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Pawlenty Outlines Romney’s Economic Record, Stance on Labor Rights

June 7, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a onetime rival to Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination who now serves as national co-chair for his campaign, speaks with Judy Woodruff about Romney's economic record and his stance on labor rights.
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TRANSCRIPT

JUDY WOODRUFF: And we turn to the election, with both presidential campaigns releasing fund-raising figures today.

As Mitt Romney was out front clinching the Republican nomination for president last month, he was raking in millions behind the scenes. The Romney presidential campaign and the Republican National Committee reported today that they raised a combined $76.8 million in May, far outpacing the $60 million raised by President Obama and the Democrats last month.

It is the first time in the 2012 campaign that fund-raising for Gov. Romney has surpassed that of the Obama camp. Romney and the RNC had $107 million in the bank. The Obama campaign has not yet disclosed that figure.

With a strengthened campaign arsenal, Romney continued to pound the president on the economy at a military contracting plant in Saint Louis.

MITT ROMNEY (R): Record numbers of Americans are now living in poverty, 46 million people in this country living below the poverty line. This is not just a failure of policy; it is a moral failure.

JUDY WOODRUFF: While the president’s camp was also focused on the economy, his campaign kept its attention on Congress in a TV spot released today in nine battleground states.

NARRATOR: The president’s jobs plan would put teachers, firefighters, police officers, and construction workers back to work right now. And it’s paid for by asking the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more. But Congress refuses to act. Tell Congress we can’t wait.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And in Las Vegas today, Mr. Obama continued to push Congress, while praising his own economic record.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We’re still going through this process of recovery from that crisis. And we’ve taken some tough steps together. And the good news is, our economy is growing again. But we need it to grow faster.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Earlier this week, I sat down with former President Bill Clinton, who defended Mr. Obama’s record on the economy.

To hear the Republican perspective, we went to former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a one-time Romney opponent who now serves as national co-chair for the Romney campaign.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty, thank you for talking with us.

TIM PAWLENTY (R), former Minnesota governor: It’s good to be with you, Judy. Thanks for having me.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me ask you first about the economy.

President Obama, former President Bill Clinton, whom I talked to two days ago, say that despite the weak jobs numbers from last month, that the underpinnings of this economy are strong, and that this is an economy that’s eventually on the way to full recovery.

How do you and Gov. Romney see it?

GOV. TIM PAWLENTY: Well, we can set aside the partisan spin and just look at the numbers, Judy.

You now have 40 months of above 8 percent unemployment. You have 23 million — let me repeat that — 23 million Americans unemployed, underemployed, or have given up looking for work. And those numbers are worse in many other categories.

So to look at that and to say that we’re on the road to recovery or somehow this is a positive situation is political spin of the highest order. President Obama has had his chance. He’s been in office nearly four years. He hasn’t been able to get this economy ignited and recovering in any meaningful way. We have got too many people hurting and he’s failed in that regard.

And so it’s time for a new president. Mitt Romney has that deep business private sector economic experience. He will get economy moving again.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But, specifically, what about the point they make that the United States economy underpinnings are strong, that the U.S. is the world’s largest exporter, that manufacturing is coming back? What about that?

GOV. TIM PAWLENTY: Well, Judy, the numbers just don’t lie.

There’s below 2 percent GDP growth in the last quarter, anemic GDP growth or nearly nonexistent GDP growth in the quarters preceding that. So to look at that and to say that somehow that’s a strong economy with positive momentum just isn’t accurate.

And then if you look at what President Obama has done, layering the burdens of Obamacare and the deterrence to job growth that that’s caused, killing American energy exploration through canceling the Keystone pipeline and deterring further development of natural gas and oil exploration in this country, refusing to do tax reform, trying to add tax increases to the economy — in fact, if you go talk to the business leaders in this country, they will tell you that his initiatives and his directions have dramatically hurt the economy, not helped it.

So, both objectively on the numbers and in terms of the people who are in the front seat of trying to get this economy moving again, all of the indicators suggest that President Obama’s not working. His presidency has failed with respect to the economy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, one other point the White House has made is that if the Congress and Republicans in the Congress had gone along with the president’s jobs plan that included infrastructure spending and spending on state and local governments, that more jobs would have been created by now.

GOV. TIM PAWLENTY: My goodness, Judy, what a — it’s almost laughable.

If you look at the over $800 billion stimulus that was chockful of infrastructure projects and giveaways to sub-units of government, and that didn’t work. Remember when they passed that? They said, if we don’t pass the stimulus bill, unemployment could go as high as 8 percent.

Well, of course, it went to 10 percent or more and is still above 8 percent. So to suggest another round of stimulus like that, more cash for local units of government, infrastructure programs as the way forward, first of all, it was tried in a very large way. It didn’t work. It failed.

And it belies what people are telling us. They are six million businesses in this country. About this 5.9 million of them have 500 employees or fewer. If you go ask them what’s bothering them, why they’re deterred from investing and growing their businesses and providing jobs, they all say, get the government off my back, the taxes are too high, the insurance costs are too heavy, the regulations are too heavy and slow, the energy costs are too high, and down the list.

And President Obama’s approach on all of these issues is more government, more costs, more burden. And it’s exactly the wrong direction.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What would you say is the essence of Gov. Romney’s plan to create millions of private sector jobs in these difficult economic times?

GOV. TIM PAWLENTY: Well, I’m glad you asked. He’s got the most extensive economic proposal of any candidate in the race, including the president, and it has these key features.

First of all, he’s called for dramatic tax reform and restructuring, lowering the corporate tax rate in this country, which is now the highest in the developed world, down to 25 percent, to something to be more competitive, reducing income tax rates for individuals and small businesses across the board by a 20 percent reduction, having a health care reform that’s real health care reform focused on the private markets and controlling costs, starting with repealing Obamacare, but then instituting private sector reforms in that regard, having an American energy policy, so we take advantage of this transformational game-changing opportunity that we have with natural gas and oil within the territorial reach of the United States, reforming our labor laws and regulations in this country, so that we have an opportunity to be more competitive and still fair in that regard.

And the list goes on and on. But those are just some of the examples that stand in contrast to President Obama’s adding more burdens, rather than taking away burdens to the private economy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You mentioned the Romney tax plan. As you know, there are some analysts out there who say that what it would actually do is raise taxes on lower-income people at the same time it cuts taxes for those who are very wealthy, people earning over $200,000 a year.

GOV. TIM PAWLENTY: Well, keep in mind, his proposal is to cut taxes across the board. So there wouldn’t be a tax increase in that arrangement or that proposal.

And then, number two, he also has a series of spending cut proposals. So he wants to reduce spending in the federal government from 24, 25 percent of GDP, as it is currently, down to the historical range of 19 percent or 20 percent. He’s called for specific spending cuts within the federal government, so it’s not just cutting taxes, stimulating growth, but it’s also getting spending under control.

And, by the way, as just one example, you have the president of the United States who refuses to propose any meaningful reform on one of the most pressing fiscal issues of the day, and that is how to change and reform and save our entitlement programs in this country, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Mitt Romney has a specific set of proposals on the table. The president is ducking, hiding, weaving, bobbing on those issues, won’t lead, won’t propose. And he’s hiding on one of the most pressing issues of the day, and that’s unfortunate.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Governor, one other thing. Coming off the recall vote in Wisconsin this week, the victory for Gov. Scott Walker, what is Gov. Romney’s position on efforts across the country to restrict collective bargaining for public employee unions?

GOV. TIM PAWLENTY: Well, he’s taken the position that each state should take their own approach with respect to those issues for state employees.

And, so, while he’s supported Gov. Walker generally in Wisconsin, he has said each state can take its own path. But you have there, Judy, an example of a group that got carried away with what they received and what they asked, namely, the public employee unions in Wisconsin, say, for police or fire.

But the give you one example, they had an arrangement in Wisconsin where the school districts had to buy health insurance from essentially a monopoly health care provider that was run by the teacher unions. And once they opened it up to competition and market forces, school districts saved tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars.

And to have a union have so much power that they use the force of law to demand and require school districts to buy health insurance from a monopoly provider of health insurance that’s the teacher-union-run health insurance plan is one measure of how out of control their power was in Wisconsin.

So I applaud Gov. Walker’s efforts. I know Gov. Romney has as well, generally. Those are the kinds of out-of-control spending systems that have to be brought under control. President Obama won’t do it. Mitt Romney will.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, thank you very much for talking with us.

GOV. TIM PAWLENTY: You’re welcome, Judy. Thank you for having me on the show.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Online, you can watch my earlier interview with former President Clinton.

Also on our site, we keep up with the campaigns with Gwen’s take and in my weekly political blog. To help us give my blog a name, send your suggestions to me. My Twitter handle is @JudyWoodruff.