Erik Paulsen’s Spending Priorities Make No Sense

Back in May, the House passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017, an omnibus appropriations bill. The legislation provided discretionary funding for the federal government through the 2017 fiscal year, which ends in October.

Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.) welcomed the bill. “Funding our government and keeping it running,” Paulsen explained, “is an essential duty of Congress.”

The omnibus agreement funded a variety of programs, agencies, and initiatives. But Paulsen premised his support for the bill, in part, on two elements (military and border security funding) that are hard to justify as priorities and a third (drug abuse treatment) that makes him seem disingenuous at best.

The bill handed the military $25 billion in supplemental defense spending. This additional funding hardly seems “smart,” as Paulsen described it, considering that the U.S. already spends more on its military than China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, the United Kingdom, India, France, and Japan combined.

Another of the bill’s major priorities was border security. While it didn’t allocate funds for Trump’s Mexican border wall or his proposed deportation force, the bill did provide $1.5 billion for border security efforts. The money will be used for new technology and improving existing border infrastructure.

Yet border security is already excessive. As Leigh Ann Caldwell of NBC News reported last year: “Over the past 24 years, the amount of money spent on border security has increased 14 times; the number of border patrol agents have increased 500 percent; the amount of border wall has grown from 77 miles to 700 miles since 2000; and the number of people being apprehended trying to cross the border have decreased by four-fifths.”

Data from the Pew Research Center shows that the number of unauthorized immigrants living and working in the U.S. is lower today than it was ten years ago. Since 2009, only six states have seen their unauthorized immigrant populations grow. And, as multiple studies have shown, unauthorized immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than native-born Americans.

And what of the investment in “fighting the nation’s opioid epidemic” that Paulsen was so enthusiastic about? He was referring, presumably, to the $112 million added to CDC funds to combat prescription drug abuse and the $3.6 billion in funding to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration.

But while Paulsen and his colleagues were too generous with defense and border security spending, they were too stingy with the money provided for fighting drug addiction in America. As I’ve written elsewhere, it would cost $183 billion over 10 years to effectively fight America’s opioid epidemic and the secondary health impacts (like HIV and hepatitis C) that it entails. The funding provided by this appropriations bill doesn’t even approach the adequate amount.

Paulsen’s posturing as a champion for addiction treatment is especially galling given his support for the American Health Care Act back in May. Under Obamacare, some 2.8 million Americans benefited from access to drug abuse treatment. But if the AHCA became law, those people would lose their health insurance and access to treatment — and the GOP, including Erik Paulsen, would shoulder the blame.

Paulsen — a mathematics major in college — is often characterized as a wonky numbers guy. And while he rightly celebrated the increase in NIH funding the omnibus bill offered, his math on America’s other spending priorities just doesn’t add up.

Featured image via YouTube.

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