Santorum posits deficit disaster

Last modified: 4/15/2011 12:00:00 AM
The federal deficit and debt, if they continue to grow unchecked, could lead to out-of-control inflation and catastrophe for the U.S. economy, former Pennsylvania senator and potential Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum said yesterday.

Santorum spoke for over an hour to more than 50 students and others at New England College in Henniker, where he held an afternoon town-hall meeting on the economy a day after announcing on the Fox News Channel that he was forming a committee to raise money for a potential presidential run.

He said the fiscal policies of President Obama, and expensive entitlement programs created decades earlier like Medicare, have created open-ended and growing commitments for the federal government.

"I think we're very clearly on a path to very, very high rates of inflation, potentially hyperinflation that this country has never, underscore, never seen in our history," Santorum said. "And you'll be the generation that's stuck with that."

Santorum, 52, was elected to the U.S. House in 1990, serving two terms before being elected to the Senate. He was defeated in his bid for a third term in 2006. He's long been a vocal conservative on social issues, and has visited New Hampshire often in the last year as he's considered running for president.

At yesterday's town hall, Santorum criticized Obama's call this week to address the long-term federal deficit in part with higher taxes on wealthy Americans.

"It will punish people who are the most productive in our society, who actually create jobs. Poor people don't create jobs. . . . The idea of taxing our way to prosperity is simply not proven at any time in the history of this country," Santorum said.

As solutions, Santorum said he would repeal the sweeping reform of health care that was championed by Obama and passed by Congress last year, increase domestic energy production in natural gas and oil, and reform and simplify the tax code.

Santorum took questions from the audience, including an extended and somewhat testy back-and-forth with NEC sophomore Christian Bernier, a creative writing major who asked about tax policy.

Bernier interrupted Santorum's answer several times and Santorum called Bernier "really combative" and "rude," but the ex-senator remained composed during the exchange. Bernier said after the event that "it's important to ask questions" and that "conflicts are very important, especially in politics. I don't think there's enough conflict in politics."

Asked about global health policy, Santorum said he strongly supported former president George W. Bush's $15 billion AIDS program for Africa, and said such foreign aid remains a priority for him as a national-security issue to combat the "jihadist threat."

But, he said, "I'm not going to commit to any increases in anything at this point."

Santorum said he has "some real concerns" about the so-called "fair tax," a national sales tax to replace the current tax code, but would be interested to see it implemented in the states. He said he supports "sound money" but not the gold standard.

Santorum also discussed his opposition to abortion, saying life begins at conception and should be constitutionally protected. He also decried what he described as abortions and post-birth killings targeting female babies in China.

"What's going on in China is horrific," he said, and he said he would speak out against it if elected president. But, he told a questioner, "I won't take military action to correct their abortion policy, no."

Santorum also said that, while he supports market-driven conservation efforts, he doesn't favor a cap-and-trade system and doubts the science behind global warming.

"I am not convinced by any stretch of the imagination that the climate hysteria that occurred, and has now abated, that occurred about the impact of greenhouse gases is real. . . . The science is falling apart," he said.

(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or


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