Chris Matthews: Welcome back. We saw thousands of Tea Partiers rally in Washington on Tax Day last week. And a recent political poll actually shows the movement is split between social concerns (Sarah Palin is their leader), and libertarians who support Congressman Ron Paul. Congressman Ron Paul is with us tonight. It’s an honor to have you, sir, you’re a leader of a movement. Sometimes you remind me of my hero growing up, he was in fact Barry Goldwater.
Ron Paul: Oh.
Chris Matthews: And then I grew up. And I began to see the complications of life, like people get old and they don’t have a lot of ability to save money, so they need Social Security. And we need a civil rights bill, even if it was done under the Interstate Commerce Clause maybe a fiddle there. But the fact is it isn’t always as clear and simple as libertarian philosophy argues. But you have stuck to your position. You are a libertarian and at your age you still believe that way less government is way better.
Ron Paul: But aren’t we on the verge of proving our point? Social Security sounds good, but it’s broke. And even if they take care of sending out the checks, eventually the checks won’t buy anything because they’ll just print the money. So I think our point has been proven. That’s what this whole movement is about, that’s what the Tea Party Movement is all about. I mean, the failure of government is everywhere around us.
Chris Matthews: Okay, I used to argue this with my dad who was sort of a middle-of-the-road Republican. I tried to take your position and he would say, “Yeah, but some people just don’t save money. Maybe they don’t have the discipline, maybe they don’t have the financial ability. They live paycheck to paycheck.” All of a sudden they’re 65 and they don’t have any money. In the old days you’d move in with your kids. But in modern society the kids have already moved to the suburbs, you’re in the old neighborhood, it doesn’t work. That’s why the government felt it needed to have some kind of safety net for retired people. You still don’t think we need Social Security? This is pretty fundamental.
Ron Paul: There is a moral issue there as well. The person that didn’t save and spent their money and had no money when they were 65, why does that give them a moral right to take it from the person who was frugal and saved?
Chris Matthews: Because you forced them to pay in the payroll tax.
Ron Paul: But what if you didn’t force them?
Chris Matthew: That’s the problem my father would say. Okay, so what do you do with those people? If you don’t have a Social Security System, what do you do?
Ron Paul: Well, you’re going to better off than a Social Security System where everybody is dependent and goes totally bankrupt and you have a whole society broke. That’s what the problem will be. Nobody is going to get care.
Chris Matthews: Would it be better getting rid of Social Security?
Ron Paul: No, not in these circumstances. I have bills in the Congress that would make it solvent, that you couldn’t spend a penny of it. And I would take care of these people who are totally dependent by stopping the money being spent overseas and I would have a transition in order to do that.
Chris Matthews: Cutting spending overseas […] that’s the part I like. Let me ask you about this healthcare bill. It always seems to me that when people say, “I don’t want a helmet”, fine, ride without a helmet. But, when you get picked up on a highway and you’re all messed up and the ambulance gets there and the rescue squad gets there ten minutes later, you’re taken care of. Somebody takes you to the best hospital, the closest hospital, gives you the best treatment they can give you. So society does look after its individual members; it does. Libertarians say, “I don’t need society. I don’t want to pay into healthcare”. Is that logical to you?
Ron Paul: No, it’s not logical to have what we have. That means you create the moral hazard. The person goes out and says, “Oh, I don’t really have to worry. If I get hurt, somebody else is going to take care of me”. But where does he have the moral right to say that, “I’ve been injured”, it’s a socialization of medicine. This idea that government will take care of me, that means that somebody will…
Chris Matthews: No, but doesn’t that person have to take responsibility and buy health insurance?
Ron Paul: I think they have to take responsibility for their life. If they injure themselves, if they’re stupid, we can’t protect people against themselves.
Chris Matthews: No, but when you get a stroke, you have a heart attack or something goes wrong with you at the workplace and somebody has to look out for you, isn’t it better that society says, “No, wait a minute, while you’re young and healthy, kick into healthcare like this new plan requires, so that when something goes wrong, you’ve already begun to contribute.”
Ron Paul: See, I think where we disagree is you use the word “society” rather carelessly. Who’s the society? Society is just everybody that is only a few people who are in the Congress someplace dictating who society is and who pays, who gets bailed out and who doesn’t. And under a society where people are responsible for themselves, they have to suffer the consequence. If they don’t take care of themselves, they have to depend on charity, their friends or their neighbors, their churches. But you would have a lot fewer people. Now we’re going to have a whole society. I mean, now we have 21% of the people that are underemployed because of this false illusion about Keynesian economics, that this is going to work. There is going to be nobody else to bail them out. So society isn’t going to be there because society is broke. The government is broke.
Chris Matthews: So the president should not have pushed a big spending bill in the face of the big looming second great depression?
Ron Paul: Oh, that was horrible. It was exactly the opposite thing.
Chris Matthews: He shouldn’t have done it?
Ron Paul: He should have cut spending and put the money…
Chris Matthews: That’s what Hoover did.
Ron Paul: What?
Chris Matthew: Cut spending.
Ron Paul: No, he didn’t. Hoover was every bit as bad as Roosevelt. Roosevelt just continued the Hoover program.
Chris Matthews: You want to go back to Coolidge? You love Coolidge. You guys love Coolidge.
Ron Paul: No, how about Thomas Jefferson and few people like that who believed in freedom and free markets.
Chris Matthews: Let’s take a look at this Tea Party Movement that you and Barry Goldwater are going back. People believe there is too much government, too much big brother. I understand the impulse. Some people in the Tea Party Movement don’t exactly go along with that. They’re more for Palin, they love to outlaw abortion, a lot of other issues they’re very concerned about. They don’t like same sex marriages. Is the Tea Party Movement too social and not economic enough for you? How would you describe what you see in that?
Ron Paul: Well, I don’t think anybody can describe it yet. They’re claiming there is a difference, but they’ll say that I am not as interested in the social issues. But in many ways here I’m a very conservative person.
Chris Matthews: But you’re not rallying around the evils of same-sex marriage. I don’t hear you talking about that.
Ron Paul: No, but to say that I’m not interested in family values – I happen to be married and I have children and all that.
Chris Matthews: That’s fairly normal, but you’re not out there waving signs against same-sex marriages.
Ron Paul: That’s true. I believe in values, but I do not believe in using force to put those values. I don’t believe in using force to make you a better person for your own sake. But I don’t believe in putting force on you to make you more responsible economically. I apply the rules equally to social justice and economic justice. I don’t understand this division why you may defend social liberties rather well, but as soon as it comes to me spending my money and assuming responsibility…
Chris Matthews: You are consistent, you’re the only one that I know. Because most people who say that they’re libertarians always come back in and say, “Yeah, but no same-sex marriage and let’s outlaw abortion”.
Ron Paul: I think the consistent position should be that government shouldn’t be involved in marriage. I mean, why should we have this argument? It’s up to anybody’s opinion.
Chris Matthews: I agree. Do you think every Tea Party person takes that view?
Ron Paul: Probably not, but I think everybody should be able to define it. I have my definition of marriage, but I don’t have a right to impose my views on others. But nobody has a right to impose their views on me.
Chris Matthews: What do you make of the ugly part of the movement? I don’t think you have anything to do with it. When I look at these signs, they got Hitler moustaches on the president of the United States, they do crazy colors on his face to play around with his ethnic background. Look at this stuff, they got hammer and sickle. All this stuff is really kind of nasty, edgy, “I hate the guy”, rather than “I have a different philosophy than this guy”. He got elected president legitimately. I disagree with him. What’s all this de-legitimization: “He’s not really our president. He wasn’t really born here.” What is all this?
Ron Paul: Well, I think that might be a distortion. I have never seen that on Fox.
Chris Matthews: You got a look around a little. Most people are aware that this is part of the movement.
Ron Paul: I think it’s rather small and it’s rather ugly.
Chris Matthews: O’Reilly is almost moving to the center compared to some of those guys. I mean, he knows it’s going on.
Ron Paul: But they’ve done some detailed polling on these people, and these are well educated people and probably 99% of the people probably don’t carry ugly signs up.
Chris Matthews: But who got the signs up? The signs are from outside agitators?
Ron Paul: Maybe they’re leftist for all we know. Maybe somebody gets out..
Chris Matthews: You are kidding me.
Ron Paul: Yeah, probably. Just trying to needle you.
Chris Matthews: Okay, Rand Paul, I know this guy is your kid; your son. He might pull an upset and win one of the Senate seats for Kentucky.
Ron Paul: Yeah, looks good, it looks very good.
Chris Matthews: But you guys have become the bandwagon. Who’s backing your son now? Is it Mitt Romney’s backing him?
Ron Paul: Oh, I don’t think so. But Bunning did.
Chris Matthews: Jim Bunning.
Ron Paul: Bunning is the conservative independent, you know. He has not fallen to the trap of being part of the establishment. He’s anti-establishment. He’s with the grassroots and the Tea Party people and the people who like individual liberties and free markets and sound money. I mean, they’re all for that.
Chris Matthews: You guys can win it. You can win in Florida with Marco Rubio, you can win in Kentucky. You can win it around the country.
Ron Paul: There’s a revolution going on, Chris. You’re not checking up on us?
Chris Matthews: Are you a leader? Sarah Palin?
Ron Paul: No, I’m not a leader. I don’t think there is any one leader.
Chris Matthews: You think she could be president, by her abilities.
Ron Paul: Oh sure, just look at the past history. Almost anybody can become president.
Chris Matthews: Now you’re just not saying anything. You’re saying anybody can be president. You’re saying there’s no standards. It’s a complicated job.
Ron Paul: That’s right. But I would say that on both the Republican and Democratic side, people rise to the occasion. All of a sudden they have good advisors.
Chris Matthews: You’re a true romantic. A Harry Truman romantic here. Thank you. Congressman Ron Paul.
Ron Paul: Good to see you.