¿By Michael Broihier
It’s not an unusual sight to see a politician show up in a community bearing an Ed McMahon sized check, its a visual symbol to voters that he’s doing his job bringing home the bacon. But US Senator Rand Paul surprised the crowd in Lancaster’s First Southern Community Room Thursday when he turned his giant check around; it wasn’t a government grant for a new dog shelter or highway improvement, it was a check for a half-million dollars representing the excess funds from Paul’s office operating budget that he was returning to the taxpayers, well, at least to the US Treasury.
Paul said that he had tried to work with Democrats in the senate and with President Obama but had been frustrated in the efforts. Paul said his colleagues across the aisle were still playing the quid pro quo game, wanting to cut tangential deals on serious issues like reforming Social Security and that the president’s strategy for reelection was to run against a do-nothing Congress and was happy to have little or no progress being made by legislators. “I have tried to work with him and I am of the opinion that he doesn’t want us to succeed,” Paul said. “I think (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid is in on it with the president; they don’t want anything passed.”
Having campaigned on an anti-earmark platform, Paul defended his actions to fund $2 billion in improvements and repairs on Kentucky-Ohio bridges saying that the money would come out of Department of Transportation funds that have nothing to do with transportation. Paul said that some of the money came out of “beautification” funds. “You have to pick between bridges and bike paths,” he said.
Paul warned that budget cutting will not be enough to balance the budget and said that Americans will have to get used to the idea that the eligibility-age for Social Security will have to be raised. “I think 70 (years old) is about right, but indexed to life expectancy.” Paul pointed out that people are both living and working longer and that it was commonsensical to tie Social Security eligibility with statistics. Paul said that if Congress had indexed retirement age to life expectancy when the first upped the age in 1983, “We wouldn’t be discussing this now.”
As the meeting closed, Paul addressed some foreign policy issues, speaking about all of the tough talk in Washington towards Iran. Paul said that though no one wants Iran to have nuclear weapons, people needed to be realistic about what can and cannot be done about. He said that the chief is Israel’s intelligence agency, the Mossad, said that he did not view Iran as an existential threat to Israel, and Paul said that if Israel feels that way, so should we. Paul said that he hoped that the administration would work with China, who buys most of Iran’s oil, to instill calm in the region.
On the subject of oil, Paul said that the president’s decision to veto legislation that included plans for a trans-American oil pipeline from Canada to Texas, “...the dumbest thing he’s done in the last three years...We’re not drilling offshore, we’re not mining coal, we’re not developing nuclear energy, what are we going to do?”
The senator also addressed his oppostion to two bills in progress that have to do with internet piracy, the Protect IP Act (PIPA) and the Stop Online Piracy Act. Paul has promised to filibuster PIPA because he sees it as a threat to the First Amendment, saying that the bills would enable one business to shut down anothers internet commerce simply through accusation.
“I believe in protecting intellectual property,” Paul said, but argued that businesses accused of piracy should have their day in court.