Ron Paul Loves Earmarks

CQ’s David Nather reports that libertarian Ron Paul, who has earned the nickname “Dr. No” for voting against any program “not specifically authorized by the Constitution,” has sponsored “no fewer than 10 earmarks in the water resources bill” that would benefit his district.

It turns out, though, that for all his scourging of government excess, Paul never has been much of a crusader against earmarks. As he put it in a floor speech last year, “earmarks . . . are a symptom of the problem, not the cause. The real problem is that the United States government is too big, spends too much, and has too much power.”

Still, why play along by earmarking federal spending? Because a crackdown on earmarks, he says, would only grant the executive branch more control over where the money goes. The total amount of spending wouldn’t change. “There’s nothing wrong with designating where the money goes,” Paul says — so long as the earmark is “up front and everyone knows about it,” rather than having it slipped in at the last minute with no scrutiny.

In an ideal world, Paul says, there wouldn’t be a federal income tax. But since there is, he says, he feels a responsibility to help his constituents recover some of the tax dollars the government has taken from them. “I don’t want them to take it,” he says, “but if they do take it, I’d just as soon help my constituents get it back.”

That’s a pretty reasonable argument. I think the Designated Hitter is an abomination but were I (for some incredibly bizarre reason) suddenly named manager of an American League team, I’d nonetheless use it. One plays the game by the rules as they exist even while working to change the rules. To do otherwise is to shortchange your team or, in this case, constituents.

FILED UNDER: 2008 Election, Congress, US Constitution, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Tlaloc says:

    I think we should just get rid of our government and creat a triumverate of Kucinich, Nader, and Paul.

    The US would be an earthly paradise within five years, and everybody would have not just ponies but flying ponies genetically mdofied to grow their own biodegradable seat belts.

    I’d like to be the first to welcome our new overlords and remind them that as somebody nobody has ever heard of I’d be capable of narcing out the flying-seatbelted-pony-haters, as we call the “loyal” opposition.

  2. Christopher says:

    LOL! Good one, Tlaloc.

    Yes, Ron Paul is the far, far extreme for sure. People that support him I don’t think always realize how radical he is. For heaven’s sakes he wants to go back to the gold standard! And as a doctor, I’m sure he would do OK bartering but the rest of us would live in caves.

    This is a good example of the fact that most democrats are not that far left of center as say a Hillary is, and most repubs are not that far right of center as say Ron Paul is. We all just want to tweak things our way a bit. And our economy and country is so big and vast that a little tweaking has wide ranging implications.

  3. James Joyner says:

    Just for the record: I’m not endorsing Paul or even flirting seriously with doing so. I just thought the CQ piece was interesting and that his defense was reasonable.

  4. Tlaloc says:

    I view these guys (Nader, Kucinich, Paul) like I viewed Ross Perot: if they won things would be different. Maybe a lot better, maybe a lot worse, but surely not just the same.

    Sometimes that’s damn appealing.

  5. dude says:

    Fiscal responsibility, reasonable foreign policy based on true free trade, maximum freedom……..principals and honesty….working to make sure the goverment isn’t wasting all the money we hand over to them every year.

    sounds pretty wacko to me.

    returning to the gold standard – or some other standard that links the value of money to something that’s an actual store of value – wouldn’t happen overnight, but a movement in that direction would start to undo the years and years of monetary inflation resulting from the goverments self designated power to print money – part of that inflation resulting from a goverment that can’t cover it’s spending through direct taxes alone. If you value your money being worth something, you ought to check into it a little and at least understand why someone would propose returning to the gold standard.

  6. Christopher says:


    He proposes returning to the gold standard because he is a KOOK!

    You think the government indiscriminately prints money? WRONG

    You think that the value of our money needs to be linked to something with a store of value?

    Go live in a cave and wait for the economy to fail. The rest of us will live in big houses, drive fast cars, golf our way across the country, and drink beer.

    Have fun!

  7. Fluffy says:

    I also think we need to point out that Paul is opposed to spending he thinks is unconstitutional, and not all federal spending per se.

    Federal control of the waterways is not disputed by any strict constructionist I know of.

    Trying to play “gotcha” with waterway and harbor earmarks would be like finding a time he voted for spending on the post office and playing “gotcha” with that – even though it says right in the Constitution that the Congress can appropriate monies for post offices.

  8. dude says:

    Chrisotpher – Not only the full faith of the American people, but you’d better have the full faith of the Asian Pacific people, who’s governments own roughly 40% of our treasury securities…

    They start “diversifying” because the lose some of that faith and watch the value tumble. Ever wonder why the Fed quit reporting M3?

    I’m far from a doomsayer, but I do believe in a sound monetary policy. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy my big house, fast truck and golf along with you.