Sometimes, you get what you pay for

SOMETIMES, YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR…. In Kentucky, the Lexington Herald-Leader had a good editorial the other day that an alert reader brought to my attention. It expressed a sentiment we’ve probably all heard more than a few times, but it’s nice to get a reminder now and then.

The editorial board highlighted the fact that Rand Paul, the bizarre Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate, has ideas that sometimes “crash into reality” in awkward ways. For example, Paul hates “big government” programs like Medicaid and Medicare, but the health care programs nevertheless constitute about half of his professional income. Indeed, the right-wing ophthalmologist would like to eliminate most of the federal government, but he’s prepared to leave Medicare intact — the socialized-medicine program that’s helped him pay his mortgage.

Likewise, Paul wanted nothing to do with contributions from senators who support the financial industry bailout in 2008. The pledge suddenly disappeared when his campaign decided he needed the money.

For the Herald-Leader, the point for voters to ponder is “how Paul’s ideas and ideals would translate on the ground.”

In fairness, many of us are guilty of wanting the benefits of something — whether it’s board certification or full campaign coffers — without paying the price.

Like the Gulf Coast residents who want government off their backs, until a hurricane or oil spill comes along.

Or the Farm Bureau that wants government off the farm, except for the mailbox which is always open to subsidy checks.

Or politicians who rail against out-of-control spending but show up to take credit when a ribbon is cut or oversized check presented.

Or all the rest of us, who resent the chunk of change that government extracts from our pockets but want smooth roads, good schools, police and fire protection, national security, personal security in old age, free markets governed by laws, student loans, flood walls, lakes and parks and the list goes on.

The Tea Party movement, of which Paul is both a leader and beneficiary, feeds the comforting illusion that we can have all we’ve come to expect from government without paying for it. We buy into this illusion at our own peril.

I don’t have anything especially insightful to add; I just found this sentiment worth repeating.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.