Remarks to the Detroit Economic Club
I appreciate the opportunity to be here and to discuss obviously the number one issue in this campaign and the number one issue here in the state of Michigan, which is the health and state of our economy and what we can do in Washington, D.C., I would put it, to create an atmosphere for our economy to grow, the private sector to grow.
Here in Michigan, you've been through a lot of tough times. We all know that, and it's exciting to see the resurgence of the auto industry here. But over the last four years, Michigan's lost over 140,000 jobs; 250,000 people from Michigan have left the workforce and the unemployment rate is, unfortunately, still higher than the national average. So if you were to ask the question "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?", for too many people in this state, the answer would still be no.
We do need a strong economic platform by which to help the private sector successfully compete, and to create the kind of jobs that are going to provide for families and grow this economy until we can create the prosperity that this city was known for, really, for decades.
I'm going to lay out very quickly my economic plan. And you're going to hear this and you're going to say, "Well, that's pretty similar to other economic plans" that you've heard from Republicans. Let me do that first, and then let me tell you how we're just a little different from some of the others in this race and how we approach the issue of creating an opportunity where everyone in America can rise. We can create a healthier, not just economy, but a healthier country.
First, I do believe in pro-growth economics. I'm a supply-side economics person. I believe in lower rates. I believe in simplification. When it comes to the corporate tax, well, corporate taxes, as of April, we'll be the highest in the world. I cut that corporate tax in our plan to 17% and make it basically a net profits tax. Simple. A flat tax with one exception. I still believe that we need to encourage innovations in the knowledge-based economy so we have a 20% permanent tax credit for research and development in the corporate tax.
Secondly, dividends, interest, capital gains -- a 20% cut from 15% to 12%. We abolish the AMT. I abolish the death tax. I take the corporate tax -- again -- simplification -- lower rates. We have a 10% low rate, and we expand that lower rate and then take all the other rates consolidated to one rate; 28% top rate -- again a 20% reduction from the 35% rate, down to 28%, which was Ronald Reagan's top rate. My feeling is, if it's good enough for Ronald Reagan, it's good enough for me.
And so we have a top rate of 28% and we have a simplified tax code. A simplified tax code, which I'll discuss in a minute, is not completely flat. But we have things there for a reason -- to help promote a strong and healthy society.
I also believe in reducing the size of government. That's key. You can't just cut taxes and reduce as a result ... revenues to the federal government without creating a balance by reducing the size of government. And that's important, too -- to remove the regulatory burden from the people of this country.
So I've proposed $5 trillion in reductions over five years. Now that can be funny math for a lot of folks in America. Well, you know, is that $5 trillion from the baseline or how does that all work as to whether that's real reductions or not? What I pledge is that we will spend less money every year than the year before -- all four years -- until we reach a balanced budget in five years. Five trillion dollars in five years, less spending each year, every year, and we will reach a balanced budget in five years.
Now I know you folks here in Michigan have been hearing some things on the television from one of my opponents that I am a big spender. You will find that fairly surprising to the folks who are my colleagues and any objective look at my spending record when I was in Congress, and there was one done just yesterday by the Weekly Standard.
The Weekly Standard looked at the 50 senators who were in the Congress at the same time I was there, and there were only four senators who had a better spending record, according to the National Taxpayers Union. They rated me for all those years, and my rating was better than everybody's but four. And those four folks happen to represent states like Oklahoma and Wyoming. A state like Pennsylvania, or like Michigan, which hasn't elected a Republican for president since 1988, I was the most conservative, they put it, I was the most conservative senator by far, based on the state I represented and the spending record I had. Any other person in a state with a similar electoral map like Pennsylvania that I had to run in, the closest person to me was not even half as good in spending as I was.
So I stood up in a tough state and stood for limited government and particularly stood for something that was important if we're going to get the budget balanced and ... entitlement reform. I was the author of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act that managed to get the bill on the floor of the Senate. If we're going to solve the problems of this country, when it comes to getting deficits under control, as we all know, we've got to look at where the money is. And the money is in entitlements. Sixty percent of the budget right now is entitlements.
Defense used to be 60% of the budget. When I was born, it was 60% of the budget. It's now 17% of the budget. Those who believe that defense is causing the budget problems simply don't know the math. The math is that when I was born, entitlements were less than 10% of the budget. That is the area of growth, and entitlements will completely consume all revenues in just a handful of years. Because why? Because most of the entitlements, unfortunately, are targeted toward those in the margins of life, which happen to be the disabled, but more particularly the elderly. And we see the baby boom generation beginning to retire, and all bets are off as to whether we'll be able to afford this explosion of benefits.
I was out there talking about this problem back when it wasn't popular to talk about it, and proposed reforms to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps. I led the charge on welfare reform and we need to use the same thing we used on welfare reform -- which is cap it, cut it, freeze it, block grant it to the states. For Medicaid, for food stamps, a whole host of other means-tested entitlement programs which are already run by the states. And give them the flexibility to be able to go out and design programs that meet the needs of their particular constituencies. We did that with welfare, and we cut the welfare rolls by 50%. We did that at a time when welfare rolls were at the highest levels ever. Just like food stamps were at the highest level ever. And guess what happened. Poverty rates went down. People went to work. Why? Because we put time limits and we put work requirements on receiving government benefits.
We do those things again, we can help turn this economy around. We hear this all the time. I even hear it from manufacturers. We have a hard time finding workers. Well, when you have 99 weeks of unemployment benefits and you have a variety of other social safety net programs, people can make choices that they otherwise wouldn't make if the economy was not one where government dependency was the watchword. This president is not interested, in my opinion, in providing jobs. He's interested in providing benefits. He's interested in redistributing wealth and creating a dependency class that is a reliable voting group for him and those who want to pass out the redistributed wealth. The problem, as Margaret Thatcher (said), is with redistributed wealth and socialism, eventually you run out of other people's money.
Well, we're not gonna have a plan that runs out of other people's money. We're gonna reduce the entitlement burden on this country. We're gonna tackle Social Security and Medicare, and not 10 years from now. Now. I put forward plans like Paul Ryan, which I support. But we need to do it now. I'm not gonna go into all the details. That's a longer speech. But Social Security and Medicare reform, as I've talked about it, even in places like The Villages in Florida, which is basically a large, huge, retirement community. And when I've talked about Social Security and actually changing benefits, I didn't see a single hand raised that opposed what I was proposing. Why? Because if you have a leader who is willing to go out and educate the American public as to the problems that we confront, and the possible solutions out there, you'd be amazed at how the American people will rally and do what's their duty and do what's necessary to make this country great again.
We have a president who doesn't believe in that. He believes in hiding the ball, pitting one group against another. I believe in informing Americans, lifting them up, making them participants in the problems we have and turning those problems into opportunities for all Americans.
So that's how, in some respects, we're the same. Let me tell you how we're different. See. I believe that we need to create an atmosphere for everyone to be able to rise in America. And just cutting taxes, supply side across the board, and reducing the size and scale of government, in my opinion, that's not enough. And in fact, if that's all we do, I'm confident we will not succeed. We won't succeed economically, and more importantly, we won't succeed culturally and socially, and ultimately, we'll be back where we were before with government taking the upper hand again. Why? Because, well, we won't have done the things that are necessary for people to rise in society and for society to be stable.
Let me talk to you about how I believe that we need to have an economic plan that includes everybody. ... We have the manufacturing sector of the economy when I was growing up that was 21% of the workforce. It's now nine. When I grew up in the steel town of western Pennsylvania -- Butler, PA -- as he mentioned my grandfather was a coal miner. I knew that was the wealth. It wasn't great wealth. It wasn't opulent wealth. But it was wealth that was sustaining families and allowed folks to be able to participate in civic and community organizations without having to work two or three jobs. They could participate in the health of their community, which was vital for the health of our country.
And so manufacturing, to me, is the key to that. President Obama is all about equality of result. I'm about equality of opportunity. I'm not about equality of result when it comes to income inequality. There is income inequality in America. There always has been, and hopefully, and I do say that, there always will be. Why? Because people rise to different levels of success based on what they contribute to society and to the marketplace. And that's as it should be. And we shouldn't have a society that has a president who envies or creates class warfare or envy between one group of people and another. We should celebrate like we do in the small towns all across America -- as you do here in Detroit.
You celebrate success. You build statues and monuments. Buildings you name after them. Why? Because in their greatness and innovation, yes, they created wealth but they created wealth for everybody else. And that's a good thing. Not something to be condemned in America.
Well, we also need to create that opportunity for people to rise, and I believe manufacturing is the key to that. People say, well, why do you treat manufacturing different, and I do. I don't cut the corporate rate for manufacturing to 17.5%. We eliminate the corporate tax for manufacturers. There will be no tax. Period. We create the opportunity for us to compete. So you say, well, why do you treat it differently? Because you here in Detroit have to compete against companies all around the world who want your jobs and in many cases took your jobs. And so we need to have a plan in place in America that understands the competitive playing field that you're on. We're not gonna move the bank overseas. We're not gonna move the retailer overseas. All of those other folks compete internally, by and large, but you don't. No manufacturer really competes internally or just internally. You compete with a world that wants what you have because they know that manufacturing, making things, is the key to wealth creation in any society.
And so we have to -- just like we do when we've had policies in the past -- to make sure that we have a military industrial complex in this country. Why? Because of our national security. We make sure that we have a stable food policy in America. Why? Because of our national security. We need to have a manufacturing base in this country. Why? Because of our national security.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is a hostile world, and we need to make sure that we are relying upon ourselves and that means we need to create a marketplace where we can compete with everybody around the world. No advantages, just a level playing field. Right now, American manufacturers have a 20% cost differential disadvantage, and that's excluding labor costs, with our nine top trading partners. That, of course, includes Canada, Mexico, China. We need to level that playing field. Why is it higher? Well, because of government taxes and regulation. Well, if that's a problem, then government has a responsibility to create an opportunity for you to go out and compete on that level playing field. That's why I've zeroed out the corporate tax and have said to those of you who have sent jobs overseas that if you take that money back, instead of paying the tax you'd have to pay to repatriate profits. That if you invest that money in plants and equipment, you'll pay no tax if you invest it in plant and equipment and create jobs here in America. Those are two things that we can do to create opportunity for profitability as well as the availability of capital to invest here to create the jobs of the future. So that's one big area. But there are other things we can do.
I hear, obviously with the future leader of China here, we hear a lot about China. We hear a lot about what we have to do to compete with China. Well, what I've just laid out will compete with China. We will compete with any country in the world.
I know folks are concerned about currencies. I'm concerned about it, too. Government should not set currencies. Markets should set currency values, and that includes the United States of America, I might add. If we're going to point the finger at other countries, we need to look at what we do here in America when it comes to currencies and what we're doing with the value of the dollar in this country. Let's have the market do it. And if you do, I am confident that the American worker and American companies can compete with anybody around the world.
The other thing that is key in making us competitive is energy. Energy is key to manufacturing. Obviously you're great users of it, but it is also a key to the entire prosperity of our country. If you look at any graph that shows the cost of energy and the availability of energy, and you look at it relative to the standard of living in that country, the lower the energy cost, the more available the energy, the higher the standard of living.
If you look at the recession that we went into, we went into it in 2008. Why? Because of a huge spike in energy prices. Now you read on the front page of the paper that energy prices are going up again, and now there's this headwind to the growing economy as we've seen repeatedly as this economy has tried to recover. And yet we have vast resources of resources in this country. And we have a president who is doing everything he can to see the oil and gas, coal in this country as a liability, not an asset. Something that should be kept in the ground to protect you instead of taken out of the ground to enrich you.
Yesterday I was in North Dakota. For those of you who may not be close, this may look like a lump of coal. It's not a lump of coal; it's oil. This is oil. This is how we get oil in North Dakota. We fracture this piece of rock and this piece of rock has oil floating around in it, whether you believe it or not. I have a hard time believing it but they've handed me the oil so I guess I can believe it.
We have something call hydraulic fracturing. We have hundreds of thousands of wells that have used it over the course of time. And now we're using horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing and we're producing an energy boom.
I was just at one of the wells, and they told me in Tioga, North Dakota, that their light sweet crude, which is a premium commodity on the market, sells at a discount of $32. Why? Because they can't get it to market. And we have a president of the United States with this knowledge -- that Mexico, within five years, will be an energy importer, not exporter. Venezuela, which we get two-and-a-half million barrels a day from, is going from an energy exporter to the United States to have China build a refinery there and have their product go to China. Two-and-a-half million barrels lost to the United States.
Alaska. I want to open up Alaska for the Alaskan wildlife refuge to create more opportunities for us to extract oil from the north slope of Alaska. It used to produce two million barrels a day. It's now down to a half million and in a few years, it will be down to the point where the pipeline won't work anymore because there's not enough flow to move the oil. So within less than 10 years we will lose five million barrels of oil a day. And the president of the United States said no to a pipeline that would bring that oil down from Canada and North Dakota, allow our people in our states to get the price for their crude, to take 500 trucks a day off the roads in these little communities, and create thousands of jobs. And the president of the United States said no. No. Send that oil to China, which is what Canada will do if we don't build that pipeline.
This is a president who is suffocating this economy. This is a president who doesn't care about you and the cost of living that you have to deal with. He'd rather tell the auto companies here to increase their CAFE standards and build cars that will essentially be less safe for you to drive, instead of building pipelines and creating oil and opportunities in this country, so we can drive cars that our families want to and are safe for us.
This is the big difference. We're gonna create jobs for everybody in America. Energy jobs -- I was out there. Jobs for everybody -- all skill levels. And the average job in western North Dakota -- $90,000 a year goes a long way in Tioga, North Dakota.
There's the opportunity for you folks. That's what energy and manufacturing can do. Someone who has a message that says to all workers, "Let's get you to work. Let's improve the quality of life here." Let's reduce our energy costs. Let's make things here in America. And the president says, "No, no, no and no." Let me increase food stamps. Let me provide a health care system where we take money from some and give it to others so we can then tell you you have a right to health care and then tell you how to exercise that right. That's the view of the president of the United States. Not the view of a country that believes in free people and free markets.
You know, even if we do all the things I've suggested, and we don't do some other things to try to improve our economy -- Father mentioned that we've got to be concerned for those on the margins of our society -- the very poor. We have a president who says he supports the occupiers who divide America between 99 and one. We had another candidate in this race who suggested that he didn't care about the very poor. He cared about the 95%.
How about a candidate who cares about 100%? Who cares about everybody and gives them the opportunity to be able to rise in society. Not just to do that with energy and manufacturing jobs but also to understand that unless we have strong families and strong communities, we're not gonna be an economically successful country. We certainly won't be able to have limited government, lower taxes, if the family continues to disintegrate. In America today, a single-parent family versus a two-parent family -- as far as poverty rates -- a two-parent family in America have an 8% poverty rate in America. Single parent families -- as heroic as single moms are to provide, to care, to nurture, to do all the things that two parents were designed to do -- the poverty rate is approaching 40%.
We're not gonna have a strong economy, folks, or a limited government, if the family continues to decline. Thirty years ago, 71% of people over the age of 18 were married in America. Today it's 51% and it's dropped 5% in the last three years. It's a precipitous and rapid decline. And as that occurs, government will get bigger, and the ability for us to lower taxes and create a vibrant economy will get harder.
I spoke with Chuck Colson. He started a group called Prison Fellowship after he left prison in the 1970s, and he told me at the time he left prison, there were 250,000 people in prison in America. Today, there are 2.5 million people in prison in America and 70%-80% of them grew up without a father in the home. Now let's just do the math and what America is gonna look like, and you tell me how we can be economically successful.
Folks, we as Republicans, we as conservatives, we can't go out there and just say, "Cut spending, cut taxes, everybody's gonna be fine." First off, economically, everybody isn't going to be fine. We need to create an environment where all people can rise. And we also have to create a culture that is consistent with the values of our country. Our country was a great country because we believed in creating a just society from the bottom up, believing in freedom, faith, family -- those mediating institutions that you may have read about in Alexis de Tocqueville's "Democracy in America." We talked about all these little organizations at the grassroots level. Yes, first the family. Second, the church, the school, the little hospital. The civic and charitable organizations. What have we done? What's happened?
As government has got bigger and more forceful, they're sweeping them out of the way. In my tax plan I have five deductions.
One is for families. We triple the child tax credit -- child deduction. Why? Because families are taxed higher now than they've ever been. Why? Because the child deduction continues to go down over time. Families back in the 1950s in the heydays of Detroit -- they didn't pay taxes. Why? Because we understood the stress of raising children and the economic stress and how finances and economics can be a stress on families and marriages. And so we had a government that said, "We're going to support you."
The other deductions we have in place are for health care, for housing, and for pensions. All things to help support and stabilize families. And of course charities, churches -- key to those mediating institutions. What do I mean by mediating institutions? Institutions that stand between you and the government. If there isn't anything between you and the government, if there's a naked public square, if you are there alone with nobody around you and you're out there paddling alone, then government becomes your lifeboat. And when government becomes your lifeboat, freedom is ultimately lost because you've now sold out. No fault of your own, in many cases, but that's what's left.
We need to create a rich society with lots of places for you to go before you go to the government for help and assistance with the problems that you're dealing with. Charities, churches -- it's no wonder that the president, in one of his tax proposals, sought to limit charitable contributions. They get in the way of government, you know, in providing for you. Families can get in the way of government and your reliance on them.
We will have a program that will go out and say that we need to build a rich society again. Why is democracy in a republic form of government failed in so many places around the world? Because they didn't have what we have -- which is a great, civil society. Families, churches, community organizations, schools and small businesses -- businesses generally -- who are there to help. Mediate between you and the government.
This is the vision. An economic vision for America that doesn't go back, but goes forward in creating opportunity and a culture that is nurturing and safe and secure. Because we've got that strong community, we've got that opportunity to rise, in society. We'll put Americans back to work, and we'll put them to work in neighborhoods where they feel safe, and can raise good and decent children, and live lives that can make this country that shining city on the hill.
Thank you. God bless.
Q: Millions of older Americans have lost their jobs. How would you help older Americans aged 50-plus get back to work?
A: I would just say this. If we can create an economy that is spawning jobs and creating opportunities, one of the things that I hear all the time, and particularly in the manufacturing sector, is the lack of people with experience and skills to do the jobs that are necessary out there.There clearly will be a demand as the private sector economy improves. There will be a demand for experienced workers who have the skill sets necessary to do, not just the blue collar jobs, but also the white collar jobs. We all know in manufacturing, there's not just line workers, but there's a whole host of other folks that create opportunities for folks with experience in the past. So I can't say that there's anything specifically that I would do.
One of the concerns I have with this revitalized economy is to make sure that we have the education and training available to train people for these new jobs -- including older workers. And what we've seen in this president is an assault on those very schools that do most of the training out there, and that's the private schools. This president has had a war on private education.
This comes as a shock to some people, that the president would have a war on something. But this is consistent. He believes that private sector schools are somehow evil and they're abusive, and his Education Department has done everything they could to make it harder for them to compete for loans and other things and to stay in business.
Yet they are going to be the principal tool, along with community colleges, to respond to this, what I believe will be exploding demand for skilled and semi-skilled workers to do the jobs of the future.
I will tell you I have a very very different attitude toward private schools and training schools and technical schools and will work to make sure they are available and around and funded like any other school to be able to pick up and help the business community meet their training needs.
Q: What is your position on TARP?
A: I take a little different position than Gov. Romney.
Gov. Romney supported the bailout of Wall Street and decided not to support the bailout of Detroit. My feeling was, we should not support, the government should not be involved in bailouts, period. I think that's a much more consistent position.
It's one that if you look at what happened ... it's not the Obama administration. I know Gov. Romney is focused on the Obama administration, and the reason he does is because he supported what the Bush administration did.
Well, I didn't. I opposed what the Bush administration did, and have been a consistent critic of it. ... I did make my opinions known within the administration. What I thought they were doing was wrong. They plowed ahead anyway and did some things that I think were injurious to capitalism, first by bailing out Bear Stearns in the first place, biggest mistake. What they should have done is let the market work.
Once they started picking winners and losers -- does this sound familiar? -- once they started picking winners and losers, well, the market decided we can just wait since the government's going to be involved, we'll just wait for them to do it.
And that led to a path of Wall Street bailouts and all the bailouts. If we had stayed out of it and completely and let the market work, I believe the market would have worked.
Would the auto industry look different than it does today? Yes, it would be. Would it still be alive and well? I believe it would be and equally as well if not better.
Why? Because markets would have had to react and do what was necessary to structure it to be competitive.
Look, the facilities that are creating huge profits right now are there and would be there. The problem wasn't the facilities or the workers. It was the obligations that these legacy companies had that they couldn't pay.
I went through this in the steel industry. I know what this is like. No one bailed out the steel industry. Is the steel industry smaller than it was? Yes. Is it profitable? Well, depends on the year.
But it's been profitable for most years. Why? Because they right-sized, they used the facilities that were efficient, and they were able to go out and compete.
So anyway, I just believe that, you know, having government involved sets a precedent, that now is set in America, that will make it easier for the next president to step in and make the argument for why government should take over, well, let's say the health care industry or some other business. To say that this is the role of government from now on; we've now said under both Republican and Democratic presidents. I actually blame President Bush more than I blame President Obama. President Obama was just following suit. President Bush set the precedent.
It was the wrong precedent, and I think that while there may be companies today that are doing well, and obviously you have a couple of companies here that are, the long-term consequence to this country for having set the precedent for the role of government, to the economy, is not going to be a good one.
Q: I own a small business. How will your administration help small businesses?
A: I take, for example, what we'd do with the corporate taxes. Cut corporate tax rates in half and we make it, basically, a flat tax. That's a great advantage to small business. Why? Because small businesses don't have the compliance departments and auditors and accountants to be able to figure out how to maximize their -- look, I do my own taxes. Heck, Romney paid half the tax rate I did. Obviously he doesn't do his own taxes. Maybe I should hire an accountant in the future.
You have the opportunity, if you're a large corporation, to have a lot more folks looking at these things and drilling down and structuring your company so you can respond to how the tax code operates. That's simply not the case with a small businessperson. So I would just say that having a flat tax on corporate taxes is going to be a great equalizer in many respects.
I look at the things that the government does with respect to the regulatory burden. I didn't get a chance to talk about that. I was going a little long so I cut that part out. But one of the key aspects of our economic plan is to deal with the explosion of regulations. Under the Clinton and Bush administrations, they averaged 62 regulations a year that cost businesses over $100 million. Those are the high-cost regulations that are monitored by I think, the General Accounting Office.
Well, under this administration last year, the president proposed 150 of those regulations in one year alone and is scheduled to break that record this year. This is a president who has gone hog wild, and guess who gets hurt the most by burdensome regulations? It's the little guy.
I was talking to a mortgage broker in Spartanburg, S.C., who told me that prior to Dodd-Frank and the regulations implemented under Dodd-Frank, he spent 30 minutes a week on regulations. He now spends 3-4 hours a day, and he's getting out of the business.
And so the big guys will take over. Why? Because they have big compliance departments -- they can handle this. I've always said, and I really believe this, that unfortunately, big business doesn't necessarily mind big government. It gives them a competitive advantage. But big government and regulations kills the little guy. Kills innovation. Kills and creates barriers to entry.
Look at Obamacare. Obamacare -- if you get to 50 employees, all of a sudden you get hit with huge tax burdens. There's companies right now -- I know, I've talked to them -- trying to figure out how they can get under 50 employees so they're not gonna have to comply with Obamacare. Why would we do this? But that's what we're doing to the small business. Don't grow -- you're gonna get nailed. And even if you're gonna sit there and we're gonna tell you how to manage your business, that creates a huge disadvantage for the entrepreneur to be able to be successful. We will repeal all of that and change Washington from a place that focuses on compliance and working with businesses -- believing them not to be evil, not to be out to do nefarious things trying to make profits -- but that actually believe that in their own community, in their own state, they too believe in clean air, clean water, and that we can trust states and localities and not have the federal government micromanage what dust farmers put in the air. That, in fact, we can trust ordinary Americans and people at the state and local level to provide for themselves and a good and healthy community more than Washington can.
Q: What role do you see for labor unions in America, and what would you suggest to ensure workers rights?
A: Well, it's interesting. I've been attacked as the big union Republican in this race. I went back and looked at my AFL-CIO scorecard, and I have a 13% rating. In fact, I guess if that's big union in the Republican Party, we've narrowed the field quite a bit, haven't we?
I believe in creating opportunities for working folks. My grandfather was a coal miner. He was the treasurer of his union. I'm sure the fact that his grandson is running as a conservative Republican has caused quite a few flips there in the grave for him, but I have no problem with private sector unions. I think they play a role in society.
I'm someone who does believe that people should have the right to work. I've signed on and said that we should repeal the law that basically requires states to have union dues being paid as a condition of employment. That law should be repealed and states should have the opportunity to be able to make that decision for themselves, as opposed to the federal level.
From my perspective, unions are, again, one of those mediating institutions and have served, in America, a legitimate purpose over time in the private sector.
I don't feel quite as warm and fuzzy about public sector unions. I think public sector unions are in an intrinsically unfair bargaining position because the people sitting across the table from them, unlike the businessperson who has shareholders or themselves who have money on the line, or both, the public employee unions are sitting across from someone who, it's not their money and it's not their tax dollars, by and large, which are going to pay for these things. Secondly, these folks are receiving benefits, getting dues paid from state and local taxpayers, that they then turn around and help elect the people who sit on the other side of the bargaining table with them. That creates, I think, an ugly situation -- an unfair situation in America -- and I think, as the federal government does, which does not allow public sector unions to bargain wages and benefits, I think that's the appropriate role for state and local governments to be in the same position.
Q: As president, how would you help homeless people?
A: Well, as I said before, we have to be concerned about everybody -- from the very rich to the very poor. If you look at my track record, it was actually David Brooks, no great friend of conservatives, who wrote several years ago there hasn't been a single piece of legislation dealing with the poor in the Senate over the last 12 years that my name wasn't either attached to or leading on.
I really do believe that we have an obligation to create opportunity and create the ladder of success for everyone, including those who are homeless. I would just say that if you look at our record and what we've done and creating the opportunity for states to take responsibility for a lot of these programs, I think what you saw with welfare reform was the flexibility in the dollars to go out and meet the unique needs of the community. As opposed to what the federal government said was the greater needs of the greater communities across this country.
So I think the flexibility that we're going to give states to manage these programs is a very important thing. One of the unique problems of homelessness, unfortunately and sadly, a very substantial number of homeless people are veterans. I've seen this in my own state, and studies that show that because of veterans returning home, particularly now, with high rates of PTSD and other types of stresses and re-acclimating to society, we see a lot of this problem. So this is an area, when I was in the Senate, that I worked a lot with the Veterans Administration. That's where my mom and dad worked. My dad was a psychologist that worked with a lot of these folks. So I have a particular concern about that, and that would be an area uniquely that I would focus on to make sure that: One, that we don't create the situation that creates a lot of this PTSD -- repetitive tours of duty; five, six, seven, eight tours of duty is way too much to ask.
We have a president who's gone out and said we're going to cut back our troop levels. What's that going to mean? Nine, ten, eleven is what we're going to be doing as far as these troop rotations are concerned. We need to look at how we're managing our troops and also look at how we're going to care for them when they come back to make sure that they can be integrated back into society. And obviously we're dropping the ball. And that's one area that I would stress as president -- to make sure that we first and foremost take care of those who have sacrificed and risked so much for their country.
Let me thank you all for the opportunity. It was great being here in Detroit, and God bless.
Rick Santorum, Remarks to the Detroit Economic Club Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/300079