Worse Than Useless
by Rep. Ron Paul, MD
by Rep. Ron Paul, MD
Not all Americans know their taxes fund both the Democratic and Republican presidential conventions. In fact, the political parties receive nearly $15 million apiece from the Federal Election Committee to hold their conventions. Checking the little box on your 1040 form to give one dollar to the parties changes nothing, as the convention money comes from general revenues whether you check the box or not.
Massachusetts and New York taxpayers face an even bigger burden, as security costs and police overtime pay likely will run another $25 million in state and local taxes for each convention.
Why should taxpayers be expected to pay for private political conventions? There is nothing sacred or noble about political parties, nor do they serve any altruistic purpose. Political parties per se have no basis in the Constitution, yet they hold tremendous power over our lives. Today's modern two-party political process has narrowed voter choices and emasculated political courage. The parties enjoy a virtual stranglehold on national politics, thanks to outrageously restrictive ballot access laws and campaign finance rules that reward status-quo incumbency. They also receive millions in federal matching funds.
Potential candidates find they cannot wage effective campaigns without major party fundraising help, but such help comes with strings attached. Once a candidate receives money, he is expected to closely parrot party positions on issues. Once elected, he is expected to put the party ahead of principle when it comes to voting and procedural matters. The result is bland candidates who offer nothing but the same old tired statist ideas.
Modern political conventions are nothing more than taxpayer-funded infomercials for the major parties. It's been nearly 30 years since a real nominating process took place at a presidential convention, and the party platforms themselves are not debated at all. Since the only purpose of these events is to cast the host party and its nominee in the most favorable light, surely the two campaigns — which have raised tens of millions of dollars already — should foot the bills.
Perhaps the worst thing about party conventions is the rhetoric. Conventions lend themselves to pandering, as few politicians can resist the temptation to tell a national television audience how well they will run the country if elected. The problem is that government is not supposed to run the country — we're supposed to be free. Conventions bring out the worst passions in voters, passions based on the fatal conceit that government is the solution to all of our problems.
For those who believe in limited constitutional government, last week's convention speeches were almost unbearable. One speaker after another extolled their benevolent plans for America, always in the form of new programs and new spending. Of course no convention would be complete without assurances that even more money will be spent on the failed federal education bureaucracy. The speakers also promised free health care for all, without the slightest explanation of how health care became a right. All of these promises were made, of course, without any mention of exactly what constitutional or moral authority authorizes such grand schemes.
Americans don't need new federal programs, and they certainly don't need more federal control over their schools. They don't need a disastrous government-run medical system. What Americans do need is a federal government that provides national defense, secures our borders, and does very little else. Needless to say you won't hear the parties suggesting such a platform anytime soon.
August 3, 2004
Dr. Ron Paul is a Republican member of Congress from Texas.