Senator Rand Paul held a town hall meeting in Paducah on December 29, 2015.
(Paducah KY - December 29, 2015) - Senator Rand Paul held a town hall meeting on a day in the middle of a slow political news week. Despite his appearance being squeezed between Christmas and New Year, an audience of 76 showed up at the Paducah Commerce Center to meet, greet and question the Kentucky junior senator aka presidential candidate.
Paul arrived a little before the official start time and, in his usual low key fashion, spent time at the door chatting with those in attendance. Recently elected Paducah City Councilman Bill Bartleman, shown at right, spoke with the Senator, this time as an elected official, not as a reporter for the Paducah Sun newspaper.
The Senator, an ophthalmologist, came clad in a sports jacket over a scrub shirt from a stint volunteering at an eye clinic.
In his Washington update, Senator Paul reported that he does not support the budget deal recently reached between Congress and the White House. He prefers a line item type of budget rather than an omnibus bill. He said that both political parties bear responsibility for the deficit. He said that he first ran for the Senate because of overspending by a GOP led government.
Paul referred to faults of the Republican leadership on several occasions without naming names.
On spending, he said that the GOP agrees to more funding for the military and the Democrats want more money for welfare. They "scratch each other's backs" Paul said.
Paul addressed issues related to poverty saying that increasing the minimum wage would not reduce poverty. He said that the value of a dollar is shrinking which hurts the poor.
On some hot button political issues, Paul said that he is concerned about illegal immigration. Specifically 1/3 of illegals are in the US because they have overstayed their visas. He wants those folks traced and tracked.
On corporate taxes, he would lower the US corporate tax rate by reducing the 35% to as low as 15% in a "one page bill."
In the question and answer portion of the program, Paul was asked what he could do for Millennials, the generation born from the Eighties to early 2000. He said he shares privacy concerns with Millennials. He spoke at length on the failure of the government's bulk collection of data. He advocates targeted surveillance with court ordered search warrants.
"To the Founding Fathers, the 4th Amendment (unreasonable search and seizure) was more important than the 2nd Amendment (right to bear arms)." Senator Paul said.
Paul also advocates reducing the cost of higher education. One solution - cheaper online instruction. Paul said there is no reason the cost of an online credit hour should be the same as in class instruction.
Paul also advocates allowing students to deduct student loan principle and interest.
Paducah Chamber members had questions to the Senator focused on Paducah and leaders' attempts to restart the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant which closed in 2013. Former Paducah Mayor Bill Paxton, shown at left with Christina Peterson, was on hand to greet his fellow Republican and urge return to the good ole days of nuclear power.
At its height, the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant employed 1100 workers. The grounds are contaminated with cancer causing agents, like PCBs and nuclear dust. As of May 2015, over $257 million tax payer dollars have been allocated for clean up of the site predicted to last until 2040.
Chamber and business leaders are urging the plant be reopened or repurposed for another nuclear use. Paul said that "Paducah is well represented in Washington." He said he often sees local leaders in DC. He is well aware of what Paducah's leadership wants and he expressed willingness to assist - to an extent. He favors a short term plan for nuclear materials storage in Paducah, but because of proximity to the river, he does not favor long term storage.
Paul said that a smaller reactor may be in Paducah's future. The Fukashima disaster is no reason to stop using nuclear power.
When asked the inevitable Donald Trump related question - "Is he serious?" Paul said that Trump didn't know what the nuclear triad is. His explanation for Trump's popularity is that people want someone "bellicose."
As he finished the town hall meeting, Paul encouraged the audience to read a new book written by Bob Graham "Intelligence Matters" in which the former Florida senator links Saudi Arabia to the 9/11 attacks.
Paul made no mention of the March Kentucky presidential caucus that allows him to run for two federal offices in the same election cycle.
Not much reason for him to mention the Senate race since he is running unopposed.