Matt Lauer Turns Into Deficit Hawk, Asks Gingrich About 'Funny Math'

NBC's Matt Lauer, suddenly turned into a deficit hawk, when he invited on Newt Gingrich on Tuesday's Today show, to discuss the GOP's refusal to extend unemployment benefits without paying for them, as he complained to the House Speaker that those same Republicans didn't offer spending cuts to offset the Bush tax cut and pressed: "Is it funny math?" and "traditionally speaking when you cut taxes, don't deficits go up as well?" Gingrich initially agreed that the deficit in the "short run" goes up but explained to the Today show anchor that "we proved with Reagan, with the three-year tax cuts in the 1980s" and "again with the Contract With America" that "job creating principles of cutting taxes are far better than the job killing principles of big government and regulation."

The following is the full interview as it was aired on the July 20 Today show:

MATT LAUER: Alright, Savannah. Thank you very much. Former Republican Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, is a Fox News contributor and the author of the new book To Save America: Stopping Obama's Secular Socialist Machine. Newt, good to see you. Good morning again.

NEWT GINGRICH: Matt, good to see you.

LAUER: Let, let me ask you to help me on the math here, alright? What Savannah just talked about, what the President talked about yesterday. You've got some Republicans coming out saying, "We're not in favor extending, of extending these unemployment benefits that carry a price tag of about $33 billion unless there are offsetting cuts in spending." They are the same Republicans, Newt, who didn't ask for those offsetting spending cuts when they wanted to make permanent the Bush tax cuts with a price tag of over half a trillion dollars. Is it funny math?

GINGRICH: No, I don't think so. The second biggest concern of the American people after jobs is deficit spending and the fact that this president has been like a teenager with a credit card who has run up - he will have, if he serves eight years, under current plans, he will double the national debt. That is, that is he'll borrow more than every previous president combined. The average American is beginning to respond with great concern about that amount of debt.

LAUER: But traditionally speaking when you cut taxes, don't deficits go up as well?

GINGRICH: Only in the short run. That's the other difference. I mean we proved with Reagan, with the three-year tax cuts in the 1980s, we proved again with the Contract with America, with the first tax cut in 16 years that, in fact, job creating principles of cutting taxes are far better than job killing principles of big government and regulation. If you look at Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, I think it was in 2007, Texas created more jobs than the other 49 states combined. And the reason was simple. It's a much lower tax, much lower regulation state in which people found it more convenient and easier to start a business, invest in a company or create a job.

[On screen headline: "'To Save America' Gingrich's Formula For Fixing Country"]

LAUER: Let's talk about cutting, cutting the deficit here. You've said, you're thinking more seriously now than ever about running for president. Let's say I make you president right now. Congratulations. And I give you what a lot of people are predicting - a Republican-controlled House and Senate. That means you've got to make some really tough choices in terms of cutting this deficit. What are you willing to say? And name it by name, that you would be willing to cut right now to cut deficits.

GINGRICH: First of all, you just may, create a nightmare for virtually every Democrat watching the show, so I apologize to them. But to, but to work out your scenario, in the four years I was Speaker of the House, the average rate of increase was 2.9 percent a year including all the entitlements. That is the lowest rate of increase since Calvin Coolidge in the 1920s. We did it by carefully setting priorities.

LAUER: But-

GINGRICH: Now, now just let me finish.

LAUER: Okay, go ahead.

GINGRICH: So, so we doubled, for example, investment in national health research at the National Institutes of Health while we were being very tough on other spending. I would start and I'd go through this budget pretty dramatically and I would eliminate a great deal of federal bureaucracy. I would reform unemployment compensation. I would reform workman's comp at the state level. I would have a very pro-jobs, very pro-savings, very pro-take-home pay policy. When we reformed welfare, 65 percent of people on welfare either went to work or went to school and we saved billions and billions of dollars. That's part of how we managed to balance the budget. Remember Matt...

LAUER: Would, would you make cuts in Social Security and Medicare?

GINGRICH: No, no.

LAUER: Would you take those things on?

GINGRICH: Well first, well first of all, and we've proven at the Center for Health Transformation with a book called Stop Paying the Crooks that there's between $70 billion and $120 billion a year, that is paid to crooks in Medicare and Medicaid. So sure that, that, by the way, comes out to $700 billion to a trillion, two-hundred billion in savings over the next decade, just by not paying crooks in the federal health system.

LAUER: This worst case scenario we just talked about for Democrats, the loss of both the House and the Senate. How likely is it, in your opinion?

GINGRICH: About 50/50. It gets worse every month partly because what you just showed was the President with very shallow politics, assuming the American people are dumb enough to follow the latest headline and don't realize the real problem with unemployment is this is a job killing administration and a job killing Democratic Congress and that's why those people are unemployed.

LAUER: Newt Gingrich. Newt it's good to see you. Thanks for your time this morning.

GINGRICH: Appreciate it. Thanks Matt.

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.