Exclusive — Carly Fiorina: GOP Should Hammer ‘Crony Capitalism’

Rex Features/AP
Rex Features/AP

The phenomenon of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders —an open and sincere socialist drawing huge crowds as he seeks the Democratic nomination—should push conservatives to criticize “crony capitalism,” GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina told Breitbart News in an exclusive interview.

“If you look at all these gigantic pieces of legislation–Dodd-Frank to pick one, Obamacare to pick another–the big and the powerful, the wealthy and the well-connected do well and the small and the powerless get crushed,” she told Breitbart.

“We have to make this case. We have to explain it. We have to tell the story. We can’t just say ‘We’re going to run out of money,'” she said.

“People think the game is rigged now. That’s what all the polling data says. And so, first, part of Bernie Sanders’ appeal is at least he’s authentic. At least ‘He’s always said this,'” Fiorina told Breitbart News. Sanders is authentic, she said, because he “has said exactly the same things for 30 years.”

“People have figured out that politics has become a big game and that a lot of politicians, frankly on both sides of the aisle, say whatever needs to be said at the time but that doesn’t mean they’re actually going to do it,” Fiorina told Breitbart.

Sanders’ authenticity makes a stark contrast with leading Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton. Clinton has always struggled to seem natural and has frequently flip-flopped on big issues, most recently on her prior support for the unpopular Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade deal.

Because Sanders comes across as authentic and honest, Fiorina said, Republicans need to work overtime to explain to Americans that socialism—bigger, more complex government—is not a solution to the problem. And that explanation can’t begin and end with “We can’t afford it” so long as people believe there are rich people who are not paying “their fair share,” she said.

“People may or may not believe that, especially if they believe the rich need to pay their fair share, whatever that’s defined as… If you say to people, which I do all the time, let’s think about who benefits when government is big and powerful and complicated and costly. Who benefited from every thing from a zero interest rate to these big massive pieces of regulation and legislation? The answer is the big, the powerful, the wealthy and the well-connected. Retirees, young people who are trying to save, middle-class folks who are hurt by zero interest rates. The investor class does great in it because investments whether it’s in the stock market or the real estate market do well.”

Fiorina said she regularly engages with Democrats and independents fascinated with the Sanders phenomenon on the campaign trail—and she does her best to get them to think about who really benefits from larger government. “I have many Democrats and independents that now come to my events,” Fiorina said.

“I have a lot of Bernie Sanders’ people who come and I ask them why and they say it’s because you talk about crony capitalism. So they know that’s bad, but of course what progressives do is they say the answer to crony capitalism is more big government, which is exactly the wrong answer. I say to people, ask yourself a question, if something is so complicated, like a 73,000 page tax code or the rules around Obamacare–if something is so complicated [that] you don’t understand it, what do you suppose the chances are that you’re getting taken advantage of? And people in their bones get that.”

When it comes to entitlement reform for programs like Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare and more—and changing the way government operates, generally—Fiorina said that she believes it’s important those seeking to make such changes understand that the American people don’t trust government and trust politicians running it even less.

“I think you start by acknowledging that no one trusts that we can deal with anything big and important anymore. Gallup has asked the question for 20 years, ‘do you think the federal government is corrupt?’ Seventy-five percent of the American people now say yes. Eighty-two percent now say we have a professional political class that’s more consumed with its own power, privilege and position than getting anything done. Well, if that’s where the American people are, that they’ve lost faith in their political process, their politicians and their government, you can’t tackle these big things until you prove, you demonstrate, you rebuild their confidence that our political system and our government can work.”

She said because of that loss of trust, she would first reform basic government spending and appropriations—prioritizing those ahead of other more central programs—to earn trust of the public back.

“So I wouldn’t start with entitlements and what do you do with 70 percent of our spending. I would start with something basic like appropriations and what we do with 30 percent of our spending. Because we never talk about the whole budget. Government has spent more money each and every year for about 50 years under Republicans and Democrats alike and it never has enough money to do anything important. It wastes tens of billions, hundreds of billions of dollars, so I think we have to start with the basics, we have to go to zero-based budgeting, we have to have some consequence for failure to perform, we have to ask agencies to justify every dollar every year, we have to have sunset provisions, we have to get some basic competence back in government. And then, by the way, there are loads of great conservative ideas about how to reform Social Security. Cato has written them. The American Enterprise Institute has written them. Heritage has written them. It’s not that we lack for good ideas, it’s that nobody actually does it. And the American people won’t trust that we can do it competently until we get our house in order.”

You can read part 1 of Breitbart News’ exclusive interview with Carly Fiorina here.