Ron Paul is the One Percent
When analysing a policy position we must ask the question: cui bono? – for whom does it serve? To begin to answer this question, it is vital to first determine who is proposing the policies and where their interests lie. Ron Paul, the 72-year-old doctor turned Republican Congressperson from Texas, is a member of what the Occupy Movement calls the 1%. In a 2008 article the Los Angeles Times reported that Paul has assets in $2-5.3 million dollar range, with investments in gold mining companies, a medical corporation (which he runs), and mutual funds. Even more, like most establishment politicians he controls vast sums of money donated to his campaigns. Currently his presidential campaign website reports that it has almost $4.5 million. The 2008 L.A. Times article noted that his 2008 presidential campaign raised over $34.5 million. When analysing the effects of Paul’s policy positions it would be foolish to ignore either Paul’s personal wealth or the wealth that he controls in his campaigns. It would be to ignore class and, correspondingly, to ignore the sort of class analysis which can arm working people with the tools to understand the fight ahead of them.
Paul might say he supports the Occupy movement – or parts of it. But even if he pays lip service to Occupy, why should working people believe Paul anymore than they’d believe Boehner, Bush, Obama, or Pelosi? Politicians both lie and present arguments whose substance materially defends the members of the 1%. This is indisputable.
Below are some examples of the anti-working class, environmentally destructive, racist, sexist, homophobic, and anti-science policies that Ron Paul promotes. It is not a comprehensive examination of his positions, but it should be enough to convince any justice-minded person that Ron Paul deserves our contempt and condemnation, not our support.
Ron Paul’s Anti-Working Class Program
For years Republicans and Democrats alike have been trying to gut the social programs on which working people rely. Ron Paul is no different from them in this regard, though he is more extreme than some. He thinks that Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, food stamps, unemployment insurance, disability insurance, etc., are all ‘unconstitutional’ and that they should be dismantled.
It would be hard to find more extreme basic assumptions. After all, can you get more extreme than promoting the principle that people should have no support when they retire, no support when they are injured, no support when they live in poverty, or are hungry, or are sick? Ron Paul thinks all these things are just fine, even desirable. Capitalism should be allowed total reign in our lives, he says, with zero protections provided from its attacks on the most vulnerable members of society.
Paul says that Social Security is broken. In reality Social Security is one of the most stable social programs we have in the United States. Most estimates say it will be stable for several decades. More, Social Security is a program that is funded by working people. It’s sort of a bank account that working people pay into each month so that they have money for their retirement. It isn’t a ‘handout’ (though we should support all sorts of redistributative programs which transfer wealth from the rich to the poor and oppressed too), but something that comes directly from the wages and salaries of the people who will eventually receive its benefits.
Ron Paul is also for shutting down the Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) and other government departments. While the E.P.A. is far from perfect, it is forced by law to enforce certain environmental protections. The E.P.A. should be strengthened, not ended. Ending the E.P.A. would contribute to worse pollution, worse environmental destruction, and fewer health and safety standards (including standards for things like food for example) – all in the middle of the worst environmental and climate crisis humanity has ever faced. It would particularly make lives for poor people and racial minorities much worse (the latter is rightly called environmental racism).
The Occupy movement should support expanding all of these programs through steep taxes on the 1%. We should condemn those who wish to gut them. By protecting the most vulnerable members of society, we protect all working people. That is why we should support both general policies which help all working people – Social Security Insurance for example – as well as policies which protect specific groups among us: disability insurance for those who are disabled and injured, affirmative actions for those who suffer from racism, social programs to combat poverty, etc.
Ron Paul’s Racism
Some Ron Paul supporters have claimed that since Ron Paul says he is against racism and doesn’t use slurs and overt racist attacks, that this means he isn’t a racist and doesn’t support racist policies. His policy positions point to the exact opposite.
Paul’s “six point plan” on immigration is in line with the type of policies that Republicans – and many Democrats – have promoted for years. Paul says the government should:
“1. Physically secure our borders and coastlines; 2. Enforce visa rules; 3. No amnesty; 4. No welfare for illegal aliens[sic]; 5. End birthright citizenship; 6. Pass true immigration reform.”
Point One says “we must do whatever it takes to control entry into our country before we undertake complicated immigration reform proposals.” Its obvious what this means. Rather than moving in a socially just direction, towards open borders and a more democratic society, Paul is for the further militarisation of the borders and coastlines. We’ve seen what this means in practice. It means an increase in the number of deaths of working class Mexicans and Latin Americans who, forced from their homelands by U.S. economic and military policies, try to travel to the United States to support their family by working in difficult jobs for little to no pay. It means more things like drone aircrafts on the border, stronger and more dangerous fences, in short: more dangerous death traps in the way of people who will undoubtedly continue to try to cross the U.S. border with Mexico. It also means worsening attacks on Muslim immigrants living in the United States, a constituency that since 2001 has faced a steady increase in violence, imprisonment, torture, hate crimes, and discrimination throughout the country. Paul supports further repression against already oppressed groups like these.
As some people believe Paul when he says he is against the war on drugs, I should note here that supporting increased border militarisation is a position exactly concordant with the policies of the war on drugs. To support the further militarisation of the United States’ borders is to support policies which materially support the drug war – and, by extension, U.S. capitalism’s system of historic racism and imperialism against the oppressed nations of the world.
Ron Paul is against allowing immigrants to use programs of social welfare. Setting aside that he is against these programs for everyone for a moment, it is important to explain what this actually means in practice. Programs like Social Security, Medicare, etc., are both paid for by our taxes and by the general labour of the working class. That is, even if someone didn’t pay Social Security taxes, they still contribute labour to our society. An undocumented immigrant might work as a janitor in a doctor’s office for example, contributing to the strength of the healthcare industry, yet have zero access to healthcare in the same office. The Clintonite Center for American Progress reported earlier this year that undocumented immigrants paid $11.2 billion in taxes last year. Ron Paul’s support for policies which then deny these residents their rightful share of the social pie – which they both contributed to with their labour and paid into with taxes on their wages – must be called out for what it is: a racist and ruling class attack on the working poor. Returning to what I originally noted – that Paul is for eliminating Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid (he calls them unconstitutional) – brings up the question of cuo bono again. These attacks are certainly not in the interests of working class immigrants, but they are also not in the interests of the working class and working people generally (despite his claims to the opposite). Paul’s support for limiting who has access to various social programs has the function of laying the groundwork for eliminating these programs for other groups, and indeed eliminating them outright. It is part of the bipartisan effort to expand a ruling class austerity program that guts what little remains of the social welfare net in the United States in the middle of the worse economic crisis since the Great Depression. Its obvious who benefits from such a policy: Paul and other members of the 1% like him.
On point 5 Ron Paul stands to the right of many republicans. Birthright citizenship is the principle that anyone born in the United States is immediately granted citizenship by virtue of being born here. This has been the case in the United States since the Civil Rights Act of 1866. Birthright citizenship was officially added to the U.S. Constitution with the 14th Amendment (“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States”). Acts of Congress gradually extended to include everyone. With the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, birthright citizenship became undeniably the law of the land. In other words, it’s been around since 11 years before Paul was even born. Paul wants to change the constitution to deny those born to undocumented immigrant the right to citizenship. This is yet another reason why no one should take his position on how Social Security and Medicare are “unconstitutional” seriously – because he doesn’t care at all for the principles laid out in the constitution nor for the social struggles, like the struggle against slavery and for immigrant rights, which won them. He is quite fine with amending the constitution when it doesn’t serve his own economic interests. Indeed this is true of most members of the 1%.
Point Three. Paul’s campaign is against amnesty. Simply put, he is for deporting the 10 to 20 million hardworking undocumented immigrants who reside in the United States. Occupy should support the opposite: full amnesty for all immigrants and a welcoming country for all. Immigrants are the 99% and must be defended against racist attacks by the 1%, including by 1%ers like Ron Paul. The 99% will never achieve its goals if we allow ourselves to believe racist and xenophobic myths that are crafted to divide and demobilise our movement. The idea that immigrants ‘steal jobs’ and similar myths distracts us from the fact that steep taxes on the 1% would make it so the country could support far more people at a far better standard of living (i.e. with access to universal healthcare, housing, childcare, food, good education, etc.).
Moving on from immigration to racism more generally, Paul is for the overturning of civil rights legislation in the United States. In 2004 Paul was the only member of Congress (in both Houses) to vote against a bill commemorating the Civil Rights Act of 1964, one of the bills that helped to legally ban discrimination against African Americans and women. Notably it was the bill that outlawed racial segregation. He voted against it because he thinks it infringes on the “rights” of businesses in the “free market”. In other words, Ron Paul is a segregationist. Wait, really? Yes. Really. That’s what people who think that racist businesses should be able to prevent Blacks from entering their establishments are called: segregationists. Segregationists always had varied official positions, just like the G.O.P. candidates running for president in 2012 have only superficially different policy positions on all the crucial issues. But segregationists always supported the same basic thing: a government policy that both allowed and defended (with police, courts, and prisons) the ‘right’ of businesses to discriminate against African Americans.
This is a particularly important fact with which his young supporters must grapple. Anyone born after 1964 never had to deal with legal segregation – so it may be difficult for some of us to spot such openly racist policies when they rear their ugly heads. America is still certainly racially segregated, but it is no longer the legal policy of the government to enforce, for example, ‘whites-only’ sinks, whites-only bathrooms, whites-only restaurants, etc. Businesses that do this can be brought to court, sued, shut down, and so on. This is something that must be defended, and the fight for a truly integrated society must be advanced. Those like Paul that oppose the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and similar legislations are racists and we should openly say they are racists.
All this is what the Paul campaign means by its slogan “Restore America Now”. Its code for the worst form of racialised attacks on the working class. All of Ron Paul’s policies on immigration and racially oppressed groups cannot be separated from what he claims are his foreign policies. Some people seem to think that Ron Paul is against imperialism. He isn’t. All of these policies form the backbone of American capitalism’s imperialist program.
Ron Paul’s Homophobia
When you break it down and separate out superficial differences, conservatives in the United States basically have one of two lines on homosexuality and policies that affect LGBT people. One group forthrightly says that they hate LGBT people, that gays are sinful, that unions between them aren’t ‘marriage’, that there should be constitutional bans on same-sex marriage, that transgender people are pathological and need psychological help, etc., etc. The other group says that they don’t have a particular position on the legality of these issues, even though they basically have the same ‘personal beliefs’ (as if a public figure’s opinions can ever be ‘personal’), and that the government shouldn’t legislate about these things.
Ron Paul is in the latter group. He claims that while he has ‘personal’ beliefs against homosexuality that it should be for the states to decide whether or not to ban same-sex marriage and to promote other regressive policies (discrimination against transgender people for example). Anyone who is supportive of LGBT rights must see this for what it is: a thinly – and poorly – conceived attempt to support reactionary policies while avoiding the need to come out openly saying you support them. Slavery, for example, wasn’t ended “on a state to state basis”. People waged a war to crush the slaveocracy. There was a national abolitionist movement. There was eventually a federal war. It was a national effort. Those who supported slavery were violently suppressed. To hide behind the 10th Amendment and “states rights” is to use the Constitution to promote backwards policies just the same as supporting them outright. These are the same claims slave owners made prior to the civil war. Only by ignoring history can one define the Civil War as a struggle over “states rights”. These claims were used to conceal – again, badly – that the war was about the continued oppression of Black slaves. Of course opposition to same-sex marriage is a completely different issue, and no where near the level of barbarity of slavery. But Paul’s argument is the same: instead of national legislation to ban oppressive and exploitative policies and make equality the law of the land, we should just let state governments – also run by the 1% – to decide these issues. Why? Because its harder to win equality in 50 states than it is to win equality nationally. It is likely that same-sex marriage will become the law of the land nationally before some of the more conservative states legalise it.
Paul also supported the homophobic U.S. military policy ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ where gays and lesbians weren’t allowed to reveal their sexuality without being disciplined and discharged from the military. Indeed if service members were “too” open, they could be dishonourably discharged, stripping things like access to the pensions they paid into. When people say Ron Paul “supports the troops” or that he has many “supporters in the military” it should be clear that he doesn’t support gay or transgendered soldiers and that those sort of people aren’t likely among his supporters (including PFC Manning who he claims to consider a hero).
Paul tries to paper over the actual divisions that exist in society by claiming that:
“The problem that we have with dealing with this subject is we see people as groups, as they belong to certain groups, and that they derive their rights as belonging to groups. We don’t get our rights because we are gays, or women, or minorities, we get our rights from our creator as individuals. Every individual should be treated the same way”.
This position should be opposed because there are actual divisions that exist in our society that come from the oppressive social institutions we live under. Women make 77 cents on the dollar to men. Blacks suffer from discrimination in hiring, housing, and in all other areas of society. Gays face violent discrimination and a culture that calls them ‘sinful’, driving many to suicide on a daily basis. To say that people should be treated as individuals, and that government policies should treat working people all the same, ignores the reality of the ways in which these specially oppressed groups of people within the working class aren’t treated the same as members of other groups. It ignores real social needs and protections that particular groups need to survive. It’s a very dangerous position to take. The Occupy movement should fight against both the general attack on working people and the specific attacks on various groups within the working class. Without doing the latter, the 1% will use these attacks to divide us and prevent us from mounting a successful offensive on their wealth and power.
Ron Paul’s Sexism
Ron Paul thinks that human life begins at conception and that government laws should reflect this belief. This means that he’s against everything from pills to end pregnancies during the first weeks to women’s right to choose to have an abortion – in all cases, including cases of rape and incest. He is for gutting federal funding to vital women’s health services like Planned Parenthood. In particular his campaign officially stands for the repeal of Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalised women’s right to abortion in the United States. Prior to Roe v. Wade women were forced to have back alley abortions and abortions in dangerous chop shops without regulation, oversight, or transparency. Thousands of women died and were injured every year from the lack of access to safe and legal abortion provided by trained medical professionals. Ron Paul wants to bring this back. One in three women will have an abortion in their lifetime. This will be true whether or not abortion is legal. Supporting the right to legal abortion – indeed supporting the right to free abortion – means supporting the women in our lives: our mothers, sisters, aunts, friends, co-workers, teachers – everyone. Opposing women’s healthcare means that many of our friends, loved ones, and co-workers will be injured and die.
People like Paul also promote an atmosphere that allows and encourages rightwing extremists like Scott Roeder to assassinate women’s health providers like Dr. George Tiller who was killed in 2009 and to picket and bomb women’s clinics. It is impossible to separate out the ideological statements and policy positions of people like Paul from the extremists and hate groups that act as the shock troops for his policies.
Ron Paul’s Creationism
I would be remiss if I didn’t at least briefly mention Ron Paul’s creationism. Paul rejects that scientific consensus surrounding Darwinian evolution, the scientific theory upon which all modern biology is based. In his own words: “I think it’s a theory, the theory of evolution, and I don’t accept it as a theory”. Note that Paul isn’t saying that, like all theories, it could end up being true (which all science points to) or false (highly unlikely). Rather he says that he does not even accept it as a theory. If you don’t accept something as a theory, then you reject testing that theory, a priori, without evidence or experience. This has nothing to do with science.
The evolutionary biologist and great science popular educator Dr. Ken Miller has noted that those who counterpoise ‘facts’ to ‘theories’ are committing a grave, and anti-scientific mistake, meant to discredit the scientific process. The two should not be counterpoised, Miller rightly says, because “theories are a higher level of understanding. Theories unite facts, they explain them”. Darwin’s theory of evolution by means of natural selection is currently the best explanation science has to explain the wide array of biological knowledge we have. Scientists reject a good theory when a better theory is put forth which, through testing, debate, discussion, is decided by the scientists to better unite existing known facts, to better explain them. That’s how scientific consensus around questions develops. They don’t advance scientific knowledge by discounting theories before they are tested, nor by ignoring theories around which most scientists have consensus. What Ron Paul is promoting is a form of religious creationism (also called “intelligent design”) that runs contrary to the consensus of the scientific community, including to people like Dr. Miller (a religious man himself). Opposition to science is yet another way that members of the 1% like Paul try to disarm working people who are trying to understand their world and society – yet another reason why people should oppose Ron Paul.
Cuo Bono? In Whose Interest?
Again: cuo bono? In whose interest? Who does Ron Paul serve? I say he serves himself and the members of his class – the members of the 1%. I think the evidence thoroughly supports this position. He promotes racist, sexist, homophobic, environmentally destructive, anti-science, and anti-working class policies. It is impossible to separate some of his “positive” positions (his claims that he wants to end the drug war, end the wars in the Middle East) – of which there are few – from his negative ones. Indeed most of his “positive” positions would be negated if his negative positions passed. The contradiction between Paul saying he wants to ‘end the drug war’ and supporting the further militarisation of the border with Mexico is a prime example of this.
All of Ron Paul’s policies ignore the reality of exploitation under capitalism. Exploitation, very simply, is the reality that workers create all of the wealth in society, yet have no control over what to do with it. This is true because workers don’t socially own and democratically control the means of producing wealth – those means (mills, factories, mines, land, stores, transportation systems, warehouses, ports, etc.) are owned and dictatorially controlled by the 1%. So when he says he’s against welfare, he really means he wants the 1% to get an even larger share of the social pie even though they do no work. When he says he’s against a women’s right to choose, or same-sex marriage, or legislation banning segregation, we should understand that he is really saying that certain groups should be more oppressed than they already are (women, people of color, immigrants, LGBTI people) and that the working class must be so divided so that they cannot unite to overthrow him and his ilk.
The social function of ideologues like Ron Paul within the capitalist system is to divide working people. If people weren’t divided in United States by ideologues like Paul, Bush, Obama, and institutions like the media, schools, etc. – if we actually talked to each other, discussed, debated, weren’t segregated by race, repressed sexually, etc. – then there would be no way that the imperialists could get us to support war and oppression. There’d be no way we’d submit to the exploitation of the 1% who do no work yet own and control all the wealth. That’s why they divide us, segregate us, teach us to hate each other over petty reasons, instead of recognising our common humanity: because unity is dangerous to the rich who benefit from all of our suffering. There are so many of us and so few of them – and they are scared of that.
Ron Paul’s supposed “anti-imperialism” and “opposition to the war on drugs” is just a distraction from his *material support* for imperialism and anti-working class policies. His efforts are aimed at dividing and confusing people. He will never be president. But as a Congressperson and rightwing ideologue he is able to promote and vote for all the other policies that divide working people, support imperialism, and further oppression and exploitation.
The social function of Ron Paul’s campaign is at odds with the righteous goals of the Occupy Movement. At its core Occupy is a movement to defend working people – all working people – from attacks by the ruling 1% who do no work yet have a monopoly on all the wealth in society. Occupy stands against the divisions thrust upon us by the 1%, including both institutional divisions like racial segregation and ideological divisions like homophobia, xenophobia, sexism, and racist myths. All members of the Occupy movement should break with Ron Paul, should argue determinedly against his supporters, and should remain an independent movement of the 99%, free from the poison of the two parties of the 1%. We should oppose Ron Paul and his policies. After all, Ron Paul is the 1%.