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October 08. 2011 11:08PM

Romney defends record, jabs at Perry, Obama, China


Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is interviewed by, from left, senior political reporter John DiStaso, publisher Joseph W. McQuaid and editorial page editor Andrew Cline, at a stop at the New Hampshire Union Leader on Monday. (DAVID LANE / UNION LEADER)
MANCHESTER — Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney defends the “individual mandate” provision of the state health care plan he signed into law in 2005 as a necessary way to force from the public dole those who could afford to take care of themselves.

In an interview last week with the New Hampshire Sunday News, Romney also attacked Texas Gov. Rick Perry's program of giving the children of illegal immigrants tuition breaks at Texas universities and colleges, but defended Texas' 10th Amendment right to have such a plan.

Romney said President Barack Obama's health care plan “violated the 10th Amendment responsibility of states to care for their own poor.”

He said his own Massachusetts health care plan “dealt with the 8 percent of our population that didn't have insurance. We wanted to get those people insured. It wasn't fair for everyone else to have to pay for that.

“We were spending hundreds of millions of dollars giving out free care to people, many of whom were perfectly capable to care for themselves,” he said. “There's a federal law that requires hospitals to care for people regardless of whether they have insurance.”

He said the Massachusetts law reacted to “a circumstance where we were mandated by the federal government to provide something to people for free when they had the ability to care for themselves.”

Tuition breaks

Romney said Perry's program allowing the children of illegal immigrants in-state tuition breaks at Texas universities and colleges “creates a magnet to draw people into this country. There are 16,000 people getting in-state tuition breaks in Texas. That's bigger than the combined population of the University of New Hampshire and Saint Anselm College.”

He said such students could instead “apply for a visa to be able to be here legally to go to college. We provide college visas for people from around the world,” and they should pay the full tuition, he said. He vetoed a similar bill in Massachusetts, he said, and the veto was sustained.

“I have no question about whether a state can do things that I disagree with,” Romney said. “But as to the merits of whether it's a plan I agree with, the answer is no.”

China is “cheating''

On other issues, Romney said the United States has the ability to compete in the world “if we can get the govenment to stop being a burden to the private sector.”

He also said China is “cheating” and should be forced to stop.

“I love free trade, but if the other guy is cheating, that's not free trade. China has to respect our intellectual property. They can't steal our patents and our designs. They can't manipulate our currency.”

Romney said the United States “should label China a ‘currency manipulator,'” bring an action against China in the World Trade Organization and “apply tariffs to products of theirs that are taking advantage of this currency manipulation or have stolen intellectual property.''

“We can't just keep talking about this. China has to realize we're not going to continue to allow our manufacturing base to be hollowed out by people who are cheating,” Romney said.

As President, he said, he would undertake a “full re-evaluation of how we organize the federal government,” with an eye toward “dramatic” streamlining.

He said that reducing the non-military federal work force by 10 percent “through attrition” would result in “savings not only of a budgetary nature but also savings to the economy.”

He said “candidates” for streamlining — which include the departments of energy, education, commerce, housing, and health and human services — “have gotten large where the mission is in some cases unclear.''

In a Romney administration, he said, the federal responsibility for public education from kindergaarten through Grade 12 would be limited to providing data to the states.

“The federal government being a funder of state and local education is not in my opinion a necessary responsibility,” he said.

Special education “is a choice we can make, but it doesn't necessarily strike me as a responsibility of the federal government. It could be a responsibility of state governments.”

He said, however, that the federal government traditionally “picks up some portion of funding for special education, and I'm not proposing eliminating that or shifting that to the states. But it's not constitutionally required that the federal government deals with special education or other education programs.”

Romney said that much of the “No Child Left Behind” program “doesn't work and needs to be eliminated, but the idea of insisting on testing in schools was a step that needed to be taken.”

If the current Obama administration secretary of education, Arne Duncan, “is going to encourage states to have more charter schools and to employ merit pay, then I'd say it's a good thing'' he said. “When Democrats stand up to the teachers unions, we've got to say, ‘Good.'”

Romney said the “Race to the Top” program also proposes a nationwide curriculum, which he said he opposes.

On taxing the rich

Romney said he opposes the notion that the rich should pay higher taxes than the poor.

He said the United States should not tax “job creators” and “engage in a brand of class warfare that's designed to divide America.”

He said Obama “has failed economically,” and “engaging in a class warfare form of rhetoric is dangerous and counterproductive. We need Americans pulling together.”

He said he opposes lowering taxes on the rich, but he also opposes “singling out success and try to tax it.”

Romney said Obama's presidency so far “has been about demonizing and scapegoating fellow Americans. And that is not something to subscribe to.”

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