Paul Jacob

“Sometimes conservatives get tagged as being against all government,” said Sen. Rand Paul at a Reagan Library event the other day. “I’m not against all government. I’m actually for $2.6 trillion dollars worth,” he said. “I’m for spending what comes in, but nothing in excess of what comes in.”

Yes, he’s running for the presidency. You can tell, because he’s appealing directly to the masses of Americans who, not without some reason, like big government but are afraid of “out-of-control” government. He’s trying to stake out a middle ground, a “common sense” ground.

Alas, it’s more a muddle ground than a middle ground, and it’s not very sensible.

On the face of it, he sounds reasonable: Unbalanced budgets are a huge problem, a looming threat to America’s future. His idea? Stop deficit spending. Just spend what the government takes in as normal revenue.

What could be more commonsensical than that?

This should be the bipartisan, transpartisan norm. Something we can all agree upon.

Washington insiders, of course, hate such talk, because it would curb their spending, and suggest a whole different way to manage “the economy” than the current “method.” But regular Americans, of all parties, know that debt cannot accumulate and grow forever, and that priorities demand some sacrifice. This is not “austerity” so much as . . . real world budgeting.

But, as basic as it is, it’s something of an illusion.

Time Is Not On Our Side
Federal revenue, not including loans, amounts to $2.6 trillion. So, if the government spent that amount, we’d be fine, right?

This year. But next year, the amount to spend will grow, and the year after, it will grow further.

Why? Because spending is driven, in no small part, by Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and now Obamacare (the last is not an official department, of course).

Such “entitlement” spending depends on claims made by citizens: citizens retiring, or citizens going to the doctor, hospital, or pharmacist. The current entitlement system is set up to grow and grow and grow. So a simple “I like 2.6 trillion dollars’ worth of government” mantra means almost nothing.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.