Romney: Americans Want a Nation of Opportunity

Exclusive: 2012 hopeful on current economic policies, his plan for job growth


This is a rush transcript from "Your World," December 6, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST OF "YOUR WORLD": Now to the president of the United States trying to echo a former president, Teddy Roosevelt, in Kansas making his case for a one-year payroll tax cut and what he calls economic fairness. But is a 10-year tax hike to pay for it really fair?

That’s something that GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney is wondering about. He joins me now from Paradise Valley, Arizona, where he just picked up the endorsement the former Vice President of the United States Dan Quayle.

Governor, very good to have you. Congratulations on that endorsement.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you so much, Neil. Good to be with you today.

CAVUTO: What do you make of the president echoing Teddy Roosevelt that he would want to see something like this; he would want to see a payroll tax cut extension? And it looks like that is hanging on the vine right now.

ROMNEY: Well, with this president comparing himself with Teddy Roosevelt, I am reminded that Teddy Roosevelt formed the Bull Moose Party. One of those words applies here when the president is talking about what he would do to this economy.

Look, the right course for America is not to raise taxes on people. This -- this payroll tax cut extension, it’s probably not good to raise taxes on folks that would have a tax increase if this extension were eliminated, but at the same time, recognize this extension isn’t going to get our economy going. We have to have a fundamental restructuring of America’s competitiveness.

And this president has failed to do that. He is spending too much money. He has not taken the actions that will allow people who invest in this country, who start new businesses, who expand businesses to make the decision to grow in America. And it’s his fault.

CAVUTO: Well, would you be for extending that payroll tax cut?

ROMNEY: I would extend it because this is not the right time to raise taxes, but I would not pay for it by raising taxes on other people. That’s the wrong way to go.

What I would do to pay for it is to finally put in place a reform of our long-term entitlement programs to make sure that we can make them sustainable.

CAVUTO: The reason why I ask you is because a few weeks ago, sir, you had said this whole idea of a payroll tax cut extension was like little Band-Aids that offered only a temporary fix.

ROMNEY: Yes. That’s right. That’s right.

CAVUTO: But do you argue that it still is better than nothing? Is that it, or what?

ROMNEY: Well, I just don’t want to raise taxes on anybody right now. I am not in favor of raising taxes.

But I recognize extending the payroll tax cut is going to mean a little more money in the pockets of some middle-class folks that are having a hard time right now. That is a good idea. But it’s not going to reignite this economy. It’s not going to put millions of Americans back to work, 25 million, 26 million Americans that are out of work or have stopped looking for work, back into the work force.

So, that is going to take a more fundamental reform that this president, remarkably, has not been willing to put forward. I mean, we have a president three years into his first term who has not laid out an economic plan to put Americans to work and to rekindle our economy and to make us globally competitive.

I find it extraordinary that this president has no vision for our economy. And, sure, extending the payroll tax that is fine. It’s a nice thing to do for people that need a little extra money, but it is not fixing this economy.

CAVUTO: Do you think it should be paid for? Because Republicans were not so eager to pay for extending the Bush tax rates for the well-to-do, for example, but, on this, they are.

ROMNEY: Well, I think we have to look and make sure that we put America on a track to cap how much government spends.

Right now, government is spending about 25 percent of the entire economy. That’s too much. We have got to get that down to at least 20 percent. I have put out a plan to do that. I cut about $500 billion annually from federal spending.

The president has got to come up with something of his own vision that cuts the extraordinary expense of this government and stops the unnecessary borrowing. That is step one. And if we do it as part of this payroll tax extension, great. Let’s begin to see the president talk about how he is going to cut spending and, by the way, talk also about what he is going to do to reform entitlements.

He himself has indicated that Social Security and Medicare need to be reformed long-term, and yet has offered no ideas as to what he would do to make those economically sustainable long-term.

CAVUTO: Governor, on the Web site, there is a clock, a countdown clock to when the payroll tax cut expires, but no such clock on the debt or anything like that. What do you think of that?

ROMNEY: Yes, that’s very interesting.

I have fashioned -- or my team has -- a big clock that shows what is happening to the national debt. And the number is just extraordinary. As you know, this president is on track to accumulate as much national debt as all the prior presidents combined.

It is an extraordinary and disheartening record. And I think the American people recognize he is changing the nature of America. He is building such massive debt that he is creating a nation of entitlements, a nation of debt, a nation with a government heavy hand. And the American people want to go back to a nation that is a nation of opportunity, where hard work and education and risk-taking can build a better future for them and for their kids.

That -- that is the fundamental choice that is going to be faced by the American people. Do we want a government-based entitlement society, or do we want an opportunity- and freedom-based society? And I represent the latter.

CAVUTO: Governor, I guess Donald Trump is still waiting for an answer from you, whether you are going to participate in his debate. Of course, this is a week ahead of the big Fox debate. I will be there. I’m sure -- Bret Baier, and Megyn Kelly, Chris Wallace, we’re all excited about it.

But as to this Donald Trump-hosted debate, yes or no on that?

ROMNEY: No, I am not participating in that. We have two debates in December that I have agreed to participate in. The rest of the month is going to be spent campaigning, doing the political work you have got to do to get the support of people in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida.

So, we will be hitting the trail. I spoke with Donald Trump earlier today, indicated that we just can’t make this debate. We are going to focus on the other two we have got and on some campaigning.

CAVUTO: And what did he say?

ROMNEY: He understood my perspective and wished me well.

CAVUTO: That was it? It wasn’t more colorful than that?


ROMNEY: No, it was not colorful. We had a nice chat. And I just told him that, at this late date, and with the other debates we have already scheduled, and with the number of requests -- by the way, I think there are several other -- five or 10 other debate requests we have had for December and January. We just can’t do them all.

CAVUTO: Right.

ROMNEY: So we try and do a couple a month.

CAVUTO: The fact of the matter is you are doing a little bit more than you were prior, Governor.

And I noticed that you are going to be with my friend and colleague Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday." He is very excited about that a week from Sunday. And I am wondering whether you are doing that because you are worried, and these polls are not looking as good for you. Newt Gingrich is soaring. You are not. Are you worried?

ROMNEY: That is what happens towards the end of a campaign.

As you know, Neil, you are going to see us going up on the air with ads. We just began those. We are doing that because the election is getting close. And so it is time for our closing argument. And I’m making the closing argument to the American people.

And if they accept my view and they want to see America remain an opportunity society, a merit-based society, where freedom reigns, then they will vote for me. If they want to take a different course, why, that is of course their right.

But this is a time for me making my case. You are going to see me all over the country, particularly in early primary states. I will be on TV. I will be on Fox a lot, because you guys matter when it comes to Republican primary voters. I want them to hear my message and have an opportunity to make their choice.

CAVUTO: Governor, many of your closest backers and those who admire you the most are worried that you are not being, I guess, in-your-face enough, that you’re not being proactive, that you are being very deferential, CEO-ish, as one put it, not appreciating the magnitude of the threat you face from Newt Gingrich, that he is not like one of these Whac- A-Mole, up-again/down-again opponents, that he is for real.

What do you say to your supporters who want to see you more passionate?

ROMNEY: just wait and see. That is what I tell them.

We are going to make sure that the differences in our experience and our perspective and our views on issues are well-aired, and people can make a choice. You can be sure I will not be quiet. I’m going to make sure that my message is heard loud and clear.

Speaker Gingrich is a friend. I respect him, but we have very different life experiences. And if the American people believe that what we need is someone who spent the last 40 years or so in Washington, D.C., working as an insider, why, he is the right guy.

If they instead want someone from outside Washington to come into that place and fix it, and get America on a track once again to move away from a government-dominated society to a people-dominated society, where people and freedom get to choose their course, then I’m the right person, because I spent my life in the real economy, working in real businesses. I have worked in business. I have worked in government. I have also worked in the -- if you will, the volunteer sector in the Olympics. That kind of experience I think is what it takes. America needs a leader right now, not so much someone who is an insider, but a leader who knows how to get America strong again.

CAVUTO: To that end and the competition you might be facing if this is a two-man race with you and Newt Gingrich, a number of Newt Gingrich’s former colleagues have gone on record as saying of him -- Pete King of New York comes to mind -- he is dismissive, he has got a superiority complex, Senator Richard Burr, he is a guy of 1,000 ideas and the attention span of a 1-year-old, he’s volatile, highly temperamental.

Are these fair issues to raise, and will you raise them in the future yourself?

ROMNEY: Well, I’m not going to predict precisely what our campaign will do, but I can tell you this, which is I think Americans recognize that we need a leader.

And I know that my role as a leader in the four enterprises I have run will be examined very carefully. And that will be the case also with Speaker Gingrich. His role as a leader as the speaker of the House will be examined very carefully. People will measure our capacity to lead.

And I don’t know what that is going to show with regards to him. I know what it will show with regards for me. And, hopefully, the American people will be satisfied, will be convinced that despite the fact that I’m far from perfect, that I have had the experiences of leadership that are very much in line with what the nation needs.

CAVUTO: Governor, while I still have you, the Obama administration announced today an effort to peg U.S. foreign aid to promote the rights of gays and lesbians abroad, and that it would -- there would be a quid pro quo to U.S. aid pegged to how those countries that get the aid treat gays.

What do you think of that?

ROMNEY: Well, we ought to really rethink our entire foreign aid program.

Clearly, there’s a portion of foreign aid that is related to national defense and providing funds to nations to do what our military would otherwise have to do at greater expense. There is also a portion of foreign aid which is to try and, if you will, encourage countries to move toward democracy.

And, in some cases, however, you see us giving money to people who don’t support us, who vote against us at the U.N., who oppose our interests. We even give $27 million a year to China, for Pete’s sake. There’s a lot of foreign aid...

CAVUTO: But you wouldn’t hold by that definition -- I’m sorry, sir, but you wouldn’t hold that definition of a litmus test to how they treat, let’s say, gays, in a particular country?

ROMNEY: I’m not aware of that litmus test. That’s not one I’m familiar with.

I will be looking at foreign aid based upon whether it meets our national security interests, and, number two, whether these nations are friends of ours and are willing to be friendly with us in ways when it counts most.

CAVUTO: Governor, finally, you blasted the president for his planned 17-day holiday trip. You said his idea of hands-on is getting a better grip on a golf club.

If you were to become president, what is the longest vacation you would take?


ROMNEY: Well, a lot shorter than that, I can tell you that.

My view is, if I become president of the United States, I will work my day and night off to make sure that I do my very best to get America strong again.

Look, we face real challenges. I hope people understand we are on the course to become Italy, to become Greece. We are on that path right now. We are on the path to have a nation that is dominated by government and debt and despair. That is where we are headed.

And I will do everything in my power to get America strong again and to make America the best place in the world to be middle-class. That’s why I’m running. Look, politics is not my career. My career was in the private sector. My passion is my family and my kids and my grandkids.

And I want to get America strong for them and for the people of America. That’s why I’m in this. And if I am lucky enough to be president, I’m not going to be playing, what, 80 or 90 rounds of golf. I’m not going to be going off to Hawaii or any other spot for, what, almost three weeks.

I’m going to focus on helping the American people get good jobs and rising incomes.

CAVUTO: Governor Romney, thank you very much. Very good seeing you again.

ROMNEY: Thanks, Neil. Good to be with you.

CAVUTO: Mitt Romney, one of the co-front-runners, I guess, running for the president of the United States within the Republican Party.

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