Mandatory Depression Screening A Depressing Thought

The United States Preventive Services Task Force recently recommended mandatory depression screening for all Americans. The task force wants to force health insurance companies to pay for the screening. Basic economics, as well as the Obamacare disaster, should have shown this task force that government health insurance mandates harm Americans.

Government health insurance mandates raise the price of health insurance. Consumers will respond to this increase by either choosing to not carry health insurance or by reducing their consumption of other goods and services. Imposing new health insurance mandates will thus make consumers, many of whom are already suffering from Obamacare’s costly mandates, worse off by forcing them to deviate from their preferred consumption patterns.

Mandatory depression screening will not just raise insurance costs. In order to ensure that the screening mandate is being properly implemented, the government will need to create a database containing the results of the screenings. Those anti-gun politicians who want to forbid anyone labeled “mentally ill” from owning a firearm will no doubt want to use this database as a tool to deprive individuals of their Second Amendment rights.

If the preventive task force has its way, Americans could lose their Second Amendment, and possibly other, rights simply because they happened to undergo their mandatory depression screening when they were coping with a loved one’s passing or a divorce, or simply having a bad day. As anyone who has been mistakenly placed on the terrorist watch list can attest, it is very difficult to get off a government database even when the government clearly is in error. Thus, anyone mistakenly labeled as depressed will have to spend a great deal of time and money in what may be a futile attempt to get his rights back.

Mandatory depression screening will endanger people’s health by increasing the use of psychotropic drugs. These drugs often have dangerous side effects. Their use has even been linked to suicide. The fact that almost every mass shooter was on psychotropic drugs is another good reason to oppose any policy that will increase reliance on these medicines.

The Preventive Services Task Force’s mandatory depression screening mandate is based on the fallacy that diagnosing mental health problems is analogous to diagnosing cancer or diabetes. Even mental health professionals acknowledge that there is a great deal of subjectivity in mental health diagnosis.

Consider that until 1973, homosexuality was considered a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association. Today, some mental health professionals think that those who believe in limited government, free-market economics, or traditional values suffer from mental disorders. If mandatory depression screening becomes a reality, it is likely this mental health screening will be expanded to cover screening for other mental illnesses. This could result in anyone with an unpopular political belief or lifestyle choice being labeled as “mentally ill.”

Even if mandatory health screening could be implementing without increasing costs or threatening liberty, it would still be a bad idea. Government health care mandates undermine the basic principles of a free society. If it is legitimate for government to tell us what types of health care we must receive, then it is also legitimate for the government to tell us what to eat, when to exercise, and even how to raise our children.

To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, a tyranny imposed for our own good is the worst form of tyranny because it is a tyranny without limits. All who love liberty must therefore oppose mandatory depression screening, or any other health care mandate.

© Copyright 2016 Ron Paul

Is Congress Declaring War On ISIS… Or On You?

Passage of Senator Mitch McConnell’s authorization for war against ISIS will not only lead to perpetual US wars across the globe, it will also endanger our civil and economic liberties. The measure allows the president to place troops anywhere he determines ISIS is operating. Therefore, it could be used to justify using military force against United States citizens on U.S. territory. It may even be used to justify imposing martial law in America.

The President does not have to deploy the U.S. military to turn America into a militarized police state, however. He can use his unlimited authority to expand programs that turn local police forces into adjuncts of the U.S. military, and send them increasing amounts of military equipment. Using the threat of ISIS to justify increased police militarization will be enthusiastically supported by police unions, local officials, and, of course, politically-powerful defense contractors. The only opposition will come from citizens whose rights have been violated by a militarized police force that views the people as the enemy.

Even though there is no evidence that the government’s mass surveillance programs have prevented even a single terrorist attack, we are still continuously lectured about how we must sacrifice our liberty for security. The cries for the government to take more of our privacy will grow louder as the war party and its allies in the media continue to hype the threat of terrorism. A president armed with the authority to do whatever it takes to stop ISIS will no doubt heed these calls for new restrictions on our privacy.

Following last year’s mass shooting in California, President Obama called for restricting the Second Amendment rights of any American on the “terrorist watch list.” The president also used the attacks to expand the unconstitutional gun background check system via executive action. Can anyone doubt that President Obama — or a future anti-gun president — will use the absolute power to do whatever is necessary to stop terrorism as a justification for imposing new gun control measures? Using the war on ISIS to justify more gun control will be particularly attractive since even many pro-gun politicians will support gun control measures if they are marketed as part of the war on terror.

As the American economy faces continued stagnation, and as challenges to the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency mount, an increasingly authoritarian government will impose new restrictions on our economic activities and new limits on our financial privacy. In particular, our ability to move assets out of the country will be limited, and new reporting and other requirements will limit our ability to use cash without being treated as criminals or terrorists. Those who carry large amounts of cash will find themselves at increased risk of having the cash confiscated by government agents under civil asset forfeiture laws.

If Senator McConnell’s declaration of perpetual war passes, presidents could use the war on ISIS as a justification to impose new restrictions on our use of cash and our financial privacy via executive action. After all, they will say, the government needs to make sure cash is not being used to support ISIS.

The only way to protect both liberty and security is to stop trying to impose our will on other countries by military force. The resentment created by America’s militaristic foreign policy is ISIS’ most effective recruiting tool. Adopting a non-interventionist foreign policy that seeks peace and free trade with all would enable the government to counter legitimate threats to our safety without creating an authoritarian police state.

© Copyright 2016 Ron Paul

Congress Is Writing The President A Blank Check For War

While the Washington snowstorm dominated news coverage this week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was operating behind the scenes to rush through the Senate what may be the most massive transfer of power from the Legislative to the Executive branch in our history. The senior Senator from Kentucky is scheming, along with Sen. Lindsey Graham, to bypass normal Senate procedure to fast-track legislation to grant the president the authority to wage unlimited war for as long as he or his successors may wish.

The legislation makes the unconstitutional Iraq War authorization of 2002 look like a walk in the park. It will allow this president and future presidents to wage war against ISIS without restrictions on time, geographic scope, or the use of ground troops. It is a completely open-ended authorization for the president to use the military as he wishes for as long as he (or she) wishes. Even President Obama has expressed concern over how willing Congress is to hand him unlimited power to wage war.

President Obama has already far surpassed even his predecessor, George W. Bush, in taking the country to war without even the fig leaf of an authorization. In 2011, the president invaded Libya, overthrew its government, and oversaw the assassination of its leader, without even bothering to ask for Congressional approval. Instead of impeachment, which he deserved for the disastrous Libya invasion, Congress said nothing. House Republicans only managed to bring the subject up when they thought they might gain political points exploiting the killing of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi.

It is becoming more clear that Washington plans to expand its war in the Middle East. Last week, the media reported that the U.S. military had taken over an air base in eastern Syria, and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said that the U.S. would send in the 101st Airborne Division to retake Mosul in Iraq and to attack ISIS headquarters in Raqqa, Syria. Then on Saturday, Vice President Joe Biden said that if the upcoming peace talks in Geneva are not successful, the U.S. is prepared for a massive military intervention in Syria. Such an action would likely place the U.S. military face to face with the Russian military, whose assistance was requested by the Syrian government. In contrast, we must remember that the U.S. military is operating in Syria in violation of international law.

The prospects of such an escalation are not all that far-fetched. At the insistence of Saudi Arabia and with U.S. backing, the representatives of the Syrian opposition at the Geneva peace talks will include members of the Army of Islam, which has fought with al-Qaeda in Syria. Does anyone expect these kinds of people to compromise? Isn’t al-Qaeda supposed to be our enemy?

The purpose of the Legislative branch of our government is to restrict the Executive branch’s power. The Founders understood that an all-powerful king who could wage war at will was the greatest threat to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That is why they created a people’s branch, the Congress, to prevent the emergence of an all-powerful autocrat to drag the country to endless war. Sadly, Congress is surrendering its power to declare war.

Let’s be clear: If Senate Majority Leader McConnell succeeds in passing this open-ended war authorization, the U.S. Constitution will be all but a dead letter.

© Copyright 2016 Ron Paul

When Peace Breaks Out With Iran…

This has been the most dramatic week in US/Iranian relations since 1979.

Last weekend, ten US Navy personnel were caught in Iranian waters, as the Pentagon kept changing its story on how they got there. It could have been a disaster for President Obama’s big gamble on diplomacy over conflict with Iran. But after several rounds of telephone diplomacy between Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif, the Iranian leadership — which we are told by the neocons is too irrational to even talk to — did a most rational thing: weighing the costs and benefits, they decided it made more sense not to belabor the question of what an armed US Naval vessel was doing just miles from an Iranian military base. Instead of escalating, the Iranian government fed the sailors and sent them back to their base in Bahrain.

Then on Saturday, the Iranians released four Iranian-Americans from prison, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian. On the US side, seven Iranians held in US prisons, including six who were dual citizens, were granted clemency. The seven were in prison for seeking to trade with Iran in violation of the decades-old US economic sanctions.

This mutual release came just hours before the United Nations certified that Iran had met its obligations under the nuclear treaty signed last summer and that, accordingly, US and international sanctions would be lifted against the country.

How did the “irrational” Iranians celebrate being allowed back into the international community? They immediately announced a massive purchase of more than 100 passenger planes from the European Airbus company, and that they would also purchase spare parts from Seattle-based Boeing. Additionally, US oil executives have been in Tehran negotiating trade deals to be finalized as soon as it is legal to do so. The jobs created by this peaceful trade will be beneficial to all parties concerned. The only jobs that should be lost are the Washington advocates of re-introducing sanctions on Iran.

Events this week have dealt a harsh blow to Washington’s neocons, who for decades have been warning against any engagement with Iran. These true isolationists were determined that only regime change and a puppet government in Tehran could produce peaceful relations between the US and Iran. Instead, engagement has worked to the benefit of the US and Iran.

Proven wrong, however, we should not expect the neocons to apologize or even pause to reflect on their failed ideology. Instead, they will continue to call for new sanctions on any pretext. They even found a way to complain about the release of the US sailors — they should have never been confronted in the first place even if they were in Iranian waters.

And they even found a way to complain about the return of the four Iranian-Americans to their families and loved ones — the US should have never negotiated with the Iranians to coordinate the release of prisoners, they grumbled. It was a show of weakness to negotiate! Tell that to the families on both sides who can now enjoy the company of their loved ones once again!

I have often said that the neocons’ greatest fear is for peace to break out. Their well-paid jobs are dependent on conflict, sanctions, and pre-emptive war. They grow wealthy on conflict, which only drains our economy. Let’s hope that this new opening with Iran will allow many other productive Americans to grow wealthy through trade and business ties. Let’s hope many new productive jobs will be created on both sides. Peace is prosperous!

Oregon Standoff A Sign Of Things To Come?

The nation’s attention turned to Oregon this past week when a group calling itself Citizens for Constitutional Freedom seized control of part of a federal wildlife refuge. The citizens were protesting the harsh sentences given to members of the Hammond ranching family. The Hammonds were accused of allowing fires set on their property to spread onto federal land.

The Hammonds were prosecuted under a federal terrorism statute. This may seem odd, but many prosecutors are stretching the definition of terrorism in order to, as was the case here, apply the mandatory minimum sentences or otherwise violate defendants’ constitutional rights. The first judge to hear the case refused to grant the government’s sentencing request, saying his conscience was shocked by the thought of applying the mandatory minimums to the Hammonds. Fortunately for the government, it was able to appeal the decision to judges whose consciences were not shocked by draconian sentences.

Sadly, but not surprisingly, some progressives who normally support civil liberties have called for the government to use deadly force to end the occupation at the refuge. These progressives are the mirror image of conservatives who (properly) attack gun control and the Patriot Act as tyrannical, yet support the use of police-state tactics against unpopular groups such as Muslims.

Even some libertarians have joined the attacks on the ranchers. These libertarians say ranchers like the Hammonds are “corporate welfare queens” because they graze their cattle on federal lands. However, since the federal government is the largest landholder in many western states, the ranchers may not have other viable alternatives. As the Oregon standoff shows, ranchers hardly have the same type of cozy relationship with the government that is enjoyed by true corporate welfare queens like military contractors and big banks. Many ranchers actually want control of federally-held land returned to the states or sold to private owners.

Situations like the one in Oregon could become commonplace as the continued failure of Keynesian economics and militaristic foreign policy is used to justify expanding government power. These new power grabs will increase the threats to our personal and economic security. The resulting chaos will cause many more Americans to resist government policies, with some even turning to violence, while the burden of government regulations and taxes will lead to a growing black market. The government will respond by becoming even more authoritarian, which will lead to further unrest.

Fortunately, we still have time to reverse course. The Internet makes it easier than ever to spark the ideas of liberty and grow the liberty movement. Spreading the truth and making sure we can care for ourselves and our families in the event of an economic collapse must be our priorities.

We must help more progressives understand that allowing the government to run the economy not only leads to authoritarianism, it impoverishes the lower classes and enriches the elites. We must also show conservatives that militarism abroad inevitably leads to tyranny at home. We also need to continue exposing how the Federal Reserve feeds the welfare-warfare state while increasing economic instability and income inequality. This past week’s Senate vote on Audit the Fed is important to our efforts to help the American people learn the full truth about our monetary system.

One thing my years in Washington taught me is that most politicians are followers, not leaders. Therefore, we should not waste time and resources trying to educate politicians. Politicians will not support individual liberty and limited government unless and until they are forced to do so by the people.

© Copyright 2016 Ron Paul