Right-wing commitments to reducing the deficit and trimming the size of the government might sound practical, but translating those words into policies can have severe, and potentially disastrous, effects. Ron Paul, the libertarian hoping to snag the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, has proposed budget cuts and a government restructuring plan in his “Plan To Restore America.” The document goes far beyond the typical government-downsizing platform espoused by most GOP politicians, offering drastic cuts and plans that would radically alter the role and scope of the federal government.
The document begins: “Ron Paul’s ‘Restore America’ plan slams on the brakes and puts America on a return to constitutional government. It is bold but achievable. Through the bully pulpit of the presidency, the power of the Veto, and, most importantly, the united voice of freedom-loving Americans, we can implement fundamental reforms.”
Paul commits to delivering a balanced budget by 2015, cutting spending by $1 trillion in the first year of his presidency alone.
His plan for achieving those spending goals are even more shocking: He would completely eliminate the departments of Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Commerce, Interior, and Education. The proposal also entails “abolishing the Transportation Security Administration and returning responsibility for security to private property owners, abolishing corporate subsidies, stopping foreign aid, ending foreign wars, and returning most other spending to 2006 levels.”
If elected president, Paul would reduce the federal workforce by 10 percent. Instead of raising revenue, he plans to lower the corporate tax rate to 15 percent and repeal various regulations. Also, true to his anti-Bernanke comments, he would audit the Federal Reserve.
Even other conservatives are wary of the radical plan. According to Kevin Hassett, economic policy director for the American Enterprise Institute and chief economic adviser to John McCain’s 2000 presidential campaign, “At the scale he’s talking about, it’s unlikely you could have an immediate reduction in government without hurtling the economy into recession.”
In addition to eliminating five Cabinet-level agencies that help Americans, the plan would have a significant impact on individual citizens. The program would destabilize entitlement programs by turning Social Security, veterans’ benefits, and Medicare into voluntary programs, enabling younger workers to opt out. That means that not only would people not have a difficult time achieving a standard level of education, but they would undoubtedly struggle to find a job in the recession that the spending cuts would basically guarantee. And if they need help supporting themselves in the terrible economy, the entitlement programs probably wouldn’t have enough money to make a difference.
Although Ron Paul’s promises to create a smaller government and cut spending might sound appealing in soundbites, it is important that voters consider the specifics of his plan — and all they stand to lose — before heading to the polls.