Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul dismissed House Speaker John Boehner’s call for spending cuts to match any increase in the federal debt ceiling, saying a fiscal catastrophe is coming whether or not the country exhausts its borrowing power.
“I don’t take it seriously,” the Texas congressman said of Boehner’s demand. Paul predicted Congress would “go up to the last minute” before the Aug. 2 deadline and then raise the nation’s $14.3 trillion legal debt limit, yet fail to solve the problems underlying the nation’s soaring deficits.
“The catastrophe comes regardless, because as long as they encourage more spending, then we go over a cliff,” Paul, who said he will vote against raising the limit, said in an interview for “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend. “So I want to stop us,” Paul said.
He dismissed discussion of a possible cap on future spending, saying it would be “too little, too late.”
“Do you think the American people are going to believe that we’re going to cut in the future?” added Paul, 75. He said any reductions promised beyond this year’s budget amount to “pie-in-the-sky talking.”
On presidential politics, Paul said that while other Republican candidates seeking to take on President Barack Obama in 2012 are echoing his themes on spending and debt, he is the only one who has a record that matches the rhetoric.
“I think there will be a credibility gap” for the other contenders, Paul said, responding to a question about potential primary opponents including former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
Voters “know that I’m leveling with them, and I’ve done it all along, and I’ve expressed these concerns for 20, 30 years,” he said.
Paul, an advocate of abolishing the Federal Reserve, said while he doesn’t expect other candidates to rally around the idea, they “won’t laugh as much as they did last time” he ran for the Republican presidential nomination.
“Just think of the difference on the attitude of the people now about the Federal Reserve,” Paul said, noting that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke took the unprecedented step April 27 of holding a news conference to defend his policies. “It’s a failed system, and people are starting to realize this.”
A self-described libertarian whose anti-establishment views align with Tea Party activists’ disdain for government, Paul developed a national following during his failed 2008 bid for his party’s presidential nomination.
Paul said he favors withdrawing all U.S. troops from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Libya -- countries where he never supported sending them. He said other Republican presidential candidates are “making a big mistake” by backing a continued U.S. military presence there.
“The people now know that we can’t pay it,” Paul said, “and a lot of conservatives are coming in our direction because we can’t pay it.”
“I’d bring them all home, sure, because we have no reason to be there,” he said.
Paul said Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, two possible rivals for the Republican nomination who also style themselves as populist conservatives, are “closer to the people” than other candidates and are starting to move in his direction on foreign policy and civil liberties issues.
Still, asked whether he understood Palin’s economic agenda, Paul said, “No,” adding, “I haven’t studied them.”
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