Transcript and video of Republican Debate June 13, 2011 New Hampshire (Part 5)

From left, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and businessman Herman Cain stand on stage before first New Hampshire Republican presidential debate at St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., Monday, June 13, 2011. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

 

Republican Presidential Debate In New Hampshire pt.5

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?

PAUL: BlackBerry. 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?

(APPLAUSE)

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. KING: Quickly.

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.

And you know that commercial where they have demagogued the whole thing with medi-scare and having grandma tossed off the bridge? If we don’t fix this problem, it’s going to be our grandkids in that wheelchair that they were going to be throwing off the bridge. We have got to fix the problem.

KING: Let’s continue the conversation on entitlements. I know Congresswoman Bachmann wants to get in and others want to get in.

Let’s get on John Distaso on the floor.

DISTASO: Thank you, John.

Mr. Cain, back to you. And while you’re fired up there, let’s turn to Social Security. Can you be specific regarding ages and income levels? Everyone talks about reform. What is your specific Social Security reform plan in regards to raising the retirement age, at what ages, cutting benefits and what income level means testing kicking in?

Thank you.

CAIN: Let’s fix the problem and that is to restructure Social Security. I support a personal retirement account option in order to phase out the current system. We know that this works. It worked in the small country of Chile when they did it 30 years.

That payroll tax had gotten up to 27 percent for every dollar that the worker made. I believe we can do the same thing. That break point would approximately 40 years of age.

Now, young people realize they still got to contribute to the current system for those people that are on Social Security, that are near Social Security.

DISTASO: Are you going to raise the retirement age as president of the United States?

CAIN: I don’t have to raise the retirement age, because that by itself isn’t going to solve the problem. If Congress decides to do that, that’s a different matter.

Here’s — let me give you one another example where this approach has worked. The city of Galveston, they opted out of the Social Security system way back in the ’70s. And now, they retire with a whole lot more money. Why? For a real simple reason — they have an account with their money on it.

What I’m simply saying is we’ve got to restructure the program using a personal retirement account option in order to eventually make it solvent.

KING: All right. We’re going to keep the conversation move. I know people want to weigh in. You’ll get a chance to weigh in.

Let’s move now. Jennifer Vaughn is on the floor with a question.

VAUGHN: John, thank you very much.

Governor Romney, I’d like to ask this to you first, please.

The Treasury Department says the United States will hit its credit limit on August the 2nd. Do you believe we will ultimately have to raise the debt ceiling?

ROMNEY: I believe we will not raise the debt ceiling unless the president finally, finally is willing to be a leader on issues that the American people care about. And the number one issue that relates to that debt ceiling is whether the government is going to keep on spending money they don’t have.

And the American people and Congress and every person elected in Washington has to understand we want to see a president finally lay out plans for reining in the excesses of government.

You’ve heard on here a whole series of ideas about entitlements. And that’s about 60 percent of federal spends. That’s a big piece. That’s a big chunk. Ideas from all these people up here.

Where are the president’s ideas?

Each person has different ideas here. We can try them and try different ideas in different states and different programs at the federal level.

But why isn’t the president leading? He isn’t leading on balancing our budget and he’s not leading on jobs. He’s failed the American people both in job creation and the scale the government.

VAUGHN: Governor —

ROMNEY: And that’s why he’s not going to be reelected.

VAUGHN: Governor, what happens if you don’t raise it? What happens then? Is it OK not to?

ROMNEY: Well, what happens if we continue to spend time and time again, year and year again more money than we take in?

What we say to America is: at some point, you hit a wall. At some point, people around the world say, “I’m not going to keep loaning money to America to pay these massive deficits pay for them because America can’t pay them back and the dollar is not worth anything anymore.” In that circumstance, we saddled our future — the future of our kids in a way that is just unacceptable.

And so, you’re going to see Republicans stand up and say, “Mr. President, lay down plans to balance this budget.” If he does so, if we gets Democrats to come at that time table and honestly deal with the challenges we have, with the entitlement challenges, with the spending and discretionary accounts, with our jobs issues, and finally say you know what? We really can’t afford another trillion dollars of Obamacare.

KING: OK.

ROMNEY: If he’ll be honest about these things, then I think you’ll see the kind of progress you’d hope to see.

KING: Congresswoman Bachmann, you’ll get a vote on this issue. What Governor Romney outlined is the goal of Republicans, who’s got a big deal to balance the budget. If you can’t get that on the short term and this date approaches, those negotiations are continuing, what is your price tag — what is your price tag in at least a first wave of cuts? And if you don’t get it, would you say to the House Republicans, “No, let the government go into default, that’s where we need to stand”?

BACHMANN: I’ve already voted no on raising the debt ceiling in the past. And unless there are serious cuts, I can’t.

But I want — I want to speak to someone that’s far more eloquent than I. Someone who said just dealing with the issue of raising the debt ceiling is a failure of leadership. That person was then Senator Barack Obama. He refused to raise the debt ceiling because he said President Bush had failed in leadership.

Clearly, President Obama has failed in leadership. Under his watch, in two and a half years, we’ve increased the federal debt 35 percent just in that amount of time.

So, what we need to do both, from the Congress and president, he needs to direct his treasury secretary: pay the interest on the debt first, then we won’t have a failure of our full faith and credit from their prioritized spending. We have to have serious spending cuts.

KING: OK. Appreciate that again. I want to ask the candidates a little shorter on those answers so we can keep the voters involved.

Let’s go down to Josh on the floor.

MCELVEEN: Thank you, John.

And I’m joined by Mr. Jerry Kitty (ph) who runs a juvenile institution out of Massachusetts.

And I’m told that has nothing to do with your question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Correct.

I’m just wondering what your definition of the separation of church and state is and how it will affect your decision-making.

KING: Governor Pawlenty, I want you to take that one first.

PAWLENTY: Well, the protections between the separation of church and state were designed to protect people of faith from government, not government from people of faith. This is a country that in our founding documents says we’re a nation that’s founded under God, and the privileges and blessings at that we have are from our creator. They’re not from our member of Congress. They’re not from our county commissioner.

And 39 of the 50 states have in the very early phrases of their constitutions language like Minnesota has in its preamble. It says this, “We the people of Minnesota, grateful to God for our civil and religious liberties,” and so the Founding Fathers understood that the blessings that we have as a nation come from our creator and we should stop and say thanks and express gratitude for that. I embrace that.

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