BL: You probably heard some basics by now about the pledge to America, the Republican party’s mid-term election document. Most centrally it’s a call to cut taxes and deeply reduce federal spending, though without getting very specific. It would have congress cancel the rest of the TARP and stimulus bill spending and repeal the Obama health reform law, but it would place a cap only on discretionary spending. That means no promises with regard to Medicare and Social Security spending, considered the likely biggest sources of deficits in the coming decades. And it calls for more military spending. Critics on the left include Paul Krugman who writes today that that formula means the entire rest of the federal government would have to shut down, to cut taxes that much and hold social security, Medicare and the military harmless. Critics on the right, include Mark Meckler, national coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots organization, quoted in the Wall Street Journal today who’s disappointed that the pledge does not include the Tea Party agenda items of a balanced budget constitutional amendment and a ban on all ear marks.
We will get two takes on the pledge now from former speaker of the house and possible 2012 presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, an author if the Contract with America fior the 1994 mid term elections when the Repbulicans took the majority from Democrats.
And then from a local Republican congressional candidate…..
Speaker Gingrich first, thank you so much for coming back to WNYC.
NG: Well, I’m delighted to be back with you. We’re in an extraordinary year. What you saw for example with the polling numbers this week that show Carl Paladino is now genuinely competitive with Attorney General Cuomo and the battle cry of cutting spending, reforming Albany, making it harder to raise taxes are frankly battle cries that are resounding almost everywhere in America.
BL Are you endorsing Paladino?
NG: Of course. Look, there’s no….If you want to rebuild jobs in New York state, Carl Paladino is the only choice in the election. Cuomo represents paying off the government employee unions, more expensive government, higher taxes and continuing to destroy the New York economy. If you look at what Albany has done, Albany has drained all of upstate New York. It has been killing jobs with red tape, regulations and taxes for the last 25 years. The state cannot afford four more years of big government and high taxes and Carl Paladino represents exactly the Tea party response which is the change the capital rather than change your local business.
BL Let me ask you about the Tea Party critique that the Pledge to America lack enforcement mechanisms. If there’s no ban on earmarks and no constitutional balanced budget amendment, then you are leaving spending as usual to politics as usual, which they want 6to overturn. Why didn’t the pledge go that far?
NG: I think you would have to ask John Boehner and Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy. I think what the pledge does do is a very health step in the right direction. It says no tax increase in a recession. It says that we have to focus on creating jobs. It says that you have to control spending. Baynor has proposed rolling back all domestic discretionary spending to 2008, with the last Bush budget. Which would save a trillion dollars over the next decade. I don’t think a trillion dollars is a small thing. And you know, I don’t…it’s not everything I’d like and everything you’d like. But it’s a very impressive first step. And if you compare the pledge to Pelosi, it is a radically better document than anything the Democrats have done over the last four years.
BL You did have a balanced budget constitutional amendment in the Contract with American in 94 and the country is probably angrier about spending today. So why isn’t the party at least articulating that goal again?
NG: Well I think they should be. My personal position is we do need a constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget. I think it was an enormous asset to us in the 90s. While I was speaker we kept spending down to 2.9 percent a year, the lowest rate of increase since Calvin Coolidge in the 1920s. We balanced the budget for four straight years, paid off $405 billion in federal debt and did so while cutting taxes for the first time in 16 years. So the track record is in that direction. But I think that….the pledge is a useful step. I think it’s important to understand this is not a presidential year. This is not the big change, 2012 is the big change, but this is a solid change in the right direction.
BL: And what about the earmarks. I think maybe they are not that much money in the scheme of things, but most Tea party adherents think that’s a key to both reducing waste and fighting corruption.
NG: Well, it’s a key to changing the culture of congress. I’ve advocated that no member of appropriations be appointed by Republicans unless they agree to an earmark moratorium and they agree to accept the house Republican’s budget as a cap on their spending. You can’t have the appropriators as a free standing separate institution. They have to be part of a larger system of spending control.
BL: From the other side, in the Krugman article today, he cites numbers that say making the Bush tax cuts on the top two percent permanent would add $3.7 trillion dollars to the deficit over the next 10 years, and holding Medicare, Social Security and military spending harmless at the same time with mathematically mean, literally the entire rest of the federal government would have a zero budget. So is the pledge magical thinking economics?
NG: Look, Krugman is an extraordinary left-wing intellectual who has no concept of how the market works. The fact is, the way we balanced budgets in the 1990's was, we cut taxes and increased economic growth. We have a plan at American Solutions, which would include zero capital gains, which by the way, Alan Sinai would say would create 1.4 million new jobs a year. WE have a proposal to cut the American corporate tax rate to 12.5 percent, which is the Irish level. We have a proposal to cut the Social Security and Medicare tax a year by 50 percent for every American.
BL: But even if those things create jobs, they’re not going to be a net plus in federal revenue. You’re not claiming that, right?
NG: Oh, sure they are. Overtime they are. Absolutely. If you have a dramatic, all you do is run the numbers. If you go from the 9.6 percent unemployment of the Obama economy, which is a food stamp economy, back down to a four percent full employment economy, which is a paycheck economy, the difference in that many Americans going to work, no longer being on Medicaid, no longer being on food stamps, paying taxes, is an enormous differential.
BL: On the Today show, you said, no, no, when Matt Lauer asked you about cutting Social Security and Medicare, and you only mentioned eliminating fraud as a specific change, which I’m not sure anyone believes can really do the trick with those programs. Can the party of fiscal responsibility brush off senior entitlements like that?
NG: No, I think in the long run, the whole country is going to have to have a conversation about every entitlement, not just senior entitlements, because we’re in a different world. And we have to have an honest conversation. You can’t do that in the middle of an election year, when your opponents will lie about you, and distort everything you suggest. You have to do that in the period between elections, when you can have the whole country have a conversation.
BL: But then what value is the…NG interrupts.
NG: Wait a second. If you go the Center for Health Transformation, at healthtransformation.net, you can get a copy of our book, Stop Paying the Crooks, in which we outline between 70 and 120 billion dollars a year in fraud in Medicare and Medicaid because the federal government is such a bad manager of our money. Now, if you could cut that in half, and you could save between 400 and a trillion, 400 billion and a trillion dollars in a decade, that is not a small change.
BL: But not saying anything about anything other than, and the fraud, that’s your group, but if the pledge doesn’t say anything about these entitlement plans, then what value is it to the American people as a guiding principle on deficits?
NG: Well, wait a second. You have a Pelosi-Reid-Obama system. You can’t leave them in charge for four years. They have raised taxes. They have created bigger bureaucracy. They’ve massively increased the deficit. They have killed the economy. They have kept us trapped at 9.6 percent unemployment, and the pledge comes along and says, our number one goal is to create jobs. Our number one, in order to create jobs, we’re not going to raise taxes. We’re going to control spending. That is, in and of itself, such a fundamental change in direction, that’s a 180-degree change in direction from the big government, big tax, big bureaucracy model, that we’ve had under Pelosi, Reid and Obama.
BL: One other thing while you’re here, speaker Gingrich, there’s been a lot of talk about your comment that you can understand President Obama through the lens of Kenyan anti-colonial behavior. That’s been seen as a further attempt to paint the president as foreign and not American and somehow other and not just disagree on policy. Do you stand by that statement?
NG: Well I just recommend everybody who is curious about that read DineshD’Souza’s article in Forbes Magazine or read his new book that comes out October 4. Dinesh is a first generation immigrant from India. He is the dean of Kings College in Manhattan in New York City. He is a very smart intellectual. He makes, it’s an intellectual argument. I am happy to say I believe intellectually this is the most radical president in American history. I think that’s true. I wrote a book to Save America whose subtitle is Stopping Obama’s secular socialist machine. Those aren’t personality attacks. This is a policy disagreement.
BL: That’s secular socialist. Kenyan anti-colonial isn’t racial code?
NG: That’s silly. Everyone in America knows who the president is and knows the president’s background. It is actually, and again, I don’t think someone who is a first generation immigrant from India can be successfully attacked for racism. Dinesh D’Souza is a serious intellectual and he wrote a serious book. And it’s worthy of people looking at his book and deciding based on his book if what I said is intellectually correct. It’s a question of whether or not it’s intellectually right.
BL: Can you give me a thumb nail, anti-colonial behavior. I mean I’m sure you weren’t for colonial rule. So what does that mean in a negative sense?
NG: Well in a very minor sense it means you send Winston Churchill’s bus back to Britain. It means you don't see Winston Churchill as the man who helped defeat the Nazis or the man who helped stop the Soviet Union. You see him as somebody who tried to preserve the British Empire. It means you start out every morning with a belief that the west somehow exploited the rest of the world and therefore the west is not worthy of equal treatment. And again. All I recommend is that people read Dinesh D’Souza’s book and decide for yourself.
BL: Speaker Gingrich, thank you very much for joining us.