Rand Paul: America’s Hungry Seniors Should Turn to Charity

Rand Paul

By Joan McCarter, Daily Kos

It’s a seriously fucked up new world in Washington, DC.

A Senate subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging, chaired by Sen. Bernie Sanders, held a hearing Tuesday on the “human toll and budget consequences” of senior hunger. Panelists shared tales of woe from older Americans unable to get enough food, and urged increased funding for nutrition programs under the Older Americans Act of 1965.This might have been non-controversial a few years ago, but not with the Tea Party in town. The hearing produced a fierce debate between Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, and Sen. Rand Paul, the prototypical Tea Partier, about whether the government should even perform simple tasks like feeding hungry senior citizens….

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.

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.


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.”

In providing this explanation of how social investment works, and the consequences of not making it, Sen. Sanders is making the mistake of thinking that Sen. Paul a) has the capacity to understand what his talking about, and b) gives a shit that there are people dying because they don’t have health care, or have to choose between it and starving. It 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.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos


Shop Opad - 20% Off Today!