In the Republican Presidential debates, when questions pertinent to economic policy have been put to Ron Paul, I have nearly always thought his answers cogent and well worthy of consideration -- so I have tended to presume that his proposals regarding budgetary policy made some sense. Today, however, I learned otherwise.
In an article on The Weekly Standard website, John McCormack details Paul's proposals regarding entitlements reform, and we learn: he has none. In fact, he is an even fiercer defender of the legacy of the New Deal and the Great Society than Mitt Romney:
All across Iowa this week, Ron Paul, the great libertarian hope, has been promising voters that we'll have plenty of money to protect the crown jewels of the New Deal and the Great Society--Medicare and Social Security--if we simply cut "overseas spending."
“I want to take care of the people who become so dependent on government, even though there would have been a better way to take of them," Paul said at a rally in Des Moines on Wednesday evening. "You take the elderly on Social Security—there was a contract. But we can’t honor that contract if we keep spending this money overseas. So I’m for taking care of those people on Medicaid, Medicare, and anyone on Social Security.”
“Just remember the military budget is different than the defense budget. The military budget is all the weapons the military-industrial complex wants,” Paul said. If we have sound money and a “sensible foreign policy,” he continued, “we don’t have to give up anything. We don’t have to give up our defense.”
“The money we spend overseas should be the easiest money to cut," he explained at a townhall-style meeting earlier Wednesday in Newton. "We’re spending well over a trillion dollars a year—probably about $1.4 trillion to operate all our activities overseas."
Leave aside the obvious fact that if we cut 40% of the military budget and took that sum from the budget for personnel, weapons procurement, and weapons systems development, we would be inviting the Chinese to assert their hegemony in Asia and the Iranians to assert theirs over the Middle East; we would be leaving the Europeans entirely to their own devices (which is never wise); and we would be laying the groundwork for another world war -- one for which we would be almost entirely unprepared. Leave that small matter aside.
There is another problem. As McCormack points out, Paul's numbers do not add up: "The entire annual defense budget, including war spending in Iraq and Afghanistan, is less than $700 billion--not $1.4 trillion as Paul claims. More important, by 2025 Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and interest on the debt will consume all federal revenues. In other words, we could eliminate all defense spending and all other federal spending, and we'd still be running a deficit in a little over a decade."
Paul may not be entirely unaware of this problem. He tells us that he wants to have "an adult conversation" about entitlements -- but not right now.
Last week, I laid out the argument for thinking the Congressman from south Texas a scoundrel and a fool, but I underestimated the degree to which he is a fool. In a few days, we will learn what we should think about the Iowans who turn out for the Republican caucuses.
UPDATE: After some reflection, I changed the subtitle from Managerial Progressive to Progressive Utopian. Whatever criticism one may direct at managerial progressives, they are not simply irresponsible. Ron Paul is that -- and much, much worse.