OTR Interviews

Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton Looks for a Touchdown on Education Reform and the Job Crisis

Former NFL star tackles education reform, job crisis


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

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: He was known as a scrambler, the quarterback that simply no one could catch. NFL Hall of Famer, former Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants quarterback Fran Tarkenton is here. Tonight he's not talking football. It's how to create jobs and fix our educational system. Fran Tarkenton joins us. Good evening, sir.

FRAN TARKENTON, NFL HALL OF FAMER: Greta, how about those Packers? Let's break up the Packers. I think we ought to level out the playing field here. They are too rich.

VAN SUSTEREN: I was just telling someone right before it started that I remember when I was a kid you were like the devil because we couldn't catch you and then the Johnny Unitas. You were the devils of my childhood, picking on us Packers. Nice to see you.

TARKENTON: Thank you.

VAN SUSTEREN: I understand tonight you have some ideas on how to get jobs. What can we do about jobs in this country?

TARKENTON: Well, I just think that we need to look at the real problems in this country. And I wrote something about the teachers union, you know. And the great thing about the NFL and about sports, it's a union. But there's not guaranteed employment. If you produce and play great, you get rewarded. If you don't, you don't.

And in our teacher system they are captive. We want them to be better but there's no incentive to do better. There's no incentive to perform. So therefore, our great teachers, we are losing them. And our unions, our public and private unions are out of control, and we don't get the performance there because there's no incentive for the good, industrious people to do better if they work hard.

They don't get trophies for trying. They get trophies for performing. And that's what America was based on. If we can start doing that and get rid of the entitlements and change the tax system and bring some sanity back and get back to a real democracy and real capitalism, then we can solve problems here and we can provide jobs.

And that's what we need to do. There's no silver bullet solutions here. There there's no get quick rich schemes. These are systemic things we have to address, and nobody is, Democrats or Republicans.

VAN SUSTEREN: How do we get to that point where there is such enormous incentive to do better? And I read in your piece where you talked about, you actually compared to sort of being on the gridiron and if you can manage to stay three or four years on a football team doesn't mean you should stay for 30 years. There comes a time when you need to go.

TARKENTON: We need to rediscover meritocracy. And that's a Jeffersonian principle where we reward production. We have incentives. That's why your grandparents and my grandparents came over here to this country to have hope. We can do it whether we are entitled or not. We have to get rid of entitlements. We have to get rid of all the tax breaks and we need to reform the tax system, everybody knows that. And we need to do it and we need to do it now.

Now 51 percent of American families do not pay taxes. General Electric, Verizon, IBM, have paid no taxes the last two years. That is flat wrong. Everybody knows we need to do it but nobody is doing anything. We are going along the path of enabling people to be nonproductive and be captive by the system. And the system is not working. We need to get back to the basic fundamentals.

And that's also the system that makes football work. It makes good teams work. You have to get back to fundamentals. When you get away from your fundamentals you lose and you get beat. We've gotten away from the fundamentals of what America is all about.

VAN SUSTEREN: We only have a minute left. Do you see any of that in Washington, any sort of inclination by Washington to sort of get back to the fundamentals, as you say them?

TARKENTON: I do not. I see nothing but blame the other guy. Let's blame -- let's still blame George Bush and let's blame the Republicans, Republicans blame the Democrats. Bad news does not get better with age. The signs are there, and the signs are we are really in trouble here in the direction we are going, and we need leadership, Democrats and Republicans side by side to go out and fix this and get back to the fundamentals.

I see nothing happening there. Now I see of both parties, everybody is running for reelection in 2012. Big deal. How about now? How about solving these problems now, because if we go this way for much longer, we are in deep trouble.

VAN SUSTEREN: And do some people may say we are already in deep trouble.

TARKENTON: Yes, we already are.

VAN SUSTEREN: Anyway, Fran, thank you. Let me confess that I do confess that eats a challenge. I did love watching you many of the wonderful Sunday games, even though, like I said, the Packers could never catch you. But Fran, nice to see you.

TARKENTON: Thank you very much, Greta. Good to be with you.