Thursday, March 17, 2011

Rand Paul's Budget Solution: Gut the Government

Departments of Education, Energy, Commerce & Housing, and Urban Development on the chopping block

After the results of the 2010 midterm elections, it could be said that the Republican Party was sent to Washington with a very clear mandate: get the budget under control. Now.

One of the guiding lights of the Republican resurgence, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, has made this mandate his driving cause. He's frequently criticized his Republican colleagues -- in both houses of Congress -- for not being dedicated enough to fighting the deficit.

It's against the backdrop of this tension that Paul recently unveiled his 5-year plan to eliminate the US federal budget deficit.

Paul doesn't merely stop at the easy bargaining points -- programs and spending that many people in Congress could stand to see let go -- he also approaches some much more contentious spending, programs that many would argue are essential.

“There’s a lot of things in here that everybody could agree to, Republicans and Democrats, but nobody’s leading on the president’s side and on our side we felt we needed to put this forward to get the debate started, at the very least,” Paul declared.

On Paul's chopping block are entire government departments, including some that all but the staunchest fiscal conservatives would consider untouchable: the Department of Education, Department of Energy, Department of Commerce and Housing, and the Department of Urban Development.

Paul understands the crucial importance that many people attach to these departments. But Paul is trying to avoid a Greece-style fiscal collapse where the pain would be much worse.

“There’s an argument for every federal program up here," Paul conceded. "Nobody’s coming up here asking me for money that’s not for a good reason. But the alternative is that we get into a point of financial disaster where nobody gets any money.”

Paul is prepared to accept the criticisms of his would-be detractors.

“There may be some in this town who will disagree with the manner in which we’re proposing moving toward a balanced budget over a five year period. That’s fine, that’s understandable, that’s what this town is about," Paul said. "But to those who may disagree with it, to those who might want to attack it. I would ask that they come up with their own five year plan.”

If any number of Congresspersons could come up with their own five-year plan, one could rest assured that it wouldn't include purging the federal government of the Department of Education or the Department of Energy.

Simply put, any federal government has an interest in ensuring that education remains strong across the entirety of the country, and that some standards exist from state to state. Moreover, with the amount of American energy derived from imports, there's an extremely strong argument to be made against abolishing that department.

The other two major departments on Paul's chopping block -- Housing and Commerce, and Urban Development -- quite easily could, and probably even should be delegated entirely to state governments.

That's certainly what South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint seems to think.

“There are functions and departments at the federal level that need to be devolved to the states," DeMint declared. "Part of balancing the budget is restructuring and devolving federal functions back the states, local communities and people."

It's an interesting argument: that the federal deficit is driven largely by encroachments into matters of state jurisdiction. It's almost certainly true, even if it's an argument that many Democrat lawmakers would be reluctant to agree with.

Rand Paul certainly isn't entirely right with his five-year plan; Education and Energy are clearly two gaps in his plan. But he certainly seems to be on the right track.

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