Rick Santorum 2012: What Are His Positions?

on December 17 2011 10:28 AM
Rick Santorum
Rick Santorum is the frontrunner in Oklahoma according to the latest polls. Reuters

Rick Santorum surged spectacularly in the days before the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3, edging out front-runner Mitt Romney to win the opening match of the 2012 Republican primary season. That victory catapulted him from obscurity into the first tier of candidates. He has faltered since then, placing fifth out of six candidates in New Hampshire and third out of four in South Carolina, but he has kept his campaign alive with the support of many evangelicals and social conservatives who admire his uncompromising positions on abortion and same-sex marriage.

One of Santorum's challenges has been to convince Republicans at large that he is not a one-trick pony -- that he is not just a viable social-issues candidate, but a viable economy and foreign-policy candidate as well. Here are his positions on a wide range of issues.

ECONOMIC ISSUES

Entitlements:

Santorum touts his no-nonsense stance on entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, even asserting that, with his accomplishments during his two terms as a U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, there's nobody that can touch my record on the issue. He supports raising the eligibility age for Social Security, changing the formula for cost-of-living adjustments and prohibiting the use of surplus Social Security funds for other purposes. He also praised the budget plan proposed earlier this year by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, which would have privatized Medicare -- but he wants to go still further by applying entitlement reforms to people currently receiving benefits. As brave as Paul Ryan is ... he doesn't touch anyone with an entitlement, he said. All of his changes are for people in the future. He wouldn't dare. No one dares.

He also lambasted President Obama for saying in April that the United States would not be a great country without entitlement programs, accusing Obama of not believing in American exceptionalism. Ladies and gentlemen, America was a great country before 1965, he told supporters in June. Social conservatives understand that America was a great country because it was founded great.

Health care:

Santorum has said that the 2010 health care law singlehandedly convinced him to run for president. My first priority as president of the United States is to repeal Barack Obama's health care plan, he said at a campaign stop in Iowa in August. I think it's the most dangerous piece of legislation in many generations. ... I believe Obamacare will rob America of its soul.

Unlike his Republican opponents, Santorum has not proposed many alternative policies to make health care more affordable on the open market; nor does he support certain popular parts of Obama's health care law, such as the provision that prevents insurers from discriminating based on pre-existing conditions. We have a child who has a pre-existing condition, he said in New Hampshire recently, referring to his daughter Isabella, who has Trisomy 18. We have to pay more because she has a pre-existing condition. Well, we should pay more. She's going to be very expensive to the insurance company.

The way to drive costs down, he said, is not through regulations à la Obamacare, but through a system in which standard health insurance doesn't cover routine care. Insurance shouldn't pay for your general maintenance any more than it should pay for the general maintenance of your car, he told a high school class in New Hampshire, noting that car insurance would be prohibitively expensive if every claim were covered.

A few days later, he said he did not believe Americans died because of being uninsured. People die in America because people die in America, he said. People make poor decisions with respect to their health and their health care, and they don't go to the emergency room or they don't go to the doctor when they need to. And it's not the fault of the government for not providing some sort of universal benefit.

Job creation:

Santorum has outlined a five-point plan to strengthen the economy and create jobs: shrink the federal government, reform the tax code, loosen regulations, shore up global markets and allow more energy exploration. We have seen what happens when government solutions are broadly applied, most vividly in the manufacturing sector, he says on his Web site. My plan does just the opposite: it frees business from the constraints of burdensome regulations and taxes that do nothing but hold back the American spirit of innovation.

Specifically, he wants to cap the size of the federal government at 18 percent of gross domestic product by cutting current spending, capping future spending and passing a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, and he favors several tax reforms that have become standard among Republican candidates, as outlined in the taxes section below. He wants to eliminate a slew of federal regulations, including those created by the 2010 health care law and many from the Environmental Protection Agency, and he also wants to repeal the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory law and the Sarbanes-Oxley public companies law.

Lastly, he would authorize oil drilling and other energy exploration in places that are currently protected by environmental regulations, such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Gulf of Mexico, in order to create jobs in the energy sector. Santorum believes we need to stop being naïve, put aside our dreams of 'green jobs' and focus on the great domestic resources at our disposal, his Web site says. We need an all-of-the-above energy policy that utilizes oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear energy to power our economy and empower the American worker.

Taxes:

Santorum's tax proposals are, for the most part, standard Republican fare. He wants to reduce taxes on individuals across the board, making the system simpler, flatter and fairer, he says on his Web site, without specifying what the new rates would be or what credits and deductions would be preserved.

He would also repeal the estate tax and allow multinational corporations to bring overseas earnings back to the United States at a 5 percent rate, and he would extend the current capital gains and dividend tax rates -- but he would not eliminate taxes on capital gains and dividends altogether, as some other candidates have proposed.

Finally, he would halve the current 35 percent corporate tax rate and, even more dramatically, exempt manufacturers from income taxes altogether in order to discourage them from moving jobs overseas. Manufacturing has epitomized the loss of American jobs and innovation over the past several decades, his Web site says, and by reinvigorating this crucial sector of the economy, the multiplier effect on our entire economy will spur on economic and job growth not seen in three decades.

FOREIGN POLICY

Afghanistan:

Santorum opposes a timeline for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan because he believes withdrawing too soon would mean forfeiting the military gains made since the war began in 2001. He has criticized both the Obama administration and the George W. Bush administration for failing to devote enough resources to Afghanistan. We have an obligation to support our generals in the field, to give them the resources they need to accomplish the mission, he told Fox News back in 2009. That was not done by the prior administration. Let's be very clear about that: they put their own political imprint on the Afghan strategy.

He criticized President Obama's decision in June to withdraw some troops from Afghanistan, accusing him of failing to recognize the need for victory. Every American wants our brave men and women home safely, but we cannot let those who've given the last full measure die in vain by abandoning the gains we've made thus far, he said in a statement. We must be squarely focused on succeeding in Afghanistan rather than on politically motivated troop withdrawals.

Iran:

Santorum, who served on the Senate Armed Forces Committee for eight years, has outlined a more comprehensive, specific policy regarding Iran than he has for almost any other issue. His Web site features a 15-point plan ranging from diplomacy to military action.

Among his proposals are increasing funding to pro-democracy opposition groups in Iran, sanctioning the Iranian central bank, treating Iranian nuclear scientists as enemy combatants, freezing Iranian officials' bank accounts and revoking their visas, trying to weaken Iran's alliance with Syria, developing a military plan with Israel and supporting any efforts Israel may take to defend themselves from Iranian aggression, and expanding the United States' nuclear missile defense system.

He has essentially expressed a willingness to take any actions necessary to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Mutually assured destruction will not work, he said at a Republican debate on Thursday, referring to the Cold War-era idea that if two countries both have enough nuclear weapons to destroy the other, neither will attack the other because they know doing so would provoke a retaliatory strike. Iran's object is to create a calamity: it is what their theology teaches. They don't hate us because of our policies; they hate us because of who we are. We should be working with Israel, doing covert activities and planning a strike. If Iran won't shut down their nuclear facilities, we'll shut them down for them.

Iraq:

Santorum has supported the war in Iraq since it began in 2003, and he has been a vocal opponent of President Obama's decision to withdraw all troops this month. He said at a GOP debate in September that the United States should keep at least 20,000 troops in Iraq, not indefinitely, but to continue to make sure that this is a stable transition. ... I believe we need to listen to our generals, and our generals are being very, very clear that we need to continue to stabilize Iraq.

In a CBS News interview in October, he accused Obama of ceding Iraq to the Iranian government by deciding to withdraw, saying, To be in a position where, really, the Iranians now have more sway over the Iraqi government than the United States just shows the weakness of our diplomatic effort, the weakness of this president in being able to shape the battlefield.

SOCIAL ISSUES

Abortion:

Santorum opposes abortion and believes it should be illegal under all circumstances, including rape, incest and cases in which the mother's health is threatened. I believe that any doctor who performs an abortion should be criminally charged for doing so, he told NBC in June. I've never supported criminalization of abortion for mothers, but I do for people who perform them. He also supports a constitutional amendment that would define fetuses as people and thus make it murder to abort one: At conception it is biologically human, and it's alive, he said. It's a human life. It should be a person under the Constitution.

He does not believe in any exceptions to anti-abortion laws. In an interview in June, he recalled that when he sponsored a bill to ban late-term (partial-birth) abortions in 1998, some of his fellow senators wanted a health exception, which of course is a phony exception which would make the ban ineffective. He also claimed that, far from benefiting victims of rape and incest, abortion traumatizes them.

Santorum is alone among the 2012 candidates in opposing birth control as well as abortion, because, he says, it's a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be. In other words, he does not believe couples, even married couples, should have non-procreative sex.

Education:

Santorum does not want to eliminate the Department of Education entirely, but he does want to shrink it significantly. His Web site states that the only roles the federal government should play in education are supporting civil rights protections such as IDEA in a common-sense fashion, enabling essential research and promoting equality of opportunity where needed. Otherwise, he says, education policy should be the responsibility of parents, local schools (public and private), and states, in that order.

As a senator, he voted for the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, but he has since said that this was a mistake. While he supports some of the aims of the law, he believes it should be up to state and local officials, not federal officials, to set educational standards.

The theme of Santorum's views on education is that parents should have more choices when it comes to educating their children. Toward that end, he supports the expansion of homeschooling and charter schools. The bottom-line problem with education is that the education system doesn't serve the customer of the education system, he said at a GOP debate last September. And who's the customer? The parents, because it's the parents' responsibility to educate the children.

Gay rights:

Of all the Republican presidential hopefuls, Santorum is probably the most adamant opponent of gay rights. Like most of his fellow candidates, he opposes same-sex marriage and civil unions. He supports a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman, and he does not believe states should be able to legalize gay marriage or civil unions, as several have. We can't say, 'The 10th Amendment, they can do what they want,' he said in Iowa last month. This is too important for that. There's a basic and central value. The family is the bedrock of our society. Unless we protect it with the institution of marriage, our country will fall.

Unlike his opponents, however, he opposes not just same-sex marriage but also sexual activity between same-sex partners. In 2003, he infamously compared gay sex to bestiality and pedophilia, telling The Associated Press that he did not believe the Constitution forbade government restrictions on consensual homosexual activity any more than it forbade restrictions on man on child, man on dog or whatever the case may be. He criticized the Supreme Court for striking down anti-sodomy laws, arguing, If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual [homosexual] sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. Whether it's polygamy, whether it's adultery, whether it's sodomy, all of those things are antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family.

Immigration:

Santorum is a descendant of Italian immigrants, and he frequently points to that fact as evidence that he understands the importance of legal immigration to American society. However, his stance on illegal immigration is as tough as any of his Republican rivals'. We should not have a debate talking about how we don't want people to come to this country, but we want them to come here like my grandfather and my father came here, he said at a GOP debate in September. They made sacrifices. They came in the 1920s. There were no promises. There were no government benefits. ... We have to have a program in place that sets that parameter that says, [if] you're going to come to this country, come here according to the rules.

He supports the construction of a fence along the United States-Mexico border and the designation of English as the country's official language, and he opposes public benefits for illegal immigrants, whether those benefits are welfare or in-state tuition. He also opposes amnesty for illegal immigrants and has criticized Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry for statements that he interpreted as supportive of amnesty. However, at the September debate, he implied that once the border was secured, he would be willing to consider policies that would grant illegal immigrants without criminal records some form of legality, but not citizenship. I think we can have the discussion [of] whether -- what we do with people, how long they've been here, whether they had other types of records, he said. But ... we are going to secure the border first, and that's the most important thing to do. Then we'll have the discussion afterwards.

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