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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Part 2: 20:30-21:00, CNN-Tea Party Republican Debate
Aired September 12, 2011 - 20:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, DEBATE MODERATOR AND CNN LEAD POLITICAL ANCHOR: But, Governor, just to be precise, if you were president, you wouldn't repeal prescription drug benefits for seniors under Medicare?
GOV. RICK PERRY, (R-TX.), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's what I said when I started the conversation.
BLITZER: OK. Just want to be precise on that, Governor.
Governor Romney, what about you?
FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY, (R-MA.), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I wouldn't repeal it. I'd reform Medicare and reform Medicaid and reform Social Security to get them on a sustainable basis, not for current retirees, but for those in their 20s and 30s and early 50s.
But the key to balancing the budget -- and we talk about all the waste in government and the inefficiency. And having spent 25 years in business, I know something about taking waste out of enterprises. I'd love to do that to the federal government. And there is massive waste.
But we're not going to balance the budget just by pretending that all -- all we have to do is take out the waste. We're going to have to cut spending. And I'm in favor of cutting spending, capping federal spending as a percentage of GDP, at 20 percent or less, and having a balanced budget amendment. That's essential to rein in the scale of the federal government.
And there's a second part to balancing the budget, and that's growing the economy again. And that's why I laid out a plan to restructure the foundation of America's economy to start creating jobs again so people are paying taxes, businesses are paying taxes, not because we're raising the rates, but because we're growing the economy.
The right answer for America is to stop the growth of the federal government and to start the growth of the private sector.
BLITZER: Congressman Paul, what about you? Would you repeal it?
REP. RON PAUL, (R-TX.), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, we shouldn't have never started it. I voted against it. But that sure wouldn't be on my high list. I would find a lot of cuts a lot of other places. As a matter of fact, on Social Security, it is already being reformed, because the cost of living increases aren't there, so the value is going down.
So, no, there's places we should cut. And we cut -- we spend -- and I'm not sure I can get anybody to agree with me on here -- on this panel, but we spend $1.5 trillion overseas in wars that we don't need to be in and we need to cut there...
... and then put this money back into our economy here. And that is the only way to achieve it. Then it still wouldn't be enough in order to get some people out. What we need to do is cut the Department of Education, the Department of Energy, and all these departments, and get rid of them.
Then we can do it.
BLITZER: We're going to get to national security. Don't worry.
Congresswoman Bachmann, what about you?
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN, (R-MN.), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that the principle has to change, because for years, politicians have run on the idea that government is going to buy people more stuff and that the federal government would be taking care of people's prescription drugs, their retirement, their health care, their housing, their food.
We're the everybody else that's paying for the freight for all of these things. That's the principle that has to change, because we have to now recognize that, going forward...
... this isn't going to work anymore. We have to be an ownership society, where individual responsibility, personal responsibility once again becomes the animating American principle. And we can't be ashamed of that.
BLITZER: All right, we've got a lot more to discuss. We're only just beginning. I want to take a quick break. I want our viewers out there to know they can weigh in, they can respond. Go to Twitter, Facebook, cnn.com. We want to hear from you if you have questions for these eight Republican presidential candidates. You'll have an opportunity to get some questions to them. We're going to talk about jobs, jobs, jobs when we come back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to CNN Tea Party Republican presidential debate. We've got a question from Portsmouth, Virginia. Please identify yourself. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Good evening. My name is Sandra Jones (ph) from Yorktown, Virginia. My question is, what would you do to get the economy moving forward? Do you have a plan? And, if so, what is it?
BLITZER: All right, good question. Let's ask Governor Huntsman. The first thing you would do as president of the United States, knowing, of course, that President Obama today formally gave legislation to Congress with his jobs plan?
FORMER GOV. JON HUNTSMAN JR., (R-UT.), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let us recognize, first and foremost, that what we're seeing playing out in America is a human tragedy. We have millions and millions who are unemployed, millions beyond who are so dispirited they've completely given up trying to find a job. We've got moms and dads and families that have been economically shipwrecked. And it's a great American tragedy that we're watching play out.
I have put forward a program that I want all of you to understand is basically patterned after what I did as governor. I think when you look at everybody on the stage here, all you have to do is say, where have they been and what have they done?
First and foremost, I want to reform this tax code. I put forward a program that the Wall Street Journal has come out and endorsed. It basically calls for stripping out the loopholes and the deductions and lowering the rates for individuals, cleaning out corporate welfare and subsidies on the corporate side and lowering the rate, leaving us a whole lot more competitive for the 21st century. That's the first item of business I'd drop on the doorstep of Congress.
Second is regulatory reform, because we cannot go forward with Obamacare.
We cannot go forward with Dodd-Frank, because businesses in this country are saying there's no predictability, there's no ability to see around the bend, we don't know what costs are going to be, we're not hiring and bringing new people on.
Third, this country needs to wean itself from its heroin-like addiction to foreign oil. We need energy independence desperately in this country.
BLITZER: Thank you, Governor.
Governor Perry, the president in his new plan has a lot of tax cuts, payroll tax cuts, middle-class tax cuts, tax credits for hiring veterans, tax credits for hiring long-term unemployed people. Are those things you would support?
PERRY: And he's going to pay for them all with raising your taxes. That is the issue. He had $800 billion worth of stimulus in the first round of stimulus. It created zero jobs, $400-plus billion dollars in this package. And I can do the math on that one. Half of zero jobs is going to be zero jobs.
This president does not understand how to free up the small businessmen and women or, for that matter, Wall Street. You give people the opportunity to risk their capital by lowering the tax burden on them, by lowering the regulatory climate, and you will see an American economy that takes off like a rocket ship.
And that's what we need to be focusing on in this country, freeing up the small businessmen and women to do what they know how to do, which is risk their capital and give them half a chance to have an opportunity to have a return on that investment, and they will go risk their capital. That's what the president of the United States needs to do: Quit the spending. Give clear regulatory relief and reform the tax code.
BLITZER: So just to be precise, Governor, whenever the president supports tax cuts, that has to be balanced with spending cuts?
PERRY: I would suggest to you that people are tired of spending money we don't have on programs we don't want.
BLITZER: Congresswoman Bachmann, I'm going to bring Mr. Cain in, in a moment, but the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, which went across the board, were not offset with spending cuts, and as a result, potentially, a lot of economists think, the deficit went up and up and up.
BACHMANN: Well, there's a reason why the deficit went up and up and up. When you have a trillion dollars worth of spending that you don't pay for, it's going to go up. And now we're seeing again that the president wants to do more of the same.
I was the leading voice in the wilderness of Washington all summer. I was one of the only people in Washington that said do not raise the debt ceiling. Don't give the president of the United States another $2.4 trillion blank check. You've got to draw the line in the sand somewhere and say no more out of control spending.
The president wanted to borrow money from countries like China to pay it back for a stimulus. We've got $1.2 trillion already that's been earned by American countries overseas. If we have a 0 percent tax rate, Wolf, we can bring that 1.2 trillion -- it's called repatriation -- bring that in. You'd have 1.2 trillion flooded into the system, then pass the free trade agreements so that we can move the economy, permanently lower the tax code. I'm a federal tax lawyer. I know how to do that. Repeal Dodd-Frank, repeal Obamacare.
It really isn't that tough if you try. It is easy to turn around this economy, just have the backbone to do it.
BLITZER: Mr. Cain?
HERMAN CAIN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes.
This economy is on life support. I don't want - we need a bold solution, not one that tinkers around the edges, not one that allows politicians to continue to pick winners and losers. I believe we throw out the entire tax code and put in my nine nine nine plan. nine nine nine. A 9 percent business flat tax, a 9 percent personal income tax and a 9 national sales tax.
Now I've been told by some people, well, you can't get that done. I say why? Well, because you don't know how Washington works. Yes, I do. It doesn't.
The American people are ready to do something bold. We need a bold solution in order to get this economy growing at the maximum rate.
I agree with many of the others up here who say, you get the government out of the way. American entrepreneurship, American businesses, they will create the jobs if we provide some certainty.
BLITZER: Governor Romney, you know Governor Perry as governor of Texas created more jobs in Texas than any other state.
ROMNEY: Terrific state, no question about that. Some wonderful things that Texas has going for it that the nation could learn from. zero income tax. That's a pretty good thing. Right to work state. Republican legislature, Republican supreme court.
By the way, a lot of oil as well.
We're an energy rich nation. We're living like an energy poor nation.
I spent my life in the private sector. I've competed with companies around the world. I've learned something about how it is that economies grow. It's not just simple wave a wand and everything gets better. No, you have to make some structural changes. The world has changed.
What's happened over the last 20, 30 years is we've gone from a pay phone world to a smartphone world and President Obama keeps jamming quarters into the pay phone thinking things are going to get better. It's not connected, Mr. President.
And if we're going to get this economy going, we've got seven, one, make our tax code competitive with the world. Two, get regulations to work to encourage enterprise. Three, to make sure we have trade policies that work for us not just for the other guys. Four is to have energy security in this country by developing our energy resources. Five so execute the rule of law, which is to stop the Boeing decision that the NLRB put in place. Six is to make sure that we have institutions that create fantastic human capital. And finally number seven is to balance the budget. People won't invest here unless they have confidence here. And that's what I'll do.
BLITZER: And just to get back to the question. So does Governor Perry deserve any credit for all those jobs that were created in Texas?
ROMNEY: Oh, sure.
BLITZER: Go ahead and tell him how much credit he deserves.
ROMNEY: Well, look, I think Governor Perry would agree with me that if you're dealt four aces that doesn't make you necessarily a great poker player. And four aces -- and the four aces that are terrific aces are the ones the nation should learn from, the ones I described, zero income tax, low regulation, right to work state, oil in the ground and a Republican legislature. Those things are terrific.
And by the way, there has been great growth in Texas. Under Ann Richards, job growth was under 2.5 percent a year, under George Bush was 3 percent a year, under Rick Perry it's been 1 percent a year.
Those are all good numbers. Those are all good numbers. But Texas is a great state. And I'll tell you, if you think that the country is like Texas going swimmingly well, then somebody who has done that is just terrific. But if you think the the country needs a turnaround, that's what I do.
BLITZER: All right. Governor Perry, you were dealt four aces.
PERRY: Well, I was going to say Mitt you were doing pretty good until you got to talking poker. But the fact is the state of Texas has led the nation. While the current resident of the White House is overseeing the loss of 2.5 million jobs, Texas during my period of governor has created over a million jobs. And we did that during some pretty tough economic period.
PERRY: One of the things that's really important, one of the things that the Fed Reserve chairman said was the most powerful -- one of the most powerful things that happened, was tort reform that we passed in that state. And you want to talk about some powerful job creation? Tell the trial lawyers to get out of your state and to quit costing businessmen and women.
PERRY: That's what needs to happen in the states, and it's also what needs to happen at the federal level, passing federal tort reform at those federal levels.
BLITZER: Congressman Paul, you're from Texas. Does your governor deserve all that credit?
PAUL: Not quite.
PAUL: I'm a taxpayer there. My taxes have gone up. Our taxes have doubled since he's been in office. Our spending has gone up double. Our debt has gone up nearly triple.
So, no. And 170,000 of the jobs were government jobs. So I would put a little damper on this, but I don't want to offend the governor, because he might raise my taxes or something.
PAUL: But I would like to mention something that we said earlier about a tax cut and can you -- how do you pay for a tax cut? I think that's the wrong principle, because when you give people their money back, it's their money.
You don't have to pay for it. That means that the government owns all of our money if you look that way.
BLITZER: All right.
PAUL: So we have to cut the spending, and a good way to start, there's a little embassy we built over in Baghdad that cost us a billion dollars. It's bigger than the Vatican. That's what's bankrupting this country, and that's the easy place to cut. That's where we should be cutting.
BLITZER: Governor Perry, you have 30 seconds to tell Congressman Paul whether you're going to raise his taxes.
PERRY: While I've been governor, we have cut taxes by $14 billion, 65 different pieces of legislation. You may not have seen them, Representative Paul, but the fact of the matter is, there are people coming to Texas for five years in a row, the number one destination. They're not coming because we're overtaxing them.
They're coming to Texas because they know there's still a land of freedom in America, freedom from over-taxation, freedom from over- litigation and freedom from over-regulation, and it's called Texas. We need to do the same thing for America.
BLITZER: Let me bring Speaker Gingrich into this conversation.
Jobs, jobs, jobs. All of us who covered you when you were Speaker -- and you worked with President Clinton at the time -- you compromised, he compromised, you got things done. There was a budget surplus for as far as the eye could see.
If you were president, would you work with the Democrats, assuming they were the majority in the House or the Senate? Would you compromise with them on some of these gut issues?
FORMER REP. NEWT GINGRICH, (R-GA.), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, you know, after the last debate, when Governor Huntsman and Governor Perry and Governor Romney each explained how their state was the best at job creation, Brady Castis (ph), who works with me, went back and checked. In the four years I was Speaker, we created -- the American people, not me -- created more jobs in Utah than under Governor Huntsman, more jobs in Massachusetts than under Governor Romney, and more jobs in Texas than in the 11 years of Governor Perry.
Now, I don't claim credit for that because it was done by investors and done -- in fact, Mitt, at that time, as the private sector, was part of the job creation. But I just want to point out, the American people create jobs, not government. OK?
GINGRICH: Now, Ronald Reagan -- when I was a very young congressman, Ronald Reagan taught me a great lesson if you have Democrat in charge. And that is to go to the American people on principle, have the American people educate their congressmen.
He used to say, "I try to turn up the light for the people so they will turn up the heat on Congress." When we passed welfare reform, half the Democrats voted yes because they couldn't go home having voted no. And on a principle basis, I'd be glad to work with Democrats in any office, but I'd do it on principle, not on compromising principle.
BLITZER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
BLITZER: All right. We have a question via CNNPolitics.com. "All of you profess to be pro-business candidates for president. Can you be pro-worker at the same time?"
CAIN: The answer is absolutely yes, because I was a worker before I was an executive and before I was a business owner. Absolutely.
And when I ran the National Restaurant Association, it is a collection of small businesses. Godfather's Pizza is the same way, when I ran the region for Burger King. One restaurant is the basic fundamental business unit in this country.
And so, yes, I know how to be pro-worker because I came from a pro-worker family. My mother was a domestic worker, my father was a barber, a janitor, and a chauffeur, all at the same time. I understand work because that's how I came up. So the answer is, absolutely yes.
The two are not mutually exclusive, but what we need is the right leadership, starting with, are we working on the right problems? If we keep tinkering around the edges on the tax code or tinkering around the edges on Social Security, we're not going to solve the right problem.
BLITZER: Thank you, Mr. Cain.
BLITZER: Governor Huntsman, you have experience in the business community, in government. Why would you be more effective in creating jobs than any of your rivals on this stage?
HUNTSMAN: Well, let me just say about workers, this country needs more workers. Can we say that?
This country needs more workers, and we're not going to get more workers until we actually have an economic plan led by someone who has actually done it before, presumably as a governor, to create the environment in which the private sector can then work its magic. That's how we're going to get from point A to point B.
But let me just say that we have put forward a plan, Wolf. And I want people to take a serious look at this, because you can come up with a spin on everything -- any way to describe your plan, come up with fancy language, but I just want you to take a look at what we have done where we have been in terms of proposing job creation measures under tax reform in our state that is totally applicable to what this country needs: looking at regulatory reform; creating the most business-friendly environment in the entire United States; creating health care reform without a mandate.
I know that everything's bigger in Texas, and Rick likes to talk that way. And I know all the smart people reside in Massachusetts. But let me just tell you, Utah, the great state of Utah, was number one in job creation at 5.9 percent during my years as governor.
We were the best managed state in America. We were the best place in America for business.
I'm the only person on this stage, Wolf, who can actually lay claim to all of that. And you know why it's important? It's because it's exactly what this country needs at this point in his history.
BLITZER: All right. We're going to let everybody respond. We've got a lot more to talk about, including national security -- it's a critical issue -- taxes, Federal Reserve, health care, many more subjects coming up.
Stay with us. Remember, go to Twitter or Facebook, CNNPolitics.com. We want to hear from you as well.
Our special coverage of this historic CNN/Tea Party Republican presidential debate will continue after this. (APPLAUSE)
BLITZER: Welcome back to the CNN/Tea Party presidential debate. We're here in Tampa.
Let's go right to a question from the audience.
Please give us your name.
STEVE ROUTSZONG, GREATER GASTON COUNTY TEA PARTY: Good evening. I'm Steve Routszong with the Tea Party of Greater Gaston County, from Gastonia, North Carolina.
My question tonight is: What is your position on the Federal Reserve? Should it indeed be audited and be held accountable by the American people?
BLITZER: Senator Santorum?
FORMER SEN. RICK SANTORUM, (R-PA.), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I agree with an audit on the Federal Reserve. I believe that what we should do with the Fed is to make it a single charter instead of a dual charter.
I think the second charter that was instituted that had it be responsible for increasing employment and dealing with that leads to a fundamental distrust among the American people that they are taking their eye off the ball, which is sound money. They should be a sound money Federal Reserve. That should be their single charter, and that is it.
With respect to some of the questions that were asked in the last segment on the economy, I would just say this. Some people say that Barack Obama's economy is a disaster. My feeling is it would have to make a dramatic improvement just to be a disaster. The...
What we need to do is have a pro-growth plan that can pass the Congress with Democratic support and, as Newt mentioned, be able to rally the American people. What the American people want is a policy that's going to get people the opportunity to rise in society, to fill that great middle of America, and that is manufacturing jobs.
That's why my plan takes the corporate tax, which is 35 percent, cuts it to zero, and says, if you manufacture in America, you aren't going to pay any taxes. We want you to come back here. We want you to have "Made in America" stamped on your -- your product.
BLITZER: Mr. Cain? CAIN: Yes.
BLITZER: You were once with the Kansas City Federal Reserve. Should it be audited?
CAIN: Yes, it can -- it should be audited. And, secondly, I believe that its focus needs to be narrowed. I don't believe in ending the Fed; I believe in fixing the Fed.
For many, many decades, the Fed did its job when it was singularly focused on sound money. When we wake up in the morning, we expect 60 minutes to be in an hour. Now when we wake up, because of some of the actions of the current Fed, we don't know what the value of the dollar is going to be.
In 1988, it took 1.2 dollars in order to be able to convert from Canadian to U.S. It is now totally reversed because of the current policies of the Fed.
BLITZER: Thank you.
Congresswoman Bachmann, you know that Governor Perry has suggested that Ben Bernanke, the head of the Federal Reserve, potentially should be tried for treason for what he's doing.
Do you agree?
BACHMANN: Well, as president of the United States, I would not be reappointing Ben Bernanke, but I want to say this. During the bailout, the $700 billion bailout, I worked behind the scenes against the bailout, because one of the things that I saw from the Federal Reserve, the enabling act legislation is written so broadly that, quite literally, Congress has given the Federal Reserve almost unlimited power over the economy.
That has to change. They can no longer have that power. Why? Because what we saw, with all of the $700 billion bailout, is that the Federal Reserve opened its discount window and was making loans to private American businesses. And not only that, they're making loans to foreign governments.
This cannot be. The Federal Reserve has a lot to answer for. And that's why it's important that they're not only audited, but they have got be shrunk back down to such a tight leash that they're going to squeak.
BLITZER: It's one thing to say you wouldn't reappoint him, Ben Bernanke...
... to be head of the Federal Reserve. It's another thing -- do you agree or disagree with Governor Perry that potentially he's engaged in treason? BACHMANN: Well, that's for -- that's for Governor Perry to make that decision. My -- my opinion is, I would not reappoint Ben Bernanke.
BLITZER: You stand by those remarks, Governor?
PERRY: I -- I said that, if you are allowing the Federal Reserve to be used for political purposes, that it would be almost treasonous. I think that is a very clear statement of fact.
I am not a fan of the current chairman allowing that Federal Reserve to be used to cover up bad fiscal policy by this administration. And that, I will suggest to you, is what we have seen.
It is a travesty that young people in America are seeing their dollars devalued in what -- we don't know if it was political or not because of the transparency issue. But I stand by this, that we need to have a Fed that is working towards sound monetary policy, that creates a strong dollar in America, and we do not have that today.
BLITZER: Governor Romney, is there anything you disagree with -- with -- with Governor Perry on that point?