The Power Panel discusses the Medicare problem: Democrats refuse to cave on Medicare, but will the Obama White House cave? Cenk Uygur MSNBC TV June 14, 2011 video and transcript

Transcribed by Accountants CPA Hartford, Connecticut, LLC

UYGUR: Welcome back to the show, everybody. Now to discuss some of the biggest political stories, we bring in our Power Panel. Alex Wagner, MSNBC‘s political analyst, reporter for the Huffington Post. Kiki McLean, a founding leader of the No Labels Group and former senior adviser to Hillary Clinton during her 2008 presidential run. And finally, former New York republican Congressman Rick Lazio. Great to have all of you here with us tonight.




UYGUR: First question for the panel. Democrats refuse to cave on Medicare, let‘s hope but with the Obama White House, Senate Democrats stood firm on the issue again today.


SEN. HARRY REID (D), NEVADA: We‘re calling on Republicans to take away any cuts to Medicare benefits. Take them off the table, now.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: The Ryan plan to end Medicare as we know it must be taken off the table.

SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D), WASHINGTON: Today, we are here to say to the Republicans, we will not allow them to balance the budget on the backs of our seniors.


UYGUR: Alex, first question is, it for real, you know? It‘s nice rhetoric, ecstatically here it. But do we think they‘ll really going to hold the line?

WAGNER: Look, it is heartening I think to see the Democrats A united and B playing hardball. I mean, a lot of times. The Obama White House is probably most guilty of this. They negotiate with themselves ahead of this. And, you know, strategically speaking, the Paul Ryan Medicare plan is the best tactic the Democrats have had since Obama ran for office. I mean, this is manna from heaven for the 2012 presidential campaign. This is something they can all unite behind and fundamentally, it in genders of rhetoric conversation about the American social compact. And what the Republicans are offering and what the Democrats are offering. I think for now we have to hope for the best.

UYGUR: Kiki, help me understand this. Apparently they‘re saying that Medicare cuts can be on the table, but not Medicare benefit cuts. What‘s the distinction?

MCLEAN: Well, first of all, step back and understand that from my point of view, as a democrat but as a leader of No Labels, I believe to get to a solution, we‘ll going to have a bipartisan solution, and so everything‘s got to be on the table for that conversation. What I hear Senate Democrats saying, some in different ways than others, which is you‘re not going to go to the Paul Ryan extreme. There are people who believe that the Ryan plan is the most extreme and therefore not really moving toward a conversation about what can really happen. That‘s the difference I think when you look for it. Everything has got beyond the table, but the point is if you start off from a point of hyper partisanship, that‘s not going to move the debate forward.

UYGUR: All right. That scares me. Because.

MCLEAN: Why does that scare you?

UYGUR: I‘ll tell you it scares me. I‘ll tell you exactly why it scares me, Kiki. Because look, when you say, well, we‘re not going to do the Ryan plan which is massively radical, but we‘ll do other things. That tells me. Yes, we‘re on the cut Medicare. And I don‘t want to cut Medicare, especially when the Republicans tell me that they‘ll be no tax increases under no circumstances.

MCLEAN: Exactly.


UYGUR: I‘m going to take Medicare off the table in a second.

MCLEAN: Cenk, that‘s just the point. You see, you want to do it as a tit for tat. What I‘m suggesting is that a bipartisan solution means everybody is at the table and we figure out what we‘re for. The goal is to fix our economy, to create more jobs, get this debt ceiling raised, and make sure that we can preserve Medicare, that it can work. I personally happen to believe that the Ryan plan is extreme, and wasn‘t really meant as a legitimate offering. I believe that it was actually put out there as a political tactic, so the point is you‘ve got to start with everything on the table, including what you‘re concerned won‘t be on the table. It‘s two parts, everything has to be there.

UYGUR: All right. Look, over the last ten years, every time in Washington said, bipartisan. The middle class got screwed and the rich got richer. That‘s part of my concern, but Rick, are you willing to put taxes on the table as a republican and say, yes, sure, maybe we should raise taxes?

LAZIO: Well, first of all, somebody is going to have to address Medicare. Whether Republicans and Democrats can do it before the debt ceiling vote, I don‘t know. But when a program like Medicare which is a huge program is growing at twice the rate of the economy, it is unsustainable and those reductions are going to come from somewhere. And let‘s face it. You know, Democrats already accepted a reduction in the rate of growth of over $400 billion in order to help finance the health care bill. So, they‘re already on record for having reduced the base.

UYGUR: That‘s true. Is that good enough?


UYGUR: Is that good enough, Rick?

LAZIO: Pardon me?

UYGUR: Is that good enough, $400 billion?

LAZIO: Not when the program is growing at twice the rate of the economy. We‘re borrowing $4 billion a day, Cenk.


UYGUR: So, Rick, I want to stay with you then. Rick, I want to stay with you. You say, OK, Medicare is growing too fast, we can‘t afford it. On the other hand, you‘ve got Republicans saying they want to do massive gigantic tax cuts for the rich? What happened? I thought we couldn‘t anything.

LAZIO: So, let me say this. First of all, you‘ve got to understand that the only way long term to address this huge fiscal dilemma that we have right now is through growth. The worst time to raise taxes is when you have a soft fragile recovery like we have right now.

UYGUR: That‘s what they say every time, every time. Oh, it‘s a terrible time to raise taxes. Let‘s give more to the rich. Alex? Alex?

WAGNER: I just think what we have to look at this strategically. This is playing politics. I mean, I think Democrats are not in the dark that, you know, entitling programs, there needs to be some reform. Does that mean we need to turn Medicare into a voucher program, I‘m not sure. The Republicans have gone far to the right. Look at the budget to pass the House. I mean, I think it‘s high time that the Democrats—at least have some ground to stand on and circle the wagons a little bit.


MCLEAN: I want to take a moment.

LAZIO: — Because people like to say all the time that this is some type of voucher program. The Ryan plan has the subsidies flowing through Medicare, and it only is going to be paid to license regulated insurers. It also means test the monies, so that people who are the most needy and who are the sickest are going to get a disproportionate amount of money. So, I know that‘s a great talking point, and sound bite, to call a voucher program, but it‘s not accurate base on the way the architecture of that plan.

UYGUR: No, no. Rick, Rick. The last part right—hold on. Let me just say, Rick, you‘re right about the last part. But about the first part, you described exactly a voucher program. That‘s what it is. So that‘s why we call it that. But Kiki, go ahead.

MCLEAN: Well, here‘s the issue. And I‘m going to praise two people. I‘m going to praise Eric Cantor by saying that he stepped out yesterday and praised Vice President Biden for the work the bipartisan team is doing trying to get us to agreement. Because this can‘t be about any one issue in isolation. This is about the whole, and we have to be able to look at it as a whole. Rick doesn‘t want to admit that we have to address taxes. We have to address taxes. I also think that when you look at Newt Gingrich and what he said, even in the republican debate last night, was that Medicare can‘t be an either/or on the far extremes. That we have to be willing to look at what the options are but the…

UYGUR: Let me tell you my problem with that is. Let me tell you what

the problem is

MCLEAN: Let me tell you what—let me say this.

UYGUR: Hold on. Let me address it. OK.

MCLEAN: The greatest moment, Cenk.

UYGUR: Look, the political spectrum has moved massively to the right over the last 30 years. And certainly over the last ten years. Now you‘re saying split the difference. I‘m not interested in splitting that difference.

MCLEAN: No, no, no. I didn‘t say split the difference.

UYGUR: Our tax rates are at historic lows.

MCLEAN: Cenk, I didn‘t say.

UYGUR: Hey, you can raise a tiny bit if we cut Medicare. I say no, let‘s bring the spectrum back to the center.

MCLEAN: I didn‘t say split it down the middle. What I suggested to you is this, that these things are connected. And so they‘ve got to be looked at in the whole. And by the way, when you talk about bipartisan solutions that it always work against middle class, I just don‘t believe that‘s true. Because the greatest moments in America‘s history have been where there have been bipartisan solutions. You‘re talking to a Texan who would be proud to have Lyndon Johnson carry all the water and all the gratitude for civil rights, but there was a republican from Illinois name Everett Dirksen who went to work with him on it.

UYGUR: Ancient history?

MCLEAN: I don‘t think a lot of people who live under civil rights reform.

UYGUR: Right. That was before the corporations took over it. The corporate America is taking over everything, including the military contractors, which is our next question for the panel.

MCLEAN: Cenk, then you don‘t believe that there‘s any possibility at all, and you might as well give up. I do.

UYGUR: No, no, I believe the real thing to do is to throw all the bums out and fix the system, because our money—the money has corrupted our system entirely. I mean, look at Evan Bayh, that‘s a democrat? That‘s progressive? That‘s a corporate robot. And what did he do? He came out of the Senate and he immediately grabbed the money. He grabbed the corporate money, now he works for the Chamber of Commerce and FOX News. That‘s what partisanship? That‘s ripping the middle class off, and that‘s what‘s been happening for the last 30 years. You go beyond 30 years, then, I agree with you. Then, we have lovely bipartisanship.

MCLEAN: But you know what? Your yelling and screaming doesn‘t solve the problems though, Cenk.

UYGUR: I think it begins to solve it.

MCLEAN: I don‘t think it solved anything right now. To be honest with you, I don‘t think it did anything to further the conversation in America. I don‘t think as a democrat, you did anything to help my point of view as a progressive get us to a solution. Because here‘s the reality, in order to address the issues I care about, we‘ve got to make sure our country is economically secure, that people have a chance to feed their kids, that they‘re able to take care of their parents when they‘re old and sick. And that they have opportunity. That‘s not going to come from one side alone.

UYGUR: All right. We‘ve got to move on, on the next question, and that‘s about defense budget. Look, we spent 43 percent of all the defense spending in the world. What is it every going to be enough? Rick, can we touch the defense budget? Or is it simply, again, the Republicans, no way, we have to give all our money to defense contract.

LAZIO: I think it needs to come down more. The program of a size of our defense budget right now. It means, it‘s partly a reflection of engaging in two wars the same time. I mean, we‘re going to have to make hard choices and defense and accept as Secretary Gates have said that there‘s going to be some traders here. That you cannot have a two-theater war effectively, and at the same time reduce spending. But in my mind, having a strong economy, creating jobs, and not relying on foreign governments to finance our debt is as much a national security issue as buying another ballistic missile system. I think we can do both. I think that number has got to come down. And frankly, if you look at President Obama‘s budget in February, not the second one, the first one, Republicans are pretty competitive with the amount of financing. So, it‘s not just a republican allocation here, it‘s one that the administration is also signed off on.

UYGUR: Agreed. We have agreement on the panel. I‘m feeling good.

MCLEAN: Yes, yes, it‘s partisan.

UYGUR: Alex, hold on one quick second. Look, another story that came out, somewhat related to this, $6.6 billion lost in Iraq. Lost.


UYGUR: I mean, how much pork is in the defense budget that we can lose $6.6 billion and they don‘t even notice.

WAGNER: Look, even if we took all of our troops out of Afghanistan, arming and equipping the Afghan army will be $12.8 billion. We have serious expenditures as far as defense, five percent of our wealth that we spend on the defense budget. But, look, Leon Panetta was Clinton‘s chair of the Office of Management Budget, he‘s a notorious number cruncher. And looks like he‘s going to get some firm. I think there is some bipartisan support for trimming the defense budget. So, he may be the man to do it.

UYGUR: Kiki, real quick? Agreement again? We can cut defense?

MCLEAN: Yes, I think there‘s some agreement. Here‘s the amazing thing. I‘m not sure how those numbers went out because I think what you see on this panel is probably what you really find on Capitol Hill when it comes to that issue.

UYGUR: Well, I hope it‘s true on Capitol Hill. I know it‘s true across the country. People get there‘s pork in the defense budget and it goes to the military contractors. I wish our congressmen would get that.

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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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One Response to The Power Panel discusses the Medicare problem: Democrats refuse to cave on Medicare, but will the Obama White House cave? Cenk Uygur MSNBC TV June 14, 2011 video and transcript

  1. Kiki McClean is not a progressive Democrat. In Clinton fashion, she is willing to concede to cuts in Medicare, negotiating with the Republicans, in return, at best, for very minor, if any, tax increases. Recall that Clinton Democrats brought us NAFTA, which contributed to all of our jobs going out of our country. And recall that under Clinton, Greenspan and Rubin continued the deregulation of Wall Street, leading to the economic collapse of 2008.

    Please, Cenk Uygur, never invite Kiki McClean on your show again. If I wanted to hear her corporate centrist nonsense, I could tune into Fox News for that.

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