The Paul plan: Lots of zeros, little explanation

posted at 9:15 am on October 20, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

After Herman Cain began making a big splash with his 9-9-9 plan, boldness seemed to be the recipe for this cycle’s presidential election.  Ron Paul delivered his own bold plan this week to reform the federal budget and “Restore America,” as Paul titled his new plan.  In my column for The Fiscal Times, I take a look at Paul’s blueprint and find some provocative and intriguing concepts — but very little explanation, and even less common sense.

Paul proposes to immediately zero out funding for five Cabinet-level agencies: Energy, Education, HUD, Interior, and Commerce.  Conservatives have long wanted to eliminate the Department of Education, and as I note in my column, that should be fairly easy to do, as state and local resources already exist for education.  The Department of Energy won’t be missed except by pork-barrel recipients, and even HUD’s responsibilities could probably move to the states, although with some transitional issues.  But that’s not true of Interior and Commerce:

The Department of Interior manages vast amounts of public land, and whether one believes that the federal government should own as much acreage as it does, the need for proper stewardship at least in the short term can’t be ignored.  Even if we put every federal acre up for sale (Paul’s plan includes $40 billion in revenue from land sales over four years), we’d need to fund the management of the land until the sale could be made. Paul’s proposal would leave no funds at all for these tasks, nor does he transfer the responsibility for land management to any other agency.

The promise to eliminate the Department of Commerce is even more mystifying. For one thing, the Constitution explicitly gives the federal government jurisdiction over interstate commerce, as well as requiring a decennial census to reapportion representation in the House – a task assigned to Commerce. The department also produces data from and analysis of the national economy; analyzes weather and potential storm systems; and manages patents and trademarks – another explicit federal function in the Constitution.  Not only does Paul not explain what happens to these subsidiary responsibilities, he doesn’t explain why he thinks the Department of Commerce is illegitimate in the first place.

In fact, there is almost no explanation for this plan whatsoever.  Mitt Romney’s plan came with 160 pages of analysis and argument; it’s not exactly a gripping page-turner, but it does explain Romney’s reasoning and how he plans to implement his 59-point proposal.  There is exactly one page of text in Paul’s plan, followed by several pages of spreadsheet tables — with their own curiosities.  Among other examples in my column, Paul’s text never mentions that he plans to privatize the FAA:

He also redlines the Federal Aviation Administration with a note in his budget that says only, “FAA Privatized.”  That would save nearly $10 billion a year but would instantly create massive chaos in air travel.

How exactly would Paul propose privatizing the air-traffic control system and managing the thousands of commercial flights in the air at any one time? What kind of transition would it take for airlines to create their own systems, and how much would it end up costing travelers as the carriers duplicate efforts and create communication barriers in traffic handling? Paul’s plan not only doesn’t explain that process or his end goals, but the thin amount of explanatory text never addresses the FAA conversion at all, nor does it explain Paul’s plan to defund TSA and require carriers to provide their own security.

Paul doesn’t even bother to supply transitional funding for these agencies or any of their subsidiary responsibilities.  They just disappear.  It’s simply not a serious plan at all.  Not only does it have no chance of passing any Congress in its current form, there isn’t enough intellectual support for any of its components to pass, either.  The whole plan feels like something cooked up over a dinner with a few budget reports and a red pen, in a desperate attempt to stay relevant in this presidential contest.  It’s as unserious as an Occupy Wall Street protest.

Predictably, the comments at The Fiscal Times have defended Paul as at least thinking out of the box and being creative, but that’s not true.  There is precious little thinking involved in this document.  Had Paul been truly creative, he would have worked through the obvious implications of his cuts and provided a rational path for their success.  Instead, Paul simply proposes cuts on a spreadsheet and then washes his hands of the consequences.  That’s vintage Paul, but it’s certainly not leadership.

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This site has gotten so off the traditional conservative base. This is more of an establishment GOP website than a conservative blog now. Too many neo-cons (ex-big govt dems) joooooooo lovers have taken over here.

Ron Paul’s plan is the most conservative one and I would be very surprised to see any other candidate with a more conservative one.

RightXBrigade on October 20, 2011 at 12:32 PM
There. Now I made you honest.

DethMetalCookieMonst on October 20, 2011 at 1:26 PM

WOW that was ignorant…

RightXBrigade on October 20, 2011 at 1:31 PM

WOW that was ignorant…

RightXBrigade on October 20, 2011 at 1:31 PM

Says the person who thinks that if you aren’t licking Ron Paul’s nuts then that means you’re not a conservative.

Yeah, Ron Paul, the true conservative. The same guy that’s supported by Jon Stewart and many others on the left.

DethMetalCookieMonst on October 20, 2011 at 1:36 PM

Them” as in the anarchists at those protests, unless you think EVERYONE at those protests are anarchists.

DethMetalCookieMonst on October 20, 2011 at 1:24 PM

Yeah.

Just because someone goes out, buys themselves a rice-burner, encases themselves in leather head-to-toe, and decides to call themselves an “outlaw biker”, don’t make them a Hell’s Angel.

To rip off The Bard: Anarchists should be made of sterner stuff, then to rally behind a political candidate.

JohnGalt23 on October 20, 2011 at 1:36 PM

Says the person who thinks that if you aren’t licking Ron Paul’s nuts then that means you’re not a conservative.

Yeah, Ron Paul, the true conservative. The same guy that’s supported by Jon Stewart and many others on the left.

DethMetalCookieMonst on October 20, 2011 at 1:36 PM

I look at the candidates available and their records. The only true conservative is Ron Paul. Disagree if you’d like, no skin off of my back. I’ve educated myself on conservatism and the ideas of liberty for years. I know a real conservative when I see one. Using name calling and one liners to block educated discussion is a left wing tactic that you seem all too willing to employ. When people ask why our country is the way it is, the answer is simple. The left wingers have taken over our country and those who consider themselves part of the “right” have actually more statist goals than they realize themselves.

RightXBrigade on October 20, 2011 at 1:42 PM

mankai on October 20, 2011 at 12:52 PM

I aid he has a nutty concept about Defense. Where did I ever mention the budget figures?

Conveniently, you didn’t. Which is curious, considering this is a thread about his budget outline, which you apparently didn’t read, can’t read, or are deliberately ignoring.

Not that I expected anything more from you.

he also believes that Muslims have been historically peaceful and good trade partners… if not for US policy.

Turkey? Malaysia? Indonesia? All friends of ours (on paper, at least). All very good trade partners. All Muslim majority.

Please don’t wave the “bloody Muslim” flag at me and expect anything but scorn. MY allegience is pledged to the US, a nation-state. It is authorized to deal with other nation-states, regardless of their state religions.

You start playing the Muslim card, and you become dangerously close to those anti-Semitic Nazis that far too many falsely accuse Dr. Paul of being chummy with.

Funny that, now that I think about it…

JohnGalt23 on October 20, 2011 at 1:57 PM

I am not sure any plan is going to be more than a direction. As for eliminating the dept of the interior, Paul has stated that the land should be returned to the states. People in the states most trampled by federal land grabs will be ecstatic to gain control! People in Alaska want development and the enviro-nut-jobs in California would rather sue in a cheaper state court. Everybody this side of the power mad in Washington wins!

The real question for Paul is simple. What would Paul do about pirates in far away places like Samalia? No amount of ‘they just doing it because of us’ talk can fix that kind of issue!

Freddy on October 20, 2011 at 2:04 PM

On Commerce and Interior, I think he just mistyped.

Should have read Agriculture and Labor.

cthulhu on October 20, 2011 at 2:31 PM

The real question for Paul is simple. What would Paul do about pirates in far away places like Samalia? No amount of ‘they just doing it because of us’ talk can fix that kind of issue!

Freddy on October 20, 2011 at 2:04 PM

Pirates can be handled on an ad hoc basis by Acts of Congress, as was done with the Barbary Pirates, or in cases like al Qaeda leadership, where you have identifiable targets, you can have Congress issue Letters of Marque and Reprisal.

No need to run a worldwide empire just for the sake of swatting a few rats. We already have the tools in our toolbox.

JohnGalt23 on October 20, 2011 at 2:34 PM

Oh, and from the editors at Investor’s Business Daily: Ron Paul’s Really Good Idea

Certainly worth a read, and from people who are far from Paulestinians.

JohnGalt23 on October 20, 2011 at 2:37 PM

And frankly, if Europe can’t keep the peace amongst themselves after all this time, then they can fight their wars all by themselves.

JohnGalt23

You tell em. Sheesh, it’s not like a Europe at war could possibly affect the U.S. All we have to do is pretend it’s not happening, and everything will be just fine.

xblade on October 20, 2011 at 2:38 PM

On Commerce and Interior, I think he just mistyped.

Should have read Agriculture and Labor.

cthulhu on October 20, 2011 at 2:31 PM

See,now you’re just mixing apples and oranges…

JohnGalt23 on October 20, 2011 at 2:38 PM

xblade on October 20, 2011 at 2:38 PM

Yeah, you’re right… we should just continue bankrupting ourselves defending them, while they use the budgetary savings to up the benefits from their welfare state.

There’s a plan for international security, right there…

JohnGalt23 on October 20, 2011 at 2:40 PM

Using name calling and one liners to block educated discussion is a left wing tactic that you seem all too willing to employ. RightXBrigade on October 20, 2011 at 1:42 PM

All I ever hear from Ron Paul’s base is “If you don’t vote for Ron Paul then yoyu are just blind” or “What? You don’t like Ron Paul? You’ve been brainwashed by the media”.

DethMetalCookieMonst on October 20, 2011 at 2:41 PM

‘I want to hear somebody up here willing to cut something, something real,” the Texas congressman, obstetrician and three-time presidential candidate said during Tuesday evening’s Republican debate in Las Vegas.

As a doctor, he probably has a lot of experience cutting things. But as a Congressman, not so much.

unclesmrgol on October 20, 2011 at 2:48 PM

As a doctor, he probably has a lot of experience cutting things. But as a Congressman, not so much.

unclesmrgol on October 20, 2011 at 2:48 PM

He has put a plan on the table that puts our budget into balance, something that I thought we all agreed has to be done, or risk our Republic.

To the rest of the GOP field: If you disagree with this plan, ante up. Let’s see your own balanced budget proposals.

JohnGalt23 on October 20, 2011 at 2:58 PM

I’m a “traditional” conservative, in the tradition of my father, and his father before him. I support a strong military, and I support Israel, just like they did. And just like Ronulans don’t.
stefanite on October 20, 2011 at 12:47 PM

If a voter wants to neuter the military and legalize drugs, guess what? There’s already a political party that subscribes to 2/3′s of Ron Paul’s agenda.

If Ron Paul ran as a Democrat, with a single demand — that they dispense with that silly little Communism bugaboo of theirs — I’d support him as a Democrat nominee just as strongly as the liberals have always supported him as a Republican nominee.

logis on October 20, 2011 at 3:16 PM

The plan has my support. When he is president he can push it to Congress and let them aregue the details. Better cuts than any other big “R” Republican has presented.

livermush on October 20, 2011 at 8:00 PM

It is sad to see what was once a strong independent voice, turn into a mouth piece for the GOP…

I cant wait for all the “We must support big government Romney” post coming next year….

the_ancient on October 20, 2011 at 9:49 PM

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