Ron Paul: Even Libertarians Love Pork

(If it is on their plate of course)

From Dallas News (emphasis mine):

U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Lake Jackson, is known for principled libertarian stands against government spending. But it turns out Dr. Paul’s principles don’t apply equally to procuring pork for his Southeast Texas district. According to letters released by his office, Dr. Paul, who’s running for president, has requested millions for the Army Corps of Engineers to do maintenance on the Texas City Channel, as well as money for a bridge in Galveston. Fair enough – even a small government has to take care of infrastructure. But why has Dr. Paul requested $8 million for shrimp marketing? Physician, heal thyself.

I guess getting the government involved in the market is still cool for now with Ron Paul. Shrimp bacon, anyone?

UPDATE:  Thanks to Alexia and Nathan in the comments.  Apparently Dallas News neglected to mention that Ron Paul was against the pork before he was for it.  (Houston Chronicle):

But in the end, Paul said, he would likely vote against the spending bills even if they included earmarks he sought.

So in what sense is he really seeking this earmarks?  Ron also offers up another defense:

“I don’t think they should take our money in the first place,” he said. “But if they take it, I think we should ask for it back.”

In isolation, that sounds mostly fine.  But by “we should ask for it back”, does he mean local government or taxpayers?   And does spending become pork only at the federal level?

Yet it is his impending no vote that raises the most interesting question.  If a representative modifies a bill to satisfy some section of his constituency with the intent of then voting against that bill, is he really representing his constituents?  Why bother putting the earmark in there in the first place?

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24 Responses

  1. Are you incapable of researching anything?

    He’s addressed this several times over. He has a duty to represent the interests of the people that voted for him, even though eh’s working in a gamed corrupt system.

    He does exactly that by putting earmarks in the very bills that he eventually votes against. OOPS! They forgot to include that part, didn’t they?

    And did you see how much the Shrimp lobby gave to him?

    (hint – it’s $0. Although he did get $500 or something from an ice cream shoppe.)

  2. This has been addressed in various places around the net. The gist is that there’s nothing ideologically wrong with voting for return of tax moneys your constituents pay out. Let’s be clear, as well: this is $8M we are talking about – the US borrows $3B PER DAY to pay for various wars around the world and at home.

  3. And in any event, he invariably votes no on the spending bill when it is finalized, for obvious reasons.

  4. Obviously another weak attempt to attack him, regardless of the fact that he votes against these things. It isn’t that attacks like these are weakly researched, it’s that they’re grasping at straws. He’s stated that he forwards the requests that his constituents send him. He doesn’t make them himself and he doesn’t vote for the final bills. It isn’t like Byrd, who makes narcissistic project requests constantly and openly defends the practice as if it were something good.

  5. 1. Alexia,
    I can see the honor in putting constituents before self.
    But did people really clamor for 8 million in shrimp advertising?

    If he eventually votes against the bills he puts those earmarks in,
    then he isn’t really representing the people who voted for him, is he?
    Can’t have it both ways.

    Did he vote against the Shrimp Bill?

    Congrats on not taking any shrimp lobby money though.

    2. bret,
    Two points:
    Voting for the return of tax money is one thing. Investing it all in advertising is collective spending (aka government spending). Hello idealogical inconsistency.

    The amount doesn’t change the act itself.

    3. Bret,
    If he finally votes no, that is one thing. But why play games with Shrimp advertising if he knows he will vote against the final bill?

  6. Nathan,
    First, from your and Alexia’s comment, I must admit, this was indeed poorly researched on my part. I’ll put in an update to that effect.

    But it is really weird that anyone would equate putting something in a bill, then voting against it, as supporting one’s constituents. In what sense?

  7. In the sense that he’s giving his constituents a shot at getting some of their tax dollars back. What is so hard to understand here? There are 434 other representatives who vote on these spending bills. Paul’s is a guaranteed “no” vote, but why should his constituents not get to play the game with the rest of Congress? Paul also has noted that it’s more fair for representatives to see that their constituents have a shot at federal $$ rather than letting unelected bureaucrats divvy up all the loot.

  8. “Nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation”.
    So even if Paul disagrees with the constitutionality of the IRS he still has the obligation under the constitution to assure that some of the tax dollars from his district flow back into his district.

  9. 7. Mark,
    If he is a guaranteed “no” vote, then he isn’t giving his constituents anything back, is he? He’s just paying lip service to the idea. Besides, how do shrimp subsidies count as “giving back”? He’s giving the benefit back to some of his constituents through local government. Fine, but that’s not giving back to the constituents, its giving back to government. Which can be good, but why is funding for state government “giving back”, when federal level spending is not (and some state spending is not?)

    Representatives have voted to give “their constituents a shot at federal $$” in the past. Take the Alaska bridge to nowhere. How is this not pork?

    8. Nate,
    Interpreting language clearly intended for eminent domain to refer to tax policy is interesting. My question is this:
    He is voting against the spending bill,
    but making motions to appear to support spending on a particular interest group (shrimp!).

    So why is he perceived as ensuring tax dollars flow back into his district if he is going to vote no?

  10. Ron Paul In Person
    Silicone Valley Ron Paul Rally

    Saturday, July 14th starting at 10:00 am SHARP
    1665 Charleston Road, Mountain View, CA 94043
    Charleston Park, next to the Google Campus.

    Here’s the link to all the details:
    RonPaulRally(dot)com
    RonPaulRally(dot)com

    SPREAD THE WORD!

    Everyone… Please HELP US get the word out.
    Please post this on all the blogs, web sites, newspapers, etc.
    Invite your friends and family.
    Send announcements to all web sites.

  11. “I don’t think they should take our money in the first place,” he (Paul) said. “But if they take it, I think we should ask for it back.”

  12. 11. Alexia,
    Yes, but he isn’t asking for it back. He’s voting against the bill that would ask for it back.

  13. […] 2nd, 2007 I just approved this comment on a recent post, and got to thinking about some of the responses I’ve seen from […]

  14. re: 12 –

    Yes, because of everything else that goes along with it. I think this one is a stretch. Even if he were guilty of supporting funds coming back to his constituents, should we not praise him for, ya know, doing his job? Representing his district? Nobody else makes any sort of (credible) claim that they are somehow against pork for their own district. I think this is a non issue, honestly.

  15. I think you are missing the point about 1 big thing. The fact that the rest of congress still passes the bill, even though he voted no on it.

    So basically, he is saying – I’m voting against this bill, but if you are going to do it, then the people I represent are going to get their share.

    Furthermore, the money “allocated” stays the same regardless of if he earmarks it or not. The rest of congress will just take it. Hillary has a huge # of earmarks. So he isn’t costing people more money, he is only returning a portion back to his area.

    The fact that it went to a shrimp company instead of the people it was taken from is exactly the problem, and is the NORM of what they do in congress. And that is what Ron Paul really stands for changing when he votes against all these bills and for not raising taxes.

    Thanks for the open comments to allow people to speak up.

  16. @fitnessfortheoccasion
    What a lame argument. The man has the most legendary anti-tax record in recent history. You truly are doing some mental gymnastics not to see what post #7 was saying. It is simple. He is against the bill, but since he knows it will pass (because of big government liberals/conservatives), he is adding in the spending requests from his district. How you can even try to confuse the issue and say he changed his mind somehow is beyond me. He never changed his view on this, it was always a “No” vote and it always will be, this is Dr. No we are talking about here for crying out loud.

    Ron Paul — Restoring the Republic in ‘08

  17. 14. bret,
    Actually, it is a great issue. Why don’t we see principled politicians standing against something when it is their own district that benefits?

    15. badmedia,
    That is a very good point. I just disagree that the shrimp counts as the people he represents. Its like lobbyist politics without the lobbyists!

    It is definitely the NORM, but I’d expect him to do a bit more against that norm. Why not setup a small corporation that reinvests into a host of local businesses? That would make more sense than sending the money to a shrimp business.

    Sure thing, thanks for speaking up!

    16. Bundynomics,
    Hardly. Although I think badmedia’s point was indeed one I was missing. I do think it is odd to say you are against pork, but still send it to your own district. I also think symbolic votes are odd. Like the Democrats who campaigned for the war bill, but voted against it because it didn’t go far enough. If they really opposed it, why not campaign against it? If they were for it, why not vote for it?

    He may be a legendary anti-tax man, but even legends cross their own paths from time to time. A legend is, after all, a narrative. That in itself is not a reason to ignore what is happening.

    On the whole though, I can see a very good point for how Ron Pauls actions in this case were consistent. I’m still bothered by the shrimp though, and by his explanation. He knows it isn’t “us” who are getting our taxes back, yet that is how he explains it. It seems more like an excuse than anything else, or perhaps, a belief that injecting some of that federal money into his district (anywhere at all) is of benefit, and better than seeing it go anywhere else. But that is highly speculative.

  18. He votes against more spending than anyone, so it’s pretty laughable that the Dallas Morning News tries to portray him as a typical politician. McCain doesn’t do earmarks, but he also votes for massive spending bills that increase the size of government by large percentages. Which is the hypocrite?

    I’ve also read that Paul only adds in earmarks when that same amount of money is taken away from other reps’ districts (and would be sent to someone’s district whether he requested money or not), so that he doesn’t add any overall money to the bill.

  19. so, when the congress introduces a bill to tax the hell out of the nation, and every congressman tries to bring some of the tax money back to his district, and when ron paul attempts to give back his district it’s tax dollars, and votes against the whole bill, he is a hypocrite? Right. He has said himself on television that he opposes federal funding consistantly, but makes sure his tax payers get their money back if it happens. This is exactly what i would do in his position, regardless of the impact on my popularity! For god’s sake, to not give the money back to my district would be to allow the rest of the nation to steal it from my district!

  20. Jean,
    I’d argue both potentially. In any case, this particular piece by the Dallas Morning News does appear to be misguided (save for that oddness in Ron Paul’s explanation).

  21. I happen to like shrimp. Get me Conrad Brean!

  22. Your analysis leaves much to be desired. By altering the undesirable bill, Dr. Paul is simply attempting to make the most of things in case his efforts to kill the bill are ineffectual.

    If a deer jumps out in front of my car at night, my first thought is (obviously) to attempt to miss the deer altogether. However, if a collision appears inevitable, my next objective is to hit the deer in such a way as to do the least amount of harm to my vehicle and passengers.

    Ron Paul is doing the exact same thing with the earmarks. He attempts to avoid or oppose government spending, but just in case it passes, he earmarks funds such that it will do the least amount of harm and the most amount of good.

  23. Adam,
    I wonder if earmarks for a local company count as “making the best of things”. Ron Paul doesn’t strike me as the corporate welfare type, more the “refund our taxes” type.

    However I’d also point you to comment #20 in this thread.

  24. […] to honor the term limit he imposed on himself… This candidate is bad news. Yet here they go. And He loves him some pork. Truthfully I did not care about Ron Paul until the avalanche of his supporters convinced me he was […]

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