STAFF: The following is an unrehearsed interview with Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, speaking to you live from Des Moines.
Participating in today's public affairs program are Bob Leonard with KNIA Radio in Knoxville, and Michelle Phillips with the Anamosa Journal-Eureka in Anamosa.
The first question will be from Bob Leonard.
GRASSLEY: Yes, Bob, go ahead.
QUESTION: Yes, it's Thanksgiving weekend coming up. I'd just like you to take a moment and reflect and share with the listening audience what you personally are thankful for.
GRASSLEY: Well, we all ought to be thankful for the bounty we have in this country, but I don't think we should be as thankful for that as much as we should be thankful for the freedoms that we enjoy and what the Pilgrims brought to this country and other colonists brought to this country: a whole new life for -- I could say a whole new way of life for -- that very few people anywhere else in the world were enjoying at that time, and now more people are enjoying now, but probably nobody enjoying it as much as we do here in the United States.
And then when you reflect on the freedoms we have, you have to be thankful for the sacrifices -- that a lot of people won't be able to enjoy Thanksgiving because they're defending our freedoms in faraway lands, and some of them are putting their lives on the line to defend this freedom, and we ought to be thankful to the service men and women who are -- who make -- make all this possible.
We're thankful for family. We're thankful for a day of rest when we can reflect on why we ought to be thankful.
QUESTION: Thank you, Senator.
STAFF: And to Michelle.
QUESTION: Good morning, Senator.
GRASSLEY: Good morning.
QUESTION: Well, since we start -- well, since you brought up the topic of the war, I wanted to ask how do you see further funding being available for the war? And, obviously, the war's been raging on for several years now and the amount of money spent on it is great. With this current financial climate, do you expect the war to be fully funded again next year?
GRASSLEY: Well, before I answer the question about funding, I suppose I ought to express that, you know, we're in a faraway land. And a lot of times we think in terms of -- of wasting a lot of money that way. And I probably felt that way until 9/11 and 3,000 Americans were killed.
And until I reflect upon the latest arrests of terrorists in this country -- the guy going from Colorado to -- to New York to do some explosive damage there. And then there's the cell just recently arrested in Minneapolis. And then we have the -- the terrorist at Fort Hood killing a lot of Americans.
And then you realize, where are they getting their training? They're getting their training in a faraway land. They're getting their inspiration from an extreme form of Islam.
And -- and -- and all of Islam is not extreme, but there are some people misusing the religion for their own personal political gain.
And then you realize, well, the number one responsibility of the federal government is to defend the American people. And so, then you look at the threat you have, and -- and look at how we've handled previous wars. And just raising the money, however it could be raised, through increased taxes or through borrowing, because defending America is a number one responsibility and money's not the first consideration. The first consideration is winning.
So the question you asked kind of gets, you know, plays second fiddle to the necessity of getting the job done.
But we have always, one way or the other, raised the money to defend America, and in this case to defend America from a different kind of war, the war on terrorism. And -- and it will be done.
But the most important thing is to do to keep your eye on the ball and eye on the goal. And the goal is to defeat terrorism and to protect Americans.
STAFF: Back to Bob.
QUESTION: Senator, I would like you to address a new push that the Obama administration has made into energy research. My understanding is they've increased funding to the Department of Energy's Office of Science, which oversees the 10 national labs, into energy research. They've created about 1,400 research positions to solve our energy problems -- attempt to solve them.
Do you have any comments or thoughts on this push in science (OFF-MIKE)?
GRASSLEY: Yes -- well, the federal government's always been involved in a lot of different researches and promoting research, and I think we ought to keep that up. But I think what the federal government spends on research is a spit in the ocean compared to what's spent by individuals and corporations and everything through the private sector.
But, usually, in research we consider it to be a -- a private-public sector teamwork, and that's what we're up to.
And I think, you know, would every one of these jobs be needed to be created? I'm not in a position to make that decision. But I am in a position where I had to make a decision that the federal government should do some research in energy, because we need a giant push to get alternative energy to be less dependent on foreign sources of energy, and do it in a -- in a program that's very comprehensive -- comprehensive from the standpoint of incentives for drilling for our own domestic energy.
That's fossils fuels. That's kind of a short term approach. Then a longer term approach is to encourage conservation and to encourage developmental alternative and renewable energy. And you've got to have that comprehensive approach. But research is a very integral part of that.
STAFF: Back to Michelle.
QUESTION: OK, Senator. My next question for you is what do you expect to be the main topic of debate as far as the health care bill is concerned next week when you come back (inaudible) break?
GRASSLEY: Well, I think the topics of debate will probably be centered on Republican alternatives. And we probably won't have one comprehensive alternative. We'll probably have a lot of different subsection amendments.
And I would say they would fall in the area of medical malpractice reform, because 10 percent of the cost of medicine is defensive medicine. Because doctors give you a lot of tests you might not need because they think you might sue them. So we want to get rid of frivolous lawsuits.
We want to open up opportunities for pooling for health care for small business, because small business pays such high prices because they have a small group. We want to have small businesses bind together in a national pool so that insurance rates for their employees are cheaper.
Then we will want to do away with the -- the first time in the history of our country we've ever said -- the federal government said you had to buy something. So today you got to buy health insurance under this bill. If you don't buy health insurance, you're going to pay more money to the federal government -- the IRS, $1,500 per family. And we think that that's philosophically wrong, and we think that there's a better way of doing it through a re-insurance program.
And then we're going to zero in on trying to eliminate the $400 billion in cuts in Medicare, because we think it's wrong to take $400 billion out of a Medicare program that's almost bankrupt and putting it into setting up a new entitlement program.
STAFF: Back to Bob.
QUESTION: Yes, sir. What do you think is the critical component of (inaudible) need to bring forth (OFF-MIKE) needs to bring forth to increase job creation?
There's still a high unemployment rate. How are we going to (inaudible) problem?
GRASSLEY: Well, first of all, a procedural answer is, I think the people of this country are tired of us talking about health care reform when the economy is in such bad shape and they see the economy being in bad shape because the federal government's running such deficits, and that we ought to be spending time on creating jobs.
And I could give you several reasons, but I want to give you one very comprehensive thing that we could do to create jobs and that is that a lot of people that would normally hire people don't know -- and this is particularly true in small business -- they don't know what the tax policy of the United States is going to be long term.
And they right -- they know right now that if Obama carries out his plans to increase taxes to the highest level they've been in 10 years -- and they'll be at the highest level of taxes coming in since World War II, if we go back to what we were in the year 2000. But they're going to automatically go up and the administration wants them to go up, and that's going to be very difficult for small business to expand, and small business creates jobs.
So the president saying or Congress is saying that we're not going to increase taxes next year would be the best thing we could do to rejuvenate the economy and create jobs.
STAFF: Thank you, Bob and Michelle, for participating in today's public affairs program.
This has been Senator Chuck Grassley reporting to the people of Iowa.
GRASSLEY: OK. Thank you all very much.
QUESTION: Thanks. Happy Thanksgiving.
GRASSLEY: You bet. Good-bye. Happy Thanksgiving to all you.