After Van Jones gave his speeches both at Netroots Nation 2011 and with his Rebuild the Dream movement, I was glad to see him get some air time on MSNBC to talk about the political games the Republicans are playing with their hostage taking on raising the debt ceiling. We'd be well served if we had more of their Democratic counterparts speaking this clearly and succinctly as Jones and former adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, Jared Bernstein did here.
I really liked Jones' hand grenade analogy on Medicare. I actually think the Republicans are cynical enough to try to force the Democrats to make cuts to the program and then try to run against them on it in 2012 and hope that the public is uninformed enough along with a complicit media that would help with that factor for them to get away with it. As Jones noted, they need to get out there and defend the program if they don't want that hand grenade to blow up in their face.
I don't know about anyone else, but as someone who has been following this issue, I'm sick to death of the Republicans throwing temper tantrums and telling the public that they'd be willing to let the world's economy crash if they don't get their way on tax cuts whether it be Cantor or McConnell of any of the rest of them. It's long past time for the majority of our media to start calling out these hostage takers if they would like to still have a country worth living in, and not one in the middle of another depression, which there's some argument about whether we're already there now. For far too many Americans sadly, we may as well be.
O'DONNELL: In the House, they walked out of the budget negotiations. Cantor, simply because they were talking about tax expenditures. No one, the Democrats, the Vice President, no one was talking about raising income tax rates of any kind, just going after the expenditures.
BERNSTEIN: That is a key point, that is a key, I wrote about that on my blog today. It's a key point. No one was, the thing that you hear Republicans inveigh against the most and the conservative supply side theory economist, the thing they inveigh against the most is an increase in tax rates, but if you broaden the base and close loopholes, you're not increasing rates. And so that's the way, that's the direction that this panel needs to head now I think.
O'DONNELL: Van, Sen. Chuck Schumer said today that they were looking at possibilities in Medicare, the what they call the delivery system in Medicare. There might be some ways to shave things there. Not cuts that would in any way affect beneficiaries.
This is the kind of cuts that Democrats have done many times before. President Clinton did $200 billion in that his first six months in office, he did a big Medicare cut, but it was all on the provider side of the equation.
If the Democrats go into Medicare in that way, will that undercut any of the argument they've been making against Paul Ryan?
JONES: You know, we're going to have to get all the way through this process, because I will say this. Somebody throws you a hand grenade, you can try to fiddle with it, or you can throw it back. And part of the problem is, that we get so earnest trying to figure out, well maybe we can do this, maybe we can do that, and we are holding the hand grenade they want us to hold.
Here's the bottom line, Medicare, the main threat to Medicare, is coming from the Republican Party, that's the main threat. And Democrats need to stand up and defend the basic principles of this program, which is a sound program. When we begin to accept the terms of debate of the other side and start to fool around and fiddle with the hand grenade, we always wind up with the explosion in our face.
O'DONNELL: Jared Bernstein, have the Democrats accepted, as Van says, too many of the terms of the debate set by the other side?
BERNSTEIN: Look, the Democrats have held fast on this issue of revenues. Someone who makes an argument that the Democrats have been spineless and self-negotiating and folded too soon, I don't think they can make that case here. Because I think the Democrats, President Obama, Vice President Biden, everyday I read in the paper that they're holding fast on the revenue piece of this. And that's critical. And when they sat down at the table, they didn't have a fifty fifty spending cut revenue plan. They actually had three dollars in spending cuts to one dollar of revenue.
So they've been bargaining in good faith from the very beginning.
JONES: That's what we think.
O'DONNELL: What do you do when Republicans say, alright, we've talked about what we want to talk about, spending cuts. We may have reached a few tentative areas of agreement, just not specific agreements, but now, if you want to talk about revenues, you want to talk about anything involving the tax code, we're leaving. How do you have the next conversation with them?
JONES: Well, I tell you what. I think that the American people, ordinary folks, I've been out in the country, we just launched this new campaign called RebuildTheDream.com. The whole point of it is, most Americans get it. They know we're going to have to have a more balanced approach. The polls show it that we can't just have this lopsided cut, cut, cut. You know, frankly, the private sector already imposed an austerity program on us, that was Wall Street, the crash, it's called the great recession. We don't need a public austerity program imposed upon us on top of the private sector austerity program.
What we need to do is to make sure that we have a balanced approach going forward. And I think that the pain that ordinary people are going through already in the country, these veterans who are coming home to no jobs, no hope and nothing, these kids who are graduating this spring into the worst job market in two generations, homeowners who are underwater desperately, and these banks that we rescued won't even let them renegotiate the principals or the rates, that level of pain, needs to be heard from in Washington D.C. and instead what we hear is, we're going to destroy Medicare and if you to raise one penny more of revenue from the richest people in America, we're going to walk out on you.
And you and I both know, we can deal with the deficit, just by within ten years, just by going back to Bill Clinton's good, smart tax policies and military expenditure levels and we'd be done. So my concern is this point. If we have these kind of shenanigans going on in Washington D.C. and the American people are hurting, that at some point we're going to have to stand up and bring some good wisdom and get this back to Washington D.C.
O'DONNELL: Jared a quick last word.
BERNSTEIN: I couldn't agree more. I mean, it's the wisdom of the American people that ultimately have to solve this deal. You know the Paul Ryan budget takes $3 trillion from low income programs and gives a trillion dollars to the richest people who are already the only ones who are actually doing okay right now. I can't imagine why that's okay with people when they know what it's really about. Those twenty plus million on and underemployed people, I guarantee you there's a number of tea parties in that group too.
It's time for the politicians to hear from the American people that this behavior is wholly unacceptable. Sit down at the table. Get the deal done. Get past the debt ceiling and get back to work.