But Paul's crusade against aid is most notable as a failure of leadership. It lacks proportion, since the total of humanitarian assistance amounts to less than 1 percent of the federal budget — an expenditure irrelevant to America's long-term, structural fiscal challenge. Paul is appealing to a narrow element of the conservative coalition rather than encouraging serious conservative reflection on public problems. And he is targeting some of the most vulnerable people in the world for ideological rather than fiscal reasons — attempting to undermine bipartisan, humanitarian achievements on AIDS, malaria and other issues that have saved millions of lives.
This is the ultimate challenge of austerity politics: to reduce the size of the government without dishonoring the values of the nation.
Michael Gerson's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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