Exclusive: Rick Perry Talks Social Security, Economy, 2012 Campaign on 'Hannity'
This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," September 21, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
SEAN HANNITY, HOST: He is the newest candidate to jump into the 2012 GOP primary race but he is widely considered now the front-runner. And Texas Governor Rick Perry, he'll join me in just a moment. He has spent the past few weeks attacking "The Anointed One" on everything from Israel to the economy. But tomorrow, he will turn his attention to the eight Republicans who will join him on stage at the GOP debate in Orlando, we'll be there, hosted of course by the Fox News Channel. So, what is his strategy heading into tomorrow night?
Joining me now for an exclusive interview, the Texas Governor, GOP presidential candidate, Governor Rick Perry. Governor, welcome to this program. Good to see you.
GOV. RICK PERRY, R-TEXAS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Sean, it's good to be on your program again. Thank you, sir.
HANNITY: Well, we appreciate you being back. All right. It looks like things are getting heated. Last couple of debates, and a little back and forth even today and the last couple of days between you and Governor Romney. Is it personal or is it business?
PERRY: It is business. Listen, I just think it is important for the people of America and certainly in the Republican primary to see the clear differences that the candidates have and we need to nominate someone who will have a stark, clear difference between the Republican nominee and President Obama.
And I think I am that person who can clearly delineate the differences. We don't need to nominate Obama-lite. We don't need to nominate someone who's going to blur the lines between President Obama and our nominee. This election is about the future of America, about who is going get America back working again. And I think I can handle that part of the job creation side of it as well as anybody that is going to be on that stage tomorrow night.
HANNITY: All right. Well, do you think that some of the other candidates -- I mean, that's a pretty rough term. If you are going to say that maybe some of the other candidates are Obama-lite, I mean, I think that's the worst thing you could call me. Hannity, you are like Obama. I don't think I'd like that.
PERRY: Well, I think it is important that we have a clear distinction between any of the candidates. And when you take a look at what Mitt did from the standpoint of Romneycare in Massachusetts, you are going to have a hard time finding a difference between Obamacare and Romneycare. I mean, that's just the facts. And there's no way around it. The facts are the facts.
HANNITY: All right. But do you not -- he's made a distinction. A federal mandate and what the states do on their level. And he's explained it to me in interviews and he explained in the last debate that you were you in. Do you not buy that distinction?
PERRY: Well, I think the real clear distinction is that he stood up and said that on "The O'Reilly Factor" that -- one of your Fox programs -- that it was the right thing for Massachusetts. But it wasn't the right thing for Massachusetts. The Beacon Hill study that was out just this last week said it cost 18,000 jobs in Massachusetts alone. And the total cost of Romneycare was $8 billion. Now, think about what that will mean across the country if Obamacare goes into place if it cost 18,000 jobs, basically the same type of program. And he said it was the right thing for Massachusetts. It wasn't the right thing for Massachusetts. It was a job killer. And we need to repeal it, in its entirety.
HANNITY: Well, by the way, and for the record, he supports repealing Obamacare, which look, I'll let you guys get into that tomorrow night. Let me ask you because I have in front of me and I actually printed it out. The issue keeps coming up and I'm sure it will come up in tomorrow's night's debate, is about you, your position on Social Security. You used the term Ponzi scheme.
But it goes a lot deeper than that. If you actually read it in its full context in the book here, and you conclude obviously that this is going bankrupt. You walk through the history of Social Security. People wouldn't receive it until they are 62, at a time when most people are expected to die at 60. That was actually a surprise to me, I didn't know that.
So, I guess the question is, where are you with Social Security now? There are some people that think that you're basically saying it ought to be repealed. You seem to be giving a different message in these debates. And I think it might be good if you can clarify what you want to do with Social Security right now.
PERRY: Yes, sir. Well, the most important issue is that anyone who is on Social Security is approaching Social Security age, made plans for the retirement with that Social Security in mind. It will be there for them. And for anyone to say that it is different than that is -- you know, that's the old tactic that the Democrats used back through the years to try to scare the senior citizens, and that's irresponsible.
If anyone on that stage that's a Republican and wants to be a Republican nominee, is trying to scare our seniors with this issue that somehow or another, I'm going to do away with Social Security. That's not appropriate. It is irresponsible.
Here's what we know. That the program as it is set-up today is not going be viable in the future for our young people. And those kids know what a Ponzi scheme is, it is you are paying into something and it is going to be the ones that pay in first, and there's not a pay-out for them when their time comes. Kids know that.
Twenty-five to 36-year-olds know that that program is not going to be in place. So, let's have a grown-up conversation. Republicans have identified that Social Security is wrong. A lot of Republicans, including Paul Ryan, have said the same thing that it is broken and it has got to be fixed and I agree with them. I agree that this is a Ponzi scheme for our young Americans, or for that matter mid carrier professionals.
So, are we going to raise the age at which people become eligible for it? Are we going to allow the young Americans out there that are working to have private sector account-type options? All of those are appropriate conversations to have. But the key is, those that are on Social Security today, those that are approaching the age of being eligible for Social Security, you don't have a thing in the world. We made a sacred pledge to you that it's going to be there and it's going to be fully funded. Don't buy into the scare tactic. Let's talk about how Republicans are going fix Social Security for the future of this country.
HANNITY: All right. I think this is an important point. It's interesting because if people would actually read your book, they'd find a lot of -- I think it goes a lot deeper than what happened here. You actually said now, "If you say Social Security is a failure," which you did say when you wrote the book as I have just done, "you will inherit the wind of political scorn." All of which predictably has happened. "Seniors might think you want to cut their benefits that they paid for. A new culture of do something, it is now trumps any constitutional restraint and feeds the political beast in Washington."
So, I hear what you are saying. You're going to save it for those that are on it, those that are reaching Social Security age. You say it is a sacred promise. What about for future generations? Would you consider another system or do you want to just fix that system?
PERRY: I think we ought to have a conversation. Is there a better way? Are private accounts an appropriate thing for a young American to say, you know, what? I'd rather manage this account myself. I'd rather put the dollars in there, manage the account myself. There may be some other young workers who say, you know what? I don't want to mess with that. I would rather the government run it. I know, it may not be as much money but I don't want to have to worry with it. I don't want to mess with it. I don't want -- whatever it might be.
Do we need to means test it? Do we need to talk about phasing in, if you will, the age upward? So that, I mean, obviously, we are going to live into substantially older age than what was expected when Social Security was first put into place.
HANNITY: Yes. I'm going to live a lot longer than liberals would like, Governor.
The life expectancy -- this was a good point too. The life expectancy when they created the program, as you pointed out was 60. Your benefits didn't kick in until 62. So, this was from the very beginning not designed to extend, you know, decades out into people's lives.
So, would you like to have a discussion about just how to get this straight is options, choices for younger people, save it for the older people. And I want to make sure I'm clear here. Means test perhaps, put that on the table. Raising the retirement age on the table. Opt-out, is that an option for people, totally?
PERRY: Well, opt-out is an option for some state employees in some states, and we talked about that in the book as well. That Galveston, Brazoria-Matagorda County. And Bobby Jindal over in Louisiana, they've had some good luck with that type of program -- with state employees, you have to define very clearly, with state employees or retired state employees. That's what we are talking about here. Those ought to be some conversations that we have. This ought to be about giving people options.
And I'm all for that. And I think the American people understand that now. You know, Marco Rubio, he talked about this in his campaign. Johnson talked about this in his campaign. Both of those individuals in the United States Senate today.
So, you can have this conversation. It no longer is that third rail that no one can talk about. As a matter of fact, I think Americans appreciate people being honest and upfront with them about Social Security.
HANNITY: You know, it is interesting, I hope you are ready for this. Because if you were to get the nomination. Remember when Paul Ryan talked about Medicare. They had a Paul Ryan lookalike throwing grandma over the cliff. So, are you prepared for the demagoguing that comes along with this?
PERRY: I've been doing this for a pretty good spell running three times in Texas for governor. We've caught a lot of javelins, so, you know. But I think Americans are just ready for someone to look them in the eye and say, listen, here's the truth, here's the straight-up about what is happening in our country. And they want someone that can get in this country back working again. And I'm not talking about just working to make government work. I'm talking about getting the private sector back, creating the jobs and the wealth in this country, so that we can truly get America working again.
HANNITY: All right. We'll going to have more. Governor, thanks for being with us. We'll continue, more with Governor Perry, and he's a GOP presidential candidate.
HANNITY: And we continue now with my exclusive interview with the Texas Governor, Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry.
Governor, let me ask you this. We have the worst housing market since the Great Depression. The longest period of sustained unemployment since the great depression. We've got 46.2 million Americans now living in poverty. Nearly one in four children living in poverty. What has -- ultimately, if you win this nomination, you are going to be running against President Obama. Make your case to the American people, what would you have done differently? What did he do wrong? And how do you get us out of this?
PERRY: Well, the biggest issue that is going on out there is we are spending money we don't have on programs we don't want. Obamacare is a great example of it, forcing a program that the American people don't want. And now we've read it and we've looked at it. So, repealing Obamacare would be one of the first things that I would do within my power either with executive order, obviously working with the legislature to get rid of the rest of it.
The second thing we need to do is remove, if you will, pull back all of those regulations that they put forward and with us the EPA or wherever those regulations are coming and killing jobs. Those regulations are probably the biggest job killer out there. And then work with the Congress to restructure these taxes both on the personal and on the corporate level, that's how you get America working.
During the period of time that I've been governor of Texas, we've created over a million net new jobs. Since June of 2009, 40 percent of all the jobs created in America were created in Texas. We have a blueprint for getting America working. We've done it in Texas for the last decade. We've led the nation in the creation of jobs.
People understand that if you will empower the private sector, if you will empower those small business men and women across the country out there, and remove the double whammy of over taxation and over regulation, that they will go risk their capital and they will create jobs that will in turn create wealth. That's how we get this country back on track. That's how we pay off this monstrous debt that's hanging over the country. And it is how we have a foreign policy that people respect because we got the power of an economy to drive a military and in turn, gain the respect of those allies and those that are our competitors.
HANNITY: Do you think President Obama just doesn't get that?
PERRY: I got to think that he must not. Because we tried this Keynesian theory a couple of times now under this administration and it has failed miserably both times. And it won't ever work. You cannot spend your way to prosperity. It has never worked and it never will. So, my instinct is, he just doesn't get it.
HANNITY: There's been a battle between you and stimulus funds. And if I understand correctly, you actually rejected some of them. And I think fully, you didn't even want to accept any of them, but you thought it was in the best interest of the people of Texas if other states were getting it, you would accept it. Am I positioning that right? Is that what you --
PERRY: Well, we sent a lot of money to Washington. So, the fact is, to not take dollars that we send to Washington, D.C., would not have been in the best interests of the people of the state of Texas.
PERRY: I mean, the purity of the notion that you are just not going to take any money. If they all make the trade, we don't have to send any up there, then we've got a deal.
HANNITY: All right. But some people said, while you used the term once succession, is that something you believe?
PERRY: No, I never used that term at all. As a matter of fact --
HANNITY: Why was it reported?
PERRY: I have no idea to be real honest with you, because it was never a factual bit of reporting. It was shouted out by an individual at an event at a Tea Party actually. And I said listen, America is a great country. We have no reason that we would ever dissolve this union. But I said I get it about why people are frustrated, because they are seeing Washington spend this massive amount of money, we've got a huge debt being created. And people are really frustrated with what they see in Washington, D.C. I understand that, didn't agree with it, but I understood it.
HANNITY: There are two issues that have come up in terms of people writing me, calling me in anticipation of you being on the show -- conservatives that like you, that have two issues. One you dealt within the last debate. And you thought it was a mistake, that was the mandatory HPV vaccination. And the other one is your position on immigration and in-state tuition and some of these other issues.
As you look in retrospect, if somebody does not enter this country legally, do they deserve the benefits of citizenship in that way?
PERRY: No, as a matter of fact, that should not be -- the DREAM Act for instance, the federal DREAM Act, straight out amnesty, not for it, not going to be for it. But those young people who came in to the United States by no fault of their own in Texas -- and remember, this is a Texas issue and it's education issue not an immigration issue. And Texans by an overwhelming majority, 181 members of the legislature, Sean, and all but four voted for that bill to allow those young people who had been in the country for at least three years in our schools, doing the work, on their way towards getting a high school diploma. They were pursuing citizenship. And we wanted those individuals to be contributing members of our society, not a drag on society. And that I think is the American way.
Now, all of these issues about immigration that are coming up, that are being debated and what have you, we would never have that conversation if we would secure the border. It has been the failure of the federal government to put the boots on the ground, to put the strategic fencing in place, to put aviation assets along that border so we can immediately respond to the border when we see activities along that border. We know how to secure the border.
HANNITY: All right. Last question --
PERRY: We spent some $400 million in Texas doing it.
HANNITY: Last question. Give me three names off the top of your head that come to mind when you think of a potential vice president, if you were to win.
PERRY: I'm not going to touch that one with a 10 foot pole.
HANNITY: You can't blame me for trying.
PERRY: Making sure that Americans know that we are going to get this country back working again. And that has plenty of time to be discussed in the future, my friend.
HANNITY: All right. Governor, we'll see you tomorrow night. We'll be in Orlando and we do appreciate you being on the program, hope you come back soon.
PERRY: All right. God speed.
HANNITY: All right. God speed.
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