Jeremy Hobson: With just one day left until the South Carolina Primary, the four remaining Republican presidential candidates met for a debate on CNN last night. There was a lot of defense of free-markets and unfettered capitalism.
Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum had this to say:
Rick Santorum: I believe in capitalism too. I believe in capitalism for everybody — not necessarily high finance, but capitalism that works for the working men and women of this country, who are out there paddling alone in America right now.
Well, let’s continue our series of interviews about the candidates now with a conversation about the former Senator’s economics. Susan Hansen is professor emeritus of political science at the University of Pittsburgh and she joins us now to discuss. Good morning.
Susan Hansen: Good morning.
Hobson: Unlike some of his rivals, Rick Santorum comes from Pennsylvania. It’s a very unusual state in many ways: It’s got a very large union presence; it’s a manufacturing state. How has that colored his economic philosophy?
Hansen: Well, I’m not sure it has to any great degree. He remains very, very conservative; was one of the leading people getting the Bush tax cuts passed. He certainly talks about his coal mining grandfather a great deal, but I think his appeal locally was more on the basis of social issues, and I think those factors were really more important.
Hobson: Are there any parts of government spending that we know that Rick Santorum is particularly against?
Hansen: Well, Planned Parenthood, of course. And any money that’s being spent on regulations. You know, reduce taxes; repeal the capital gains tax, etc.
Hobson: Before he became a senator from Pennsylvania, Santorum represented Pennsylvania’s 18th district, which is right around Pittsburgh. How did he get along with the unions in that area?
Hansen: Even many union members are strongly pro-gun, pro-life, anti-immigration and I think he was able to exploit these issues and get at least a share of the union vote.
Hobson: From a national perspective, we know Rick Santorum, as you say, as someone with very strong stances on social issues. What can you tell us about his economics that we may not know?
Hansen: Well, the research that I’ve done has really not revealed anything that would distinguish him from the other candidates to any great degree. And I think Santorum has been much busier burnishing his conservative Evangelical credentials rather than pushing economic differences.
Hobson: Susan Hansen is professor emeritus of political science at the University of Pittsburgh. Prof. Hansen, thanks so much for talking with us.
Hansen: Thank you very much.