Is Rand Paul the Best Choice for 2016?
Is it possible that the best presidential candidate for 2016 is also one of the most overlooked? Very possible, and that may just be the case. Most national polls show Rand Paul with around 5% support, and he doesn't receive the same media coverage as rivals Donald Trump and Ben Carson, but he may actually have the best solutions to the nation's problems.
Paul's message is simple: small government, and fiscal responsibility. This has long been a pretty standard credo for conservatives but it could be more relevant now than ever before, in this age of debt, deficit, rising tax rates, economic turmoil, and a federal government that is growing larger and more powerful.
National debt could be one of the strongest issues for Paul. He has more drastic solutions than many of his Republican rivals, and all three Democratic candidates are weak on this issue. Hillary Clinton voted against a balanced budget amendment, and hasn't really offered any solutions. Bernie Sanders also voted against a balanced budget amendment, and has stated that he considers national debt to be important, but not a top priority. When he left his office as Governor of Maryland, Martin O'Malley also left a large deficit. He has said little about how he would deal with national debt.
As part of the solution, Paul has proposed spending cuts and a Balanced Budget Amendment, meaning that the government would not be able to spend more money than it takes in. However, Paul is not the only candidate to advocate for this; Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, and John Kasich are a few of the other candidates also proposing a Balanced Budget Amendment. All Republican candidates are calling for a reduction in government spending. It is in other ways that Paul distinguishes himself from the others, including tax reform.
Paul has introduced what he calls “The Fair and Flat Tax.” This is a 14.5% flat tax for all Americans and businesses. It would also eliminate payroll taxes, a number of other federal taxes, and most loopholes. This plan is designed to keep more more money in the hands of individuals and businesses, where it can grow the economy much more effectively than it could in the hands of the government.
Critics may point out that this would technically decrease the amount that corporations and wealthier individuals pay. However, the elimination of loopholes means that the wealthy will actually pay 14.5% of their income; whatever amount that is, it may be more than what they are paying with the current tax code. As for corporations, America currently has the highest corporate tax rate in the world (35%), and a reduction in this tax rate could make American businesses more competitive, create new jobs, and prevent companies from leaving the United States to escape heavy taxation.
The simplification of the tax code would also allow for the downsizing of the IRS, one of the means by which Paul intends to cut spending. Other reductions in spending include cutting funding to some departments in the federal government (and eliminating a few of them) while transferring their duties to state and local governments, reducing foreign aid, and ending government bailouts of private organizations.
Few candidates have really discussed the Federal Reserve, but Paul has proposed a more thorough audit of the Federal Reserve, as well as transparency. He also proposes putting it back under control of Congress.
Some of Paul's measures to reduce the scope of the government are standard for Republicans, such as repealing Obamacare. More unique measures include eliminating the Department of Education. Paul believes that most of its duties should be transferred to communities while some of its federal functions, such as student loans and grants, should be transferred to other departments.
Not only is the DOE costly, but US schools have actually declined in quality since its introduction. The end of Common Core curriculum and the return of power to local school boards should restore the American educational system to its pre-DOE status as one of the best in the world.
One of the most notable ways in which Paul would decrease government power is to end NSA spying. While most candidates support the Patriot Act, or some version of it, Paul has called it unconstitutional, and wants it repealed.
Paul has also proposed changes to address unfairness in the justice system, an issue that has received little attention. Such changes include the Justice Safety Valve Act, which allows judges to overlook minimum sentencing, and the RESET Act reclassifies possession of small amounts of pot as a misdemeanor. He would eliminate laws differentiating crack from cocaine, and restore voting rights to non-violent felons. He has also spoken out against the militarization of the police.
Donald Trump's immigration plan has probably received the most attention, but it is problematic and unrealistic. Many Democrats favor amnesty, essentially rewarding people for entering the country illegally by allowing them to bypass the usual requirements. Paul supports increased border control, increased legal immigration, and visas for illegal immigrants currently in the country (although he doesn't believe they should be given amnesty) and an opportunity for citizenship or permanent residency. Paul's immigration policy seems to be the most practical, and the most fair.
Paul's foreign policy is less aggressive than that of most of the other candidates. He favors a policy of “peace through strength.” His foreign policy relies mostly on diplomacy and sanctions, using combat only as a last resort. The idea is to be strong without being aggressive. Furthermore, Paul is one of few candidates opposing regime change in the Middle East; attempts at overthrowing governments in this region have resulted in destabilization, ongoing wars, and the rise of terrorism.
Outside of policy, he has attributes that would make him a good choice for president. He has introduced a large number of bills during his brief time as a senator, showing that he doesn't just talk about change but takes action to make it happen. Furthermore, his consistency also sets him apart from his rivals; Bernie Sanders is the only candidate who can compete with Paul in this area. He is also more willing to work with the other party than many of his contemporaries in Congress.
Another advantage of Paul is that he is not a typical Republican. He is farther to the right on some issues (government spending), farther to the left on other issues (drugs), and more moderate on still others (immigration). Since most Americans are not strictly left-wing or right-wing, Paul better represents the majority of the population; this is an especially important distinction when the Republican Party is drifting farther to the right and the Democratic Party is progressively moving to the extreme left.
While Paul's chance of winning the nomination are slim, his campaign could be the most important. As his father did in 2008, Rand Paul campaigns at college campuses and actively recruits younger voters; younger people tend to voter Democrat in recent elections, so it is crucial for Republicans to expand their appeal in this demographic. He has also made efforts to connect with minority voters, which many Republicans have failed to do; I posit that this is simply because they don't really make an effort. The Democratic Party has claimed the majority of minority votes largely through empty rhetoric and pandering rather than actual policy that would be specifically beneficial to minorities. If Republicans could better capture the attention of these voters they could establish a younger and more diverse base, something that will become increasingly crucial due to changing demographics. Paul's supporters could be the future of the Republican Party.
Is Rand Paul the best choice for 2016? Perhaps, but his proposed changes may be considered too extreme for some voters. Or maybe 2016 is the right year for a Libertarian president