Santorum: High gas prices caused recession

Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) waits to speak during a campaign stop at the St. Mary's Cultural & Banquet Center on Feb. 27, 2012 in Livonia, Michigan. Getty Images/Joe Raedle

Santorum on the attack on eve of Mich. primary
Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) waits to speak during a campaign stop at the St. Mary's Cultural & Banquet Center on Feb. 27, 2012, in Livonia, Michigan.
Getty Images/Joe Raedle

LANSING, Mich. - Rick Santorum said Monday that high gas prices sapped homeowners' ability to pay their mortgages and plunged the United States into recession, a far different reading of the causes of the recession than that of the economists who studied the crisis.

"We went into a recession in 2008 because of gasoline prices. The bubble burst in housing because people couldn't pay their mortgages because we're looking at $4 a gallon gasoline. And look at what happened, economic decline," Santorum said at a campaign stop.

Leading economists have said the financial crisis was caused not by the rise in gas prices in the summer of 2008, but by the collapse of the housing bubble - blamed on the proliferation of subprime mortgages - and the related meltdown of the financial market that later that fall.

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Santorum frequently cites the current rise in gas prices on the stump to argue for increased U.S. energy production of natural gas and oil through drilling and extraction processes. Asked by reporters to clarify his comments on gas prices, Santorum seemed to hedge his interpretation. "I said that was a factor. I'm sorry. I'll make sure I'm much more specific when I talk," he said. But he was defiant on one fact about gas prices: "They were spiking in 2008, that's a fact," he said.

Santorum also laid out a vision of the United States as the chief enforcer of good in the world, and says that role should be embraced whether or not the nation's allies are fully engaged.

"America has been not just a beacon of hope, but we have been a country that has promoted our values around the world because we're proud of who we are," he said. "And we've stood by and defended those values and those who are our allies. Have our allies taken advantage of it, in the sense that they have downgraded their military and relied on the United States? Yes, they have. But as far as I'm concerned, this is a role that America now must play because no one else will, at least no one else who stands for good in the world."

Santorum has repeatedly criticized the president for cutting defense spending.

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    Rebecca Kaplan covers the 2012 presidential campaign for CBS News and National Journal.

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