John Kasich

Nov 6, 2015 | 00:28:58 | Podcast


Borg: John Kasich's experience in republican politics is best described as very extensive. Now in his second term as Governor of the key political swing state of Ohio, Kasich once served 9 terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, including chairing the House Budget Committee. After Congress he spent 6 years hosting a political program for the Fox News Channel. And then after a stint working for the investment firm Lehman Brothers, Kasich returned to public service and his current role as Ohio's Governor. Now he is running for the republican presidential nomination. Governor Kasich, welcome to Iowa Press.

Kasich: Glad to be with you. Thank you.

Borg: And across the table, the Gazette's James Lynch and Radio Iowa's Kay Henderson.

Henderson: Governor --

Kasich: The famous Kay Henderson. Yes, Kay, I'm sorry.

Henderson: Governor, it appears that republican voters are angry and they're looking to outsiders this year. How do you, as someone with political experience, convince them that they should choose someone with experience?

Kasich: Well if you pick somebody without experience we can see some of the plans that some of the inexperienced people are proposing. We're going to ship 11 million people out of this country, divide families. Now is that going to happen? Of course it's not going to happen. We're going to make Mexico pay for the wall that we're going to put up. We're just going to get it done and they're going to pay for it. That's a double fantasy. That was an old John Lennon album I think. And we're going to have no taxes at all in America, we're going to have a 10% tax cut that would just blow the deficit up. The danger here is picking people who are inexperienced means that you might pick somebody that doesn't know how to do that job. Now, the interesting thing that I face is all of my political career I've been a troublemaker. I rocked the boat in Washington to get to a balanced budget, even fighting a republican president. I limited the production of the B2 bomber. I was a big military reformer. I went after corporate welfare. At the same time, I've been able to cut taxes and balance the federal budget. Then I go into Ohio, which is $8 billion in the hole and everybody said we ought to raise taxes. I said, no I think we should cut them and balance the budget. And now Ohio is turned around, just like Washington was turned around. So I can play both an inside and outside game. You know, Iowa always has pretty good basketball teams. Think about the shooter who can both play on the out and make the three-pointer and the person that can get the rebounds. And that is what I have been most of my career. But being described, Kay, as kind of an insider or establishment, and I've got them all upset now because I've been making comments about not the people's personalities, but some of the policy positions of the people running for president. I'm just going to kind of do what I've done all my career and kind of tell it like it is and we'll see where the chips fall.

Lynch: Governor, you talked about doing the job and if people had been paying attention they understand that you did the job in balancing the federal budget when you were in Congress. And the situation seems to be worse now than it was back then. How do you fix it this time? Do you have to raise taxes? Do you have to slash programs?

Kasich: No I have a plan to balance the federal budget over eight years. I would freeze non-defense discretionary spending. I would increase funding for the military, they need it, but we need to reform the Pentagon, which everybody talks about but no one does, and we need to get that done. I do deal with entitlements, reducing the growth of Medicare and Medicaid. And we will have a tax cut plan that will be within bounds and add it all together, we will get to a balanced budget. And then we can begin to pay down debt. And why is that important? It's because if we can stabilize all of that then we can be in a position of where we can have the kind of job growth we want. Furthermore, I just came out with a program to eliminate the Commerce Department. That's like an attic for political junkies and I've redistributed the operations, which will save us money and reduce ultimately the need for federal employees. And then finally I'm going to shift a lot of programs back to places like Iowa, to Des Moines, all across this state and all across the states in welfare and education, in job training. And then I have to tell you one of the things that concerns me a great deal is the spirit of our country. We can become more successful economically but when we get this responsibility with our schools, with our communities, we need to rebuild our communities, we need to rebuild our families and when we do that, doing it together we'll have a stronger country.

Borg: You said reform the Pentagon. What do you mean reform the Pentagon? You want defense spending unfrozen and yet you want to reform the Pentagon. What does that mean?

Kasich: Well it's because it takes too long to develop a system and deploy it because there's too many cooks boiling the broth. There's like 900,000 bureaucrats there just unable to make a decision, not being held accountable. I served on the Defense Committee for 18 years. I went through the procurement scandal of hammer and screwdrivers cost tens of thousands of dollars. The fact is it is a big bureaucracy and it has to be tamed with somebody who has the right approach. The right approach is you don't want to turn the building upside down because you won't be successful, but you don't want to honor the status quo. We need to restore common sense in the way decisions are made in that building because there is too much time being wasted, too much red tape, too many systems being deployed at times that are not properly tested, it's a whole series of things that need to happen because these resources are precious, they need to get out in the field to our men and women in uniform, not be kind of held hostage in the Pentagon.

Henderson: Governor, you mentioned tax policy. Some of your competitors have suggested a complete flat tax without deductions, some are even advocating a consumption tax or a national sales tax. What do you think the appropriate approach should be?

Kasich: I kind of like the old Reagan approach. I actually knew President Reagan. I think the top rate ought to be 28% and I think that we ought to lower the capital gains tax. But when you do these tax cuts there's a cost to them. You just can't cut taxes and think you can grow your way out of everything. It's sort of like a restaurant that has no customers. You can cut your prices but if you don't cut your overhead, you go broke. So my strategy is grow the economy with reasonable tax cuts and at the same time control the growth of federal spending and that will get you to a balanced budget. On corporate tax reform, that's a different issue. Our taxes are way too high and there ought to be incentives for business to invest so our workers can get higher wages because they have higher productivity. But if you talk about -- and then it's the problem of passing it. Are we going to take away people's home mortgage deduction? Are we going to take away charitable contributions? And if you go to 10% what is the revenue cost? One of the candidates who is running, I think he's, I don't know exactly what his tax rate is, I think it's in that vicinity, it would cost, even with a model that assumes greater economic activity, it costs $11 trillion. We already have an $18 trillion debt. How are we going to pay for all this? So it's got to be reasonable stuff that will get our economy moving but yet lead us to fiscal stability too.

Borg: Jim?

Lynch: You mentioned the debt. What about the debt ceiling? Should that be raised?

Kasich: Well they already did so it's a moot question, right, it's already done. I think what they did was not right. What I would have done is, again, I wasn't there so had I been there I'm not sure the outcome would have been this way because most of the time when I was there I fought to stop spending. We need an increase in military spending and we should have sent that bill to the President, which they did and the President vetoed it. We should have tried to override the veto and hung the idea that our military is not getting what they want on the back of the President. Now what they've done is they have not only raised military spending but they have raised non-military spending and they pay for it with a bunch of cuts we'll probably never see. So we need to have a program to get us to balance and we need a Constitutional amendment to require a federally balanced budget.

Borg: Let's talk about where some of that money is going right now and that is a new incursion with boots on the ground in Syria.

Kasich: Well there's 50 people there. Let's not get carried away.

Borg: That's right. Boots on the ground, but advisors. Is it a slippery slope? And this is apparently from what you've just said, you support it?

Kasich: Well I can't figure out what the President is doing so I'm not supporting -- we're going to put 50 people on the ground I'm not going to come out and say we ought to withdraw right now. But I don't think it's a good policy. I think there is no policy. I support the no fly zones on the Turkish border and the no fly zone on the Jordanian border and it would be a sanctuary for people to go with their families and be safe. The idea that we're now going to stick like 50 people in, what is that going to accomplish? I don't even understand what the President is doing. There is no policy. But I would favor being part of a coalition to take out ISIS absolutely. And well over a year ago I was arguing that we should have been giving money to support the rebels. We couldn't figure that one out. Look, this is just a -- this is a tremendous vacuum in executive leadership and it has just created a very confused situation. Can we get on top of it? Yeah, over time. But I don't see that this President is taking us there.

Borg: Well, okay. But if you were the president right now, would you have done the same action?

Kasich: No, I would have had the no fly zones and then I would have continued to support the rebels and I would be fighting to build a coalition to take out ISIS. That's what I'd be doing.

Lynch: Would you send in more than 50 people?

Kasich: Well, I don't know what they're doing in there. Can you tell me what they're doing? I mean, 50 people to do what? I don't want to be involved in the Syrian civil war. I want to support the rebels who want to take out Assad. That's what I want to do. The only way that I want to have people on the ground is I want it to be part of a coalition to destroy ISIS, not to engage ourselves in a civil war in Syria, or for that matter a civil war in Iraq, which had there not been weapons of mass destruction, there's no way we should have been involved there. Now that we've been there I want to make sure that the Kurds, who really are aligned in a lot of ways with us, that they're able to be armed and protect themselves. And frankly I think with the Kurds there probably ought to be some sort of a federation, not a state that would threaten the Turks, but there needs to be a place for the Kurds to be able to be, to be able to live.

Henderson: So would you divide Iraq into a series of --

Kasich: I don't think we need to divide anything. I think it is dividing in and of itself. You've got to remember this was put together by the western powers and it never fit together and I'm not surprised that the Shia and the Sunni do not get along and the Kurds in a different place. I wouldn't put U.S. troops in there to try to keep that country together because I think probably at the end the boundaries are going to change.

Henderson: In regards to debate discussion, there has been, among your republican colleagues, a call to tear up the deal with Iran upon taking office. There is also criticism of the Transpacific Partnership trade deal that President Obama has negotiated. Do you have a list of two or three items that you as president would tear up the moment you enter the office?

Kasich: How do you know what you're going to tear up 18 months before you're there? Sometimes it makes for good theatre. Why would I want to telegraph to the Iranians exactly what I'm going to do 18 months ahead? Now I will tell you this, they should be held accountable and we should be working with our allies to be in a position if they violate this agreement, which they're likely to do, that we reimpose the sanctions that brought them to the table to begin with. And if we find they're developing a nuclear weapon and we have the good intelligence, I don't want them to have a nuclear weapon. On the trade agreements, I have ideas on trade, and that is I'm basically a free trader. It's important for people in Iowa, the farm community, a lot of people, right, we want to export our products. The problem gets to be a couple of things. Are there side agreements? I don't know. But I basically would support this TPP because I think it's important we have relations in Asia that stand as a bulk work against the Chinese. But I don't always like the idea that I have to vote yes or no on an agreement that my people weren't negotiating. I'd like to have better agreements and secondly, this is what really concerns me, when other countries dump their products to destroy jobs in America, the bureaucracy of international trade grinds so slowly that people, the American worker gets the shaft and I'm not for that. I'm for an expedited process to make sure that we can blow the whistle and stop efforts that are unfair, that can destroy American jobs.

Lynch: There's a good chance that the next president is going to have to fill a couple of Supreme Court vacancies. Name two people you would nominate to the Supreme Court. And why would they be your choices?

Kasich: Well maybe you and Kay.

Lynch: If we're not available.

Kasich: You're not?

Lynch: I said if we're not available.

Kasich: Okay well then I can't decide who else I would have until you positively decline my offer. But I have appointed well over 100 judges in Ohio and I have actually appointed a Supreme Court Justice, she's doing a great job. We don't really have litmus tests but I want a conservative who is not going to make law, somebody who will interpret law. And you start getting into litmus tests and you start getting yourself -- where does the litmus test begin and where does it end? But I would be for a conservative judge who doesn't want to make law but rather interpret the law.

Lynch: Is John Roberts still the model for conservative justices?

Kasich: I'm not going to get into an analysis of who is hitting for 300 or whatever. I just told you what I think and John Roberts is there. And, again, it's a long process. You look at character, you look at the records, you look at somebody who adheres to the Constitution.

Henderson: In regards to entitlement reform, it's apparent that the Ronald Reagan/Tip O'Neill calculus worked because you had the leaders of the two major political parties engaged. Do you see somebody on the democratic side with whom you can work to forge that kind of consensus?

Kasich: I worked with democrats all the time. I have throughout my entire career. I don't demonize them because they don't think like I do. I think you're going to have to have some cooperation. I will tell you, Kay, there's reasons to be optimistic. In my state, Medicaid, as you know, and you're a well-read journalist, is one of the most difficult programs to control. When I came in it was growing at 10% and now in Ohio, in my second budget it grew 2.5% without one person being taken off the rolls or without one benefit being cut. So I don't know that you need a whole lot of bipartisanship to be able to manage these programs. With Social Security you probably are. But I think -- the Medicare program so much can be taken from Medicaid and the experience in Ohio. And, by the way, if you can do it in Ohio, which is a microcosm of the country, you can scale these programs up.

Borg: Without going into detail on how you did that --

Kasich: I can tell you quickly.

Borg: Did you privatize it?

Kasich: No we didn't privatize it. No, Medicaid is not going to be privatized and Medicare certainly isn't going to become optional or the program will melt to the ground. No, basically what we did is we forced the health plans to compete against each other in a market where we were able to drive down costs. We have a program that allow mom and dad to stay in their own home rather than being forced into a nursing home. We reduced the reimbursement for nursing homes because it was way out of line. And we also are in a position of where we use technology to be able to pay our bills better. So much of this can be changed if you use a 21st century mentality and don't worry about special interest groups and you go out there and try to get it done. And our Medicaid program has been a significant success in Ohio, which can be translated to the federal government because I'd like to send Medicaid basically back to the states with the guard rails that you use it to treat poor people but set people free.

Henderson: In regards to Social Security, what sort of steps would you be willing to take in regards to the retirement age and raising the cap?

Kasich: I don't have -- I don't, Kay, at this point, have not put out a Social Security plan. But I had one in '99 that was ignored that would have kept people on, they were held harmless. The baby boomers would have started at a price rather than a price and wage deal. And we would have given the young people 2% private accounts. We had a $5 trillion surplus that could have fixed it. Republican blew it all, not that the democrats were standing there saying don't spend. But today what are you going to have to do? You're going to have to go to a price rather than the price and wage determination. You're probably going to have to raise the retirement age. You may not even be able to have this early retirement like we currently have it. We may need to delink what you pay in from what you get out. And so we work through all these numbers and there's a place where you're going to have to have a democrat that is going to have to work with you because that's the way you prevent the demagoguery that naturally comes. But I have to tell you, if I'm president, we're going to go fixing these programs and if you take the heat, you take the heat. But I'd like to get them done and I have a record of being able to get significant things done.

Lynch: From your opening remarks it sounds like you're not a fan of building a wall across the southern border or rounding up illegal immigrants --

Kasich: No, I'm for protecting our border. I'm just going to be realistic. We're going to ship 11 million people out of this country? How are we going to do it?

Lynch: How do you deal with 11 million people in this country? And how do you deal with the flow of people who want to come in?

Kasich: Well I wouldn't be here today if we didn't have immigration. My mother's and father's, my grandparents on both sides immigrated here, we didn't come over with the Pilgrims, we came over relatively recently. So we believe in immigration. With the 11 million that are here, if they're law abiding then I think they pay a penalty and we'd figure out a way for them maybe to contribute something in terms of public service or whatever. But I would let them stay with a path to legalization. I do believe in a border. I mean, a country that can't control its border is a country that is out of control. But I don't think Mexico is going to pay for the border. I think we're going to have to pay for it.

Borg: How do you control it? Not a wall?

Kasich: Well you can have a wall in some places and in some places natural geography will work and you have sensor equipment and drones. This is the 21st century. But we need to protect our border because if you don't protect the border you don't know who is going to walk in. I mean, we lock our doors at night in our homes to protect ourselves, the country needs to protect itself. But then I think -- and then I think we need to make it clear, anybody who comes in, once that thing is up you're going back. No more excuses because that's what President Reagan did in '86. He had a program but yet we weren't insistent on controlling that border. We absolutely need to do it and then review the whole immigration system and the Visa problem. We have a lot of people overstaying their Visas. That has to be dealt with. But to think that we're just going to put people on buses and ship them to the border, look at our World War II experience where we quarantined Japanese. It's a dark stain on America's history.

Lynch: Kay asked what democrat you can work with on some of those entitlement reforms. What republican can you work with on immigration reform?

Kasich: All of them. I think this is where the party in the country is.

Lynch: Most of them aren't on the same page as you are.

Kasich: Oh I think they are.

Borg: But you've called some of those ideas nutty.

Kasich: A nutty idea that we're going to ship 11 million -- what is it I'm not explaining to you folks? Number one, I don't think we're going to ship 11 million people back.

Borg: He's asking who can you work with and you said I can work with everybody.

Kasich: Oh yeah because most of the people in our party believe that you put the wall up and I don't know many people that think we ought to deport 11 million people. I mean, just because people shout loud doesn't mean they’re a majority. And so I think that most republicans would agree that you can't deport 11 million people. We shouldn't even think about it. What are you going to do, break their families up? But they want the wall, they want the protection of the border done first. And then beyond that I think this is a plan that would not only pass Congress but the American people would go along with this. I have no doubt about it. Look, I've done more public town hall meetings than just about anybody and I don't have anybody push back with me on this issue at all.

Henderson: Speaking of shouting, there has been a lot of debate about the debates in which you and the other candidates have engaged. Do you have a list of requirements for the next debate in which you'll participate?

Kasich: Well, look, I don't think Harry Truman could get elected under a 36 second scenario or a 60 second scenario but that's what we have, Kay. And I would love to have this be the way in which we, bring people into the studio, give them 15 minutes a piece, ask all the tough questions you want and then people can judge. But I don't think that's where it's going to go and I don't have a list of anything. I was too busy trying to figure out how to be at home, take care of my family, get on the road, do all the things that I do. And, like I just mentioned, we just called for the elimination of one department. This is not easy to do. It is complicated. And so I spend my time thinking about that, not thinking about all the criteria for which debate I can go to.

Lynch: Governor, what is your plan here in Iowa? You haven't spent as much time here as other candidates. Do you have a goal of what your expectations are here? Will you get one of those three tickets out of Iowa?

Kasich: Well, I don't have any predictions. I leave that to Muhammad Ali when he was going to knock somebody out in what round.

Lynch: What are your expectations here?

Kasich: To come here as often as I possibly can. We have some people on the ground. We built out a very good team here in Iowa. And I'll come here as often as I can. I respect Iowa. I respect the people. But there's only one of me to go around. Most people are pretty happy that there's only one of me to go around.

Borg: Let me give you a football metaphor. You're from a football state, Ohio State. And if you're carrying the ball you want to get to the goal. I opened this show saying you need a breakthrough. What is it that's going to have John Kasich make it through that line?

Kasich: Probably New Hampshire. A decent showing in Iowa and then New Hampshire where I have -- my breakthrough -- a breakthrough. Look, I've got over 100 people on the ground in New Hampshire. I've got Gordon Humphrey on the right, I've got John Sununu who is one of the greatest, most skilled politicians in New Hampshire. I've got the former Attorney General Tom Rath. We're building a great organization there and we're building -- but let me finish -- so we're building out an organization here. So it's not like we write Iowa off. Look, here's the difference so people understand. This is a caucus and it's a big state, okay. So it's a little bit different than a state that has a primary election with 1.3 million people in New Hampshire. I can meet 1.3 million people and probably will three or four times. So it's sort of a place where it's easier for somebody like me without high name ID, I don't have high name ID because I was Governor of Ohio, I wasn't coming to your dinners out here or anything, I had a job to do in my state. And we're up 347,000 jobs with a balanced budget and it's going pretty well. But we consider this to be important and we'll put more time and effort and resources in.

Lynch: Governor, in 20 seconds, other than signing and vetoing legislation, what is the Kasich administration going to be about? What is your bully pulpit going to be?

Kasich: We're going to balance budgets, cut taxes, freeze regulations, have better trade agreements, rebuild the military and then be in a position we're going to shift a lot of power, money and influence back so that we here where we live can begin to rebuild our families and our neighborhoods. It's critical that we respark the United States of America.

Borg: And add to that get out of programs like this on time. We're out of it.

Kasich: Boy that is just not fun. How about extending. Come on, I'll give you some money. I'll make a donation and we can go longer. I enjoyed being with you. Thank you.

Borg: It's public television. Next week on Iowa Press, the University of Iowa's new President Bruce Harreld. His business rather than academic administrative experience causing some concern among faculty. So President Bruce Harreld is in Iowa Press after IPTV's coverage of the State Volleyball Championships. So, next week's Iowa Press with Bruce Harreld is Friday night at 9 and then noon on Sunday. I'm Dean Borg. Thanks for joining us today.

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