For many people, the name Ron Paul conjures up a longing for few to no taxes. An argument invariably begins. One person will say that there once were no income taxes, and that’s the way it should be. No, another will say, the idea is totally unrealistic.
“With the tax system,” Dodd tells me, “there are so many rules that you have to have your own tax specialist to work out how much to pay.”
Does the little guy get taxed too much?
“I don’t know because I don’t really pay much income tax, so it’s working out for me. Yes, I have a job,” says Dodd, “but also own a house. And I give to a charity, so I actually don’t pay too much.”
Do Republicans favor the rich when it comes to taxes? And Paul’s a Republican, right?
“He is,” says Dodd. “But for most Republican lawmakers, it’s like you must vote Republican on every issue, and being Republican is your thing. Ron Paul has principles and wants to follow the principles and not necessarily follow the party.
“And if you’re really rich, you can do something weird with your money and you don’t pay anything. So people structure their businesses around how they can avoid paying taxes. We need to get rid of a bunch of these rules and these different concessions because they’ve all been started by lobbyists, who say, ‘Make it so my friend, or this company, doesn’t have to pay any taxes.’ And there are all these people fighting to keep it the way it is. I think you need people like Ron Paul who don’t get influenced by lobbyists.”
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When viewed alongside Ron Paul, says Mike Benoit (pronounced Ben-WAH), who is 60, all the other presidential candidates this year, including Obama, are the same. Benoit has run six consecutive times for the U.S. House of Representatives as a Libertarian candidate. He has run against the two Duncan Hunters, father and then son, to represent the 52nd Congressional District. He is running in the 50th Congressional District in 2012. He is a divorced father of two adult children and has two grandchildren.
Benoit says he does not base his politics on Ron Paul’s, but the platforms of their campaigns invariably coincide. Benoit was already a Libertarian when Paul first came to his attention in 1996. He calls the independent organization he is running to increase support for Paul completely “grass roots” because it does not raise money.
“If government limited itself to its legitimate functions,” says Benoit, “taxes would be very light in comparison to what they are now.” No personal income tax would be necessary. Some excise and sales taxes might be acceptable to both Benoit and Ron Paul, depending on the particulars.
I ask Benoit about the desire by many, such as the Hunters, for a fence along the entire border of the United States and Mexico. Impractical, he says. “People can tunnel under a fence or go around and come up off the coast, as they are doing now.
“If you look back to 1960, we didn’t need a border fence. We didn’t really have an immigration problem. Lyndon Baines Johnson’s Great Society started undermining our individual liberties in such a way that migrant workers were absolutely needed now because of new laws against high school kids going out and working in the fields in the summer. And then they cut down the flow of the migrant workers who used to come up and work and go back home afterwards.”
Why does the United States seem to be always fighting a foreign war or occupying a country in the aftermath? Even a politician like Obama, who promised to extricate us from the Middle East, can’t seem to leave.
“Sometimes,” says Benoit, “the same people who own the big military industrial complex own the media corporations. The industries control the military, not the other way around. The industries are pushing for all these wars and for candidates that will support them so they can keep up war profiteering.”
But the main thing “Ron Paul keeps talking about is liberty,” according to Benoit. “The things we have complaints about — the Patriot Act or the National Defense Authorization Act, the Military Commissions Act, these things, even the Transportation Security Administration — these are reactions to something the government actually failed us in. And their reaction is to take more of our liberties away. Our government’s purpose is only to secure these rights.
“But they turn all liberties into privileges. It’s as if we wouldn’t be safe if we didn’t have a license that says we can drive or we wouldn’t be okay if the government didn’t give us a marriage license.” Control over marriage is “not a function of government. This is government involved in a social function that it should not have any involvement in whatsoever.” It’s not right to be “forced to get a marriage license to be married, to be recognized as being married. One hundred and fifty years ago, people got the Bible out and wrote their names in it, and the witnesses said so-and-so got married today on this date. There was no license from the state to do that.”
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Kira Mercado, 25, and her husband rent an apartment in Lakeside. They have a daughter who is almost 2. “I’m a former Democrat and voted for Obama,” she says. Now, however, she carries Ron Paul brochures in her purse and at restaurants leaves, along with her tips, a card from Paul about how “to keep your hard-earned money.”
What did you like about Obama?
“He said that he was going to bring the troops home,” she says, “and he was going to change our country for the better. He tricked us.
“I don’t believe that we have any right to police the world and tell people how to live their life, just like our government doesn’t have the right to police us and tell us what to do. What if we had a foreign country come into our land and start killing innocent people here? We’d be doing the same thing. You can’t just say, ‘Oh, if we kill enough people, they’ll back down,’ because it’s not human nature to just back down.”