Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul on Friday urged Americans who have been unemployed for many months to consider returning to the workforce in less desirable jobs rather than continue relying on government unemployment assistance.
"In Europe, they give about a year of unemployment. We're up to two years now in America," Paul said on Sue Wylie's WVLK-AM 590 radio program.
"As bad as it sounds, ultimately we do have to sometimes accept a wage that's less than we had at our previous job in order to get back to work and allow the economy to get started again," Paul said. "Nobody likes that, but it may be one of the tough love things that has to happen."
Paul was responding to a question from Wylie about Thursday's Senate Republican filibuster of a $120 billion package of additional jobless benefits and state aid. Tens of thousands of Americans will have exhausted their unemployment benefits this month without that extension.
Paul said he supports the filibuster. If the Senate thinks the bill is necessary, it needs to find the money to pay for it elsewhere in the federal budget rather than add to the $13 trillion national debt, he said.
"It's all a matter of making priorities," Paul said. "Some tough decisions will have to be made."
On other subjects, Paul said the first bill he files if he's elected will be a constitutional amendment setting term limits for members of Congress. But he would not pledge to limit his own time in Washington unless such rules were enforced on all lawmakers.
Paul's father, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, has called for mandatory term limits since joining Congress in the 1970s.
"The problem is when people voluntarily follow the rules, the good people come home and the bad people stay," Rand Paul said. "I don't have any intention of staying for longer than two terms, but I'm not really making a commitment."
Best and worst
Paul said his campaign is proving more painful than he expected because of unfair attacks on his character by "the liberal media" and his Democratic opponent, Attorney General Jack Conway.
Paul said the best moment in his campaign so far was soundly defeating Secretary of State Trey Grayson in the Republican primary in May, surrounded by his supporters and television news cameras.
The worst moment followed almost immediately, he said, as he became embroiled in a national controversy over the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In interviews, Paul said he supports civil rights, but as a property-rights advocate, he opposes the part of the law forcing businesses to serve customers regardless of their race.
Paul told Wylie he has been inaccurately labeled a racist as a result. Growing up, Paul said, his parents taught him and his siblings to treat everyone fairly.
"To make me out to be some horrible person, it hurts me personally, it hurts my family," said Paul, who also wrote an op-ed column in Friday's Courier-Journal stating his reputation "has been sullied."
Paul blamed the news media and Conway for distorting his position on the Civil Rights Act to make it look extreme.
In another radio interview, with a Bowling Green station on Wednesday, Paul defended his acceptance of Medicare and Medicaid payments as an eye surgeon for the last 17 years.
Paul said he wants sweeping cuts in federal spending, but, as a doctor, he has little choice but to serve patients covered by the massive federal health-care programs.
"I work hard, and I don't see any other person in this country who's gonna work hard and not be paid for it," Paul said.
Paul declined to say how much money he gets from the programs, but he said approximately 50 percent of his income is Medicare and 5 percent is Medicaid.
According to the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, Paul has been paid $130,461 over the last five years through Medicaid. If that represents 5 percent of his income, then Paul's Medicare payments over the same period would be more than $1.3 million or about $260,000 a year.
Another BP blast
Paul also blasted President Barack Obama again for his handling of the Gulf oil spill, saying he has shown a failure to lead.
Paul released a statement Friday charging Obama with "a failure to lead" and with trying to use the environmental crisis to advance his agenda rather than to solve the problem.
Previously, Paul made headlines by accusing the Obama administration of sounding "un-American" in its criticism of BP, the company responsible for the oil well and offshore rig that exploded April 20.