Republican Senator Rand Paul and his libertarian-leaning ideology has a tendency of making headlines for his positions on fiscal issues. While he has made plenty of enemies for his stances, he has also earned a lot of respect, especially on the Republican side of the aisle. Quite frankly, Rand Paul, like his father Congressman Ron Paul, would probably be a little know figure, if not for his consistency and unwillingness to compromise on his principles, even if he has been willing to compromise on policy. Although Rand and Ron Paul have both gained notary by running for President, their true political power is rooted in their ability to withstand political pressure and do something few in Washington can do, i.e. be honest and vote in line with their actual principles.
Rand Paul’s attempt to scuttle a bipartisan, $500 billion government funding deal, which resulted in an overnight government shutdown, both annoyed his fellow lawmakers and made him the target of scorn across the political industry. Rand Paul may take his lumps for the brief shutdown, which mainly and rightfully embarrassed his coworkers, but his constituents are more likely to praise their Senator than resent him. He was, after all, just being honest and they voted for him due to fiscally conservative stances he was acting on. Senator Paul is honestly concerned about the National Deficit and Debt. He voted for the Republican tax cuts in late 2017, which added to the Deficit and Debt, but he did so, because he is also firmly against government spending. For that reason, he was right to call Republicans out for their hypocrisy on the fiscal issues. They must either vote for taxes and spending or against both.
The brief shutdown may not have had many tangible consequences, but it did force elected officials to consider the fiscal implications of their votes. The anger people feel toward Rand Paul will also burn his message into their minds. As their emotions dissipate, they must remember there is a need to overcome the impulse to be hypocritical and the need to consider the fiscal implications of every vote. This is a lesson for Republicans and Democrats alike. Rand Paul would also like his colleagues, along with the rest of the American People, to embrace his views on government spending and taxes, but that part of his message will only be embraced by his libertarian followers. All others should, however, seriously reflect on the importance of overcoming hypocrisy and embracing fiscal responsibility.
The simple truth is that Rand Paul’s libertarian views on government spending and taxation are untenable. It is an important lesson Republicans need to finally learn. Pretending to be fiscally conservative while pushing for massive spending on Republican priories, slashing tax revenue at every opportunity, and ignoring the spending priorities of non-Republicans is not being fiscally conservative. To be fiscally conservative, Republicans, including Rand Paul, need to understand they are not the only ones who determine spending priorities in government. They must also recognize government spending must be funded. The government must tax. If it does not tax, it must borrow. When it borrows, it is simply displacing the costs of today’s government and benefits, plus the cost of interest on the borrowed money, onto younger generations, i.e. raising taxes on unrepresented younger generations for benefits they will not enjoy.
A large part of the problem is the way in which Republicans view taxes. The money people earn is their money. That is an undeniable truth. Republicans have framed their tax cuts as a way for people to keep more of their own money. In doing so, they have also framed taxation as government simply taking money from the people who earn it. Government is a service. It is a service that organizes communities and enables society to function. A democratic government is a service provider that works on behalf of the People and requires the input of the People. There is strong disagreement on what and how much government should spend, but government is a collective enterprise that requires collective engagement and shared burden. In other words, government spending is spending by the People. As such, those who can afford the financial burden of government must take on that burden and run government in a fiscally responsible way.
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