A study to learn whether or not a fish called the golden shiner can teach us about “collective action”: $5 million.
A project to design beef jerky that rolls up: $1.5 million.
A seminar in which a topic was, “Did Jesus die for Klingons, too?” (This is a question, I can assure you, that will not be answered by any sane person): $100,000.
These examples of absurd government spending become even more absurd when you realize these items were all part of the budget for the Department of Defense.
I know some of this sounds ridiculous, and admittedly, the numbers are small potatoes in terms of actual dollars. But there is a lot more where these examples came from. I would run out of space far before I ran out of examples — and the numbers get bigger. Much bigger.
The Department of Defense also spent more than $700 million on clean-energy research. It spent $6 billion on nondefense research and $15 billion on education. The department educates 19,000 students within its own school system at a cost of $50,000 per student, while the national average is $11,000.
Defense spends $9 billion running grocery stores. It also operates liquor stores and co-sponsored a cooking show.
Do you feel safer now?
I bring attention to these aspects of the “defense” budget in order to have a fact-based, adult conversation with the president of the United States, who seems intent on needlessly scaring Americans through the manipulation of facts, and in some cases, bald-faced lies.
President Obama wants you to believe there is nowhere to cut — that the federal government is cut to the bone, and that people will lose their jobs owing to the impending sequester. As I stated last week — balderdash.
You may have witnessed Mr. Obama’s histrionics recently, where President Chicken Little tried to persuade us all that if the sequester happens — and barely 2 percent of government spending is cut — we will all die. OK, he may not have said that, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we learned that such hyperbolic rhetoric was removed from his speech at the last minute.
I have rarely witnessed such a performance in public by anyone, let alone the president of the United States.
There are many things the president got wrong or didn’t tell us last week, but I will focus on just two.
First: He said the sequester wasn’t his idea. Actually, the president asked for it and signed it into law. I voted against it, not because it had too many cuts, but because it didn’t have enough. The sequester deal also left too many open questions as to how the cuts would be handled.
For all his brash statements about this last week, Mr. Obama has no one to blame but himself. Now, however, he wants a deal. Are we supposed to forget this was his last deal — for which he received as much as a $1.5 trillion increase in his ability to borrow money and increase our debt?
Second: What the president is forgetting to tell you concerns the enormous growth of the federal budget under his watch, which increased by 25 percent, or nearly $750 billion annually, during his first term. This administration has accumulated nearly $6 trillion in new debt, and we continue to spend a trillion dollars per year that we do not have. Yet, Mr. Obama still wants to stop the relatively minuscule spending cuts envisioned for this week.
This is not sustainable. Over the next 10 years, we will spend $47 trillion, yet the president would have us believe that spending a little less than $46 trillion instead will somehow ruin the country.
The exact opposite is true. If we do not stand up now and show we have the ability to cut this small amount from federal spending, we may not survive much longer as a prosperous nation. In order to balance our budget, we would need to cut many times the amount of the sequester. If we are serious about addressing our debt crisis, sequestration is only the beginning. We need much larger cuts. We also need them sooner rather than later.
If we allow those who shriek at even minor spending cuts to have their way this week, it will show we are not yet serious about fixing our fiscal problems. Sequestration is inevitable; rather than crying wolf and scaring the American people into submission by threatening their jobs, our nation’s leaders should be coming up with solutions. I have already offered a series of proposals that cut wasteful spending without laying off workers. One way or the other, though, these cuts must happen.
Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Homeland Security committees.