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Ron Paul: An Interview

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Boulder Weekly: Many of your supporters are of the young Internet generation. How do you think this happened and what are you expecting from them as the primaries and election get closer?

Ron Paul: What we're expecting is that they'll all get registered and vote! Then we're gonna change the rules and have voting only on the Internet, then we're gonna win! It's pretty amazing, some people think we started off with a plan. We always had the intention and knew that the Internet would be a good source for support, we could get some attention and maybe even raise some money. It didn't come about the way we thought it might, it came about that people heard the message and read about it almost faster than we could put it out, and they loved it and started organizing. We have the Meetup groups and Facebook and all these people started getting together and talking about it. It struck a chord with so many young people, so they more or less created the campaign. There are so many independent groups making signs and putting up billboards and starting the "Ron Paul Revolution." It was spontaneous. It didn't come from the campaign, but of course, we were quite willing to tap into it and communicate with them and it turned out to be a great fundraiser. People thought young people weren't going to donate, but college students started to donate. One college group just went around to other colleges and raised almost $100,000. It is pretty amazing, and the question always is "Why?" and I guess only the young people can tell me why. They like the message. They like the idea of personal liberties and the foreign policy of not inheriting a war that never seems to end. And I think young people are more aware of what's happening financially a lot more than we give them credit for. People are saying, "Why do these young people care? They're in college. They aren't even paying income tax!" Well some of them have, and they've got Social Security that they're paying, and they're also looking at the obligations like the national debt of $9 trillion. The evidence becomes overwhelming, and you put that together with the war and the standard of living going down for some people and the government not doing a good job of ... well, of anything! Whether it's running the war or taking care of people after hurricanes. I think they were just open to a new message and they saw my message was quite different. Combine that with "I wonder who this guy is?" and they went back and looked at the record. "OK, he's been around for a long time." I have a voting record and a lot of speeches. It just caught on, a lot more so than we ever dreamed. Other campaigns have come looking, and they're looking for the "secret organization." They have money. They have organization. They can hire people, and they expect them to go out and do these things. It's exactly the opposite. The people have organized, and they come to us, and it's really ground up. So this idea that you have money and you have a desire to campaign doesn't work. It has to be the message that the young people are attracted to.

In your third quarter, you raised over $5 million, which places you below McCain. Where do you see the discrepancy between your fund-raising numbers and polling numbers?

It is a good question and I don't think anyone has the precise answer. Everyone has theories about it. Maybe the people who are really energized about it might not be at home listening to land-based telephones, and that's how all polling is done. Basically, polling is done based on Republican primary voters of two years ago, which was a lousy year for Republicans. Not many people turned out, and the people who are supporting our campaign are basically those who are just joining or dropped out for five or six years, and none of them are being called. But I still think there's a ways to go. I don't think that because we do so great on the Internet that the polls are absolutely wrong. I think they could be off a bit. They're saying there's people out there spamming and doing all of these things with the Internet. But if that were true, our rallies wouldn't be big, and the money wouldn't be coming in. Where are these names coming from? Where are these donations coming from? Right at the end of the third quarter, I thought I was way overly optimistic by boosting the campaign and saying, "Let's try to raise $500,000 this week." We've never been able to do anything like that, and it turned out it was $1.2 million. $500,000 came in only a few days so we said ask for another $500,000 and it became like a game. It was a running tally, everyone just watched and eagerly sent money and it was $1.2 million.

Having run as a third candidate, do you think that there's a problem inherent in the system that doesn't allow for third candidates to be viable?

Huge problem, and it's disgusting when we're so arrogant that we think we can go around the world and justify a war and say, "We're going to teach them about democracy." And, of course, I hate the use of force to spread any kind of message, but it's so preposterous to think that we should do it when we haven't cleaned up our house here. If we had a good system, people would want to copy us, but no. I spent most of my money trying to get on a ballot and never got in a debate. The laws are biased, the two parties don't want the competition, and people who are waking up realize whether you have Democrats or Republicans, policies never change. Are the Democrats offering a different foreign policy? Not really. They're saying the troops couldn't possibly come home 'til 2013. They don't take any options off the table when dealing with Iran. Neither are talking about monetary policy. If you don't change, you can't compete, and this is why people drop out. And this is why people who haven't been involved, or dropped out, are coming back in. You have them, and you also have the young people who have never heard this message and decided this is different. Sometimes, it's the war issue because that's the big difference people could see in the debates. It was sort of the attention getter. Then people started to think, "Well, what's he wanna do with Social Security? Does he want young people to get out of it and there's actually a way of doing this without putting people out on the streets?" And then I talk about monetary policy, and no one else in a hundred years has talked about monetary policy in a presidential campaign. I can assure you that included in the people at this rally today, there will be some who are strong supporters mainly because of the monetary policy. They know that there's something very corrupt with the special interest being able to control the monetary system and create money out of thin air.

Cheyenne has a large military community, and Wyoming, in general, has a large population in support of the war. I'm curious if that's why you came to Cheyenne.

No. We have a lot of support here, and the fundraising had come here spontaneously to Cheyenne. So I came here because of the support, and it was a primary I wanted to pay attention to. I think a lot of people are thinking, "A-ha! If he has his way, a lot of the bases will be closed down." And yet my position is the opposite. I was in the Air Force for five years in the '60s, stationed at Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio, one of the biggest military towns, and that's how I ended up in Texas. Kelly AFB has been recently closed. In the mid '90s Republicans came up with this "fiscal conservatism." "We ought to close down all these rinky-dink bases around the country because we don't need them." And while there may be some truth to that, there's too many little ones, and it's not necessary. But although I'm the most conservative in Congress, I objected to that. I didn't think it had anything to do with saving money. Sometimes it costs more to close a base down than to maintain it. Big bases were being closed down here in the United States, and at the same time, we were building military bases over in Saudi Arabia, which was doing the wrong thing. Even back before it became the precipitating factor to motivate Osama bin Laden, there were bases in Saudi Arabia. So I thought we shouldn't emphasize this policing of the world. I always objected to that. It emphasizes that we are not here to protect our own country, we're overseas expanding our empire.

As a non-interventionist, how would you approach the very real threat of people who don't like us and want to do us harm for our foreign policy as it has been?

We have to change our foreign policy, and ultimately, that will change their attitude. In the meantime, you treat it for what it is, and you try to keep it in perspective. This is a police matter. They attempted to blow up the towers in the early '90s, and they were caught. They were convicted under all current laws. They didn't need the Patriot Act. They didn't need to violate the civil liberties of every American citizen. It was taken care of. We're dealing with a few people. Of course, since we're doing the wrong thing, there's a lot more enemies out there now. Terrorists are very weak people. They don't have a political base. They don't have a government. They have no military. We were attacked by people with razor blades. To think that we have to get so hysterical about declaring World War III is way out of proportion. If we don't understand the motivation, it's only going to get worse. If it's because we're free and prosperous, we'll have to fight them forever. They do not like us over there, just like none of us, no matter where we come from in the political spectrum, if we had the Chinese occupying this country and they wanted to impose their way of life on us, none of us would like it. It would unify us against the invaders.

Supposing you end this and bring the troops home, what is it going to look like over in Iraq and here in the United States?

I think it would get better. The danger of terrorism would diminish, not overnight. I think, eventually, they'll work out their problems. I think if we pulled out of the Middle East, Arabs would work out a better deal with Israel. I don't think Israel would be endangered because they can take care of themselves. I think the lessons of Vietnam are worth looking at. We had to stay there, and we had to win. We lost 60,000. But we use another 60,000 because if we leave, there will be a domino effect, and the communists will take over all of Southeast Asia. But after 20 years of the French and the Americans telling the Vietnamese what to do, they ended up being unified. The wars stopped, and all of a sudden, instead of being communists, they became westernized. We achieved in peace what we couldn't achieve in war, and we adapted to the policy advised by the founding fathers that said trade with the people and talk to them. There's no reason why that wouldn't happen in Iraq. There's a much better chance if we were out of the mix. We created the chaos. There was no civil war going on before we got there. There's the consequence of the lack of government in Iraq, strengthening the Kurds and the potential war between Kurdistan and Turkey. That's a problem as a result of our destruction of the government over there. Everything we do has an unintended consequence. We have to quit the interference to quit having these unintended consequences and remove this threat of blowback.

Do you now feel some sort of moral obligation to clean up the mess?

There is a moral consequence to what we've caused, but none of you have a moral responsibility. I don't think I should take your resources to go over there and rebuild Iraq. The moral consequence should be on those who committed the errors in our foreign policy, but that's about 24 people. It's 24 neoconservatives who took over our foreign policy. They should be responsible, and they don't have to pay for it. That's not practical, and that's not going to happen. As sympathetic as I am, I cannot further tax the American people to rebuild Iraq. I would say the best thing to do is work out something where the wealth that they have, the oil, is used to do that. We, the American people, were taxed to build bombs to go over and break up their infrastructure—to bomb highways and bridges. And now we're being taxed to rebuild them. At the same time, we're running out of money and our bridges here are falling down. We have to quit. It's time to take care of our own bridges.

You are for an immediate pull out?

Yes. Immediate is not 24 hours. Immediate is as quickly as you can. It is talking to the military and figuring out how long it is going to take—not five years. You tell them that we are no longer going to have 14 permanent military bases and that we are going to turn the embassy, which is bigger than the Vatican, over to some charity or something. Just change the attitude about the way we assume that we own these countries. I think it's the change in attitude that we need to take care of. Maybe it will take three or four or five months to take care of it.

Do you consider yourself a pacifist?

No. But some of my heroes are pacifists. I would much prefer the approach of Gandhi and Martin Luther King—where they practice civil disobedience—than I am of having this missionary spirit with guns to go over and tell people what to do. It's the missionary zeal of these neoconservatives to march into these countries, and always with this noble intent of making you a better country and remaking the Middle East. And I believe in a strong national defense. I think our national defense has diminished because of what we're doing and we're in greater jeopardy.

But I would never go to war as a president without consent of the Congress. Never. It's ironic that I would be a president that's demanding that Congress live up to their responsibilities. Congress is every bit to blame for this war as the president because the Congress just gave up on this responsibility and said, "We'll transfer this power to the president. We don't say you can or have to go to war, but if you want to go to war ..."

They amended the Constitution with mere legislation. I suggest that they make those decisions themselves. The only time a president should have responsibility is if we're under an attack, and it's imminent, and you don't have time. And if you do, you go to the Congress.

But you don't run wars for five years without declaration. Really this war has been going on since 1991.

You're for a large scale back of federal agencies like FEMA. What would your alternative to aid be?

Local government and guard units should help out. These houses that have been burned down—95 percent of them are insured. And insurance should pay for it. People take a risk, and they should suffer the consequences. They should buy insurance. New Orleans is still not rebuilt. Central economic planning doesn't work. The whole thing is the opposite of resuming responsibility for ourselves and having local government handle it.

As a doctor, what do you see as the best solution to our health-care problem?

Get rid of managed care. Managed care created this corporatization that we have. The corporations make most of the money. The patients come up shortchanged. The doctors don't like it. Hospitals are going broke. We put mandates that hospitals have to take care of illegal aliens, and hospitals are closing. Managed care came with the Arista laws and the tax laws of the 1970s, and we've created a middle man, a third-party payment system, and that's why in Washington, a $30 billion-industry is lobbied by drug companies and HMOs, all the management companies, and they invest a lot of money.

Actually, the AMA has joined in the lobbying. They lobby for managed care, they don't lobby for patient rights. But you have to change the tax code and let people get out of the system and let people get all their money back from medical care from tax credits and move in that transition. If we don't change it now, we're going to wind up with socialized medicine, and we can look to the other countries to get a doctor. It's a real mess. We put so many prohibitions in choices in medicine. If you want alternative medicine, health insurance won't pay for it.

Or if you want nutritional products from a free market, the drug companies take over and have a monopoly on it. You can't get your nutritional products, and I think the other thing is that there is too much monopolization on medical care through licensing. Organized medicine has created monopolies and the prices go up. The other reason for high prices is because of legal procedures. We as physicians have to practice very defensive medicine, and that's an issue that has been addressed in some states out of necessity. It has become expensive because you order way more tests than you actually need because you're worried on Monday morning that the attorney is going to come to your door to take you to court.

What else about your plans and policies would benefit small businesses, say small farms for example?

We need more free trade than sanctions. The farmers in my district would benefit if we had free trade with Cuba. And everybody can benefit from that.

I'd take sanctions off Iran and start selling them farm products. They used to buy many. I think that sanctions are a form of war, and it hurts not only farmers but small business people. They don't need more regulations. They don't need more taxes. Now that farmland prices are going up, they certainly don't need any inheritance tax because now if land prices have gone up and they try to pass the land on to their kids, it looks like the government is going to come and take the land because of the inheritance taxes.

There are so many things we could do by deregulation. There is so much we do in the market that is caused by subsidies and farmers and bankers and it usually helps the large corporations and not the family farmers. I represented district farmers for a long time. I never voted for farm subsidies and most farmers knew what I was doing. But you need a healthy economy. You need a sound currency. You need better trade policies.

We have trade deficits because of our inflation and the cost of our machinery and all of these things add up. It's not like you can just offer them a subsidy. You need to create a healthier market and that involves trade policies as well as monetary policies.

What specific steps, if any, should the government take toward the use of renewable energy?

They should just get out of the way and let price determine it. When there's a prohibition against certain forms, there shouldn't be a prohibition. Like nuclear. It's not prohibited, but they're [the government] in the way all the time. I don't think we've had a nuclear plant in over 20 years, and it's the cheapest and the safest. And that might contribute to the lowering of other prices, like lowering the price of natural gas.

The politicians and bureaucrats have no idea what the best form of fuel is. If they subsidize one, and let's say it's gonna be ethanol, they might make a mistake, and a lot of people think we have made a mistake. It might take as much energy to create a gallon as what you get. So you want the market to work so that there are other forms. Brazil is a lot more effective by using sugar cane as a form of energy, but we don't subsidize sugar cane.

Of course, one of the greatest sources of ethanol is hemp, but we can't use that because it's illegal in this country for some bizarre reason. So the Canadians grow the hemp, and we just have to get out of that attitude that we have to regulate everything. The market will determine what is renewable and how necessary it is. If we ended the war, the prices would drop. If we continue the war, oil is going to be $200 a barrel, and someone is going to have to do something. Our problem in Washington is that they subsidize this and prohibit that, and then when they come up with a program for energy, there are tremendous subsidies for corporations. They have funds in there to give to the giant energy companies. And it shouldn't be that way. I have a lot more faith in the market than the government does.

This interview originally appeared in the Boulder Weekly.