Theology, Not Politics

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by Ron Paul

Members of Congress from both political parties outdid themselves last week in heaping praise upon Pope John Paul II in the wake of his passing. Many spoke at length on the floor of the House of Representatives, and some even flew to Rome for his funeral. I’m happy to witness so many politicians honoring a great man of God and peace. The problem, however, is that so few of them honored him during his lifetime by their actions as legislators. In fact, most members of Congress support policies that are totally at odds with Catholic teachings. Just two years ago conservatives were busy scolding the Pope for his refusal to back our invasion of Iraq. One conservative media favorite even made the sickening suggestion that the Pope was the enemy of the United States because he would not support our aggression in the Middle East. The Pontiff would not ignore the inherent contradiction in being pro-life and pro-war, nor distort just war doctrine to endorse attacking a nation that clearly posed no threat to America– and conservatives resented it. September 11th did not change everything, and the Pope understood that killing is still killing. The hypocritical pro-war conservatives lauding him today have very short memories. Liberals also routinely denounced the Pope for refusing to accept that Catholicism, like all religions, has rules that cannot simply be discarded to satisfy the cultural trends of the time. The political left has been highly critical of the Pope’s positions on abortion, euthanasia, gay marriage, feminism, and contraception. Many liberals frankly view Catholicism as an impediment to the fully secular society they hope to create.

Both conservatives and liberals cannot understand that the Pope’s pronouncements were theological, not political. He was one of the few humans on earth who could not be bullied or threatened by any government. He was a man of God, not a man of the state. He was not a policy maker, but rather a steward of long-established Catholic doctrine. His mission was to save souls, not serve the political agendas of any nation, party, or politician. To the secularists, this was John Paul II’s unforgivable sin– he placed service to God above service to the state. Most politicians view the state, not God, as the supreme ruler on earth. They simply cannot abide a theology that does not comport with their vision of unlimited state power. This is precisely why both conservatives and liberals savaged John Paul II when his theological pronouncements did not fit their goals. But perhaps their goals simply were not godly. Unlike most political leaders, the Pope understood that both personal and economic liberties are necessary for human virtue to flourish. Virtue, after all, involves choices. Politics and government operate to deny people the freedom to make their own choices.

The Pope’s commitment to human dignity, grounded in the teachings of Christ, led him to become an eloquent and consistent advocate for an ethic of life, exemplified by his struggles against abortion, war, euthanasia, and the death penalty. Yet what institutions around the world sanction abortion, war, euthanasia, and the death penalty? Governments. Historically, religion always represented a threat to government because it competes for the loyalties of the people. In modern America, however, most religious institutions abandoned their independence long ago, and now serve as cheerleaders for state policies like social services, faith-based welfare, and military aggression in the name of democracy. Few American churches challenge state actions at all, provided their tax-exempt status is maintained. This is why Washington politicians ostensibly celebrate religion– it no longer threatens their supremacy. Government has co-opted religion and family as the primary organizing principle of our society. The federal government is boss, and everybody knows it. But no politician will ever produce even a tiny fraction of the legacy left by Pope John Paul II.

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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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