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


But look at where we are today. Look at our economy, look at our debt. Crony capitalism where government is picking winners and losers. Where you have big government and big business exchanging favors with one another while the entrepreneur and the small-business person is left struggling to survive.

The last few years have shown us that a truly effective government is impossible without limits. A government that focuses on equalizing the results of our lives is one that does damage to the American commitment of equal opportunity. If we reclaim our founding timeless principles, we'll have a government that we have faith in, that we are proud of, and the question surrounding the size and the proper size of government will take care of itself.

AMANPOUR: Congressman Ryan, thank you very much. And Congressman Barney Frank, your opening minute and a half.

FRANK: Yes, we have too much government, and yes, we have too little government. There is this mistaken view that says, you know, we have a fight between the people's money and the government's money. It's all the people's money. The question is, as people, intelligently, we have two sets of needs. We have needs that we best pursue individually, with money for ourselves and our families. And we can make personal choices. But then there are things that we have to do together.

I understand the appeal of tax cuts, but in all my years of government, I have never seen a tax cut put out a fire. I have never seen a tax cut build a bridge or clean up toxic atmosphere.

The point is that there are some things where we are inevitably together. We are interlocked in the economy. We're all subject to the same environment, we all have the same public safety needs. And there, I think, we have sometimes had too little government.

On the other hand, and my conservative friends who claim that they are for small government are the ones who tell us that an adult shouldn't be able to gamble on the Internet. We have the leading judicial conservative, Antonin Scalia, absolutely in a snit because you can't be sent to jail if you have personal sexual relations of which he does not approve. We have a series of interventions by the conservatives in those choices that should be left to individuals.

So my conservative friends have it absolutely backwards. I do want there to be regulation so that you don't have the kind of manipulation in the financial area that leads to crises. And I do want to be able to clean up the environment. No matter how rich you are, you can't get your own air to breathe.

On the other hand, as I said, there are overreaches by the conservatives. And by the way, they include militarily. I think we have a wonderful military, full of able young people, very well equipped, and they can stop bad things from happening. But they're not really good at making good things happen in foreign societies. And it's on the whole my conservative friends who want us to be rebuilding other societies where we're not very good at it. So the answer is yes, we should have more government where we need in an interactive way to protect ourselves against abuses, but there should be more personal choice. And so that's the -- that's the current situation.

And so my answer is yes, I want more government involved in economic regulation and environmental cleanup and for reasons of public safety. I want less government telling me what personal choices to make as an individual.

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