Critics lashed out Wednesday at a proposal by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul to slash numerous federal programs, including food stamps, to save $500 billion in a single year.
"Some of the elements of the plan, which would remove the safety net that poor and vulnerable people need, we would find morally objectionable," said the Rev. Patrick Delahanty, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky.
Paul introduced legislation in the Senate on Tuesday that would slash $42 billion from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's food stamp program -- a 30 percent reduction from the current funding level. It also would eliminate numerous other programs, including the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Paul said the proposal, which also would cut $16 billion for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, would roll back federal spending to 2008 levels and eliminate what he considers the most wasteful programs.
The Kentucky Republican said he hopes his proposal will spark a dialogue within the Senate about how to repair the nation's economy.
"I am proud to introduce my own solution to the mounting debt our spendthrift, oversized government has accrued," Paul said in a statement. "By rolling back to 2008 levels and eliminating the most wasteful programs, we can still keep 85 percent of our government funding in place."
Paul, a Bowling Green eye surgeon elected in November with support from tea party activists, centered his campaign largely around fiscal issues. He promised to press for a constitutional amendment that would require the federal budget to be balanced each year. He also said he would make a proposal early in his term to balance the budget in one to five years.
"By removing programs that are beyond the constitutional role of the federal government, such as education and housing, we are cutting nearly 40 percent of our projected deficit and removing the big-government bureaucrats who stand in the way of efficiency in our federal government," he said.
Matt Erwin, spokesman for the Kentucky Democratic Party, said Paul's proposal goes too far.
"Rand Paul is fulfilling his campaign promise to gut funding for our children's education and the services which Kentuckians rely on," Erwin said. "Nothing about a politician introducing legislation that would harm his constituents is commendable."
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said Paul's proposal underscores the serious of the nation's mounting debt.
"I'm glad Senator Paul and many of our colleagues are taking the opportunity to put forward their ideas on how best we can help provide a sustainable future for our children and grandchildren," McConnell said. "There is widespread interest in the Republican conference for spending cuts that pay more than lip service to reducing the debt, and I look forward to working with Senator Paul and anyone else who is interested in tackling this crisis head on."