Club for Growth on Ron Paul

Just like in 2008, the Club for Growth is putting together a series of white papers on candidates running for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination. We’ve already covered their reports on the records of Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Herman Cain, Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman. We missed the report on Michele Bachmann, but you can read that here.

Last week, the Club for Growth released the white paper on Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX),who fares well against President Barack Obama in a hypothetical matchup and is making Iowa and the Ames Straw poll priorities for his campaign.

The Club notes that Paul has received better than average ratings on their own scorecard, and they’ve gradually increased over the last five years. And while his record on spending is “impressive,” including votes against Medicare Part D, raising his own pay, TARP, the stimulus and other wasteful spending.

They also point out that Paul was once a stalwart in voting for amendments to strip wasteful earmarks out of spending bills; however, he has changed his tune recently:

[H]is record took a stark turn for the worse in 2007, in which Paul received an embarrassing 29% on the Club for Growth’s RePORK Card, voting for only 12 of the 50 anti-pork amendments.   A year later, he voted against an amendment that would strip out all earmarks from a spending bill.

Of course, Paul’s defense is that he never votes for budgets as if this makes these pork projects, some of which are constitutionally questionable, for his district reasonable. President James Madison, Father of the Constitution, wrote to Congress in his veto message for the Bonus Bill of 1817 that there was no authorization for “internal improvements” (congressional pork of the day):

I am not unaware of the great importance of roads and canals and the improved navigation of water courses, and that a power in the National Legislature to provide for them might be exercised with signal advantage to the general prosperity. But seeing that such a power is not expressly given by the Constitution, and believing that it can not be deduced from any part of it without an inadmissible latitude of construction and reliance on insufficient precedents; believing also that the permanent success of the Constitution depends on a definite partition of powers between the General and the State Governments, and that no adequate landmarks would be left by the constructive extension of the powers of Congress as proposed in the bill, I have no option but to withhold my signature from it, and to cherishing the hope that its beneficial objects may be attained by a resort for the necessary powers to the same wisdom and virtue in the nation which established the Constitution in its actual form and providently marked out in the instrument itself a safe and practicable mode of improving it as experience might suggest.

On taxes, the Club describes Paul as “excellent” and “epitomized by his rallying cry for phasing out the IRS.” They note several instances where Paul voted for pro-growth tax cuts, including votes to authorize and extend the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts and repealing the Death Tax.

Paul’s record on entitlements has been excellent. He voted against SCHIP, Medicare expansion and ObamaCare. There are a couple of issues with his record here, as the Club points out:

He opposes allowing workers to divert some Social Security payroll taxes into private retirement accounts, arguing instead for cutting payroll taxes and leaving it up to workers to do what they will with the savings.   While the ideal is admirable, it is not a sufficient reason to oppose the pro-growth, expansion of freedom that personally-owned retirement accounts represent.

The Congressman was also 1 of only 4 Republicans to join the Democrats in voting against the extension of welfare reform in 2002.   While Paul probably opposed the bill because of his distaste for government welfare in general and the authorization of additional funding, the legislation was an important step towards weaning millions of Americans off the government dole and imposing new work requirements on welfare recipients.

Perhaps just as concerning as his record on earmarks is Paul’s record on free trade. It’s important to point out that Paul is fundamentally and philosophically sound on the issue. However, he has an issue with government sanctioned free trade agreements. These agreements may not be perfect, but they are responsible for expanding our economy and creating jobs. The Club notes that by voting against these trade agreements, which lower tariffs, Paul “is actively opposing a decrease in those taxes.”

Paul receives solid marks on opposing job-stifling regulations and legislation that would restrict political speech.

What’s the Club for Growth’s bottomline on Paul? It’s clear that there are not many, if any, more committed to limiting government intrustion in the market. But here is the rub:

Ron Paul is a purist, too often at the cost of real accomplishments on free trade, school choice, entitlement reform, and tort reform.  It is perfectly legitimate, and in fact vital, that think tanks, free-market groups, and individual members of Congress develop and propose idealized solutions.  But presidents have the responsibility of making progress, and often, Ron Paul opposes progress because, in his mind, the progress is not perfect.  In these cases, although for very different reasons, Ron Paul is practically often aligned with the most left-wing Democrats, voting against important, albeit imperfect, pro-growth legislation.

Ron Paul is, undoubtedly, ideologically committed to pro-growth, limited government policies.  But his insistence on opposing all but the perfect means that under a Ron Paul presidency we might never get a chance to pursue the good too.

You can read the full white paper below:


The views and opinions expressed by individual authors are not necessarily those of other authors, advertisers, developers or editors at United Liberty.