Senator Bernie Sanders held a hearing today in the Primary Health and Aging subcommittee on the need for increased funding to the programs under the Older Americans Act of 1965. As a 2009 study by the Meals On Wheels Association of America showed, 5 million seniors still face the threat of hunger. Further testimony showed the dire straits that many seniors are in who don’t have the means to feed themselves.
In the face of this testimony, however, Rand Paul called for privatizing Meals on Wheels, as it and other government programs that feed seniors are merely wealth transfer programs that infringe on the private market.
Sen. 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.
Bernie Sanders, predictably, begged to differ:
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.”
Rand Paul then injected more Liberty, because why not:
Nevertheless, Paul—who’s home state of Kentucky is ranked 20th 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.”
Sen. Al Franken turned on his microphone and offered a quick reply: “I think you just did.”
Don’t worry, Dr. Paul. Once we privatize Medicare and Social Security, as you want to do, you’ll see a huge boom in the private charity business. Because sure, we could use the federal government to make sure that old folks don’t starve to death, but what will we lose in terms of Liberty?
UPDATE: Here’s the video of Paul and his exchange with Sanders and Franken: