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Mitch Daniels Offers Rx for Runaway Spending

Mitch Daniels Offers Rx for Runaway Spending

By Adam O'Neal - October 30, 2013

Photo by Michael Bonfigli -- The Christian Science Monitor

Despite having taken an "oath of political celibacy" since becoming president of Purdue University, former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels spoke on a wide range of political issues Wednesday morning at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

Daniels offered a range of solutions to deal with rapidly rising entitlement spending, saying that failure to rein in fixed costs would eventually crowd out funding for other programs like university research or law enforcement.

“It’s a simple fact [that] … the runaway growth of autopilot spending is devouring more and more” of the federal budget, he noted, offering means-testing and adjusted age limits as ways to reduce costs.

The former director of the Office of Management and Budget also described sequester spending cuts as “clumsy,” “a bad idea” and the “wrong way to do business.” However, he said that while the cuts and recent fiscal crises have done damage to the economy, the overwhelming reason for the nation’s poor recovery since the 2008 meltdown was anemic economic growth.

“The growth piece is just so obvious; I don’t know why anybody isn’t on this wagon already.”

The Republican, who considered a run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012, claimed that regulatory and budgetary reforms would help increase growth, but pointed to advances in domestic energy production as a means to significantly do the same.

“The country that can’t build [the Keystone XL Pipeline] is not serious about helping poor people,” he asserted, adding that the U.S. has seen a “huge reduction” in carbon dioxide emissions in recent years.

Daniels also spoke more generally about the direction of the Republican Party. He still believes that his call for a “truce” on social issues in the 2012 election was a good idea, and said the GOP should be more open to increasing revenue in its budgetary considerations.

While cautioning that that he had “nothing additive” to say about the upcoming gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia, he did lavish praise on the Garden State’s governor: “Chris Christie’s apparent success proves that people will reward decisive action and truth telling.”

Daniels also took a swing at President Obama’s signature health care law, asserting that while university students are more focused on school than government, those who look closely at the law won’t like it. After warning that he wasn’t arguing the merits (or demerits) of the Affordable Care Act, Daniels said that “no one can deny” that it “soaks the young to benefit their elders. Premiums for young people will go up way beyond whatever is actuarially fair.”

The two-term former governor, who assumed the role of Purdue University president in January, also offered his opinions on several educational issues. He opposes the idea of a federal ranking system for universities, saying he’d be “very skeptical” of the federal government becoming more involved in higher education. He said his university would be shifting its focus toward the science, technology and math fields to help students get more value from their degrees. And he touted the two years of tuition freezes that Purdue has recently enacted.

Daniels wasn’t willing to address every political issue, however. When asked about a constitutional amendment in Indiana that would ban same-sex marriage, he declined to share his comment.

“I don’t have a view that I’m willing to talk about,” he demurred. 

Adam O'Neal is a political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at aoneal@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @RealClearAdam.

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