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


AMANPOUR: Congressman, thank you very much. So you have heard both sides open up with their premise.

And let me ask you, Robert Reich, about the distrust and the fear of government, it's at record highs right now. And a recent Gallup poll shows that about 64 percent of Americans, including 48 percent Democrats, feel that a big government is the biggest threat to the future of this country as compared with only 26 percent thinking that big business is the biggest threat to the future of this country. Isn't that your problem?

REICH: Well, it's not my problem, personally. And Christiane, I think that this country has never, in our history, embraced the idea of big government. We don't like to think that we want big government. The idea of big government as a framing device in terms of a debate such as this inevitably sets it up kind of in favor of the side that doesn't want big government. As my debating partner just said the issue is really not so much how big the government is, it's what government does, it's who is government -- who government is for.

And I think lot of us are worried that government is doing the wrong things. It's not only invading personal space -- I mean, look at what Alabama and also Arizona have done with regard to allowing police to stop almost anybody who looks Latino on the suspicion that may not be here legally. We want a government that actually does protect the right things.

You mentioned distrust. Well, people distrust government? But how many people trust Wall Street these days? How many trust big corporations? How many trust the economic system? An Pew Foundation poll just done -- the results were just indicated Friday said that 77 percent of Americans think that the economy is unfair, the dice are loaded, essentially the game is rigged in favor of the rich.

AMANPOUR: You talked about what the government should be doing. So let me ask you, one of the big issues obviously that we have been debating all year is election. This election is jobs, the jobs crisis. There are something like nearly 23 million people who are either unemployed, underemployed or out of the work force. And of course during the Great Depression the government created big programs to get people back to work. Why shouldn't they do right now? Why shouldn't they be that kind of... WILL: First of all, because it didn't work during the depression. The cardinal aim of the New Deal was to put the country back to work. Unemployment never came below 14 percent until we geared up to be the arsenal of democracy in the Second World War. We have had a remarkably clear test under the Obama administration. They said, pass the stimulus and by 2011, the economy would be growing at 4% and unemployment would be 7.1 percent and falling.

I don't fault the president for having his economic projections wrong. This is a complicated society. John Kenneth Galbraith, one of your liberal friends was once said, that the purpose of economic projections is to make astrology to look respectable.

I don't fault the president for this. I fault the president for thinking that society is transparent and easy to regulate. Just as I don't fault the president for making a slew of horrible investments in green energy and all the rest -- Solyndra and other companies. I don't fault him for that, because no one expects the political class to be good at disposing money in the most productive ways.

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