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The 2012 Hopefuls: Newt Gingrich

Learn about the former GOP presidential candidate and his views on Social Security, Medicare and more

Newton "Newt" Gingrich

(Dropped out of race on May 2, 2012)

Born: June 17, 1943, in Harrisburg, Pa.

Job history: speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, 1995-99, and U.S. representative from Georgia, 1979-99; West Georgia College history professor, author or coauthor of 25 books, most recently To Save America: Stopping Obama's Secular-Socialist Machine, with Joe DeSantis

Education: B.A., Emory University; M.A. and Ph.D., Tulane University

Personal: Married to Callista (Bisek) Gingrich; converted to Catholicism in 2009

Campaign website: Newt.org

Since leaving Congress in 1999, Newt Gingrich has criss-crossed the country as social critic, an expert on national health care policy and as a prolific author. Now, he says, he's ready to turn his attention to presidential politics and his own campaign. After a bumpy launch, when most of his staff quit in frustration, Gingrich's campaign effort has recovered and surged, due mainly to his strong performance in debates.

Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid

Soon after Gingrich entered the 2012 presidential race, he walked straight into the brewing political battle over the future of Medicare. Gingrich infuriated fellow Republicans when he called Rep. Paul Ryan's plan for issuing vouchers or subsidies for Medicare patients to buy private insurance "right-wing social engineering." After a GOP outcry ("With allies like that, who needs the left?" Ryan responded), Gingrich apologized, but he continues to be shadowed for his remarks. Gingrich supports allowing Medicare recipients to go into the private market, but he doesn't want to force them into it, promoting on his campaign website "a 21st Century personal Medicare system that would allow seniors to choose on a voluntary basis a more personal system with greater options for better care."

Although in the past Gingrich has spoken positively about the idea of an individual mandate to obtain health insurance, he now wants to repeal the new health care law, and would institute tort reform to bring down medical malpractice costs. He supported the Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage plan, saying the increased cost is a necessary element of preventive care, ultimately reducing overall medical expenses. Gingrich also promotes the use of electronic medical records to bring down costs.

In his updated “Contract With America,'' Gingrich proposes allowing private-sector alternatives for both Social Security and Medicare recipients. For the retirement program, Gingrich would allow younger Americans to put a portion of their Social Security payments into a personal account. Medicare recipients would have the option of using the government subsidy for a private insurance plan.

Taxes and budget

As the architect of the 1994 conservative manifesto "Contract With America," Gingrich has continued his push for less federal regulation — including by the Food and Drug Administration — and lower taxes, both for corporations and individuals. He supports the elimination of the capital gains tax, a reduction of the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 12.5 percent, and an extension of the Bush-era personal income tax cuts. He also favors allowing Americans the option of paying a 15 percent flat tax on income, allowing them, he said, to file their federal taxes on a postcard. Gingrich has called for the firing of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, calling him "dangerous" and "inflationary."

Transportation

Liberals, Gingrich said on a radio show, would "like all of us to live in big cities in high-rises, taking mass transit. That's their idealized utopia." And Gingrich opposes taking away tax subsidies for oil companies, and lambastes "intellectuals" who live on "university campuses" and don't have to drive long distances and pay high gas prices.

Susan Milligan is a prize-winning Washington reporter.

Also of interest: AARP’s voter education guide.

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