CENK UYGUR, MSNBC ANCHOR: Welcome to the show, everybody. I‘m Cenk Uygur. Today, we begin with some good news about the country‘s economic recovery. The Labor Department says that the economy added 216,000 new jobs last month with private employers driving nearly all the gains. That is very good news. This combined with February‘s private sector job growth means that private hiring has added 470,000 jobs in the last two months alone.
Now, because those figures, the unemployment rate dipped slightly to 8.8 percent. It‘s fallen a full percentage point over the past four months, the sharpest drop since 1983. Obviously, very good news. And all that points to the fact that this administration is pushing the needle on unemployment. Now, just take a look at this chart from Steve Bennett (ph) at the “Washington Monthly”.
It shows the monthly job losses since January of 2008. Red columns point to monthly job totals under the Bush administration. And blue columns point to job totals under the Obama administration. OK. I pause there for a second. Look at that thing. It is so obvious what‘s going on. It‘s incredibly clear. This administration has stopped the bleeding in terms of the economy and jobs.
It is making positive headway. Is it enough? That‘s a good question. That‘s a fair question. We‘ll get into that a little bit later. But, obviously, we‘re going in the right path. So, today, the president how (ph) to this progress warned that Republicans possibly forcing a government shut down is actually a very bad idea.
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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We know that compromises within reach. If this budget negotiations break down, we could end up having to shut down the government, just at a time when the economy is starting to recover.
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UYGUR: Now, that makes sense, right? Well, sadly, not to the Republicans. They want cuts at any cost, even if it means a government shutdown. Even more irrationally, they want those cuts, even though reports have shown that such measures would destroy cut 700,000 jobs through 2012. Now, here‘s John Boehner ignoring those two facts and pushing his budget plan, anyway.
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REP. JOHN BOEHNER, ® SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Today‘s jobs report is welcome news, but Washington needs to do a lot more to end the uncertainty and get our economy moving again. It‘s clear that we need to cut spending. We‘re going to fight for the largest spending cuts that we can get.
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UYGUR: Now, let‘s see if that makes any sense. Remember, more spending through the stimulus plan created new jobs, you saw the graph. So, how would cutting spending help? And that doesn‘t make much sense to me, but it doesn‘t have to. It‘s a Republican plan. Now, the GOP is being so childish in pushing cuts the Republicans tried to rewrite the constitution bypassing the government Shutdown Prevention Act.
That‘s a bill put forth by Eric Cantor, and they claim that if you magically pass a bill in the House twice, that the Senate doesn‘t have to pass it. Maybe you have to click your heels twice, too. That makes no sense. Anybody would know that. So, Anthony Weiner decided he was going to have a little bit of fun with it. Let‘s watch.
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REP. ANTHONY WEINER, (D) NEW YORK: Rules are not a big thing for them to follow, because this is why it‘s hard. It‘s a big book. So, I brought you this. “House Mouse, Senate Mouse.” Permit to read. “It‘s the floor of each chamber of the Senate and House where each senator and each Congress mouse gets to vote on the bill, and if enough do—if enough do—this president signs it if he likes to.”
“Well, the Senate mouse – mice—the senate mices haven‘t passed this yet.” Perhaps, if this were the rules that the Republicans had to follow, it‘s a much thinner book and it rhymes, maybe you‘d get it right.
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UYGUR: All right, that was fun. It looks like that, at this point, the Republicans are actually so annoying (ph) to negotiate, but there one risk to entire economic recovery, though, and that is not fun. Look, it doesn‘t really make sense (ph), unless, you relies to what they might actually want. The economy not to get better. Remember, the one number they care most about is 2012.
And they could make argument, hey, you know what, the president didn‘t create jobs, you should elect a Republican president. That‘s a very cynical. Let‘s hope that‘s not the plan, but I don‘t see what else makes sense.
But we‘re going to bring you some guests that might enlighten us. Joining me now is Ed Rollins, the long-time Republican strategist, who‘s also political director for President Ronald Reagan, also with me, former Pennsylvania Governor and MSNBC political analyst, Ed Rendell.
All right. Ed, let me start with you. You‘re in the studio here with me. Obviously, I‘ve said a couple of tough things about the Republican plan. First, let‘s start with Eric Cantor bill. I mean, that‘s crazy, right, the House passing the bill twice. What is that?
ED ROLLINS, FMR REAGAN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It‘s probably not constitutional and, I think, at the end of the day—
FMR. GOV. ED RENDELL, (D) PENNSYLVANIA: Probably not?
RENDELL: Ed! Ed!
ROLLINS: I was telling our host here. I said this is a perfect, you know, fast Eddie you and slow Eddie me. And I‘m so glad MSNBC gave you a job because they now take you up that unemployed roll where you were there for about a month. So, it‘s good to be on with you, as always.
UYGUR: All right. So, we agree that it‘s not constitutional.
RENDELL: Tell me I‘m going to rule the constitutional, unconstitutional, but, you know, the bottom line is 218 votes give you the rules. You can pass whatever you want to pass, but the courts get to play.
UYGUR: Right, it‘s nonsense. OK. Now, let‘s get to the heart of the matter. Jobs. Ed, fill me in on this and we‘ll have the governor respond. How does it make sense that spending cuts would lead to more jobs, especially given the data we showed?
ROLLINS: Well, I think, obviously, you‘ve got to argue that runaway trillion dollar debts are not good for the economy either. And as long as you‘re spending money that you don‘t have and borrowing money to create jobs, what is the cost of the jobs. I think anytime we get people back to work, it‘s a positive thing for America. And what I take issue with you is saying, Republicans don‘t want this economy to move.
Every American wants this economy to get back in play. We‘ll argue on lots of different issues and we‘ve got plenty of things to fight over this presidency race with, but tanking the economy is not one of them.
UYGUR: All right. I want to get back to that. That‘s an important issue, but I want the governor to respond that spending cuts might actually somehow create jobs and given the facts that we showed here tonight.
RENDELL: Well, look, Cenk, to be fair, reducing the deficit can, in fact, have a significant effect on the economy, but it takes time. It takes two, three years for the benefits of that to start to kick in. I mean, we saw it in the Clinton years when Bill Clinton, with the help of the Congress, reduced the deficit, eliminated it and started producing surpluses, that triggered economy growth like we haven‘t seen in our lifetime.
So, I think Ed has a point in the long run, but in the short run, it is clear that that‘s not going to have an immediate effect on helping the economy. And what does help the economy is properly targeted government spending, properly targeted government tax cuts which, in fact, do help, like the expensing on small businesses. That‘s clearly been a big help. Smart tax cuts, but not across the board tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.
So, there‘s no question that spending cuts are not the immediate answer to the economy. There‘s no question that the stimulus did produce significant new jobs and helped us retain a ton of new jobs. And right now, there‘s a storm cloud in all of this good economic news. And it‘s not the government shutdown, because I don‘t think that will have an immediate effect.
The storm cloud is the continuing loss of public sector jobs. Since September of 2008, we‘ve lost 436,000 public sector jobs. Some of those were necessary, some of those were things that had to be done, but I am worried that in July, when all of the budget cuts, the Wisconsins, the Ohios, my own state of Pennsylvania, when those layoffs begin to kick in, we‘re going to have hundreds of thousands of loss of public sector jobs and that‘s the thing that is going to chill and maybe delay this economic recovery.
UYGUR: Now, I agree with a lot of those points. And so, I want to have a little bit of fun here and go back to my controversial theory that you took issue with, Ed Rollins, because, look, balanced budgets, I‘m totally in favor of them. And I believe that you can get balanced budgets if you cut spending as well, perhaps, raising taxes, depends on who you raise taxes on, et cetera, et cetera, and I believe it‘s a good long-term strategy.
But they‘ve got to know that in the next couple of years, it is not going to help bring jobs. And you‘re telling me the Republicans aren‘t going to turn around and blame President Obama for not creating jobs if we don‘t have it in 2012.
ROLLINS: We are certainly going to blame President Obama for everything. That‘s the strategy of a campaign and whoever our nominee is and get a long a ways to go before that‘s chosen, will make every case he can against the sitting administration. Equally as important, the president gets to lay claims to all the things that he wants to lay claim to. The critical thing here, though, is we can‘t dip ourselves back into a second recession here.
And you can‘t have trillion-plus-dollar jobs. What the governor talked about, the very, very tough job, at least, governors across the country, and he was one of the great ones — probably get lose my Republican housekeeping seal by saying that, but I thought you were. Governors have to balance the budget, and so, unfortunately, a lot of very tough decisions have to be made. And I think we argue at the federal level you have to make the same kinds of tough decisions.
RENDELL: But I think that‘s a good point. You have to make those tough decisions, but you can also do other things. For example, in Michigan where Governor Snyder is making tough decisions, some of which he has to make. He‘s also cutting business taxes by almost $900 million. Now, wouldn‘t that $900 million be better stay in the Ohio—excuse me—in the Michigan budget and continuing to employ thousands of people?
ROLLINS: Only if—I mean, I would argue the business cuts are going to basically help stimulate business.
RENDELL: How fast? How fast? They will, but how fast?
ROLLINS: That everything has to be about getting business, small business, in particular, back to where they can hire people, and I think the faster the better. That‘s the bottom line here.
UYGUR: No, but that‘s a great question, and I want to focus in on that, because, look, that goes again to my idea that over the next two years, the Republicans don‘t mind that much if you lose some jobs because then they‘ll use it against President Obama. So, they think maybe it helps down the road. It hurts the short term. Everybody is—it‘s a win for them.
ROLLINS: Right now, Republicans who committed to make gigantic budget cuts in the 2010, most of them are worried about one job and that‘s their job. And that when you look at the tea party that was 41 percent of the vote, at least self-identified, and 88 percent of them voted for Republicans, they want cuts and they want deep cuts. So, my sense is John Boehner has got a tough job here between his members who are trying to be responsible and some—
UYGUR: I‘m going to go at it one more time. In the next two years, those spending cuts, do you think they create jobs or they might possibly cost jobs?
ROLLINS: I think they can do both. I think they can basically create jobs, and they certainly can get us to a point where we‘re not putting our kids and grand kids in debt.
RENDELL: And I think for the long run, you‘re absolutely right, Ed. But I don‘t think this is the time to be cutting business taxes. It‘s not the time to be raising business taxes either. But it‘s not the time to be taking $900 million off of business taxes, and, in fact, because of that, having to lay off tens of thousands of people. That doesn‘t any sense.
ROLLINS: Certainly, we‘ll have a lots of test models out there, Republicans and Democrats, and Jason‘s (ph) states are doing—some are raising taxes, some are cutting taxes.
RENDELL: Well, I‘ll give you a great test model, if I can, Cenk. In Pennsylvania, my last year as governor, we invested $400 million in infrastructure. We invested another $600 million in promoting energy jobs. We invested another $500 million in economic development. And Pennsylvania just was reported this through February to have the third highest number of jobs created in the last 12 months, 107,000.
And that was due to investment. And I stopped the business tax cuts they were phasing in the first six years of my administration. I froze them. I didn‘t raise business taxes, but I didn‘t continue to cut them because I thought we needed to preserve the jobs that we had. And it paid off for Pennsylvania. And I think we have to have a mix—and Ed you‘re certainly right, in the long run, this deficit‘s got to go down.
And we‘ve got to do a lot of things to make cuts, but we‘ve also got to close those tax loopholes. I mean, you tell me why, Ed, we should be giving the oil companies who are making record profits $4 billion in taxpayer subsidies.
ROLLINS: I‘m all for an overhaul of our tax system, which would be fair and equitable. And we close a lot of loopholes, just as long as we don‘t basically use it as an excuse to raise additional taxes on Americans.
UYGUR: All right. Final question for you, Ed, real quick here. If you were advising the president, be honest, would you say to him, yes, go ahead and cut spending like the tea party wants that $61 billion, it will help you create jobs and gets you re-elected. Would you really tell him that?
ROLLINS: If I was a Democrat and I was depending on my constituency group, no, I wouldn‘t. I think the president has a responsibility, though, to sit down and try to make some of this happen. Obviously, we have one house of the Congress. Senate is still controlled by Democrats. And that means it all has to sit down at the table and try and find some compromise.
The democrats had all last year to pass a budget. They chose not to.
Now, they basically have got to have the Republicans in the room.
RENDELL: But Ed, what would you advise the president to do? To continue to agree to give oil companies subsidies in the tune of $4 billion, and at the same time, cut the mortgage relief program that costs $3 billion?
ROLLINS: You know, I think the bottom line is—the president went off yesterday and talked about energy. Whatever the reason these tax cuts and benefits have been in there is to try and make the American oil companies stimulate jobs.
RENDELL: American oil companies are making record profits, Ed. They don‘t need our taxpayers‘ money.
ROLLINS: At the end of the day, they basically need more production and that‘s the key thing.
RENDELL: Yes, but they don‘t need it by our subsidies. They‘re making record profits.
UYGUR: All right. I love that conversation. Ed Rollins and Ed Rendell. Thank you both. Ed, it‘s nice to be with you.
RENDELL: Nice to be with you.