Americans for Prosperity's Tim Phillips managed to get a nice softball interview from CNN's Eliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker. They allowed their viewers to come away hearing this guy complain that his ultra-rich corporate donors just can't be disclosed because they're going to be harassed. And he got praised by Spitzer for being "brave" enough to say the retirement age should be raised and that we should be going after both the jobs and the pensions of federal workers.
And of course there was no mention of how much backing his group has got from those that stand to benefit from our current health care system keeping the insurance companies when the conversation turned to Medicare reimbursements.
It's too bad he wasn't debating someone who would explain that we could make Medicare affordable if we weren't dumping the sickest and most expensive patients onto the government instead of having single payer where the young are contributing to the same system as well, and cutting his buddies out of the massive profits they've been making doing their best to insure as few people as possible while they line their pockets.
SPITZER: Our "Headliner" tonight is Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, a right-wing group who Barack Obama claims was at the center of questionable Republican campaign spending in 2010. He called out the group at least 19 times in campaign speeches. A highly unusual level of attention from the president.
PARKER: Phillips is a major player in the rise of Tea Party. His organization has invested heavily in the fight against health care reform.
TIM PHILLIPS, PRESIDENT, AMERICANS FOR PROSPERITY: Nice to be here.
PARKER: How do you feel about being identified as a right-wing activist group? Is that accurate?
PHILLIPS: I think free market is the word. But we'll take whatever.
SPITZER: Those are words you guys use anyway. We're trying to be good to you.
PARKER: All right. Well, let me ask you this. Now that the elections are over --
PARKER: -- you recently had a meeting in Virginia with some other conservative leaders to develop a strategy for the next two years.
PARKER: So what did you come up with?
PHILLIPS: We're going to take on the Obama health care plan. We're going to make sure that issue stays in front of the American people. We think it's terrible legislation. The American people don't want it. And we're going to insist that this Congress continue to revisit that issue because it's crucial to our prosperity and individual health care choices.
PARKER: You know, I might be sympathetic to some of your positions, but I want to know where your funding comes from. Why can't you tell me that? Why is that a secret?
PHILLIPS: Let me give you an example of why we ought to keep, protect the privacy of our financial supporters. A few weeks before the election, one of the president's top economic advisers is on a conference call with reporters, and he actually brings up the fact that we're looking at the codes (ph) and there are tax returns and there are corporate tax returns as well. David Koch is our chairman. What an outrageous chilling thing for a senior economic adviser to the president. This was widely reported, by the way, to name an individual American and only because that American was involved with Americans for Prosperity. That is why we ought to protect the privacy. And I am happy to do so. And we will do so because these politicians, too often, will try to have retribution using agencies or their own Congress.
SPITZER: Tim, let me say this, I am for transparency. I think we would all benefit when the big money that's flowing into politics is disclosed. You know where it's coming from. I also agree with you. For somebody to say that somebody is being audited by the IRS and a matter for that reason, even to apply is awful and should never happen.
I want to come to a different issue. You put out a statement today. The organization saying you disagree with fundamental pieces of the debt commission proposals that was issued by Erskine Bowles and former Senator Simpson. The piece you object to is that there's a big tax increase built into that.
SPITZER: About $1 trillion.
SPITZER: You also want to balance the budget. So are how are you going to make up that trillion dollars?
PHILLIPS: Let me start by saying, I think there are some goods in that commission. I think that we have to put defense on the table. I know some of my friends would disagree with that, but we have to. It's discretionary spending. One of the proposals in there was trimming back on overseas bases, $10 billion. Yes, that's serious money.
PHILLIPS: I think that's something we probably we could assort, we would look at. I think that over time, raising the retirement ages. It's a tough one. And it's going to provide some pain. I know. But I think that is an area we have to look at, too. So those are two big --
SPITZER: Look at it with support.
PHILLIPS: Support. I think we have to do it.
PHILLIPS: I think we have to do it. And I think if we don't say that -- when those retirement rates were put in, life expectancy was a lot different, Eliot. And now it's longer. Thank goodness it is.
SPITZER: That's right.
PHILLIPS: We have to do that. We have to expand it. I know it's going to be a big fight. The left is already screaming about it. But that's one. And that's tens of billions of dollars, if not hundreds of billions.
Two areas that were not in the commission report that we have to look at. One are pensions for workers, federal workers, state, local workers. That unfunded liability is killing us. States are looking at devastating returns in the federal government too.
We have to have pensions coming along with private sector. And we have to trim the federal and state local workforces. You know, we've lost over 10 million jobs in this recession in the private sector. Government in total has seen a rise in employees in total. In total, we have to over time trim the government. I know it's difficult. These are good people, by the way.
SPITZER: There are a lot of things you just said there that I think are courageous, and I applaud you for doing it. Being more specific than certainly most of the elected officials who've come on this show.
SPITZER: Raising the retirement age, closing a lot of overseas military bases, I think those are two things in there. But there is also a lot in there about Medicare. They're basically saying lower the reimbursement rates for doctors in return for tort reform. Is that a bargain you support?
PHILLIPS: Well, the problem is they keep lowering the rate, or lowering the return for doctors. You're going to see more and more doctors opt out, which you're already seeing. One thing I hear around the country right now, I travel an awful lot at rallies and events. I talk to folks. And they tell me, gosh, for Medicaid, Medicare it's tough to find a doctor who will even take me now because they're pushing the rates down so far. There's only so much blood out of the turnip that you can get.
PARKER: When you say talking about candidates that you would support, you talk about full throttle conservative across the board. What does that mean?
PHILLIPS: Well, speaking of free market, the Americans for Prosperity focuses on free market issues. It means someone will hold the line on taxes or simplify the tax code. It means someone who genuinely is going to cut spending. You know, the Republican contract or whatever the term was -- frankly it wasn't as ambitious as it should have been.
SPITZER: The pledge.
PHILLIPS: The pledge. It was not as ambitious on spending as we would like to have seen a 1.3 trillion budget deficit. You're talking about $100 billion. That's not enough. But genuine meaningful tax cuts.
I tell you a guy I really respect during the campaign. Did you see the last Florida Senate debate one week before the election. I'm driving somewhere in the middle of nowhere on the (INAUDIBLE) bus tour. I'm dialing in on the radio. I hear it. C-SPAN is running a repeat of it. Marco Rubio a week before the election says we've got to make real cuts here. We've got to genuinely bring in social security. He said that in Florida. That's the kind of political courage we're going to have in our next presidential candidate.
SPITZER: Given that unemployment is at 9.6, and really much higher --
PHILLIPS: Much higher.
SPITZER: -- I think everybody agrees if you measure the right way.
SPITZER: What would you do? You can't just say cut taxes right now because cutting taxes hasn't created jobs in the last 10 years. And the Bush tax cuts have been in place --
PHILLIPS: That's just not true. You look at '01, '03, the economy was smoking pretty well, Eliot, and --
SPITZER: Well, they maybe smoking something else. But it was not -- look, the longer term -- PHILLIPS: Unemployment was pretty low then.
SPITZER: You know, but that was a temporary bubble situation. What we've got right now is the aftermath of excess leverage, deregulation and rates that were really historically very low. Cutting them another two, three points isn't going to get investment when you've got trillions of dollars sitting there not being invested.
PHILLIPS: Here's the first thing we need to do. As it's been well reported, businesses have what? $1.5 trillion.
SPITZER: A lot of money. However you count it.
PHILLIPS: And the number one thing I hear from big businesses and small is, until we have a stable legislative regulatory environment, we're not investing that money.
SPITZER: We've agreed on a whole lot more than I thought we would. I disagree with you on this. There's a demand crisis. I know businesses talk about lack of certainty. That's not why people aren't investing. I can tell you that dealing with thousands of different business folks. That is not the problem. We have a demand crisis. We've got to somehow stoke demand. And I know you don't like Keynesian economics and --
PHILLIPS: A trillion bucks of stimulus, Eliot, did not stoke demand.
SPITZER: Well, we did. It created about three million jobs.
PHILLIPS: Oh, it did not.
SPITZER: But certainly --
PHILLIPS: That's impossible to prove. You are throwing numbers out there. Come on.
SPITZER: Tim, you and I both know, you can never prove like you do in chemistry exam that this is the case but every economist --
PHILLIPS: So it's saved or created is the operative word you are using?
Saved. How do you know what job got saved, Eliot?
SPITZER: Unemployment would be so much higher.
PHILLIPS: That's laughable.
SPITZER: But let's get to something. We'll disagree on that. You disagree conceptually that there is such a thing as global warming we have to worry about?
PHILLIPS: I think the science is far from settled. And for any one including Al Gore to say otherwise is arrogance. There are enough scientists out there and doctors out there saying hey, wait a minute, let's look at thing more closely. I'm not a scientist, I don't pretend to be. But when I look and read, for the left to say, oh, the debate is settled. Aren't they the ones always wanting tolerance? Aren't they the ones who always want an open debate and dissent?
SPITZER: Oh, we're tolerant.
PHILLIPS: Boy, they're quick to whack it.
SPITZER: I just think you're wrong. That's all.
PARKER: All right. Tim Phillips, thank you so much for a fascinating discussion.
PHILLIPS: Thank you.
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