Campaign 2012: Obama vs. Romney

In separate interviews, President Barack Obama and his challenger, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, discuss the election year's hot-button issues

Pelley: You would move some government programs to the states. What would they be?

Romney: Well, for instance, Medicaid is a program that's designed to help the poor. Likewise, we have housing vouchers and food stamps, and these help the poor. I'd take the dollars for those programs, send them back to the states, and say, "You craft your programs at your state level and the way you think best to deal with those that need that kind of help in your state."

Pelley: So how does moving those programs to the states bring relief to the taxpayer?

Romney: Because I grow them only at the rate of inflation, or in the case of Medicaid, at inflation plus one percent, that's a lower rate of growth than we've seen over the past several years, a lower rate of growth than has been forecast under federal management. And I believe on that basis you're going to see us save about $100 billion a year.

Pelley: So you're going to cap the growth on those social welfare programs?

Romney: Exactly right.

Pelley: Why would shrinking the federal government on the large scale that you have in mind not throw the country back into recession?

Romney: Well, the plan I have to go after the deficit and to shrink federal spending is metered out in a very careful way, such that we don't have a huge drop off with an austerity program that puts people out of work in government. But instead, through attrition, over time, we scale back the number of federal workers so I'm very careful in the way I do this.

But lasting budget reform isn't likely without doing something about Social Security and Medicare. They are exactly one third of the entire federal budget. That's one reason Romney chose as a running mate, Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee.

Pelley: There is a lot of rhetoric about Medicare. What do you intend to do?

Romney: Well, I don't want any change to Medicare for current seniors or for those that are nearing retirement. So the plan stays exactly the same. The president's cutting $716 billion from current Medicare. I disagree with that. I'd put those dollars back into Medicare.

Pelley: Mr. Ryan has proposed something similar, almost precisely the same number, 716.

Romney: Yeah. He was going to use that money to reduce the budget deficit. I'm putting it back into Medicare and I'm the guy running for president, not him. So what I do in my Medicare plan for younger people coming along is say this, "We're going to have higher benefits for low income people and lower benefits for high income people. We're going to make it more means tested." I think if we do that, we'll make sure to preserve Medicare into the indefinite future.

Pelley: The idea under your plan for future seniors would be that the federal government would write that senior a check, essentially, and say, "Now, you can go buy a private insurance plan or you can buy Medicare from the federal government." Is that essentially it?

Romney: Yeah. That's essentially it. People would have a choice of either traditional, government-run, fee-for-service Medicare; or a private plan, which has to offer the same benefits.

Pelley: Does the government have a responsibility to provide health care to the 50 million Americans who don't have it today?

Romney: Well, we do provide care for people who don't have insurance, people-- we-- if someone has a heart attack, they don't sit in their apartment and die. We pick them up in an ambulance, and take them to the hospital, and give them care. And different states have different ways of providing for that care.

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