By Frank Bixler (Email Frank at: firstname.lastname@example.org)
SC Staff Writer
Four men are vying for the Republican ticket to run against Obama in November, but you wouldn’t know that by watching the mainstream news networks. Mitt Romney, the Wall Street establishment candidate, Rick Santorum, the social conservative from Pennsylvania, and Newt Gingrich, the Washington insider, have all garnered the spotlight from the news media at some point during this campaign, surging in the polls before crashing back down. But the fourth candidate, Libertarian leaning Ron Paul, has maintained steady growth in poll numbers with a determined and passionate support base. Now ranking second behind Mitt Romney in national polls for the Republican Nomination. But who is this sprightly 76 year old from Texas? What is his message? And why do people across the country find him so appealing?
Born on August 20th, 1935, a week after Social Security was signed into law, Ron Paul was raised by his German parents in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The third of five sons, at age five, Dr. Paul was working with his brothers, cleaning milk bottles in their family’s basement and picking raspberries for their grandfather, who would sell them in Pittsburgh. In high school, Ron Paul demonstrated a keen athletic ability, wrestling against competitors twenty pounds heavier than him and winning the Pennsylvania Championship 220 yard dash, earning him the opportunity for a full scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh. But after a knee injury complicated by crude surgery damaged his ability to run, he turned down the scholarship on the premise that taking the money would be wrong considering he was uncertain of his ability to compete.
Ron Paul went on to work his way through Gettysburg College, managing a campus coffee shop called the Bullet Hole. By the time he graduated with his B.S. degree in biology in 1957, Ron Paul was sprinting again and is still tied for fifth in two sprinting events on Gettysburg’s all-time list. During this time, he also married Carol Wells, who had asked him to escort her to her sixteenth birthday party. They have been together ever since.
After earning his Doctorate in Medicine at the Duke University School of Medicine in 1961, he moved to Michigan with his wife and finished up his internship at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, before being drafted as a flight surgeon in the U.S. Air Force from 1963-1965. He then re-enlisted into the U.S. Air National Guard, serving from 1965-1968. Afterword’s, the Paul’s moved to Texas where he began his own private medical practice, delivering over 4,000 babies during the course of his career. Dr. Paul did well with his new practice, buying up a farm outside of town with an Olympic-size swimming pool, beach house, and several real estate investments. But despite refusing to participate in the newly created Medicare and Medicaid programs due to his ideological beliefs in favor of small government, Dr. Paul never turned patients away, treating poor patients for free or at a discount rate, sometimes even taking eggs and vegetables as payment.
In 1971, with the Nixon administration’s decision to end the gold backed U.S. dollar (also known as the Nixon Shock) due to the devaluation of the dollar created by massive deficit spending to fund the war in Vietnam, Dr. Paul decided to embark on a political career. He won a congressional special election seat in 1976, setting off his long career of consistently speaking out against the floating currency, United States imperialism, and the unacceptable influence of the military industrial complex and Wall Street bankers upon the federal government.
Ron Paul stands out amongst the other Republican contenders for the party nomination partly because of his consistent anti-big government, free market economic message. Ron Paul is a follower of what economist’s term, the Austrian School of Economics, an economic philosophy that has fallen in and out of favor over the decades but which is once again returning to mainstream political debate. Followers of the Austrian School believe that the economy should not be interfered with by governments whose involvement in economic policies inevitably leads to rampant inflation, a situation we are beginning to see today. Rather, the economy should be left in the hands of individuals, due to the fact that the economy is much too complex and fluid to be regulated and managed by government policies. This is also known as Laissez-Faire economics.
While seemingly out of place today, Laissez-Faire economic policy was adhered to by many U.S. presidents during the 19th and early 20th centuries, most notably Thomas Jefferson, who made it a goal of his administration to eliminate the national debt, telling his treasury secretary that a national debt would drag America into “…the English career of debt, corruption and rottenness, closing with revolution.” In fact, up until the 1930’s, Laissez-Faire economics was the norm in shaping American economic policy and helped fuel our nation’s breakneck industrial growth. But, with the initiation of national social welfare programs and the need to create a massive military force to counter the Soviet threat during the Cold War, thus bloating the size of the American military to ridiculous proportions; government spending and by extension government interference in economic and social issues became the norm, all but erasing the memory of Laissez-Faire economics from the national consciousness.
Ron Paul, by consistently preaching the same message of no government interference in economics, elimination of the national debt and a return to the gold standard, has revived the debate on Austrian economics during the 2012 presidential debate. His famous catch phrase, “End the Fed” once derided by fellow republicans and followers of Keynesian economics as being an unrealistic fantasy, became popular amongst Americans as the Federal Reserve’s involvement in the housing crisis became known to the general public and is now being repeated by all four candidates vying for the Republican nomination. In fact, many of the candidate’s statements on the economy, such as auditing the Fed or abolishing the income tax, are messages that Ron Paul has been preaching for decades but are now picked up by flip-flop candidates like Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich as it becomes evident that those are the messages that voters want to hear.
However none of the other candidates have taken up Ron Paul’s non-interventionist foreign policy also referred to as the Golden Rule (we shouldn’t do to other countries what we wouldn’t tolerate being done to us). Ron Paul has called for the closing of U.S. military bases overseas and bringing home our troops from Afghanistan, essentially ending the U.S. military empire built up over the course of the Cold War but that now drains our government of much needed funding. Instead, Ron Paul calls for a strong national defense, securing our borders and no longer becoming involved in disputes between other foreign powers. Often derided as isolationist, Ron Paul’s foreign agenda bares greater similarity to the non-interventionist policies of pre-WWI presidents. Even George Washington in his farewell address advocated non-interventionism in foreign affairs, calling for friendship and commerce with foreign powers but cautioning against becoming engaged in foreign conflicts and long term treaties. To the other Republican candidates, whose saber rattling for war against Iran is endangering the fragile peace between our two nations, non-interventionism nearly amounts to treason. But to the war weary American public, non-interventionism sounds like sanity.
While it is too early to say if Ron Paul will take the Republican nomination, it is clear that his driven support base, mainly made up of first-time voters, will continue to reshape the face of the Republican party with their Libertarian free-market, non-interventionist message into the future. The result of which will be a future Republican party that looks very different from the corrupt, war hungry political beast it is today.