Light Applause

I Don’t Love What Rand Paul Stands For, But at Least He Stands for Something

Say what you will, but the Kentucky senator came to Washington to cut spending and at least he's sticking to his guns.


Win McNamee/Getty

I write in praise of Senator Rand Paul. This surprises me because I disagree with him on many fundamental issues. I am neither a free market-no regulations fundamentalist, nor a libertarian. Yet listening to a half hour of his long speech Thursday night, I could not help but be impressed with his logic, and his commitment to principle and consistency.

Paul addressed the ballooning of the national debt that the bipartisan spending bill will cause and castigated his Republican Party, which used to be the party of fiscal responsibility but now was no better than Democrats. Paul emphasized that the bill would add trillions of dollars to the debt, increasing spending by 21 percent.

As he explained his position:

Tonight, you could feel the frustration and embarrassment growing in Congress as we exposed the hypocrisy of Republicans who are joining in an unholy alliance and spending free-for-all with Democrats at the expense of the American people and our party's supposed principles. Make no mistake, I will always stand up for fiscal responsibility, regardless of which party is in power, and I will continue to call the Republican Party home to the ideas that led to Americans trusting us with government in the first place.

Paul was wrong. The frustration that was growing in Congress was with him and not with the bill, since within hours of his speech, the Senate and then the House passed the bill comfortably.

With echoes of the Democrats’ Affordable Care Act, (Obamacare) which Republicans denounced for its catastrophic spending, this time neither Republicans or Democrats would be given a chance to read or debate the bill’s 700 pages. The bipartisan bill, in Paul’s eyes, is a sham, exposing the hypocrisy of both parties. 

It certainly has something in it for everyone but doesn’t seem to consider the ability of the United States to pay for it or the financial havoc it will cause up the road. A lonely deficit hawk, Paul still believes the United States should spend only what comes in. It’s an old-fashioned concept: Don’t keep borrowing money you won’t be able to pay back, or you will be forced to pay for it in the future at high interest rates. Families don’t function this way, yet the federal government does.

Of course, Rand Paul was just as hypocritical as the GOP was today; he voted for the $1.5 trillion tax cut, which also substantially added to the national debt.

A column in National Review Friday quoted Mark Hamrick, an economic analyst for Bankrate.com, who put it well. Citizens want the government to stay open and suspend the debt ceiling, he wrote, but once both Senate and House voted to increase spending, “the nation’s debt continues to expand at an unsustainable rate. This comes after the tax cut, approved late in the economic expansion added $1.5 trillion to the debt.” Comparing it to when Oprah gives everyone in her audience a new free automobile, Hamrick added, “in this case, the cost is being put on the proverbial federal credit card.”

It is not very hard to explain why many GOP members of the House and Senate approved the spending bill. Their states would get funds to help deal with the opioid crises, flood relief, improving the VA, and providing for infrastructure spending. Ted Cruz, who was willing to shut down the government over Obamacare, remained silent. His state, of course, needs more funds for hurricane relief.

On Morning Joe Friday, Bret Stephens of The New York Times said, and I think he is right, that it marked the end of the Tea Party rebellion. This time, I expect we won’t see protests and rallies all over the country, as the Tea Party came out time and time again during the Obama years and protested the kind of bill that just passed. Now, with Trump as President, with only a few exceptions, the entire GOP had forgot their own once firm beliefs and have capitulated to Trump’s agenda.

Thursday night I watched Rachel Maddow on her MSNBC program castigating Paul for trying to shut down the government, which she said he knew would not happen, and only gave his mini-filibuster to stage “a political stunt.”  His plea “would definitely fail,” she said, and Paul “knows it and everyone else does.” Somehow, I did not hear other liberals make the same argument when Nancy Pelosi gave her eight-hour speech to try and stop any deal without addressing the need to change the DACA program. Pelosi too knew she was grandstanding, and her stint would not lead to the result she claimed to want.

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That is why I respect Paul. He’s a rare bird, an individual who gave up working full-time at his medical practice to try and advance his small government and libertarian goals. He went to the Senate for a reason, and when the chips are down, he’s been consistent even though he’s out of step in the era of Trump.