Last year, we took notice when Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) returned $100,000 of his Congressional office budget to the United States Treasury. CAIVN editor and contributing author Ryan Jaroncyk wrote:
"Like him or hate him, Dr. Ron Paul doesn't just talk a big game about fiscal conservatism, he lives it... Unlike the vast majority of politicians, he doesn't just talk the talk, he walks the walk."
Taking another step forward in 2011, the Texas congressman and darling of the more libertarian, Tea Party wing of the Republican Party is continuing to walk the walk, returning a whopping $140,000 in unused office funds to the U.S. Treasury for the purpose of paying down the national debt. The sum is nearly 10% of his office funds and a 40% increase over the $100,000 he returned last year.
In 2009, Ron Paul returned $90,000 from his office budget, and in 2008, he returned $58,000. It seems that with each passing year the 2008 presidential contender returns a little more of his congressional office budget to the Treasury, though as an ardent critic of the Federal Reserve and its inflationary monetary policy, Ron Paul might quip that he's just trying to keep up with inflation.
Congressman Paul isn't the only House member who runs an annual office surplus. Across the aisle, Congressman Bill Owens (D-NY), who joined the ranks of Congress after winning the hotly-contested NY-23 special election in 2009, has also returned a portion of his congressional office budget this year. Last month, his office reported a surplus of over $230,000- 15% of his annual allotment and even more than Congressman Paul's surplus.
Why return the money? Paul says:
"Since my first year in Congress I have managed my office in a frugal manner, instructing staff to provide the greatest possible service to the people of the 14th district at the least possible cost to taxpayers"
Owens agrees, saying:
"We cannot seriously talk about reducing the national debt and deficit without first operating our own offices in a fiscally responsible manner."
Of course these measures, while important in their symbolism and a testament to the consistency and leadership of these congressmen, will hardly put a dent in the colossal national debt.
So, where does Ron Paul stand on the big spending, the large budget items that imperil the future of American prosperity and economic power? In an impassioned speech last month, Ron Paul compared two votes the Republican House would be taking later that day, a vote to defund NPR and a vote to defund and end the war in Afghanistan. He said:
"Fiscal conservatives are going to be overwhelmingly in support of slashing NPR, go home and brag about how they're such great fiscal conservatives- and the very most they might save is ten million dollars. And that's their claim to fame for slashing the budget.
At the same time they won't consider for a minute, cutting a real significant amount of money. All empires end for fiscal reasons because they spread themselves too far around the world, and that's what we're facing.
We're in the midst of a military conflict that's contributing to this inevitable crisis- and it's financial. And you'd think there'd be a message in the fact of where- how did the Soviets come down? By doing the very same thing that we're doing: perpetual occupation of a country. We don't need to be occupying Afghanistan or any other country."
Not only do many self-proclaimed fiscal conservatives not walk the walk, many of them can't even talk the talk. During the last two years of heated national conversation over fiscal policy, Democratic talk show hosts have enjoyed badgering Republican guests to name actual items of the budget they would be willing to cut. They rightly ridicule the Republicans who are unable or unwilling to name substantial cuts to the budget.
Ron Paul both walks and talks the message of fiscal conservatism, running his Congressional office with some measurable level of austerity and calling for substantial cuts to items like the occupation in the Middle East, which many mainstream commentators and politicans consider sacrosanct and above any discussion, analysis, or criticism. As Jaroncyk concluded last year, "Whether you like him or not, you have to respect the anti-war, fiscally conservative Republican Congressman."