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Straight Shooting From Rep. Mark Sanford: We're Not Repealing Obamacare

Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) joined Glenn on radio today with a refreshing and much-needed approach: telling the truth, even if it's bad news. Sanford explained the reason behind the Freedom Caucus endorsing the latest version of Obamacare.

Enjoy the complimentary clip or read the transcript for details.

GLENN: So there was a disturbing news out of the White House yesterday. Yesterday, the Senate came and was briefed at the White House on North Korea. Some of the senators walked out and rolled their eyes. And they were quoted as saying, well, that was interesting. And not in a positive way.

No real word on -- on what happened, what the plan is. And couple that with another story that's coming out from the White House on how the president is briefed. And this is coming from an ally of Donald Trump inside the White House. And I have to tell you, Pat, your blood runs cold when you hear how he's briefed?

PAT: Yeah. Oh, yeah.

GLENN: I mean, this is one of the most disturbing things I've read. We'll get into that.

Also, a guy who is turning out to be somebody that we can really seemingly count on to tell the truth and to stand up to the weasels in Washington is congressman Mark Sanford of South Carolina. I don't believe he's ever been on the show before. We welcome him, beginning right now.

(music)

GLENN: Congressman Mark Sanford from South Carolina. How are you, sir?

MARK: I'm good. Good to hear your voice.

GLENN: It's good to have you on. Let me just get this uncomfortable moment out from me. Out into the open.

I saw you quickly in the hallway a few years back. And at the time, I was still kind of mad at you for the stuff that, you know, we all went through and you went through. But I have to tell you, you have -- you have taken a situation that could have just destroyed anybody, and you have -- you have a real success and redemption story. And it's really nice to have you on.

MARK: Well, you're very, very kind.

Without going into it, I have been on a journey that involves both the grace of man and the grace of God.

GLENN: Yeah.

MARK: And it's a pretty good journey.

GLENN: Well, we're glad to have you on.

I want to talk about a couple of things. Because you're a free market Libertarian-minded congressman, which are getting harder and harder to find, at least it seems out here in the wild as we're looking in. You saw the tax plan. And you've heard more now, I'm sure, you know, on the Trumpcare plan. How are you feeling about things?

MARK: You know, I think from a conservative or Libertarian standpoint, a lot of us are concerned about where things go next.

A number of us have sort of stuck our finger in the dike trying to hold back the health care bill based on a belief from a process standpoint. Not being ready for prime time. There's a value to the back and forth that -- that may not be comfortable or fun. But there's a real value to that.

And, frankly, some of the consequent results that would have come with that bill in its original form. And on the tax bill, I think a number of us are concerned about its ramifications with regard to the deficit. I think we need to -- I mean, this is a huge opportunity, the idea of reforming taxes, but we need to do it within the context of not simultaneously blowing up the debt and the deficit, which is no longer talked about in Washington, DC.

GLENN: I think this is so frightening. We don't even have a budget. And in the period we haven't had a budget, we've increased the debt by $10 trillion.

You're right. Nobody is talking about it. And I'm sorry to say that the -- the whole economic principle of cutting taxes only really works when you put it in the context of Calvin Coolidge. You must cut spending first. That's the only thing that's going to give all of us confidence that we can relax and spend a little bit and create jobs.

MARK: You're absolutely right. Because what's really interesting, as we both know, a deficit is simply a delayed tax. You're just stacking the bill. But the idea of saying, we'll cut taxes on one hand. But we'll run bigger deficits on the other. The two wash each other out from an economic standpoint. And so the only-fashioned notion of saying, "Wait a minute. Let's begin with the beginning." It was actually Milton Friedman who once said, "The ultimate measure of government is what it spends." Now, it's not the only measure, but it's a pretty important measure because it's from there that we raise taxes to pay for -- deficits may come as a result between the two.

But what it spends is something that's not looked at in Washington, but I think it's still looked at very closely by folks across this country.

GLENN: Well, I will tell you this, as a small business man, we were talking about this yesterday. And everybody on the team said, "Well, you know, that will increase job creation, et cetera, et cetera." And as the guy who actually pays the bills and runs the business, I said, "Not as much, quite honestly, as you might think because I'm still going to hold an awful lot back from for a rainy day because I know the center won't hold. This is a game." The only ones that are really going to spend it are the ones that I think will take those taxes and pour it into the stock market or whatever they can pour it into, that will have short-term paper guns to make more money, but not to necessarily create more jobs, because they know at some point the music will stop.

MARK: Uh-huh.

We're in the fourth longest economic recovery in the history of our nation right now. And if you believe in, I guess what the statisticians call regression to the mean or what everyday folks call the law of averages, to your point, it won't go on forever. I think, again, it could be very helpful in terms of competitiveness of this country.

GLENN: Yeah.

MARK: I think it's an incredible opportunity. These opportunities don't roll around often.

And this is the fourth time in the history of our republic that Republicans have held the House, Senate, and White House. But I think we need to do it within the context of making sure we're watching on the spending front. And our budgets become more and more unrealistic as each year goes by. And they get harder and harder to -- to, in essence, bring to ballot over a 10-year time frame.

And it's important that, again, we do talk at some level about this old-fashioned notion of accumulating debt and deficit.

It is amazing right now -- it's almost like the three monkeys about hear no evil, I speak no evil, I think no evil, with regard to debt and deficit. It is something that is just not focused on in DC right now, but I think has real implications in terms of value of the dollar, in terms of future inflation, and ultimately our way of life.

GLENN: So let me ask you a couple of things on, the Freedom Caucus stood against -- and you stood against Obamacare. I'm sorry. Obamacare and Trumpcare.

MARK: Yeah.

GLENN: When Trumpcare was being pushed, you were actually threatened by Team Trump. They said that, if you didn't sign up, they would challenge you in the primary of 2018. And from what I understand, you said, "Go ahead." Now they're saying that the Freedom Caucus is starting to come on board. Is there something that we can actually look at, that is possibly decent?

MARK: Yeah. It's represented in this MacArthur Amendment whether or not that will ultimately get us up and over the top, I'm not sure. But I think that the Freedom Caucus -- well, I know the Freedom Caucus has come on board based on the belief of, one, let's tell the truth to the American public. The truth is we're not repealing the Affordable Care Act. Even though there had been a lot of fanfare when we had a Democratic president and it couldn't go into effect, you know, 60 votes to that effect in the House of Representatives, the bill that made its way all the way to the president, a lot of chest-beating saying, "We've got to repeal. We've got to repeal. We've got to repeal." When push comes to shove, now that we have the chance, they were not willing -- the conference was not willing to bring that bill forward.

And I think that the allies that I deal with in the Freedom Caucus pushed awfully hard on that, saying, wait. This is something that is clear consensus in the House, the Senate. We've done it multiple times. But for whatever reason, that isn't where we were. This other bill moved forward. It wasn't, as I say, ready for prime time. It had a number of different deficiencies that I think would have hurt people who rely on the individual marketplace for their insurance.

And in essence, this MacArthur Amendment was an experiment in federalism. Getting it was called title one. And title one is really the central nervous system of what drives up cost in the individual marketplace and what, frankly, drives the Affordable Care Act. And our fight in --

GLENN: What is title one?

MARK: Title one basically deals with insurance being insurance. So if I said to you, we're going to -- you know, I'm going to give you great insurance. You know, great insurance. You have a 200,000-dollar house. But you've got to buy a million and a half dollar policy. You would say, that ain't great insurance for me. It might be great insurance, but it's not great insurance for me. Great insurance is the insurance that fits for me and for my family and those that I love.

And so what title one gets at is, all the different provisions that prevented insurance from being insurance. Insurance is not being able to buy your homeowner's policy when the house is on fire. You have to buy your homeowner's policy ahead of time to be covered.

And what the Affordable Care Act did is it said, you could wait until your house was on fire to buy a homeowner's policy. So title one was, again, letting -- preventing insurance from being insurance. And it was our belief that if you were ever going to, again, affect the cost of insurance for that small business person out there struggling to make it and struggling with fewer choices and rising premiums, you had to let insurance be insurance.

And so that's what the fight has been about. And what this MacArthur Amendment did was it said, okay. We'll split the baby. And we'll do a federalism experiment. States that want to let insurance be insurance, they can do that. States that don't, won't. If Vermont wants to go to a single-payer system, they may. If South Carolina wants to go to a more market-based system, they may. And that I think is the most you'll be able to get out of the conference. And at that point, the Freedom Caucus folded the cards and said, I guess, as of yesterday to be exact, we'll sign off on that particular measure. And that's where things are right now.

GLENN: Mark -- we're talking to Congressman Mark Sanford from South Carolina who is showing some real spine and some backbone and standing up for some real true conservative principles. I'd love to talk to you about the future of the party and where you think this is going and the -- and where Trump is going. But one of the pressing issues that I think we need to talk about is North Korea.

What is the temperature in Washington for North Korea? We, for the life of us, cannot come up with a way that this ends without at least a million dead.

MARK: Yeah. You can draw some really bad doomsday scenarios. There was actually a closed door Intel briefing yesterday afternoon on the Hill for members of Congress on this particular topic. And without going into that, I would just say that -- I -- I think we want to be careful about rattling this particular saber --

GLENN: No, I know.

MARK: At this point, North Korea does not have the capacity to bring harm to domestic US. And I think we need to put things within that particular framework as we look at and access threat.

GLENN: Do you believe this administration is looking at it like that?

MARK: I -- I think that they are most worried about what might happen there. And I think that they're thinking about preemptive -- preemptive steps to prevent something from happening.

GLENN: That doesn't sound good.

What is -- with everything, Mark, that is going on, the economy -- I have a woman on who was inside the Dallas fed. She wrote a great book. I don't know if you've seen it, called Fed Up. She was in Wall Street. And then she was one of the chief researchers for the head of the Dallas fed here in -- and saw, you know, 2008 coming a mile away. And she was laughed at until it happened. And then she was promoted.

And what she sees coming now is an absolute disaster financially. With that -- with the world on the edge, with -- with Russia and with a press that is no longer trusted, a government that is no longer trusted, what -- what keeps you up at night? And what keeps you optimistic?

MARK: What keeps me up at night is exactly -- I will make it a point to find this book Fed Up. It's fascinating.

But, you know, I would just presuppose that her philosophical alignment is to the right.

GLENN: Yes.

MARK: But whether you're right or left on this issue -- I mean, it was interesting that Erskine Bowles, who was, you know, Clinton's former chief of staff at the time of the Bowles/Simpson commission, remarked that, you know, look, we're looking at the most predictable financial crisis in the history of man.

If you think about Admiral Mike Mullen, former chairman and joint of chief, his observation was -- when asked, what's the biggest threat to the United States? Not the Chinese. Excuse me -- not the Chinese, not the Taliban. But his answer was the American debt.

And so whether it's somebody who is a firsthand participant in the way that the fed works, with the right position, somebody from a military position, somebody from the left, the thing that we're not talking about right now is indeed the build-up of the debt. There's an interesting book if you have insomnia called At This Time, It's Different.

GLENN: Oh, yeah.

MARK: And it was written by a professor from Harvard and a professor from Maryland, writer, and wrote often. Some of their methodologies have been questioned. But their largest premise is accurate. And they look at the last 800 years of financial history, as it relates to governments, and what they found is that in every instance, civilization has got to a tipping point where -- and they had to decide, do we go back to what made us competitive and perhaps a world power in the first place, or do we stay on this happy, but ultimately unsustainable cycle of upward government spending and consumption? And nine times out of ten, they chose the easy path. They said, well, this time it's different. Of course, it never was. Gravity always works. And it was the seeds of that civilization's undoing.

And so the thing that keeps me up at night is the way in which there's not a focus on the implications of the debt and the deficit for every working American.

GLENN: So I will tell you, I am working on a book based on history, on that very thing.

MARK: Hmm.

GLENN: And I will tell you that -- I found it very hard to stay optimistic once you know history. But I have found what keeps me -- helps me back to sleep at night, what have you found that puts you back to sleep at night?

MARK: Engagement. You know, I think that people aren't dumb. At times in politics, we can fuse -- and I think even the president -- I say this most respectfully confuses -- they think it's about us. It's not about us. We're simply receptacles for people's ideas and ideals and the advancement of those ideas. And I would say that this election back in November was less about Donald Trump than it was about people's absolute mind-numbing frustration with the way that Washington was working for them.

GLENN: Yes.

MARK: And so if we just simply separate ourselves just a touch -- it's not about me. It's about these ideas that people are ginned up on.

GLENN: Yeah.

MARK: What I will say is that we all ought -- right now, you walk into a restaurant, many times it used to be the sports channel that was up.

GLENN: Yeah.

MARK: Nowadays it's a news channel because people are focused on politics. And I think to that degree, engagement is exciting.

GLENN: Yeah. Congressman Mark Sanford from South Carolina. Thank you very much. And, by the way, thank you for holding out for Nikki Haley. If we wouldn't have had you, we wouldn't have had her. She's doing a great job in the UN. But thank you for everything. We'll talk again soon.

MARK: Looking forward to it.

GLENN: Congressman Mark Sanford.

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