Rand Paul started by telling the crowd gathered in the building in eastern Pulaski County that he wouldn’t talk for 13 hours straight, as he did in his recent Senate filibuster.
However, the hour he was allotted barely seemed to scratch the surface.
Paul, Kentucky’s Junior U.S. Senator from Bowling Green, spoke to a panel of business and community leaders from this area Thursday afternoon at the Hendrickson Commercial Trailer facility of Ky. 461, and the audience members in attendance.
The site was perhaps the perfect place — being a key facility for an international company instrumental in commercial travel — to showcase this county as a place in line with Paul’s pro-business philosophies.
“We want it to be,” Paul said when asked if Pulaski County was a developing area. “There are great successes here and I think there are still great challenges.”
Each of the panel had a question dealing with a concern they had for this community, their field, or the nation at large — and Paul, a Republican with connections to the Tea Party and Libertarian movements, had plenty of answers.
What he wouldn’t say, however, is if he’ll be running for U.S. President in 2016, as many political observers speculate.
“I haven’t made any decisions on that,” he said. “I think the country faces a lot of problems and I do want to be part of the solution.” (He later told those assembled, “Don’t believe everything you read” in reference to the speculation.)
Paul went hard after government overreach and the policies of President Barack Obama throughout the hour-long roundtable discussion, saying Washington needs “more people friendly to business,” as well as denouncing class warfare tactics.
“Some people in Washington are asking, ‘How can I punish you?’” said Paul. “They don’t put it that way, but they really are. They’re saying, ‘Oh, your owner has too much money. How can I take some of their money away? Well, your business needs more regulation.’ But ... if I want to punish the owner of Hendrickson, I’m punishing Hendrickson’s employees. I’m punishing Pulaski County. We’re all in this together.”
Paul has drawn some criticism recently from within his own party suggesting better access to citizenship for illegal immigrants and running afoul of more traditional conservative views on immigration. Paul has a perception as a more “libertarian” politician — his father, Texas Congressman Ron Paul, was a Libertarian Party presidential candidate — but noted that in this day and age, younger voters can be cynical about the motives of politicians and “crave someone who will be honest with them” and that some beliefs do cross party lines.
“Sometimes we’re partisan just to be partisan,” he said, “instead of saying, ‘Why don’t we just fix the problem?’”
Among some of Paul’s responses to specific questions were:
• In reference to a question by Pulaski County Property Valuation Administrator T.W. Todd on the discouragement of the “merchant class” and the tax burden on them compared to individuals who receive more government benefits than they pay in:
“I think people have to get correct information,” said Paul. “The president’s mantra over and over again is, ‘The rich need to pay their fair share.’ Well, maybe that’s true, but the thing is, aren’t they already paying their fair share is the real question. People that own their own businesses already are paying significant taxes.
“A lot of it is a misconception that some rich guy is paying zero percent,” he added. “If that’s true, I’m for fixing that too. I’m for getting rid of some deductions that allow that to happen, but that’s the exception to the rule. Most people are paying taxes, and those people in the business class are paying a significant amount of taxes. ... There’s something wrong with getting us to where we’re so pitted one person against another, and not knowing that our success is intertwined, that if our neighbor succeeds, we succeed.”
• On a question by Somerset Community College President Dr. Jo Marshall on how to fix education:
“I would like to see as much control as we can given back to states and localities, where the decisions are made closer to home” as compared to federal government, said Paul. “... I think good ideas can come because you can see a need for something, whereas if you have someone in a distant location like Washington making it up, it’s not so good.”
• On a question by County Attorney Martin Hatfield about gun control (Paul has threatened to filibuster current gun control legislation):
“I don’t know that there’s an easy answer on it,” said Paul. “I do know that the second amendment is something that we (politicians) chose to protect in our Bill of Rights, so it’s not something that by majority vote, you can just vote to take away (from it).
“I can’t imagine one of my kids being shot or losing on of my kids to violence,” he added, referencing the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut that added national fuel to the gun control debate. “The shock of it and emotion of it, it’s hard to get beyond that. When you look at it and say, ‘What could have been done to stop that?’ and then what are the different gun control proposals, I don’t see any one of them that would have stopped it.
“The only thing that I think would have stopped it is someone there with a gun. Some may not want to hear this, but a concealed carry weapon by a principal or a teacher, I think, is the only way that would have been stopped.”
• In reference to a question by Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital CEO Mark Brenzel about the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare”:
“Medicaid is a credit card that has no limits,” said Paul. “... The marketplace got divorced from the consumer. Usually with private insurance, people didn’t pay deductibles and didn’t have a cost, so why would you even look at your bill? And so bills ratcheted up and hospitals did it to pay for the people who weren’t paying. Aspirin costs $10 because one out of five people weren’t paying any bill and you had to pay for their medicine as well. Medicaid is something that, because it’s unlimited, will lead to overuse. This is the same of all government health care.
“I think there will be another fight over Obamacare, but it’s going to be after that two-year period (where) the federal government (will) pay for it,” said Paul. “They’re talking about in Kentucky going from 700,000 people on Medicaid to adding 400,000 more people on Medicaid. I think when you do that, you’re starting to include people who aren’t poor. ... I’m not saying health care is cheap, but if you had more of a marketplace, health care would come down.”
• In regard to local Dairy Queen businessman Dan Cheshire’s question about the affect of government mandated health care on his type of business:
“I hear from a lot of people who have restaurants and are in the service industry, and they’re very worried about what’s going to happen with Obamacare and the cost,” said Paul. “Unfortunately, the majority in the Senate and the president, they’re not going to budge on any of this.
“There are unintended consequences and future chaos that’s coming from this law” added Paul. “When they’ve virtually driven you out of business, or when every restaurant owner in the country is up in arms and saying, ‘We’re being hounded to death, we’re struggling to make a profit,’ then maybe little bits of it could be repealed, but we’re not there yet. They’re going to wait and see how bad you suffer and see how much the economy is dislocated by this.
“They’re well-intended,” he added of Obamacare’s proponents. “I don’t think they said, ‘Oh, I’m going to try to make Diary Queen in Pulaski County go out of business.’ But they think here” — Paul pointed to his heart — “and they don’t use the brain.”