Award–winning journalist Andrea Bernstein is Senior Editor for Politics & Policy for WNYC News. She has previously served as Metro Editor, Political Director, Director of Transportation Nation, and Senior Reporter.
In his final rally before caucus day, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney took time to say he'd cut Amtrak.
"Amtrak ought to stand on its own feet or its own wheels or whatever you'd say," Romney told a raucous crowd of several hundred at the Competitive Edge warehouse in Clive, Iowa, on Monday night.
This final speech is part of what's called a candidate's "closing arguments" to voters.
"I've got to balance the budget. I gotta cut spending," said Romney, sounding about as folksy and riled up as he's ever been, as he heads to the caucuses in what looks like a no-lose situation: he either wins, or Rick Santorum or Ron Paul wins, which mean Romney wins, because neither Paul or Santorum is expected to do well beyond Iowa.
Amtrak has had its highest ridership ever, but at the same time, it's been a favorite political punching bag for Republicans. (Though House Transportation and Infrastructure Chair John Mica recently had a change of heart, sort of.) The federal government's annual subsidy is about $1.4 billion. The federal budget is about $3.5 trillion.
"I like the fact that my grand kids can watch Big Bird on TV," Romney added. "I think that’s wonderful, but because they don’t have advertising the government has to put in a check and I don’t think that’s right. So we’re going to have Big Bird with advertising probably because I don’t want to borrow money from China!"
(Special thanks to Anna Sale of Itsafreecountry.org for sending us the tape)
Listen to the relevant portion of his speech below.
Here's a transcript:
Now I’ve also got the balance the budget, I gotta cut spending, I gotta cap federal spending and then I’ve got to balance the budget now how do you go about doing that? let me tell you how I do that (unintelligible interjection)…My view is this: what you do to get our budget in line is you say this: you take all of the programs the federal government has and you say which of these programs is so critical that we gotta have it? And those things we keep but those programs that don’t pass the following test we got to get rid of.
And this is my test: is this program so critical it’s worth borrowing money from china to pay for it?
And on that basis we’re going to get rid of some programs, even some we like.
Now the easy ones we can get rid of, like this one, this one I’ll get rid of on day one
Let’s get rid of Obama care, I’ll get rid of that right away.
And there are some other things, look Amtrak ought to stand on its own feet or its own wheels or whatever you’d say. And I like the National Endowment for the Arts. And the National Endowment for the Humanities, but I’m not willing to borrow money from China to pay for it.
I like the fact that my grandkids can watch Big Bird on TV. I think that’s wonderful, but because they don’t have advertising the government has to put in a check and I don’t think that’s right. So we’re going to have Big Bird with advertising probably because I don’t want to borrow money from China!
You guys, I just don’t think it’s moral for us as a nation to borrow money knowing that my generation will never pay it pack, and the next generation will have to pay those burdens. It’s wrong. We have to live within our means, and finally get America on track to a balanced budget and I will do it!