Harold Ford Jr. And His Fellow Republicans Advocates for Cuts to Social Security
Lord, spare us your milquetoast, conservative Democrats eager to suck up to Republicans tropes and hurt the country. There is no earthly reason why Harold Ford Jr. should enjoy either a position in the Democratic leadership or a national platform to sabotage the Democratic Party and the president. And on David Gregory's version of Meet the Press, there are no sane Democrats on for "balance". No attempt to offer any other possible solutions other than to stick it to seniors and the middle class.
There's so much wrong with this clip that it's easier to comment as we go along:
DAVID GREGORY: Speaker Gingrich, President Obama was on the air a week ago and he talked about a new normal in our economy. Let me play a portion of that interview and have you react to it.
PRESIDENT OBAMA ON VIDEO: What is a danger is that we stay stuck in a new normal, where unemployment rates stay high. People who have jobs-- see their incomes go up. Businesses make big profits. But they’ve learned to do more with less. And so, they don’t hire. And as a consequence we keep on seeing growth that I just too slow to bring back the eight million jobs that were lost.
DAVID GREGORY: Do you accept that?
NEWT GINGRICH: No. I think-- I think we have two enormous policy challenges. The first is that we’re not in a world market, a genuine world market. Where you’ve got to think about economics in terms of competing with China, India, Germany. And you ought to study Germany, which is a high cost country with a huge export manufacturing base.
Yes, Newt, let's look at Germany...do you really want to go through with this analogy? Because that would mean admitting that "socialist" programs like health care for all, investing in infrastructure, government regulations protecting workers and the manufacturing base of the economy are critical aspects to improving the economy and I just don't see Republicans getting on board for this.
Second, this Administration’s just wrong. I mean, the Obama model of the economy is just fundamentally, profoundly wrong. And I don’t care-- I think Chairman Bernanke is very foolish to be putting $600 billion of additional money, because the fact is the problems in this economy are problems of fiscal policy. They’re problems of taxation. And they’re problems of an anti-business, anti-jobs bureaucracy that this President encourages.
Well, Newt is right that the economy is an issue of taxation and fiscal policy. But he's 100% wrong that it's the Obama model that's the problem. Strictly speaking, Newt, if your economic policy --lending tax breaks to the incredibly wealthy and corporations and cutting benefits and programs to the middle and lower classes-- worked and was successful, would the country be in this giant clusterf&@k now? Being "pro-business" by all but eliminating taxes and regulations has hurt us, Newt, no matter how much you lie to the American people about "anti-business bureaucracy".
DAVID GREGORY: We prop up the economy, Harold Ford. We’re certainly propping up the housing market. And so, we’re in this state. Do you agree with that?
HAROLD FORD JR: In large part. But let-- let me differ a little bit with the Speaker. I think there are two kinds of debt here. The first is the debt that we’re accumulating as a result of this crisis. And we can’t ignore the fact that to get America back on a growth trajectory and growth platform, there’s some steps that government’s gonna have to take. I agree with the chairman wholeheartedly that certainly around taxes and regulations going forward, I hope that the Administration will call for a year moratorium on regulations. I hope they extend the tax cuts and even cut the corporate rate.
Oh sweet Jebus, Harold. How many corporations even pay taxes? Cutting the corporate rate is the absolutely most idiotic suggestion from someone who clearly does not have a grasp of economics. We spend more money than we take in and your boneheaded response is to take LESS in?
But to suggest that the Fed should not continue to play an active role, especially in the face of some inaction from-- on the fiscal side, I think is wrong. Two, the entitlement debt. I think that recommendations made by this-- Deficit Reduction Commission have been responsible. There may be some areas that we disagree with. But I hope that left to my party and the right in the Republican Party don’t scream so loud that they scare the crowded middle.
Oh STFU, Harold. You can take your Third Way thinking and leave the stage now. The MINUTE you begin to assert that the sacrifices have to come from the struggling middle and lower classes rather than the top 2% and corporations paying a little bit more towards their fair share, you have marked yourself as a delusional elitist who doesn't really care about putting the country back on track, but just enriching your cocktail circuit colleagues.
DAVID GREGORY: And I-- and I want to get back to the debt commission. But Bethany McLean, let me bring you into this. A big part of your book, of course, deals with the-- the financial collapse and the housing market. The-- look-- we don’t talk about this enough. The fact that the government is propping up the housing market. Prices have not come down far enough, even though there’s so much pain out there and such a crisis out there. Can the economy really rebound unless the housing market corrects fully?
BETHANY MCLEAN: That’s a great question. And it’s a really interesting thing, because one of the great ironies of the financial crisis, one of the big complaints is that government involvement in the housing market was a factor. People want to overplay it as the factor, it was a factor. But the great irony is that we’ve come out of the financial crisis with the-- the housing market even more reliant on the government. It’s now some 90 percent of the housing market.
And I don’t know if anybody has the guts to see what happens if you yank government support away from the housing market right now. But I think if you don’t do that, it’s hard to argue that we found-- that we’ve found a real bottom in-- in housing prices. But doing so will risk putting the economy into more of a tailspin.
I just want to point out that the reason the government had to step into the housing market is because we've had 30 years of Republican systematic dismantling of regulations and controls that sent the mortgage and financial industries spiraling out of control. And by McLean's own admission, if the government stopped, we would spiral out of control again. Because the Republican policies of de-regulation and "free" market invisible hands DO NOT WORK.
DAVID GREGORY: And Alan Greenspan, again, another kind of bottom line question. Is there a second crash out there that you fear?
ALAN GREENSPAN: No, I don’t. In fact-- we are in the position where we are moving forward largely because the rest of the world is moving forward. So, we’re moving forward-- we’re moving forward, but at too slow a pl-- pace to bring the unemployment rate down. But there’s very little evidence of any deterioration that suggests we’re about to have a double dip, as they call it.
And in fact, if there’s any evidence at all, we are actually picking up some. Through the month of November, industrial production is clearly improving. And-- there’s all evidence-- out there that-- there’s a very mild degree of acceleration in the American economy, but not enough to get the system (UNINTEL).
Yeah, let's ask the guy who didn't see the last crash coming and was on record insisting the economy was strong about the strength of the economy now. Perfect logic.
DAVID GREGORY: Well, let’s talk about the debt commission. Because Speaker Gingrich, you’ve been on the air this week disagreeing with some of these-- recommendations. They gotta get to 14. Is it-- what I asked Senator McCain. Is this a nonstarter, a starter, or something in between?
NEWT GINGRICH: Well, the-- the statement by the chairman is a nonstarter, ‘cause there-- you don’t have to get to 14. You have to get to passage in the House and Senate. Well-- so, the-- the fact that they-- they get together, they issue a statement guaranteed to frighten most Americans, which is what it did. I mean, a number of people are now calling me or emailing me about cutting Social Security. Is absurd-- is not gonna happen.
DAVID GREGORY: But don’t we have to have an adult conversation with people about what the real problem is?
Oh great, now David Gregory is going to paint anyone who insists that we don't have to decimate Social Security as non-adult and unserious. You know what the real problem is, David? Hosts like you who frame the debate in the way that hurts most Americans and never actually try to provide context or real debate.
ALAN GREENSPAN: Look, I think something equivalent to what-- Erskin Bowles and Alan Simpson put out is going to be passed by the Congress. The only question is, is it before or after a bond market crisis? Because there’s no alternative. Look--
DAVID GREGORY: You’ve gotta explain a little bit more about what that means. You’re talking about--
ALAN GREENSPAN: I-- well, here-- here-- here’s the issue. Right now, we have very low bond prices. The markets are functioning in a reasonably good way. The big serious problem is whether or not the outlook for the longer term deficit spooks the bond market to a point where long term interest rates and mortgage rates move up very sharply. If that happens, that will cause the double dip. Just basically hoping that we have enough sense to realize that we’ve got to resolve this issue before it gets forced upon us.
Keep in mind that Greenspan just said one minute ago that the economy is improving and that there is no reason to fear a "double dip" recession. Then the next time he opens his mouth, he dutifully dredges up fear of what? A double dip recession. How is the average American supposed to make sense of this?
DAVID GREGORY: Bethany, David Brooks writes in his column on Friday about the politics here. And he writes this, "The report from the Chairman lists some of the best ways to raise revenue and cut spending. It comes with no enactment strategy, however. In this climate, asking politicians to end the mortgage deduction. And tax employer health care plans. And raise capital gains taxes. And cut benefits for affluent seniors is like asking them to jump on a buzzing sack full of live grenades. They won’t do it."
BETHANY MCLEAN: And I think that’s really scary. The situation right now reminds me for all the world of the situation in the years leading up to the financial crisis. We’ve got a big problem, except this one is even bigger. People can see it coming.
People saw the last one coming. But we were labeled un-serious liberals. Ask Paul Krugman if he saw the last one coming and how seriously Newt, Harold and Greenspan took his warnings.
And we need to take action. And I think if we don’t take action, we’re gonna look back, perhaps when there is a bond market crisis and say, "Why didn’t we do something when we had choices?" And people at this table may disagree with me, but it seems to me that our budget problems aren’t calculus, they’re not algebra, they’re simple arithmetic. We’re spending $3 for every $2 we take in. Something needs to give.
DAVID GREGORY: I don’t see why, for instance, some of these suggestions, Harold, on Social Security are gonna be demagogue to death. Why in 50 years people can’t look at raising the retirement age and have that be a serious discussion point.
I don't see why the idea of raising taxes back to Clinton-era levels must be demogogued either. And yet not one person at this table raises this as a legitimate possibility.
HAROLD FORD JR: Look, you can’t pay off the debt without either cutting things or raising taxes. This is a pretty good mixture of things. The-- the chairman is right in another regard. This is gonna happen. We’re gonna have to deal with our deficit either by Congressional and Senate and political leaders asking or the global capital markets will impose a harsher set of realities on us. Force interest payments to go up and change our standing in the world.
I would hope-- and my-- Speaker Gingrich is a friend. He has been not only a leader in his-- in the Republican Party. He’s been a leader in a lot of ways for calling for a new American way. A new American majority. I would hope that all of the smart minds in Republican and Democratic Party could come together and say, "Look, this is a painful. But we’re gonna have to do this. If we’re serious with all this talk about our kids and our grandkids. We’re facing (UNINTEL) moment--"
At this point, my husband had to physically restrain me from throwing something at the screen. Is it really necessary to proclaim your devotion to a former Speaker of the House from the opposing party who had to step down amid scandals and failure? He's not a leader of anyone right now, he's grasping for relevance from a party that cannot control their direction thanks to the influx of low information tea partiers. But these nuances are lost on Ford.
DAVID GREGORY: Let’s-- let’s bring it more up to date, Speaker Gingrich. The Tea Party Movement itself is within the Republican Party. Why don’t you think there’s more of a mandate for some really tough choices on-- on government spending?
NEWT GINGRICH: Let-- let me just come back for a second, David, ‘cause I want to suggest to you people can disagree without it being demagoguery. I mean, I helped, working with Bill Clinton, we balanced the federal budget for four straight years. We paid off $405 billion in debt. It was not a trivial achievement. It can be done. It can’t be done by sweeping, slashing generalizations by people who won’t be affected.
Okay, stop the presses. Newt Gingrich actually stated something with which I have no argument. Shame that it came from the disgraced Republican and not the head of the Democratic Leadership Council. What a betrayal of Democratic principles is Harold Ford.
And I’m just saying that this can-- the deficit commission, at the rate they’re going, will actually be a step backwards. Okay? The Tea Party Movement wants real change. But they would start and say to you-- well, John Boehner has said to you, the new Speaker, roll back the discretionary counts to the 2008 level, that’s a trillion dollars over ten years. IBM and other technical companies have come in with a set of proposals to change the management of the federal government. They believe that’s another trillion dollars.
At the Center for Health Transformation, we published a study of fraud in Medicare and Medicaid, ‘cause the federal government’s such a bad manager. That’s $70 to $120 billion a year. Now, you can do a lot of things to get back to a balanced budget, without having to hurt the American People.
DAVID GREGORY: All right, let me get a break in here. We’re gonna come back and talk a little bit more about this. Also, the tax cut issue, the Bush tax cuts, and a little politics, as well. Our economic discussion continues right after this station break.