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Trump: The Federal Government Should Do These Three Things. Or Maybe Just One.

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Donald Trump at a CNN town hall in Milwaukee. Donald Trump at a CNN town hall in Milwaukee. CNN

On the campaign trail, Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump has expressed little confidence in the federal government’s ability to “make America great again,” and backed steep spending cuts in such agencies as the Education Department and the Environmental Protection Agency. But he wants to dramatically boost the Defense Department and seems to be fond of certain other agencies, such as the General Services Administration and the Border Patrol.

So what exactly does Trump think the federal government should prioritize? That subject came up in Trump’s CNN town hall Tuesday night from Milwaukee. In response to a question from an Army retiree and in follow-up queries from host Anderson Cooper, Trump expounded on government’s role. But his statements didn’t exactly square with his previous sentiments.

It’s worth reading the full exchange:

QUESTION:  In your opinion, what are the top three functions of the United States government?

TRUMP:  Well, the greatest function of all by far is security for our nation.  I would also say health care, I would also say education.  I mean, there are many, many things, but I would say the top three are security, security, security.

We have to have security for our country so that we can continue to exist as a country.  We are in danger.  Thousands and thousands of people are infiltrating our country.  We don't know who they are. There's a very vicious world.  We're living in a very vicious world and we're doing something that is against a lot of very smart people's wishes.  I can tell you, it's totally against my wishes.

COOPER:  So top three, you're saying, security.

TRUMP:  Security.  I say all top three are security, but health care, education, would be probably three that would be top.  And then you can go on from there. But the military and the secure country, so that we have a country.  Believe me, we've never been in a position, in my opinion, where our country is so vulnerable.  Our military is being eaten away.

When General Odierno left recently, a year ago, I was watching him on maybe your show, one of the shows, and he said that the United States Army, the United States military forces have never been so - and I think he used the word depleted.  But basically he said they're exhausted.

COOPER:  So just to follow-up, though…

TRUMP:  And that's a pretty -- that's a pretty sad commentary.  And honestly, even though he was retiring at the time -- and I had a lot of respect for him, good man, but even though he was leaving at the time, people shouldn't say that because you're giving the enemy ideas.

But if I get in, our military will be bigger, better, stronger than ever before.  It's the cheapest thing we can do.

COOPER:  So in terms of federal government role, you're saying security, but you also say health care and education should be provided by the federal government?

TRUMP:  Well, those are two of the things.  Yes, sure.  I mean, there are obviously many things, housing, providing great neighborhoods...

COOPER:  Aren't you against the federal government's involvement in education?  Don't you want it to devolve to states?

TRUMP:  I want it to go to states, yes.  Absolutely.  I want -- right now...

COOPER:  So that's not part of what the federal government's...

TRUMP:  The federal government, but the concept of the country is the concept that we have to have education within the country, and we have to get rid of Common Core and it should be brought to the state level.

COOPER:  And federal health care run by the federal government?

TRUMP:  Health care -- we need health care for our people.  We need a good - Obamacare is a disaster.  It's proven to be...

COOPER:  But is that something the federal government should be doing?

TRUMP:  The government can lead it, but it should be privately done.  It should be privately done.  So that health care -- in my opinion, we should probably have -- we have to have private health care.  We don't have competition in health care.

The problem that we have in our country is we don't have competition.  It's made because the politicians -- by the way, I'm self-funding.  I am self-funding.  So the health care companies aren't taking care of me.  But they're taking care of everyone else.

Wait one second.  We don't have -- we don't have bidding.  We don't have competition in health care.  And it's a disaster.  Obamacare, if you take a look at your premiums, they're going up 35 percent, 45 percent, 55 percent, and the deductibles are so high, you'll never get to use it.

Tom Shoop is vice president and editor in chief at Government Executive Media Group, where he oversees both print and online editorial operations. He started as associate editor of Government Executive magazine in 1989; launched the company’s flagship website, GovExec.com, in 1996; and was named editor in chief in 2007.

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