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UYGUR: Joining me now is Robert Reich, he is former Clinton labor secretary, of course, and now professor at UC Berkeley and the author of “Aftershock” which is just out on paper back. That‘s lovely. You know, normally I go with Secretary Reich. Today, I‘m going to go with Professor Reich. How are you?
ROBERT REICH, PROFESSOR, UC BERKELEY: How are you, Cenk?
UYGUR: OK. Great. Now, we have been discussion the president and his approval numbers. Well, in handling the economy, he is at 57 percent disapproval. Now, that‘s interesting. Why do you think that that‘s the case there? What‘s going wrong?
REICH: Well, it‘s mainly the continued high unemployment, unemployment is going down but people still worried about unemployment, and gas prices are going up. When you have that combination, people get very nervous, whether it‘s the president‘s fault or not, there is a tendency president to be less popular.
UYGUR: Well, that makes all the sense in the world but seems like what are we playing all these Washington games for? You know, oh, are you going to cut spending this way, are you Medicare, da da da, when in reality, gas prices are high, unemployment is high, and so that determines the whole election.
REICH: Yes, Cenk. The problem is the Republicans have been telling a big lie and many Americans are starting to believe it. That is if you get the deficit under control, you get jobs back. The fact of the matter is that right now, if you cut spending and raise taxes, you‘re going to create fewer jobs. Unless you raise taxes on people who actually like the very rich. In fact, if you try to raise tax on the very rich, they are not going to spend less because they already have much of what they want and the rich actually spend a much smaller proportion of their income than anybody else. So, it makes sense to raise the taxes on the rich but it doesn‘t make sense now to cut spending or raise taxes on anybody else.
UYGUR: So, is the president playing the wrong game here? Should he scrap this whole entire thing and say, look, deficit reduction and all spending cuts, no, no, no, I‘m going the other way and I‘m going to actually stimulate the economy and we are going to create jobs?
REICH: Well, I think what the president ought to be doing is saying, number one, now the Republicans have revealed who they are. They are—they want to get rid of Medicare, they want to turn it into basically a voucher program that channels money to the for-profit insurance companies and they also want to reduce taxes on the very rich. I mean, who are—whose side are they on? They are not on your side, obviously, but then I think the president needs to also say, but look, all of this issue about the deficit is important but the most important thing right now, right now, is to get jobs back, to reduce unemployment, to get the economy rolling and the Republicans have no ideas at all and what I‘m going to do is, and then he can offer a variety of solutions. For example, exempt the first $20,000 of income from Social Security taxes this year and next year, make up the difference by subjecting income over $250,000 to Social Security taxes.
UYGUR: Can he realistically to do that? I mean, he has got a game plan, he is executing his game plan. He is not going to turn around, is he? And if he doesn‘t and the jobs don‘t turn around, is that really the only thing that decides the election?
REICH: Cenk, jobs are very important. Again, things are moving slowly in the right direction. Gas prices, well, who know what is gas prices are going to do? But I think the president has got to, in addition to cornering the Republicans on Medicare and on tax breaks for the wealthy, which is what he is doing. And that is all very good, and very important, he has also got to provide a positive platform of getting jobs back and getting the economy growing again. And I think there he hasn‘t done enough.
UYGUR: All right. Now, McDonald‘s is announcing that they are hiring 50,000 new jobs, should we be excited or are we now in a McEconomy?
REICH: Well, look, this is a very important point. Because it‘s not just getting jobs back. I mean, if the jobs are lousy jobs, if they pay $9 an hour and most of the new jobs that have been created over the past couple of years are pretty lousy jobs. They are low paying, they don‘t have much benefit, if any benefit attached to them, well, those are not the kind of jobs we want. So, the president has got to come forward with a strategy for not only getting jobs back but also getting good jobs back.
UYGUR: I hear you on that. I think if you just went on the route of, look, jobs, jobs, jobs, I‘m trying to create jobs, these guys are trying to kill jobs. In my opinion, would you be ten times better off. Professor Reich.
REICH: Well, I think Cenk, the point is, he has already cornered the Republicans on Medicare and on tax favor for the rich, now it‘s time to come forward with a jobs strategy.
UYGUR: All right. Let‘s see if he does that. Professor Reich, as always, thank you. Really appreciate it.
REICH: Thanks, Cenk.