Washington Watch Roundtable: POTUS Infrastructure Bill Blocked, Income Inequality, Class Warfare And The 99%

Heck of a week this week in the – the – in Congress.  They vote down the President’s infrastructure jobs bill.  Hey – and – and explain this.  How can folks sit here, Republicans and Democrats – because in the Senate, you had some Democrats who joined the GOP – talk about putting America back to work when they have voted over and over in the past for infrastructure, and all of a sudden, “Ah, no thanks”?

MS. FINNEY:  [Chuckles.]  Because they’re concerned about getting reelected.  They’re concerned about campaign donors.  They are concerned about their – their job over the jobs of the American people.  I mean there is no reason to not have voted in support of that legislation – other than political purposes.

MR. WILLIAMS:  You know, I disagree.  I disagree.  We have a $15 trillion million dollar — $15 trillion deficit.  What you want to do? Create just makeshift jobs?  I mean the President and his administration has to get away from income and expenses and create assets.  And – and you – in order to create assets, you grow the small business owners in this country.  You – you build the dams.  You build the bridges –

MS. FINNEY:  But part of –

MR. WILLIAMS:  — and –

MS. FINNEY:  — the plan includes –

MR. WILLIAMS:  — it – but – but it –

MS. FINNEY:  — tax breaks for small businesses –

MR. WILLIAMS:  — no, you[‘ve] got to –

MS. FINNEY:  — and part of the plan – when you talk about building infrastructure, remember that when you’re improving roads and bridges, that means that a company has a – a better way to get their goods and services to another community, which then, in that – builds that community.

MR. WILLIAMS:  — but this is what the President promised us in the first stimulus package, and it did not happen –

MR. MADISON:  Yeah, but we –

MR. WILLIAMS:  — and now he’s acting [sic] for –

MR. MADISON:  — know why –

MR. WILLIAMS:  — the – asking for the second

MR. MADISON:  — it didn’t happen – [crosstalk].

MR. WILLIAMS:  — stimulus package.

MR. MADISON:  You know –

MS. FINNEY:  Well, actually, the –

MR. MADISON:  — why it didn’t –

MS. FINNEY:  — first stimulus package –

MR. MADISON:  — happen.


MS. FINNEY:  — did

MR. MADISON:  You know why –

MS. FINNEY:  — create jobs.

MR. MADISON:  — it didn’t happen.

MR. MARTIN:  Go ahead.

MR. MADISON:  Because governors like Haley Barbour used the money to do what?  Balance their budget[s].

MS. FINNEY:  Right.


OFF CAMERA:  [Crosstalk] – red-state governor – right[?]

MR. MADISON:  Tha- — so did Gov. – so did Gov. Rick Perry.  And that’s one of the reasons that it didn’t happen.  Let us be straight-up.  You’re talking about – it was paying for itself.

Also, I wish that the same people [who] said, “Oh, I don’t like this program now” – where was it when it was proposed by Republicans?  That’s the – the cleverness of this administration.  They took a page from the Republican playbook, slipped it in their playbook and said, “This is the same legislation you supported before.”

MR. MARTIN:  Should[?] you –

MR. MADISON:   Bottom line – bottom line, the number-one goal:  kick the economy under the bus so that Pres. Obama doesn’t get reelected.

MS. FINNEY:  That’s right.

MR. MARTIN:  — Michelle.

MS. MICHELLE BERNARD:  And in trying to do so – what I was going to say, listening to Karen speak, when you first asked – posed the question, my first response was they’ve decided they don’t like their jobs.  They don’t want to be members of Congress, and they’re asking the American public to kick them out in 2012.  I mean that’s the only possible answer to the question that I can come up with because, quite frankly, if we’re going to have an honest discussion about the proper role of government and what government can do and cannot do, there’s very little that government can do to create jobs.  But the things that government can do – for example, infrastructure – the President has proposed it.  And I think, in a way, this is a gift that keeps on giving; because, quite frankly, we’ve had some things that happened over the fall that I think made Pres. Obama look a bit emasculated.  For example, John Boehner saying, “No, you cannot speak to a joint sins- — session of Congress tonight.  Do it on the night of the football game.”  This has given Pres. Obama the power to come back and say, “I’m the man.  You’re not gonna chump me.  I’m in charge of getting this economy back on” – “on board, and so I’m going to pass everything that I need to do through executive” –

MR. MARTIN:  Here’s what’s inter- —

MS. BERNARD:  — “ex-” – “executive order.”

MR. MARTIN:  — here’s what’s interesting.  They – th- — the – the Democrats wanted to tax folks making the million dollars or more .7 percent.  [The] GOP said, “Absolutely not.”  All of a sudden, we see Pres. Obama’s poll numbers rising because Democrats are driving home this whole issue of income inequality.

MS. FINNEY:  Yeah.

MR. MARTIN:  Republicans appear to be in a position now where literally they are defending anything for the wealthy.

MS. FINNEY:  Yeah.

MR. MARTIN:    And when you look at the numbers, people are saying, “Wait a minute.  Do you guys even care about anybody [making] less than a million dollars?”

MR. MADISON:  Wait a minute.

MS. FINNEY:  Well – and here’s –

MR. MADISON:  It’s –

MS. FINNEY:  — the thi- —

MR. MADISON:  — .7 percent of the $1 over the million dollars.  The first million, we’re not going to increase the taxes.

MS. FINNEY:  But –

MR. MADISON:  And it’s only going to be on the money over a million –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. MADISON:  — and that’s –

MS. FINNEY:  — but again –

MR. MADISON:  — called “shared sacrifice.”

MS. FINNEY:  — also at a time when 70-plus percent of Americans have said this is what they support.  This is what they want, and a substantial portion of Republicans within that have said they support it – not to mention, ironically, Herman Cain, leading in the polls with his 999 by Grover Norquist, the real boss of the Republicans.  By his rules, that’s raising taxes.  So, they’re supporting a guy who proposes raising taxes at the ta- — same time, saying, “We’re not going to raise taxes on the wealthy to help the 1 perce-” – “the 99 percent who are struggling in this country.”


MR. MARTIN:  Armstrong, do Republicans have a problem when they are creating the impression that “we will defend anything for the rich,” when you have this income inequality all of a sudden becoming a story?  Now you have folks who sort of are backing off of that.  Now, all of a sudden, you’re now see – seeing that phrase show up in Republican talking points when they are talking about the economy, because that is a potent issue – this whole income inequality.

MR. WILLIAMS:  I think when Se- — Sen. Charles Schumer introduced the legislation which he tried to je- — introduce before to say at a million dollars, the Republicans became very comfortable with it.

But you know what?  What – what we’re doing – and – and Grover Norquist is not the boss of the Republicans.  That’s a –

MS. FINNEY:  Really?

MR. WILLIAMS:  — sound bite.

MS. FINNEY:  ‘Cause he got –


MS. FINNEY:  — no?  He go- — he got three and four –


MR. WILLIAMS:  No.  John –

MS. FINNEY:  Are you kidding?

MR. WILLIAMS:  — John Boehner dissed –

MS. FINNEY:  How –

MR. WILLIAMS:  — him this week.  He said he was just another American.

MS. FINNEY:  Yeah, he –

MR. WILLIAMS:  That’s what he said.

MS. FINNEY:  — dissed him, but he su- — he –


MS. FINNEY:  — sure did sign his pledge – didn’t he?

MR. WILLIAMS:  Yes, he – yeah.

MS. FINNEY:  He sure did – didn’t he?

MR. WILLIAMS:  Yeah, it was a – it was a – it’s a decent pledge.

But listen.  Back on the issue.


MR. MADISON:  Whoa.  Whoa.  Whoa.

MR. WILLIAMS:  You know, this president –

MS. FINNEY:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MADISON:  ‘Scuse me, Herman.

MR. WILLIAMS:  — this – [chuckles] – president –

MR. MADISON:  You just –

MR. WILLIAMS:  — this –

MR. MADISON:  — contradicted yourself!

MR. WILLIAMS:  — this president has created class warfare in this country to make it seem as though those that create wealth, create opportunities in this country should be further punished.  One thing that Herman Cain has right [is] everybody should ca- — f- — carry their weight and this economy.  Everybody should pay tax.  It’s not just the rich.  What are the have-nots doing –


MR. WILLIAMS:  — for the economy?

MR. MARTIN:  One – one second, Armstrong.

MR. WILLIAMS:  Yeah.  What are they doing?

MR. MARTIN:  You said earlier we have a $15 trillion debt.  Under Pres. George W. Bush, those tax cuts contributed to the same deficit.  When we extended the tax cuts in December, when Pres. Obama said, “Let’s not extend it” – that $700 billion for the wealthy – [the] GOP said, “Absolutely not.  We want to extend it for all.”  That contributed to the debt.  So, how can Republicans stand here and say “debt, debt, debt” – but the tax cuts contributed to the same debt – and then get upset?

MS. FINNEY:  And then also to say that tax – more tax cuts for the wealthiest are going to create more jobs.  Where are the jobs from the Bush tax cuts, by the way?

MR. MARTIN:  Even conservative economists have said point blank that is a fallacy.  I was on the s- — I wa- — look.   Ben Stein – I was on CNN with him on Joy Behar’s show “HLN.”  He said it is an absolute joke.  There’s no proof from anybody where [to] keep cutting taxes will somehow create jobs.


MR. WILLIAMS:  Raising –

MS. BERNARD:  No – [crosstalk] –

MR. WILLIAMS:  — taxes does not help the economy.

MS. BERNARD:  — but you know what?  If you – if you are truly somebody who is living in – below the poverty line, and you – you deign to watch any of these public policy discussions, or –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MS. BERNARD:  — or look at what our politicians are doing, here’s what I hear.  Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, I think most people are saying, “A pox on both of your houses.”

MS. FINNEY:  That’s right.

MS. BERNARD:  People talk about the rich and the wealth creators.  People talk about the importance of the middle class.  There’s not one candidate that is regularly speaking – whether Democrats or Republicans – that are talking about “what do we help” – “do to truly help the least among us?”  So, when we talk about – whether it’s, you know, increasing revenue, cutting taxes – whatever it is that we do – no one is really talking about the people who are suffering the most in this country.   And I think –

MR. MARTIN:  This – this is why I believe that when you look at Pres. Obama’s poll numbers cre- — increasing, when you see him getting far more aggressive out there, when he – he is now speaking to those bread-and-butter issues and is creating a contrast by saying, “Wait a minute.  I put a jobs bill on the table.  We’re talking about rebuilding schools, rebuilding bridges, rebui- — rebuilding roads; putting folks back to work in construction.  I’m talking about you, who are sitting there making possibly 30, 40, $50,000 a year; and I literally have an opposition that says even when it comes to the folks making over a million, ‘Absolutely not.’”

So – so at what point –

MS. BERNARD:  — and even – even if it was proposed by Ronald Reagan, the opposition now says, “That’s not good enough.”

MS. FINNEY:  [Crosstalk] –

MS. BERNARD:  That’s a problem.

MS. FINNEY:  — understa- — a- — and this is something I think that the Obama campaign has to wa- — be very careful about – as all do [sic] politicians.  When you look at that website for the 99 percent, you’re right.  It’s not about being a Democrat or Republican.  It is about – and it’s not even just poor people; it is middle-income people.

OFF CAMERA:  [Unintelligible.]

MS. FINNEY:  It is about a veteran who says, “I have served five tours.  I lost my home.  I can’t get a job.  I’m the 99 percent.”

And so when they look, Armstrong, at what’s going on up there, and you have Republicans talking about – you know, this rhetoric about who’s a job creator and wh- — who – who isn’t, we’re all job creators, because as we create the need for a product or a service, that creates a job.  That cr- — that’s how it all works.

MR. WILLIAMS:  I – I’m –

MS. FINNEY:   And nobody is saying that the wealthy [don’t] deserve what they’ve got, but they’ve got to do their fair share.

MR. MADISON:  But I was going to –

MR. WILLIAMS:  — you know –

MR. MADISON:  — I was going to add – and, as Ar- — Armstrong said something that I think most people would agree with.  Raising taxes doesn’t in itself help the economy.  You’re right.  It’s how you spend those tax dollars –

OFF CAMERA:  Thank you.

MR. MADISON:  — that help[s] the economy.  My God!  I don’t know about you guys.  I’m a product of public schools.  Lord knows we need our public schools fixed.  There is not a wealthy person in this country who got wealthy by themselves.

MS. FINNEY:  ’S right.

MR. MADISON:  They got wealthy by everybody sitting here at this table.  And thank God that we used our tax dollars to create a middle class that allowed people to get wealthy and maybe help a few middle-class folk go into the wealth.  So –

MR. WILLIAMS:  — but –

MR. MADISON:  — you’re right.  It doesn’t help the –

MR. WILLIAMS:  — the pr- — the –

MR. MADISON:  — economy, but it’s how you –

MR. WILLIAMS:  — but the problem –

MR. MADISON:  — spend those –

MR. WILLIAMS:  — is –

MR. MADISON:  — taxes.

MR. WILLIAMS:  — the pro- — the problem is – is that even if the jobs bill – if – let’s say if it had passed, legislation has its own movement of finally getting to the marketplace –

MR. MARTIN:  Of course.

MR. WILLIAMS:  — and creating these opportunities.  You know, the President – and I – and I’m sure the President means well.  I – I d- — I – I – I do believe that.  But the problem is that people are hurting now.  What is it that the President has that’s working in the system now, that has already been enacted that can match the rhetoric that’s a- — that –

MR. MARTIN:  But – but I –

MR. WILLIAMS:  — while he’s on –

MR. MARTIN:  — but – but I —

MR. WILLIAMS:  — the road?

MR. MARTIN:  — but I[‘ve] got to go –

MS. FINNEY:  Well –

MR. MARTIN:  — back to Joe’s point.  When you pass a stimulus bill, $787 billion, in the first two months of your presidency, and you give that money to the states, and in South Carolina the governor said no; Mississippi, no; Louisiana, no – a- — Alabama, no, all of a sudden, where’s – where’s the money going?  What happened in this bill?  The mayors were saying then, “Don’t give it to those nuts.”

MS. FINNEY:  — um-hum.

MR. MARTIN:  “Give it to us.”

It’s hard for Republicans to stand here and say [the] stimulus failed, when the governors didn’t want to spend the money.  It was also – 40 percent of the stimulus bill was tax cuts.  So, Republicans say, “We believe in tax cuts.”  So, did they hate that cut?  And so it’s kind of hard to say – we stopped it from working, and then we say, “Guess what?  It didn’t work.”

MR. WILLIAMS:  Well, Gov. Sanford did not want it because the stipulations would’ve put the state in a worse situation.  In the long run, he was absolutely right.

MR. MARTIN:  But he- — but, again, though, Sanford, Jindal, Barbour – those states where you had GOP governors – they said, “Absolutely not.”  So, the Republicans [who] are saying the stimulus didn’t work, get mad at your own governors.

MS. FINNEY:  And Gov. Perry took stimulus-created jobs.  Now he’s attacking the stimulus – right?  Now he’s attacking the President.  So, the – one of the Republican governors who actually took stimulus money had job creation.

MR. MARTIN:  [I’ve] got to close it out, folks.  [The] unemployment rate – thankfully – dropped to 9 percent.  102,000 private-sector jobs created last month.  Obviously, we need more, but I’d rather see it drop – for us to add jobs than actually lose jobs.

Karen, Armstrong, Michelle, Joe, we certainly appreciate it.