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Move Over, Joe The Plumber: Meet Randy The Welder

Get used to seeing Randy Rathie on your television, folks.

The participant at today's town hall meeting with President Obama in Montana was right out of central casting as far as the kind of tough question the White House likely hoped he'd get. He said he was a member of the NRA, watched cable news and had a tough question about how the president would pay for his health care plan. No doubt a host of network producers have already approached him trying to book him. In fact, he's already been on MSNBC.

Here's the transcript of Randy's question. You can read Obama's answer after the jump.

RANDY: "I'm a proud NRA member. I believe in our Constitution, and it's a very important thing. I also get my news from the cable networks, because I don't like the spin that comes from them other places."

OBAMA: "You gotta be careful about them cable networks. But that's okay."

RANDY: "Max Baucus, our senator, has been locked up in a dark room for months now trying to come up with some money to pay for these programs. And we keep getting the bull. That's all we get, is bull. you can't tell us how we're going to pay for this. You're saving here, you're saving over there. You're going to take a little money here, you're going to take a little money there. But you have no money. The only way you're going to get that money is to raise our taxes. You said you wouldn't. Max Baucus says he doesn't want to put a bill out that will. But that's the only way you can do that."

OBAMA: "Look, you are absolutely right that i can't cover another 46 million people for free. You're right. I can't do that. So we're going to have to find some resources. If people who don't have health insurance are going to get some help, then we're going to have to find money from somewhere. Now, what I've identified and most of the committees have identified and agreed to, including Max Baucus' committee, is that overall this bill will cost -- let's say it costs $800-900 billion. That's a lot of money. That's a lot of money. That's over 10 years, though, alright? So that's about $80-90 billion a year.

"About two-thirds of it -- two thirds -- can be obtained by doing some of the things I already mentioned, like eliminating subsidies to insurance companies. So you're right, that's real money. I just think I would rather be giving that money to the young lady here who doesn't have health insurance, and giving her some help, then giving it to the insurance companies who are making record profits. Now, you may disagree. I just think it's a good way to spend our money.

"But you point's well taken, because even after we spend, even after we eliminate some of the waste, and we've got those savings from within the health care system, that's only two-thirds. That still means we've got to come up with one third. And that's about $30 billion a year that we've got to come up with. Now, keep in mind the numbers change partly because there are five different bills right now. This is all going to get merged in September. But let's assume it costs about $30 billion a year over 10 years. We do have to come up with that money.

"When I was campaigning, I made a promise that I would not raise your taxes if you made $250,000 a year or less. That's what I said. But I said that for people like myself who make more than that, there's nothing more than me paying a little bit more in order to help people who are paying a little bit less. That was my commitment. So what I've said is, let's, for example -- this is the solution that I originally proposed. Some members of Congress disagree, but we're still working it through. What I said is we could lower the itemized deductions that I can take on my income tax returns every year so that instead of me getting 36 percent, 35 percent deductions, I'll just get 28 percent, like people who make less money than me.

"If I'm writing a check to my local church, I don't know why Uncle Sam should be giving me a bigger tax break than the person who makes less money than me, because that donation means just as much. If we did just that alone, just that change alone for people making more than $250,000, that alone would pay for the health care we're talking about.

"So my point is, number one -- two-thirds of the money we can obtain just from eliminating waste and inefficiencies. And the Congressional Budget Office has agreed with that -- this is not something I'm making up. Republicans don't dispute it. And then the other third we would have to find additional revenue. But it wouldn't come on the backs of the middle class.

"Now, let me just make one final point. I know that there are some people who say, 'I don't care how much money somebody makes. They shouldn't have to pay higher taxes.' And I respect that opinion. I respect that view. But the truth of the matter is that we've got to get over this notion that somehow we can have something for nothing. Because that's part of how we got into the deficits and the debt that we're in in the first place.

"When the previous administration passed the prescription drug bill -- that was something that a lot of seniors needed, right -- They needed prescription drug help. The price tag on that was hundreds of billions of dollars. You know how we paid for it? We didn't. It just got added on to the deficit and the debt. So it amuses me sometimes when I hear some of the opponents of health care reform on the other side of the aisle or on these cable shows yelling about how we can't afford this when Max and I are actually proposing to pay for it. And they passed something that they didn't pay for at all and left for future generations to have to pay in terms of debt. That doesn't make sense to me.

"Can I say this though? Randy, I appreciate your question, the respectful way you asked it. And by the way, I believe in the Constitution, too."