What is the more important priority for Americans in 2011: create jobs or cut deficit?

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The President recognizes what I’m about to say and fights on our side to protect the average American, but honestly I’m not sure that he will.   Let me tell you what this is about.   Every one in Washington is talking about how important cutting the deficit is and how they promise to spend all of next year tackling this grave issue.   This agenda is premised, honestly, on a series of lies.

First, deficit cutting is not the top priority of the American people.  A CNN poll came out just this week saying that only 22% of the country thinks deficit cutting should be the main goal.   Does that sound like a majority to you?  Now, every single poll shows that creating jobs, even if it means spending more government money to do so, is a much, much higher priority.   Yet the people in D.C. tell you that deficits are more important.

That leads us to this second huge lie.   Our political leaders tell us that we have to cut social security to cut the deficit.   That is wrong!  It’s a lie! It’s nonsense!  It’s not just the Republicans, even Democrats are on board to cut social security.  The President appointed a so-called bipartisan Deficit Commission:  they came out with a proposal to cut social security.   At least half of the Democrats I talked to on the air say, we must compromise and cut social security.    Even Ed Rendell, who’ve I’ve respected as a tough progressive fighter in the past, earlier in the week told me that we have to raise the retirement age.

If you tell me by 2050 we’re going to raise the age of social security to 69, I don’t have a problem with that because we’ll all be living to 94, 95 degrees — 95 years in life expectancy and that’s an elemental change.  That is an elemental change, but you have to understand this is a huge cut in your Social Security. That means you get two to four years less in benefits. Not only do you have to work longer, but they`re taking those years of benefits straight out of your pocket.  And what`s the compromise you`re getting in return? Are the rich also going to chip in? Hell no. They just got a $400 billion tax break.  Come on. They get the world, you get the shaft.  

Ladies and gentlemen, I hate to break it to you, but our politicians are bought.  When you ask real Americans what their priorities are, their intentions are incredibly clear. Look at these numbers.  Eighty-five percent say they do not support any cuts to Social Security. Have you ever seen a poll with the results that high?  Eighty-two percent say they do not support cutting Medicare for the elderly. Seventy-two percent say no cuts in Medicaid to the poor. Even 66 percent of Tea Party supporters say no cuts in Medicaid.  

These numbers are overwhelming. The American people are screaming at the top of their lungs, don`t cut these programs! We need them to survive.  And what does Washington do? They give $407.6 billion to the rich and say we should cut your programs instead.  

Republicans derisively called these entitlement programs. Do you know why Social Security and Medicare got that name in the first place? Because you paid into them your whole life. It`s your money. That`s why you`re entitled to it.  

Next year, I`m telling you now, they`re going to plan to rob you of all of that money. And the media will go along with their usual instant amnesia and forget that we just gave away the store to the richest people in the country when they start talking about shared sacrifice next year.  Look at how much in the tank the media is to Washington establishment.  

Earlier this year, when Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning first blocked extending unemployment insurance in February, everyone was outraged. It was unprecedented to cut unemployment in the middle of a terrible economy like this. He was all alone, and even shunned by other Republicans.  Bob Corker, conservative Republican senator from Tennessee, said this about cutting unemployment at the time: “I believe we`re stooping to a low level.”  Well, by the end of the year, the entire Republican Party had joined Bunning. And President Obama caved — I mean, compromised — and gave all the tax cuts for the wealthy in order for the GOP to allow some unemployment benefits to continue.  

The country`s become so much more right wing right in front of our eyes, in this year alone. Look, it`s been happening for 30 years, but it was so stark this year. And yet, hardly anyone noticed.  By the end of the year, the media was treating cutting unemployment as perfectly normal. That`s the Republican position. And the media must always remain neutral.  

So outside of a few shows like this, in the next year you can expect the establishment media to do what they always do, suck up to power. So they will ignore the polls, the clear wishes of the American people, and they will help both sides demagogue about the deficit and tell you the only way to control it is to cut your benefits that you paid into for your whole life. And all of it is built upon another gigantic lie.  Social Security isn`t broke, it isn`t anyway near broke. It has a $2.5 trillion surplus.  

Now, if you ask a politician, hey, is that true? They`ll concede it. They`ll say, yes, yes, yes that`s true, but that they already spent that money when they shouldn`t have. Too bad. It`s gone, they say.  

Watch.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fact is that it`s gone. The fact is that it was in treasury bonds, and it`s been consumed and spent. And there is no treasury.  And this year the abutment that people said for years has come, and that is we are spending more money this year than it`s taking in. Everyone knew it was coming. For 30 years people predicted it, and the day is now upon us.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)  

UYGUR: Yes, we predicted it because you kept raiding Social Security.  So, yes, you paid into Social Security. Yes, it`s supposed to have a surplus. But we already spent it, so too bad for you, now we`re not going to pay.  

You see, your savings is the last piggybank, and mark my words, the Republicans will raid it and the Democrats will go along saying they just had do it. And by the end of next year, they will all call it perfectly normal.  Mr. President, you can either help stop this or you can be a part of it. The choice is yours in the upcoming year. It`s not my decision to make, it`s yours. But believe me, it`s not just our jobs that are on the line. What you do next year will also decide what happens to your job.  

All right. Now tell me what you think in our telephone survey. The number to dial is 877-ED-MSNBC.  My question tonight is: Do you think President Obama will protect the middle class next year? And it`s a good question. I`m curious to see what your answer is.  Press 1 for yes. Press 2 for no. I`ll bring you the results later in the show.  

All right. Joining me now is Steve Kornacki, the news editor for Salon.com.  

All right, Steve. As you can tell, I`m not taking it easy on the president or the Democrats, and certainly not the Republicans or the media.  One, let`s talk about whether you see this unfolding the same way that I do. Does it looks like they`re coming from Social Security with the deficit commission and all that`s being said?  

STEVE KORNACKI, SALON.COM: Well, let`s see. I mean, there`s going to be an awful lot on the plate next year, and I think the overriding thing that you have to consider is, sort of the mission of the Obama presidency is going to fundamentally change next week, when the new Republican Congress is sworn in.  You know, for the last two years, at least until the election, I think, the mission of the Obama presidency was sort of — it was a mission about expansion. It was about getting, for instance, universal health care, or moving us toward universal health care. It was about Wall Street reform. It was about enacting new programs designed to sort of live up to some of the potential of his 2008 campaign.  When you look at what`s going to happen starting next, I think it`s going to be much more about playing defense.  It`s going to be about protecting, for instance, health care reform, protecting Wall Street reform. And then it gets to the question of protecting the social safety net.  

I don`t think that we`re anywhere near the point where we can say Obama is going to sell out people on Social Security or on Medicare. I`m not even sure at what point that`s going to enter into the discussion next year, because I look at what`s coming much more immediately with that Congress coming in.  I`m looking at a showdown over the debt ceiling. I`m looking at a continuing resolution that`s funding the government right now, that`s coming due on — it`s coming up for expiration on March 4th. And I`m looking at the possibility that the Republicans are going to put — are going to insist at that point on defunding, for instance, health care reform, and having a showdown over that, or having a showdown, like I said, over the debt ceiling.  

UYGUR: Right.  

KORNACKI: Let`s get through that first, and then let`s start talking about Social Security, Medicare, social safety net.  

UYGUR: Now, Steve, I`m telling you right now, look, we`re on tape here. So they`ll be able to play this back. OK?  

KORNACKI: Right.  

UYGUR: They are going to call for cutting spending. Obama is definitely going to go along with it. And then when they go for cutting spending, what are they going to go for?  The deficit commission, commissioned by Obama, already came out and said, yes we want to cut your Social Security. It`s already so entrenched that, as I said, I talk to many Democrats on air. When they come on, they`re like, well, we`ve got to compromise.  What`s the compromise? What are we going to get in return for cutting Social Security?  

KORNACKI: Well, I think there are a couple of questions.  First of all, you note that the commission proposals on deficit reduction came out in the middle of December, and then what was really the first thing that Congress did after that, as you correctly pointed out, they exploded a much bigger hole in the deficit. So that`s the degree to which Congress really cares about deficit reduction.  

I think the other point is — and I think you get at it there, too, a little bit, you know, it`s true that people really don`t care about the deficit and about deficit reduction as much as Washington thinks that they do. If you take a poll sort of blindly on the question, do you think the deficit`s too high, do you think that we ought do something to reduce the deficit, those kind of notions poll well. Like you show though, when you actually say, OK, we need to make significant cuts in Medicare, Social Security, that`s how we`re going to accomplish it, support goes down.  

Historically, if you look at the past 30 years, there have been three periods when the deficit`s really kind of been prominent, and one was in the early days of Reagan, one was in the early days of Clinton, and the third is right now. And in those other two instances, the economy was really what was driving that frustration and that anxiety. And people sort of attached their economic anxiety to the deficit. They`re sort of conditioned to do that. 

I think they`re doing the same thing now, which is why I think the package that the president was able to get through, which is basically the closest thing he could possibly have gotten to a second stimulus, the package he was able to get through in the lame-duck session, that`s why I think that`s so significant, because that`s his last crack really for the foreseeable future at stimulus, and if that can get the economy going, then I think sort of this deficit fever dies down a little bit.  

UYGUR: Steve, one last thing. Look, by the way, that was his last crack, and what did he do? He gave over $400 billion to the rich. And that goes to my last question, which is about the media.  My guess is — and we`ll see again. We`ll see it unfold in the next year. We`ll see if I`m right or wrong, but that the media will totally forget that we gave away $400 billion to the rich, and when it comes to cutting spending, they won`t focus on the rich at all.  Oh, that`s bridge under the water. No, no, no that`s already gone. And they`ll only talk about these other things.  I mean, what do you think? Is that right, or will they finally wake up and go, oh my God, you`re right. Wait a minute. We just gave away the store to the rich.   

KORNACKI: Well, let`s see what the sort of broader political atmosphere is like the next time that the fight over tax cuts for the wealthy comes up. It was waged, don`t forget, in a situation where Obama was weak politically. You just the midterm elections, you have unemployment near 10 percent. 

UYGUR: Oh, come on! Steve, come on.  Listen, weak politically? At the time, he had the House, he had the Senate, he had the White House. Only a Democrat would call that weak politically.  

KORNACKI: And he just lost 63 seats in an election. That`s pretty significant. And if you look at what the trade –  

UYGUR: But they hadn`t lost them yet. That was the whole point of the lame duck. They still had those seats.  

KORNACKI: And they went on. And in exchange for also extending the tax cuts for the middle class, they were also able to get a treaty passed, they were also able to end the “Don`t Ask, Don`t Tell” policy, they were also able to extend unemployment benefits, and they were also able to pass a bunch of other stimulus measures that they wouldn`t otherwise have been able to pass.   I`m not sitting here saying you should be jumping up and down and saying hooray, the taxes were cut for the upper-income people, but I think that`s not the only thing that happened in the last month.  

UYGUR: I hear you. By the way, every one of those other things that we got had over a 67 percent approval rating by the American public. They were super easy.  But that`s my opinion.  

KORNACKI: The weren`t super easy. It would have taken 17 years to get “Don`t Ask, Don`t Tell” repealed if it were super easy.  

UYGUR: No. I`m saying today. It`s 67 percent. Actually, “Don`t Ask, Don`t Tell” is at 80 percent popularity.  

KORNACKI: Yes.  

UYGUR: It wasn`t 17 years ago.  

KORNACKI: Welcome to life in the U.S. Senate. That`s how –  

(CROSSTALK)  

UYGUR: No, not for the Republicans. They get stuff done incredibly easy when they have positions that are enormously unpopular. That tax cut for the rich was terribly unpopular.  

KORNACKI: I think there was very significant legislation passed in that lame-duck session, much more than you`ve seen when Democrats have had lame-duck sessions and when Republicans have had lame-duck sessions.  

UYGUR: All right. Steve, listen, you`ve been great. We really appreciate your time. Thanks for joining us.  

KORNACKI: Sure.

About William Brighenti

William Brighenti is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, and Certified Business Valuation Analyst. Bill began his career in public accounting in 1979. Since then he has worked at various public accounting firms throughout Connecticut. Bill received a Master of Science in Professional Accounting degree from the University of Hartford, after attending the University of Connecticut and Central Connecticut State University for his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees. He subsequently attended Purdue University for doctoral studies in Accounting and Quantitative Methods in Business. Bill has instructed graduate and undergraduate courses in Accounting, Auditing, and other subjects at the University of Hartford, Central Connecticut State University, Hartford State Technical College, and Purdue University. He also taught GMAT and CPA Exam Review Classes at the Stanley H. Kaplan Educational Center and at Person-Wolinsky, and is certified to teach trade-related subjects at Connecticut Vocational Technical Schools. His articles on tax and accounting have been published in several professional journals throughout the country as well as on several accounting websites. William was born and raised in New Britain, Connecticut, and served on the City's Board of Finance and Taxation as well as its City Plan Commission. In addition to the blog, Accounting and Taxes Simplified, Bill writes a blog, "The Barefoot Accountant", for the Accounting Web, a Sift Media publication.
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