This is a rush transcript. If you notice any errors please report them using the “Help improve this post” link at the bottom of this post.
Host: This week is the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, which coordinated the national relief effort in hurricane Irene’s wake. Texas Congressman and Republican presidential candidate, Ron Paul, is calling for the agency’s elimination. He said, “FEMA has one of the worst reputations for a bureaucracy ever. It’s the system of bureaucratic central economic planning which is a policy that is deeply flawed”. Now that statement drew attention, but it is utterly consistent with the Congressman’s libertarian philosophy. We spoke with Ron Paul earlier this week and asked him to explain that position.
Ron Paul: I got that impression from having lived on the Gulf Coast and having been a Congressman here for a long time, because if I add all the phone calls and all the work that I’ve had to do with all the agencies of government, FEMA has caused more problems than all the rest put together. And most of the time it’s the fact that when FEMA comes in and there’s a disaster, they interfere with the local people, the local people and the land owners can’t do what they want. And then when they’re promised payouts, they can’t get it, they can’t get their insurance, so we always have to go to bat for them. But I was opposed to it a long time before I knew it was so inefficient, that was when they introduced the notion that the federal government should guarantee this insurance because literally what that does is it eliminates the principle of insurance. Insurance is supposed to measure risk, and if the government takes care of it, there’s no more risk. Matter of fact, it encourages risk, it encourages the moral hazard. The people who like their beach houses are more likely to build there because they feel, “What the heck, you know, I can’t get my insurance, the tax payers will bail me out”. But the government doesn’t have any money, and matter of fact FEMA is broke, they’re about 20 billion dollars in debt. So if you add all that up, it doesn’t have a very good reputation and I think there are other ways in which we could handle these
Host: At first when you talked about insurance making it possible for people to build their beach houses back, I’m sure you’d agree we have to point out now there are a lot of people sitting on rubble in Vermont who never thought they had a beach house. Irene was a hurricane that spread widely beyond what would be, if I might refer to it this way, the traditional points of impact. And, in a way, isn’t that also part of the whole idea of getting the federal government involved, because these disasters don’t know state boundaries?
Ron Paul: Well, the question is why? Why does all of a sudden somebody in Vermont need to get insurance from you if you live in Alexandria? You haven’t been hurt. I mean, what is the moral principle there? I’ve lived in Texas for a long time and I’ve had a fair amount of damage and I call up my insurance agent. So people should have responsibility for themselves, their neighbors should help, the states should help, the communities should help, state guards should help. And you know under extreme circumstances, our military could surely have assistance in rescue operations, but they can’t if there over there fighting wars that shouldn’t be fought.
Host: So when you warn against foreign adventures in Iraq, Afghanistan, or Libya, you call those foreign adventures, that’s all a part of the same philosophy of when you say that FEMA is a bad idea?
Ron Paul: Yea, it’s all the use of force. A person who truly believes in liberty rejects the use of force to change people or mould people, change the economy or tell other countries how to live. So I apply the same principle down the line, I don’t want to force people. They have to follow laws, but the laws are that you can’t hurt other people and fortunately for me, the little bit of test we’ve had for that system, it’s been most prosperous system ever known to man. So I approach it as a humanitarian. I’m convinced to be a humanitarian you have to believe in property and free choices, both individually as well as for the marketplace.
Host: Mr. Paul, you announced last month that you’re going to retire from Congress when your term runs out in 2012. Of course, it’s possible you’ll be elected president, but are you in any way handing off your political name to your son, the Senator from Kentucky?
Ron Paul: Well, we’ve never talked about that at all. I mean, he’s very interested and his views and mine are pretty close. But he’s a pretty independent person and I’m sure he will continue. But I don’t think you can hand Rand off to anybody. I hope he continues to do what he is doing and I will probably be in or out of office or whatever because we believe that the principles of liberty are so important.
Host: You won a straw poll at the Republican leadership conference in New Orleans, you finished a close second in the Ames straw poll in Iowa, you’re raising money, may I, like the federal government, better than the federal government, perhaps at this point.
Ron Paul: We’re very solvent, I’ll tell you that. No debt in my campaigns.
Host: So how do you have an answer for people who say, “Yea, but he’ll never be President”?
Ron Paul: How do you know? I don’t know that for sure. Nobody knows what the future will bring, so I don’t worry about that. I’m running a race, I’m running hard and I know where the finish line is and we’ll see what happens.
Host: Republican presidential candidate, Congressman from Texas, Ron Paul, speaking with us from Clute, Texas. Thanks so much, sir.
Ron Paul: Thank you.