WASHINGTON WATCH: Rep. Charles Rangel On The Fiscal Cliff And Making Sure The Poor Are Not Disproportionately Impacted | Roland Martin Reports

WASHINGTON WATCH: Rep. Charles Rangel On The Fiscal Cliff And Making Sure The Poor Are Not Disproportionately Impacted

More than $500 billion in tax increases and across-the-board spending cuts just for 2013 are scheduled to take effect after January 1st, unless President Obama and Republicans reach a deal to avoid it. One of the biggest differences in the election between the President and the GOP was their approach to taming the deficit. President wants to increase taxes on the richest Americans. The GOP says, “No way.”

Both sides will try to make a deal, but how do African-Americans make sure the President has their back, as we had his, in the election? Congressman Charlie Rangel joined Roland Martin on the set of washington watch to discuss this and more.

MR. MARTIN: So, if you thought the political fighting was over now that President Barack Obama has won, well, Republicans are not quite ready to concede defeat without throwing a little more fuel on the fire.  This week, Mitt Romney says the President won by giving big “gifts” to African-Americans, Hispanics and young folks.  The rich guy would say that.  And there’s Paul Ryan’s excuse:  huge turnout in “urban communities.”

It’s called get-out-the-vote drives, Congressman Ryan.

A headline in “The Washington Post” said it all:  “REPUBLICANS TO MITT ROMNEY:  JUST GO AWAY.”  Even the voters said that on November 6th.

We’re going to talk about that a little later, but first, the so-called “fiscal cliff.” More than $500 billion in tax increases and across-the-board spending cuts just for 2013 are scheduled to take effect after January 1st, unless President Obama and Republicans reach a deal to avoid it.  One of the biggest differences in the election between the President and the GOP was their approach to taming the deficit.  President wants to increase taxes on the richest Americans.  The GOP says, “No way.”

Both sides will try to make a deal, but how do African-Americans make sure the President has their back, as we had his, in the election?  Here to talk about that is former chair of the House Ways and Means Committee and the current ranking member of the Joint Committee on Taxation, also a dean of the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressman Charlie Rangel of New York.

Congressman, welcome back to the show.

REP. CHARLES RANGEL:  Oh, it’s good to be back with you.

MR. MARTIN:  All right.  Back and forth when – when it comes to this fiscal cliff.  How do we avoid this crisis?  We saw what happened, of course, when the country’s credit rating was actually dropped.  Republicans seem to be softening up a bit.  What is going to take place to avoid this fiscal cliff?

REP. RANGEL:  You mentioned, you know, that black Americans had the President’s back, and we hope he has our back.  I wouldn’t count on that.  What I would count on is Middle America that should just be fed up with the Congress.  And why their silence has been deafening I’ll never know, and this is especially the spiritual community.  You can say what you want.  The bottom line is if something goes wrong, and we don’t correct this thing, it’s only going to be the poor that’s going to really have a crunch.  These CEOs know that the economy’s going to suffer a great deal, but if you’re talking about real suffering, it’s something that the President and Mitt Romney didn’t talk about – and that’s the poor, the real lesser among us – what happens to them.  And, tragically, if we had these automatic cuts in, and we start talking about government laying off people, who’s going to be laid off?  Where are they going to be laid off?  And what’s the connection between living from paycheck to paycheck?  What happens to so many people who go on to become homeless?

I just wish that somewhere along the line, Protestants and Catholics and Jews and gentiles and Mormons and Muslims are saying, “It’s time for us to be heard.”

MR. MARTIN:  So, you believe the faith community has been, frankly, weak to some extent.  Catholic bishops have spoken out to some extent, and you saw Catholic nuns traveling across the country, but to – to your point, in terms of a driving force moving their congregations, folks were doing that to get the vote out.  But what I said was that’s the end of one process.  November 7th was the beginning of another.  So, you say church leaders – pastors, bishops – should be far more aggressive when it comes to demanding changes from Congress.

REP. RANGEL:  No question.  First of all, you take the nuns out of it because even the Pope know[s] that these are extraordinarily different people when you deal with nuns.  They really believe –

MR. MARTIN:  [Chuckles.]

REP. RANGEL:  — in Jesus, and so don’t mess with them.

And when you’re dealing with African-American pastors, the very birth of civil rights come[s] from these churches, and so the extraordinary job that they did in getting that vote out is just something.

But it’s not just the blacks –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

REP. RANGEL:  — or minorities that are poor, and you bet your life they’ve been solid.  You want to talk about same-sex marriage?  Oh, my God!  They’re going to be out there.  You want to talk about contraceptives?  They’re going to be there.  But that’s not what – you know, I read someplace – and I don’t want to get into trouble – Jesus told these people go straight to hell if they didn’t take care of the lesser among us.  And that’s the way people should feel, that while we battle to protect the middle class, which is the heartbeat of our economy; while we battle to keep the small businessmen in business – which you have to have a middle class to do – you do that.  But America should be gauged by how many rich folks have you got and how many poor folks have you got.  That’s what my country’s –

MR. MARTIN:  I –

REP. RANGEL:  — about.

MR. MARTIN:  — I was critical of Ralph Reed – his group, the Faith and Freedom Coalition, when they had their conference.  I was following their tweets, and I said, you know, “I” – “I’m following your tweets.  I see a whole” – “a whole bunch of stuff dealing with taxes and national defense.”  I said, “I haven’t seen the poor anywhere.  Did y’all leave the ‘faith’ part, or are you focusing on the ‘freedom’ part?”

And, of course, Ralph Reed refuses to come on this show.  I told him, “Look” – I said, “Look.”  I said, “I’m a Christian.  You’re a Christian.  I’ll be happy to engage you in a conversation.”

So, Ralph, this chair’s open anytime, if you want to have a real conversation.

But in many ways, they don’t want to have that conversation, and you’re right.  Tony Perkins, Family Research Council, groups that, so-called – are “faith-based” organizations – where are they?  But also, [the] Rick Warrens of the world, Joel Osteens of the world – they also should be using their voices to stand up on these issues because these cuts will be devastating to the least among us.

REP. RANGEL:  And they’re not Democrats and Republicans.  When people get sick and need Medicaid and Medicare, they don’t check in and – [chuckles] – ask, “Are you a Democrat, or Republican?”  They are in need.  It fascinates me the number of poor white folks that are so content with their self-esteem and so content with voting with the rich, but at the end of the day, don’t mess with their Medicaid, and don’t mess with their Medicare, and don’t mess with their Social Security.  Well, that’s what’s on the line now, and they have to break out of these code words that they have and recognize that the poor have really nobody, if you don’t have the tax-exempt.  And they’re becoming so silent, I’m wondering now why did they get tax – [chuckles] – exemption in the first place.

MR. MARTIN:  How much time do we have?  I mean is it really between now and the end of the year?

REP. RANGEL:  At the end of the year, but we have to get these things – the IRS needs some time up front in order to be able to put out exactly what your liability is going to be, and we will be working even during the holidays.  We – we’re knocking off for ten days.  We’ll come back immediately after Thanksgiving.  We could kick this can down the road.

We could kick it, you know, for five or six months; but it’s senseless to do that because the more you make irrational cuts, the more it’s going to cost you.  Most people who lost their job – [it] mean[s] that they’re not going to be able to get back in [a] job.  And one of the things that – that we should be concerned about as a country [is] people giving up.  When you give up, it’s so hard to get back on that horse and to be able to have the dignity and the pride that you had when you were a father and a husband and sending your kids to school.  When you lose all of that, you lose a little bit of being a great American.

MR. MARTIN:  Congressman, we know you’ve never given up.  We certainly appreciate that.  So, we say, “Keep giving them hell,” and we’ll do the same.

REP. RANGEL:  [Chuckles.]  You can count on it.

MR. MARTIN:  I appreciate it.  Thanks a bunch.

REP. RANGEL:  Thank you so much.  You keep up the good job you’re doing.

MR. MARTIN:  I appreciate it.  Thanks a bunch.