"Face the Nation" transcripts, September 23, 2012: President Clinton

Former President Bill Clinton, interviewed by Bob Schieffer for "Face the Nation," at a meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative, Sept. 23, 2012.
CBS News/John Filo

(CBS News) Below is a transcript of "Face the Nation" on September 23, 2012, hosted by CBS News' Bob Schieffer. Guest includes: Former President Bill Clinton. The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan, political analyst David Gergen, Mother Jones journalist David Corn, Time Managing Editor Richard Stengal and CBS News' John Dickerson.

SCHIEFFER: And good morning again and welcome to FACE THE NATION.

With us today, former President Bill Clinton. We are here at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York.

Mr. President, this has become an important event. You bring together world leaders, philanthropists, presidential candidates, people with ideas. "Time" magazine said this week it's become kind of an eBay of philanthropy, where you put together people with needs, bring them together with people who have money and the means to resolve their problems, whether it's poverty, disease, just improving their daily lives, you get everybody in one place, and go at it from there.

What do you hope to accomplish at this meeting? CLINTON: I hope to help people design their philanthropy and fit their partners in a way that gives them better and quicker results. I mean, all along, we have been trying to answer the how question, how do you do things faster, cheaper, better? How can these nongovernmental groups working with business and working with government and working with others, like a group in the Congo works with a group in America, and works for the international community, how can they create networks that actually produce the results they want?

And it occurred to us that this whole movement in American business to design what you are going to do, and advance better, might work in this area. So we decided to organize everything we are doing and, in clean energy and education and healthcare and our special focus on women and girls with that focus. I think it's going to produce some very interesting, specific commitments.

SCHIEFFER: And you've got a very interesting group of people here coming.

CLINTON: Yes, we've got President Obama and Governor Romney. We've got the president of Egypt is going to close for us, and I think people will find that very interesting. President, new president of Liberia is coming. Nobel Prize winning president -- I said Liberia, I meant Libya -- and the Nobel Prize winning president of Liberia is coming and a lot of other world leaders from around the world.

And Mike Duke is going to be on the opening, president of Wal- Mart, along with the head of the World Bank and secretary-general of the U.N., because of -- at least among American companies Wal-Mart is the number one user of solar power in America and they use quite a bit of wind too. So, it's very interesting that they have, a big part of their business strategy and their stock has been up and growth is good, it is cutting down on their traditional energy use.

SCHIEFFER: I want to wish you the best of luck with this, but I also want to talk to you a little bit about American politics.

You clearly were the star of the Democratic convention. You probably made the best case that anybody could probably make for your side. Let's just talk about what is going on in the campaign right now.

The big topic this week was this video that Mitt Romney, that came to light, which he more or less said that he was writing off 47 percent of the electorate -- people who he said paid no income, were dependent on the government, refused to take responsibility for their lives.

Do you think that was smart politics?

CLINTON: No. But it's interesting. I -- you know, I know a lot of higher income people, a lot of whom helped me do my work and they are supporting Governor Romney and a lot of people say things like that. But I think it is worth pointing out, if you look at that 47 percent, first they do pay taxes. They pay Social Security taxes. They pay Medicare taxes. They pay state and local taxes.

Second, they are out of the federal income tax pool for two reasons. One is the economic crash, which lowered a lot of people's incomes. Even a lot of the newer jobs don't pay high incomes.

Now the second reason is interesting. It's a bipartisan reason in the past. It's because the combined impacts of the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit.

I doubled the earned income tax credit which I think President Ford signed into law and which President Reagan supported and it's refundable if you work and you got kids and your income is low, the government will actually refund the credit if you drop out of owing income tax. It was designed to support working families.

Then we put in a child tax credit which when President Bush passed all of those tax cuts, that is what he did for middle class people. He doubled the child tax credit to $1,000.

Then when President Obama came in and we had a Democratic Congress, and the economy is reeling, they increased the earned income tax credit so you could get a little more if you had more than three kids.

So an enormous number of these people who were dropped out, were dropped out for reasons of work and family, not dependence. These people are working their hearts out. They would love to make enough money to pay federal income tax. We were all before trying to help them with their work and with their child rearing.

SCHIEFFER: Well, do you think Governor Romney understood who he was talking about when he made this statement?

CLINTON: I don't know, because, you know, the primary they ran kept pushing them all to the right. I remember when they all raised their hand and said, would you oppose the budget, a new budget if it had $10 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax increase? And every one of them said, yes, I'd be against that. So they got pushed further and further and further out there.

And I think, you know, you don't just purge all of that out of your system when you start running for the general election.

SCHIEFFER: You know, the fact of the matter is, though, that government assistance has increased tremendously. Don't you think that the Governor Romney has a point when he says the government has just gotten too big?

CLINTON: I think that, I think we have to wait until normal growth resumes to make that judgment, that is there are only -- of the 33 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, basically, bigger, richer countries, we are 31st out of 33 in the percentage of income we pay in taxes. And we have been 25th out of 33 in the percentage of government spending we have. That's just because of the collapse.

In other words, a heck of a lot of this money is unemployment and food stamps and Medicaid for people who lost their private health insurance. And 2009, in the depths of the recession, insurance profits went up again, 5 million people lost their health insurance, 3.5 million went on Medicaid, working people.

So I think when -- after normal growth resumes, we'll have a better feeling. My hunch is that the number of people depending on the government will go way, way down, once we have got an economy that's functioning again.

SCHIEFFER: Where do you think this election is right now?

CLINTON: I think that the president is winning, and winning in the swing states. I think that the Republican super PACs and the Romney campaign combined will out spend the Democrats probably two and a half, three to one here on in.