Rand Paul is far from my favorite congressman — he's a serial hypocrite who spends a lot of time accusing others of being hypocritical. Takes one to know one, as we used to say.
Like his speech on the Senate floor last month against the lavish spending agreement about which he forced a short government shutdown based on his "principles." The self-styled Republican libertarian from Kentucky proclaimed he couldn't bring himself to adding to the national debt and lambasted his fellow Republicans for acting like Democrats with their reckless spending.
Never mind, of course, that the pompous Paul had voted just a few days before to add a cool $1.5 trillion to the national debt by supporting the Trump administration's huge corporate tax cut.
But I have to hand it to Paul for calling out his fellow Republicans for using increased defense spending as an excuse to agree to an agreement that's between $300 and $400 billion out of whack.
Noting that the Defense Department has been anything but starved in the past several years — its budget has been doubled since the attacks on the World Trade Center less than 17 years ago — he said he had a better idea to not only avoid throwing yet more money at defense, but to actually open the door to spending reductions.
"Bring the troops home," he said, pointing out that our involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and other Mideastern trouble spots is what's causing the department's budget problems, not to mention the waste on which Defense never seems to get a handle.
He went on to point out how fruitless spending on these never-ending wars has become — wars that we should never have been involved with in the first place.
Paul, it should be noted, doesn't believe in virtually any government spending. While others might point out that if we would extract ourselves from these winless "wars" we could solve the problems of hungry children, a crumbling infrastructure and the long-term health of Social Security and Medicare, he'd opt for ending all such spending as well.
Nevertheless, he's spot on in equating our obsession with meaningless wars with unnecessary and wasteful spending.
Since 9/11 and our foray into Afghanistan to get even with terrorists who really came from Saudi Arabia and then the evasion of Iraq, which was based on phony intelligence that told of weapons of mass destruction that didn't exist, we've poured $7 trillion down a rat hole that shows no bottom.
Yet Donald Trump insists that Barack Obama cut defense spending, a decision that has "gutted" and "depleted" our military, when in fact until his last two years in office Obama maintained spending that neared $800 billion a year (compared to $400 billion before the Trade Center attacks). And let's not forget that the reduced spending to around $650 billion was mainly caused by the so-called "sequester" amendments that required automatic cuts when certain budgetary benchmarks were reached, a gimmick imposed by Republicans in Congress "concerned" about the national debt.
But, as Trump well knows, you can't be honest when pulling off a flim-flam like he's done with the military budget. In addition to his false charge that America's military is now unprepared, he hinted that unless we bolstered it with $160 billion in additional spending, we could become seen as "weak" and vulnerable to aggression.
But, as Rand Paul pointed out during that speech on the Senate floor, our military is far from depleted. American taxpayers are still forking over more on defense spending than the taxpayers of the next eight highest defense spending countries do — combined. Those eight include China and Russia.
With Donald Trump running the show, we've got more to fear than such nonsense.
We'd be a lot safer with improved highways and bridges, health care for all and a solid Social Security system that will last well into the future. It's amazing what $7.2 trillion spent on peace, rather than war, could do.
Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @DaveZweifel. Zweifel is the co-author, along with John Nichols, of the new book "The Capital Times: A Proudly Radical Newspaper's Century Long Fight for Justice and Peace," published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press. It's available on the Historical Society Press website, and at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
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