“Who the heck is Ron Paul?” asked many Americans over the course of the past year. The 70 year old Texas Congressman’s name and face adorned web pages, blogs, email spams, posters and pamphlets throughout the nation. Out of nowhere, the Republican Presidential candidate appeared on television for the Primary debates giving blunt, hard hitting, no nonsense answers and lacerating jabs. He criticized fellow candidates for their foreign policy, corporate cronyism, and support of “big” government. His candid demeanor, especially in calling out the Administration for its failure in Iraq, helped win him over many independents, jaded Republicans, and “on the fence” liberals who found his voice a refreshing and legitimate “third option.”
He dominates the Internet search engines, wins most of the online polls, maintains an overwhelming presence on Youtube, and recently scored a number one bestseller with his manifesto: “Ron Paul: The Revolution.” Through independent, grass roots activism, his campaign received over $6 million dollars, making it the largest one-day fundraiser in US political history.
However, his detractors suggest Ron Paul is more of an “internet sensation” than a practical solution. His followers are seen as mindless and rabid “acolytes” whose repetitive mantra of “smaller government, de-regulations, pro-free market” is naïve and blind to the economic and political realities of the world. Mostly, people suggest Congressman Paul’s rhetoric is simply old school libertarianism masquerading as a “revolution.” Regardless of opinion, however, most admire his willingness to speak his mind. In this exclusive interview, he talks with altmuslim associate editor Wajahat Ali about a gamut of subjects, all in his characteristically frank and honest demeanor.
Many people are asking: “Are you still in the race?”
RON PAUL: Well, technically I am. I mean there’s not much of a race since McCain has all the votes. But I am participating. And we still try to get his votes. Like yesterday we got 15% in Oregon [Primary] and that represents a solid base that we have.
Next logical question, why still stay in the race?
I think what we’re doing is real important. I think the message is important. The people who are involved, the volunteers, are enthusiastic. Our numbers keep growing. We still have money in the bank. They want to see the campaign continue to maximize our efforts and at the same look forward to continuing this project even after the election and make sure we reach as many people as we can.
It’s going to be, most likely, Obama vs. McCain. Who do you think will win? Who do you think should win? Can you move beyond partisan loyalty to support Obama?
I think Obama will probably win the primary, but I wouldn’t bet money on it. At one time, I thought it would be impossible for any Republican to come close, but with the Democrats beating up on each other, it’s given time for McCain to recover a bit. But I can’t see how a Republicans can win, because this country does not like it when we have a long drawn out war and a bad economy, and that’s what we have.
So I think Obama certainly has the edge. If I had to bet money, I’d bet on Obama. As far as supporting Obama, I wouldn’t be able to, because he has a lot of positions I don’t agree with. His rhetoric is much closer than McCain on foreign policy obviously, but his foreign policy is not a whole lot different than what McCain and the Republicans have. You know, even the leadership in the House, the Democratic leadership has done nothing to really change things since they took over the House in 2006. I wouldn’t expect Obama to really change foreign policy. I still think they’re very much anxious to do something against Iran. [Nancy] Pelosi [Speaker of the House] has been pushing that, and that’s the position of both parties.
I want to ask you about the Republican Party. What is Bush’s legacy for the Republican Party, and what harm has he done to not only the nation but also the Republican Party? Can the Republican Party rebound in 2008 and, if so, what is its identity and how does it define itself?
Well, they’re going to have a tough time, because they had their chance. The culmination of it was in 1994 and 2000, when they finally got the total control in preaching the gospel of less government and balanced budget. Even in the year 2000, Bush talked about no nation building and not playing the role of world policeman. The failure of that is so overwhelming: that is the legacy. So, getting credibility back is the main thing. And then going back to what they claim they believe in: smaller government, balanced budgets, personal liberty and the Constitution. They have a long way to go.
The name of your new book, a manifesto, is entitled “The Revolution.” These are bold words – no subtlety there. But many say your positions are merely rhetorical window dressing for old school libertarianism.
Well, I don’t know where the old school libertarianism came from or where it is. It’s old school Constitutionalism. And the Constitution is very libertarian, so I guess you could connect it that way. But when thinking of conventional politics and Republican politics, it’s old school Republican politics. When we had a Robert Taft who was head of the Republican Party, he argued much of what I argue today. As a matter of fact, another interesting person who took that position was Warren Buffet’s dad, Howard Buffet, when he was in Congress. His position was very similar to mine. So, that may be old school Republicanism, but it just means that we believe the government should be really small in size and we should follow the Constitution.
Let’s talk about your foreign policy positions. You clarify in your book that you are not an isolationist but more of a non-interventionist. Your opposition to the Iraq War and pre-emptive strikes against Iran is now well known and quite popular with many progressives, independents, the Left and the youth. However, you are also critical of foreign aid to countries as well. If international actors, such as The IMF, WTO, or even Super Powers were to abandon predatory corporatism, couldn’t aid, such as educational aid to Afghanistan, deter future blowback and help create friendship? Are you averse to this form of “intervention?”
No, and there still would be that I don’t want to steal money from people and give it to corrupt governments that would maybe misuse this money. A free and prosperous country would do this in a voluntary fashion. But, the point that people have to remember is that if you want to impose our will on Iraq through bombs and promote democracy: this is done with a “do good” objective. They’re always saying we’re going to promote the goodness of America, we’re going to promote democracy. They try to tell us this is all done with “good intentions.” So, if you do that and it backfires, then some of us will complain.
But doing the same thing using foreign aid, people say, “Well, this is different. This is economic aid.” So, that’s legitimate to tax poor people in this country, or inflate the currency, or borrow and bankrupt the country to do “good” on economic terms? But the whole thing is using force again. So, I reject the use of force to promote these good intentions. Besides, just as good intentions in foreign policy backfire like they did in Iraq and Vietnam and so many other places, the good intentions in helping poor people who are starving in Africa do the same thing. Because if you send them food in the midst of civil war, the government takes it over and they use it as a weapon against certain factions, so it rarely does the job it’s supposed to do. Just because economic aid is well intended, it’s matter of fact identical to the “well intentions’ of those who want to use military force.
Will you say that The Marshall Plan was a use of “good” foreign intervention and aid? Subsequently, is there any example you can give me where foreign aid was actually beneficial? Any way where the US could actually help?
Well, no, I wouldn’t have voted for The Marshall Plan for the same reason I just stated. It was pointed out that if you look at all the capital investments after WW2, the Marshall Plan came late and it was small compared to what Germany did afterwards, under Erhardt, he didn’t follow the advice of liberal economists over here who told him, “Keep on with the wage and price controls and bunch of other things,” he just de-regulated it. He created an environment where a lot of capital came in. And that’s how they got back on their feet again.
I can’t think of anything where some good will come from it [foreign aid.] There’s not a good argument for that. But there’s always some good that appears to come from it. Like, if you do anything here or domestically or overseas, you might say, “Well, look, you might be opposed to it, but we built this hospital, and it’s a wonderful hospital and it works. And we built this house for somebody.” But, so often, what is not asked is what is the expense? How much did it cost? Who lost their job? Who had to pay for this? How much debt was there? How much inflation did it cause? How long did the hospital last? Would the hospital last as long had it been developed privately? So, you can’t look and say that because it looks like it was beneficial in the short run for a small group, it never can justify the use of force to redistribute wealth at the point of a gun.
Whether you go and use a gun to take taxes and benefit Halliburton, it’s the same thing. Even when we do good here in this country, it’s interesting, we did the same thing where we had to help Katrina victims. It was terribly unsuccessful, but Halliburton was doing no bid contracts! So, that’s the kind of thing I object to. But the most important thing is that a lot of this could be taken care of and the fact that the government doesn’t do it, doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen, it’s going to likely happen in a much better manner.
What is your opinion on the government subcontracting crucial public sector functions to private military firms such as Halliburton and Blackwater? We’ve witnessed several public relations debacles and overspending and waste resulting from the government’s over reliance on this outsourcing in Iraq alone. Should both the private actors and the government be blamed? Isn’t this kind of a marriage between the government and corporate actors both going awry?
Oh, yeah. That’s what militarism and all this government activity does. Militarism encourages the military industry complex. Once the government takes over medical care, then you have the medical industrial complex. In finance, you have the banking complex, because the banks are in bed with the Federal Reserve and they control the money and the interest rates. Very often the media, because it’s licensed and controlled by the government, they become the propagandas for war. So, you have too much of this, and if you had a strict constitutional society, you’d have none of it.
Congressman Paul, you voted for the use of military force in Afghanistan. However, Afghanistan now sees the rise of the Taliban, Hamid Karzai [Afghanistan’s President] is effectively useless, there’s a beaten and wounded population, and no infrastructure. Do you regret that initial decision? Was it part of the pro war, patriotic fervor that gripped the nation post 9-11?
Well, no, but if you go back and look at that authority, I’d probably vote for it again, but it does prove the point that even with the best intentions it doesn’t work out well. But precisely it didn’t work out well because the President didn’t do what he was asked to do. He was asked to go after Osama Bin Laden and catch the guys that had something to do with 9-11. That’s what we were targeting, and he didn’t keep his eye on the target. He dropped the ball at Tora Bora, they escaped into Pakistan, and then Bush went into nation building.
First in Iraq, then in Pakistan, and he’s been there ever since. That authority wasn’t to devise a foreign policy that ultimately was tremendously beneficial to Iran: he got rid of Saddam Hussein and he got rid of the Taliban. This was not beneficial for our interests. I would say the failure of that was because he didn’t do what he was supposed to do. The only argument against the vote would be that I don’t trust the President because he won’t use the authority right and he’ll blow it, and I’m not going to give him the authority to do this. But, under the circumstances, I thought we should’ve done something.
What can we do about Iraq? If we cut and run, we will see chaos. Don’t we owe the Iraqi people a moral responsibility to at least establish a modicum of functionality after having decimated them for the past 10 years, including the catastrophic UN sanctions? Or, do you favor staying there for several years? What’s your take on this?
Nah, I’d get out of there. We do have a moral responsibility, but it’s the people who perpetuated the war. So, the Halliburtons of the world and all the private groups that made the money and all the Neocons that made the policy, yeah, if you can hold them accountable, they’re the ones who are morally responsible and they should pay. But the average American citizen didn’t do it, and the money isn’t here, and we just further injure our economy and it causes more unemployment and inflation. So, I would say just quit the bleeding literally and figuratively.
So, I would say, “No, come home.” The people who say it’s going to be chaotic if we leave are the ones who said it would be a cakewalk and the oil would pay for everything. Of course back then oil was $27 a barrel and now it’s $127 a barrel or more. I remember the Sixties they told us we couldn’t leave Vietnam because it would be a domino effect, well, it didn’t happen. Vietnam is now capitalistic and they trade with us and we visit there and invest in there. And China is our backer, so it doesn’t always work out the way these people predict. But the whole argument is ” If we leave now, there will be chaos.” What do we have now? I think both countries are a lot worse off than they are telling us. And I think it’s going to get a lot worse.
What would be your plan to get out if you were elected President?
I’d just come home as soon as the military could get them out. Whether it was 2 or 3 months, as long as they could get them out safely. And I’d announce to the world our policy is changing, the Navy would be backed off from the Iranian shores and that we’d be willing to talk to people. I think the dollar would go up and oil would do down and they’d probably start talking to each other. You know, they’re talking to each other right now. If we weren’t over there, Israel would probably be talking to the modern Arabs, the Arab League would be involved, even with the civil strife in Lebanon, they would talk to each other, and I think they would do it more so if we were out of there. So, I think sooner we leave the better.
You’re a fan of the free market. However, many, such as those in third world countries, lament the use and abuse of free market exploitation by predatory actors who subvert ethnical norms for self-profit at the expense of the country’s labor, environment and resources. How can you, if at all, ensure the free market isn’t ruled by an iron fist of the few and truly allows for efficient and fair distribution of capital? It has never worked that way has it?
Well, it depends. If you have true, free market capitalism and property rights it works. But, if you have people who don’t understand and recognize private property rights and contracts and sound money like we did in this country – that’s why it worked up until it started to change from the Depression on. That’s why we don’t have real wealth anymore; we have apparent wealth based on borrowing. A country that would follow capitalistic viewpoints would become very wealthy. Anything in the West where they had famine at one time, the only thing that got rid of famine and child labor and all the poverty that so many countries suffer from all came about with the recognition that people are allowed to make profits.
But that doesn’t mean you have the right to do anything immoral: you can’t steal, you can’t defraud, and you have to live up to your promises. So, the government has a role in setting the ground rules and yet they do the opposite. The government now violates property rights, they take our currency and debase the currency, and they do so many things that contradict the market place. And that’s why we’re slipping into the same situation as Third World nations have and this is why our middle class is getting poorer. So, we have to wake up or we will be like a Third World nation. The big mistake is blaming capitalism. This is what we did in the Depression. They blamed the capitalism gold standard for the Depression, and it was absolutely wrong. They’re about to do that again. Every time something happens, “Oh there’s not enough regulations!” “Housing bubbles collapses! Oh, we need more regulations!” Enron comes, “More regulations! More inflation! Bail out everybody!” That’s not capitalism.
You mentioned The Depression. A Keynsian model of economics as applied during FDR’s presidency helped usher the New Deal, which increased the scale and scope of the US government. This form of government expansion and regulation created several agencies, which effectively helped pull us out of a Great Depression. Can’t this be an example of proactive government regulation that can help us if motivated towards collective social, economic reform? Can’t a form of Keynsian economics help dig us out of our current predicament?
I don’t agree with that at all. Matter of fact, the pro-activism of the ‘30’s is the reason it lasted 15 years. The Depression didn’t end until after World War 2, and some people say, “Oh, yeah, we got out of the Depression with the War! War is good for the economy!” That’s a bunch of nonsense. It helped unemployment, but everybody was getting killed. If you have 3 or 4 million people in the military and ship them overseas, yeah they’re fully employed, but in 1921 we had the natural correction of the abuse of the Federal Reserve during WW1. The inflation, the correction had to occur. Back then they believed you keep your “hands off”, and the Depression of 1921 lasted one year.Then, they went back to doing the same foolish things again with the booms of the ‘20’s. Then, when the correction came, the stock market collapsed, they immediately said, ” We can’t keep our hands off!” And that’s when Hoover started all these programs, and Roosevelt ran on balanced budgets and he ran on a Conservative platform. But he comes in and he doubles and quadruples everything Hoover was doing, so he prolonged it. Unemployment was back up to 17% again in 1937 to 1938, and they had all kinds of problems later on. So, the pro-activism of the government actually prolonged the Depression, it didn’t shorten it all.
You’re a constitutionalist and defender of individual liberties, and you strongly support state rights. The California courts, last week, said it’s unconstitutional to ban gay marriage; stating gays had a protected right to marry just like heterosexuals. Many right wing Republicans and Conservatives say this is another sign of liberal judicial activism, since the will of the people in California was expressed in 2000 through a vote. What’s your position on this?
I’d let California do what they want. And I didn’t vote for the Constitutional Amendment to ban gay marriage, but the states can do it. This can be solved so easily, all you have to do is legalize contracts, you shouldn’t even be involved in defining marriage. I think marriage should be a religious and personal ceremony and anybody who wants to call themselves married can. And if they don’t want to, that’s all right too. If I don’t like somebody else calling themselves married, so what? It doesn’t bother me any, so I just leave them alone. It’s when people call themselves married and want to impose their will on other people and say, “Because now I am married, you will treat my spouse in a certain way,” and demanding something either from government or from certain insurance company, that is forcing themselves on somebody else. People should be left alone. If they want to be married, fine. If they want to call it marriage, fine. But they don’t have the right to impose it on other people.
But, do you think American society or maybe just even human behavior would allow that ideal to take place? That you marry whomever you want?
Sure. I’m all for that. You know when you cut the licensing – see, I don’t even want the licensing – but if you’re going to have licensing, the states do this, you know, it would’ve been convenient for me to take my Texas medical license and go to Florida whenever I wanted and practice medicine, but I wasn’t allowed to do that. They still recognized the jurisdiction. So, I think anything in which there is licensing, the states still have the prerogatives of doing it. I just think we should have a lot less licensing. Even in the medical profession I think these things should be settled in the marketplace rather than the government.
Based on what’s happening right now with the sensationalist news about the FLDS in Texas, would you also be willing to respect people’s religious beliefs that allow for polygamy or bigamy? Or no?
Yeah, I would tend to lean in that direction or at least recognize that the states have the right to write the laws, but I would be sympathetic. But just think if you’re a member of Congress and you have two wives and children in two homes, and all of a sudden the government comes and says, “A-ha! Two wives! We better gather up these kids, they might be being abused.” Why is it a whole lot different than a person practicing it a little bit more honestly, “Yeah, I have two wives, three wives and a bunch of kids.” But the government has to come in and gather up the children? That’s my personal belief, but I still recognize the state has the right to regulate that. I don’t want any federal laws against drug usages and yet the states are allowed to regulate the use of drugs and alcohol.
Here’s a topic that’s been controversial for you. If indeed you support individual liberties and rights, then why are you so critical of Roe vs. Wade that allows women the right to abort before the third trimester and not be oppressed by undue burdens. Isn’t this the right of the woman to decide? A woman can say, “I’m not forcing you to abort or not abort, but shouldn’t I have a choice and shouldn’t that choice be respected by the government?” Is there some tension between your philosophy of civil liberties and your pro-life, anti Roe v Wade stance?
Well, no, but it’s absolutely consistent with the Constitution. If it is an act of violence, which I believe it is, then an act of violence should be dealt with at the local level. If there’s a manslaughter charge or murder, you don’t have the federal government involved. So, first off you don’t have the government involved. Therefore, the Supreme Court should have never heard the case. So, Roe vs. Wade is an unconstitutional ruling and they shouldn’t have messed with it.
But, if you want to get into the arguments about rights, it isn’t so much a woman’s right to kill, as much as it is about asking does the unborn have the right to life? I’ve come down on the side saying that it’s alive and human and viable, and why shouldn’t they have the right? If you have a baby that is just born and it’s born in a crib and your hallowed home is your castle, nobody says, “Yeah, yeah, it’s her home, so that’s private. Privacy protects the mother, so she can kill the baby, she doesn’t need the baby, so we’ll kill it.” But one minute before birth it’s okay! You know, that’s the way it is today: a doctor can get paid for killing a fetus before birth, but at the same time a girl delivers a baby and throws it away, she gets arrested for murder. The question is about “Is this life that deserves protection?” That is the issue. Not the mother’s privacy, that’s not the relevant question.
You think there’s no difference between a doctor removing the fetus from the womb, or as you said, a woman throwing her baby in the trashcan?
I think you can make a moral case for the fact that if you have a 3 or 4 or 5 pound baby and you look at it on the Ultrasound, and you say it has no value. Well, yeah, I think it’s pretty close to being equivalent.
Congressman Paul, you’ve won a lot of support from many Muslim Americans based on some of your policies, specifically your views on foreign policy and US non-interventionism. Suppose you have the power or means of making peace or bridging a peace with Muslims worldwide. What do you think the United States must do, either through diplomacy, rhetoric, or action to ameliorate some of the tensions? Palestine, for example, is a hot button issue.
Well, the first thing I would do is have a different position on the Middle East. I’m pretty certain the Muslim-Arab world sees us as very biased in our dealing with the Palestinians and Israelis. So, I would treat them both the same. I would not be helping either side, but I’d talk to both sides, I’d trade with both sides, I’d be friendly with both sides. And, of course, the people who are pro-Israel say, “Oh, that would be terrible, you wouldn’t give foreign aid to Israel.” Yeah, I know, but the Arab nations get more money than Israel gets, so it would be very fair. Besides, it would put more pressure on Israel to get along with their neighbors, and it would give more incentives to the Arab League to be interested in talking and understand Syria and Israel, who probably would like to talk to each other.
The worst thing is we’re always telling countries what to do: Israel what to do, and the Arab countries what to do, and putting pressure on them. If they want to talk, we object to it, if they think they have to do certain things which are in their best interest we shouldn’t be that judgmental. And we’re always passing these resolutions that’s condemning one side over the other. I would never support those resolutions, I don’t vote for them here even though I could. Personally, I might have some criticism when some of these violent acts occur, but I think we’re stirring things up when we’re picking one side. So, I think just that tone would be so much different and would help to stabilize things so much better.
I think we get into trouble not only because we do so much propping up of Israel, but we also prop up dictatorships in the Arab world. I don’t think it does us any favor by guaranteeing the absolute security of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Most people can see through that and that condition has existed since WW2. So, it would be an argument for neutrality and friendship and trade with everybody, and I think we’d have a much better chance with getting along with a lot more people and a better chance for people in the world.
Why is the administration moving towards an aggressive rhetoric against Iran and Syria? And would you be open for talks and negotiations with them?
Sure. Sure, we should talk to them. I mean if Kennedy could talk to Khrushchev, and he had 40,000 nuclear missiles, and they were unconditioned talks in order to smooth things over in October, 1962. I mean we could surely talk to a country like Iran that really doesn’t have that much of an army or navy or air force or intercontinental ballistic missiles or nuclear weapons. And, we’re so frightened of ourselves; I think it’s just a sense of insecurity and pressure put on by different special interests around the world to not talk. I think we should talk! If they want to talk, fine. If they don’t, then we should treat them fairly. I wouldn’t put sanctions on them either. Sanctions on all these “threats” is just looking for an opportunity to satisfy people who want to start bombing over there, and I’m scared to death it’s going to happen.
We’ve seen the rise of the Christian right and Neo conservatives, an alliance that steeps itself in Evangelical narrative to advance social causes as well as military hegemony overseas. Some have declared this as a new form of “American Fascism.” How has the Republican Party drifted so “right” of center, hijacking God for sake of political punditry, and can you reform it without alienating that niche constituency – the Neocons and the fundamentalist evangelical Baptists?
Nah, I think they’re going to be offended, because if you point out to them that the Constitution is what they should be defending, then they’re going to be annoyed. I think that they’re a very vocal group. But I consider myself not too far from that group. I have very fundamentalist beliefs. I’m Christian, and I believe in home schooling. I’m pro-life, but I don’t fall into that category of making alliances with Neo conservatives. But, there’s a large segment of the home schooled Christian community that have a different attitude than the more moderate, Christian community, who don’t buy into that. Certainly, the Evangelicals have gotten a lot of attention.
You’ve won over many liberals by critically lambasting the government and Bush for his abusive exercise of his Executive Powers in waging war. We’ve seen wireless taps and intrusive surveillance, the terrorism surveillance act, the Patriot Act, and even torture. We also see Congress supporting The Patriot Act. How do you prove to America you’re keeping her secure without appearing “weak” to those in America who would rather feel safe than be free? What argument can you give them that these abridgments of their 4th Amendment rights are more damaging than the alleged benefits of a more “secure” nation?
I think much of what we do comes from a sense of insecurity when we have to register the American people with national ID cards and pester them at airports – that’s a sense of insecurity. But I don’t think you can achieve that goal, which would be my goal, without changing the foreign policy. And that won’t happen overnight. People all over the world have to be convinced that we aren’t the king maker, and we’re not going to use our CIA to overthrow and implement dictators. I mean how long have we been doing this? In ’53 we started doing it in Iran. So, yeah, we have to convince people that we don’t want to do that, and it’ll take a while to do that, but I think that’s what we should be doing.
Here’s a question, and it’s controversial because some people still need an explanation for this, even though you gave an explanation already. But just listen to the question. There was that Ron Paul political newsletter released 16 years ago which had some very racist language particularly against African Americans suggesting the L.A. riots stopped after “they” picked up their welfare checks. You have repeatedly said you are neither racist nor endorsed or said these comments. You have a quote saying, “Libertarians are incapable of being a racist, because racism is a collectivist idea.” Many would disagree that racism can poison on an individual as well as collective level. If you do believe as you say in your book that we are no longer mired in racism as a society how do we explain the Rev. Wright-Obama debacle and the White voters swooning to Clinton? We can see evidence of that in Kentucky Primaries.
I didn’t say racism doesn’t exist, but if you’re a true libertarian, you see people as individuals and you don’t even know what group they bond to. I think the instrument that causes so much of this is sort of a subtle thing by the media, and it annoys me to no end. Because every time they analyze campaigns or elections, before or immediately after elections, they immediately go out and say, well, they never say, “How did the individuals vote?” they say, “What did the Muslims do? What did the Jews do? What did the women do? How did they vote?” And everyone is put in a category endlessly. So, we’re conditioned to think we’re not important because we’re an individual, but only because we belong to a group and that was the point of mine making that statement. If people are truly racist, they see people in groups, because if you’re a true libertarian, you don’t see that. Now, there might be some libertarians that drift off, but I think they lose their libertarian credentials if they’re able to do that.
Do you think what we’re seeing with White voters going for Clinton, specifically in Kentucky, what do you think that’s about? Specifically the fact that almost 2/3 of them said they wouldn’t for Obama even if he gets the Democratic nomination?
These are White Democrats, mind you. What’s the explanation you think behind that?
Well, I’d be suspicious about what that means. I thought in both camps they were getting blunt. I mean using terms which sounds like they’re thinking only in racial groups, which doesn’t make me very comfortable.
Let’s talk about illegal immigration – it is a reality that cannot be ignored. It seems a security fence and denying those undocumented people without any benefits is draconian. Many, liberals and conservatives, say the 2006 Bush plan was the most moderate and best plan, imperfect sure, that dealt with the illegal immigration problem pragmatically. Many say the resistance to it in Congress was purely race hysteria and panic. Undocumented workers are a backbone of this nation’s hidden labor force – you know in Texas, like I know in California, our state’s respective economies would collapse without them. What’s a practical and enlightened policy taking all that into consideration when it comes to illegal immigration?
Well, I think it should be looked at economically and through personal liberties. Economically, I think if you subsidize something, you’re going to get more of it. So, if you promise people who break the law an easy road to citizenship, they’re going to do it. So, people will get in front of the line by sneaking over the border, because they do get earlier citizenship and amnesty. Also, I think rewarding people with free medical care and free education just further compounds the problem, because that means you just impoverish the people who, in this country, are trying to work, because they end up with inflation and loss of jobs and a weak economy because this contributes to the deficit. Now, if you had a free and prosperous economy, these programs would be very, very generous. People would come and work. They know they’re not coming here for automatic citizenship or bringing their families for free medical care. They’d come and work and I think we would be very generous. I think there would be a great need. I don’t think some Americans would be looking for a scapegoat like they are today.
I think the welfare state is part of the problem, because it encourages some people not to work and that’s another incentive for people to come over. Also, trade policies help destroy the economies in the Third World nations, Mexico and Central America. Because we subsidize some of our crops that could be better raised in Mexico, and we put their farmers out of business. So, trade policy is another economic issue that makes it a bigger burden on the immigrant countries.
The housing market is such a troubling aspect right now with all the foreclosures. You’ve said you’re averse to the government reducing the interest rate in the short term, because it would be a short-term help but perpetuate long-term problems. If not reduction in the interest rates, what could help and what would you do differently to alleviate the suffering of so many Americans who are losing their homes?
Well, keep your hands off. Just like I said by interfering in the early Depression we kept prolonging the Depression. What you want to do is allow those people who made those mistakes – business people and investors – to correct those mistakes. Lot of people bought houses with no down payment, literally given the house for, say, a $100,000. Then, the house goes up to $150,000, and then they borrowed against it, then they got into trouble and they want you to bail them. Well, that wasn’t a very good deal, you know, to deserve to be bailed out, so you want the prices to come down. And that’s what the market is trying to say. Every time you try to bail out the homeowner or mortgage company, you’re trying to keep prices up. I mean if you have a $100,000 house that goes to $150,000, you have to correct it? Well, what happens if it became $150,000? Well, somebody’s going to buy it. And that’s what you want. You want someone to buy it on their legitimate terms, a legitimate loan that they can afford and get it into the hands of stronger people rather than propping up the bad mistakes.
Many people who saw the primary coverage and the debates on CNN, in which you were included, ask, “Why is American media so god awful and stupid sometimes?” You see the Primaries and the debates on CNN and sometimes you want to cry. Why, do you think, is there such an aversion in asking the hard questions and calling out the politicians, such as the Senators, all who voted for the Iraq War? How come many people don’t see real dialogue, and where can you find such a space to engage the politicians in such a dialogue over real matters? Is the Internet the last place?
Yeah, I think the Internet is the saving grace right now. One time during the debates – we had a break – and I asked the moderator, “How come you didn’t go to me? I was trying to get you to call me. I would’ve answered that question.” Then he pointed to his earpiece and he said, “I get my orders from my ear piece.” So, somebody has these things orchestrated as far as who gets the time and what the questions are going to be, and it’s all well planned out. It’s probably not an accident on how these things come about. And I do think the major media is too much in tune with the military industrial complex as well as the government.
What’s the future of your “Revolution?” Where do you think it’s going to go?
Well, it seems there’s a lot of momentum and a lot of interest and the book is doing well. And I’m going to continue to try my best to keep the momentum going to help people stay energized, give them information, promote education, give people a chance to get involved in politics, run for Office, and all those things that will change the country. So, we have a lot to do here. And, soon, because the total Primary will be ending pretty soon.
(Photo: Jayel Aheram via flickr under a Creative Commons license)
Wajahat Ali is a Pakistani Muslim American who is neither a terrorist nor a saint. He is associate editor of altmuslim.com, a playwright, essayist, humorist, and attorney at law, whose work, “The Domestic Crusaders,” (www.domesticcrusaders.com) is the first major play about Muslim Americans living in a post 9-11 America. His blog is at http://goatmilk.wordpress.com/. He can be reached at email@example.com.