Tailoring his remarks to an audience of college students, presidential hopeful Rand Paul called for college tuition to be fully tax deductible and slashed at President Obama's proposal to offer two free years of community college.
"The president says, 'I want to give you free college.' It sounds good at first, but think about it? How could it be free?" Paul said, noting that someone would have to pay for the professors and facilities. "I have a better idea. Let's let college students deduct the entire cost of their educations over their working careers. Let's make college tuition entirely deductible."
He did not explain whether his idea would cover student loans, parental spending or would depend on income level. Currently, tuition deductions are limited by income level, amount and other considerations.
Friday marked the Kentucky senator's first appearance in Iowa since announcing on Tuesday that he was running for president
. He spoke to a few hundred people in the student union at the University of Iowa, in the most liberal swath of the state. The location pointed toward a scheduling quirk that could give Paul an edge in the state that holds the first presidential nominating contest in the nation.
During the last two caucus cycles, the caucuses were held on Jan. 3, when students were home for winter break. But next year, if the GOP nominating schedule holds, Iowa's caucuses will take place in early February, offering all the candidates an opportunity to mobilize young supporters. Paul's brand of libertarianism, opposition to government spying tactics, and calls for reducing penalties for nonviolent drug use could make him a natural Republican beneficiary of this scheduling change.
In Iowa City, Paul hit the same themes of limited government and personal liberty that he has elsewhere on his roll-out tour through the early states. But on Friday, he paid more attention to Millenials--what he called the "Instagram generation."
"You guys are the next generation, the future that will give us the next innovators, the next Bill Gates, the next Steve Jobs," Paul said, before quoting Jobs and Pink Floyd's "Shine on You Crazy Diamond."
"For crazy diamonds to shine, government must get out of the way. The leave-me-alone generation is the generation that believes they can conquer the world, solve any problem, if they are left free to follow their dreams."
Paul received some of his biggest applause when he pledged to tackle unfair drug-sentencing laws, government surveillance, the national debt and federal policies that he said threaten students' ability to find a job after graduation.
"Your parents' generation has selfishly spent the country's savings. There's nothing left," Paul said, adding that politicians of both parties are to blame.
"Many of you in college may not care about taxes because you don't pay them, your parents do. Many of you may not care about excessive regulations because you haven't seen the harm up close and personal. But regulations and taxes do affect your ability to get a job," Paul said. "When you graduate from college, I want each and every one of you to have a job."
Before the event, Iowa Democrats argued that Paul's beliefs on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage show he is out of step with Iowa students. (He opposes both.)
"The problem for Rand Paul is that his record is almost entirely at odds with the priorities and values of young Iowans here in Iowa City and across our state," said Carter Bell, the president of the University of Iowa Democrats. "… As a student, and as a young woman in Iowa, I know Rand Paul's policies would hurt college students, our state and our country."