This Week: Of Course Tim Pawlenty Would Back Ryan's 'Groupons For Medicare' Approach!

In his interview on This Week With Christiane Amanpour, Tim Pawlenty walks the tightrope of sheer crazed wingnuttery and attempting to sound sane enough to actually govern. Amanpour, as usual, neglects to question the conventional wisdom (for

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In his interview on This Week With Christiane Amanpour, Tim Pawlenty walks the tightrope of sheer crazed wingnuttery and attempting to sound sane enough to actually govern. Amanpour, as usual, neglects to question the conventional wisdom (for instance, what happens to all those people who Pawlenty wants to have retire at a later age?), letting him speak without much of a challenge:

AMANPOUR: What seriously do you need to do to raise your profile? Or will the system just take care of it by force of running?

PAWLENTY: Well, even now, only about 50 percent of the Republicans nationally even know my name. So we have to get the name ID up and then convert that, of course, to support. But if you're a serious candidate for president, that will happen naturally over time. But I like the fact that most of the other candidates are really well known and yet they don't really have a strong front-running position, and that gives us time and space to be able to advance our campaign.

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ANDERSON: So, ladies and gentlemen, my husband, Governor Tim Pawlenty.

AMANPOUR: Well, let's get right to the heart of the matter. Medicare, you have said that if the Paul Ryan plan came across your desk as president, you would sign it.

PAWLENTY: Well, let me start by saying my campaign is based around the notion that it's time for the truth and it's time for leaders to step forward and tell America and the American people the truth.

As to Medicare, everybody knows it's sinking. It's going broke. The current program, Christiane, only has about 50 percent of it paid for by either premiums or payroll taxes, and the rest is deficit spending and debit spending or debt spending. So we have to fix it.

And President Obama has an obligation as the leader of this nation to step forward and solve the problem, and he's basically ducking it and then pointing fingers at everybody else.

Now, as to Paul Ryan's plan, I'll have my own plan. It'll have some differences. For example, he didn't address Social Security. I will, and we already are. As to Medicare, it will have some differences, but if the only choices were doing nothing like President Obama is doing and Paul Ryan's plan, I'd sign it.

See, to me this would be the logical place to question whether healthcare vouchers (or Groupons, as I call 'em -- pay $5000, get a Groupon coupon good for a $10,000 surgery. Such a deal!) are a reasonable way to actually treat the medical problems of the elderly. Or are they something that gives the illusion of adequate health care but really throws patients to the wolves?

Plus, he's lying.

AMANPOUR: So what would you do? What would you do -- for instance, you mentioned Social Security. Would you raise the retirement age?

PAWLENTY: For the people who are currently in the program, no changes. For people who are coming up on eligibility, no changes. But for the next generation, the people who are entering the workforce, we need to gradually raise the retirement age over time.

AMANPOUR: Let's get back to Medicare. What would you do differently than what Paul Ryan has done? And what's wrong with this plan that's freaking people out, apparently?

PAWLENTY: Well, the current system can't continue. But our plan is going to have some of these features. One, we're not going to pay Medicare providers under my plan just for volumes of services provided. We're going to pay for better results and better health care outcome, and we're going to put hospitals and clinics and providers on a performance pay system, not just a volume pay system.

And we're going to give people lots of choices. If they want to stay in the current Medicare program or whatever comes next in that program, great, that's their choice, but we're also going to offer them a series of other choices so they can pick what's best for them and their families, and then they'll have the opportunity to be in the driver's seat.

And we'll also have incentives, financial incentives to make wise choices as it relates to cost and quality of health care.

AMANPOUR: Do you think in the things that we're facing right now, whether it's Medicare, whether it's the deficit, whether it's the debt, can any of these things be tackled by one party or another? Or does it demand and require both party action?

PAWLENTY: We hope for everybody to come together and be a team and move forward in the right direction for the country. But as you know, there are some sharp differences about what the correct solution is here.

So I think any doofus can go to Washington, D.C., and maintain the status quo or incrementally change things. But for the country, the hour is late, Christiane, and we have to take significant action soon. This is time for people who are wanting to be leaders in a bold way to come forward and say, "We really have to change things significantly."

You know, I could swear that the last person who ran for president said the same thing. And then Tim Pawlenty's party did everything they could to prevent any significant change from happening.

AMANPOUR: Define "doofus."

PAWLENTY: That's a Minnesota term. And doofus would mean somebody who would be relatively low performing.

AMANPOUR: All right. Let's talk about this huge debate going on in Washington and around the country about the debt ceiling. If you were president, would you ask Congress to raise it now?

PAWLENTY: I don't think we should raise the debt ceiling. And if the Congress moves in that direction, the president, they better get something really good for it. It better be permanent, and it better be structural, like a balanced budget amendment and like permanent caps and limits on spending that are specific, not just aspirational.

AMANPOUR: Are you being political right now or do you really, really mean that one should not raise the debt ceiling, given the fact that most economists say that it would -- it would make a cascade of catastrophic economic situations?

PAWLENTY: Well, there are some serious voices challenging that very premise. And the answer is nobody really knows, because we've not been at this point before.

AMANPOUR: But many people would say we would be at that point at our peril and that it is not like an argument over shutting down the government for a few days. This is a major, major earthquake in the economic system.

PAWLENTY: Well, again, there are -- there are people who've written thoughtfully -- and these are serious people...

AMANPOUR: So do you not believe that, then?

PAWLENTY: Well, I'd -- what I'd...

AMANPOUR: Is your position that it would not affect the economy of the United States or the credibility of the United States or the creditworthiness of the United States?

PAWLENTY: My position many, many months ago when I wrote an op-ed for one of the major national newspapers was this. President Obama was setting up this false choice between default and raising the debt ceiling. And at least for a while, you can take away that false choice by ordering the Treasury to pay the obligations to outside creditors first, and there's enough cash flow to do that for quite some time.

Uh, Tim? I think this officially earns you "doofus" status.

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AMANPOUR: Do you agree that the military budget has to be really, really tackled very, very severely, in terms of cuts?

PAWLENTY: If you look at where -- I believe strongly that the first responsibility of the United States federal government is to protect this nation and our citizens, so I'm not calling for absolute or real cuts in defense. I think the growth can be slowed down. I think efficiencies can be found within defense. But I think those monies should be plowed back into defense to support it.

AMANPOUR: Small government is a rallying cry of the Republican Party. What is your vision of the size of government? You've said that it has to be more proactive and more aggressive. How does that square with the small government agenda?

PAWLENTY: Well, just because the government has an area of responsibility doesn't mean it has to be the provider of the service. If government has an ability and an interest in helping people with certain things -- and they should, like education -- then give people the money directly. Let them decide what's best for their family in a marketplace.

We shouldn't have a country where the government says, "Unless you're rich, you're condemned to go to a crappy school and your future hinges on whether some stupid lottery ball comes out so you might be able to go to another one." All kids, regardless of background, should be able to go to a school of their choice and realize their dream.

And President Obama, of course, one of the first things he does when he comes to Washington, D.C., along with the Democrat Congress who lecture us about how they're for the poor, eliminate the scholarship programs in Washington, D.C., one of the most pathetic things I've seen in public policy in my life.

AMANPOUR: I sense passion and anger there. And...

PAWLENTY: Well, I was the only one in my family who was able to go to college. And my brothers and sisters couldn't go, not because they didn't have the capability. They didn't have the opportunity.

But we can't afford to have a country of just over 300 million people with a third of our people uneducated or undereducated, unskilled, unable to access the economy of today and tomorrow, being ticked off and becoming wards of the state. That's not going to work.

And this system has to change. And the people who are defending the status quo are the -- they got the interests of the adults instead of the interests of our children and the future of our country. And it does make me mad. It does make me mad. And it's hypocrisy.

AMANPOUR: You do emphasize your blue-collar upbringing. Your wife introduces you as the salt of the earth. Do you think that gives you an advantage when you go into a campaign like this?

PAWLENTY: If you walk into a place, you know, like the VFW in my hometown and you walk in there at the fish fry on a Friday night like Mary and I went to a few Friday nights ago, and there are some people in there, you know, wearing Carhartt jackets and playing pull-tabs trying to win the meat raffle, they don't look up and say, "Gosh, I really like his white paper on Sarbanes-Oxley reform. That really gets me going."

They want to know not just what you have up here, they want to know, what do you have here? And if you're going to be president of the United States or run for president of the United States, they want to know, who are you? Where did you come from? How were you raised? What do you believe? Why do you believe it? What's it based on? What were your life experience? What shaped you?

And so I'm not saying it's the difference-maker, but when you grow up as I did, in a meat-packing town, and your mom dies when you're young, and your dad for much of his life was a truck driver -- he got promoted later to dispatcher and terminal manager -- you learn some things and you see some things.

And in my hometown, when those big meat-packing plants shut down and we had all kinds of people in town unemployed, worried about their future, this is not some academic exercise. I saw the face of it, real time, at a real young age.

And so when people hear that, it just gives you a chance to have some credibility with them so they don't just think you're some pinhead, you know, who, you know, writes nice white papers or can spout off about these issues. You've actually lived it. You've walked in their shoes. And it helps.

Yes, it helps fool those people into thinking you'd actually do something about their plight, although it's been decades since the Republican party did anything for the non-rich. But it sure sounds good, doesn't it?

About Susie Madrak

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