Sen. Bernie Sanders (Chris Helgren/Reuters)
Way back in June 2011 in a Senate subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging, chaired by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sanders and Sen. Rand Paul showed their different views of the role of government and their different understanding of "spending money to save money."
Sen. Paul's libertarian political philosophy of small government and minimal services clashed with the progressive view of Sen. Sanders. They clashed on things like whether the government should do things like feeding hungry senior citizens. Sanders and liberal panelists argued that, purely from a budget standpoint, it actually saves money in health care costs.
Whether Sen. Paul simply does not understand or is blinded by his political philosophy, he reacted with that mock-shock attitude he displays, saying: “It’s curious that only in Washington can you spend $2 billion and claim that you’re saving money.” Instead he touted what he calls the "nobility of private charity" and suggest privatizing the Meals on Wheels program for seniors.
Leaving aside the humanitarian argument, Sen. Sanders responded:
“. . . 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. . . . 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 the highest poverty rate among children among many other major countries on earth. . . . I happen to believe that intelligently investing in the needs of our people does in fact save substantial sums of money.”Joan McCarter Follow, writing about this for DailyKos in 2011, concluded that this exchange "highlights the great divide between the Republican party of 2011 and the rest of us, a distinction elected Democrats need to be calling out loudly and repeatedly. But in the new austerity-driven policy world, good luck with that."
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And here we find ourselves, four years later in an already heated up presidential campaign, with Rand Paul on one side and Bernie Sanders on the other. No doubt, Sanders is doing better than Paul, and I'd like to think that, in part at least, that is due to the American public being more in tune with the humanitarian Democratic Socialist than with the Libertarian view of smaller-is-better government.