Twenty artists will gather in Miami next week to compete for the chance to showcase their art in New York. The contest is part of an initiative run by Danny and Russell Simmons, co-founders of the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, an organization that serves over 700,000 urban youth through art. The Simmons brothers join “Starting Point” on Friday to discuss their upcoming competition and the need for art in urban communities.
“We saw that the schools weren't doing a good job,” Russell Simmons said on why he and his brothers started the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation. “We think the imagination is everything. I mean, the numbers don't mean much if you don't have the creative way to put them to work. And so, kids need to exercise their creative muscles.”
Simmons, the author of “Super Rich” and publisher of “GlobalGrind.com,” also explains that the foundation helps serve “under served communities” by giving creative artists an opportunity to showcase their work in New York. He adds that many of the artists mentor and teach fine arts, poetry, and other subjects to youth in their program.
The White House brought it's plan to avoid the fiscal cliff to Congressional leaders yesterday and Republicans immediately dismissed the proposal.
The plan calls for $1.6 trillion in new tax revenues, $400 billion in cuts to Medicare and other entitlements and $50 billion for a new stimulus. Also included was a condition that Congress would have to give up the right to vote on the debt limit.
Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer joins Starting Point this morning to respond to the criticism the plan has received.
"Has the president offered a plan? He has. That's what they said they wanted. Let's see their plan. Let's see if it adds up," Hoyer says. "The reason [Boehner] hasn't come up with his list of preference items is because he knows he can't get the votes to do it, and, frankly, he doesn't politically want to propose it."
Rep. Hoyer also discusses Republicans' refusal to raise tax rates on the top 2% of Americans.
"We had an election and the president said we needed more revenues, and we needed more revenues from those most able to pay. He won the election," Hoyer says. "There were two very distinct points of view put forward to the American public...Obviously the American public made a judgment."
Earlier this week, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Tom Ricks appeared on FOX News to promote his new book, "The General," but ended up making headlines for something else entirely when the interview was cut short, following Ricks' criticism of the network's coverage of the Benghazi consulate attack. The interview lasted less than ninety seconds and has started a dialogue on whether it's acceptable for news guests to criticize the network they're appearing on. CNN Host Howard Kurtz and Daily Beast Contributor and Daily Download Editor-in-Chief Lauren Ashburn stop by “Starting Point” this morning to discuss Ricks’ rebellion and what should be the proper response from a host in a similar situation.
Kurtz says the handling of Ricks’ interview, “has been a ‘PR’ debacle for FOX” because it sent the message “that you get silenced because the criticism can’t be tolerated.” Ashburn says that regardless, “It’s FOX’s right to be able to do that. It’s their air.” Kurtz adds that if FOX had allowed the interview to continue, “It wouldn’t be this big of a deal…on the other side of that they’re certainly getting a lot of publicity.”
From the fiscal cliff negotiations to the controversy over UN Ambassador Susan Rice's potential Secretary of State nomination, it appears that the partisan gridlock on the Hill that frustrated Americans before the election has endured.
Former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman joins the Starting Point team this morning to weigh in on these various points of contention and to explain how he thinks the Republican Party should proceed following their election defeat.
"I think we have some structural issues. If at the end of this conversation we don't end up with a one sentence mission statement, we're toast," Huntsman says. "That one statement ought to be 'balance the budget and get out of people's lives.'"
The former GOP presidential candidate also draws attention to the unwillingness of many Republicans to run for presidential office.
"Where are the people that really bring something to the table that ought to be stepping up and running for office?" Huntsman asks. "Nobody anymore is willing to step in the arena and it's left to people who do it in part because it's a way to make money perhaps, there's a little entertainment value, or there may not be much else to do."
Regarding the contentious fiscal cliff negotiations, Amb. Huntsman says that he's confident a deal will be reached before the December 31st deadline.
"It always [gets ugly] right before a breakthrough. I’m an optimist – I think we’re going to have a breakthrough because the stakes are so high," Huntsman says. "I’m guessing most members of Congress are going to have a moment of clarity over the next few weeks."
With only 32 days until tax rates automatically soar and spending cuts kick in, President Obama has released his proposal for dodging the fiscal cliff, which includes $1.6 billion in tax hikes. Ken Rogoff, professor of economics and public policy at Harvard University, joins “Starting Point” on Friday to argue that a mix of spending cuts and higher taxes are necessary, but that Congress needs to consider the long term costs of entitlement programs for any long-lasting solution to the debt crisis.
“Entitlement is the big, looming problem,” the Harvard professor argues. “It is a long-term problem every year. It's likely to get worse as we age. Medical care costs go up. That's the big problem.” He adds that “until people feel it’s fair, and they’re nowhere near feeling it’s fair, [the cuts] are not going to happen.”
Rogoff also says that while he believes the wealthy will need to pay higher taxes, the middle class will also “need” to pay more unless there’s “organic growth that just makes us boom for 20 years.” “We don’t have that,” he says.
Officer Larry DePrimo’s random act of kindness has touched and inspired a nation. Jennifer Foster of Florence, AZ was visiting Times Square when she saw Officer DePrimo stop to give a $100 pair of boots to a homeless man whose feet were covered in blisters. Unbeknownst the DePrimo, Foster took a picture and sent the photo to the NYPD, who put it on their Facebook page. Instantly the photo went viral and garnered comments from over 30,000 people around the world. This morning Officer DePrimo and Jennifer Foster join “Starting Point” to discuss his decision to help this particular shoeless man and why she snapped the picture.
On the topic of why he chose to help this particular homeless man DePrimo says, “the biggest two things that night was it was extremely cold out and this gentlemen didn’t even have a pair of socks on.” The officer adds that he also saw the man had blisters on his feet, “probably about the size of [his] palm.” DePrimo goes on to explain that the fact the homeless man “wasn’t bothering anybody” and “was a gentleman” when he spoke and approached him were two more reasons for why he “had to help him.” DePrimo says as a police officer “you do things like this all the time and I think that’s what a lot of people haven’t noticed and are starting to notice which is great.”
One person who took notice was Foster who says one of her reasons for taking the photo was because the moment was reminiscent of something her father once did. At a young age Foster explains she witnessed her father who was also in law enforcement purchase breakfast for a person in need. Foster adds, “I know that these things do happen all over the country with law enforcement all of the time but I still recognized it as remarkable.”
Our Starting Point Friday morning... Boehner's brain. After the Speaker of the House said he was disappointed that "no substantive progress" has occurred in two weeks of fiscal cliff talks, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said of the Speaker, "I don't understand his brain." We've got some top brains on Friday to discuss fiscal cliff negotiations... and much more:
7:10am ET - Rep. Steny Hoyer, (D) Maryland and House Democratic Whip
7:30am ET - Ken Rogoff, Professor of Economics & Public Policy at Harvard University
7:50am ET - Russell Simmons and Danny Simmons
8am ET - Jon Huntsman, former presidential candidate and former U.S. Ambassador to China under President Obama
8:10am ET - Lawrence Deprimo from the NYPD who was photographed giving boots to a homeless man
8:30am ET - Howard Kurtz and Lauren Ashburn
Pastor Rick Warren, author of "The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?," joins "Starting Point" on Thursday to discuss his updated bestseller and how the culture of religion in the United States has changed in the past ten years.
"The audience has changed," Pastor Warren explains. "A girl who was 12 years old when the book came out is now 22. She needs to know her purpose. I really refocused the book for people in their 20s and 30s who may have ignored it 10 years ago."
He also adds that new technology encouraged him to update his bestseller, which now offers 30-minute audio teachings in each chapter.
In addition to his updated book, Pastor Warren discusses how Christianity has changed in the United States since his bestseller was first published. "Cultural Christianity is dying," he says. "True Christianity is not." He adds that while fewer people today may identify with the term "Protestant," it does not mean that the Church is dying.
Senior Member of the Intelligence Committee Rep. Adam Schiff published an op-ed in "Roll Call" this morning arguing that lawmakers have "lost sight of the vital objective" of the Benghazi consulate attack investigation in the "blur of partisan wrangling over 'talking points.'"
Rep. Schiff elaborates on his position on Starting Point this morning, saying that he thinks it's "unfair and unjustified to go after U.N. Ambassador [Susan Rice] for not asking deeper questions or probing the intelligence that was given to her by the CIA."
"Let's not forget that the director of the CIA himself at the time, as well as the director of National Intelligence, the top intelligence officials of the nation, both believed that when [Rice] went on the talk shows that the attack began as a protest," Schiff says. "I have to think this is unfortunately a continuation of the presidential campaign by other means. The election has taken place. Many of the same senators who spoke loudly of President Bush's right to appoint the cabinet of his choice should remember those positions and not apply a different standard to a Democratic president."
Rep. Schiff also weighs in on the fiscal cliff negotiations and calls by the GOP to reform entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.
"I don't think we should make structural changes to Medicare for the reason that Medicare isn't responsible for our current deficit and debts," Schiff says. "Medicare and Social Security need to be dealt with, but I don't agree with connecting those to the deficit and debt problem that wasn't created by those programs."
The battle about how to address the fiscal cliff continues to rage in Washington with just 33 days left until drastic spending cuts and tax increases are enacted.
On Starting Point this morning, Sen. John Barrasso insists that taxes shouldn't be raised on anybody and responds to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll that found that 60% of Americans support raising taxes on people with incomes over $250 thousand.
"The American people know their mind. They say lets tax somebody else. My concern is if those taxes are going onto small businesses," Barrasso explains.
The Republican senator also reiterates his opposition to the potential nomination of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to Secretary of State.
"I believe that she has disqualified herself as Secretary of State by going on five Sunday shows five days after the attack and truly giving bad information to the American people," Sen. Barrasso says. "As Secretary of State we need someone with sound judgment, ask tough questions, and should not be willing to just read talking points."
Starting Point airs weekdays from 7am to 9am ET on CNN. Check in often to join the daily conversation.