Transcript: The Great American Debates: 'There's Too Much Government In My Life'


AMANPOUR: Taking that into account, the basic function of the government -- this government has in the past enabled social upward mobility. This is something governments know what to do. Education, health care. To create a healthy society.

RYAN: The basis.

AMANPOUR: Don't you think that's where it should be involved?

RYAN: There are three points I would make here, very quickly. Number one, the math just doesn't add up. All these tax increases they're talking about, letting the Bush tax cuts expire on the top, it will pay for 8 percent of the president's planned deficit spending. So they are raising these taxes to pay for spending that never catches up. We're going to run about $9.5 trillion of deficits over the next 10 years if the president has his way.

The second point is, let's stop subsidizing the wealthy. Stop crony capitalism. Stop corporate welfare. Means-test our entitlement programs. And the third point is, let's get out of this class division rhetoric. It's dangerous. We should not be speaking to people as if they're stuck in some class and that the government is here to help them cope with their lives. We should appealing to people's sense of upward mobility.

FRANK: I never heard a poor person complain that it was dangerous to talk about --

(CROSSTALK) AMANPOUR: You will be able to sum up in your closing arguments, both of you, as we take a break.

Coming up -- the teams get, as I said, one last shot to make the sale. So, stay with us.


AMANPOUR: It's been a spirited and civil debate. And now the teams get one last chance to make their case. We have time for brief closing statements. Starting with George Will.

WILL: I want to thank Bob and Barney for shouldering the Herculean task of arguing that government today is too small, too frugal and too modest. I think big government harms prosperity. It harms prosperity by allocating resources not in terms of efficiency, but in terms of political power that directs the allocation. I think big government harms freedom, because it is an enormous tree in the shade of which the smaller institutions of civil society cannot prosper. And most of all, big government today harms equality. It harms equality because, by concentrating power in Washington, in big government, it makes itself susceptible to the rent-seeking by big, muscular interest groups. The only people who can come to Washington and bend the government to private purposes.

Get the government out of our lives more and more, and you'll find that freedom and the market allocations of wealth and opportunity prevails.

Jefferson understood -- Jefferson understood that you can have a government with minimal attention to the absolute essentials we have talked about. Of course, we want government to build roads, we want government to defend the shores, we want the government to deliver the mail. But after it does the essentials, understand what Ronald Reagan did. When Ronald Reagan said we're going to have less government -- under Reagan, respect for government, something we all want, respect for government rose as government's role declined.

AMANPOUR: Thank you, George Will. Robert Reich?

REICH: Well, first of all, let me thank both of you for trying to defend the indefensible, which is that the market is working beautifully and you don't need much with regard to government.

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