Paul: Borrowing for unemployment benefits ‘weakening us as a country’

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Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., is on a mission to get more minority voters and urban dwellers to support Republicans — and to do it, he’s pitching a plan that would end long-term unemployment insurance, outlaw traditional pensions, and offer sweeping tax reductions to hard-hit areas.

Paul, who’s openly considering a bid for president in 2016, said in a Friday interview with NBC News that extending unemployment benefits past 26 weeks will hurt workers — and that paying for it without raising taxes weakens America.

“Does it make sense for our country to borrow money from China to give it to the unemployed in America? That is weakening us as a country,” Paul told NBC News.

A different vision

Paul’s plans represent a fundamentally different vision from President Barack Obama’s — and would go further than the pension and benefits changes that some Republican governors with presidential ambitions have implemented. Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey have both pushed for reforms to public benefits systems; both governors won some reforms, and Walker weathered a recall election in the wake of union outcry.

Paul told NBC News that defined benefit pension plans amount to “fraud” and they should be eliminated.

“I really am for changing the way we do pensions.

Plans for Detroit

Paul spoke to NBC News on Friday, two weeks after returning from hard-hit Detroit, where he pitched a tax-cutting plan to jump start growth in the struggling, bankrupt city and opened the state Republican Party’s new African-American Engagement Office.

“We tend to be a party of small towns and rural America but when it gets to big cities we lose every one of them. So I’m making a real conscious push to engage those voters,” Paul told NBC News.

Paul has proposed legislation to turn Detroit — and any other locality with an unemployment rate that’s more than twice the national average — into an “economic freedom zone” where corporate taxes are just 5 percent, capital gains taxes are eliminated and both workers and employers see payroll taxes cut.

“I tell people this is Jack Kemp’s plan on steroids,” Paul said, invoking the anti-tax crusader’s “enterprise zones.”

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