Mitch Daniels on Keeping the Republic

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on the Brian Lehrer Show, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels talks about national politics and his new book, Keeping the Republic: Saving America by Trusting Americans.

While many voters in the country thought Mitch Daniels might be the next president of the United States, Daniels decided against the campaign trail and in favor of book tour instead. His new book, Keeping the Republic: Saving America by Trusting Americans, is making waves—not least for its use of the phrase “Ponzi scheme” to describe Social Security.

Daniels has said that the debate between front-runners Mitt Romney and Rick Perry over Perry’s use of that same phrase in describing the same program is unproductive. The one-time possible candidate now says he would support a new candidate if one came along who would back his or her policies with math rather than with rhetoric. 

As governor of Indiana, Daniels has been a leader himself, of course, and is credited with closing a big state deficit, going after public employee bargaining rights before Scott Walker, and capping property taxes at 1-3% total property tax. Daniels has been cited by New Jersey governor Chris Christie as a model leader.

To round out that political resume, Daniels also has served as chief political adviser to President Ronald Reagan and budget director under George W. Bush. While Daniels has declined to pursue the presidency in 2012, he has not ruled out the possibility of serving as vice president. 

Daniels said of his property tax cap that a one percent tax is written into the state’s constitution as upper limit of a homeowner’s tax obligation “so that’s not subject to the state reneging later.” He said it is the lowest cap in the country, and was important to his administration to protect homeowners and attract new businesses.

Public schools in Indiana are funded mostly through state taxes. Indiana devotes just over half of its budget to K-12 education, Daniels said, more than any other state in the country. 

As elsewhere in America, what ever the problems are in public schools, it’s not inadequate funding.

While Indiana has increased that funding since, with more increases planned for the future, overall property taxes have become a secondary source of revenue for schools, used mainly for capital projects. 

Indiana’s model for funding schools might serve as a more equitable model, with more even funding across school districts,instead of the property tax model where wealthier neighborhoods can pay more for schools. Daniels said the Indiana model provides higher funding for districts teaching “at-risk kids or disadvantaged populations.” Yet he was hesitant to recommend that other regions follow Indiana’s lead. 

I’m always bashful about promoting any of the changes that we made to other states, it’s best for each state to promote its own interests, but I will say on the equity, it’s certainly a more straight-forward way, I think a more effective way.

Daniels said the use of the same language around Social Security doesn’t indicate that the two politicians are exactly aligned, but possible something more quotidian.

It means we’re pretty darn unoriginal.

In fact, that phrase has been used as an attack on social security for decades before either his remark or Perry’s. Daniels did allow that there is a difference between a Ponzi scheme and Social Security. 

One reason it’s not really a Ponzi scheme is it’s mandatory. You’re not forced to take part in a Ponzi scheme, but of course in Social Security you are.

Though he defends the general proposition that Social Security is a pay-as-you-go proposition, Daniels said the comparison has been overused.

If there’s a problem with what Governor Perry said, it’s not that it’s not true, it’s that it’s trite.

He said he feels it is very important for anyone speaking about overhauling Social Security to be very clear that those who are depending on it will not be cut off from resources.

We need to say… A deal’s a deal…Nothing will change for you, please rest assured, but now will you help us try to craft new modified systems for the generations that are paying for your retirement so that they can have some peace of mind and some backstop too?

Daniels said the way to lower the amount of outflow from the funds is by cutting payments to the wealthiest Americans, lowering the index for inflation, and raising the retirement age. Regarding manual laborers, who might really be worn out at age seventy from working, Daniels expressed confidence that the future would hold fewer of those jobs.

The world we’re in, let alone the one we’re discussing now of ten and twenty and thirty years from now is going to be so completely different, I don’t know. People will have multiple careers. People better be prepared for careers other than construction or heavy labor, which are already.. such a small percentage of the jobs we have today. I don’t think that’s going to be a stopper.

He stressed that he is open to other ideas, but he feels it urgent that some action be taken.

Daniels disagrees with the idea that the Bush administration created the current fiscal crisis by putting costs for the wars off the books while cutting taxes to the wealthiest. He said the cuts caused only a tiny fraction of the debt, and instead points to spending by the current administration.

This is the deadest horse in the corral, but people keep trying to ride it.

Daniels said he might endorse in the current Republican primaries and will certainly support the nominee, but right now he’s focusing on promoting his ideas and policies. He does hope that any winning candidate will work on uniting, rather than dividing, the country politically and will take time to explain to the American public the theories behind the policies.

What you’d like to do is win the next election with a large consensus of Americans ready to make big change.


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Comments [24]

K Yau

Link to streaming show on Window's Media is broken!


Sep. 21 2011 03:50 PM

It's not only politicians out of DC and thinking of getting there who lie about costs of war, of course.

John Baer, a columnist, writes about a new report from the Eisenhower Research Project at Brown University which shows that the actual costs of war are about 3 times as high as revealed by our governmen -- and heading higher.

"Figures most often cited by Washington, Obama and the General Accounting Office are $1 trillion to $1.3 trillion.

The Brown study, a comprehensive examination and estimate of the full and ongoing price, put together by 20 economists, anthropologists, lawyers and humanitarians, says that it's at least $3.7 trillion and climbing to $4.4 trillion.

Government accounting, the study says, is just too narrow to measure everything.

Catherine Lutz, a Brown research professor and the "Costs of War" project co-director, tells me that the Pentagon and GAO report only "direct" or "special war" allocations.

There are other costs that are basically hidden.

Lutz says that the true costs of wars since 9/11 must also include budget increases for the Pentagon, the State Department and Homeland Security, enormous future-obligated costs to veterans and - since the wars are almost completely financed by borrowing - nearly $200 billion in interest so far, a number constantly climbing.

"It's not really acceptable that the public doesn't know what the government is obligated to," she says.

One might think that our government purposely hides such short- and long-term encumbrances for fear that a full airing would make our wars much less attractive to the paying public."

Will the MCM (Mainstream Corporate Media) cover this in depth? Keep reminding their news consumers of it import?

Or, will it slip quietly down the Memory Hole of all news not condoned by the Corporate part of the the MCM?

Via Suburban Guerrilla:

Sep. 21 2011 03:21 PM

Gosh, Gov. Daniels doesn't know that SocSec COLA has been under-indexed since the adoption of CORE CPI/CPI-W under Clinton. This measure doesn't include food, energy/utility rises or even Medicare insurance premium, deductible or copay rises. The insurance premiums alone for Parts B/D take a minimum of $1345/year out of SocSec benefits. Deductibles and co-pays = $1200/year up. SocSec benefits have been frozen for 3 years & will continue frozen through 2012.

Brian do your or your production team put together a fact sheet for an interview? The SSA website has loads of current data.

Sep. 21 2011 11:36 AM

I agree with Sophie that Mitch Daniels sounds more "sane" when he tells his whoppers.

Which is almost more scary.

David Brooks's stock in trade is to sound non-threatening while working just as hard as Rush Limbaugh to undermine our nation's values and principles of caring for others through any government programs which apply to the poor and non-wealthy. They both still like lemon socialism: privatizing profits and socializing gains (see recent assistance for Too Big to Fail Banks).

Sep. 21 2011 11:21 AM
Stephen from Manhattan

How can Gov. Daniels deny that two unfunded wars, the unfunded expansion of Medicare (Part D), and simultaneously handing the top 1% an enormous tax break NOT contribute to the near ruin of our economy and current deficit? Exactly what economic theory does he subscribe to? Does he not understand what UNFUNDED means? Does he not understand basic arithmetic?

Hardly a surprise he was Dubya's budget director. He's just as stupid as his ex-boss.

Sep. 21 2011 11:20 AM

I left out the source in my comment below; it was the SocSec site (which the link shows, but there is a gap where I meant to go back with the correct name).

Once again, 'tho', why let these zombie lies stand? Whether about SocSec or the Bush budgeting wars off book and those huge hits from the out years of his tax cuts, which baloon for the weathiest.

These pols wouldn't be telling their zombie lies if they were continually called on them and embarrassed by their perfidity.

Then, again, they might not appear on shows where reporters and hosts actually noted their misuse of statistics and their lies.

And then they'd be lying to the public only on FOX and its ilk, not PBS and other formerly respected news outlets...

Hey, that's an idea!

Sep. 21 2011 11:17 AM

Good to know there's a rational, cogent Republican out there. His comment that the only way to fix the economy is to "develop the private economy" is so obviously right.
Commenters here don't seem to realize he only came on to promote his book not push a political agenda, but it was refreshing to hear from someone who's actually accomplished something for a change.

Sep. 21 2011 11:16 AM
Jenny from jackson heights

Yet another interview by Brian in which he utters barely a challenge to patent falsehoods put forth by right-wing hacks. I hate to say it, but Brian should stick to local NYC and community-based topics: he's great at that. Actual interviews? Not so much.

Sep. 21 2011 11:14 AM

Republicans, where zombie lies go to get reloeased from the grave....


"If we look at life expectancy statistics from the 1930s we might come to the conclusion that the Social Security program was designed in such a way that people would work for many years paying in taxes, but would not live long enough to collect benefits. Life expectancy at birth in 1930 was indeed only 58 for men and 62 for women, and the retirement age was 65. But life expectancy at birth in the early decades of the 20th century was low due mainly to high infant mortality, and someone who died as a child would never have worked and paid into Social Security. A more appropriate measure is probably life expectancy after attainment of adulthood.

As Table 1 shows, the majority of Americans who made it to adulthood could expect to live to 65, and those who did live to 65 could look forward to collecting benefits for many years into the future. So we can observe that for men, for example, almost 54% of the them could expect to live to age 65 if they survived to age 21, and men who attained age 65 could expect to collect Social Security benefits for almost 13 years (and the numbers are even higher for women).

Also, it should be noted that there were already 7.8 million Americans age 65 or older in 1935 (cf. Table 2), so there was a large and growing population of people who could receive Social Security. Indeed, the actuarial estimates used by the Committee on Economic Security (CES) in designing the Social Security program projected that there would be 8.3 million Americans age 65 or older by 1940 (when monthly benefits started). So Social Security was not designed in such a way that few people would collect the benefits."

I know this information has been brought out time after time after time that Republicans and the Pete Peterson/Koch Bros types have attacked SocSec.

So, I wondered why Brian said nothing, but did make a vocalization indicating agreement with Mitch Daniels.

Is it considered impolite to point out errors of fact to politician guests? To climate deniers, etc.?

Or is thought there is too little time to indicate the public has just been lied to by a guest?

Or...maybe we need a Please Explain segment.

I wouldn't point this assent by Brian on some fact which he has no way of knowing. Perhaps, like me, he'd forgotten the actual specific numbers (it didn't bother Daniels--he said the AVERAGE life expectancy was 54 -- and I have no transcript to check what his specific wording) and felt he shouldn't contest a figure without the EXACTly correct number.

BUT, Mitch Daniels was allowed to get a lie out there one more time, with a respected WNYC host seeming to agree with his lying use of a statistic. That makes me upset -- and very sad.

LINK (or google the topic)--

Sep. 21 2011 11:10 AM
Tony from Canarsie

You forgot to do the interview part of the segment.

Sep. 21 2011 11:04 AM
Al from Brooklyn

Brian, you wimped out!
Should have challenged Daniels’ contention that war debts and tax cuts dating from the W Bush years have nothing to do with the present “debt crisis”.
Why did you even give another made-in-the-mold Republican hack a forum to parrot the party line?

Sep. 21 2011 10:56 AM
DarkSymbolist from NYC!

Waste of time segment and Daniels is a waste of space.

Another segment that is basically a propoganda talking board for a stupid right-wing moron

Sep. 21 2011 10:54 AM

Another segment of air time given to someone to rattle off their point of view. Where are the challenging questions to what the interviewee claims to be fact? Really? don't bother to become a construction worker???

Sep. 21 2011 10:49 AM
Barbara Berney from New York City

Social Security is an insurance plan. That is why you can collect social security regardless of your income. You paid for it so you get it. Is the governor suggesting that if you are rich and buy fire insurance and your house burns down that the insurance shouldn't have to pay for the damage to your house because you are rich and "don't need it"? Social security is insurance NOT welfare. It pays when you meet the requirements, being 65 or disabled or blind. There is no income requirement for social security just as there is no income requirement for any insurance policy.

Sep. 21 2011 10:48 AM
michael from brooklyn

his last statement just meant:

as long as its great for corporations, that's all that matters.

Sep. 21 2011 10:46 AM


Sep. 21 2011 10:46 AM
Mike from Tribeca

In other words, the governor is saying he'll look at any suggestions, as long as they come from right wing think tanks.

Same old extreme conservative doublespeak.

Sep. 21 2011 10:45 AM

All of these ignorant hillbilly ideologues LOVE to wallow in denial!!

PLEASE take him off!!

"... the deficit has nothing to do with the Bush regime"!!!!!!?????

Sep. 21 2011 10:45 AM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie, NY

Well, I'm sure if a democrat was to "blame" we'd be hearing about it.

Anyway, you sound saner than Perry and Bachmann.

Sep. 21 2011 10:44 AM
RDP from Manhattan

by Trusting Americans (as long as we can keep lying to them and not be challenged by the media)

Sep. 21 2011 10:43 AM
Mike from Tribeca

In other words, the governor is saying he'll look at any suggestions, but only if they come from right wing think tanks.

Same old GOP doublespeak.

Sep. 21 2011 10:42 AM
michael from brooklyn

great point John.

did he just say there will be no more construction workers in the future, so don't bother to account for them, plus in the future everyone will have more than 1 job?

Sep. 21 2011 10:41 AM

Ask the governor, as former budget director for President GW Bush, why the budget surplus that that administration inherited turned into a huge deficit during it's tenure. Does he feel that the increased deficit coming at the same time as a large tax decreas to be just a coinicidence?

Sep. 21 2011 10:40 AM
john from office

Brian, ask him about the anti intellectual streak in the party. From Global warming to evolution. It is scary and I am a republican.

Sep. 21 2011 10:37 AM

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