Republican Sen. Rand Paul made a campaign stop in Harlan on Tuesday, speaking to a large crowd of supporters at the Harlan Center.
Paul was in Harlan as part of a series of town hall meetings, also visiting Pineville, Whitesburg, Pikeville, Campton, Stanton and LaGrange.
Paul spoke to an enthusiastic crowed, immediately taking aim at President Barack Obama.
“Anybody here ready for a new president?” Paul asked the crowd, which responded loudly in the affirmative. “Is anybody here getting tired of the current president?”
Paul then referenced presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton.
“I’ve been telling people all day, and I’m going to tell people for the next several months everywhere I go, you can’t be a friend to eastern Kentucky or a friend of coal if you’re a friend of Hillary Clinton,” Paul said. “What did Barrack Obama tell you? If nothing else, he was honest with us. He said he was going to bankrupt coal. He didn’t say we’re going to make it healthier or safer or cleaner, he said he was going to bankrupt coal. These people have utterly no concern for us in Kentucky. They have contempt. They’ve got plenty of heart for people in Hollywood and people with millions of dollars, but they don’t care about the ordinary person that has been hurt by this war on coal.”
Paul pointed out eastern Kentucky’s economy revolves around coal, citing current railroad job losses in Corbin and Ashland.
“All together, we’re talking about 15,000 jobs in Kentucky that have been lost,” Paul said. “So what did Hillary Clinton have to say to you? ‘We are going to put your coal miners out of business.’”
Paul said people would rather have jobs than government assistance.
“We have to understand this is a war, and we’re on the losing end of the war right now,” Paul said. “Until we rise up and say we’ve had enough, they’re going to keep doing it to us.”
Paul also touched on the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations, saying Congress did not pass any of these regulations, and had tried unsuccessfully to repeal them.
“The federal government was gone crazy, not just on coal, on everything,” Paul said. “The federal government regulates how much water’s in your toilet. They regulate how hot your water can be in your water heater. They regulate how your air conditioner works, how your car works. From cradle to grave, they’re in our way.”
Rand proposed the idea of “economic freedom zones” as a way to help economically distressed areas such as Harlan.
“When a community is struggling, quit taxing them,” Paul said. “Just lower the taxes to almost nothing…About 30 counties would qualify.”
Paul says his tax plan would leave $500 million in eastern Kentucky every year for 10 years.
“I would lower the payroll tax two points on the workers and two points on employees,” Paul explained. “Your existing businesses would have more money.”
Paul talked about issues such as economic development in eastern Kentucky and took a few questions from the audience on topics such as gun control and infrastructure. After Harlan, Paul hit the road for his next scheduled stop later in the day in Whitesburg.
Reach Joe P. Asher at 606-909-4132 or on Twitter @joe_hde.