On This Week, A Very Serious Conversation About Fiscal Cliff

Unfortunately your browser does not support IFrames. To repeat our wise friend Atrios, nobody actually cares about the deficit. The deficit is only something that becomes an issue when a Democrat is in the White House, and as soon as there's a

To repeat our wise friend Atrios, nobody actually cares about the deficit. The deficit is only something that becomes an issue when a Democrat is in the White House, and as soon as there's a Republican back in the White House, they blow it up again, because... nobody cares about the deficit. Until there's a Democrat back in the White House. Rinse and repeat.

The question is, are Democrats just Charlie Brown trying to kick the deficit football, or are they willing parts of the Grand Swindle that wants to take our bare-bones safety net and slash it even more? Perhaps if we had real journalists who did not confuse the needs of the actual public with that of the desired policies of the moneyed media-political-think tank complex, we might get some enlightenment on this simple question: Evil or stupid?

On This Week, Martha Raddatz is no help in clarifying the difference:

MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Leader Pelosi, you all came out of the meeting with the president, sounding pretty optimistic, pretty confident. But you've been there before. You said in July of 2011, called your talks with the GOP about a grand bargain "constructive,” saying you were optimistic that we could find a place where we can come together. Obviously, those talks failed. So what's changed, and why do you believe this optimism after this meeting?

NANCY PELOSI, HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: That was then. This is now. The urgency is so much greater. So I'm optimistic because I think it's very clear the American people expect and deserve and want to see us get this job done.

RADDATZ: Did anything that Speaker Boehner said make you optimistic? Was it just that urgency that you're talking about?

PELOSI: Well, it was the urgency, but I think that the spirit at the table was one of “Everybody wants to make the best effort to get this done.” Hopefully that is possible; hopefully it is possible by the middle of December so the confidence of the markets, and most importantly the confidence of the consumers, returns to infuse our – our economy with – with demand, which creates jobs.

RADDATZ: You said afterwards -- there would be these milestone of success. How will that work? What are the goals? Are there interim goals?

PELOSI: My suggestion was that we, at some point, not necessarily today, decide on what our – our goal is in terms of the amount of deficit reduction that we can achieve, some date by which we'd like to do it -- middle of December -- so this doesn't take us up to Christmas, some milestones along the way so that progress can be demonstrated that we're moving in a forward direction.

If only a journalist could ask about the political strategy behind creating a sense of crisis to pass an austerity bomb in the lame duck session! Alas, it will never happen unless David Gregory has an unfortunate accident and someone has the bright idea to give the Press the Meet spot to Chris Hayes.

RADDATZ: You know, I spoke to Sen. Michael Bennett of Colorado earlier this week at the Atlantic Ideas Festival and he said this really comes down to Speaker Boehner and President Obama. So what do you see your role?

PELOSI: Well, we have to have the votes in order for something to pass. I think Speaker Boehner and Mitch McConnell and Sen. Reid and I would all agree that we have to have something that will pass both houses, that the president will sign. And so, you know, really, what is important is getting the job done.

RADDATZ: Well let's talk about the details. The focus does seem to be on the revenue side of this. Your side is insisting on tax rate increases. But have you seen any indication that the Republicans are open to raising rates?

PELOSI: Well, they have said that they know that revenue has to be on the table. And that is why I have said, when we talk about revenue, what are we talking about? Are we talking about closing loopholes? Are we talking about raising rates? Are we talking about both? And they're talking about entitlement restructuring. What does that mean? If that means harming beneficiaries, I don't think that that's such a good idea.

RADDATZ: Could you accept a deal that does not include tax rate increases for the wealthy? We've seen talk about a possible compromise that would leave rates the same but cap deductions for high-income earners. Is that something that's acceptable?

PELOSI: No.

RADDATZ: Not at all? No way?

PELOSI: Well, no, I mean, the president made it very clear in his campaign that there is not enough -- there are not enough resources. What you just described is a formula and a blueprint for hampering our future. You cannot go forward -- you have to cut some investments. If you cut too many, you're hampering growth, you're hampering education, our investments for the future. So just to close loopholes is far too little money, if it's -- and it could be they have said they want it to be revenue-neutral. If it's going to bring in revenue, the president has been very clear that the higher income people have to pay their fair share.

RADDATZ: I know you're optimistic about this, and confident this will happen, but last week on the show with George Stephanopoulos, Sen. Patty Murray said she thought if you don't have a deal by Dec. 31, we should just fall into the fiscal cliff -- fall off the fiscal cliff, [SOT - MURRAY: “We have to make sure that the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share. // if the Republicans will not agree with that, we will reach a point at the end of this year where all the tax cuts expire, and we'll start over next year.”] Do you agree with that?

PELOSI: Well, I think she was stating a fact. If we don't have a deal by Dec. 31, we will go over the fiscal cliff.

RADDATZ: If you don't get a deal, are you willing to just walk away?

PELOSI: Well, the -- I want a deal. I want an agreement --

RADDATZ: I know you want a deal, but would you be willing to just say, if we don't get what we want, this thing’s just going over the cliff.

PELOSI: I don't think that's, in my view, with a seat at the table, I don't think it's my role to go to the table with a threat. I think it's my role to go to the table with some ideas, to be receptive to what we can come to agreement on. I'm not criticizing statements others make, but what I am saying is that there's too much at risk. And even if you went over the cliff for one month and then corrected it, you would still have a loss of GDP.

RADDATZ: I think you said in September, you said categorically the country can't go over the cliff.

PELOSI: Absolutely. I completely -- look --

RADDATZ: You agree with yourself?

PELOSI: Yes, I agree with myself. I do. And I quote myself from time to time as well. And here's the thing: We're all grown-ups. I mean, we talk about maturity and age; we're all grownups. We have a responsibility to the American people. The elements for an agreement are there. Time is of the essence. The quicker we do it, the more confidence we instill, the better it is for the economy and for the American people.

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