U.S. Sen. Rand Paul spent his time in Pikeville Wednesday morning addressing a number of issues, including the economy, welfare and civility.
Paul attended a roundtable discussion at the University of Pikeville’s Booth Auditorium intended to allow Paul to communicate with constituents and take questions from those present.
One of the biggest issues Paul discussed was his “Penny Plan for Infrastructure” which would take 1 percent or 2 percent from all other areas of government spending and invest that money in roads, bridges and other infrastructure.
“It’d be about $10 billion to $12 billion a year,” Paul said. “It would build several bridges or improve several roads.”
Paul said if a 1 percent or 2 percent cut were enacted on spending, that the budget would be balanced relatively quickly.
“If we actually did that to everyone, the budget actually balances within five years,” he said.
Paul said one problem in Washington, D.C., is that the two sides both want more spending: Republicans for the military; Democrats for welfare, and any compromise that occurs results in more spending, not less.
“I’ve been looking for the opposite compromise,” he said.
Paul also addressed programs such as Social Security and Medicare, and said the eligibility ages for those programs must be increased, or cuts will have to be enacted, such as a potential of a 25 percent cut to Social Security recipients.
Paul said while some could absorb that kind of cut to their finances, an individual drawing $700 a month from Social Security cannot.
“If you cut them by 25 percent, they won’t be able to eat, they won’t be able to pay their rent, it’ll be a massive upheaval,” he said.
However, he expressed optimism about the state of the economy in the United States.
“Our economy’s growing, our economy’s doubled eight times in the last 200 years,” he said. “The economy is growing and, as the rich get richer, the middle class gets richer and the poor get richer.
“We’ve essentially wiped out starvation in our country,” he said. “You can virtually say that starvation in our country only happens with mental illness.”
He also said that people not being willing to work, but instead drawing benefits such as Social Security are causing problems for the economy, especially here. While the state may have an overall unemployment rate of 3 percent, that’s not reflective of the reality throughout the state, where people are removed from the unemployment statistics when it becomes clear they’re no longer looking for work.
“Some of the problem you have here is that you have permanent unemployment,” he said. “We have a workforce participation of closer to 50 percent, so you have 50 percent out here in some counties that aren’t even working.”
An unwillingness to work should be an immediate disqualification for social welfare programs, he said.
“Anybody who’s not handicapped in some way or can’t work, I wouldn’t give them a penny,” he said.
Paul said the state of the economy, however, is strong in Kentucky, despite challenges faced in Appalachia.
He pointed to the proposed Braidy Industries steel plant in Ashland as part of the positive movement.
“These are the kind of jobs you really want because they’re going to be good-paying jobs, they’ll have good health insurance and, once that plant gets going ... that brings some permanence,” he said.
Paul also talked about the rancor in Washington, D.C. When questioned about the tone of President Donald Trump’s rhetoric and whether he would be willing to tell the president to be less harsh in his words, Paul said the problem is on all sides.
He pointed to the response on Twitter to the news this summer he had lung surgery and was facing medical issues. The first 1,000 responses, he said, were people saying they wished he’d died.
“I’m a person and I don’t take very kindly to people wanting me dead,” he said.
Paul said that legislators in Washington don’t talk in that way with each other.
“Really, the rhetoric’s not as bad as you think,” he said. “The media, if you watch all these shows, they’re yelling back and forth on these shows, but it’s mostly talking heads. Some politicians occasionally do, and I’m not saying the president’s rhetoric couldn’t be better.”