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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Q&A: Ron Paul

In his 12 terms in Congress, Ron Paul has waged many lonely crusades. Before he was a Tea Party standard bearer and a master of the online money bomb, the man known as “Dr. No” was a libertarian icon who regularly bucked his party’s budgets and preached isolationism* against military intervention when his peers were girding for war. But while he’s nurtured a devoted band of supporters, the Texas Republican has been a non-factor in his two prior bids for the White House. Paul is hoping his third bid for the presidency will be different. With the rise of the Tea Party, the center of gravity of the Republican base has shifted toward Paul, particularly on foreign policy. And while the political punditry has again written him off, his supporters believe Paul has the fund-raising might and grassroots army to make a credible challenge for the nomination in 2012.

On June 17, Paul spoke to TIME by phone from New Orleans, where he won the straw poll at the Republican Leadership Conference. A trimmed and lightly edited transcript follows:

Why do you want to be President?

To straighten out the mess that this country is in. To give this country more peace, more prosperity, a sound currency and a lot more security.

Four years ago, you demonstrated your fund-raising prowess and your appeal to a segment of fervent fans. But you weren’t a top contender for the nomination. Why do you expect to do better this time?

Because the country is a completely different country than it was four years ago. People have come to realize that you can’t continue these wars, and both sides now are putting a lot of pressure on the President to back off, especially when it comes to Libya. Also, people are now looking at the Federal Reserve as being a major contributor, if not the entire cause, of financial bubbles and these troubles we have. These are the kind of things I’ve been talking about for 20 to 30 years.

In addition to saving money abroad, what policies would you prescribe to spur economic growth here at home?

I would work real hard on the tax code. I want the Federal Reserve to quit creating money out of thin air, because that distorts the economy. That’s central economic planning by manipulating interest rates. Money should come from savings. Where are our savings? They’re overseas. A lot of our companies made money overseas and don’t want to bring it home and get taxed 30% or 40%. They’ve already been taxed overseas. Corporate taxes should be as close to zero as possible.

Then you need to have regulatory relief. The more trouble we get into, the more regulations they add on. They say the lack of regulations was why we had our crisis. Well, the regulations should be placed on the Federal Reserve, not on the businessman. You have to allow the liquidation of debt and the mal-investment. We should have allowed bankruptcies to occur rather than save weak companies.

Would you vote to raise the debt limit if the deal to do so contained spending reductions equal to or exceeding the $2.4 trillion it would take to raise the borrowing limit through 2012?

The promises to cut spending, which is supposed to be the temptation to vote for the debt increase, I think is a trick. Are they going to do it this year? Next year? Or is it going to be a 10-year program? There is no value to promises to make cuts in the future. In the 1980s they had a tax increase and it was agreed that for every dollar of increased taxes, there would be two dollars of spending cuts. What happened to the deficit in the 1980s? It still exploded.

You’re known for voting your ideology. Are you willing to compromise this time around to enhance your chances of winning the nomination?

That would be like crossing your fingers as you take an oath of office. Instead of compromising, I work with coalitions. Some of my best groups have been working with progressive Democrats. They understand civil liberties and they understand war, and many of them, believe it or not, think deficits are bad. They like transparency of the Fed. I think working with coalitions without sacrificing any principle is the way to go. If you say now is the time to compromise, you’re also saying your oath of office is worth about 50%.

What would a Ron Paul presidency look like?

There would be changes on Day 1. I’d do everything conceivable to trade with [foreign countries] rather than intimidating them. I’d try to relieve some of the tension. I certainly wouldn’t have warships in the Black Sea trying to stir up a new Cold War with the Russians. That’s crazy. The rest of it, you have to get a consensus, get Congress to pass laws. You could back off on regulations. The federal register is big enough. That would be a signal to the business people: Wow, he doesn’t like taxes. You could do a lot to change the atmosphere, the intimidation that Big Government places on our business community.

Continue reading - TIME - Q&A: Ron Paul

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