Joe P. Asher|Harlan Enterprise

U.S. Senator Rand Paul made a stop in Harlan on Tuesday, speaking to an audience gathered at the Harlan Center.

Senator Rand Paul in Harlan

Senator Rand Paul (-R) made an appearance in Harlan on Tuesday, speaking to a sizable crowd at the Harlan Center about a number of issues.

Harlan County Chamber of Commerce President Geoff Marietta introduced Paul to the crowd, which included many Harlan County elected officials and business leaders as well as a large number of high school students.

“It’s good to see the young people here,” Paul said, referring to the students.

Paul addressed his opening remarks to the students, mentioning the anger heard frequently in Washington and around the country. He also mentioned the importance of defining the role of government.

“Some people think the government’s job is if you don’t have a cellphone, they should give you a cellphone,” Paul said. “But some of us think it isn’t about the government bringing you something material. It’s not about government giving you something. It’s about the government preserving opportunity.”

According to Paul, many decisions should be left to local government rather than the federal government. He also talked about what percentage of income should go to support the government.

“When you give up your income, you’re basically giving up your freedom,” Paul said. “What you want is to give the least amount of money to the government that you possibly can and still have a good functioning government.”

Paul explained he prefers deference be given to individuals rather than government agencies.

“The constitution says in the 10th amendment that the powers not explicitly written out and given to the federal government are left to the states and the people respectively. Most of the freedom is supposed to be back here. You’re supposed to be able to decide at your county level or your state level what you want from the government.”

Paul noted the coal industry has suffered due to the expansion of the federal government.

“We’re going to do everything we can to help the coal industry,” Paul said. “I think my job is to try to keep the government out of your way and let you thrive, and try to keep the government small enough that you get to keep more of your income.”

Paul said he is optimistic about the state’s future.

“Across Kentucky, things are looking up,” Paul said. “Unemployment is down…I’d say the future is bright.”

He also talked about a less optimistic aspect of the country’s future.

“As far as the downside of the future, I think there is still one big problem,” Paul said. “We spend money we don’t have. I complained about the Democrat president because we were having trillion dollar deficits…Republicans are in charge of all three branches and unfortunately we’re still doing the same thing.”

Paul used the example of Afghanistan to illustrate some aspects of government spending.

“Right now we’re spending $50 billion a year in Afghanistan,” Paul said. “We’ve been there 17 years. I’ve talked to everybody — republicans, democrats, conservatives, liberals — and asked them one question: What is the military mission, and what is the military solution to Afghanistan? Every one of them says there is no longer a military mission or a solution, even the people who advocate staying. My next question is, if we’re going to stay forever what is our military mission? Why should we send another young man or woman over there for that?”

Paul explained the money spent on Afghanistan could be spent on other projects inside the United States.

“We do have things that we need to do in our country, and like I say some of it involves the government — roads, schools and bridges and things like that involve government money – we don’t have it because of the monies in Afghanistan. It’s not just Afghanistan; it’s dozens of wars around the world.”

Paul said the decision to go to war should come as the last resort, not the first.

After taking a few questions from the audience, Paul left the podium to continue on to his next stop in Paintsville.