- The Washington Times - Friday, March 13, 2015

Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, blasted the concept of “corporate welfare” on Friday and said if the Department of Commerce was eliminated tomorrow he didn’t think anyone would notice it was gone.

“The Department of Commerce is 30, 40 billion dollars — I’d cut it all tomorrow,” he said during a question-and-answer session after an address at Bowie State University in Maryland. “I don’t think anybody’d notice it. I think no one would notice it was gone. Most of the Department of Commerce is actually going to rich corporations — there’s $20 billion worth of direct welfare to rich corporations; on average, there’s about over $200 million on average to about 40 or 50 big corporations. So you can eliminate that.”

Mr. Paul devoted much of his address at the historically black college to criminal justice reform — one of the messages he’s been preaching as he tries to pitch himself as someone who can expand and grow the Republican party ahead of a possible presidential run in 2016.

“We’ve gotten rid of segregation de jure — segregation by law,” he said. “But we still have a problem in our country that is somewhat like segregation but it’s also somewhat like there are two systems. Or as Martin Luther King said in 1967, there are two Americas.”

“There’s one America that believes in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — but there’s another America that is witness to a daily disgrace — a lack of hope and despair,” he said. “It’s a lack of education, but it’s also our criminal justice system. As I’ve learned more about the criminal justice system, I’ve come to believe that it is something that is going to keep these two Americas separate.”

Along with Sen. Cory Booker, New Jersey Democrat, he recently re-introduced legislation that would, among other things, provide nonviolent offenders a path to sealing their records and automatic expunging of records for kids under the age of 15 who commit nonviolent crimes.

He also expounded during the Q & A on his idea of “economic freedom zones” of reduced taxes to try to boost struggling cities like Detroit, as well as his views on government spending.

“There’s … a lot of different departments that could go and I’m not sure you’d notice the difference,” Mr. Paul said. “We’ve had the Department of Education for, oh, I don’t know — 30, 40 years now, but the vast majority of that could go back to the state level and wouldn’t have to be done in Washington.”

A past budget blueprint he rolled out eliminates the Departments of Commerce, House and Urban Development, Education, and Energy.

“I’ve said repeatedly that before I touch one penny for any kind of safety net, I’ll cut every penny of corporate welfare,” he said.

Mr. Paul also pushed back against the notion that Republicans are for eliminating all government.

“We’re mostly for not spending money that doesn’t come in,” he said. “So when people say ‘you’re not for any government,’ I say well, look, I’m for three trillion dollars’ worth — that’s how much comes in; that’s what we ought to spend. But we spend $3.8 trillion [and] we bring in $3 trillion — so there’s this huge disparity between what comes in and what goes out, and within the $3 trillion that you have you have to make some distinctions on what you do.”

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