Sunday, April 19, 2009


Transcript from MEET THE PRESS edit by HART KIRCH giving answers to major questions of the day. You may use these to rebut your friends or others! 4-19/09

Harold Ford, Jr.
Former Representative (Democrat Tennessee)

David Gregory (Meet the Press host):
The so-called TEA parties around the countries. These were protests about tax policy in the administration. Big placards and not a lot of love for President Obama around the country as people are concerned about taxes and spending. But look at this. This is the new Gallup poll that came out this week. "Views of income taxes among the most positive since 1956." The new poll "finds 48 percent of Americans saying the amount of federal income taxes they pay is `about right,' with 46 percent saying they're too high--one of the most positive assessments Gallup has measured since 1956." As Dr. Summers says, the president is cutting taxes for 95 percent of Americans. What's everybody so upset about?
FORD : There was not one TEA party in the eight years that President Bush was in office. And this is not meant to litigate the last eight years. But let's be honest, there was a $5 trillion increase in the amount of the, the nation's debt under President Bush. Normally when you use a credit card and you go out and charge things, you're able to show something you got in return. For the last eight years there are no more kids with health care, there are fewer kids who are able to afford college, we have not found new energy sources, and we can make a pretty credible argument that the Middle East is less stable and more dangerous than it was before. I give the president great credit for another attack not occurring on our soil. When we look at the long-term investments and the foundational platform that this president, President Obama is trying to create, one could make a legitimate and I think a compelling argument that in the long run this will produce the new--new investments in energy will produce not only alternatives but less reliance overseas, cheaper energy here at home, a smarter electricity grid, more kids going to college, more people with access to health care, which will lower business costs and allow the economy, for that matter......the kind of prosperity that we want to come back.
Gregory: there's still this fundamental question: Where does the money come from? This is an administration that prides itself on transparency. Where's the money coming from? On tax policy you wrote this this week in your Friday column: "The old Republican fantasy was that tax cuts were the magic elixir that would solve every problem. Now that the public has finally rejected it, it's disappointing to see Democrats offering up the equally fantastic notion that Americans can have all the government they want while getting someone else to pay for it."
FORD: Two things. We use the term "bailout" when we talk about the help on the financial side. It's important to note that the TARP is designed to actually be paid back. If the banks perform at the rate that some have suggested they performed this quarter and across the year, you're looking at a dividend payment from the banks back to the taxpayer, rightly so, between $12 to $15 billion this year, number one. Number two...
Spending is large, but what is the alternative? Government's playing the role of the, the, the, the, the financial investor of last resort, the spender of last resort. We, we fought this, we fought this battle for many years in this country. Think if we'd decided not to pass the Servicemen Readjustment Act back in 1944 called the GI Bill. It was an enormous expenditure. You sent eight million veterans to college, you provided one year of unemployment compensation and you ensured they could buy a home. The impact that had on the nation's economy going forward, educating that greatest generation, has been enormous. Think if Eisenhower's national interstate, the highway system would not have passed. It cost $425 billion in real day terms. The impact it's had on commerce, prosperity and growth has been immeasurable. We face one of those moments. This is one of those 100-year flood moments. And as much as I'd like to see government not engage and involve itself in so many enterprises, I don't know the alternative. And as much as I like and respect you, I've not heard from Republicans or conservatives or the TEA party attenders, what is the alternative? If the alternative, alternative is to sit back and do nothing, the majority of Americans, evidenced by poll after poll, say, "Do something. Be active and get us out of this mess."
Gregory: There's still this fundamental question: Where does the money come from? This is an administration that prides itself on transparency. Where's the money coming from? On tax policy you wrote this this week in your Friday column: "The old Republican fantasy was that tax cuts were the magic elixir that would solve every problem. Now that the public has finally rejected it, it's disappointing to see Democrats offering up the equally fantastic notion that Americans can have all the government they want while getting someone else to pay for it."
FORD: You know, the interesting thing about your numbers as you, as you showed, from $650 to $84 billion, $85, I can't remember the exact numbers, that was not a function of taxes being too high. That was a function of revenue going down and incomes being too low. So as much as this conversation about taxes is relevant, what is more relevant is how do we drive incomes up? How do we create more jobs? And I think a legitimate argument--and I hope that people stop questioning President Obama's intentions here in calling him a socialist and suggesting he's making the nation unsafe--I think Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, said it best. His intention shouldn't be a question. I never questioned President Bush's intentions. We can debate the policy. And his policies, I think there's a legitimate debate that's under way. I happen to think the investments in these places will drive incomes up...and make the Fortune 500 list more attractive next year than it was this year.
Gregory: You've got the fact that Pat Leahy in the Senate is saying we need some kind of truth commission here to find out exactly what it was done and why it was done. I mean, look, this is a bigger debate about how we treat America's enemies. Is that a debate worth having, or is it just looking back?
FORD: Look, I think the president said it best at the, at the summit with some of the Latin American and South American leaders. He said look, the past is the past, let's move forward. He's talked about moving along the, the--with Cuba. It's important to note, as much as we want to do that, if this debate took place in Cuba right now half of us would be arrested if we disagreed with the government. So dissent is still not encouraged. I'd say this. After September the 11th we asked men and women in this country serving in our military and our intelligence agencies to go out and find bad guys. I'm always a little hesitant afterwards when we try to judge the kinds of things they did. That being said, we are America and we got to live up to a certain standard, and I think what the president did was strike the right balance in how they went about dealing with this.

**** EDITOR NOTE: you can get full transcript of MEET THE PRESS on
History of major health coverage proposals

A look at the history of major health coverage initiatives by presidents:


1950: Harry Truman's proposal for national health insurance dies in Congress.

1965: Lyndon Johnson wins passage of Medicare and Medicaid.

1974: Richard Nixon's proposal to require employers to cover workers dies in Congress.

1979: Jimmy Carter's proposal for an employer requirement dies in Congress.

1994: Bill Clinton's plan, which includes an employer requirement, dies in Congress.

1997: Clinton and a Republican Congress agree to expand coverage for low-income children.

2003: George W. Bush wins passage of Medicare prescription benefit.

2009: Barack Obama proposes to cover the uninsured and contain costs.

Health care: Deal or no deal?

Senators begin work
Associated Press
This time it's really going to happen. Or so they claim.

Senators get down to work this coming week on turning ideas into legislation to cover some 50 million people without health insurance and contain costs for everyone else. Hopes are high that Democrats and Republicans can find common ground for a bill to emerge by summer.

They will have to defy history.

Grand plans to revamp health care have a half-century history of collapsing. More focused proposals, such as the creation of Medicare in 1965, have succeeded.

Lawmakers are far apart on some of the most important issues today, from the reach of government to the responsibilities of employers and individuals. And guaranteeing coverage for all could cost $1.5 trillion over 10 years, an eye-popping sum in a time of recession and mounting national debt.

Yet major constituencies often at odds are now clamoring for change. They range from consumer groups to insurers, from employers to doctors and hospitals. President Barack Obama has pledged to chip away at hardened ideological positions to find compromises.

"This is the toughest issue we have ever taken on — every part has got a chance of blowing up," said Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley. He is the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees government health programs and taxes, and plans to start work Tuesday.

Grassley said he is reasonably confident that he and the chairman, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., can produce a bill that appeals to the middle. "Our only hope is if we do it in a way that keeps the vast majority of both parties going in the same direction," Grassley said.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., sees opportunity. "There is a very appealing philosophical truce within the Senate's grasp," he said.

"Democrats are right on the idea that we've got to cover everybody. Republicans have been right on the role of the private sector, not freezing innovation and staying away from price controls," Wyden said. "You meld those philosophical views and you are on your way to 68 to 70 votes."

Consensus is growing on many points: Changes should build on the current system, not scrap it; hospitals and doctors should be paid for quality, not quantity; insurers shouldn't be able to discriminate against people with health problems; small businesses need special attention.

But huge differences remain. Three of the hardest issues are:


Obama set aside $634 billion in his budget as a "down payment" for health care over 10 years. Many experts believe that represents less than half the cost. Covering the uninsured could cost $100 billion to $150 billion a year, or more.

Liberal Democrats want to follow Obama's example and get half the money from tax increases and half from spending cuts. Upper-income tax increases and sales tax increases on alcoholic beverages, tobacco products and even sugary sodas are being discussed.

But Republicans and fiscally conservative Democrats want most of the financing to come from spending cuts and from making the health care system less wasteful.


Health insurance is based on pooling risk: premiums from the vast majority of healthy people cover care for the sick. For the system to work, economists say, everyone should have health insurance from the outset so uninsured people don't end up going to the emergency room and driving up costs for everyone else.

Because insurance is expensive, requiring people and businesses to pay for it is politically difficult. Most people now get insurance from their employers, but companies aren't required to offer it and as the economy skids more have cut back.

Obama and Democrats are considering a combination of requirements on individuals, parents and employers, with exemptions for small businesses and sliding-scale subsidies for families making as much as $80,000 a year.

Republicans opposed an employer mandate in the 1990s, but have mixed views on an individual requirement. The insurance industry is supporting an individual mandate. Labor unions are pushing for employer mandates.

Public Plan:

Obama and the Democrats want to give middle-class workers and families the option of joining a government-sponsored insurance plan that would be offered alongside private ones through a new insurance clearinghouse.

Supporters say a public plan could be a testing ground for innovations and a check on private insurers. Republicans see it as a thinly disguised step toward a government-run system. Insurance companies say they wouldn't be able to compete with a government plan.

Efforts are under way to find a compromise, maybe by limiting the scope of the public plan. But Rep. Dave Camp, who is playing a leading role in the House, said he doesn't think a deal is possible. "The public plan is a bright line for us," said Camp, R-Mich.

Senators begin their work in public Tuesday at a Senate Finance Committee meeting on how to change the health care delivery system to make it more efficient. They will meet the following week in closed session to consider specific proposals that would affect doctors, hospitals and other medical providers.

Similar sessions are scheduled on expanding coverage and paying for a revamped system. Leaders are hoping the committee can vote on a bill by mid-June.

Separately, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is working on a complementary bill, with the goal of merging the two in the full Senate. It's unclear whether Senate Republicans will offer their own bill.

In the House, the Democratic leadership aims to introduce legislation by late June. The bill will be considered by three committees that share jurisdiction over health care. Republicans are planning to offer their own measure.

Democratic leaders want the full House and Senate each to pass legislation before Congress leaves town for its August break.

Democrats probably will allow the use of a legislative device that would let them pass a health bill in the Senate with 51 votes, instead of the 60 needed to defeat a filibuster. Republicans say that would be an act of bad faith and could poison chances for a deal.

BLOODSUCKER UPDATE! Credit Cards use & abuse.

April 19, 2009
White House: Obama to address credit card abuses
The White House said Sunday that it will back congressional efforts to clamp down on credit card abuses in an effort to address the recession's effect on Main Street.

The House and Senate are considering a credit card bill of rights to limit the ability of credit card companies to raise interest rates on existing balances and to require greater disclosure. White House economic adviser Larry Summers said people need to save more, but that the government also needs to curb credit card pitches that addict people to plastic.

President Barack Obama is "going to be very focused, in a very near term, on a whole set of issues having to do with credit card abuses, having to do with the way people have been deceived into paying extraordinarily high rates that they wouldn't have paid if they knew what they were getting themselves into," Summers said.

Summers said the administration wants to see a better-regulated financial system, encourage savings and eventually get back to a situation where government spending is not a drain on the economy.

"Individuals are going to have to save more, that's why savings incentives are so important," he said. "That's why we need to do things to stop the marketing of credit in ways that addicts people to it — so that our households are again saving, and families are again preparing to send kids to college, for their retirement, and so forth."

Summers made the comments Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" while attending a summit of Western Hemispheric leaders in Trinidad and Tobago.

Nice Party, But Not So Revolutionary

WASH POST By Benjamin L. Carp
April 19, 2009

The night turned chilly as dusk settled into darkness, and a dampness hung in the air from the rain that had fallen earlier in the day. In a sea of citizens who said they were fighting for freedom, I saw young men dressed as American Indians. I saw tea being brandished in protest. And I heard plenty of anger about taxes and tyranny.

This wasn't Boston on Dec. 16, 1773. I was in New York City on April 15, 2009.

In fact, I was right next to the site where New Yorkers themselves had hoisted a Liberty Pole in 1766 to protest British taxes, in what is now Manhattan's City Hall Park.

I was at one of a series of "tea parties" being held across the country to protest the Obama administration's policies and the high taxes the protesters envision they will spawn. They were meant to replicate the famous Boston Tea Party that precipitated the American Revolution. Although I study early American history, I wasn't trying to check the protesters' creative interpretations against my footnotes. Instead, I tried to appreciate the bizarre nature of a day that began for me with work on a chapter on tea boycotts for my new book and ended with a modern crowd's interpretation of the historical period I study. It was a great reminder that the original Tea Party had made this civilized re-enactment possible and, ultimately, anti-climactic by comparison.

Still, I wanted to hear the protesters' grievances. Phyllis Thies, who is 50 years old and out of a job, came toting a replica of Christopher Gadsden's "Don't tread on me" flag. She joined the crowd last week because in her view, "high taxes" are the problem, as they were in the 18th century. There was much more to it than that, of course, but for the protesters last week, it was the feisty rebelliousness of the Tea Party tale that made it so appealing. As 21-year-old Jacob Dievendorf said, it was the "first real galvanizing moment" of the Revolution.

He's right. It's a great story. As hundreds watched that day in 1773, men with blackened faces, dressed in ersatz Indian disguises, boarded three ships docked at Griffin's Wharf. They hoisted 342 chests of tea onto the ships' decks. With hatchets aloft, they chopped open the chests and emptied 90,000 pounds of loose tea into the muck below. They were protesting the Tea Act, a recent British law designed to help the monopolistic East India Company unload its excess tea onto the American market. The men aboard the ships kept their identities secret for 50 years or more, and not one was ever punished.

We like the spectacle of drowning tea for the same reason kids like knocking over building blocks. Furthermore, the Boston Tea Party sparked a legacy of relatively nonviolent civil disobedience. Even John Adams, who was hardly a fire-breathing radical, called it "the most magnificent Moment of all," both daring and intrepid. Although many of last week's protesters are interpreting history loosely at best, the issues at stake in 1773 and today are similar in some ways.

In both cases, reckless financial speculation and a credit crunch had led to a painful recession.

The British government, like the administration today, was saddled with debt arising in part from recent wars -- and tax revenues were the principal way to pay it down.

In 1773, like today, the government tried to bail out companies that were deemed too big to fail: Back then, the British government rescued the East India Company, which had a monopoly on all trade east of South Africa, including the Chinese tea trade.

In both cases, taxes were a source of fear, but they were not the immediate source of the problem. The British Parliament had passed a tax on tea in 1767, six years before the tea party. Although the American colonists were angry about having to pay taxes without being represented in Parliament, New Englanders had been sheepishly paying the tax for a few years.

The Tea Act -- what the Tea Party was protesting -- would have lowered the cost of tea for Americans (as Newt Gingrich, the former history professor and speaker of the House, pointed out in his speech to the crowd) by giving a tax break to the East India Company for its colonial tea shipments. Samuel Adams and his allies were worried that the lower cost would seduce Americans into paying an unjust tax.

In 2009, most American families will be paying as much as $800 less in federal income tax than last year. But many of the protesters fear that they are being tricked into supporting "big government," which might mean higher taxes down the road.

The similarities between the past and the present only go so far. For one thing, last week's tea parties were more about words than action.

The United States is not a monarchy -- if we don't like our tax rates or how the revenue is spent, we have the power to peaceably "throw the bums out." Colonial Americans lacked that power -- and the Revolution was born of the resulting discontent.

But the fact that we now have taxation with representation wasn't enough to satisfy some of the protesters. They argued that our lawmakers aren't effective at representing our interests and that the influence of lobbyists can get in the way.

The tea bag -- which wasn't even around in 1773 -- has become one of tax reformers' most prominent symbols. On April 16, 1990, Peter Hendrickson wrapped a tea bag around a bomb that he placed in a post office bin in Michigan as part of his protest against paying income taxes.

Yet the Boston Tea Party has also inspired other Americans: senior citizen activists, the Arizona Minutemen, women's suffragists, advocates for D.C. statehood and people on both sides of the slavery question before the Civil War. Even beyond America's shores, the Tea Party has been invoked by Sun Yat-sen in China, Mahatma Gandhi in India and supporters of the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon.

The April 15 protests seemed to represent a divergent set of views, too: I spoke with Lawrence Arzu and Irving Morales, two young Ron Paul supporters in war paint and feathers, who told me that they ended up voting for Ralph Nader last year. I met an outreach coordinator for the Brooklyn Young Republicans, and others who mentioned issues ranging from abortion to education. I didn't see much unity of purpose, but perhaps that wasn't the point. Gingrich urged the crowd to reach out to friends and pointed to the rise of committees of correspondence in 1774.

The Boston Tea Party does offer some other lessons that we ought never to forget. First, the real Tea Party was not just noble, but also frightening and dangerous: The protest walked a fine line between civil disobedience and violent uprising. King George III's anger at the Tea Party led to harsh punishments, the closing of the port of Boston and then a bloody civil war that lasted for eight years.

Carl Bowen, 42, an accountant from Baldwin, N.Y., acknowledged that the original Tea Party was an act of "vandalism" and warned, "A lot of people would like to vent their frustration more than they're allowed to today." One woman's sign seemed to bear this out: "Tea Party Today, Tar and Feather Tomorrow."

But how far should anyone be allowed to vent?

The memory of the Boston Tea Party surely should not be used to justify the bullying nullification of any law that an outspoken group dislikes.

In Boston in 1773, the men who boarded the tea ships had to conceal their identity or risk punishment -- perhaps even being hanged for treason. Last week, the merry protesters chatted with journalists about their complaints, then folded up their "Welcome to the Second American Revolution" signs and went home. The original Tea Party had helped make free speech possible, but these modern protests didn't seem likely to change the world just yet.

A representative government, unlike a monarchy, must listen to the people -- otherwise we are indeed poorly represented. But it should also be careful not to overreact -- either by punishing dissidents or by conceding too much.