ABC News, Yahoo!, The Des Moines Register and Republican Party of Iowa Debate
Des Moines, IA
Des Moines, IA 50311
Participants: Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum
Ron Paul Highlights:
Diane Sawyer: Congressman Paul, a number and a timeframe and an idea?
Ron Paul: My approach is slightly different. I think we’re all for less taxes and less regulations, we recognize this. But I emphasize the fact that you have to know why we have a recession and why we have unemployment before you can solve the problem. Financial bubbles are created by excessive credit and stimulation by the Federal Reserve, and when you have bubbles, you have to have a correction. This stimulus creates excessive debt and mal-investment; as long as you don’t correct that and you maintain the debt and the mal-investment, you can’t get back to economic growth again. Unfortunately, so far what we have done, is we have not liquidated the debt, we have dumped the debt on the American people through TARP funding as well as [through] the Federal Reserve. So the debt is dumped on the people, and what did we do? We bailed out the people that were benefiting during the formation of the bubble. So as long as we do that, we’re not going to have economic growth. We did the same thing in the depression, the Japanese are doing it right now, so it’s time we liquidate the debt and look at monetary policy and then, of course, lower taxes. And I would like to cut one trillion dollars in the first year, because that is the culprit: big spending and big government.
Diane Sawyer: I want to move on, if I can, to another question, which represents some of the urgent and tough choices presidents have to make. Because this one is coming up soon, on December 31st, and it is the payroll tax cut. And as we know, the payroll tax cut which funds the Social Security fund in this country, is part of the argument, part of the debate, part of the consideration of the economy in this country right now. And by some estimates, if this tax cut expires on December 31st, it could add as much as a $1000 to the tax burden of American working families. And I know you are divided down the middle.
George Stephanopoulos: Congressman Paul, 30 seconds.
Ron Paul: I want to extend the tax cut, because if you don’t, you raise the taxes. But I want to pay for it, and it’s not that difficult. In my proposal, in my budget, I want to cut hundreds of billions of dollars from overseas. The trust fund is gone, but how are we going to restore it? We have to quit the spending, we have to quit this being the policeman of the world, we don’t need another war in Syria and another war in Iran. Just get rid of the embassy in Baghdad. We’re pretending that we’re coming home from Baghdad? We built an embassy there that cost a billion dollars and we’re putting 17,000 contractors in there and pretending our troops are coming home. I could save the money, and we don’t have to raise taxes on Social Security.
George Stephanopoulos: I want to bring Congressman Paul in on this, because, Congressman, you’ve been running ads that are quite tough on Speaker Gingrich here in Iowa this week, accusing him of (and this is a quote from your ad) “Serial Hypocrisy”. Why do you think Speaker Gingrich is a hypocrite?
Ron Paul: Well, he’s been on different positions on so many issues, you know, single-payer. He’s taken some positions that are not conservative, he supported the TARP funds. And the other thing that really should annoy a lot of people, is he received a lot of money from Freddie Mac. Now, Freddie Mac is essentially a government organization. While he was earning a lot of money from Freddie Mac, I was fighting for over a decade to try to explain to the people where the housing bubble was coming from. So Freddie Mac is bailed out by the tax payer so, in a way, Newt, I think you probably got some of our tax payer’s money; they got taxed and they lost money and [you’re] still getting bailed out. But you’re a spokesman for them and you receive money from them, so I think this is something that the people ought to know about. There’ve been man positions and you have admitted many of the times where you have changed positions. But if you were looking for consistent position, I think there would be a little bit of trouble for anybody competing with me on consistency.
Newt Gingrich: Well, first of all, as you normally say in your own speeches, the housing bubble came from the Federal Reserve inflating the money supply. Now that’s the core of the housing bubble. And I happen to be with you on auditing the Fed and, frankly, on firing Bernanke. Second, I was never a spokesman for any agency, I never did any lobbying for any agency, I offered strategic advice. I was in the private sector, and I was doing things in the private sector. When you’re in the private sector and you have a company and you offer advice, like McKenzie does, like a bunch of other companies do, you’re allowed to charge money for it, that’s called free enterprise.
Ron Paul: It’s the tax payers money, though, we had to bail these people out.
George Stephanopoulos: Should voters consider marital fidelity when making their choices for President? Congressman Paul, what’s your view on this?
Ron Paul: I think character is obviously very important. I don’t think it should be necessary to have to talk about it, I think it should show through in the way we live and I think it should show through in your marriage. And I happen to have been married for 54 years and a family person. But I don’t think we should have to talk about it. But you know what, it probably is every bit as important. If you’re marriage vows are important, what about our oath of office? That’s what really gets to me, that’s where you’re really on the line as a public figure, and that’s where I think a lot of people come up real short. Because there were many times that I’ve been forced to Congress because I take my oath very seriously. I end up sometimes, believe it or not, voting all by myself thinking that why aren’t the people paying attention, why don’t they read Article 1 Section A? If we took that oath of office seriously in Washington, we’d get rid of 80% of the government, the budget would be balanced, we’d have sound money and we would have prosperity and we wouldn’t be the policeman of the world, we wouldn’t have a Federal Reserve System, and we wouldn’t be invading the privacy of every single individual in this country with bills like the PATRIOT Act. We’d have a free society and a prosperous society.
George Stephanopoulos: Speaker Gingrich caused something of a stir overnight in the Middle East with comments he made in an interview with the Jewish Channel, in which he called the Palestinians and “invented people”. And I just wondered, Congressman Paul, if I can start with you, do you agree with that characterization that the Palestinians are and “invented people”?
Ron Paul: No, I don’t agree with that, and that’s just stirring up trouble. I believe in a non-interventionist foreign policy, I don’t think we should get in the middle of these squabbles. But to go out of our way to say that so-and-so is not a real people? Technically and historically, yes, under the Ottoman Empire, the Palestinians didn’t have a state, but neither did Israel have a state then, too. But this is how we get involved in so many messes, and I think it just fails on the side of practicing a little bit of diplomacy. Getting ourselves into trouble mentioning things that are unnecessary. The people in those regions should be dealing with these problems, we shouldn’t be dealing with these things. But, historically, under the Ottoman Empire, that is technically correct. But to make these decisions and deciding what the settlement is going to be, it should be the people that are involved. This idea that we can be the policeman of the world and settle all these disputes? I mean, soon we’ll to quit because we’re flat out broke, but we cannot continue to get into these issues like this and getting ourselves into more trouble.
Diane Sawyer: We have a question on yahoo about the last time you had a personal financial strain that forced you to cut back on a necessity, (so many people in the middle class say they do) the consequences you faced, and will you weigh in on that?
Congressman Paul, what does this question evoke, how much does it matter to have personal experience?
Ron Paul: Well, I feel very fortunate because although I was raised in a family that was rather poor, I didn’t even know it. It was during the depression and World War II and we didn’t have very much and I worked my way through college, and that was a natural instinct because that’s what you were supposed to do. But I finally did a little bit better in medical school because I had my wife work our way through medical school. So that worked out a little bit better. The middle class is suffering, not only because we bail out the rich and dump on the poor and they lose their jobs and they lose their houses, but there’s a characteristic about monetary policy: when a country destroys its currency, it transfers wealth from the middle class to the wealthy. And this is what you’re seeing today: the elimination of the middle class, and it’s going to get a lot worse unless we address the subject of over-spending, over-borrowing and printing too much money and understanding the business cycle.
Diane Sawyer: Let’s switch to this question, and it is about healthcare because the number of people … in fact, I have a cough and I was at a pharmacy here in Iowa. And the pharmacist were talking about a big driver of healthcare costs, and they specifically mentioned unhealthy habits that we all need to learn to do better on at a young age, they talked about obesity, they talked about exercise. If I can ask Congressman Paul, is there anything government should do on these fronts? On the fronts specifically of healthy behavior, on these fronts specifically of healthy behavior at very young ages?
Ron Paul: No, essentially not, but they have to be a referee. If people are doing things that hurt other people, yes. But if you embark on a society where government protects you from yourself, you’re in big trouble; and that’s what they’re doing.
I think what we’ve had here is a demonstration of why should we have a candidate that is going to have to explain himself? 70% of the people want further explanations on what you’re positions are, so I think that is endless. When you talk about the Obama Care using force, but that’s all that government is, it is force. Do you have a choice about paying Medicare taxes? So there’s not a whole lot of difference, you’re forced to buy insurance, that’s one step further. But you have to stop with force. Once government uses force to mould behavior or mould the economy, they’ve overstepped the bounds and they’ve violated the whole concept of our revolution and our constitution.
George Stephanopoulos: In the form of closing, we just want each of you, you’re all running against each other, but in these last few minutes, – and take a minute where we will not run over the commercial – tell us the one thing you’ve learned from someone else, one of your challengers on stage. Governor Perry?
Rick Perry: I’d say, Congressman Paul got me really intrigued with the whole Federal Reserve, and I’ve spent a substantial amount of time reading about it, and the book, Currency Wars, by James Rickards. But Congressman Paul is the individual on the stage that got me most interested in a subject that I found to be quite interesting and at the root of all of the problems that we have, and I thank you for that. But the one thing that I found outside of these fine individuals on this stage, is that the people of this country really want to get America back on track.
Mitt Romney: I always find the principle of leadership to be most interesting, and as I look at the people on the stage, each exhibits different qualities of leadership and they’ve each exercised leadership in different ways. One of the things about Ron Paul that always amazes me is when I come to a debate like this, the only signs I see are the Ron Paul people out there freezing. In freezing temperatures, they’re always there. He ignites an enthusiasm with a number of people, that’s very exciting to watch.
Ron Paul: I have learned that you should never give up on your opposition, because if you’re persistent and you present your case, they will come your way. So, Rick, I appreciate it, Michelle, I appreciate it. You’re open to the Federal Reserve. I work on the assumption that freedom brings people together, and if you understand freedom, it’s based on tolerance and non-violence. So if it’s tolerance, it should be bringing all kinds of people together, and that’s following our constitution. We shouldn’t be fighting among ourselves, we shouldn’t be fighting in Washington. If we all take the same oath of office, where does the fight come from? Somebody is messing up somewhere. So I would say that with persistence, I think that we can all prevail and come up with the right answers.