Sen. Rand Paul's plan for cutting $500 billion from the federal budget is more parlor game than serious proposal, as evidenced by its lack of co-sponsors.
You can learn a lot from games, though. So let's imagine the country we'd have if Kentucky's freshman senator were in charge.
Start with education. Paul wants to de-fund everything except Pell Grants for college students.
If his plan had been in place in 2007-08, the year before the Great Recession, Kentucky's public schools would have been $711 million poorer. Fayette County schools would have lost $31 million and the schools in Warren County, Paul's home, $11 million.
As Paul points out, federal money can't be used any way local districts choose and comes with "red tape." Indeed, federal dollars are largely targeted at leveling the playing field for poor and disabled children.
Kentucky last year received $147 million through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, money that educates disabled children and that would go away if Paul had his way.
Also lost to Kentucky would be $435 million for schools with high percentages of low-income students and $7 million through the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, named for a Kentuckian in Congress whose values could not have been more different than Paul's.
Perkins believed that opening opportunity to all was the path to national prosperity and a proper role for the U.S. government. Paul's ideas would tilt the playing field in favor of the rich, the powerful and corporate interests, leaving the poor and middle-class to fend for themselves.
He would eliminate the Consumer Product Safety Commission and cut the Food and Drug Administration, which oversees food safety, by 62 percent. He wants to reduce funding for the National Park Service by 42 percent, eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and privatize the Smithsonian Institution. He would cut the National Science Foundation by 62 percent because he thinks private industry should be in charge of research.
Blaming food stamps for obesity among the poor, he wants to reduce spending on the program to 2008 levels. The average food stamp allotment for a household in Kentucky last month was $276.
Like many Republicans, Paul seems not to understand that the national debt always rises in recessions. Without the temporary spike in federal spending since 2008, the economy would be much weaker and many more Americans would be jobless and poor.
Paul pines for a land built on libertarian theory. But the country of his ideals is a place that few Americans would want to leave their children.
In drafting his plan, Paul had the advantage of knowing that no one in Congress would take it seriously.
So, it didn't matter that he includes nothing to hold down health care costs, the main driver of the deficit long-term. He does call for Medicare reform but offers no specifics.
He says his defense cuts would amount to 6.5 percent or $47.6 billion. That's less than half of the $100 billion in cuts proposed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Paul also would eliminate all foreign aid, saving $24 billion and leaving the world's sole superpower with no carrots and nothing but sticks in its diplomatic quiver.
Paul's budget plan does serve a purpose, though, by showing that the enormous fiscal challenges facing this country are no parlor game.
Trimming the deficit, while making sure the economic recovery reaches beyond board rooms and Wall Street, will require a mix of spending cuts and tax reforms — and a lot of serious work and discipline on both sides of the aisle.