Gregg's View Of Obama's Budget Remarks
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And for Republican reaction to the president's speech today, we're joined by Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, the senior Republican on the Senate Budget Committee. Welcome to the program.
Senator JUDD GREGG (Republican, New Hampshire): Thanks for having me on.
BLOCK: Senator Gregg, the president's message today, in part, with this we cannot rebuild this economy on the same pile of sand. He's calling for what he calls a new foundation. Do you see any common ground there with you and your Republican colleagues?
Sen. GREGG: Well, I think there is. And I hope there is. I hope he's right. And we all hope he's right that we're starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel here on the issue of economic recovery. And people aren't seeing it yet because there's a tremendous amount of concern out there, relative to jobs and values of the houses. But hopefully we're moving in the right direction.
BLOCK: You know, President Obama seemed to be anticipating criticism coming from you and those on the Republican side. Let's listen to part of his speech today.
President BARACK OBAMA: We simply cannot sacrifice the long-term investments that we so desperately need to generate long-term prosperity. That's the argument that some have - some critics have made. Well, you're proposing health care reform. You shouldn't be doing that. You're proposing education investments, you shouldn't be doing that. That adds to the deficit.
BLOCK: Is that your concern, Senator Gregg, that these programs that the president wants to put into place are too dangerous, given the deficit right now?
Sen. GREGG: No, the deficit right now isn't really the issue. The issue is the out-year deficits. We all recognize we're going to have to spend a lot of money to get the economy going. But the problem with his budget proposal is that in the out years it radically expands the size of government and creates deficits, where as far as the eye can see, every year over a trillion dollars a year, takes our debt up to about 80 percent of gross national product.
And just to try to put that in context, you can't even get into the European Union if your debt is more than 60 percent of gross national product. I mean, it really puts at risk our ability in the long run to have a solvent nation and to be able to pass onto our kids a country they can afford, when you put in place a massive increase in the size of the government, as he's proposing over the long run, without doing anything in order to try to curtail cost of the government and bring it back in line with the revenues of the government.
BLOCK: One point President Obama was making today was take health care reform, for example, his point is if you enact health care reform now, that is, entitlement reform down the road, that it will cut back on costs for Medicaid and Medicare.
Sen. GREGG: Well, that's good language. And I wish he were actually following that up with proposals that accomplish that. But he's proposing to significantly expand the cost of health care, not only in the short run, but in the long run by essentially having the government take over large portions of it.
We don't need to spend a lot more money on health care. What we need to do is spend the money we're already spending more effectively and more efficiently, rather than significantly expand the size of the government's role through what amounts to a quasi-nationalization, which is what his proposal is.
BLOCK: It sounds like you may be saying much the same thing, though, coming to different conclusions about it. I mean I think his point is that ultimately there will be efficiencies through health care reform.
Sen. GREGG: That's true. But the language is the same, but the conclusions are different. It's a lot like the old story we have up here in northern New England of the tourist who asked a guy rocking on his porch how they get somewhere as they were driving by, they stopped and asked him. And he gave them a couple of different ideas and every time he gave him an idea, he said, no, that won't work. And finally, he says, well, you can't get there from here.
Well, under the Obama proposals, you can't get to a balanced budget, or anything even near fiscal responsibility if you're going to basically take government spending from 20 to 21 percent of GDP up to 24, or 25, 26 percent of GDP because you drive up the deficit.
BLOCK: Senator Gregg, what about the argument that this administration inherited a huge deficit from the last eight years of a Republican administration, and that you and your fellow Republican senators bear much of the responsibility for that?
Sen. GREGG: There's no question that the Bush administration spent a lot of money we shouldn't have spent, and I voted against most of it. But it was a very practical matter. That's not the problem we're talking about right now. We're talking about three, four, five years from now, it's not going to be the Bush administration that four years from now is running a trillion dollar deficit. And the deficits run in such large levels for as far as the eye can see.
BLOCK: Senator Gregg, thanks for talking with us.
Sen. GREGG: Thank you.
BLOCK: Sen. Judd Gregg, Republican of New Hampshire. He's the senior Republican on the Senate Budget Committee.
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