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Nuns call on Romney to spend a day with the poor

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," August 13, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: "Personal Story" segment tonight. Last week, a national Catholic social justice lobby called "Network" issued a press release calling on Mitt Romney to spend a day with nuns working among the poor.

Joining us now from Washington is Sister Simone Campbell, an attorney and Executive Director of Network. So your organization believes the federal budget cuts are going to hurt the poor.

But if the economy collapses, sister, under a 16-trillion-dollar debt load, the poor and everybody else are going to be decimated. Have you taken that into account.

SISTER SIMONE CAMPBELL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NETWORK: Yes, we've recreated with our interfaith partners here a faithful budget. And what a faithful budget calls for is reasonable revenue to pay for these responsible programs that we saw.

One of the things that many people don't realize is that Catholic sisters run many programs in our country for low income folks. We take some of the federal money, we leverage it with donations and private contributions and create really amazing responsible programs that we saw from our --

O'REILLY: And I don't think there's anybody arguing that. Catholic charities, your organization do amazing work among the poor. But let's just stick with the government here for a minute.

CAMPBELL: Sure.

O'REILLY: Because you've called on Governor Romney to come down and that implies that you believe he doesn't know or doesn't care about the plight of the poor people. That's the implication of it.

CAMPBELL: Well, I think, he may care. But the ad that he ran last week, described them as being lazy, as not being in touch, as not contributing to the society --

O'REILLY: That might be oversimplifying it but let's just stay --

CAMPBELL: Well, that's how I heard it.

O'REILLY: I'm not here -- it's not my job to defend Governor Romney.

CAMPBELL: OK.

O'REILLY: OK, now, in the early 1970's, I worked in Appalachia. You know Appalachia, right.

CAMPBELL: Yes, I do.

O'REILLY: One of the most -- and remains one of the most devastated, poorest areas in the country. At that time, unemployment was 11 percent in the country. I'm sorry, the poverty rate was 11 percent, 11 percent.

Now, the poverty rate is 15 percent. It's gone up four percent since 1973.

CAMPBELL: But what we have to look at --

O'REILLY: Wait, wait, sister.

CAMPBELL: Oh, I'm sorry.

O'REILLY: The poverty rate has gone up four percent despite $26 trillion in government spending on means entitlement to combat that. It's gone up 4 percent. So --

CAMPBELL: But if you look at wages, wages have stayed totally flat during that time. And that's more of the issue.

O'REILLY: I understand that.

CAMPBELL: That is more the issue because folks making minimum wage are below the poverty level. Whereas in the 70's, folks making minimum wage were above the poverty level.

O'REILLY: So, do you want a guaranteed wage. Is that what you want in this country. Say, every family gets a certain amount of money. And if they don't earn it the government gives it to them. Is that what you want.

CAMPBELL: No. The issue is these folks like I met on our recent bus trip. In Milwaukee, I met Billy, his wife and two kids. His hours got reduced. He's now living below the poverty line. But he continues to work at his part-time job to keep a roof over the head.

O'REILLY: So, what's the solution in your mind to that problem.

CAMPBELL: I believe that the food stamp program that we have is a supplement. We've agreed to supplement which are both to the individual. But there are also a business supplement because this allows his employer to pay lower wages.

O'REILLY: So, do you want more food stamps. If 35 percent of the population is now on some kind of welfare here, that's up from 6 percent. So, we are becoming what you, I guess, want. They are getting this. It's a trillion dollars a year going into these programs.

CAMPBELL: You know, Bill, I would really prefer living wages. But our -- it seems like our country --

O'REILLY: Do you want guaranteed wage. Is that what you want.

CAMPBELL: Well, which one do you want --

O'REILLY: I'm asking you. I'm the interviewer here, sister.

CAMPBELL: Oh, OK. Sorry.

O'REILLY: What's your vision. You're a lobbying group. What are you lobbying for. Do you want a guaranteed wage. Every American family of four gets $30,000. Is that what you want.

CAMPBELL: We're pragmatic. Earned income tax credit is a great program that, actually, Congressman Ryan said he favors.

O'REILLY: But tell me what you want, sister. Tell me what you want.

CAMPBELL: What I want is money in the pockets of hard working people that are living below the poverty level. And that's what they want.

O'REILLY: OK. So, if they can't earn it, you want to give it to them to a certain extent.

CAMPBELL: My point is people are earning it. The other challenge we face is that for every job opening right now, there are four applicants. So, I believe, one, we have to deal with the debt by raising taxes. We can't afford the Bush era tax cuts. We just can't afford it.

O'REILLY: Wait, wait, wait. If you raise taxes, what if that makes the economy worse. What if unemployment goes up --

CAMPBELL: It won't.

O'REILLY: It has in the past. It's constricted investment.

CAMPBELL: Well, but look what's happened. If you really believe in free market, then what we want to do is shift money to where there's pent up demand.

There's pent up demand at the bottom, not at the top. And the Ryan budget shifts money to the top, not to the bottom. So, the Ryan budget won't do anything to stimulate the economy. Let's give people who need it --

O'REILLY: Do you think President Obama has done well for the poor in his almost four years in office. Do you think he's done well for the poor.

CAMPBELL: He's done better than the Ryan budget would do but I'm not totally satisfied.

O'REILLY: Well then, how has he done better if the poverty level is at the high -- you know, it's 15 percent. How has he done well.

CAMPBELL: But the issue is the economy, Bill. The issue is the economy. And that's what we need to respond to --

O'REILLY: And he hasn't solved it. The President hasn't solved it. From all the entitlement spending, all the top -- all the government spending has made it worse.

CAMPBELL: No, actually, it hasn't.

O'REILLY: It's 15 percent, sister. The stats are the stats.

CAMPBELL: Well, the stats are the stats. But let's look at what's accomplished. Folks are working. Folks are engaged. Folks are taking care of their kids. And if it's because of flat wages, then it's about time we address the issue of wages. That's what Jesus would say, "Pay to the labor what his worth is." Let's do it.

O'REILLY: All right sister. We appreciate your good work and a very spirited debate.

CAMPBELL: Thank you.

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