Middlesboro Daily News (MDN): What brought you to Kentucky originally?
Rand Paul: My wife. She grew up in Russellville which is about 30 miles from Bowling Green and when I finished my medical training we were looking for a small town to raise a family in. Her parents still lived in Russellville and she convinced me to come, and I’ve been really glad.
MDN: What is you favorite thing about Kentucky?
RP: I think the small, rural nature of it, really. I didn’t want to live in a big city. I like the personal relationship of being part of the community.
MDN: Regarding one of the biggest issues on the minds of Kentuckians, coal, you’ve said that you oppose cap and trade policies?
RP: I’m opposed to cap and trade. I think that it would be a disaster for Kentucky, not only this region, but really if you’re just a consumer of electricity. You know 90 percent of our electricity in Kentucky is from coal and I always tell people even if we had no coal, I’d be opposed to cap and trade, because I don’t think it’s a good idea to put a tax on everyone’s electricity.
What I propose specifically for the coal industry is — I think the EPA needs to be reigned in. We need to limit the EPA’s jurisdiction over the coal industry. The EPA has been limiting the amount of permits that have been coming out, and I think that already there are some repercussions here with a slow down as far as getting permits to mine coal. I would introduce legislation to reign in and take power away from the EPA.
MDN: What kind of impact do you think coal is having on the environment versus the economic impact it’s clearly having in this part of the country?
RP: It will have an enormous economic impact if we shut down coal. Plus, how do you go from having 90 percent of your electricity from coal to another form? Its not that we won’t, I think that we will eventually have other forms. So, for example, recently they voted in Frankfort to allow the building of nuclear power plants and I’m all for that. I’m very pro-coal, but I’m also for allowing other energy to develop as well. But it will be a couple of generations of burning coal before you can change over to other forms, and maybe longer than that.
I think we’re burning coal much cleaner than we used to. Its not perfect, but I think one of the misconceptions is that people think that our environment is a lot worse now than it was thirty years ago. If you look at Pittsburg or look at any of these industrial cities in the 1950s and 60s or go back to the 1920s, you couldn’t see your hand there was so much smog in those cities. So we do a much better job with pollution now than we ever did. Is it perfect? No. But when we burn coal, we burn it much cleaner than we ever have.
MDN: Regarding energy policy, on your website, you wrote: ‘By subsidizing certain new energies like solar and wind, we distort the marketplace and make it impossible for companies to know what is really the most efficient solution.’ Can you elaborate on your idea of sound energy policy?
RP: I would say that my energy policy is let the marketplace decide through capitalism. So it shouldn’t be me saying: ‘I like wind mills and I hate coal, so therefore I’m going to give all these benefits to wind mills and punish coal.’ That’s kind of what I think the Obama administration is doing. Mine would be more of: let’s step back and let the marketplace decide. Coal’s still pretty cheap and it’s a cheap form of producing electricity. As far as the mining aspect of it, it should be decided in Perry county and Pike county and all these individual counties should make the rules for how the mining occurs. I don’t think Washington should have anything to do with the mining.
MDN: But Washington has since before the Obama administration.
RP: Dating all the way back to 1936 with the Carter Coal Company days. I think that it was a wrong trend to allow the government to become more involved so I would try to reverse that trend. Can we make it exactly like it was? No, but my overall philosophy as a Republican would be to give more local control, not federal control.
MDN: You seem to have strong opinions, as many Republicans do, that the government should have very limited involvement in business in general. You’ve said that you would reduce corporate taxes and eliminate special taxes as a way to generate jobs. Given what we’ve seen regarding executive salaries and bonuses even in hard times for those companies, how can we be sure that the money they receive from reduced taxes won’t go into their pockets rather than result in job expansion?
RP: What I would say is that I am opposed to tax-payers financing bail-outs. Giving Wall Street bankers 100 million dollar bonuses, I think that’s wrong. But if you run your company into the ground and bankrupt your company, you don’t deserve bonuses. Your stock-holders shouldn’t get dividends; that’s what happens in bankruptcy. The only reason it happened is that the federal government came in and said: ‘We’re not going to let you fail.’ And as a consequence, the government allowed tax-payer money to go to prop-up industries that then sent their employees on spa treatments for $250,000, massages, you name it. Things that were extravagant.
But, what I would also say is that if you are Sam Walton and you start Wal-Mart and you run an efficient business, I’m going to pat you on the back and say ‘Congratulations.’ I don’t want to limit how much people can make. One of the wonderful things about our county is that your kids could be the next Bill Gates. Bill Gates came from an average, ordinary family like the rest of us. He became the richest man in the world because we have mobility in our country. I don’t want to punish wealth, but I don’t want the tax-payers to be supplying bonuses to wealthy people either.
MDN: You’ve also talked about free market principles in healthcare. You stated on your website that: ‘Just as few in this country go without food or shoes, so too would few go without healthcare if it weren’t for the government.’ Do you think the government already has too heavy a hand in healthcare?
RP: In my medical practice, over 55 percent of what I do is already paid for by the government. There are problems in health care and I would divide the problems in two ways: there’s an expense problem and there is an access problem. The debate in Washington has all been about the access, the 46 million that don’t have insurance.
I think the first thing you need to say when you begin this debate is that we have 100 percent access for emergency care, so we don’t turn anybody away from the emergency room. Now the 46 million they say don’t have insurance, there are some answers other than complete government take-over. One third of them are eligible for medicaid but they’re just not applying for it. So we need to change the rules; if they’re going to be in the medicaid system, then they need to go apply for it. A third of the 46 million make more than $50,000 a year and they’re not buying insurance because of the expense. Twenty percent are illegal immigrants in this country and I don’t think we should be driving the debate to give them free coverage.
MDN: We have the highest cost of healthcare, even among countries in Europe with socialized medicine. We also rank 14th in preventable diseases and 24th in life expectancy among such countries, according to the World Health Organization.
RP: There’s some gamesmanship that’s played with some of the statistics. For example, you have Michael Moore running around the country saying that theirs is much better care in Cuba. I question if that’s true. How many people have you ever heard of flying to Cuba for healthcare? You do see people flying to New York, Boston, the Mayo Clinic. They come here because we have the best healthcare in the world.
Look at things like infant mortality, do you think we can trust Cuba to be telling us honestly what their infant mortality rate is? The other thing is many of these countries don’t count children younger than 27 weeks, they count them as non-sustainable children. So there is some gamesmanship with statistics for preventative medicine. I personally wouldn’t go anywhere else in the world if I could afford it and needed healthcare.
MDN: What about Europe or Canada?
RP: There’s very little to emulate about Canada. There are a million people waiting at any given time for elective care.
MDN: You talked about medicaid, do you support retaining medicaid? Would you limit it?
RP: I don’t think you can eliminate all the government programs, but I would say let’s tweak them toward the marketplace. In Kentucky, one thing we did a few years ago is we started having a co-pay. Patients are paying three dollars when they come in. I think that’s a good idea. In fact, I would tweak it some more. The patient needs to be participating financially in the decision, because they ultimately behave more responsibly when they have to pay something.
The other thing we need with healthcare, though, is that we need to make health insurance more like term life insurance. We need to have multi-year plans, because the thing that people fear is having a heart-attack; they’re health insurance expires in two months and then they get their rates tripled. Some companies will say: ‘You have a pre-existing condition, we won’t even cover you.’ But if you have term life insurance and you have a 20 year contract nobody gets rid of you at all. That’s what we need for health insurance- 20, 30, 40 year plans. So when you’re 20 years old and you’re healthy, 99 percent of 20 year olds won’t get sick this year, so they should be getting $2,000 deductibles, the deductible should rise a little each year, they should be putting money into a Health Savings Account, and over a 45 year period, maybe until you get to Medicare, you switch over and you’re on Medicare and you Health Savings Account takes care of the other 20 percent. That’s capitalism working in the system.
Nobody in Washington is even talking about that. They are opposing Obamacare, but Republicans need to articulate solutions like this in a better way. So we can say, which I believe is true, that we believe in reforming the system, but we need capitalism to reform the system.
MDN: Regarding private insurance where many of the problems seem to be, how would you encourage them to take on people with pre-existing conditions?
RP: One of the ways is through long-term contracts. Then when you’re sick, you don’t get dumped because you have a long-term contract. I would suggest getting insurance sold to individuals when you’re 20 or 21. The trade-off is you would pay for most of you expenses. You would have a 2 or 3 or 4 or even $5,000 deductible, but your premiums would be much less. Insurance is incredibly cheaper with higher deductibles. They realize you’re not going to use it and that’s why their executives make $150,000,000 a year. They understand the actuarial tables and that for the most part, you’re not going to use it.
MDN: How do you get insurance companies to give those kinds of contracts.
RP: To get multi-year contracts, you have to change some tax rules, you have to allow competition across state lines so that some of these products will be developed. Then we have to look specifically and see if there are any reasons or regulations that prevent multi-year policies from developing.
MDN: You oppose the Patriot Act put into place by the Bush Administration and similar tactics. What should we do to counter terrorism without violating the liberties of our citizens?
RP: I would put a moratorium on all new student visas from certain countries: Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, probably Egypt, and four or five others. No students could come from those countries until we figure out how to police the visa process. When 9/11 occurred, 16 of the 19 hijackers came here on student visas. Ten years later, we’re still admitting students. The underwear bomber came here on a valid visa and all the warning signs were there. We need to police that system.
I would also look at a frequent flyer program for the business men and women who frequently travel to the US on business. I would say submit to a background check, give them secure Id and let them go right through the process. Then new people who show up randomly and have been studying with radical sheiks in Yemen, maybe we should pay a little more attention to.
MDN: What about terror threats born at home?
RP: I think with people within the country, we should follow the constitution, but if there is evidence that people are involved with a conspiracy against the government, then you take it to a court and ask a judge for a warrant. You can then search their homes and phone records, but you have to get a warrant first.
MDN: You were opposed to the Iraq war, but support the war with Afghanistan.
RP: I think that any time we go to war, we should vote to go to war. We haven’t done that since World War II. I think that’s a big step toward safe-guarding that we don’t go to war without clear purpose, without clear consensus, without unity of the country. The most important debate we ever have in Congress is over declaration of war. I would have forced that during Iraq and I would have said I don’t think that Iraq threatened our national security and I would have voted ‘no.’
The same with Afghanistan, but I would have voted for that because I think we were attacked by people who were receiving orders and being trained in Afghanistan.
MDN: What is the end goal with Afghanistan? How long do you expect us to be there and what are the rewards versus the sacrifices?
RP: It’s now been ten years and I think those are important questions. I think we need to have a big debate again in Congress about whether our national security is still threatened by Afghanistan. I think we need to ask some tough questions like: is it appropriate for US tax dollars to be paid to the Taliban to ask them not to fight? Is it appropriate for US contractors who are building things like schools over there to pay the Taliban protection money so that they don’t attack them? The Taliban takes that money and sets IEDs (improvised explosive devices) at night and steal our soldiers lives and limbs, maybe indirectly from our money.
I don’t know if I know all the answers to those questions. We need to know what the intelligence is. Formal General Jones who is the National Security Advisor to Obama says that there are less than 100 Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Do we need 100,000 soldiers to combat 100 Al-Qaeda. I do think it’s the President’s prerogative to make that decision, because he needs to based on immediate military needs.
MDN: On your website it says: ‘In Rand’s proposed budget, defense spending would represent a larger percentage of the total budget than it does today, while military spending on unnecessary programs and unconstitutional operations would be eliminated.’ What are the programs and unconstitutional operations you would eliminate?
RP: Unconstitutional operations would be that we need to vote to go to war. As far as programs, many military programs would be smaller. We don’t need to spend more money than we are bringing revenue. A larger percentage of our budget would go to national defense, but many programs are larger than they need to be inside the military and in other areas of our government.
There is nothing in the constitution that says that the federal government should be involved in education; I’d cut the Department of Education. I believe in locally controlled schools and there will be some variation. I think some religious communities might have prayer in the schools. I don’t think that’s any business of the federal government. The first amendment says that Congress shall establish no religion, it doesn’t say that Congress shall tell the local school district whether it can have any kind of religious activity in their schools.
MDN: So you wouldn’t be opposed to prayer in public schools if the county voted on it?
RP: No, it’s a local decision.
MDN: You don’t think that that would infringe on the rights of the minority in the county?
RP: We have a lot of religion involved in our government. I’m not promoting it. It’s really not about what the prayer is or who administers it or all those rules, its about federal versus local control. I don’t want a state church; I do believe in separation of church and state, I just think with a lot of things, we went a little overboard. Some schools allow things like Christian Athletes clubs and some don’t.
MDN: So if a district decides to begin with a prayer and that every child has to say it, of course there may be legal challenges, but Washington should not make the decision?
RP: No, that would be worked out in the courts at the state level. I think the best solution would probably be to allow tax-payer funded schools to be used after hours for different groups to meet.
MDN: You also stated on Kentucky Tonight that: ‘I think that it’s a mistake to legislate morality and health from the state.’ We’ve talked about healthcare and privacy. You’re pro-life. Are there any exceptions to that?
RP: Yes, in the case of the mortality of the mother.
MDN: What about instances of rape or incest or where the outcome may not be death, but severe medical problems for the mother or child. Do you think that in these cases the decision should be left to the government rather than the families?
RP: In cases of rape, trying to prevent pregnancies is obviously the best thing. The morning-after pill works successfully most of the time. Ultimately we do better if we do have better education about family planning.
With partial-birth abortion, there were five women who testified that it threatened their life. It wasn’t completely true in all cases. They were non-viable babies. They were babies with awful genetic mutations that were not going to survive, and I tend to think we let nature take its course.
MDN: Regarding Kentucky’s budget, you said on Kentucky Tonight that: ‘Legislators need to think of creative solutions, to say that all of the money is guaranteed is a cop-out.’ What is a creative solution to a problem facing Kentucky?
RP: One of the things that I talk a lot about is what we talked about with health insurance. I think that the Republicans have been good at condemning Obamacare as a big over-reach by the government, but we haven’t been as good about promoting how we would solve problems with pre-existing conditions and affordability, and things like that.
I think also we need to talk about structural changes. I think we need to have term limits. I think people go and stay too long. Then we base the spending on their seniority, not on the quality of the project. So I’d limit all their terms. Two six-year terms in the Senate, six two-year terms in the House.
I would force them in Washington to balance the law like they do in Frankfort, without printing up money or borrowing money. If we did those two things we would be in dramatically better shape in Washington.
MDN: This isn’t always a big legislative issue, but you’ve indicated that you have a problem with restrictions placed on hand guns. Do you support background checks and waiting periods?
RP: I’m opposed to any federal regulation of guns. Some states might have background checks, but it should be done at the state level.
MDN: What is the most important thing you have to offer that Trey Grayson does not?
RP: I think the fact that I’m not a career politician. I haven’t run for office before and I think that that’s one of my greatest assets. The fact that I will promote significant change such as term limits, re-structuring and the budget. I won’t vote for any budget that’s not balanced, Republican or Democrat. I’m very open in telling people that I think there’s bi-partisan blame to go around regarding the huge debacle of the deficit. When we were in charge as Republicans we doubled the debt. There are problems on both sides of the aisle that I think we could fix if we made them obey some rules again.
MDN: So if you make it to Washington, you will be willing to work with anyone with similar goals regardless of how your party wants or expects you to vote?
RP: Exactly. We should vote on the quality of the issue. I think the public doesn’t like Republicans saying that Democrats are evil or Democrats saying Republicans are evil. We should vote on the issue regardless of which party supports it.
More information about Rand Paul and his campaign can be found at www.randpaul2010.com