GOP Debate Transcript
Here's the first part of tonight's debate, courtesy NBC. More to follow. The formatting may be a bit rough, we're moving this as fast as possible.
WILLIAMS: Tonight, from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library, in a place dedicated to the memory of this Republican icon, in the 100th year after his birth, we will hear from the eight candidates who would like to claim his legacy. They're all here tonight ready to explain and defend their positions on job creation, on spending, debt, and taxes, on America's costly dual wars, and the toxic gridlock that is Washington, D.C.
ANNOUNCER: Live from the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, the Republican candidates debate. Here now are Brian Williams and John Harris.
WILLIAMS: Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Good evening, and welcome.
Thank you especially for joining us here in this spectacular space, this spectacular presidential library, where we are all gathered under the wings of Air Force One. We're going to get right to it tonight because we have a lot of candidates on stage, a lot of issues to talk about.
And for the next hour and 45 minutes, give or take, along with my colleague and friend, John Harris of the website Politico, we will be putting questions to the eight candidates on stage tonight. By agreement, they will have one minute to answer and then 30 seconds for follow-up or rebuttal, as they say, at the moderator's discretion.
There will be no opening or closing statements during this debate tonight.
With that out of the way, we're going to start with jobs and the economy. The numbers from our new NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll this week are, candidly, jaw-dropping. The country thinks the economy is going to get worse before it gets better. A majority of people in this country now believe the Republican policies of the first eight years of the past decade are responsible for the economic mess we're in. And we should quickly add, a majority also don't believe the current Democratic president has set the right policies to fix the fix we're in. Question is, really, who can?
Governor Perry, we're going to begin with you. You're the newcomer here on stage. You probably saw this coming a mile away. You have touted your state's low taxes, the lack of regulation, tough tort reform as the recipe for job growth in the Lone Star State, but Texas ranks last among those who have completed high school, there are only eight other states with more living in poverty, no other state has more working at or below the minimum wage. So is that the kind of answer all Americans are looking for?
PERRY: Actually, what Americans are looking for is someone who can get this country working again. And we put the model in place in the state of Texas. When you look at what we have done over the last decade, we created 1 million jobs in the state of Texas. At the same time, America lost 2.5 million.
So I will suggest to you that Americans are focused on the right issue, and that is, who on this stage can get America working? Because we know for a fact the resident of the White House cannot.
WILLIAMS: But you know by now the counterargument to that is the number of low-wage jobs and the fact that unemployment is better in over half the states of the union than it is right now in Texas.
PERRY: Well, the first part of that comment is incorrect, because
95 percent of all the jobs that we've created have been above minimum wage.
So I'm proud of what we've done in the state of Texas. And for the White House or anyone else to be criticizing creation of jobs now in America, I think is a little bit hypocritical.
You want to create jobs in America? You free the American entrepreneur to do what he or she does, which is risk their capital, and I'll guarantee you, the entrepreneur in America, the small businessman and woman, they're looking for a president that will say we're going to lower the tax burden on you and we're going to lower the regulation impact on you, and free them to do what they do best: create jobs.
WILLIAMS: Governor Romney, over to you. You've opened the door on this topic, at least where Governor Perry's concerned. Despite your own private-sector experience, as you know, Massachusetts ranked only 47th in job creation during your tenure as governor. As for your private-sector experience, as Governor Perry's strategist recently put it, consisted of being, quote, "a buyout specialist." Your response to that?
ROMNEY: Well, not terribly accurate, at least with regards to the latter. And our state -- I'm happy to take a look at the Massachusetts record, because when I came in as governor, we were in a real freefall.
We were losing jobs every month. We had a budget that was way out of balance.
So I came into office, we went to work as a team, and we were able to turn around the job losses. And at the end of four years, we had our unemployment rate down to 4.7 percent. That's a record I think the president would like to see.
As a matter of fact, we created more jobs in Massachusetts than this president has created in the entire country. The policies that will get us working again as a nation are policies I understand having worked in the private sector.
Look, if I had spent my whole life in government, I wouldn't be running for president right now. My experience, having started enterprises, having helped other enterprises grow and thrive, is what gives me the experience to put together a plan to help restructure the basis of America's economic foundation so we can create jobs again, good jobs, and compete with anyone in the world.
This country has a bright future. Our president doesn't understand how the economy works. I do, because I've lived in it.
WILLIAMS: Time, Governor.
Let's get a little more specific. Bain Capital, a company you helped to form, among other things, often buys up companies, strips them down, gets them ready, resells them at a net job loss to American workers.
ROMNEY: You know, that might be how some people would like to characterize what we did, but in fact, we started business at Bain Capital, and when we acquired businesses, in each case we tried to make them bigger, make them more successful and grow. The idea that somehow you can strip things down and it makes them more valuable is not a real effective investment strategy. We tried to make these businesses more successful.
By the way, they didn't all work. But when it was all said and done, and we looked at the record we had during the years I was there, we added tens of thousands of jobs to he businesses we helped support.
That experience, succeeding, failing, competing around the world, is what gives me the capacity to help get this economy going again.
I mentioned one more reference to being a career politician. Is it a disqualification to be in government all your career?
ROMNEY: It's a fine profession, and if someone were looking to say how can we restructure government, and which agency should report to which other agency, well, maybe that's the best background. If you're thinking about what it takes to reshape and update America's economy, and to allow us to compete with China and other nations around the world, understanding how the economy works fundamentally is a credential I think is critical.
WILLIAMS: Governor Perry, a 30-second rebuttal.
You spent your career in that fine profession of elected office.
Your reaction to that?
PERRY: Well, Governor Romney left the private sector, and he did a great job of creating jobs in the private sector all around the world.
But the fact is, when he moved that experience to government, he had one of the lowest job creation rates in the country. So the fact is, while he had a good private sector record, his public sector record did not match that. As a matter of fact, we created more jobs in the last three months in Texas than he created in four years in Massachusetts.
WILLIAMS: Well, let's widen this out and let's bring in Mr. Cain on one side --
ROMNEY: Wait a second.
WILLIAMS: Go ahead. I'll give you 30 seconds.
ROMNEY: Listen, wait a second.
WILLIAMS: We could do this all evening.
ROMNEY: States are different. Texas is a great state. Texas has zero income tax. Texas has a right to work state, a Republican legislature, a Republican Supreme Court. Texas has a lot of oil and gas in the ground.
Those are wonderful things, but Governor Perry doesn't believe that he created those things. If he tried to say that, well, it would be like Al Gore saying he invented the Internet.
ROMNEY: Look, the reality is, there are differences. There are differences between states.
I came into a state that was in real trouble -- a huge budget gap, losing jobs every month. We turned it around. Three out of four years, we had unemployment rate below the national average, we ended up with
4.7 percent unemployment rate. I'm proud of what we were able to do in a tough situation.
PERRY: I know back and forth -- Michael Dukakis created jobs three times faster than you did, Mitt.
ROMNEY: Well, as a matter of fact, George Bush and his predecessor created jobs at a faster rate than you did, Governor.
PERRY: That's not correct.
ROMNEY: Yes, that is correct.
WILLIAMS: Nice to see everybody came prepared for tonight's conversation.
WILLIAMS: As I said, I'd like to bring in both wings here, figuratively, of course, Senator Santorum and Mr. Cain.
Let's talk about this debate between public sector life's work and private sector life's work.
You've spent your life's work, Mr. Cain, in the private sector.
And Senator Santorum, most of yours in the public sector.
Weigh in on what you're hearing (ph).
SANTORUM: Yes, I think what people are looking for is someone to get something done. And that's what I have a track record of doing in Washington, D.C., across the board. Not just on economics, but on moral cultural issues, on national security issues, national defense issues.
I've done things. We've brought Democrat and Republicans together.
I've put forward a plan because I think it's the best plan. But it's also the best plan of anybody here that actually can pass the Senate, which is probably going to have to have Democratic votes. And what I focussed on was a sector of the economy that can get Democratic votes.
We cut the corporate tax from 35 percent to zero, because we want to build the great middle of America again, get those jobs that were shipped overseas by companies that were looking too make a profit because they couldn't any longer do it here], and bring those jobs back to America.
We cut that corporate rate to zero. We've passed repatriation to get that resources that are seen overseas, $1.2 trillion, and we bring them back here.
We'll create jobs, and I'll get Democratic votes to pass it. We'll bring things together, because those industrial state Democrats -- and I know, because I'm from an industrial state -- they will vote for this bill. You want to get something going, elect someone who knows how to get things done.
(UNKNOWN): Time, Senator.
Mr. Cain, same question.
CAIN: Let's cut to the chase, this is what business people do and politicians don't do. Here's how I would fix this economy, first, eliminate the current tax code. It is a drain on entrepreneurs, it is the biggest barrier that's holding this economy back, and what I would do is to propose a bold plan, which I have already released.
I call it my 9-9-9 economic growth plan. Throw out the current tax code, a 9 percent tax on corporate income, our 9 percent tax on personal income and a 9 percent national sales tax. If 10 percent is good enough for God, 9 percent ought to be good enough for the fellow government.
This will replace all federal income taxes. It'll replace all federal income taxes.
It will also replace the payroll tax, so everybody gets some skin in the game. And it replaces the capital gains tax.
This economy is on life support. We do not need a solution that just trims around the edges. This is a bold plan and a bold solution.
Additionally, with something as simple as 9-9-9, it gives us a easy mechanism to go after -- help those cities that are the most blighted in terms of empowerment zones, and we can modify that very easily versus the current code.
(UNKNOWN): Mr. Cain, thank you.
Governor Huntsman, as you know, Governor Romney's new economic plan calls for the U.S. government to officially label China a currency manipulator, But "The Wall Street Journal" editorial page says such a move would cause a trade war, perhaps.
You're a former ambassador to China. You have served four U.S.
presidents. In your view, what does Governor Romney not get about China?
HUNTSMAN: He doesn't get the part that what will fix the U.S-China relationship, realistically, is fixing our core right here at home, because our core is weak, and it is broken, and we have no leverage at the negotiating table.
And I'd have to say, Mitt, now is not the time in a recession to enter a trade war. Ronald Reagan flew this plane. I was in China during the trip in 1984. He went on TV, he spoke to the Chinese people -- I'd love to do that too, in Chinese itself -- and he talked in optimistic, glowing terms.
And it reminds me about this, Ryan, we are the most blue sky, optimistic people on earth. We're going to find solutions, and I have an offer for the two great governors over here.
And I hate to rain on the parade of the Lone Star governor, but as governor of Utah, we were the number one job creator in this country during my years of service. That was 5.9 percent when you were creating jobs at 4.9 percent.
And to my good friend, Mitt, 47 just ain't going to cut it, my friend, not when you can be first. We've got to remember, that to beat President Obama, we have to have somebody who's been in the private sector, understands the fragility of the free market system, has been a successful governor as it relates to job creation, and knows something about this world.
I've lived overseas four times, I've been an ambassador to my country three times, I think I understand that.
(UNKNOWN): Governor Huntsman, time.
Congresswoman Bachmann, over to you. Of all of you on this stage,
you've been very vocal about wanting less regulation in American life.
Which current federal regulations have been prohibitive or damaging in
terms of your own small business?
BACHMANN: Well, I think without a doubt, there's two that you look
to. First of all are the new regulations that are just being put into
place with ObamaCare. As I go across the country and speak to small
business people, men and women, they tell me ObamaCare is leading them
to not create jobs.
I spent three weekends going to restaurants, and I talked to
business owners, said I have 60 people on my payroll, I have to let 10
go. At the same time, a 17-year-old girl came in and said, I'd like a
job application for the summer.
He said, I'm sorry, dear, I'm not hiring this summer, I'm actually
letting people go. ObamaCare is killing jobs. We know that from the
non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. But I know it first-hand from
speaking to people.
We see it this summer. There are 47 percent of African-American
youth that are currently without jobs, 36 percent of Hispanic youth.
I'm a mom. I've raised five biological kids and 23 foster kids in my
home. One thing I know is that kids need jobs. And ObamaCare is
clearly leading to job-killing regulations, not job-creating regulations.
(UNKNOWN): (Inaudible), thank you.
Over to Congressman Paul, you're known as the absolutist in the
bunch, someone who has consistently opposed federal government from
having any role -- and I think by your definition -- that isn't
explicitly laid out in the Constitution.
So this makes people curious: Is there a line with you? Where do
you draw it? Does this include things like making cars safe, making
medicine safe, air traffic control controlling the jets above our heads?
PAUL: I think in theory, if you understood the free market in a
free society, you don't need government to do that. We live in a
society where we have been adapted to this, and you can't just drop it
all at once, but you can transition away from it.
On regulations, no, I don't believe in any of these federal
regulations, but that doesn't mean I don't believe in regulations. The
regulation of the marketplace takes care of it. Just think if we had
the regulations on the market that dealt with the bankruptcies? They'd
have had to go bankrupt. We wouldn't have been able to bail out the big
banks and the big corporations and dump onto poor people.
So the market would dictate it. You can't commit fraud. If you
need detailed regulations, you can do it at the state level. But the
federal government is not authorized to nitpick every little
transaction. The way they use the interstate commerce clause is
outrageous, as far as I'm concerned.
WILLIAMS: Well, 30 seconds more for devil's advocate here, because
would you then put it on the drug companies to say, "No, we're bringing
this to market, trust us, it's a fantastic drug"? All the pilots in the
sky, to add to their responsibilities, their own air traffic control, in
an organic way?
PAUL: What I said is, theoretically, you could -- it could be
privatized, but who ends up doing the regulations on the drugs? They do
as much harm as good. They don't take good care of us. Who gets -- who
gets to write the regulations? The bureaucrats write the regulations,
but who writes the laws? The lobbyists have control, so lobbyists from
the drug industry has control of writing the regulations, so you turn it
over to the bureaucracy.
But you would have private institutions that could become credible.
And, I mean, do we need the federal government to tell us whether we buy
a safe car? I say the consumers of America are smart enough to decide
what kind of car they can buy and whether it's safe or not, and they
don't need the federal government hounding them and putting so much
regulations on that our car industry has gone overseas.
WILLIAMS: Congressman, thank you.
Over to Speaker Gingrich.
Mr. Speaker, as you remember, you wrote the foreword to Rick Perry's
most recent book called "Fed Up," and you called him, quote, "uniquely
qualified to explain what's taking place with the economy." Does that
mean, in terms of job creation credentials, he has your proxy at a
gathering like this?
GINGRICH: No, but it means that, if he wants to write another book,
I'll write another foreword.
As he himself -- look, he's said himself, that was an interesting
book of ideas by somebody who's not proposing a manifesto for
president. And I think to go back and try to take that apart is silly.
But let me just use my time for a second, if I might, Brian. I
served during the Reagan campaign with people like Jack Kemp and Art
Laffer. We had an idea for job creation. I served as a freshman -- or
as a sophomore helping pass the Reagan's jobs program. At newt.org, I
put out last Friday the response to the Obama stagnation.
The fact is, if you took the peak of the Reagan unemployment, which
he inherited from Carter, by last Friday, going month by month, under
Ronald Reagan, we'd have 3,700,000 more Americans working.
When I was speaker, we added 11 million jobs, in a bipartisan
effort, including welfare reform, the largest capital gains tax cut in
history. We balanced the budget for four straight years.
The fact that President Obama doesn't come to the Reagan Library to
try to figure out how to create jobs, doesn't talk to any of these three
governors to learn how to create jobs, doesn't talk to Herman Cain to
learn how to create jobs tells you that this is a president so committed
to class warfare and so committed to bureaucratic socialism that he
can't possibly be effective in jobs.
WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, thank you.
The questioning -- the questioning continues with John Harris.
HARRIS: Thank you. Thank you, Brian.
It didn't take you folks long to mix it up on the question of jobs.
I'd like to turn to another subject that's been dominating this
campaign. It's health care. Governor Romney, four years ago on this
same stage, you had this to say about your record in Massachusetts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: ... great opportunity for the entire country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Well, he had a lot more to say than that, didn't he?
HARRIS: I'm sorry. We had a little bit of a glitch right there,
but, Governor, you said that what you did in Massachusetts was a great
opportunity for the country. I'm going to get to you in just a minute.
What I'd first like to do is ask if anyone else on this stage agrees
that the Massachusetts example was a great opportunity for the rest of
PERRY: It was a great opportunity for us as a people to see what
will not work, and that is an individual mandate in this country.
HARRIS: Got it. That actually, Governor Romney, leads to my
question. I've heard you on this many times before. You said some
things about the Massachusetts law worked; other things didn't work as
well. Let's go to what Governor Perry mentioned, the individual
mandate, the government saying that people have to buy health
insurance. Was that one of the things that worked in Massachusetts?
ROMNEY: Let's step back and make sure I make something very clear
from the very outset. I understand health care pretty darn well, having
been through what I went through as a governor. And one thing I'd do on
day one if I'm elected president is direct my secretary of health and
human services to put out an executive order granting a waiver from
Obamacare to all 50 states. It is bad law, it will not work, and I'll
get that done in day one.
Now, number two, what we face in our state is different than what
other states face. What we had is a lot of people who found that they
could simply stop getting insurance, go to the hospital, and get free
care paid for by the people, paid for by taxpayers. We were spending
hundreds of millions of dollars in our state giving care to people who
in some cases could afford to take care of themselves.
And we said, you know what? You've either got to get insurance, if
you can afford it, or you're going to have to help pay the cost of
providing that care to your -- to you. And that was the approach that
It's a model that lets other states take a look at it. Some parts
of it have been copied by other states; some haven't. One thing I know,
and that is that what President Obama put in place is not going to
work. It's massively expensive. In our state, our plan covered 8
percent of the people, the uninsured.
HARRIS: Governor, time.
ROMNEY: His plan is taking over 100 percent of the people, and the
American people don't like it and should vote it down.
HARRIS: Thank you, Governor.
Governor Perry, you clearly don't like the Massachusetts plan as an
example for other states, but Massachusetts has nearly universal health
insurance. It's first in the country. In Texas, about a quarter of the
people don't have health insurance. That's 50 out of 50, dead last.
Sir, it's pretty hard to defend dead last.
PERRY: Well, I'll tell you what the people in the state of Texas
don't want: They don't want a health care plan like what Governor
Romney put in place in Massachusetts. What they would like to see is
the federal government get out of their business.
For Medicaid, for instance -- as a matter of fact, I bet Mitt and
Jon would both agree -- and I know Newt would, as well -- Medicaid needs
to be block-granted back to the states so that we can use the innovation
in the states, come up with the best ways to deliver health care.
My wife is a nurse. And I'll promise you, we understand that if we
can get the federal government out of our business in the states when it
comes to health care, we'll come up with ways to deliver more health
care to more people cheaper than what the federal government is
mandating today with their strings attached, here's how you do it,
one-size-fits-all effort out of Washington, D.C.
That's got to stop. And I'll promise you: On day one, as the
president of the United States, that executive order will be signed and
Obamacare will be wiped out as much as it can be.
HARRIS: Governor, quick follow-up. Why are so many people in Texas
PERRY: Well, bottom line is that we would not have that many people
uninsured in the state of Texas if you didn't have the federal
government. We've had requests in for years at the Health and Human
Services agencies to have that type of flexibility where we could have
menus, where we could have co-pays, and the federal government refuses
to give us that flexibility.
We know for a fact that, given that freedom, the states can do a
better job of delivering health care. And you'll see substantially more
people not just in Texas, but all across the country have access to
better health care.
BACHMANN: John? John?
HARRIS: Thank you. Just one minute. I'd like to go to Governor
Huntsman, if I could, because at the heart of this is this argument
about the individual mandate. Is it ever appropriate for government at
any level -- federal or state -- to force people to buy health insurance?
HUNTSMAN: Absolutely not. You know, at some point, we're going to
get around to talking about individual and personal responsibility. And
I'm raising seven kids. I've got a couple of them here. The most
important thing we can do in this health care debate -- right, Rick --
is talk about individual responsibility, personal responsibility.
But I've got another solution for you, with these two great
governors over there, both of whom I like and admire. And I hate to
tell you that the situation in Utah is pretty darn good, but I want to
draw you to another example there. We embarked upon health care
reform. We did better than Rick, in terms of covering the uninsured,
and we don't have a mandate. It allows the free market to create a
marketplace of choices and options for people.
I believe that once Obamacare is repealed -- and it will be -- the
question will then be, what do we do now? And I'm here to tell you that
what we did in Utah is going to be a perfect example of what we do now.
We approach cost-cutting, cost overruns, harmonizing medical
records, which doctors will tell you is a hugely consequential deal, and
expanding the marketplace for choices and options for individuals to
choose from, without a heavy-handed and expensive mandate that has caused...
HARRIS: Thank you.
HUNTSMAN: ... for the average family in Massachusetts $2,500 bucks
to go up.
HARRIS: Thanks. Thanks, Governor.
Congresswoman Bachmann, let's turn to you.
Is Governor Romney's support of an individual mandate in
Massachusetts, is that disqualifying from the point of view of
BACHMANN: Well, what I want to say is that Obamacare took over
one-sixth of the American economy. And with all due respect to the
governors, issuing an executive order will not overturn this massive
law. This will take a very strong, bold leader in the presidency who
will lead that effort.
None of us should ever have ourselves think that the repeal bill
will just come to our desk. It will take a very strong leader.
I was the first member of Congress to introduce the bill to actually
repeal Obamacare. As the nominee of the Republican Party, it will be my
business to make sure that I elect also 13 more Republican senators who
will help me repeal Obamacare.
This is the issue of 2012, together with jobs. This is our window
of opportunity. If we fail to repeal Obamacare in 2012, it will be with
us forever, and it will be socialized medicine. It must be gone now,
and as president of the United States, I won't rest until I repeal
HARRIS: Speaker Gingrich, it sounds like we've got a genuine
philosophical disagreement. In Massachusetts, a mandate, almost no one
uninsured. In Texas, a more limited approach, about a quarter uninsured.
Who's got the better end of this argument?
GINGRICH: Well, I'm frankly not interested in your effort to get
Republicans fighting each other.
HARRIS: Speaker Boehner --
GINGRICH: No, the fact is -- the fact is --
HARRIS: But we've got a choice between the individual mandate or
not. So go ahead.
GINGRICH: You have -- you would like to puff this up into some
The fact is, every single person up here understands Obamacare is a
disaster. It is a disaster procedurally, it was rammed through after
they lost Teddy Kennedy's seat in Massachusetts, it was written badly,
it was never reconciled. It can't be implemented, it is killing this
And if this president had any concern for working Americans, he'd
walk in Thursday night and ask us to repeal it because it's a
monstrosity. Every person up here agrees with that.
GINGRICH: Since I still have a little time left, let me just say,
I, for one, and I hope all of my friends up here, are going to repudiate
every effort of the news media to get Republicans to fight each other to
protect Barack Obama, who deserves to be defeated. And all of us are
committed as a team. Whoever the nominee is, we are all for defeating
HARRIS: Mr. Cain, I'd like you to get in this, but my understanding
of why conservatives don't like the Obama plan, the individual mandate
is at the heart of it. So this is a genuine philosophical disagreement
that I'd like your view on.
Is the individual mandate ever justified at the state level or the
CAIN: No. An individual mandate to buy something is not
Now, back in the early 1990s, I worked with Speaker Gingrich to
fight Hillarycare. I have been outspoken fighting Obamacare, which
needs to be repealed. Now I'm running against Romneycare. Neither one
of them works.
Here's what I would do. Let's patient-centered, market-driven
reforms. You lose a pay loss. Some people call it tort reform. Lose a
Let's expand medical savings accounts versus what the president did
in Obamacare. He shrunk health savings accounts. Let's allow
association health plans.
When I ran the National Restaurant Association -- today it has 14
million people -- we wanted to put together a plan that would be
tailored to the constituency of that industry. We could not do it. We
would have been able to do it cheaper and cover more people if we didn't
have the restrictions that are out there today that are preventing the
free market from bringing down costs and increasing access.
WILLIAMS: Mr. Cain, thank you.
WILLIAMS: Senator Santorum, on another front, you're a devout
Catholic. You've always said that you cannot, will not, place it aside
in your role in elected public life. In fact, you thought President
Kennedy, the first to be elected president, did so a little too much
with his own religion.
Having said that, the Catholic faith has, as a part of it, caring
for the poor. One in seven people in this country now qualifies as poor.
Where do the poor come in? Where do they place in this party, on
this stage, in a Santorum administration?
SANTORUM: There is no one in the 12 years I was in the United
States Senate that did more to work on poverty issues, and working on
the poor, than Rick Santorum.
I was the author when I was in the House of Representatives, under
the tutelage of Newt Gingrich at the time, of the Welfare Reform Act.
And we didn't pass welfare reform to cut money. We didn't pass welfare
reform to punish anybody.
We changed the welfare system because it was punishing people. We
had a federal system that was creating a culture of dependency, and we
went out and talked to the American public and said, trust us to end
this federal entitlement and put a work requirement in place, put a time
limit on welfare. Give the flexibility to the states, where they block
grant, and we will transform this system from a dependency system to a
transitional system. And it worked.
Half the people in this country were dropped off the rolls, and they
didn't go into poverty. In fact, poverty went to the lowest level ever
in 2001. The rate of black poverty among children, lowest-ever
recorded. Working women who were never married went to the highest
level, increased by 50 percent.
We transformed the welfare system because we believed in the dignity
of every human person to be able to provide for themselves. We believed
in bottom-up, not top-down.
We need to do the same thing with food stamps. We need to do the
same things with housing programs. All of these other means-tested
entitlement programs that are creating a culture of dependency have to
be changed not to save money, but to save people's lives.
WILLIAMS: Time, Senator.
WILLIAMS: And Governor Perry, a somewhat related question. I'll
quote the Pew Research Center. They recently found out white households
have 20 times the median wealth of black households in the United States.
How would you address that question, that problem, as president?
PERRY: Let me just respond to the last individual where he talked
about transitioning this program. Let me tell you what the best thing
that we can do in this country for those who need help, is to create an
economy where people know that they work hard and they can have a job,
and they can best take care of their family, not government. That's
what we need to be doing in this country.
PERRY: And that's true whether you're Hispanic or African-American
or Asian or Anglo. We need to get focused in this country on creating
an environment where the small businessmen and women know that when they
risk their capital, they've got an opportunity to have a return on their
investment. That is the most -- as a matter of fact, John Kennedy said
that the most powerful welfare reform program was a job, and that's what
we need to get focussed on in this country today.
WILLIAMS: We're going to take some questions that have come into us
via Twitter -- John.
HARRIS: Thank you.
These are questions that came to us. We invited questions to
Politico, thousands came in.
One of them I'll ask you, Governor Romney.
Referring to Congresswoman Bachmann's promise to get gas if she
becomes president to down to $2 a gallon, do you agree that a president
realistically can do anything about gas prices in the free market?
ROMNEY: Well, what the president can do is make sure that we stop
spending about $500 billion a year outside our country, in many cases to
nations that are not real friendly with ours, to buy energy from other
people. We are an energy-rich nation, and we're living like an
energy-poor nation. And that can't go on. So we've got to develop our
oil, our gas, our coal resources, our clean coal, our nuclear power, and
of course our renewable resources as well.
If we develop those resources, and we use our capacity to generate
energy in a wise way, we can have an impact on global energy prices.
Can we get it down to $2? I'm not going to make that prediction, but I
can tell you we can become energy-secure, and we can create jobs right
here in the United States by developing our own energy resources.
And this president, blocking offshore drilling, stopping the
capacity to build new coal plants, this president, having held up
nuclear plants and not developing the Marcellus Shale gas and other
shale oil around this country, he's just strangling America's economy.
It's keeping Americans from working.
He's keeps talking about green jobs. Where are they? Let's have
real jobs. We can have energy jobs.
Let's get that done. And if I'm president, I'm making that happen
on day one.