call Congressman Ron Paul “Dr. No,” because he is a physician who
votes “no” on most spending bills. “Dr. No” is still remembered
fondly as the first James Bond movie (1962). If you search Google
for “Dr. No,” you get three articles on the movie. The fourth is
Washington Post article on Dr. Paul, published a year
before he launched his presidential bid.
I was the
original Dr. No. (The abbreviation for “north” is “No.”)
In June, 1976,
I was hired as the research assistant for the newly elected Congressman
Paul of Texas. He had been in office for about two months, the member
of Congress with the least seniority. He had been elected in a mid-term
election after the district’s congressman resigned to take a bureaucratic
On my first
day on the job, a Friday, I was given a unique assignment. The House
Banking Committee had been debating the re-financing of the International
Monetary Fund (IMF). The committee was about to publish its final
report. Naturally, the committee was strongly in favor of putting
more taxpayers’ money into the relic of the Bretton Woods monetary
conference of 1944. Congressman Paul was the only member of the
committee who was opposed to the bill.
would publish its report the following week. He was told that he
had until Tuesday to prepare a minority report. He was tipped off
by a committee staffer that the Tuesday deadline was a fake. The
deadline was really Monday. The committee wanted no minority report,
and so the chairman told Dr. Paul that the deadline was Tuesday.
It was my
task to write the minority report on Saturday, so that he could
hand it in on Monday. Dutifully, I came into the office on Saturday
and wrote the report. As I recall, it was about 10 pages, double-spaced.
I can still
remember my main points. First, the official advent of floating
exchange rates in late 1973 had made the IMF superfluous. It no
longer had to issue SDRs (special drawing rights — “paper gold”)
to nations that were caught in a temporary foreign exchange crisis:
outflow of foreign currency reserves at the legally fixed exchange
rate. Rates were no longer fixed by an international agreement.
The free market would continue to settle the matter of the value
of every currency, as it had ever since August 15, 1971, when Nixon
closed the gold window and floated the dollar “temporarily.” Second,
it is not a legitimate function of civil government to lend funds
to central banks.
As Dr. Paul
had been warned, the deadline was Monday. He met the deadline. The
full report, with his minority report, was published that week.
This minority report so completely amazed the bipartisan Establishment
that Dr. Paul was invited to testify to the Senate Banking Committee
on his reasons for opposing the funding. I had never heard of this
before: a freshman Congressman invited to share his views with a
Senate committee. I have not heard of it since.
The Ford Administration
was outraged at his report. The plan was being hawked by Treasury
Secretary William Simon as being vital to the nation’s interests.
He was an Insider, a true “team player” for the Establishment. I
recall attending a session where Simon came before House Republicans
to promote the IMF bill. I have not forgotten his response to one
critic: “I do not share your theology of gold.” He became famous
— after he had left office — as a conservative. He signed
his name to a book — a very good book — ghost written
by the magnificent Edith Efron, A
Time for Truth. He followed this with an even more blatantly
titled book, A
Time for Action. The time for truth and action is when you’re
in office, not after. He went on to make tens of millions of dollars
as a merchant banker with connections.
no use for “the theology of gold,” as he called it. This is an outlook
which rests on a confession of faith: “Relying on full gold coin
convertibility is safer than relying on central banks.” This is
not a theology of gold. It is far more comprehensive than a mere
theology of gold. It is a theology that denies the central premise
of all statism: salvation by law — specifically, civil law.
Ron Paul understands
this theology and votes in terms of it. William Simon denied it,
and was rewarded handsomely for his services.
It was my
job to publish a weekly newsletter. Newsletters are major re-election
tools for Congress. They are sent out postage-free: the franking
privilege. You will see “not printed at government expense” on them.
It’s true, but printing costs are minimal compared to postage costs.
I wrote two
newsletters, one every other week. As with all journalists, I wrote
it on Friday, to be mailed out over the weekend. Nobody writes a
day in advance.
I knew what
Dr. Paul wanted, and he trusted my judgment. He did not edit what
I had written.
I had one
column, published every other week, called “Where Your Money Goes,
and Goes, and Goes….” It was a version of Senator Proxmire’s “Golden
Fleece Award.” Those awards got a lot of free publicity in the media.
I found that
the best source of incomparable boondoggles was the National
Science Foundation. It still is. So, I had the NSF send over
its daily list of the latest funding projects. Each list always
had two or three gems.
that after the letter went out, our office would receive letters.
Time after time, the letters said this:
I usually agree with your views, I think the decision of the NSF
to fund [specific boondoggle] was a good one. The nation needs more
information about [boondoggle].
By the way,
I work for [Boondoggle].
Joe Blow, Ph.D.
That was my first
introduction to the reality of boondoggles. No matter how favorable
to limited-government ideas, those on the payrolls of beneficiaries
of government funds are not in favor of rolling back government in
their niche. They want even more money from the government.
Here is a
fundamental insight of free market economics:
grows because those few pressure groups that benefit from any government-funded
program are highly focused on the maintenance of this funding, while
the general public, being unfocused, pays no attention to any given
expenditure. There is specific pressure to spend more but little
pressure to cut back.
This has not changed
since 1976, except for the worst. The number of boondoggles keeps
rising, as does the size of the funding.
It was the
policy of Federal agencies to send out press releases regarding
any infusion of Federal money into a Congressman’s district. This
was free PR for the Congressman. So, it bought a lot of votes for
the agencies. Dr. Paul had a policy of sending out a press release
telling the media that he had voted against the program, and why.
Over time, some of the agencies ceased sending out these press releases
into his district.
clear in the summer of 1976 that Dr. Paul was willing to vote “no”
all by himself. There were several votes in which his vote was the
only “no” vote.
a few other Republicans who would join him from time to time. On
military boondoggles, most notoriously the B-1 bomber, he was joined
by a few liberal Democrats.
It was common
for Congressman to decide how to vote by looking at the early votes
on the screen. If John Ashbrook voted “no,” and if Texan Jim Collins
joined him, most Congressmen knew they could safely vote “yes,”
and vice versa. If Paul also voted “no,” they could be sure a “yes”
was called for. Only if Ashbrook and Paul were divided would the
Congressman have to check to see which way his staff had told him
learned over time that Paul would vote against any bill for which
there was no Constitutional authorization. The common view of his
peers was this: “Let the Supreme Court decide whether a law in Constitutional.”
There was a widespread delegation of Constitutional responsibility
on the part of Congress. A vote of 5 to 4 by the Court was assumed
to be the standard, not 218 to 217 in the House, 51 to 50 in the
Senate, plus the signature of a President.
On the whole,
Dr. Paul has been well respected by his peers. He is not a political
threat to them. He is not going to get enough votes to upset the
75-year-old system of tax and tax, borrow and borrow, spend and
spend. He votes his conscience. He is predictable. He doesn’t care
if he isn’t re-elected. These days, he is always re-elected.
That was not
true in November, 1976. Out of over 180,000 votes cast, he lost
by 268. He knew that voters had come over from Barbara Jordan’s
district to vote in his. His protests were of no avail. He left
Washington in 1977. So did I. He returned in 1979. I did not.
My brief stay
on Capitol Hill confirmed my beliefs held prior to my arrival. These
included the following:
Most voters want government-funded freebies.
2. Voters expect other voters to pay.
3. The long run is the next election.
4. Government expands unless its budget is cut.
5. Voters do not want to cut budgets.
6. The bureaucracy is close to autonomous.
7. Elected representatives are soon co-opted by the bureaucracies.
8. Money, sex, and power do corrupt.
9. Good-looking single women like to work on Capitol Hill.
is my conclusion: “The system will not change until Washington’s
checks no longer buy much of value.” Given the fact that the Bank
of England has survived since 1694, I am not optimistic about positive
change inside the Beltway.