tv The Last Word MSNBC August 4, 2011 5:00pm-6:00pm PDT
seeing people being put to work spreads confidence. and that's "hardball" for now. thanks for being with us. "the last word with lawrence o'donnell" starts right now. house speaker john boehner said he got -- >> this is an nbc news special report. >> and it is 4:00 on wall street. do you know where your money is? >> the closing bell on wall street at this hour seeing a day that saw investors flee the market. >> wall street has a bad day, and everyone has an explanation. >> it was not a reaction to the debt ceiling. >> stocks are taking a tumble on wall street. , s >> we have a broken financial system. >> the stock market was down 500 points today. >> it's not the overseas markets. >> fears on the double dip. >> end of the intervention by
the government officials in the form of some sort of stimulus for the markets. >> we got the deal, but we also got the tank. >> republicans got what they wanted. >> republicans got nearly everything they wanted in the deal. >> i got 98% of what i wanted. i'm pretty happy. >> it does nothing for the economy right now. nothing whatsoever. >> 98% of what i wanted. >> we're cutting spending too soon and too fast. >> a belief among what i'll call faux-conimists out there. >> 98% of what i wanted. >> that is not the case. that is not the case. that is not the case. >> incentives is exactly right. >> but republicans still blame the president. >> there's no scenario right now for this economy being thriving when the president runs for re-election in 2012. >> every presidential election comes down to basically a simple question. are you better off today than you were four years ago? >> president obama is trying to put the debt fight behind him, and focus now on jobs. >> put this in the category of
the last thing president obama wanted for his birthday. breaking news tonight. the dow plunged more than 500 points today. its worst day since the financial crisis in 2008. all of the market's gains for 2011 were wiped out this afternoon. there could be a number of factors contributing to the market's quaking, not least of which is the ongoing economic trouble in the european union, the largest economy in the world. and then there's what's happening in the united states. here is one analysis given on cnbc minutes after the markets closed. >> i think this market is sensing that we're at the end of the intervention by the government officials in the form of some sort of stimulus for the markets, some sort of job growth initiatives, at least for the time being. and i think this market feels
like it's on its own. >> we learned last week that the recession at the end of george w. bush's second term was worse than initially measured. revised numbers show a shocking 8.9% loss of gdp, which provoked this analysis in the economist. had the new obama administration seen that the economy was shrinking at close to 9% per year, it might well have pushed for a much larger stimulus plan, and might reasonably have expected congress to agree to it. if government was too thrifty before, it looks downright stingy in the light of new information against this backdrop, fiscal policy is tight and growing tighter. government consumption and investment has dragged growth down in five of the last seven quarters thanks to cuts at the state and local level and
falling defense spending. more cuts are coming. let's not forget what john boehner said when the deal was done. >> when you look at this final agreement that we came to with the white house, you know, i got 98% of what i wanted. i'm pretty happy. >> joining me now is howard fineman, editorial director for "the huffington post" and msnbc analyst. and robert rice, now a professor of public policy at the university of california at berkeley. howard, how happy is john boehner tonight? >> oh, i don't think he can be happy at all, because any number of polls show that the american people don't think that the budget deal, the debt ceiling deal, was helpful. in its specifics or in general with the economy. and i think there's widespread feeling in the country and around the world that the spectacle we just went through is a contributor to what we're
seeing now on wall street. the chinese news agency -- i think the china news agency said something about mad cap follies of brinksmanship, which is a pretty good headline. and the ambassador of the european country that i talked to the other day just shook his head and said he couldn't believe that this great country was behaving the way it was. so that's where we are in this country and in the world right now. >> robert, can the president and the democrats use this stock market as a teachable moment about economic cause and effect? >> well, it's too risky, i think, lawrence, to use one day's stock market fall to center a campaign or message around. but look, it's pretty clear right now that what has happened is that the market is worried about tomorrow's unemployment report. it's very concerned about the report that cake ome out last w from the commerce department that there was no second quarter
growth to speak of, almost no first quarter growth, the economy is dead in the water. and now with this new agreement over the debt limit, the government's hands are basically tied with regard to any additional jobs programs, any additional jobs stimulus. i think the market is saying -- and ideology aside, the market is speaking right now and saying, look, the problem -- the central problem of this economy is not the debt. the central problem with the economy is joblessness and low wages and lack of growth. >> howard, let's listen to what mitch mcconnell said on fox business. he was saying what he thought wall street wanted to hear. >> it's the template for the future. and the future, no president in the near future, maybe in the distant future, is going to be able to get the debt ceiling increase without a reigniting of the same discussion of how do we cut spending and get america headed in the right direction. i expect the next president will be asking us to raise the debt ceiling again in 2013.
>> howard, that was mcconnell speaking before the stock market crashed. what would mcconnell say today if he was talking to a wall street audience? >> well, i agree with bob that you don't want to just look at one day. but the fact is over the last 10 days, it's been a slide into disaster. and i think one translation of what mitch mcconnell said was hoover -- you know, hoover and more hoover. or 1937, if i have the year right, bob, correct me if i'm wrong, was 1937 all over again, when in the midst of the depression, it was decided that we were recovering and we didn't need any more stimulus. so i think it's problematic. but beyond the substance and the argument, the other problem is the collapse of our decision-making institutions. and i do think this affects the markets, because the markets look at the united states, and it's the lack of ability of its political leaders to decide anything, and anything other than a cataclysmic fashion, and
say it's no way to run a railroad or a country. if 82% of the american people -- and that's in the new cbs "new york times" poll -- say that they disapprove of the way that congress is handling its job, that's the highest number on record. 82%. that in and of itself, i think, affects the psychology not only of consumers here, but analysts of america inside america and people around the world looking at whether this society is capable of governing itself. >> robert reich, we have another poll out today. a "usa today"/gallop poll. it says that 41% believe that the debt deal will make the economy worse. 33% say it will have no effect. only 17% were tricked into thinking that the debt deal will make the economy better.
where do we go from here, bob? and given that the deal is done, what manoeuvring room is there for the government on the economy? >> well, lawrence, hopefully -- remember congress is now back home. they are hearing hopefully very loud and clearly from their constituents that jobs and wages and growth have to be front and center. now, that may mean -- and i'm being perhaps a cockeyed optomist here -- that may mean with that when congress reconvenes in five weeks it is possible for the president to go back and say, we need a jobs package now. you mentioned economic literacy. the public knows what's going on. the public knows that consumers are 70% of the economy. consumers cannot spend. they are worried about jobs. they have huge debt obligations right now. their mortgages are swamping them. and their home values are going down. they know that unless you have a jobs plan and the government is actively engaged in trying to deal with that gap between full
employment and where we are right now, which is a demand that is very, very low and continues to be very low, we're not get to going out of the gravitational pull of the great recession. we are right now within about a 50/50 probability of a double dip back into a kind of a deep recession. it could be 1937 all over again. the american public knows this. but they have to communicate it to their representatives. >> howard, plenty of republicans stood up there and said, we have to do these spending cuts to get the economy going again. they were making a "it will help the economy" argument. what are they going to be saying when they get back in september? >> well, i'm not sure. i think they are going to say if mitch mcconnell has anything to do with it, say cut more. and by the way, let me make what sounds like a small point but really isn't one. over the years, and bob knows this, spending cuts have cut back on the ability of the government to collect data and do research about what's actually going on in the economy.
and i dare say there will be more cuts as a result of the deal they just made. the fact that we knew so little about what really had been going on in the economy at the time when barack obama was making fateful decisions even before he became president of the united states is shocking. and we need realtime information about what's going on in what is still the largest economy in the world. and it's a small point, but if you cut government, and if your attitude is you want to cut government, you blind government to the realities that it needs to understand in order to help lead the country and the world. small point, but i think all to the point of what mcconnell is up to here. >> a serious point, howard. it's what guides policy makers. robert reich, as a former labor secretary, you got an early look at all of these government statistics on the economy, the bureau of labor statistics. how surprised are you that these revisions that have been done lately have shown that things were so much worse than we thought? >> well, it is surprising.
i mean, we do have -- howard is absolutely right. the data -- capacity of the government is not nearly as good as it was before. but you have all of wall street, all of the private sector looking at whatever data they have, and everybody basically called it wrong. a lot of people who should have known better and still should know better have said that all along, well, everything will be fine if we just cut the government and cut government spending. the fact of the matter is that state and local governments are cutting like mad. have been cutting for years. and now we have tied the hands of the federal government with regard to any kind of an expansionary boost to the economy. we have actually generated a fiscal drag at the federal level, at the state level, while consumers are not and will not spend. this is the worst of all worlds. and i think that we've got to go back to the drawing boards. and when congress comes back, the president has got to say, here is a jobs bill. this is the most important thing in the country right now to americans. and i'm going to fight for it. >> msnbc analyst howard fineman
and former labor secretary robert reich. thank you both for joining me this evening. >> thanks, lawrence. coming up -- the effects of the debt deal on the president and his re-election campaign. richard wolf joins me. and grover norquist thinks that taxes won't be on the table when the supercommittee votes on the deficit reduction plan, because any republican on the committee will have signed grover's tax pledge, and will never allow taxes to be raised. we have a solution for that. that's coming up. there's another way to help eliminate litter box dust: purina tidy cats. our premium litters now work harder to help neutralize odors in multiple cat homes. purina tidy cats. keep your home smelling like home.
happy birthday, mr. president. you didn't get what you wanted in the debt deal, and now with the stock market crashing, the republicans will try to make you own it. the president's next steps with richard wolf. and chris christie's not running for president, and he probably couldn't win anyway, because he is a bit rough on
when you're resonsible for this much of the team, you need a car you can count on. ♪ the verdict is in. and america doesn't like the debt ceiling deal. according to "usa today"/gallup poll, 46% disapprove of the deal and 39% approve. only 29% see it as a step forward in addressing the federal debt. 22% see it as a step backward.
tea partiers really hate the deal. just 22% of tea party supporters approve of the agreement. while 26% of republicans approve of the agreement. the strongest support for the deal comes from democrats, with 58% of democrats supporting the deal, even though it does not include the balanced approach on spending cuts and tax revenue increases advocated by president obama and congressional democrats. support was highest among moderate democrats, with 66% supporting the deal. while 60% of liberal democrats supported it. none of the policy makers involved got high grades in the poll, but president obama fared better than the rest with 41% approving of his performance, while 29% approved of john boehner's work on the deal. and 27% approved of harry reid's
performance. joining me now is richard wolf, msnbc political analyst and author of "revival: the struggle for survival inside the obama white house." thank you for joining me tonight, richard. >> my pleasure, lawrence. >> richard, the struggle for survival inside the obama white house has never appeared more difficult than it is right now. but politically, in this game where everybody got damaged, the president as the poll indicates got damaged the least. >> yeah. we in pundit land need to eat some humble by here. we all thought this rupture with the base that we talked about, with the progressive caucus, would be translated across progressives in general. these polls suggest that the president's bond with his base, with progressives, with not just democrats but moderates. and by the way, not just moderate democrats but moderates across the spectrum, that is still very strong. and that tells you what this narrow path is for the election next year. it's not just the base, but
these moderates, not independents, but moderate voters that this president has got to get that coalition together. because those are the people who are naturally with him. >> richard, it seems that despite as you say all the talk among pundits and then among some democratic members of congress when they are disappointed at different things that the president entertains, different options that he discusses, it seems that people who voted for barack obama to be president of the united states are still glad they voted that way. they still seem ready to vote that way again. especially among registered democrats. it's hard to say what the energy level is. but the support level is consistently showing up in these polls, isn't it? >> it is. and also it's a personal trust and a bond they have with the president. because they trust him to make the right judgments about the economy. they trust him -- they like him as an individual as well. more than actually they approve of his job. and this kind of points to something that's been a hole for
this white house all along, which is what's the storyline here, what's the narrative? if the economy isn't getting better in any palpable way, so you can't just say things are getting better right now, you actually have to tell another story about what the president has done and what his record is. and that comes down to his personal judgment. has he made the right choices of being the best choice for the people when the economy tanked and the car makers were going under? that's implicit in these poll numbers that i don't think we have seen with any clarity from this white house. >> let's listen to the president last night at a fundraiser. >> i'm always amused when the pundits in washington say, he hasn't gotten this pass yet or some of his supporters are not happy about this. or the campaign was so smooth. and i'm thinking, what campaign were they watching? when the american people join together, we cannot be stopped. we say to ourselves, yes, we
can. it doesn't matter how tough a week i have in washington, because i know you've got me -- you've got my back when i come to chicago, when i travel across the country, i know we can't be stopped. and i know we will bring about the change that all of us believe in. richard, you've got my back. that seems to be the new chant for the re-election campaign. he does seem to be finding voice, a way to strike some of the notes of the 2008 campaign. >> yeah. well, this is the critical piece of it. look, he is still barack hussein obama. he has got to be the outsider. he has got to be the guy running against the congress that has only 14% approval. and that means the choice has got to be laid out. not just against the republican opposition he's got, but on this issue of taxes, on the way washington works. so, yeah, he has to get back to being the change guy, and that's
a difficult plan for them. but he's right that through 2007 and 2008, it was anything but a smooth journey. they careened from highs to really desperate lows. and there was no smooth trajectory. it wasn't straight up into the stratosphere. >> richard, how much of his vote is he going to be able to inspire in effect by word -- by showing just how impossible this republican house of representatives is that he's going to be dealing with for the rest of this first term? >> well, it will take him some of the way there. but really congress is only a symptom. it's not a cause here. it's a symptom of the bigger debate about the role of government, the purpose of it, and especially it's going to come down to taxes. on taxes and the question of raising taxes on people making $250,000 or more. he has majority support among republicans. never mind independents and democrats. that's a moral choice. it's a political choice. he has to make that case not
just about congress, but for the american people. >> msnbc political analyst richard wolffe. thank you for joining us tonight. >> thank you, lawrence. coming up, mitt romney hasn't stopped raking in cash for his front-running presidential campaign. but where is that money coming from? the investigation into a shady million dollar donation is coming up. and the only way to prevent grover norquist from controlling the new deficit reduction supercommittee is to keep anyone who has signed his pledge off that committee.
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chill to come this hour, new jersey's governor chris christie has sworn he won't rupp for president, and now he has very good reason not to run for president. he has closed the line with his recent comments about muslims and sharia law, and now he really has no chance of winning. that's in "the rewrite." and up next, the history lesson that shows why mitt romney may be the republican front-runner. he might be raising more money than anyone else. but he just can't win. [ male announcer ] before you take it on your road trip...
willard m. romney has taken in more money than any other republican presidential candidate and restore a future a new super pac created by romney supported advocate for romney's candidacy has reported raising $12.2 million in the first half of this year. $1 million of that came from a company that seems to have briefly existed, possibly for the sole purpose of funneling $1 million to the romney super pac. nbc reports that w. span llc made a $1 million contribution to the super pac just six weeks after w span llc was created. then 11 weeks after that, the company filed papers dissolving it as a corporate entity. w span llc was created in march
by a boston lawyer who works for the law firm ropes & gray. one of ropes & gray's longtime clients is bane capital, the investment firm founded by mitt romney. the address listed for w span llc in the super pac's sec report is 590 madison avenue. the real estate company that manages 590 madison avenue has never heard of w spann llc, but bane capital does have offices at that building. bane capital said in an email, bain has many employees who actively participate in civic affairs, and they individually support candidates from both parties. the firm takes no position on any candidate, and the entity in question is not affiliated with
bain capital or any of our employees. but shady financing of his campaign and his current front-runner status in republican primary polls will all amount to nothing, because mitt romney can't win. joining me now is paul goldman, former chairman of the virginia democratic party, and the co-author of this political op-ed entitled "why romney can't win." thanks for joining us tonight, paul. >> my pleasure. >> paul, you have included romney in the following list. robert taft, harold stassin, george mcgovern, gene mccarthy, gary hart, richard gephardt, the list goes on and on and on. tell us how romney got on that list, and what it means to his candidacy.
>> well, romney ran as we know in 2008, did ok. got about 20% of the vote. 17% of the delegates. now he is trying to come back four years later to win the presidency. it's never happened. that's why he is on the list. it's a long list of losers, and romney will be added to it. >> and the losers are people who tried to run for president four years after losing. >> right. it's the four-year itch. you have to get rid of that four-year itch. it just doesn't work. >> and so mike huckaby is the guy who saw this list apparently. did you share this list with mike huckaby earlier this year so that he could make the historically correct decision of keeping his day job and not running for president four years later? because hmike huckaby came in second, not romney. >> that's true. but i understand he talks to a
higher authority. so he got the word from a higher authority. he did make the right decision. as you know, if you come back eight years later, nixon came back eight years later after losing in 1960. reagan actually came back eight years later, lost, but stayed with it. he finally won in 1960. george bush lost in 1980. to reagan. was vice president under reagan. he came back. so the four-year itch is what has gotten romney and all of the other individuals, 14 of them, who failed to get the nomination the first time. and thomas dewey and adlai stevenson both nominated for president, losing, came back four years later, nominated again, lost again. >> and what is it about the four years later that -- is it just too soon to ask voters to change their mind about you? because, i mean, if you lost four years ago, that means a lot of people voted against you four years ago. >> i think you're right. let's just take romney for an example. fascinating situation.
in 2008, everybody thought he would run as the moderate. but he didn't think he could take the moderate vote in the republican party from john mccain. so he swung to the right with social issues. didn't work. now four years later, he's back trying to get the mccain constituency who voted against him, to back him. pawlenty is really in the romney mode. here is a governor of minnesota. everybody thought he would come in kind of moderate, down the middle, he doesn't see any room in the moderate side, so he has been swinging to the right on social conservatism. the romney thing just indicates the problem four years -- too quick to come back. you have to give people some time. >> paul goldman, fascinating history lesson. thank you very much for joining us tonight. >> my pleasure. thanks for having me. coming up, "the last word" knows who shouldn't be on the
deficit reduction supercommittee. anyone who has signed grover norquist's pledge. and governor chris christie has done more damage to his chance of ever becoming the republican nominee for president. that gets him tonight's "rewrite." [ male announcer ] this...is the network -- a network of possibilities. in here, the planned combination of at&t and t-mobile would deliver our next generation mobile broadband experience to 55 million more americans, many in small towns and rural communities, giving them a new choice. we'll deliver better service, with thousands of new cell sites... for greater access to all the things you want, whenever you want them. it's the at&t network... and what's possible in here is almost impossible to say. my son and i never missed opening day. but with copd making it hard to breathe, i thought those days might be over. so my doctor prescribed symbicort.
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coming up -- grover norquist's demand to keep tax increases off the table for the deficit reduction committee will be answered tonight by "the last word's" demand that no one who has signed the norquist pledge should be allowed anywhere near the supercommittee. and republican governor chris christie has done something that absolutely eliminates any chance he ever had of becoming the republican nominee for president. that's in "the rewrite." comes with some risk, north america's natural gas producers are committed to
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time for tonight's "rewrite." there are plenty of reasons why anne coulter's favorite candidate for president who is not actually running for president chris christie will never get the republican nomination for president. he won't get it this time of course because he's not running, and he won't get it the next time or the time after that because of this. >> gail, talk to gail. >> gail, first off, it's none of your business. >> see, that's just a little too much new jersey for polite republican primary voters in
places like iowa and south carolina. and really anywhere outside of new jersey. and now christie has shot off his mouth again and offended crazy republican primary voters. and there's a lot of them. >> this sharia law business is crap. it's just crazy. and i'm tired of dealing with the crazies. >> that was governor chris christie being way, way, way too reasonable in his defense of a muslim judge he appointed in new jersey. and being reasonable about just about anything is the road to nowhere in republican presidential primaries. and christie knows that. so he must have somewhere in his statement said something nasty about muslims or sharia law. i mean, we know the guy cares about his political viability in the republican party.
>> that is his creeping attempt -- there is this attempt to gradually ease sharia law and the muslim faith into our government. it does not belong in our government. >> and one of the things i'm going to suggest today is a federal law which says no court anywhere in the united states under any circumstance is allowed to consider sharia as a replacement for american law. >> an issue that is of particular concern to me and my constituents, and that is the threat of sharia law to the united states constitution. >> ok. let's go back to the christie video. let's check the rest of what he had to say, because he couldn't just have left it at that, that this sharia law business is crazy. could he? >> ignorance is behind the criticism. he is an extraordinary american. , who is an outstanding lawyer, and played an integral role in
the post september 11 period in building bridges between the muslim american community in this state and law enforcement. i was there for it. i saw it personally. and the folks who criticize my appointment of him are ignorant. absolutely ignorant of that. and to criticize him because he is a muslim american, and because he represented people who were inappropriately detained by the fbi post-9/11. >> what? people who were inappropriately detained by the fbi post-9/11? ooh, that was a slip of the tongue. no republican ever wants to admit that that ever happened. let's see how he recovers from that one. >> and because he represented people who were inappropriately detained by the fbi post-9/11. the fact of the matter is there were lots of people inappropriately detained by the fbi post-9/11.
it was a very difficult time for law enforcement. and so he represented as part of his practice at that time folks who were inappropriately detained. none of them that he represented ever were charged with any crimes of terrorism. and they were released because of his diligent and zealous representation of them. in addition to that, he set up for me, the u.s. attorney's office, and the fbi personally, dozens of meetings with muslim american leaders across the state to convince them that the federal law enforcement could be trusted in the aftermath of september 11, and that they should be working with us to provide information and leads to help to combat potential terrorist attacks in our state. that's the kind of guy sahail mohammed is. and i was proud to nominate him. i was disgusted candidly by some
of the questions he was asked by both parties at the senate judiciary committee. i thought it was awful. and -- but in the end, the senate did the right thing because the facts were undeniable. that sahail mohammed is an outstanding attorney and will be an outstanding judge. i am going to his swearing in today because he merited my support with my nomination of him and i'm confident he will be an outstanding judge. the second muslim american to be put on the bench here in new jersey. i'm proud to have been able to do that. but not just because he is a muslim american. i nominated him because he is a good lawyer and an outstanding human being. and that's what people will get to know about him over his time on the bench. sharia law has nothing to do with this at all. it's crazy, it's crazy. the guy is an american citizen who has been an admitted lawyer to practice in the state of new jersey, swearing an oath to
uphold the laws of new jersey, the constitution of the state of new jersey, and the constitution of the united states of america. and has never been accused of doing anything but honorably and zealously acquitting the oath he took when he became a lawyer, licensed to practice in this state. and so this sharia law business is crap. it's just crazy. and i'm tired of dealing with the crazies. you know, it's just unnecessary. to be accusing this guy of things just because of his religious background, and that's why it's because, because i have known him personally now for nine years. and there is nothing to any of this stuff. i'm not going to talk about sharia law, because sharia law
has nothing to do with shahail mohammed and his service, which i know will be long and honorable, and the people of the county and state will benefit from it. i'm happy that he selling to serve after all of this baloney. >> whoa. what -- ok. that earns republican governor chris christie t"the last word'" very first standing ovation. [ applause ] [ woman ] we take it a day at a time.
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because congress has only 45 committee, it has just created a special committee on deficit reduction which will be evenly divided between democrats and republicans and evenly divided between house and senate. that deficit reduction super committee is to consider all ways, all ways to reduce the deficit, including increases in tax revenue. speaker john boehner has 239 republican members to choose from in the house to appoint to that super committee, but 233 of them have already signed grover norquist's pledge to never raise taxes in any way, including by closing loopholes. republican senate leader mitch mcconnell has 46 republican senators to choose from for his three picks for the super
committee, but 39 of them have signed grover norquist's pledge, which is making grover norquist feel pretty good about what the committee will do. according to the hill, norquist has already been assured by the right people that house speaker john boehner and senate minority leader mitch mcconnell will not choose anyone willing to give ground on raising taxes, and he is confident enough to leave town for the august vacation. this leaves senate majority leader harry reid wondering out loud what he should do. he told politico, so what does that leave the committee to do? should pelosi and i just not appoint and walk away? nancy pelosi is obviously sick of republican politics and said this today. i'm not drawing any lines in the
sand because i think it plays into their hand. when 12 clowns are in the ring and a sane person jumps into the ring he looks like the 13th clown. it is part of their plan to keep the attention on this, and i'm simply not going to do it. joining me now, independent senator from vermont, bernie sanders. thank you for joining me tonight, senator. >> my pleasure. >> senator, the campaign for america's future is circulating a petition reading, we need leaders like senator sanders, representative ellison, and representative girjalva. senator sanders, what are the chances of you getting a seat on that committee? >> i wouldn't hold my breath, but i would certainly like to serve. but the fact of the matter is the republicans are not going to ask the wealthiest people of the largest corporations to contribute one cent toward deficit reduction. the real issue is whether the
democrats will hold firm and make sure that they protect social security, which has not contributed one penny toward our deficit, whether they are going to protect medicare and medicaid and other important programs. that's what the issue is. >> so, senator, you think the fight now is -- are you saying, look, forget about taxation. those guys are locked in. it's hopeless. >> >> no. forget about it completely. they have been enormously successful in saying they will defend to the last breath the richest people in this country and the corporations. that's what they've said, it's what they've done, and what they will continue to do. the real question is what the democrats will do. are they going to go in with similar force and strength, and say, excuse me, you're not going to slash social security, medicare, and medicaid, and we're going to hold the line on that. probably what the fight will evolve into is whether or not we make significant cuts in defense spending. as you know, we have tripled defense spending since 1997.
we got weapons systems out there that were designed to fight the soviet union. we can make some significant cuts. i hope the democrats are forceful in that area. >> senator, strategically, that republican position on taxation is a two-pronged thing, because it does obviously completely protect what they want to protect in the tax code. but then it leaves medicare, social security, as the big targets because that's what -- when they look for the money, that's where they see the money. >> right. no, that's right. i'm sorry. >> so are democrats going to unify around this position since republican leaders are basically openly talking about we won't put anyone on there who will consider taxation? should harry reid -- harry reid is asking, what should i do? tell harry reid what he should do. >> well, i told harry. as a matter of fact, i just spoke to senator reid the other day. and what i said to him is,
senator reid, do not appoint anybody to that commission who will cut social security, medicare, and medicaid. the goal must be at the very least to start making significant cuts in military spending, which has tripled since 1997. >> now, leon panetta, the new secretary of defense came out saying today that the automatic triggered cuts to defense spending would be very, very difficult for the defense department to handle, for him to handle. was that in effect the administration trying to put pressure on the super committee to actually reach some kind of agreement, and not rely on this trigger? >> well, first of all, i don't agree with leon on that. the reality is that if you extrapolate over a 10-year period, you're looking at a military budget of probably somewhere near $7 trillion. $500 billion is less than 1%.
so i think as we move forward, toward serious deficit reduction, and as we try to protect education and health care and environmental protection and nutrition and all of the other programs that this deficit reduction package is going to cut, clearly, clearly we have got to take a harder look at military spending than just $500 billion over a 10-year period. >> senator, is there any prospect of this committee getting to know each other so quickly and coming to an agreement quickly that the senate finance committee or the appropriations committees couldn't come to if they got together in their normal function? >> no. i don't think it works like that. i think the republicans have made it very clear that they're going to protect the wealthy and the powerful. and we will see how strong the democrats are. but, you know, everybody there knows each other. only 100 people in the senate. the fight has got to be, look, lawrence, in my view, the deficit reduction package that was just passed is