Republicans should let the sequester proceed if President Obama won't let the defense cuts be eased, and Obama is simply out of touch with reality on fiscal matters, according to former U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, S.C.
DeMint resigned his seat in January as he prepares to become the new president of the Heritage Foundation. In a wide-ranging interview, DeMint addressed looming debates on guns and immigration, but he's also passionate about how the current sequestration fight plays out. DeMint told WND House GOP members have responsibly approved changes in sequestration so the cuts won't land so hard on national security spending, and the ball is now in Obama's court.
"If we can't get the president to come off the military cuts, we need to leave these cuts in place," DeMint said. "In most cases, it's not really cuts. It's just a slowing of the growth of spending which has been out of control for years. I would encourage Republicans, if the president's not going to be reasonable about restoring military funding and allowing these other programs to actually be reduced, then they're just going to have to swallow it. It's a small percent of our total budget and, frankly, we're going to have to do a lot more of these cuts if we're going to balance the budget within 10 years."
Obama has repeatedly demanded a "balanced" approach that consists of spending cuts and higher taxes for the wealthy. The president also says he and Congress have already made painful cuts of $2.5 trillion. DeMint said the president is simply not living in the real world.
"The president has a difficult time with the truth. We have not cut any spending in Washington. We've doubled spending in the last 10 years. He keeps talking about 'revenues,' which is their new code word for more tax increases," said DeMint, citing the fiscal cliff deal and the Obamacare as major tax increases that have already been implemented.
"We don't have a revenue problem," he said. "If we would cut spending, you would see the private sector grow and even more revenues to the federal government. The president talks about a fair and balanced approach. American businesses and individuals now have some of the highest rates in the world. It's hard to compete internationally. He's still talking about more tax increases. The president is really going to hurt our country in a long-term way if we don't push back on this."
The mounting debt makes fiscal responsibility essential, and DeMint said America doesn't have much time to change course.
"If we're going to save our country and keep us from looking like Greece in a few years, we're going to have to find things we can cut," he said, noting that duplicative programs and services that should be under state control are a good place to start.
"I think the president has lost contact with reality," DeMint said. "He doesn't see the spending and the debt as a problem. We are approaching a real meltdown if we don't get control of it."
The former senator also made news this week for his public defense of freshman Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. Democrats and some media outlets slammed Cruz for his pointed criticism of defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel and demanding that Hagel reveal which groups hired him to speak and how much he was paid for those appearances. Demint said the partisan double-standard should be condemned, and Cruz should be commended for doing his job.
"What Ted Cruz is doing makes me so proud I could pop, because the pressure against doing what he's doing is really great," said Demint, who notes that liberals and the media demanded tax records from Mitt Romney going back a decade.
"The questions that Ted Cruz asked were very reasonable and very thorough. He's tried cases before the Supreme Court. He knows how to get answers out of people. I think he was doing just the right thing," he said.
While DeMint has left the Senate, he plans to remain active in recruiting solid conservative candidates to Senate races, a move he said will bring heartburn to the establishment for both parties. DeMint rejects the assertion from Karl Rove and others that the GOP has suffered from "unelectable" conservatives winning primaries in winnable states.
"We haven't been too conservative. Certainly, we have to have our candidates better prepared for the shark pool that they're going to get into because the media's always trying to ask questions that we don't need to be answering because they are not federal issues," said DeMint, who suggests making a campaign issue out of federalism and moving more and more responsibilities out of Washington and back to the state level.
"We need to prove to these Washington establishment folks that the best way to win races is to get a good conservative candidate," he said. "We saw it in (Marco) Rubio, Rand Paul, Pat Toomey, Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, Jeff Flake. They're out there. They can win, and we just need to identify them and support them."
Other pending debates also have DeMint's attention. On guns, he said exhaustive Heritage Foundation studies show that gun-control measures do not work. He argued that this is another issue best handled at the local level.
"We can't eliminate evil in this world, but the schools are going to have to do things at the local and at the state level to protect themselves and have the ability within to stop something like this once it happens," DeMint said. "Gun-control laws don't help. If they did, Chicago wouldn't be the murder capital of the world. We need to look at real solutions and not just this political talk that makes people feel better but doesn't make our children safer."
Finally, on immigration, DeMint said this is another issue where the Obama rhetoric sounds appealing to many but the real motivation is far less noble.
"It's very apparent to me what's going on here. The president and the Democrats want two things. They want voters. They want union members. So everything they talk about is about citizenship," said DeMint, who warned that the U.S. has an illegal immigration problem and not a citizenship problem.