Ron Paul talks with John Stossel about the midterm elections and what the results mean for the future of freedom.
John Stossel: Okay, the results are in and the Republicans took the House and when campaigning they were very excited about stopping the orgy of spending. “We’ll practice fiscal restraint”, they said. But will they? I’m not so sure. The main reason I’m a Libertarian is I’ve come to believe is what’s best for people is limited government. During my life, neither Republicans nor Democrats were good for that; both increased spending and regulation. But maybe this time it will be different, because this time some candidates talked a lot about limiting government’s powers. In 40 years of reporting I can’t remember when I heard that from politicians who had a chance of being elected. Well, that’s not exactly true, there was one, and he joins us now from his office in Clute, Texas. Congressman Ron Paul won the reelection this time, again, 76% to 24%.
Ron, welcome. And you were saying these things when no one else was saying it. And they called you, “Dr. No – you’re an obstructionist”. Must have been awful for you.
Ron Paul: Well, I expected it, so it didn’t bother me too much. I’ve always been amazed that they’ve tolerated me as well as they have. My wife always helped me out on that, because they had called me “Dr. No” and it sounds so negative because I think liberty is very positive. But she said, “Just tell them you spell ‘no’ as ‘know'”, so we just marched on and tried to do the things that we thought were right and I think in some ways were vindicated. The country certainly is talking about it, we don’t see the definite move towards liberty, but a lot more people are talking about it. And one thing is for sure; the people are upset with the status quo. So I see it as an opportunity and hopefully our message will sink in.
John Stossel: And what do you see in this week’s election results? You’re happy, obviously, that your son – congratulations – is now a Senator. What else? Is this good for liberty?
Ron Paul: It is, because they’re recognizing the problem and they’re recognizing that the status quo has to be changed, and a lot of people had to be put out of office. That is very, very good. But what is being offered, is the big question. You know, I was excited about 1980’s election, 1994 and the year 2000, thinking that maybe conservative libertarian types in the Republican Party would make a significant change, but it never happened. But one thing that really disappointed me in the campaign is they weren’t really involved in personal liberty, the Patriot Act, searches without warrants, torture, preventive war and all the things going on. They never talked about foreign policy, and they call themselves fiscal conservatives and they spend a trillion dollars a year on managing an empire. I mean, you’re not going to solve your problem that way. You can’t tinker around with cutting food-stamps for the poor and think you’re going to solve this problem. We have to change our attitude about the role of government, we can’t be the policeman of the world, we shouldn’t be policing personal lifestyles, and we certainly shouldn’t be running the economy. We have to have those attitudes changed, or there’s no hope that we’ll solve our problems.
John Stossel: So, are you disappointed in your own son, because he has said, “My dad would eliminate half the Federal departments, I’m trying to nibble around the edges”.
Ron Paul: Well, he’s been challenged pretty well, and I think at times that’s fine, that’s what we’re involved in. But, you know, they came down pretty hard on him and he hadn’t even cast a vote yet, so I’m going to give him a break. I’m going to wait to see how he votes. And I think he’s going to do very well and I think he knows what it’s all about and he’s very principled and he knows the libertarian message. He knows what capitalism is all about. So I think we should remain optimistic about how he does.
John Stossel: Let me bring in two other people who know what capitalism is all about. Matt Welch is the editor of Reason Magazine. Kimberly Strassel writes opinion columns for the Wall Street Journal. So what do you guys say, what do the election results mean for freedom?
Kimberly Strassel: Well, I think it was a huge victory for the possibility of economic freedom. We got a lot of candidates who came in and were talking about the right things: Limited government, less spending, lower taxes. But now we’re going to see if they can actually put it into action, and that’s the hard part. And they’re going to have a very tough time, you know, I’ve already seen one of the interesting interviews that’s already come out with President Obama. They asked, “Well, what are you going to work with the Republicans on?” And he said, “Oh well, you know, I think that Highway Reauthorization Bill is a good first thing we can do”. So he’s going to be out there.
John Stossel: He’s going to win them over with pork for their…
Kimberly Strassel: Yea, that’s going to be the big trap: “We’ll see how committed you are to those limited government spending principles, or we can send back some pork to your district.”
John Stossel: Matt Welch, Reason Magazine?
Matt Welch: It’s always a good day when politicians get fired, and it’s even better when they get fired for the right reason, which many people did this week. And we’re getting to a place where we do have more of a “Dr. No” situation.
Kimberly Strassel: The word is repudiation, that was what this was about.
Matt Welch: Or refutation.
Kimberly Strassel: Refutation.
John Stossel: Dr. Paul, your thoughts on that?
Ron Paul: You know, I think there will be this big effort to work together and to compromise. And I think that is very dangerous. That doesn’t mean that you’re rigid and you don’t work with people, but if you work for compromise, which means the moderate approach is – somebody proposes an increases of a 100 billion and you settle for a 50 billion, and they say that’s a compromise. The only way we should work in compromise is if you propose nothing and somebody else wants a 100 and you settle for 50.
John Stossel: I was disappointed when I looked at the smaller results after the excitement over the House changing and some of these ballot measures; proposition 19 to legalize marijuana went down in California, restricting eminent domain abuse defeated in Nevada, getting bureaucrats in San Francisco to pay a little more for their own health benefits – defeated, reducing the sales tax in Massachusetts – defeated. There were others. It’s like the Libertarians are getting killed.
Matt Welch: Don’t forget prop 25 in California, too, which allowed to reduce the threshold to raise taxes from a the two-thirds vote in the legislature to 50% vote, which is …
John Stossel: And in California the vote to say, “Yes, we want to have these global warming rules that will make no difference, but will kill our economy. Yes!”
Kimberly Strassel: But John – think about where those are based. We’re talking about Massachusetts over here – one coast, California – another coast. I mean, these are not exactly bastions of freedom any more these days.
Matt Welch: And in the case of California and prop 19 in particular, the revolution didn’t happen, but it got started in a way. In 2012 we’re going to see legalization.
John Stossel: Prop 19, for these of you who don’t know, is to legalize marijuana.
Matt Welch: We’re going to see the propositions for legalization knocking through the front door liberty in Colorado, in probably Nevada, South Dakota in 2012. And it’s going to have a definite impact on, among other things, the presidential race in 2012 with these ballot measures.
John Stossel: Who are the new freedom leaders now in Congress who impress you? Dr. Paul, let me go to you first, besides your son, of course.
Ron Paul: Yea, we won’t be biased and pick him. But, you know, the one candidate now is Congressman Justin Amash from Michigan. Not much was said on the national level. I think he’s going to be one of my very close allies. So I would like to see him become a Congressional leader.
John Stossel: I’m embarrassed, I hadn’t even heard of him, so that’s interesting.
Kimberly Strassel: He posts all of his votes on Facebook as an explanation for why he voted the way he did. He’s a total-transparency candidate.
John Stossel: Radical.
Kimberly Strassel: Yea. The thing I thought was really cool was the number of people elected who were business candidates. I mean, people who have actually been out there in the world, they know how make …
John Stossel: Name some names.
Kimberly Strassel: Okay, you know, Steve Southerland down in Florida. He knows what it means to hire people; he knows what it means to fire people; he knows what it means to make payroll. You look at Rick Snyder from Michigan, who ran a computer company, he just became governor up there. Vicky Hartzler, who beat Ike Skelton, a big guy in Congress, and she and her husband own a small business. They sell farm equipment. Stephen Fincher down in Tennessee; this guy actually climbed off his tractor. He’s a farmer and ran for Congress and won. So real world experience, not the lawyers we normally see, but guys who actually know how things work and are going to bring that sensibility to Congress.
Matt Welch: I think it’s also interesting to follow people how they won in addition to what they ran on. And since the congressman is being polite or discrete about his son, I will say that the way that Rand Paul won is fascinating. He ran against the Republican establishment. Explicitly, Mitch McConnell tried to support his opponent in the primary election and he ran a principled Tea Partyish candidacy and won going away. Everyone said he was going to lose after he won the primary. We’ve already forgotten that the Tea Party screwed it up for the Republican Party. Well, that didn’t turn out to be true. He has power in his independence right now. And Marco Rubio down in Florida, when he gave his acceptance speech said that this is not a victory for the Republican Party – that was very interesting – this is a wakeup call to the Republican Party, a second chance, a lifeline. And people who were sounding these notes are people who we should be following.
John Stossel: Well, thank you Matt Welch and Kimberly Strassel. A Senator once said, “I met your wife the other day”, and confused our names. But we are not related here, it’s not even spelt the same. And Congressman Paul, congratulations to you again, and good for you. Having worked at ABC I know what it’s like to try to argue these ideas when no one around you agrees. You’ve done it longer and harder and more effectively than anyone.
Thanks to Kathleen Keane for proofreading this transcript!