Today there was a meeting at the White House between Republicans and President Obama. They were there to talk about raising the debt ceiling. But one Republican Congressman, Jeff Landry, had decided that he would not attend, and he said: “I don’t intend to spend my morning being lectured to by a President whose failed policies have put our children and grandchildren in a huge burden of debt.”
Now that was incredibly disrespectful so I don’t know what he was talking about saying respectfully; he doesn’t even show up. But it keeps getting worse from there on out.
Paul Ryan said this after the meeting: “It’s been misdescribed by the President and many others, and so we simply described to him precisely what it is we have been proposing so that he hears from us how our proposal works so that in the future he won’t mischaracterize it.”
How incredibly patronizing. They come right out and say he’s mischaracterized it. We had to carefully explain it to him.
And then Eric Cantor said after the meeting: “We pressed him repeatedly to stop the demagoguery.”
What a joke. Republicans complaining about demagoguery?! Oh, please.
The problem is that this kind of stuff works. They just keep whining to the rest, saying oh, no, the President’s got to work with us. He’s kind of coming in our direction. And it looks like maybe he will. Here’s Kevin McCarthy talking about that issue: “What I heard from the President is that he wanted to sit down and find real cuts now. He said that there needed to be entitlement reform, and we will work with him toward those ends.”
Now why in the world after all these insults would the President come and work with these guys when the polls are on his side, the American are on his side, I think that that doesn’t make any sense. Joining me now is one of the people who met with the President today, Republican Representative from California, Congressman Brian Brilbray.
You brought up a lot today that I want to address. Let’s go point by point. First of all, on raising the debt ceiling, during the Bush years, you got to acknowledge that there were a great number of times that you guys raised the debt ceiling and that it was all clean votes. It was never attached to spending cuts. So why the difference now? Why shouldn’t we do it as we did before?
That is exactly why the Republicans were thrown out by the voters and that’s exactly what the voters have said: no more. We don’t want you to basically be cranking up, accepting more debt. We don’t want you to…until we straighten it out, until we prove it, they’re basically saying, we don’t trust you guys anymore to do the right thing until you put it down, a plan that is not a bunch of smoke and mirrors. And this is Republicans and Democrats, Cenk, this is not a partisan deal with the voters.
I appreciate you saying that during the Bush years you guys did it wrong, etc. But at the same time, doesn’t it seem a little convenient that when you have a Republican President, no one questions his budgets, and when you have a Democratic President, all of a sudden you say, oh, no, no, we got to have spending cuts before we touch the debt ceiling?
Cenk, you are absolutely right, that’s why the Republicans were thrown out because they didn’t do the fiscal oversight that the House was supposed to do. So you just got to accept that the voters have the final say here. They threw the Republicans out because they did exactly what you said, and they will throw us out again if we don’t stand up and say, look, fiscal responsibility is something we have to do. And they will throw the President and Congress out.
So Congressman, here’s the thing. You say we got to balance the budget. I agree with you. I am actually a fiscal conservative, alright. And I have been all along. And I appreciate that Bill Clinton did welfare reform, I appreciate that he balanced the budget along with the Republican Congress. Now having said that, the question is how. How do you do that? You guys say, hey we got to do Medicare reform, but at the same time, you talk about lowering taxes from 35% to 25% for the top brackets in that Ryan plan. Why, if we are trying to balance the budget, would we on God’s green earth want to cut taxes? That doesn’t make any sense. And it means that you have to do more Medicare cuts. If it were me, I would never sign onto that.
I think you would even admit, we want a revenue neutral across the board….There are ways if we lower the rates, and even the President said, take out some of the absurd parts of the tax code. There are issues that we can do that look like a tax cut, and let me give you an example: repatriation of $2 trillion of American money that could come back into the United States if we say, okay, bring it back for R&D, for manufacturing, for stimulating the economy, and we won’t give you a 35% hit, we will give you a 5% hit.
No way! It’s a 35% tax. Why would we lower it to 5% and give corporations this enormous tax cut and then say to the American people, I’m going to cut your Medicare because I just gave a huge tax cut to the corporations?
It’s not a tax cut for us because we are never going to be able to tax that money because that’s what I am saying.
No, you pass a bill saying, you need to repatriate that money right now. By the way, that’s the rules of a lot of other countries.
You can’t do that constitutionally.
Absolutely you can. That’s not remotely true.
We are the only country that does this, that taxes money coming back into their country.
No, that is not true, Congressman. We could easily have a law that says, hey, when you make the money abroad, you pay American taxes on it. You pay taxes on it in your own country, and whatever is extra, you pay taxes in America. There is not reason why you need to have this delay.
No, this is the point. That $2 trillion will never be taxed because the fact is that they will never bring it back in.
Because you guys don’t want it to be taxed.
No, no. It can’t be taxed right now. It can’t be taxed constitutionally until it’s brought into our terra firma. You have to bring it into our territory. No other nation does that. England doesn’t do that, Germany doesn’t do that, France doesn’t do that. But let’s move away. If you don’t believe in bringing back American money for American jobs and that they may get something on that, fine, let’s just talk about this.
We can do things, let’s just go across the board, say take these subsidies out for farm subsidies, we can do that. Ethanol subsidies. I’ve been fighting ethanol subsidies since 1995, Cenk. I’ve been saying that it was a sham. People who were on the left and said it was a good idea realize those mistakes. Let’s go correct those. I think we can get agreement on a lot of stuff.
Congressman, this goes to the heart of the issue. When you say let’s take away subsidies, if you are talking about ethanol, oil, I would love to take away those subsidies. I think they are nonsense. I think they are a redistribution of wealth to the richest companies and the richest agricultural concerns in the whole country.
But the problem is, you say I need to cut Medicare, you pay 68% of the costs, you have no guaranteed benefits, you have none of the stuff that you are used to with Medicare because I have to make sure that the corporations only pay 5% in taxes on the monies that they bring back here, I got to make sure that the top income tax bracket is lowered to 25%. And if the White House goes along with that, they are crazy. Nobody in America wants that.
Let’s be upfront about it. Nobody is talking about changing Medicare and Social Security for one senior. Not one. Not one person living today who is a senior is affected by any proposal that’s on the table. The question is what are we going to do about the long-term commitments to people that are in their early 50s and younger and how do we work out that arrangement.
So you cut their Medicare.
No, no. What is being proposed is why don’t we look at the health care plan that Congress has and work out an arrangement like that for these younger kids who are coming up. That way we can guarantee to seniors that they are not affected, that guys my age get to keep the system we want, but the younger guys are guaranteed that they are going to have a program that’s affordable past 2025. It was the President’s commission that said that program is in. If you can’t talk about working out something that is affordable for the younger generation, people that are in their 50s and 40s, while you are still guaranteeing seniors that they are totally untouched by this situation, if we can’t touch that, then that just shows you, and that’s what the President is saying, we need to discuss this. The President is willing to discuss it, and he will work with us, especially a program that guarantees seniors their social security and Medicare that they have now and talks to the younger generation, that we’re going to have a system that is sustainable for them. And the President and Congress is going to work this out. And we have to work it out before we move over because the vote shows overwhelmingly there is no stomach for raising the debt limit with having this kind of reform part of it.
Congressman we are totally out of time, so you get the last word. Thank you so much for joining us. Representative Brian Brilbray from California.
Cenk, thanks a lot.
Transcribed by the Barefoot Accountant of Accountants CPA Hartford, Connecticut, LLC
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