Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., unveiled a "$1.3 billion stimulus" for Detroit that, in conjunction with a "21st century civil rights agenda," he believes will help rehabilitate the city and allow Republicans to cultivate the minority voters who vote so strongly for Democrats.
Paul outlined a series of tax cuts and regulatory rollbacks to spur growth in the city. "Economic freedom zones will, over a 10-year period, if my bill were to pass, leave over $1.3 billion in Detroit," Paul said at the Detroit Economic Club on Friday. "So for those who say, 'Oh, it won't work, it won't be enough money,' we've calculated it: $1.3 billion stimulus, not from Houston, not from Atlanta, from you. It's your money. We're not going to take it to Washington, we'll leave it with you. How could anybody be opposed to this?"
The Senate bill Paul will introduce Monday isn't Detroit-specific; it applies to anywhere in the country with an unemployment rate 1 1/2 that of the national average. In such areas, Paul hopes to cut the individual and corporate income tax rate in such areas to 5 percent, cut the payroll tax to 2 percent for employers and employees, double the tax deduction businesses get for investments made in the first year of business and cut capital gains taxes.
Will the bill make it through Congress? "I think it's somewhat of a long shot in the sense that most Democrats don't believe cutting taxes is beneficial to the economy — they think that it only helps if you spend money," Paul told the Washington Examiner during an interview after his Detroit speech. "The problem is we've got about 50 years' evidence that government-directed stimulus, picking the winners and losers, doesn't work."
He doesn't believe that merely changing a tax provision will restore Detroit to its former greatness, though. "We have to have a 21st-century civil rights agenda with education, choice, voting rights, and prison reform as its foundation," Paul said during his speech. "No one's life should be ruined for a youthful mistake. No one should be thrown in prison for years and decades when they haven't hurt anyone but themselves. No one should lose their voting rights because they spent time in prison."
Paul described mandatory minimum sentencing as "a human tragedy" and discussed racial inequity in the justice system.
"Right now, African-Americans are four times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession," he said in the speech. "It's not because white kids in affluent suburbs aren't also smoking pot, it's because they tend to get arrested but they have better representation, and it's also because police tend to gravitate there because it's easier to arrest people ... it's not a purposeful racism, but we have a racial return on this war on drugs and it's not fair."
Paul raised these issues during the opening of the Republican National Committee and Michigan Republican Party's African-American Engagement Office in Detroit earlier today.
"I think people are intrigued by the fact that there are people who are restoring voting rights, talking about trying to have a more fair justice system with regard to the war on drugs, and I think those messages are resonating because it's a huge problem," Paul told theExaminer. "That, as well of the quality of schools ,is a huge problem.
"Their concern is that nobody's speaking up on either side of the aisle with any solutions," he said, referring to the audience at the African-American Engagement Office.