On This Week with Christiane Amanpour, the impressive and intelligent Gov. Martin O'Malley goes up against the weaselly Sen. Jeff Sessions in a discussion of what can actually be done to help the economy. And of course, the biggest problem is
August 7, 2011

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On This Week with Christiane Amanpour, the impressive and intelligent Gov. Martin O'Malley goes up against the weaselly Sen. Jeff Sessions in a discussion of what can actually be done to help the economy. And of course, the biggest problem is that there is no real debt crisis. It's a high-stakes game in which the Republicans were pushing their spending-cut agenda from one end, and a Democratic president and leadership on the other who thought they could work the situation to their own political advantage.

And then there's we the people, caught in the middle of this mess:

AMANPOUR: And so a clear lack of faith in Washington's political ability to make real economic progress. With me to discuss whether the parties can come together on anything, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, who chairs the Democratic Governors Association, and in Alabama, Senator Jeff Sessions, the top Republican on the Budget Committee.

Gentlemen, thank you very much, indeed, for joining me. Let me first ask you, you heard from John Chambers now, still categoric that this downgrade should happen. Do you think it's justified? And how do you think the parties -- you and, for instance, Senator Sessions, in terms of parties -- are going to get together to solve this?

O'MALLEY: I don't think it's justified, in terms of when you look at the math here. They made a $2 trillion mistake. The other rating agencies did not downgrade the U.S. debt because they did not make that $2 trillion mistake.

But one has to find understandable their pessimism about our inability to come together on the most important issue facing our country, which is, how do we create jobs? We need a balanced approach.

And the extremism, the Tea Party obstructionism here in Washington, is keeping us from restoring that balanced approach that America has always used -- of investing in the future, investing in job creation, and also being fiscally responsible at the same time.

AMANPOUR: Senator Sessions, do you think that there can be now sort of a wake-up call, as some people have suggested, for both parties to really come together? I've heard people say, this is serious. We don't want to see political parties sniping at each other right now. We want leaders to be as big as the crisis that they have to tackle.

SESSIONS: Well, look, we do have a big, big crisis. I've been warning all year, every expert before the Budget Committee has told us we're heading to fiscal crisis. We're on an unsustainable path. We're borrowing 40 cents of every dollar we spend. This year, the interest on our debt is $240 billion. It's projected in 10 years to go to $940 billion in interest in one year. This is unsustainable. And sooner or later, if we don't change, this kind of ratings are going to continue.

But when you have a Democratic Senate that will not produce a budget -- and 900 -- 830 days without a budget, a president who submitted the most irresponsible budget in history, who's continuing to talk about spending more, investing more, whose secretary of education was demanding a 13 percent increase in the Department of Education next fiscal year, beginning October 1st, you know we're in denial. We're not understanding the threat.

The president is going to have to look the American people in the eye and tell them, "We are on an unsustainable course." He's got to do that. And if he asks us to reduce spending by 10 percent across the board, all these departments and agencies, Congress would rally to him, you know -- you know, in a bipartisan way.

Now, this would have been a good time for Amanpour to explain how the Senate Republicans blocked the Democratic budget. But for some reason, she didn't think that was relevant.

AMANPOUR: Senator...

SESSIONS: But if he's going to deny we have a crisis, he's not going to have bipartisan support.

AMANPOUR: Just quickly, while I still have you there, the S&P also talked about -- you're talking about cutting spending. They also talked about raising more revenue. They talked about the Bowles-Simpson, which puts that in. Do you think that, for instance, when the bipartisan committee gets stood up, that there will be a chance for both sides to give on some of their sacred cows? Would you, on -- on tax loopholes, for instance, and tax reform?

SESSIONS: Well, raising taxes is what balanced plan means. That's plain to every American by now. The administration wants to raise taxes so they can permanently implant a larger level of spending. They've increased domestic discretionary spending 24 percent in two years. This is unthinkable.

And this would have been a good time for Amanpour to point out that most of that is increased spending for food stamps and unemployment benefits because of the recession. But for some reason, she didn't think it was necessary. I wonder why?

AMANPOUR: All right.

SESSIONS: And so we've got a problem that we've got to bring that spending down, not increase the burden on the private sector.

O'MALLEY: In all of that, Christiane, I never once heard the distinguished senator say the word "jobs." What we have right now are moms and dads in Maryland, moms and dads in Alabama who are looking for work and have been looking for work for a long, long time.

Senator Sessions voted for the largest deficit increases under George Bush, and he, like others in his party, worship at - worships at the altar of the false god of tax cuts. We need to be about creating jobs. And there's good people in the Republican Party that want our country's economy to improve. And that's what we need to allow space to emerge.

AMANPOUR: So I asked Senator Sessions about tax loopholes...

SESSIONS: Well, Governor, let me just say this. The highest debt President Bush ever had was $450 billion. This president is averaging $1,300 billion.

O'MALLEY: And every single time - and, Senator, you voted to increase the debt limit...

SESSIONS: And the debt already, according to expert testimony...

O'MALLEY: ... three or four times under George Bush.

SESSIONS: ... is pulling down growth and costing us jobs.

O'MALLEY: Oh, good, you said "jobs," Senator.

SESSIONS: The debt is 100 percent of GDP, is hammering our economy, and that's why we're not having the growth. That's why we're having the unexpected decline in growth that we've seen the first half of this year.

AMANPOUR: All right. You've both laid out the parameters that we've heard over and over again. I want to ask you, Senator Sessions, do you have faith that this debt committee will be able to come to the agreements and make the cuts and savings and also do what needs to be done to tackle the debt?

SESSIONS: Christiane, I do believe that committee can function and be successful in the limited goal we've given them. What S&P is saying, it's not enough. It's only about $2 trillion, a little over, when we're going to increase our debt in the next 10 years $13 trillion. So that's why they're concerned. Even the plan is insufficient, if - if successful.

AMANPOUR: And, Governor O'Malley, do you have faith that the debt committee can actually tackle this?

O'MALLEY: I do, because when you look at - when you ask the public if they believe a balanced approach is required, almost 50 percent of registered Republicans agree that a balanced approach is required. Millionaires and billionaires should be playing their fair share. We all need to pull together and create jobs and to make this new economy ours. And I believe that we can come together around that.

Look, it's not a Democratic or Republican idea. It's a historic economic fact that a modern economy requires modern investments to create jobs. And that's what we need to be about.

AMANPOUR: Governor O'Malley, Senator Sessions, thank you very much, indeed, for joining us.

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