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Rand Paul downplays impact of automatic cuts

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With the congressional supercommittee debt-reduction talks on the brink of failure, Sen. Rand Paul said Sunday the "automatic cuts" scheduled to kick in aren't nearly as Draconian as some have suggested.

"I think we need to be honest about it," the Kentucky Republican said on CNN's "State of the Union."

"The interesting thing is there will be no cuts in military spending. This may surprise some people, but there will be no cuts in military spending because we're only cutting proposed increases. If we do nothing, military spending goes up 23 percent over 10 years," he told host Candy Crowley. "If we sequester the money, it will still go up 16 percent. So spending is still rising under any of these plans. In fact, if you look at both alternatives, spending is still going up. We're only cutting proposed increases in spending."

If the debt-reduction panel fails to reach a deal by Wednesday, automatic across-the-board spending reductions would be triggered in January 2013 in domestic programs and in the defense budget.

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta sent a letter last week to Congress describing the potential cuts as "devastating," warning the cuts would undermine national security.

Mr. Paul was skeptical: "That's an interpretation. Defense spending will go up $100 billion over 10 years even if we sequester $600 billion, because the curve of spending in our country is going up at about 7.5 percent a year. All spending goes up."

The freshman Kentucky senator, who won his seat in 2010 by running as a fiscal hawk, said the automatic cuts, which would also impact a proposed extension of unemployment benefits, may be the only way for Congress to move forward.

"If you want to extend unemployment benefits, they have to be paid for," Mr. Paul said. "Do we want to borrow money from China to pay people not to work?"

He dismissed Democrats who insist that tax increases on the wealthy be included in any debt-reduction deal.

"There are anomalies, there are aberrations," he said, but "the top 1 percent, the millionaires in our country, pay on average 29 percent of their income. That's what they pay on average. The average carpenter who makes $50,000 to $75,000 a year pays between 15 percent and 18 percent. The top 50 percent of wage earners pay 96 percent of the income tax."

Mr. Paul said Republicans are willing to crack down on corporations or millionaires who aren't paying their fair share.

"If you're a millionaire or a corporation that's not paying, we're all for eliminating those deductions, but the vast majority are paying, that's who pays the income tax," he said.

"I think you need to listen between the lines here, we are willing to close loopholes but we want it to be part of tax reform, which lowers tax rates," Mr. Paul said. "The only thing that has ever helped unemployment in the country was when Kennedy lowered tax rates, and when Reagan lowered tax rates."

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