Flame thrower Mike Pence sure does have the victim card down pat when the attacks are coming the other way. When asked about President Obama's speech in Cleveland where he went after Republicans and specifically House Minority Leader John Boehner, Pence was really disappointed the speech was partisan. The horror! That mean old Obama was backhanding that kind orange oompa-loompa who's just been trying to reach his hand out to him. How dare he, after we've shown so much cooperation already, where he knows he can trust us?
PENCE: What John Boehner did this morning on national television was extend a hand to this administration and say, "If you will join us in reducing spending back just to 2008 levels, House Republicans will agree to a two year extension on all the current tax relief. We'll get that done, we'll create some certainty in the economy."
But the extended hand by John Boehner was met with the backhand by the President of the United States. I have to think that was a disappointment to millions of Americans that were hoping to see some effort this fall to see the parties come together, get past all the partisan strife and do something that will encourage capital formation and create jobs.
Pence also claimed that when President Obama came to their Republican retreat, he admitted the Republicans have solutions and now he's backtracking. Oh noes!!
PENCE: The president, when he came to our retreat - remember that in Baltimore - we handed the president a booklet that included all of the Republican solutions including to get this economy moving again. He finally held it up and admitted there that the Republicans do have solutions. When you see the president back on the stump in Cleveland today saying, "They have no ideas, no proposals," it's the same tired policies of the past.
The American people know what we need do. We've got to get federal spending under control. We've got to start cutting spending now. At the minimum, we've got to make sure that no American sees a tax increase on January 1, 2011.
Why don't we review what President Obama said to Mike Pence last year just before the Republicans put out a budget proposal that didn't have any numbers in it?
CONGRESSMAN PENCE: The President has agreed to take questions and members would be encouraged to raise your hand while you remain in your seat. (Laughter.) The chair will take the prerogative to make the first remarks.
Mr. President, welcome back to the House Republican Conference.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
CONGRESSMAN PENCE: [Off microphone.] We are pleased to have you return. (Inaudible) a year ago -- House Republicans said then we would make you two promises. Number one, that most of the people in this room and their families would pray for you and your beautiful family just about every day for the next four years. And I want to assure you we're keeping that promise.
THE PRESIDENT: I appreciate that.
CONGRESSMAN PENCE: [off microphone] Number two, our pledge to you, Mr. President, was that door is always open. And we hope the (inaudible) of our invitation that we (inaudible).
Mr. President, several of us in this conference yesterday on the way into Baltimore stopped by the Salvation Army homeless facility here in Baltimore. I met a little boy, an African American boy, in the 8th grade, named David Carter, Jr. When he heard that I would be seeing you today his eyes lit up like I had never seen. And I told him that if he wrote you a letter I'd give it to you, and I have.
But I had a conversation with little David, Jr. and David, Sr. His family has been struggling with the economy.
[On microphone.] His dad said words to me, Mr. President, that I'll never forget. About my age and he said -- he said, Congressman, it's not like it was when we were coming up. He said, there's just no jobs.
Now, last year about the time you met with us, unemployment was 7.5 percent in this country. Your administration, and your party in Congress, told us that we'd have to borrow more than $700 billion to pay for a so-called stimulus bill. It was a piecemeal list of projects and boutique tax cuts, all of which was -- we were told -- had to be passed or unemployment would go to 8 percent, as your administration said. Well, unemployment is 10 percent now, as you well know, Mr. President; here in Baltimore it's considerably higher.
Now, Republicans offered a stimulus bill at the same time. It cost half as much as the Democratic proposal in Congress, and using your economic analyst models, it would have created twice the jobs at half the cost. It essentially was across-the-board tax relief, Mr. President.
Now we know you've come to Baltimore today and you've raised this tax credit, which was last promoted by President Jimmy Carter. But the first question I would pose to you, very respectfully, Mr. President, is would you be willing to consider embracing -- in the name of little David Carter, Jr. and his dad, in the name of every struggling family in this country -- the kind of across-the-board tax relief that Republicans have advocated, that President Kennedy advocated, that President Reagan advocated and that has always been the means of stimulating broad-based economic growth?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, there was a lot packed into that question. (Laughter.) First of all, let me say I already promised that I'll be writing back to that young man and his family, and I appreciate you passing on the letter.
Q Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: But let's talk about just the jobs environment generally. You're absolutely right that when I was sworn in the hope was that unemployment would remain around 8 [percent], or in the 8 percent range. That was just based on the estimates made by both conservative and liberal economists, because at that point not all the data had trickled in.
We had lost 650,000 jobs in December. I'm assuming you're not faulting my policies for that. We had lost, it turns out, 700,000 jobs in January, the month I was sworn in. I'm assuming it wasn't my administration's policies that accounted for that. We lost another 650,000 jobs the subsequent month, before any of my policies had gone into effect. So I'm assuming that wasn't as a consequence of our policies; that doesn't reflect the failure of the Recovery Act. The point being that what ended up happening was that the job losses from this recession proved to be much more severe -- in the first quarter of last year going into the second quarter of last year -- than anybody anticipated.
So I mean, I think we can score political points on the basis of the fact that we underestimated how severe the job losses were going to be. But those job losses took place before any stimulus, whether it was the ones that you guys have proposed or the ones that we proposed, could have ever taken into effect. Now, that's just the fact, Mike, and I don't think anybody would dispute that. You could not find an economist who would dispute that.
Now, at the same time, as I mentioned, most economists -- Republican and Democrat, liberal and conservative -- would say that had it not been for the stimulus package that we passed, things would be much worse. Now, they didn't fill a 7 million hole in the number of people who were unemployed. They probably account for about 2 million, which means we still have 5 million folks in there that we've still got to deal with. That's a lot of people.
The package that we put together at the beginning of the year, the truth is, should have reflected -- and I believe reflected what most of you would say are common sense things. This notion that this was a radical package is just not true. A third of them were tax cuts, and they weren't -- when you say they were "boutique" tax cuts, Mike, 95 percent of working Americans got tax cuts, small businesses got tax cuts, large businesses got help in terms of their depreciation schedules. I mean, it was a pretty conventional list of tax cuts. A third of it was stabilizing state budgets.
There is not a single person in here who, had it not been for what was in the stimulus package, wouldn't be going home to more teachers laid off, more firefighters laid off, more cops laid off. A big chunk of it was unemployment insurance and COBRA, just making sure that people had some floor beneath them, and, by the way, making sure that there was enough money in their pockets that businesses had some customers.
You take those two things out, that accounts for the majority of the stimulus package. Are there people in this room who think that was a bad idea? A portion of it was dealing with the AMT, the alternative minimum tax -- not a proposal of mine; that's not a consequence of my policies that we have a tax system where we keep on putting off a potential tax hike that is embedded in the budget that we have to fix each year. That cost about $70 billion.
And then the last portion of it was infrastructure which, as I said, a lot of you have gone to appear at ribbon-cuttings for the same projects that you voted against.
Now, I say all this not to re-litigate the past, but it's simply to state that the component parts of the Recovery Act are consistent with what many of you say are important things to do -- rebuilding our infrastructure, tax cuts for families and businesses, and making sure that we were providing states and individuals some support when the roof was caving in.
And the notion that I would somehow resist doing something that cost half as much but would produce twice as many jobs -- why would I resist that? I wouldn't. I mean, that's my point, is that -- I am not an ideologue. I'm not. It doesn't make sense if somebody could tell me you could do this cheaper and get increased results that I wouldn't say, great. The problem is, I couldn't find credible economists who would back up the claims that you just made.
Now, we can -- here's what I know going forward, though. I mean, we're talking -- we were talking about the past. We can talk about this going forward. I have looked at every idea out there in terms of accelerating job growth to match the economic growth that's already taken place. The jobs credit that I'm discussing right now is one that a lot of people think would be the most cost-effective way for encouraging people to pick up their hiring.
There may be other ideas that you guys have; I am happy to look at them and I'm happy to embrace them. I suspect I will embrace some of them. Some of them I've already embraced.
But the question I think we're going to have to ask ourselves is, as we move forward, are we going to be examining each of these issues based on what's good for the country, what the evidence tells us, or are we going to be trying to position ourselves so that come November we're able to say, "The other party, it's their fault." If we take the latter approach then we're probably not going to get much agreement. If we take the former, I suspect there's going to be a lot of overlap. All right?
Q Mr. President, will you consider supporting across-the-board tax relief, as President Kennedy did?
THE PRESIDENT: Here's what I'm going to do, Mike. What I'm going to do is I'm going to take a look at what you guys are proposing. And the reason I say this, before you say, "Okay," I think is important to know -- what you may consider across-the-board tax cuts could be, for example, greater tax cuts for people who are making a billion dollars. I may not agree to a tax cut for Warren Buffet. You may be calling for an across-the-board tax cut for the banking industry right now. I may not agree to that.
So I think that we've got to look at what specific proposals you're putting forward, and -- this is the last point I'll make -- if you're calling for just across-the-board tax cuts, and then on the other hand saying that we're somehow going to balance our budget, I'm going to want to take a look at your math and see how that works, because the issue of deficit and debt is another area where there has been a tendency for some inconsistent statements. How's that? All right?