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Deadly Quake in Indonesia; Rethinking Way Forward in Afghanistan; Deadly Tsunami
Aired September 30, 2009 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: OK, let's learn more about the devastation in Indonesia following a powerful earthquake earlier today. Wayne Ulrich is disaster management coordinator for the International Red Cross. He's in Aceh, Indonesia.
And Wayne, if you would, give us a sense of what you're seeing, your teams are seeing on the ground there in terms of the damage and devastation.
WAYNE ULRICH, DISASTER MANAGEMENT COORDINATOR, INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS: Yes. The Red Cross, in the province of west Sumatra, we were actually right in the middle of all of this when it was going on. So, they mobilized about 90 of their volunteers out to the field to try and reach the victims and the people that were affected by the earthquake.
But, unfortunately, a lot of the access to these areas is blocked by all different types of problems. People, frightened people, out on the streets. Cars -- kind of people trying to get out of the city in panic. And part of the process of actually getting information from the field has been quite difficult to get because of the problems of getting out to the field.
But fortunately, we've had a radio network up and running, and through that network we've been able to substantiate the fact that we do have -- there are hundreds of houses that have been damaged. We do not know the numbers.
We have confirmed reports that a hospital has been partially damaged, a market has caught on fire. The airport was closed down for inspection because of the fear that if they landed any planes, they might indeed cause problems.
HARRIS: Wayne, I'm just thinking back. I was sitting in this chair in 2004, reporting on, boy, the horrible tsunami that impacted...
HARRIS: ... that very area where you are. And I'm just wondering how devastating this must be for the people that you serve.
ULRICH: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. But I think we've come a long way since 2004.
Since then, we've been able to preposition. We've been able to put equipment and supplies on site in almost all of the provinces of the country.
And the Red Cross, through their system, we set up tier (ph) networks. They're not yet fully functioning, but what does function works well. And we are trying to, indeed, respond, even tonight, with these 900 volunteers.
We are mobilizing our resources. We are sending out family hygiene equipment, you know, things for cleaning, essential, you know, ropes, to try and help. It's just the rainy season at the moment.
So, I do think we've come a long way. Yes, it is devastating. And, yes, it is, you know, very much a serious problem in this country. We've only had an earthquake just three weeks ago in west Java.
ULRICH: I was here when the earthquake happened in 2005. I was also in Aceh through the tsunami.
ULRICH: So, there is a lot going on in this country that, indeed, really calls for, you know, propositioning, being more ready, building communities' ability to respond and help themselves. We can't be everywhere at the same time.
HARRIS: Got you. And at least the silver lining here in this very difficult story is no tsunami, correct?
ULRICH: No tsunami. There was a warning, but, fortunately, it did not happen. But that being said, people that -- people were ready in many ways when the earthquake happened. They didn't need to be told to kind of move to higher ground.
ULRICH: They didn't need to be told a lot of the things that they didn't know several years ago.
ULRICH: It's come by a lot of training.
HARRIS: Wayne Ulrich is the disaster management coordinator for the International Red Cross, and joining us on the phone from Aceh, Indonesia.
Wayne, appreciate it. Thank you.
Rethinking the way forward in Afghanistan. Three hours from now, President Obama gets options from his national security team. The group includes heavy hitters like Vice President Joe Biden; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; Defense Secretary Robert Gates; Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs; and General Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander on the ground in Afghanistan. McChrystal is asking for more troops to wage a counterinsurgency campaign that targets the Taliban. Some advisers, chiefly the vice president, favor a counterterrorism approach that targets al Qaeda.
CNN's Barbara Starr tells us either option will be costly.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Lance Corporal Christopher Fochs (ph) killed in Afghanistan, one of more than 140 troops paying the ultimate price since June, when General Stanley McChrystal took command of this increasingly troubled and uncertain war.
The White House now reviewing basic strategy, goals, and what it will take to win.
STEVEN CLEMONS, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: All the choices facing the president right now in Afghanistan are costly and problematic.
STARR: After meeting with NATO's secretary-general, was President Obama hinting at cutting back on the anti-Taliban counterinsurgency campaign to a narrower goal?
BARACK H. OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We both agree that it is absolutely critical that we are successful in dismantling, disrupting, destroying the al Qaeda network.
STARR: That's a strategy far short of the troops, money, and commitment that General McChrystal says is needed for the U.S. to regain the momentum against the Taliban.
If McChrystal's counterinsurgency plan is adopted, it may lead to still more casualties, because McChrystal says it will only work if the U.S. takes the risk of leaving some of its protection behind. The general told CBS' "60 Minutes" troops must get out of their vehicles and walk with the people.
GEN. STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL, COMMANDER, U.S. FORCES, AFGHANISTAN: What I'm really telling people is, the greatest risk we can accept is to lose the support of the people here. If the people are against us, we cannot be successful.
STARR: The number of wounded already skyrocketing. Even though the number of overall troops only rose 16 percent, the number of seriously wounded troops jumped sixfold, 27 in June, 186 this month. Experts say there will be costs beyond the finances and lives of American forces if the U.S. does not regain the initiative in Afghanistan.
CLEMONS: It's the cost of how America's perceived around the world as well, where countries like Iran, I think, see us bogged down in a complicated quagmire.
HARRIS: Live to the Pentagon now and our Barbara Starr.
And Barbara, I know we're not allowed in the room today, but I sure want to be there.
STARR: You and me both.
HARRIS: Yes. Yes. And I'm just wondering when we might hear something from the White House.
STARR: Well, you know, Tony, the word on the street, or at least in the hallways of the Pentagon, is it could be a few weeks yet. One senior official telling me they think that by the end of October, the president will be ready to make that key decision.
But consider this, Tony -- winter is coming to Afghanistan. And even General McChrystal believes the Taliban will have one of their regularly scheduled meetings amongst Taliban elders. They meet every winter, so they set their strategy for the coming year. So, the clock keeps ticking -- Tony.
HARRIS: All right. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us.
Barbara, thank you.
The top American commander in Iraq announced today 4,000 U.S. troops will come home early. General Ray Odierno told a House committee Iraq is making progress, but, he says, strategic patience will be needed before the transition -- actually, during the transition from U.S. to Iraqi forces. The early withdrawal will cut the American footprint in Iraq from 124,000 troops to about 120,000.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. RAY ODIERNO, COMMANDER, MULTINATIONAL FORCE, IRAQ: We believe the Iraqi security forces will develop the capacity to conduct internal and basic external defense over the next two and a half years as we continue to draw down our forces.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: U.S. combat missions in Iraq are supposed to end next September. All troops are to leave by the inside of 2011.
Money for medical research to help stimulate the economy. Last hour, President Obama announced billions of dollars in research grants from the economic stimulus program. The president says the money awarded by the National Institutes of Health will boost the economy and improve lives. He says the administration is committed to funding new research.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And that's why today, we're announcing that we've awarded $5 billion -- that's with a "B" -- in grants through the Recovery Act to conduct cutting-edge research all across America, to unlock treatments to diseases that have long plagued humanity, to save and enrich the lives of people all over the world. This represents the single largest boost to biomedical research in history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: Numbers out today show the economy shrank less than earlier estimates during the second quarter. The revised gross domestic product for April through June dipped 0. percent. That's less than the one percent in previous estimates.
The GDP measures the value of all goods and services produced in the United States. It is considered the best gauge of the nation's economic health.
A massive earthquake rattles Indonesia, prompting a tsunami watch. At least 75 people are listed as dead.
Nearby, on the Samoan island chain, a similar story. The death toll there stands at 111 and counting after yesterday's tsunami.
CNN's Zain Verjee has more on the dire situation.
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They've practiced drills before, but this tsunami was the real thing, leaving residents on the Samoa island chain shocked.
MAULOLO TAVITA: We're completely demolished. They were all shattered into pieces of timbers. They were all floating in the waters. And, you know, they were still looking for some missing relatives. And I've never seen something like this before in my whole life.
TASATOLO TAUGI, STUDENT IN AMERICAN SAMOA: The roads are blocked. And, I mean, it's cut into half.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was so strong. It was so strong. I thought the earth would be divided or broken on the surface.
VERJEE: One aid worker describes the waves in one village.
MALCOLM JOHNSON, RED CROSS: The wave must have been very high, because when we were out there, the power lines that are about 30 feet up, there was some (INAUDIBLE) up on the power lines. So the wave would have been fairly close to that, if not over the top of the 30- foot power poles.
VERJEE (on camera): How afraid are you right now?
STEVE PERCIVAL, SAMOA RESIDENT: Well, I guess the aftermath has already passed by, so we are now just having to deal with the tragedy and the loss of life.
VERJEE (voice-over): There are fears of aftershocks and more killer waves. Right now, the focus is survival. TAVITA: The main thing they need, number one, they need shelters. You know? Number two, they badly need clothes. And number three, they badly need medicine.
VERJEE: Zain Verjee, CNN, London.
HARRIS: And if you would like to know more about the efforts to bring aid to the Samoan islands devastated by the tsunami, and how you can make a real difference, visit our "Impact Your World" page. That's at CNN.com/impact.
HARRIS: Abortion has been at the center of the debate over health care reform today, and we will bring you the latest on Capitol Hill.
We're back in a moment.
HARRIS: The abortion debate and the debate over health care reform coverage on -- actually converging on Capitol Hill. We are following new developments from the Senate Finance Committee meeting on reform legislation.
Congressional Correspondent Brianna Keilar, live from the Hill.
And Brianna, good to see you.
What's been happening so far?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Republicans, Tony, just pushed an amendment that they said would better ensure that federal dollars under this health care overhaul proposal, that federal dollars would not go towards funding abortions.
Senator Orrin Hatch, the Republican who put this amendment forward, said that there weren't enough safeguards in effect.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: Millions of people, even pro-choice people, do not believe that the taxpayers should have to pay for abortions, that there is a huge number of people, almost 50 percent or more -- I think it actually is more -- who are against abortion, who really find it highly offensive that they have to pay taxes that will be used for abortion purposes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Now, this amendment, and another abortion-related amendment put forward by Senator Hatch, both of them failed, Tony, but they created quite a lot of conversation, as you can imagine, among this committee. So, here is what Senator Hatch objects to.
Under this health care plan that this committee is considering, millions of Americans would purchase their insurance on what you've heard called an exchange. This is a marketplace. This is sort of a place that would operate the way when you purchase, say, an airline ticket online, only for health insurance.
KEILAR: So, the people that would be buying health insurance on this exchange would include people who are using all of their out-of- money -- out-of-pocket money, they are playing the entire premium themselves. But it would also include people who are getting federal subsidies to help them afford health insurance.
KEILAR: Now, Senator Hatch thinks this creates a problem. He says that there's not enough of a safeguard to make sure that that subsidy money could fund abortions. So, what he was proposing instead was that anyone who would purchase insurance on that exchange, Tony, would purchase insurance that did not include abortion coverage, and then they would have to purchase supplemental insurance that includes abortion coverage, paying all of that out of their pocket to make sure that the subsidy doesn't go there.
And Democrats were very opposed to this idea.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D), MICHIGAN: I find it offensive that the -- in here, any woman, any family purchasing through the exchange, if they did not receive any tax credit, would be prohibited from having the full range of health care options that they may need covered. This doesn't just refer to the tax credits.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, the one Republican who voted with Democrats on this, Tony, said that the Hatch amendment would force women to plan for an unplanned pregnancy, essentially making them buy insurance in anticipation of having an abortion or needing an abortion in the future, and she said that most of them are not planned -- Tony.
HARRIS: Yes. There's a lot there. Going to need a little more time on this one.
Brianna Keilar on Capitol Hill.
Brianna, appreciate it. Thank you.
Health care reform and how it affects you. We are examining the impact of various plans on families and individuals. Today, we're focusing gain, on the proposal by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus. Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is back with another scenario.
What have you created for us this time?
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, what I've created is Young Yasmin. You've heard the term, Tony, I'm sure "young invincibles."
HARRIS: Oh yes.
COHEN: And those are young people who think, hey, I'm going to live forever. I'm not going to buy insurance. I never get sick. I'm doing great.
Well, you can see Yasmin is in this category. See that big smile on her face? She's got these muscles.
HARRIS: Yes. Yes.
COHEN: She's strong and healthy. She's 25 years old.
HARRIS: Oh, you go, girl.
COHEN: There you go, Yasmin.
Yasmin does not get insurance through her employer. And she says, are you kidding me? You want me to buy insurance? No, I'm going to spend on it a trip to Hawaii. Why would I want to buy insurance?
Well, what the Baucus bill does is it says, all right, Yasmin, we get it. What we're going to do for you, because you're 25 or under, is we're going to give you discounted insurance. We're creating an entirely new category of insurance just for you, so that we can offer it to you at a very cheap price, because, after all, you are young and healthy, chances are you're not going to cost us any money.
HARRIS: And more importantly, we need you in the system.
COHEN: Right, exactly. That's a great point. They want her money, right? Because she's going to be paying premiums, and the chances of her needing any expensive medical care are very slim, right?
COHEN: So, yes, they want Yasmin's money. That's a good point.
COHEN: Yes. OK. So that's the idea.
But I'm wondering, what will insurance for this young woman and women like her, and others like her, young people, young invincibles, what will it actually cover?
COHEN: You know, it's very interesting what the Baucus bill has done here, because the young invincible insurance is different from other people's insurance. It will cover preventative care.
COHEN: And it will cover her if she gets hit by a bus, or what a professional would call catastrophic.
COHEN: So, it will cover her if she wants to get a yearly checkup. It will cover her if she gets hit by a bus. But if she gets strep throat and needs a throat culture, no, they're not going to cover it. So, they cover the two extremes for these young invincibles.
HARRIS: Got you. And again, I think it's worth repeating. The idea is to get something, some money from these young invincibles in the system. Theoretically, it's supposed to bring down the cost for all of us. And that's the thinking on this.
COHEN: That's right. And sometimes health care policy people will make it sound like we want Young Yasmin in the system for her sake. I mean, who knows, she could be diagnosed with cancer tomorrow. And yes, that's true, but we also want her in there because she's going to pay premiums and probably use up very few resources so that old people like you and me can be assisted -- right.
HARRIS: Me, more so than you.
HARRIS: Hey, Elizabeth, appreciate it. Thank you.
HARRIS: And we are looking closely at American. Samoa. How will this U.S. territory cope with a deadly tsunami?
HARRIS: Let's get you caught up on our top stories now.
President Obama and his national security team begin a review of Afghan war strategy this afternoon. The main options? An Iraq-style surge of troops, or a pinpoint focus on al Qaeda. The meeting in the White House Situation Room expected to go about three hours.
On the docket at the U.S. Supreme Court, gun-control laws. The court has decided to take a look at whether some local and state gun laws are too strict and may violate the Second Amendment. The case the court is weighing deals with a handgun ban in Chicago.
And right now, a massive search is under way on the Samoan island chain for many people missing after a devastating tsunami. At least 111 people are confirmed dead, with more bodies expected to be found as rescue team reach remote villages.
We will get another check of your top stories in 20 minutes.
But right now, we want to give you a sense of just how close Samoa is to Hawaii and other parts of the Pacific.
Our Josh Levs is here with a little show-and-tell -- Josh.
JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tony, you were just seeing those dramatic pictures from the ground. And obviously, that gives you that view.
What we want to do is give you the birds-eye view as well to help you understand where Samoa is and how a tsunami in that area could ultimately literally have a ripple effect on major population centers. Let's go straight to this Google Earth we have here. I always like to start on the Continental U.S. just for perspective for our viewers.
When you look at the world ride now, you're not seeing Samoa. This is how we're used to looking, right? But it's these tiny, little dots.
Let's zoom way in, and we're going to bring you over to the island.
There's Samoa. There is no longer a Western Samoa. Some people have heard of that. They dropped "Western" in the '90s. It's Samoa and American Samoa.
You are seeing it right there. And what I'm going to show you now is this is basically a midpoint between Australia and New Zealand, about 2,600, 2,700 miles over there to Sydney.
And then on the opposite side, we'll zoom all the way over to Hawaii. And what you're going to see, Tony, is that it's the same distance over there. So, we're talking about islands that are at midpoint there, and you can think about a tsunami, how big an effect it could have reaching out to those areas and others as well. Obviously, a big concern as soon as you hear anything about Samoa.
So, Tony, that's something we're keeping an eye on here, trying to just give our viewers a little bit of perspective today as we follow this story.
HARRIS: Hey, are we doing anything at CNN.com to give folks more information on these tsunamis?
LEVS: We do, and I know we've got to be quick. I'll just show you quickly, because it's great.
We have these really good features here that show you how you can follow -- how the tsunamis form. And also -- OK. Well, you know what? We'll stick with it this way, because it's not moving for me.
But what they do is they show you the latest photos from there, and also how the tsunamis form in those areas. So, check it all out, CNN.com.
HARRIS: We've got to run, run, run. We've got senators waiting, Josh.
LEVS: All right. You got it.
HARRIS: Appreciate it. Thank you.
And we are talking to the senators who are deciding the future of your health care.
You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.
HARRIS: The public option voted down twice in the health care reform debate. Is it gone for good? And where do things go from here? We are talking with senators from both parties. Up first, Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon with us from Capitol Hill.
And, Senator, it's good to talk to you again. It's been a while.
SEN. RON WYDEN, (D) OREGON: You as well, Tony.
HARRIS: Good to see you.
WYDEN: Thank you.
HARRIS: All right. A couple of things we want to get to here. Does the public option, gone for now from the bill that you're working on in the Finance Committee, does it come back in either the melding of the health bill and whatever's passed by your committee, or -- or -- out of the final conference committee bill after the House and the Senate conferree's reconcile the two bills? And don't duck me on this.
WYDEN: Tony, I believe the final bill clearly will create more choices and more competition for the typical consumer. Right now that is the key to making coverage affordable. You've got a lot of middle- class families, maybe making $65,000, $66,000 a year, saying, I can't pay 19 percent or 20 percent of my income on health care. A way to hold their bills down is to create more choices. Those choices ought to be both public and private.
HARRIS: What's the percentage you're going to settle on here? I get that 19 percent is too much. We had an example with our senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, yesterday. A family making $44,000, paying $15,000 a year. And that's, what, about a third of the income -- that family income. What's the percentage that the committee is coalescing around here?
WYDEN: I don't think today you can just pluck a percentage out of the air. But certainly for middle-class folks, anything upward of 10 percent is going to be a real hardship. And, Tony, it doesn't have to be this way.
What I'm advocating is that all Americans have choices like their member of Congress. If their member of Congress gets clobbered by their insurance company in the fall of 2009, come January of 2010, they get to choose from more than a dozen policies where the insurance companies can't discriminate against them. There's no cream-skimming. They have low administrative costs. I'm going to insist that the final bill give all Americans choices like their member of Congress.
HARRIS: And because without what you're describing, where's the real competition come from that forces insurance companies to compete on cost?
WYDEN: Tony, you're being too logical. That's my argument. What this system does today is in most parts of the country it walls the insurance companies off from real competition and real accountability. What I want to do is turn the tables on the insurance lobby. Put the consumer in charge. Give the consumer clout like members of Congress have. That's how the consumer will get more affordable health care in the future.
HARRIS: All right, so bottom-line this for me here. At the end of the day, are we going to get kind of a public/private, hybrid, co- ops and the exchange and maybe a public option trigger if the health insurance don't make significant strides in cutting their costs?
WYDEN: I think, at the end of the day, Tony, the American people are going to insist on more choices, public and private. They're going to want those choices to look like what their elected officials get. I think anything else would be unacceptable.
HARRIS: Senator, good to see you.
WYDEN: Thanks for having me.
HARRIS: Thanks for your time. We'll let you get back to work.
WYDEN: Thank you. Thank you.
HARRIS: But come back early and often.
WYDEN: Do it again. Thank you.
HARRIS: All right. You've heard a Democrat's perspective on what's happening. Republican Senator John Cornyn will join us shortly.
HARRIS: Before we get to Senator Cornyn on health reform, we've got a situation here involving a small plane over Indiana. Let's get to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.
Barbara, what are you learning?
BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Tony, the U.S. military, the North American Aerospace Defense Command has just confirmed to CNN that they have an unresponsive pilot flying near Muncie, Indiana, on a small civilian aircraft. This is an M-20M single propeller plane. A four-seater. But at this point there is only the pilot on board. And he is unresponsive, flying in a somewhat erratic pattern, we are told by the U.S. military.
There are two F-16s trailing this plane, keeping very close watch on him. They do not believe this is a terrorist incident. This is something else that has made the pilot unresponsive. They say he is slowly descending and flying at somewhat erratic speeds. They cannot tell us at this point whether this small, single-engine plane is calculated to come down over a populated area.
HARRIS: Oh, boy.
STARR: Whether they can project whether it will go into a rural agricultural area. So you can obviously see this is something the military and homeland security are following minute by minute, literally second by second, trailing this small plane that has an unresponsive pilot on board, Tony, near Muncie, Indiana, indeed.
HARRIS: Boy, when you get additional information, just flag us, and we'll get you -- get you back up as soon as we can.
Barbara, thank you.
HARRIS: The Senate Finance Committee votes down the so-called public option in the health care debate. So where do things stand? And where do they go from here? Just a short time ago we spoke with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon. And joining us now from Capitol Hill, Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas.
Senator, good to talk to you. Thanks for taking the time. We'll let you go here quickly. But we've got a couple of questions for you. But thanks for being here.
I'm curious if -- if you believe the public option, voted down yesterday in your committee, comes back in either the melding of the health bill, and whatever is passed by your committee, or -- or -- as another option, out of the final conference committee bill after the House and Senate conferrees have reconciled the two bill? What's your thought? What's your concern here?
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R) TEXAS: I think there's a high likelihood there will be an attempt on the Senate floor and in the conference committee to try to add the public option or government-run plan back into the bill. And so I think this committee is fairly balanced, I would say, in terms of ideology and it's -- you'll see this thing lurch, I think, to the left perceptibly after it leaves this committee.
HARRIS: Can you support what's taking shape now in your committee or is it still too early?
CORNYN: Well, there have been about 100 different amendments offered. And, unfortunately, most of them have been voted down along party lines.
HARRIS: Yes. CORNYN: So the chairman is sticking pretty tough. Democrats on the committee pretty tough with what the chairman has proposed. And we'll have to take our suggestions to the floor of the Senate to try to get them accepted there.
HARRIS: Although there were some Democrats who voted down the amendments on the public option yesterday. But I'm curious, without a public option, in your mind, explain it to us, where's the real competition that forces insurance companies to compete on cost?
CORNYN: Well, it's the same basis I heard Senator Wyden say that involved members of Congress. Congress doesn't have a public option or government plan. What federal employees have are a range of private insurance companies that where we get to choose what suits us and our family best.
Now, we do need to bring down the cost of those premiums for everyone, particularly for people who can't afford it now. But what we're seeing here is, because of the mandates and the so-called minimum credible coverage, if you don't buy coverage of things that you may not need but which the federal government says you have to have, then you may be subject to a fine. And so what we're actually going to do is increase the costs of health care premiums for people who have it now and they like it, which is, I think, violates the president's pledge that if you have what you like now, you can keep it. Certainly not at a price you can pay now.
HARRIS: Senator, do you have to get more people into the system? People who can't afford it now. People who have made a choice not to buy insurance. Don't you have to get those people into the system somehow to bring the costs down for everyone?
CORNYN: Sure. And, you know, there are a lot of people we've talked about, for example, in my state, in Texas, there are a number of people who are eligible for current plans like the children's health insurance program, Medicaid, who are not signed up. We have to get those people signed up.
We have to get people to bring the costs down so that people in small businesses who can't afford it now can buy affordable coverage. But I don't think we do that by restricting their choices, which unfortunately the proposals we see now do, or by the government taking over and duplicating some of the problems we have with Medicare and Medicaid, which have unfunded liabilities in the tens of trillions of dollars. So we got a lot of work to do here. And I think I'm glad we're taking this a little slower than originally proposed so we can get a good look at it, so we can hear from our constituents and health care providers.
HARRIS: Well, let me stay on this point just a bit longer here, because I don't know when I'm going to get you. You're a busy man. So -- how do you get the people that you've just described into the system who aren't in the system now without requiring them to get into the system?
CORNYN: Well, the uninsured are not monolithic. In other words, they're just not all the same.
CORNYN: Some people come in and out of coverage, like Medicaid if they lose their job, and they get -- they qualify for Medicaid, but then they get a job and they're back in their employer-provided health insurance coverage. We have the so-called young and invincibles who don't think they need coverage, even though they're making good money, and so they simply decline to provide it and preferring to spend the money on something else.
And then, of course, we have the illegal immigrant population and others. I think if you -- we can narrow, or reduce, the number of uninsured by dramatic proportions if we will work together to do it through some commonsense measures. We don't need to basically remake one-sixth of our economy and mandate less choices for the American people and drive costs up and borrow money or take money from Medicare, which is currently on a fiscally unsustainable path. I think there's plenty of common ground there for us to make some headway.
HARRIS: I think you're right. Yes, I think you're absolutely right. I'm just wondering, and you may not like this at the end of the day, but at the end of the day, do you believe -- do you think we're going to end up with a public/private/hybrid plan here, co-ops and the exchange, a public option trigger if the health insurers don't make significant strides on costs?
CORNYN: Well, you know, I think -- I'm not dodging your question, but I don't think that is really the question we should be answering. I think what we should be answering is, how do we make insurance more affordable for people who can't afford it now? How do we cover people who are falling through the safety net now? The mechanism we do that by is important, and you've mentioned some of the proposals. But, frankly, I think, you know, we're talking about one-sixth of our economy.
CORNYN: Unintended consequences the -- are the potential is huge. And I just think we ought to be careful with just starting with a blank sheet of paper and starting over again, particularly when many people, maybe 80 percent of the people, like the coverage they have now. The president says you'll be able to keep it. Unfortunately, under these proposals, you will not.
HARRIS: Senator Cornyn, good to see you. Thanks for your time.
CORNYN: Thank you very much.
HARRIS: Come back and visit us early and often.
CORNYN: I'll do it.
HARRIS: I appreciate it. We want to give you a quick update on the breaking news just reported by our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. NORAD tracking a small plane, a single-engine aircraft. It is being tracked now by two F-16s near Muncie, Indiana. Our understanding at this point is that the plane is flying erratically. It is not believed -- this whole episode that we're following here -- is not believed to be terror related. The pilot for a while here was unresponsive.
Is Barbara available with an update for us? OK.
So we understand -- the information that we're getting just now -- and I'm going to delay for just a moment here because I think we're close to getting our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. The information that we're getting now is that perhaps the plane has landed. OK. Andreas, the plane is down, in a field? OK. Let's get -- let's get to Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us.
Barbara, and I'll let you handle the update for us.
STARR: Yes, Tony, a very fast-moving situation. U.S. military now confirming this small plane is down in a place called Randall County, Indiana, outside of Muncie. It is down, they tell us, in a farm field. So, at this point, while we don't have all the details, we do believe the pilot, perhaps, the only fatality on board this plane, which has apparently crashed into a farm field.
STARR: We've asked what they think happened here. Obviously government authorities will look at this situation very closely. But the initial read is this was some sort of health situation, hypoxia, possibly, lack of oxygen in the cabin of the plane for some reason leading the pilot perhaps to become unresponsive or unconscious. The pilot, the only person on board the aircraft as far as anybody knows. Again, a very small, four-seat, single-engine civilian-type aircraft going down in a field after the pilot became unresponsive.
But this is very typical that two F-16s would have tracked this plane once, you know, radio communication had been lost. Since November -- September 11th, we know very strict rules up in the sky. Everyone is tracked. Everyone's in communication.
STARR: And when they lose track of somebody, this is the procedure about what happens. They track the plane until they can resolve the situation. This one, apparently, a very sad resolution, Tony.
HARRIS: Yes. OK. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us. Thanks for the update, Barbara. Thank you.
HARRIS: We're back in a moment. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.
HARRIS: Want to give you a quick update on the breaking news just reported by our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. A small plane has crashed in a farm field. This is in Randall County, Indiana. That is not far from Muncie, Indiana.
We've got a picture of the plane. At least of what the plane looks like. A small plane. A four-seater, as you can see here. Like this one.
It has gone down in Randall County near Muncie. The pilot, the only one on the aircraft at the time. Don't have a real clear understanding on his condition, but we understand that it was some kind of -- perhaps some kind of medical emergency, a medical problem, or just a lack of oxygen that led to the emergency situation. A small plane has crashed in Randall County, Indiana, not far from Muncie.
We will continue to follow developments on this story and get you more information as soon as we get it.
Who could forget his monotonous drone in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off?" "Bueller, Bueller." Now Ben Stein is teaching us a thing or two in this week's "Minds Over Money."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN STEIN, COMMENTATOR ON ECONOMIC ISSUES: My basic philosophy about money is to make as much as I can ethically and honestly make and spend as much as I can spend as fast as I can. But along the way, just because of some residual teaching by my mother and father, I save a little bit.
I think what people should learn from this is that when they finally do get employed, save some money because there are going to be some rough patches in life. You should save enough that if you lose your job, you can keep yourself going for a couple years until you find your next one.
If you're not saving so much that it hurts, you're not saving enough. You have to say to yourself, a smaller, lower, more modest standard of living, especially when you're young, will pay enormous dividends when you're old.
You are your caretaker when you're old. The young you is the caretaker for the old you.
Diversify, diversify, diversify. Get yourself into everything, American stocks, American growth, American value, foreign stocks, developed, developing. Get yourself into bonds, American bonds, foreign bonds, mostly government bonds. Get yourself a little bit of commodities.
In 1994, I could have bought one share of Berkshire Hathaway or one boat, one speedboat, for about $15,000. I bought the boat. Now, Berkshire is -- approximately is over $100,000, but I've gotten so much pleasure out of that boat that it's well worth it. I'd do it again in a second.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: Oh, Randolph County, OK. We're going to get you the latest information we have, a quick update on the breaking news this hour. A small plane, a single-engine aircraft, has gone down. Is it Randolph County? OK. Randolph County, Indiana. Not far, I understand, from Muncie.
I know that Chad Myers, you're working over the computer right now, getting us any information that you can get for us that helps us tell this story. We understand the plane was flying erratically and NORAD scrambled two F-16s to track it, which is, I'm understanding, is standard operating procedure here.
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes.
HARRIS: Officials with Northern Command never believed this was a terrorism-related incident. And it appears that the pilot may have blacked out due to a condition known as -- and you know this -- this is -- you know about this condition anyway -- it's called hypoxia.
MYERS: Could have been. Could have been many things.
HARRIS: Could have been.
MYERS: Yes, could have been a heart attack.
HARRIS: Or some other, yes, medical condition.
MYERS: Anything like that. Without giving too many things away, because we're sure that the family hasn't been notified yet.
MYERS: The plane came out of Grand Rapids and was heading to Muncie, Indiana. It was kind of a -- it was a very nice airplane. It was built in 2003. It was a Mooney. A very high performance aircraft. A turbo charged aircraft. A very well maintained aircraft. Obviously, fairly new.
Other than that, Tony, we -- I've seen the flight path coming out of Grand Rapids and clearly locked on to Muncie. Because as it got to Muncie, it was just -- it was all over the place. The plane. It seemed like maybe the plane was just following a beacon. I don't know. It flew over the beacon, came back. The last ping that we had was 11,000 feet doing 60 miles per hour.
And I don't know this plane exactly. I've never flown in a Mooney. But I'll tell you what, I don't know of any plane that's going to go at 60 miles an hour and fly for very long. So I think that that was the last ping, as it was possibly running out of fuel. Whatever might have happened to that plane, but that was the last time it was on my flight explorer and then it was gone.
HARRIS: OK. This is Randolph County in Indiana. And you make a very good point. You wouldn't think at this point family has been notified.
HARRIS: And that work is ongoing.
MYERS: Yes. We know where the plane's from. We know where it's licensed. We know who it was licensed to, but we'd rather not say.
HARRIS: Exactly. Chad, appreciate it. Thank you.
We're back in the NEWSROOM in just a moment.