Dietary Supplements and Health Freedom

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by Ron Paul

Millions of Americans take dietary supplements every day, and the numbers are growing as the Baby Boom generation ages. More and more Americans understandably are frustrated with our government-controlled health care system. They have concluded that vitamins, minerals, and other supplements might help them stay healthy and less dependent on the system. They use supplements because they can buy them freely at stores and research them freely on the internet, without government interference in the form of doctors, prescriptions, HMOs, and licenses. In other words, they use supplements because they are largely free to make their own choices, in stark contrast to the conventional medical system. But we live in an era of unbridled government regulation of both our personal lives and the economy, and Food and Drug administration bureaucrats burn to regulate supplements in the same manner as prescription drugs. The health nannies insist that many dietary supplements are untested and unproven, and therefore dangerous.

But the track record for FDA-approved drugs hardly inspires confidence. In fact, far more Americans have died using approved pharmaceuticals than supplements. Not every dietary supplement performs as claimed, but neither does every FDA drug. The FDA simply gives people a false sense of security, while crowding out private watchdog groups that might provide truly disinterested consumer information. It fosters a complacent attitude and a lack of personal responsibility among people who assume a government stamp of approval means a drug must be safe, and that they need not study a drug before taking it. The FDA, like all federal agencies, ultimately uses its regulatory powers in political ways. Certain industries and companies are rewarded, and others are punished. No regulatory agency is immune from politics, which is why the FDA should not be trusted with power over our intimate health care decisions. The real issue is not whether supplements really work, or whether FDA drugs really are safe.

The real issue is: Who decides, the individual or the state? This is the central question in almost every political issue. In free societies, individuals decide what medical treatments or health supplements are appropriate for them. Over the past decade the American people have made it clear they do not want the federal government to interfere with their access to dietary supplements. In 1994, Congress bowed to overwhelming public pressure and passed the Dietary Supplements and Health and Education Act, which liberalized the rules regarding the regulation of dietary supplements. Congressional offices received a record number of comments in favor of the Act, which demonstrates how strongly Americans feel about health freedom. The FDA simply has thumbed its nose at Congress and ignored the new rules in many instances, by attempting to suppress information about health supplements. But in 1999 a federal appellate court affirmed that the American people have a First Amendment right to such information without interference from the FDA. However, members of Congress have had to intervene with the FDA on several occasions to ensure that they followed the court order.

My regular listeners already know about another looming threat to dietary supplement freedom. The Codex Alimentarius Commission, an offshoot of the United Nations, is working to “harmonize” food and supplement rules between all nations of the world. Under Codex rules, even basic vitamins and minerals will require a doctor’s prescription. As Europe moves ever closer to adopting Codex standards, it becomes more likely that the World Trade Organization will attempt to force those standards on the United States. This is yet another example of how the WTO threatens American sovereignty. By cooperating with Codex, the FDA is blatantly ignoring the will of Congress and the American people.

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Empty Rhetoric for Veterans

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by Ron Paul

Many military veterans were shocked to see that the federal budget for 2006 makes several cuts in veterans benefits and services. Under the proposed budget, the Veterans Administration will increase once again the co-pay cost of prescription drugs, while adding a new annual fee for medical benefits. The budget also calls for the reduction of veterans home funding and limits the number of VA nursing home beds. Some members of Congress have even suggested rewriting the definition of “veteran” in a way that could deny VA health benefits for millions of retired servicemen. Unfortunately, the trust that members of our armed forces put in their government has been breached time and time again, and the recent budget vote represents anther blow to veterans. Even as we send hundreds of thousands of soldiers into Iraq, Congress can’t get its priorities straight.

Our invasion of Iraq will swell the ranks of our combat veterans, many of whom will need medical care as they grow older. Sadly, health issues arising from the first war with Iraq still have not been addressed. Congress should immediately end the silence and formally address Gulf War Syndrome, which has had a devastating impact on veterans who served in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. As a medical doctor, I believe the syndrome is very real, and likely represents several different maladies caused by exposure to conditions specific to the Gulf region at the time. Congress and the VA should stop insulting Gulf War veterans and recognize that the syndrome is a serious illness that needs treatment. We can only hope and pray that our soldiers in Iraq today do not suffer from similar illnesses in the future. It’s easy to talk about honoring veterans and their sacrifices, even while the federal government treats veterans badly. Congress wastes billions of dollars funding countless unconstitutional programs, but fails to provide adequately for the men and women who carry out the most important constitutional function: national defense. We can best honor both our veterans and our current armed forces by pursuing a coherent foreign policy. No veteran should ever have to look back and ask himself, “Why were we over there in the first place?” Too often history demonstrates that wars are fought for political and economic reasons, rather than legitimate national security reasons.

Supporting the troops means never putting them in harm’s way unless America is truly threatened. Today’s American soldiers are the veterans of the future, and they should never be sent to war without clear objectives that serve definite American national security interests. They should never fight at the behest of the United Nations or any other international agency. They should never serve under a UN flag, nor answer to a UN commander. They deserve to know that they fight for the American people and the Constitution, and that the decision to send them into battle was made by their own Congress via an express declaration of war—NOT by UN bureaucrats who don’t care about them. Only by using American troops judiciously and in service of the Constitution can we avoid the kind of endless military entanglements we witnessed in Korea and Vietnam. We honor our veterans by ensuring that their service to the nation is never in vain.

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