Has hell frozen over? Is it a late April Fools’ joke? No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you, that really IS progressive firebrand economist Dean Baker endorsing and throwing his intellectual heft behind one of Ron Paul”s ideas.
Like a lot of people on the left side of the political spectrum in this country, I consider Ron Paul something of a loose cannon. It’s not that he’s an inconsistent flip-flopper like Mitt Romney is. Far from it: in fact, Paul is one of the most stubbornly consistent ideologues in Congress. His continued re-election and perennial popularity as a Presidential candidate among a small but very devoted supporter base are both tributes of sorts to the kind of inflexibility of ideology Paul models daily. When Ron Paul believes a thing, he really believes it, and political considerations (what might be popular or prudent to say in front of cameras) do not deter him from saying exactly what he thinks, loudly and often, to anyone who’ll listen.
Unfortunately, my use of the “loose cannon” label for Ron Paul comes from the fact that much of what he thinks and says is simply loony, or otherwise unpalatable. I won’t catalogue the ways in which Paul is firmly in the category of “someone I’d probably never find myself voting for”; let’s just suffice it to say that many of the ideas he presents with such zeal and persistence are not things I agree with and often, things I think the facts show aren’t even true (the idea that a return to the gold standard would be a good thing, for starters).
However, if there’s one thing Ron Paul is NOT, it’s a run-of-the-mill Republican. The average specimen of today’s GOP is, in my opinion, much more dangerous than a guy like Paul, because today’s GOP seems to believe in literally nothing except a continuation of their own power. To the extent they have any consistent beliefs at all, those beliefs are often contradicted by facts already in evidence (such as on climate change and a host of other issues), and when it comes to such things, the modern GOP’s answer to them is to try to change the law, or the textbooks, or the history books in order to reflect a worldview that’s more friendly to the frankly delusional GOP worldview. Ron Paul’s too intellectually honest (or perhaps rigorous) to allow himself to fall into that trap just to be a loyal GOP soldier. As such, he is a perennial thorn in the side of the GOP establishment: a popular, well-known figure in their own party (at least nominally) who is always willing to call bullshit as necessary on the party’s nuttier ideas.
For myself, I often refer to Ron Paul with the old adage of a broken clock – it’s right twice a day. I don’t often find myself agreeing with him, but when he’s right, he’s right. I don’t know Dean Baker, but I imagine he probably feels much the same way with regard to Paul’s ideas. However, this happens to be one of those times. Ron Paul has put forth what has to be considered the most original idea for dealing with the upcoming debt-ceiling crisis that his party is currently trying to milk for all it’s worth (and risking some very serious negative outcomes in the process). Briefly, it’s that the federal reserve “burn” (essentially, forgive) several hundred billion dollars it’s collected over the years in debt to itself. I won’t explain it further, because the point of this post is that Dean Baker himself has done so. If you haven’t yet, take a minute to read it and pass it along to your friends and people in the political world. This idea of Ron Paul’s won’t solve the debt-limit crisis, nor will it make the deficit go away. But it’s something that can be done immediately and with not a huge amount of repercussions that would give significant breathing (and maneuvering) room on the debt ceiling to the fed, instantly. Let Dean Baker explain why it’s an idea worth considering.