Ron Paul: Tax Reform is Useless Without Spending Reform

Recently, Republican leaders in Congress unveiled a “tax reform” plan that they claimed would provide the American people with a simpler, fairer, and more efficient tax system. While this plan does lower some tax rates and contains some other changes that may make next April a little less painful for Americans, there is little in it to excite supporters of liberty.

Taxes may even increase under this plan for some Americans, as it eliminates some of those tax deductions labeled “loopholes.” When I served in Congress I opposed bills that “closed loopholes” because closing loopholes is just a fancy way of saying raising taxes. Anything that leaves more money in the hands of the people is beneficial to both liberty and economic efficiency. As economist Thomas DiLorenzo put it, “…private individuals always spend their own money more efficiently than government bureaucrats do,” therefore sound economics, as well as a concern for liberty, requires opposition to any proposal to “let government bureaucrats spend more of the people’s hard-earned money.”

Tax reformers also stray from sound economics when they endorse a tax system that is designed to direct consumption and savings. I share the concern that the current tax system distorts people’s behavior by discouraging savings. However, the solution is not for the government to create a tax code that punishes consumption in order to encourage savings. A truly efficient market is one where individuals are completely free to determine how to allocate their incomes between consumption and savings. No politician or bureaucrat can know the proper allocation of savings and investment that meets the needs of every individual, and government policies designed to cause individuals to devote more of their income to savings than they otherwise would distorts the market just as much as policies that encourage excess consumption.

The Republican tax plan adopts what is called “dynamic scoring.” Dynamic scoring is designed to recognize that tax cuts, by incentivizing work and investment, can increase revenue to the government. This is the argument of the famous Laffer curve. It has always seemed odd to me that a supposed free-market economist would argue for tax cuts on the grounds that it would enrich the state’s coffers. After all, the more money the state has the greater its ability to violate our liberties. Does this mean that those concerned with liberty should vote against tax cuts? Of course not; the solution is to make sure tax cuts are big enough that they cost the government revenue.

Sadly, politicians in Washington refuse to consider any tax plan that would decrease government revenue. This is because the prevalent attitude in DC favors protecting the welfare-warfare state over protecting our liberties. As the obsession with the Laffer curve shows, even many alleged supporters of the free market only pretend to support liberty as a means to enhance the well-being of the welfare-warfare state.

Many politicians in Washington also forget that deficit spending is itself a tax. When the government runs deficits it uses money that could be more efficiently used by the private sector. Deficit spending also leads the Federal Reserve to monetize debt, thus burdening people with the inflation tax.

Instead of worrying over the latest plan to enable the government to more efficiently take our money, people who want to advance liberty must focus on breaking the intellectual and political consensus in support of the welfare-warfare state. Only then can we radically reduce all taxes, including the most insidious and regressive of taxes — the inflation tax.

Ron Paul: What Does The U.S. Government Want In Ukraine?

In several eastern Ukrainian towns over the past week, the military opened fire on its own citizens. Dozens may have been killed in the violence. Although the U.S. government generally condemns a country’s use of military force against its own population, especially if they are unarmed protesters, this time the U.S. Administration blamed the victims. After as many as 20 unarmed protesters were killed on the May 9th holiday in Ukraine, the State Department spokesman said “we condemn the outbreak of violence caused by pro-Russia separatists.”

Why are people protesting in eastern Ukraine? Because they do not believe the government that came to power after the U.S.-backed uprising in February is legitimate. They do not recognize the authority of an unelected president and prime minister. The U.S. sees this as a Russian-sponsored destabilization effort, but is it so hard to understand that the people in Ukraine may be annoyed with the U.S. and EU for their involvement in regime change in their country? Would we be so willing to accept an unelected government in Washington put in place with the backing of the Chinese and Iranians?

The U.S. State Department provided much assistance earlier this year to those involved in the effort to overthrow the Ukrainian government. The U.S. warned the Ukrainian government at the time not to take any action against those in the streets, even as they engaged in violence and occupied government buildings. But now that those former protesters have come to power, the U.S. takes a different view of protest. Now they give full support to the bloody crackdown against protesters in the east. The State Department spokesperson said last week: “We continue to call for groups who have jeopardized public order by taking up arms and seizing public buildings in violation of Ukrainian law to disarm and leave the buildings they have seized.” This is the opposite of what they said in February. Do they think the rest of the world does not see this hypocrisy?

The residents of eastern Ukraine have long been closer to Russia than to the U.S. and EU. In fact, that part of Ukraine had been a part of Russia. After February’s regime change, officials in the east announced that they would hold referenda to see whether the population wanted autonomy from the U.S.-backed government in Kiev. The U.S. demanded that Russian President Putin stop eastern Ukraine from voting on autonomy, and last week the Russian president did just that: he said that the vote should not be held as scheduled. The eastern Ukrainians ignored him and said they would hold the vote anyway. So much for the U.S. claims that Russia controls the opposition in Ukraine.

Even though the Russian president followed U.S. demands and urged the eastern Ukrainians to hold off on the vote, the U.S. State Department announced that the U.S. would apply additional sanctions on Russia if the vote is held! Does this make any sense?

The real question is why the U.S. government is involved in Ukraine in the first place. We are broke. We cannot even afford to fix our own economy. Yet we want to run Ukraine? Does it really matter who Ukrainians elect to represent them? Is it really a national security matter worth risking a nuclear war with Russia whether Ukraine votes for more regional autonomy and a weaker central government? Isn’t that how the United States was originally conceived?

Has the arrogance of the U.S. Administration, thinking they should run the world, driven us to the brink of another major war in Europe? Let us hope they will stop this dangerous game and come to their senses. I say let’s have no war for Ukraine!

Ron Paul Explains Why America Is No Longer Economic Leader

Last week World Bank economists predicted that China would soon displace the United States as the world’s largest economy. The fact that this one-time economic basket case is now positioned to surpass the US is one more sign of the damage done to American prosperity by welfare, warfare, corporatism, and fiat money.

Some commentators have predicted that China’s reign as the world’s largest economy would not last long. This may be true. While China has made great strides since adopting free-market reforms in the 1970s, China is still run by an authoritarian government whose economic policies distort the market in order to benefit state-favored industries. These state-favored businesses are often controlled by politically-powerful individuals.

What many of these commentators fail to notice is that the American government pursues many of the same flawed policies as the Chinese. For example, because of the increase in regulations, subsidies, and bailouts, many American businesses are putting more resources into manipulating the political process than producing goods and services desired by consumers. Many big businesses even lobby Congress and the federal bureaucracy for new regulations on their industries. They do this because big business can more easily absorb the costs of complying with the new regulations that force their smaller competitors out of business.

China is regularly criticized by American protectionists for subsidizing its export industries. However, the US government does the same thing via programs such as the Export-Import Bank. China is also criticized for manipulating the value of its currency to make its exports more attractive to foreign consumers. This may well be true, but China is hardly unique in this respect. Throughout its history, the Federal Reserve has manipulated both the domestic and international economy, often working in partnership with foreign central banks.

The Federal Reserve’s inflationary policies benefit big banks, politically-connected businesses, and big-spending politicians at the expense of the American people. Anyone interested in helping improve the American people’s economic situation should focus on changing America’s monetary policy, not China’s.

Ironically, many of the same politicians who denounce China’s monetary policy benefit from Chinese purchases of America’s debt. If China stopped making large purchases of US debt, the Federal Reserve would be forced to monetize even more debt, thus risking hyperinflation. So the best thing Congress could do to make it more difficult for China to manipulate the global economy is cut federal spending.

One advantage China has over the US is that the Chinese government does not waste money on a hyper-interventionist foreign policy. The United States government spent approximately $752 billion on the military in fiscal year 2013. In contrast, China spent approximately $188 billion. While China may be increasing its military spending, it has a long way to go to catch up to the United States.

It is difficult to see how the American people, other than those who run or work for the military-industrial complex, benefit from this spending. Military spending, like all government spending, hampers private sector growth by taking resources away from investors, entrepreneurs, and consumers while contributing significantly to the national debt. In contrast, a return to the policy of peace and free trade would allow those resources to be used by entrepreneurs to create new businesses and new jobs.

News that China is soon to surpass the United States as the largest economy in the world is a stark reminder of how the American people are harmed by the welfare-warfare state, crony capitalism, and fiat currency. The only way to avoid continuing collapse is to finally reject an interventionist foreign policy, stop bailing out and subsidizing politically powerful industries, and restore a free market in money.

Ron Paul On How Obama’s Drone Wars Undermine American Values

Earlier this month, CIA-operated drones killed as many as 55 people in Yemen in several separate strikes. Although it was claimed that those killed were “militants,” according to press reports at least three civilians were killed and at least five others wounded. That makes at least 92 U.S. drone attacks against Yemen during the Obama Administration, which have killed nearly 1,000 people including many civilians.

The latest strikes seem to contradict President Obama’s revised guidelines for targeted killings, which he announced last May. At the time he claimed that drones would only be used against those who posed a “continuing and imminent threat to the American people,” that there must be a “near certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured,” and that safeguards to prevent civilian casualties were at “the highest standard we can set.”

None of these criteria seem to have been met. In fact, the threshold in Yemen is considerably lower than the President claims. In 2012 President Obama approved “signature strikes” in Yemen, a criteria for attack that is not based on actual or suspected wrongdoing, but rather on a vague set of behaviors that are said to be shared by militants.

This means that the individuals killed in the most recent drone attacks were not necessarily terrorists or even terrorist suspects. They were not proven to have committed any crime, nor were they proven to have been members of al-Qaida or any terrorist organization. Yet they were nevertheless targeted for attack, and the sovereignty of Yemen was violated in the process.

Some may claim that we need to kill suspected terrorists overseas so that we can be safer at home. But do the drone attacks in places like Yemen really make us safer? Or are they actually counter-productive? One thing we do know is that one of the strongest recruiting tools for al-Qaida is the U.S. being over there using drones against people or occupying Muslim countries.

How can we get rid of all the people who may seek to do us harm if our drone and occupation policies continually create even more al-Qaida members? Are we not just creating an endless supply of tomorrow’s terrorists with our foolish policies today? What example does it set for the rest of the world if the U.S. acts as if it has the right to kill anyone, anywhere, based simply on that individual’s behavior?

We should keep all of this in mind when the US administration lectures world leaders about how they should act in the 21st century. Recently, the U.S. Administration admonished Russian president Vladimir Putin for his supposed interference in the affairs of Ukraine, saying that violating the sovereignty of another country is not the 21st century way of conducting international relations. I agree that sovereignty must be respected. But what about the U.S. doing the same thing in places like Yemen? What about the hundreds and even thousands killed by U.S. drones not because they were found guilty of a crime, but because they were exhibiting “behaviors” that led a CIA drone operator safely hidden in New Mexico or somewhere to pull the trigger and end their lives?

What about a President who regularly meets in secret with his advisors to determine who is to be placed on a “kill list” and who refuses to even discuss the criteria for placement on that list? Is this considered acceptable 21st century behavior?

The Obama Administration needs to rein in the CIA and its drone attacks overseas. They make a mockery of American values and they may well make us less safe.

Ron Paul Straight Talk: Nevada Standoff A Symptom Of Increasing Authoritarianism

The Nation’s attention has for the past few weeks been riveted by a standoff in Nevada between armed Federal agents and the Bundys, a ranching family who believe the Federal government is exceeding its authority by accessing “fees” against ranchers who graze cattle on government lands. Outrage over the government’s use of armed agents to forcibly remove the Bundys’ cattle led many Americans to travel to Nevada to engage in non-violent civil disobedience in support of the family.

The protests seem to have worked, at least for now, as the government appears to have backed off from direct confrontation. Sadly, some elected officials have inflamed the situation by labeling the Bundys and their supporters “domestic terrorists,” thus justifying any future use of force by the government. That means there is always the possibility of another deadly Waco-style raid on the Bundys or a similar group in the future.

In a State like Nevada, where 84 percent of the land is owned by the Federal government, these types of conflicts are inevitable. Government ownership of land means that land is in theory owned by everyone, but in practice owned by no one. Thus, those who use the land lack the incentives to preserve it for the long term. As a result, land-use rules are set by politicians and bureaucrats. Oftentimes, the so-called “public” land is used in ways that benefit politically-powerful special interests.

Politicians and bureaucrats can, and will, arbitrarily change the rules governing the land. In the 19th century, some Americans moved to Nevada because the government promised them that they, and their descendants, would always be able to use the Federally-owned land. The Nevada ranchers believed they had an implied contract with the government allowing them to use the land for grazing. When government bureaucrats decided they needed to restrict grazing to protect the desert tortoise, they used force to drive most ranchers away.

By contrast, if the Nevada land in question was privately owned, the dispute over whether to allow the ranchers to continue to use the land would have likely been resolved without sending in Federal armed agents to remove the Bundys’ cattle from the land. This is one more reason why the Federal government should rid itself of all Federal land holdings. Selling Federal lands would also help reduce the Federal deficit.

It is unlikely that Congress will divest the Federal government’s land holdings, as most in government are more interested in increasing government power then in protecting and restoring private property rights.

A government that continually violates our rights of property and contract can fairly be descried as authoritarian. Of course, the politicians and bureaucrats take offense at this term, but how else do you describe a government that forbids Americans from grazing cattle on land they have used for over a century, from buying health insurance that does not met Obamacare’s standards, from trading with Cuba, or even from drinking raw milk! That so many in D.C. support the NSA spying and the TSA assaults on our privacy shows the low regard that too many in government have for our rights.

History shows us that authoritarian systems, whether fascist, communist, or Keynesian, will inevitably fail. I believe incidents such as that in Nevada show we may be witnessing the failure of the American authoritarian warfare-welfare state — and that of course would be good. This is why it so important that those of us who understand the freedom philosophy spread the truth about how statism caused our problems and why liberty is the only solution.

Ron Paul Straight Talk: Another Phony Budget Debate

Anyone watching last week’s debate over the Republican budget resolution would have experienced déjà vu, as the debate bore a depressing similarity to those of previous years. Once again, the Republicans claimed their budget would cut spending in a responsible manner, while Democratic opponents claimed the plan’s spending cuts would shred the safety net and leave vital programs unfunded. Of course, neither claim is true.

The budget does not cut spending at all, and in fact actually increases spending by $1.5 trillion over 10 years. The Republicans are using the old D.C. trick of spending less than originally planned and calling that reduced spending increase a $5.1 trillion cut in spending. Only in D.C. could a budget that increases spending by 3.5 percent per year instead of by 5.2 percent per year be attacked as a “slash-and-burn” plan.

The budget also relies on “dynamic scoring.” This trick is where the budget numbers account for increased government revenue generated by economic growth the budget will supposedly unleash. The claims are dubious at best. Of course, reducing government spending will lead to economic growth. But real growth requires real cuts, not this budget’s phony cuts.

As important as reducing spending and balancing the budget is, focusing solely on budget numbers ignores the root of the problem. The real problem is that too many in Washington — and the nation as a whole — refuse to consider any serious reductions in the welfare-warfare state.

I have always maintained that the logical place to start reducing spending is the trillions wasted on our interventionist foreign policy. Unfortunately, there are still too many in Congress who claim to be fiscal hawks when it comes to welfare spending, but turn into Keynesian “doves” when it comes to spending on the military-industrial complex.

These members cling to the mistaken belief that the government can balance it budget, keep taxes low and even have a growing economy, while spending trillions of dollars policing the world and while propping up some governments and changing others overtly or covertly. Thus, President Barack Obama is attacked as soft on defense because he wants to spend only $5.9 trillion over 10 years on the military. In contrast, the Republican budget spends $6.2 trillion over the next decade. That is almost a trillion dollars more than the budget’s total so-called spending cuts.

If there are too many fiscal conservatives who refuse to abandon the warfare state, there are too many liberals who act as if any reduction in welfare or entitlement spending leaves children starving. I agree it is unrealistic to simply end programs that people are currently dependent on. However, isn’t it inhumane to not take steps to unwind the welfare system before government overspending causes a bigger financial crisis and drags millions more into poverty?

Far from abandoning those in need of help, returning the responsibility for caring for the needy to private charities, churches and local communities will improve the welfare system. At the very least, young people should have the freedom to choose to pay a lower tax rate in exchange for promising to never participate in a government welfare or entitlement program.

Last week’s budget debate showed how little difference there lies between the parties when it comes to preserving the warfare-welfare state. One side may prefer more warfare while the other prefers more welfare, but neither side actually wants to significantly reduce the size and scope of government. Until Congress stops trying to run the world, run the economy and run our lives, there will never be a real debate about cutting spending and limiting government.

Ron Paul Straight Talk: Fort Hood Was An Avoidable Tragedy

Last week we saw yet another tragedy at Ft. Hood, Texas, as a distraught Iraq war veteran killed three of his fellow soldiers before killing himself. It is nearly five years after the last Ft. Hood shooting, where 13 people were killed. These tragedies are heartbreaking and we certainly feel much sympathy for the families of the victims.

While there is much focus on the mental illness that appears to have driven many of these men to murder, what is left unsaid is the cause of the tragedy. Government officials and the media only talk about the symptoms that lead to these tragic events. They will tell us that there are people who get post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and kill themselves and others. They will all call for more government intervention into the lives of those in the military to root out and “treat” mental illness.

But they will never question the two causes of these tragedies: the disastrous decade-long U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that have destroyed the minds of so many service members, and the government psychiatrists who prescribe extremely dangerous psychotropic drugs to treat these damaged soldiers.

On the drugs, it is true that in almost every story we read about these kinds of mass killings, whether on a military base or in a school, the kids or veterans have been treated with these dangerous drugs. When will the medical profession wake up and realize that these drugs are often worse than the illness they are designed to treat?

We need to understand that the problem of veterans returning home with serious mental illness is increasing at an alarming rate. We are not talking about a few thousand people returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are talking about a hundred thousand people. And according to government statistics, about 20 percent of returning vets will suffer from PTSD, and a further 20 percent will suffer from traumatic brain injuries.

The numbers are significant and they are frightening. While some will ignore these statistics and point out that these wars are producing far less deaths than previous ones, the fact is these brain injuries and disorders are a living death for the victims. And increasingly, those living in such horrific circumstances, full of deadly drugs that are supposed to treat the problem but only make matters worse, are striking out against those in their communities or committing suicide.

But what of the other main cause of these tragedies? What no media or government representative will admit is that U.S. military members are suffering horrible mental illnesses because they have been sent over and over again into senseless wars overseas. That is the real cause of this crisis. The real horror comes when these soldiers return to the U.S. to realize that the wars have not been won and all of the suffering and dying on both sides has been in vain. Just think of how many individuals over the last 15 years would not have suffered death or injury — or post-traumatic stress disorders or brain injuries — if we didn’t go to war unnecessarily!

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may be winding down, but the war against our veterans continues. Why are the people who are really guilty, those who lied us into war, not being called to task?

Unfortunately, the truth is that these same people who lied us into war in Iraq are still getting us involved unnecessarily overseas, in Syria, Egypt, Libya, Ukraine. The problem, the interventionism that creates these deeply troubled service members, continues to thrive, unpunished. And even worse: these people continue to plan our future disasters even though they will not suffer the fate of those they send to be broken on foreign battlefields.

We must end the aggressive wars that break our military, and end the dangerous drugs that turn deeply-troubled victims into killers. Let’s have no more Ft. Hoods!

Ron Paul Straight Talk: Aid To Ukraine Is A Bad Deal For All

Last week, Congress overwhelmingly passed a bill approving a billion dollars in aid to Ukraine and more sanctions on Russia. The bill will likely receive the President’s signature within days. If you think this is the last time U.S. citizens will have their money sent to Ukraine, you should think again. This is only the beginning.

This $1 billion for Ukraine is a rip-off for the America taxpayer, but it is also a bad deal for Ukrainians. Not a single needy Ukrainian will see a penny of this money, as it will be used to bail out international banks that hold Ukrainian government debt. According to the terms of the International Monetary Fund-designed plan for Ukraine, life is about to get much more difficult for average Ukrainians. The government will freeze some wage increases, significantly raise taxes and increase energy prices by a considerable margin.

But the bankers will get paid and the IMF will get control over the Ukrainian economy.

The bill also authorizes more U.S. taxpayer money for government-funded “democracy promotion” non-governmental organizations, and more money to broadcast U.S. government propaganda into Ukraine via Radio Free Europe and Voice of America. It also includes some saber-rattling, directing the U.S. secretary of state to “provide enhanced security cooperation with Central and Eastern European NATO member states.”

The U.S. has been “promoting democracy” in Ukraine for more than 10 years now, but it doesn’t seem to have done much good. Recently, a democratically elected government was overthrown by violent protesters. That is the opposite of democracy, where governments are changed by free and fair elections. What is shocking is that the U.S. government and its NGOs were on the side of the protesters! If we really cared about democracy, we would not have taken either side, as it is none of our business.

Washington does not want to talk about its own actions that led to the coup, instead focusing on attacking the Russian reaction to U.S.-instigated unrest next door to them. So the new bill passed by Congress will expand sanctions against Russia for its role in backing a referendum in Crimea, where most of the population voted to join Russia. The U.S., which has participated in the forced change of borders in Serbia and elsewhere, suddenly declares that international borders cannot be challenged in Ukraine.

Of course, those who disagree with me and others like me who are less than gung-ho about sanctions, manipulating elections and sending our troops overseas are criticized as somehow being unpatriotic. It happened before when so many of us were opposed to the Iraq war and U.S. attacks on Libya and elsewhere. And it is happening again to those of us not eager to get in another cold — or hot — war with Russia over a small peninsula that means absolutely nothing to the U.S. or its security.

I would argue that real patriotism is defending this country and making sure that our freedoms are not undermined here. Unfortunately, while so many are focused on freedoms in Crimea and Ukraine, the U.S. Congress is set to pass a National Security Agency “reform” bill that will force private companies to retain our personal data and make it even easier for the NSA to spy on the rest of us. We need to refocus our priorities toward promoting liberty in the United States!

Ron Paul Straight Talk: U.S. ‘Democracy Promotion’ Destroys Overseas Democracy

It was almost ten years ago when, before the House International Relations Committee, I objected to the U.S. Government funding NGOs to meddle in the internal affairs of Ukraine. At the time the “Orange Revolution” had forced a regime change in Ukraine with the help of millions of dollars from Washington.

At that time I told the Committee: We do not know exactly how many millions—or tens of millions—of dollars the United States government spent on the presidential election in Ukraine. We do know that much of that money was targeted to assist one particular candidate, and that through a series of cut-out non-governmental organizations (NGOs)—both American and Ukrainian—millions of dollars ended up in support of the presidential candidate…

I was worried about millions of dollars that the U.S. government-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and its various related organizations spent to meddle in Ukraine’s internal affairs. But it turns out that was only the tip of the iceberg.

Last December, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland gave a speech in which she admitted that since 1991 the U.S. government has: [I]nvested more than 5 billion dollars to help Ukraine…in the development of democratic institutions and skills in promoting civil society and a good form of government.

This is the same State Department official who was caught on tape just recently planning in detail the overthrow of the Ukrainian government.

That five billion dollars appears to have bought a revolution in Ukraine. But what do the U.S. taxpayers get, who were forced to pay for this interventionism? Nothing good. Ukraine is a bankrupt country that will need tens of billions of dollars to survive the year. Already the U.S.-selected prime minister has made a trip to Washington to ask for more money.

And what will the Ukrainians get? Their democracy has been undermined by the U.S.-backed coup in Kiev. In democracies, power is transferred peacefully through elections, not seized by rebels in the streets. At least it used to be.

The IMF will descend on Ukraine to implement yet another of its failed rescue plans, which enrich the well-connected and international bankers at the expense of the local population. The IMF adds debt, organizes sweetheart deals for foreign corporations, and demands that the local population accept “austerity” in exchange for “reform” that never seems to produce the promised results.

The groundwork for this disaster has been laid by NED, USAID, and the army of NGOs they have funded over the years in Ukraine.

Supporters of NED and its related organizations will argue that nothing is wrong with sending U.S. dollars to “promote democracy” overseas. The fact is, however, that NED, USAID, and the others have nothing to do with promoting democracy and everything to do with destroying democracy.

It is not democracy to send in billions of dollars to push regime change overseas. It isn’t democracy to send in the NGOs to re-write laws and the constitution in places like Ukraine. It is none of our business.

How should we promote democracy overseas? First, we should stop the real isolationists — those who seek to impose sanctions and blockades and restrictions that impede our engagement overseas. We can promote democracy with a U.S. private sector that engages overseas. A society that prospers through increased trade ties with the U.S. will be far more likely to adopt practices and policies that continue that prosperity and encourage peace.

In 2005, arguing against funding NED in the U.S. foreign assistance authorization bill, I said: The National Endowment for Democracy…has very little to do with democracy. It is an organization that uses U.S. tax money to actually subvert democracy, by showering funding on favored political parties or movements overseas. It underwrites color-coded ‘people’s revolutions’ overseas that look more like pages out of Lenin’s writings on stealing power than genuine indigenous democratic movements.

Sadly, matters are even worse now. To promote democracy overseas, NED and all other meddling US government funded NGOs should be disbanded immediately.

Ron Paul: If Spying On Senate Is So Bad, Why Is It OK For Them To Spy On Us?

The reaction of Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to last week’s revelations that the CIA secretly searched Senate Intelligence Committee computers reveals much about what the elites in government think about the rest of us. “Spy on thee, but not on me!”

The hypocrisy of Feinstein is astounding. She is the biggest backer of the National Security Agency’s spying on the rest of us; but when the tables are turned and her staff is the target, she becomes irate. But there is more to it than that. There is an attitude in Washington that the laws Congress passes do not apply to members. They can trample our civil liberties, they believe, but it should never affect their own freedom.

Remember that much of this started when politicians rushed to pass the Patriot Act after 9/11. Those of us who warned that such new powers granted to the state would be used against us someday were criticized as alarmist and worse. The violations happened just as we warned; but when political leaders discovered the breach of our civil liberties, they did nothing about it. It was not until whistle-blowers like Edward Snowden and others informed us of the abuses that the “debate” over surveillance that President Barack Obama claimed to welcome could even begin to take place! Left to politicians like Feinstein, Mike Rogers and Obama, we would never have that debate because we would not know.

Washington does not care about our privacy. When serious violations are discovered, they most often rush to protect the status quo instead of defending the Constitution. Feinstein did just that as the NSA spying revelations began to create pressure on the intelligence community. Her NSA reform legislation was nothing but a smokescreen: Under the guise of “reform,” it would have codified in law the violations already taking place. When that fact became too obvious to deny, the Senate was forced to let the legislation die in the committee.

What is interesting, and buried in the accusations and denials, is that the alleged CIA monitoring was over an expected 6,000-page Senate Intelligence Committee report on the shameful and un-American recent CIA history of torture at the “gulag archipelago” of secret prisons it set up across the world after the attacks of 9/11. We can understand why the CIA might have been afraid of that information getting out.

When CIA whistle-blower John Kiriakou exposed the CIA’s role in torturing prisoners, he was sent to prison for nearly three years. But Feinstein and her colleagues didn’t lift a finger to support him. So again you have the double standards and hypocrisy.

The essence of this problem has to do with the difficulty in managing the U.S. empire. When the government behaves as an empire rather than as a republic, lying to the rest of us is permissible. They spy on everybody because they don’t trust anybody. The answer is obvious: Rein in the CIA; remove its authority to conduct these kinds of covert actions. Rein in government. Lawmakers should not defend 4th Amendment rights only when their staffs have been violated. They should do it all the time for all of us. The people’s branch of government must stand up for the people. Let’s hope that Feinstein has had her wake-up call and will now finally start defending the rest of us against a government that increasingly sees us as the enemy.

Ron Paul’s Texas Straight Talk: Can We Afford Ukraine?

Officially, U.S. debt stands at more than $17 trillion. In reality, it is many times more. The cost of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq may be more than $6 trillion. President Barack Obama’s illegal invasion of Libya cost at least a billion dollars and left that country devastated. The costs of U.S. regime change efforts in Syria are likely thus far enormous, both in dollars and lives. That’s still a secret.

So who in his right mind would think it is a good time to start a war with Russia over Ukraine? And worse, who would commit the United States to bail out a Ukraine that will need at least $35 billion to survive the year?

Who? The President and Congress, backed by the neocons and the so-called humanitarian interventionists!

The House voted overwhelmingly last week to provide $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine. That is just the beginning, you can be sure. But let’s be clear: This is not money for the population of that impoverished country. The Administration is sending $1 billion from U.S. taxpayers to wealthy international bankers who hold Ukrainian debt. It is an international bank bailout, not aid to Ukrainians. And despite the escalating anti-Russia rhetoric, ironically some of that money will likely go to Russia for Ukraine’s $2 billion unpaid gas bill!

So what happened in Ukraine? The U.S. government and media claim that the U.S. must save Ukrainian democracy from an invading Russian army that is threatening the country’s sovereignty. But in reality the crisis was instigated in part by U.S. meddling. Remember the intercepted telephone call in which two senior Obama Administration officials discussed plans to replace the elected government in Ukraine with U.S. puppets? That is exactly what happened. Is that not a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty? Is that what democracy is all about?

The Obama Administration’s policy toward Ukraine is hypocritical. The overthrow of the government in Kiev by violent street protests was called a triumph of democracy; but when the elected parliament in autonomous Crimea voted last week to hold a referendum to decide its future, Obama condemned it as a violation of international law. What about the principle of self-determination, which is also enshrined in international law?

I have long thought that a referendum to reorganize Ukraine into a looser confederation of regions might help reduce tensions. I still believe this could help, but it seems the U.S. government is not so enthusiastic about democracy when there is a chance for an outcome it opposes.

I strongly believe that Crimeans have every right to transfer sovereignty over their peninsula to Russia if they wish. The only question that remains is whether there will there be an honest election, and I don’t see any reason there can’t be.

The U.S. government tells the rest of the world, “We want you to be good democrats and have elections.” But if they don’t elect the right people, then we complain about it and throw them out, like we did in Egypt. In Crimea they want to have an election to determine their future. Obama condemned those plans for a vote by saying, “We are well beyond the days when borders can be redrawn over the heads of democratic leaders.” Does he not remember that the authorities in Kiev were installed just weeks ago after a U.S.-backed coup against the Ukrainian constitution?

Congress will likely vote for sanctions against Russia. Though many mistakenly believe that sanctions are a relatively harmless way of forcing foreign countries to do what we say, we should be clear: sanctions are an act of war.

Cooler heads in the United States are not currently prevailing. There is a danger of an unimaginable conflict between the U.S. and Russia. We must demand a shift away from a war footing, away from incendiary rhetoric. We are broke and cannot afford to “buy” Ukraine. We certainly cannot afford another war, especially with Russia!

Hagel’s ‘Defense Cuts’ Are Smoke And Mirrors

Last week Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel proposed an additional 40,000 reduction in active duty U.S. Army personnel, down to 450,000 soldiers. As U.S. troops are being withdrawn from the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, it might make sense to reduce not only the active duty military but the entire military budget. However, from the interventionists’ reaction to Hagel’s announcement you might think President Obama announced he was shutting down the Pentagon!

Representative Michael McCaul, Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, claimed that this slight reduction in personnel would hurt our military readiness. He blamed the exploding spending on welfare entitlements for the proposed military cuts, stating, “It’s all being sacrificed … on the altar of entitlements. This President cannot take on mandatory spending, so all we’ve done in the Congress – and this President – is basically cut discretionary spending.”

McCaul is partly right. Welfare spending is bankrupting the country. But military spending is also welfare: it is welfare for the well-connected military-industrial complex, which enriches itself manufacturing useless boondoggles like the F-35 fighter. We should never confuse legitimate defense spending – which I support – with military spending, which promotes interventionism overseas and actually undermines our national security.

Neoconservative Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain were also quick to criticize Hagel’s announcement. They said the cuts were dead on arrival in the U.S. Senate. “We are going to kill it, not let it happen,” said Graham. McCain added, “We live in an ever-increasingly dangerous world and this budget is out of touch with reality.”

What McCain and Graham won’t admit is that much of the reason we are in an increasingly-dangerous world is that the neocons keep inviting blowback with the interventions they are constantly pushing. If we minded our own business we would live in a far less dangerous world.

Nevertheless, although the neocons make a big deal about this small cut in military personnel, in reality these are not military cuts at all. These are token proposed cuts in troop levels which Congress won’t allow the administration to do anyway. What Hagel proposes is not cuts, but instead a shift in spending away from personnel and toward new high-tech weapons which are favored by and profitable to the military-industrial complex.

The F-35, for example, will continue in production according to Hagel’s plan, despite the numerous cost over-runs and design flaws. This is likely because the F-35 is built in 46 U.S. States and nine foreign countries! That makes it particularly popular in Congress, regardless of its flaws and expense.

We do need real cuts in military spending, not just moving spending around from troops to new weapons systems. But what we really need is for the President to downsize U.S. foreign policy. Maintaining a military presence in 140 countries while continuing to stir up trouble can lead to problems when the military is downsized. So, it’s our intervention that needs downsizing.

A proper foreign policy would mean a strong national defense, but a huge reduction in interventions and commitments overseas. Why are we stirring up trouble in Ukraine? In Syria? In Africa? Why are we defending South Korea and Japan when they are wealthy enough to defend themselves? A proper sized foreign policy would defend the United States instead of provoking the rest of the world.

Ron Paul Straight Talk: Let’s Leave Ukraine Alone!

Last week Ukraine saw its worst violence since the break-up of the Soviet Union over 20 years ago. Protesters occupying the main square in the capitol city, Kiev, clashed with police leaving many protesters and police dead and many more wounded. It is an ongoing tragedy and it looks like there is no end in sight.

The current conflict stems from a divide between western Ukraine, which seeks a closer association with the European Union; and the eastern part of the country, which has closer historic ties to Russia.

The usual interventionists in the U.S. have long meddled in the internal affairs of Ukraine. In 2003 it was U.S. government money that helped finance the Orange Revolution, as U.S.-funded NGOs favoring one political group over the other were able to change the regime. These same people have not given up on Ukraine. They keep pushing their own agenda for Ukraine behind the scenes, even as they ridicule anyone who claims U.S. involvement.

A recent leaked telephone conversation between two senior government officials made it clear that not only was the U.S. involved in the Ukrainian unrest, the U.S. was actually seeking to determine who should make up the next Ukrainian government!

Senator John McCain, who has made several trips to Ukraine recently to meet with the opposition, wrote last week that the U.S. must stand up to support the territorial integrity of Ukraine, including Crimea.

Why are U.S. government officials so eager to tell the Ukrainians what they should do? Has anyone bothered to ask the Ukrainians? What if it might help alleviate the ongoing violence and bloodshed if the Ukrainians decide to re-make the country as a looser confederation of regions rather than one tightly controlled by a central government? Perhaps Ukraine engaged in peaceful trade with countries both to the west and east would benefit all sides. But outside powers seem to be fighting a proxy war, with Ukraine suffering the most because of it.

If you asked most Americans how they feel, my bet is that you would discover they are sick and tired of the U.S. government getting involved in every crisis that arises. Certainly the American people want none of of this intervention in Ukraine. They understand, as recent polls have shown, that our interventionist foreign policy is only creating more enemies overseas. And they also understand that we are out of money. We could not afford to be the policemen of world even if we wanted to be.

And I bet if we asked the Ukrainians, a vast majority of them would prefer that the U.S. — and Russia and the European Union — stay out their affairs and respect their sovereignty. Is it so difficult to understand why people resent being lectured and bribed by foreign governments? All we need to do is put ourselves in the place of the Ukrainians and ask ourselves how we would feel if we were in the middle of a tug-of-war between a very strong Canada on one side and a very strong Mexico on the other. We would resent it as well. So let’s keep our hands off of Ukraine and let them solve their own problems!

Ron Paul Straight Talk: At The Fed, The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

Last week, Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen testified before Congress for the first time since replacing Ben Bernanke at the beginning of the month. Her testimony confirmed what many of us suspected, that interventionist Keynesian policies at the Federal Reserve are well-entrenched and far from over. Yellen practically bent over backward to reassure Wall Street that the Fed would continue its accommodative monetary policy well into any new economic recovery. The same monetary policy that got us into this mess will remain in place until the next crisis hits.

Isn’t it amazing that the same people who failed to see the real estate bubble developing, the same people who were so confident about economic recovery that they were talking about “green shoots” five years ago, the same people who have presided over the continued destruction of the dollar’s purchasing power never suffer any repercussions for the failures they have caused? They treat the people of the United States as though we were pawns in a giant chess game, one in which they always win and we the people always lose. No matter how badly they fail, they always get a blank check to do more of the same.

It is about time that the power brokers in Washington paid attention to what the Austrian economists have been saying for decades. Our economic crises are caused by central bank infusions of easy money into the banking system. This easy money distorts the structure of production and results in malinvested resources, an allocation of resources into economic bubbles and away from sectors that actually serve consumers’ needs. The only true solution to these burst bubbles is to allow the malinvested resources to be liquidated and put to use in other areas. Yet the Federal Reserve’s solution has always been to pump more money and credit into the financial system in order to keep the boom period going, and Yellen’s proposals are no exception.

Every time the Fed engages in this loose monetary policy, it just sows the seeds for the next crisis, making the next crash even worse. Look at charts of the Federal funds rate to see how the Fed has had to lower interest rates further and longer with each successive crisis. From 6 percent, to 3 percent, to 1 percent, and now the Fed is at zero. Some Keynesian economists have even urged central banks to drop interest rates below zero, which would mean charging people to keep money in bank accounts.

Yellen understands how ludicrous negative interest rates are, and she said as much in her question-and-answer period last week. But that zero lower rate means the Fed has had to resort to unusual and extraordinary measures: quantitative easing. As a result, the Fed now sits on a balance sheet equivalent to nearly 25 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, and is committing to continuing to purchase tens of billions more dollars’ of assets each month.

When will this madness stop? Sound economic growth is based on savings and investment, deferring consumption today in order to consume more in the future. Everything the Fed is doing is exactly the opposite, engaging in shortsighted policies in an attempt to spur consumption today, which will lead to a depletion of capital, a crippling of the economy and the impoverishment of future generations. We owe it not only to ourselves, but to our children and our grandchildren, to rein in the Federal Reserve and end once and for all its misguided and destructive monetary policy.

Ron Paul Straight Talk: Will No One Challenge Obama’s Executive Orders?

President Obama’s State of the Union pledge to “act with or without Congress” marks a milestone in Presidential usurpation of Congressional authority. Most modern Presidents have used executive orders to change and even create laws without Congressional approval. However President Obama is unusually brazen, in that most Presidents do not brag about their plans to rule by executive order in State of the Union speeches.

Sadly, his pledge to use his pen to implement laws and polices without the consent of Congress not only received thunderous applause from representatives of the President’s party, some Representatives have even pledged to help Obama get around Congress by providing him with ideas for executive orders. The Constitution’s authors would be horrified to see legislators actively adding and abetting a President taking power away from the Legislature.

Executive orders are perfectly legitimate and even necessary if, in the words of leading Constitutional Scholar Judge Andrew Napolitano, they “…. guide the executive branch on how to enforce a law or…complement and supplement what Congress has already done.” The problem is that most modern Presidents have abused this power to issue orders that, as Judge Napolitano puts it, “restates Federal law, or contradicts Federal law, or does the opposite of what the Federal law is supposed to do.”

Political opponents of the president rightly condemned Obama for disregarding the Constitution. However, it was not that long ago that many of the same politicians where labeling as “unpatriotic” or worse anyone who dared question President Bush’s assertions the he had the “inherent” authority to launch wars, spy on Americans, and even indefinitely detain American citizens.

Partisan considerations also make some members of the opposition party hesitate to reign in the President. These members are reluctant to set a precedent of “tying the President’s hands” that could be used against a future President of their own party.

The concentration of power in the office of the President is yet one more negative consequence of our interventionist foreign policy. A foreign policy based on interventionism requires a strong and energetic executive, unfettered by Constitutional niceties such as waiting for Congress to pass laws or declare war. So it simply was natural, as America abandoned the traditional foreign policy of non-interventionism, for Presidents to act “without waiting for Congress.” After all, the President is “commander-in-chief” and he needs to protect “national security,” they argued. Once it became accepted practice for the President to disregard Congress in foreign affairs, it was only a matter of time before Presidents would begin usurping Congressional authority in domestic matters.

It should not be surprising that some of the biggest promoters of an “energetic” executive are the neoconservatives. They are also enthusiastic promoters of the warfare state. Sadly, they have misled many Constitutionalists into believing that one can consistently support unchecked Presidential authority in foreign policy, but limit Presidential authority in domestic matters. Until it is fully understood that virtually limitless Presidential authority in foreign affairs cannot coexist with strict limits on Presidential authority in domestic matters, we will never limit the power of the Presidency.

The people must also insist that politicians stop viewing issues concerning the separation of powers through a partisan lens and instead be willing to act against any President who exceeds his Constitutional limitations. Thankfully we have scholars such as Louis Fisher, who has just published an important new book on Presidential power, to help us better understand the Founders’ intent with regard to separation of powers. The key to achieving this goal is to make sure the people understand that any President of any party who would exceed Constitutional limitations is a threat to liberty, and any member of Congress who ignores or facilitates Presidential usurpation is being derelict in his Constitutional duty.

Ron Paul Straight Talk: The Continuing Al-Qaida Threat

Appearing last week before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified that he could not say the threat from al-Qaida is any less today than it was ten years ago. It was a shocking admission. Does he mean that the trillions of dollars spent fighting the war on terrorism have resulted in no gains? That those who urged us to give up some of our liberties to gain security have, as Benjamin Franklin warned, lost both?

There may be reasons Director Clapper would want us to believe that the threat from al-Qaida is as strong as ever. An entire industry has arisen from the government’s war on terror, and for both the government sector and the security-industrial complex the terrorist threat is big business. Economic pressure has thus far not affected the military or intelligence sectors – despite false claims that the sequestration cut military spending. However, emphasizing continued high threat levels without being able to openly explain them due to secrecy requirements is one way to keep the security budget untouched.

Also, emphasizing the continued high threat level from terrorists overseas is a good way to frighten citizens away from their increasing outrage over reports of massive domestic spying by the NSA. Unfortunately Americans may still be more willing to give up their liberties if they are told that the threats to their security remain as high as ever.

What if Clapper is telling us the truth, however? What would this revelation mean if that is the case?

For one, it means that we have gotten very little for the tremendous amount of spending on the war on terrorism and the lives lost. We are told that the military and intelligence community can protect us if they are given the tools they need, but it appears they have not done a very good job by their own admission.

More likely, it may mean that the US government’s policies are causing more al-Qaida groups to arise and take the place of those who have been defeated by US drone and military attacks. Clapper does mention that there are so many different al-Qaida franchises popping up it is difficult to keep track of them all, much less defeat them. But why is that? A former State Department official stated last year that every new drone strike in Yemen that kills innocent people results in the creation of 40-60 new enemies. Likewise, the young girl from Pakistan who had been brutally shot by the Taliban for her desire to go to school told President Obama during a White House meeting that “drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people.”

Are there more al-Qaida groups out there because our policies keep creating new ones?

On that point, Clapper said to the Senate that in Syria the al-Qaida affiliated al-Nusra Front “does have aspirations for attacks on the homeland.” It is all the more disturbing, then, to have also read last week that Congress voted in secret to resume sending weapons to the Syrian rebels, who are dominated by al-Qaida-affiliated groups. We have read about US-supplied weapons meant for “moderates” in Syria being seized by radicals on several occasions, and the Voice of America reported last year that our Saudi “allies” are arming the same al-Nusra Front that Clapper identifies as a threat to the US. Is the US Congress arming the very people who will commit the next attack on US soil?

Why is al-Qaida as much a threat as it was ten years ago? Perhaps it is that we continue to fight the wrong war in the wrong manner. Perhaps because we refuse to consider that many overseas are angry because of our government’s policies and actions. After ten years of no progress, is it not time to try something new? Is it not time to try non-intervention and a strong defense rather than drone strikes and pre-emptive attacks?

Ron Paul Straight Talk: Every Week Should Be School Choice Week

National School Choice week takes place from January 26 to February 1, and during this week education freedom activists around the country will be participating in events highlighting the need for parental control of education. I wholeheartedly endorse National School Choice Week, as parental control of education is a prerequisite for a free and prosperous society.

When government usurps control of education from parents, education can easily become indoctrination. Centralized, top-down models of education are also doomed to failure as there is no way a bureaucrat in D.C. can design an education system capable of meeting the needs of every child in the country. The failure of centralized education is shown by the correlation between American students’ declining tests scores and the growth of Federal control over American schools. Education reforms that further, or expand, the Department of Education will prove fruitless. The only effective education reform is to restore parental control over education.

The key to restoring parental control is to give parents back control over the education dollar. This means shutting down the Department of Education and returning the money currently spent promoting schemes like “common core”. Ideally, this would be accomplished by eliminating all Federal taxes on American families. However, if the political support for outright abolition of Federal taxes is not available, education tax credits can also serve as an effective way of getting control over education back into the hands of the people. Unlike taxpayer-funded vouchers, private tax credits do not open the door to government control of education. This is because tax credits allow parents to use their own money on their children’s education, rather than relying on funds provided by the Federal government. Since “he who pays the piper calls the tune,” Federal funding of education—whether in the form of Federal grants or taxpayer-funded vouchers—inevitably means schools will spend more time trying to please Federal bureaucrats than parents.

One educational model that I am particularly interested in is homeschooling. Many of the most devoted and most effective advocates of liberty I have worked with come from homeschooling families. This might be because many homeschooling families have personal experience with government harassment, ranging from having to comply with government regulations to being threatened with the loss of their children for the “crime” of homeschooling. It is ironic that government would attempt to force homeschoolers to conform to its regulations considering that homeschoolers constantly out-perform their public school-educated peers.

In order to encourage the growth of homeschooling I have developed my own homeschool curriculum. The Ron Paul Curriculum consists of a rigorous program of study in history, economics, mathematics, and the physical and natural sciences.

Older students will also have the opportunity to get practical experience creating and running their own on-line businesses. Frequent written assignments will ensure students have the maximum opportunity to develop strong communication skills.

Giving my strong belief in liberty, the history and economics curriculum will provide a good grounding in liberty, including the principles of Austrian Economics. However, the drafters of the curriculum took great care to never sacrifice intellectual rigor and accuracy.

Education is one of those things that is simply too important to be left to the government. The best way to ensure quality education is to ensure that parents have the ability to pick the education option that best fits their child’s unique needs and abilities. Everyone who wishes to see America remain a free and prosperous society has an interest in parental control of education.

Ron Paul’s Straight Talk: Warfare, Welfare, Wonder Woman

Supporters of warfare, welfare and Wonder Woman cheered last week as Congress passed a $1 trillion “omnibus” appropriation bill. This legislation funds the operations of government for the remainder of the fiscal year. Wonder Woman fans can cheer that buried in the bill was a $10,000 grant for a theater program to explore the comic book heroine.

That is just one of the many outrageous projects buried in this 1,582-page bill. The legislation gives the Department of Education more money to continue nationalizing education via “common core.” Also, despite new evidence of Obamacare’s failure emerging on an almost daily basis, the Omnibus bill does nothing to roll back this disastrous law.

Even though the Omnibus bill dramatically increases government spending, it passed with the support of many self-described “fiscal conservatives.” Those wondering why anyone who opposes increasing spending on programs like common core and Obamacare would vote for the bill, may find an answer in the fact that the legislation increases funding for the “Overseas Continuing Operations” — which is the official name for the war budget — for the first time since 2010. This $85 billion war budget contains $6 billion earmarked for projects benefiting Boeing, Lockheed-Martin and other big defense contractors.

Ever since “sequestration” went into effect at the beginning of last year, the military-industrial complex’s Congressional cheering session has complained that sequestration imposed “draconian cuts” on the Pentagon that will “decimate” our military — even though most of the “cuts” were actually reductions in the “projected rate of growth.” In fact, under sequestration, defense spending was to increase by 18 percent over 10 years, as opposed to growing by 20 percent without sequestration.

Many of the defenders of increased war spending are opponents of welfare, but they are willing to set aside their opposition to increased welfare spending in order to increase warfare spending. They are supported in this position by the lobbyists for the military-industrial complex and the neoconservatives, whose continued influence on foreign policy is mystifying. After all, the neocons were the major promoters of the disastrous military intervention in Iraq.

While many neocons give lip service to limiting domestic spending, their main priority remains protecting high levels of military spending to maintain an interventionist foreign policy. The influence of the neocons provides intellectual justification for politicians to vote for ever-larger military budgets — and break the campaign promises to vote against increases in spending and debt.

Fortunately, in recent years more Americans have recognized that a constant defense of liberty requires opposing both war and welfare. Many of these Americans, especially the younger ones, have joined the intellectual and political movement in favor of limiting government in all areas. This movement presents the most serious challenge the bipartisan welfare-warfare consensus has faced in generations. Hopefully, the influence of this movement will lead to bipartisan deals cutting both welfare and warfare spending.

The question facing Americans is not whether Congress will ever cut spending. The question is: Will the spending be reduced in an orderly manner that avoids inflecting massive harm on those depending on government programs, or will spending be slashed in response to an economic crisis caused by ever-increasing levels of deficit spending? Because politicians are followers rather than leaders, it is ultimately up to the people what course we will take. This is why it is vital that those of us who understand the dangerous path we are currently on do all we can to expand the movement for liberty, peace and prosperity.

Congress Defers to President On NSA Reform

Congress’ decline from the Founders’ vision as “first among equals” in government to an echo chamber of the unitary executive, has been a slow but steady process. In the process we have seen a steady stream of unConstitutional wars and civil liberties abuses at home. Nowhere is this decline more evident than in the stark contrast between the Congressional response to intelligence agencies’ abuses during the post-Watergate era and its response to the far more serious National Security Agency abuses uncovered in recent years.

In 1975, Senator Frank Church (D-Idaho) convened an historic select committee to investigate the U.S. intelligence services for possible criminality in the wake of Watergate. Thanks in part to reporting by Seymour Hersh and others, abuses by the CIA, NSA and FBI had come to light, including the monitoring of U.S. peace activists.

The Church Committee played its proper Congressional role, checking the power of the executive branch, as it had been spiraling out of control since the 1950s and the early CIA covert action programs. The Committee sought to protect U.S. citizens against abuses by their government after those abuses had come to light through leaks of secret government documents.

The parallel to the present NSA scandals cannot be ignored. What is completely different, however, is that Congress is today acting as an advocate for the executive branch’s continuing abuses, and as an opponent to the civil liberties of U.S. citizens. Not only has Congress — with a precious few exceptions — accepted the NSA’s mass spying program on American citizens, it has actually been encouraging the President to continue to expand the program!

Where once there was a Congressional committee to challenge and oppose the President’s abuse of power, today the President himself has been even allowed by a complacent Congress to hand pick his own NSA review commission!

Are we really expected to believe that a commission appointed by the President to look into the activities of the President’s intelligence services will come to anything more than a few superficial changes to give the impression of real reform?

One of the President’s commission recommendations is that the NSA cease holding our phone records and demand that the private phone companies retain those records instead — for the NSA to access as it wishes. This is supposed to be reform?

The President will make a speech this Friday to tell the rest of us which of the suggestions made by his own commission he will decide to implement. Congress has no problem with that. Representative Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) admitted last week that Congress has no intention of asserting itself in the process. “It’s my hope that [Obama will] do as much as he can through the executive process because the legislative process will be difficult, perilous and long.”

Church famously said back in 1975: “In the need to develop a capacity to know what potential enemies are doing, the United States government has perfected a technological capability that enables us to monitor the messages that go through the air… We must know, at the same time, that capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left… There would be no place to hide…. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.”

Have we reached that point? Let us hope not. Real reform begins with the repeal of the Patriot Act and of the 2001 Authorization for the use of military force. If we keep our eye on that goal and not allow ourselves to become distracted with the President’s phony commissions, we might force Congress to listen.

Iraq: The ‘Liberation’ Neocons Would Rather Forget

Remember Fallujah? Shortly after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the U.S. military fired on unarmed protestors, killing as many as 20 and wounding dozens. In retaliation, local Iraqis attacked a convoy of U.S. military contractors, killing four. The U.S. then launched a full attack on Fallujah to regain control, which left perhaps 700 Iraqis dead and the city virtually destroyed.

According to press reports last weekend, Fallujah is now under the control of al-Qaida affiliates. The Anbar province, where Fallujah is located, is under siege by al-Qaida. During the 2007 “surge,” more than 1,000 U.S. troops were killed “pacifying” the Anbar province. Although al-Qaida was not in Iraq before the U.S. invasion, it is now conducting its own surge in Anbar.

For Iraq, the U.S. “liberation” is proving far worse than the authoritarianism of Saddam Hussein, and it keeps getting worse. Last year was Iraq’s deadliest in five years. In 2013, fighting and bomb blasts claimed the lives of 7,818 civilians and 1,050 members of the security forces. In December alone, nearly 1,000 people were killed.

I remember sitting through many hearings in the House International Relations Committee praising the “surge,” which we were told secured a U.S. victory in Iraq. They also praised the so-called “Awakening,” which was really an agreement by insurgents to stop fighting in exchange for U.S. dollars. I always wondered what would happen when those dollars stopped coming.

Where are the surge and awakening cheerleaders now?

One of them, Richard Perle, was interviewed last year on NPR and asked whether the Iraq invasion that he pushed was worth it. He replied:

I’ve got to say I think that is not a reasonable question. What we did at the time was done in the belief that it was necessary to protect this nation. You can’t a decade later go back and say, well, we shouldn’t have done that.

Many of us were saying all along that we shouldn’t have done that — before we did it. Unfortunately, the George W. Bush Administration took the advice of the neocons pushing for war and promising it would be a “cakewalk.” We continue to see the results of that terrible mistake, and it is only getting worse.

Last month, the U.S. shipped nearly 100 air-to-ground missiles to the Iraqi air force to help combat the surging al-Qaida. Ironically, the same al-Qaida groups the U.S. is helping the Iraqis combat are benefiting from the U.S. covert and overt war to overthrow Bashar Assad next door in Syria. Why can’t the U.S. government learn from its mistakes?

The neocons may be on the run from their earlier positions on Iraq, but that does not mean they have given up. They were the ones pushing for an attack on Syria this summer. Thankfully, they were not successful. They are now making every effort to derail President Barack Obama’s efforts to negotiate with the Iranians. Just last week, William Kristol urged Israel to attack Iran with the hope we would then get involved. Neoconservative Senators from both parties recently introduced the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013, which would also bring us back on war-footing with Iran.

Next time the neocons tell us we must attack, just think “Iraq.”

Ron Paul Straight Talk: Government Policies Hurt Low-Wage Workers

Fast-food workers across the county have recently held a number of high profile protests to agitate for higher wages. These protests have been accompanied by efforts to increase the wages mandated by state and local minimum wage laws, as well as a renewed push in some States and localities to pass “living wage” laws. President Obama has proposed raising the Federal minimum wage to ten dollars an hour.

Raising minimum wages by government decree appeals to those who do not understand economics. This appeal is especially strong during times of stagnant wages and increased economic inequality. But raising the minimum wage actually harms those at the bottom of the income ladder. Basic economic theory teaches that when the price of a good increases, demand for that good decreases. Raising the minimum wage increases the price of labor, thus decreasing the demand for labor. So an increased minimum wage will lead to hiring freezes and layoffs. Unskilled and inexperienced workers are the ones most often deprived of employment opportunities by increases in the minimum wage.

Minimum wage laws are not the only example of government policies that hurt those at the bottom of the income scale. Many regulations that are promoted as necessary to “rein in” large corporations actually hurt small businesses. Because these small businesses operate on a much narrower profit margin, they cannot as easily absorb the costs of complying with the regulations as large corporations. These regulations can also inhibit lower income individuals from starting their own businesses. Thus, government regulations can reduce the demand for wage-labor, while increasing the supply of labor, which further reduces wages.

Perhaps the most significant harm to low-wage earners is caused by the inflationist polices of the Federal Reserve. Since its creation one hundred years ago this month, the Federal Reserve’s policies have caused the dollar to lose over 95 percent of its purchasing power—that’s right, today you need $23.70 to buy what one dollar bought in 1913! Who do you think suffers the most from this loss of purchasing power—Warren Buffet or his secretary?

It is not just that higher incomes can afford the higher prices caused by Federal Reserve. The system is set up in a way that disadvantages those at the bottom of the income scale. When the Federal Reserve creates money, those well-connected with the political and financial elites receive the newly-created money first, before general price increases have spread through the economy. And most fast-food employees do not number among the well-connected.

It is not a coincidence that economic inequality has increased in recent years, as the Federal Reserve has engaged in unprecedented money creation and bailouts of big banks and Wall Street financial firms. As billionaire investor Donald Trump has said, the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing policies are a great deal for “people like me.” And former Federal Reserve official Andrew Huszar has called QE “the greatest backdoor Wall Street bailout of all time.”

Many so-called champions of economic equality and fairness for the working class are preparing to confirm Janet Yellen as next Chairman of the Federal Reserve. Yet Yellen is committed to continuing and even expanding, the upward redistributionist polices of her predecessors. Washington could use more sound economic thinking and less demagoguery.

By increasing unemployment, government policies like minimum wage laws only worsen inequality. Those who are genuinely concerned about increasing the well-being of all Americans should support repeal of all laws, regulations, and taxes that inhibit job creation and economic mobility. Congress should also end the most regressive of all taxes, the inflation tax, by ending the Federal Reserve.

Ron Paul Straight Talk: Progress Toward Peace In 2013, But Dark Clouds Remain

It is the time of year we feel a sense of joy and optimism. We are preparing for the holidays and looking to spend time with our families and friends. This year, as we look back, we see several developments that leave us feeling optimistic.

A U.S. attack on Syria was averted to a large degree because the American people did not want another Mideast war. Public pressure was so strong that President Barack Obama was forced to back down from his threats to launch missiles at Syria over an alleged Syrian government chemical attack. We have just recently discovered that U.S. claims at the time were based on highly manipulated “intelligence.” The President narrowly avoided another Iraq debacle, where the U.S. went to war based on lies and fabrications. This time, the American people were much more skeptical. That is good news!

A U.S. attack on Syria would have brought us one step closer to the neocons’ ultimate goal of an attack on Iran. The Administration’s decision to step back from the brink with Syria has consequently opened the door to an historic U.S. diplomatic engagement with Iran.

Yes, the neocons have suffered a number of defeats this year, for which we have great reason to be thankful and optimistic. However, it would be foolish to believe that a couple of defeats will end their obsession with American exceptionalism, war and the U.S. global empire. Though the neocons have had several setbacks, they will continue their efforts. And there are some dark clouds on the horizon that we should closely watch.

The Senate, for example, seems intent on ruining the Christmas spirit — a time when Christians celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace — with new threats against Iran, even as diplomacy has achieved what decades of sanctions could not.

While U.S. Senate efforts to include new Iran sanctions language in the National Defense Authorization Act for 2014 (NDAA) were unsuccessful, those pushing for more sanctions on Iran even in the midst of a diplomatic thaw have not given up. Last week, 26 Senators — drawn equally from each party — introduced the Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act, which would impose severe new sanctions on Iran and on countries who do business with Iran.

Perhaps worse, the Act states that it is the sense of the Congress that if Israel attacks Iran, the US Congress should:

[A]uthorize the use of military force, diplomatic, military, and economic support to the Government of Israel in its defense of its territory, people, and existence.

Even though a “sense of Congress” has no force of law, these are the kinds of blank checks that lead to world wars. Though not binding, language like this is meant to establish U.S. policy over time, so that if Israel does attack Iran, enough Senators will be on record supporting U.S. involvement that they feel compelled to vote for war. This is the game they played for more than a decade with Iraq legislation.

The Senate bill is unlikely to ever become law. But even if it did, it would not succeed. Its demand that the rest of the world stop doing business with Iran just as Iran has shown such diplomatic flexibility would likely be ignored.

Congress — under the influence of the Israeli and Saudi lobbies — is seeking to derail the Obama Administration’s diplomatic efforts with Iran. We can be optimistic over the steps toward peace this past year, but we should remain vigilant. The war lobby will not give up so easily.

Ron Paul Straight Talk: After 100 Years Of Failure, It’s Time To End The Fed!

A week from now, the Federal Reserve System will celebrate the 100th anniversary of its founding. Resulting from secret negotiations between bankers and politicians at Jekyll Island, Ga., the Fed’s creation established a banking cartel and a board of government overseers that has grown ever stronger through the years. One would think this anniversary would elicit some sort of public recognition of the Fed’s growth from a quasi-agent of the Treasury Department intended to provide an elastic currency, to a de facto independent institution that has taken complete control of the economy through its central monetary planning. But just like the Fed’s creation, its 100th anniversary may come and go with only a few passing mentions.

Like many other horrible and unConstitutional pieces of legislation, the bill that created the Fed, the Federal Reserve Act, was passed under great pressure on Dec. 23, 1913, in the waning moments before Congress recessed for Christmas, with many members already absent from those final votes. This underhanded method of pressuring Congress with such a deadline to pass the Federal Reserve Act would provide a foreshadowing of the Fed’s insidious effects on the U.S. economy — with actions performed without transparency.

Ostensibly formed with the goal of preventing financial crises such as the Panic of 1907, the Fed has become increasingly powerful over the years. Rather than preventing financial crises, however, the Fed has constantly caused new ones. Barely a few years after its inception, the Fed’s inflationary monetary policy to help fund World War I led to the Depression of 1920. After the economy bounced back from that episode, a further injection of easy money and credit by the Fed led to the Roaring Twenties and to the Great Depression, the worst economic crisis in American history.

But even though the Fed continued to make the same mistakes over and over again, no one in Washington ever questioned the wisdom of having a central bank. Instead, after each episode the Fed was given more and more power over the economy. Even though the Fed had brought about the stagflation of the 1970s, Congress decided to formally task the Federal Reserve in 1978 with maintaining full employment and stable prices, combined with constantly adding horrendously harmful regulations. Talk about putting the inmates in charge of the asylum!

Now we are reaping the noxious effects of a century of loose monetary policy, as our economy remains mired in mediocrity and utterly dependent on a stream of easy money from the central bank. A century ago, politicians failed to understand that the financial panics of the 19th century were caused by collusion between government and the banking sector. The government’s growing monopoly on money creation, high barriers to entry into banking to protect politically favored incumbents, and favored treatment for government debt combined to create a rickety, panic-prone banking system. Had legislators known then what we know now, we could hope that they never would have established the Federal Reserve System.

Today, however, we do know better. We know that the Federal Reserve continues to strengthen the collusion between banks and politicians. We know that the Fed’s inflationary monetary policy continues to reap profits for Wall Street while impoverishing Main Street. And we know that the current monetary regime is teetering on a precipice. One hundred years is long enough. End the Fed!