Interviews

Gov. Kasich on effort to take down national debt

Ohio governor launching national tour to push balanced budget

 

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," December 10, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: All right, that $1.1 trillion spending bill, well, this governor says, try something new and just pay the bills, rather than create new bills.

Republican Ohio Governor John Kasich telling me just moments ago it is time to put Washington on notice.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GOV. JOHN KASICH, R-OHIO: What I saw, it's like $1.1 trillion. And I was thinking, I don't even know how you put those numbers together, right?

CAVUTO: Incredible.

KASICH: But, you know, look, I have felt from when I was very young, and even stronger now than before, that you have got to put something into place to force them to make choices and balance the budget.

This is the most important thing in the country, because if you don't have a financial foundation that's solid, everything else becomes so secondary.

So, look, I was a member of the state Senate. I was 18 years in the Congress. And now I'm governor. And I can tell you, Neil, that if we didn't have a balanced budget requirement in Ohio, we'd still be in the hole. So you have to force the legislators to make choices. And without a requirement, they're mostly unlikely to do it.

CAVUTO: Yes, I think 46 governors have that requirement. And you do as well. But -- so you have to deliver the goods.

Many say that you can't apply that to Washington, because very different standards, much bigger ball game. What do you say to that?

KASICH: Well, I was the chairman of the Budget Committee that actually got the budget balanced at one moment in time.

And -- but I don't think we should leave it to just a handful of people. It ought to become a permanent requirement. You can make exceptions for war. You can make exceptions for, you know, fiscal calamity. You can do all that.

But when, year in and year out, we're unable to make choices, politicians, whether they're Republican or Democrat, it's just sort of part of being one is that you spend money. And, Neil, this is like -- look at Germany. Germany has a balanced budget requirement, and the rest of Europe is complaining that they're fiscally responsible. And Germany's economy is booming and the rest of them are struggling.

Even Italy passed a balanced budget requirement. So you can fashion this with circuit breakers so that it makes sense. But, Neil, look, I can't think of anything more important that we talk about than having sound finances -- finances for the United States of America. And we don't have them today.

CAVUTO: But do you think, Governor, the problem is a lot of people saying, oh, these doom-and-gloomers, you're talking about the deficit and the debt, that we have been whistling past the graveyard, because they say, well, it hasn't impacted us.

And when I try to explain to a lot of folks that we are increasingly paying such a huge chunk of our budget just on interest payments to the debt just to keep our head above water and liken it to what it would be like a visa bill and being -- families being strapped paying just the minimum to get by, it still falls on deaf ears.

What are Republicans not doing? Because Democrats say Republicans talk a good game; on the federal level, though, they don't deliver. What do you say?

KASICH: Well, first of all, this ought to be an issue that unites Republicans and Democrats.

I mean, I will bet the approval for it is stratospheric. And if we can get two or three or four more states to get closer to calling for a convention, all of a sudden, the eyes of the world are going to be on this. And they will have...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Oh, no, no, I agree. But, Governor, what I'm saying is that everyone's for it in the whole, but until you get to the pieces that affect that.

KASICH: Yes.

But, Neil, that's where -- that's the problem. If you do not force them to do it, they will always punt it down the street. That's what's sort of natural to politicians. Here's the other thing, Neil. We spend a lot of time talking about income inequality. You think about this economic growth we have had post-recession, post-disaster -- economic disaster there.

It's been weak. And if you really want to grow a strong economy, you have got to have some essentials. Take Ohio. When I came in, we had an $8 billion hole. We lost 350,000 jobs. Now we have a structurally balanced budget, and there's so many other things we can do. And we're up over a quarter-of-a-million jobs.

If you do not have a strong financial foundation, whether you are a business, whether you are a family, or whether you are the government, things just don't work very well. And so the first step to trying to help all Americans to rise and have more opportunity is to get their budget balanced and be fiscally responsible and accountable.

And, by the way, Neil, I'm convinced that you can produce much better products for the American people through the government at lower prices if you are forced to think outside of the box and aggressively. The problem with government, where's the bottom line? Business, if you don't do it, you go under.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Well, yes, there is no accountability. You're right.

But one thing the president has already postured since the midterms, Governor, is that he's obviously not changing his stance. He's not changing his strategy when it comes to more spending.

A great deal more has been announced, I think better than $800 billion worth for just the next couple of years. Now, I guess the question comes back to this dare that he recently had for Republicans. You don't like my immigration plan, come up with one of your own, but you don't have the guts to remove what I offered, which is akin to what he has said about his health care plan on "Stephen Colbert," that it was easy for Republicans to pick apart, but they wouldn't dare come up with one of their own because they can't.

What do you make of that dare, that the Republican Party lacks the guts to do what I guess the president is saying he is doing?

KASICH: You know, first of all, I think it's a good dare.

Secondly, I can remember, Neil -- Newt Gingrich and I were talking about this the other day. When Bill Clinton offered his tax increase, and he said, if you don't like what we have, offer your own. And so we did. But in the conference of the Republican Party, we had a meeting to figure out whether we should offer our own or just attack his.

And there were 33 speakers, I think, and 31 of them said we should not have a plan, we should just attack him. And I walked to the back of the room. I said Newt, how do you think we're doing? He said, I think we're doing great. We actually have two people on our side.

(LAUGHTER)

KASICH: It's just kind of natural for Republicans to just not want to put something out there.

But the most robust and exciting political operation is one that's full of ideas. So, look, we could have good alternatives to Clinton's health care plan. I have no doubt about it. We can have great alternatives and we can have a great plan on immigration. We can't go burying our head in the ground on immigration.

We can't bury our head in the ground on race.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: No, I know what you're saying. I think you were referring to the president's immigration plan, health care plan.

But I will ask you this, though. The Republican Party, at least to hear the political pundits tell it -- I think these are the same guys that said that you wouldn't be reelected, so I say that with a grain of salt -- say that the party is too dominated right now by conservatives who do not feel inclined or even necessary to reach out to the other side and make deals, that compromise is a sign of weakness, and that some of the things you have done in Ohio with Medicaid and the rest shows that you compromise too much, and that you're already unpalatable to that group.

What do you say to them?

KASICH: Well, first of all, Neil, I'm not doing this job so I can -- it can lead to some other job or some other success.

I did pretty well in Ohio. But here's the other thing, Neil. Our country's too divided. Republicans fight Democrats, rich and poor, black and white. I mean, America functions best when we're united as a country. We don't function real well when we fight one another. It just makes us -- puts us in the wrong direction.

So, look, take Medicaid expansion. I now can help the drug-addicted, the mentally ill and the working poor. Why wouldn't I keep the commitments we gave to the mentally ill when we took them out of the big institutions and said we'd help them in the neighborhoods?

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: I think I know what you're saying. But, Governor, what they're saying is that you show a fondness for government at a certain level. You say what?

KASICH: Well, let me just tell you, Neil, we're now participating in welfare reform 2.0.

CAVUTO: Right.

KASICH: And I was intimately involved in the first welfare bill.

We're also running a $1.5 billion surplus and we have created over a quarter-of-a-million jobs. I don't want -- look, I don't worry too much about that.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Well, if you will indulge me, Governor -- and you're always patient with this. But, lately, we have gotten signs from some of the kingmakers in the Republican Party, the money guys, who back early on who they think could be winning presidential candidates, Jeb Bush comes to mind, Mitt Romney, Chris Christie, that the guys, the money guys are supposedly focusing on as winnable nominees.

Just your thoughts on that.

KASICH: Well, it would be good if we could have somebody that could communicate across the board to all Americans.

CAVUTO: Can they? Can all of them?

KASICH: And I think the essential message -- I think the essential message is this, a strong economy. It all starts with that.

Secondly, when you have a strong economy, you reach out to those people who need an opportunity to be lifted, because that's what America is all about. It's about opportunities.

CAVUTO: I know that, but those three gentlemen, Governor, I mean, many conservatives attack them because they call them RINOs. What do you think?

(CROSSTALK)

KASICH: Oh, I don't know who -- I don't know who they are, Neil.

Who are these people that say this? I don't -- you can't worry about that. Look, if you spend your time worrying about who your critics are, you don't get anything done. I mean, leadership is being willing to walk a lonely road. Leadership is not getting too far ahead of the crowd, but not being in the crowd.

CAVUTO: But what they're saying, Governor -- and I'm sorry I wasn't clear -- is that those guys are not exhibiting leadership, those guys are not getting ahead of the crowd, those guys are not doing the kind of things I guess to a point that you are.

And so they find it way too early for the money guys to be narrowing their pre-coronation to those three gentlemen, no matter what you think.

KASICH: Well, I don't think -- first of all, the Republican Party shouldn't be coronating anybody. They ought to just let people get out there and do their thing.

But, look, you take all these guys, they all have good records. I mean, Chris Christie? Are you kidding? He's not a dynamic, successful guy? Jeb Bush?

CAVUTO: Actually, he doesn't have a good record. He doesn't have the record you do in Ohio.

KASICH: Well, he also -- he also has a makeup in the legislature that's pretty difficult.

But I think Christie has changed the tone and he has some significant accomplishment. Jeb Bush. Who else did you mention that they don't like? I don't know. Who else do they not like?

CAVUTO: Mitt Romney.

KASICH: Mitt Romney? You know, if Mitt Romney was president today, how do you think the country would look?

So, look, Neil, to me the bottom line is this. A person's got to have depth. They have got to understand economics. And they have to have a heart for people who may not be as successful as them. And they need to be able to be in a position where the average folk out there, the average Joe out there says, you know what, I think he understand my problems.

And let me illustrate that. One of the problems Mitt Romney had is that people said he was going to be a good CEO. He'd run the country and everything. But there was a bill chunk of Americans who said, you know, I don't think he understands my problems.

Americans don't vote for people for president on the basis of all their specific policies. They determine who they think gets them and who can chew gum and walk at the same time and who can be a decent leader.

Neil, in some ways -- and I know they will laugh at this -- in some ways, it's how we have always picked our leaders, even when we were back in high school. Who do we think can best represent us? Who do we think is smart? And who do you think gets us? That's how the American people make decisions here.

And it's the way we all make decision about how we pick our leaders. Don't worry about the critics. Go do your thing. If it works out, great. If it doesn't, go do something else. That's the way I think about it.

CAVUTO: Do you want to do something else?

KASICH: I want to take care of our budget.

I want to make sure that Ohio is in a transformation, Neil. I want to tell you this. We are moving from an old-line industry -- some industries, those industries, we still love them, but we want to move into the new industries as well. We want to have our manufacturing and advanced manufacturing. We want our agriculture.

CAVUTO: Yes. KASICH: But I'm thrilled that we're going to have a $1 billion investment in cloud computing and data analytics and the kind of progress that Chase has in terms of being technology.

Neil, we -- at one point, the old economy just kept going and we never crossed it over with the new economy. We need to bring them together to make Ohio the best state in the country. And it takes time and it takes work and it takes vision.

CAVUTO: Governor Kasich, it's always a pleasure, sir. Thank you very much.

KASICH: This is so much time you gave me. Holy smokes, Neil. You must have a problem getting guests today.

Thank you, Neil. It's always great.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: That's what I love about this guy.

Governor, thank you very, very much.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CAVUTO: All right.

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