America is getting its first glimpse of Tea Party principles in action. Kentucky's newly-seated Junior Senator, Rand Paul, who kicked off his general election campaign by saying "I have a message from the Tea Party... we've come to take our government back," is now working tirelessly on Capitol Hill to do just that.
This week the Kentucky Senator introduced a plan to cut half a trillion dollars from the Federal budget in a single year. While some have called the plan ambitious- the Los Angeles Times noted that it's five times as much as House Republican leaders have proposed cutting- it will only cut the Federal budget deficit for the year by a third. It's certainly one of the most substantive fiscal reforms advanced in Washington, but it would still be just a solid first step toward solving the nation's fiscal crisis.
A writer at the Washington Examiner explains that the proposal would simply return Federal spending to 2008 levels and reminds us that cutting one of Washington's programs by 30 percent is less radical than it seems when you consider that any given agency's budget might have been increasing by as much as 40 percent over the last few years. There's simply no reason why an agency should continue to receive drastic budget increases year after year, especially when it isn't delivering results, or is mired in corruption as Americans have learned about an alarming number of Washington agencies in recent years.
Senator Paul's budget proposal would cut 30 and 54 percent from the budgets of the Agriculture and Commerce Departments respectively. The Defense Budget would be cut by 6.5 percent while Homeland Security would lose 43 percent, including a massive budget cut for the unpopular and arguably ineffective TSA. But Rand Paul is just getting started. He said Thursday that in two to three weeks, he will introduce another bill that would reform Social Security by raising the age of eligibility for younger workers and using means testing to determine if high-income workers are eligible for benefits.
On the night of President Obama's State of the Union address, Senator Paul gave his own response in addition to those of the Republican Party- delivered by Representative Paul Ryan- and a separate "Tea Party" response delivered by Representative Michele Bachmann. The tension and leaderlessness of the GOP could not have been more tangible. Yet if Kentucky was any indication, Rand Paul could very well be the leader Republicans have been waiting for- someone who could unite the old "Reagan Coalition" of conservative Christians and small-government libertarians which swept the GOP to power in the 1980s.
In his response Tuesday night, it appeared that Rand Paul certainly channeled Ronald Reagan more convincingly than President Obama did. Senator Paul said:
"It's time to get serious. Let us hope that the debt crisis will be managed before we destroy this great country, before we destroy our currency, before we destroy the American dream we hope to pass on to our kids and our grandkids. America is and can continue to be a great nation. But we must elect leaders who believe in the American dream, who believe in American business, and who believe in American capitalism."
"Fundamentally, the President's vision for America differs from ours. We believe as Ronald Reagan said in his first inaugural address, that government is the problem not the solution. Only by unleashing the greatness of American individualism can we grow our way out of this recession. I hope the President will come to understand this most basic aspect of the American dream."
* Editor's note: While Reagan's famous "government is the problem not the solution" motto has long served as a symbolic battle cry for fiscal conservatives, it should be noted that, under Reagan, federal spending significantly increased, the size of government grew, the budget was never balanced, and the national debt more than doubled. During his presidency, Republicans held a majority in the Senate for 6 out of the 8 years, while Democrats held a majority in the House for all 8 years.