SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum became animated as he moved to the question-and-answer portion of his campaign stop, saying the Obama administration wants to make the American people passive by addicting them to government services.

Discussing his opposition to federal health-care reform enacted in 2010, the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania pointed his right hand at his left forearm, making a motion like the insertion of intravenous needle.

“They want to get that I.V. in you. They want to get you dependent, for health care,” Santorum told the 40 people at Western Iowa Tech Community College.

Santorum said Democrats have for decades sought to enact social programs to gain more control over the lives of Americans. Democrats love entitlement programs, he said, and the linchpin in getting people “hooked” and docile was to pass federal health-care reform.

“They have you,” Santorum said.

That moved Tom Bauer of Sioux City to interject, “We’re not people, we’re serfs.”

“That’s how they see you, serfs,” Santorum responded.

Santorum said the better approach is a reduction of government spending, the rise of morality in the public sphere and a strong international presence.

“We need limited government, we need strong families,” he said.

Tim Baller of Sioux City asked Santorum his impression of the weeks-long congressional debate over the debt ceiling. On Tuesday, President Barack Obama signed a bill that raised the limit to $16.7 trillion and puts in place spending cuts, while creating a so-called Super Committee to pinpoint more cuts.

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Santorum said the debt ceiling needed to be raised, but he didn’t like the response overall. He particularly is concerned about an automatic trigger cutting defense spending if cuts can’t be agreed to.

“It kicks the can down the road,” he said.

Santorum said the best legislative response would have been a balanced budget constitutional amendment, which he has supported since beginning his legislative career in the U.S. House in 1991.

Santorum won two House terms, then won two Senate terms in 1994 and 2000 before falling in re-election in 2006. He spent time in explaining his pride in winning three of those four seats in swing-state Pennsylvania over incumbent Democrats.

Campaigning in advance of the Aug. 13 Iowa Republican Party straw poll in Ames, Santorum urged people to support him that day. He said finishing in the top half of the GOP candidates in the straw poll would garner attention and give a jolt for his campaign, which at this point can’t afford advertising buys.

“We’ve had a caucus strategy since the beginning, not a straw poll strategy,” Santorum said.