Like many chaps round these parts, my general line on Ron Paul was that, as much as I think he’s out of his gourd on Iran et al, he performs a useful role in the GOP line-up talking up the virtues of constitutional conservatism. But this Weekly Standard piece by John McCormack suggests Paul is a humbug even on his core domestic turf: The entitlement state is the single biggest deformation to the Founders’ republic, and it downgrades not only America’s finances but its citizenry. Yet Paul has no serious proposal for dealing with it, and indeed promises voters that we won’t have to as long as we cut “overseas spending”.
This is hooey. As I point out in my book, well before the end of this decade interest payments on the debt will consume more of the federal budget than military spending. So you could abolish the Pentagon, sell off the fleet to Beijing and the nukes to Tehran and Khartoum and anybody else who wants ‘em, and we’d still be heading off the cliff. If a candidate isn’t talking about entitlement transformation, he’s unserious.
And, before the Ronulans start jeering “Neocon!”, I part company with many friends on the right who argue that defense spending can’t be cut. I wrote a cover story for NR a couple of months back arguing that the military’s bloated size (and budget) is increasingly an impediment to its effectiveness: When you’re responsible for 43 per cent of global military expenditure, it’s hardly surprising that you start acting like the world’s most lavishly funded transnational-outreach non-profit rather than the sharp end of America’s national interest. In Afghanistan, the problem is not that we haven’t spent enough money but that so much of it has been utterly wasted – and mostly in predictable ways. I am in favor of a leaner, meaner military, with the emphasis on both adjectives.
But Ron Paul, with his breezy indifference to the entitlement question, is peddling the same illusion Obama sold a gullible electorate in 2008 – that, if only America retreats from “Bush’s wars”, life can go on, and we’ll be fat and happy with literally not a care in the world. Big Government parochialism is an appealing fantasy because it suggests America’s fortunes can be restored without pain. But they can’t – and when Ron Paul tells you otherwise he’s talking hogwash.
PS I’d be interested in hearing what Derb (Dr Paul’s biggest booster round here) thinks of his entitlement insouciance.