Ronald "Ron" Paul
Born: Aug. 20, 1935, in Pittsburgh
Job history: U.S. representative from Texas, 1976-77, 1979-85, 1997-present; medical doctor
Education: B.S., Gettysburg College; M.D., Duke University
Personal: Married to Carolyn "Carol" (Wells) Paul; Baptist
Campaign website: ronpaul.com
This is Ron Paul's third run for the presidency, and his message hasn't changed since his first in 1988: limited government, personal freedom and minimal taxation. Paul's libertarian views attract a relatively small, but Web-savvy and very devoted following. Not surprisingly, his consistency has sometimes been at odds with his party in Congress. A physician, he has the nickname "Dr. No" for his persistent opposition to what he calls government overreach and overspending. In the 2008 primaries, he received just over 5 percent of the Republican votes cast.
Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid
Paul frequently targets the nation's entitlement programs. He calls Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid unconstitutional, although he acknowledges that ending them would be politically implausible. In a 2008 debate, Paul said he would like to abolish Social Security, "but not overnight." Instead, he would take care of those who already depend on the system but "allow the young people to just flat out get out of the system." Despite his animosity for the program in principle, Paul has sought to stop what he calls double taxation of Social Security recipients. He authored legislation to repeal all taxes on Social Security benefits and to ban the use of Social Security trust fund monies from being used for other purposes. He has also cosponsored legislation to allow personal accounts within Social Security.
Paul voted against the 2003 law establishing prescription drug coverage under Medicare but voted in favor of requiring negotiated drug pricing under Medicare. He also has voted for allowing reimportation of prescription drugs. Opposed to government involvement in health care, Paul voted to create and then to expand medical savings accounts for individuals and businesses. He recently introduced legislation to end the individual mandate to buy health insurance.
Taxes and budget
Paul advocates wholesale fiscal, monetary and tax reform, including a return to the gold standard and the abolition of both the Federal Reserve and several federal agencies. He would get rid of the Internal Revenue Service, the federal income tax and the estate tax. A fiscal conservative, he even opposed emergency aid after his district was damaged by Hurricane Rita in 2005. Three years later, he accompanied President George W. Bush to Houston when the president promised federal assistance after Hurricane Ike had struck the region. Paul then voted against a $23 billion appropriations bill that included the aid.
His anti-tax, small-government views extend to public transportation as well: He voted against increasing funding for Amtrak, against a highway bill that funded mass transit in cities, but cosponsored a bill giving tax credits to people who use public transportation.
Susan Milligan is a prize-winning Washington reporter.
Also of interest: AARP’s voter education guide.