So Much for Social Conservatism in Congress
Just six short months ago the Republican party won a stunning victory in the 2002 election, increasing its majority in the House of Representatives and retaking the Senate. With Republicans controlling both Congress and the White House for the first time in fifty years, many assumed legislators would push a socially and fiscally conservative agenda.
Yet nothing could be further from the truth, as an embarrassing vote last week clearly demonstrated. The supposedly conservative Congress overwhelmingly passed a foreign aid bill that could have come straight from the desk of the most liberal Democrat. The legislation sends $15 billion of your tax dollars to Africa, ostensibly to fight AIDS by distributing condoms, providing sex education, and funding abortion providers. Needless to say the bill gives money to some very questionable organizations and programs, and will undoubtedly pad the bank accounts of some of the worst governments in the world.
House leadership, often characterized in the mainstream press as far-right wing, actively promoted and praised the bill. A Republican press release after the vote gushed that “This bill is a moral crusade… to save a continent from the Great Plague of our age.” So much for the socially conservative agenda of the GOP!
Opposition to the bill was minimal, although 40 Republicans did cast principled votes against it. Other conservatives who were slightly uncomfortable with the vote satisfied themselves by passing an amendment that requires some of the $15 billion to be spent on abstinence programs. Yet does anyone honestly think we can control how our dollars are spent once they reach Africa? Obviously money is fungible anyway, so “earmarking” funds for pet conservative programs does nothing. Furthermore, Republican leaders completely ignored efforts in committee to forbid funding for abortion in the bill.
As a physician I am of course concerned about terrible diseases like AIDS, and have great sympathy for those who suffer from AIDS both here in America and around the world. But the question is not whether each and every one of us wants to eradicate AIDS. The question is whether yet another government program, especially one that sends money overseas, is a constitutionally proper or effective way to combat the problem. We certainly should have learned by now that good intentions alone can never justify a wasteful and ineffectual government program.
The United States has sent billions and billions of dollars overseas for decades to do fine-sounding things like “building democracy,” “fighting drugs,” and “ending poverty.” Yet decades later we are told that in every category these problems have actually gotten worse. Most of the money has disappeared into the bank accounts of dictators, or into salaries for well-paid consultants who administer our foreign aid; very little has changed in the impoverished nations themselves. Yet we refuse to learn from these mistakes, and now Congress has made another multi-billion dollar mistake with the AIDS bill.
As Thomas Jefferson famously said, “To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.” Last week's vote underscores the need to end the sinful and tyrannical practice of forcing Americans to pay for programs or organizations they believe to be immoral, such as those that distribute condoms and perform abortions.
Sadly, this $15 billion expenditure comes even as Congress is cutting funding for veterans by roughly the same amount. The Treasury is running record deficits, the Pentagon is engaged in enormously expensive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and veterans' programs are badly underfunded — yet still Congress is sending billions overseas for yet another dubious and unconstitutional program. This should anger every American who still believes in the true conservative tenets of limited government, fiscal restraint, and private charity instead of social welfare programs.
May 6, 2003
Dr. Ron Paul is a Republican member of Congress from Texas.