GLENN: Lot to do today, a lot to do. And we begin right now with Newt Gingrich. Look, this is ‑‑ so you know, I am… I am increasingly disinterested in Washington because I don’t believe the answers lie in Washington. However, we all have to be responsible and we all have to do, you know, the right thing and pay attention to politics and vote. Now is the time to ask the questions of each of the politicians.
Newt Gingrich is a man that I’ve met several times. I’ve had dinner with him when we were in Washington, D.C. He seems like a very nice man. We don’t know each ‑‑ we’re not buddies, but I have been around him enough to know that, you know, he’s a ‑‑ he’s an honest guy, a decent guy that has always shot straight with me. I want to make sure that you understand and that he understands that this is not a gotcha interview. I have serious concerns with Newt Gingrich, but it’s not a gotcha interview. This is just, I’m asking questions because I truly, deeply care about the country just as much as Newt Gingrich does but we differ on the answers, I believe. I’d like to have him convince me that I’m wrong. I would love to have him convince me that I’m wrong. Mr. Newt Gingrich, how are you, sir?
GINGRICH: I’m doing well. How are you?
GLENN: I’m very good. Let’s start with ‑‑ let’s start with a piece of audio here where you were talking about healthcare and you went down the progressive road with Theodore Roosevelt.
GINGRICH: And for government to not leave guarantees that you don’t have the ability to change, no private corporation has the purchasing power or the ability to reshape the health system, and in this sense I guess I’m a Theodore Roosevelt Republican. In fact, if I were going to characterize my ‑‑ on health where I come from, I’m a Theodore Roosevelt Republican and I believe government can lean in the regulatory leaning is okay.
GLENN: Regulation and the government scares the crap out of me and I think most Tea Party kind of leaning conservatives, and Theodore Roosevelt was the guy who started the Progressive Party. How would you characterize your relationship with the progressive ideals of Theodore Roosevelt?
GINGRICH: Well, that depends on which phase of Roosevelt you’re talking about. The 1912, he’s become a big government, centralized power advocate running an a third party candidate which, for example, Roosevelt advocated the Food and Drug Act after he was eating ‑‑ and this supposedly the story, after he was eating sausage and eggs while reading up to Sinclair’s The Jungle, which has a scene in which a man falls into a vat at the sausage factory and becomes part of the sausage. And if you go back to that era where people had ‑‑ dealing with the Chinese where the people had doctored food, they had put all sorts of junk in food, they ‑‑ you know, I as a child who lived in Europe and I always marveled at the fact that American water is drinkable virtually anywhere.
So there are minimum regulatory standards of public health and safety that are I think really important.
GLENN: Okay. So you’re a minimum regulation guy on making sure the people don’t fall into the vats of sausage?
GINGRICH: Yeah. What I’m against is the government trying to implement things because bureaucracy’s such a bad implementer, and I’m against government trying to pick winners and losers. I mean, there’s no accident that the Smithsonian got $50,000 from the Pierre plane and failed and the ‑‑ from the Congress, and that the Wright brothers invented the airplane because ‑‑
GINGRICH: But I do think ‑‑ and I think almost everybody will see this, I believe. You want to make sure, for example, if you buy certain electric things that they don’t start fires in your house.
GLENN: Got it.
GINGRICH: You know, that kind of thing.
GLENN: But you’re not into picking winners and losers. So you would not have done the GM bailout?
GINGRICH: No. No, absolutely not. I think they would have ‑‑ I think they would be better off today ‑‑ remember you can have ‑‑ you can have a bankruptcy for reorganization, not for liquidation.
GLENN: Right. But you are ‑‑
GINGRICH: They go through a reorganization bankruptcy, they would be much better off than they are today.
GLENN: Sure. But you have selected a winner when you are for, quite strongly, the ethanol subsidies.
GINGRICH: Well, you know, that’s just in question. When Obama suggested eliminating the $14 billion a year incentive for exploring for oil and gas, everybody in the oil patch who’s against subsidizing ethanol jumped up and said, hey, you can’t do that. If you do that, you’re going to wipe out 80% of exploration, which is all done by small independent companies, not by the majors. I supported, I favored the incentive to go out and find more oil and gas. Now, that’s a tax subsidy. It’s a bigger tax subsidy than oil ever got. But I want American energy to drive out Saudi Arabia and Iranian and Iraqi energy and Venezuelan energy. And so I am for all sources of American energy in order to make us not just independent but to create a reservoir so that if something does happen in the Persian Gulf in the Straits of Hormuz, the world’s industrial system doesn’t crash into a deep depression.
GLENN: Why would we, why would we go into subsidies, though? Isn’t ‑‑ aren’t subsidies really some of the biggest problems that we have with our spending and out‑of‑control picking of winners and losers?
GINGRICH: Well, it depends on what you’re subsidizing. The idea of having economic incentives for manufacturing goes back to Alexander Hamilton’s first report of manufacturing which I believe was 1791. We have always had a bias in favor of investing in the future. We built the transcontinental railroads that way. The Erie Canal was built that way. We’ve always believed that having a strong infrastructure and having a strong energy system are net advantages because they’ve made us richer and more powerful than any country in the world. But what I object to is subsidizing things that don’t work and things that aren’t creating a better future. And the problem with the modern welfare state is it actually encourages people to the wrong behaviors, encourages them not to work, encourages them not to study.
GLENN: All right. You said if you are a fiscal conservative who cares about balancing the federal budget, there may be no more important bill to vote on in your career than in support of this bill. This was what you said about a new you entitlement, Medicare prescription drug program.
GINGRICH: Which also included Medicare Advantage and also included the right to have a high deductible medical savings account, which is the first step towards moving control over your health dollars back to you. And I think is a very important distinguishing point. On the government, my position is very straightforward. If you’re going to have Medicare, which was created in 1965, and was created at a time when practically drugs didn’t matter. There weren’t very many breakthroughs at that point. To take a position that we won’t help you with insulin but we’ll pay for your kidney dialysis is both bad on a human level and bad on financial level. Kidney dialysis is one of the fastest growing centers of cost and we spend almost as much annually on kidney dialysis as the entire National Institute of Health research budget, about $27 billion a year right now. If we say to you we’re going to pay for open heart surgery but we won’t pay for Lipitor so you can avoid open heart surgery, it’s both bad (inaudible) but it’s also just bad financially. So we ‑‑
GLENN: But aren’t you starting with a false premise here? If we’re going to have the Johnson Act, then well, then we should do this. Isn’t that starting with a false premise? Shouldn’t we be going the other direction instead of building on ‑‑
GINGRICH: Which is why ‑‑ which is why they had both Medicare Advantage, which is the first (inaudible) diversity and choice in Medicare, and it’s why they put in the health savings account model, which is the first big step towards you being personally in charge of your own savings. And I think that that’s a ‑‑ your point’s right. The question is how do you manage the transition so it is politically doable. And I ‑‑
GLENN: But you believe ‑‑ no offense, but you believe voting for something that is ‑‑ you’re trying to transition into smaller government by also supporting a bill that has in it a gigantic giveaway?
GINGRICH: Well, you’ve already given away ‑‑ that’s my point. I don’t see how one defends not having the ability to avoid the requirement for surgery, which is what this is all about. And the question is can you live longer and more independently and more healthily with the drug benefit than without it, and I think that if ‑‑ and you can make the (inaudible) and say, well, Medicare. A, you won’t win that in the short run. So you’re going to have Medicare. And the question in the short run is, so you want to have a system that basically leaves people with bad outcomes, or do you want to, in fact, maximize how long they can live and how independently they can live.
GLENN: All right.
GINGRICH: And that’s just a fundamental difference.
GLENN: All right. Well, and I think this is where we fundamentally differ is it seems to me ‑‑ and let me just play the audio here ‑‑ that you are for the individual mandate for healthcare and you have been for quite some time. Let’s play the audio.
GINGRICH: I am for people, individuals, exactly like automobile insurance, individuals having health insurance and being required to have health insurance, and I am prepared to vote for a voucher system which will give individuals on a sliding scale a government subsidy so it will ensure that everyone as individuals have health insurance.
GLENN: Okay. That’s 1993. Here is May 2011.
GINGRICH: All of a sudden responsibility to help pay for healthcare. And I think that there are ways to do it that make most libertarians relatively happy. I’ve said consistently we ought to have some requirement to either have health insurance or you post a bond or in some way you indicate you are going to be held accountable.
VOICE: That is the individual mandate, is it not?
GINGRICH: It’s a variation on it.
GLENN: Here’s about Paul Ryan trying to fix Medicare.
GINGRICH: I don’t think rightwing social engineering is any more desirable than leftwing social engineering. I don’t think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate. So there are things you can do to improve Medicare.
VOICE: But not what Paul Ryan is suggesting which is completely changing Medicare?
GINGRICH: I think that that is too big a jump. I think what you want to have is a system where people voluntarily migrate to better outcomes, better solutions, better options, not one where you suddenly impose upon. I don’t want ‑‑ I’m against ObamaCare which is imposing radical change and I would be against a conservative imposing radical change.
GLENN: Okay. Yet you seem to always be ‑‑ this is long‑term individual mandate stuff. You seem to be very interested in the government finding the solution.
GINGRICH: Well, let’s go back to what I just said. What I was asked was if a program is unpopular, should the Republicans impose it anyway. We can go back and we can listen to exactly what I was asked on that show and what I said I stand by, which is in a free society, you don’t elect officials to impose on you things that you disagree with. We just went through this slide over ObamaCare.
Now, I also, ironically, I would implement the Medicare reforms that Paul Ryan wants, I would implement them next year as an optional choice and I would allow people to have the option to choose premium support and then have freedom to negotiate with their doctor or their hospital in a way that would increase their ability to manage costs without being involved, you know ‑‑ but I wouldn’t impose it on everybody across the board. I think that’s a very large scale experiment. But I think you could migrate people toward it. I’m proposing the same thing on Social Security. I think young people ought to have the right to choose a personal Social Security insurance savings account plan and the Social Security actuary estimates that 95% of young people would pick a personal Social Security savings account over the current system but they would do so voluntarily because we would empower them to make a choice. We wouldn’t impose it on them. That’s a question of how do you think you can get this country to move more rapidly toward reform, and I think you can get it to move toward reform faster.
GLENN: All right.
GINGRICH: By giving people the right to choose.
GLENN: Let me just ‑‑ I just want to get to a few things. You’ve supported the ‑‑ you voted for the Department of Education, you in 2007 said very cautious about changing Fannie and Freddie. On global warming, with sitting down on the couch with Nancy Pelosi, and I would agree with you that was the dumbest moment ‑‑ you know, it would have been the dumbest moment of my life. And I agree with that. But when you look at, it’s not a moment of your life. In speech after speech, in your book Contract with the Earth, even with John Kerry in a debate, you said this.
GINGRICH: Evidence is sufficient, but we should move towards the most effective possible steps to reduce carbon looting of the atmosphere.
VOICE: And do it urgently?
GINGRICH: And do it urgently, yes.
GLENN: Now, you have John Kerry in this debate sticking up for the private sector and you say the government should help pay.
GINGRICH: I think there has to be a, if you will, a green conservatism. There has to be a willingness to stand up and say, all right, here’s the right way to solve these as seen by our values system. And now to have a dialogue about what’s the most effective way to solve it. First of all, I think if you have the right level of tax credit, it isn’t just exactly voluntary. My guess is there’s a dollar number at which you would have every utility in the country agree they are all going to build private and sequestering power points. So I think this is a definable alternative.
KERRY: This is a huge transition. You actually want the government to do it. I want the private sector to do it.
GINGRICH: No, no, no. I want the government to pay for it.
KERRY: You want the governor to pay for it with a big tax credit.
GLENN: Help me out. This is a multiyear stance. It’s not a moment in your life.
GINGRICH: Well, first of all, I fought in those (inaudible) and I believe in the environment in general and I think ‑‑
GLENN: So do I.
GINGRICH: Okay. Second, I think that there is evidence on both sides of the climate change argument, and the point I was making was in a situation where, for example, having a larger nuclear program reduces carbon in the atmosphere, it’s a prudent thing to look at nuclear as one of the actions.
GLENN: But you ‑‑
GINGRICH: It’s a prudent thing to develop a green coal plant that takes the carbon and puts it into carbon sequestration to use it to develop oil fields more deeply and can be actually economically done. We do it right now in West Texas.
GLENN: All right. So you believe that you can’t, you can’t really change fundamentally? You would have to vote for the prescription drug bill because you couldn’t move, but you believe that you can get nuclear power plants built in a Gingrich administration?
GINGRICH: Oh, sure. I also think you can reshape Medicare but I think you have to do it in a way that people find it desirable and that people think ‑‑ and that people trust you. I helped reform Medicare in 1996 in a way that saved $200 billion and we had no major opposition to it. And people concluded that we had thought it through and we were doing the right thing and they were comfortable with it.
GLENN: Do you ‑‑ do you still believe in the, you know, the Inconvenient Truth as outlined by global climate change advocates?
GINGRICH: Well, I never believed in Al Gore’s fantasies and, in fact, if you look at the record, the day that Al Gore testified at the Energy and Commerce Committee in favor of cap and trade, I was the next witness and I testified against cap and trade. And in the Senate, I worked through American solutions to help beat the cap and trade bill. Cap and trade was an effort by the left to use the environment as an excuse to get total control over the American economy, centralizing a Washington bureaucracy. In the end it had nothing to do with the environment. It had everything to do with their desire to control our lives.
GLENN: Newt, I have to tell you, I ‑‑ you know, because, you know, it’s obvious it was very clear in advance and I hope my staff made this very clear that this isn’t going to be an easy interview but I think you’ve ‑‑ you know, there was no gaffes here by any stretch of the imagination. I didn’t expect any. But I appreciate the willingness to come on and answer the tough questions, and I wish you the best.
GINGRICH: Well, sir, you and I have always had a great relationship and I admire your courage and I admire the way in which you’ve always stood up and told the truth and I think you’ve had a huge impact as I go around the country with Tea Party folks in maximizing interest in American history and interest in the Founding Fathers and I think much of what you’ve done, you know, you and I don’t have to agree on some things to have a great deal of mutual respect and I think you’ve been a very powerful force for good and I wish you well in your new ventures.
GLENN: Thank you very much. Newt Gingrich, thank you for being on the program. Back in just a second.