Rand Paul: Spending Is a Moral Problem

The apple may not fall far from the tree, but the junior Senator from Kentucky has managed to step out from under his father's shadow. After a luncheon with Family-PAC Federal in Chicago, I asked Sen. Rand Paul about sequestration and why he hates to steal.

Nicholas Hahn: What happened on March 1, when sequestration took effect?

Rand Paul: Well, the biggest problem our country faces is the mounting debt -- 16 trillion dollar debt. We're borrowing over a trillion dollars every year and we've added 6 trillion just in the last four years, so we have to do something. The sequester is simply a slow down in the rate of growth of government.

NH: It doesn't actually cut anything?

RP: In the first year or two it does in some departments. But if you look at the overall budget, the overall spending doesn't actually go down. If you look at it over 10 years, spending rises in all departments. It's the least we can do. In fact, what we really should do: the sequester applied mainly to discretionary spending, but if we would have applied it to the whole budget, we would have basically fixed the problem. We'd have gone through a lot of kibitzing about it, but we would have fixed the entire problem had we applied this to entitlements as well.

NH: For many months, though, the conventional wisdom in Washington was that the sequester wouldn't happen. Were you hoping that it would?

RP: I have mixed feelings about it. When it first came up in August of 2011, I actually voted against it. I didn't think it was enough! I am happy that cuts are happening, but these are cuts in the rate of increase. I think we need real cuts against a baseline of zero. The sequester is cuts against a baseline that's rising.

If we don't do anything and continue on this course, entitlements and interest will grow so rapidly over the next decade that they squeeze all spending out. If you're conservative and you want to protect military spending, then you have to fix entitlements because it's squeezing you out. If you're liberal and you want discretionary programs for other reasons, you have to fix entitlements. That's where I think the president and Harry Reid need to show some leadership.

NH: Do you believe the budget is a moral document?

RP: Well, I think it's immoral to steal. It's immoral for me to borrow money, spend it for my generation, and then ask you to pick up the tab while you're still in school or unemployed after graduation.

NH: Your personal faith tells you this is so?

RP: Sure. I think the idea of stealing doesn't have to be just me taking your wallet. There is inter-generational theft going on. There's also stealing in the sense that when you have a debt and you have to pay for it by putting up money, I steal the value of the money that's in your pocket. So, if your gas is $3.20 this week and in a year it's $4.20, I've stolen your purchasing power, but I did so by having a massive debt and printing new money to pay for the debt. All these fancy names like "quantitative easing," are euphemisms for creating new currency, and it devaluates the currency you have. It's taking from people least able by creating this massive government.

That's a moral problem.


Nicholas G. Hahn III is Deputy Editor for RealClearReligion.org. Follow him on Twitter @NGHahn3.

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