Ron Paul's economic plan
So Ron Paul is out with an economic plan.
What? You thought
he’d had an economic plan for the last 30 years, right? Well, yes, but this is a plan that appears
carefully tailored to current economic and political realities. Indeed, a good chunk of it could pass for
the economic plan of an old-fashioned conservative Republican candidate… and in an era when a Republican president has grown the national debt by 60%, that’s
not necessarily a bad thing.
The plan’s release coincides with the appointment of Donald
Luskin, chief investment officer at Trend Macrolytics, as Paul’s economic
adviser. And while I don’t know whether he had a hand in designing this plan,
it seems a safe bet. The plan comes in
four parts – taxes, spending, monetary policy, and regulation.
The tax portion in particular looks like something that could actually wind up in the Republican Party platform come summer. Indeed, it's rather timid in light of Paul's declaration a month ago that ending the income tax would bring government revenue back to where it was ten years ago — an assertion that pretty much checks out on one of the proliferating establishment media fact-checking websites. This new plan limits itself to eliminating the taxes on dividends, savings, and capital gains; the taxes on Social Security benefits; and Paul's signature proposal to eliminate the taxes on tips.
The spending portion definitely does break ranks with GOP orthodoxy in that it's dominated by his plan to close all foreign military bases and put the American military's focus back on defending America (which no doubt would entail significant savings). Beyond that, the plan freezes spending at current levels on all non-defense and non-entitlement programs.
On monetary policy, Paul wants cameras inside Fed meetings, a resumption of M3 measurements halted two years ago, and the legalization of private gold and silver coinage. Again, a decisive break with the Republican mainstream, and a most welcome one.
But the regulatory agenda is, like the tax plan, much more timid — a repeal of Sarbanes-Oxley (not exactly GOP orthodoxy, but a lot of Republicans do realize how it's made America a lot less competitive globally) and a pullback on some rather obscure lending regulations that apply to community banks and credit unions.
So there you have it. The plan can certainly be criticized as being "incremental," but as I indicated above, it also gives a nod to economic reality — the fact we're heading into recession — and political reality: There's only so much a president can do without dictatorial powers — and Paul stands foursquare against the sorts of executive power grabs that Bush and Cheney and Gonzales and Addington have made over the last seven years.
Now… why Paul didn’t talk about the release of this plan at the
GOP debate last night, I couldn’t tell you.
But it seems like yet another in a long line of missed opportunities for
the campaign that I began chronicling, oh, last summer.
And on that subject — why, oh why, given the chance to ask
a question of any other candidate, did he ask John McCain to what
degree he’d rely on advice from the President’s Working Group on Financial
Markets – a.k.a., the Plunge Protection Team.
It was pretty obvious McCain had never heard of such a thing, and while
some nigh-clueless posters over at Daily Paul were crowing about how Paul “owned” McCain
on the question, the fact of the matter is most of the viewing audience had
never heard of the Working Group either, and they were scratching their heads
every bit as much as McCain. Pathetic.
Why couldn't he have seized the opportunity to do something bold and challenge McCain on an issue before the Senate right now — whether the phone companies should be given immunity from lawsuits by ordinary American citizens outraged that their personal phone records were handed over to government snoops without a warrant?
Update: The more I reflect on this, the more it seems there's a grander strategy behind this plan beyond a mere recognition of economic and political exigencies. At the conclusion of the debate last night, asked once again about whether he'll launch a third-party candidacy, Paul signaled — not definitively, but fairly strongly, that he will not. From the transcript:
So I don't think it's a matter of me leaving the Republican Party.
If they would look toward what we're doing and the number of people who
want to come into the party, they shouldn't be obstructing us, they
So I would say why don't we have a big tent and welcome those of us
who believe in liberty and believe in the Constitution. That's what
it's all about, and that's what the Republican Party used to stand for.
Again, not a certain declaration, but a clue to Paul's thinking — that when it comes to growing a movement that will outlast a 72-year-old candidate (albeit a sprightly one), he wants to do it by building a libertarian faction within the Republican Party. And this economic plan looks like the sort of thing that can be used as a bargaining chip with his delegates (yes, he has a few, and he'll get a few more) come platform-writing time at the GOP convention.
But I say that with Bugs Bunny's usual caveat: "Of course, you know, I could be wrong."