Fiorina on Zero-Based Budgeting, Accountability, and Outsider Status

Nov 16, 2015

Carly Fiorina is a former executive at Hewlett Packard and she’s seeking the Republican presidential nomination. We reached her Friday morning at a campaign stop in Council Bluffs. 

Note: The conversation took place Friday morning before the attacks in Paris.

Clay Masters: There was a lot of momentum behind your campaign coming out of those first two debates. What are you going to do in next 90 days to make sure you can keep momentum going or build a little bit more moving forward?

Carly Fiorina: We’ve never lost momentum. I assume you’re talking about national polls. And, you know, national polls are interesting and they determine debate stage placement, but the truth is the momentum that really matters is the momentum with voters and we have a lot of that here in Iowa and in the key early states. Recall that when I started this race, I was sort of 17 out of 16. Pollsters didn’t even poll my name, and now I’m on the main debate stage and I’m going to stay on the main debate stage. So we’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing which is, of course, make sure that people know who I am, and spend a lot of time on the ground in key states like Iowa.

CM: And Iowa seems to like outsiders, with the last few polls, Trump and Carson have been doing well in them. What are you doing to set yourself apart from the other outsiders?

CF: Well I have a completely different resume than either Donald Trump or Ben Carson. I started as a secretary, eventually became a chief executive, and I did that by leading others and producing results, over and over and over. I understand the economy, I’ve spent a lot of time in and around the world, know a lot about our military and intelligence capability, I have cut bureaucracies down to size and held them accountable, that is what has to happen in Washington, D.C. I understand technology having spent my career in that space, and technology is very important now. And I understand leadership which is to challenge the status quo, to unlock the potential of others and to produce results.

CM: At the same time, you’re also facing about a dozen candidates who—

CF: [laughs] It’s a big, crowded field.

CM:  --have been public servants. How do you plan to make up for your lack of governing experience, especially when it comes to working with congress?

CF: Well you know it’s interesting, voters have concluded that having experience in politics is not necessarily an asset. 75% of the American people now think that the federal government is corrupt, 82% of the American people think that we now have a professional political class that cares more about the preservation of its own power, position and privilege than on getting anything done. I think the issue is, the American people want results now. So, of course, I am willing to work with Congress, but I also think Congress will work better when the American citizens put pressure on Congress to do the obvious things that need to get done. Example: there’s been a bill languishing in Congress that would take us to zero-based budgeting, that is, the opportunity to examine every dollar in the federal government budget, to cut any dollar and to move any dollar. It’s a fundamental thing that needs to happen. There also is a three-page tax code that’s been around for 20 years. Neither one of those things has been acted upon. Citizens know they need to be acted upon. So I’m going to ask citizens, through the power of technology, to help me put pressure on Congress so they’ll move.

CM: You also brought up the REINS act in the last debate, which to explain, would require any executive branch rule that costs more than 100 million dollars, for it to go to a vote of Congress.

CF: That’s right.

CM: Why give Congress the authority to vote on something like that when it’s hard for Congress to pass budget bills? Why give them the up and down vote for something that’s fractional to the national economy?

CF: Well it’s not fractional. Think about what the EPA has done. The EPA has rolled out a set of rules in the last six years that are crushing to this economy, they are destroying the coal industry, even though our coal industry is far cleaner than the four coal-fired power plants that the Chinese are bringing online every year. So we’re not saving the environment, we’re destroying jobs and communities. The EPA has rolled out the Waters of the U.S. act which gives them the authority—the EPA, a bunch of nameless, faceless bureaucrats—to control 95% of the groundwater here in Iowa. That isnt’ going to help anybody. We have lawless rules rolled out about immigration by this president, we have the national labor relations board doing things. The point is all these rules are crushing the economy, and they are rolled out by bureacrats who are accountable to no one, elected by no one. So let’s hold Congress accountable, and instead of becoming a nation of rules, let’s go back to being a nation of laws, and then voters can hold their congress people accountable for the votes they make.

CM: More so than many of your other GOP candidate colleagues, you’ve been an advocate for the military and expanding the military. 20 army brigades, a dozen new marine battalions, some are estimating it would cost about 20 billion dollars, how do you pay for it all?

CF: Well that’s why zero-based budgeting is so important, because we have to have the ability to move any dollar. But here’s the thing that people forget: the most important role of the federal government is to protect the nation. That’s what the constitution says: it’s the role of the federal government to protect the nation. So, really, we’re going to shortchange the investments necessary to have the strongest military on the face of thhe planet, which is necessary, because of some bureaucracy that isn’t accomplishing its objectives? I don’t think so. We need to remember what the top priorities are. Protecting the nation is the top priority of the federal government. But it’s why, the only way you can pay for these important investments is to be able to cut elsewhere in the government where we’re spending money that doesn’t make sense. And the reason the government’s gotten bigger for fifty years and we never have enough money to do the important things is because all the money is spoken for. That’s why we have to go to a system, that allows us, the citizens, the president, to say, in any budget, we’re gonna cut money here, we’re gonna move money there, we’re going to invest in our priorities, and we’re gonna stop spending money on things that don’t produce results for the American people and we got loads of those.

CM: Shifting to something happening in the state of Iowa right now. The governor wants to hand over medicaid’s managed care to private insurance companies. There are concerns among people who are on Medicaid that their access to services will be shortchanged for companies wanting to make profits. Some of these companies that won bids have backgrounds, there’s been some fraud cases that have happened, some illegal activity. You talked about, in the most recent debate, free market healthcare. How do you have free market health care and also make sure that people aren’t taken advantage of, this very vulnerable population?

CF: Well it’s a very important question. Let us not forget however that Medicaid has also experienced lots of fraud. It’s a false assertion to say that fraud only exists in the private sector. Fraud exists in the government all the time, and with government programs. The way to ensure against fraud, wherever it is, is to make sure there’s complete transparency as well as accountability. And that’s why I’ve said over and over again that we need to require that every healthcare provider publish, on a regular basis, their costs, their prices, their outcomes.

Because the truth is, as patients—and I’m a cancer survivor, I mean, I understand how important this is in personal terms—as patients we don’t have any information and therefore we don’t have any power. So we need to know, is somebody down the street better than somebody ten miles away or not? It’s transparency that allows us to detect fraud. There isn’t transparency in government today. There also needs to be accountability. And there isn’t enough accountability in the federal government today. When bad things happen in the government, nobody ever gets fired. Nobody ever is held accountable. We need to restore accountability in the private sector, if there is accountability lacking, but certainly in the public sector as well. And finally what I would say is, we must start, in addition to the principles of transparency and accountability, I think we need to remember that it is consumers, and patients, and veterans, and taxpayers that the government is there to serve. And to serve those people they need to have choices and information and power.

CM: One last question, at a Hillary Clinton campaign event in New Hampshire someone in the audience said—he worked for Hewlett Packard during the layoffs when you were CEO—he made a comment about wanting to reach through the television screen and strangle you. Hillary Clinton laughed at this remark. What do you think of that?

CF: Well, look, I can understand how somebody who went through a tough time might resent me. I understand that. And in order to save 80,000 jobs we had to make some tough calls. I can even understand Hillary Clinton not being in a position to correct every single voter that says something objectionable. But I think what it demonstrates is the unbelievable double standard of the media. Because Hillary Clinton wasn’t asked about that over and over and over again. On the other hand, conservative candidates are asked about a remark that somebody might have made at their rallies all the time, I’ve been asked about them. So I just think it demonstrates once again that Hillary Clinton is held to a very different standard. I guess it’s why the media doesn’t routinely put a microphone in her face and ask her why she lied about Benghazi. There’s a double standard.

CM: We’re asking all the presidential candidates for three words to describe Iowa. What are your three words?

CF: Beautiful. I think Iowa is beautiful. Citizenship. Iowans take their citizenship and their caucus responsibilities very, very seriously. And it’s corny but it’s true: friendly.

CM: Mrs. Fiorina, thank you.

CF: Thank you so much.