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


AMANPOUR: Congressman, we're going to leave banks for the moment and go to people in our next segment. The rich and the poor and the government's freedom and fairness, when "The Great American Debates" continues.



ELIZABETH WARREN, CANDIDATE FOR U.S. SENATE: There's nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there, good for you. But I want to be clear, you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate.

Now, look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea. God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.


AMANPOUR: Welcome back. That is the essence of what we're going to debate in this segment as our special edition continues here at the night studio at the Newseum.

That of course was Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, defending the role of government. The resolution on the table today, there's too much government in my life. The hot topic on the campaign trail and on Capitol Hill.

Let me ask you, in 2007, the nation's top 1 percent took home more after-tax pay than the total bottom 40 percent. And now new reports show that at least one in 15 Americans are living in extreme poverty. So the gap between rich and poor is widening. Shouldn't the government do something to address that?

RYAN: Yes, and the poverty rates are as high as they have ever been. That's a good argument for the fact that current economic policies aren't working. Rather than trying to bring the people at the top down to the bottom, we should be focusing on bringing the people from the bottom up toward the top. Income mobility, economic growth.

And so we have to keep an eye on what is necessary to grow the economy so we can have more broadly shared prosperity by giving people income mobility, let people rise up. And that means, take the barriers away from allowing people to rise in society, don't have a society where we say this is enough, we're going to cap it, and we're going to try and equalize the differences.

Because what ends up happening, if you look at that new CBO study that's about income inequality, the best thing you can have to reduce income inequality is to have more recessions. I mean, that's basically what their conclusion is. And so you're going to have different outcomes of different people's lives.

The focus on our government ought to be to respect people's rights so that they can make the most of their lives. And the difference in our philosophies is not equalizing the outcome of people's lives, but giving equal opportunities so people can make the most of their lives.

AMANPOUR: But how does one do that, George Will? If as decades now of evidence shows, at least in the last decade, that this upward mobility in this country has stalled. Mitch Daniels is one who said upward mobility from the bottom is the crux of the American promise. Can government, should government do what the congressman is doing and allow upward mobility, which stalled?

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