This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," April 2, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Right now, Governor Mitt Romney. and tomorrow is a big day for him here in Wisconsin. We spoke with Governor Romney a short time ago.
VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, nice to see you, especially in my home state.
MITT ROMNEY, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks, Greta. Good to be here.
VAN SUSTEREN: It's the first time, actually, I've done an interview among oil drums.
ROMNEY: Yes. This is a Moore Oil Company, which is a distributor of oil products. So happy to be here. And hopefully, we can get the price of this stuff down a bit.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, that's a good place to start, then, because one of the questions you got asked was about oil during your town hall. And the president's super PAC is running an ad against you, saying that you pledged to protect the billions in profits of oil companies.
So I'm curious. In light of the fact that gas prices are so high, how do you explain or how -- how does the government justify tax breaks when the big oil companies have billions and billions of dollars in profits? I mean, that's -- that's taken from us.
ROMNEY: Well, I think it's kind of amusing and actually troubling for the President of the United States to be looking for someone to blame. There are a lot of qualities that you look for in a president. Blaming of the people is not one of them.
He's the President of the United States. He's the one responsible for energy policies in our country today. And by virtue of his policies, we've seen something which he predicted during his campaign. He said with his energy policies, energy prices would skyrocket.
And frankly, what he has done is made it harder and harder for the small operators, the drillers to get more oil, more gas, more coal, to develop these American sources of energy. He's responsible in part for what we're seeing happen around the world, which is people convinced that prices of oil are going to go up.
VAN SUSTEREN: But it's not necessarily the -- I'm not talking about the sort of the middle guy, I'm talking about the big guys, the really big oil companies. I was looking at ... today -- the profit, something like $20 billion or $30 billion of profit. And that's a lot of profit because they get tax breaks.
And I'm wondering because every time they get a tax break, that means the rest of us somehow pay for it indirectly. And the president doesn't want them to get those big tax breaks. Do you support those -- do you support those tax breaks?
ROMNEY: I'm not sure precisely what big tax breaks we're talking about, but I do know that the right course for American production generally, not only of oil but of all things -- agriculture, machinery -- everything we make in this country is subject to the highest tax in the world. Corporate taxes in America are the highest in the world.
And then there are various breaks and deductions and exemptions that certain industries have been able to win through lobbying over the years. What I'd like to do is to get the tax rate down so we're competitive with places like Europe, for Pete's sake -- get tax rates down and eliminate a lot of the deductions and the breaks and the special deals that a lot of definitely industries get.
And I'll look at them one by one. There are just reams of them. Let's simplify the tax code for our employers of all kinds, particularly for small employers, and get our tax rate competitive with other nation nations so we'll keep jobs here, rather than having them go elsewhere.
VAN SUSTEREN: A lot of discussion about jobs in this campaign. And I'm not going to ask you a specific question about jobs. I think I know where you stand on jobs. But you know, if you create jobs, someone, order to get the job, has to be able to at least fill out an application, be able to read and write.
The state of our education in this country is so atrocious. There are a lot of people who can't even fill out an application. And there's been very little discussion in this campaign so far on education. Is there anything you'd do about education to help those people?
ROMNEY: Well, you know, as a governor, I had responsibility for education in my state. And I followed some other terrific governors, and frankly, some legislators, as well, that cared about getting our schools to be more competitive globally and to do the job they're supposed to be doing.
And we were able to drive our state to be number one of all 50 states in the nation. And we did that by having more school choice, more accountability in schools. With tested our kids every year to see who was succeeding and failing in the classroom and the particular school.
If a school was failing consistently, the state was able to take over the school. And also eliminate provisions that were in the union contract, if they were deemed to be interfering with the education of a child.
We implemented English immersion in our schools so our kids were not taught bilingual or foreign languages first, they were taught English. So we were able to do things that made our schools more effective, and I think you're going to have to find across this country a recognition that teachers' unions have to take a back seat to the interests of our kids, and the parents and the localities.
I want schools to have the power to make these decisions at a local level, but I think the federal government can play a role in standing up to the federal teachers unions.
VAN SUSTEREN: Would you agree that the education system has hit the skids, in general? Obviously, not the private schools and not -- and some of the public schools in some of the wealthier areas of the country, but a lot of our -- a lot of our schools have hit the skids, and as a result, the kids have hit the skids.
ROMNEY: Yes, I think it's a mixed picture, and various cities and states in the country have done better than others. Florida, for instance, under Governor Jeb Bush was able to put in a series of school choice measures, measures to test the quality of education for the children. And that had a big impact and drove their schools to be far better than they had been prior to these policies being put in place.
In my state, getting driven to be number one came as a result of the school choice and testing and higher rewards for the students that were doing particularly well on their tests in terms of getting scholarships for school after -- for college afterwards. We know what works in education.
The funny thing is, there's not a mystery about how to improve schools. We know that what drives the success of the student and the school is the quality of teaching.
VAN SUSTEREN: What happened to our school system?
ROMNEY: Well, we basically gave our school systems over to the teachers' unions. The teachers' unions are by far the largest contributor to political campaigns. They give almost exclusively to Democrats. Democrats, as a result, feel beholden to do what the teachers' unions wants -- want.
They get -- they can in some cases elect a mayor who then sits across from them at the bargaining table and agrees to various provisions that, frankly, protect the teachers -- nothing wrong with that -- but don't put kids and the interests of the kids first.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you know, when I talk to teachers, I mean, the thing is, they all really want to teach. I mean, the system, for whatever reason, seems really broken. Every teacher that I meet, whether union or nonunion, really wants to teach. And we've got to do something about making our young kids competitive so they can even fill out applications. But it really has gotten almost to, I think, in some ways, almost catastrophic in some areas.
ROMNEY: Oh, in some, there's no question about it. Look at California! It's just -- I mean, it used to have some of the best schools in the country, now ranked almost at the very bottom.
And what we've got to do, in my view, is make it more attractive for young people to go into teaching. We don't have the right starting salaries. I'd like to see higher starting salaries for teachers. And some of the benefits and tenure that we pile on at the end, and retiree benefits, these things are designed to care for the big players in the union movement but not take care of those that are coming into teaching.
We need to hire from the very best and brightest from our colleges and universities. And we need them to have the expertise in the subjects they're going to be teaching that makes it a subject of interest for the kids they're going to be teaching.
VAN SUSTEREN: Now, the unemployment rate is high. And there's a lot of discussion, as I noted, about jobs. But one of the things that doesn't really get discussed right now is poverty. And poverty -- there's a moral issue with poverty, but also, poverty is very expensive, whether it's the food stamps -- and food stamps have gone up about 14 million since President Obama has become president. It went up during President Bush's presidency, as well. It keeps growing and growing and growing.
But it really does send a message to Americans that we're really not winning the -- a war on poverty. It is getting worse. That costs all of us.
ROMNEY: Well, there's no question but that this president has failed when it comes to caring for the American people. As a result of the president's policies, in part, we're seeing a higher record of poverty, record level of poverty. Thirty percent of single moms are living in poverty in this country. Record number of people, 47 million people, on food stamps, 2.3 million homes foreclosed upon.
The president's policies have failed. His economic policy has been a bust. And the right course for the American people is to have an economy that's growing and putting people back to work.