Morning Joe | November 14, 2012
>>> whether the people intended or not, we've got divided government .
>> you don't think there's a mandate here.
>> i don't because then they would have put nancy pelosi in charge of the house of representatives . see, i think these ideas that we talked about, i think they're popular ideas. this was a very close election . and unfortunately, divided government didn't work very well the last two years. we're going to have to make sure it works in the next two years. that means, i think, that both parties have to talk to each other.
>> but could you see yourself supporting a plan that raises tax rates on the top 2%?
>> i'm not for raising tax rates . i do not support raising tax rates .
>> yeah, i've been saying that my entire career.
>> welcome back to " morning joe ." i'm mike barnicle holding down the fort for joe and mika who will be back. john heilemann is still here, unfortunately, for me, right next to me. it's just a question of which one of us is going to drive this show into a bridge.
>> or either one of our careers.
>> i know. also joining the table, the director of the earth institute at columbia university , economist dr. jeffrey sacs. cohost of "the cycle," s.e. cupp and former governor of pennsylvania and political analyst and unfortunately pathetic philadelphia eagles fan.
>> ed rendell .
>> how true.
>> you know, before we start -- congressman ryan, you just saw him.
>> you just heard him.
>> graveyard whistling.
>> go ahead.
>> that's basically what i was looking for, whistling past the graveya graveyard. we'll get to that in a second. we'll start this hour with the fiscal cliff where the white house is showing its cards and sending a message ahead of the president's face-to-face meeting with republican congressional leaders on friday. the president plans to open negotiations by calling for $1.6 trillion in additional tax revenue over the next decade. that amount is likely far more than republicans would be willing to accept and double the amount that speaker boehner offered the president during their debt negotiations last year. today the president is scheduled to meet with ceos from a dozen companies including general electric , ford and ibm to discuss ways to work together and find a balanced approach to reducing the deficit. during a closed-door meeting yesterday with union leaders and liberal supporters, president obama reportedly vowed that he would, quote, not budge when it comes to letting the bush tax cuts expire for the country's highest earners. labor leader and president of the afl-cio, richard trumka , was among those at the white house meeting. he says he and the president are on the same page.
>> we're very, very committed to making sure that the middle class and workers don't end up paying the tab for a party that we didn't get to go to. the president led with that notion of protecting the middle class , and now you have republicans that have it in their power, they could sign a bill tomorrow that protects the middle class , and we'll see what they can. are we going to push them on that? without a doubt we're going to push them on that. are we going to collectively stand up and make sure that workers get a fair shake in all of this? absolutely we are. do we believe that the president is committed to that same thing? absolutely we do.
>> s.e., off of richard trumka saying that and off of the obvious reality of the election results, where do you think congressman ryan is coming from? does he not hear the country when it comes to the bush tax cuts ?
>> well, he's in a tough spot. i think not only does he feel like he has to defend the last campaign, he's also looking ahead to maybe a future campaign of his. and i think he's in a unique position to have to sort of toe the line. and i'll give him credit, he didn't in that clip say, i absolutely will not vote one way or the other. he said, i'm not going to negotiate this right now. but i have always personally felt this way. look, the problem is that this whole thing is a dog and pony show . it's a dog and pony show from start to finish. democrats are not going to agree to any package that doesn't raise rates. and i think if you're going to make it a dog and pony show , at least make it a believable one. the president should be meeting with club for growth and heritage and all kinds of people to make it look like he's actually considering a balanced approach. he's not. and republicans , for their side, don't need to pretend that they're going to be soft on this. they're not going to be soft on any of this. so i think we're all sort of watching the show. in the end, democrats have the leverage. they have the distinct advantage. and they're probably going to get what they want.
>> how do you -- you've dealt with city counselors in philadelphia, state legislators in pennsylvania, you know, many of them opposed to you on specific issues. how do you go about getting everybody in a room with people, you know, you just are opposed to their view?
>> i think you've got to understand what the needs are of individual politicians. and for the republicans to vote, to give you enough votes to raise the rates and do a package of fairly robust revenue increases, they're going to have to need the president to own this. the president, i don't think, can sit back and say, here are my basic principles. you guys work it out. the president has to lead. he's got to own it. he's got to say what he wants to do. that gives the legislators a little bit of cover when they go back home. and he's got to do that. i do think that it is an achievable thing to go over. and business is going to play an important role. i know, mike, you know that judd gregg and i are the co-chairs of a thing called a campaign to fixtures the debt. we've raised 36, $37 million from businesses to do a public relations campaign to support this effort. and business has to deliver the message to the republican legislators. business has to say, look. we want this fixed. we don't want it fixed in a little way. we want it fixed in a significant way. and that means spending cuts and it means we've got to raise significant revenue.
>> no, it means significant tax reform as well which no one is calling for.
>> everyone's calling for that.
>> we're not there. s.e., your point about balanced, we don't what the president is proposing on spending cuts. he had proposed a 3-1 ratio. so we don't know where he is on that issue.
>> hopefully today we pin him down.
>> although he's got a very specific tax, to your point, ed, about having to lay out a specific marker. he's put that marker down, whether that's a mostly negotiating strategy or not, we'll see. but jeff is, you have a column in the "f.t." about this very issue, about what america's tax rates need to be. you know, it seems to me on the basis of the president's victory and the exit polls that show that two-thirds of the country is in favor of taxing the rich more stiffly than they're currently taxed seems to me the president does have a mandate on raise it upper rates. where do you think we need to be in economic terms in terms of the tax code to get where we've got to go on fixing the american economy broadly?
>> he won the election and the senate came in for the democrats very strongly. and i think what ed said is exactly the point. the president needs to put forward a plan. he hasn't done so, actually. even on the taxes where he's been explicit that okay, we're going to raise the taxes on the rich. he hasn't really put forward a plan. but even more, he hasn't put forward an overall budget framework. that's key. and unfortunately, the way we do things in this country, why are we endlessly in this same at-the- cliff negotiation for the last four years, because there hasn't been a framework that's ever been put forward, and it's very hard for people to interpret what these numbers mean. you look at "the wall street journal " headline today. that obama sets steep tax target. steep, $1.6 trillion over a decade. who can interpret that? let's just parse it out just for a moment.
>> well, you have, like, a ph.d. in economics. you might be able to. let's give it a go.
>> it takes a little bit of long division, and that is that $1.6 trillion over a decade is $160 billion a year. we have about a 1. -- about a $16 trillion annual economy. so what's called a steep tax increase turns out to be 1% of our national income . now, our budget deficit is 7% of gnp, so this is saying steep tax increase, one-seventh of the way to close the deficit. without in framework, nobody can understand the games, the numbers, the bells and whistles. when you say it's unbalanced, i have to disagree. we don't even know what it is, first of all. but almost everything still is pointing towards significant cuts. and i think cuts that would be pretty devastating, actually.
>> you know, jeffrey , when you say nobody understands this, i hesitate to correct you, but you're wrong because we have david gregory . we have david gregory .
>> there we go.
>> he understands everything.
>> i know he does. and that's great.
>> david , with your mathematical wizardry and your background in calculus and everything like that, please explain to us the president's framework that he will no doubt explain in public later today . is there a framework?
>> i think there is a framework, and i actually agree with heilmann, if there's a mandate, the for tax increases and the president is clear on that. here's where i think the president's going to operate differently. up until now and especially in the grand bargain negotiations that failed, he was working an inside game, a very inside game, and it didn't work. i think now he needs much more of an outside game. he's just off a campaign which he won. he's won re-election. that campaign has to continue around these budget talks where he goes to the american people and says, this is what a balanced approach actually looks like. this is the game. this is the pain. and everybody's got to get on board with this. he can't just have simpson and bowles who are still going around the country. these guys are like justin bieber going to the mall. when they go around the country and talk to business groups or just regular groups of people saying, hey, guys, this is what it takes to balance the budget. that has to be the president now laying this out. and i think he's laying the groundwork for it in a significant way, not only keeping his left flank in check, but by meeting with business leaders which he'll do today. i think they are a natural ally here. you see in all the major newspapers, the ads that these business groups are putting out to do something, to do something now. they don't care if they're paying more in taxes as long as it's part of a budget-busting enterprise, a deficit-reducing enterprise. and you know, he finally has an opportunity to repair that relationship with the business community . and i think they help him get some of the leverage.
>> chuck todd 's also with us. chuck, let me ask you a cosmetics question. today the press at his press conference --
>> reporter: i think he will wear makeup. he usually does. i don't know what brand, but i think he will, like all of us do in television.
>> we have this question of the fiscal cliff and the future economic health of this country that everyone is concerned with at one level or another. what are the odds that we don't even -- that we don't get to these issues until about 20 minutes into this press conference because we're preoccupied with general petraeus ?
>> reporter: well, you're asking a sort of trick question here. and i say that in that is one of the people who i would hope gets an opportunity to question the president earlier rather than later in the press conference, i mow what my intention is. look, i think it's going to be -- i think you're going to see a lot of reporters, and david knows this trick, where maybe you ask a quick follow-up on one, but i really want to ask you about the fiscal cliff on the other. i have teased on that. no, i actually do think there's not much -- you know, there's sort of one or two questions that i think should be asked about this, particularly, is the president happy with how he got this information from the fbi? there's a couple of legitimate questions on that. but i actually don't expect the press corps to linger on this. there's too many specific questions on fiscal cliff . for me, the number one is, are you willing to go over the cliff if you don't have this -- if you don't get what you want on tax rates ? and the president is -- i'll tell you, they are adamant that they are going to decouple the bush tax cuts temporarily for next year and that rates are going to go up on those making over $250,000. they believe that's a mandate that they got. they believe there's no reason for them to back off on that. they'll put plenty of other things on the table, but that to them is a, you know, no-compromise position on that front. so how does the president -- i know some senate democrats believe the president needs to express -- needs to sort of instill that fear in the republicans that he is willing to let things go over the cliff if he doesn't get his way on this because even though behind the scenes everything i understand is the president's not. so we'll see. i'll be curious how he talks about that.
>> like, let me just say in terms of the press conference, the reality is not only are there going to be a lot of petraeus questions, are there going to be more benghazi questions over the fallout over libya, the fiscal cliff . there's also going to be straight reaction to the re-election. there's a lot of pent-up energy in that room about being able to ask the president some serious questions and get him on the record on all of these issues.
>> reporter: eight months.
>> eight months. back to the fiscal cliff , without giving me a migraine headache, what happens if we go off the fiscal cliff ? what happens?
>> well, taxes go up more than they should suddenly. then we negotiate afterwards a more reasonable solution. and i don't think in that sense that there's anything irreversible, and i think the president would go to the cliff and over because it could be rectified. but i think the real point that i'm trying to make, which in our country, we are having a hard time with, you can't make a budget at a press conference or an announcement of one thing or a showdown over one issue. a budget actually needs a framework. and every other government i know, the government lays out a proposed framework. that we still don't have in this country. we are always playing a game on one issue. the debt ceiling or the top marginal tax rate or $1.6 trillion over ten years, very hard to interpret, in general. and we don't have a framework. and i think what david said, what ed said, i want to repeat, in our system, the only place that a framework can be proposed is by the president. and if we saw that framework, the public would rally around it, actually. this is his chance. an inside game is a loser for really doing serious things in this country.
>> hey, chuck, i think one of the areas in which maybe the two worlds could collide today, defense and fiscal cliff , is if someone asks the president about that promise he made in one of the last debates, that the sequestration defense cuts will not happen. do you expect that to come up today?
>> reporter: absolutely. you know, the white house 's solution on sequestration is they say, hey, if you let the rates go up, if you decouple the bush tax cuts , let the rates go up, everything else becomes easier to deal with. sequestration, everything. and then you create a second -- by the way, sequestration may not go away in this respect. while on the defense cuts, it will. and they'll negotiate their way out of it. by the way, nobody -- what the president said and if you remember, his staff walked him back. but what the president did was commit a washington gaffe. i accidentally spoke the truth. sequestration is not going to happen. nobody wants it. and so the question is, how is it part of the bigger deal ? and everybody i've talked to on both sides of the aisle on this, they think that that is the easiest thing to deal with. that there's plenty of -- that whatever they agrow on revenue side, that that's going to pay for the sequestration.
>> hey, david , it's heilmann here. i want to come back to a point you made a second ago about the notion of --
>> he knows you.
>> -- about the notion of the outside game. you know, one of the things that liberals on the left would always say in the first four years of president obama 's term was that, you know, he was too with republicans . either he's too quick to compromise they'd throw up their hands. how do you deal with these republicans ? they're just against everything. if you think back on previous administrations, one of the other things that other presidents have been really good at doing is breaking the back of intransigence, by making the other side pay a price for being intran intransigent. do you think the president understands the way he can win is to raise the political price for republicans not being willing to compromise in a way that's favorable to his priorities?
>> i do, but i still think that's risky. i mean, i think that was a lot of the campaign, frankly. what he started to do with, you know, proposing some jobs bills that were met with opposition right away. and he was able to build up all of that tension in the course of the campaign to say here's where i stand. here's the way they stand. i think the fact that he seems to be a bit agnostic about how you get to new revenues. in other words, he keeps -- he does not keep stressing an increase in marginal tax rates . that's a natural place to start in terms of what he believes. but, you know, you saw glenn hubbard in "the financial times " yesterday saying look, you can do this through eliminating some tax deductions for the rich. that was a romney plan. he could absorb that. there's groundwork to be laid for him to say, look, this is how much i need in revenues. i don't care how we get there. that's a natural opening. so i guess my answer, john, i'm just not sure how much of that brinksmanship he wants to play. but i think what is certain is that he wants to very early define the terms of this debate, make it very public and say, this is the framework that is reasonable. this is what i'm putting forward, and not get into a situation where he then, after it fails, says, well, this is what i proposed, and let me leak all these documents. this is where we were. i think they want to be done with that and be very up front what they're prepared to do.
>> what were you mumbling?
>> he's always muttering one thing or the other.
>> he cannot say, this is the number i need. you guys get there. he's got to, as jeffrey said, he's got to put out the framework himself. and remember, raising the top 2% doesn't get us where we need to go in revenue. we've got to do something else. it has to be a plan.
>> chuck, we're going to get to your level of outrage over the miami marlins and jeff loria a little later.
>> reporter: he's got to go, i'm sorry, baseball is responsible for that mess. you don't give owners free teams. this is how they treat the city.
>> i agree with you. i agree with you.
>> reporter: they gave them a free team. that was an outrage.
>> so corrupt. you are so corrupt.
>> chuck is with me.
>> barnicle is so corrupt. this is all about him being annoyed about the blue jays getting fat in this deal. that's all this is. he's so corrupt.
>> unfair to barnicle.
>> david , thank you for your clairvoyance, as always.
>> see you guys.
>> chuck todd , thank you very much. we'll see him on "the daily rundown" at 9:00.
>>> next, democratic senator dick durbin from the great state of illinois joins us in a couple minutes. and later, academy award -winning director oliver stone will be on set to discuss his latest project. you're watching " morning joe " brewed by starbucks.