Interview with Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum

Interview with Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum

By The Situation Room - December 21, 2011

BLITZER: Getting down to the wire right now for Republican candidates before the first presidential votes are cast in Iowa. Some fear a risky stalemate in Congress could hurt the Republicans' chances though of reclaiming the White House.

Let's discuss what's going on with Republican presidential candidate, the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum. He's joining us right now.

Senator, thanks very much for coming in. And let me get right to the issue of the moment here in Washington. Are you with House Republicans or Senate Republicans when it comes to extending the payroll tax cut for middle class American families?

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, my feeling is that there either is a Social Security trust fund that is used to pay Social Security benefits or there isn't. As someone who's been on the butt end of many attacks that Republicans don't care about Social Security, that Republicans are the ones who are trying to gut Social Security, Republicans are the ones that want to make sure that -- are not going to be there to stand up and make sure that it's properly funded, and then we see Democrats out there trying to cut the payroll tax -- in other words, cut the funding for Social Security and say that if you don't do that, then you're not for middle income Americans, well, I thought Social Security was for middle income Americans.

This is the kind of gamesmanship that gets played here. You're either for a Social Security system that is separate, that is funded through payroll taxes, and benefits are paid out of it, or Social Security and the taxes for that is just like everything else in the federal government. It's fungible, it can be used for tax cuts, it can be used for other purposes, it can be used for Social Security, it can be used for something else.

You can't play this game that President Obama is playing that Social Security is this sacrosanct program, and at the same time, use funds from Social Security to pay for something else. In this case, tax cuts.

BLITZER: Well, let me just interrupt and ask the question then. I take it you're not with John Boehner or Mitch McConnell. You wouldn't vote to extend the payroll tax cut for another year.

SANTORUM: No. No, I wouldn't.

Look, I believe in the Social Security system. We've got to fix the Social Security system so it's there and it's solvent, and it's there for future generations.

And we have -- so many years I have heard, well, we're talking the Social Security tax dollars and we're spending on other things. Here we are, sinking Social Security tax dollars and spending it on other things. In this case, a tax cut for the American consumer.

Now, that's a good thing to spend it on, but it either is a Social Security trust fund, it either is money to pay for Social Security benefits, and it's levied for that purposes, or it's not. And in this case, you see the president advocating and pushing to undermine the stability of the Social Security system, and I'm against that.

BLITZER: It's not just the president. It's most of the Republicans in the Senate. And the Republicans in the House say basically, under difference circumstances for a year, they want to see 160 million Americans continue to have this tax cut. They don't want a tax hike on 160 million Americans.

But am I hearing you correctly, Senator? You're saying you do want to increase taxes January 1st for 160 million Americans?

SANTORUM: I want to keep the tax -- the taxes leveled on Social Security right now -- the taxes leveled do not pay the benefits. There is more money being paid out in Social Security benefits than there is coming in to Social Security trust fund dollars.

The whole point of the Social Security system is to keep benefits and taxes and an equilibrium so we do not have a system that is short of money. That's what the objective and as always been the objective of the Social Security system. That is not what's going on right now. I am for tax cuts. I'd be very happy to come back and talk to the president about how we're going to provide tax relief for millions of Americans. But I'm not -- I've never been for a Social Security tax cut, because it undermines our ability to pay Social Security benefits.

BLITZER: All right. So I just wanted to make sure I fully understood. I think you're in the same place where Michele Bachmann is right now.


BLITZER: She says she won't vote to extend this payroll tax cut --


BLITZER: -- under any circumstances, and she offers similar reasoning as you do as well. So let's move on to some of the other stuff.

You caused a bit of a stir by saying this -- and I'll put it up on the screen, because I want you to clarify what you mean by this. This was in "The Des Moines Register."

"I'm for income inequality. I think some people should make more than other people because some people work harder and have better ideas and take more risks, and they should be rewarded for it. I have no problem with income inequality."

Some have said that a guy who is working in a steel mill is working really hard, but is not making as much as someone who is sitting in office, perhaps not working as hard as the person in the steel mill. So go ahead, explain what you meant by that.

SANTORUM: Well, Wolf, are you for income equality, that everybody makes the same?

BLITZER: No, I'm not for that, but I want you to explain what you mean by working harder.

SANTORUM: Well, but I think it's the same thing. I mean, the fact of the matter is that I believe that there should be income inequality in America, that some people -- I mean, we have a meritocracy. Some people make more than other people, and our economy rewards certain things more than it rewards other things. That's exactly how the economy works.

This is the difference between those who believe in the quality of result, as opposed to equality of opportunity. There are people who bring more to the table.

You have -- for example, let's take Major League Baseball. You've got folks making $30 million a year. You've got other people making $500,000 a year. Why? Because the guy making $30 million a year, he works just as hard as the guy making $500,000 a year, but he gets paid more. Why? Because he has more value to the team. And you have people in a company that add more value because they work -- two sales people can work just as hard, but one does a better job. One has better ideas. One is more accomplished. And should he get paid more? Yes, because he's more successful.

They work equally as hard, but the person who succeeds, the person who does a better job, should be paid more. That's all I'm saying. That's just common sense. That's what at least I hope most Americans believe in.

BLITZER: Yes, I think it's good explanation. I'm glad you made it. There was a little confusion when you suggested it, but you did a good job explaining it.


BLITZER: Let's talk about Ron Paul for a moment.

SANTORUM: All right.

BLITZER: This new poll in Iowa has him leading right now 28 percent. Gingrich, 25. Romney 18. Perry, 11. Bachmann, 7. You're down at 5.

What is Ron Paul bringing to this race that's exciting a lot of the potential caucus-goers in Iowa?

SANTORUM: A lot of money. He's been running -- I've been here in Iowa for two weeks, and there isn't a commercial break that passes that Ron Paul doesn't have an ad. And, of course, he has a loyal following. He's got a very good grassroots organization, and really nobody's talking about it.

All the negative ads from Governor Perry and from Mitt Romney have been focused on Newt Gingrich. I think the point is that this ad -- this poll was taken as a lot of these others polls were taken before the last debate, and I think both Michele Bachmann and I did a pretty good job of showing how dangerous Ron Paul would be as a nominee for our party, where he would be in a position where he'd be to the left.

In fact, far to the left of President Obama on the issue of national security, and would, in a sense, require America to go into a fetal position by gutting our defense, pulling our commitments around the world, retrenching to a point that would have America look like we did in 1789, when the Constitution was enacted, as opposed to America today.

That's not the -- that's not a particularly popular opinion in America among conservatives and among those who would likely vote for the Republican nominee. It would be a great thing if he were running as a liberal Democrat, but he's not. He's running as a Republican.

I think more people who see the clear contrast of someone like myself, who has been out there, who understands the threats that face this country, someone who has a clear idea of how we can make America safer -- and it isn't by gutting our Defense Department and making us a third-rate power in the world.

BLITZER: Let me just -- we have a limited amount of time. I want you to clarify. You got a huge endorsement yesterday from a major Evangelical leader in Iowa, Bob Vander Plaats of the Family Leader. It's a personal endorsement.

Now, there are all these reports coming out that at one point, he wanted you to drop out of the race so Michele Bachmann or Rick Perry could get that vote. Another suggestion that he was asking you to raise a million dollars for him and his organization, or whatever.

Clarify what's going on from your perspective, because there's a lot of confusion, Senator, as you well know.

SANTORUM: Yes. All I can tell you is that there are a lot of conservatives, not just him, but a lot of folks who are very concerned that between Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry and myself, that we're going to split the conservative vote and someone like a Gingrich or a Romney or now even a Paul could end up winning the Iowa caucuses, and we could be left with someone who's not particularly conservative as the standard bearer of the party.

And there were a lot of conversations. Several people called me and said, would you consider maybe getting out and supporting someone else? And we're going to call the others and do the same.

My response to that is let the people of Iowa vote. This race isn't going to be over after one caucus. This is a long process.

Let the people decide who the best person to carry the conservative banner is. I believe that they are going to select me, and I feel very confident about that. But you know what? If it's somebody else, that's fine.

We have to trust the voters instead of some deal being made between the candidates. I rejected that, and thankfully, so did all the other candidates reject that. It's just people -- good intention as it was -- and I think it was good intention because they're concerned about their issues being front and center in this debate, but it was just not a proper idea.

BLITZER: Well, ,thanks very much for clarifying that, Senator.

Always good to have you here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Good luck out in Iowa.

SANTORUM: Thank you very much. Merry Christmas to everybody, everybody listening. Have a great week.

BLITZER: And Merry Christmas and a happy new year to you and your family as well. Thanks very much, Senator, for that. 

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