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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. With just under a week to go to the Florida primary, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich continue to duke it out over who will win that big and important state. An estimated 2 million voters are expected to turn out for this Republican-only contest.

SIEGEL: Texas congressman Ron Paul is polling in fourth place this week. He is not expecting a big win on Tuesday. In fact, he's not even competing there. He's back home in his home state today, and that's where I reached him earlier.

Representative Paul, welcome to the program once again.

RON PAUL: Thank you. Good to be with you.

SIEGEL: This week's release of Mitt Romney's taxes, and President Obama's advocacy of a millionaire's tax, raise questions about fairness in funding the government. The first question: Do you believe that income derived from dividends, interest or capital gains should be taxed at a lower rate than income earned from a salary or commissions?

PAUL: Well, I'd like to have everybody taxed at the same rate and, of course, my goal is to get as close to zero as possible because there was a time in our history when we didn't have income taxes. But when government takes it upon themselves to do so much, you have to have a tax code. But if you're going to be the policemen of the world and run all these wars, you have to have a tax code.

But as far as what the rate should be, I think it should be as low as possible for everybody.

SIEGEL: But since we do have a tax system, you would say do away with the preferential rate for investment income?

PAUL: No, I wouldn't do away with it. I would just realize that there are some problems with it. If you want it equitable, we should lower everybody's rate down to the investment rate...

SIEGEL: So, 15 percent or so?

PAUL: Yeah. I mean, if the investment rate, or the capital gains rate, is 15 and somebody else is paying 30, I wouldn't go for equity by raising everybody to 30. I'd want to lower everybody to 15.

SIEGEL: If - you've - you advocate auditing the Federal Reserve. If the Fed were closely audited and overseen by the Congress, why wouldn't it be reasonable for us to expect that more direct political pressure on monetary policy to always produce lower interest rates? Can you imagine the Congress that would say, why don't you raise interest rates already? Why don't you make money tougher on people?

PAUL: No. I think you're absolutely right. That's why I don't want that to happen because indirectly, that is the case. Presidents have put pressure on the Fed, and there's been statistics to show in election years, if you have a friendly Fed, they keep interest rates low. So you're right. I don't want the Congress dictating interest rates. I want the market to dictate interest rates by savings.

SIEGEL: But doesn't the proposal to audit the Fed, and to be able to get inside the workings of the Fed - doesn't that, in fact, increase congressional pressure on monetary policy?

PAUL: Oh, it can't be any worse than it is right now. But what it would put pressure on is, find out how they spend $16 trillion - which they used during the crisis - which banks got benefited, which European banks got benefited, and which ones will in the future? Why should their budget be two or three times bigger than the congressional budget, and nobody knows what they're doing?

SIEGEL: Newt Gingrich has proposed a commission to consider a return to the gold standard. Do you think he's sincere about the gold standard, or is he just trying to win over some Florida libertarians who might otherwise vote for you?

PAUL: I think the latter is the case.

SIEGEL: You think it's more of an electioneering ploy?

PAUL: Oh, yeah. I mean, he would've had the chance over all those years to help me out.

SIEGEL: Everyone else who's still in the Republican race can claim to have won a caucus or a primary - but you. What state can you point to down the road which you think is a sign of the viability of your candidacy - you can win, and should win?

PAUL: I'm not going to do that because I haven't calculated, so we have to wait and see. That Iowa vote was a straw vote, and the delegate allocation hasn't yet been done. And I've a very good chance to do quite well out there. So we've only had two, and I will be working in the caucus states. So to say that this means that I have no chance on - gathering up adequate number of delegates is sort of jumping the gun.

SIEGEL: No, but what's an adequate number of delegates?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

PAUL: As many as I can get. More than 10.

SIEGEL: But if you're in it to win.

PAUL: I haven't even looked at them carefully enough. Somebody else worries about those kind of things. I just think that this thing is so up and down. Romney was up for a long time. Now, he's down. Gingrich was down at the bottom and now, he's up. How many have come and gone? One thing you can't say about my campaign - I don't come and go. All I do is add.

SIEGEL: Last subject. When you've been asked about a third-party run, you always say you don't plan, intend or want to do that. Let me put the question this way: After contesting the Republican primaries and caucuses, would it be honorable to say, I didn't win; I'm going to take my marbles, go home, and run against the Republican candidate?

PAUL: Would it be honorable to do that?

SIEGEL: Yeah.

PAUL: I think it's total neutral. I don't think it's honor one way or the other.

SIEGEL: But doesn't taking part in the Republican process imply some loyalty to the Republican Party so that your rivals whom you're debating with all this time and running against, if one of them bests you and gets a lot more delegates...

PAUL: Well, what if, what if young people now decide that the Republican Party wants sound money and no wars? Would it be honorable for them to come and join us?

SIEGEL: Well, that would be their decision. My question is about you as a candidate. Would you go with them? It sounds to me - you're not taking it off the table, is what it sounds like to me.

PAUL: Well, it's awfully premature because as you said, you're waiting to find out what state I'm going to win, and how many. So we have a few months to go before I will need to answer a question like that.

SIEGEL: Fair enough. One thing that Republican - or conservative pundits always remark on is, they say that what's different now from past cycles when you ran is that your son, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, his future in the Republican Party might be jeopardized if you were seen as disloyal to it. Is that a factor at all in your...

PAUL: Well, I don't think that's true. I don't think they'd punish the next generation for something they think that I might've contributed to.

SIEGEL: Well, Representative Ron Paul, thank you very much for talking with us today.

PAUL: All right. Thank you.

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