On the 100th anniversary of the publication of Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken," a discussion about why the poem and poet are well-loved but misunderstood.
Congress held the nation in a state of anxiety for weeks as lawmakers battled over whether to raise the debt ceiling. Yesterday congressional leaders agreed to the outlines of a plan. It calls for cutting more than $2 trillion in federal spending over a decade. It would establish a new congressional committee on deficit reduction. And it would raise the debt ceiling in two steps. A vote on the measure is expected today, but uncertainty still surrounds its passage. Today Diane wants to hear your thoughts on what’s going on in Washington. We’ll have a brief update on the deal from NPR’s Washington editor, then we’ll open the phones.
- Ron Elving Washington editor for NPR.
MS. DIANE REHMAnd thanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. And today, I'd like to hear from you. I want to know your thoughts about what's been going on in Washington for the last few weeks, certainly over the last week while I've been out on vacation. We decided to put off the experts until tomorrow to talk about the details of what's in this so-called package.
MS. DIANE REHMI understand that Vice President Biden is meeting with both Senate and the House Democrats today on the debt deal. The only person I'd like to hear from -- and I do consider him an expert -- is Ron Elving. He is NPR's Washington editor. And from you, Ron Elving, thanks for joining us.
MR. RON ELVINGMy pleasure to be with you, Diane.
REHMExplain this tentative agreement that congressional leaders made yesterday.
ELVINGI think perhaps the best thing to say at the beginning is that no one loves this deal and that it is really not about anything but raising the debt ceiling. This is better than default in the eyes of the congressional leaders. It's better than default in the eyes of the White House. But there is not much in it that does not make people wince.
REHMOkay. But the question is, is it a deal or not?
ELVINGI think it is a deal in the sense that you have the leaders of the House and Senate, Republicans and Democrats committed to pushing this before their caucuses and bringing it to a vote, if they can, in both chambers. Now, in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, meeting with Vice President Joe Biden over the weekend really provided the breakthrough in what had been a phalanx of opposition.
ELVINGAnd as a result, the Senate is really a little ahead of the House in accepting this deal. But the general belief is that John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi can bring over enough votes from the two caucuses, the Republicans and the Democrats, in the House that they can do what the Senate is likely to do as well. Now, we don't know which chamber is going to vote on it first. The Senate is probably more supportive.
ELVINGBut as you know, the Senate has these rules that allow for extended debate. And some of the opposed members in the House -- that is to say, the Senate -- some of the senators who are most opposed to this, associated with the Tea Party in several cases, are probably going to want to have an extended debate on this deal. Whether than runs a full 30 hours before cloture vote and the filibuster, or whether it's just a few speeches this afternoon, we'll have to see.
ELVINGIt's possible that we'll get a shorter version of a filibuster and move on to a vote in the Senate and then do a vote in the House. Either could happen today. I wouldn't be surprised if neither happen today.
ELVINGAnd I would not be surprised if there were no vote in either chamber until tomorrow and perhaps the ultimate vote not until Wednesday.
REHMYou know, it's fascinating to me to take a look at this morning's editorial and op-ed page. The Wall Street Journal describes this in its lead editorial as "A Tea Party Triumph." The New York Times says, "To Escape Chaos, a Terrible Deal." And Ross Douthat in The New York Times says this is a diminished president. Paul Krugman says, "The President Surrenders." What is going on here?
ELVINGWhat's going on is they are raising the debt ceiling. The debt ceiling is a congressionally imposed restriction. It has nothing to do with the markets directly. It has nothing to do with anything else. The Congress, since 1917, has required itself to periodically raise the debt ceiling so as to accommodate the bills for what Congress appropriates money to spend.
ELVINGWhen Congress decides it's going to spend a certain amount of money and only bring in a certain amount of revenue that is less than that amount of money -- and we're down now to 60 cents on the dollar that we actually provide revenues for -- that accumulates debt. The Treasury has to issue bonds. The Treasury bonds come due. They have to be paid.
ELVINGNew ones have to be issued. And as the Congress continues to spend more money than it brings in revenues to cover, that debt gets bigger. And it gets bigger by a lot. And so in every single decade of our history since 1917, 12 times during Ronald Reagan's presidency, this debt ceiling has had to be raised.
ELVINGBut this time, this time, there were enough votes in Congress to refuse to raise the debt ceiling and to only agree to raise the debt ceiling if the president would give up on a number of issues and (unintelligible) cut spending.
REHMIncluding taxes. Yeah, including taxes, so no tax revenue in this agreement. Who won this fight?
ELVINGWell, I would say anti-tax activists are the clearest winners in all of this fight because they have managed to use the debt ceiling mechanism to force a new consciousness on the part of, let's say, the country, the markets and Congress of the discrepancy between spending and revenues, and then, additionally, to force the Congress to address that discrepancy strictly through spending cuts and not through revenue increases.
REHMSo, Ron Elving, a lot of people are saying that the president caved. How would you describe what happened to the president?
ELVINGThe president ultimately got only a couple of things that he wanted, I would say, in this deal. One was that the deal would last longer than six months so that we don't have to go through this again in January and then again after several months more in 2012. The Democrats can also say that they eliminated the requirement that both House and Senate pass a balanced budget amendment by two-thirds before we could have an increase in the debt ceiling.
ELVINGThat kind of vote for a constitutional amendment does not happen but in blue moon, and it's not going to happen on a balanced budget amendment. And, therefore, that would be another thing that would prevent the debt ceiling from being raised. So you could say that, in that sense, they held off, if you will, the undesired policies that were being pressed by the Republicans, but primarily by the Tea Party faction within the Republican Party.
ELVINGAnd, of course, many Republicans would like to see a balanced budget amendment. That's not just the Tea Party. But this sense that it has to be that or nothing, that the balanced budget amendment is everything, that is a somewhat new position. So in the sense that they held off those prospects, that's what they got. It's not exactly a triumph, but they did give on revenues.
ELVINGNow, David Plouffe, the president's adviser and the White House's political adviser, says, there's nothing in this planet that prevents us getting to tax reform that broadens the base, that brings in more revenues without raising rates, that has an efficiency factor, and that would be a good thing. There's nothing that prevents us from moving in that direction as we seek greater reductions in the deficit and in deficit spending in years ahead.
ELVINGBut there's also nothing in this plan that guarantees that they're going to take the tough measure of actually making someone pay more taxes, even if we don't raise their rates.
REHMAnd what about the Bush tax cuts?
ELVINGAs it stands now, the Bush tax cuts expire in December of 2012, the month after the next presidential election. And the Congress will have to do something proactive to extend them. Otherwise, there would be a great deal of revenue that came in from repealing those tax cuts.
ELVINGWell, in 2001 and 2003, the Congress passed tax cuts that essentially gave back to the taxpayers all the money that would have provided for a balanced budget as of about 2000. And as a result, we have run up over the course of the first presidency and the first two years of the Obama presidency, because of the wars and the Medicare drugs and all the rest of those things that weren't paid for with any revenue increases, we took a $6 trillion deficit debt -- I should say national debt of about $6 trillion in 2000 and made it $12-, $13-, $14-...
REHMSo what's your...
ELVINGAnd the biggest element in that -- the single biggest element in that was the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003.
REHMSo what you're saying, Ron, is that, had those tax cuts expired earlier, we would not be in the position we are in now.
REHMAnd President Obama caved on that?
ELVINGWell, the tax cuts would have had to have expired. The time that the president agreed to let those tax cuts continue was back last -- just last December.
ELVINGNow, they would have had to have expired a good deal earlier than that to keep us from hitting the $14 trillion debt ceiling we've just hit. And they would have had to have expired sooner. But it certainly would have been a major contribution to this particular two-year period.
REHMAll right. And one last question, there is this notion of a congressional bipartisan committee that's supposed to look ahead and ensure that we continue to make cuts in order to cut more than $2 trillion over the next two years. If the Congress couldn't do it, where is the faith that this bipartisan committee is going to be able to do it?
ELVINGThe only faith is in the triggers. There are enforcement mechanisms here by which if this new group, three members appointed by each of the four congressional leaders -- so it'll be six Republicans and six Democrats, six from the House, six from the Senate.
ELVINGThe faith is only that if these people cannot agree -- cannot come up with a 7-5 vote on a package of continued cuts or, conceivably, revenue increases, that if they can't do that, then there is a very large hammer that comes down called sequestration. It's an across the board cut. It cuts deeply in the things that everybody cares about. It cuts rather indiscriminately. And it would be extremely unpopular.
ELVINGSo that's the enforcement mechanism that provides what faith we're going to have in this new committee of 12.
REHMRon Elving, Washington editor for NPR. Ron, as always, thank you.
ELVINGThank you, Diane.
REHMAnd we'll take a short break. When we come back, we're going to go first to Gainesville, Fla., then to Charlotte, N.C.
REHMAnd now it's time to open the phone, 800-433-8850. Send us your email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Join us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Let's go first, as promised, to Jim in Gainesville, Fla. Good morning to you.
JIMWelcome home, madam.
REHMThank you so much.
JIMMy comment is that I think that the biggest problem we've had is that looking -- the parties in Congress have been behaving exactly as they're supposed to and exactly as they're designed. And I would contend that partisanship is the very lifeblood of American liberty. However, this doesn't entitle the two parties to a monopoly.
JIMAnd we have laws on just -- on this -- on every -- all 50 states that were designed in the '40s and '50s to exclude the Communist party from being able to be viable. And with the campaign financing structures we have now, there -- there's no competition for these two parties. They have no incentive to compromise because they know their respective constituencies are guaranteed because they have no alternative.
REHMWell, I think that what we've got are primary elections that have brought out those who feel most strongly about their positions. And we've got 87 Tea Party members who have pushed and pushed and pushed and succeeded. We are told that Mitt Romney has come out saying he will not support this deal. Let's go now to Michelle in Charlotte, N.C. Good morning to you.
MICHELLEI just wanted to comment on the coverage of the debt ceiling...
MICHELLE...and how most news outlets I have watched have distributed the blame for the lack of progress on this issue equally between both parties. And I see this as a failure on their part and a stretch. When one side keeps moving to the right and the other doesn't budge and is unwilling to compromise, blame should not be shared, in my opinion.
MICHELLEAnd the polls show that the American people wanted a balance approach. And what we're getting doesn't seem to be that way. Democratic votes are needed in the House to get the -- this passed, but they would not get any tax revenues upfront, like the spending cuts.
REHMSo who do you think should bear the blame?
MICHELLEI think that it should be on the Tea Party and the people who've actually not been willing to compromise on the issue. I mean, the president has moved to the right and to the right. And the talks have collapsed on several occasions, with John Boehner just leaving the table, the negotiating table. And I just think that it was just selfish on the part of a lot of leaders in Washington who wanted to protect their -- you know, getting voted back into office more than what the American people really wanted, which was a balanced budget.
REHMThanks for calling, Michelle. You know, it's really interesting that John Boehner and the president seemed to have been getting along so well for quite some time and then seemed to have come to some sort of agreement. And then, apparently, John Boehner, at the urging of members of his own party, walked away.
REHMHere's a Twitter from WayJoe (sp?), who says, "I'm concerned about some of the targeted cuts, but we need cuts. The fact that loopholes and subsidy still exist is a big problem." And here's another from ProgressiveGray (sp?), who says, "The debt deal is terrible. Republicans get almost all they want. Democrats get nothing. It's a job killer and economy buster. When will Democrats grow a spine?" Let's go now to Detroit, Mich. Good morning, Allan.
ALLANHi. I guess my comment was to echo a couple of those previous comments. And in polls, you see that a lot of people are frustrated that things aren't getting done. But I think you have to reassess, you know, who you're voting for because these people represent their constituencies.
ALLANAnd if, you know, you're voting people in who will not accept any sort of compromise, then I think that, you know, basically, you end up with this kind of logjam and potentially, you know, narrowly averting -- or maybe not averting -- you know, by all accounts, serious consequences or disaster.
REHMAllan, let me ask you a question. How old are you?
REHMHave you ever seen anything like this before?
ALLANWell, I think, oftentimes, these debates come down to, you know, near the end, but, at least, in my lifetime, it seems like there were always, you know, people in the middle or statesmen that could, you know, lead us through these things, which it seemed like the Gang of Six was trying to do.
ALLANBut, you know, it seems like -- you know, it doesn't seem like we've ever had something -- such a strong pull from one side that, you know, is sort of, you know, undermining what everybody is trying to get done.
REHMOkay. Now, here's what I'm going to do. I want to take another call. Roland from San Antonio, Texas. Can we get both Roland and Allan on at the same time? And Roland is on line four. Can we do that? Nope, can't do it. Let's go to Roland next. Good morning. You're on the air. Roland, are you there? Sorry, lost him. Let's go to St. Louis, Mo., and to Gordon. Good morning to you.
REHMHi there. Go right ahead, sir.
GORDONThank you. I just had a brief comment. And that is if Congress cannot protect the income of the United States government, then I think they should forfeit their incomes.
REHMSo you think members of Congress should not be taking any of their own income, Gordon. Well, I think there are probably an awful lot of people out there who agree with you. Thanks for calling. Now to White Lake, Mich. Good morning, Kate.
KATEGood morning, Diane. I'm really nervous about this, but the more I think about it, the more -- it just comes down to me as two very simple things: greed and corruption. If greed weren't running rampant in our world today, I don't think the Republicans would have a problem being taxed at the rate that they once were and we had no deficit.
KATEI think if corruption weren't running rampant in the world, that huge American corporations would not be outsourcing work to other countries and then re-importing an inferior product and leaving Americans hungry. And I just think they're two very simple -- the bottom line is so simple, and no one will talk about it.
REHMWell, I mean, when you say greed and corruption are rampant, do you mean that people are not paying their fair share? Do you mean that greed is sort of overriding every other element that's at work in the Congress and in society?
KATEWell, I think in our heart of hearts and our moral hearts, we know that taking money away from senior citizens with Medicare and the mentally handicapped and physically handicapped people in this country, I think everyone knows in their hearts that that's wrong. But it's going to happen, you know, if they don't get a better handle on the debt ceiling, and that's wrong.
KATEAnd if more people could just think beyond their wallets, you know, we're all brothers and sisters on this planet. We're supposed to take care of each other, not just the wealthy.
REHMAll right. Thanks for your call. And here's another Twitter from Creek Bugs, (sp?) who says, "I like what I see. The debt debate makes citizens pay attention to how this country is run and realize they do have some say in how it's run. There's been talk of open primaries as opposed to Democrat or Republican primaries in order to make sure that everyone gets a say in those primary votes when the most dedicated voters tend to come to the polls.
REHM"And that's what we need to see happen." Let's go now to Grand Rapids, Mich. Good morning, Eric. You're on the air.
ERICOh, hi. Yes. Thank you. One point here is there's so much talk about lack of compromise, lack of compromise. Do we need to remind people what happened with the health care bill? That was 100 percent partisan bill, slammed through with reconciliation, not read, et cetera, et cetera. Maybe it was a good bill, but it was certainly no less partisan or no much less compromising than this was.
ERICAnd I find it -- there seem to be a veiled bias here toward raising taxes and kind of a -- I hate to say -- liberal bias, but almost, because why complain about people who got elected saying what they were going to do and then sticking to their guns in saying what they were going to do? It seems like the Washington establishment finds that crazy to actually do what you say you were going to do.
ERICI'm not a huge Tea Party fan, but I got to respect them for doing what they said they're going to do.
REHMNo. I fully agree with you, that they did say what they were going to do, and they did do what they were going to do. We are faced with, however, as I mentioned, this Republican or Democratic primary system, which does not allow people to vote openly in the primaries where you might have had dedicated people coming out openly, rather than for one party or another.
REHMAnd it does strike me that that could help the situation to create a more balanced group in Congress. What do you think about that?
ERICWell, I think your definition of balance is slightly skewed. I mean, if balance the status quo of 15 years ago, where, you know, it was basically this mushy middle, you know, balance, essentially, is, you know, you talk to Rand Paul, he says he compromised because they didn't want to raise the debt limit at all, and they wanted a shorter version. Well, to The New York Times and Washington Post, he's not compromising.
ERICWell, from his perception, he is. And one -- granted, if there was open primaries and a third party, it would be very different. But, essentially, what you would have would be sort of a -- you know, the conservatives would sort of split, and you would have much more Democrats in power.
REHMAll right, Eric. I appreciate your comments. Thanks for calling. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." To Louisville, Ky. Good morning, Rob. You're on the air.
ROBGood morning, Diane. You know, I went to high school 25 years ago, and I've been to several different colleges since then. But I really think the greatest educational lesson I ever learned was from one of my teachers, Frank Nixon, who taught me to never say never because it'll come back and bite you every time.
ROBAnd I say that because I think a lot of these politicians, on all sides of the fence, regardless of their party affiliation, have made these ideological box-end statements of I'll never do this or I'll never cut that or I'll never raise this. And now they're unwilling to compromise. And that's the very ideal that this country was founded upon.
ROBI may be misquoting, you know, which Founding Father it was. I believe it was Alexander Hamilton when he asked, you know, what are the founding principles for this country. And he said there were three: compromise, compromise and compromise. And nobody is willing to come to the table and say, yes, this is what I want, but I'm willing to give up this to get part of what I want.
REHMTell me what you think of the actions thus far of not only the Congress but the White House.
ROBWell, I believe the president has done a fair job in trying to come to the table. And he's come to the table with not wanting to slash entitlement but also willing to say, look, I realized we have to tighten our belts in some areas. And I'm willing to do that if you're willing to say we need to raise revenues in other aspects. And he tried -- I think there's been some give and take.
ROBSo, I mean, I don't fault the White House or the president specifically, but I think another thing that people fail to realize honestly is that -- I mean, even from a family budget aspect, if I'm given a credit card with a high limit and, for eight years, I run that up with, you know, irresponsibly, if you will, for eight years at a high interest rate, it's going to take more than two or three years to pay that down. I mean, so we...
REHMThat's for sure.
ROBWe put ourselves in this situation, and we have to make some tough decisions and some tough compromises to get out of it.
REHMAll right, Rob. Thanks for calling. And to Redding, Pa. Mike, you're next.
MIKEHi, Diane. How are you doing?
REHMI'm good. Thanks.
MIKEI was just wondering why the negotiations, especially in the president's office in the White House, couldn't be televised on C-SPAN or some of those other ones 'cause so many times they both come out and they say -- Boehner will say, well, we gave them this. They said no. And then Obama will come out and say, we gave them this, but they said no.
MIKEI want to hear what they gave and who said no because I really think that once they shake hands and walk out of the White House, they change their story.
REHMWhat you really want to be is a fly on the wall, Mike.
REHMAnd I understand that very well. I think if we had more openness in terms of exactly how these negotiations go, even if we had transcripts, it would allow all of us to understand who's giving, who's taking and so on as it is. And you know this as well as I. Most of this is done in secret for exactly what you're implying, that is, that they can then take back what they said and claim they never agreed to anything.
REHMThanks for calling, Mike. We'll take a short break. When we come back, we'll go to North Carolina, to Florida and to your call.
REHMWelcome back. This is an hour devoted to you, to your thoughts, your comments about what's been happening in Washington over the last few weeks and months. Here's an email from Lindy in Dallas, Texas. She says, "Why do you think the American people are not marching on Washington, D.C.? After all the dishonesty on Wall Street, the decimation of retirement accounts, and now, the disrespectful debt stalemate, why do you think no one is calling for a march on Washington?
REHM"Are we too lazy, too busy, too easily distracted for all of the use of Facebook and Twitter in Arab Spring? Why isn't the same thing happening here?" And here's another email from Ronnie in Plantation, Fla., who says, "I believe in government, the EPA, FDA, infrastructure, RND, education, health, safety, finance, et cetera. Therefore, I believe in taxes. Others believe taxes should basically be for defense. The rest should be private."
REHM"I don't understand why it's so hard to explain the two different views on what a civilized society is really about." Now, let's go to Roland in San Antonio, Texas. Good morning. You're on the air.
ROLANDThank you, Ms. Rehm. You should make this format for the rest of the week, you know, to let the people talk. Ms. Rehm, the Tea Party -- you've made interest in quite a while ago as far as if the negotiations could have been more open...
ROLAND...and because we, you know -- a lot of people are suspectable (sic) of the Tea Party care but, I mean, it's a fact. When a politician -- you don't know -- he says one thing, then when they get to D.C., they do something else. And we have to give credit to Tea Party, those Tea Party candidates. They stuck to their guns...
ROLAND...when they said -- when they eliminated earmarks, they said, oh, earmarks are not a big part of the budget. And these guys, they will not guarantee nothing. No committee standing. They will not promise -- there were no earmarks to bribe them. So they went there. They had nothing to lose. Next year, they can get -- (unintelligible) office.
ROLANDI mean, the president always kicks the bucket down the street. And, you know, one thing I would -- they would just raise the debt limit up to December because, you know, the president is on campaign. The Democrats are going to campaign this -- next year. But, look, see, they want to eliminate the Social Security. They want to eliminate Medicare and...
REHMWho is they, Roland? When you say they want to eliminate Social Security and Medicaid. Who is they?
ROLANDThe Tea Party.
REHMAh. You see that they want to eliminate that altogether.
ROLANDNo, no, no, no, no. The general public has said that. And you had Grover Norquist there a couple of weeks ago. And even you tried to talk, you know, get him to say, which programs do you want to eliminate?
ROLANDYou know, they don't -- I don't want to call myself a Tea Partier, but they just want to reform Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security. So people don't realize -- they said it's going to be insolvent. That's because they -- it's part of a general fund. So they can take money out of Social Security. Why not leave it alone to where it's just for Social Security recipients?
REHMAll right, sir. I appreciate your call. Thanks. And to Bowie, Md. Good morning, Yvette. You're on the air.
YVETTEHi. I'm a federal employee who works for the FAA who happens to be furloughed. And I am livid, furious, disgusted, disenchanted with Congress right now. We are suffering. We don't have any idea when we're coming back to work, much less if we are going to get paid. And this is not -- it's not on anyone's radar screen. The debt ceiling has drowned us out.
YVETTEWe have over 4,000 FAA employees across the country, not to mention the tens of thousands private sector employees that cannot work because Congress is acting like idiots and children. John Mica, who is head of our -- the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is holding us hostage with nonsense, all because -- and the bottom line is Delta Airlines does want to unionize.
YVETTEI urge every FAA employee, in the sound of my voice, boycott Delta Airlines, write to Congress and get them to do their jobs. We should be at work today. It is 10 o'clock, almost 11 o'clock on a Monday morning. I should be sitting in my office...
YVETTE...not standing out in the park talking to you all. I'm just really frustrated, and I needed to get that out so people can recognize and realize that, okay, we may have a debt ceiling crisis solved. But we, at the FAA, still have another crisis going on.
REHMI appreciate your call, Yvette, and for your sake and all the FAA employees who've been laid off because Congress let the authorization for the Federal Aviation Administration expire, that's where you find yourself. I agree with you. If you feel that strongly, you ought to be writing, calling and even marching. Thanks for calling. To Fort Thomas, Ky. Good morning, Paul. You're on the air.
PAULGood morning. Yeah, I thought that the Democrats and Obama gave up way more than they should have. You know, the Republicans -- I don't know. A while back when they were fighting health care reform, you know, they were -- stood in front of any camera they could find and piously said that they were only doing what the American people wanted them to do.
PAULWell, about a margin of something like two out of three people wanted a balanced approach, revenue increases and spending reduction. And nobody was listening to the American people, apparently, on this one because that's not what we ended up with.
REHMYou know, I want to ask you the question that one of our earlier emailers raised. Why do you suppose that in the midst of all this, the unemployed, the disenchanted, the laid off, the people who've lost so much have not marched on Washington? What do you think is the answer to that, Paul?
PAULOh, I'm sorry. Why haven't they marched...
REHMYeah. Why haven't they marched?
PAULWell, I tell you why. I think one of the things that I would be doing right now is -- well, I think one of the biggest and one of the most -- one of the things we haven't done is -- haven't done what was done way back in the earlier part of the century, which is called trust-busting. Right now, an enormous amount of our media is controlled by a very few (unintelligible) people, which means that that they were not really having great discussions on a lot of issues, where we're getting very one-sided discussions.
PAULAnd until the American people are really told what they need to be told, you got politicians who will stand up in front of any camera and say, we can run this country and no taxes. Well, that's a lie. That's ridiculous. You can't run a $30 trillion economy without taxes. But it's an easy thing to say if you're a politician. But then nobody holds them to account. I mean...
REHMAnd that's what I'm asking. That's what I'm asking. I'm asking all of you. Why has there been no true outrage, no call for a march on Washington? Thanks for calling, Paul. Let's go to Bostic, N.C. Good morning, Phil.
PHILThank you, Diane. Just a quick comment. I -- my fear is that party ideology has become party belief. I mean, I'm old enough to remember President Carter telling us that we were becoming -- or consumption was going to get the better of us, and then President Reagan telling us we didn't need to sacrifice. But they seemed to work it out.
PHILAnd now we have Republicans that seem to have the tax thing as a religion instead of just an ideology. And I think that's where it really gets messy.
REHMIt does get messy, and it continues to be messy. It doesn't sound as though there's a total agreement going forward, even today after all of this backing and forthing. Thanks for your call. Here's a comment from Facebook. Austin says, "Moveon.org recently posted a video of a speech FDR made, predicting how Republicans would manage the government for the working class.
REHM"Please discuss how the new deal failed and how similar we are in today's political, cultural and economic environments. My generation is looking for a new deal of our own. What would this be in today's day and age?" Well, Austin, I certainly can't answer that question, but I'm sure somebody out there will.
REHMHere's another from Holly -- no, this one's from Jim, who says, "Every tax we drop on Exxon, Verizon, Microsoft and all the rest just get passed on to you and me as another cost to business. Finally, if we took most of the income from the rich, we would still be in the jam economically. Politicians would spend the money faster than it arrives because that is what they do."
REHMI've certainly heard that comment a lot from conservative commentators like Rachel Kimball. Let's go to Annandale, Va. Good morning, Andy, you're on the air.
ANDYGood morning, Diane. And you'll get plenty of outrage from me. I want to point out that it's basically unpatriotic for the wealthy in this country to expect us to not collect taxes from them. They live in a country which has made them wealthy, yet they don't want to pay their fair share.
ANDYThere's very little discussion of how much people pay in taxes as a proportion of their income over in Europe and the kinds of services we get here as opposed to services provided to the middle class and the poor in Europe. And if Americans think they're paying a lot of taxes, they're simply wrong. I also like to point out that, you know, I'm a poor person. And I'm willing to give up some of my earned income tax credit.
ANDYI want to pay lots of tax. You know, I believe in my country. I want to fund it, and I want it to be solvent. And, you know, I'm just tired of the wealthy people in this country saying, more, more, more. If we don't get our money, then we won't pass it on. Well, you know, there's not a great record of them passing it on. They make investments. They save it for their own kids. They don't contribute to the system that made them rich.
REHMAndy, thanks for your comments. And we have a tweet that says, "Nobody is marching on Washington because nobody can afford to travel to Washington." And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's go to Frank in Taylorsville, N.C. You're on the air.
FRANKGood morning, Diane.
FRANKAnd I want to commend you for always having a balanced show.
FRANKFirst of all, I'd like to say I'm embarrassed by what Congress has done and the way they've acted, them and the Senate both. I think that they would be able to do a compromise. I think that that's very important. I don't understand why they're not putting the people first, and it's terrible. And I think the Tea Party has held us hostage. I think that they've had their own agenda, and I don't think that Mr. Boehner has control of the House at all.
FRANKI think that there's been no tax increases for the rich. And the top 1 percent make 25 percent of all the money in this country. And I think that's good. But you know what? They need to pay taxes just like everybody else. I don't think they're paying their share...
REHMFrank, have you called or written your member of Congress?
FRANKYes. Yes, I have.
REHMGood for you. Thanks for calling.
FRANKThank you so much.
REHMAll right. And now to Lillian, Ala. Hi there, Mark. You're on the air.
MARKThank you, Diane. I love your show.
MARKAnd I'm on the other side of the fence than most of your opinions...
MARK...because, unless the -- well, basically, I think it's just a matter of a -- I don't want to go there 'cause that may cause a problem. The Bush tax cuts brought and caused the GDP to grow and brought in $300 billion in increased tax revenues through the growth of the government, as did when Reagan cut taxes and $200 billion when JFK cut taxes. When you -- we were in a recession in 9/11 -- after 9/11.
MARKAnd we got out of it so quick because Bush and the Congress cut taxes. We're in a long recession right now because of the exorbitant spending by the Democratic Party and the president. Now, Bush in his last year, in '08, his annual deficit was $458 billion. That was the worst, by far, of his eight years. And yet Obama and the Democrats have spent almost a trillion five, each of the two years they've already gone. And they're trying to do it again.
MARKOur problem is a spending problem, not a taxing problem. And someone earlier said, why are we -- why are the Republicans shipping jobs overseas? Well, jobs are going overseas for two reasons. We have the second highest corporate taxes in the world, and unionized labor is so expensive that companies go overseas to -- so they can afford to do business.
REHMSo, as far as you're concerned, you don't believe for one minute that raising taxes on the wealthy would help this economy at all?
MARKNo, absolutely not. It would kill the economy. And if you just look at a chart that draws the GDP versus tax raising, the GDP drops. Taxes go down, GDP goes up. It's a simple -- it's as basic as basic economics.
REHMWell, I wish it were so simple, Mark. I fear there are great many other elements involved that we're not going to have time to go into now. I see that, Wynn in Chapel Hill says, "President Obama's stimulus was too small."
REHMSusan says, "Why didn't Obama step in and guide the Congress to separate the vote on the debt ceiling from balancing the budget? He likes to be a teacher. So why didn't he start with a civics lesson? Raising the debt ceiling so we could pay for our debts has little to do with budgeting." I want to thank you all for calling, for writing, for your tweets, for your Facebook messages. And thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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