Sometimes conservatives get tagged as being against all government, said Sen. Rand Paul at a Reagan Library event the other day. Im not against all government. Im actually for $2.6 trillion dollars worth, he said. Im for spending what comes in, but nothing in excess of what comes in.
Yes, hes running for the presidency. You can tell, because hes appealing directly to the masses of Americans who, not without some reason, like big government but are afraid of out-of-control government. Hes trying to stake out a middle ground, a common sense ground.
Alas, its more a muddle ground than a middle ground, and its not very sensible.
On the face of it, he sounds reasonable: Unbalanced budgets are a huge problem, a looming threat to Americas 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, its 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, wed 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.