David Gregory once again bows to his corporate masters and right-wing political bent when he asks candidates Mark Kirk and Alexi Giannoulias whether they would reduce the deficit by cutting "runaway programs" like Medicare and Social Security. Over and over again we hear this lie about how Social Security and Medicare are bankrupting the country, despite the fact -- FACT -- that Social Security is fully funded through 2037 and Medicare spending will begin to drop as the waste is squeezed out of it via the Affordable Care Act.
Republicans' goals were always to bankrupt Social Security, so they borrowed from the trust fund and now they don't want to pay it back. Notice how the defense budget is never mentioned, because that spending is sacrosanct for them. Keeping people from being destitute and hungry? Not so much.
MR. GREGORY: Well, speaking of painful, let’s pick up on that because I was going to ask each of you, in this circumstance, what is a painful choice you would make to bring the, the, the budget into balance, a spending cut that you would make?
MR. GIANNOULIAS: Look, the, the—this country has not lived within its means for a very long time, and, and the truth is we’re going to have to take our medicine.
MR. GREGORY: Right.
MR. GIANNOULIAS: And what the Deficit Commission says in December’s going to be important. To answer your question, and this is an area where I think the congressman and I would agree, I would have voted against the omnibus spending bill which included thousands of earmarks, a lot of pork. And, and quite frankly, this is where the president made a mistake. He should have, he should have vetoed it.
MR. GREGORY: But, you know, every, everybody comes into Congress, says we’re going to cut out wasteful spending. I mean, let’s be honest. Most of the spending is an explosion of entitlement spending—Social Security, Medicare and, and the like. What would you do on some of these big runaway programs? Social Security, would you look at upping the retirement age in order to basically cut benefits and save some of that money?
MR. GIANNOULIAS: Again, we’re going to have to take a look at what the Deficit Commission says and look at their ideas. I am personally not in favor of, of increasing the age limit. I do think we do need to look at, on the revenue side, different options, maybe increasing the taxable wage base, finding ways to get more revenue. But I’m all for strengthening Social Security, not diminishing it.
MR. GREGORY: Congressman Kirk, if you were serious about cutting the deficit and cutting spending, why don’t you stand up beside Paul Ryan, the congressman from Wisconsin, who’s put forward some pretty draconian cuts in entitlement spending, like Social Security and Medicare? Do you stand with him in those cuts?
REP. KIRK: I—first of all, we have a whole—we need a whole range of cuts. For example...
MR. GREGORY: But no, my question is do you stand with him in some of his suggested cuts to Medicare?
REP. KIRK: I, I, I have my own cuts which I want to put forward. We should, for example, sell off big parts of the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Southeastern Power Administration. We should consolidate depot maintenance at the Department of Defense. We should have lawsuit reform, which CBO says would save at least the federal government $54 billion. I could go on an on beyond the F-35 engine and the earmark spending, which would save $60...
MR. GREGORY: Do you go beyond the Republican pledge, which is to go back to 2008 discretionary spending levels?
REP. KIRK: I think we need a radical reduction in spending because we have...
MR. GREGORY: Beyond 2008 levels?
REP. KIRK: 2008 is a great start.
MR. GREGORY: Right.
REP. KIRK: You know, this Congress hasn’t...
MR. GREGORY: But you recognize 2008 that’s in the pledge isn’t nearly enough to deal with the size of the deficit, right?
REP. KIRK: But I will tell you, one this that’s missing from this whole debate is no effort to put forward pro-growth policies. If the United States launches on a plan, as my opponent’s policies would do, to be a very high tax, high spending, high regulation economy like many European economies, then we inevitably have the slow growth and high unemployment of those economies. That’s not the American way. The American way is a limited government and lower taxes, and a very robust small business sector, which is especially employing low-income and minority kids coming into the American dream. I very much worry right now that if we’re embracing a European-style very high debt, very high tax environment, we will suffer all of the slow growth problems that they’ve had.