Obama is being praised by the left for his Q&A session at the GOP retreat. I'd like to share the full transcript of this discussion along with my own comments. I am sharing the full unedited transcript but you can see the video HERE if you wish to watch it to see any inflection in voices or tones that would be otherwise missed in the text.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. Please, everybody be seated. Thank you. Thank you, John, for the gracious introduction. To Mike and Eric, thank you for hosting me. Thank you to all of you for receiving me. It is wonderful to be here. I want to also acknowledge Mark Strand, president of the Congressional Institute. To all the family members who are here and who have to put up with us for an elective office each and every day, thank you, because I know that's tough. (Applause.)
I very much am appreciative of not only the tone of your introduction, John, but also the invitation that you extended to me. You know what they say, "Keep your friends close, but visit the Republican Caucus every few months." (Laughter.)
Key point there is that the Republicans invited him.
Part of the reason I accepted your invitation to come here was because I wanted to speak with all of you, and not just to all of you. So I'm looking forward to taking your questions and having a real conversation in a few moments. And I hope that the conversation we begin here doesn't end here; that we can continue our dialogue in the days ahead. It's important to me that we do so. It's important to you, I think, that we do so. But most importantly, it's important to the American people that we do so.
I've said this before, but I'm a big believer not just in the value of a loyal opposition, but in its necessity. Having differences of opinion, having a real debate about matters of domestic policy and national security -- and that's not something that's only good for our country, it's absolutely essential. It's only through the process of disagreement and debate that bad ideas get tossed out and good ideas get refined and made better. And that kind of vigorous back and forth -- that imperfect but well-founded process, messy as it often is -- is at the heart of our democracy. That's what makes us the greatest nation in the world.
In other words, even though America is rejecting his ideas he wants Republicans to find some way to buy into them so eventually the Democrats will have someone besides themselves to blame.
Obama and Democrats are acting as if Republicans have done nothing but said no, I'm sure you've heard their claims of Republicans being the party of "no". How many of you are aware though that Republicans have put up their own health care reform plans which Democrats have ignored until now? Until Scott Brown gave them a wake up call in MA they were not interested in hearing anything Republicans suggested.
So, yes, I want you to challenge my ideas, and I guarantee you that after reading this I may challenge a few of yours. (Laughter.) I want you to stand up for your beliefs, and knowing this caucus, I have no doubt that you will. I want us to have a constructive debate. The only thing I don't want -- and here I am listening to the American people, and I think they don't want either -- is for Washington to continue being so Washington-like. I know folks, when we're in town there, spend a lot of time reading the polls and looking at focus groups and interpreting which party has the upper hand in November and in 2012 and so on and so on and so on. That's their obsession.
In case Obama hasn't noticed, his party controls both houses and until just a few days ago had a super majority. If they wanted to change Washington from being so "Washington-like" they've had the ball for over a year to do so but have failed.
And I'm not a pundit. I'm just a President, so take it for what it's worth. But I don't believe that the American people want us to focus on our job security. They want us to focus on their job security. (Applause.) I don't think they want more gridlock. I don't think they want more partisanship. I don't think they want more obstruction. They didn't send us to Washington to fight each other in some sort of political steel-cage match to see who comes out alive. That's not what they want. They sent us to Washington to work together, to get things done, and to solve the problems that they're grappling with every single day.
Again, is he forgetting that until the American people gave his party a bitch slap in MA they had a super majority. They had all the power to get the things done he's saying are important.
And I think your constituents would want to know that despite the fact it doesn't get a lot of attention, you and I have actually worked together on a number of occasions. There have been times where we've acted in a bipartisan fashion. And I want to thank you and your Democratic colleagues for reaching across the aisle.
I hear this and all I can think of is a child saying "But Billy did it too" when he gets in trouble.
There has been, for example, broad support for putting in the troops necessary in Afghanistan to deny al Qaeda safe haven, to break the Taliban's momentum, and to train Afghan security forces. There's been broad support for disrupting, dismantling, and defeating al Qaeda. And I know that we're all united in our admiration of our troops. (Applause.)
Obama continues to try to have it both ways. He wants civilian trials for terrorists so they can have the right to remain silent instead of giving up information but yet he makes comments like this in an attempt to sound like he's strong on defense.
So it may be useful for the international audience right now to understand -- and certainly for our enemies to have no doubt -- whatever divisions and differences may exist in Washington, the United States of America stands as one to defend our country. (Applause.)
It's that same spirit of bipartisanship that made it possible for me to sign a defense contracting reform bill that was cosponsored by Senator McCain and members of Congress here today. We've stood together on behalf of our nation's veterans. Together we passed the largest increase in the VA's budget in more than 30 years and supported essential veterans' health care reforms to provide better access and medical care for those who serve in uniform.
Some of you also joined Democrats in supporting a Credit Card Bill of Rights and in extending unemployment compensation to Americans who are out of work. Some of you joined us in stopping tobacco companies from targeting kids, expanding opportunities for young people to serve our country, and helping responsible homeowners stay in their homes.
When something is a good idea, generally both sides agree. There were a number of examples that can be listed showing Democrats joining support with Republicans on issues under Bush as well... the Iraq war was supported across the isle at first.
So we have a track record of working together. It is possible. But, as John, you mentioned, on some very big things, we've seen party-line votes that, I'm just going to be honest, were disappointing. Let's start with our efforts to jumpstart the economy last winter, when we were losing 700,000 jobs a month. Our financial system teetered on the brink of collapse and the threat of a second Great Depression loomed large. I didn't understand then, and I still don't understand, why we got opposition in this caucus for almost $300 billion in badly needed tax cuts for the American people, or COBRA coverage to help Americans who've lost jobs in this recession to keep the health insurance that they desperately needed, or opposition to putting Americans to work laying broadband and rebuilding roads and bridges and breaking ground on new construction projects.
When something is proposed by one party or the other and it's a bad idea I would hope no one from the other party crosses the isle to support it.
Also, when a tax "cut" plan increases taxes on those who create jobs and invest in new companies while giving more "refunds" back to people who do not pay taxes... that's not a tax "cut", it's a wealth redistribution plan and I for one hope that Republicans continue to say no to them.
There was an interesting headline in CNN today: "Americans disapprove of stimulus, but like every policy in it." And there was a poll that showed that if you broke it down into its component parts, 80 percent approved of the tax cuts, 80 percent approved of the infrastructure, 80 percent approved of the assistance to the unemployed.
Polls should never be trusted because depending on who is asked and how questions are asked you can get completely different results. Political parties often times commission polls asked specific ways to attempt to show they have support for their cause, just as Obama is doing here.
He's also ignoring vast parts of the stimulus that Americas do object to.
Well, that's what the Recovery Act was. And let's face it, some of you have been at the ribbon-cuttings for some of these important projects in your communities. Now, I understand some of you had some philosophical differences perhaps on the just the concept of government spending, but, as I recall, opposition was declared before we had a chance to actually meet and exchange ideas. And I saw that as a missed opportunity.
Now, I am happy to report this morning that we saw another sign that our economy is moving in the right direction. The latest GDP numbers show that our economy is growing by almost 6 percent -- that's the most since 2003. To put that in perspective, this time last year, we weren't seeing positive job growth; we were seeing the economy shrink by about 6 percent.
Right now there are a lot of people doing temporary make work jobs created by the stimulus. Come back in 6 months to a year when those jobs are gone.
So you've seen a 12 percent reversal during the course of this year. This turnaround is the biggest in nearly three decades -- and it didn't happen by accident. It happened -- as economists, conservative and liberal, will attest -- because of some of the steps that we took.
And by the way, you mentioned a Web site out here, John -- if you want to look at what's going on, on the Recovery Act, you can look on recovery.gov -- a Web site, by the way, that was Eric Cantor's idea.
Obama has been asked to fix that site because of statistical inaccuracies that have been pointed out on it yet he refuses, this is why. He attempts to use it to justify one the if not the largest spending bill in the history of this nation which so far has very little positive impact. When you spend more then ever before in history wouldn't you expect a little more then a modest 6% increase after a year?
Now, here's the point. These are serious times, and what's required by all of us -- Democrats and Republicans -- is to do what's right for our country, even if it's not always what's best for our politics. I know it may be heresy to say this, but there are things more important than good poll numbers. And on this no one can accuse me of not living by my principles. (Laughter.) A middle class that's back on its feet, an economy that lifts everybody up, an America that's ascendant in the world -- that's more important than winning an election. Our future shouldn't be shaped by what's best for our politics; our politics should be shaped by what's best for our future.
In other words he wants Republicans to give in while Democrats continue to dig their feet in.
Americans have said no to Obama's Health Care Reform, Republicans have put up an alternative. Why don't we see Democrats and Obama reach across the isle and start with the Republican plan as its starting point since they've gotten no where with their own?
But no matter what's happened in the past, the important thing for all of us is to move forward together. We have some issues right in front of us on which I believe we should agree, because as successful as we've been in spurring new economic growth, everybody understands that job growth has been lagging. Some of that's predictable. Every economist will say jobs are a lagging indicator, but that's no consolation for the folks who are out there suffering right now. And since 7 million Americans have lost their jobs in this recession, we've got to do everything we can to accelerate it.
So, today, in line with what I stated at the State of the Union, I've proposed a new jobs tax credit for small business. And here's how it would work. Employers would get a tax credit of up to $5,000 for every employee they add in 2010. They'd get a tax break for increases in wages, as well. So, if you raise wages for employees making under $100,000, we'd refund part of your payroll tax for every dollar you increase those wages faster than inflation. It's a simple concept. It's easy to understand. It would cut taxes for more than 1 million small businesses.
When companies aren't making money in the first place who in their right mind thinks they are going to take on tens of thousands dollars of new costs associated with hiring more employees just to get a $5k tax break?
So I hope you join me. Let's get this done. I want to eliminate the capital gains tax for small business investment, and take some of the bailout money the Wall Street banks have returned and use it to help community banks start lending to small businesses again. So join me. I am confident that we can do this together for the American people. And there's nothing in that proposal that runs contrary to the ideological predispositions of this caucus. The question is: What's going to keep us from getting this done?
First he's acting like the bail out money that was returned is money from Heven. It's not. It's money we didn't have in the first place and put ourselves firth in debt to come up with and should be used to lower the national debt.
Second, if he looked at history he'd see that the banking problem came from banks loaning money to people who couldn't afford to pay in back in the first place. What he's calling for here is a continuation of that practice because it's redistribution of wealth that he and socialists like him support.
I've proposed a modest fee on the nation's largest banks and financial institutions to fully recover for taxpayers' money that they provided to the financial sector when it was teetering on the brink of collapse. And it's designed to discourage them from taking reckless risks in the future. If you listen to the American people, John, they'll tell you they want their money back. Let's do this together, Republicans and Democrats.
Yes Americans do want their money back. Yet here in just the prior statement Obama is already talking about respending the money the government did get back.
I propose that we close tax loopholes that reward companies for shipping American jobs overseas, and instead give companies greater incentive to create jobs right here at home -- right here at home. Surely, that's something that we can do together, Republicans and Democrats.
In order to do that we'd need to lower the costs for companies to do business here in America.
We know that we've got a major fiscal challenge in reining in deficits that have been growing for a decade, and threaten our future. That's why I've proposed a three-year freeze in discretionary spending other than what we need for national security. That's something we should do together that's consistent with a lot of the talk both in Democratic caucuses and Republican caucuses. We can't blink when it's time to actually do the job.
Spending has increased nearly 20%. Freezing after you've already increased spending is nothing but a sick joke on American tax payers.
At this point, we know that the budget surpluses of the '90s occurred in part because of the pay-as-you-go law, which said that, well, you should pay as you go and live within our means, just like families do every day. Twenty-four of you voted for that, and I appreciate it. And we were able to pass it in the Senate yesterday.
What's interesting here is this is being put in AFTER Obama and Democrats packed the budget with massive spending increases. Count my words, they will use this against Republicans who will then need to look to cut spending if anything they proposes an increase elsewhere. If it was an attempt to be fiscally responsible then why wasn't it done before the massive Democratic spending increases?
But the idea of a bipartisan fiscal commission to confront the deficits in the long term died in the Senate the other day. So I'm going to establish such a commission by executive order and I hope that you participate, fully and genuinely, in that effort, because if we're going to actually deal with our deficit and debt, everybody here knows that we're going to have to do it together, Republican and Democrat. No single party is going to make the tough choices involved on its own. It's going to require all of us doing what's right for the American people.
In other words, you wouldn't go along with Democrat's bad ideas so Obama is going to use executive orders to force you into agreement.
And as I said in the State of the Union speech, there's not just a deficit of dollars in Washington, there is a deficit of trust. So I hope you'll support my proposal to make all congressional earmarks public before they come to a vote. And let's require lobbyists who exercise such influence to publicly disclose all their contacts on behalf of their clients, whether they are contacts with my administration or contacts with Congress. Let's do the people's business in the bright light of day, together, Republicans and Democrats.
There's a reason people don't trust government and that's a bipartisan distrust. Most people like myself do not trust either side and vote for those we see doing the least harm. How about for once we get someone who looks to put individuals back in responsibility for themselves and then there wont be need to worry about whether or not we can trust our government.
I know how bitter and contentious the issue of health insurance reform has become. And I will eagerly look at the ideas and better solutions on the health care front. If anyone here truly believes our health insurance system is working well for people, I respect your right to say so, but I just don't agree. And neither would millions of Americans with preexisting conditions who can't get coverage today or find out that they lose their insurance just as they're getting seriously ill. That's exactly when you need insurance. And for too many people, they're not getting it. I don't think a system is working when small businesses are gouged and 15,000 Americans are losing coverage every single day; when premiums have doubled and out-of-pocket costs have exploded and they're poised to do so again.
This is once again attempting to build the myth that Republicans just say no without putting up ideas of their own. Republicans have put up an alternative plan which has been completely ignored by Democrats.
I mean, to be fair, the status quo is working for the insurance industry, but it's not working for the American people. It's not working for our federal budget. It needs to change.
This is a big problem, and all of us are called on to solve it. And that's why, from the start, I sought out and supported ideas from Republicans. I even talked about an issue that has been a holy grail for a lot of you, which was tort reform, and said that I'd be willing to work together as part of a comprehensive package to deal with it. I just didn't get a lot of nibbles.
No he looked for ways to get Republicans to buy into his party's own bad ideas. He used a watered down version of tort reform as a carrot hoping to get buy into his team's plan.
Creating a high-risk pool for uninsured folks with preexisting conditions, that wasn't my idea, it was Senator McCain's. And I supported it, and it got incorporated into our approach. Allowing insurance companies to sell coverage across state lines to add choice and competition and bring down costs for businesses and consumers -- that's an idea that some of you I suspect included in this better solutions; that's an idea that was incorporated into our package. And I support it, provided that we do it hand in hand with broader reforms that protect benefits and protect patients and protect the American people.
Here Obama is shooting down his own party's message that Republicans are the party of "NO". Also with the following...
A number of you have suggested creating pools where self-employed and small businesses could buy insurance. That was a good idea. I embraced it. Some of you supported efforts to provide insurance to children and let kids remain covered on their parents' insurance until they're 25 or 26. I supported that. That's part of our package. I supported a number of other ideas, from incentivizing wellness to creating an affordable catastrophic insurance option for young people that came from Republicans like Mike Enzi and Olympia Snowe in the Senate, and I'm sure from some of you as well. So when you say I ought to be willing to accept Republican ideas on health care, let's be clear: I have.
Bipartisanship -- not for its own sake but to solve problems -- that's what our constituents, the American people, need from us right now. All of us then have a choice to make. We have to choose whether we're going to be politicians first or partners for progress; whether we're going to put success at the polls ahead of the lasting success we can achieve together for America. Just think about it for a while. We don't have to put it up for a vote today.
When Democrats want something suddenly bipartisanship is a good idea.
I disagree. If someone comes up and says that ever Tuesday they are going to take $100 from your wallet against your will, do you think its a good idea to compromise and work together so perhaps you can work a deal that they take only $60 a week? Or is it a better plan to dig your feet in and say no, you're not taking anything from me? If something's a bad idea I prefer the later approach.
Let me close by saying this. I was not elected by Democrats or Republicans, but by the American people. That's especially true because the fastest growing group of Americans are independents. That should tell us both something. I'm ready and eager to work with anyone who is willing to proceed in a spirit of goodwill. But understand, if we can't break free from partisan gridlock, if we can't move past a politics of "no," if resistance supplants constructive debate, I still have to meet my responsibilities as President. I've got to act for the greater good -- because that, too, is a commitment that I have made. And that's -- that, too, is what the American people sent me to Washington to do.
Right from the Scott Brown playbook. What's next, instead of the "people's seat" is he going to claim he's the "people's president"?
So I am optimistic. I know many of you individually. And the irony, I think, of our political climate right now is that, compared to other countries, the differences between the two major parties on most issues is not as big as it's represented. But we've gotten caught up in the political game in a way that's just not healthy. It's dividing our country in ways that are preventing us from meeting the challenges of the 21st century. I'm hopeful that the conversation we have today can help reverse that.
So thank you very much. Thank you, John. (Applause.) Now I'd like to open it up for questions.
Now from here on it gets interesting. This is where Democrats are claiming Obama scored a major victory.
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.
What Obama said there is a LIE. He wants to raise taxes on the upper class, he's said that many many times. He's said that those earning $250,000 or more should pay more and he's rolled back the Bush tax cuts effective increasing taxes on this group. That is NOT an across the board tax cut!
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.
Go back and reread what Congressman Pence said originally. It wasn't that we hoped we'd remain at 8%, it was that if we failed to do anything we would hit 8%.
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.
He's indirectly attempting to blame Bush here. But what he and Democrats ignore, even as they themselves present the data that backs this up, is that the job losses started about a year after they took control of the house and senate. Despite Bush still being the figure head, it was no longer Republican policy as the driving force.
Obama also continues to stray away from the fact that he spend billions and produced numbers worse then he said the worst case would be if we did nothing.
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.
What does he mean "we"?
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.
While Americans are not economists, just about 1 year ago 50% of those polled said things would get worse with the stimulus. The stimulus passed and things are worse now then they were before so I'd say that 50% were right. Now we can spend all day talking about what MIGHT have been but facts are the facts... the stimulus passed and we're worse off today then we were a year ago.
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.
1) Allowing the middle class to keep the cuts Bush already put in place is not cutting their taxes.
2) Giving money to the lower level wage earners who do not pay taxes in the first place is not cutting taxes.
3) Increasing taxes on the top percents who invest in new business and are the ones who create new jobs is not helping this country... it's hurting it.
4) What good is a tax cut to someone who no longer has a job because the top 5% had to lay him off to make up for their tax increases?
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.
Democrats love to play the fear card of laying off teachers, firefighters and cops. Of course they would never suggest that programs such as paying for artificial insemination of lesbian couples be cut out or programs that pay for druggies needles be cut out.
You see this on local levels, state levels and federal levels. Any time people push to cut Democrats come back with the teacher, firemen and cops.
Also, since the stimulus was a short term temporary fix unless the economy turns around all he did was put off the cuts he's referring to should they be necessary. Go talk to your state reps or local government officials. They are using stimulus money not to patch holes in their budget and have no idea what they are going to do next year when that money is gone.
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.
Make work jobs that give a temporary boost to lower unemployment (which we're seeing now). When these jobs completely you'll see unemployment shoot back up with nothing to show for it accept a few pot holes filled and new government buildings we can't afford to maintain.
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.
As they said in that Tom Cruise movie... Show me the money. Show me results. Until now I'm not seeing them. I see unemployment continue at double digits despite being told otherwise. I see companies closing down. The only growth I'm seeing is in government and we can no longer afford to pay for it.
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.
Yet he did resist it and ignored it. And as for his claim he couldn't find credible economists... that's a lie. He was presented with a signed statement by 222 of the nations leading economists that said his plan would not work and the republican plan would. You can read about it HERE.
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.
How about cutting spending and cutting taxes for those who create jobs?
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?
Funny, that seems to be what the Democrats have done from day one. Now that they can no longer blame Bush for everything they are trying to get Republicans to sign on to their bad ideas so they wont be able to be held responsible when they fail.
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.
That's kind of the idea behind an "across the board" tax cut. It goes across the board.
Another question he needs to ask himself... how many people does Buffet create jobs for? How many people does he personally employ?
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?
Every time in US history that we've cut taxes, the money coming into the treasury has increased. Happened under Kennedy and it happened under Regan.
When you couple that with SPENDING CUTS, you get a balanced budget.
CONGRESSMAN RYAN: Thank you. Mr. President, first off, thanks for agreeing to accept our invitation here. It is a real pleasure and honor to have you with us here today.
THE PRESIDENT: Good to see you. Is this your crew right here, by the way?
CONGRESSMAN RYAN: It is. This is my daughter Liza, my son Charlie and Sam, and this is my wife Janna.
THE PRESIDENT: Hey, guys.
CONGRESSMAN RYAN: Say hi, everybody. (Laughter.) I serve as a ranking member of the budget committee, so I'm going to talk a little budget if you don't mind. The spending bills that you've signed into law, the domestic discretionary spending has been increased by 84 percent. You now want to freeze spending at this elevated beginning next year. This means that total spending in your budget would grow at 3/100ths of 1 percent less than otherwise. I would simply submit that we could do more and start now.
You've also said that you want to take a scalpel to the budget and go through it line by line. We want to give you that scalpel. I have a proposal with my home state senator, Russ Feingold, bipartisan proposal, to create a constitutional version of the line-item veto. (Applause.) Problem is, we can't even get a vote on the proposal.
So my question is, why not start freezing spending now, and would you support a line-item veto in helping us get a vote on it in the House?
THE PRESIDENT: Let me respond to the two specific questions, but I want to just push back a little bit on the underlying premise about us increasing spending by 84 percent.
Now, look, I talked to Peter Orszag right before I came here, because I suspected I'd be hearing this -- I'd be hearing this argument. The fact of the matter is, is that most of the increases in this year's budget, this past year's budget, were not as a consequence of policies that we initiated but instead were built in as a consequence of the automatic stabilizers that kick in because of this enormous recession.
"Automatic stabilizers" are things like food stamps and housing assistance that kick in when people start losing jobs and finding themselves unemployed.
So the increase in the budget for this past year was actually predicted before I was even sworn into office and had initiated any policies. Whoever was in there, Paul -- and I don't think you'll dispute that -- whoever was in there would have seen those same increases because of, on the one hand, huge drops in revenue, but at the same time people were hurting and needed help. And a lot of these things happened automatically.
All the more reason to look to cut the spending that the government can control. Instead we see government increasing spending on things we don't need to spend the money on today.
Now, the reason that I'm not proposing the discretionary freeze take into effect this year -- we prepared a budget for 2010, it's now going forward -- is, again, I am just listening to the consensus among people who know the economy best. And what they will say is that if you either increase taxes or significantly lowered spending when the economy remains somewhat fragile, that that would have a destimulative effect and potentially you'd see a lot of folks losing business, more folks potentially losing jobs. That would be a mistake when the economy has not fully taken off. That's why I've proposed to do it for the next fiscal year. So that's point number two.
"This paper concludes that a large and growing government is not conducive to better economic performance. Indeed, reducing the size of government would lead to higher incomes and improve America’s competitiveness."
With respect to the line-item veto, I actually -- I think there's not a President out there that wouldn't love to have it. And I think that this is an area where we can have a serious conversation. I know it is a bipartisan proposal by you and Russ Feingold. I don't like being held up with big bills that have stuff in them that are wasteful but I've got to sign because it's a defense authorization bill and I've got to make sure that our troops are getting the funding that they need.
Obama doesn't have to sign anything. If he stood before the American people and said he would refuse to sign bills regardless of what they were for if they included wasteful earmarks he'd have nearly full support of the voters.
And if he made it clear before the bill was ever put on his desk he'd have all the more reason to finger point and say these are the people creating the problems.
I will tell you, I would love for Congress itself to show discipline on both sides of the aisle. I think one thing that you have to acknowledge, Paul, because you study this stuff and take it pretty seriously, that the earmarks problem is not unique to one party and you end up getting a lot of pushback when you start going after specific projects of any one of you in your districts, because wasteful spending is usually spent somehow outside of your district. Have you noticed that? The spending in your district tends to seem pretty sensible.
So I would love to see more restraint within Congress. I'd like to work on the earmarks reforms that I mentioned in terms of putting earmarks online, because I think sunshine is the best disinfectant. But I am willing to have a serious conversation on the line-item veto issue.
I've read this statement over three times. He didn't answer the question about whether he'd support a line item veto. He spun a bit and said he'd be willing to have a conversation but he never said he's support it. Why not? hmmmm.
CONGRESSMAN RYAN: I'd like to walk you through that, because we have a version we think is constitutional.
THE PRESIDENT: Let me take a look at it.
In other words he's blowing him off.
CONGRESSMAN RYAN: I would simply say that automatic stabilizer spending is mandatory spending. The discretionary spending, the bills that Congress signs that you sign into law, that has increased 84 percent.
THE PRESIDENT: We'll have a longer debate on the budget numbers, all right?
Again, blowing him off when confronted with facts that go against what he's saying.
CONGRESSMAN PENCE: Shelley Moore Capito, West Virginia.
CONGRESSWOMAN CAPITO: Thank you, Mr. President, for joining us here today. As you said in the State of the Union address on Wednesday, jobs and the economy are number one. And I think everyone in this room, certainly I, agree with you on that.
Of course they think that... that's what polls show voters consider the top priorities.
I represent the state of West Virginia. We're resource-rich. We have a lot of coal and a lot of natural gas. But our -- my miners and the folks who are working and those who are unemployed are very concerned about some of your policies in these areas: cap and trade, an aggressive EPA, and the looming prospect of higher taxes. In our minds, these are job-killing policies. So I'm asking you if you would be willing to re-look at some of these policies, with a high unemployment and the unsure economy that we have now, to assure West Virginians that you're listening.
THE PRESIDENT: Look, I listen all the time, including to your governor, who's somebody who I enjoyed working with a lot before the campaign and now that I'm President. And I know that West Virginia struggles with unemployment, and I know how important coal is to West Virginia and a lot of the natural resources there. That's part of the reason why I've said that we need a comprehensive energy policy that sets us up for a long-term future.
For example, nobody has been a bigger promoter of clean coal technology than I am. Testament to that, I ended up being in a whole bunch of advertisements that you guys saw all the time about investing in ways for us to burn coal more cleanly.
One question that comes to mind here is what's more important to us right now as a country. To have clean energy or to lessen our dependency on foreign fuels?
I've said that I'm a promoter of nuclear energy, something that I think over the last three decades has been subject to a lot of partisan wrangling and ideological wrangling. I don't think it makes sense. I think that that has to be part of our energy mix. I've said that I am supportive -- and I said this two nights ago at the State of the Union -- that I am in favor of increased production.
So if you look at the ideas that this caucus has, again with respect to energy, I'm for a lot of what you said you are for.
This is one area where Obama is damned no matter what. If he pushes for alternative energy, which is what people want and even more so within his own party, then he's eliminating the coal miners jobs. If he protects their jobs then he's not delivering what his own party wants.
The one thing that I've also said, though, and here we have a serious disagreement and my hope is we can work through these disagreements -- there's going to be an effort on the Senate side to do so on a bipartisan basis -- is that we have to plan for the future.
And the future is that clean energy -- cleaner forms of energy are going to be increasingly important, because even if folks are still skeptical in some cases about climate change in our politics and in Congress, the world is not skeptical about it. If we're going to be after some of these big markets, they're going to be looking to see, is the United States the one that's developing clean coal technology? Is the United States developing our natural gas resources in the most effective way? Is the United States the one that is going to lead in electric cars? Because if we're not leading, those other countries are going to be leading.
So what I want to do is work with West Virginia to figure out how we can seize that future. But to do that, that means there's going to have to be some transition. We can't operate the coal industry in the United States as if we're still in the 1920s or the 1930s or the 1950s. We've got to be thinking what does that industry look like in the next hundred years. And it's going to be different. And that means there's going to be some transition. And that's where I think a well-thought-through policy of incentivizing the new while recognizing that there's going to be a transition process -- and we're not just suddenly putting the old out of business right away -- that has to be something that both Republicans and Democrats should be able to embrace.
On this issue I agree with him.
CONGRESSMAN PENCE: Jason Chaffetz, Utah.
CONGRESSMAN CHAFFETZ: Thank you, Mr. President. It's truly an honor.
THE PRESIDENT: Great to be here.
CONGRESSMAN CHAFFETZ: And I appreciate you being here.
I'm one of 22 House freshmen. We didn't create this mess, but we are here to help clean it up. You talked a lot about this deficit of trust. There's some things that have happened that I would appreciate your perspective on, because I can look you in the eye and tell you we have not been obstructionists. Democrats have the House and Senate and the presidency. And when you stood up before the American people multiple times and said you would broadcast the health care debates on C-SPAN, you didn't. And I was disappointed, and I think a lot of Americans were disappointed.
You said you weren't going to allow lobbyists in the senior-most positions within your administration, and yet you did. I applauded you when you said it -- and disappointed when you didn't.
You said you'd go line by line through the health care debate -- or through the health care bill. And there were six of us, including Dr. Phil Roe, who sent you a letter and said, "We would like to take you up on the offer; we'd like to come." We never heard a letter, we never got a call. We were never involved in any of those discussions.
And when you said in the House of Representatives that you were going to tackle earmarks -- in fact, you didn't want to have any earmarks in any of your bills -- I jumped up out of my seat and applauded you. But it didn't happen.
All very good points and I think this highlights questions many Americans, some of whom supported Obama are asking right now.
More importantly, I want to talk about moving forward, but if we could address --
THE PRESIDENT: Well, how about --
CONGRESSMAN CHAFFETZ: -- I would certainly appreciate it.
THE PRESIDENT: That was a long list, so -- (laughter) -- let me respond.
Look, the truth of the matter is that if you look at the health care process -- just over the course of the year -- overwhelmingly the majority of it actually was on C-SPAN, because it was taking place in congressional hearings in which you guys were participating. I mean, how many committees were there that helped to shape this bill? Countless hearings took place.
It wasn't until the public started actually looking at what was in the health care bill and going after Democrats for it that they stopped C-SPAN.
Now, I kicked it off, by the way, with a meeting with many of you, including your key leadership. What is true, there's no doubt about it, is that once it got through the committee process and there were now a series of meetings taking place all over the Capitol trying to figure out how to get the thing together -- that was a messy process. And I take responsibility for not having structured it in a way where it was all taking place in one place that could be filmed. How to do that logistically would not have been as easy as it sounds, because you're shuttling back and forth between the House, the Senate, different offices, et cetera, different legislators. But I think it's a legitimate criticism. So on that one, I take responsibility.
In other words there was no leadership.
With respect to earmarks, we didn't have earmarks in the Recovery Act. We didn't get a lot of credit for it, but there were no earmarks in that. I was confronted at the beginning of my term with an omnibus package that did have a lot of earmarks from Republicans and Democrats, and a lot of people in this chamber. And the question was whether I was going to have a big budget fight, at a time when I was still trying to figure out whether or not the financial system was melting down and we had to make a whole bunch of emergency decisions about the economy. So what I said was let's keep them to a minimum, but I couldn't excise them all.
Now, the challenge I guess I would have for you as a freshman, is what are you doing inside your caucus to make sure that I'm not the only guy who is responsible for this stuff, so that we're working together, because this is going to be a process?
When we talk about earmarks, I think all of us are willing to acknowledge that some of them are perfectly defensible, good projects; it's just they haven't gone through the regular appropriations process in the full light of day. So one place to start is to make sure that they are at least transparent, that everybody knows what's there before we move forward.
If something is a perfectly defensible good project then why isn't it put up in it's own bill?
In terms of lobbyists, I can stand here unequivocally and say that there has not been an administration who was tougher on making sure that lobbyists weren't participating in the administration than any administration that's come before us.
Now, what we did was, if there were lobbyists who were on boards and commissions that were carryovers and their term hadn't been completed, we didn't kick them off. We simply said that moving forward any time a new slot opens, they're being replaced.
So we've actually been very consistent in making sure that we are eliminating the impact of lobbyists, day in, day out, on how this administration operates. There have been a handful of waivers where somebody is highly skilled -- for example, a doctor who ran Tobacco-Free Kids technically is a registered lobbyist; on the other end, has more experience than anybody in figuring out how kids don't get hooked on cigarettes.
So there have been a couple of instances like that, but generally we've been very consistent on that front.
If you ignore the handful of exceptions he has done what he said he would... is he serious?
That would be like Tiger Woods offering to stop cheating and saying well with the exceptions of these ten other women I have held true to my word. Sorry but either your holding to your word or you aren't. There's no exceptions.
And he ignored the C-SPAN question.
CONGRESSMAN PENCE: Marsha Blackburn, Tennessee.
CONGRESSMAN BLACKBURN: Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you for acknowledging that we have ideas on health care because, indeed, we do have ideas, we have plans, we have over 50 bills, we have lots of amendments that would bring health care ideas to the forefront. We would -- we've got plans to lower cost, to change purchasing models, address medical liability, insurance accountability, chronic and preexisting conditions, and access to affordable care for those with those conditions, insurance portability, expanded access -- but not doing it with creating more government, more bureaucracy, and more cost for the American taxpayer.
So much for the party of NO as Democrats even just this week continue to claim the Republicans are (see Blue Hampshire).
And we look forward to sharing those ideas with you. We want to work with you on health reform and making certain that we do it in an affordable, cost-effective way that is going to reduce bureaucracy, reduce government interference, and reduce costs to individuals and to taxpayers. And if those good ideas aren't making it to you, maybe it's the House Democrat leadership that is an impediment instead of a conduit.
Remember that part in bold.
But we're concerned also that there are some lessons learned from public option health care plans that maybe are not being heeded. And certainly in my state of Tennessee, we were the test case for public option health care in 1994, and our Democrat government has even cautioned that maybe our experiences there would provide some lessons learned that should be heeded, and would provide guidance for us to go forward. And as you said, what we should be doing is tossing old ideas out, bad ideas out, and moving forward in refining good ideas. And certainly we would welcome that opportunity.
So my question to you is, when will we look forward to starting anew and sitting down with you to put all of these ideas on the table, to look at these lessons learned, to benefit from that experience, and to produce a product that is going to reduce government interference, reduce cost, and be fair to the American taxpayer? (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Actually, I've gotten many of your ideas. I've taken a look at them, even before I was handed this. Some of the ideas we have embraced in our package. Some of them are embraced with caveats. So let me give you an example.
Most were ignored.
Basically Democrats took a couple ideas here and there and tossed them in hoping to get Republican buy in so the whole health care bill isn't solely a Democrat albatross.
Republican's aren't dumb though. They aren't going to buy into a bad bill because one or two of their ideas were used or in many cases used in bastardized form.
I think one of the proposals that has been focused on by the Republicans as a way to reduce costs is allowing insurance companies to sell across state lines. We actually include that as part of our approach. But the caveat is, we've got to do so with some minimum standards, because otherwise what happens is that you could have insurance companies circumvent a whole bunch of state regulations about basic benefits or what have you, making sure that a woman is able to get mammograms as part of preventive care, for example. Part of what could happen is insurance companies could go into states and cherry-pick and just get those who are healthiest and leave behind those who are least healthy, which would raise everybody's premiums who weren't healthy, right?
I love it when you start talking about what you "could have".
And think for a moment what he's saying... if you eat healthy and stay fit, you should not have a right to pick an insurance company that caters just to your business because some fat slob who sits home all day watching soaps and eating junk food would end up having to pay more for their health insurance.
Heck, let's use that same approach to everything... why should I pay more every month for gas because I drive a huge 8 cylinder SUV that gets 12 miles to the gallon? Why should I pay more in electricity because I have 10 computers running 24/7 and use electric space heaters in every room in a 50,000 sq ft home?
Fact is, if you are in poor health because of your life choices you should pay more then someone who makes the choices to stay healthy.
So it's not that many of these ideas aren't workable, but we have to refine them to make sure that they don't just end up worsening the situation for folks rather than making it better.
Now, what I said at the State of the Union is what I still believe: If you can show me -- and if I get confirmation from health care experts, people who know the system and how it works, including doctors and nurses -- ways of reducing people's premiums; covering those who do not have insurance; making it more affordable for small businesses; having insurance reforms that ensure people have insurance even when they've got preexisting conditions, that their coverage is not dropped just because they're sick, that young people right out of college or as they're entering in the workforce can still get health insurance -- if those component parts are things that you care about and want to do, I'm game. And I've got -- and I've got a lot of these ideas.
Dr. Ron Paul is a doctor who know the system and he has given a number of suggestions.
The last thing I will say, though -- let me say this about health care and the health care debate, because I think it also bears on a whole lot of other issues. If you look at the package that we've presented -- and there's some stray cats and dogs that got in there that we were eliminating, we were in the process of eliminating. For example, we said from the start that it was going to be important for us to be consistent in saying to people if you can have your -- if you want to keep the health insurance you got, you can keep it, that you're not going to have anybody getting in between you and your doctor in your decision making. And I think that some of the provisions that got snuck in might have violated that pledge.
There's a stunning admission! Democrats have claimed Republicans were nothing but fear mongers for bringing up facts like this. They've claimed Republicans were liars.
Here's Obama himself admitting that such provisions were in fact in there.
And so we were in the process of scrubbing this and making sure that it's tight. But at its core, if you look at the basic proposal that we've put forward: it has an exchange so that businesses and the self-employed can buy into a pool and can get bargaining power the same way big companies do; the insurance reforms that I've already discussed, making sure that there's choice and competition for those who don't have health insurance. The component parts of this thing are pretty similar to what Howard Baker, Bob Dole, and Tom Daschle proposed at the beginning of this debate last year.
Now, you may not agree with Bob Dole and Howard Baker, and, certainly you don't agree with Tom Daschle on much, but that's not a radical bunch. But if you were to listen to the debate and, frankly, how some of you went after this bill, you'd think that this thing was some Bolshevik plot. No, I mean, that's how you guys -- (applause) -- that's how you guys presented it.
And so I'm thinking to myself, well, how is it that a plan that is pretty centrist -- no, look, I mean, I'm just saying, I know you guys disagree, but if you look at the facts of this bill, most independent observers would say this is actually what many Republicans -- is similar to what many Republicans proposed to Bill Clinton when he was doing his debate on health care.
See Obama's previous admission about things being "snuck" in.
So all I'm saying is, we've got to close the gap a little bit between the rhetoric and the reality. I'm not suggesting that we're going to agree on everything, whether it's on health care or energy or what have you, but if the way these issues are being presented by the Republicans is that this is some wild-eyed plot to impose huge government in every aspect of our lives, what happens is you guys then don't have a lot of room to negotiate with me.
I mean, the fact of the matter is, is that many of you, if you voted with the administration on something, are politically vulnerable in your own base, in your own party. You've given yourselves very little room to work in a bipartisan fashion because what you've been telling your constituents is, this guy is doing all kinds of crazy stuff that's going to destroy America.
When Palin and others talk about such things as the death panels, they've sited the specific page numbers from the bills. The clause that would take away our existing insurance (which Obama admitted to above), again page numbers were sited.
Republican's aren't presenting some "wild eyed" view without giving facts to back them up.
And I would just say that we have to think about tone. It's not just on your side, by the way -- it's on our side, as well. This is part of what's happened in our politics, where we demonize the other side so much that when it comes to actually getting things done, it becomes tough to do.
Funny, demonizing Bush because sport for Democrats yet now suddenly when they have power and are failing to accomplish anything it's because Republicans are demonizing them.
CONGRESSMAN PENCE: Dr. Tom Price from Georgia, and then we'll have one more after that if your time permits, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: You know, I'm having fun. (Laughter.)
CONGRESSMAN PENCE: Okay.
THE PRESIDENT: This is great. (Applause.)
CONGRESSMAN PENCE: So are we.
CONGRESSMAN PRICE: Mr. President, thank you. I want to stick on the general topic of health care, but ask a very specific question. You have repeatedly said, most recently at the State of the Union, that Republicans have offered no ideas and no solutions. In spite of the fact --
THE PRESIDENT: I don't think I said that. What I said was, within the context of health care -- I remember that speech pretty well, it was only two days ago -- (laughter) -- I said I welcome ideas that you might provide. I didn't say that you haven't provided ideas. I said I welcome those ideas that you'll provide.
Actually if you look at the transcript of the State of the Union speech he specifically said:
This can't be one of those Washington gimmicks that lets us pretend we solved a problem. The commission will have to provide a specific set of solutions by a certain deadline.
Now, yesterday, the Senate blocked a bill that would have created this commission. So I'll issue an executive order that will allow us to go forward, because I refuse to pass this problem on to another generation of Americans.
From some on the right, I expect we'll hear a different argument, that if we just make fewer investments in our people, extend tax cuts, including those for the wealthier Americans, eliminate more regulations, maintain the status quo on health care, our deficits will go away.
The problem is, that's what we did for eight years.
The part in bold sure sounds to me like he said they proposed no new ideas. I'd call his statement above a lie.
CONGRESSMAN PRICE: Mr. President, multiple times, from your administration, there have come statements that Republicans have no ideas and no solutions. In spite of the fact that we've offered, as demonstrated today, positive solutions to all of the challenges we face, including energy and the economy and health care, specifically in the area of health care -- this bill, H.R.3400, that has more co-sponsors than any health care bill in the House, is a bill that would provide health coverage for all Americans; would correct the significant insurance challenges of affordability and preexisting; would solve the lawsuit abuse issue, which isn't addressed significantly in the other proposals that went through the House and the Senate; would write into law that medical decisions are made between patients and families and doctors; and does all of that without raising taxes by a penny.
But my specific question is, what should we tell our constituents who know that Republicans have offered positive solutions to the challenges that Americans face and yet continue to hear out of the administration that we've offered nothing?
THE PRESIDENT: Tom, look, I have to say that on the -- let's just take the health care debate. And it's probably not constructive for us to try to debate a particular bill -- this isn't the venue to do it. But if you say, "We can offer coverage for all Americans, and it won't cost a penny," that's just not true. You can't structure a bill where suddenly 30 million people have coverage, and it costs nothing. If --
That's a point many on the right have brought up time and time again when Democrats claim Obama's plan will "save money".
CONGRESSMAN PRICE: Mr. President, can I -- and I understand that we're not interested in debating this bill, but what should we tell our constituents who know that we've offered these solutions and yet hear from the administration that we have offered nothing.
THE PRESIDENT: Let me -- I'm using this as a specific example, so let me answer your question. You asked a question; I want to answer it.
It's not enough if you say, for example, that we've offered a health care plan and I look up -- this is just under the section that you've just provided me, or the book that you just provided me -- summary of GOP health care reform bill: The GOP plan will lower health care premiums for American families and small businesses, addressing America's number-one priority for health reform. I mean, that's an idea that we all embrace. But specifically it's got to work. I mean, there's got to be a mechanism in these plans that I can go to an independent health care expert and say, is this something that will actually work, or is it boilerplate?
If I'm told, for example, that the solution to dealing with health care costs is tort reform, something that I've said I am willing to work with you on, but the CBO or other experts say to me, at best, this could reduce health care costs relative to where they're growing by a couple of percentage points, or save $5 billion a year, that's what we can score it at, and it will not bend the cost curve long term or reduce premiums significantly -- then you can't make the claim that that's the only thing that we have to do. If we're going to do multi-state insurance so that people can go across state lines, I've got to be able to go to an independent health care expert, Republican or Democrat, who can tell me that this won't result in cherry-picking of the healthiest going to some and the least healthy being worse off.
See my earlier comment.
So I am absolutely committed to working with you on these issues, but it can't just be political assertions that aren't substantiated when it comes to the actual details of policy. Because otherwise, we're going to be selling the American people a bill of goods. I mean, the easiest thing for me to do on the health care debate would have been to tell people that what you're going to get is guaranteed health insurance, lower your costs, all the insurance reforms; we're going to lower the costs of Medicare and Medicaid and it won't cost anybody anything. That's great politics, it's just not true.
So there's got to be some test of realism in any of these proposals, mine included. I've got to hold myself accountable, and guaranteed the American people will hold themselves -- will hold me accountable if what I'm selling doesn't actually deliver.
That's the catch isn't it. None of the ideas from either side have been tried so Obama get's his hand picked experts and they tell him what he wants to hear and from that he can dismiss anything Republicans put up.
CONGRESSMAN PRICE: Mr. President, a point of clarification, what's in the Better Solutions book are all the legislative proposals that were offered --
THE PRESIDENT: I understand that. I've actually read your bills.
CONGRESSMAN PRICE: -- throughout 2009.
THE PRESIDENT: I understand.
CONGRESSMAN PRICE: And so, rest assured the summary document you received is backed up by precisely the kind of detailed legislation that Speaker Pelosi and your administration have been busy ignoring for 12 months.
In other words, what Obama just said is another lie and Price is calling him on it.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Mike -- well, hold on, hold on a second. No, no, no, no. Hold on a second, guys. (Applause.)
You know, Mike, I've read your legislation. I mean, I take a look at this stuff -- and the good ideas we take. But here's -- here's the thing -- here's the thing that I guess all of us have to be mindful of, it can't be all or nothing, one way or the other. And what I mean by that is this: If we put together a stimulus package in which a third of it are tax cuts that normally you guys would support, and support for states and the unemployed, and helping people stay on COBRA that your governors certainly would support -- Democrat or a Republican; and then you've got some infrastructure, and maybe there's some things in there that you don't like in terms of infrastructure, or you think the bill should have been $500 billion instead of $700 billion or there's this provision or that provision that you don't like. If there's uniform opposition because the Republican caucus doesn't get 100 percent or 80 percent of what you want, then it's going to be hard to get a deal done. That's because that's not how democracy works.
I would sooner see someone stand up against a bad idea then to give in just because they get 60% of what they want mixed in.
Let me turn this around to Democrats in a way they may understand. Let's just say that tomorrow Republicans agreed to exactly what Democrats wanted in a health care bill and the only thing they were going to add is that abortion would become 100% illegal in this country, would any of you support it? Even if you got the other 100% of what you wanted would you want your elected officials to sign onto that bill?
Fact is, a bad bill is a bad bill regardless of how much they give into the other party.
So my hope would be that we can look at some of these component parts of what we're doing and maybe we break some of them up on different policy issues. So if the good congressman from Utah has a particular issue on lobbying reform that he wants to work with us on, we may not able to agree on a comprehensive package on everything but there may be some component parts that we can work on.
You may not support our overall jobs package, but if you look at the tax credit that we're proposing for small businesses right now, it is consistent with a lot of what you guys have said in the past. And just the fact that it's my administration that's proposing it shouldn't prevent you from supporting it. That's my point.
As I said, a bad bill is a bad bill regardless of what else is tied into it.
CONGRESSMAN PENCE: Thank you, Mr. President. Peter Roskam from the great state of Illinois.
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, Peter is an old friend of mine.
CONGRESSMAN ROSKAM: Hey, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Peter and I have had many debates.
CONGRESMAN ROSKAM: Well, this won't be one. Mr. President, I heard echoes today of the state senator that I served with in Springfield and there was an attribute and a characteristic that you had that I think served you well there. You took on some very controversial subjects -- death penalty reform -- you and I --
THE PRESIDENT: Sure. We worked on it together.
CONGRESSMAN ROSKAM: -- negotiated on. You took on ethics reform. You took on some big things. One of the keys was you rolled your sleeves up, you worked with the other party, and ultimately you were able to make the deal. Now, here's an observation.
Over the past year, in my view, that attribute hasn't been in full bloom. And by that I mean, you've gotten this subtext of House Republicans that sincerely want to come and be a part of this national conversation toward solutions, but they've really been stiff-armed by Speaker Pelosi. Now, I know you're not in charge of that chamber, but there really is this dynamic of, frankly, being shut out. When John Boehner and Eric Cantor presented last February to you some substantive job creation, our stimulus alternative, the attack machine began to marginalize Eric -- and we can all look at the articles -- as "Mr. No," and there was this pretty dark story, ultimately, that wasn't productive and wasn't within this sort of framework that you're articulating today.
So here's the question. Moving forward, I think all of us want to hit the reset button on 2009. How do we move forward? And on the job creation piece in particular, you mentioned Colombia, you mentioned Panama, you mentioned South Korea. Are you willing to work with us, for example, to make sure those FTAs get called, that's no-cost job creation? And ultimately, as you're interacting with world leaders, that's got to put more arrows in your quiver, and that's a very, very powerful tool for us. But the obstacle is, frankly, the politics within the Democratic caucus?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, Peter and I did work together effectively on a whole host of issues. One of our former colleagues is right now running for governor, on the Republican side, in Illinois. In the Republican primary, of course, they're running ads of him saying nice things about me. Poor guy. (Laughter.)
Although that's one of the points that I made earlier. I mean, we've got to be careful about what we say about each other sometimes, because it boxes us in in ways that makes it difficult for us to work together, because our constituents start believing us. They don't know sometimes this is just politics what you guys -- or folks on my side do sometimes.
So just a tone of civility instead of slash and burn would be helpful. The problem we have sometimes is a media that responds only to slash-and-burn-style politics. You don't get a lot of credit if I say, "You know, I think Paul Ryan is a pretty sincere guy and has a beautiful family." Nobody is going to run that in the newspapers.
This exchange proves what Democrats have been claiming is false. Republicans are not just the party of no with no solutions of their own. Obama is admitting to that. Yet they continue to make that claim.
Q (Inaudible.) (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: And by the way, in case he's going to get a Republican challenge, I didn't mean it. (Laughter.) Don't want to hurt you, man. (Laughter.)
But on the specifics, I think both sides can take some blame for a sour climate on Capitol Hill. What I can do maybe to help is to try to bring Republican and Democratic leadership together on a more regular basis with me. That's, I think, a failure on my part, is to try to foster better communications even if there's disagreement. And I will try to see if we can do more of that this year. That's on the sort of the general issue.
On the specific issue of trade, you're right, there are conflicts within and fissures within the Democratic Party. I suspect there are probably going to be some fissures within the Republican Party, as well. I mean, you know, if you went to some of your constituencies, they'd be pretty suspicious about it, new trade agreements, because the suspicion is somehow they're all one way.
So part of what we've been trying to do is to make sure that we're getting the enforcement side of this tight, make sure that if we've got a trade agreement with China or other countries, that they are abiding with it -- they're not stealing our intellectual property or making sure that their non-tariff barriers are lowered even as ours are opened up. And my hope is, is that we can move forward with some of these trade agreements having built some confidence -- not just among particular constituency groups, but among the American people -- that trade is going to be reciprocal; that it's not just going to be a one-way street.
You are absolutely right though, Peter, when you say, for example, South Korea is a great ally of ours. I mean, when I visited there, there is no country that is more committed to friendship on a whole range of fronts than South Korea. What is also true is that the European Union is about to sign a trade agreement with South Korea, which means right at the moment when they start opening up their markets, the Europeans might get in there before we do.
So we've got to make sure that we seize these opportunities. I will be talking more about trade this year. It's going to have to be trade that combines opening their markets with an enforcement mechanism, as well as just opening up our markets. I think that's something that all of us would agree on. Let's see if we can execute it over the next several years. All right, is that it?
Since we don't have the question asked here it's hard to frame out Obama's response.
CONGRESSMAN PENCE: Jeb Hensarling, Texas. And that will be it, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Jim [sic] is going to wrap things up?
CONGRESSMAN PENCE: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: All right.
CONGRESSMAN HENSARLING: Jeb, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: How are you?
CONGRESSMAN HENSARLING: I'm doing well. Mr. President, a year ago I had an opportunity to speak to you about the national debt. And something that you and I have in common is we both have small children.
THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely.
CONGRESSMAN HENSARLING: And I left that conversation really feeling your sincere commitment to ensuring that our children, our nation's children, do not inherit an unconscionable debt. We know that under current law, that government -- the cost of government is due to grow from 20 percent of our economy to 40 percent of our economy, right about the time our children are leaving college and getting that first job.
Mr. President, shortly after that conversation a year ago, the Republicans proposed a budget that ensured that government did not grow beyond the historical standard of 20 percent of GDP. It was a budget that actually froze immediately non-defense discretionary spending. It spent $5 trillion less than ultimately what was enacted into law, and unfortunately, I believe that budget was ignored. And since that budget was ignored, what were the old annual deficits under Republicans have now become the monthly deficits under Democrats. The national debt has increased 30 percent.
Read as: Republicans are bad when it comes to controlling spending, Democrats are worse.
Now, Mr. President, I know you believe -- and I understand the argument, and I respect the view that the spending is necessary due to the recession; many of us believe, frankly, it's part of the problem, not part of the solution. But I understand and I respect your view. But this is what I don't understand, Mr. President. After that discussion, your administration proposed a budget that would triple the national debt over the next 10 years -- surely you don't believe 10 years from now we will still be mired in this recession -- and propose new entitlement spending and move the cost of government to almost 24.5 percent of the economy.
Now, very soon, Mr. President, you're due to submit a new budget. And my question is --
THE PRESIDENT: Jeb, I know there's a question in there somewhere, because you're making a whole bunch of assertions, half of which I disagree with, and I'm having to sit here listening to them. At some point I know you're going to let me answer. All right.
If you look at the national debt it has already gone up faster then EVER under Bush, these aren't unfounded assertions as Obama is claiming they are.
CONGRESSMAN HENSARLING: That's the question. You are soon to submit a new budget, Mr. President. Will that new budget, like your old budget, triple the national debt and continue to take us down the path of increasing the cost of government to almost 25 percent of our economy? That's the question, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Jeb, with all due respect, I've just got to take this last question as an example of how it's very hard to have the kind of bipartisan work that we're going to do, because the whole question was structured as a talking point for running a campaign.
Now, look, let's talk about the budget once again, because I'll go through it with you line by line. The fact of the matter is, is that when we came into office, the deficit was $1.3 trillion. -- $1.3 [trillion.] So when you say that suddenly I've got a monthly budget that is higher than the -- a monthly deficit that's higher than the annual deficit left by the Republicans, that's factually just not true, and you know it's not true.
In the time Obama has been in office so far the nation debt has climbed by $1,728,501,571,900.98. Democrats have controlled the house and senate since the 2006 election.
This deficit is on them no matter how much Bush blaming Obama wants to play here.
And what is true is that we came in already with a $1.3 trillion deficit before I had passed any law. What is true is we came in with $8 trillion worth of debt over the next decade -- had nothing to do with anything that we had done. It had to do with the fact that in 2000 when there was a budget surplus of $200 billion, you had a Republican administration and a Republican Congress, and we had two tax cuts that weren't paid for.
Rather then answering the question Obama continues to point fingers and blame Bush.
Personally if it were me, I'd say yes we have a deficit but here's my plan to lower it. Instead Obama is increasing it and attempting to avoid responsibility by saying it's all Bush's fault.
You had a prescription drug plan -- the biggest entitlement plan, by the way, in several decades -- that was passed without it being paid for. You had two wars that were done through supplementals. And then you had $3 trillion projected because of the lost revenue of this recession. That's $8 trillion.
Again I suggest you go back to my article entitled who spends the most. The deficit started to climb in 2007 after Democrats took control of both the house and senate.
Republicans were bad but Democrats have thus far been worse and rather then take responsibility they point fingers.
Also if you actually look up the details the drug plan he's referring to only accounts for 3% of the national deficit.
Now, we increased it by a trillion dollars because of the spending that we had to make on the stimulus. I am happy to have any independent fact-checker out there take a look at your presentation versus mine in terms of the accuracy of what I just said.
A stimulus plan that Obama signed into law.
Now, going forward, here's the deal. I think, Paul, for example, head of the budget committee, has looked at the budget and has made a serious proposal. I've read it. I can tell you what's in it. And there are some ideas in there that I would agree with, but there are some ideas that we should have a healthy debate about because I don't agree with them.
The major driver of our long-term liabilities, everybody here knows, is Medicare and Medicaid and our health care spending. Nothing comes close. Social Security we could probably fix the same way Tip O'Neill and Ronald Reagan sat down together and they could figure something out. That is manageable. Medicare and Medicaid -- massive problem down the road. That's where -- that's going to be what our children have to worry about.
Yes, health care spending is one of the largest liabilities. All the more reason to look for ways to lessen the cost to government rather then increase it by taking on 30 million additional people and spend money we don't have. It would be nice to give everything to everyone but you can't do it with money that isn't there.
Now, Paul's approach -- and I want to be careful not simplifying this, because I know you've got a lot of detail in your plan -- but if I understand it correctly, would say we're going to provide vouchers of some sort for current Medicare recipients at the current level --
CONGRESSMAN RYAN: No.
THE PRESIDENT: No?
CONGRESSMAN RYAN: People 55 and above --
I'm not sure if Obama attempted to misinterpret the plan on purpose here or not but I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
THE PRESIDENT: Fifty-five and -- well, no, I understand. I mean, there's a grandfathering in, but just for future beneficiaries, right? That's why I said I didn't want to -- I want to make sure that I'm not being unfair to your proposal, but I just want to point out that I've read it. And the basic idea would be that at some point we hold Medicare cost per recipient constant as a way of making sure that that doesn't go way out of whack, and I'm sure there are some details that --
CONGRESSMAN RYAN: We drew it as a blend of inflation and health inflation, the point of our plan is -- because Medicare, as you know, is a $38 trillion unfunded liability -- it has to be reform for younger generations because it won't exist because it's going bankrupt. And the premise of our idea is, look, why not give people the same kind of health care plan we here have in Congress? That's the kind of reform we're proposing for Medicare. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: No, I understand. Right, right. Well, look, as I said before, this is an entirely legitimate proposal. The problem is twofold: One is that depending on how it's structured, if recipients are suddenly getting a plan that has their reimbursement rates going like this, but health care costs are still going up like that, then over time the way we're saving money is essentially by capping what they're getting relative to their costs.
Unless the costs themselves are controlled there is no savings.
Now, I just want to point out -- and this brings me to the second problem -- when we made a very modest proposal as part of our package, our health care reform package, to eliminate the subsidies going to insurance companies for Medicare Advantage, we were attacked across the board, by many on your aisle, for slashing Medicare. You remember? We're going to start cutting benefits for seniors. That was the story that was perpetrated out there -- scared the dickens out of a lot of seniors.
No, no, but here's my point. If the main question is going to be what do we do about Medicare costs, any proposal that Paul makes will be painted, factually, from the perspective of those who disagree with it, as cutting benefits over the long term. Paul, I don't think you disagree with that, that there is a political vulnerability to doing anything that tinkers with Medicare. And that's probably the biggest savings that are obtained through Paul's plan.
Facts are stubborn things and if something is "factually" correct then it is correct regardless of which perspective it comes from.
And I raise that not because we shouldn't have a series discussion about it. I raise that because we're not going to be able to do anything about any of these entitlements if what we do is characterized, whatever proposals are put out there, as, well, you know, that's -- the other party is being irresponsible; the other party is trying to hurt our senior citizens; that the other party is doing X, Y, Z.
That's why I say if we're going to frame these debates in ways that allow us to solve them, then we can't start off by figuring out, A, who's to blame; B, how can we make the American people afraid of the other side. And unfortunately, that's how our politics works right now. And that's how a lot of our discussion works. That's how we start off -- every time somebody speaks in Congress, the first thing they do, they stand up and all the talking points -- I see Frank Luntz up here sitting in the front. He's already polled it, and he said, you know, the way you're really going to -- I've done a focus group and the way we're going to really box in Obama on this one or make Pelosi look bad on that one -- I know, I like Frank, we've had conversations between Frank and I. But that's how we operate. It's all tactics, and it's not solving problems.
Yet Obama has done that even in this very Q&A session.
And so the question is, at what point can we have a serious conversation about Medicare and its long-term liability, or a serious question about -- a serious conversation about Social Security, or a serious conversation about budget and debt in which we're not simply trying to position ourselves politically. That's what I'm committed to doing. We won't agree all the time in getting it done, but I'm committed to doing it.
The thing with serious conversations, if both sides fundamentally disagree with the ideals of the other you can have all the discussions you want but the basic foundation you need to build from will never be there and thus you'll never have something both side would be willing to accept.
CONGRESSMAN PENCE: Take one more?
Over all I would fail to call this the major political victory Democrats are making it out to be. Obama spent a lot of time blaming Bush and spinning without any details. If anything he confirmed a lot of what Republicans have been claiming such as that they have presented options and are not just the party of no as Democrats claim.