Ron Paul appeared on Stossel to respond to Obama’s State of the Union address from a libertarian perspective. Dr. Paul spoke about partisan politics in DC, the federal government’s spending addiction, and America’s militarism around the world with co-panelists David Boaz (executive vice president of the Cato Institute) and Nicole Kurokowa (Senior Policy Analyst at the Independent Women’s Forum).
John Stossel: Good evening and welcome to this special live edition of Stossel. Much of the coverage of tonight’s State of the Union has been Republicans and Democrats giving their spin. Will this help Obama? The Democrats? Will it help the Republicans? I don’t care. Instead, I have assembled some of the smartest people I know to debate whether Obama’s suggestions, or Paul Ryan’s, advance prosperity or liberty. Because isn’t that what’s most important? Our audience tonight is mostly college students, many of whom are already smart enough to call themselves Libertarians. Not all, but I’m working on them! Thank you for coming. And you’re in luck tonight because my first guest is probably one of…probably America’s most prominent Libertarians. Congressman and former presidential candidate Ron Paul. So, Dr Paul, did you see anything, hear anything tonight you liked?
Ron Paul: Not really. I think every one of these speeches are very similar. They’ve been talking about cutting back for years, like you indicated in your opening. But I heard nothing there that would get me excited. I didn’t hear where the cuts would be. I heard that there would be new programs, not less programs. And that there would probably be more taxes too. And then they won’t even come close to dealing with the deficit. He talks about cutting at one point $400 billions after 5 years or so. I think we increased the national debt last year by $1.7 trillion. So they’re not even talking about it. It’s just…they’re throwing things out here to try to reassure the people. But there’s nothing that’s going to reassure the people until we have a healthy economy. And there’s too much unemployment…
John Stossel: The president may have been trying to reassure the people but Paul Ryan seemed pretty dire. He talked about bankruptcy. And we’re at the tipping point. You’re right, he wasn’t very specific but you’re not impressed by his speech either?
Ron Paul: Oh no. I think he’s very sincere. And I think he would move it in a different fashion. But I keep thinking about we’re the worst when we have the clout. We don’t have any clout. The House has a little more clout now. But we argue…the Republicans have argued we don’t need ObamaCare. So we vote, in the House, to get rid of ObamaCare. It’s not going to go to the Senate. The President is not going to do that. When we had a better chance, and this is the frustration of the Libertarians, we hear libertarian-like ideas from Republicans. But the Republicans had the House and the Senate and the Presidency. But government expanded massively. And deficits exploded. So this is why the people get cynical and
John Stossel: But wait a second. I don’t want to be cynical. I’m assuming this is a new group. They’ve wised up. They’re at least talking to my ear more about cuts. The president, in terms of specific cuts, proposes to freeze non-defence discretionary spending.
Ron Paul: We always hope they’ll cut. But you have to cut discretionary spending too. You have to cut everything.
John Stossel: That’s only 19 percent of the budget.
Ron Paul: Maybe less than that. You see, I don’t think that all this talk has much meaning because I don’t think they’re talking about the right thing. They’re talking about the budget, which is very important. And I didn’t vote for any of this spending. So, I think there’s too much spending. But I think it’s what the people expect from government. As long as we have this philosophic acceptance that we’re to be the policeman of the world. We’re to have a welfare state from cradle to grave. That we’re involved in delivery of medical care for everybody that needs it, free education for everybody. You just can’t please people. You’re always going to have the pressure to spend. It is much bigger than the budget. It’s whether or not we want to change the role of government. We have to ask “What should the role of government be in a free society?”. That is if we want to live in a free society. We want to live in a free society…
John Stossel: The Republican Study Committee has proposed $2.5 trillion in cuts over the next ten years. Are you impressed by that?
Ron Paul: No, hardly. I want to cut that in one year. But then they say the end of the world would come if you did that. What if you did these cuts that the Libertarians would like? But what if you got rid of the income tax at the same time? Wouldn’t this release a tremendous amount of energy if everybody knew they had no more taxes to pay? No more income. Boy, people would be wanting to work and save and invest and everything else. But we’re not even close to that.
John Stossel: President Obama said “We can’t leave the poor and the weak in the lurch” and that would do that.
Ron Paul: Yeah. But the more they try, the more…the poorer they get. The more you try to help people who don’t have these programs, the worse the problems get. So, yes, they grab the moral high ground by saying that. But I’ve argued for years that if you’re a true humanitarian you have a be a libertarian. You have to believe in liberty and freedom and the market and property rights. And then, this will really help people. We’ve been the freest nation in the world. And we’ve been the most prosperous. But we’ve given up on this. When people get on TV these days and argue that there’s more capitalism in China There’s something wrong with us. They work hard and they save their money. And they’re buying up natural resources around the world. And they’re not trying to take up the world militarily. But here, we are. We’re endlessly spending. And we have this militarism which is a major burden too. But…
John Stossel: We’re going to get to the discussion of the military in a moment. But let’s bring David Boaz into the conversation. He’s from the Cato Institute. Did you hear anything new that you liked in these speeches?
David Boaz: No. Nothing much new. The president said he wants to do some tax reform, get rid of the loopholes, cut out the special privileges and lower rates. That would be a good thing to do. And both the speakers said “Spending is too high. The deficit is too high. We’re going to do something about it.” But they didn’t have any specifics. And spending has soared. And they aren’t talking about anything that would come close to solving that problem.
John Stossel: What do you…if you were giving the State of the Union, what would you have said? What do you wish they had said?
David Boaz: Well, I would have said some of the things that Paul Ryan said. We are approaching a very dangerous point. Spending rose $1 trillion under president Bush. Before the financial crisis. Since the financial crisis, it’s risen another trillion dollars. In two and a half years. So we’ve got a budget that’s $2 trillion higher than the one Bill Clinton left to George W Bush. And they’re talking about nicking around the edges. That is insane. We have doubled federal spending in ten years. We’ve increased it by $2 trillion. We need to be making major cuts and obviously you don’t have to cut the core functions of government. I’d like to cut a lot of things the federal government does. But if you’ve increased it $2 trillion in ten years, then there’s a lot of stuff you could cut before you start getting to the basic safety net.
John Stossel: Now, one of the things we’ve been hearing a lot about is civility. We have to get along together. They all sat next to each other. I don’t buy this. This noise about how politics is too mean spirited. We need to return to the civility of the old days. But this is just ignorance of history. Recent TV looked at the presidential race in 1800 and turned what was said then into hypothetical political ads.
John Adams is a blind, bald, crippled, toothless man who wants to start a war with France. While he’s not busy importing mistresses from Europe, he’s trying to marry one of his sons to a daughter of King George. Haven’t we had enough monarchy in America. If Thomas Jefferson wins, murder, robbery, rape, adultery and incest would be openly taught and practised. Are you prepared to see your dwellings in flames? Female chastity violated, children writhing on a pike
John Stossel: So it seems much calmer now. Congressman Paul, you’ve been an outcast. Nobody’s treated you that badly I take it?
Ron Paul: No, not that bad. And yet, I think, over the years, we’ve had way too much bipartisanship. Because they worked together.
John Stossel: To spend more.
Ron Paul: Republicans and Democrats, both, have been infiltrated by keynesian economics. And so they follow that. And they both have the same foreign policy. They both have essentially the same monetary policy. And Republicans haven’t been good at really changing the course of history when it comes to increasing the welfare state and welfarism. So, I think eventually we have to have a little bit of dissent. The only place I can see where you could co-operate and have two factions get together and, say, compromise is on cutting. If your sacred cow is the military and somebody else’s sacred cow is the welfare, you each have to agree to cut it by 1,500… a trillion dollars or whatever on each side. That’s the agreement you have to have. But that isn’t what happens. They have worked too well together and they always agree to vote for each other’s. You vote for my bill and I’ll vote for yours.
John Stossel: Dr Paul and David Boaz, please stay with us. I’d love to know what you think about my State of the Union address, which I’ll give later. But next: did you also roll your eyes when the president said “after he invests in clean energy”. And “by the year 2035, 80 percent of our electricity will come from clean energy sources.” I smell boondoggle, pig handouts to politically-connected companies and Al Gore’s friends. Presidents always make these promises. It’s popular to say: “We’ll stop using foreign oil.”
Jimmy Carter: This intolerable…
George H. W. Bush: …excessive dependence on…
Richard Nixon: …foreign energy sources…
Ronald Reagan: Bring us closer to energy…
George W. Bush: …independence for our country.
Richard Nixon: By 1980…
Gerald Ford: By 1985
Barack Obama: In ten years…
John McCain: By the year 2025…
John Stossel: So, how’s that working out for us? We’ll talk more about that when we come back.
Bill Clinton: We know big government does not have all the answers. We know there’s not a program for every problem. We know and we have worked to give the American people a smaller, less bureaucratic government in Washington.
John Stossel: They did? Where was I? Since President Clinton gave that State of the Union, the federal government has passed more than a million pages of new rules. That’s anything but a less bureaucratic government. Congressman Ron Paul is back with us, along with David Boaz of the Cato Institute. And joining us now is Nicole Kurokawa from the Independent Women’s Forum. So, Nicole, tonight the president said he wanted to spend, I mean invest he calls it, more on education. It’s our Sputnik moment. We have to catch up.
Nicole Kurokawa: I loved that he talked about education. Because it actually is the first annual National School Choice Week. So, I would love for…
John Stossel: He didn’t talk about choice.
Nicole Kurokawa: Weird! It was really strange. But I think that is something we need to talk about because education spending has gone up in this country so much and we do not have better outcomes. So we need to start examining things…
John Stossel: It’s doubled since 1980. But scores are flat.
Nicole Kurokawa: Exactly. So we need to look at other options. Because all these schools that we’re thinking about pouring money into, sometimes they’re unsafe, they have failing test scores. And he talked about merit […] We’re not actually…we’re not really implementing anything.
John Stossel: He’s going to pour more money into it. What do you wish he had said?
Nicole Kurokawa: I wish he’d echoed what South Carolina Governor Nicky Hayley had said in her State of the State last week. Where she said’ Government can’t be all things to all people”. I also wish that…
John Stossel: That would be good if they would say that…they’d really say that. I guess Paul Ryan sort of said that. But what else?
Nicole Kurokawa: I also wish that he would cede some executive authority that this administration has expanded over the past couple of years.
John Stossel: Like?
Nicole Kurokawa: For example, he has interfered in the affairs of business. We saw with General Motors. He got involved in a personal decision. He encouraged BP to create this escrow account. Those are decisions that are best left to private enterprise.
John Stossel: So you would have liked him to say: “Gee I was wrong. I was arrogant. This should be left to the private sector.
Nicole Kurokawa: Right. And another big…
John Stossel: Good luck with that.
Nicole Kurokawa: And another big executive authority thing is the fact that he has authorized the assassination of US citizens overseas. I think that is of tremendous concern. And that is not a republican issue. That’s not a democratic issue. That is really concerning.
John Stossel: David Boaz, what do you wish he had said?
David Boaz: Well, in my pipedream, I wish he had said: “Boy, I made a whole lot of mistakes. I really don’t belong in this job. I’m resigning.” But leaving that aside, yes I agree. As I said earlier, he should have talked about real spending cuts. I would like to have seen him say something precise, something firm about ending the war in Iraq that he promised when he campaigned for office he would. He’s still saying we’re going to be out. But you wait and see, we’re not going to be out of Iraq by the end of the year. And then he said we’ll start making troop withdrawals in Afghanistan. Well, we’ve been there for ten years. You’d think it would be time to start. He’s tripled the number of troops. I would like to have seen him say: “We’re going to get out.” And then, two years after he came in, in the past two years, about five states have implemented marriage equality in their states. Gay marriage. I’d like him to have said: “It’s time to get rid of the Defensive Marriage Act and let the individual states make their own marriage laws. The federal government shouldn’t tell the states whether their marriage licences are valid.
John Stossel: And Congressman Paul, your turn. What would you have had him say?
Ron Paul: I would like him to change our foreign policy and say we’re no longer going to be the policeman of the world and bring all our troops home from around the world. I would like to say that we don’t need a welfare state. The people will be taken care of better in a different manner with free market. But also I would have listed the number of departments that we would get rid of. And I could give you about eight pretty easily. Then I would also talk about…
John Stossel: Education, Energy… Give us some.
Ron Paul: Education, Energy, Agriculture, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, Commerce. I don’t know how many that is. But that would be a good start. But the other thing that I would have said is I would get rid of the Great Facilitator. And the Great Facilitator is the Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve always blames the Congress for running up debt and causing our problems. But if you didn’t have a central bank creating money out of thin air to buy debt, this would be a different world. So you have to get rid of that if you want to shrink the size of government. All wars and welfares paid for, essentially, in all countries, paid for through inflation and the destruction of the currency. So if you just got rid of the fact that the Fed couldn’t buy debt, you would shrink or, at least, really impede the growth of government. That would change life for all of us for the better.
John Stossel: And one thing he did say is that “Government will live within its means” but then he says “within 25 years, we’re going to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail.” And he won’t get a pat down.
David Boaz: You know, you showed just now all these presidents making these promises: we won’t be dependent on foreign oil anymore. It’s all going to happen by 1980, 1985. His speech today was full of those kind of percentages. By 2025, it will be 80 percent. By 2020, it will be 80 percent of this. He wants the government to be micro-managing the American economy. And part of it is his envy of China. You noticed that he talked about how China and India are getting more competitive because, he said, they’ve started being part of the world economy because they’re educating their kids earlier and longer. No. The reason China is now emerging into the world economy is because they got rid of socialism. And they moved toward capitalism. It doesn’t have anything to do with a longer school day.
John Stossel: Right. We will continue this. Thank you, panel. Stay with us. Coming up a likely presidential candidate will join us. Someone who is a governor. Vetoed lots of stuff. But when we return, we’ll talk more about war.
Barack Obama: This war was unwise, which is why I opposed it in 2002. And that is why I will bring this war to an end in 2009.
John Stossel: Our audience tonight is mostly made up of students. Some are from libertarian groups, like Student for Liberty and Young Americans for Liberty. We’ll come to you more later but now I just want to give one a you a chance to question our brilliant panelists. So I’ll start with you. You’re from a republican group.
Audience student: I am. At NYU, yes.
John Stossel: Very top school to get into. But we allow Republicans to speak in this show, too. So what’s your question?
Audience student: My question is: with the already high economic burden on the military, do you think it’s safe for President Obama and Defence Secretary Gates to be cutting tens of billions of dollars when they’ve already defunded the military just a few years ago under Nancy Pelosi?
John Stossel: O.K. I didn’t know they’d defunded the military. But I guess the question is: we’re all going to die if we cut the military. Dr Paul, do you want to take this?
Ron Paul: Yeah. We spend essentially as much as every other country in the world. We are not threatened militarily by any country at all. And all we do is we spend this money to support the military industrial complex. It’s all a political game. And we end up doing…
John Stossel: Wait! Wait! It’s not a game. There are people who want to murder us. And if we pull out of Afghanistan, might they regroup and have September 11th all over again?
Ron Paul: I think if we weren’t in the Middle East, there would be a lot less incentive for anybody to want to come over here and murder us. Because anybody who’s done any serious study on any suicide terrorism, the number one reason for suicide terrorism to occur is occupation. They feel utterly frustrated, angry and willing to strike out and they commit suicide terrorism. That’s when the foreigners, a foreign country occupies their land. So I would say we would be less safe. The more money we spend, the way I see it, it makes us less safe. We would be safer if we concentrated on defending our country. And our problem is we’re on a catch 22: the more we spend, the less safe we are.
David Boaz: We know this from national defence. But what really threatens us now is these isolated terrorists and that requires intelligence. It requires working with other countries around the world. It doesn’t require that we spend 48 percent of all the money spent in the world on the military. And that’s what we’re doing right now. And Secretary Gates isn’t talking about actually cutting. He’s talking about cutting from future increases. Which is all anybody in Washington ever means when they say ‘cut a budget.’
Nicole Kurokawa: My brother is in the military. And I think the most respectful thing to do for our military is to use them wisely and to use them judiciously. But not to have them off fighting wars with no end at tremendous costs of blood and treasure.
John Stossel: We do now have 50,000 soldiers in Germany, 30,000 in Japan, 10,000 in England.
David Boaz: Well, this is what Ron Paul was talking about. We have troops all over the world. Because just like here in Washington, and here in the United States. Where Washington thinks it should be involved in where your kids go to school, and how you get your heathcare, and your retirement and your midnight basketball. They also think that the United States government should be involved in the defence of Korea, the defence of Taiwan, the defence of Europe against what? The Soviet Union doesn’t exist anymore. And all over the Middle East, from Iraq to Afghanistan. And so we want to police the world and it is in fact causing more people to hate us and more people to want to destroy us.
John Stossel: If not we, who will police the world? Will keep the world safe?
David Boaz: Nobody has to police the world. Europe can police Europe. And the Middle East can police the Middle East. There are regional hegemons that can handle these things. And what we’re doing is we’re sticking our nose into other people’s quarrels. We don’t have to be involved in every quarrel around the world. But that’s the global interventionist philosophy that both parties have been practising in Washington for a couple of generations now. Is that everything that happens anywhere in the world is of vital interest to the United States. We are to look again at our foreign policy and say what is actually a vital interest of the United States? And one strong interest is not having terrorists attack us. So what we can do to prevent that is important. But occupying Afghanistan for ten years, occupying Iraq for eight years. That doesn’t look to me like a good way to ratchet down the level of hostility to the United States in the Middle East.
John Stossel: Let’s move on to ObamaCare quickly. I happen to have a copy of it here. All 2,000 pages. The president said in his speech: “The health insurance industry will stop exploiting patients. Insurance companies can’t reject people with pre-existing conditions.” Look to me like both Republicans and Democrats gave him a standing ovation.
David Boaz: Those are applause lines. Everybody is going to applaud something like that. Because nobody in Washington, as Ron Paul said, nobody in Washington wants to say that there are things that are simply not the government’s business. They’re no authorized in the Constitution.
John Stossel: Healthcare?
David Boaz: Healthcare is not authorized in the Constitution. And healthcare is not made better by getting government bureaucracy, government bureaucrats involved in it. What ObamaCare actually does is make it more difficult for insurance companies to deliver care. And that’s why you see companies already getting out of the health insurance business. Remember, if you like your plan you can keep it. Well, not if your company can’t afford it.
John Stossel: Dr Ron Paul, last word to you. You’re a doctor. ObamaCare?
Ron Paul: It will make medicine much worse and it’s going to cost a lot of money. Lot more money than now. When I first started medicine, it was before Medicare and Medicaid. And, since then, every year it seems like government gets more involved and the quality of care goes down. So we don’t have any faith and confidence and understanding how services can be delivered just like you can deliver cell phones and computers and TVs. Prices go down when you let the market operate. But the government…
John Stossel: But the market means the patient has to pay for most of that himself?
Ron Paul: Yes, but he can buy insurance. You see, this idea that we call this insurance when you tell the insurance what the rules are and you have to accept everybody. That’s not measurement of risk. That would become welfare then. But if the patient had…
John Stossel: That becomes welfare. I’m sorry Congressman, we’re out of time. Thank you very much Congressman Paul, David Boaz of the Cato Institute, Nicole Kurokawa of the Independent Women’s Forum. Later in the show I’ll give my State of the Union.