Reducing the national debt and deficit, which currently stand at $16 trillion and $1.1 trillion respectively, has been a central part of the fiscal cliff negotiations.
Former Gov. Philip Bredesen is now the National Steering Committee Member of the Campaign to Fix the Debt and he joins Starting Point this morning to explain why he thinks that reducing the debt and deficit are such important issues.
"We have had these high levels of deficit in the past during World War II, World War II, and the Great Depression. The separation now is that the deficit is being driven by an unwillingness to raise taxes and to cut entitlements," Gov. Bredesen says. "There is no end in sight. It's something that threatens to undermine the financial stability of the country. It's a silly place for to us be."
Gov. Bredesen also breaks down the ways that he thinks the country should address the issue.
"First of all, we're talking about doing something real about it, making sure there's at least $4 trillion in reduction over the course of the next ten years and doing it in a smart way, not walking off the cliff, and causing us really to quite likely move back into recession," Gov. Bredesen says. "Plan it out over a period of time like intelligent adults ought to do. It has to be fair, there has to be entitlement reforms and revenue increases. We need to stop this political wrangling that just looks so silly out here in the country."
According to a brand new NBC/WSJ poll, three-quarters of Americans would accept tax increases on those making more than $250,000 as a part of a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff. When the figures are broken down by political party, 61% of Republicans say they would agree with a tax hike of that nature.
Republican Policy Committee Chairman Rep. James Lankford joins Starting Point this morning to respond to this recent polling.
"It doesn't surprise me that the majority of Americans would say raise taxes but do that on someone else," Lankford says.
The Oklahoma Republican also discusses the various plans being presented by both sides of the negotiating table and whether or not President Obama has a "mandate" to raise taxes.
"In their last proposal the president put out was raise $80 billion a year in additional taxes and then it was also give us unlimited authority to continue to raise the debt ceiling and take sequestration cuts and postpone it another year," Lankford explains. "We're just saying that's not serious; we've got to deal with it right now. The crisis is real, but it's real not just in fiscal cliff. It's real in the amount of debt that we're increasing every single day, so let's deal with the real issue."
After years of failed attempts, North Korea successfully launched a satellite into orbit yesterday, triggering worries among world leaders about nuclear weapons and the ambitions of Pyongyang's new leader, Kim Jong Un.
Gov. Jack Markell joins Starting Point from South Korea this morning to discuss the fiscal cliff and to explain how South Koreans are reacting to their northern neighbor's aggressive act.
"The amazing thing here in South Korea is that even with the rocket launch, folks here are working, they're building. They're thriving. They're focused and they're building their economy," Markell says. "There's actually been relatively little conversation and they don't seem all that worried. I think they believe the foreigners that are here are a lot more worried than they are."
Gov. Markell also discusses the efforts he's taking to bring business from Asia to the United States and his state of Delaware.
"One of the great benefits these days is the falling price of natural gas across the country," Markell explains. "It means that businesses who previously may not have looked to do something in the United States are looking once again at the U.S. because the cost of doing business, thanks to energy costs, is coming down."
Tangible offers were exchanged between President Obama and House Speaker Boehner yesterday, with both sides presenting new plans to address the impending fiscal cliff.
While little is known about the Republican offer, the White House is now asking for $1.4 trillion in new tax revenues instead of the $1.6 trillion initially demanded.
Tennessee Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn joins Soledad on Starting Point today to discuss the various points of contention in the negotiations and to explain why she opposes raising taxes on the top 2% of Americans.
"The president's plan would generate eight days of revenue. So you're going to raise taxes on the top two percent, and you're going to pay for two percent of your spending. This makes no sense," Rep. Blackburn says. "You have to deal with the spending issues. Just raising taxes on the top two percent makes the problem worse."
In an interview with ABC yesterday, President Obama acknowledged that raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67 has been "floated" as a way to cut spending as a part of a fiscal cliff deal. While he did not dismiss the idea, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke out against the idea in an op-ed for USA Today.
Ranking Member of the Oversight Committee Rep. Elijah Cummings agrees with Pelosi and explains his opposition to raising the eligibility age on Starting Point today.
"Some people have very difficult jobs...many of them are not in a position to wait until 67. They may be dead by then," Cummings says. "A lot of people, all they have is Medicare and Social Security, that's it."
When pressed to explain how raising taxes on upper earners without addressing entitlements would raise enough money to address the deficit, Cummings argues that a deal that includes tax increases and raises the eligibility age is "not a fair exchange."
"It's hard to give up something when you don't have anything, and that's the point," Cummings explains. "On the one end, people are trying to survive. On the other hand, people making millions up to this point have not been asked to pay one penny more... I think our country is better than that."
With just 21 days left before America goes over the fiscal cliff and automatic tax hikes and spending cuts kick in, lawmakers on Capitol Hill have been quiet about the status of negotiations.
On Starting Point this morning, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel weighs in on what this silence may indicate about the progress of talks.
"I’m confident that we’re going to reach an agreement," Mayor Emanuel says. "This election was a verdict by the voters... the president will be a tough negotiator because there were principles in play here that he was clear about."
Mayor Emanuel is joined by the president and CEO of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Javier Palomarez to discuss an initiative they're enacting to bring Hispanic businesses to Chicago.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker has been in the spotlight recently for taking a "food stamp challenge" at a time when a record 47.1 million Americans rely on the program.
Senator Jeff Sessions stops by Starting Point this morning to discuss the other side of the debate about the effectiveness of food stamps and to lay out what he sees as the downside of welfare.
"This month was a record increase in food stamp participation during a time when unemployment is declining," Sen. Sessions explains. "This program has been growing out of control at an incredible rate and there are a lot of people receiving benefits who do not qualify and should not receive them... Food stamps is a program that's been totally exempted from oversight and change."
Lawmakers in Washington have been silent about fiscal cliff negotiations as President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner continue to engage in closed door meetings to work out a deal.
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Rep. Steve Israel weighs in on the quiet on Capitol Hill on Starting Point this morning.
"Nothing is certain, but in this case I think that whispering in the White House is better than finger pointing in the media," Rep. Israel says. "No news may be good news in this case."
The New York Democrat also explains his support for limiting crop subsidies and responds to Republican demands for entitlement reform as a part of a savings plan in the potential fiscal cliff package.
"Lets remember that we already passed and effectuated into law nearly $1 trillion in savings ion the Budget Control Act last year. That ought to count toward this deal," Rep. Israel says. "What I fundamentally disagree with in terms of the Republican proposal is that they want to do it out of the benefits side of entitlements... We will not negotiate the end of Medicare and Social Security."
Twenty-three days since their last face-to-face meeting, President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner sat down Sunday to discuss the fiscal cliff. The talk is a significant development because in 22 days the nation is set to face severe tax hikes and spending cuts unless these two men can reach a compromise. Also, Congress is also scheduled to break for the holidays later this week. After yesterday's White House meeting a spokesman for the president said – quote – "the lines of communication remain open." This morning Rep. Connie Mack (R-FL) and Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-CA) join “Starting Point” to weigh in on fiscal cliff negotiations.
Bono Mack says, “Stay tuned. I think day after day you’re going to see how the negotiations are going and how people are beginning to change their rhetoric.” She adds political leaders know there is a hard deadline before the fiscal cliff hits and as a result “people are going to start changing their rhetoric as time moves on.” Bono Mack also says, “I think you’re gong to see more people have a realistic approach to the answer,” although she feels her husband “probably" disagrees.
Mack says, “There are people like me who just don’t believe that raising taxes is a good idea anytime.” Mack adds, “If you raise taxes you’re going to slow economic growth.” Mack goes on to say he is the “only one that has a plan in congress to balance the budget in five years.” He proposes to “take one percent of spending across the board…that’s one penny out of everything.”
Mack says that ultimately “we need the president, we need Speaker Boehner to come together to provide leadership.” He adds, “Leadership doesn’t mean you’re going to get a 100% of the votes. Leadership means that you take a position you think is good for the country, you put it out there and you try to get the votes for it.”
Only twenty days remain until the U.S. falls over the fiscal cliff, but new reports this morning from the White House are signaling potential progress toward averting the crisis. The White House released a statement confirming that House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama met in person at the White House yesterday. Both Boehner and Obama also released statements saying they would not comment specifically on what was discussed, but both agree "the lines of communication remain open." Whether this means a deal is on the horizon is still in question.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D-NJ) thinks that failing to renew the tax cuts for the middle class would create significant economic challenges to those who are already struggling, such as residents across his state. "This is a time in our fragile economy that we cannot have a goverment that is – especially Republicans – holding hostage all of this country," he says. "It's going to really hurt people."
"We saw what happened the last time we had a conflict like this around the debt ceiling debate. This debate ground on, and unfortunately, consumer confidence dipped, the economy hurt, credit was downgraded...I'm really hoping we learned a lesson from this," he says.