Rand Paul discusses lack of online civility, health care and tariffs at chamber of commerce luncheon
A lack of political civility, trade wars and gun control were just a few of the topics U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) talked about Tuesday during a speech at the Southern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce monthly membership luncheon.
Paul, who is recovering from lung surgery, had very few public engagements on his calendar in order to allow time to heal. The luncheon, held at the Williamsburg Tourism Center, was a near capacity crowd to hear the senator speak.
Paul opened up his speech by directly addressing his recent surgery — necessary due to injuries he suffered from a sneak-attack assault by his neighbor in 2018. Paul was wearing noise-canceling headphones and doing yard work when he was violently tackled by Rene A. Boucher, of Bowling Green. Boucher was sentenced to 30 days in jail and fined for the incident.
Boucher has denied the attack was politically motivated, but Paul said Tuesday that Boucher posted heated partisan opinions on social media, some of which alluded to violence.
“Media reported it was just a yard altercation,” Paul said. “That’s not an altercation … I was just assaulted. If it happened to Joe Scarborough in New York, you think their network would think it was funny?”
Paul said he felt some media outlets made light of that attack and poked fun at him for it.
“The four months I laid in bed wasn’t that funny,” he said.
Paul had a portion of his lung removed last week; surgery necessary because of the attack. He suffered shattered ribs in the incident.
To the chamber audience, Paul was critical of how angry political discussion has gotten on the Internet, and how overtly partisan and increasingly nasty news coverage could be stoking violent incidents and problems.
“I think we could do better if we somehow calmed it down … and that’s on both sides, right and left,” Paul said.
Sometimes, focusing on negative aspects of society leads to the impression that things in America, and around the world are worse than they used to be.
“There has never been a better time to be alive,” Paul argued, noting that since 1900, life expectancy worldwide has doubled, childhood mortality has plummeted, worldwide productivity and wealth has increased 100 fold and that only 10 percent of the world’s population now lives in extreme poverty.
Paul decried presidential candidates, and others, pushing for “socialist” agenda, and said a move to a Scandinavia style model of social welfare system would lead to dramatic tax increases for the middle class and poor.
“You can have that, but it’s not free. You can’t just have the rich pay for you. You will pay for it,” Paul said.
He noted that “Medicare for all” ideas are unsustainable; pointing out that currently Medicare is $39 trillion short.
“We are not paying enough taxes to pay for the people on Medicare now.”
Paul took a trio of questions from the crowd.
When asked if the government should do more to control the cost of medical care — what doctors charge and the price of drugs — Paul said he instead favored allowing more competition by letting people sign up for insurance in private pools that are currently disallowed by law. He also said everyone should be able to take advantage of medical savings accounts.
Paul said he was increasingly concerned by President Donald Trump’s decision to use tariffs as a way to wage a trade war against China.
“I’m very worried about the tariff war,” Paul said. “I’ve talked to very few people in Kentucky who are in favor of tariffs.”
Paul said international trade saves people an average of $2,300 a year on goods, and said that a trade war spurred by nationalistic feelings is counterproductive.
“My advice is to try to make a deal. Let’s just don’t make this worse forever.”
Paul also spoke briefly on gun control measures, in the wake of recent mass shootings, saying that he favors limited “red flag” laws that allow authorities to remove an individual’s gun rights if there is concern they may be violent.
Tuesday’s luncheon was sponsored by Forcht Bank.