On Friday Senator Rand Paul told viewers on Fox Business that yesterday's vote on his balanced budget bill shows which Senate Republicans are really serious about budget responsibility, and which ones are only fiscal conservatives in the abstract, not in practice:
"Republicans are, in the abstract, for balanced budgets. But as you saw yesterday, the majority of the Republican senators are really not for the balanced budget. They’re only for it in the abstract."
While many in politics are unable or unwilling to criticize their own party, Paul seems more intent on keeping his own party honest and principled— even if it means criticizing other Republicans.
It's that spirit of independence from the partisan games, the Washington politics as usual, that made Rand Paul so appealing to Kentucky voters in 2010, when he was first nominated over Kentucky's Secretary of State at the time, who was hand picked for the seat by the Bluegrass state's senior senator, Mitch McConnell who just happened to be the Senate Majority leader too.
With so overwhelming an advantage, so much experience in politics, and the endorsement of establishment Republicans in Washington, the anointed successor to Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning lost in a landslide to the Bowling Green eye surgeon who said he would go to Washington to stand for principle, not party.
One of those principles isn't even a politically "conservative" principle, though it's often referred to as fiscal conservatism.
It's really more of a principle the way gravity is a principle. No individual, family, or business can go on spending money it doesn't have indefinitely. And no nation can either.
At the beginning of this month, the U.S. national debt was over $21 trillion. More than $6 trillion of that debt is owed to foreign countries, which compromises the U.S. government's independence from foreign interests.
Republicans often contrast themselves with Democrats as the party of fiscal responsibility, but instead of believing his party's hype, Rand Paul asked the Republican controlled Senate to prove it this week.
Despite total Republican control of Washington in both houses of Congress and the White House, the federal government has raised the debt ceiling, increased taxes on many middle class taxpayers after promising it wouldn't, and spent $4 trillion in the first federal budget Donald Trump signed into law.
The three highest deficit spending presidents in American history are all the three most recent presidents: Trump, Obama, and Bush– and two-to-one they're Republicans whose parties controlled both Houses of Congress at some point in their administrations.
A lot of the deficit spending is on corporate welfare– welfare for companies that haven't been able to manage their own finances, but could find the money to pay their lobbyists' bills so they could get a bailout from taxpayers. And despite a carefully cultivated reputation of opposing the welfare state, many Republicans like Trump are no different than Democrats in their overt support for more.
Rand Paul called his balanced budget bill "the Penny Plan," and in fiscal policy discussions that are often both inherently confusing and deliberately confusing by design, it's simple enough:
By spending one less penny out of every dollar for the next five years, Congress can balance the federal budget.
21 Senators voted for the plan and a whopping 76 voted against it. The ones who voted against it don't seem too worried, but Rand Paul, who was sent to Washington in a storm of fury over the untenable state of the nation's finances, sees another one brewing.
He's betting this vote won't be forgotten in future elections by the majority of American voters who say addressing the debt should be among the government's top three priorities.