[This article was originally published as the cover story in the October 31st, 2011 issue of HUMAN EVENTS newspaper.]
Political experts all agreed over the summer that Newt Gingrich’s candidacy was done. But Gingrich never got the message. In a volatile election cycle, Gingrich has battled his way back into contention, rising to third place in several national and state polls on the force of his ideas and breadth of knowledge of how Washington does and does not work. After nationally televised debates and local town halls, Gingrich has made voters want to give him a second look, especially after he speaks emphatically about American Exceptionalism and about bureaucrats and unelected judges who threaten to undermine it. His fundraising, endorsements and momentum have surged, and he has used his high name identification, his multiple multimedia platforms, and new technologies to get his message and ideas out.
Gingrich is back in contention, but now faces a critical point in the campaign, two months before the Iowa Caucus: Can he get voters to, as he often likes to say, be with him for the next eight years instead of merely being for him so he can emerge as chief rival to Mitt Romney? Part of Gingrich’s appeal is that voters feel comfortable that he would be more than capable of intellectually handling the demands of the presidency. In a wide-ranging interview with HUMAN EVENTS, Gingrich spoke about the issues and ideas of the day and about his candidacy.
HUMAN EVENTS: If you were President today, what three things would you do immediately to help turn the unemployment picture around?
Within the first few weeks of my administration, I will work with Congress to repeal the job-killing ObamaCare, Dodd-Frank and Sarbanes-Oxley acts, eliminate the death and capital gains taxes, lower the corporate rate to 12.5%, and put forward a budget that dramatically scales back spending and returns power to the states. In terms of items that we can do on day one: 1) I will immediately sign off on the Keystone XL pipeline, which will create jobs from North Dakota to Texas and bring almost a million barrels of oil a day, 2) I will immediately direct my Secretary of the Interior to reauthorize all permits in the Gulf of Mexico and get thousands of Americans back to work, and 3) I will direct the NLRB to immediately halt all investigations so that it ends its assault on job-creators.
HUMAN EVENTS: How does your tax reform plan differ from Rick Perry’s, Herman Cain’s and Mitt Romney’s?
My Jobs and Prosperity plan is designed to maximize capital investment and job creation. That’s why it’s the best tax plan. It will eliminate the capital gains tax, the tax on dividends and the death tax. It will reduce the corporate income tax down to a globally competitive 12.5%, and allow 100% expensing for all new equipment. In addition, we will give Americans a choice: They can file their taxes under the existing system, or eliminate hours of paperwork by filing at a 15% optional flat tax rate with limited deductions for home ownership and charitable giving. All of these bold changes are designed to maximize job creation. …
My plan will create a boom of new American job creation and entrepreneurship by dramatically reducing the corporate tax rate to 12.5%, one of the lowest in the developed world. The Romney and Perry plans also commendably lower the corporate income tax rate, but only to a level that is average in the developed world but still higher that many of our competitors, including, for example, our neighbor Canada, whose corporate tax rate is 16.5%.
The Romney plan eliminates the capital gains tax only on some people, while we will end this job-killing tax for every single American, regardless of income.
The Perry plan sets its optional flat tax rate at 20%. Mine is 15%, which I believe will create a far more dramatic boom of jobs
And unlike the Herman Cain plan that creates a new federal tax and revenue stream in the form of a national sales tax, I oppose introducing any new form of taxation on the American people.
HUMAN EVENTS: Healthcare costs for the non-elderly and non-poor, meaning employers, workers and the self-employed, are also surging. How would you deal with this growing problem?
As I carry the banner in fighting for the repeal of ObamaCare, I will advocate for specific replacement health policies that will create a free market framework for healthcare, provide affordable, portable, and reliable healthcare coverage, and establish a healthcare safety net focused on those in need. This system will assure healthcare for all with no individual mandate or employer mandate of any kind.
This alternative to ObamaCare begins with patient power and localism.
Instead of an individual mandate penalty for not buying government-approved health insurance, the federal tax code should be reformed to provide every American the choice of a generous tax credit or the ability to deduct the value of their health insurance up to a certain amount. The federal tax code should provide the same tax relief for the individual buying his own insurance as the employer providing health insurance to its employees.
This will lower costs for individuals and families, and will make it easier for people to obtain portable insurance they can with them from job to job. If you don’t like your employer’s insurance, you get the same tax relief if you buy the insurance of your choice. Employers should also be allowed to buy individually owned insurance for their employees, instead of non-portable, group insurance.
This approach provides a foundation of equal fairness for all, rather than the favoritism and rank discrimination of the ObamaCare bureaucracies and the current system.
We should also extend Health Savings Accounts throughout the healthcare system. Everyone on Medicaid should be free to choose an HSA for part of their coverage. All workers should be free to use their health insurance tax credit or deduction to choose an HSA in place of their employer-provided health insurance if they desire.
HUMAN EVENTS: Your presidential candidacy took a hit when you criticized Paul Ryan’s premium support plan or voucher proposal to contain Medicare costs as “right-wing social engineering.” Do you still believe that? Do you think the idea is wrong conceptually?
I used language when discussing the Ryan approach to Medicare that I quickly admitted was too extreme, and I apologized to Paul shortly thereafter. Paul is one of the biggest innovators in Washington, D.C., and I deeply admire the seriousness and boldness of his historic Path to Prosperity budget.
I agree that we absolutely must give our seniors more choices than the current one-size-fits-all Medicare model, and we both believe that creating the opportunity for seniors to buy private insurance is the key to both improving care and lowering costs. The one difference we have is that under my plan seniors will have the choice to either enter the traditional system, or opt-in to a system where you receive premium support to buy a private-sector plan.
HUMAN EVENTS: Did you ever previously support an individual mandate?
I oppose Governor Romney’s health insurance mandate. I oppose President Obama’s health insurance mandate.
With respect to Obama’s health insurance mandate, it is an unprecedented and unconstitutional expansion of federal power. If the federal government can coerce individuals—by threat of fines—to buy health insurance, there is no stopping the federal government from forcing Americans to buy any good or service. It is a serious and unconstitutional infringement of individual liberty.
With respect to Romney’s mandate, we have observed that it doesn’t achieve its goal of providing low-cost catastrophic coverage for the uninsured. The intractable problem we have learned from experience with health insurance mandates is this: Once you have a mandate, the government has to specify exactly what coverage must be included in insurance for it to qualify. This introduces political considerations into determining these minimum standards, guaranteeing that nothing desired by the special interests will be left out.
And once the government mandates such expensive insurance, the government becomes responsible for its costs. It has to adopt expensive subsidies to help people pay for the expensive plans that it is requiring. The resulting cost to the taxpayer and strain on the budget leads the government to try and control healthcare costs by limiting healthcare services. The inevitable result is rationing by a nameless, faceless, unaccountable board of government bureaucrats.
This has been the sad, unworkable path now being followed Gov. Deval Patrick in Massachusetts and it is now the same sad unworkable path unfolding in Washington. That’s why I firmly oppose health insurance mandates.
We must either limit government or we will have government limit us.
HUMAN EVENTS: The climate changes you shot with Nancy Pelosi, the constant mentioning of your past marital issues, or your Paul Ryan/MTP incident. Which one of these is the greatest hurdle primary voters have to jump over when weighing to vote for you as the anti-Romney candidate?
No candidate is perfect and I am no exception. I try to focus on the American people and their future. That is what Reagan did and it is an important lesson for all of us.
HUMAN EVENTS: What do you think of the Arab Spring? And are you concerned at the way it is developing in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya?
With the fall of Mubarak and the death of Gaddafi, we are nearing the end of the anti-dictator phase of the Arab Spring. Now comes the hard and dangerous task of ensuring that Egypt, Libya and the other Arab states that have new regimes become a modern, free societies, and that they do not evolve into religious anti-Western dictatorship, even more dangerous to Americans than the old dictators. The election of Islamists in Tunisia and the news today that the new regime in Libya may impose Sharia law are both very disturbing developments.
HUMAN EVENTS: What policy would you pursue to contain Iran and prevent it from developing a nuclear weapon?
Iran has been at war with us since 1979. We will never be safe as long as the current Iranian dictatorship remains in power. We need a President that recognizes this reality and has a long-term strategy to replace the current Iranian regime. On day one my administration will implement a long-term strategic approach to Iran in the spirit of the strategic effort that Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II undertook to topple the Soviet empire without firing a shot.
HUMAN EVENTS: What do you say to your critics who say you are in this only to sell books and videos?
I think it is a good thing to offer voters as many different ways to learn about your beliefs and positions as possible. The more information provided to the people, the more transparent the process of communicating positions on what you would do as President, the better off the country will be.
HUMAN EVENTS: You’re engaging in a Lincoln-Douglas debate with Herman Cain [on November 5]—how would you like the format of the debates to be specifically changed—what can be done to make the debates better?
Lincoln and Douglas did not have a moderator, just a time keeper. I think having more one-on-one debates focused on specific topics would be a good start. Candidates could rotate until each candidate has debated another.