rand-paul-1Photo courtesy Paul McReePOWDERLY, Ky. (4/16/14) — U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., was quite frank with audiences on a swing through western Kentucky coal country Tuesday, April 15.

Paul fielded questions at the Hopkins County Chamber meeting, and then wrapped up his day at the Muhlenberg County Senior Citizens Center. There Paul took questions regarding a range of issues, including healthcare reform, entitlements and what he called "President Obama's war on coal."

"We need a new president," Paul said early in his open forum organized by the Muhlenberg Alliance for Progress. "The president said he would bankrupt the coal industry when he took office, and that is what he is doing. When we had the shutdown last year, the EPA listed 95 percent of employees as inessential. I thought this was great. Finally we are going to learn something. We've got too many damn EPA regulators bringing down the coal mines and giving them a hard time."

Paul then illustrated his problems with the EPA by sighting the recent case of EPA regulator John C. Beale.

"When they did go down the list of inessential employees, they noted that Beale had only worked three out of the last six months," Paul said. "When they investigated further it was revealed that he was telling his boss he also worked for the CIA. Beale was with the EPA over 11 years and made over a $100,000 annually. So, they did something that has never been done before. They called the CIA and they said they had never heard of the guy. Can you imagine telling your boss 'Sorry, I can't some in. I'm on assignment in Istanbul.'"

Beale was questioned by congress in hearings and was eventually given a 32 month sentence in prison.

"The shutdown was not a good thing," Paul said. "But the fact is, when the government shuts down, it really doesn't shut down. Two-thirds of the government is on autopilot. It's called entitlements. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are never voted on and they go on and on and on. Why is that a problem? Because we spend about a trillion dollars a year we don't have on them. So, if you ignore this two-thirds of the budget, you can eliminate the other one-third and still would not balance our budget. No one of wants to take away someone's Social Security or Medicare. But it's a problem to spend a trillion dollars a year you don't have."

Paul's solution?

"Social Security can be fixed by gradually raising the age limit," Paul said. "So someone my age, you tell us we're going to have to wait a little longer. We already did this before in 1983. We went from 65 to 67 as the retirement age. We can't keep borrowing money from China to pay Social Security. We have to get beyond the divisiveness. I think the president is responsible for a lot of that."

Paul then turned to what has been the lifeblood of the western Kentucky economy for over a hundred years — coal mining.

"We have to get our communities going again," Paul said. "We cannot have a president whose stated goal is to bankrupt coal. That is the policy of the president. He said it when he went into office, and he has followed through with it. Right now, natural gas is replacing some of the coal-fired plants in Muhlenberg County and other counties in Kentucky. People say, 'That's just the marketplace. It's cheaper.' Well, yes and no. One reason natural gas is cheaper is because there are so many regulatory costs on coal, that are not on natural gas. I'm not proposing regulations on natural gas, but the president says he is for a balanced approach. Well, your job is part of the balance."

When asked by a member of the audience about his feeling on the flat tax, Paul said he was very impressed with the idea. The flat tax gives an across the board 17 percent rate to everyone.

"I'm for any tax, where we pay less," Paul said. "I know it sounds simplistic but I want a simpler tax code. and more money remaining in Kentucky, and less sent to Washington. In my budget I proposed a 17 percent flat tax for corporate and business, with a $50,000 exemption. You would no longer have a situation where really rich people pay nothing, or really rich corporations pay nothing."

Dean Rowe of First Kentucky Bank in Central City voiced his concern to Paul about the results of the Dodd-Frank Regulatory Reform Act, which was passed in the wake of the large corporate bank bailout.

"Dodd-Frank has now turned into tens of thousands of pages," Paul explained. "But Congress doesn't write the laws. We write the outline of the law and the president and the bureaucrats do the rest. We did have a big problem in 2008. We were this close to panic for the world, because big banks had gotten so large. But the problem wasn't your local bank. Not one local bank failed. But we ended up applying all of this to local banks. So in many cases you are forcing the small banks into the hands of the big banks. Dodd-Frank went too far. The banks in New York are bigger than they've ever been. Why are they being rewarded, when they lost all their money?"

Polls often show Paul on the short list of candidates for the presidential election in 2016. One audience member asked what Paul's first act would be if he did decide to run and was elected. Paul said that although he is still undecided on whether to seek the office, if he were president he would start with reversing many of the executive orders enacted by Obama.

"The executive orders, which the president can do automatically, have done a disservice to the country," Paul said. "It has greatly expanded government, but a lot of that can be undone. The president has written dozens and dozens of these things just in regard to Obamacare. Some of this has made healthcare more expensive. Also, I would no longer hire anyone for the federal government until we can get our books in order. I would not replace people that retire. Every year enough people retire from the federal government to save $6 billion."

After an hour of questions and answers, Paul headed south to his home in Bowling Green. This was the senator's fourth visit to Muhlenberg County since being elected in 2008.


Paul McRee
SurfKY News Reporter
Photos by Paul McRee

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