Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., announced his candidacy for president on Tuesday with a resounding criticism of the federal government and its employees.
Paul, known as a Republican with libertarian leanings, spoke of the distrust he and Americans have for their government and the need to restrain it. In his speech in Louisville, Ky., Paul spoke in front of a podium adorned with the phrase “defeat the Washington machine.”
“The Washington machine that gobbles up our freedoms and invades every nook and cranny of our lives must be stopped,” Paul said. He repeatedly cited the surveillance programs administered by the National Security Agency as evidence of a bureaucracy run amuck.
“When the intelligence director is not punished for lying under oath, how are we going to trust our government agencies?” Paul asked. The senator promised to end NSA surveillance “on Day 1” of his theoretical administration.
On his campaign website launched Tuesday, Paul promised to limit the power of the federal workforce.
“As president, I will cut regulations and take power away from unelected bureaucrats who are trampling our freedom and rights,” Paul wrote. “I will place common sense and reasonable limitations on a bureaucracy that seeks to target well-intentioned businesses with burdensome regulations.”
If elected, Paul would likely convert his rhetoric against federal employees into action. Paul’s budget proposals over the last several years serve as a preview of his priorities should he take the reins of the Executive Branch. The senator would eliminate several Cabinet-level agencies: the departments of Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Education and Energy.
Paul also discussed components within Cabinet-level agencies he would eradicate:
- Bureau of Indian Affairs: In his 2012 budget, Paul said BIA “has swindled and mismanaged billions of dollars in Indian trust funds.”
- Bureau of Reclamation: “Owning a majority block of energy and water resources is not the business of the federal government,” Paul wrote.
- Several Agriculture Department components, including the Agricultural Research Service, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the National Resources Conservation Service and the Foreign Agricultural Service. Paul complained Agriculture employs one federal worker for every 20 farms.
- Office of Justice Programs
- Privatize the Transportation Security Administration: Paul said TSA agents violate the constitutional rights of passengers with no accountability. Private-sector screeners would be much easier to fire, he added.
In his 2013 budget blueprint, Paul went into more detail on the sub-Cabinet agencies he would abolish:
- Government Printing (now Publishing) Office: “Advancements in technology have led to the electronic age, an era that eliminates the need for the government to print exorbitant numbers of documents, many of which can be accessed and read on the Internet,” Paul said.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
- National Endowments for the Arts/Humanities
- National Labor Relations Board
- Corporation of Public Broadcasting
- Consumer Product Safety Commission
- Privatize the Smithsonian Institution
Paul would dramatically slash funding at many popular agencies, such as NASA, the National Institutes of Health, the National Parks Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Food and Drug Administration. All told, his cuts and closures would lead to job losses for tens of thousands of federal employees. He also proposed collecting all the taxes owed to the government from delinquent federal workers and reducing the amount of federal employee travel.
The presidential candidate noted in his budget that, “by all accounts, elected officials and federal employees receive the finest health insurance in the country.” Therefore, he said, Medicare should be replaced by allowing all senior citizens to enroll in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. Paul estimated this change would increase the average premium for feds by 24 percent, resulting in each employee paying about $400 more annually.
Medicare is broken, Paul said, and “the solution is for federal employees to pay more for their health care and to share it with seniors in need of better coverage.” He defended the increase by saying federal employees are paid more than their private sector counterparts, receive triple the amount of non-cash benefits and enjoy much greater job security.
“Federal agencies rarely lay off employees for poor performance,” Paul wrote. “As our economy has lost millions of jobs over the past few years, the federal government has hired hundreds of thousands of new employees.”
On Tuesday, Paul made clear he would reverse that tide.
“Our great nation was founded upon the extraordinary notion that government should be restrained and freedom should be maximized,” he said.