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CNN "American Morning" - Transcript


Location: Washington, DC

Senator DeMint, it's good to see you this morning.


ROBERTS: You called this program, quote, "an example of the stupidity coming out of Washington now." However, during the month of July, Ford saw its best sales in two years, sales up 2. 3 percent, car dealers are moving inventory now, people are trading in inefficient gas guzzlers for more fuel efficient vehicles. Some people might say -- where's the stupidity in that program?

DEMINT: Well, they're trying to micromanage the economy here. They told us, "OK, we need $1 billion, we'd have this program through November," within one week, it was broke. Now, they're back for $2 billion more.

We have no idea what the program has done. And what this is as an example of, if you do create some incentives, people will buy things, but instead of just targeting one industry, we had talked about several months ago, instead of the stimulus government spending plan, just give across-the-board tax cuts to businesses and to workers so they can go out and decide what to buy.

It's not fair to borrow this money and charge it to people who aren't buying cars so that a few can buy cars. We can't manage the economy from Washington. And the dealers have told me this is one of the worst managed programs that they've ever seen.

ROBERTS: Now, your colleague from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham, was on the "Today" show this morning. He said that he would probably support the program. But you want them the Senate to wait at least until September before moving forward on this. Why do you want them to wait?

DEMINT: Well, we didn't even read the bill when it came through the first time. They attached it to an emergency war-spending bill. And now, we don't even know what happened and how the $1 billion got spent, and they want $2 billion more. This is borrowed money we're going to charge to our children and we need to just slow down this Congress and this president and stop spending and borrowing money.

We can't manage the whole economy. Most of these cars would have been off the road anyway. The dealers tell me the sales were down for a couple of months waiting for this program. They'll go down once it's over. We're not selling any cars that wouldn't have been sold anyway.

ROBERTS: Well, we're at point, though, Senator, where the economy is just starting to show maybe the earliest signs of recovery. And if you can, you know, put a little bit of fire under it by, you know, getting car sales up again through a program like this, is that a bad thing for the economy?

DEMINT: Well, it's not a bad thing to encourage the economy to work, but for the federal government to be trying to pick winners and losers, what about appliance dealers and TV manufacturers and heat pumps? All of these relate to efficiency. There are a lot of products and services in our economy, and we, at the federal level, should not be borrowing money to help one industry.

Again, I believe these cars would've sold anyway. The month- to-month sales for cars have gone up on most through this year already. And all we're doing is just creating a bump in car sales in a few months.

But again, this is borrowed money. This is not the role of the federal government. And frankly, I think we're making a mess of the economy rather than help to fix it.

ROBERTS: Let me turn to the issue of health care if I could because that'll be a big discussion over the course of the August recess. Of course, it's still a matter for a lot of discussion there in the Senate. You have now famously said, quote, "If we're able to stop Obama on this, it will be his waterloo, it will break him."

Many Republicans have been accused by Democrats of being obstructionists on this. Do your statements just add fuel to those charges? I mean, is -- do you create the perception that all you want to do is scuttle this idea?


ROBERTS: Senator, we seem to have somehow lost your audio, and I'm not quite sure why. Our profound apologies for that. We don't quite know what happened, we usually have fairly easy connections there to the Russell Building. So, again, our apologies to Senator DeMint.

We would like to know what you know, though, about the "cash for clunkers" program. Do you support more funding? Have you used the program? Will you use it? Share your thoughts at - Kiran.

CHETRY: Well, two very different sides to this story. Some say it's not fair for us to try to get Guantanamo Bay detainees moved to other countries without taking some here in the U.S., but where? And is it doable? And what are some of the towns that could be housing these Guantanamo Bay inmates say about it?

Sixteen minutes past the hour.


ROBERTS: Nineteen minutes after the hour.

We don't quite know what happened. But we have managed to fix the problem. Senator Jim DeMint from South Carolina is back with us from the Russell Rotunda.

I want to give you, Senator, a chance to respond to that. Your "waterloo" statement that if you can stop President Obama on health care, it could be his undoing, and this idea that -- does that just give the perception that all you're interested in is scuttling this bill as opposed to trying to find health care reform.

DEMINT: Republicans are trying to stop a government takeover of health care. We've been working on reform for a long time. I've introduced a lot of ideas as a former small businessman myself. If we just do a couple of things, John, if we have tax fairness for people who don't get their health insurance at work, we could give every family in America $5,000 a year to buy their health insurance. And if we only allowed interstate competition between insurance companies, the cost of insurance would go down and the quality of the insurance products would go up.

But the Democrats are fighting any real health care reform. They're insistent on a single-payer government takeover. The president has said it. Charlie Rangel, Barney Frank, all the Democrat leaders seem to be on record wanting a government-run health care system in America. And to pay for it, they're going to cut Medicare and crowd out private policies through employers.

ROBERTS: Now, when you say, Senator, that they want a government-run health care program. I mean, they only want that as part of an overall health care program according to all of the bills that have been written. You're not saying that they want to get rid of all of the private plans and just have a single-payer government- run system, are you?

DEMINT: Yes, I am, and the president has said that. There's a tape on YouTube of his quote, saying that we will replace employer plans. And all...


ROBERTS: But where is that in any of the legislation that's currently making its way through Congress?

DEMINT: We don't have to put it in legislation. If you have a taxpayer subsidized government plan, it's going to crowd out the private policies in a very short period of time. They're already shifting so many costs from Medicare and Medicaid to private insurance. They cost about 1/3 more than they should.

ROBERTS: Yet the bill that has been agreed on in the House specifically states that the government would not negotiate at Medicare rates. It would negotiate at rates comparable to private plans.

DEMINT: Well, they would still be deciding what doctors get paid, and a taxpayer-subsidized plan is going to run the private policies out of business. The Lewin Group and other outside analysts say from 80 million to 100 million Americans will lose their employer- based insurance and more doctors are likely to...

ROBERTS: Under certain circumstances -- and those circumstances are, if the plan is open to everyone and they reimburse at Medicare rates, and that's not in any of the plans.

DEMINT: Well, you can't have a government plan at the state level for competition without running private policies out of business because it's subsidized. But we don't need to do that, John. All we need to do is allow interstate competition.

Why do we need to create Fannie Meds in every state when all we need to do is open interstate competition and create a national market for insurance companies? We can keep them more accountable and bring down the price. We don't need a "cash for clunkers" type of Medicare program running the health care business. They're saying -- they're saying it's going to cost $1 trillion, but we saw what happened with the "cash for clunkers" program, they ran out of money in a week.

ROBERTS: Yes. I mean, some people would say that's because the program was so successful. We'll see where that goes from here for the rest of the week.

DEMINT: Thank you, John.

ROBERTS: Senator Jim DeMint from South Carolina, good to catch up with you. Glad we reconnected with you. Appreciate it.

DEMINT: Thanks.

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