Ron Paul, Legislative Hero


Although I nightly hang upon every word Bill O’Reilly spews forth in his “Talking Points Memo,” I must take issue with Mr. O’s dour, pre-Iowa assessment of the magnificent legislative achievements of Rep. Ron Paul.

“Here is what you need to know about Ron Paul,” O’Reilly said. “He has spent 23 years in Congress. And only one of his proposed bills has been signed into law; 23 years, one law. And over that time period, Mr. Paul has sponsored 620 pieces of legislation. Again, only one was passed, the sale of the old U.S. customs house to the Galveston Historical Foundation. Not exactly a front page event.”

And Mr. O’Reilly is critical of this stellar record? Upon learning of it, I began to think of the spry Texan as “Ron Paul, Legislative Hero.”

What if other members of Congress followed this noble example?

Rep. Barney Frank, for instance, the outgoing Massachusetts Democrat, has sponsored 397 bills since 1987, and 19—alas—have been enacted into law, according to gov.track.us.

One of Frank’s 19 “success” stories is the semi-eponymous job-killer known as the Dodd-Frank Act, which created the grandiose Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a vehicle to further clog the financial system with burdensome regulations.

Wouldn’t the world arguably be a better place if Mr. Frank had succeeded with, say, 18 fewer pieces of legislation?

Actually, Barney has done good work defending the fishermen in his district against, of all things, excessive regulation. Like Ron Paul’s aid in getting the customs house for the historical society (and the society paid—it wasn’t a federal giveaway), this is not only harmless but salubrious.

It’s when Barney is turned loose to write legislation with more wide-ranging application that things go badly wrong.

To stick with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Senator John Kerry has sponsored 547 bills since 1987, of which, according to gov.track, 16 were successfully enacted. I’ll wager a bet that is just about 15 more than the world needed.

Just be thankful that cap and trade, a byzantine system to regulate carbon emissions, failed or Mr. Kerry would have a score of 17 passed bills. That would probably be at least 16 too many.

We need a new narrative in Washington as to what constitutes being successful in Congress. Instead of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (and remember Mr. Smith’s idealistic goal was to authorize a federal loan for a boys’ camp—no! no!) we need a movie in which the young man or woman comes to town to do what we really need now: not pass new laws.

We are drowning in new laws, and in 2013, we should have in Washington people who not only don’t want to add to our burdens but who perhaps will work to repeal many of the onerous laws already placed on our shoulders. Instead of saying how many laws somebody got enacted, we will cheer how many they repealed!

The 2010 GOP midterm victories appear to have somewhat slowed down the pace of destructive lawmaking. Gov.track reported in late December 2011 that “numbers confirm what we already pretty much know: Congress this year isn’t getting much done. The number of bills enacted this year is lower than it has ever been in at least 30 years. If you think Congress should be passing fewer laws, then you got your wish this year.”

Of course, Rep. Ron Paul has put forward bills. A recent Washington Post story recalls that 11 days after he was elected to Congress in 1976, Paul introduced a bill to repeal the law that created the Occupational Health and Safety Administration. He has demanded a full audit of the Federal Reserve Board, and more recently, he has authored a law to permit private groups to issue their own currency. Okay, this last may be strange. But Paul isn’t my only legislative hero.

Special kudos must also go to Rep. Michele Bachmann, who has, in her five years in Congress, introduced 45 bills, none of which have passed. Brava!

Bachmann, like Paul, however, has been a worthy foe of the passage of bills that feature excessive new regulations to hamper business and burden the American people. Let us hope this is the wave of the future.

Paul has some loopy ideas, and I wouldn’t relish a Michael Moore foreign policy if by some bizarre chance he became president. I also worry that his supporters will hand Barack Obama a second term in the name of fiscal purity.

But, Mr. O, when it comes to legislative achievements, the tiny Texan is a giant in my book.

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