Caucus 2012 voter's guide: Ron Paul

BY SAM LANE | DECEMBER 12, 2011 7:20 AM

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Ron Paul is a stoic man.

The 75-year-old U.S. congressman and Iowa caucus candidate gives rousing, hourlong speeches often without so much as cracking a smile. Meanwhile, the massive crowds following him like a cult hoot and holler as if witnessing the Grateful Dead.

For instance, he brought out around 1,000 undergrads at the No. 4 party school earlier this fall. The event started at 8 p.m. on the Friday of Homecoming weekend.

In all the commotion, Paul's message is simple: America must protect against a government interfering with citizens' civil liberties. Further, he says government should be almost invisible, an entity in charge of enforcing the Constitution, but one that stays out of peoples' lives.

"Why shouldn't you have free decision on what you eat, smoke, drink, and put into your own body?" Paul told the rambunctious, standing-room-only crowd at the University of Iowa in October.

With a plan to cut the federal budget by $1 trillion during his first year in office and balance it by the third year, Paul would change the status quo, said Drew Ivers, who heads Paul's Iowa campaign.

Paul's deficit-reduction plan would eliminate five Cabinet departments: the Department of Education, the Department of Energy, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Department of the Interior. Additionally, he'd abolish the Transportation Security Administration, squelch corporate subsidies, halt foreign aid, end U.S. wars, and return most other spending to 2006 levels.

Paul would reduce the federal workforce by 10 percent through attrition and personally take a salary of just under $40,000 — more than $300,000 less than the commander-in-chief's current salary.

Paul's plan — dubbed by the campaign as the Plan to Restore America — lowers the corporate tax rate to 15 percent and extends controversial income tax cuts put in place under the Bush administration. Paul would push to repeal the Democrats' Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Dodd-Frank — a financial-regulation-reform act — and Sarbanes-Oxley, which changed standards for boards of public companies.

By 2016, the campaign claims the plan would cut $832 billion from the defense budget and $645 billion from Medicaid. Also, the elimination of the five departments would reportedly save the federal government around $700 billion more.

In the most recent Des Moines Register Iowa Poll, Paul garnered 18 percent of the vote, enough for second place behind former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Paul received 12 percent of the vote in October and only 7 percent in June, according to the Register.

However, some doubt the viability of eliminating entire departments of the federal government. But Ivers said "essential" parts of the departments would remain and others would be consolidated into other areas, though he couldn't give any specifics.

"To assume that government must intervene to have prosperity contradicts history," Ivers said. "This country grew tremendously from 1800 to 1900 and continued growing through the '20s and '30s. At time when the government was the smallest, the country grew the most."

Some pundits — such as CNN's Wolf Blitzer — have called Paul's plan radical, and others have questioned the Paul platform's ability to earn Congress' approval if he is elected president.

But Doug French — the president of the Mises Institute, a libertarian and Austrian economics think tank — said Paul's plans aren't radical. Taking $1 trillion out of the federal budget isn't going "back to the Stone Age," French said, noting that type of cut would simply return the country to funding levels similar to about a decade ago.

"I think if we ever want to see the economy improve, government's got to get out of the way," French said. "To get out of the way, some [federal] departments have to be done away with."

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