Rep. Ron Paul didn’t condone class warfare in Washington Wednesday but said he understands from where it comes.
“I do agree that there’s a mal-distribution in wealth in this country,” the Texas congressman told reporters at an event sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, where he served up some boilerplate libertarian philosophy about reigning in the Federal Reserve, allowing Greece to go bankrupt and making the free market drive down costs on medical care like it has driven down costs on TVs and cellphones.
Paul, who is in the midst of his third and most notable run for the presidency since 1988, said proposals such as president Obama’s to levy new taxes on the wealthy result because Americans don’t understand what causes that “mal-distribution.”
“We’ve consumed our wealth,” he said, pointing to the national debt and adding that the knee-jerk reaction is to “spend more, regulate more, print more money.”
“Entitlements,” he said, “end up going to the rich anyway.”
Paul isn’t even entirely against a little class war. “Some of them should be attacked,” he said of the rich. “The ones who rip us off, the ones who get bailed out.”
And he assailed the suggestion that the government should invest in infrastructure to help end the economic crisis. “The government and the people are supposed to spend more money when the problem is spending too much money,” he said.
He pointed to special treatment for bailing out the auto industry and he pointed to General Electric Co. “This light bulb thing makes me nuts,” he said of the impending federal ban on incandescent light bulbs.
“GE gets to tell us what kind of light bulbs we use,” he said, suggesting that GE was behind the Energy bill passed in 2007 and signed by President Bush that phases out incandescent light bulbs starting in January of 2012.
Paul had a simple solution to the global financial woes stemming from Greece. “The way to correct mal-investment is to allow the correction to occur. Greece should declare bankruptcy,” Paul said, arguing “we should not be bailing them out.”
He predicted that if the European Union continues to prop Greece up, the United States will eventually be called upon to help.
Paul was asked about his comments at a recent Republican presidential debate that churches and charity should be in charge of caring for the sick and uninsured, not government.
Paul pointed to TVs and cellphones, which have seen dramatic price drops, as opposed to medical care, the cost of which has skyrocketed. “There’s no market there,” Paul said of medicine.
He had been asked about his 2008 campaign manager, Kent Snyder, who died not long after that campaign. Snyder was uninsured when he was diagnosed with cancer and Paul helped fundraise to cover the steep medical costs.
Paul was perturbed at the suggestion that he’s callous about such matters. He believes it is government intervention in the medical sphere, with Medicare and Medicaid, that has driven costs up. He argued that in the 1960s, when Medicare was enacted, you didn’t see people dying in the streets from lack of medical care.
The president he most admires? Grover Cleveland, a great fan, he said, of the veto, and defender of U.S. currency.
But he doesn’t care much for any of the presidents during his lifetime. Although, speaking to his position as the oldest current candidate, Paul said the first president he remembers is Roosevelt.
Paul pointed out that he’s less interested in personality than in policy and, as a result, he argued that he’s said fewer bad things about President Obama than the rest of the Republican presidential field has.
On financial policy, he has been a fierce critic of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, but he stopped short of agreeing with Texas Gov. Rick Perry that Bernanke might be guilty of treason.
He called Perry’s controversial statement in New Hampshire “good politics” and said it was indicative of a change in attitude toward the Fed that Paul himself had helped create. “Bernanke is not the problem,” Paul said. “The Federal Reserve Act of 1913. That’s the problem.”
But that doesn’t mean he’s fond of people who he thinks devalue the U.S. currency.
“You know the 1792 Coinage Act said if anyone devalues or defaces currency, they’d get the death penalty.” he said. “It’s not treason but its serious stuff.”
Check out the 1792 Coinage Act. It’s the law that set up the U.S. Mint and it says a lot of things, now out of date, about how the government should cast and make gold and silver and copper coins.
According to Sec. 19, he’s right, debasing or devaluing U.S. currency was punishable by death. But the law seems to be more interested in people physically extracting the precious metals than monetary inflation:
“…if any of the gold or silver coins which shall be struck or coined at the said Mint shall be debased or made worse as to the proportion of fine gold or fine silver therein contained, or shall be of less eight or value than the same ought to be pursuant to the directions of this act… shall be deemed guilty of felony, and shall suffer death.”
Paul said that inflation is the greatest enemy of the middle class.
It’s not likely that Paul walks away from the Republican nominating process with the nomination. He polls in the single digits. And it’s not likely he’ll run as a third-party candidate: He already ran as a Libertarian in 1988. But he’s happy influencing the conversation. “People are realizing government doesn’t work,” he said.
He told a reporter they’d have to “wait ’til Super Tuesday” for him to say which of his fellow Republican candidates he thinks is the least bad.
But not everything Paul had to say was expected. He suggested that he might even put Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, perhaps the most progressive-liberal member of Congress, into his cabinet. Maybe as secretary of state.
“Who would be in our cabinet?” a reporter asked.
“People who agree with me,” Paul said, pointing out there are friends of the free market in the United States.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean everyone would be a Republican or a free marketer. A reporter suggested Kucinich, who Paul had just commended as someone he has worked with in the past.
“That’s a possibility.”
“Secretary of State?” asked another reporter? “He’d want to be Secretary of Peace,” Paul said.
In praising Kucinich and pointing to their work together on transparency for the Fed, Paul said the relationship proves he can work across party lines and in coalitions, despite his reputation as “Dr. No” for opposing most legislation.
A reporter questioned the assertion, pointing out that Kucinich, who operates on the fringe of the Democratic caucus, is not Democratic leader in the House.
“He’s a thought leader,” Paul said. “You got to give credit to people who think.”