Roland Martin and the Washington Watch roundtable discuss Republicans doubling down on outrageous policies, sequestration, budget cuts, and how these budget cuts will impact everyday Americans.
This week’s roundtable features Wilmer Leon, host of “The Issues with Wilmer Leon” on Sirius XM Radio; : Jamila Bey, host of “The Sex, Politics and Religion Hour;” Armstrong Williams, the host of “The Right Side” and Joe Madison, “The Black Eagle,” on Sirius XM Radio.
MR. MARTIN: Welcome back.
Every time you think the Republican Party can’t do anything to make themselves less appealing, they double down on some of the most outrageous policies we’ve ever seen. What in the world is going on?
We’re talking about that and more with: Wilmer Leon, host of “The Issues with Wilmer Leon” on Sirius XM Radio. No pocket square. I don’t know what he’s thinking.
DR. WILMER LEON: [Chuckles.]
MR. MARTIN: Jamila Bey, host of “The Sex, Politics and Religion Hour.” That sounds like a fun show. Armstrong Williams, the host of “The Right Side.” I guess they don’t make pocket squares in South Carolina. And Joe Madison, “The Black Eagle,” on Sirius XM Radio. Joe always gets the memo. Lookin’ clean there. I know his wife picked it out for him.
So, great job, darlin’. Great job.
MR. MARTIN: [Chuckles.]
MR. JOE MADISON: Do I dare say no? [Laughs.]
MR. MARTIN: Well, we got you on record saying she picks the best stuff out. So, it’s all good.
Let’s get right into it. Right now, you’re looking at sequestration. Everybody’s freakin’ out when it comes to the cuts – things along those lines. But I want to talk about this from a different perspective.
It’s amazing to me, looking at folks in Virginia who say, “This is going to wreck our economy,” and all of these other states talking about that. And when I begin to look at these defense cuts, I thought back to President Eisenhower talking about the “military-industrial complex.”
And so I know folks don’t want the cuts to happen, but don’t you think it’s about time we do make some significant cuts when it comes to defense? Because it has come to the point where it now is such a job creator, we act as if we can’t touch anything dealing with defense. Somehow, it’s sacrilegious.
DR. LEON: The cuts – there do need to be significant defense cuts, but they have to be based on more substantial, sound policy – both domestic and foreign – as opposed to ideology.
MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS: The sequestration is going to happen. It’s going to happen March 1st, and it’s going to last for a month, and they’ll go back to the drawing board [in] April, and so the cuts will happen. But these are reckless cuts. These are not the right kind[s] of cuts.
MR. MARTIN: Well, these are reckless cuts that, first of all, Congress proposed, Congress passed, the President signed into law. Secondly, the Super Committee was supposed to sort this whole thing out. They didn’t; and so, frankly, I can’t listen to any Democrat or Republican complain about this when they were all complicit in us being where we are.
MR. MADISON: Well, they were complicit, with the understanding that they never thought that either party would be crazy enough to take a meat axe to the budget the way that they had.
MS. JAMILA BEY: You know, there – there’re a whole lot of other aspects that are going to be cut that we’re not talking about. Temporary [Assistance for] Needy Families is about to be just, you know – I love your phrase – the “meat axe” is going to come to it. Poor children, poor – you know, we care about women and their pregnancies. Poor women who are feeding their families with the help of the government – come the end of March, we don’t know what’s going to happen. We know that line item in the budget is about to just [be] decimate[d], and there will be even more families that can’t put food on the table.
And while it’s important to talk about defense, we know there’s going to be – we know –
MR. MARTIN: But here’s why I’m bringing up defense: because I’ll hear Republicans who have no problem when teachers are losing their jobs and firefighters and other municipal employees on the local level, but they act as if somehow – oh, but these jobs that the government’s paying for are somehow totally different.
MR. MADISON: Let me make – you’re absolutely right. If I’m not mistaken – and I can be corrected on this – there’s not a single congressional district that –
MR. MARTIN: Right.
MR. MADISON: — that does not have some aspect of the defense budget connected to it.
MR. MARTIN: And that was done by design.
MR. MADISON: That’s your military-industrial complex. Now –
MR. MARTIN: Precisely.
MR. MADISON: — hold on. I[’ve] got one more other point, and that is – like we’re talking about just bureaucrats being furloughed and laid off. The President made the point government buys everything from toilet paper to Saran Wrap. I mean they buy everything, and a lot of times they buy it from small businesses. They have a program for small –
MR. MARTIN: Right.
MR. MADISON: — business contractors. These individuals are going to be hurt.
So, don’t think it’s just [the] Pentagon, government bureaucrats. It’s going to be small businesses that are going to be hurt.
DR. LEON: There’s another strategy at play here as well. The President has a finite number of days that he’s going to be able to promote his agenda, and every day that the White House has to spend talking about sequestration and then talking about extending a budget and all those kinds of things are days that the President cannot talk about job creation. He can’t talk about unemployment.
MR. MARTIN: Gotcha.
MR. WILLIAMS: You know, the bottom line is they’re going to make President Obama a lame-duck president much quicker than he wants to be one –
MR. MARTIN: Um-hum.
MR. WILLIAMS: — and that is what’s happening. And that’s not just Republicans; it’s Democrats, too.
MR. MARTIN: Oh, because do understand. Democrats are saying, “Mr. President, you don’t have to run again.”
MR. WILLIAMS: Yeah, right.
MR. MARTIN: “We have to run in 2014.”
MR. WILLIAMS: Right. And –
MR. MARTIN: “We[’ve] got to run in 2016.”
MR. WILLIAMS: — the other issue is I do think – you know, I do think there’s just a philosophical difference in how the Republicans think government should be run and the President. The President won the first fiscal cliff in December. He beat the Republicans badly, and they –
DR. LEON: [He] also won the election.
MR. WILLIAMS: — and they vowed – he won the election. Yes –
DR. LEON: [Chuckles.]
MR. WILLIAMS: — he won.
MR. MARTIN: News flash!
DR. LEON: Let’s not forget that!
MR. WILLIAMS: — but –
MR. MADISON: There’s a philosophical difference in what the country thinks!
MR. MADISON: [Laughs.]
MR. WILLIAMS: — but, however, ladies and gentlemen, remember this. The Republicans will not allow this president to introduce more taxes on the wealthy. They will not – they are willing to allow this sequestration because they understand they finally have the upper hand.
MR. MARTIN: Actually, I –
MR. WILLIAMS: I think –
MR. MARTIN: — actually, to be perfectly honest, I think one of the reasons … Republicans have no problem with sequestration going forward [is] because this falls right in line with that whole notion of fiscal conservatism.
MR. WILLIAMS: It’s conservative.
DR. LEON: On the one hand, the Republicans have the upper hand on the defense issue. And if the Democrats are sharp enough with their messaging, they then will turn to those families that you –
MR. MADISON: That’s right.
DR. LEON: — mentioned –
MS. BEY: Um-hum.
MR. MADISON: That’s right.
DR. LEON: — and the women, children, the poor – the poverty issue in this country and all the other social –
MR. MARTIN: No, they –
DR. LEON: — programs –
MR. MARTIN: — okay. You know what? I’m sorry. No, they won’t.
DR. LEON: — oh, I know they won’t!
MR. MARTIN: No, no, no.
DR. LEON: That’s –
MR. MARTIN: No. No.
DR. LEON: — but that’s where they should go, but –
MR. MARTIN: No, but –
DR. LEON: — I know that they won’t.
MR. MARTIN: — here’s why they won’t: because the bottom line is when I continue to sit here and listen to these conversations … how the White House has constructed their argument, frankly, it’s about “middle class,” “middle class” –
DR. LEON: Right.
MR. MARTIN: — “middle class.” Don’t nobody wanna say “poor.” Let’s just be honest.
DR. LEON: Absolutely right!
MR. MARTIN: And part of the deal –
MR. WILLIAMS: Well, they’re –
MR. MARTIN: — that –
MR. WILLIAMS: — not saying “poor.”
MR. MARTIN: No!
MR. WILLIAMS: They’re not even mentioning poor, and –
MR. MARTIN: No!
MR. WILLIAMS: — they’re not even in the equation!
MR. MARTIN: But my point is when I hear the sequestration discussion, it’s through the lens of just Washington, D.C.; largely defense; and it’s not being broadened. It’s not … saying, “Wait a minute. [There’s] a whole bunch of other” – to your point, [there’s] a bunch of other stuff that’s involved in here, and it also speaks to that you have to make a fundamental change in terms of how we look at our budget. You can’t say – Republicans – on one hand, “Oh, I want smaller government, but I like big government over here.”
MR. MADISON: I do want to offer one disagreement. I think they do talk about the poor. For example – at least in the information I –
MR. WILLIAMS: You mean the Republicans?
MR. MADISON: Oh, no!
MR. MADISON: [Chuckles.]
MR. MARTIN: [Laughs.]
DR. LEON: They can’t spell “poor.”
MR. MADISON: The Democrats, I mean, as they have argued from the Administration about the cuts with programs to help feed children; the Head Start programs. The President pushed increasing the minimum wage. I mean who does that impact?
… but your point is well-made. You can’t even get a minimum wage debate going on if you’re constantly doing these other issues –
MR. MARTIN: Right.
MR. MADISON: — you know.
DR. LEON: If the sequestration cuts go through, this “middle class” that the President is talking about – a lot of those folks who work for Northrup Grumman, a lot of those folks who work for these defense contractors and are either going to have to go to half days, or going to lose their salaries are going to quickly move from the middle class into poverty. That’s how the President can gain control of this narrative – by talking about those folks and the impact that that’s going to have not only on –
MR. MADISON: In aid.
DR. LEON: — [crosstalk] –
MR. MARTIN: Hold tight.
DR. LEON: — they’ll be looking for aid, and they’ll be unemployed!
MR. MARTIN: Okay.