Federal Budget Battles – Rand Paul’s (Somewhat) Sane Proposal

By YeOldeScribe ~ April 19th, 2011 @ 12:15 am

It’s no secret that the Tea Party and the progressive movement (especially us at Political Progressives) are not friends. This isn’t one of those “they’re the yin to our yang” things, either. They’re the South to our North in the little war we know as the battle for congressional power. However, it’s wrong to entirely dismiss someone just because they come from a certain group. That’s not progressive. Keeping this in mind, we wanted to examine the Federal Budget presented by Tea Party Member Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.

For those of you who don’t know much about Sen. Paul, let’s just say we disagree with him on almost everything. This is the same man who said in regards to the BP oil spill “Accidents Happen” and that the Environmental Protection Agency (a regulatory agency) shouldn’t have the power to regulate unless congress approves it (thus defeating the purpose of the agency).  This is the same Rand Paul who believes the Federal Government shouldn’t have stepped in to tell businesses that it’s illegal for them to say ‘We don’t serve black people.’ The same Rand Paul who equates abortion to a consumer choice, hates clean energy, blames Federal agencies because his toilet doesn’t work, and says people should have the right to waste as much water and natural resources as they want (it’s all in this inappropriately-named YouTube video).

So when we were doing research on the budgets that the House Republicans and President Obama proposed and we found Sen. Paul also prepared his own budget, we almost didn’t give it a 2nd glance. To be entirely truthful, we only read the document because we were looking for humorous fodder against the controversial senator. While there is plenty of that in the document, we were stunned to find that Rand’s budget actually is more sane than crazy.

Don’t believe us? We wouldn’t blame you. So read it for yourself. Of all the budgets we’ve asked you to read, this one is actually the most user-friendly. (aka dumbed down so Tea Party members could understand it. Sorry, we couldn’t resist.)

So, after reading the bill, you might be confused why we actually don’t hate it, which is understandable (there’s some pretty radical stuff in there). We’ll go over why we like it, then look at specific parts of the bill we agree with. We’ll cover why we don’t, and move forward from there.

Why we like it:

The biggest reason why we like the bill is simple – it was the first of the three budget proposals. Before the House Republicans and Paul Ryan released their budget and before President Obama countered with his own version, here was Rand Paul, arguing that the budget needed to be fixed and that we should get serious about it. We’re not naive enough to say that the House doesn’t make their recommendations without Paul’s proposal – the House had been formulating their budget months before it was released. But we will argue that Sen. Paul made the first push and got the ball rolling on budget issues.

We’ll also argue that of the three proposals, Paul’s takes the issue the most seriously. For all his many faults, Sen. Paul has correctly identified how big a deal it is that the United States of America owes its debtors over $14,000,000,000,000.00. That’s a lot of zeros. The Kentuckian’ s response may be over the top, but in this matter, it’s better to go overboard than it is to not do enough.

Finally, the bill is at least a little progressive. It’s hard to describe something as multi-faceted as Paul’s Federal Budget as “progressive”, because there’s parts of it that are and parts of it that definitely aren’t. However, we’ll argue that the idea of the Budget is progressive, even if its implementation isn’t.

Specific Parts We Like

Cutting money from the Government Printing Office. We don’t agree with Paul that it should be eliminated right off the bat, but we do feel that much more can be done to put these documents online and costs should be drastically reduced. Perhaps eventually this agency could be phased out over time, but we doubt it. However, we like where Paul was going with this – as is usually the case, he went too far.

Means-Testing Commodity Payments from the Department of Agriculture – If Paul’s numbers are right, we’re giving a lot of money away to mega-farms that don’t need it while small farmers are getting screwed. A good way to stick up for the little guy and save some money.

Re-assigning the branches under the Department of Commerce to where they belong – The examples of waste Paul cites are bad, and we agree that NOAA probably doesn’t have much to do with commerce.

Taking a closer look at the Department of Education – We think Paul is flat-out wrong when he says “It’s not working, so disband it”, but we do agree that it’s not working. The Education Department needs to seriously be evaluated and re-tooled so it can do it’s job instead of failing miserably like it is now.

Cut spending to the Department of Homeland Security – A department wrought with fraud from the beginning, it needs to be reformed so it can do its job while being held accountable for its funds and not given a free pass because it’s associated with fighting terrorism.

Collect delinquent taxes from federal employees – Seems like an easy way to get over three billion dollars. Our only question is why wasn’t this done sooner?

Adopting an Amendment to Balance the Federal Budget – Radical? Yes. A good idea? We think so. Obviously, there would have to be some exceptions such as “in times of war”. Ironically, this may encourage presidents to actually go through Congress to declare war (like they’re supposed to) instead of arbitrarily sending out troops to every corner of the globe. Double win? For sure.

Why we don’t like the Budget:

One overall thought: We like the spirit of Paul’s argument, but he goes too far almost across the board. We feel like Ryan and Obama’s proverbial budget porridges are too cold, but Paul’s is too hot. We need to find the one that is just right.

Largely keeping Department of Defense spending the same – There’s conflicting reports on whether Paul’s budget increases or decreases defense spending. While we applaud him on his quest to cut waste, as we previously noted cutting waste isn’t going to solve the program. Based on how much we spend on defense, we need not only more accountability but more efficiency.

Eliminating the Department of Energy – If the Japanese earthquake/tsunami has taught us anything about nuclear power, it’s that we need more control over it, not less. And handing it off to the DOD? The military and energy applications of nuclear power are completely different. Besides, the DOE does much more than just nuclear power. They need more money to help with clean energy initiatives, not less.

Eliminating the Department of Housing and Urban Development – While entitlement programs across the board need to be looked at, it’s not reasonable to simply eliminate a branch of Congress designed specifically to help poor people find housing. For every fault of HUD Paul lists, there are hundreds of success stories. This is a bad idea through and through.

Eliminating the Bureau of Indian Affairs – Dear Sen. Paul: Want people to stop thinking you’re a racist? Don’t only cut programs designed to help poor people or minorities. Does the BIA need to be cleaned up? Yeah. Does it need to be chopped completely out of the government? No, and to do so would be reprehensible and akin to previous atrocities committed by the white man against the Native Americans. This one is truly a “Shame on you for even suggesting it” moment.

Cutting ALL Foreign Aid: The US already gives next to nothing compared to the total money in the budget when you stack us side by side with the rest of the world. For every dollar in our budget, less than one percent of our budget to other countries. That equates to less than a quarter per person per year. That’s not nearly enough. Yes, we need to evaluate who we give money to. But to essentially flip the rest of the world off while we go swimming in piles of our own cash as the rest of the world starves and dies from things like the common cold? Yeah, that’s not right. Another “Shame on you” moment.

Punting on Social Security: Paul largely leaves Social Security alone, talking about dealing with it via a 75-year plan. Problem is, Social Security won’t last nearly that long. For someone who sees the immediate threat our budget has to our economy, it’s amazing his assessment on Social Security isn’t more bleak.

So on the whole, what do we think? Well, like we already said, pretty much across the board Paul goes too far. But, like we also said, kudos to him for having the cojones to do so. He’s on the right track, at least, and that’s more than what we expected out of someone who thinks the Civil Rights Act was a bad thing. Our final verdict: Progressive(ish).

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