The following needs to be read in full, but I’ll provide you a beefy excerpt. The setting is the Senate HELP subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging, chaired by Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. The topic is the human toll and budget consequences of senior hunger. The moron is Rand Paul.
Mary Jane Koren, a geriatrician and vice-president of the Commonwealth Fund, noted that seniors often suffer health problems and are put in nursing homes after falling down. Poor nutrition leads to decreased muscle strength, meaning a higher chance of falling—and weaker seniors are more likely to be gravely injured in such a fall. Koren noted that by 2020, the annual cost of medical care for seniors who fall is expected to reach $54.9 billion—many magnitudes more than the approximately $2 billion per year the federal government spends on nutrition assistance for senior citizens.
Senator Paul, however, explicitly rejected this logic. “It’s curious that only in Washington can you spend $2 billion and claim that you’re saving money,” he said. “The idea or notion that spending money in Washington somehow is saving money really flies past most of the taxpayers.” Instead, Paul touted the “nobility of private charity” as opposed to government-funded “transfer programs.” He suggested privatizing Meals on Wheels and other government assistance for hungry seniors.
Sanders had none of this. “Senator Paul has suggested that only in Washington can people believe that spending money actually saves money. And I think that’s the kind of philosophy that results in us spending about twice as much per person on health care as any other country on earth,” Sanders said. “We have millions of millions of Americans who can’t get to a doctor on time. Some of them die, some of them become very, very ill and end up in the emergency room or end up in the hospital at great cost.
“Maybe it’s the same reason why we have more people in jail than any other country on earth including China, tied to the fact that we have the highest poverty rate among children among many other major countries on earth,” Sanders continued. “I happen to believe that intelligently investing in the needs of our people does in fact save substantial sums of money.”
Nevertheless, Paul—who’s home state of Kentucky is ranked twentieth in the nation in senior citizen food insecurity, with over 5 percent of seniors there facing hunger—pressed on. Addressing Greenlee, he asked: “If we are saving money with the two billion we spend, perhaps we should give you 20 billion. Is there a limit? How much money should we give you in order to save money? If we spend federal money to save money, where is the limit? I think we could reach a point of absurdity.”
Senator Al Franken turned on his microphone and offered a quick reply: “I think you just did.”
Here are a few questions I have for Senator Rand Paul. Is it cheaper to replace your roof when it begins to wear out, or should you wait until your house experiences extensive water damage because it costs money to replace your roof?
If your water bill is too high, should you put in low-flow toilets or would that be a bad idea because new toilets cost money?
Was Japan wise not to spend money on backup electrical systems at their nuclear plants because you can’t save money by spending it?
Finally, since it costs money to maintain the levee system in New Orleans, shouldn’t we just abandon that effort and take our chances?
Also, too, we are going to take your lightbulbs away.