For those of you who came in during the third act, a guide to reading between the lines as Obama political adviser David Plouffe makes the rounds of the Sunday shows: First, despite what he says during this appearance on Meet the Press, there is no such thing as "a balanced deficit reduction package that doesn't harm the economy" during a prolonged recession. Nope, not gonna happen. (Just ask Paul Krugman, Joe Stiglitz, Dean Baker or Jared Bernstein.) Second, there's nothing "balanced" about a scenario where the public deals with the brunt of extensive cuts with no additional revenue and three, Social Security and Medicare are in the gun sights. Notice how he works that in there: "Our view is things like Social Security and Medicaid, you know, they can't be part of the solution here unless you've got a balanced package that includes tax reform." Whee!
David, please tell your boss: We don't see Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid as "part of the solution" to a manufactured debt crisis. They already are a solution, one that's worked very well for us, and we want no part of your plan:
MR. GREGORY: I'm joined now by senior adviser to the president David Plouffe. Welcome back to MEET THE PRESS.
MR. DAVID PLOUFFE: Good morning, David.
MR. GREGORY: So from your vantage point, you're inside the room. Is that overly rosy, or are you that close?
MR. PLOUFFE: Well, we don't have a deal. Everyone is cognizant, as, as Chuck Todd just reported on, both the legislative clock and, more importantly, the default clock. So the hours are ticking here. I think what's clear is that there's general agreement that we're going to have deficit reduction in two stages. The first is going to be something the parties largely agree on, about $1 trillion in deficit reduction. The second stage is going to be the trickier, elements of entitlement reform and tax reform, which this supercommittee's going to be charged with. And I think it's going to be incumbent on the leaders in Congress to appoint people to those committees who are going to drive to yes, to try and compromise, get out of their party's comfort zone.
MR. GREGORY: Let...
MR. PLOUFFE: Yeah.
MR. GREGORY: Let me be clear, though. What will the president accept as a deal?
MR. PLOUFFE: Well, first of all, we--it's clear our economy is obviously not as strong as any of us would like it to be. This debt ceiling cloud has harmed our economy. Why on earth would we want to go through this again a few short months from now?
MR. GREGORY: So it has to be through 2012.
MR. PLOUFFE: So--for the economy, number one. Number two, we want to make sure that if there is an enforcement mechanism--and again, the committee is not going to be charged with just doing spending cuts only. The committee's going to be charged with looking at our entire deficit reduction problem and look at things like tax reform and revenue. You need--you want something to compel this committee to act. That was part of the president's approach that he laid out to the country a few months ago, that there would be a debt cap that would enforce action. So you want to have something that compels both parties to act. Because I do think there's going to be a lot of pressure, rightly, on this committee to produce something that Congress can vote on. Yes.
MR. GREGORY: But, but a lot of people watching this have got to be wondering, what's actually going on today? What is the fighting about? So first stage, you, you cut government spending over a 10-year period to raise the debt ceiling. Part of that is a second stage, another committee in Washington that looks at really making the hard decisions. And then if they don't make the hard decision, something forces Congress' hand. So again, what will the president accept as a consequence to force the, the Congress' hand?
MR. PLOUFFE: Well, again, it might be more enjoyable to negotiate this with you this morning. I, I can't get into a great amount of detail. But I think that, one, we have to make sure that you can agree on the initial set of spending cuts. The process for the committee, it's essential, we think, that the debt ceiling get extended off into the future so it doesn't hurt the economy. Then we want to make sure whatever enforcement mechanism is something, one, that if it were triggered, you know, you think the country could live with; but secondly, strong enough to compel folks to act. And I think that you, you see, this has been a healthy debate. I think the country's learned a lot about our debt and deficit problems. I think there's been some education here in Washington. And I think what's clear is, you know, where the president stands is where the American people stand, that if we're going to do another set of deficit reduction, over $1 trillion, they're going to insist it be balanced. Because if you're a middle-class family, if you're a senior citizen...
MR. GREGORY: But it's not going to be balanced. There's no tax increases in this.
MR. PLOUFFE: But...
MR. GREGORY: You--the president said it had to have tax increases, it must--had to be balanced.
MR. PLOUFFE: The committee--yeah.
MR. GREGORY: That's not what's in this deal.
MR. PLOUFFE: Well, listen, this committee's going to be charged with coming up with additional deficit reduction. There's no way to do it without smart entitlement reform and tax reform.
MR. GREGORY: So you only get to do potential tax increases as part of a second stage of spending cuts that a committee has to agree to?
MR. PLOUFFE: Well, the first stage--it's clear in this first stage what we're going to get is an extension of the debt ceiling...
MR. GREGORY: Right.
MR. PLOUFFE: ...you're going to get that first set of spending cuts over $1 trillion, and then you're going to get this committee that's going to be charged with reporting out, hopefully, a balanced deficit reduction plan.
MR. GREGORY: Well, what is healthy about this debate? I mean, you talk about another supercommittee. Seventeen months ago the president convened a debt commission, the proposals, recommendations from which were not acted on by the president or Congress. Now you're talking about another committee. Nobody's yet making the hard choices about two-thirds of the budget, which is entitlement spending. So what's healthy about this debate?
MR. PLOUFFE: Well, it's certainly not been a healthy debate in, in the short-term. I think the American people are sitting back and saying, you know, "I'm going through tough things in my life, and these folks are sitting there arguing with each other, unwilling to compromise, do tough things." Particularly the House Republicans this week. But I would say this. The president laid out several months ago a $4 trillion deficit reduction plan. What we were striving to do with the speaker of the House was a, a big deficit reduction package that wouldn't have a supercommittee, we would have done it right now. That wasn't possible. The speaker of the House, pulled by the right wing of his party, walked away from that. But the president's going to be committed over these next few months, as I--and I think members of Congress needs to be as well, that we need to finish the job here. And the way they're going to finish that job is to have a balanced deficit reduction package that doesn't harm the economy.