June 27, 2011

Rand Paul: Spending to Save

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s comments last week during a committee hearing on Primary Health and Aging brought controversy to something that would typically have flown under the radar.

The hearing including panelists who related stories from senior citizens who often struggle to make ends meet and don’t always get enough of the right nutrition; speakers also encouraged additional spending on nutrition programs under 1965’s Older American Act.

The committee presented a lot of research on the impact of senior nutrition programs which can be read here. One interesting fact to keep in mind from that research: One day in a hospital is equivalent to the cost of a one-year supply of home-delivered meals.  Wow. Almost seems like the money spent on the food programs would save money down the road, if our seniors were home, health and well fed instead of in the hospital, right?

 Not if you ask Rand Paul:
 “It’s curious that only in Washington can you spend $2 billion and claim that you’re saving money,” he said. “The idea or notion that spending money in Washington somehow is saving money really flies past most of the taxpayers.” 
Really?  Do “most of the taxpayers” not understand how this works?  Here are a handful of easy examples. 
  • Home owners, auto, life, and health insurance.  
  • Oil changes, tune-ups, and checking the air in the tires of a car.
  • Carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors.  
  • Home security systems and car alarms.  
These are the kind of things that most tax payers have at least some working knowledge of and that fall under the bucket of spending money to save money.  I'd hazard a guess that, even in Kentucky, these are not foreign concepts. Rand Paul may even partake of some of this kind of spending for saving himself.

But back to that committee hearing. Paul went on to question whether the federal government should spend even more than the $2 billion. He asked Kathy Greenlee, Assistant Secretary for the Administration on Aging, “If we are saving money with the two billion we spend, perhaps we should give you 20 billion. Is there a limit? How much money should we give you in order to save money? If we spend federal money to save money, where is the limit? I think we could reach a point of absurdity.”

Leave it to Minnesota’s Saturday Night Live Senator Al Franken to reply “I think you just did.”