Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos on Wednesday used a post-election interview to harangue Rand Paul as to whether the newly elected senator was willing to be a one-termer in pursuit of spending cuts.
Stephanopoulos pressed, "So, even if it means you're going to be a one-term senator, you're willing to say, we're going to cut Medicare. We are going to cut Social Security in order to balance the budget?" The GMA host tried to stir up trouble, questioning, "If that means taking on your party's own leaders, are you going to do it?"
At one point, Paul attempted to point out the financial relationship between all types of Americans. Gesturing towards Stephanopoulos, he snapped, "We buy stuff from rich people. Some people are rich newscasters, you know?"
Forcing the Kentucky politician to justify his economic beliefs, the morning show host chided, "So, will you come up with $700 billion in spending cuts right now to match that tax cut?...Are you saying every one of those programs is on the table?"
Prior to the election, Stephanopoulos repeatedly pressed Republicans to "cooperate" with Democrats, should they regain power.
A transcript of the November 3 segment, which aired at 8:02am EDT, follows:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: One of the big winners of last night, we saw him in that piece, he wants to take our government back, the incoming senator for Kentucky, Rand Paul, a leader in the Tea Party movement. I spoke with him moments ago. Senator-elect Paul, congratulations this morning.
RAND PAUL: Glad to be with you, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, what's the number one thing you were elected to do?
PAUL: I think the number one thing from the Tea Party has been that we're concerned about the debt. We're also kind of a little bit annoyed or discontented that we have to balance our own individual family budgets. And Congress doesn't seem to have any regard for balancing their budget. And the tea party wants them to step up and balance the budget.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay. Let's talk about how you're going to do that right now. The immediate question facing the Congress right now is what to do about the tax cuts that are set to expire at the end of this year. President Obama has said up until now, that he doesn't want to extend the tax cuts for people making more than $250,000. He says if you do that, it's going to cost too much. $700 billion additional to the deficit. Are you willing to go along with him on that?
PAUL: Well, I think what it is is a spending problem, not a revenue problem. You know, we bring in $2.4 trillion. But we spend nearly $4 trillion. I think you can have a great depression on your hand and not a great recession if you raise taxes right now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, will you come up with $700 billion in spending cuts right now to match that tax cut?
PAUL: If you're honest about how large this problem is, you have to look at the length and breadth and width of the entire budget. Every program has to be looked at, evaluated. Waste, fraud, abuse and over-spending have to be cut from all segments of the budget.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But, Senator, you know that waste fraud and abuse is one of the oldest phrases in the political play book. The difficulty is when you get from the generalities of the spending cuts to the specifics of programs like Social Security, Medicare, student loans. Are you saying every one of those programs is on the table?
PAUL: You really have to look at everything. So many of the people who go to Washington or who are in Washington will say, "Oh, we're going to roll back discretionary spending to pre-Obama levels. Well, yeah. Right. That will balance the budget in about 100 years. Spending is way out of control and we have to do something about it. So, I don't look at this as a career opportunity for me. I look at this as a chance to go and fix what's broken. And then maybe come back to my medical practice. You know, maybe that's what I would like to do. And I think we need more people like that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, even if it means you're going to be a one-term senator, you're willing to say, we're going to cut Medicare. We are going to cut Social Security in order to balance the budget?
PAUL: Let's figure out how to fund them. I don't think it's appropriate that we borrow money from China to pay for our Social Security. I don't think it's appropriate that we took money from the trust fund and put it in the general fund and spent it. And those are things that fundamentally have to be fixed.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The only way to get to the kind of cuts you're talking about is to have dramatic reform. And that means fewer benefits for people who are on Social Security and Medicare.
PAUL: Ultimately, young people are living longer. The life expectancy is much different than the 1930s. So, we will have to look at changing the eligibility, ultimately. Or we have to say we'll keep borrowing for the programs. I want to put them on a sound foundation. The sooner we make the changes, the better.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You also said we have to look at the question whether we will continue to borrow money from China to pay for these programs. You're going to face that question when you go to the Senate this spring. And you have to face this question of whether or not to raise the debt limit of the United States. So we can borrow more money from China and other nations. Will you filibuster any attempt to raise the debt limit?
PAUL: I think exactly what tactics we'll use will have to be discussed. And I do plan on working with others to see what the best strategy is. I will tell you, though, that I don't think adding debt is a good idea. I think cutting spending is what we have to do. And you need some people with principle in Washington who will stand up and say, enough is enough.
STEPHANOPOULOS: If that means taking on your party's own leaders, are you going to do it?
PAUL: Well, I think I'll fight for what's right. For the most part, it's not about individual personalities. I don't want to make it that way. I think I will find people that will reach across the aisle. Like I say, I'm not afraid to point out hypocrisy. But I'm also a fairly pleasant guy. I'm willing to work with people. And I'm not as- you know, as out there as people might say. I think most of the things that I'm for are very mainstream.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And if the President were to call you today before his press conference and say, what do you think I should talk about, what would you tell him?
PAUL: I would tell him that my kids would like to meet his kids.
PAUL: As far as what I would tell him is, is that I think we can work together. But the compromise has to be where do you cut spending. It's not really raising taxes. The thing is, is that we're all interconnected in the economy. We work for rich people. We buy stuff from rich people. Some people are rich newscasters, you know? [Gestures towards to Stephanopoulos] The thing is, you know, we shouldn't somehow say that we want to punish one segment of the economy because that punishes the economy overall.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay, Senator-elect Paul, congratulations. You have your work cut out for you in Washington.
— Scott Whitlock is a news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.