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PAWLENTY: We live in the United States of America and people shouldn’t be forced to belong or be a member in any organization. And the government has no business telling you what group to be a member of or not. I support strongly right-to-work legislation.
PAWLENTY: Like I said, for much of his life my dad was a teamster truck driver. My brothers and sisters, many of them are in unions, I was in a union. We grew up in a blue-collar town. I understand these issues.
My family were Reagan-Democrats, now most of them listen to Rush Limbaugh actually. But the point is, I understand these issues, but we don’t have a government tell us what organizations or associations we should be in. We tell the government what to do.
KING: Mr. Speaker, I assume you agree. And as you come into the conversation, one of the criticisms — you tell me whether it’s fair or not. One of the criticisms has been, as you watch some of these governors deal with this issue across the country, that some people say there’s a tone about it. That they seem to be trying to demonize public employees or union workers.
GINGRICH: Well, that’s a totally different question. The question that’s asked was right to work. And one of the things the Congress should do immediately is defund the National Labor Relations Board which has gone into South Carolina to punish Boeing, which wants to put 8,000 American jobs in South Carolina by fundamentally eliminating right-to-work at the National Labor Relations Board.
That’s a real, immediate threat from the Obama administration to eliminate right to work. And I think that it is fundamentally the wrong direction. I hope that New Hampshire does adopt right-to-work. I frankly keep it at the state level because as each new state becomes right to work, they send a signal to the remaining states, don’t be stupid.
Why you want to be at California’s unemployment level when you can be Texas’s employment level? Or North Dakota’s?
And I think, Kevin (ph), that if you believe in the 10th Amendment, we ought to — let the states learn from each other. And the right-to-work states are creating a lot more jobs today that they heavily unionized states. The public employee union question is a totally different issue.
KING: All right. Maybe we’ll come back to that.
Mr. Cain, I will let you in quickly on this one. As a businessman who says your strength in this campaign is someone who’s created jobs, the question of right-to-work?
CAIN: Yes. I do believe that the states should have the right. I believe in right-to-work, and I hope that New Hampshire is able to get it passed. And I agree with the speaker and the others who believe that if the federal government continues to do the kinds of thing that this administration is trying to do through the back door, through the National Labor Relations Board, that’s killing our free market system, and the free market system is what made this economy great. And we have to keep the free market system strong.
KING: A lot more ground to cover with our candidates. We’re about to take our first break of the evening. We will have several. A lot more ground to cover. A lot more domestic policy, a lot of foreign policy. We want to see who you might want as your next commander in chief should you choose to make President Obama a one- term president.
One of the other things we want to do, though, is to learn a little bit more about these candidates and their personalities. So I’m going to borrow something from my sports fan experience.
Every time we go to break or come back from break, I’m going to ask the candidates one at a time a question I’ll call this or that. I give them a choice. These are not serious political issues. It’s just to show a little bit of the personal sides of our candidate.
Senator Santorum, I want to start with you.
SANTORUM: Thank you.
KING: Of course.
KING: Leno or Conan?
SANTORUM: Probably Leno. But I don’t watch either. Sorry.
KING: All right. That’s all right. That’s the answer — the answer is the answer.
And for those of you watching at home, remember, the Facebook, Twitter, send us questions, send us your analysis. A little bit later we’ll also give you a chance for some exclusive content. Get your smartphone ready. I’ll explain that a little bit ahead. We’ll be right back at Saint Anselm College in just a moment.
KING: Welcome back to our Republican debate at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire.
One of the things we are very eager to do throughout the campaign is to involve you at home and to use technology and innovation. So if you have a smartphone, look at your screen right now.
If you’ve used it before, you’ll know. You’ll see an electronic code on your screen. You can snap a picture of that code, you’ll get some exclusive access about the debate. Some behind-the-scenes video, some analysis and content. We’ll do this throughout the debate and we’ll do it throughout the campaign.
Now we’re going to get back to questioning our seven Republican candidates for president.
Right before the break we did this thing called “This or That.” Just to learn a little bit about the personality of the candidates.
Senator Santorum doesn’t stay up very late. He’s a parent. I understand that. He said if he had to he would pick Leno over Conan.
Congresswoman Bachmann, to you, Elvis or Johnny Cash?
BACHMANN: That’s really tough. That’s really — both, both.
BACHMANN: I’ve “Christmas with Elvis” on my iPod.
KING: All right. Now we know what’s on the congresswoman’s iPod.
Let’s get to John Distaso of the “Union Leader.” He’s down here in the audience and he has a question.
JOHN DISTASO, NEW HAMPSHIRE UNION LEADER SR. POLITICAL REPORTER: Thank you, John.
To federal — Congressman Paul, this is for you. The federal government now assists many industries, green jobs, the auto industry, research and development, all get subsidies. Given the current state of the economy, what standards do you have, if any, for government assistance to private enterprise?
PAUL: There shouldn’t be any government assistance to private enterprise. It’s not morally correct, it’s legal, it’s bad economics. It’s not part of the constitution. If you allow an economy to thrive, they’ll decide how R&D works or where they invest their monies.
But when the politicians get in and direct things, you get the malinvestment. They do the dumb things. They might build too many houses. And they might not direct their research to the right places. So no, it’s a fallacy to think that government and politicians and bureaucrats are smart enough to manage the economy, so it shouldn’t happen.
KING: All right. These are the Republicans, the conservative candidates. Every time you applaud, I know you’re happy with the answer. You take your time away, though.
We would expect to get an answer of less government is better. One of the questions we want to explore tonight is when — when do you reach that extraordinary moment where the government might want to do something.
Mr. Cain, I want to ask you because you’re a businessman who initially at least supported the TARP program. The former senator Judd Gregg of this great state of New Hampshire was one of the architects of that program during the late hours of the Bush administration. Then you said, quote, “We needed to do something drastic because we were facing a very drastic situation.”
CAIN: I studied the financial meltdown and concluded on my own that we needed to do something drastic, yes. When the concept of TARP was first presented to the public, I was willing to go along with it. But then when the administration started to implement it on a discretionary basis, picking winners and losers and also directing funds to General Motors and others that had nothing to do with the financial system, that’s where I totally disagreed.
We should — the government should not be selecting winners and losers, and I don’t believe in this concept of too big to fail. If they fail, the free market will figure out who’s going to pick the up the pieces.
KING: Well, let’s stay on this topic. Let’s bring Tom Fahey back into the conversation. He has a question — Tom.
FAHEY: Yes, thank you, John. I wanted to ask Governor Romney about the auto industry. General Motors and Chrysler have rebounded since the Obama administration bailed them up. Bankruptcy is no longer a threat.
Would you say the bailout program was a success?
ROMNEY: The bailout program was not a success because the bailout program wasted a lot of money. About $17 billion was used unnecessarily.
When the CEOs of the auto companies went to Washington asking for money from Washington, I wrote an op-ed, and I said, look, the right process for these companies is not a bailout, not a big check from Washington, but instead letting these enterprises go through bankruptcy, re-emerge, getting rid of the unnecessary costs that they had, the excessive debt, re-emerge, and that would be the preferred way for them to be able to get on their feet again.
Instead, the Bush administration and the Obama administration wrote checks to the auto industry. Ultimately, they went through the very bankruptcy process that I suggested from the beginning.
But the big difference was $17 billion was wasted. And then President Obama, given that money, was able to put his hands on the scales of justice and give the company to the UAW.
There is a perception in this country that government knows better than the private sector, that Washington and President Obama have a better view for how an industry ought to be run. Well, they’re wrong. The right way for America to create jobs is to — is to keep government in its place and to allow the private sector and the — and the energy and passion of the American people create a brighter future for our kids and for ourselves.
KING: Let me read you, Governor, just a little bit of an op-ed piece you wrote back in November 2008.
“If General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye.” From a profit standpoint, they’re doing pretty well right now. On that point, “kiss goodbye,” I understand you disagree with the policy. Kiss the industry goodbye, were you wrong?
ROMNEY: No, I wasn’t wrong, because if you read the rest of the op-ed piece, it says what they need to do is go through a bankruptcy process to shed unnecessary costs. If they just get paid checks after checks from the federal government, they’re going to be locked in with high UAW costs, legacy costs. They’ll never be able to get on their feet. They have to go through bankruptcy.
And it turned out that that’s finally what they did. And the head of the UAW, he wrote an op-ed piece saying, Romney’s wrong, the government has to step in and give them a check.
That’s the wrong way to go. Use the process of law. Use the process of American ingenuity. Don’t have government try and guide this economy.
KING: Anyone — is there anyone here who, given that prospect, and President Bush started the program, given that prospect, anyone here who would have stepped in and said, “I don’t want to do this, but this is the backbone of American manufacturing, I’ll do something”?
SANTORUM: No, absolutely not. We should — we should not have had a TARP. We should not have had the auto bailout. Governor Romney’s right. They could have gone through a structured bankruptcy without the federal government.
All the federal government did was basically tip to the cronies, tip to the unions, gave the unions the company. If they’d have gone through the orderly bankruptcy process, gone through a structured bankruptcy, they’d have come out in the same place, only we would have kept the integrity of the bankruptcy process without the government putting its fingers into it.
KING: Quickly, please.
BACHMANN: John, I was in the middle of this debate. I was behind closed doors with Secretary Paulson when he came and made the extraordinary, never-before-made request to Congress: Give us a $700 billion blank check with no strings attached.
And I fought behind closed doors against my own party on TARP. It was a wrong vote then. It’s continued to be a wrong vote since then. Sometimes that’s what you have to do. You have to take principle over your party.
KING: All right, let’s continue the conversation, but we’ll come back to this if we have to. Let’s go to Jean Mackin in Hancock. She has a question.
MACKIN: Thanks, John. This question goes out to Speaker Gingrich. Next month, the space shuttle program is scheduled to retire after 30 years, and last year, President Obama effectively killed government-run space flight to the International Space Station and wants to turn it over to private companies. In the meantime, U.S. astronauts would ride Russian spacecraft at a cost of $50 million to $63 million a seat. What role should the government play in future space exploration?
GINGRICH: Well, sadly — and I say this, sadly, because I’m a big fan of going into space and I actually worked to get the shuttle program to survive at one point — NASA has become an absolute case study in why bureaucracy can’t innovate.
If you take all the money we’ve spent at NASA since we landed on the moon and you had applied that money for incentives to the private sector, we would today probably have a permanent station on the moon, three or four permanent stations in space, a new generation of lift vehicles. And instead, what we’ve had is bureaucracy after bureaucracy after bureaucracy and failure after failure.
I think it’s a tragedy, because younger Americans ought to have the excitement of thinking that they, too, could be part of reaching out to a new frontier.
You know, you’d asked earlier, John, about this idea of limits because we’re a developed country. We’re not a developed country. The scientific future is going to open up, and we’re at the beginning of a whole new cycle of extraordinary opportunities. And, unfortunately, NASA is standing in the way of it, when NASA ought to be getting out of the way and encouraging the private sector.
KING: Is there any candidate who would step in and say, no, this is vital to America’s identity, this is vital to America’s innovation, I want the government to stay in the lead here when it comes to manned space flight? Nobody?
PAWLENTY: Yeah, I think the space program has played a vital role for the United States of America. I think in the context…
KING: But can we afford it going forward? PAWLENTY: In the context of our budget challenges, it can be refocused and reprioritized, but I don’t think we should be eliminating the space program. We can partner with private providers to get more economies of scale and scale it back, but I don’t think we should eliminate the space program.
KING: In a sentence — in a sentence or two?
GINGRICH: John, you mischaracterized me. I didn’t say end the space program. We built the transcontinental railroads without a national department of railroads. I said you could get into space faster, better, more effectively, more creatively if you decentralized it, got it out of Washington, and cut out the bureaucracy. It’s not about getting rid of the space program; it’s about getting to a real space program that works.
ROMNEY: I think fundamentally there are some people — and most of them are Democrats, but not all — who really believe that the government knows how to do things better than the private sector.
KING: All right, let’s go down to the…
ROMNEY: And they happen to be wrong. And…
KING: All right, the role of government — we’ll continue on the role of government. I’m sorry — Josh, please.
MCELVEEN: Thanks very much, John. And, Governor Pawlenty, I’d like to go back to you. Let’s talk about housing. Roughly right now, there are about a million — a million homes in the — in the hands of banks and lenders, millions of more homeowners are upside-down, meaning they owe more than their home is worth. What would you or your administration do to try to right the housing ship?
PAWLENTY: Well, the first thing we need to do is get the government out of crony capitalism. We have this alliance between big government, big unions, and certain big bailout businesses. And as Congressman Paul said a few minutes ago, we had politicians in Congress trying to micromanage the housing market, and they created a bubble and they created the mess. And now we have all these innocent bystanders, the good people of the United States of America, many middle-income and modest-income people, who’ve been devastated by this.
And so the market is going to have to adjust. The programs that President Obama has put forward haven’t really worked. They’ve been a failure. They’ve been slow. They haven’t really solved the problem.
But the best thing that we can do is get the economy moving again. And it’s not going to happen by growing government. His way failed. We’ve got to get the private sector going. We have to have people starting businesses, growing businesses, building things, starting places of employment. This is how we’re going to get money back in people’s pockets and get them financially stable.
KING: So, Congressman, come into the conversation. As you do, don’t make it just about foreclosures. This is — this is an interesting topic of discussion, especially — especially when money is scarce and you’ve got to start cutting. It’s a question of priorities. What should the government be doing? And maybe what should the government be doing in a better economy that it can’t do now that has to go?
So talk about foreclosures a bit, but then tell me something, if you were president and you were dealing with it in your first few weeks, and you said, “I might like to do this, but I can’t afford to do this,” be as specific as you can, what goes?
PAUL: Well, I — I would want to do much less, much sooner. The government shouldn’t be involved. You take the bankruptcies, we’ve been doing a whole lot. We’ve been propping them up. We’ve had the Federal Reserve buy all the illiquid assets, which were worthless, stick it with the taxpayers. The people who’ve made the money when the bubble was being blown up, they’re the ones who got bailed out.
But you want the correction. Corrections are good. The mal- investment in the bubbles are caused by the Federal Reserve and the government, and we keep propping it up. And that’s why this is going — it was predictable it would come. It’s predictable it’s lasted three years. And it’s predictable, as long as we do what we’re doing in Washington, it’s going to last another 10 years.
We’re doing what we did in the depression. We’re doing what the Japanese have done. You need to get the prices of houses down to clear the market, but they’re trying to keep the prices up. They actually have programs in Washington which stimulating housing. You need to clear the — clear the market and then we can all go back to work. But what we’re doing now is absolutely wrong.
KING: Well, let me give you another topic that people say the government is too involved in. That’s food safety. You worked in the business.
KING: You see the E. coli scare that’s going on in Europe right now. You’re trying to cut money. The FDA, other agencies that get involved in that are in front of you. What do you do?
CAIN: You look inside the FDA and determine whether or not it needs to be streamlined, and maybe it does.
KING: But should the federal government be doing food safety inspections?
CAIN: The federal government should be doing food safety, yes. But I want to go back to this point about what we need to do to help the housing market.
We don’t just have one problem; we have a crisis of the three E’s. We’ve got the economy, entitlement spending, and energy. We’ve got to simultaneously work on all of those so we can put 13 million to 14 million people back to work. That’s what we’ve got to do. So it’s not just a single issue. It is the multiplicity and the compounding effect of those three critical problems.
KING: What else, Governor Romney? You’ve been a chief executive of a state. I was just in Joplin, Missouri. I’ve been in Mississippi and Louisiana and Tennessee and other communities dealing with whether it’s the tornadoes, the flooding, and worse. FEMA is about to run out of money, and there are some people who say do it on a case-by-case basis and some people who say, you know, maybe we’re learning a lesson here that the states should take on more of this role. How do you deal with something like that?
ROMNEY: Absolutely. Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.
Instead of thinking in the federal budget, what we should cut — we should ask ourselves the opposite question. What should we keep? We should take all of what we’re doing at the federal level and say, what are the things we’re doing that we don’t have to do? And those things we’ve got to stop doing, because we’re borrowing $1.6 trillion more this year than we’re taking in. We cannot…
KING: Including disaster relief, though?
ROMNEY: We cannot — we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we’ll all be dead and gone before it’s paid off. It makes no sense at all.
KING: All right, we need to work in another break. I know all the candidates want to get in on these issues and other issues. We will get back to them, I promise you that.
As we go to break, remember at home, if you have a question on Facebook, send it to us. If you have a question on Twitter, send it to us. You also can use your smartphone to get some exclusive information.
We’re playing a little bit of an exercise called “This or That” to learn more about our candidates. It was Conan or Leno. It was Elvis or Johnny Cash.
Mr. Speaker, “Dancing with the Stars” or “American Idol”?
GINGRICH: “American Idol.”
KING: “American Idol” it is.
Our candidates continue their debate in just a moment. Stay with us.
KING: Welcome back to our Republican debate here in the first- in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire. Seven candidates up on stage as they try to impress the voters of New Hampshire and the voters of the country tonight. We’ve become, we are told, a trending topic on Twitter.
Ladies and gentlemen, I want you to look up there just a bit, and we’ll get to some of these questions, because they’re good questions, privatization there, improving relationships with the Middle East, what industries do you think can reinvent America. All good suggestions from concerned citizens across the country watching this debate unfold.
Before we go and out of every break, we’re doing an exercise called “This or That” to learn more about our candidates. The speaker had no hesitation at all: “American Idol” over “Dancing with the Stars.
Congressman Paul, BlackBerry or iPhone?
KING: BlackBerry it is.
All right. We’re going to continue our conversation now. We want to bring up a very important issue I know all of you will want to weigh in on, and that is the debate about entitlements — Mr. Cain mentioned those — and specifically — specifically Medicare. Right now, I want to go down to our audience. We’ve got Josh McElveen with a question.
MCELVEEN: Thanks very much, John. And I have Dr. Paul Collins who — you’ve been running a family practice in Manchester for how long?
QUESTION: Twenty-seven years.
MCELVEEN: Nice work. So not surprising your question is related to health care. What’s your question, sir?
QUESTION: Yes, sir. As a member of the Baby Boomer generation, I’ve been contributing to Medicare through payroll taxes for over 30 years. How do you propose to keep Medicare financially solvent for the next 50 years and beyond?
KING: Let’s start with Dr. Paul on this one.
PAUL: Well, under these conditions, it’s not solvent and won’t be solvent. You know, if you’re — if you’re an average couple and you paid your entire amount into — into Medicare, you would have put $140,000 into it. And in your lifetime, you will take out more than three times that much. So a little bit of arithmetic tells you it’s not solvent, so we’re up against the wall on that, so it can’t be made solvent. It has to change. We have to have more competition in medicine.
And I would think that if we don’t want to cut any of the medical benefits for children or the elderly, because we have drawn so many in and got them so dependent on the government, if you want to work a transition, you have to cut a lot of money.
And that’s why I argue the case that this money ought to be cut out of foreign welfare, and foreign militarism, and corporate welfare, and the military industrial complex. Then we might have enough money to tide people over.
But some revamping has to occur. What we need is competition. We need to get a chance for the people to opt out of the system. Just — you talk about opting out of Obamacare? Why can’t we opt out of the whole system and take care of ourselves?
KING: All right, let’s — let’s continue the conversation. Governor Pawlenty, Congressman Paul says opt out. Congressman Ryan says squeeze a lot of savings across the federal budget, including a lot out of Medicare to turn it into a — he doesn’t like this word — but it turns essentially into a voucher program. Instead of having the federal program, the government would give you some money and you’d go out in the marketplace and shop for it. Is that the right way to do it?
PAWLENTY: Let me first address the doctor. Doctor, you said in your question that you’ve paid in your whole life, and we respect that. People have made plans, particularly people who are on the program now or close to eligibility. We should keep our word to people that we’ve made promises to.
So under my proposal, if you’re on the program or near the program, we’ll keep our word. But we also have to recognize what Congressman Paul just said. There was a recent report out that the premiums for Medicare and the payroll withholdings are only paying about half the program. So it is not financially solvent. We have to fix it; we have to reform it.
I’m going to have my own plan, John, that will feature some differences from Congressman Ryan’s plan. It will feature performance pay rather than just volume pay to hospitals and clinics and providers. It will allow Medicare to continue as an option, but it’ll be priced against various other options that we’re going to offer people, as well, and some other things.
And I also said, if it was a choice between Barack Obama’s plan and doing nothing (ph), we have a president of the United States got one of the worst crises financially in the history of the country, and you can’t find him on these issues. He’s missing. I’ll lead on this issue.
KING: All right, Governor.
Mr. Speaker, I want to bring you into this conversation, because I’m looking down — I want to get the words just right — your initial reaction to the Ryan plan? It’s radical right-wing social engineering. Then you backtracked. Why?
GINGRICH: Well, first of all, it was a very narrow question, which said, should Republicans impose an unpopular bill on the American people? Now, I supported the Ryan budget as a general proposal. I actually wrote a newsletter supporting the Ryan budget. And those words were taken totally out of context.
I’m happy to repeat them. If you’re dealing with something as big as Medicare and you can’t have a conversation with the country where the country thinks what you’re doing is the right thing, you better slow down.
Remember, we all got mad at Obama because he ran over us when we said don’t do it. Well, the Republicans ought to follow the same ground rule. If you can’t convince the American people it’s a good idea, maybe it’s not a good idea. So let me start there.
Second, there are certain things I would do different than Paul Ryan on Medicare. I agree strongly with him on Medicaid, and I think it could be done. But let me just say two quick things.
GINGRICH: Congressman Tom Price has a very good bill in that would allow private contracting so those people who want to voluntarily could contract with their doctor or their hospital in addition to Medicare, and it would be outside the current system and it would relieve the pricing pressure on the current system. We did a study called “Stop Paying the Crooks.” We think you can save $70 billion to $120 billion in Medicare and Medicaid annually by not paying crooks…
KING: All right. We have to — we have to save time.
GINGRICH: … two examples.
KING: We have to save time. Let me start with the senator first. Should the Republicans slow down?
SANTORUM: No. We have a $1.4 trillion deficit, and it isn’t getting any better anytime soon. We have to deal with this problem now. And what Paul Ryan has suggested, which I wholeheartedly support, is to use a program that is identical to what seniors already have. It’s called Medicare Part D.
They have a program right now which seniors like. It is a program that’s called a premium support program. We give seniors — depending on income — a certain amount of money so they can go out and they can purchase health care that they want that helps them — and this is the key, John — we need to include seniors in controlling costs. What President Obama — let me finish, please — what President Obama has done is he put in, in the Obamacare bill, the Independent Payment Advisory Board. Ladies and gentlemen, seniors, Medicare is going to be cut, starting in 2014, by the federal government, and it’s going to be rationing of care from the top down.
What Paul Ryan and Rick Santorum want to do, which is not radical, which is take a program, Medicare prescription drugs, that is 41 percent under budget, because seniors are involved in controlling costs, and apply it all to Medicare. It is the right approach for Medicare.
KING: The speaker’s point — the speaker’s point, Mr. Cain, was that if you’ve lost the American people, if they’re not following you, you have to slow down until you can get them with you. Is that a fair point?
CAIN: We don’t need to slow down. I hate to tell you — I hate to be the one to give you the bad news, Doctor. You’re not going to get most of the money you put into Medicare if we don’t restructure it.
The reason we’re in the situation we are today with Medicare and Social Security is because the problem hasn’t been solved. We can no longer rearrange it. We’ve got to restructure those programs. And the Paul Ryan approach I totally support.
And he has been very courageous in taking the lead on this.