DeMint: 'There Is So Much Waste and Fraud'

2012 candidate on economy, GOP field


NEIL CAVUTO, HOST OF “YOUR WORLD”: In the middle of a debt crisis, the Senate is fighting to get one federal agency $200 million more. Now, it’s called the Economic Development Administration. You never heard of it? Well, you’re paying for it.

Among some of the goodies for which it is responsible, $2 million to Little Rock, Arkansas, to convert a railroad bridge into a pedestrian bridge, $1.5 million to promote tourism in the Northern Mariana Islands, and nearly 8,000 miles from Washington, D.C., I might point out, $2 million for a wine and culinary center in Washington State, complete with a wine tasting room and gift shop.

Republican South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint exposing this story, even though I am told he likes wine himself.


CAVUTO: Senator, good to have you.

What do you make of this? I mean, now the very agency responsible for this will get $200 million more?

SEN. JIM DEMINT, R-S.C.: Neil, our country is drowning in debt. The president’s own deficit commission said the Economic Development Administration should be eliminated. And now they’re talking about increasing the size of it by $200 million.

Anyone who votes for this doesn’t understand the seriousness of our problem. And it’s just amazing that some of those things you listed -- and -- and the list goes on and on. This is one of 180 economic development programs within the administration.

CAVUTO: Right.

DEMINT: It’s wasting money. Four out of 10 of the programs don’t ever get finished. So it’s – it’s wasteful. We can’t afford it, and we certainly should not be debating it. We should be talking about...

CAVUTO: Well, does it do any good, though, Senator? I mean, you know, every time we do these stories, I can almost tell you the mail I get from the left: You’re focusing on the negative. This is just pittance concerned -- compared to the greater good. When it comes to stimulus, we’re talking a small percentage of the -- the hundreds of billions that went out.

And I always come back say, well, whether that’s so or not doesn’t you justify the waste. And the larger these aggregate numbers get, whether its $1 trillion in stimulus, you’re building into it $100 million worth of just nonsense.

So, you know, that’s my fear.

DEMINT: Well, you are.

Well, Neil, they always said with earmarks, you could find several good ones in with bridges to nowhere. But with $14 trillion in debt, and growing, we’ve got to find those things that we can cut. And if we can’t look at a program like this that audits have shown four out of 10 of the grants that are given, the programs aren’t even completed, there’s so much waste and fraud in these programs, if we can’t eliminate this, we shouldn’t be here.

We shouldn’t be debating adding to programs right now. We should be looking at those that have to be cut. And, certainly, this is one that could be cut without cutting jobs around -- around the country.

CAVUTO: Well, what does it do? This -- this Economic Development Administration, beside some of these boondoggles, I mean, does it do anything of constructive purpose, of use, of value?

DEMINT: Well, I’m sure you could find something that -- that was considered good.


DEMINT: But it seems to be these grants go to politically connected groups. They -- they like to have politicians on boards in local communities that request these things.

I mean, it’s just this insider baseball of giving away taxpayer money to buy political favors. If we can’t eliminate this, we certainly can’t deal with our debt. This is -- it’s -- it’s outrageous at a time that we’re talking about raising this debt ceiling. The whole thing, it just makes you want to pull out your hair out.

So I appreciate you giving me a few minutes to rant about it on your show.

CAVUTO: Well, no, I mean, it’s a big issue to us. I mean, I’m the money guy here, and it’s a lot of money.

But let me ask you, switching gears, I guess the House, Senator, is looking into having a Boeing hearing next week sometime -- this Friday -- I apologize -- and it comes at a time, for those who aren’t aware, Boeing expanded in your state, hired about 1,000 folks, didn’t lay off anybody in its base of Washington State, just expanded operations in your state. Unions got involved. The NLRB said you could not do it.

And now folks are getting nervous who got those jobs that they might not have those jobs if -- if unions win. What is this hearing going to prove? I know you’re in the Senate side here, but what you do hope to see?

DEMINT: Well, hopefully, this hearing will just expose the political nonsense here, because these really are Obama appointees who are trying to intimidate a company that moved to a non-union state.

They waited until they completely a nearly $1 billion building, hired over 1,000 people. And now they’re coming in and say, oh, you can’t -- can’t open up. Boeing will eventually win the case, but by forcing Boeing to spend millions of dollars, Neil, it’s going to throw a chill factor over any company in this country that wants to expand outside of a union state. Ultimately, it’s just going to send more jobs overseas.

CAVUTO: Could I switch gears? This came into us fairly late. I don’t know if there’s anything to it. But there are a number of local South Carolinians, sir, who are apparently pushing Chris Christie of New Jersey to run for president. They would not be the first. I know there have been groups in Iowa, New Hampshire who’ve been advocating the same.

Do you know of this group? Do you know anything about this building interest in having the New Jersey run for the big job?

DEMINT: No, I know that Christie is shown to have courage, Neil. And that’s the – there’s a big shortage of that here in Washington. Everyone’s playing political games.

And they have seen governors like Chris Christie and Scott Walker and John Kasich and others who are doing what has to be done to save their states and balance their budgets. And they know we need that in Washington. So it doesn’t surprise me that there’s a groundswell of support for people like that who demonstrated they get it, they’ve got the courage to stand up.

And there are very few people in Washington who seem to understand that we’ve got to balance our budget. That is going to be my campaign over the next couple of months is we’ve got to balance our federal budget. We need to pass an amendment to the Constitution, so we will have to do what Chris Christie has to do, and that’s make the hard decisions.

CAVUTO: Senator, I always enjoy chatting with you. Thank you very much.

DEMINT: Thanks, Neil.

CAVUTO: Senator DeMint.

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