United States Senator Rand Paul visited WKU’s main campus on Monday, Oct. 3, for a brief visit with students before heading back out on the campaign trail for the upcoming election.
Paul, who is running against Lexington mayor Jim Gray for a seat in the U.S. Senate, spent about 30 minutes speaking to a crowd of around 100 students gathered in the auditorium in Grise Hall. Paul spoke primarily about the downfalls of socialism while emphasizing the need for a smaller government.
Paul also addressed a common concern among university students: the rising price of college.
Unlike some of the politicians who have recently appealed to college-aged voters, Paul rejected the idea of free college. He said someone has to pay for college, and if the students are not paying for their education, other taxpayers will have to bear the cost.
“I think that we are mistaking the debate sometimes by saying, ‘Well, college should be free,'” Paul said.
Instead of looking for a solution to the increased cost of education, Paul suggested first finding the cause of the increase in tuition prices. He said one of the reasons the price of education has increased is because of a lack of competition in the education market.
“If you have competition in the marketplace, you will get a reasonable price,” Paul said. “You don’t get a reasonable price when you exclude people from the marketplace.”
Paul accused the administration of President Barack Obama of harming the marketplace by inhibiting the success of both online and private colleges. He said both types of college were necessary to keep the price of public universities low.
Paul said the education market was also compromised by barriers to entry, restrictions on supply and a subsidized demand. He said he believes there is too much emphasis on attending college and not enough emphasis on enrolling at a trade school as an alternative to college.
“I went to college, I went to medical school, I’ve succeeded and I want you guys to succeed, but I also am not foolish enough to think that everybody should go to college,” Paul said. “We sort of downplay some professions at the expense of others.”
Throughout his speech, Paul made multiple references to former Democratic presidential nominee Bernie Sanders. During his campaign earlier this year, Sanders appealed to college-age voters with his talk of what Paul referred to as “democratic socialism.”
Paul said even Sanders’ idea of socialism is harmful to a country because of the large amount of power it gives to the government and the very small amount of freedom it allows the average person to have. He referred to the history of socialism as a “history of basically failure” because of the levels of poverty and violence found in socialist countries such as Cuba and the former Soviet Union.
“It’s not an accident that we have violence associated with socialism,” Paul said.
Sam McFarland, an emeritus professor of psychology, questioned why Paul chose to use only countries such as Cuba, China and the former Soviet Union when discussing socialism. McFarland said the Scandinavian countries in Northern Europe also have socialist governments and have had as much success as the United States.
“Every study shows [Scandinavians] are both healthier and happier and give more of their money than Americans,” McFarland said.
Paul said although the Scandinavian countries do have some form of socialism, they are not purely socialist countries. Instead, they are a mix of capitalism and socialism. Paul said it is the presence of some capitalism that allows Scandinavia to be successful.
“Socialism doesn’t work, and if you fix the price of anything, you will have either glut or shortages,” Paul said.
Throughout his speech, Paul often referred to the presence of a government as a “necessary evil.” He said government is a necessity; however, it must be restrained, and giving the government too much power, as seen in socialist countries, does not benefit the people.
The appropriate size of government is something Paul and his opponent Jim Gray do not agree on. During his visit for a meet and greet at the Warren County Democratic Headquarters in late September, Gray said he disagrees with Paul’s belief that a small government will lead to a stronger economy.
“You cannot shrink yourself to greatness,” Gray said.
Instead of shrinking the government in an attempt to improve the economy, Gray said he would increase investments in an effort to increase economic opportunities. He said part of his economic plan also includes building infrastructure
In addition to questioning Paul’s knowledge of Kentucky, Gray also questioned Paul’s commitment to the state. Earlier this year, Paul ran for the nomination for Republican Party’s 2016 presidential candidate. Gray said Paul may be unable to focus mainly on Kentucky’s problems if he still hopes to become president one day.
When asked about his commitment to Kentucky, Paul said he has the track record to prove he is invested in the state.
“I’ve made virtually all of my votes on the Senate floor,” Paul said. “I’ve conducted two filibusters on the Senate floor over 12 hours, so I think it’s kind of hard to argue I’m not doing my job.”
Both candidates will have a chance to discuss their platforms when they meet for a debate on Monday, Oct. 31. The debate will be aired on KET at 8 p.m.
Reporter Emma Collins can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @thebest_dilemma.