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Catching Up With Mitt Romney

The GOP presidential contender talks taxes, jobs, Social Security, Medicare ... and grandkids

En español | Q: Governor Romney, you recently became a grandfather for the 17th and 18th times. What did you learn from your grandparents that you try to pass along to your own grandchildren?

A: My dad was born to American parents living in Mexico. When he was 5 they left everything behind and started over in the United States. They started to build a new life, only to face financial difficulties again because of the Great Depression. Through it all they taught my dad lessons about the importance of family and of faith and passed on to him a great and abiding affection for this country. Those are lessons he taught me, that I taught my sons and that they're teaching their children today.

See also: Obama, the president and the dad.

Q: How has the role of grandparents changed in today's society?

A: Broader access to better medical care has been lengthening life spans and increasing the quality of life for many older Americans. One benefit is that grandparents are playing a larger and more active role in their grandkids' lives than ever before. As a grandfather to 18 myself, I know there's no greater joy than getting a chance to help raise another generation.

Q: Economic and social factors are producing a generation of young adults — some not so young — who are living with their parents, or moving back in with them, well into their 20s and 30s. Is this a positive trend or a negative trend? And why?

A: It's a tragedy that so many young people are unable to find work and are being forced to move in with their parents. Even many college graduates are taking jobs that are not matched to their educational attainments. I have a plan to get America back to work. It involves restoring economic growth by getting government out of the way.

Q: What would you do to create an economic environment where it is easier for high school and college graduates to find jobs?

A: The federal government has placed enormous burdens on America's job creators. The government itself estimates that the annual cost of regulation is $1.75 trillion. We need to scrutinize every regulation to make sure that benefits exceed costs and that they do not kill jobs. The key to creating more opportunities for recent graduates is to ensure we have a strong economy.

Q: Is there any good news for parents whose kids are about to enter into the job market?

A: The good news is that the American economy remains extraordinarily resilient and dynamic. With the right policies in place, we can turn things around and restore economic growth. Some governors have already shown, at the state level, that a sound budgetary and regulatory approach yields real dividends. Of course, they have faced obstacles from Washington. But if we can remove those obstacles — and I believe we can — we will see a return to growth and prosperity. Our difficulties now should not be underestimated, but with the right policies they will be just a bitter memory.

Q: What do we do for the 50-plus group, who are now being called "the new unemployables"?

A: The best remedy for the 23 million Americans struggling to find work, including those age 50 and older, is to get the economy moving again. With economic growth comes job creation, and unfortunately, both remain in short supply in this economy.

Q: How do you create jobs and grow the economy in a way that provides equal opportunity for all?

A: Government shouldn't pick economic winners and losers. Instead, government should provide an environment that encourages broad-based economic growth by lowering tax rates on individuals and corporations, fostering the production of affordable domestic energy and rolling back regulatory excesses. Everyone will benefit from these pro-growth policies.

Q: In particular, what would you do to create conditions that will help and grow America's middle class?

A: The middle class has struggled through the recession and continues to face a difficult road ahead in this economy. Economic growth that supports job creation, and keeping the tax burden on middle-class families low, will help get our country back on solid footing. I support an across-the-board reduction in tax rates, which will not only ease the burden on middle-class families but foster savings and investment and promote economic growth.

Q: What would you do in terms of tax policy and other incentives to give small-business owners — who create middle-class jobs — a leg up?

A: Small businesses create the majority of new jobs in our economy. Now is not the time to increase taxes on these job creators, as some have proposed. Instead, we should foster an environment where small businesses can focus on building their businesses and hiring new workers. A large number of small businesses report that the uncertainty engendered by tax and regulatory policies has kept them from hiring. We need to restore a climate of confidence and stability that will enable business to make the accurate forecasts necessary for hiring and investing.

Q: What is the best long-term solution to meet our country's energy needs?

A: We are in the midst of an energy revolution in this country, thanks to technological innovations that have made oil, natural gas and clean-coal energy available in quantities never before imagined. If we embrace these resources, instead of stifling them, America will be the next energy superpower — and we can end our dangerous dependence on OPEC oil.

Within this decade the American energy sector has the potential to drive a profound reindustrialization and revitalization of the American economy, creating good jobs with good wages and launching a new era of prosperity for our nation. Manufacturing will return to our shores, instead of being chased overseas. Beyond tremendous economic and employment benefits, higher domestic energy output has the potential to reduce our budget deficit, slash our trade deficit and strengthen the U.S. dollar. Beyond the national-security implications, affordable, reliable energy is crucial to helping families make ends meet, allowing them to get to work, and ensuring they can afford other goods and services.

Q: Our members care a lot about Social Security. Are there benefit or contribution adjustments you'd support to put it on stable footing for the future? What are they?

A: I have laid out an approach to modernizing America's entitlement programs, guaranteeing their continued vitality for future generations. These proposals will not raise taxes and will not affect today's seniors or those nearing retirement. I've proposed that Social Security should be adjusted in a couple of commonsense ways that will put it on the path of solvency and ensure that it is preserved for future generations. For future generations of seniors, I believe that the retirement age should be slowly increased to account for increases in longevity and that benefits should continue to grow but that the growth rate should be lower for those with higher incomes. These two relatively minor adjustments will safeguard Social Security for this generation and for generations to come.

Q: How would you put Medicare on stronger financial ground and protect today's seniors and future retirees from the burden of rising health costs?

A: If we act now, we can save and strengthen Medicare for today's beneficiaries and ensure no disruption for those who will enroll within the next decade. Future beneficiaries would be given the power to choose from a set of Medicare-approved plans or the existing "traditional" fee-for-service plan, whichever they prefer. The coverage and services these plans provide would be required to be at least as good as those that beneficiaries receive today. Medicare would also provide seniors with defined financial support, to help them purchase a plan that best fits their needs. Seniors will be allowed to keep the savings from less expensive options, or they may choose to pay more for costlier plans if they want. Requiring insurers to compete against each other to provide the best value to seniors will cause health care quality to improve and costs to decline, thus ensuring that Medicare will be protected for today's seniors and strengthened for future generations.

Q: We push our readers to do the thing that they are scared to do. What would you do to rejuvenate yourself?

A: When Ann and I can get a day off from the campaign trail, we really love to just hang out with the grandkids at the beach, followed by a big family dinner. That is the most rejuvenating activity of anything I can imagine.

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