a safer place, and Americans would have lost fewer freedoms.
But more Americans would lack decent health care. More American children would lack adequate education. More families in America would struggle in poverty. Immigrant families would face increased threats and abuse. Women would have lost rights. And a growing oligarchy would further dominate American politics, making reversal of any admirable Paul policies likely.
Paul arrives at some admirable positions for some unexpected reasons. And his principles lead him to many reprehensible positions as well. He opposes occupying Iraq because it involves massive government expense and power. That, and not the million corpses, is his primary concern.
Paul is brave enough to say what he thinks and stand by it. While there are Democrats, like Dennis Kucinich and Barbara Lee, who have that same quality, the Democratic Party as a whole has an established reputation of not standing and fighting for anything, and least of all peace.
So, it’s not completely surprising that a lot of opponents of the occupation of Iraq are looking to Paul as the best presidential candidate out there. Many Paul supporters really want peace and want it for the best reasons, but they detest the word “liberal” and loathe “big government.” Others are not quite in that camp but consider the war such an overwhelmingly important issue that they don’t much care what Paul’s other positions are.
But Paul would end the occupation of Iraq and offer the Iraqi people not a dime to help rebuild the nation we’ve destroyed. In fact, he would cut the pittance we give in foreign aide around the world. But Paul has never, to my knowledge, said he would cut a single dollar from the biggest big government expense there is, much bigger than any war: the yearly budget of the Pentagon. And if he thinks he can keep funding that and NOT launch new wars, he hasn’t thought about the workings of our government quite enough.
So, a Paul government would be stingy, extravagant, war-prone despite itself, and in debt. Would Paul solve that problem be reinstating progressive taxation for the super wealthy and corporations? No, he’d cut taxes. Of course, taxes SHOULD be cut for most people. But unless they’re raised for the wealthy and corporations, we will have even more debt (which Paul says he opposes) or we will have to make massive cuts in what’s left of the non-military public sector. And that’s exactly what Paul would like to see: “wasteful agencies” and “governments collecting foreign aid” are among his targets. Rather than increasing funding for public schools, his solution for education would be to cut more taxes (the thinking being that this would allow parents to teach their children at home). That works for parents who want to do that and don’t have to work. But most parents don’t want to do that and do have to work. And with a president Paul allowing the minimum wage to plummet, opposing living wage standards, and doing nothing to restore the right to unionize, parents’ work hours would not be shrinking.
Of course parents who don’t work, or don’t work jobs with good benefits, tend to lack health insurance. Paul would offer these tens of millions of Americans and the even greater number with inadequate health insurance nothing more than a middle finger. Paul believes the greatest crisis in our health care is the imposition of vaccinations. Everything always comes back to his notion of personal “freedom,” even if it’s the freedom to die of a curable disease. The only solution that has been found to provide everyone decent health care – in fact it works in almost every industrialized nation in the world – would mean private medicine, allowing everyone to choose their own doctor, but would also mean replacing the health insurance companies with the government. This is the last thing Paul would ever stand for. Better that people suffer and die than that the government be involved in helping them.
Women who value the right to abortion would lose it under a Paul Administration. This is not speculation. He openly says he wants to overturn Roe v. Wade. That’s his principle and he stands by it courageously and honestly, but most Americans disagree with him.
Life would change dramatically for all Americans under this sort of right-wing rule, but much more so for immigrants. Paul would allow fewer legal immigrants, while denying any illegal immigrants a path to become citizens. An immigrant woman here without papers who was raped would be denied the right to an abortion. Her child, born in America, would be denied citizenship. Her family would be denied welfare, as well as health care, and education, not to mention any investment in public transportation. Undocumented workers would gain no workplace rights under a Paul government, and so the rights of all of us would continue to erode. In fact, immigrants would be scapegoated and associated with 9-11, and Paul’s priority would be “securing borders.”
Under a Paul administration there would be fewer immigrants for a good reason: he opposes the trade policies that destroy the economies of the nations they flee to come here. But Paul opposes those policies because they are international, not because they empower corporations and hurt workers. That’s none of his concern. He’s a “property rights” man, even if it’s at the expense of those without property. He opposes NAFTA for the same reason he opposes the United Nations. He would erode international law far more swiftly than Bush, thereby endangering us all in the long run. International law is what works against wars of aggression.
But if Paul is as major an opponent of justice as I suggest, why then are so many advocates of peace and justice flocking to him? It depends in each case. Many passionately oppose the occupation of Iraq, but they don’t call it an occupation. They call it a war. And their chief concern is not the million Iraqis dead, but the nearly four thousand Americans. And (this is key) they don’t like the Democrats.
Paul is a man with principles, bizarre and twisted principles, but principles. Beside him, most of the Republicans look like charlatans, and the Democrats who are allowed on television and in the New York Times look like spineless cowards. They look like spineless cowards not because they favor peace (they don’t), but because they refuse to stand up to Bush and Cheney. Paul stands up to Bush and Cheney. NOTHING is more powerful than that in today’s politics, and he does it. Standing up to Bush and Cheney is what propelled Howard Dean’s campaign so rapidly, and few paid close attention to what his positions were either.
Of course, there is a candidate in the 2008 presidential race who stands consistently and courageously on principle for both peace AND justice. And if we had the courage of our convictions we would put everything we have into backing him. Not only might he win, but our backing him now might force the Democrats in Congress to act like they believe in something, and force other candidates to improve their positions. His name is Dennis Kucinich. Paul doesn’t want people to give their money to Washington. Give it to http://www.kucinich.us