OTR Interviews

DeMint: Obama Is a 'Venture Socialist,' Doesn't Understand Free Market Economics

Sen. Jim DeMint believes president doesn't understand free market enterprise, explains why he can't support jobs plan


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," September 14, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: President Obama is hitting the trail, trying to sell his new jobs plan. But back at the ranch here in Washington, his critics are rolling their eyes, saying his jobs plan is just more of the same.

Here's Senator Jim DeMint "On the Record."


VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, nice to see you, sir.

SEN. JIM DEMINT, R-S.C.: Greta, it's good to be here.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, I've seen some quotes from you in, like, The Hill, about the president's Jobs Act. And I guess that what I take away from it is you think it's dead on arrival.

DEMINT: I would love to be able to work with the president on something. But he's practicing what we call "venture socialism." I mean, he basically has taken an approach where it's the government that needs to stimulate jobs. And I know as an employer, and you're been an employer, you don't hire someone because the payroll tax is a little lower or you get a $4,000 tax credit.

And you certainly don't hire anyone if they're going to tax you more, which the president says, everybody making over $200,000's got to pay more of their fair share. They already pay 50 percent of all federal taxes now, and 40 percent of that income is small business. So what bothers me, Greta, is I've been visiting businesses now for the last month, and they're telling me the same thing, that the president's policies and the lack of certainty with the regulatory environment is killing them.

They have money to invest. They believe in the American economy. But the president is killing jobs. So it's hard for me to listen to him have a jobs plan when it's really just a political program to try to defer the blame of our economy onto the Republicans.

VAN SUSTEREN: Let me ask you about the payroll taxes, the reduction of it. Is that -- would that include your contribution, an employee's contribution to Social Security?

DEMINT: Yes, that's what it is, in effect.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, OK, the reason I ask you that is because if you lower the contributions to Social Security, that now we get caught on the other end with Social Security with the problem with running out of money there. So we have less money going into Social Security so solve this current -- attempt to solve this current jobs (INAUDIBLE) Meanwhile, we got a big problem as the -- to pay Social Security to recipients.

DEMINT: Yes. Well, they're using all these IOUs and they're saying they're back filling it, but they're not because we have to borrow money to back fill it. And as the president said during the debt limit debate, if you think there's any money in this trust fund for Social Security, you're mistaken because he said if he couldn't borrow any more money, he couldn't send out the checks. So we shouldn't be taking payroll tax money.

VAN SUSTEREN: But that turns off the spigot for us!


VAN SUSTEREN: I mean to Social Security. So that creates potentially...



VAN SUSTEREN: ... another problem. All right, now, another way the president wants to pay for it is to reduce the charitable -- the deduction for charitable contributions. There are a lot of non-profits that are very worried that if he does that, suddenly, there's not going to be money for many of the good things that are done around America. That's going to discourage people.

DEMINT: And the government will have to do more to help those people that are not being helped by private charities. It doesn't make any sense. One of the most efficient part of our tax code is encouraging people to give to private organizations that have a hands-on approach to helping people.

What we do at the government level -- we spent trillions on poverty, Greta, and it was announced today poverty's the highest level ever recorded in America. That's shameful that we've spent trillions and actually created more poverty. So if you want to help people, let's keep money in the private sector.

VAN SUSTEREN: What do the Democrats say to you, senators, as you walk down the hall and talk -- I mean, I assume you have some conversations with Democrats.


VAN SUSTEREN: What do they say about the president's Jobs Act sort of off the record that they aren't saying publicly?

DEMINT: I don't think they believe it's going to create jobs. I mean, it's a populist thing to put a little more money in people's pockets with the payroll tax so the president can say...

VAN SUSTEREN: But we're taking out of Social Security!

DEMINT: Yes -- I have cut taxes for 90 percent of Americans, you know? So it's a populist political thing. I don't think many Democrats think it's going to create jobs. But there are a number of Democrats, Greta -- and this is the scariest thing of all -- who really believe that government spending is the major part of our economy and that if we cut back on spending that it's going to hurt the economy.

Frankly, if we don't stop borrowing money, it's going to collapse our economy. So there's just a polar opposite vision of what makes America work. And so it's hard to compromise with someone who wants to go in that direction when you know American exceptionalism is in that direction.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I guess the thing that -- if the stimulus bill of February of '09 had been a roaring success, I think there'd be probably more support on both...


VAN SUSTEREN: ... at least Republicans (INAUDIBLE). Does anyone sort of -- sort of looking back at the stimulus bill of 2009, seeing if anything worked, and if so, you know, let's continue to do that. If nothing worked, we need to change direction.

DEMINT: Well, the president made a lot of promises. We spent nearly a trillion dollars, really over a trillion, if you add interest. It was a government spending program, effectively, a spend and borrowing program. It didn't work. Unemployment's higher than it was then.

VAN SUSTEREN: Anything good out of the stimulus bill?

DEMINT: I don't think so because of the residual debt that we created. And the jobs were temporary. We propped up a number of states who kept teachers longer than they could afford and kept, you know, some government workers longer than they could afford. But then we lost those jobs this year.

And it's the same with the president's jobs plan now. It's temporary. We need to create some long-term fixes, fix our tax code, open up our energy supplies, put a moratorium on regulation. If that's all we did, it wouldn't cost any taxpayer money. It wouldn't increase our debt. But if people knew that's what was going to be in place, jobs would start happening tomorrow.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is there any dialogue you or others of your thinking have with the president? I mean, I get the sense that, you know, the president comes up here, talks to everybody, and then he goes back. And the Republicans have their position here and they talk to us, and we put that on the air. But I don't get the sense that there's really sort of a collaboration or an effort to sort of hash out these differences.

DEMINT: Unfortunately, we can't collaborate with him. It's not that we're not willing to work with him and compromise in a lot of ways. But the president has just sold out to big labor, to radical environmentalists. And this isn't partisan comment. All you have to do is look at every bill he's tried to pass. They're trying to expand unionization. What they're doing to Boeing in South Carolina is just one of many examples of an administration who puts union bosses before workers, before jobs.

He's literally killing jobs all across the country. And so I think Americans know that. You see that in the polls. So I think he could convince people a year ago that whatever he did was right. Now I think whatever he says is questioned.

VAN SUSTEREN: Have you given up on him personally?

DEMINT: I don't think the president understands free market economics. And I know -- I don't mean to be insulting to the president, but everything he does is central planning right out of the textbooks of what socialism is. And that's a hard thing to say about an American president, but there's nothing he's done that actually encourages a free enterprise, really, market capitalism.

He is really a venture socialist. He talks about government investment, everything he does. And so again, I don't like to be disrespectful to our president, but this president is moving America in the wrong direction. He's made things much, much worse. And we need to minimize the damage.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, one last quick question. The debate the other night -- any one of those candidates particularly, you know, one who's (INAUDIBLE) you really like now or a little bit better?

DEMINT: Well, it was good to see more feistiness and...

VAN SUSTEREN: I know, but anyone -- anyone in particular?

DEMINT: No, I'm...

VAN SUSTEREN: No one surprised you?

DEMINT: No, I'm going to stay neutral. I, you know, saw some good things and some bad things...

VAN SUSTEREN: What did you see, anything -- what did you like good?

DEMINT: Well, I think the candidates are talking about the right things.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, so you're taking a pass.

DEMINT: I'm taking a pass.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Senator, thank you. Nice to see you, sir.

DEMINT: Thank you, Greta.