Ron Paul as President: What a Ron Paul Presidency Would Really Look Like


Just what exactly would a Ron Paul presidency look like, and would he be able to implement his agenda? Would he face huge opposition from Congress? Would liberals be more at home in the Ron Paul camp than Obama's?

One of the most important aspects of a Ron Paul presidency would be the power to utilize the presidential “bully pulpit.” The message of individual liberty and natural law resonates with many who hear these ideas clearly presented. Ron Paul would take measures to articulate whenever possible the philosophical rationale behind his policy proposals. In addition, his appointees throughout the executive branch would share his philosophy. The constant messaging on the part of a host of federal departments would doubtless shift the national conversation from specific interest groups to a debate over the proper role and scope of government.

While the articulation of the agenda would be superbly done, implementation would have mixed results. Because Ron Paul’s commitment to economic libertarianism and economic freedom contrasts with the Democratic Party message and with the Republican Party’s legislative behavior, Paul’s agenda would be at risk of being blocked by a united Democratic Party and a significant minority within the Republican Party. Only by a willingness to implement his agenda in stages could Paul expect to avoid being thwarted by a veto-proof majority in Congress.

So, what could the nation expect a Ron Paul administration to accomplish considering the opposition from members of both political parties? Here is the breakdown:

Tax Reform

Expect a significant broadening and flattening of the tax code, although this would be subject to the limitations of a Republican consensus in Congress. Ron Paul would push for elimination of many deductions, credits, and loopholes which have been advanced by special interest groups since the implementation of the income tax. Unlike Mitt Romney’s plan, Ron Paul would not be aiming for a “revenue neutral” reform of the tax code. All tax rates would be reduced with an end goal of shrinking the amount of revenue collected as a proportion of GDP. The end result would shrink the tax to GDP ratio. Arguably, the elimination of deductions and credits for government-preferred activities would result in a more efficient allocation of resources, contributing to additional economic growth.  

Keep in mind that since the most recent recession, revenue as a percentage of GDP has averaged just over 15%. This is down from over 18% prior to the recession. Tax plans being promoted by both political parties would increase this ratio to a minimum of 18%. Even holding the ratio at 15% of GDP would represent a significant structural tax reduction compared to the status quo of both parties.

Entitlement and Health Care Reform

Because of the necessity of obtaining congressional approval to reform entitlement spending, reaching a consensus with congressional leaders will be necessary to achieve reform. Ron Paul’s biggest legacy would likely be achieving significant block granting to the states for health care spending, food stamps, and other welfare benefits.

In addition, a Paul presidency would successfully undo most of the reforms enacted under Obamacare. Paul would likely obtain congressional consensus to block grant more federal welfare spending to the states and would like approve efforts to raise the retirement for future beneficiaries.

Furthermore, although complete privatization of the social security is unlikely to achieve congressional approval, a compromise would likely be reached to enable younger workers an option of either subscribing to the current social security system or opting out by investing an agreed upon minimum portion of wages in approved investment vehicles.

Military Spending and Interventions

Although Ron Paul is committed to implementing a non-interventionist foreign policy, any efforts to significantly cut military spending would be met with stiff resistance from both political parties. Any veto by Paul of defense appropriations would likely be met by a veto-override by an overwhelming majority of both Democrats and Republicans.

However, Ron Paul would definitely advance a non-interventionist agenda through installing allies in the State Department, Department of Defense, CIA, Department of Homeland Security, and FBI. Of course, Article II Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution ensures that for certain appointments, the “Advice and Consent” be given. In addition, the Constitution delegates to Congress the right to appoint “inferior officers” within the military. So, while we can expect Ron Paul to scale back our direct military involvement across the globe, his ability to transform the culture within national security and defense department will remain somewhat limited.

Although this non-interventionist approach is presently considered by many to fall outside the mainstream of Republican Party orthodoxy, some Republican activists object to this portrayal. Matt Dubin, the Washington State Chair of the Ron Paul 2012 campaign explained,

“Of course, some of these leaders followed-through with their non-interventionist rhetoric better than others, but it is clear from even a cursory view of 20th century history that the traditional foreign policy of the Republican party is one of a strong national defense, but opposed to overseas military adventurism and opposed to war — unless the national interest of the United States is directly threatened. It has certainly never been the position of the Republican Party to support pre-emptive wars. Any argument to the contrary simply ignores history.”

A Ron Paul presidency would be considerably less likely to engage in direct military engagements. The bar for engagement would be raised significantly, and as a result, would exclude some humanitarian missions that do not involve imminent national security concerns. 

Israel Relations

Although some portray Ron Paul as hostile to Israel, a closer look at Paul’s record on the issue reveals a more complex relationship.  While Ron Paul opposes direct foreign aid to Israel, he has also expressed support of Israel’s right to self-defense. As Ron Paul stated in an interview with Newsmax, “In October, 1981, most of the world and most of the Congress voiced outrage over Israel’s attack on Iraq and their nuclear development. I was one of the few who defended her right to make her own decisions on foreign policy and to act in her own self-interest.”

In addition, Ron Paul in the same Newsmax interview expressed opposition to any arms sale to surrounding nations which would threaten Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region. He also expressed support for continuing the policy of sharing intelligence with Israel. However, he remains steadfastly against providing armaments as a form of foreign aid.

The matter of a Paul administration’s policy regarding Israel’s borders remains more ambiguous. On the one hand, Paul stated, “We should not dictate where their borders will be nor should we have veto power over their foreign policy” and that “We should not announce bargaining positions even before she begins her negotiations. We should not dictate what she can and cannot do.” On its face, this seems to be a vast improvement over Obama’s suggestion that the starting point of negotiations with the Palestinian Authority (PA) should be the “pre-1967” lines. However, would Paul support arms sales to Israel even if Israel insisted on retaining large portions of the West Bank in any two-state talks with the PA? The answer to this question could very well determine how Israel relations would actually fare under a Paul presidency.

Regulatory Policies

Ron Paul would likely see significant agenda advancement on regulatory policies. The myriad administrative agencies of the federal government has been referred to as the “fourth branch of government.” For instance, Congress delegates regulatory authority over many environmental issues to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Of course, the list of regulatory agencies extends far beyond the EPA, including the Consumer Products Safety Commission, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Federal Communications Commission.

The executive branch, with its obligation to execute federal laws, possesses incredible influence over these agencies, especially in regards to staffing. Because these agencies wield broad delegated control over crafting regulations for various activities, a president can influence policy by installing like-minded leadership within these agencies.

A Ron Paul presidency would likely result in the EPA abandoning efforts to establish a de facto cap and trade system, and in the Department of Homeland Security acting more cautiously in matters involving civil liberties.

Monetary Policy

Many economists have expressed concern with the Federal Reserve’s recent spate of monetary easing via multiple rounds of quantitative easing (QE). In short, the Federal Reserve enjoys a congressional mandate to regulate the money supply. Over the past few years in particular, the agency under the direction of Ben Bernanke, has created hundreds of billions of dollars. These funds have been used to buy government bonds and other financial securities. One of the results of this monetary expansion has been to artificially lower the interest rate on government debt.

Ron Paul believes the proclivity of the Federal Reserve to use its mandate to engage in such activities presents a long term threat to the stability of the dollar and our economic system. In addition, such manipulation tends to distort the “price” of money — the interest rate. Because the interest rate is one of the most important price signals in a capitalist economy, this significant interference is diminishing the capability of our free market system to efficiently allocate capital to competing businesses.

Although Ron Paul consistently expresses a desire to “End the Fed,” he would be unlikely to succeed on that level. However, the chair of the Federal Reserve Board is appointed by the president every four years. As such, Ron Paul would likely nominate an economist committed to a stable money supply and a stable dollar. The policies pursues by the new chair would focus on monetary stability rather than direct intervention in the economy or on ensuring low interest rates for government debt.

FOR LIBERALS: Paul or Obama?

Would liberals be more at home with Ron Paul than with Barack Obama?  It depends. Of course, “classical” liberals would decidedly side with Ron Paul. Less than 100 years ago, “liberals” advocated personal freedom of conscience, economic liberty, representative government, and the rule of law. In contemporary times, the term “liberal” is typically applied to those who believe in highly progressive taxation, significant regulation private industry, an expansive safety net, acceptance of alternative lifestyles, and a diminished role for the United States military.

Ron Paul holds to principles of economic freedom and individual responsibility, in contrast to contemporary liberals. In addition, Ron Paul opposes the personal income tax, let alone a progressive one. Considering that this tax is used to effectuate massive wealth redistribution, modern liberals are ill at ease with this as well. However, both the Democratic and Republican party leadership often support what often amounts to corporate welfare. Because Paul opposes corporate bailouts and subsidies, liberals might support certain economic policies of his. However, overall, modern economic liberals would be more at ease with Obama.

For social liberals, the answer is less clear cut. Although Ron Paul believes in maintaining the traditional definition of marriage and is pro-life, his social stances are not as threatening as they appear at first glance. Because Paul believes in a fervent adherence to the Tenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, Paul would oppose federal intervention on most “social issues.”  The Tenth Amendment states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Thus, without a constitutional amendment allowing otherwise, issues such as gay marriage and abortion rights would often be considered a “state issue.”  Ron Paul administration would pursue a policy of relaxed drug legalization policies, at least for marijuana." He might obtain enough congressional support from a majority of Dems and minority of Republicans to pass legalization legislation.

Depending on the social issue deemed more important, either Paul or Obama might be more attractive.

Foreign policy is another realm where neither Obama nor Paul enjoys a firm hold on loyalty from liberals. Unlike Obama, Paul genuinely believes in a non-interventionist foreign policy. However, unlike Obama, Paul would be unlikely to support unilateral disarmament or placing arbitrary limitations on our defensive capabilities. Contrasted with the Obama administration’s military engagements in Libya, Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan (to name a few) over the past four years, a Ron Paul presidency would prove much more appealing liberals when it comes to foreign policy.

Although the preference between the candidates varies from issue to issue, most liberals would feel more at ease with Obama, as his worldview of government intervention trumping individual choice most aligns with contemporary liberals. And a Ron Paul presidency, even facing formidable opposition within both political parties, would likely result in a considerably smaller federal government.