UYGUR: When the economy showed signs of life last month, including a drop in unemployment, Republicans couldn`t wait to claim credit. They said it was all thanks to the tax cuts.
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SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: Some of the results that you just talked about, I suspect, are coming from the fact that we extended tax rates that the president did not want to be extend.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we`ve gotten some positive numbers. I think it`s in large part because we won our majority and we`re pursuing pro- growth policies.
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UYGUR: Now, that was a week after they got sworn in. It`s incredible how fast they worked. Republicans come in office — boom! The economy is instantly fixed. They`re like miracle workers.
But then look at what happened today. A new jobs report shows unemployment dropped again last month, but not as much as some analysts had hoped, partly because the stormy weather may have slowed the hiring.
Now, so it fell from 9.4 percent to 9 percent. And Republicans are now saying that`s Obama`s fault, that the jobs report wasn`t even better.
Today`s statement from John Boehner: “The president`s spending binge is hurting job creation, eroding confidence, draining funds away from private investment, and spreading uncertainty among really rich people.” I mean job creators.
So, Obama`s policies destroyed job growth last month, but not the previous month. And I guess the Bush tax cuts magically worked in December, but then immediately stopped working in January.
Seriously, who can believe that? I don`t even think the Republicans believe it as they`re saying it.
But it`s obvious what the plan is. If the economy doesn`t do well, well, then you blame Obama and you say, I had nothing to do with it. Me? Me? Not me. But if it does do well, you take credit and you say it was all you.
Look, the reality is that it`s pure nonsense to look at a two-month snapshot and make a judgment based on it either way. But we can look at the big picture and see a clear pattern over a much longer period of time.
During Bill Clinton`s eight years, the country added 22 million jobs. During George W. Bush`s eight years, just one million jobs. And that`s actually being kind to him, because the recession cost us a huge amount of jobs in `09, after he helicoptered out of town.
And how about Obama? In 2010, the U.S. added 1.1 million jobs, more than were added during the entire Bush presidency.
Look, the jury is still out on Obama and this economy. But when it comes to which party creates jobs and which party doesn`t, you just saw the record. The record is incredibly clear.
All right. Now with me is former secretary of labor, Robert Reich. He`s now a professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley.
Secretary Reich, a great pleasure having you here.
ROBERT REICH, FMR. LABOR SECRETARY: Good evening, Cenk.
UYGUR: First of all, what`s your reaction to the job numbers? Is it good? Is it bad? Everybody seems to be all over the board on it.
REICH: Well, the most important job number today is 36,000, which is the number of new private sector jobs created in January. And that`s pretty discouraging. I mean, it`s in the right direction, but you need 125,000 new jobs just to keep up with the growth in the population of people who are eager and ready and willing to work.
UYGUR: All right. So there`s two different things here, what`s happening in reality in terms of creating jobs, are we doing enough, et cetera, and then there`s the Republican version of reality. Let`s dispense with the Republican version first. Right?
So, they say, well, ,look, last month we created jobs because we said we were going to do tax cuts, and then this month it`s Obama`s fault. I mean, you`ve dealt with the Republicans a long time. Do they actually believe that, or do they just say it and hope that it confuses people?
REICH: Well, I don`t want to accuse anybody of hypocrisy, Cenk, but I think there is a little bit of the quality of — yes, let`s say what helps us and what undermines our opponents. Democrats are not completely innocent of the same strategy, by the way, but unfortunately, in Washington, you get left-and-right-handed economists, you get economists who will basically parrot whatever the dominant political force is, particularly Republicans and Democrats will say and want them to say.
Look, the reality right now is that we are coming out of a recession, but it`s a very, very slow recovery. Corporate profits are up, Wall Street is up, but most Americans aren`t seeing much of a recovery.
UYGUR: Secretary Reich, we saw earlier in the week record profits again for the top financial firms. I read an article of yours where you talked about how the stock market is still growing, but the median wage is falling. Right? So it depends on what your perspective is, right?
So, if you only care about the top one percent, the economy is actually doing rather well. Right?
REICH: Exactly. In a sense, Cenk, we have two economies right now.
We have got the big money economy. Wall Street is doing wonderfully well. Big business is doing well, sitting on over $1 trillion of cash, don`t even know where to spend that cash. But most Americans are seeing their major assets, which is their homes, and not their stocks and bonds — most Americans don`t have very much by way of stocks and bonds — their major asset is their homes, and that major asset continues to drop.
UYGUR: So now let`s get to the reality. What would you do if you were the secretary of labor for President Obama, and he comes to you and he says, look, you know, we`re stagnating a little bit here, what`s the answer?
REICH: Well, the first answer is to make sure that there`s more money in the pockets of average working people so they can turn around and buy more. And if they turn around and buy more, that means more jobs.
How do you get more money into the pockets of average working people? Well, for example, I might recommend that you exempt the first $20,000 of income from the payroll tax. Eighty percent of Americans pay more in payroll taxes than they do in income taxes. And make up the difference by lifting the ceiling on the percentage of income subjected to the payroll tax.
UYGUR: So, you know, of course the Republicans would call that redistribution of wealth. But what I see now is a massive redistribution of wealth. We`ve got the $400 billion tax cuts going to the rich. And right now they`re going to come after entitlements when they go to cut spending.
So you`re saying flip it on its head, and not because you care about fairness, but you`re saying that would actually help the economy and it would help everybody.
REICH: Exactly. I mean, I do care about fairness, Cenk, as you do. But the fact of the matter is that if you`ve got so much of the nation`s income and wealth concentrated at the top, which you do right now — I mean, we have almost a record amount of concentrated wealth and income at the top — the vast middle class, the working class of America, just doesn`t have enough income to turn around and buy the stuff that`s going to boost the economy. I mean, there`s just not enough demand out there, there`s no way around that. You can`t run an economy just based on the top one percent to five percent of Americans.
UYGUR: All right. One last final question for you.
You know, the Republicans came out yesterday and said, oh, we`re going to cut $32 billion after they add $$00 billion in tax cuts. So that leaves about — we did the math last night — about $368 billion they`ve got to get to, to get to square one.
When you saw those numbers, did you have a good belly laugh?
REICH: Well, I thought it was a little embarrassing for them, honestly, because their entire strategy is based, as it has been for the last 30 years, on at least this philosophy. They don`t actually act on it, but they talk about shrinking government. But $32 billion may sound a lot, but given the entire federal budget, let alone the federal budget deficit, it`s almost nothing.
What happens is that the Republicans talk very, very toughly, but when it gets actually to the point of having to take on something like an entitlement, Social Security, or Medicare, or national defense, which is still bloated beyond belief, they just don`t want to take any action. .
UYGUR: Let alone, of course, taxes, where they cause a lot more damage than they do with any spending cut or spending increase. They just added $400 billion a year. It`s unconscionable if you care about the budget.
REICH: Absolutely. They continue to believe — and this is an amazing thing, Cenk, when you realize that for years and years, the actual reality has proven otherwise — they continue to believe that if you reduce taxes on the top, it trickles down and benefits everybody else.
It doesn`t benefit. There`s been no trickle down for the last 30 years.
UYGUR: Yes. I actually don`t think they believe that. They know that it goes to the top, but they like that. Those are the guys who paid them and got them into office.
REICH: Well, they keep talking about trickle down as if it actually was a reality.
UYGUR: Well, as you know, of course it isn`t.
All right. Great talking to you, Labor Secretary Robert Reich. We really appreciate your time.
REICH: Thanks, Cenk.
UYGUR: All right.