Here’s Why Rand Paul Has Not Changed His Policy on Defense Spending

by Josh Guckert

It began at 2:14 AM in a piece published by Time. Perhaps the publication simply could not wait until the morning to smear Rand Paul in a misleading fashion. In the article, the author expresses outrage toward the “stunning reversal” executed by Paul, as the Senator proposed a budget amendment that would increase defense spending by $76.5 billion.

Suspiciously, the author writes out an entire numerical sum only once in the entire article, when he elaborates upon how much money Paul’s plan would allot to the Pentagon (“$696,776,000,000”), likely to catch readers’ eyes and make it seem even larger than it is. The author goes on to state that this is “not the first time” Paul has “adjusted” his foreign policy positions in order to gain greater favor in his party leading up to his likely 2016 presidential run, citing his stance on foreign aid.

However, as mentioned in the very same article in a small but rather significant detail that is seemingly brushed aside, Paul only wishes to enact the proposed measure of adding $190 billion to the defense budget if it is done in conjunction with a 2-year $212 billion cut to foreign aid, climate change research, EPA, and the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Commerce and Education. Thus, Paul’s budget amendment actually cuts a total of $22 billion.

The Huffington Post picked up on the story, stating that Paul was channeling his “inner Tom Cotton,” and that “The Most Interesting Man in American politics is quickly becoming anything but.” But in distinct contrast to Cotton, Paul’s Amendment would spend roughly $200 billion less than the totals for which Cotton has previously advocated, while also accounting for the increase in spending with cuts elsewhere. This article’s author echoes the sentiments that Paul is trying to “keep up” and align himself with more hawkish potential 2016 rivals like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz (neither of whom identified budget cuts to make up for their proposed increases in defense spending). Nonetheless, they and other Republicans apparently didn’t get the memo, as Paul’s proposed amendment failed 96-4. If Paul was really being “just another Republican,” one would have expected some semblance of support.

As explained by Senator Paul’s senior adviser Doug Stafford, Paul’s amendment was done as a response to the desire for more defense spending coupled with no cuts whatsoever. With a Neo-Conservative Republican Party now in control of the Senate, the political climate has changed in Washington, DC. Therefore, it is Rand Paul’s responsibility to not merely pontificate and espouse wide platitudes on the principles of liberty, but rather to propose fiscally responsible legislation which can plausibly pass. Needless to say, even as Senator Paul has given some ground to the other side, it was not at all enough. He knows that with interventionist fervor growing in the country and in the Senate, he can only do his best to have some sort of constructive input, while perhaps making some compromise.

Rand Paul, just as did his father, has consistently stated that defense is by far the most important service provided by the federal government. It is “warfare” spending and interventionism that truly needs reformed. While ideally, we would rein in defense spending just as much as domestic spending, elected representatives must be politically tactical in achieving results. It may have been plausible that defense spending could have been cut in 2010 and 2011 with a relatively dovish Democratic Senate, and Rand Paul attempted to do so accordingly. But those times are long gone, and Rand Paul seemingly recognizes that.

One could easily find similarities between Paul’s stance on this issue to the one he has promoted in regards to corporate welfare. Paul advocates that “not one penny” be cut from the social safety net until corporate welfare is completely eliminated. Another position that is similar is the stance which Paul employs on foreign aid, which advocates that we first eliminate that aid which goes to countries which “burn our flag” before examining the money which goes to more American-friendly countries like Israel.

It is not difficult to understand the political evolution of Rand Paul since he first entered the Senate in 2011. He has not changed his principles or ideals. However, he has become more politically astute and pragmatic in his attempts to move the country toward liberty. With the apparent understanding that we are not going to undo decades of mismanagement in only a few years, Rand Paul has done his best to take small but meaningful steps toward dismantling the Goliath that the federal government has become.

It would perhaps be simpler to always vote “no” and remove oneself from the debate entirely. However, if Senator Paul were to do that, he would be doing a disservice to both himself and the liberty movement. While Republicans are in charge, there is almost no point in losing political capital in advocating for plans which will attack the military industrial complex and have no chance of becoming law. Likewise, when Democrats are at the helm, social spending will likely be placed off-limits. However, by working inside the system and doing what is both liberty-oriented and politically feasible, Rand Paul can make lasting changes that would otherwise never be possible.

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