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Rand Paul is right on military spending: frugality is not the same as weakness

Tuesday’s GOP debate hosted by Fox Business was quite good. One of the most memorable moments occurred when Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) clashed over military spending.

Paul pointed out that Rubio plans to boost military spending by $1 trillion ($100 billion a year over 10 years). Rubio notes his plans to go back to 2012 levels on his website.

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(Benjamin Friedman notes that even this increase would not cover Rubio’s ambitious priorities.)

The debate was not the first time the two have faced off on this issue.

In March, Rubio offered an amendment that would have increased military spending by $190 billion over the next two years. That is $190 billion also added to the national debt. Paul, attempting to circumvent the amendment, conceded the increase in military spending but offered to at least offset it with cuts in other areas, thereby making it deficit-neutral. For some inexplicable reason, Rubio opposed it and stuck with his deficit-increasing amendment (as did fellow candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)).

What Rubio presents is a false choice: that we must increase the debt or be weak on national security.

As Admiral Mike Mullen has pointed out, the national debt IS the top national security threat we face.

Rubio is correct that there are threats in the world. And nobody disagrees. National defense is without a doubt the most important thing (and one of the few constitutionally authorized) the federal government does. But exactly how much should we spend?

Paul brought up how much we spend in comparison with the rest of the world. He isn’t advocating we cut ourselves down to their level (his budgets have not proposed that), but the point is we are spending a large amount of money in relation to our main adversaries. It is always important to keep perspective.

And it is also important to keep in mind that government is naturally inefficient and corrupt. We recently learned that the taxpayers funded a $43 million dollar gas station overseas. Surely that does not improve our national security. As conservatives, we believe that blindly throwing money at the problem is not the solution, and that should apply to all aspects of government.

Former Senator Tom Coburn, a deficit and waste hawk, strongly supports and introduced legislation to audit the Pentagon. Rand Paul has since taken up the cause in Congress. We really have to know what money is being spent on before we can assess what the correct level should be.

Finally, I would like to remind people how Rep. John Boehner (R-OH)‘s “golden parachute” budget deal happened. Democrats and Republicans joined together to bust the budget caps, respectively supporting increases in domestic and military spending. We will never be able to save this country from debt if we continue down that path.

Again, nobody is saying domestic and military spending should be treated equally. Paul isn’t calling for the budget to be balanced on the back of the military. His point is that while it should be the main thing we fund, but we must be frugal in our approach.

No increases to the debt at this point are acceptable, period. Rand Paul gets it and Marco Rubio should know better.

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