‘Take the Guns First, Worry About Due Process Later,’ Says Trump

Bipartisan attacks against the Second Amendment are troubling. Candidate Trump was staunchly pro-Second Amendment but now, apparently not so much … Every American “who understands the benefits of liberty must remain vigilant against any attempt to erode respect for our rights.” 

By Dr. Ron Paul

The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed legislation that would expand the national background check system to require almost everyone selling firearms, including private collectors who supplement their incomes by selling firearms at gun shows, to perform background checks on potential buyers. The bill has a section purporting to bar creation of a national firearms registry; however, the expanded background check system will require the government to compile lists of those buying and selling guns. In other words, it creates a de facto national gun registry.

Similar to the experience with other types of prohibition, making it more difficult to legally buy a gun will enhance the firearms black market. Criminals, terrorists, and even deranged mass shooters will thus have no problem obtaining firearms.

It is no coincidence that the majority of mass shootings take place in “gun-free zones,” where shooters know their targets will be unarmed. This shows that any law making it more difficult for Americans to own and carry firearms makes us less safe. If Congress really wanted to reduce the incidence of gun violence, it would repeal the Gun-Free School Zones Act. This law leaves children easy prey for mass shooters by mandating that public schools be “gun-free zones.”

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A nationwide system of gun registration could be a step toward national gun confiscation. However, antigun bureaucrats need not go that far to use the expanded background check system to abuse the rights of gun owners. Gun owners could find themselves subject to surveillance and even harassment, such as more intensive screening by the Transportation Security Administration, because they own “too many” firearms. Republican control of the White House and the Senate does not mean our gun rights are safe. Republicans have a long history of supporting gun control. After the 1999 Columbine shooting, many Republicans, including many who campaigned as being pro-Second Amendment, eagerly cooperated with then-President Bill Clinton on gun control.

Some supposedly pro-gun Republicans also tried to pass “compromise” gun control legislation after the Sandy Hook shooting.

Neoconservative Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has introduced legislation that uses tax dollars to bribe states to adopt red-flag laws. Red-flag laws allow government to violate an individual’s Second Amendment rights based on nothing more than a report that the individual could become violent.

Red-flag laws can allow an individual’s guns to be taken away without due process simply because an estranged spouse, angry neighbor, or disgruntled coworker tells police the individual threatened him or otherwise made him feel unsafe.

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President Donald Trump has joined Rubio in wanting the government to, in Trump’s words, “take the guns first, go through due process second.”

During his confirmation hearing, Trump’s new Attorney General William Barr expressed support for red-flag laws. Leading gun-control advocate Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has expressed interest in working with Barr to deprive gun owners of due process. It would not be surprising to see left-wing authoritarians like Feinstein work with right-wing authoritarians like Barr and Rubio on “compromise” legislation containing both a national red-flag law and expanded background checks.

My years in Congress taught me that few politicians can be counted on to protect our liberties. Most politicians must be pressured to stand up for freedom by informed and involved pro-liberty citizens.

That is why those of us who understand the benefits of liberty must remain vigilant against any attempt to erode respect for our rights, especially the right to defend ourselves against private crime and public tyranny.

Ron Paul, a former U.S. representative from Texas and medical doctor, continues to write his weekly column for the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, online at www.ronpaulinstitute.org.




Trump’s Foreign Policy Remains Muddled

Insanity: President Trump doing the same thing and expecting a different result.

By Dr. Ron Paul

After a week of insisting that a meeting with Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in Argentina was going to happen, President Donald Trump at the last minute sent out a statement explaining that due to a Russia-Ukraine dispute in the Sea of Azov he would no longer be willing to meet his Russian counterpart.

According to Trump, the meeting had to be cancelled because the Russians seized three Ukrainian naval vessels in Russian waters that refused to follow instructions from the Russian military. But as Pat Buchanan wrote in a recent column: How is this little dispute thousands of miles away any of our business?

Unfortunately, it is “our business” because of President Barack Obama’s foolish idea to overthrow a democratically elected, pro-Russia government in Ukraine in favor of what his administration believed would be a “pro-Western” and “pro-NATO” replacement. In short, the Obama administration did openly to Ukraine what his Democratic Party claims without proof the Russians did to the United States: meddled in a vote.

U.S. interventionism in Ukraine led to the 2014 coup and many dead Ukrainians. Crimea’s majority-Russian population held a referendum and decided to re-join Russia rather than remain in a “pro-West” Ukraine that immediately began discriminating against them. Why would anyone object to people opting out of abusive relationships?

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What is most disappointing about Trump’s foreign policy is that it didn’t have to be this way. He ran on a platform of America first, ending foreign wars, NATO skepticism, and better relations with Russia. Americans voted for this policy. He had a mandate, a rejection of Obama’s destructive interventionism. But he lost his nerve.

Instead of being the president who ships lethal weapons to the Ukrainian regime, instead of being the president who insists that Crimea remain in Ukraine, instead of being the president who continues policies the American people clearly rejected at the ballot box, Trump could have blamed the Ukraine-Russia mess on the failed Obama foreign policy and charted a very different course. What flag flies over Crimea is none of our business. We are not the policemen of the world, and candidate Trump seemed to have understood that.

But now Trump’s in a trap. He was foolish enough to believe that Beltway foreign policy “experts” have a clue about what really is American national interest. Just this week he told The Washington Post, in response to three U.S. soldiers being killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, that he has to keep U.S. troops fighting in the longest war in U.S. history because the “experts” tell him there is no alternative.

He said, “Virtually every expert that I have and speak to says if we don’t go there, they’re going to be fighting over here. And I’ve heard it over and over again.”

That is the same bunkum the neocons sold us as they lied us into Iraq. We’ve got to fight Saddam over there or he’d soon be in our streets. These “experts” are worthless, yet for some reason Trump cannot break free of them.

Well, here’s some unsolicited advice to the president: Listen to the people who elected you, who are tired of the U.S. as the world’s police force. Let Ukraine and Russia work out their own problems. Give all your “experts” a pink slip and start over with a real pro-American foreign policy: non-interventionism.

Ron Paul, a former U.S. representative from Texas and medical doctor, continues to write his weekly column for the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, online at www.ronpaulinstitute.org.




Finish the Fed

The new Issue 43 & 44 of American Free Press is in the mail, and digital subscribers can read their newspaper online here. Not yet a subscriber? Click here for subscription options and don’t miss another issue of AFP. In our front-page article, Fed critic Ron Paul says the Federal Reserve is creating conditions that make a devastating economic crisis “inevitable.”

By Paul Angel

We here at American Free Press resist financial fearmongering for one simple reason. Most of the doom-and-gloom hype over an “impending financial collapse” is usually pushed by Wall Street brokers and banksters who profit mightily from getting you to move your stocks around or avail yourself of their high-priced investment newsletters. But the latest comments by former Rep. Ron Paul about the economy caught our eyes.

As Paul points out in a recent column, early October’s “frantic stock market sell-off indicates the failure to learn the lessons of 2008 and makes another meltdown inevitable.”

It’s been a decade since the financial meltdown of 2008 rocked America, mostly due to the bursting of the Fed’s artificially created housing bubble. Unfortunately, as Paul points out, “The government should have let the downturn run its course in order to correct the malinvestments made during the phony, Fed-created boom. This may have caused some short-term pain, but it would have ensured the recovery would be based on a solid foundation rather than a bubble of fiat currency.”

Survival of the Richest, JeffriesAll of that was caused by yet another gargantuan mistake by the Fed, Paul says, seven years earlier. “In 2001-2002 the Federal Reserve responded to the economic downturn caused by the bursting of the technology bubble by pumping money into the economy. This new money ended up in the housing market.

This was because the so-called ‘conservative’ Bush administration, like the ‘liberal’ Clinton administration before it, was using the Community Reinvestment Act and government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to make mortgages available to anyone who wanted one—regardless of income or credit history.”

Banks were more than happy to “lend first, ask questions later, when foreclosing,” says Paul.

So instead of letting the problem correct itself—with a good dose of attendant but necessary pain, Congress instead bailed out Wall Street and the big banks. How? Paul says, “The Federal Reserve cut interest rates to historic lows and embarked on a desperate attempt to inflate the economy via quantitative easing 1, 2, and 3.”

And this has left us where we are today, with Republicans alleging the economy is in the best condition it ever has been in U.S. history and Democrats clamoring to place the credit with the Barack Obama administration. The truth is, government and personal debt are out of control. As Paul says, “Credit card debt is over a trillion dollars, student loan debt is at $1.5 trillion, there is a bubble in auto loans, and there is even a new housing bubble. But the biggest part of the ‘everything’ bubble is the government bubble. Federal debt is over $21 trillion and expanding by [an astronomical] tens of thousands of dollars per second.”

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Obviously, this cannot sustain itself, leaving the Fed in a bit of a dilemma. Today, the entire economy is a bubble just waiting to burst. And inflation is rearing its ugly head at the same time. To control that, the Fed will have to gradually increase interest rates.

“The Fed will be unsuccessful in keeping the ‘everything bubble’ from exploding. When the bubble bursts, America will experience an economic crisis much greater than the 2008 meltdown or the Great Depression,” says Paul. Paul’s solution, however, is simple.

“A secretive central bank should not be allowed to manipulate interest rates and distort economic signals regarding market conditions. Such action leads to malinvestment and an explosion of individual, business, and government debt. This may cause a temporary boom, but the boom soon will be followed by a bust. The only way this cycle can be broken without a major crisis is for Congress to restore people’s right to use the currency of their choice and to audit and then end the Fed.”

We agree.




Coup in Venezuela Invites Possible Global Cold War

Russia and China have a huge financial stake in Venezuela because both sell the country weapons, meaning U.S. threats of supporting a military coup in Venezuela could create a Latin American Cold War.

By Richard Walker

Should President Donald Trump and prominent members of Congress continue to advocate for a military coup in Venezuela, it could see a return to a Cold War in Latin America, a region in which countries have always shared divided loyalties to East and West.

According to foreign policy expert Brian Fonseca, should the U.S. continue to push for overthrowing the Venezuelan government, the West could see a bigger Chinese and Russian footprint in Latin America. These two superpowers have close ties to the Venezuelan military and sell it weapons. They would be thrilled if Venezuela’s relations with Washington reached a point of no return because Moscow and Beijing would pursue an opportunity to purchase majority stakes in Venezuela’s oil reserves that are among the world’s largest.

Venezuela also has large deposits of natural resources that China would be keen to develop, in keeping with China’s growing economic role in the world. China has been busy for the past two decades establishing relations with nations across Latin America and Africa, especially those that have massive energy and fossil fuel reserves. A classic example is that, in 2015, in the out-of-the-way country Mozambique, China began cutting large tracts of forest for the timber it desperately needs for its ever-expanding infrastructure. When it discovered that the same area held large deposits of gemstones, it bought mining rights and began exploiting them, too.

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Fonseca has warned Washington figures that flirting with the prospect of backing the overthrow of the government of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela is playing with fire, endangering America’s foreign policy in its own backyard. It could even result in a major national security blunder.

Big oil companies Chevron and Halliburton that have stakes in Venezuela’s oil industry have privately appealed to the White House to avoid plunging Venezuela into total chaos by pursuing tougher financial sanctions against the government. They have also cautioned that intervention in support of a military coup could be disastrous for Washington’s relations throughout the region.

Those warnings have not deterred Trump from floating the possibility of supporting a coup by the Venezuelan military. He received backing for his views from U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

There is also evidence that some former Venezuelan military figures have met members of the Trump administration.

The promotion of regime change in Congress and the White House is a dangerous trend that ignores the failed history of U.S.-led coups. After 1947, with the emergence of the CIA, Washington decided it now had the ideal tool to change regimes it did not like or that American corporations felt threatened their energy domination. The first coup the CIA launched was in Iran in 1953 when U.S. agents overthrew a democratically elected government because Iran was seeking to stop exploitation by foreign oil corporations, mostly British, by nationalizing Iran’s oil for the benefit of its people. Other coups followed in the Congo and South Vietnam, but Latin America became the major target of nine coup-led interventions by the CIA. The Agency used tactics that became all too familiar of arming and training insurgents. It encouraged assassinations, bombings, kidnapping, and the secret torture and elimination of perceived enemies.

George Bush and Dick Cheney meddled in Venezuela and in other Latin American nations, and so, too, did Barack Obama who pursued what became known as the soft power strategy. Obama advocated using less CIA paramilitary input in favor of exploiting and financing opposition groups by funneling money to them, using Washington-run aid organizations. Bribes were also paid to political figures and disgruntled military officers. At the same time, fake stories were fed into the media of the target nation.

It is a fact that Venezuela, like many Latin American nations, has existed for decades with serious levels of corruption. But of much more significance is the reality that its economy has relied for too long on oil exports. Knowing this, in 2014, the Saudis, under pressure from Israel and Washington, flooded the international oil markets with cheap oil, crushing the price of oil to the detriment of the Venezuelan economy. The effects were devastating and long term. Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Washington saw it as punishment for Venezuela’s closeness to Iran and its attacks on Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. It may well be that some oil corporations were also pushing for the Saudi move, hoping it would lead to Venezuela’s collapse, giving them control of its energy resources.

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Venezuela is now collapsing financially, and U.S. sanctions could push it over the edge into the arms of Beijing and Moscow. It is generally not reported that 2.3 million Venezuelans have fled the country in the past three years.

Too many figures in Congress promote regime change, ignorant of the terrible effects of failed CIA-led coups in the past. Even those regimes in Latin America that do not support the Venezuelan leadership have raw memories of past U.S. interventions in countries like Chile and the failed 2002 CIA-led coup against Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. In that coup tens of millions of dollars were secretly funneled to opposition groups and disaffected members of the country’s military. That is probably what has been happening again in the past couple of years.

Richard Walker is the pen name of a former N.Y. news producer.


RELATED, FROM RON PAUL . . .

D.C.’s Hypocritical Attack on Maduro

If our leaders really cared about the people of Venezuela, they would lift the sanctions.

By Dr. Ron Paul

Last week we witnessed the horrible spectacle of Nikki Haley, President Donald Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, joining a protest outside the UN building and calling for the people of Venezuela to overthrow their government.

“We are going to fight for Venezuela,” she shouted through a megaphone. “We are going to continue doing it until [Venezuelan President Nicolas] Maduro is gone.”

This is the neocon mindset: that somehow the U.S. has the authority to tell the rest of the world how to live and who may hold political power regardless of elections.

After more than a year of Washington being crippled by evidence-free claims that the Russians have influenced our elections, we have a senior U.S. administration official openly calling for the overturning of elections overseas.

Imagine if President Vladimir Putin’s national security advisor had grabbed a megaphone in New York and called for the people of the United States to overthrow their government by force.

At the UN, Maduro accused the Western media of hyping up the crisis in his country to push the cause for another “humanitarian intervention.”

Some may laugh at such a claim, but recent history shows that interventionists lie to push regime change, and the media goes right along with the lies.

Remember the lies about Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi giving Viagra to his troops to help them rape their way through Libya? Remember the “babies thrown from incubators” and “mobile chemical labs” in Iraq? Judging from past practice, there is probably some truth in Maduro’s claims.

We know socialism does not work. It is an economic system based on the use of force rather than economic freedom of choice. But while many Americans seem to be in a panic over the failures of socialism in Venezuela, they don’t seem all that concerned that right here at home Trump just signed a massive $1.3 trillion spending bill that delivers socialism on a scale that Venezuelans couldn’t even imagine. In fact, this one spending bill is three times Venezuela’s entire gross domestic product.

Did I miss all the Americans protesting this warfare-welfare state socialism?

Why all the neocon and humanitarian-interventionist “concern” for the people of Venezuela? One clue might be the fact that Venezuela happens to be sitting on the world’s largest oil reserves. More even than Saudi Arabia. There are plenty of countries pursuing dumb economic policies that result in plenty of suffering, but Nikki and the neocons are nowhere to be found when it comes to “concern” for these people. Might it be a bit about this oil?

Don’t believe this feigned interest in helping the Venezuelan people. If Washington really cared about Venezuelans they would not be plotting regime change for the country, considering that each such “liberation” elsewhere has ended with the people being worse off than before.

No, if Washington—and the rest of us—really cared about Venezuelans we would demand an end to the terrible U.S. economic sanctions on the country—which only make a bad situation worse—and would push for far more engagement and trade.

And maybe we’d even lead by example, by opposing the real, existing socialism here at home before seeking socialist monsters to slay abroad.

Ron Paul, a former U.S. representative from Texas and medical doctor, continues to write his weekly column for the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, online at www.ronpaulinstitute.org.




Neocons Are Back With a Big War Budget and Big War Plans

The military-industrial complex has yet again taken the lead in U.S. government spending, receiving “the largest military budget in history” in the recent $1.3 trillion omnibus bill. And, as Ron Paul explains, “the neocons continue to do very well in this Administration.”

By Ron Paul

On Friday, President Trump signed the omnibus spending bill for 2018. The $1.3 trillion bill was so monstrous that it would have made the biggest spender in the Obama Administration blush. The image of leading congressional Democrats Pelosi and Schumer grinning and gloating over getting everything they wanted—and then some—will likely come back to haunt Republicans at the midterm elections. If so, they will deserve it.

Even President Trump admitted the bill was horrible. As he said in the signing ceremony, “There are a lot of things that we shouldn’t have had in this bill, but we were, in a sense, forced—if we want to build our military. . . .”

This is why I often say: Forget about needing a third political party—we need a second political party! Trump is admitting that to fuel the warfare state and enrich the military-industrial complex, it was necessary to dump endless tax dollars into the welfare state.

But no one “forced” President Trump to sign the bill. His party controls both houses of Congress. He knows that no one in Washington cares about deficits so he was more than willing to spread some Fed-created money at home to get his massive war spending boost.

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And about the militarism funded by the bill? Defense Secretary James Mattis said at the same press conference that, “As the President noted, today we received the largest military budget in history, reversing many years of decline and unpredictable funding.”

He’s right and wrong at the same time. Yes, it is another big increase in military spending. In fact, the U.S. continues to spend more than at least the next seven or so largest countries combined. But his statement is misleading. Where are these several years of decline? Did we somehow miss a massive reduction in military spending under President Obama? Did the last Administration close the thousands of military bases in more than 150 countries while we weren’t looking?

Of course not.

On militarism, the Obama administration was just an extension of the Bush administration, which was an extension of the militarism of the Clinton administration. And so on. The military-industrial complex continues to generate record profits from fictitious enemies. The mainstream media continues to play the game, amplifying the war propaganda produced by the think tanks, which are funded by the big defense contractors.

This isn’t a conspiracy theory. This is conspiracy fact. Enemies must be created to keep Washington rich, even as the rest of the country suffers from the destruction of the dollar. That is why the neocons continue to do very well in this Administration.

While Trump and Mattis were celebrating big military spending increases, the president announced that John Bolton, one of the chief architects of the Iraq war debacle, would become his national security advisor. As former CIA analyst Paul Pillar has written, this is a man who, while at the State Department, demanded that intelligence analysts reach pre-determined conclusions about Iraq and WMDs. He cooked the books for war.

Bolton is on the record calling for war with Iran, North Korea, even Cuba! His return to a senior position in government is a return to the unconstitutional, immoral, and failed policies of pre-emptive war.

Make no mistake: The neocons are back and looking for another war. They’ve got the president’s ear. Iran? North Korea? Russia? China? Who’s next for the warmongers?

Ron Paul, a former U.S. representative from Texas and medical doctor, continues to write his weekly column for the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, online at www.ronpaulinstitute.org.




The Last Fed Chairman?

Jerome Powell has his hands full as he steps into the role of Federal Reserve Chairman. Tireless monetary reformer and watchdog Ron Paul warns, “The economy may seem to have recovered, but the recovery is not built on a firm foundation. Instead it rests on Fed-created bubbles. . . .” The U.S. had better get its economic house in order, he says, if it wants to remain the world reserve currency.

By Ron Paul

Last week the Senate confirmed Jerome Powell as Federal Reserve Chairman by a vote of 84-13. This is in contrast to the contentious debates and closer votes over Janet Yellen’s confirmation in 2014 and Ben Bernanke’s confirmation for a second term in 2010. Powell benefited from a perception that the economy’s recovery from the 2007-08 meltdown proves that the Fed is a capable manager of monetary policy. However, the perceptions of economic recovery and Federal Reserve competence are both far from the truth.

The economy may seem to have recovered, but the recovery is not built on a firm foundation. Instead it rests on Fed-created bubbles in areas such as automobile sales, credit cards debt, student loan debt, stocks, and even a new housing bubble.

The most dangerous bubble is the government debt bubble. The Fed facilitates deficit spending by monetizing the federal debt. The desire to enable Congress’ spending addiction is a major reason why the Fed cannot significantly raise interest rates, as increasing rates could increase federal debt payments to unsustainable levels. This may be one reason why President Trump has reversed course and endorsed low interest rates. Of course, all first-term presidents want low interest rates since they believe the low rates boost the economy and thus help them win reelection.

IRS Loses Cases

One of the issues Powell will face is increasing challenges to the dollar’s world reserve currency status. China is pressuring Saudi Arabia to price oil in Chinese yuan instead of in American dollars. China and other countries may take other steps, such as halting purchases of Treasury bonds, that could weaken the dollar. The threats to the dollar’s world reserve currency status will increase as concerns about U.S. government and private sector debt, as well as resentment over U.S. militarism and protectionism, grow.

The dollar still maintains its reserve currency status not because the dollar is strong, but because other countries’ currencies are weak. However, unless the U.S. gets its economic house in order, that may not long be the case.

Web of Debt cover

A new challenge to the dollar’s status is emerging from the private sector as more individuals seek alternatives to government-created fiat currency. The dramatic increase in the value of bitcoin may very well be another Fed-created bubble, but it is one fueled in part by desire to be free of the Fed’s ever-depreciating paper dollars.

Another sign of the people’s rejection of the Fed is the passage of state laws recognizing gold and silver as legal tender. Arizona passed such a law last year and Wyoming will soon consider a similar bill. As the failure of our current system becomes more apparent, more states will give their citizens freedom from the Fed’s money monopoly.

Much to new Fed Chairman Powell’s chagrin, support for the Audit the Fed bill remains high. As knowledge of how the Fed endangers prosperity grows, the pressure on Congress to pass Audit the Fed will prove irresistible.

Jerome Powell may seem to be assuming the Fed chairmanship at a time of increasing prosperity and renewed respect for the Fed. However, the prosperity is an illusion built on a series of Fed-created bubbles whose bursting will cause a major economic downturn. This will increase both the growing challenges to the dollar’s world reserve currency status and the number of people seeking alternatives to Federal Reserve-created fiat currency. Powell could be the last Fed chairman if the next Fed-created economic crisis leads the people to force Congress to audit and then end the Fed.

Ron Paul, a former U.S. representative from Texas and medical doctor, continues to write his weekly column for the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, online at www.ronpaulinstitute.org.

Copyright © 2018 by RonPaul Institute.



Earmarks Are Not the Problem

The fact increasing numbers of legislators are “willing to vote against big government than in past years” is not because the practice of earmarks was ended but because “the liberty movement has led to more liberty-minded members being elected to the House and Senate,” says Ron Paul. 

By Dr. Ron Paul

Last week President Trump urged Congress to reassert its constitutional authority to direct how federal agencies spend taxpayer dollars. Ironically, many constitutional conservatives and libertarians disagree with the president. The reason is, President Trump wants Congress to reassert its authority by bringing back earmarks.

Earmarks are line items in spending bills directing federal agencies to spend federal funds on specific projects in a representative or senator’s district or state. Congress ended the practice of earmarks several years ago after a public outcry fueled by a widespread misunderstanding of the issue.

Earmarks are added to spending bills after the spending levels have been determined. Therefore, earmarks do not increase federal spending. What earmarks do is limit the federal bureaucrats’ ability to decide how to spend taxpayer money.

When I served in Congress, I was amazed when self-proclaimed constitutionalists complained about how earmarks prevented funding of federal bureaucrats’ priorities. These “constitutionalists” seem to have forgotten that the Constitution gives Congress sole authority over deciding how taxpayer dollars should be spent.

My support for earmarks in Congress did not add one penny to the spending in the bills. I believed that some of the tax money sent to Washington should actually make it back to congressional districts rather than remain in the hands of Washington bureaucrats. In the end, I always voted against final passage of the bloated spending bills.

Some call earmarks a gateway drug to big spending. They point to how congressional leadership denied earmarks to members unless the members voted for big spending and other anti-liberty legislation. It is true that congressional leadership used earmarks to reward and punish members. During my years in Congress, earmarks for my district were stripped from bills in an (unsuccessful) attempt to make me stop voting against unconstitutional legislation.

Congressional leaders do not need earmarks to reward or punish members. They can, for example, deny plum committee assignments to those who refuse to toe the party line, or discourage donors from supporting them.

Presidents can still use the promise of federal funds to influence congressional votes. “Presidential earmarks” were crucial to passing Obamacare, and President Trump has threatened to withhold aid from states whose senators oppose his agenda. The removal of earmarks has given the president even greater influence over the legislative branch!

The fact that there are more representatives and senators willing to vote against big government than in past years has nothing to do with the lack of earmarks. Instead, the liberty movement has led to more liberty-minded members being elected to the House and Senate.

While the ideas of liberty are growing in popularity, the majority of the people and certainly most politicians still believe the U.S. government should run the economy, run the world, and run our lives. This misplaced faith in big government, not the presence of earmarks, is why most politicians vote for big spending. No politician ever said, “Now that I can’t receive earmarks, I am abandoning my support for the welfare-warfare state.”

Earmarks are a way for elected representatives to ensure their constituents’ tax dollars are spent in a manner that matches constituent priorities. Earmarks do not by themselves expand government. Those who oppose earmarks should work to stop so many Americans from demanding government-provided economic and personal security. Earmarks are not the cause of runaway spending, and removing them has done little or nothing to shrink government and regain our liberties.

Ron Paul, a former U.S. representative from Texas and medical doctor, continues to write his weekly column for the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, online at ronpaulinstitute.org.




GOP Tax Plan Increases the Most Insidious Tax

Appointing a former investment banker to chair the Federal Reserve will have much longer lasting impact than any tax reform plan, but adopting the Chained Consumer Price Index will increase the inflation tax, Dr. Paul explains. 

By Ron Paul

Last Thursday, congressional Republicans unveiled their tax reform legislation. On the same day, President Trump nominated current Federal Reserve Board Governor Jerome Powell to succeed Janet Yellen as Federal Reserve chair. While the tax plan dominated the headlines, the Powell appointment will have much greater long-term impact. Federal Reserve policies affect every aspect of the economy, including whether the Republican tax plan will produce long-term economic growth.

President Obama made history by appointing the first female Fed chair. President Trump is also making history: If confirmed, Powell would be the first former investment banker to serve as chairman of the Federal Reserve. Powell’s background suggests he will continue Janet Yellen’s Wall Street-friendly low interest rates and easy money policies.

Powell is an outspoken opponent of the Audit the Fed legislation. In 2015, Powell delivered an address at Catholic University devoted to attacking Audit the Fed. Like most Fed apologists, Powell claims the audit would compromise the Fed’s independence and allow Congress to control monetary policy. However, like all who make this claim, Powell cannot point to anything in the text of the audit bill giving Congress any power over the Federal Reserve. Powell’s concerns about protecting the Fed’s independence are misplaced, as the Fed has never been free of political influence. The Fed has a long history of bowing to presidential pressure to tailor monetary policy to help advance the president’s political and policy agenda.

IRS Loses Cases

 

The Republican tax cut plan has some positive elements, such as increasing the standard deduction, creating a new family tax credit, eliminating the death tax, reducing the corporate tax rate, and lowering taxes on small businesses. It also has some flaws, such as the “millionaire surcharge” imposed on upper-income taxpayers. This provision reflects a belief that upper-income taxpayers only “deserve” a tax break if reducing their taxes serves the interest of government by increasing economic growth.

The worst part of the tax plan is that it adopts the chained consumer price index (chained CPI). Chained CPI is a way of measuring CPI that understates inflation’s effects on our standard of living. It does this by assuming inflation has not reduced Americans’ standard of living if, for example, people can buy hamburgers when they can no longer afford steak. This so-called full substitution ignores the fact that if individuals viewed hamburgers as a full substitute for steak they would have bought hamburgers before Fed-created inflation made steak unaffordable.

Chained CPI increases the inflation tax. The inflation tax may be the worst of all taxes because it is hidden and regressive. The inflation tax is not even a tax on real wages. Instead, it is a tax on the illusionary gains in income caused by inflation. The use of chained CPI to adjust tax brackets pushes individuals into higher tax brackets over time.

Politicians love the inflation tax because it allows them to increase taxes without having to vote for higher rates. Instead, the Fed does the dirty work. Since their creation in 1913, the Federal Reserve and the income tax have both enabled the growth of the welfare-warfare state and the erosion of our freedom and economic well-being. The key to restoring our liberty and prosperity, as well as avoiding a major economic crisis, is reversing the great mistakes of 1913 by repealing the 16th Amendment and auditing and ending the Federal Reserve.

Ron Paul, a former U.S. representative from Texas and medical doctor, continues to write his weekly column for the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, online at www.ronpaulinstitute.org.




The Federal Reserve Is, and Always Has Been, Politicized

As the “Audit the Fed” bill moves out of committee and onto the House floor, supporters are encouraged to contact their representatives immediately to encourage them to vote for the bill. Find your representative’s D.C. and local contact info at House.gov

By Ron Paul

Audit the Fed (H.R. 24) recently took a step closer to becoming law, when it was favorably reported by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. This means the House could vote on the bill at any time. The bill passed by voice vote without any objections, although Fed defenders did launch hysterical attacks on the bill during the debate as well as at a hearing on the bill the previous week.

One representative claimed that auditing the Fed would result in rising interest rates, a stock market crash, a decline in the dollar’s value, and a complete loss of confidence in the U.S. economy. Those who understand economics know that all of this is actually what awaits America unless we change our monetary policy. Passing the audit bill is the vital first step in that process, since an audit can provide Congress a road map to changing the fiat currency system.

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Another charge leveled by the Fed’s defenders is that subjecting the Fed to an audit would make the Fed subject to political pressure. There are two problems with this argument. First, nothing in the audit bill gives Congress or the president any new authority to interfere in the Federal Reserve’s operations. Second, and most importantly, the Federal Reserve has a long history of giving in to presidential pressure for an “accommodative” monetary policy.

The most notorious example of Fed chairmen tailoring monetary policy to fit the demands of a president is Nixon-era Federal Reserve Chair Arthur Burns. Burns and Nixon may be an extreme example—after all, no other president was caught on tape joking with the Fed chair about Fed independence—but every president has tried to influence the Fed with varying degrees of success. For instance, Lyndon Johnson summoned the Fed chair to the White House to berate him for not tailoring monetary policy to support Johnson’s guns-and-butter policies.

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Federal Reserve chairmen have also used their power to shape presidential economic policy. According to Maestro, Bob Woodward’s biography of Alan Greenspan, Bill Clinton once told Al Gore that Greenspan was a “man we can deal with,” while Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen claimed the Clinton administration and Greenspan’s Fed had a “gentleman’s agreement” regarding the Fed’s support for the administration’s economic policies.

The Federal Reserve has also worked to influence the legislative branch. In the 1970s, the Fed organized a campaign by major banks and financial institutions to defeat a prior audit bill. The banks and other institutions who worked to keep the Fed’s operations a secret are not only under the Fed’s regulatory jurisdiction, but are some of the major beneficiaries of the current monetary system.

There can be no doubt that, as the audit bill advances through the legislative process, the Fed and its allies will ramp up both public and behind-the-scenes efforts to kill the bill. Can anyone dismiss the possibility that Janet Yellen will attempt to “persuade” Donald Trump to drop his support for Audit the Fed in exchange for an “accommodative” monetary policy that supports the administration’s proposed spending on overseas militarism and domestic infrastructure?

While auditing the Fed is supported by the vast majority of Americans, it is opposed by powerful members of the financial elite and the deep state. Therefore, those of us seeking to change our national monetary policy must redouble our efforts to force Congress to put America on a path to liberty, peace, and prosperity by auditing, then ending, the Fed.

Ron Paul, a former U.S. representative from Texas and medical doctor, continues to write his weekly column for the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.