After watching the first presidential debate between President Barack Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney (I live blogged the entire debate for PolicyMic), I couldn't help but think how different the debate would have been if Texas Congressman Ron Paul had been the Republican nominee and had the chance to debate President Obama instead.
While Romney appeared more aggressive and assertive than the president — who looked tired, shaky, and noticeably rusty after nearly four years of no primary debating — there was much more rhetoric and half-truths to Romney's attacks than substance.
So while we will sadly never know how a debate between Paul and Obama would look like, here is how Paul would have likely responded to the debate questions and actually provided Americans a real alternative.
What are the major differences between the two of you about how you would go about creating new jobs?
Obama responded with an argument that he uses frequently. The president likes to remind us that he inherited a terrible mess (which is entirely true), and that his policies helped prevent a disaster, created millions of jobs, saved the auto industry, and that the housing industry is getting back on its feet.
Obama then criticized Romney for supposedly wanting to undue his progressive policies and legislation by cutting taxes, deregulating, and blowing holes in the budget, and Romney predictably ran away from this (false) caricature.
Paul would undoubtedly take his time to criticize the president's policies but most importantly explain that without a proper diagnosis of the disease, a cure is impossible. The cause of the "worst economic crisis since the Great Depression" are precisely the policies that the president and virtually every administration before him have pursued.
Specifically, it was the Federal Reserve's artificially lower interest rates combined with congressional mandates to flood this cheap money into the housing industry that created a predictable bubble that finally burst. Generally, it has been the policy of the U.S. government, in combination with the Federal Reserve, to finance debt and deficits by the creation of money, pyramiding debt, and dumping the cost on the taxpayer.
What will you do about the federal deficit/debt?
Obama bragged about his supposed "deficit reduction" plan that would cut $4 trillion and his trimming of waste from the military budget. Even if one were to believe that the president honestly plans to cut a penny anywhere, Paul would fire back with a bit of truth to counter the president's propaganda. Paul has been in Congress for decades, and he sees firsthand the accounting tricks and numbers that are used by both sides to fit their agendas.
Paul always points out how supposed "cuts" are really just cuts on the rate of increases in the federal budget. If a healthy person is supposed to consume 2,000 calories a day, and one promises to eat 9,995 calories a day after years of 10,000 per day, can that really be considered a diet? Same goes for the budget and any promises of fiscal responsibility.
For example, Republicans attack the president for "gutting the military" while Democrats attack Republicans for their supposed cuts to social welfare programs. Both sides are wrong because a real cut would mean spending less money than the previous year. Paul would also likely point out that Obama's military budgets have increased every single year of his administration.
Paul often says that he thinks politicians in Washington in denial about the fiscal and economic mess the U.S. is in. With $16 trillion in on-the-books debt, $221 trillion in future unfunded liabilities, and a dollar that plunges in value because the Fed keeps printing up the money to finance this nonsense, Paul may have a point.
What are your differences on Social Security and Medicare?
Obama defended the "values" behind Social Security and Medicare while Romney claimed that he fundamentally believes in preserving Social Security and Medicare. While Paul would give the moral, philosophical, and practical case against coercive transfers of wealth, the idea that one is "entitled" to the private property of someone else, and the unsustainability of these programs, Paul would remind the audience that he is really the only one that would preserve these programs — at least in the short term by dismantling the empire and actually slashing non-defense related military spending.
The Fed's money printing and monetization of the debt, Paul would continue, is doing tremendous harm to people who want to save for the future and those on fixed income. What good is a Social Security check when the money continues to buy less and less every year?
What are you differences in health care?
One can only imagine the president having to face Paul on this one. While Romney offered his version of government-managed health care ("repeal and replace" should be his new campaign slogan!), Paul would note that Republicans are wrong to argue that the American health care system "was the finest in the world" until that rascally socialist took it over in 2009. Health care has been an 80% government run service since the mid 1960s, and for a hundred years the federal government has intervened in the health care market. This has led to predictable consequences: distortions in prices, rise in costs, decreased access, corporatism, and insurance companies seeking influence in Washington rather than competing in the marketplace.
What is the role of government?
Answering this question has been Ron Paul's siren song. To anyone who will listen, Paul constantly stresses that the role of government in a free society is to protect the liberty of every individual. It is not to police the world or "to keep Americans safe" as President Obama said. It is not to run a welfare state, impose mandates, transfer wealth, or subsidize certain industries over others.
Sadly, Americans won't get to see this debate. And after watching Romney defend Romneycare, closing loopholes (essentially raising taxes), attack the President for (non-existent) cuts, and sound like a slightly more right-wing version of Obama's Keynesian economics and overseas aggression, conservatives and Republicans have only themselves to blame for nominating such a robot.