Politics

Rand Paul’s party of one

Sen. Rand Paul is the only member of Congress who has entertained not just one, but every single one of the following ideas: Requiring a $2,000 deductible for Medicare plans, raising the age at which Americans can receive Social Security, drastically cutting military spending, eliminating foreign aid to Israel and the rest of the Middle East, and weaning poor Americans off “intergenerational welfare,” more commonly known as Medicaid.

Nevertheless, he is unhappy with House Republicans’ attempt to cut first $100 billion, now only slightly more than $60 billion, from the budget. Quite simply, these cuts are not enough.

“Here’s the thing that’s most troubling,” Paul told me in a phone interview. “Even if these House freshmen get $100 billion in cuts, we’re talking about changing the annual deficit from $1.65 trillion, to $1.55 trillion.”

“So really, you’re talking about still adding trillions in debt every year.”

The math behind that is that government spending is currently $3.8 trillion and revenues are only $2.2 trillion.

This kind of thinking makes Paul the most radical man in a party that is trying and failing, for reasons both within and beyond its control, to make good on the essential promise it has made to its base. Paul’s only mission is to help the GOP learn to do something it hasn’t ever really been good at: Reduce the size and scope of government.

“My purpose is to drive Republicans to be more bold,” Paul said. “Most of them want to wait and see what the president has to offer and make it a bipartisan solution so that you get more political cover.”

Paul would rather have Pres. Obama come to the GOP, “so that way, if the president does come around to our thinking, he has to meet us somewhere in the middle, and our solution becomes the talked-about solution.”

A “talked-about” solution Paul proposed before he announced his run for Senate nearly sank his campaign.

“Medicare is socialized medicine!” Paul said at a Kentucky event hosted by the Center-Right Coalition in the summer of 2009. “We can’t just eliminate Medicare, but we have to get more to a market-based system. It’s counter-intuitive to a lot of people, but you have to pay for things if you want prices to come down. So you really need higher deductibles. And the real answer to Medicare would be a $2,000 deductible.”

Paul’s theoretical proposal, which was captured on camera and is available in full on Youtube, provided Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway with fodder for a devastating campaign ad: More than a minute of real live senior citizens reacting to footage of Paul calling for a $2,000 Medicare deductible with real live horror and disgust.

Paul’s team slammed Conway for taking the line out of context, but the damage was done. Paul’s zeal for radically reforming entitlements was out of the bag. Had Conway not followed this effort with the infamously tin-eared “Aqua Buddha” ad, Paul might still be checking for cataracts in Bowling Green.