What is the limiting principle on Ukraine aid?

However, at some point the cost of making life difficult for Putin becomes too much to bear for us. There’s always a danger of agreeing a certain category of spending is good (in this case, aid to Ukraine) and then becoming overly loose when it comes to authorizing subsequent spending in that category.

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Adding the aid bill that passed the Senate today to monies already allocated, we will have spent nearly $54 billion on Ukraine in the past few months. In this era of trillion-dollar spending bills, it may not seem like a lot. But just to put it in context, that’s more than 2021 spending on the Department of Commerce ($13 billion); NASA ($22 billion); the Department of Energy ($34 billion); HUD ($35 billion); the State Department ($36 billion); and DOJ ($39 billion). In 2020, before a recent temporary expansion, the federal government spent $57 billion on subsidizing insurance through Obamacare’s exchanges. And how about the aid to Israel that is subject to so much controversy? In 2016, the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding in which the U.S. committed to $38 billion in military aid — but that was over 10 years.

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So, $54 billion is a lot of money. There is certainly an argument that providing help to Ukraine is a worthy cause. But there are a lot of causes that are worthy that need to be scaled back when federal debt is about the size of the nation’s annual economic output. There is also the argument that if we don’t spend this money, that it could prove costlier down the road. But that is the case for many government programs.

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