Morning Joe | September 20, 2012
>>> my campaign is about the 100% of america, and i'm concerned about them. i'm concerned about the fact that over the past four years, life has become harder for americans . more people have fallen into poverty. more people we just learned have had to go onto food stamps when the president took office, 32 million people were on food stamps . today 47 million people are on food stamps . now, i know that i'm not going to get 100% of the vote, and my campaign will focus on those people we think we can bring in to support me. but this is a campaign about helping people who need help.
>> good morning. it's thursday, september the 20th. that's mitt romney on univision talking about how he wants to be the president for 100% of americans . he sounded pretty good there. with us on set, msnbc contributor mike barnicle . we also have former treasury official and " morning joe " economic analyst steve ratner. i'm still calling the financier, though it doesn't sound as good as when mika says it. also analyst and visiting professor at nyu, heese he's here, former democratic congressman harold ford jr . and white house correspondent for the huffington post , sam stein, explaining how the red sox are still going to win the world series . and anchor for bb world news america, catty kay. so great to have everybody with us. willie , i was looking at the clips of mitt romney from his political performance last night. i thought he did pretty well. you have so many people talking about how this race is over, and you hear it wherever you go. we've got a long way to go. and if romney can right his ship, anything possible. that said, a flurry of polls out this morning that are just absolutely devastating for mitt romney . if he's going to turn that corner, it looks like he's going to have to turn it pretty quickly.
>> yeah, he did what a lot of people like you called for him to do which is to step into those remarks he said. a lot of conservatives said you said it, it's on tape, now embrace it. there's critical battleground states that don't look so good. joe , you want to take a look at some of these?
>> first of all, willie , why don't we look at these fox news poll numbers because they are the battleground state polls. look first of all at ohio and virginia . in ohio , a state that, you know, mark halperin says you can get to 270 without ohio . i really don't see him running the table without ohio . he's losing by seven points in the latest fox poll in ohio . he's losing by seven points, 50-43% in virginia . a state that he has to win if he doesn't carry ohio . and then in florida , willie , down 5 percentage points with barack obama holding five percentage point in florida this late in the game. in my state , i think it's impossible to win without carrying those states. pat, let's pass it around the table, willie . you take those three states right there, he's got to start -- he's got to win florida . he's got to win ohio . and if he doesn't do it, i just don't see how it happens.
>> harold , i think florida , it goes without saying, he has to win. 29 electoral votes . he's got to win the west which becomes much more difficult, and these numbers are trending the wrong way for him right now.
>> there's no doubt. he's placed a huge bet on october 3rd , this romney campaign has. they picked paul ryan who is known in congress for being specific about ideas and plans for the future. and for some reason now the romney campaign doesn't want to be specific and detail oriented about what they'd do with taxes, how they'd reform entitlement, how they'd reform entitlement programs . they've given some sense but haven't gotten specific. there's no doubt this campaign is adrift. and without mitt romney being more active, engaged and specific, this could spell a second term which i would not be upset about at all for president obama .
>> sam stein, as you look at some of those numbers and you look at mitt romney 's performance last night, what changes the dynamic of this campaign? how does he stop the tide which is flowing away from him at the moment?
>> that's the million-dollar question. what actually can mitt romney do at this juncture to change the dynamic? he could pray and hope that obama cops to being a closet socialist in the october 3rd debate, but i don't think that's going to happen. so what does he wait for? you know, there was a telling line in this politico piece from last night about the debates where romney advisers said something to the extent of, you know, we feel like we are attacks against obama are a bit stale. we need to do something else in addition to that. i think we have reached a threshold in some respects whereby mitt romney 's convinced all the people he can convince to vote against barack obama . he needs to convince them to vote for mitt romney . i'm just not sure what he has in the repertoire.
>> katty , we've talked a lot about pennsylvania and michigan . perhaps the romney campaign conceding those if you look at where they're spending money or not. a cnn/opinion research poll shows obama leading romney by eight points in michigan . also in wisconsin, a state that obviously mitt romney had hoped to pick off with the choice of paul ryan . in just one month, the race has gone from a three-point margin to a 14-point lead for president obama . 54-40, that's according to this marquette university poll. meanwhile, in a new pew research poll, president obama is up by eight points nationally among likely voters. and a " usa today "/ gallup poll , more than half of independent voters, mitt romney 's hidden camera comments did not make a difference at all. 29% say they're less likely to vote for romney because of what they heard. 15% say they are more likely to vote for romney because of the message on those tapes. katty , what's your take on all this?
>> i guess the only thing that might reassure the romney campaign is, as joe said earlier, we are still -- well, i guess where joe is, it's probably like 100 days out from the campaign because he's so far away on the west coast . we are still several weeks away from the campaign, and there is time to turn some of this around to get the campaign back on track with the debates. and this is also not because that obama has been performing suddenly brilliantly or that the economy is suddenly picking up at great speed. neither of those two things are true. so it is about romney 's mistakes, and that gives romney some power over the quality of his campaign. if he can go into the debates, and as harold suggested, fill in some of the specifics about how exactly he would make the next four years better than barack obama will make the next four years, he has a platform there. he's going to have millions of viewers watching that debate. and if he can sound convincing on the thing that is his strong point, i will improve the economy, i will create economic growth , and i will provide more jobs for the american people , and here is how i'm intending to do it, as opposed to somebody who has been trying four years and hasn't been able to do it, then he has a chance to get positive focus back on his campaign.
>> mike, look at these numbers. the fox news poll showing down in ohio by seven. romney down in virginia by seven. down in florida by five. down in michigan by eight. down in wisconsin by 14 points . time's running out. if he's going to turn things around, it had better happen soon.
>> yeah, joe , the numbers are brutal, there's no doubt about it in those key states, being behind in those key states is almost like a death nell around any campaign and the romney campaign. unfortunately for governor romney , well, he's got one positive thing going for him.
>> what's that?
>> in that, look. when he was running for governor for the first time, the only time in massachusetts, he was behind by quite a good deal at just about this juncture in that gubernatorial campaign.
>> is that right?
>> yeah. he came back, he caught up and won the governorship, but he did it by being someone that the voters obviously wanted to look at and like. his problem now is he's been running so long against obama . that's something obama 's bad, obama 's bad. you've got to vote against obama and not giving the voters anything of himself. and the other night in that clip that we showed, it's been shown endlessly, the lack of optimism in governor romney 's voice, in his behavior, i think affects a lot of people who might be inclined to vote for someone else other than obama . very negatively.
>> that's a great point, mike. and again, we said it yesterday, if you look at -- and i'll say the names again. i know it drives people crazy on the left, but it's the truth. if you listen to what margaret thatcher said when she took control of the conservative party in '75, what ronald reagan said his entire life, they believe the conservative message helped the 100%. they believed that's how you got people out of the unemployment lines, how you got the working poor back to work with better jobs. and mitt romney just sounded so negative talking about the 47%, writing it off. forget the faux pas . i'm more concerned, as is daniel h heninger in "the wall street journal " this morning, i'm concerned about romney the man. what does he think? is he a conservative? is he an optimist? i have no idea. but steve , you actually -- you brought in charts this morning on exactly who makes up that now infamous 47%. and as you and i both know, there are a lot of heros on that list, a lot of veterans, a lot of men and women fighting in afghanistan. and i'm not saying this to ding romney . i'm just saying to say it was an ignorant thing for him to say, and he's got to admit that because you look at some of those 47%s that he was going after, and they are big-time republican voters.
>> remember, he's also got, i think, another problem at this point with the economy. the polls show that people's view of the economy has gotten somewhat more optimistic. some of that comes off the democratic convention . some of that comes off the stock market 's been up. bernanke has done his thing at the fed. the economy isn't working argument isn't working quite as well. and secondly, as harold alluded to, he hasn't put forward a plan that not only isn't specific but isn't a plan that people can look at and say, i get it. this is how we're going to get 12 million new jobs. this is how we're going to get the economy back. but we can take a look at the 47%. and as joe said, i think there's some interesting things about it as you dig into it. so let's start with the fact that as has been pointed out, the percent of americans who don't pay federal tax has been growing. that is a fact. back in the '60s and '70s, it was down here in the 15% range, and it's been steadily going up. what has really been driving it up has been primarily a bunch of tax changes interestingly led by republicans, led by, for example, milton friedman providing things like the earned income tax credit . the argument being let people work, not have them pay taxes rather than be on welfare. you've in a series of increases in the last 20 years. most recently you've had a recession which has driven people down to the level where they simply don't pay federal tax. but that's not the whole picture. as joe said, it's interesting to look at who is in that 47%, and you'll see -- and you'll see that it's quite a number of different components. so you do have, first of all, over 50% who do pay taxes, obviously. but you've got 28% of people who are working and are paying payroll taxes and considerable percentage of their income as we'll see in a minute. you have 10% who are elderly who are on social security and therefore don't pay federal income taxes . and then you have only 7% who are not elderly, but they have incomes under $20,000 and don't pay taxes. and so all that really leaves you with is less than 1% of sort of other students and other people, a few people who do have higher incomes and don't pay taxes, but the fact is that it's not quite as stark as you think when you see 47% floating around.
>> so not exactly freeloaders gaming the system.
>> they're not exactly freeloaders gaming the system. it's a system that was designed in many ways to encourage this. the other thing that we should look at is who's paying what taxes. and so if you look at the federal taxes which are these blue bars, you'll see that it is very progressive, as people expect. as you go further up in income level, you pay higher levels of taxes. and there are, of course, a few people up in this famous 1% who pay lower rates like mitt romney . but for the most part on a federal level , as your income goes up, your taxes go up. but if you look at state and local, it's a very different picture. state and local, it actually goes the other way. people at the lower end of the income stream pay a higher percent of their taxes because this includes sales taxes . this includes excise taxes . if you drink liquor, whether you're rich or poor, you probably drink about the same amount of liquor. and so the tax rates -- the effective tax rates for the wealthy at the state and local rate actually go down. and so to get to this question about redistribution and who's paying their fair share and who's not paying their fair share , if we look at just this last chart for a second and you see the total of the federal and the state , you'll see that wealthy people here over on the right, the top 1%, they get 21% of the total income in this country, and they pay 21.6% of the total taxes in this country. federal , state and local. and as you go down, you'll see, again, the numbers are pretty close among the income groups. at the very bottom, yes. they have -- the bottom 20% has 3.4% of the income. and they pay 2.1% of the taxes. but i think many of us would feel that that is certainly more than a fair proposition.
>> i want to say, though, steve -- steve , you knew, though, i think you'd agree with me, there is a good ideological argument to make, mitt romney obviously was very clumsy and again negative about it, there's a good ideological argument to make as we move towards a time when more than half of americans aren't going to be paying federal income tax , that we could have that debate, and we could have a thoughtful, meaningful debate about -- and i understand that people are still going to be paying payroll taxes , that aren't paying income taxes . don't you think that's an important debate to have at some point as we move to a place where more than half of americans don't pay income taxes , don't pay taxes into the federal education system or for national defense or for a lot of other areas. but that argument could be made, but mitt romney , again, was just so clumsy in the way he tried to make it.
>> yeah, i go et that argument, and there are some very thoughtful people including our mutual good friend mayor bloomberg who has that view, who has a view that everybody should pay something, even if it's $100, they should pay something into federal taxes. i'm fine with that but that's not going to fund mentally change the idea that we do have a tax system in which the wealthy are supposed to pay more. the less wealthy are supposed to pay less, and the idea is to keep them off the welfare rolls and keep them working.
>> can i jump in? i just want to correct one thing that steve said. some of us on the set pay a little bit more in liquor tax than others.
>> harold ford .
>> i didn't want to single anybody out.
>> my colleague, ryan grimm, pointed this out. one of the things that was problematic with romney 's message is that he's been going around the country saying my tax plan which is a 20% reduction for everybody across the board is going to help everybody. it's a trickle-down approach. and in that video, what he was essentially saying is that 47% of the country won't take to my message because they don't pay taxes. he's actually defeating his own trickle-down economic approach. and i think that gets to joe 's point which is that what he was saying was sort of quintessentially anti-conservative in some respects. the tax cuts are supposed to help everybody, but he was just qualifying it for basically half the country.
>> harold , on the ballot, though, running for office, isn't one of romney 's biggest problems this week is you take what he said, what was leaked, the tape, the 47% tape, and for months, people have been going around saying, you know, he lacks specifics. newspaper editorials have been written, he lacks specifics. he's not specific about anything. give us a proposal. and now in people's minds, in a lot of people's minds, the only time he's been really specific is when he blurts out, you know, 47% of the people are moochers.
>> it is, it's phenomenal in a lot of ways. i hear sam 's points, and i think katty 's points, she made stronger points on mitt romney than mitt romney 's made on his own behalf about why he should be elected president. look, if this conversation stays here about the 47% not paying taxes, which steve has outlined brilliantly who makes up that group, mitt romney can't win. this campaign has to be about where we go, where the next four years will look like. how mitt romney or for that matter barack obama will grow the country, grow the economy. katty 's other point is more poignant. neither candidate has laid out specifically where -- we all know we want more jobs and growth, but how do we get here? i'm hungry to hear that. as much as i'm for the president, i'm hungry to hear him lay out specifically, how do you take us from point a to point b? "the wall street journal " indicates incomes for middle-income families remain stagnant or falling. how do we change that? that should be the crux and the centerpiece and the nucleus of the campaign going forward for both candidates.
>> i want to follow up on what sam stein said because he nailed it. i always talk about my dad, when he was unemployed for a year and a half, voted republican, voted for nixon. he was a goldwater guy. i remember when i campaigned for the first time. i absolutely cleaned up -- i probably got 65%, 70% of the vote if you look at the cross-tabs of people making under $50,000. and what was i talking about? cutting the capital gains tax . i was talking about ending the death tax . i was talking about lowering tax rates across the board. and when i would talk to people making under $50,000, they believed that was how you would stimulate the economy. they believed that's how you created jobs. people that wanted jobs, that 47% that mitt romney is talking about, if they need a job, if they need a better job, a lot of that 47%, katty kay , is not believing that, hey, the way we can help businesses is by raising taxes on businesses. so mitt romney 's message was so defeatist. and i've got to say a true red-blooded conservative wouldn't have said that because true red-blooded conservatives don't believe that. they believe you help the 47% who don't pay taxes to get on the tax rolls by lowering tax rates . but romney doesn't believe that, does he?
>> well, he doesn't seem to. and you know, to go back to your analogy with margaret thatcher , joe , i mean, that's exactly what she did in great britain . she reduced the top tax rate from above 80% and brought it down during the course of her term to 40%. and it stayed there pretty much ever since in the uk. i mean, that was a massive tax cut for the wealthiest, and she did it by saying this will increase britain 's economic growth , and everybody can take part in it. she came from that class that needed the benefits. her father had been a grocer, a classic conservative working-classman. and in that respect, she had a huge advantage over mitt romney because she understood the people that she was trying to persuade. she was one of them. and i think that's been part of mitt romney 's problem. but there has been a debate, a valid debate, in the states, you know, very recently about whether the tax cuts have boosted economic growth as conservatives say they should do. you know, there was that great piece by david leonhard in "the new york times" last sunday in which he questioned the growth rates that we've had from tax cuts . again, like you said, we have to have -- there's a valid argument to have in the country and a valid discussion to have in the country. i'm just not sure the country is in a position to have discussions about serious issues of economics when they have become so wrapped up in emotion and values that, you know, that we're not actually managing to have these discussions properly.
>> right, exactly. and how can you have these discussions properly if the person that's the standard bearer for the republican party , for the conservative movement , doesn't believe that tax cuts are going to help the 47% that he writes off? ronald reagan and margaret thatcher weren't cutting taxes because they believed it was going to help the 1%. they were cutting taxes because they believed it would help great britain , that it would help american taxpayers. somebody around mitt romney believes it. his name's paul ryan , and ms we move forward.
>>> coming up, we're going to be talking to republican senators tom coburn and rand paul. also, political analyst richard wolffe will be here and former mets' pitcher ron darling . up next, mike allen is with us in boston. the politico boys have been meeting with the romney campaign, and we're going to find out what he's hearing from the candidate's top strategists. that's straight ahead in the "politico playbook."
>>> first here is nbc meteorologist dylan dreyer with a check on the forecast. dylan, what's it looking like today?
>> you know, it doesn't look like much. we're not seeing a whole lot of weather going on. we do have a line of showers and storms moving into eastern michigan , but really that's about it. the rest of the country enjoying high pressure . things remaining question et. we are going to see sunshine all across the northeast, the northwest, the southeast, the southwest. here is your one line of rain and thunderstorms moving through flint, michigan . it is going to spread into the detroit area , but most of the activity well to our north up into canada. the rest of the country, we are going to see lots of sunshine. temperatures today should be a little fall-like. we'll top out around 62 degrees in boston, but 76 down in washington, d.c. philadelphia, 76 degrees with lots of sunshine as well. then as we go into your friday, temps still staying? the 70s. and the rest of the country, it is dry and cooler. up in minneapolis, highs today only topping out around 66. kansas city should be closer to about 80 degrees. so things looking quiet through the rest of this week. you're watching " morning joe " brewed by starbucks. [